Win a copy of Erica James’s new book, The Secret Garden Affair

Janet Gordon is our regular book reviewer. However, this week she has procured the services of her grandson, Will, to review the third book in this article. Plus, she has five copies of The Secret Garden Affair by the very popular author, Erica James, to give away, so keep reading to find out more.

We’ve had Valentine’s Day and Pancake Day. The next landmark on the card maker’s calendar is, of course, Mother’s Day. My beautiful 7-year-old Westlake Terrier is quite adept at dragging my husband to the card shop to choose a card. I always get a lovely faceful of wet licks as I open the envelope.

The Secret Garden Affair by Erica James (HarperCollins) available on 30 March 2023

However, if you’d like a more conventional pressie, I can heartily recommend the most wonderful read – the latest from novelist Erica James.

It’s July 1981, and the whole country is in a celebratory mood as Prince Charles prepares to marry the beautiful Diana.  Apart from Libby, who is due to get married in a few weeks time. She has cancelled everything after finding Marcus, her husband, to be in bed with her best friend!

Distraught Libby seeks solace in the wonderfully relaxing atmosphere of Larkspur House. Although the house is sadly neglected, the gardens are glorious and created by socialite and garden designer, the marvellously named Elfrida, who lives there with Libby’s Great Aunt Bess.

The pair are very much of the “get up and get on with it” school of thought. They refuse to allow Libby to languish in bed, and so Libby begins to get the house in order.  Up in the attic, she finds a battered suitcase full of old papers and the memories come tumbling out.

Told in flashback chapters, this is a perfect read for Mums (and non Mums) everywhere.

Annabel and Grace are delighted that we have five copies to be won.

Just answer this easy-peasy competition

Mother’s Day is on

a. Sunday 19 March

b. Saturday 18 March

c. Monday 20 March

Email your answer to

The Institution by Helen Fields ( Avon Books)

You’ll all know how much I love a “serial killer” read. One of the best authors around is Helen Fields, author of the “Perfect” series. The last in the series is titled “One for Sorrow”.  The wonderful DI Luc Callanach is fighting for his life, and whilst Fields ponders whether or not to save his life – and looks – she’s started a new series featuring the very eccentric Dr Connie Woolwine.

This time Dr Connie goes deep undercover in the very, very high-security ward which houses the most criminally insane and dangerous prisoners in the country.  She’s accompanied by Prisoner B – in reality, another colleague.   A delightful nurse has been found murdered. Her belly was slashed, and her unborn baby, almost full term, was snatched from her womb.  Connie is given – at the most – five days – to find the baby who is being held to ransom – somewhere.

I have no idea how Helen Fields dreamt up such a horrific storyline. Do you think that as a criminal barrister in a previous life, stories like this are nearer to the truth than we realise?

This is one terrifying story  – one hell of a scary, gritty read – and I had to keep the lights on!

And finally –  have you ever wondered whether you’re reading the “right” age group book for your age?  For instance, Northern saga-type reads (think Catherine Cookson) are always aimed at the over 60s. Whilst flirty, dating and sex in the city time read are, of course, aimed at the under 40s.

It’s much easier for Young Adult novels. They actually have the age range on the back cover, and so with the aim of making it much easier for grandparents to pop into an indie bookstore (or Amazon, of course) to buy a present book, here’s the first in our occasional reviews from Will Wolfe Gordon (my grandson who has been a voracious reader ever since he taught himself to read at about 18 months old).

The Monkey Who Fell From The Future by Ross Welford (HarperCollins)

It’s 2023, and 13-year-old Kylie has gone to live with her cousin, 11-year-old Thomas, who is apprehensive about having the very clever Kylie live with him.  Kylie is so clever that she has come up with the concept of The Time Tablet, a device that allows people to talk to others 400 years in the future. Kylie and Thomas decide to bury the tablet in their garden.

It’s 2425, and centuries after a catastrophic meteor collision, nature has retaken the earth. Duke Smith, who is the owner of Monkey and his pal Ocean  Mooney find the tablet, and just as they start to dig it up, Kylie and Thomas are appearing on a TV chat show to talk about the Time Tablet.

The previous night Thomas got so mad at Kylie that he deleted a load of stuff off her computer but didn’t tell her. Now he’s feeling very guilty, although not guilty enough to tell her.

But as they’re demonstrating the Tablet, a monkey falls through the screen, followed by a young girl around the same age as Thomas.  And, before anyone can react, both Thomas and Kylie are sucked inside the tablet and dropped out 400 years into the future.  Everyone in the audience is extremely confused and believes it is just an illusion, but Thomas and Kylie know that they have only 56 hours in which to get back to the present before The Tablet stops working. This book is a good read for anyone between 8 and 12 – it’s light-hearted and fast-paced, with a good sense of action and adventure that leaves you wanting more.  Reviewed by Will Wolfe Gordon (grandson of Janet)   


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