Summer nights lend themselves to sitting out in the garden with a good book and a chilled glass of wine.
Here’s some recommendations from the many evenings I’ve spent in my back garden doing just that.
Claire King’s ‘The Night Rainbow’ has just been shortlisted for the Portsmouth First Book Award and is a Sainsbury’s Book Club pick.
During one long, hot summer, Pea and her little sister Margot play alone in the meadow behind their house on the edge of a small village in Southern France.
Their mother is too sad to care for them after the loss of her baby and then Pea’s father in an accident.
Burdened with her double grief and isolated from the village by her Englishness, she has retreated to a place where Pea can’t reach her – although Pea tries desperately to do so.
This is heavy subject matter but King manages to weave it into a quirky, fairytale-like and sweet story. Simply charming.
Keeping the tragic theme going – my reading matter isn’t usually all doom and gloom – ‘Life! Death! Prizes!’ by Stephen May tells the story of 19-year-old Billy, left to bring up his six-year-old brother after their mother is killed in a bungled street robbery.
In the boys’ new world, bedtimes are arbitrary, tidiness is optional and takeaways take precedence over healthy home-cooked meals supplied by well-wishers and piling up in the freezer.
As Billy’s obsession with his mother’s missing killer grows, he risks losing sight of the one thing that really matters.
May evokes equal measures of happiness and sadness in this story of two brothers struggling to stay together.
If something a little more light-hearted is called for, try one of these summer sizzlers.
Sophie Hart’s ‘the naughty girls’ book club’ focuses on a struggling cafe, a new reading group and a rather naughty reading list.
Single mum and cafe owner Estelle sets up a book group to increase custom as she struggles to make ends meet.
But when her first choice of Thomas Hardy makes the small group think they are back at school, she hastily suggests a bestselling erotic novel as the next book to read and discuss.
More erotic fiction and saucy discussions follow to the point where this group of shy readers gradually shake off their inhibitions and discover a whole new side to themselves.
The results are tantalising.
From the author of ‘Chelsea Wives’, Anna Lou Weatherley, comes ‘Wicked Wives’ – a hot new story of love, lust, revenge, gamblers and bad boys.
Grazia magazine described this novel as “a fun, romp of a read, the perfect poolside companion” – which pretty much sums it up but I’d have to add back garden companion too.
Summer evening reading wouldn’t be complete without a love story and that comes in the form of ‘Always You’ by Erin Kaye.
It’s 1992 and Sarah is in love with Cahal, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks.
As they plan to graduate from university in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, all seems set for the happily ever after.
Fast forward to 2012. Cahal is out of the picture and Sarah is divorced from Ian by whom she’s had two children.
As Cahal walks back into Sarah’s life, can they overcome past decisions and surrounding prejudice and make it work second time around?
This is a novel all about second chances that will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever thought that it’s too late for love.
A bit of a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.
by DEBBIE BUTLER