- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
James is a widower and, in the two years since his wife’s sudden death, has built an impenetrable wall around himself and is in a very dark place emotionally. He runs an equestrian centre with his sister, Liz, and finds it hard to anything much else other bury himself in work until he, literally, drops with fatigue.
Laura and her lover, Simon, run a property development and interior design company and are working and living together. Laura and Simon had an affair while Simon was still married, and his bitter and resentful wife seems to be permanently in the picture. Consequently things are not going too well and when Laura suffers a harrowing trauma her relationship goes from bad to worse.
Maggie, Laura’s sister, is having seemingly insurmountable problems of her own, money worries, her insensitive husband and her pretty but offensive teenage daughter. Her younger daughter, Ellie, has mild autism which is helped by her riding lessons with James, but Maggie doesn’t know how much longer she’ll be able to afford them. On top of all that she’s waging a losing battle with her weight.
All the involved story threads are woven together beautifully and, one way or another, the colourful array of characters manage to bring out the best qualities in each other. Midnight Sky encompasses such a lot, emotional highs and lows, relationships, heartache and not to mention a good dose of teenage angst. The story is set mainly in Snowdonia, which is described in evocative detail, giving a vivid sense of place.
Jan Ruth’s writing flows easily and the story is captivating and poignant. The complete mixture of emotions are conveyed with such realism and sensitivity I couldn’t help but empathise. James, suffering so much torment and yet so patient and gentle with his horses, especially the damaged, untrusting Midnight Sky, and the children he takes for specialist teaching. He is a complicated and compelling man. Laura and Maggie are both facing critical and life changing situations and learning how to deal with them.
All the characters are genuine and credible and penned sympathetically. I was drawn completely into their lives almost without realising it. Very nearly a fly on the wall. I loved it!
Palomino Sky is the sequel to the wonderful Midnight Sky, where we first meet Laura and James and their siblings, and are drawn into their complicated family lives. James and Laura, both recovering from momentous and traumatic life events, are finding solace in each other, although they are not helped by Laura’s wilful and temperamental teenage niece causing no end of trouble.
This story opens with Laura and James engaged and about to be married. James is in the process of the selling the farmhouse, cottages and land as well as dissolving his equestrian business. He is hoping a move to somewhere new, without memories, will finally lay the ghost of his late wife to rest, allowing him to fully move on with his life and finally let go of Carys. For all his issues and his dark moodiness, James is just as appealing and irresistible as in the previous book.
Maggie, Laura’s sister, who now runs a B&B with her husband is trying to get used to having her eldest daughter, Jess, back home under less than encouraging circumstances. After Jess’s unhealthy crush on James had caused numerous difficulties, Laura helped her find a house share in Chester for which she stood guarantor. Not only is Jess close-mouthed about her reasons for returning home, she is affecting her parents’ business with her challenging behaviour and attitude. Jess is in a deeply troubling situation which eventually impacts on everyone, devastatingly so on James and by default, Laura.
This is a brilliant, if heart breaking, sequel. The characterisation, writing and dramatic descriptions of Snowdonia are excellent and evocative. There are several well paced threads running through which present unexpected twists and for some, a terrible tragedy to get to grips with and attempt to overcome.
As with all Jan Ruth’s books, the ones I’ve read anyway, the narrative is full of emotion and very moving. The characters, their relationships, the ups and downs and different aspects are finely drawn and realistic, the dialogue easy and believable. The protagonists, both male and female, are attractive and charismatic with underlying personal difficulties so that nothing is straightforward, which makes for a strong and compelling read.
The third in the Midnight Sky trilogy, Strawberry Sky continues James and Laura’s story. Despite the terrible life changing accident James suffered several months previously, things are at last looking up for the two of them, despite Laura’s overwhelming desire to be a mother. Work is progressing on the house and the business is expanding, with the addition of a young, orphaned Carneddau strawberry roan and a newcomer to the team with whom Laura develops an affinity.
Laura’s sister, Maggie and her husband, Pete, are having a rough time. The B&B is not doing well and their troublesome daughter, Jess, continues to cause problems and heartache for her parents, as well as for Laura and James. The other complication in the shattering situation Maggie and Pete find themselves in is Cal Armstrong, Jess’s former boyfriend and the father of her baby. Jess’s selfishness and seeming lack of connection to baby Krystal is an endless worry for Maggie and Pete and the pressure is building.
Again, I was drawn in to the lives of some of my favourite sympathetic and relatable characters, along with their emotions, frustrations and traumas. It was great to be reunited with them. James and Laura are compelling and credible protagonists, their situation very realistic. The story is told alternately from Laura and Maggie’s perspectives, neither of their lives exactly unfolding as expected or wished for. They’re all still being buffeted in the wake of storm Jess and their troubles are far from over. Maggie’s hit and miss approach and lack of resolve doesn’t help anyone, including herself. As for Laura and James, they have a strong, loving relationship but fate hasn’t finished with them yet.
A lovely story thread relates to equine therapy. Ex-serviceman Mick, who suffers from PTSD and the resulting disorders, is terrified of horses, has a high level of anxiety and loss of self-esteem. How the therapy works is amazing.
The twists and merging of the threads to their conclusion are in keeping with real life situations. A surprise towards the end is typical of that particular character although I didn’t see it coming. Jan Ruth combines vivid and fully formed characters with expressive writing, a stunning backdrop and a dramatic story line which really did keep me turning the pages.
I chose to read and review the Midnight Sky series based on a digital advance copies of the books supplied by the author/publisher.
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
If any book can convert me into a horse lover it will be this one. I am still frightened of horses but I now have an idea of the empathy experienced by some people with special horses. “Midnight Sky” has a magical quality but she is a damaged horse, desperately in need of a sensitive horse whisperer. James Morgan-Jones, with his sad green eyes, is the one person who can restore her confidence, even though he is incapable of recovering any sort of personal life since the tragic death of his wife Carys, two years previously.
Laura Brown is an efficient, organised interior designer living in Chester with partner Simon. They run Dragon Designs, improving run-down houses, but their life together is often upset by Simon’s demanding wife Alice and his children. Disturbed by a particularly distressing row, Laura sets out visit her older sister Maggie in North Wales. Maggie, married to Pete for many years, has a busy life looking after 10-year-old, Ellie and her challenging 17-year-old, Jess. Even Pete is beginning to cause her worries.
All these characters, and more, are stirred together at the riding stables where James gives Ellie lessons. Despite their initial antipathy, James and Laura are thrown together in a snowstorm but this does not help them to solve their sadness about Carys and Simon. Alongside the angst of personal drama there is also humour in this mature, contemporary story and it really is a page turner. A conclusion is reached but now I can’t wait to move onto the following book, “Palomino Sky”.
Palomino Sky continues the story of Laura and James who met in Midnight Sky. Now they are looking forward to a happy life together as Laura plans their wedding and tries to set up a new home design company. James wishes to start anew by selling the farm and the equestrian business and looking for another home, but Laura has reservations.
In this book, Laura’s sister, Maggie, gains strength as a character and in practical ways. She is faced with increased problems form her wayward daughter, Jess, but she takes constructive action to help Laura and James as their lives take a tragic turn. Towards the end of the book we lose touch with Laura, but this is because she needs to step back from events, feeling lost herself.
The bleak winter landscape of Snowdonia is beautifully described by the author and the awe inspiring sight of the gathering ponies is starkly contrasted by subsequent events. “A miraculous sight came out of the mist; a long ribbon of ponies on the skyline cantering, leaping and whinnying to each other across the heather…….They were the colours of bracken and stone, rainclouds and earth.”
As the horses are sold or returned to their owners, the healing hope of the mare, Palomino Sky, whom Laura calls Song and the dependable sturdiness of O’Malley, show a light at the end of the tunnel which might bring James and Laura back onto the path to happiness and give solutions to those affected by the closure of the stables.
This is an emotional story which grips the reader from page one. I really cared about the characters and read late into the night to discover their fate.
After the momentous events in Palomino Sky, the previous book of this heart-breaking trilogy, the opening paragraphs of Strawberry Sky promise contentment at last for Laura and James as they complete the improvements to their equestrian business and plan a happy life together. However, the continued disruption to their lives by Laura’s niece, Jess, and her erstwhile partner, Callum Armstrong, keeps them on an emotional roller coaster.
This time the story is told in turn from the point of view of Laura and her sister, Maggie. Maggie is in torment over Jess’s lack of affection for her daughter Kristle, and her anxiety over the success of the B & B she is running with her husband Pete, is causing her to neglect her younger daughter, Ellie. Meanwhile, Laura is anxiously hoping, each month, that she will become pregnant.
Rob, the local vet, has added a strawberry roan to the stable, a very young Carneddau colt whose mother has been killed on the mountain road and James selects a new young member of staff, who becomes increasingly important to Laura. The rest of their team remain cheerfully supportive and client, Carla, is a good friend when Laura most needs one.
Despite trying events, the relationship between James and Laura remains strong, as Jan Ruth shows in comments such as, “James caught her eye. He shot her a smile, a real smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes.” The healing effect of the horses is still a major part of the work James does and we see this especially in the reactions of a tough ex-soldier who comes regularly to help at the farm.
Effective descriptions of the countryside provide a vivid context without departing from the nail-biting events of the plot. The setting of the Carneddau and its wild horses provide both the heart and the pain of this novel and it is the response of those who come from this area which makes the conclusion perfect.