Saturday 31 January 2015

Random Recommendations ~ Bernardine Kennedy

Random Recommendations is an occasional feature on the blog.

My recommendations may be a particular author, or a series of books.  I may recommend a particular publisher, or quite possibly, something is not book related at all.

I hope you enjoy these random recommendations.

I've been reading for as long as I can remember, but have only kept a record of the books that I've read since the beginning of 2001.  On my list there are some authors whose names pop up repeatedly, these are authors that I love, whose books I read as soon as they are released.

One of my all-time favourite authors is Bernardine Kennedy. I've read all of her books, and recommend them to everyone, but for some reason, she isn't as well known as she should be. She writes modern fiction with very strong female lead characters, the stories are gritty, realistic and often draw on her own life experiences.

Here's Bernardine's biography, taken from her website

" So, everyone asks……how did I start writing? What was it that set me on the road? It's difficult to say, but I'm sure it was because I spent huge chunks of my formative years abroad because my father worked first in Singapore and then in Nigeria. The constant travelling back and forth, changing schools and therefore changing friends, contributed. There were always friends that I really liked, that I wanted to stay in touch with and, in those days before long distance cheap phone calls and speedy e.mails, that only left the good old skill of letter writing.
This was always, as far back as I can remember, combined with a great love of reading. I started with Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton 'progressing over many years to my current favourites Harlan Coben and Cathy Reichs via the likes of Harold Robbins, Jean Plaidy, Jackie Collins and Jeffrey Archer, to mention but a few. I avidly read anything and everything that I could lay my hands on. In fact I still do and I firmly believe that reading is vital to becoming a writer.

Apart from the odd attempt at fiction that never even got finished let alone sent anywhere, that's how it stayed until, following three miscarriages and a lack of available information on the subject I thought, 'I know, I'll write the book'! (Naïve or what???) Anyway I set to it and spent months and months gathering all the information only to realise that, despite mountains of notes, cuttings and letters, I hadn't got a clue how to set it all out in a workable format.

When I saw an advert in 1989 for an Ad-Ed writing class off I went for the sole purpose of learning how to put a book together. However, as always, I got side-tracked en route! A published magazine feature and the accompanying cheque set me on a completely different road. General features and interviews progressed to travel features and, eventually, to THE NOVEL.

The years of writing features must have served me well because my very first book was quickly accepted by first an agent and then a publisher and here I am now. It's been a long and winding road with many a detour on the way but now I'm there! I'm an author.

From school girl letter writing to published author via, air-hostessing, teaching, social work and anything else that brought in the cash, not to mention marriage, children and divorce.

I've got there at last and I'm loving every minute of it. The non-fiction tome never made it out of the mountain of filing boxes but I keep them all as a souvenir! "

Bernardine has written seven novels. My favourites are Taken and My Sister's Keeper (not to be mixed up with the novel that was turned into a film, written by a very famous Canadian author, and in my opinion Bernardine's story is far superior!).

Everything Is Not Enough (September 2000):  When Louise Jermaine's adored father returns to Barbados, she grows up fast with little help from her selfish, depressive mother. Her best friend's home offers some sanctuary - until her step-father hurts her so deeply that she vows to escape from her past for ever. Just fifteen, she reinvents herself as Angie Kavanagh and begins a new life. Discovering a talent for journalism, she becomes a top celebrity interviewer. Years later, she is invited to examine the life of spoilt supermodel and It-girl Rebekah Alari. Angie sees that despite having all the advantages she lacked, Rebekah's life is not as glamorous as she pretends. She, too, hides some secret about her past. Angie seems at last to have found happiness, but her life is littered with emotional obstacles. She can't reveal her true self, even to her lover, and she finds it impossible to leave the past behind...

My Sister's Keeper (September 2001):  In 1975, Vietnamese orphan Cathy Carter arrives in England to begin a new life. Her childhood in the New Forest is idyllic, but when she is fifteen tragedy strikes. Her adoptive parents are killed in a fire, and she is left with her strange, uncommunicative adoptive twin sisters. Sad and lonely, Cathy joins a local theatre group, where she becomes besotted with one of the directors. Nico is forty, and very good-looking, but he preys on vulnerable young girls, and has set his sights on Cathy. She is petite and pretty, and she is due to inherit a fortune.  On her sixteenth birthday, Nico blackmails the twins into allowing Cathy to marry him. Their marriage soon turns sour, and after their daughter, Sammy-Jo, is born Cathy escapes with the child to Spain. But one day, Nico finds them...

Chain of Deception (January 2003):  Lucy Cooper seems to have it all - a smart, attractive PR consultant from a wealthy family, she thinks she has met her perfect match in Donovan, a fitness trainer with a body to die for. After a whirlwind romance, she and Donovan marry but it isn't long before Lucy realises that her new husband is nothing more than a self-obsessed fitness freak. Worse than that, beneath his tanned veneer there lies an ugly and increasingly violent temper.   Marriage to Donovan is turning Lucy into a nervous wreck, eating away at her confidence and putting her career, her health, even her sanity in jeopardy. Lucy knows that she has to make a break before he destroys her - and her loved ones - completely.    Hope comes in the form of Fergus Pearson, a Irish/Jamaican motorbike courier and aspiring actor. He's gentle, laid-back and kind - everything her husband isn't. They embark on an affair but a freak accident forces Lucy to make a discovery that will turn her whole world upside down...

Taken (January 2004):  At 36, Jessica Patterson thinks her life is happy and settled and that all is well in her marriage. She had met American Sheldon Patterson seven years previously when she was on holiday in the Caribbean and fallen for him instantly. Good looking and easy going as well as being financially secure, he was everything Jessie wanted in a husband.    For about eighteen months they lived in California where they had a son - Cameron James, nicknamed CJ - and it was the icing on the cake for them. They then moved back to the UK for Sheldon to try and expand the business. Jessie is besotted with her son and her life revolves around him, while Sheldon's work takes him overseas a lot. So when Sheldon announces one day that he is going to take CJ away for a few days to Disneyland in Paris - just the two of them, to 'bond' with his son - Jessie is persuaded to let them go. Her nightmare starts when they don't come back...

Old Scores (October 2005):  Maria Harman finds it hard to keep her intense and mixed-up emotions in check when it comes to her family. For things are anything but loving and harmonious in the Harman household. Her bullying and spiteful older brothers, Patrick and Joe, make her life as miserable as possible, encouraged by their mother, Finola, who believes her 'golden boys' can do no wrong. Maria is hardened to Finola's scorn and indifference but deep down craves her mother's love and can't understand why her mother chose to adopt her in the first place. Her only solace comes from her warm-hearted, slow-witted brother, Eddie, and browbeaten father Sam. But when the layers of deception that conceal Maria's true parentage are slowly broken away, the already dysfunctional family is thrown into chaos...

Past Chances (May 2007): Eleanor Rivington has always felt like an outsider. Abandoned by her mother and brought up in fear of her father, she's desperate to leave home and live like other girls in London in the seventies. When a barman from work invites her to share a flat with him and two of his friends, it is her chance to break free. But when Eleanor confronts her father the terrible tragedy that follows haunts her forever. And, despite the support of her new friends, Eleanor's life seems destined for further disappointment...

Shattered Lives (September 2008):  When they were orphaned at a young age, sisters Hannah and Julie had to learn to look after themselves. Years later and all grown up, Hannah, with her steady job and happy marriage, seems to have fallen on her feet. The same cant be said for Julie, however. First pregnant at fifteen, and now with three children from three different men and living with a serious drug addiction, she needs help. Its up to Hannah to step in, but in doing so she discovers, in the most devastating way, that her own life might not be so perfect after all

In 2012, Bernardine became Marie Maxwell, and has published three books under this new name. These books are regional sagas that follow the same characters through different eras. So, new name and new genre - but still compelling and excellent written stories. 

Ruby (June 2012): As a former evacuee, feisty Ruby is forced to fend for herself when she returns to her family in London.  Set in the aftermath of WW2, this gripping saga is richly evocative of the period and shows the true grit of our heroine Ruby. Home is where the heart is…    After having lived peacefully in Cambridgeshire as an evacuee, 15-year-old Ruby Blakeley is bought back to reality when her bully of a brother Ray comes to take her home to East London.      Far from being welcomed back with open arms, Ruby finds herself being treated as a skivvy by her widowed mother and subject to a tirade of taunts from her two brothers.       Things get worse when she becomes pregnant. Unable to tackle her family, Ruby runs away and makes a new start for herself in Southend. But she soon finds she can’t escape her past.

Gracie (April 2013): Can you ever escape your past?  Gracie McCabe is building a new life for herself in the Essex seaside town of Southend working alongside best friend Ruby; she’s put her past to rest and is planning her future.  All that is missing is a family of her own, Gracie desperately wants a baby so when boyfriend Sean proposes she accepts without hesitation.  But a chance meeting before the wedding gives her doubts and when old secrets come back to haunt her, it seems that Sean is not the rock of strength she expected him to be.  Will Gracie find her happy ever after or will she be betrayed and abandoned once again?

Maggie (January 2015):  1960s. Maggie Wheaton's life is almost perfect. Confident, bright and popular, she lives with her loving, wealthy parents in a close-knit Cambridgeshire village. But, just days after her sixteenth birthday, her world falls apart: an accident kills both her parents, and then she suffers the ultimate betrayal when she learns a life-changing family secret. Maggie has no choice but to go and live with her appointed guardian, Ruby Riordan, in the seaside town of Southend, where she sets out on a deliberate path of self-destruction. Will Ruby be able to save her from herself, or is it all too little too late?

Find out more about Bernardine, and Marie at her website

Find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @BerniKennedy

I really hope that you've enjoyed my first Random Recommendation.  I highly recommend all of these books - go on, give them a try - and come back and let me know what you think.


  1. Interesting post Anne. I've never read any of Bernadine's books, so am now tempted to give one a try !

  2. Thanks for commenting Josie - I really do think you would enjoy Bernardine's books, Let me know if you give one a try!