It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Under a Sicilian Sky by Lisa Hobman, and to share my review. Published by Boldwood Books on 8th July, it’s now available for kindle via Amazon (and free via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
It was really lovely to rediscover Lisa Hobman’s writing with Dreaming Under An Island Skye, her first book for Boldwood, published in February this year (you’ll find my review here). I hadn’t read anything from her since 2013, and I was so pleased her writing still delighted me – a great story well told, excellent characters, the perfect setting. I see we’re visiting Sicily and Skye in her latest – let’s take a closer look…
Global box office sensation, Ruby Locke, is a long way from her Yorkshire roots. Together with her fiancé, movie heartthrob Tyler Harrison, they are Hollywood’s new glitterati.
Overnight, however, Ruby’s life implodes when her social media accounts are hacked with a multitude of vile posts, turning her into an international pariah. Even Tyler breaks off their engagement.
Confused and heartbroken, Ruby escapes to the beautiful island of Sicily to avoid the media scrutiny and clear her name. With only a Yorkshire Terrier to comfort her, Ruby is befriended by a handsome neighbour and slowly begins to heal.
But who is this mysterious man and what are his intentions?
When her Sicilian hideaway is compromised, Ruby is once again forced to relocate, this time to the stunning Isle of Skye.
In the tranquil cove of Glentorrin, Ruby is left questioning not only who wants to destroy her career, and why but also if celebrity lifestyle is really for her…
Yorkshire lass Ruby is a star, loved by millions, with the lifestyle of the rich and famous – but everything starts to disintegrate when her social media accounts are hacked, and it seems the whole world is turning against her. Amid media disasters and the mounting threat to her safety, Tyler – the man she rather hoped would be there for her – breaks off their engagement, fearing for the impact on his own career. When the death threats start, she really does need to lie low for a while – and where better than a villa in Sicily, owned by a friend of a friend, where she hopes to be able to disappear from public scrutiny while her agent hopefully puts things right and attempts to restore her reputation.
With guards on the gate – and despite the company of a delightful little Yorkshire terrier called Nero, and the telephone support of steadfast friend Kitty – she begins to feel like a prisoner. But her attempts to spread her wings a little go very wrong, and she’s forced to flee for a second time, this time to Glentorrin on Skye, in the company of something of a knight in shining armour – although she at first thinks Mitch is an Italian builder doing some work on the villa, their early encounters fraught with misunderstandings (and some lovely touches of humour). Skye envelops her in the warm hug she really needs, gives her time to think about her uncertain future, but also delivers a computer nerd who might finally be able to get to the bottom of the hacking issues so that she can restart her life – and things slowly begin to look a little more hopeful.
There was so much I enjoyed about this book. The whole hacking and cyber-bullying scenario was extremely well done, giving the whole story a nice contemporary edge – with some very real insights into the fragility of stardom, when adoration can turn to hatred overnight, and the support network you believe firmly in place falls apart.
I will admit though that – for me – this was rather a book of two halves. While I certainly did enjoy Ruby’s time in Sicily, and the intriguing storyline that developed as she tried to escape her incarceration for a while, I felt the book really took off from the point she arrived in Skye. I so enjoyed the author’s last book, and I was delighted to be back in the warmth of the community in Glentorrin, surrounded by characters (with two legs, and four) that I already knew so well and had taken to my heart. I must say though that if this is your first visit, it really won’t matter at all – it was really good to recognise the background and some of the characters’ stories, but it’s really not essential, just rather a treat for those of us who do.
Ruby herself is a really lovely character, and particularly well drawn – she might be a global superstar, but she’s very real and grounded (after all, she’s a Yorkshire girl at heart). I particularly loved her phone exchanges with heavily pregnant friend Kitty – filled with humour, but it was good to know that she still had someone firmly in her corner. But when in Skye, she becomes surrounded by new friends too – and the way they accept her as one of their own really does your heart good. And then there’s the enigmatic Mitch, who seems determined to remain immune from her charms – but things do gradually warm up a little, a slow-burn romance that I thoroughly enjoyed, but with more than its fair share of obstacles and misunderstandings along the way.
While Ruby and Mitch are always central to the story, all the supporting characters – however peripheral – are excellent too. I especially liked chauffeur Philippe and his lovely family who provide Ruby with a refuge when the story first breaks, an exceptional act of kindness and some much-needed proof that not everyone believes the worst of her. And the whole community in Glentorrin is simply wonderful – all the small acts of kindness, the new friendships being built, their total acceptance that the star in their midst is just a real person who’s hurting and needs to feel safe once more.
There’s a nice edginess from the unfolding mystery of who might be responsible for the social media meltdown, but it’s the developing romance and the warmth of that wonderful community at Glentorrin that gives this book real heart. It’s an excellent story, really well told – and I was really sorry when it ended and I had to leave. I’ll be looking forward to the next book from Lisa Hobman – I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
About the author
Lisa Hobman has written many brilliantly reviewed women’s fiction titles – the first of which was shortlisted by the RNA for their debut novel award. In 2012 Lisa relocated her family from Yorkshire to a village in Scotland and this beautiful backdrop now inspires her uplifting and romantic stories.