I've discovered many new authors and new genres, I'll admit that I've abandoned old favourites along the way as my tastes have grown and changed, but the thought of a new Lesley Pearse novel never fails to thrill me.
Thanks to the wonderful new world of social media, and especially Twitter, I now feel as though I actually 'know' Lesley just a little bit and have been delighted to exchange Tweets with her on a regular basis.
It's also through our Twitter friendship that I've been lucky enough to get hold of a pre-publication copy of Lesley's latest novel The Promise (published January 19 2012 by Michael Joseph Ltd).
I've spent the last few days with my nose buried deep and have just come up for air - very satisfied, but a little lost, as now I'll have to wait for her next story.
The Promise is Lesley Pearse's twentieth novel and continues the story of Belle Reilly who readers were first introduced to in Lesley's novel entitled Belle, published earlier this year by Michael Joseph Limited.
The year is 1914, the eve of World War 1 and at last Belle is happy, married to Jimmy and running her own hat shop. Belle has had a colourful life, although only still in her early twenties, she has seen and done things that many women of her era will never dream of. Life has not been easy, she has suffered abuse and hardship, been rejected by her own Mother and although she has travelled across the world, her journey was not a happy one.
When Jimmy decides to enlist and go off to France to fight for his country, Belle is left lonely and restless. Never the type to sit back and wait for her man, and after a dreadful and shocking experience at the hands of a stranger, she too sets off for the battlefields, as a volunteer ambulance driver.
In France, Belle not only risks her life, but her happiness after a chance encounter with an old friend Etienne.
The Promise is a terrific read. Belle is a wonderfully created character, she has her flaws and is obstinate and headstrong, but also independent, loyal and passionate.
Lesley Pearse has recreated the battlefields of France so well; the mud, the terror, the rain, the injuries, the smells, the sounds, the sights. The bravery of the young soldiers, the determination of the volunteer medics - the doctors, the nurses and the drivers. The pure horror of conditions in the trenches are brought home to the reader in full force. There is also the dark humour, the loyalty, the friendship that is shared by the characters.
Once again, Lesley Pearse has produced a powerful story that drags the reader in from page one and doesn't let up the pace right up until the end.
A huge thanks to Lesley (follow her on twitter here) and to her PR Emma for sending me a pre-publication copy for review.