Posted in Book Review

Prosecco and Promises A.L.Michael – Blog Tour: Extract and 5* Review

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Mia’s dad has always been her idol. Now, she faces losing him, and he is insisting that she leave England to visit her mother’s family on the Italian island of Ischia.

Arriving on the island, Mia is embraced by the warm, crazy relatives she hardly knows. Despite her doubts about the trip, it is in Italy that Mia discovers connections to a part of her life that’s been missing, and during the sun-soaked days and steamy nights Mia falls for handsome local Salvatore. But as the day of her departure draws nearer can she risk having her heart broken twice in one summer? 

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Prosecco and Promises Cover

Extract from Prosecco and Promises…

‘My father had booked the flight and had sprung for business class. I knew he’d probably have tried for first class, but Marjorie would have reined him in, talking about how pointless physical objects wouldn’t make up for my emotional loss. For once, she was right. Plus, it was amazing how I managed to feel guilty about absolutely everything. I felt guilty when I enjoyed the taste of the coffee in the terminal before my flight, the smooth, rich espresso going cold as I hovered around drinking it. Dad loved espresso. Loved.

I felt guilty about my comfortable seat on the plane whilst my father lay in his bed in pain. I felt guilty about the glass of prosecco and the movie I laughed at multiple times before remembering why I was travelling in the first place. I felt guilty at the sheer joy of knowing I had handed in my notice at the make-up counter, because I hadn’t known how long I’d be away for, and they couldn’t wait around – saying goodbye to that place had been a relief.

In the end, all that guilt and remembering to be unhappy was exhausting, and I fell into a dark, dreamless, uneasy sleep, waking up to that jolting feeling as my stomach stuck in my throat and the wheels of the plane extended.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, signore e signori, welcome to Naples.’

As I stepped off the plane into the warm sunshine, I took a deep breath. Not just to rid me of the chemical, ‘fake’ air circulating on that plane for hours, but to see if any memories lingered on the Italian breeze.

‘Every country smells different when you step off a plane, Mia,’ my father had said, a lifetime ago, ‘and soon, when you’ve been on enough journeys, you’ll get off a plane and you’ll smell home.’

Home smelled like wet summer grass and cool air. This smelled like dry air, like sand kicked up by salty seas, sucked into the atmosphere and whipped up in the wind. It smelled like the promise of juicy oranges and crystal waters. It smelled like coconut suntan cream and ice cubes on sticky fingers. But it didn’t smell like any memories at all. Just the warmth before summer began.

The last time I’d been to Ischia, it had been just after Mum died. My dad bought her ashes back to her home; he felt it was where she’d want to be. I’d met all these dark-haired people with clucking voices and sad looks. They’d stroked my hair and pinched my cheeks and paused their bursts of frantic Italian to call me a ‘poor little thing’. We spent a few weeks there, my dad hollow and echoing as he tried to show me the island, but was haunted by memories. He met my mother on Ischia. Stole her away back to England. Sometimes we’d walk past someone or some house, or he’d stop and pick up a shell on the beach, or stare past the pink sunset, like he wasn’t really there, but was back in the memory with her. It wasn’t the best time. And now he was sending me back, to the place I had been dragged to after my mother died, as my father drowned in his memories.

Now I would drown in mine.’

My Thoughts…

Mia is giving up on love, she lost her mother when she was just a child and can hardly remember her. Now, she is losing her precious father, who has always been there for her. Determined to be strong and stay with him to the end, he makes her promise to visit her mother’s home and meet her maternal family whilst he lives out his remaining days without her.

Anger is Mia’s dominant emotion, she’s furious with her father, her young step mum and most of all herself. Italy proves to be just what she needs but there is a great deal of angst, poignant discovery and forgiveness to be lived through before Mia appreciates this.

I love Mia she is such a beautiful mess, full of fear, guilt, self-reproach and the need to belong. She’s afraid to love, believing she will only experience the pain of losing again, Mia doesn’t feel she’s worth loving and so pushes everyone away. Her maternal family are loud and loving and they slowly get under her skin. Mia learns about her mother and finally feels that she has roots.  As her new family relive their memories of her mother, Mia begins to heal, and when her father dies, she finds that life does go on, even though she is devastated.

Meeting Salvatore is unexpected and it’s not love at first sight, he is rude and she is angry but when they find a common goal, they each see something they like in the other and sparks of a different sort begin to glow. The love story is gentle and realistic and lovely to read. A thoughtful, memorable story which is perfectly paced and hard to put down.

I received a copy of this book from  Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review

 
A.L.Michael

A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of 10 novels. Her most recent collection of books, The Martini Club Series, started with Cocktails and Dreams, to be followed by Prosecco and Promises, and Martinis and Memories. She likes to write about difficult women. Well, they say to write what you know. Andi works as a Content Writer, as well as a therapeutic facilitator. She has a bunch of degrees in stuff to do with writing and wrote her MSc dissertation on the power of creative writing in eating disorder recovery. She truly believes stories can change your life.

Twitter: @AlMichael_

Facebook: A.L. Michael

Website: A. L. Michael

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Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Martinis and Memories – Q&A – 5*Review – A.L. Michael

 

A fun, feisty novel of love and chasing your dreams

Bel Hailstone has spent the past decade building her dream – Soho’s best burlesque club – from the ground up. But now The Martini Club is under threat, and it will take everything in Bel’s power to resist encroaching developers and save her pride and joy.

Amidst the chaos, Bel’s past comes knocking with the unexpected arrivals of her still-not-quite-ex-husband, her estranged mother and Brodie Porter – the boy who got away all those years ago.

To keep her beloved club afloat – not to mention her sanity – Bel will have to accept help for the first time in a long time, put the past to rest and claim the happy ever after she once thought was lost for good.

 

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Q&A: A.L. Michael – Martinis and Memories

What inspired you to write ‘The Martini Club’ series and did it turn out as you envisaged?

The Martini Club series started with Savvy’s story, that was my only idea. It was only after writing that first book that I realised the club had such an important presence – it was what allowed people to be themselves, the escape from the monotony of life, to find friends and chase dreams. That was what the series was meant to be about, after all, and I hope readers feel that.

‘Prosecco and Promises’ focuses on family and forgiveness, what are the themes of ‘Martini and Memories’?

Similarly, it’s about family and forgiveness, but I’d say for Bel it’s about vulnerability and trust – trusting people enough to be weak, to need looking after, admitting that you need help. Bel has created a life that’s about being good on her own, and impressing everyone – she hates asking for help, and she needs to get over the idea that you’re only strong if you do it alone.

Where do you begin when creating your characters and how do you make them believable?

I start with my character’s issues, the things that make them angry, or upset, or long for something else. I fill in their dreams and their loves and their strange little quirks, the way they say certain words or how they hate pineapple juice. I struggle to hold onto the visuals of my characters, but I always know how they’d react in any situation.

‘The Martini Club’, series is characterised by the glamorous settings and people. If the series became a film which actors would you envisage in the leading roles?

I love that idea – I have to admit, I never know how to cast my characters. I think Natalie Dormer would make a good Bel. Brodie, in my head, was played by Jamie Dornan and I stole his Belfast accent. I see Sam as Sam Elliot (Grace and Frankie), but that wasn’t why I chose the name, or at least I don’t think so!

Romantic comedy, relies heavily on the likeability of the female protagonist, how do you ensure they appeal to the reader, without making them too stereotypical?

I have to admit, I don’t want my main characters to be too likeable. Or rather, I don’t want them to be perfect. I hope that readers can see they usually mean well, even if they don’t always manage it, or they say the wrong thing. We all have friends like that, I think, ones we would forgive their mistakes and missteps because we know deep down they’re good people. When I was younger, I always hated Scarlett in Gone With The Wind (which crops up in this book!), but as I grew older I ended up thinking, ‘man that’s a good character, look at her!’ I saw her in a different context when I grew up and felt empathy for her situation and how young she was. You always have to look at your characters in context. And also, if they made no mistakes, there’d be no story!

Have you written books in other genres? If not, would you like to and why?

I wrote a thriller type book as an experiment, and it was fun! I’ve also just finished more of a book club book, and I’m having a play around with magical realism. It’s always fun to play and push yourself to try new things!

My Thoughts…

Bel is precisely the type of woman you’d expect to be running a successful, burlesque club in London; confident, glamorous and fierce. The truth is somewhat different; she paints her confident air and glamorous appearance on with her make-up. Her hard persona hides, a broken heart, a head full of insecurities engendered by her mother, who she never seemed to please and her love of her employees who she considers family.

Bel’s story is about learning to trust and the realisation that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Her relationship with her mother is an integral part of her story, and the development of their relationship adds emotional depth to the story.

Vividly described the ‘Martini Club’s’ importance to Bel comes across. The romance in this story is not immediately apparent, but when it makes an appearance, it’s worth the wait.

A fitting end to the ‘Martini Club’ series full of memories and mistakes and the power of forgiveness, loyalty and love. ‘Martinis and Memories is an engaging read with believable, memorable characters and a fairytale ending.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

AL. Michael is the author of 13 novels. Almost all of them are snarky love stories where difficult women learn to embrace vulnerability. Andi works as a content writer, so no matter what she’s doing, she’s all about the words. She has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Creative Business and an MSc in Creative Writing. She is represented by Hayley Steed at Madeleine Milburn.

Twitter: @almichael_

Website: http://www.almichael.com