The world is waiting…but just outside of your comfort zone.
Jo Campbell is perfectly content in a perfectly structured life. Nothing ever changes in Jo’s life, and she likes it that way. Or at least, she tells herself she does. Most of the time, she manages to push down the tiny voice that tells her to chase her dream and maybe, just maybe, open her battered and bruised heart up to love. But to chase her dreams she needs to take chances that are way out of her comfort zone and learn to not put other people’s happiness above her own. Most of all she has to learn to trust her heart, which may just be the biggest challenge of all.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books in return for an honest review.
This is a lovely feel-good story about having the confidence to follow your dreams. Jo is a writer, but she’s wary of sharing her work, in case it’s not good enough. Her family and friends are supportive, but she has to win an internal battle with herself to be truly happy. The story is set in Derry in Northern Ireland and has an intrinsic authenticity because if the author’s knowledge of the people and place.
The family and friends dynamics are believable, and the world created relatably. The romance is conflicted and gentle full of internal and external conflict. The plot is interesting and has an expected twist.
This is the second book in the series, but it’s a complete story and an enjoyable, easy read.
Extract from In Pursuit of Happiness – Freya Kennedy
The pop of the champagne bottle made Jo Campbell jump, even though she’d watched her foster brother, Noah, as he started to twist the cork slowly, and had anticipated the noise that would follow.
Her nerves were on edge, and fizzed just like the bubbly liquid that was being poured into delicate long-stemmed champagne flutes. The hum and chatter of the guests assembled in the next room made her feel giddy. So giddy, in fact, that she downed the better part of her glass of bubbles in one go, prompting her mother to warn her to slow down.
‘But, Mum,’ she said, ‘I’m really, really nervous. What if everyone hates it? What if it bombs and the only reviews that come are one-star assassinations? What if not a single person buys it?’ She didn’t so much as have butterflies in her stomach as giant killer moths – if such a thing existed.
Her mother put down her own almost empty glass. ‘Josephine Campbell. Calm yourself, my wee love. Everyone will love it. Why wouldn’t they? It’s brilliant, and you’re brilliant.’
‘But you are duty-bound to say that. You’re my mammy. Even if it was the worst book in the world, you’d still tell me it was brilliant,’ Jo said.
Her mother, a woman who had raised three children of her own, adopted another and fostered countless more over the years, gave Jo a snippy look. ‘I would not! I’ve always been honest with you and I’m not going to change now. Besides, it’s published. It wouldn’t be if it was rubbish!’
‘She’s right you know,’ Libby Quinn, one of Jo’s dearest friends and the proprietor of Once Upon A Book in Ivy Lane, told her. ‘You’re good. Actually you’re great. This is your moment, so enjoy it. The shop is full and everyone is on your side.’
Libby smiled her usual warm, inviting smile and Jo watched as Noah put his arm around his new fiancée’s shoulder and kissed her on the cheek. They made a lovely couple – Libby and Noah. But then she’d always known that from the moment Libby Quinn had arrived in The Ivy Inn soaked to the skin and covered in grime just over a year earlier. She’d known almost instantly they would be a great pair, and once they had finally admitted their feelings towards each other they had become almost inseparable. Just thinking about Noah’s hearts and flowers proposal brought tears to Jo’s eyes, and it wasn’t that she was jealous. Although if she was honest with herself, she would admit she was.
‘Damn it,’ Jo said, downing the rest of her glass while ignoring her mother’s disapproving looks. ‘I’m not going to cry, I’ll never live it down!’
‘Everyone knows you’re soft as butter, Jo. I wouldn’t worry about it,’ Noah said. He was right, of course, she was as soft as butter on a warm day, but she had more reason than normal to be emotional.
Posters of Jo’s debut novel, The Lies WeTell, lined the walls, replete with official author pictures, in which she looked sultry and serious and not her usual gregarious self.
In that moment, Jo felt a swell of pride and achievement. This was her moment. She’d finally done it. Written a book and had it published. And now she was going to enjoy this launch in her beloved home town of Derry in the north of Ireland.
Her little sister, Clara, a self-declared princess, danced in circles around Jo’s feet, enjoying the tulle monstrosity of a dress she had insisted on wearing for the occasion. It was over the top, Jo conceded, but Clara had her big sister tightly wrapped around her little finger.
And all her friends were there. Harry from the corner shop. The regulars of The Ivy Inn, which she was part owner of along with Noah. Her godmother, Auntie Mags, and even Erin, her most trusted confidante. They all grinned at her as if she was a graceful bride about to glide down the aisle.
So far the launch had been everything she had hoped for: copies of her books on the shelves, friends and family sharing the moment and champagne galore. There was just one final ingredient – the icing on the cake: the celebrity guest. Libby had made it her mission to find someone famous to do the launching honours – someone instantly recognisable, but she had refused to tell Jo who it would be.
‘It’s good,’ Libby had said. ‘It’s someone really good.’
Jo hoped it was someone who would suit the gravitas of the launch – and the seriousness of the book she had written. She’d poured years of writing and learning and rewriting and relearning into making this debut, and she had great dreams that one of her writing heroes, maybe Liz Nugent or Liane Moriarty, or local bestseller Brian McGilloway, would do the honours.
When the crowd parted, Jo swore loudly as she saw a life-sized Peppa Pig holding a copy of her book, while Clara squealed with delighted at the superstar guest.
Freya Kennedy lives in Derry, Northern Ireland, with her husband, two children, two cats and a mad dog called Izzy. She worked as a journalist for eighteen years before deciding to write full time. When not writing, she can be found reading, hanging out with her nieces and nephews, cleaning up after her children (a lot) and telling her dog that she loves her.
She has met Michael Buble and even kissed him. It was one of her best ever moments.
She believes in happy ever afters.
Freya Kennedy is a pen name for Claire Allan, who also writes psychological thrillers.
When downtrodden checkout assistant Bonnie Green receives a letter from a mysterious uncle, she can hardly believe her eyes.
Gifted a hundred-year lease on a famous cafe situated in the middle of a mythical theme park, Bonnie sets off with her best friend Debbie on an adventure to a hidden valley in the Lake District where they will find new friendship, love, and happiness, all set against the magic of Christmas … and more marshmallows than they can possibly eat….
A Christmas Land Welcome – Excerpt from Christmas at the Marshmallow Cafe C.P Ward
After a harrowing journey north, Bonnie and Debbie finally arrive at Christmas Land. Will it live up to their expectations?
Bonnie and Debbie climbed off as the train’s doors opened. They found themselves standing on a platform lacking even a ticket office. As the train pulled away, chugging across the marsh and then vanishing back into the forest, they looked at each other, both shrugging.
‘Well, we’re here,’ Bonnie said.
‘What an awesome place. Like, how long do we have to wait for the next train back?’
‘There’s a road over there, through the trees. And a sign. Look.’
Carrying their suitcases, they climbed down a set of steps and made their way across the clearing to where a forest trail led into the trees. A faded wooden sign with an arrow said CHRISTMAS LAND THIS WAY.
They headed down the trail, the trees closing in to block out the sky overhead. Debbie clutched Bonnie’s arm, squeezing so tightly that Bonnie had to repeatedly prise her fingers free in order to allow the blood to resume flowing.
The trail kept up a winding meander which didn’t allow them to see too far ahead, as though holding back its secrets until the last moment. Bonnie was fully expecting to turn a corner and find a sign telling them they’d been duped, when Debbie jerked to a stop, pulling Bonnie with her.
‘Can’t you hear it?’
Bonnie listened. Debbie was right. A faint tinkle of music came through the trees. It was too indistinct to make out any kind of a tune, but she felt sure it was familiar.
They started walking again. As they closed on the source of the music, Bonnie was able to pick up the tune. Jingle Bells, played on a loop.
‘It’s so weird,’ Bonnie said. ‘Standing in a pine forest in November, hearing the most famous Christmas Song of all played over a speaker.’
‘Look,’ Debbie said. ‘Here it is.’
They stepped out from behind a large pine leaning across the path and found Christmas Land standing in front of them.
Huge ornate gates held a sign.
WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS LAND
WHERE THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS NEVER ENDS
On either side, gatehouse towers rose, all fake stonework and plastic snow. Electric candles flickered in windows, illuminating the silhouettes of reindeer and elves.
One gate stood open. As they approached, Bonnie saw how it was now open forever, the upper hinge broken off, leaving the front corner buried in the ground. Bushes had grown up to claim it, the roots of saplings rooting it into the earth.
Inside the gates were lines of pretty chalets and a visitor centre. The roofs were loaded with pine needles and she could see even from this distance that several windows had plywood boards where glass should have been. A Ferris wheel standing in the centre of a main square had a sycamore growing eight feet high through the window of the closest car to the ground, clearly indicating that it hadn’t turned in some years.
‘It’s derelict,’ Debbie said. ‘Abandoned. Wow, this is way more awesome than I was expecting. Man, if only I had a metal band, this would be amazing for some press photos. An abandoned Christmas theme park in the middle of the forest—’
‘We prefer to simply say neglected,’ came a voice from inside one of the gatehouse towers, and a lower window opened to reveal a ruddy-cheeked man wearing a top hat and a green suit. Large sideburns made Bonnie immediately think of the bankers in Mary Poppins.
‘While it might look in a little disrepair, I can assure you that there is still plenty of fun to be had in Christmas Land, three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. Do you have a reservation? If not, don’t worry. We have plenty of chalets available.’ Then, breaking kayfabe for the first time, he looked down at the red gloves covering his hands and grimaced. ‘Most of them, actually.’
Rainbow put down the phone and raced upstairs to her bedroom. Christophe had a surprise for her and he sounded excited about it.
She pulled on shorts and a T-shirt, scraped her long brown hair into a ponytail and clattered back downstairs. She paused at the bathroom to brush her teeth. She didn’t want morning breath to interfere with kissing.
Mum was in the kitchen, humming her new song as she made tea for the commune adults.
“Can I borrow the Mini?” Rainbow asked. “I’m going over to Christophe’s.”
Mum yawned. “I thought you were revising all weekend?”
“I’ve got the rest of the day to revise. And tomorrow. I won’t be long.”
Mum nodded, sat down with her tea and started scribbling musical notes on her manuscript. Rainbow dropped a kiss on her cheek, scooped up the keys and dashed outside into the sunny June morning.
She hadn’t seen Christophe all week. He’d been training a new motorbike apprentice at work and persuaded Rainbow to spend the final evenings before her Baccalaureate exams revising instead of hanging out with him. So she had. She’d ignored the call of the woods and sat in her loft, her school books open, gazing out of the windows at the enticing leaves.
Christophe. A smile spread across her face as she drove towards his flat in Cognac. They’d been together for nine months – the nine best months of her life. They’d also been the strangest, but that wasn’t because of Chris. It was because of Mary.
When she and Mary hugged the silver maple tree last September, it had somehow absorbed Mary’s body. Rainbow absorbed Mary’s mind, which supposedly healed the split that should never have happened. All Mary’s memories and emotions, from the moment she and Mary split into two parallels, had lodged themselves inside Rainbow.
Rainbow didn’t feel healed. Mary continued to live on: to think and react to everything in Rainbow’s life, making Rainbow feel overstuffed with bizarre feelings that conflicted with her own. Mary’s negativity and her rebelliousness, her irreverent humour, her courage and her uncertainties all battled with Rainbow’s own, simpler worldview. Mary was so strong, Rainbow could almost hear her voice, and she experienced yearnings for places she’d never seen and people she’d never known.
After nine months, she still felt as if she’d swallowed Mary whole, like a dose of unpleasant medicine, and was unable to digest her. All she could do was to keep the thoughts and feelings that emerged from Mary in a separate part of her mind, a small part that didn’t interfere with her true self. Between her and Mary was a mental wall, a wall of bricks.
The only good part of sharing her mind and body with Mary was the love for Christophe she’d brought with her. There was no keeping that behind the wall. It seeped through the gaps and filled her with a heady scent that made life more joyful than ever before.
Luckily, Christophe understood her Mary problems. He understood everything about her – except, perhaps, that she didn’t like revising. Or her obsession with Amrita Devi.
She parked Mum’s Mini in front of the motorbike shop in Cognac and jumped out, hoping the surprise wasn’t anything to do with motorbikes. Christophe’s flat was above the shop where he worked, though he didn’t work on Saturdays. She rang the doorbell to his flat and waited.
Amrita Devi was the girl in the Bishnoi legend who had saved a tree and lived – or saved a tree and died, according to Mary. Rainbow firmly believed Amrita had lived.
Although she hadn’t seen Amrita since her vision last September, she’d had incessant dreams about her. At the beginning, the dreams showed her and Amrita as the closest of sisters, running through woodland together, holding hands, sharing secrets and laughing. But the dreams were becoming darker. The last few times they’d been nightmares, with Amrita pleading for help and begging Rainbow to understand something that Rainbow could never grasp. When Rainbow told Christophe about her dreams, his brown eyes would begin to glaze and she’d have to tickle him until he listened properly.
Christophe buzzed open the front door for her and waited at the top of the stairs. She looked at him carefully as she walked up, in case the surprise was something boring like a new haircut. His thick hair was standing up at odd angles, which was normal for the morning, and there were no signs of piercings or tattoos. He did look worried, though. She glided into his bear hug and he held her tight.
Harriet Springbett’s childhood on a small farm in West Dorset gave her an early exposure to nature, which continues to inspire her writing.
She qualified as an engineer but, during a Raleigh International expedition in Chile, she realised she preferred words to numbers. She abandoned her profession, moved to France, studied French and then worked as a project manager, feature writer, translator and TEFL teacher. She now lives in Poitou-Charentes with her French partner and their teenage children.
Since her first literary success, aged 10, her short stories and poetry have been published in literary journals and placed in writing competitions, including a shortlisting in the 2017 Bath Short Story Award.
Atae is a hybrid, a Kaji half-breed, living on the capital planet of the Kajian Empire. In a culture dictated by strength and honor, Atae’s father pushes her to prove herself worthy of being Kaji.
At the elite Sula Academy, hybrids like Atae compete alongside the Kaji purebreds, warriors with the ability to transform into savage battle beasts. Atae and her packmates prepare for the Sula Academy Tournament, which will determine their fate within their warrior culture, but a close brush with death threatens Atae’s position in the competition and forces her to confront her weaknesses.
Atae must find the strength to escape a spoiled prince’s wrath, survive her first crush, and help her packmates complete the Tournament, all while keeping the biggest secret of her life from her father. And she must do it without losing her true self in the process.
“I have an idea that I’d like to discuss with you,” the traitor says.
The warrior slams her fist into the traitor’s emerald eyes, and the traitor yelps in surprise at the brutal attack. The punch propels her backward several paces, but the traitor refuses to kneel. She opens one eye as the second swells shut. Still, she manages a menacing glare at the warrior, who crosses her arms with a smug smile.
“It must be quite an idea to risk coming back here,” the warrior says.
The traitor snarls at the quip and retaliates. Prepared, the warrior shifts her weight to the left, so the traitor’s fist skims past her. Surprised by her lack of contact, the traitor hesitates, and the warrior slams her knee into the traitor’s exposed mid-section with a loud snap of a rib. With the wind knocked out of her, the traitor topples forward. Amber eyes show no mercy as the warrior slams her fists into the traitor’s neck. The force of the blow sends the traitor crashing to the ground hard enough to crumble the dirt below them. With a satisfied grin, the warrior steps out of the rubble of soil and weeds to watch the traitor groan and struggle back to her feet.
“It must be an impressive idea to show your face to me, again,” the warrior says.
She grabs the traitor’s hair and wrenches her opponent’s head back in a painful hold. The warrior dips her face close to whisper promises of pain.
“What makes you think I won’t kill you here and now?”
Grimacing, the traitor glares at her attacker, but the warrior’s molten gaze is just as fierce. The traitor clenches her teeth and smashes her forehead into the warrior’s nose, producing a satisfying crunch. With a yelp, the warrior releases her grip and jumps back from the traitor to clutch her broken nose. The traitor wipes at the blood that seeps from her damaged forehead and huffs at the minor injury.
“Because we gave our words not to kill each other when we agreed to meet,” the traitor says. The warrior rolls her eyes as she cradles her nose in her hands and blood pools in her palms.
“Why should I trust a traitor?”
The traitor sighs, and her emerald eyes dim with pain and regret.
“I’ll show you. Wait here.”
The traitor returns to her shuttle before the warrior can argue. The amber-eyed female scoffs at her dismissal and splatters blood on the ground around her. The warrior takes a deep breath before snapping her nose into proper alignment. She bites back a painful groan and peers up into the night sky to fight the tears that flood her vision. She smiles at the adrenaline surging through her body. It’s been far too long since she’s suffered an injury. With dry eyes, she glances back to the traitor’s shuttle to find the emerald-eyed female descending the landing with something bundled in her robe.
Kelly A. Nix is a native-born Texan from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In high school, she competed in rodeo, earned a brown belt in Taekwondo, and strived to be an actress. After graduating with her M.B.A., Kelly enjoys her career in the veterinary industry, and she spends most of her free time with her family, traveling, and writing. An animal lover, she shares her home with three cats, Louise, Rachel, and Orange Kitty, and a Great Dane mix named Dingo.
Tony Lambrianu is bold, daring and ruthless, qualities that have propelled him and Jake Sinclair up the ladder in London’s sleazy but lucrative underworld.
And, now that he’s running a fancy West End nightclub, Tony has new-found celebrity status – with a never-ending string of gorgeous women on his arm, he’s become the darling of the tabloids. However, despite his success, he still feels he lacks the respect he deserves and the status he desires. The little boy who lived on the streets is never far away.
Desperate for recognition, he’s driven to achieve more and more. Most of all, he craves the acceptance of Ralph Gold and to become a bigger part of his extensive web of organised crime.
Fearlessly facing up to enemies, winning battles and becoming the undisputed bosses of the London underworld can be a nasty business, but it’s the only business Tony and Jake know. And they’ll stop at nothing to succeed.
The club felt like an empty ghost town and suddenly twice the size. Even though there was excitement in the air, there was also nervous tension, and none of them had much to say to each other.
The bar staff were polishing the glasses and making themselves busy, to pass the time. The waitresses stood at the side of the bar, waiting patiently for some customers. It felt like time had stopped. Everyone seemed bored and restless; even when the music started up, it didn’t seem to make much difference.
‘I can’t stand this anymore,’ said Jake, ‘I feel sick. I’m going to take a look outside to see if there’s anyone around.’ No matter what happened, both Jake and Tony knew they had to put on a brave face and look confident. At this stage there was nothing else they could do.
Moments later, Jake came running back over, nearly tripping up in his haste. His eyes were wide and his face wore a shocked expression. ‘Tony! Tony!’ he shouted.
Tony was still standing at the bar with Sharon. He was drinking a large whisky for Dutch courage. They turned to Jake on hearing him shout and, even in the dimly lit club, they could see the colour had drained from his face.
Jake was out of breath, he was panting and trying to speak at the same time.
‘There’s a queue around the block, loads of people are waiting to come in! Come and see.’
Jake led the way, almost running the full length of the club to get back to the doors. Tony and Sharon followed. Looking past the bouncers on the doors, Tony saw a long line of people patiently waiting for the doors to open. He looked at the bouncers and then back at the queue, then turned to go back inside. ‘Let them in,’ he said.
The three of them went and stood at the far side of the bar, almost in the shadows, and watched as people came flooding through the doors.
A blonde woman wearing a very expensive-looking pink gown walked in first, with a party of similarly dressed men and women hot on her heels. ‘Champagne!’ she shouted at the bar staff. Silver champagne buckets were filled with ice and corks were popped. The staff, recently idle, were now rushed off their feet, trying to keep up with orders. More and more people came through the doors. Many followed the blonde woman’s lead and ordered champagne. She was adorned in diamonds that Sharon assured Tony and Jake had to be the real thing. She sat in the middle of one of the private booths, men and women seated each side of her, as though holding court.
The three of them watched as an older man walked up to her, kissed her on the cheek and sat at her side. He was dressed in a tuxedo, and had an air of authority. Everyone seemed to know him. One of the waitresses walked up to Jake.
‘Mr Sinclair,’ she said, ‘that woman over there keeps ordering champagne, but she isn’t paying for it. She keeps telling the bar staff to put it on her account. Do you know her? Does she have an account?’ She looked worried.
My name is Gillian Godden an Indie author and a full time NHS Key worker at a local inner city medical centre in East Hull, East Yorkshire, England. My patients come from all sectors of society and no two days are ever the same. My duty of care is to my patients and during the recent pandemic a lot of frightened and lonely people have relied upon us at the medical centre to offer guidance and support. This year is the 72nd anniversary of the NHS and we do everything we can to support out patients when they need us.
When I come home I like to wind down and writing is my escape from the mental stresses of my day. My job is not a 9 to 5 job and I work to support my patients when they need me so my days can be long.
The medical team at the surgery work together to support all our patients during their time of worry and need.
On a more personal note , I grew up in a large family and am the youngest of 7 siblings. Over the years we have lost touch as life moves on. I lived in London for over 30 years and during this time I worked in various London stripper pubs and venues. I have a grown up son who now lives and works in London as a hematology lab technician. He has been working on the Covid 19 testing and this has been a worrying time for us as a family.
Once he left for University 5 years ago I had more time on my hands I was encouraged to write a short story by a local library book competition. First prize was a P&O cruise and 2nd prize was £50, I lost to a pigeon fancier and an addicted crocheter.
My NHS colleagues supported my writing and encouraged me to continue to write, however being a little green and naive I went with a Vanity publisher, much to my cost. This experience did give me a platform to showcase my first book Francesca on Amazon and in the online book clubs. I was totally over whelmed by the response and people messaged me via social media wanting to know more about the characters and how Tony Lambrianu grew up and became so successful in the London Gangland crime world.
To answer their questions I went backwards in time and wrote Dangerous games and Nasty business. These also were successfully received by my now increasing readership, so in order to complete the series I wrote Dirty Dealings.
My readers are still interested in the characters throughout my books and asked for more information on the lives of Julie and Ralph Gold, so as I do everything I can to support my patients in my NHS job I wanted to do the same for my readers, so I am now writing Gold, the story of Julie and Ralph. Although this is a standalone book readers who have read all my other books will soon be able to find out more about Julie and Ralphs life and how they met.
Jackson Birkman has the perfect life: the lead role on the popular detective show “Dispatching David,” millions of adoring fans, celebrity status, and a beautiful girlfriend. After five seasons, “Dispatching David” has just been cancelled. With the final episode quickly approaching, Jackson is worried about more than just his future acting career. His once massive fortune is dwindling and his girlfriend Clara is pressuring him to propose.
When Jackson unexpectedly dies on the set of the TV show during filming, everyone speculates whether it was suicide or murder. Why would Jackson commit suicide? If it was a setup, who would want Jackson to die? And most importantly, what was the motive of the murderer? As the investigation continues, Officer Wilson inches closer to the truth, uncovering Jackson’s secrets. She begins to think no one really knew Jackson at all, but is determined to solve the case, no matter the cost.
Excerpt from The Long Shadow on the Stage Nichole Heydenburg
“Jackson, do you think you could help me with this box? I thought I could get it, but it’s heavier than I thought,” Clara said, exhaling loudly, her arms shaking while struggling to hold a particularly large box she was trying to carry into his apartment.
“Ah, sweetie! Why didn’t you wait for me?” Jackson ran over to her and grabbed the box from her arms. It wasn’t that heavy. He brought it into the apartment with Clara trailing after him emptyhanded. “How many do you have left?”
“A lot. Help me,” she pleaded, throwing herself onto his black leather couch and curling up her legs to lie down.
“Are you going to bring in anything else?” He asked, frustrated. He didn’t mind helping, but if she was going to lay around and not do anything, he at least wanted to know the truth and not have her pretend she was working hard.
“Yeah. Just give me a minute. I’m tired.” Clara yawned, pulling the blanket he always kept on the couch over her body and snuggling into the cool leather.
She didn’t look like she was budging an inch, so Jackson grumbled to himself and went back outside to her car, grabbing whatever he could carry to finish moving her stuff in as quickly as possible. He brought inside box after box after box. He stopped beside Clara’s car and leaned against it to rest his tired muscles. Jackson heard footsteps rapidly approaching and was about to turn around when suddenly everything went black.
Nichole Heydenburg earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English with an emphasis in writing and a minor in theatre from Adrian College in 2014. Her one-act play “The Hidden Story” won a playwriting contest and was performed at her alma mater in 2015. She also had several poems published in “The Oxcart” literary magazine. Nichole has been working full-time as the Content Manager for a start-up company for 3 years. When she isn’t writing, Nichole enjoys going on adventures with her husband, reading, playing board games, and the occasional mimosa. “The Long Shadow on the Stage” is her first novel. She currently resides near Asheville, NC with her husband, Zed.
To stay up to date on news about her second novel, as well as read writing and self-publishing tips, subscribe to her monthly newsletter on her website https://www.nicholeheydenburg.com/.
The Ugly Duckling meets the Gothic novel: a plain governess, a romantic Miss, a stern but handsome guardian, involved in a midnight chase, a woman dressed in britches and a gloomy castle. Throw in a bit of Vivaldi and some French philosophy, and you have it all!
If Rosemary can’t control her wayward pupil and prove her worth to her guardian the Earl, her future is bleak.
When Marianne’s father dies, she and her governess Rosemary are forced to go and live with her guardian the Earl of Tyndell. The Earl has strict ideas about how young ladies should behave. He isn’t impressed by the romantic notions Marianne has absorbed straight from the pages of a Gothic novel. And her governess is not only dowdy but perfectly ready to put him in his place, especially regarding his ideas about the education of women. But when the Earl’s interest in Rosemary blossoms just as Marianne falls in love with the last person he would ever agree to her marrying, where will it all end?
Read Rosemary or Too Clever to Love to see how this tangle is sorted out.
In spite of its light-hearted and often humorous tone, this charming novel raises questions about women’s education and philosophy. Book Group discussion topic have been included at the end.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is a traditional styled Regency Romance featuring Rosemary. Rosemary comes from a genteel, impoverished background and is forced into service to survive. Marianne her charge becomes the ward of the mysterious Earl of Tyndell, on her father’s death and the two women face an uncertain future.
The novel explores the role of women in Regency society and their lack of power. Rosemary is well-educated, and this makes her unusual in Regency society. The chemistry between Rosemary and Giles the Earl is slow-burning but allows the emotional connection to keep pace with the physical attraction. This is a gentle romance with witty dialogue and unrequited feelings that are enjoyable.
Character-driven this story concentrates on the present with only necessary information on the characters’ backgrounds. The story is engaging and romantic.
Excerpt from Rosemary Too Clever to Love
Rosemary and Marianne put on a play Rosemary has written about Mary Queen of Scots in a ruined chapel in the grounds.
On the day of the performance, the footmen had carried all the chairs from the ballroom downhill to the ruins, the maids had swept the chancel of bird droppings and leaves and the cook had finally filled her baking pans when, about midday, they received the devastating news that the two young men would be unable to perform. They had that morning been indulging in their favorite pastime of running along the top of the walls that flanked the Hardcastle estate, when they had been surprised by a pheasant shooting from its covert and had fallen headlong into a large bed of tall stinging nettles. Their hands and faces, and more particularly their eyelids, had been quite viciously stung, and all the application of mashed dock leaves in the world had not reduced the swelling. The doctor had been called and had advised their remaining quietly in their beds with the blinds down and cold compresses on their eyes. He had given them a small dose of laudanum and they were presently sleeping. There was no possibility of their performing that day.
It was impossible to change the arrangements. People would be arriving in under three hours. With Marianne wailing and her head in a spin, Rosemary made a rapid decision. Luckily, she had kept both young men’s costumes at High House, not trusting them to remember them. She sent a note to Mrs. Hardcastle, asking her to send over a shirt and britches, possibly something Jasper had grown out of. She would play the parts herself. When she told Marianne what she had decided, that young lady was torn between gratitude and being scandalized.
“You’re going to appear in public in britches?” she gasped. “But, but… how will you change?” She looked horrified.
“Don’t refine upon it dear,” replied Rosemary with more calm than she felt. It will just be for a moment. I just have to wear the britches for Bothwell. He’s the only one seen in normal men’s clothing. And as for changing, I won’t have to, really. I shall go down to the ruins in the britches under my Darnley shroud, with my cloak over all. I shall go behind one of the pillars and take off my cloak. I can play Darnley, then I have only to remove the shroud to play Bothwell. That’s the only time I’ll be seen in britches. Afterwards I’ll don the apron for the Executioner. It will work, I assure you. The good news is that his lordship told me yesterday he will not be able to see the play, as he has urgent business with one of his tenants. Something to do with flooding after all this rain. I was a little disappointed, but now I’m delighted. Say nothing to him, for heaven’s sake!”
Marianne was sufficiently reassured to be able to face his lordship later without a tremor, and when he offered his apologies for missing the performance, said with tolerable equanimity, “Oh, it’s only a silly amusement for children, after all! You may be happy to be missing it.”
The time for the performance arrived. The performers hid behind the chapel pillars and the audience took their seats. The servants from High House stood behind the chairs. They had been agog at all the preparations and what they had seen of the rehearsals. They had obtained the housekeeper’s permission to leave their posts to watch the play, provided they hurried back to serve the guests at tea.
Rosemary rang a bell she had borrowed for the purpose. When the audience quieted, Marianne came forward and announced the title of the piece, then arranged herself on a low draped table serving as her bed. Her head up, as she had been instructed, Mariah walked across as the silent chorus with her notice, and they were off. Rosemary had powdered her hair and face. She dropped her cloak behind a pillar and stepped forward in her shroud. There was a little stir, as it became clear who was playing the part, but it soon quieted as she spoke out in a low, carrying voice. With a dignified gesture, she accused Mary of murdering her.
The Smythe boy came next and did well, hesitating a little at first, but then speaking out boldly and clearly. During that time, Rosemary quickly stripped off the sheet. As she bent to step out of it and to shake the powder from her hair, she was observed from behind by the Earl, who had completed his business more quickly than expected and had returned with more enthusiasm than he would have imagined to see the entertainment. He strode swiftly down the hill, quite by chance approaching at an angle that allowed him to see behind the pillar where Rosemary was effecting her change. He did not at first realize what he was seeing, but then recognized her and stopped abruptly to admire her shapely derriere as she bent in the rather tight britches, for Mrs. Hardcastle had sent over a pair that Jasper had long outgrown. Luckily, Rosemary did not see him, or she would have hesitated before slipping into the embroidered doublet and jamming the feathered hat upon her head. As it was, she came onto the stage and carried off the part of Bothwell with enormous verve, her tone insinuating and insulting, a complete contrast to Darnley. The audience, by now into the story, certainly recognized her, but they were too entranced by the performance to wonder at it.
It was only as she was leaving the stage that her eye fell upon the Earl and her heart gave a leap. Whether she was glad to see him, or embarrassed that he saw her, she could not afterwards tell, and anyway, she was too busy changing herself into the Executioner to think about it. Queen Elizabeth and her lady made their entrance. After all their histrionics during rehearsals, the twins were inclined to look down and fail to project, until Rosemary hissed at them to look at the audience and for the queen to speak up. Mariah crossed the scene for the third Act, and the trial and execution scenes began.
Without telling the other performers, Rosemary had arranged that there would be a pan of red paint behind the black draped stool that served as the execution block. When the axe, a realistic looking instrument with a blade made of heavy card fitted onto a broomstick, came down to cut the head three times, this, by historical account, being the number of strokes required to sever Mary’s head, it came up with red along its blade. There was a collective gasp, both from the audience and the other actors. Then, before raising the severed head, a gory affair made of papier mâché, she dipped it in the pan too, so that when she held it aloft, it dripped in a lifelike grisly fashion. One or two of the housemaids screamed and the audience murmured in delicious horror.
The performance was greeted with enormous acclaim. The Smythes were delighted with their lad’s performance and, ignoring or forgetting the hours Rosemary had spent with him to get him to stand up straight and enunciate clearly, seemed to think it was all his own doing. Mrs. Pendleton was pleased with her daughters in spite of their lackluster performance, while Mr. Pendleton was pleased with the sight of Rosemary in britches. Like the Earl, he had not failed to notice her bottom. He sought her out, but she, quickly donning her cloak and running up the hill, managed to avoid everyone. She went straight to her bedchamber, quickly brushed the rest of the powder out of her hair and changed into a gown. By the time she came down again, the guests had gathered in the drawing room and the tea was being brought in.
“Ah, Miss Drover,” remarked the Earl, seeing her. “I hope you will act as hostess and pour the tea?” he made no mention of the britches.
Rosemary was both astonished and flattered. She had planned to ask Mrs. Hardcastle to act as hostess. She knew that by asking her, his lordship had elevated her status in the household. She inclined her head and went immediately to the silver pots of tea and hot water. She was glad to do it, less for the distinction it gave her, than because it prevented her having to deal with all the questions and comments that her performance would inevitably bring. She had already noticed Mr. Pendleton eying her with light in his eye she did not like. She heard the word britches whispered around the room, usually with sidelong glances at her, but Mrs. Hardcastle wasted no time in describing the accident that had befallen the two male actors, loudly commending Miss Drover for not allowing it to prevent the play from going forward.
Rosemary kept her eyes on the teapots and the maids distributing the cups, until the novelty of her performance appeared to wear off. By the time she was forced to join the guests, as usual on these occasions, the women were sitting in groups chatting about domestic issues, while the gentlemen stood together, talking of horses, farming or world affairs. However, she was not to escape so easily.
“Here is our heroine!” announced Mrs. Hardcastle, and there was a round of applause.
“Jolly well done!” pronounced the General. “I must say, I didn’t realize it was you under that sheet until later when you appeared in those britches. They never looked better, I dare say!”
The General obviously thought his social standing was so impeachable that he could say what he liked. There was a slightly embarrassed murmur from most of the gentlemen, though Mr. Pendleton was heard to mutter “here, here,” and the ladies had the grace at look at the floor, all except Mrs. Mannering, who looked at Rosemary with patent dislike.
“It’s lucky Rosemary knew all the lines, because she wrote the play,” cried Marianne, instinctively recognizing that her companion somehow needed protection, “and she worked out so quickly how she could play all the missing parts. I think she’s amazing!”
“And I think my fellow actors deserve most of the credit for continuing as if nothing were amiss” said Rosemary, smiling at Marianne and glad to be able to deflect the conversation from herself. “We must thank them all for their hard work and dedication, not excluding the poor young gentlemen who are lying abed and missed it all. Tell us, Mrs. Hardcastle, ma’am, how were they going on when you left?”
Thus she diverted the conversation, and his lordship, who was not enjoying the oblique references to the charms of a woman he unaccountably was beginning to think of as his own, took the opportunity to announce that sherry or Madeira was available for the gentlemen who preferred that to tea. He was certainly one of them.
I’m a product of a convent boarding school in the south of England in the 1950’s and early 60’s. You can probably guess I received an old-fashioned education. I learned a great deal about the humanities and practically nothing in the sciences. I understand Latin, speak French fluently and my German isn’t bad. I read the Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English when I was 16 and Shakespeare is an open book. But the only science I remember is the ditty: Miss Cummings (our teacher) was a scientist, alas she is no more, for what she took for H2O (water) was H2SO4 (sulfuric acid). Not bad, eh? Words to live by.
I met my American husband while working in Brussels (Belgium). Then we moved to Bonn (Germany). I had three children in a foreign tongue. If you want to know how to say “push” in French and German, ask me!
I’ve lived in the USA for over 40 years, have seven grandchildren and the same husband I started with. We live in a small town in upstate New York but nowadays spend the winter in Florida. I need to sell lots of books so we can buy a waterfront condo! (laughs ironically).
I love my garden, telling my grandchildren stories and eating desserts. I’d give up a steak for a Key Lime Pie any day!
I began writing Regency Romances just under two years ago after the death of my beloved sister who was in the convent with me all those years ago. We used to read them under the covers with a torch after lights out. My books are dedicated to her.
I’ve so far indie published three. The third, Rosemary or Too Clever to Love, just came out at the beginning of May. I’m writing a fourth and editing a trilogy I wrote 18 months ago. I plan on publishing them over the summer.
I love Regency Romances and they’ve always been a guilty pleasure. I was a French professor, and I tell you, after a day of teaching Existentialism, you need a bit of sprigged muslin and some polished topboots to clear your head.
But more than that, I think they fulfil a need for order and calm that is so lacking in our lives today. You know that Almack’s is only going to allow entry to men in white britches; you know young ladies may only dance twice with the same man at the ball; you know the couple is going to get together, no matter how mismatched they appear, or how many obstacles are in their path.
There is something soothing about it all. Of course, it’s escapism and it’s often silly, but it’s always satisfying.
Having been a teacher for 30 years, I find I can’t get away from the urge to provoke discussion. Plus, I belong to three Book Groups. I’ve therefore included Discussion Topics at the end of my last two novels. I hope my readers will have fun with them.
Ancient civilizations, parallel worlds, aliens, time travel, epic fantasy, dragons and college! The Everville series can be read as stand-alone novels and have it all for teens, new adults, and all ages alike.
Two very different worlds, Easton Falls University and the magical realm of Everville are in dire need of a hero. Owen Sage embarks on an epic journey of monumental proportions to save these worlds all while fighting to keep the world within himself intact. This quest is not for the faint of heart nor is it for the weak of mind—only the bravest will succeed. Discovering the well-kept secret of The Fourth Pillar of Truth is only part of the feat. Owen will have to outwit the ever-powerful villain Governor Jahal and overcome countless other challenges along the way.
Excerpt -Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone Roy Huff
In a realm surrounding Everville, beyond the land of the Fron, Rathlar the dragon made Brackenbone his home. He was no ordinary dragon, he was an Alarian, a shape-shifting species from an alternate universe, and he was capable of great feats. He stood tall like a sulfur-tinged mountain, and strong like the roots of an ancient oak tree. The scales on his body shimmered like an emerald with a thousand facets, and his wings held the power of countless soldiers.
Brackenbone was the perfect home for such a magnificent beast. Its city walls were smelted from the ore found beyond The Walls of Vermogen, and its villages rivaled even those found in Vortmore during its prime.
Hidden behind the rear city gates, Rathlar stood guard over all the land. Should any power-hungry foes attempt to charge The Walls of Vermogen or capture the powerful element stored within, Rathlar would be there to stop them.
The sun hung low on the horizon, dusk about to smother the fading light. This was Rathlar’s cue to depart the city and make his journey to Vermogen. He rested, nestled by the gate in a curled position, calm but alert.
As Rathlar was about to embark on his daily trek, two small figures crept up behind him. Beads of sweat dripped from their faces. Step by step, they made a slow and deliberate approach. They eyed the dragon’s position and timed their motions to coincide with the turns and departure of the massive creature. Armed with a cache of special tools and weapons, they inched their way toward the back entrance of the city, hoping to secretly enter.
Despite their stealth, Rathlar caught a glimmer of the two soldiers in the corner of his eye and sprang into action. He used his powerful legs to thrust his body high above the ground then spread his massive wings, turning in midair to face the trespassers and let forth a deafening roar and a fiery breath that scorched the clothing of those who were too close, filling the air with the smell of ash.
Rathlar lunged towards the group of Ubaloo soldiers and used his shape-shifting power to make the most intimidating face and fiercest growl any of them had ever seen.
Several of the Ubaloo warriors’ knees buckled as they shrieked in fright and fell to the ground. The dirty water raced up the soldiers’ legs, soaking them completely, washing away the stink of sweat and replacing it with the smell of wet mud. In that instant, terror seized the Ubaloo and for a moment they forgot why they were there.
Rathlar calmed his frightful face and allowed his features to melt into a genuine smile. His impenetrable leather skin lifted over his large sharp teeth as the broad grin morphed into a hearty chuckle.
The dragon’s sudden transformation mesmerized the Ubaloo soldiers, who had frozen in place. A chorus of cheerful laughs soon followed.
“Excellent, Rathlar!” shouted the officer in charge of the dragon’s training. “I don’t think any creature stands a chance against such a mighty dragon.”
Rathlar had begun his training right after he’d parted ways with his former master. Now fully mature, he was an expert of his shape-shifting and fighting capabilities.
Although the notorious Mallory had trained him for the last great battle, Rathlar no longer possessed the immense power of the element that had once occupied his body. It was necessary to train again—taking into account his new limitations and the unique needs of Brackenbone and its inhabitants— protecting the city built around the Ubaloos’ small stature, and defending The Walls of Vermogen. It was The Walls of Vermogen that prevented the element from falling into enemy hands.
Several small Ubaloo soldiers walked behind Rathlar and stared up at him, allowing the dragon’s presence and immense stature to comfort them. Rathlar’s training with the soldiers had been extensive and long. It lasted years in Everville time, but it wasn’t until today that the Ubaloo general felt satisfied with the dragon’s training.
“Break off. Time to eat,” one of the officers said in the distance after an exhausting day of training, smelling of sweat and satisfaction.
Hundreds of miniature Ubaloo swarmed around Rathlar, waiting for their hefty rations of food. He welcomed their presence as they all rested and feasted upon the spoils of a hard fought day.
Excerpt from- Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone Roy Huff
Roy Huff is a Hawaii-based author, research scientist, and teacher. After a difficult childhood, he moved to the islands and hasn’t looked back.
He’s since earned five degrees, worked on projects forecasting Kilauea volcanic emissions, and trained on geostationary satellites for NASA’s GOES-R Proving Ground. He stumbled into writing, but what he didn’t stumble into is his love for all things science fiction and fantasy. Later, he contributed a series of fiction and non-fiction books as well as widely shared posts on how to design life on your terms.
Despite early challenges, he embraces optimism, science, and creativity. He still dreams of traveling into space and circumnavigating the globe. But until then, he makes Hawaii his home, where he creates new worlds with the stroke of a pen. And he hopes you’ll come along for the amazing ride.
Caught in a web of murder and vengeance, Theo must outsmart the Spylady to save her new friends.
Imprisoned in a male appearance, can Nand survive deportation without losing herself?
Forced to leave Eridan after her mental battle with Keith of Rain Forest, Theo travels to Earth Metropolis with SpaceSS agent Jack Finch. When Jack is arrested for murdering his husband, Farren, Theo’s plans for a new future collapse.
To impress Declan, Nand face-changes into her cousin’s appearance on the day of the Face Changer Assembly. But her moment of triumph turns into a nightmare when Keith launches an attack against the Face Changers.
Deported to Gambling Nova, the federal prison, with Ashta and a few Face Changers, will Declan be strong enough to overcome his guilt in order to help Nand keep her male appearance and safeguard Eridan’s future?
Convinced that Farren is still alive, Theo must outsmart the Spylady if she wants to get Jack released from the penitentiary and find Farren’s whereabouts. Yet when Sheer, the Savalwomen leader, orders her to rescue the Face Changers, Theo faces a new challenge: is she ready to return to Gambling Nova? And risk her life?
But where? Where could she go? What could she do? What would happen to her?
She collided with someone and fell backwards. Her elbow and head bumped against the pavement.
“Sorry, Miss. Are you hurt?”
A man leaned over her. In the dusk and the dim light from the low-energy street lamps, she could not discern his features, only his dark hair. He helped her to her feet.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before. Did you recently arrive here?”
What could she say? What dare she say?
“Are you hurt?”
Why would he care? She stepped back.
“What’s your name? In which department do you work?”
He was too tall, too pressing.
“Leave me alone! Or, the Winds help me, you’ll regret it!” She flashed her Nuong-bought knife, bent over and slipped past him. He moved. Was it to catch her? She cut him. He swore. She ran away.
She zigzagged through streets and gardens burdened with blooming roses. Their smell, which had gone unnoticed that morning, surrounded her. Panting, she stopped near a cluster of palm trees and glanced over her shoulder.
She was alone.
And completely lost.
Jennie Dorny was born in 1960 in Newton, Massachusetts. She lives and works in Paris with her three cats. She is both French and American. She studied American literature and civilization, Italian and history of art at three Parisian universities. She wrote her Master’s thesis about contemporary Irish poetry after spending a year in Dublin. She loves words and languages, and she can spend hours exploring a thesaurus. Over the years, she has studied Spanish, Japanese, Hindi and sign language, and recently took up Italian again. She has published in French Gambling Nova (1999), Eridan (2002) and Les Cupidons sont tombés sur la tête (Mischievous Cupids gone Crazy, 2007). Gambling Nova and Eridan are partial, earlier versions of Hybrids; science-fiction novels that in many ways deal with the question of gender.
Jess’s life was turned upside down when her blog went viral. Now, with hundreds of thousands of followers, Jess is now navigating the trials and tribulations of a world online.
Being a mummy blogger was original an escape, but now it seems to be turning into a career. And after one wrong post on her social media channels, Jess discovers that life in the spotlight isn’t always peachy.
With a new baby on the way, the possibility of starring in a reality TV show and a husband who’s struggling with his wife’s new-found fame, Jess has a lot going on.
Jess needs to decide whether this is everything she wanted it to be or whether this is all a bit too much for her? Can Jess persevere against the haters, rise up above the pettiness and find the perfect balance of life in the real world and life online?
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus- Aria in return for an honest review.
Mum’s Big Break is another enjoyable chapter about Jess, her family and her life as a successful mummy blogger. Now a ‘celebrity’ social influencer Jess finds that blogging isn’t the escape it was. Amusing anecdotes and an insiders insight into the world of mummy blogging and social influencers make this a delightful read.
Mum’s Big Break is a contemporary, engaging, and humorous story about life as a mummy blogger.
Excerpt From Mum’s Big Break – Louise Emma Clark
Truthfully, she’d been a bit surprised by how much time had been demanded by the staff at the hotel, but it was too late now. She’d accepted the holiday and she had to do the work – even if that meant being dragged away from her sunbed to listen to a monologue about the interior design decisions behind an overwhelmingly brown conference hall.
It was a few hours before she was able to say her goodbyes and scurry back to the pool, but when she arrived, Chris and Bella were nowhere to be seen. Looking down at her phone and realising it was now midday and Bella had probably been tired and grouchy, she made her way up to their room.
She’d never set eyes on a hotel suite before this holiday, let alone stayed in one, and when they first arrived and were shown to their room, it had taken them a good five minutes to explore, eyes wide with shock. There were two bedrooms, joined together by a large lounge. Wardrobes opened up to reveal storage space the size of small rooms just for their clothes and shoes. Everything inside the suite was perfectly matched in hues of dark wood and warm tones of caramel-brown, and vast, floor to ceiling windows showed off the view to its absolute best.
From their balcony, they could see the whole of Jumeirah Beach stretched to the left and right of them. The white sand, the colour of the sea a perfect reflection of the cornflower-blue sky above, hotels dotted along the coast, the impressive Burj Al Arab hotel shaped like the sail of a boat to their right, and a big wheel that seemed to be sat on its very own island to their left.
Looking directly down from their balcony to the hotel grounds, a series of pools stretched invitingly in front of their hotel.
‘Seven pools, to be exact,’ their concierge had informed them on that first night. ‘Three general pools that everyone can use, one saltwater pool, one shallow pool for children, one adult-only pool, one pool for swimming laps, and a swimmable canal that connects them all.’
The biggest pool was directly below them, with the words ‘THE MERRYGOLD’ stamped on the bottom in large, black letters. And as swimmers disturbed the surface of the water, the letters shimmered and danced in the sunlight.
It was, without doubt, the most impressive hotel that Jessica had set foot in.
In fact, the room alone was so inviting that Jessica was quite tempted to spend the full week inside it, relying on room service and gawping at the views, but with a nearly-two-year-old in tow, that was never going to happen.
Jessica made it back to the room and stood in front of the heavy mahogany door with 3008 monogrammed in gold letters, pulling her key card from the pocket of her bag to unlock it. As the light flickered green, she pushed the door as gently as possible.
‘Sssshhh,’ Chris hissed, turning towards the door from his armchair. ‘F**k’s sake, Jess, please don’t wake her!’
‘Seriously?’ Jessica whispered. ‘What was I supposed to do? Beam myself through the door?’
Chris rolled his eyes.
‘You know,’ Jessica continued. ‘This hotel room is nearly as big as our house. She’s got her own room, Chris! You’re sat out here lording it up with your iPad and she’s fast asleep in her own room, with the door closed. How was I ever going to wake her?’
‘Lording it up with my iPad?’ Chris repeated slowly. ‘Good one. That’s obviously what I’ve been doing while you’ve been swanning around conference rooms for the last couple of hours…’
‘Oh whatever,’ Jessica said, shaking her head. ‘Anyway, what have you been doing while I’ve been gone? Has she been OK?’
‘No,’ Chris said. ‘She’s been a bit of a bloody nightmare actually. She was tired and hungry, and she wanted Mummy as soon as you disappeared. We waited for as long as we could, as I thought it would be nice to have lunch together, but I needed to give her something to eat in the end. Not that she enjoyed the chips I ordered her… Most of them ended up on the bloody floor, so she’s probably gone to bed hungry.’
Louise’s blog, Mum of Boys and Mabel has over 100k followers. Having moved to Dubai with her family she’s now back in the UK and is enjoying writing. From Mum with Love was her debut novel.