Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Historical Romance, Regency Romance

Rosemary or Too Clever to Love G.L. Robinson 4*#Review @gl_robinson @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours #RegencyRomance #BlogTour #BookReview #HistoricalRomance #Rosemary

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.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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

G.L Robinson

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. 

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Book Spotlight, Excerpt, Fantasy

Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone Roy Huff @realroyhuff @lovebooksgroup #Fantasy #Everville #lovebookstours #Excerpt #BlogTour

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.

Amazon UK

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.

Stay tuned to Roy Huff’s upcoming releases and promotions on his author portal at https://royhuff.net and on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter.

Posted in Bookstagram, Excerpt, Extract, Fantasy

Hybrids, Volume Two: Vengeance Jennie Dorny @LoveBooksGroup #Lovebookstours #Bookstagram #BookstagramTour #JennieDorny #Extract #Excerpt

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?

Amazon UK

Excerpt from Chapter 74

Theo fled the Blue Exan.

Determined never to return.

She would run away. She would hide.

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.

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Click here to visit my Instagram jolliffe01

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Excerpt, Extract, Parenting and Famlies, Travel, Travel Blogging

Mum’s Big Break Louise Emma Clarke 4*#Review @mumofboysmabel @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #Blogging #MummyBlogger #Parenting #Family #SocialMedia #Celebrity #BlogTour #RealityTV #BookReview #Extract #humour #Relationships

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?

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I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus- Aria in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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.

Suite 3008.

Floor 20.

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. 

CLICK.

‘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 Emma Clarke

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. 

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Motivational, Parenting and Famlies, Romance, Travel

Take a Look at Me Now Kendra Smith 4*#Review @KendraAuthor @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #BlogTour #BookReview #Life #Love #Friendship #Motivational #multigenerational

Out with the old…

Maddie Brown has spent most of her life putting everyone else’s needs above her own. But with her marriage crumbling and her nest scarily empty, she realises it may be time to spread her own wings and fly.

In with the… ex?

At a university reunion, Maddie meets Greg. He was the love of her life – and the one that got away. Some things never change, and neither of them can deny the feelings that linger between them. But there are so many reasons they can’t be together… not least the massive secret she has been keeping from him all these years. 

Maddie is SO ready for a brand new start. But what do you do when the past just won’t stay in the past?

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

My Thoughts…

A multi-generational story about life, love, romance and friendship. Maddie regrets her choices made twenty years ago. Can she be the person she is inside? Maddie is a relatable character, easy to empathise and like. Essentially this is a journey of belated self-discovery, it retains its grip on reality because Maddie doesn’t shy away from her responsibilities, but realises she deserves to do things for her too.

Extract from Take a Look at Me Now – Kendra Smith

They sat at separate tables. Maddie picked at her food and allowed her glass to be refilled several times, and eventually emerged from the fuggy hall, where the fog of drinks, steam and aromas of the four-course dinner came up against the sharp evening wind outside.

It was dusky, the horizon swallowing up the smear of crimson streaked across it, like a watercolour painting turning dark at the edges. Maddie looked around as she inhaled the air heavy with the scent of honeysuckle. She could see him standing at the bottom of the steps, his face glowing in the eerie white light of his mobile phone. Then he was taking a call, his shoulders hunched over. She pulled back and waited by the doorway, unsure of her place.

She swayed slightly on her heels, knowing she’d had too many drinks. Whatever the conversation was, it was heated. He was gesturing with his free hand towards the grass, as if conducting his own private, invisible orchestra. After a minute, he spun around and jammed his phone in his pocket. Then he saw her, walking slowly down the steps. She pulled her wrap around her shoulders tightly as she got to him.

‘I have to go,’ he muttered, and jerked his head to the left.

Like the last time, Greg? she wanted to ask. But instead she calmed the butterflies in her stomach, as the wave of emotion overwhelmed her and forced a smile. Theirs was a story from the past.

They used to miss lectures on a Friday as they both only had one – they’d stay in bed most of the day. He’d wander around her tiny bedsit in not much more than a towel tied around his waist after a scalding-hot shower. In fact, she realised with a shudder, that’s what she missed the most: the easy intimacy. He used to wash her hair sometimes, with gentle hands on her scalp, circling the back of her neck with his strong thumbs. He’d sit her down in front of the basin and gently wet it all, pour over shampoo then put on honey-scented conditioner and comb it through.

It was wonderful and so relaxing. Sometimes it had led to something more… but normally he’d wrap her hair in a towel and they’d sit, watching her tiny TV, and she’d feel like the luckiest girl in the world. And now, here he was, in a dinner jacket and black tie, standing right next to her. Stony-faced. She bit her lip, tasted the blood, so she could focus on the present.

And with that he walked briskly away.

She watched him. Watched as he strode across the concrete courtyard, heels clicking, like he did all those years ago. Perhaps she’d been stupid to come, to open up all those old wounds again. She folded her arms across her chest and shivered.

‘Maddie!’ It was Ellie, weaving her way towards her in purple slingbacks, clipping on the hard surface. ‘There you are! C’mon, we’re all going to the Student Union bar for Snakebites! Maddie, c’mon!’ Ellie had stopped by one of the pillars and was fiddling with her shoes.

‘Looks like you need some help with your footwear!’ She took Ellie by the arm as they made their – slightly wobbly – way to the bar.

As she licked the traces of blood from her lips, she was thankful that at least it would take her mind off the nagging question that was building up in her mind.

Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space but quickly made the leap to editorial – and went on to work on several women’s magazines in both Sydney and London. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, Excerpt, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Humour

How Not To Be A Loser Beth Moran @BethCMoran @BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodbloggers #BoldwoodBlogTour #Extract #AudioExtract #Family #UpLit #Mother #Son#Friendship #Love #Courage #MondayBlogs #MondayThoughts #Humour

AMY PIPER IS A LOSER. SHE’S LOST HER CONFIDENCE, HER MOJO AND HER WAY.

But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…

What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.

Once upon a time Amy was a winner – at life, at sport and in love. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, she is determined to reclaim the life she had, for herself and for Joey. And who knows, she might just be a winner again – at life, sport, and love, if she looks in the right places…

Uplifting, funny and unforgettable, Beth Moran returns with a joyous tale of friendship, love and facing your fears.

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How Not To Be A Loser – Beth Moran – Extract

Stop Being a Loser Plan

Day One

It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t get woken up by my phone alarm blaring, spring out of bed and decide today was the day. I didn’t open up Facebook and one of those irritating quotes – embrace the rain if you want to dance under the rainbow – actually inspired someone for the first time ever to change something. After cajoling my son, Joey, out of bed, I didn’t gaze at his beautiful face as he poured a second giant bowl of cereal, raving about the school football match coming up, and in a surge of love and regret suddenly experience the pivotal moment in a decade of non-moments.

In fact, apart from the invitation that arrived in the morning post, most of the day went precisely as expected. Which was, in summary, exactly the same as pretty much every other weekday. I waved Joey off to school, reminding him to hand in the form about the meeting that evening and cleared away the breakfast dishes. I worked at my desk in the kitchen, breaking the monotony of writing about corporate social responsibility policies by swanning off to eat lunch in the living room, because that’s the type of wild and crazy woman I am.

I rescued Joey’s football kit from festering on his bedroom floor and stuck it in the wash, because despite telling myself on a daily basis that it’s time he learnt the hard way, circumstances dictate that I also live with an extra-large pile of parental guilt, so I make life easier for him where I can.

By the time Joey came home at four, I had spoken to no one since he left, unless you count talking to myself. Oh, and to the enormous spider who appeared out of nowhere and started edging across the kitchen while I debated whether to have another chocolate cookie or the bag of seeds I’d bought precisely to avoid eating a whole packet of cookies.

‘I’d get out of here if I were you. While your impressive size might earn you respect in the spider world, my son doesn’t take kindly to home invasions by anything with more legs than him, and he’ll be home any minute. Go on, shoo. Or else I’ll have to squish you.’

Too late. While the spider was weighing up whether to heed my advice, Joey burst through the front door, in his usual whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm.

‘Hey, Mum. I’m starving, are there any of those cookies left?’

I clicked save and pushed my chair back to face him. ‘Hi, Joey, and yes, I had an okay day, thanks. How was yours?’

‘Oh. Sorry, yeah. It was good, actually.’ He paused, mid-search of the snack cupboard, to offer an apologetic smile. ‘We did this experiment in science where we had to heat up this white stuff, and— WHAAAAAAT!?’

In an instant, my strapping thirteen-year-old reverted to a frightened child, leaping up to sit on the worktop, cookie packet hugged protectively to his chest.

‘How long’s that been there?’ he shrieked.

‘Not long.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me the biggest spider in the universe was right behind me?’

It was a pointless question. We had been through this too many times before. Joey knew that the reason I hadn’t told him was because of what would inevitably happen next.

And, in line with the rest of the day’s predictability, it did. After a brief negotiation about Joey’s phobia, the value of the spider’s life and what I was willing and able to do about both these things, given that I didn’t think it was quite worthy of calling either the police or pest control, I ended up scooping the monster arachnid in both hands and facing my own worst nightmare.

‘Ready?’ Joey looked at me with solemn eyes as he gripped the door handle. He tried to keep his voice steady, but the rise and fall of his chest betrayed his terror.

I nodded, aware that my own eyes, while the exact same light brown as my son’s – caramel, his dad used to call them – were darting wildly like two wasps caught in a Coke bottle.

Before I had time to take another wheezing, shallow breath, Joey flung the door open and ducked behind it. I threw myself forwards, crashing against the door frame, eyes now firmly squeezed shut, and flicked my hand outside. A sudden gust of wind sent me reeling back in panic.

‘CLOSE THE DOOR!’ I gasped, clutching at my heart as it careened about my ribcage and stumbling back into the middle of the kitchen.

‘Is it gone? Are you sure it’s gone?’ Joey garbled back.

‘Yes! It’s gone. CLOSE THE DOOR, JOEY, NOW!’

I heard the door slam, took another two calming breaths and forced my eyes to take a peek. ‘Oh, please.’

The spider levelled me an ironic gaze from the welcome mat. It was so humungous I could see the lazy challenge in each of its eight eyes.

‘What? What? What is it? Is it still here?’ Joey spoke from where he’d scrambled behind me.

‘It might be.’

‘WHAT? Where-is-it-what’s-it-doing-is-it-moving-is-it-near-me-how-is-it-still-inside? MUUUUUM!’

‘It may have blown back in and now be sitting on the mat.’

Beth Moran is the author of three previous books, including Making Marion. She regularly features on BBC Radio Nottingham and is a trustee of the national women’s network Free Range Chicks. She lives on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest. Beth’s first novel for Boldwood, Christmas Every Day, was published in September 2019

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Extract, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

The Runaway Girl Jina Bacarr 5* #Review @JinaBacarr @BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers #BlogTour #BookReview #Extract #HistoricalRomance #HistoricalFiction #Titanic

TWO WOMEN HOLD THE KEYS TO HIS HEART. ONLY ONE WILL SURVIVE THAT FATEFUL NIGHT…

When Ava O’Reilly is wrongly accused of stealing from her employer, she has no option but to flee Ireland. The law is after her, and she has only one chance at escape – the Titanic.

Aboard the ship of dreams, she runs straight into the arms of Captain ‘Buck’ Blackthorn, a dashing gentleman gambler who promises to be her protector. He is intrigued by her Irish beauty and manages to disguise her as the maid of his good friend, the lovely Countess of Marbury. Little does he realise, that the Countess is also in love with him.

As the fateful night approaches, tragedy strikes further when Ava is separated from Buck, and must make a daring choice that will change her life forever…

A sweeping, emotional historical romance set aboard the Titanic.

This is a revised and fully updated edition of a novel previously published as Titanic Rhapsody.

Amazon UK

#TheRunawayGirl

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

My Thoughts…

Ava, wrongly accused of theft by her employer, has no alternative but to run. She is an independent spirit, who knows there is more to life than being a servant. However, her religious upbringing, makes her constantly question her wilder impulses.

The Titanic, on its maiden voyage, calls at Queenstown, she buys a steerage ticket and heads towards what she hopes is a better future. Losing her ticket and being pursued by the authorities before the ship docks set the tone of the journey.

Serendipity means she finds a protector, in Buck, the second son of Duke and an irreverent gambler. He hides her in plain sight as a lady’s maid for his good friend Fiona, The Countess of Mayberry. She is travelling to New York to marry his friend Trey. The chemistry between Buck and Ava is instant and intense, but there are many conflicts to their relationship.

The plot twists dramatically when The Titanic meets its fate, and Ava makes a decision that affects the rest of her life. The setting is glamorous and, because you know what happens to the ship, there are undertones of suspense, wondering what will happen to the protagonists in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The romance is sizzling and forbidden and the characters are complex and relatable.

The last part of the book is full of conflict and romance, against the judgemental setting of New York society. The ending is romantic and shines a little light on such a tragic event.

Extract from The Runaway Girl Jina Bacarr

Cameron Bally Manor House

Ireland

9 April 1912

‘Ava O’Reilly, you’re nothing but a common thief who brings shame upon this fine house,’ spewed Lord Emsy, wagging his fat finger in her face. ‘What have you to say for yourself, girl?’

‘A thief, am I, milord?’ Ava shot back, refusing to cower before a man so pompous and full of himself, even if he was her employer. With his wing tip collar and fancy silk ascot, he reminded her of a leg of lamb gussied up for Sunday dinner. ‘Says who? Your daughter?’ She narrowed her eyes, staring her accuser down. Lady Olivia greeted her angry look with a swift turning of the head, her nose in the air, but Ava wasn’t finished. ‘I’d rather dance with the devil than believe her.’

His lordship growled. ‘Then you deny stealing the bracelet?’

‘Aye, that I do.’ Ava smoothed down her shiny, black cotton uniform with her hands, making fists and fighting to keep her composure. Him with the glow of damnation in his eyes, accusing her like he was the Almighty Himself. She refused to back down. With the afternoon sun spilling an arc as bright as a pot o’ gold at her feet, she wondered how she, the daughter of a fine Irish mum and da, could be so unlucky. But here she was, accused of thievery because she was caught reading a book in a place where a housemaid had no right to be. The library. Now she was paying the price for her thirst for knowledge.

‘Well, how do you plead?’ asked his lordship.

‘I plead guilty to nothing more than reading your fine books.’

Ignoring her, Lord Emsy bellowed, ‘Then how do you explain this?’

He dangled a slender rope of sparkling diamonds in front of her nose, taking her breath away.

Ava swallowed hard. Each stone was a knot on the noose tightening around her neck.

‘I swear on me sainted mother’s grave, I never seen the likes of that till this morning.’

‘She’s lying, Papa,’ Lady Olivia decried. ‘She stole it from my jewel case and was trying to hide it when I caught her.’

Ava gritted her teeth. They both knew it was a lie.

Aye, what was a lass to do? His lordship’s daughter had hated her since Ava had first crossed paths with her, when she’d used the grand main staircase instead of scuttling down the backstairs. The breach of protocol had not only embarrassed the family, Lady Olivia scolded her, but Ava had attracted the eye of the young gentleman at her side. Lord Holm made no secret of his interest in the servant girl with the glorious red hair spilling down her back. Mary Dolores had warned her about him when Ava joined her sister to work as a housemaid in the grand manor.

A dandy, she had said, always ready to pat the bum of any servant girl he could get into a dark corner.

Did Ava listen to her? No. She was obstinate and bull-headed. A family trait, Mary Dolores admitted, shaking her head. Going through life casting her spell on every man caught looking at her. Ava paid them no mind, going about her way and insisting she didn’t need a man to better herself.

Unfortunately, Ava couldn’t control the wily fates determined to get in her way.

Her relationship with Lady Olivia became even more strained when Lord Holm saw her wearing a discarded dress belonging to her ladyship. Silk with delicate appliqué around the collar and cap sleeves, the vibrant emerald green set off her red hair.

And what was the crime in that, Ava wanted to know, since it was customary for servant girls to lay claim to their mistress’s tossed-away garments.

Her ears burned when she overheard her ladyship say to Lord Holm, ‘You never noticed when I wore that dress,’ to which he replied, ‘You never looked like that.’

His comment sealed her fate.

#JinaBacarr

Jina Bacarr is a US-based historical romance author of over 10 previous books. She has been a screenwriter, journalist and news reporter, but now writes full-time and lives in LA. Jina’s novels have been sold in 9 territories.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Excerpt, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

The Whitsborough Bay Series Jessica Redland @BoldwoodBooks @JessicaRedland #Friendship #Relationships #Romance #FamilyDrama #Uplit #NorthYorkshire #BlogTour #Extracts #WhitsboroughBay #boldwoodbloggers

SOMETIMES LOVE CAN BLOOM WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECT IT…

For Sarah Peterson, it’s time for change. Coming out of a dead end relationship and having had enough of city life, she just needs to escape and have a fresh start – a new job, a new home and a new lifestyle.

So when her Auntie Kay unexpectedly offers her the opportunity to take over her flower shop, Seaside Blooms, the timing could not be more perfect. She could escape to the beautiful seaside town of Whitsborough Bay, start a new chapter in her life – and learn how to run a business!

But, as she packs up her life in London, she isn’t prepared for the discovery of a clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All of the predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven…

As she prepares for the biggest move of her life, Sarah can’t help but wonder if Seaside Blooms could be a new beginning for love too?

A warm, uplifting novel of love, friendship and destiny from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is a new, revised and updated edition of a novel previously published as Searching For Steven.

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New Beginnings at Seaside BloomsAudio Extract

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – Extract

It was now after half six. Sod it! I couldn’t do this anymore.

* To Jason

This is killing me! Where are you taking me? I’m all ready and awaiting my instructions! Please tell me you haven’t forgotten xx

I hoped that reading my birthday cards again would distract me. It didn’t. A little voice in my head kept telling me he had forgotten and Clare’s joke about McDonald’s or my local might not be far from the truth. Perhaps he was frantically phoning round restaurants right now and that’s why he hadn’t been in touch. Another text arrived and, finally, it was from him. Please don’t say McDonald’s

* From Jason

South Kensington Tube Station. 1915hrs. Table booked for 1930hrs xx

Butterflies stirred in my stomach. Oh my God! South Kensington. Could it be…?

I hastily shoved my phone in my bag, pulled on my coat and left the flat, legs shaking as I strode towards the tube station. It was just a coincidence. There were hundreds of restaurants in South Kensington and we could be going to any of them. With Jason’s track record, it could be McDonald’s. But what if…?

He’d taken me to Luigi’s to celebrate me moving down to London shortly after we started seeing each other. During dessert, the man on the table next to us proposed to his girlfriend. It was such a moving and romantic moment and, on the way home, Jason said that he could imagine proposing there too. But that didn’t mean he’d booked a table there tonight to propose to me, did it?

When I reached South Kensington tube station, it took all my willpower to stand still on the escalator when all I wanted to do was to shove past the travellers, run up the steps, and skip across the concourse screaming, ‘Yes, Jason, I will marry you.’

I spotted him by one of the exits. My breath caught as I saw what he was wearing. Classically tall, dark, and handsome, he looked particularly hot in the three-piece suit he’d bought for his brother’s wedding last summer. After his firefighter uniform, it was my favourite outfit on him. Although to be perfectly honest, with a toned body like his, I preferred no clothes at all.

‘Happy birthday.’ He bent down and gave me a soft kiss. I breathed in his musky scent and those butterflies went crazy. ‘You look good.’

‘Thank you.’ I whipped open my coat like a flasher, revealing the LBD I’d agonised over wearing for fear I’d be overdressed.

He wolf-whistled and I flushed from head to toe. ‘I approve. Although you may be a little over-dressed for what I have planned later tonight.’

I flushed again and Jason laughed as he took my hand in his. ‘Shall we?’

‘Where are we going?’ I tried to sound casual but failed abysmally. Please say Luigi’s. Please.

He winked at me, grinning widely. ‘It’s a surprise.’

Oh my God!

It could only have been three minutes, but I swear that walk felt like an hour. My sweaty hand kept slipping from his, I stumbled several times and I even hiccupped, causing Jason to ask if I’d been on the wine before leaving the flat.

The Italian flag and deep green canopy of Luigi’s loomed ahead of us. My breathing quickened and I mentally prepared myself: must not look gutted if we walk past, must look happy wherever he takes me.

But we didn’t walk past. We stopped. We went in. He gave his name and we were led to a table towards the back where a bucket of champagne on ice was waiting for us. Champagne. Proper Champagne. Jason always said that supermarket own-label Cava was overpriced. Which could only mean… Oh. My. God!

I put my glass of champagne down as Jason pushed the candle aside and reached for my hand across the table a few minutes later.

‘You really do look gorgeous tonight,’ he said.

‘You don’t scrub up too badly yourself,’ I whispered, barely able to speak for anticipation of what was coming.

His dark eyes twinkled as he gazed at me over the table. ‘Thank you. I thought I should make a special effort. It’s a special occasion, after all.’

Eeeeeeekkkkk!

‘I haven’t given you your birthday present yet.’

WHEN IT FEELS LIKE EVERYTHING IS AGAINST YOU, SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED A LITTLE BIT OF HOPE…

Married to her childhood sweetheart for over twelve years, Elise feels like starting a family is the next natural step. However, her husband, Gary, has other ideas…

Suddenly single, Elise is completely heartbroken and struggling to start over on her own. But when she’s enlisted to be bridesmaid to her best friend, Sarah, she has to put on a brave face, put her own feelings aside and find a way to get over Gary. Fast.

So when she meets handsome, recently-divorced, Daniel, she thinks he could be just what she needs. But why can’t she shake the feeling that he must be too good to be true?

Will she ever be able to take that leap and trust again?

An uplifting read of love, loss and finding yourself from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.

This book was previously published as Getting Over Gary

Amazon UK

Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove Audio Extract

Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – Extract

‘I have exciting news,’ Jess announced when we’d placed our food orders. ‘Bay Brides called earlier and the bridesmaid dresses are ready early. They’ll be in on Wednesday so I’ve made an appointment for a fitting a week tomorrow at two. Are you free?’

I grinned at my younger sister – a shorter, slimmer version of myself. ‘How exciting!’

‘We don’t have any plans for next Saturday, do we?’ I asked, turning to face Gary.

‘I don’t know about you, but I’ll be going into the surgery.’

I frowned. ‘I thought you were going in tomorrow.’

‘I’m doing both. Maybe the one after too.’

It was on the tip of my tongue to say, ‘But we always spend weekends together,’ but what was the point? I had two choices: confront Gary and spoil the whole evening or ignore him and focus on my little sister’s news. Forcing a bright smile, I said, ‘Two’s perfect. Can Izzy and Megan make it?’ The wedding was less than three months away on the first Saturday in August. I was chief bridesmaid, supported by Jess’s best friend, Izzy, and Izzy’s four-year-old daughter, Megan.

Jess nodded. ‘I texted Izzy earlier. They’ve got no plans.’

‘Brilliant. Do you know when your dress will be ready?’

‘Four weeks later. I managed to order a bigger size just in time and I’m desperately hoping it will still fit on the day.’

I frowned. ‘Why would you need a bigger size? You haven’t put on weight, have you?’

Jess and Lee exchanged big grins.

‘She hasn’t,’ Lee said. ‘Well, not yet anyway…’

I gasped as realisation hit. ‘Oh my goodness! Are you saying…?’

‘We had our twelve-week scan this afternoon and everything’s looking good. In fact, it’s looking doubly good.’

I gasped again and clapped my hand over my mouth. ‘Twins?’

Jess nodded and I let out a little squeal as I leapt up and dashed round the table to hug them both.

‘Congratulations you two,’ Gary said. ‘Wow! Twins? Two kids? That’s some news!’ He stood up, shook Lee’s hand and kissed Jess on the cheek.

‘I can’t believe it!’ I sat down again. ‘My baby sister’s having her own babies, which means I’m going to be an auntie. I’m so excited for you both. Twins? That’s so amazing. And that’s cause for celebration.’ I signalled a waiter and ordered a round of drinks including a very large glass of wine for myself, then giggled as I added, ‘Make that two. One per baby.’


*Winner of Chill With a Book Book of the Year 2019 Award as Dreaming About Daran*

FOR CLARE O’CONNELL, HOME IS WHERE THE HEART ACHES…

Since the age of sixteen, Clare O’Connell has lived her life by four strict rules:
1. Don’t talk about Ireland
2. Don’t think about Ireland
3. Don’t go to Ireland
4. Don’t let anyone in

And so far, it’s worked well. She’s got a great career, amazing friends, and she’s really happy. The future is all that counts, isn’t it?

However Clare is about to realise that you can run from the past, but you can’t always hide from it…

When her boss insists she travels to Ireland for work, Clare finds herself drawn back to the village of Ballykielty – the home of her family, and the home of her secrets. The one place where vowed never to return to again…

With the door to her past now wide open, the first three rules have gone out of the window. Will Clare stick to rule number four?

Can she be brave and face up to her family and the demons of her past?

An emotional novel of family, friendship and dealing with your past from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.

This book was previously published as Dreaming About Daran.

Amazon UK

Coming Home To Seashell CottageAudio Extract

Coming Home To Seashell Cottage – Extract

‘Your friend Pete was right,’ I said when the closing credits started rolling. ‘Cracking film. What did you think?’

‘I agree. The king thing was a spooky coincidence, don’t you think?’

In the film, best friends Edmond and Fernand exchange a chess king when one of them overcomes a challenge, to symbolise who is ‘king of the moment’.

I nodded towards the king nestled in his fruit bowl. ‘Did you plant it there knowing it was in the film?’

Ben shook his head. ‘Honestly, I’ve never seen the film or read the book so I didn’t know about the chess piece. I genuinely found that bad boy sitting on my doorstep, just like I told you.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Have you ever known me to lie?’

He made a good point. He was one of the most honest people I knew, although, unlike me, he was tactful with his honesty. Generous to a fault, ridiculously considerate of others and gifted in spades with patience, Ben definitely deserved his nickname of ‘Saint Ben’. By contrast, I could be pretty blunt and to the point, not particularly patient and quite selfish. I was lucky he only called me ‘Irish’ because I probably deserved something a little less affectionate.

‘Tell you what we can do.’ He grinned at me, wrinkled his nose in a clear act of mischief, then lifted the king out of the fruit bowl. Picking up a chilli pepper discarded from his curry in his other hand he said, ‘If you eat the whole chilli, you win the king.’

I was about to refuse his stupid challenge, but then he added, ‘I bet you can’t do it.’

Defiantly, I picked up the chilli and shoved it in my mouth. Tears streamed down my face, my nose ran like a tap and my head felt as if it were about to explode. But that king was going to be mine. Nobody told me what I could and couldn’t do and I would come out on top whenever challenged. Always.

‘Oh my God! I can’t believe you just did that.’ Ben handed me a box of tissues. ‘Serious respect to you, Irish.’

I gasped for breath and rasped, ‘Wait till I tell your sister what a mean boy you are.’

He laughed. ‘You’re king of the moment, Irish. He’s all yours.’

And so it began.

Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland is the author of nine novels including Searching for Steven which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay.  Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Excerpt, Extract, Historical Non Fiction

Eileen: The Making of George Orwell Sylvia Topp @sylviatopp @unbounders#Extract #BookSpotlight #nonfiction #biography #GeorgeOrwell #Eileen #RandomThingsTours @annecater

This is the story of George Orwell’s first wife, a woman who shaped, supported and even saved the life of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.

In 1934, Eileen O’Shaughnessy’s futuristic poem, ‘End of the Century, 1984′, was published. The next year, she would meet George Orwell, then known as Eric Blair, at a party. “Now,’ he remarked that night, ‘that’s the kind of girl I would like to marry.’ Years later, Orwell would name his greatest work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, in homage to the memory of Eileen, the woman who shaped his life and his art in ways that have never been acknowledged by history, until now.

From the time they spent in a tiny village tending goats and chickens, through the Spanish Civil War, the couple’s narrow escape from the destruction of their London flat during a German bombing raid, and their adoption of a baby boy, this is the first account of the Blairs’ nine-year marriage, up until Eileen’s untimely death in 1945. It is also a vivid picture of bohemianism, political engagement, and sexual freedom in the 1930s and ’40s. Through impressive depth of research, illustrated throughout with photos and images from the time, this captivating and inspiring biography offers a completely new perspective on Orwell himself, and most importantly tells the life story of an exceptional woman who has been unjustly overlooked.

The first account of this extraordinary woman offers a completely new perspective on one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.

The book is built on original research supported by the Orwell Estate and Orwell Society, with all recent biographers of Orwell lauding the book. Peter Davison, the editor of the 20-volume set The Complete Works of George Orwell, provides a foreword.

For fans of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, Vera: Mrs Nabokov by Stacy Schiff, Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom by Brenda Maddox.

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#Eileen #GeorgeOrwell

Extract From Eileen : Chapter 5: A WHIRLWIND COURTSHIP

Eileen and Orwell had both spent years deliberately disregarding expected conventions, and they liked each other immediately. Just her name, Eileen O’Shaughnessy, was delightful. Gwen, who had married Eileen’s brother, joked that his surname had been one of his main attractions. And their adopted daughter, Catherine, regretted having to give up the O’Shaughnessy name when she got married.5 Although Eileen grew up under her mother’s Church of England beliefs, her Irish Catholic father had a stronger influence on her personality. Besides inheriting his good looks, she had an Irish sense of playfulness. As Lydia noted, “One could never be certain whether she was being serious or facetious…. Her Irishness was revealed most clearly in the ease with which [rather outlandish] remarks rolled off her tongue … with a slant and a degree of whimsicality all her own.”  Orwell shared and appreciated her wry sense of humor. As one friend summed it up, “Orwell’s genuine streak of old-fashioned conventionality sometimes bordered on whimsy and you could not always be quite certain if he was serious or not.” 7

Eileen and Orwell spent the evening in earnest conversation. He had his three published novels to brag about, although he was still poor enough at 31 to be working part-time in a bookshop. And she had many Oxford tales to charm him with, including her in-depth knowledge of Chaucer, whom Orwell loved, as well as her interactions with Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, both of whom had become well-known since their time as her tutors. Their evening together was also punctuated with joyous laughter because, as Eileen told a friend, she was “rather drunk, behaving my worst, very rowdy.”  As Eileen revealed much later, in those early years she had a capacity for large amounts of alcohol, regularly drinking “four glasses of sherry, half a bottle of claret and some brandy.” Perhaps she was the first woman Orwell had met who really appreciated his dry wit. Her self-described party personality shows clearly the charm she could turn on with ease, and Orwell was love struck immediately.

When the party ended and he had returned from walking the guests down the hill to nearby buses and trains, Orwell excitedly told Rosalind, “Now that is the kind of girl I would like to marry!” Rosalind, who perhaps had this partnership in mind when she invited Eileen, “was delighted to hear this, as [she,] too, felt they had much to give each other.” She described Eileen as “a very attractive, very feminine Irish woman, with lively interests and [a] gay, infectious laugh.” Orwell was thrilled when Rosalind suggested inviting Eileen to dinner the next time she saw her at school.

At their next class together, Eileen told Rosalind that she had found Orwell “very interesting.”  She was already reading Burmese Days, Orwell’s second book, most likely at his suggestion. His third book, A Clergyman’s Daughter, had been published a few months earlier, and although it had received more favorable reviews than he expected, Orwell was quite critical of it himself, while Down and Out in Paris and London, his first book, was a wild, original creation that he perhaps feared Eileen might not appreciate. Burmese Days had recently been published in America, though not yet in England, and Orwell had received very positive reviews for it. Geoffrey Gorer—a social anthropologist who would later become a close friend of the couple’s—wrote, “It seems to me an absolutely admirable statement of fact told as vividly and with as little bitterness as possible.” And Orwell’s Eton classmate Cyril Connolly recommended it “to anyone who enjoys a pate of efficient indignation, graphic description, excellent narrative, excitement, and irony tempered with vitriol.”  As she read this novel, Eileen realized right away that she had met a man with the potential of becoming a great writer.

Eileen agreed to meet Orwell again, and Rosalind remembered that “our small dinner-party two days after was a very gay affair. I left them quite soon (after the meal) in my sitting-room and went out to near-by friends.”  Left alone, as Rosalind had so wisely allowed, Eileen and Orwell continued to explore their initial intrigue with each other. Orwell realized that at last he’d met a woman who was his intellectual equal, perhaps the most intelligent woman he would ever know, a woman who had actually gone to Oxford while he had “wasted” those years as a policeman in Burma. She had the education and background to be able to take him and his writing as seriously as he did, one of his most important requirements in a wife.

Eileen was glad to have found a man who was not intimidated by her intelligence, a man with as complicated a past as her own. As one of her friends remembered, “She had the kind of mind that was always grinding. She was interested in most things, but especially in people.”  And of course Orwell also had an exceedingly “grinding” kind of mind. Eileen was just finishing her first year toward an M.A. in psychology, and the sometimes gloomy Orwell would have presented an intriguing personality to explore. She shared his humorous, skeptical approach to the inanities of the world, and they both loved twisting language in teasing ways. Although he was often deliberately provocative, Eileen was capable of countering with her own quips when his exaggerations were too extreme, and he enjoyed her attempts to outwit him. Her friends thought she understood people better than Orwell did, and had an equal and ubiquitous range of interests.

Sylvia Topp

Sylvia Topp has worked in publishing since college, starting as a copy editor on medical journals, then moving to freelance editing at major literary publishing houses. She was the long-time wife and partner of Tuli Kupferberg, a Beat poet who later was a co-founder, in 1964, of the Fugs, a legendary rock and roll band. Together Sylvia and Tuli wrote, edited, and designed over thirty books and magazines, including As They Were, 1001 Ways to Live Without Working, and Yeah! magazine. Sylvia joined the staff at The Soho Weekly News and later The Village Voice, before finishing her publishing career at Vanity Fair. Eileen is her first book. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.

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Eileen: The Making of GEORGE ORWELL -SYLVIA TOPP.

PRAISE

‘One cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of Eileen O’Shaughnessy in the life of Eric Blair, and hence of George Orwell. Her influence upon him was profound, in his life and his work. It’s now splendid to have her biography’

Peter Stansky, co-author of Orwell: The Transformation

A most interesting biography … it has not only brought Eileen in from the shadows but has given her full credit for her contributions to Orwell’s late great novels. An excellent read, especially rewarding for Orwell scholars’

Gordon Bowker author of George Orwell

Eileen O’Shaughnessy, George Orwell’s first wife, has always been something of a black hole at the centre of Orwell Studies. Sylvia Topp’s painstaking researches have breathed life into this enigmatic figure, and all Orwell fans owe her a huge debt of gratitude’

D. J. Taylor, author of George Orwell: The Life
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Crime, Excerpt, Extract, Friendship, Gangland Crime, ganglit

The Trouble Girls @MysteryCreator #Extract @LoveBooksGroup #GangLit #CrimeFiction #BlogTour #LoveBooksTours

It’s in her blood…

Camille O’Brien’s father was an Irish gangster who was betrayed and murdered.

Violet McCarthy has inherited control of the Irish mob.

The two women were once friends, but the exposure of the past has made them enemies, and Camille believes that what Violet has should be hers.

Now they must fight against each other as Camille strives to gain control of the mob in any way she can, no matter how brutal, and Violet struggles to keep it.

Love and loyalty are tested as they push each other to the edge. 

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Excerpt from ‘The Trouble Girls’.

When Camille O’Brien was a girl her mother liked to tell her that her father if he had lived, could have been the king of New York City. Camille never knew her father. Colin O’Brien had been murdered when she was just a baby, in the early 1960s. It was the 80s now and Camille was in her twenties. Her mother Sheila had raised her alone after Colin’s death until she remarried when Camille was in high school. Camille’s stepfather was a high up Italian mob guy named Vito Russo, and she hadn’t liked him ever since he made a pass at her when she was a teenager, something she never told her mother.

Still, her mother talked about Camille’s father all the time and Camille knew that he had been a gangster, but he was still her father, and every day she had a desire to avenge him, because she was, after all, her father’s daughter. Her father’s absence in her life had affected her profusely and she’d started taking an antidepressant medication a few years ago to help her cope.

Camille and her mother had coffee in the diner around the corner from the church, as they did every Sunday after attending morning mass together. Camille had always known her mother to be a devoted churchgoer, but her mother had told her that Colin’s death had brought her closer to the church.

Best-selling crime author E.R. Fallon knows well the gritty city streets of which she writes. She studied criminology and was mentored by a leading advocate for the family members of homicide victims. E.R. is currently writing a book about living with autism and also working on her next gangland book, The Trouble Legacy, with her writing partner, KJ.KJ Fallon is a former reporter with Time magazine who currently works as a freelance writer for numerous media outlets.