Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Guest post

The Beach at Doonshean Penny Feeny 4*#Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #FamilyDrama #Ireland #Liverpool #Secrets #BookReview #BlogTour #GuestPost

In Ireland, the past never dies…

Long ago, on a windswept Irish beach, a young father died saving the life of another man’s child.

Thirty years later, his widow, Julia, decides to return to this wild corner of Ireland to lay the past to rest. Her journey sparks others: her daughter Bel, an artist, joins her mother in Ireland, while son Matt and daughter-in-law Rachel, at home in Liverpool, embark on some soul-searching of their own.

 As the threads of past and present intertwine, Julia’s family confront long-buried feelings of guilt, anger, fear and desire.

Only then can they allow the crashing waves of the beach at Doonshean to bond them together once again.

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

My Thoughts…

A heroic, yet tragic event affects the emotional development of two families connected historically by the tragedy on Doonshean beach.mi

The quality that resonates from this story is the family’s dysfunction. Superficially, Julia’s family seems normal, but dig a little deeper and the cracks appear. The characters are believable because they are flawed, and in some cases unlikable. Ronnie’s family is also divided. Her sons left at the first opportunity, and never fulfilled her hopes for them. Especially, Tom. Despite his lucky escape, he doesn’t seem to be making the most of his life, but maybe things are about to change.

This story has a great deal of charm, its an easy, emotional read. Both families are affected by the past tragedy, now they are together again, will something positive emerge?

A story of coincidence, tragedy and family life.

Guest Post- Penny Feeny

All sorts of factors combine in the construction of a novel, little pieces that you put together bit by bit like a jigsaw. I usually begin with the location, somewhere that will transport me and my characters. My previous three novels were all set in Italy, which is instantly seductive – but other countries can be romantic too! I chose the Dingle peninsula in Ireland for The Beach at Doonshean, because it’s an area I know well and one that I love. No visitor can fail to be beguiled by its special magic: the wild unspoilt scenery, the gentle pace of life and the charm and friendliness of the Irish themselves. However, the starting point for the story was an event I’d heard about many years earlier.

A woman I knew (actually she was my landlady) had been widowed when her husband drowned saving the life of a child – leaving behind three children of his own. The horror of this tragedy made a strong impression on me, but there was curiosity too. What happened to the rescued child? What kind of adult did they become? Does knowing that your life has been saved give you an extra sense of responsibility? Is it a privilege or a burden? And what repercussions does such an act of heroism have on the people who come after? Do they feel they have to measure up? I can’t pretend I know the answers to these questions but I wanted to explore the possibilities and the likely effects on the two families involved. What if they came across each other several years later?

The Beach at Doonshean covers a period of ten days or so in the lives of the Wentworths and the Farrellys. Various members of each clan are already facing a personal turning point when circumstances throw them together again. Bel has had a health scare and is longing to fall in love, Rachael is doubting her ability to be a good mother, and Tom has suddenly acquired a child he didn’t know existed. I wanted to find a catalyst that would reflect the disruption they were all experiencing. The volcanic ash cloud of 2010 was a freak incident at the time and mostly forgotten now (there’ve since been so many other bizarre aircraft delays!) but for those caught up in the chaos, it had a significant impact. Flights were grounded for a week and the knock-on effects lasted for several days as people tried to get back to their homes and their normal lives. For my purposes, this created an ideal scenario in which Julia Wentworth, first widowed, then divorced and now newly retired, could set in motion a chain of events which would lead to much soul-searching in both families.

The action is set between Liverpool, which has undergone a wonderful renaissance since I first came to live here, and the beautiful windswept south-west of Ireland where we go on holiday regularly. County Kerry has a famously spectacular coastline and magnificent Atlantic beaches with endless stretches of golden sand; you can even catch the unforgettable sight of a shoal of dolphins leaping for their dinner. But my story needed a beach with a riptide – and one that was not too remote. It’s not often that you would deliberately seek out a danger spot, but Doonshean, just outside the little town of Dingle, fit the bill perfectly. I should add that there is only one section of the beach subject to the riptide, so there is absolutely no excuse not to visit and enjoy this wonderful corner of the world!

I hope you enjoy the book too!   

Penny Feeny

Penny Feeny has lived and worked in Cambridge, London and Rome. Since settling in Liverpool many years ago she has been an arts administrator, editor, radio presenter, advice worker, and has brought up five children. Her short fiction has been widely published and broadcast and won several awards. Her first novel, That Summer in Ischia, was one of the Summer of 2011’s best selling titles.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post

The Time of Our Lives Abby Williams 4* #Review @fionajourno @Aria_Fiction @HoZ-Books #MultiGenerational #Friendship#SecondChances #NewBeginnings #BlogTour #GuestPost

Two women from two very different generations are brought together through dramatic circumstances and help each other to forge new paths.

Twenty-six-year-old Erin has everything she’s ever wanted – a good job, a gorgeous fiancé and a best friend who’s always there for her. But suddenly her life comes crashing down around her. Unable to return home to her parents, she takes a room in a house nearby and her life starts over in the most unexpected of ways…

Seventy-six-year old Lydia, who, shocked by the sudden death of her husband, is devastated to discover that he has left her in crippling debt. With no choice but to take in a lodger, Erin comes into her life. When they find a letter hidden in the attic old secrets come to light and, with Erin by her side, Lydia finds herself going on a trip of a lifetime.

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

My Thoughts…

A delightful multi-generational story of love, loss, friendship and new beginnings.

Erin’s life implodes, when she is betrayed by those she loves, she needs to escape, to rebuild her life. Lydia still in shock from her sudden bereavement, finds that loss isn’t the only emotion she has to contend with. Her financial security is compromised, and taking in lodger seems the only way to make ends meet. The unlikely pair, find that material security isn’t the only benefit of living together, and they forge a friendship that opens up a new lease of life for both.

A chance discovery, reveals more family secrets, and a chance to experience something special for both women.

This is a story full of emotion and poignancy, but there are plenty of humorous moments too. Lydia is a witty woman, and Erin soon realises that age is no barrier to a true friend.

A lighthearted, emotional read, with characters who you can empathise and a heartwarming ethos.

#TheTimeofOurLives
Naked Saunas – The Inspiration behind The Time Of Our Lives– Abby Williams

I’ve always enjoyed running. Not only is it a great stress reliever, it’s great for allowing you to eat lots of cake, and also great for me, as I usually find all my best novel ideas come to me when I’m pounding the pavement.

The idea for The Time Of Our Lives was no different. One summer’s evening, I was out with my running club, when Nella, my lovely Finnish friend started telling us all about the naked saunas she and her fellow Finns all enjoyed back home! Cue much hilarity amongst us British girls who were positively squeamish at the thought of showing off our bits and pieces to all and sundry. Not so for Nella. She said she thought it was a good thing – young and old came together to enjoy simple pleasures. Inhibitions and modesty were left at the door she said, and real, lasting connections were formed, regardless of age.

She was right. It was us Brits that were repressed. After that conversation, I couldn’t get the idea of these generations coming together and although I didn’t really want to write about naked saunas, (Sorry Nella, it was a step too far), what did strike a chord was the idea of age being no barrier to friendship. It was then I knew that what I wanted to write about next was the power of friendship.

And so I found millennial Erin and almost-octogenarian, Lydia. Two women who come to need each other more than they can ever realise after their lives implode in very unexpected ways.

The moment I hit upon the idea I found I couldn’t wait to spend time with my characters. Lydia and Erin became as real to me as any of my friends and family, and I found their friendship as charming and inviting as any relationship I’ve experienced in real life. It was funny because even though I never wrote about naked saunas the image Nella created for me that day was so strong, I only had to shut my eyes and I could see young and old coming together, laughing, sharing, joking and confiding about all manner of things to bond Lydia and Erin.

And so no, there are no naked saunas in this book, but there’s still lots of running for me. The last time I ran with the girls we started talking about the best places to go to the loo on a long run…someone mentioned the bushes and Paula Radcliffe. Safe to say, that hasn’t inspired anything in me quite yet.

Fiona Ford – Abby Williams

Abby Williams is the pseudonym for Fiona Ford, writer of romantic up-lit and historical fiction. Fiona started out as a freelance journalist for titles such as Grazia, Sunday Mirror and Stylist before realising her passion lay in novels. Now she spends her days immersed in made-up worlds and reckons she has the very best job in the world. When she’s not writing, Fiona is a gym nut, but only so it means she can eat lots of cake and drink lots of wine – not necessarily in that order. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and two cats who she sometimes thinks she might love just a little bit more than all the humans she knows. The Time of Our Lives is her first romantic novel and she is now busy scribbling away her second.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Romance, Travel

The Postcard – Zoe Folbigg – 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @zolington #ThePostcard #Romance #Relationships #Travel #Backpacking #Paperback #PublicationDay #GuestPost #TheNote #Mystery#BlogTour

#Paperback 8 August 19

The sequel to the bestselling phenomenon The Note – based on the true story of one girl and her ‘Train Man’…

A year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the world.

The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding. But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk-tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same. 

Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all…

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

My Thoughts…

I must be the only person in the UK who didn’t read ‘The Note’, but fortunately ‘The Postcard’ whilst being a sequel, is also a separate adventure for Maya and James and reads well as a standalone.

There is a curious diversion from Maya’s story as she prepares to go on around the world trip with #TheTrainMan. A different character, confused, lost and vulnerable, is introduced, the menace and mystery of this encounter are on your mind as Maya and James start their journey, and then the person’s identity and the situation is revealed, and you wonder if, where and when, Maya will meet her?

The characters and relationships you explore in this story are complex and realistic, whether they be from Maya’s past, present or on the trip of a lifetime. Her best friend’s story is so far removed from Maya’s at this time, and yet both think they want what the other is experiencing.

There is a lovely balance of humour and poignancy in this, the romance is still there, but tempered with reality and therefore authentic. Maya and James find out who they are as a couple as a series of conflicts, try to break them.

The final conflict is adrenaline-fueled, suspenseful and unexpectedly poignant. These scenes are full of vivid imagery that really lets you experience the tension, terror and tumultuousness of the events. Romance and love prevail, and the final scenes provide a heartwarming and believable ending.

#ThePostcard
Guest Post – Zoe Folbigg – The Postcard

Welcome back, Maya and James!

If you enjoyed my debut book The Note then I hope you love the sequel, The Postcard, even more. At first, I was nervy about revisiting Maya and James and writing about what happens after the happy ever after. The Note was based on my own story of how I fell for a stranger on a train on my daily commute and then married him. It was a story I had told a thousand times even before I’d fictionalised it; before Aria offered me a book deal; before it became a bestseller.

When I wrote my second novel, The Distance, a story about long-distance love, based (almost) entirely on characters plucked from my imagination and nothing to do with me or my husband, I enjoyed the liberating feeling of writing about something totally different, telling a new story.

So when Aria suggested a sequel, I was worried. How could I move Maya and James’ story on? In reality, Train Man and I got married and had kids. We settled down to school runs, sports clubs and Friday-night fajitas. Nowadays the most drama in our lives tends to be Sainsbury’s selling out of coriander (those fajitas matter), or me falling over in the mums’ race on Sports Day. Embarrassing, yes, but none of my current life felt like novel material.

Then I remembered the “in-between”.  Those years in a relationship when you’re out of the early throes of glorious newness, when you’re still self-conscious about morning breath and think each other’s bad outfit choices are adorable, but you’re not quite ready for his ‘n’ hers Mahabis or actually saying, “This is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with!”, even if you think it. A period when family and friends ask about marriage and babies in hushed tones and want to move your relationship on to the next stage, even if you haven’t discussed it yet.

Our “in-between” coincided with some amazing travels: a holiday to Argentina with friends, Costa Rica for my 30th (double income no kids = nice holidays) and then a year-long round-the-world trip (redundancy = a “sod-it, it’s now or never” attitude).

Before these trips, friends would gush about the proposal opportunities, how we would definitely come back engaged, that surely Train Man had something up his sleeve, and I felt a mixture of hope and pressure, excitement and resentment.

So while pondering a sequel I remembered that phase. The round-the-world trip was chock full of vibrant places, crazy characters, beautiful scenery, and weirdly that in-between issue that I realised would be as pertinent to Maya and James as it is to many people.

Once I started writing The Postcard and I took Maya and James on their own travels, I fell in love with their new chapter: I could almost smell the coriander and coconut of dinner on the Mekong; hear the beat of a drum at a Hindu wedding; see the mossy limestone karsts looking down on them at a beach in Thailand. And I could hear the ring of that lingering question: “Do you think he’ll ask you to marry him?!” “Do you think you’d ask him?” All from my kitchen table.

So welcome back Maya and James! It’s been an honour to pick up their story and revisit all these amazing places for The Postcard – and I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. Twitter Facebook Instagram Website

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post

The Girl I Used to Know -Faith Hogan 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @GerHogan #Paperback #BlogTour #Friends #Relationships #SecondChances #GuestPost #SelfDiscovery

Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn’t be more different.

Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accoutrements of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.

By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.

It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.

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

My Thoughts…

Two women are uneasy neighbours. On the surface, they have very little in common except for the hostility between them. New Year’s Eve starts a chain of events that draws their paths together in ways they would never imagine.
This is classic Irish storytelling, which spans three time periods. Each foray into the past builds a picture of why Amanda and Tess are the people they are.
Neither character is immediately likeable but they are believable and as the story unfolds, so do their true personalities. The revelations make their past choices and present situations easier to understand and Amanda and Tessa easier to empathise.

Amanda’s life is cosmetically perfect but underneath the surface, there are too many cracks, and she realises she is existing not living.

Tess’ accidents make her take stock of her life and vow to make something of the time she has left. It is this realisation, coupled with a teenage girl who wants to help and a cat who wants a warm welcome that makes her start to trust again and value herself.

The story is well-paced, and the ending ties up everything and gives hope for a happier future.

A poignant, sometimes comical, enjoyable story.

Guest Post – The Magic of Friendship- Faith Hogan

The Girl I Used To Know has been described as Uplit, feel good, grown-up, women’s fiction. It certainly falls into all of those brackets, but in writing it, I wanted it to be a manifesto for women’s friendship. Friends are the lifelong anchor for many of us to keep us who we are and what we’re striving to become. Friends are the common denominator that we can choose and if we’re wise, we choose them carefully.

The reality is, that we can make friends at any stage in life, often the best of friends are found the last place you expect and sometimes, they are right under your nose if you just take the time to really look at the person before you. The Girl I Used To Know is about seeing past the façade that we so often build up around ourselves and looking at the person underneath. Very often, it’s surprising to find that ultimately, we are all the same – we all want the same things, to be happy – to be loved.

Tess Cuffe, a curmudgeonly woman (who is not nearly as old as she imagines herself to be) has long since given up any desire to make friends, certainly not with the snooty Amanda King. The thing about Tess is that above anyone, she probably needs a good friend the most, but of course, like so often in life, she’s the only one who can’t see this. Her ability to get along with others has long since been buried in her own bitterness and regret.

Once, Tess had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.

A simple act of kindness opens things up for Tess and like a complicated set of dominoes, opening her heart to one small creature is enough to create a fissure to allow a sliver of something better through.

Tess has spent twenty years living her life to spite her neighbours, but it’s a funny thing when she realises that Amanda King’s life is not so perfect as she imagined she doesn’t get quite the same pleasure out of it that she might have imagined. It is too late to luxuriate in the misery of her nemesis – it seems to Tess that somewhere, somehow, she is forced to chose a side and going against all that has propelled her for so long, she chooses Amanda.

Amanda King has lived a life of her own choosing, or at least that’s what she believes, but when her world comes crashing down, she’s forced to admit that she’s become someone that she hardly recognises anymore.

Once, Amanda had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.

This is a story of two women who realise that in spite of the fact that on the outside, they appear to be very different, it turns out they have more in common than they realised. Friendship may not be the answer to their problems, but it certainly makes life better in ways they could never have imagined, if only they can meet halfway.

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Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Romance, Romantic Comedy

How to Make Time for Me – Fiona Perrin @Aria_Fiction @fionaperrin #Family Drama #Romance #Humour #SingleMum #RomCom #Carers #Relationships #Friendships #BlogTour #Guest Post 5*#Review

No-one said being a single mum would be easy…

Everyone knows that being a single mother means having no time to yourself. But for CallieBrown, it’s more exhausting than most. She’s juggling the needs of three teenage children, two live-in parents, a raffish ex-husband, and a dog who never stops eating.

The last thing Callie needs is anything more on her plate. So when she bumps (quite literally) into a handsome, age-appropriate cyclist, she’s quick to dismiss him from her life. After all, if she doesn’t have time to brush her hair in the morning, she certainly doesn’t have time to fall in love…

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

My Thoughts…

I love the easy to read writing style of this novel. The themes are familiar to everyone who parents or has parented teenagers or looked after elderly parents. There’s a glossary of teenage vocabulary at the end of the story for the uninitiated. It is the story that most of us have thought of writing at some time, but this author has actually done it and with great results.

Callie is a single mum, with twin girls and a son from her previous relationship who she has been a mother to for eight years, her ex is frankly abysmal, and her ageing parents are a further emotional and physical drain on her already depleted resources. Getting run over by a takeaway delivery bike, is the final straw, she’s invisible and surely something has to change?

Modern family stories are particularly popular and relevant at this moment. This story has many laugh-out-loud moments mixed in with strong emotional poignant scenes, especially concerning Wilf. It is a story of family, friends, self- worth and love, in all its forms.

An absorbing, yet quick read, I read it today in a couple of hours. Its charm is in its relatability and believable characters. A lovely, emotional humorous read.

Guest Post: All about time for you… Fiona Perrin

HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME was inspired by all the women I know who (in the words of the old ad campaign) juggle their lives. I was particularly interested in writing about those who find themselves part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – looking after children as well as ageing parents, mostly while holding down a job (but probably also still making the sandwiches).

It struck me that ‘having it all’ as we say, frequently means having no time to yourself. We have children to bring up, extended families to support and it can be just at the time that careers develop and grow difficult. Callie, the heroine of my novel, is also a single mother with a complicated, modern and messy family, full of happiness but also pretty challenging. How does she get any time for herself let alone the opportunity to fall in love?

I’m not a single mother now, but I was for a few years and I remember the chaos fondly, but also a constant feeling of exhaustion. Luckily, I found time to meet Alan and fall in love and now, we have just about waved all four of our kids off to Uni and careers.

But with them as teenagers, our house was hectic – demanding but also, fun. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME heavily features teenagers and shows the pressures they are up against – as well as taking the mickey out them. It has footnotes to explain teenager-speak for example – they have a whole lingo of their own. While it’s great to have time to ourselves, I really miss the madness of those teenage years, and the kids and their friends all hanging around the house, doing not much. But they all seem to come home quite often too, mostly with huge bags of washing and to eat their way through the fridge.

I’m really lucky in that my Mum is about the most active, healthy, supportive parent you can imagine. However, she is also a carer for my older stepfather, while in her seventies – he can no longer walk – so I have some understanding of being responsible for the older generation too. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME features two loopy parents that Callie adores but also add to the demands on her day. I have dedicated this book to my Mum just so she knows they were in no way based on her.

I would love it if readers took a little time out for themselves to read my novel. They might also enjoy Callie’s struggle to stop feeling ‘invisible’ just as she is knocked off her feet quite literally by a rather attractive neighbour. She immediately feels that there is no way she will have time to fall in love with him, but sometimes life has other ideas.

Thanks so much for this opportunity to appear on your brilliant blog.

Fiona Perrin was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us. Fiona grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire, and now writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the end of The Lizard peninsula.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Magic, Romance

5* #Review- Jenni Keer – The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows @AvonBooksUK @OneMoreChapter @JenniKeer @rararesources #GuestPost #BlogTour #Romance #Family #Friendships #Secrets

When Maisie Meadows finds herself single and jobless on New Year’s Day, she resolves that this will be the year she focuses on bringing her scattered family back together. Romance is all very well, but it’s the people you grew up with that matter the most.

But a new job working at an auction house puts her in the path of Theo, a gorgeous but unattainable man who she can’t help but be distracted by. As their bond begins to grow, Maisie finds herself struggling to fulfil the promise she made to herself – but the universe has other ideas, and it’s not long before the Meadows family are thrown back together in the most unlikely of circumstances…

Can dealing with other people’s treasures help Maisie to let go of the past, and teach her who she ought to treasure the most?

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

My Thoughts…

What a lovely story. Maisie the youngest child in a dysfunctional family is the star of this gently paced, characterful story. Her attempts to recreate the ‘perfect family’, are spectacularly unsuccessful, as she is let down by her latest lover and loses her job as well.

The auction house job is a new start, and it feels right, but the serendipitous change in circumstances and career, and the part tea set she uncovers have a profound effect on her life and those close to her.

Maisie is a realistically flawed but easy to empathise character, her motivation for good is strong, but her foundations are rocky. Was life really as ‘rosy’ as she remembers? Is having a tidy house, the only way she can live her life, which seems so out of control. Is her secret, a true reflection of who she really is?

There are so many levels to this story, a potential romance, that is fraught with misunderstanding. A little magic, that Maisie hopes to use to bring her family together. The outcome is not what she expects, but is believable and hopeful. A multi-generational theme, that adds depth to the story and shows how the present reflects the past, and the lessons to be learnt.

It’s easy to lose yourself in this book. Character-driven, it makes you believe in the story, and want the best for Maisie and her friends. The setting is authentic, and relatable and gives the book its unique twist.

Gentle romance, quirky characters and a wealth of emotion and regret, all make this story a lovely interlude in everyday life.

Guest Post – Jenni Keer
My Love for Auctions

Thank you for inviting me over, Jane, to talk about the fascinating backdrop to my latest novel The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows, which is set at Gildersleeve’s – a fictional auction house in north Suffolk.

When I was playing about with ideas for my second book, I started thinking about environments I already had a good knowledge of (partly because I had a deadline for this book and was a bit panicky about how much research time I would have). Amongst other things, auction houses sprang to mind. My husband has an antique furniture business and we have been attending auctions at T. W. Gaze in the picturesque market town of Diss, Norfolk, for over twenty years. Over this time, I have seen the auction evolve and grow, and it has always been one of my favourite places to visit. It seemed the perfect setting for a story and much of the plot grew from this seed.

Image Credit – With Kind Permission of TWGaze ( via Jenni Keer)

The highly knowledgeable Elizabeth Talbot (you may have seen her on the TV) was very generous with her time and I had several visits behind the scenes and the opportunity to quiz her about various aspects of the business – all of it was fascinating but only a fraction made it into the book. James Bassam, the modern design expert, also gave me his time and expertise, and this helped me to make Theo a much more rounded character. I learned a lot about Scandinavian furniture, studio pottery and post-war glass – so Theo now knows all those things, too.

If you have never been to an auction, I would encourage you to go. I hope I manage to get across some of the tension and excitement of bidding in a busy saleroom, but much of the fun is to be had in wandering around on viewing days and looking at the myriad of items coming up in the weekly sale. You truly never know what you are going to come across. I asked Elizabeth about the most bizarre objects they’d had pass through their hands and she said if it’s legal to sell it, they’ve probably had it – including a coffin (which gets a mention in the book).

Image Credit – With Kind Permission of TWGaze (via Jenni Keer)

Going back a couple of hundred years, most towns held regular auctions and they would have been a thing for all. Sadly, by the middle of the twentieth century, they were not so commonplace and had become the preserve of the dealers – who bought items at auction and sold them on to the general public. But more recently, largely thanks to the TV and the internet, auction rooms have become more accessible again and, although I appreciate they remain intimidating places to some, I hope those who read Maisie Meadows might be tempted to give them a go. Even Maisie had never been to an auction until she started working at Gildersleeve’s, yet instantly falls in love with the variety and energy her new workplace affords.

Image Credit – Jenni Keer

I suspect if my husband’s profession hadn’t taken us to the auctions, I would never have discovered the thrill that is a live auction, but it’s often the highlight of my week. Much of the furniture in my house has come from Gaze’s over the years, when we’ve been looking for stock but “accidentally” purchased things we fell in love with. This is the downside – you stumble across things you never knew you needed until you see them. Consequently, we have pieces of unusual glass, dinner services (that’s my bad – I can’t resist pretty china), too many bicycles, pieces of art, garden furniture, Scalextric, ceramic clock faces, and a box of 500 old keys… to name but a few of our impulse purchases.

All of my experiences fed into my plot and I loved writing about Gildersleeve’s and its eclectic staff. I knew I wanted the plot to centre around a very unusual tea set that had been separated, so an auction house was the perfect place to start Maisie’s journey. Early on in her new job, she stumbles across a teapot that she recognises from her past – so much so that it sends prickles up her arm. Why has it ended up an auction? And is there more to this curious teapot than meets the eye?

I hope you have fun following Maisie as she tries to reunite both the tea set and her own scattered family. Thank you for having me over, and for the delicious cup of virtual coffee.

Jenni x

Jenni Keer

Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house, it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker was published in January 2019.

The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows is out in July 2019.

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Posted in Animal Friends, Blog Tour, Book Review, Childrens Books, Friendship, Guest post

Tabby’s Big Year- Hollie Anne Marsh 4* #Review @Hollieannemarsh @rararesources #Sweetbriars2 #MiddleGrade #Horses #ComingofAge #BritishEquestrian #teen #kidslit #Family #Friendship #BlogTour #GuestPost

After Tabby’s father vanishes, a deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister, is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.

Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family. 
Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?

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

My Thoughts…

This book certainly stirred some memories for me. At Tabby’s age, I was totally obsessed with horses, and the scenes in the stable yard evoked happy times. This story is the second in the ‘Sweetbriars series, but as I haven’t read the previous book, and enjoyed it, it reads well as a standalone.

Tabby lives with her mum, who is trying to forge a new life, as a single mum. She has a career and this is her main focus, Tabby is self-sufficient and not surprisingly, old for her years because her mother leaves her to fend for herself a lot of the time. Haunted by her dad’s leaving, Tabby reveals her vulnerability and you empathise.

Estranged from her sister, who lives with their grandparents in Cornwall, this story is about reconnecting with family and understanding that everyone’s life has ups and downs, no matter how ideal it appears from the outside. It’s also about learning to trust your friends and being honest about your life and the problems you face.

The issues are those facing young pre-teens and younger teenagers in contemporary society and are explored in a clear and non- judgmental way.

The focus is on Tabby and the horses, one Bliss, she is helping rehabilitate from an accident, and another horse who she is particularly fond of, she battles to save.

The setting is vividly described, and the characters are realistic, and avoid being stereotypical.

As an adult, I enjoyed reading this story, and feel that is perfect for the intended age group.

The perfect read for any horse obsessed young person.

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

Hollie Anne Marsh and the Sweetbriars equestrian series 

I wrote the manuscript for the first Sweetbriars book over ten years ago. I had a dream to create a premium equestrian series like the successful Saddle Club series, with an addictive mix of horses and ‘coming of age’ themes.

When I was younger, I loved these kinds of books and read them all. I would trade books with my friends, and we would discuss them for hours.

After having a baby and being made redundant from my corporate job, I finished the first book; Leaving The City and then recently, I finished the second book; Tabby’s Big Year… it’s been great to do something creative again and fulfil a lifelong dream!

There are three main characters; Cate, Tabby and Violet and they spend most of their spare time at the Sweetbriars Farm.

Cate Sullivan is the daughter of the family who owns the farm and is the main character in the first book. She is sweet and endearing, however a bit of a worrier!

In the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, we follow Tabby’s story. Tabby lives with her mother in the quaint village of the Dales. She is diligent and hardworking, however, is grappling with her family situation as her father vanished and her older sister Ava moved to Cornwall to live with their grandparents. Tabby becomes a regular at Sweetbriars, finding solace with the horses and her dear friends.

The last character; Violet, she is the sassier of the three girls and she also keeps a horse at ‘Sweetbriars’. She says what she thinks and keeps you guessing with her peculiar ways and habits!

I ran a ‘Search for a Cover Star’ competition for both books in the series and for Leaving The City (the first book), I found a talented young rider, Faye Heppelthwaite, alongside her show pony Gigman George to grace the cover. The photo was taken in an English meadow by the photographer Paul Ruffle and it’s pretty stunning.

For the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, I took it one step further and ran a competition where a young girl could not only grace the cover, she could also win a photo shoot with her pony or horse with photographer Katie Amos. Twelve-year-old Sia Reiss won the competition and participated in a photo shoot in scenic Yorkshire with her eighteen-year-old horse Frankie.

As part of entering the competition I asked entrants why they thought they should win the competition and here is what Sia said, which I thought was gorgeous: “My pony Frankie is 18 years old and has arthritis. His glory days are over. He is a one in a million pony and I love him so much. To me, the best way I can think of celebrating Frankie is having him on the cover of a wonderful book.” 

Here is one of my favourite photos from the photo shoot. I think it’s easy to see the special that Sia and Frankie have.

Image Credit – Kate Amos

In Tabby’s Big Year, there are important lessons for young readers. The main character, Tabby has been through a lot in her young life and has a habit of bottling things up and pretending she is ok. The book teaches that by bottling things up, problems only seem more significant.

Tabby also thinks she is the only one with problems, and there is a moment in the book where the neighbour of the Sweetbriars farm Sophia, opens up and reveals how her father also abandoned her… this is a lightbulb moment for Tabby, as she thought everyone around her had things perfect.

Tabby also found Sophia strange (she’s eccentric, lives in a rundown house with oddball parents), but realizes they have a lot in common and Tabby and Sophia become quite close. So, I think the book also teaches young readers not to judge people by the way they look. This was also quite prevalent in the first book too.

What’s next? 

Well, the obvious thing seems to write another Sweetbriars book from Violet’s point of view. It could also be fun to write a book about the quirky neighbour of Sweetbriars Sophia and her life… she is a bit of an enigma. Then the books could continue – as the series is in its infancy. At this stage, I am not sure how far I will take it, but I do think it has potential.

Tabby’s Big Year

The second book in the Sweetbriars Equestrian Book Series tells the story of twelve-year-old Tabby and is set in The Dales – a fictional rural Devon village in the Southwest of England.

After the disappearance of her father, several years before, Tabby, her older sister Ava and her mother, are still grappling with the consequences. Things need to be brought out into the open… but go on being unsaid, as a huge rift develops leaving the family at odds with each other.

While Tabby battles her feelings of being neglected by her mother, she unexpectedly has to face another battle – to find the courage to save her last horse, Nancy from being sent to a premature end at the knacker’s yard.

Tabby also has the responsibility of caring for a young horse, Bliss – her dream horse who was entrusted to her and is recovering from a serious accident. The clock is ticking as Tabby nurses him back to health and peak performance to be able to achieve her dream: to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

By her side are her two best friends, Cate and Violet. Tabby also develops an unlikely friendship – with Sophia. Tabby realises she has much more in common with her than she ever could have imagined. 

It’s a big year for Tabby… will she be able to find the courage not only to save the horses she loves the most but also to speak up and tell the people closest to her how she really feels?

Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda. 

Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage. 

The ‘Sweetbriars’ series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments! 

Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had. 
Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books’ fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.

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