Posted in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Guest post, Romantic Comedy

A Train from Penzance to Paris Laura Briggs #GuestPost #ALittleHotelinCornwall #RomCom @PaperDollWrites @rararesources #RachelsRandomResources #Romance #Paris #Cornwall #PublicationDay

When Maisie accepts a celebrated author’s invitation to mentor her, she finds herself leaving Cornwall behind on train tracks bound for the glitter city of Paris. Instead of making beds and serving coffee at the Penmarrow hotel in Cornwall, she’s making notes on her manuscript while sitting in a French cafe, meeting famous writers at private dinner parties, and trying to ferret the secrets behind the author’s unfinished future novel.

It’s glamorous, it’s breathtaking … but it’s also an ocean channel away from the place that she loves, and, more importantly, the person to whom she just recently confessed her deepest feelings. Separated from Sidney by distance and circumstances, Maisie fears that their connection will be lost despite her words to him – and maybe because of those words, and the ones she didn’t allow him to say in return.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of things in her new life trying to distract her – the professional editor hired to critique her novel, the eager young literary agent who sees pie-in-the-sky potential for Maisie’s talent, but Maisie finds solace in the eclectic group of amateur writers into whose midst she finds herself by accident. Their critique and advice is fast becoming as important as the editors – maybe even more important than the published author Maisie believed held the keys to refining her skill.

But it’s missing Sidney that fills Maisie’s thoughts the most, along with her life back in Port Hewer, and she can’t stop wondering whether his feelings are the same as her own. His unspoken answer has become one of the most important pieces of her life, even as she struggles to match the pace of her new life and keep her dreams in sight. And when she unwittingly becomes privy to a seeming literary conspiracy, she must decide what to do in light of its truth – and decide what’s most important in her quest to become a professional writer.

Join Maisie in a whirlwind tour across two of the world’s greatest cities, filled with questions, dreams, and a chance for fame that she believed far beyond her grasp, as she discovers herself as a writer, and how to embrace an unexpected future on her own terms.

Amazon UK

Guest Post – Laura Briggs

Favorite Things About Writing ‘A Train From Penzance to Paris’:

A huge thank you to Jane for letting me drop by and chat about my latest book with everyone on her lovely book blog! It is the fifth installment in my series about aspiring author Maisie Clark, whose adventures working at a Cornish hotel by the sea have been filled with secrets, romance, and plenty of surprises along the way. This newest story is a bit different from the ones before it, taking Maisie to new locations with new acquaintances—but still lots of questions about her future as a writer, not to mention her romance with the charming Sidney Daniels back in Cornwall. With so many changes, yet so much still the same, I thought it might be fun to share a few of the reasons I enjoyed working on Maisie’s latest adventure, so here goes!

Part of the story takes place in Paris:

I was fortune enough to visit the City of Light with some friends a couple of years ago, and it was every bit as beautiful as it seems in the movies. Like Maisie, I was a bit dazzled by the chic atmosphere and historic landmarks (and the pastries were among the best I’ve eaten anywhere!). It was a wonderful experience that I hope crept its way into some of the descriptions of Maisie’s own impression of this gorgeous part of the globe—though, no doubt it still contains the many inaccuracies of a tourist’s attempts to capture the nuances of a place they’ve visited only once! Though I do hope it will at least whisk the reader away to a version of the city as colorful and glamorous as those found in classic films like Funny Face and Paris When it Sizzles, or the many popular chick lit reads about Parisian bookshops and quaint cafes!

A love of books and writing is a recurring theme:

And as a writer, I can definitely identify with Maisie’s excitement—as well as her hesitations—about plunging into the world of published works. It was fun to explore that side of her character more thoroughly and to show some of the challenges faced by those who purse the dream of sharing their work on the page. It was especially fun to explore the dynamics of the amateur writing group that Maisie becomes a part of on her visit to London. Their diverse backgrounds and writing styles take the budding novelist Maisie by surprise on more than once occasion as she gets to know these fellow artists who share the same hopes, reservations, and secret ambitions in their love for the craft.

The romance is kept in suspense:

Those familiar with my Cornish hotel series have probably come to expect the slow burn nature of Maisie’s relationship with the handsome and somewhat inscrutable Sidney Daniels. And although Sidney doesn’t factor into this newest story as a key player, he’s definitely in Maisie’s heart and thoughts the entire book. Her letters to him reveal her deepest dreams and fears about her writing quest yet, and even though the feelings between them are still unresolved, she has no doubt about his place in her heart—or those three all-important words she spoke to him the last time they shared a kiss right before she had to say goodbye. Whether or not her quest to fulfill her dreams has cost her a chance with him remains to be seen, but Maisie isn’t the type to give up where her heart is concerned, and readers can expect some much-anticipated romantic resolution when book six in the series makes its debut later this summer.

There’s a surprise twist at the end:

And that’s also something fans of the series are accustomed to, though I’m hoping they won’t even have an inkling what this one could turn out to be. It certainly knocks Maisie for a loop, so to speak, and readers can expect some drama and a little angst as Maisie’s fifth adventure reaches a somewhat unexpected conclusion.

If you haven’t yet read any of the books in A LITTLE HOTEL IN CORNWALL I do hope this will inspire you to check them out. Books one through five are now available in eBook format, with book six currently on pre-order at Amazon!

Laura Briggs

Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Guest post, Political Thriller

Curse The Day Judith O’Reilly 5*#Review @judithoreilly @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction #GuestPost #CurseTheDay #MichaelNorth #AI #Political #Thriller #Conspiracy #ArtificialIntelligence #BookReview #BlogTour #ReviewCompetition

At a global tech gala hosted at the British Museum, scientist Tobias Hawke is due to unveil an astonishing breakthrough. His AI system appears to have reached consciousness, making Hawke the leading light in his field.

But when terrorists storm the building, they don’t just leave chaos in their wake. They seize Hawke’s masterwork, sparking a chain reaction of explosive events which could end the world as we know it.

Michael North, ex-assassin and spy-for-hire, must find the killers and recover the AI. But he can’t do it alone. Hawke’s wife, Esme, and teenage hacker, Fangfang, have their own reasons to help complete North’s mission – and together they unravel a dark and deadly conspiracy which stretches right to the top of the British elite.

Can North survive long enough to uncover the whole truth? Or is it already too late for humanity?

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

My Thoughts…

Michael North attracts danger and violence. Living with a bullet in his head carries a death sentence, which makes him reckless about his future. With his quirky team, the only family he knows, he lives his life at a fast pace, with little regard for tomorrow.

This fast-paced political thriller has a conspiracy at its heart, with every twist deepening the deceit and increasing the menace. North and his team are diverse and easy to like. They have a great team dynamic, which provides a few lighter moments, to temper the tension.

Complex characters complement an addictive, contemporary, informed plot, which flows well and has an ending with impact.

I’M ALL EARS

Guest Post – Judith O’ReillyCurse the Day

All sorts of people are ‘broadcasting’ at the minute, as if convinced by the prospect of their own imminent death that they have to say what they have to say, or face losing their chance forever.

I get that. There is nothing like the threat of your demise to focus attention on what you think and feel, what you’ve done and still have to do, on who you love and what you know, on what you can teach and what you can share with the wider world whether that’s keeping fit or making lunch or warning the world to stay at home.

At times like these, we ask ourselves did we make the mark we wanted to make? Is there still time to do more, to say more. Is there time to say everything that has to be said before it’s just too damn late?

In the writing business, we want to sell our books and through those books, we look to sell something of ourselves. We demand to be seen. We jump up and down to be heard. And social media has given us the way to star in our very own movies.

Yet even as I struggle to get to grips with some video conferencing app or other, even as I arrange Live panels in online festivals and tweet furiously about the thriller I’m launching, I question the on-line whirligig I’m caught up in – the Facebook videos and chatter, the podcasts and the Live launches.   

And I wonder if everything that’s going on in the name of entertainment and distraction should shuffle to one side and make more room for Listening.

Because we can’t all talk at the same time. Some of us have to listen. And if we are all broadcasting, furiously determined to say what we have to say rather than take it to the grave with us, we cannot – any of us – be heard.

There is a quiet virtue to listening. There is a skill to it – an art. And I’d argue those who have been listening their entire lives, are probably more interesting that those who have been broadcasting.

Over the years, listeners have learnt to sift and analyse, spot half-truths and downright lies. They’ve learnt who makes noise and who has something worthwhile to say. Who can teach and who spreads light rather than casts shadows. Who to trust.

It’s soul destroying to have your words ignored. Not to be listened to. And, in work situations, plenty of women know exactly how that feels.

Equally, there’s something life enhancing in being listened to. Properly. Deeply. In being the focus of someone’s attention, and in feeling that, finally, you are truly seen, truly heard.

As a journalist as well as a writer, perhaps listening comes more naturally to me than to some. Perhaps I was born a listener. An only child, I certainly recognised early on that listening was both a duty and a privilege. If I sat quietly, I would learn who said what to whom and how they felt and what happened next. I would be amused. I would be privy to scandals of the past and to secrets of the heart.

So how exactly do you listen? How do you listen harder and more in a world which is so full of noise? How do you even make out what is worth listening to. What and who you want to hear more of? I would argue you have to make a conscious decision to make space for it in your life. That you remind yourself other things can wait a while, but not your child and not your partner and not your parents and not your friend. Because they need to be heard and to be heard someone has to be there to listen. Even more so at a time of crisis for all.

You put aside the chore or the phone. You meet their eye if you can. You don’t let your gaze roam if they are in the room with you, and if they aren’t (and they may not be today or over the months to come), you listen all the harder to what they are telling you. You focus. You concentrate. You allow them to move centre-stage and you focus the spotlight on them. They may need that. We all need that, especially when we’re fearful and with just cause. Moreover, sometimes what they’re saying is between the words, and that’s a whole other level of listening right there. And you don’t want to miss the unsaid. And I would say that the more you do it, the better you get at it.

We always know if someone is a good listener. And then the exchange becomes something meaningful because to talk to someone who listens involves trust. There is nothing more seductive and dangerous that someone who truly listens because we give up a part of ourselves when we are with them.

Above all know that being prepared to listen, giving someone else that gift – the gift of being heard, isn’t a way to silence ourselves. The listeners among us still have things to say. They just say it in a different way to most.

Judith O’ Reilly

Judith O’Reilly is the author of Wife in the North, a top-three Sunday Times bestseller and BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, and The Year of Doing Good. Judith is a former senior journalist with The Sunday Times and a former political producer with BBC 2’s Newsnight and ITN’s Channel 4 News. Her first Michael North thriller, Killing State was set in Westminster and was praised by thriller writers around the globe.

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Review Competition for Curse The Day from April 2nd 2020

Review Competition for Curse The Day from April 2nd 2020.

To be in with a chance to win a Kindle Fire. Submit proof of your review of Curse The Day on Amazon/iBooks/Kobo to competitions@headofzeus.com,

Terms and Conditons for Review Competition forCurse The Day from April 2nd 2020.
  1. The promoter is: Head of Zeus Ltd  whose registered office is at 5-8 Hardwick Street, London, N16 5UA. 
  2. The competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom aged 18 years or over except employees of Head of Zeus and their close relatives and anyone otherwise connected with the organisation or judging of the competition.
  3. There is no entry fee to enter this competition. 
  4. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  5. Route to entry for the competition and details of how to enter are via the Head of Zeus Twitter.
     
  6. Only one entry will be accepted per person. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified.
  7. Closing date for entry will be 30th April 2020. After this date the no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
  8. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  9. The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows:

Review either the eBook or hardback of Curse The Day by Judith O’Reilly and send proof of review to competitions@headofzeus.com. Accepted retailers include Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play and Waterstones. 

10. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.

11. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.

12. The prize is as follows: 1 Kindle Fire. 

The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.

13. Winners will be chosen at random. 

14. The winner will be notified by email and/or DM on Twitter/Facebook and/or letter within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.

15. The promoter will notify the winner when and where the prize can be collected / is delivered.

16. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

17. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.

18. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by [English] law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of [England].

19. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current [UK] data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.

20. The winner’s name will be available 28 days after closing date by emailing the following address: competitions@headofzeus.com

21. Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.

22. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Network. You are providing your information to Head of Zeus and not to any other party. 

Posted in Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Guest post, Literary Fiction, Romance

One Last Shot – Stephen Anthony Brotherton #GuestPost #Shots #triology @freddiejojo1 @rararesources #RachelsRandomResources #Romance #Relationships #FirstLove #Life #LiteraryFiction #Contemporary#Secrets #Love #Friendships #BlogTour

CAN FIRST LOVE EVER BE REIGNITED?

One Last Shot concludes the trilogy of Freddie and Jo-Jo, which has moved through time in a series of flashbacks, showing how the couple fell in love as teenagers, why they drifted apart, what happened in their lives away from each other, and what happens when they meet up again over three decades later. At the end of the second book, An Extra Shot, Jo-Jo tells Freddie about her dark secret. Confused, vulnerable and in a state of shock, he says he needs time to think about what to do next. Jo-Jo’s right to be worried. Freddie doesn’t react well…

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An original, unpublished piece of flash fiction

by Stephen Anthony Brotherton, Author of the Shots trilogy.

Hunting for Ghosts

1.00 AM. Rocky tosses the remains of a double Monterey Jack burger into his mouth and swallows it in one. He settles back in a tweed covered Sherlock chair, wipes grease from his chin with the back of his hand, and closes his eyes.   

‘Is everything okay, young man?’

‘Jesus,’ says Rocky, his eyes flashing open. ‘You scared the crap out of me.’

Ned tightens his dressing gown belt, sits down on the settee and nods at the monitor on the glass topped coffee table. ‘You getting anything?’

‘Not yet,’ says Rocky. ‘They’re unpredictable things, spooks. Invisible prey most of the time.’

‘You’ve hunted a lot then?’

‘Yeah, of course. Don’t worry. I’ve got motion detectors in every room. Nothing squeaks in this house without it flashing up on my screen. If there’s a ghost here, I’ll find it.’

*

3.00 AM. The monitor crackles awake. Ned nudges Rocky.  

‘She’s here, son. In the bathroom.’

Rocky rubs his eyes and stares at the screen. A flickering head and shoulders shadow has anchored itself on the white porcelain tiles. Suddenly, the shower gushes into life. Rocky grabs Ned’s arm. ‘Who’s in the house? Who else is here?’

‘It’s the ghost. What are you waiting for?’

The grandfather clock stops ticking. Someone turns off the shower.

‘If this is your idea of a joke, old man.’

*

4.00 A.M. Alice looks up from her knitting. ‘How did you find him?’  

‘He’s got a ‘Ghouls for Us’ logo in the Yellow Pages.’

‘How exciting. What did he do?’

‘Nothing. He’s a charlatan.’

‘So why was he here?’ 

‘To relieve the boredom.’ 

She stands up and walks over to the window. Ned puts his arm around her shoulder and she snuggles into his chest. They watch in silence as Rocky drags his trolley load of equipment down the driveway back to his white transit van. The wheels of the trolley wedge in the flint chippings. Rocky stumbles. Alice laughs. Ned squeezes her closer and kisses the top of her head.

‘I miss you,’ he says. ‘I will always miss you.’

Stephen Anthony Brotherton

I was born in Walsall, grew up in the West Midlands and now live in Telford with my two cats, Boris and Tai.

After working in the health and social care sector for over thirty years, I have now written the trilogy that has been rooted in my head for most of my life.

The Shots trilogy is based on a first love relationship I had as a teenager. It tells the story of Freddie and Jo-Jo, who are reunited in a coffee shop three decades after the end of their teenage romance. How they originally met, why they parted, what happens in their lives apart, and what happens when they reunite is all told through a series of first person vignettes.

Getting these stories down on paper has been a cathartic process. I hope you enjoy them.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, Giveaway, Guest post

Surviving Me Jo Johnson #GuestPost #BookSpotlight #JoJohnson @rararesources #Life #MentalHealth #Men #Society #Giveaway

Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.

Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.

All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.

If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.

This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

Goodreads

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Everybody hurts – Guest Post – Jo Johnson

In my debut novel “Surviving Me” my main character Tom Cleary is hurting. He’s experiencing feelings of loss, guilt, anxiety and sadness. Instead of acknowledging his pain, he ignores and buries his painful feelings, he withdraws from others and uses alcohol in an attempt to drown his sorrows.

The R.E.M. song tells us, ‘Everybody hurts sometimes’. I don’t think many would argue with that.

However good life is, there will be times this week when you’ve experienced emotional pain. Whenever we do something meaningful, it gives us pain as well as pleasure.

Writing this blog feels positive, I hope it helps someone but I feel anxious it is boring, guilty that I should be at home and frustrated that the table I’m working on is making my neck hurt.

Unless you live on a desert island you’ll know even the best relationships bring disappointment, frustration, conflict, grief, fear, anxiety, anger, sadness and guilt.

Given the amount of experience we have with emotional pain, we should be great at dealing with it but most of us are not.

Often, when we are hurting, we inflict further hurt on ourselves.

The most recent research makes it clear that self-compassion helps.

Self-compassion involves acknowledging your own emotional pain and responding with compassion and care. This means treating yourself with the same warmth and kindness that you’d show to someone else.

Here is a little test.

When a friend is hurting, would you?

  • -Tell them to stop whining, to man up.
  • -call them boring, pathetic or stupid.
  • -encourage them to isolate themselves, stay in, keep quiet.
  • -make them self-harm by drinking or eating too much, make them starve or dehydrate.

Now ask yourself these questions.

What do you do to yourself when you are hurting?

What do you say to yourself when you are hurting?

How do you say it?

I bet you are a good friend. Are you as good to yourself? If not, here are a few starter steps:-

1. Acknowledge you are hurting, simply say or write, I’m sad, hurting or feeling ashamed.

2. Notice where in your body you feel this pain. Draw it out on the outline of a body. Colour in where it hurts.

3. Write down the thoughts that are taunting you. For example, you might write or say, “I’m noticing painful feelings of rejection” or “I’m noticing thoughts about being a loser” or “I’m noticing sadness and anxiety”.

4. Then ask yourself, what do I need? How might I treat my friend? Perhaps you could have a warm bath, enjoy a walk or spend time with people who care.

Self-compassion doesn’t get rid of our pain but it changes the way we manage it and makes us less likely hurt ourselves further. Our default is to try and stop emotional pain by distraction or another behaviour. The most common are excessive or restrictive eating, substance misuse, over work, blaming others, searching the internet or using social media. Notice what you are doing, ask yourself if the behaviours will help you in the long term. Would you suggest the behaviour to a friend in pain?

‘’Surviving Me” tackles hard issues such as depression, male suicide and degenerative disease. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

Follow this link to read 120 reviews or to purchase the book on Amazon:

Amazon UK

Jo Johnson is a clinical psychologist specialising in neurological disorders and mind health.

I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.

I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.

I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.

Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”. 

In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.

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Giveaway to Win two signed copies of Surviving Me &  five Surviving Me fridge magnets  (Open INT)

Click on Giveaway Link To Enter

1st Prize – 2 winners each winning a signed copy of Surviving Me

5 Runners Up – each winning a Surviving Me Fridge Magnet

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Giveaway Link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Parenting and Famlies, Romance

Starting Over At Acorn Cottage Kate Forster 5* #Review @kateforster @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #UpLit #Friendship #Romance #DomesticAbuse #StartingOver #Lies #Secrets #Serendipity #VillageLife #Bereavement #Forgiveness

Clara knew Acorn Cottage would be a fixer-upper… Yet in person, the cottage is less charmingly ramshackle and more a real health and safety concern. When Henry Garnett, her (rather handsome) new contractor, turns up with his little daughter Pansy and a van shaped like a cottage in tow, she isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. What on earth has she gotten herself into?!

Still, there is something strangely lovable about the people in the little village of Merryknowe, from Rachel Brown, the quiet, lonely girl who bakes magical confections for the tearooms, to Tassie McIver, a little old lady with a lot of wisdom and a penchant for reading tea leaves. And Clara can’t deny that Henry and Pansy are quickly worming their way into her heart…

With all the heartbreak of the year behind her, could Acorn Cottage be the fresh start Clara so desperately wants?

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

My Thoughts…

A story about gentle souls reeling from the harsher aspects of life, being drawn to a village whose life is ebbing away. The story is told from multi-point of view and explores how friendship love and a little bit of magic can transform lives and places.

Bereavement, domestic abuse and forgiveness are the story’s major themes. The horror of them sensitively portrayed. As is, the power of good friends, love and sharing dark secrets with someone you trust.

Even though the subject matter is dark, there is plenty of light in this story. Delightful characters, you want to succeed and a special older lady Tassie who is distinctly mystical. The conflicts are real and angst-ridden, but so is the love and understanding that overcomes them.

This is an engaging, heartwarming, story with characters that resonate.

When your dreams come trueGuest Post – Kate Forster

When I was a child I had a book called Lavinia’s Cottage by John S. Goodall. It was a pop-up book and it was my go-to book when I felt unwell or things in my small life felt too complicated. It was written for the illustrator’s granddaughter when she was four, the story, told entirely in pictures, was about a little girl who lived in a country cottage, with her grandmother. Because Lavinia is almost well from the measles, two of her friends and a grandmother visit Lavinia and her mother at their cottage. Lavinia spots them as they walk up and pops out of bed to show them all the wonderful things in the attic. There is a cupboard filled with old toys, and a rocking horse and at the end of the visit we know everyone has a grand time.

This is the front cover.

A close up of a sign

Description automatically generated
Lavinia’s Cottage – John S. Goodall

When I was an adult, I wrote a book about a woman who is hurt and betrayed and who buys a pink cottage that needs to be fixed and healed, just like her heart. I forgot about Lavinia’s Cottage until I saw the beautiful cover and it all came flooding back.

I had made my dream come true, just like Clara, the heroine of my new book.

This book was restorative to write. It is book about looking for a simpler life, about letting the ghosts of the past lead you to your true place of belonging, so they can find their peace and you can find your own inner calm. My pink cottage fantasy finally came true.

Buying a thatched cottage in the country may not be the usual cure for a broken heart. But after Clara Maxwell finds out her boyfriend and best friend have been sneaking around behind her back, packing her bags and leaving everything in London behind feels like it’s the only way forward.

Clara knew Acorn Cottage would be a fixer-upper… Yet in person, the cottage is less charmingly ramshackle and more a real health and safety concern. When Henry Garnett, her (rather handsome) new contractor, turns up with his little daughter Pansy and a van shaped like a cottage in tow, she isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. What on earth has she gotten herself into?!

Still, there is something strangely lovable about the people in the little village of Merryknowe, from Rachel Brown, the quiet, lonely girl who bakes magical confections for the tearooms, to Tassie McIver, a little old lady with a lot of wisdom and a penchant for reading tea leaves. And Clara can’t deny that Henry and Pansy are quickly worming their way into her heart…

With all the heartbreak of the year behind her, could Acorn Cottage be the fresh start Clara so desperately wants?

Kate Forster

Kate Forster lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, two children and dogs and can be found nursing a laptop, surrounded by magazines and talking on the phone, usually all at once. She is an avid follower of fashion, fame and all things pop culture and is also an excellent dinner party guest who always brings gossip and champagne.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Guest post

The Widow’s Mite Allie Cresswell #GuestPost @Alliescribbler @rararesources #ContemporaryFiction #FamilyDrama #Widows #TheWidowsMite #BlogTour

Minnie Price married late in life. Now she is widowed. And starving.
No one suspects this respectable church-goer can barely keep body and soul together. Why would they, while she resides in the magnificent home she shared with Peter?
Her friends and neighbours are oblivious to her plight and her adult stepchildren have their own reasons to make things worse rather than better. But she is thrown a lifeline when an associate of her late husband arrives with news of an investment about which her step-children know nothing.
Can she release the funds before she finds herself homeless and destitute?

Fans of ‘The Hoarder’s Widow’ will enjoy this sequel, but it reads equally well as a standalone.

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Guest Post – Allie Cresswell – The Widow’s Mite

I recently read Helen Ryan’s book A Contagion of Loss. It is an excellent book and I heartily recommend it but it wasn’t an easy book to read. It’s about how what you do affects me, and how far, then, I should be responsible for you. It’s about how one person’s tragedy seeps out, like a stain, tainting others.

It got me thinking about fiction and its purpose. Of course, we read to escape. We love adventure and romance, travel to different universes and times. We enjoy being intrigued by mysteries. Personally, I don’t read horror or graphic crime novels but I can understand the adrenalin rush for those who do, and, I suppose, after the gore and carnage, doesn’t everyday life feel a whole lot better? Historical novels and science fiction increase our understanding of what has been in the past or could be in the future. We read to be informed, to have our horizons broadened.

Through books, we experience so much more than we ever could in real life. We can live hundreds of lives. But I think that most of all, we read to understand ourselves and each other, and the world we live in. So it’s entirely right that fiction should sometimes deal with the harsher things in life, the uncomfortable truths.

My Widows series is about women whose husbands have died and so, not unreasonably, they include death and grief. They deal with the difficult aftermath of bereavement; loneliness, financial difficulties, anger and the terrible vulnerability that swamps in. In The Hoarder’s Widow Maisie is left to deal with her late husband’s hoard of broken furniture, moth-eaten rugs and horrible pictures. For the first third of the novel she is immured in her home, sorting through dross. It was hard to write but hoarding is a very real issue for some people and how could I understand it myself, or explain it to others, if I didn’t explore it fully? Maisie’s marriage was difficult and Clifford’s addiction impacted his children. These matters, too, are legitimate subjects for fiction, but not easy ones.

In The Widow’s Mite, Minnie’s happy marriage to her husband Peter is cut tragically short after only six years. Unlike Maisie, who is left with a legacy which is unwieldy and burdensome, Minnie is left with literally nothing. The wording of Peter’s Will means that she is destitute. My researches tell me that this is not uncommon.

These are hard things; sad, uncomfortable truths. You might think they are bleak and depressing. I’d say they are thought-provoking and sobering. But I’d argue that they are appropriate subjects for fiction. Why? For several reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned above, exploring them through the safe medium of fiction gives us the opportunity to experience them without actually suffering from them. And, like the readers of horror, we have the privilege of being able to look away of it gets too much. We gain new understanding. Personally, I have much more sympathy for those hoarders we see on TV, not to mention their families. I know, now, that it’s an illness. After writing The Widow’s Mite I am more awake to just how prevalent poverty is in this so-called civilised, modern, first-world I live in. Thank goodness, I have never been widowed, but I believe I understand, just a little, what that feels like.

Last, of all, these are stories, not documentaries, and so they have hopeful endings. There is light, there is resolution. Maisie and Minnie both find solace in a group of women friends. Their banter, their sozzled nights out and antics during their trips away bring balance and relief. Maisie does manage to disassemble Clifford’s hoard. Her family, though affected by the shadow of their father’s addiction, moves forward to brighter times. Minnie is not left to starve and she finds in herself a deep well of compassion for those who, like her, have hit hard times. Both women find that with the help of friends, the support of family and with their own innate emotional strength and natural resilience, their grief gradually fades. For Maisie, there is even the possibility of new love, which I hope to develop in the future.

I write the kind of books I like to read. My hope is that I’m also writing the books you like to read. Please let me know by commenting on Jane’s blog site, or by reaching out to me via email. You can do this via my website.

Thank you to Jane for hosting me today.

Allie Cresswell

Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil. She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.

She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.

She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters, two grandsons and two cockapoos but just one husband – Tim. They live in Cumbria, NW England.

The Widow’s Mite is her tenth novel.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Guest post, Parenting and Famlies

A Mother’s Secret Minna Howard 4*#Review @MinnaHowardMary @Aria_Fiction #AMothersSecret #FamilyDrama #Secrets #Relationships #GuestPost #BookReview #BlogTour

Verity seems to have it all. A beautiful home, two grown-up sons and a husband who has always been her rock. But one day, the doorbell rings. And it changes Verity’s life forever.

Saskia has nowhere else to go. Before she died, her mother left her with her father’s name and nothing else. The only way for Saskia to take care of herself – and her unborn baby – is to find the father she never knew. And the family that didn’t know she existed. 

This family secret means the end of everything they’ve ever known. But could it also be the chance for a new beginning?

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

My Thoughts…

Verity is coming to terms with an empty nest, her two boys are at university and her husband’s new job means he’s away a lot of the time. She is a teacher, helping young people who struggle with learning. She has good friends and knows she can build, a new life.

On her first day alone, she has an unexpected visitor, a young woman Saskia. When she finds out, why she’s there, Verity is understandably stunned. Despite her wariness, she takes control and doesn’t judge. Attempting to achieve the best outcome for everyone, in a difficult and unexpected situation.

Saskia is in an emotional wilderness, recently bereaved, pregnant, with the baby’s father overseas, she is looking for a lifeline. Nathan, Verity’s husband, who Saskia believes is her father, is it. In reality, it’s Verity, not Nathan who is driving force. This story is about women, and how they cope with crises and keep the family together.

The story is emotional. The characters and their motivations are believable, and the plot although simple showcases this character-driven story well. The pacing and writing style, are classical, with the emphasis on narrative and retro dialogue. This doesn’t detract from the story, just gives it a distinctive voice that will appeal to many readers of family drama and relationships.

The ending offers realistic hope for future happiness and the possibility of a follow-up story.

Guest Post – Minna Howard – A Mother’s Secret

Idea for the plot for A Mother’s Secret

Ideas for books are often a mystery and when one pops in your mind it is a great relief to set off on a hopefully, exciting journey.

Before the arrival of reliable testing, men could never be sure if they were the biological father of a child. Apparently, in upper-class Victorian families, as long as a wife had given her husband an heir and a spare, no one took much notice if any other babies appeared in the nursery.

Now with modern testing, a person can find out who fathered them, which in itself has caused many upsets as well as joy. There have been such true stories in the press recently and they make a good plot for a novel.

Young men, (or not so young) might have affairs on holiday while far away from home and leave behind a child and never know. It was this situation that caught my imagination as a plot for A Mother’s Secret.

Also, the good old, ‘what would happen if?’ comes into it. Imagine how such a surprise might rock a stable marriage, if this cuckoo in the nest suddenly appears on the doorstep, needing help and support. A decent, loving husband who’d never been ‘unfaithful’ to his wife, though had had a few flings before he met her when he was young and fancy-free, discovers now, to his surprise and even horror, that that time has produced a person who is part of him. How does it affect the family, the other children and his wife?

I usually write about families, decent people chugging along, doing their best until something or someone, barges in to overturn everything they believed in, change the dynamics of their family.

Will they survive it, become stronger, or might it be the last straw to break its back?

And what of the ‘child’, how do they feel and how do they and indeed their ‘baggage’ fit into this already established family, how do they all end up?

MinnaHoward

Minna has had an exciting career in fashion journalism and now writes full time, whilst enjoying time with her grandsons and working as an occasional film and TV extra. She lives in London.

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