Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Blog Tour: Alison Sherlock – A Way Back Home 4* Review-Guest Post and Extract

 

What happens when two lost souls find themselves? 

After recent heartbreak, Skye Jackson finds herself homeless and on the road with only a classic Airstream trailer to her name. A surprise inheritance of a rundown little lodge in the grounds of beautiful Willow Tree Hall forces her to change her plans. However, there is a problem…

The lodge is co-owned by care-free, playboy Will Harris, who finds himself unemployed after a recent tabloid scandal.

Syke desperately wants a home to call her own and needs to move on as quickly as possible. Will doesn’t want to stay at his family home either to face the ghosts of his past. So they decide to put aside their differences and renovate the cottage together.

But when a storm hits, Skye and Will are forced to stay on to ensure that an important wedding goes ahead. Can Skye finally find a home of her own? Can Will stop running from his past and help out his family when they need him the most?

The magic of winter at Willow Tree Hall is about to change everything…

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Guest Post

A Way Back Home is the third book in my Willow Tree Hall series.

The idea for Willow Tree Hall actually came from watching Downton Abbey! I watched the programme and wondered what it would be like to live in a grand stately home in the present day. As I researched the subject, I realised that many of our country estates had fallen into disrepair due to the high running costs. And thus became the ‘eureka’ moment that began the plot for Book 1 in the series, A House To Mend A Broken Heart.

The renovation and transformation of Willow Tree Hall will take place over all four books, although you don’t need to read them in any particular order as each story is standalone. I was a tiny bit worried about writing a series – my first ever! But all of the books have been huge fun to write as I loved having the chance to catch up with my characters each time.

Will Harris is the hero in A Way Back Home and I’ve been desperate to write his particular story from the very beginning!  He is the younger brother to Sam, the heir to Willow Tree Hall. Will has always felt like the ‘spare’ and surplus to requirements over the past few years. Instead of helping with the renovations, he has stayed abroad, building up his playboy image, complete with an Aston Martin! But when he loses his job, Will is finally forced to come home.

The trouble is, the rundown lodge he calls home has unexpectedly received a new co-owner, a stranger called Skye Jackson. Skye is as surprised by the inheritance as Will is and both of them want the matter dealt with as quickly as possible. But, as always, it’s never that easy…

The book was great fun to write as I had already given Will a wickedly dry sense of humour. Therefore it was only right that the heroine of the story would be free-spirited Skye who is his total opposite!

Do they find common ground and even love over a long, cold winter? You’ll have to read A Way Back Home to find out!

My Thoughts…

Opposites always provide exciting romantic opportunities with lots of fireworks as they learn to trust each other. This story has an added dimension, showing love’s healing qualities and how people can grow and mellow when they find the place they’re meant to be.

Skye’s family circumstances force her into early responsibility. When this unexpectedly ends she finds herself homeless, but with many opportunities for happiness if she’s brave enough to take them. Will comes from a privileged background, but he’s always felt superfluous. Definitely the ‘spare’ in the ‘heir and spare’analogy. His lack of responsibility contrasts sharply with Skye’ way of doing things, but gradually they see value in each other and accept they both have something to learn.

With wonderful supporting characters, that you will be familiar with if you’ve read the other books in the series. This heartwarming, romantic story has a festive twist and would be a great addition to anyone’s Christmas stocking.

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

Extract

Then the sash window was closed once more.

‘My sister fusses over me,’ said Arthur, with a warm smile as he turned to Skye. ‘Would you care for a cup of tea?’

‘I’d love one,’ she replied. ‘Thank you.’

Reeling from all the information her brain was trying to process, Skye needed a few minutes to try and take it all in. She had no idea what any of the talk about a lodge meant and couldn’t quite believe it was somehow linked to her as well.

She was secretly pleased to be invited indoors as the damp of the chilly autumnal afternoon was beginning to seep through her woollen cape and make her feel cold. She was also very interested to see the inside of such an elegant stately home.

However, she could feel Will’s eyes glaring at her back as they walked towards the big house. It sounded as if the lodge had been his for a long time and she had obviously caused him yet more upset after already having dented his beloved sports car. She felt mortified that her visit had brought about so much trouble for him.

Following Arthur inside the double fronted red door, Skye couldn’t help but stare around the huge entrance hall in admiration. Despite the deep red walls, the room still felt light and airy. A wide, dark oak staircase curved up to the first floor. All along the stairwell were portraits of presumably countless generations of the Harris family. From the double height ceiling, a chandelier hung high above them, glittering despite the gloom of the day. A fire was lit in the large stone fireplace, its flames bringing warmth to the chilly air.

She caught Arthur watching and waiting for her reaction.

‘It’s lovely,’ she told him, nodding enthusiastically. ‘A really nice example of the Georgian era.’

‘Isn’t it?’ said Arthur, beaming as if pleased that she had noticed. ‘Do come into the drawing room and meet my sister.’

He led the way towards the entrance to the wing on the left-hand side of the hall. They went into the first room on the left, the drawing room.

Skye didn’t think she had ever been in such an elegant room, with its walls painted in soft green, oak floorboards, and comfortable looking sofas and chairs. The large sash windows overlooked the grounds at the front. There were framed photographs, antique ornaments and candlesticks everywhere. Along with lots of rugs and cushions, it felt homely, warm and welcoming.

‘Right, who’s for tea?’ said the dark-haired elderly woman who had called out from the window. She was now sitting next to a coffee table which held a packed tea tray of cups, saucers and plates. The bejewelled rings on her hands glistened as she held up a teapot. Then she spotted Skye and paused. ‘My goodness, that hair colour is magnificent! Do you think it would suit me? They say older women shouldn’t wear purple, but I’ve never followed the rules, have I, darlings? Mind you, I haven’t had a colour rinse since the eighties, but on you, it’s utterly glorious.’

The whole speech had been said in the same clipped aristocratic voice as Arthur. But whereas he had a gentrified, olde worlde style about him, this lady was highly sophisticated and wearing what looked like a classic bright pink Chanel jacket, wide trousers and many strings of pearls around her neck.

‘This is my sister, Rose,’ said Arthur, with an indulgent smile. ‘Rose, let me introduce you to Miss Skye Jackson.’

Rose put the teapot down with a clatter and rushed to stand up and sweep Skye into a bear hug. ‘Darling girl!’ she said, finally releasing her to hold her at arm’s length and study her with dark blue eyes. ‘What an absolute joy to meet you at last. We were so sorry about dear Norman. What a wonderful man he was. You must still be utterly bereft. Do sit down.’

Skye was somewhat overwhelmed by the warm and exuberant welcome that Rose had given her. But the tears pricked at her eyes as she realised how nice it was to be amongst people who had known Norman so well.

‘Such a shame Annie and Sam aren’t here to meet you, but they’re both out until later,’ carried on Rose, rattling on with her monologue. ‘Sam’s my great-nephew, big brother to Will here and Annie is his gorgeous fiancée. But I’m just an aunty, never a great-aunt. So old sounding when I’m still only middle-aged!’

Skye smiled, especially as it was obvious up close that Rose had to be at least seventy.

‘I love your poncho, by the way. Primark?’ Rose continued.

Skye shook her head. ‘I knitted it myself.’

‘How marvellous! And so unique, of course. Although you can’t beat a bit of Primarni, can you? Now, do I take it that you’ve come to claim your half of the lodge?’ asked Rose, placing a gentle hand on Skye’s sleeve.

‘You knew about that?’ said Will, going to stand in front of the fireplace and look at his aunt in amazement.

‘Of course, darling!’ said Rose, beaming up at him. ‘I think I’d just left my first husband so I was back home for a time. My goodness, we were steaming drunk that evening! That gorgeous magnum of champagne from the wine cellar, wasn’t it, Arthur? Such fun.’

‘I still can’t believe Grandad would put something like the lodge up as a bet,’ said Will, shaking his head.

Rose waved away his disbelief with her hand. ‘We were all young and frivolous once upon a time,’ she said. ‘And it didn’t seem to matter until you began to use it more frequently, these past few years. But fair’s fair, half belongs to Norman.’

Will turned to look straight at Skye, his blue eyes burning into hers. ‘But you’re not technically Norman’s family, is that right?’

Skye could feel herself blushing under his scrutiny. ‘Well, you see, it started off when he became my landlord around ten years ago,’ she told them in a small voice. ‘I rented one of his spare bedrooms.’

Arthur nodded thoughtfully. ‘I remember when he told me that he had rented out a couple of his rooms to top up his pension.’

‘That’s right,’ said Skye. ‘For myself and my younger sister. Anyway, we stayed there for all that time and became close to Norman. I used to help him with the shopping and cleaning when his arthritis became too bad.’

And they had kept each other company in the evenings when the loneliness took hold. But she wasn’t going to tell these strangers that, however nice they were.

‘And these past few years after he had that massive stroke?’ asked Rose gently. ‘How did you cope then?’

‘I tried to take care of him,’ said Skye, looking away to stare down at the rug. ‘But it was just too much. We tried to use carers at home, but if they didn’t show up then he was left alone until I came home from work.’ She gulped away the guilt that she had utterly failed him after all of his generosity towards them. ‘Norman told me that it was for the best that he should go into a nursing home so we chose the best one that we could find.’

Alison Sherlock enjoyed reading and writing stories from an early age and gave up office life to follow her dream. Alison lives in Surrey with her husband and a daft golden retriever.

Twitter: @AlisonSherlock

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Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Snowflakes Over Moon Cottage – Lucy Daniels – 4* Review

 

It’s Christmas-time in the little Yorkshire village of Welford, and the first snowflakes are just starting to fall.

As far as Susan Collins is concerned, this Christmas is all about quality time with her family, especially her son Jack. After a string of terrible dates, she’s given up on love, and Susan’s certainly got plenty to keep her busy.

That is until she meets handsome children’s author Douglas Macleod. Dishevelled in appearance with bright red hair he is the opposite of Susan’s usual type, but an undeniable spark soon lights up between them. But then Michael Chalk, Jack’s father, turns up on the scene wanting to be a family again – and Susan finds herself torn.

With snow settling on the ground and the big day fast approaching, who will Susan and Jack be choosing to spend Christmas at Moon Cottage with this year?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Animals, children and romance all make this story a perfect festive book. If you haven’t read any other books in the series, like me, don’t be put off, it’s a great standalone read.

Single mum Susan has had enough of dating sites and nearly doesn’t accept her latest date who definitely isn’t her type. I love that Douglas is more like a Christmas elf than Prince Charming, but he has a good heart and cares for Susan and Jack and really that’s all that matters.  I disliked Michael from the beginning, weak and self- serving, you really want Susan to see through his false charm and looks.

Full of nativity plays, comical children’s’ behaviour and lovable rescue animals, this story is heartwarming with a sparkling romance that demonstrates the joy and poignancy of the festive period.

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

Posted in Book Review

#BlogTour- M.J. Lee – Where The Truth Lies- Guest Post – 4* Review

A killer in total control. A detective on the edge. A mystery that HAS to be solved.

DI Thomas Ridpath was on the up in the Manchester CID: a promising young detective whose first case involved capturing a notorious serial killer. But ten years later he’s recovering from a serious illness and on the brink of being forced out of the police. Then people start dying: tortured, murdered, in an uncanny echo of Ridpath’s first case.

As the investigation intensifies, old bodies go missing, records can’t be found and the murder count grows. Caught in a turf war between the police and the coroner’s office, digging up skeletons some would rather forget, Ridpath is caught in a race against time: a race to save his career, his marriage… And lives.

When a detective goes missing everything is on the line. Can Ridpath close the case and save his colleague?

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Guest Post:  Seven novels that killed me. And inspired me.

I’ve always loved crime.

Murder. Larceny. Blackmail. Arson. Kidnapping. Burglary. Serial killings. Extortion. Gang violence. It doesn’t matter what sort of crime, I’m up for it.

Luckily, it hasn’t landed me in jail yet, but it has given me a love of one of the most popular genres of writing.

The Crime Novel.

Here are seven books that inspired me to write about crime.

And then there were none.

From the Queen of Crime herself. I remember reading this when I was eleven. It was called something terribly non-PC then. Having finished it, I went back to the beginning and started over again. All the clues were there, I just hadn’t seen them. Fiendishly well plotted, even for Agatha Christie

The Daughters of Time

Again, something I read when I was young. Beautifully constructed, it made me revisit the history of the period and re-evaluate all that I believed about Richard III. Great title too. I read it again this year. It stands the test of time which is always the sign of a great novel.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes

The series of works that gave rise to the modern crime novel. An eccentric detective, a fumbling sidekick and stories that blew readers away with their sheer brilliance. Every other crime novel is measured against the master.

The Name of the Rose

Every once in a while, a book comes along that shows the crime novel can be far more than a series of gory killings. This has wit, erudition, an understanding of philosophy and, at its heart, a plea for more laughter in the world. Who could ask for more?

The Remorseful Day

 A great central character with enough quirks to sink the Titanic. A sidekick with a love of the Full Monty. Great plots, intriguing stories, palpable intelligence, and the most wonderful sense of place: Oxford in the Eighties. Colin Dexter created a cult classic that went on to become some of the finest crime dramas on television.

LA Confidential

I could have chosen any of James Ellroy’s books. Once I start them, I can’t put them down. They have such a pace, style and sheer pizzazz, that is quintessentially American. Ellroy leaves out the bits other authors keep in. I’d love to have those bits.

The Talented Mr Ripley

Vastly underrated, Patricia Highsmith for me was the writer’s writer. Beautiful sentences, crisp characterisation and an understanding of human psychology go hand in hand for a wonderful series of crime novels. Even better, she created an anti-hero that we could all love. Brilliant.

So those are my choices.

I can hear you all shouting and screaming now. How could you leave out Mario Puzo, Val McDermid, Stieg Larssen, Peter James, Ellis Peters, Dashiell Hammett, P D James, Thomas Harris, C J Sansom and Stephen King? 

Nobody said choosing seven novels was easy, You have to murder some you love. But that’s the job of a crime writer after all.

What would be your seven most inspirational crime novels?

My Thoughts…

An interesting mix of cold and present-day crime cleverly intertwined with a compelling detective who faces realistic life choices. The serial killer is sinister, faceless and whilst there is some graphic description of the horrors inflicted on victims they are necessary to increase the killer’s menacing presence.

The crossover between a police detective and coroner officer is interesting and gives an original slant to this well-written police procedural. I enjoyed this and look forward to more crime investigation stories with this DI Ridpath.

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

M J Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a university researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the north of England, in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning advertising awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and the United Nations.

While working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarters of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in the 1920s.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practising downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake, and wishing he was George Clooney.

 Twitter: @WriterMJLee

Posted in Book Review

Roar – Cecelia Ahern – 5* Review

 

I am woman. Hear me roar.

Have you ever imagined a different life?
Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided?
Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

The women in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

A lovely collection of impressions, interpretations and idealism with a feminist theme. Short stories that focus on women. Society’s constraints, their role in the family and the workplace. The stories have a distinctly magical, mythical makeup but the problems they showcase are real, relevant and faced by every woman today whatever her age.

Although some of the experiences are disturbing, they are told in a readable way that engages the reader and makes a point without being overpowering.  This is a book you can dip in and out of without losing the thread. For the most part, all the stories are enthralling and this book is novel quality, with an overriding storyline. Each story can be regarded as a chapter and the theme of women’s in the 21st century is highlighted and reinforced.

Definitely, something I ‘d like in my Christmas stocking because it shows how far women have come in my lifetime and how far we still have to go.

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

 

Posted in Book Review

A Spark of Light – 5* Review- Jodi Picoult

 

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Kate Ryder – Cottage on a Cornish Cliff – Guest Post -Extract and 5* Review

Returning to the heart of her beloved Cornwall, Kate Ryder weaves another deliciously irresistible tale of desire, jealousy and the search for understanding, set against the stunning backdrop of the glorious Lizard Peninsula.

Globally renowned actor Oliver Foxley has made the most difficult decision of all and set the love of his life free, in order to try and bring his family back together. But there’s a magnetic pull back to both Cara and Cornwall that Oliver can neither deny nor resist…

Heartbroken for a second time in her short life, single mother Cara knows she has no choice but to pick up the pieces yet again and carry on. Perhaps a complete change of scenery would help her, and her young family? Yet her mind, spirit and heart yearn for the windswept shores of her Cornish Cove…

Cara and Oliver face the agonising choice between following expectations or following their hearts. How will their story end…?

 

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Guest Post – Kate Ryder: My experiences as a writer

I have been a keen reader since childhood and during my early teens, this evolved into writing poetry and short stories for my own pleasure.  In fact, a friend and I – horse mad teenagers at the time – wrote alternate chapters to complete our first novel (surprisingly, never published!).  The hero, then, was always a dark, brooding, magnificent stallion…

At school, English Literature was one of the subjects that naturally received my undivided attention.  I remember an appointment with a careers advice officer as keenly as if it were yesterday.  When asked what I’d like to do when I left school, I replied that I wanted to be an author or a journalist.  The careers advisor’s response was to ask me if I’d ever considered becoming a florist!  So, my dream of becoming an author was crushed before it ever had a chance to have life breathed into it.  I did not follow his advice into floristry but, instead, chose to study acting.  However, it soon became apparent that my passion lay more in crafting words than interpreting someone else’s.

Over the years I have enjoyed a variety of careers, mainly within travel, publishing and property.  Writing has featured strongly.  I have worked in PR and marketing (all those press releases!) and in editorial as a proof-reader, copy editor, assistant editor and writer.  It was during a period of employment with a specialist newspaper that I decided to escape news-speak and flex my creative writing muscles by joining a local writers’ group with the intention of writing short stories.  However, one particular exercise turned out to be a little longer than intended and I soon had 85,000 words and the semblance of a novel.  I self-published that short-story-turned-novel and was thrilled if a little shocked when it was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2016 Search for a Star and honoured with a Chill with a Book Book of the Month.

I am a member of the Society of Authors and a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.  Cottage on a Cornish Cliff is the second of my books published by UK-based digital publisher Aria Fiction, an imprint of award-winning Head of Zeus.  It is the sequel to Summer in a Cornish Cove, which saw me shortlisted for the RNA’s prestigious Joan Hessayon award.

Being traditionally published is a dream come true!  Thank you, Aria, for taking a punt on me.

My Thoughts…

I love the first book in this series and although the ending is poignant there is hope for Oliver and Cara’s future. The sequel sees Cara and Oliver living their lives, Cara with another child to love and Oliver trying to help his youngest son and see if there is anything of his marriage to save apart from staying together for the sake of the children.

Cara is emotionally strong and her family give her a reason to live, even though her heart is broken for the second time. Her artistic talent draws the attention of a New York art critic but are his motives as magnanimous as he portrays them? Or does he have a sinister motive for showcasing Cara’s art to the world? He offers security and success but is the sacrifice Cara will have to make worth it?

Exacerbated by his failing marriage and loss of Cara, Oliver’s depression deepens. Is doing the right thing for his family worth sacrificing his emotional happiness?

This is an intensely romantic, emotional story with two leading characters you can’t help but empathise with. The conflicts are frequent and convincing and the ending is worthy of any romantic film. The writing style is easy to read, full of authentic characters and a breathtaking setting.

Definitely one of my favourite romantic series of the year.

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

Extract

Here you go,’ says Janine, placing two mugs of coffee and plates filled with generous portions of chocolate cake on the table. ‘Enjoy!’

Cara picks up a fork. Slicing off a mouthful of cake, she pops it into her mouth. ‘Mmmm… that’s delicious.’

‘My mother’s recipe,’ says Janine. ‘She was a tremendous cook. That’s why all her children have grown to the size we have!’

‘Sorry to interrupt.’ A man’s strong Cornish accent makes them both jump. ‘I’ve come to fix the sign.’ Janine pushes back her chair and rushes over to him.

Toby, who had been falling asleep with his mouth slack around Cara’s right nipple, wakes suddenly and energetically sucks. Cara winces. She looks across at the man who, although talking to Janine, watches her.

‘Well, isn’t that a lovely sight?’ he says, scratching his head. ‘Fair made my day, that has!’

Cara smiles.

Janine glances over her shoulder at Cara. ‘Probably won’t make your day if you hang around for the nappy-changing part, Jim.’ She bustles the man out of the café.

Toby closes his eyes. Cara carefully removes him from her breast and pulls her sweatshirt down. Her son has incredibly thick black eyelashes and she wonders if Oliver had at that age too. NO! She has to stop doing this. Oliver Foxley does not exist. He is a world and a lifetime away…

‘Sorry about that,’ Janine says, returning to the table.

‘No worries, Janine. Breastfeeding’s only natural.’

‘Yes, but you don’t want any old Tom, Dick or Harry watching you while you do it,’ Janine says.

‘Or Jim…’

Janine laughs. ‘He’s a good guy. I’ve known him for years. He’s got eight grandchildren, so I guess he’s used to it. How’s the latte?’

‘Scrumptious. If I get into the habit of this indulgence I’ll have to start running again.’

‘I should take up running as well,’ comments Janine. ‘I don’t suppose customers want to be served by a large, sweaty lump of a woman.’

‘Oh, Janine! Your weight’s perfectly fine for your height.’

‘Yeah, guess so. Anyway, hubby never complains when he’s home from the rigs. Puts slighter men off though,’ Janine says with a laugh, ‘like that American friend of yours. When I first met him he actually cowered!’

Cara raises her eyebrows. She thinks back to the day when Greg visited her at The Lookout and Janine brought Beth and Sky home after school. It’s true! He backed off in Janine’s presence. However, Cara suspects it was not so much to do with her friend’s size and powerful charisma but more to do with keeping himself at a distance from the locals.

‘Poor Greg.’

‘Why poor?’ Janine asks, loading her fork with cake. ‘When I look at him the word “poor” doesn’t spring to mind!’

‘His wife’s just died. She had cancer. That’s why they visited the cove in the first place, for her recuperation… or so they’d hoped.’

‘Oh, that’s tough.’ Janine pops the cake into her mouth.

‘I wonder what he’ll do now,’ Cara says quietly, a small frown settling on her brow.

Janine considers her neighbour. She witnessed the devastating effect Christo’s tragic death had on her dear friend, and then the all-consuming love affair with Oliver that ended so suddenly, followed by the birth of their love child without the actor being there. She also knows Greg would find any excuse to hang around Cara whenever he was in the cove.

‘He is very attractive, in an older man sort of way,’ she says cautiously.

Cara nods her head.

‘And he has plenty of money.’

Cara gives her friend a questioning look. ‘What exactly are you suggesting, Janine?’

‘Nothing really,’ Janine says airily, ‘just… Well, you know, life’s short and he inhabits the same world as you. He could provide you and your family with a wonderful life.’

‘Janine! He’s only just lost his wife!’ Cara scolds.

‘I know. I’m just saying.’ Janine gives a small smile before adding, ‘You know he’s really keen on you.’

‘I do not!’ Cara exclaims.

‘Oh, I think you do, Cara Penhaligon. The fuss he’s made of you ever since he first discovered your talent, and the way he guided you through all the press nonsense surrounding that prize you won. He wouldn’t let you out of his sight!’

Cara frowns again.

‘And, let’s face it, Cara. Most men would run a mile from a woman who had a baby by another man, but Toby doesn’t seem to have made a bit of difference.’

Cara considers Janine’s words. She’s right. Having supported her through the excitement of winning the Threadneedle Prize, Greg kept in touch throughout her pregnancy and beyond. His attention never waned. She remembers the first day she saw him, walking a dog on the beach in the most atrocious weather. He clocked her watching him from her studio window and acknowledged her. Her first impressions were that he was not only attractive – in an older man, Richard Gere sort of way – but also sophisticated and a league away. However, through their professional relationship, the distance between them has lessened. He has pointed her in the right direction and introduced her to influential people in the art world, and she now considers him a true mentor.

‘What are you thinking?’ asks Janine.

‘Nothing of importance,’ Cara says a little too quickly.

‘Well, I think nothing of importance could grow into something very much of importance if that’s what you want,’ says Janine, rising from her chair as the entrance door opens.

Jim walks in. ‘I’m ready to hang those signs now,’ he says, looking over at Cara and Toby, asleep in her lap. He smiles.

‘Here they are,’ says Janine, picking up the signs off a neighbouring table. ‘I’ll hold the ladder for you.’

As Janine disappears with Jim, Cara contemplates what her friend has said. She’s never really considered Greg in that light. Oh, yes, he kisses her at every given opportunity, but it doesn’t mean a thing.  It’s just his way. But now, after Janine’s comments, she wonders if there is something to the way Greg handles her. And then she remembers the way he looked at her – in this very café – the first time they officially met. So much has happened since she had forgotten the look that suggested a different time and place.

Cara’s face flushes and her frown deepens.’

After pursuing a career in publishing and acting, Kate found her passion in writing. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her self-published debut novel received a Chill with a Book, “Book of the Month” Award. She currently lives with her husband in the Tamar Valley in a renovated 200-year-old Cornish sawmill. She finds the Cornish landscape a great source of inspiration. When she is not writing she enjoys reading, art, theatre and travel. Facebook   Twitter Website

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Love in the Dales Series- Mary Jayne Baker – Guest Post and 5* Reviews

In a lost corner of the Yorkshire Dales, Lana Donati runs a medieval theme tourist trap restaurant with her brother. As a distraction to help them get over losing the father, they loved dearly, and as a tribute to his passion for the beautiful area they live in, Lana hatches a plan to boost business for everyone by having the Grand Départ route pass through their village. 

But this entails getting the small community to work together to convince the decision-makers that their beloved village is Tour material. Not an easy task when the people involved include Lana’s shy, unlucky-in-love brother Tom, the man-eating WI chair Yolanda, bickering spouses Gerry and Sue, arrogant celebrity Harper Brady, and Lana’s (attractive) arch-nemesis, former pro-cyclist turned bike shop owner, Stewart McLean, whose offbeat ideas might just cost them everything. 

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My Thoughts…

Authentic characters that have emotional depth and realistic flaws are the lynchpins of this romantic comedy set in the lovely Yorkshire Dales.

A story about community spirit, village life and honouring those we love. The main protagonist is independent, but with a vulnerability that endears her. The romance she finds is paced realistically and adds interest to this story of family, relationships and friends.

Another charming story by this author who has the knack of bringing her setting to life to enhance her wonderful characters. Looking forward to the next one.

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

After years living in London, costume shop owner Becky Finn is trying to build a new life for herself and fiancé Cole in her old home of Egglethwaite, a sleepy village in the Yorkshire Dales.

Keen to raise funds for the struggling village hall she loved as a child, Becky soon finds herself at the head of a colourful group intent on resurrecting Egglethwaite’s Christmas pantomime. But, as she quickly discovers, there’s more to panto than innuendo and slapped thighs.

As the opening night grows closer, Becky starts to wonder if her embattled panto will ever make it to the stage and, with handsome co-star Marcus on the scene, if shes picked the right man for her after all.

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My Thoughts…

What I love about this author and this series is the humour that dominates the plot and acts as the perfect counterpoint to the deep emotion of some scenes. Again, this story concentrates on community spirit. How after a little persuasion and give and take, they work as one for the good of the village.

The storyline is engaging and unique, again a characteristic of this author. The quality of characters, the events and emotions bring James Herriot’s Vet stories to mind, which I love.

There’s romance too, which is a realistic mix of poignancy and laughter and adds just the right amount of sweetness and spice to this delightful story.

Love in the Dales is a great series, well worth reading.

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

Guest Post – Mary Jayne Baker 

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Ok, so here’s a tweet of mine from 23rd October 2016, as I was planning out my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those who’ve not come across it) for that year:

That book became A Bicycle Made for Two, the first book in the Love in the Dales series. It was published in April 2018, with the second book in the series, The Perfect Fit, following in November. And yes, it does indeed feature trombones, chips shops and morris dancing, as well as Flash the border collie pup!

I’ve been asked to write a few words about the inspiration behind the series. As the tweet above shows, when it comes to where an author gets their ideas, it’s often a bit of a mishmash, chucking in ingredients as and when they occur to you. Mine go into a big brainstorming document, then are weeded down when I come to write an outline. So, I wanted my heroine to play in a brass band because I used to play in a brass band (saving myself research, basically…). I wanted to include a chip shop because I’d been standing in one when I’d had a vision of a scene I could set there. Morris dancing – I’d noticed that morris dancers were often older, very serious-looking men and I thought there was potential for humour in creating a character who was such a man. And the dog is called Flash for the sole purpose of one Queen-based joke that made me giggle.

In terms of having a plan, all I really knew when I decided to write the first book – which I didn’t know at the time would end up being part of a series – was that I wanted to write about Yorkshire. I wanted my deep affection for my home county to shine through in the story, the characters, the setting and the writing.

I’d written books with Yorkshire characters and settings before. My debut novel, The Honey Trap, was set in London but featured a villainous editor from Bradford, who became my favourite characters to write for. My next book, Meet Me at the Lighthouse, was set on the Yorkshire coast, and Runaway Bride had a heroine from Settle. But I wouldn’t have said Yorkshire was the primary inspiration for those books in the same way as A Bicycle Made for Two. This brings my bit of the West Riding into focus: the glorious blend of moorland and mill towns often referred to as Brontë Country.

I wanted the book to reflect a tight-knit village community such as the one I’d grown up in, and as with all my books, the individual ingredients came more often than not from my own experiences. As mentioned, like my heroine I once played in a brass band (2nd Euphonium). The village, Egglethwaite, is a patchwork of bits and pieces I’ve stolen from other villages near where I live. The viaduct and reservoir are based on Hewenden viaduct and reservoir, near my home in Harden (and although the viaduct is integral to the story and features on the cover, it only occurred to me to include it about a third of the way through writing the first draft – some insight into the writing process there!). The beauty spot of Pagans’ Rock is based on Druids’ Altar near Bingley. Egglethwaite’s cobbled main street was borrowed from Heptonstall, its pub name from Oxenhope. When I come across something that lights a spark for whatever reason – whether that’s a cobbled street, a pub name, a phrase or tic of an individual I encounter, an event or anecdote – I jot it down to add to my brainstorm. Even things that don’t become part of the core plot can add texture and character to a book, and help to flesh out the people who live in its pages.

With this series particularly, I wanted to include all the things I loved best about Yorkshire, from the sweeping beauty of the moors to the dry humour of the people. I wanted this to be Yorkshire as it is, my experience of it, rather than the view of it from the outside as a land of whippets, flat caps and puddings. So I made the decision to set the first book around an event we’re still talking about in the county: the Grand Départ of 2014 when the eyes of the whole world were on the county and it really showed itself at its best. I’m not a follower of professional cycling but like everyone in Yorkshire, I got carried away by that event and the sense of community spirit it brought out.

For the second book, I knew exactly what I wanted to write. Again, I wanted to bring out the community spirit at the heart of Egglethwaite. I’d always wanted to write a story about a village pantomime, and now I had the perfect village and the perfect set of characters to take the job on. With all the old friends I’d got to know writing A Bicycle Made for Two, plus a new hero and heroine and their families, I set about throwing obstacles at my wannabe amdrammers, both romantic and theatrical. These included randy cast members, bad acting, iffy Welsh accents, piddling puppies and deflating boobies. It was so much fun to write, I do hope I’ll get the chance to visit Egglethwaite again in future!

 

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Anna Premoli – What’s Love Got To Do With It – Extract and 3* Review

Kayla David is a high-flying journalist in New York City, spending all her time drinking martinis and writing about fashion trends. She is perfectly happy with her life, and she certainly has no time for falling in love.

That is, until, her boss decides to send her on a secret mission back to her hometown of Arkansas: she is tasked with exposing the truth about the fracking industry and to use her reputation as a lifestyle columnist as a disguise. She is horrified at the thought of returning to this boring country town, but up for the challenge.

Yet, she didn’t plan on having to deal with Grayson Moir, the sexy but aloof mayor of Heber Spring. As Kayla settles into life there she soon realises that it might be a bit more difficult than she thought to keep her real mission a secret. And what’s more, she finds it increasingly difficult to keep her heart under control too…

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 Extract

I realise that there’s something a little – or even a lot – ironic about managing to get yourself lost in the twenty-first century, but then I’m the type of woman whose bad karma is legendary. When it comes to unlikely or even downright impossible adventures, hey, I’m the queen.

I’m always the exception to the rule, the odd number that ruins a perfect statistical sequence. If I were an economist, I’m pretty sure that notorious black swan would choose my chimney to build its nest on. There aren’t many chimneys in New York, luckily, though I’m not sure about here in Arkansas…

After touching down in Little Rock, I’m now driving my rented economy car towards Heber Springs, and hoping and praying that I’m on highway number 65. Because there’s always the possibility that this is not, in fact, state highway 65, and in that very unfortunate case, I’m in serious trouble. Before some genius suggests it: yes, I did try and read the signs along the road. They didn’t help. In fact, I think they might have confused me even more.

Anyone else in my position would just turn their mobile on and use the navigator to work out where the hell they are, but I can’t, because the battery of my mobile phone is flat at the moment. The damn thing turned itself off as soon as I left state highway 40, near Conway, to take the 65.

I really don’t know why people think mobile phones are such a useful bit of tech if the batteries don’t last even half a day. As my mother would put it: this kind of thing just didn’t use to happen ten years ago. And for once I’d say that she’s absolutely right.

My sense of direction is appalling, so although I’m fairly certain that I’m on the correct road, I wouldn’t bet my new bag on me being right. I wouldn’t even bet an old bag, to be honest. I have a special relationship with my bags. Together with my shoes, they represent one of the truest loves of my life. But if I was a bit closer to my family and if I’d come to visit my late grandmother’s sister, Aunt Jill a bit more often in the past, I would be able to work out where exactly the hell I am right now.

But the fact is that I’m allergic to human relationships, whether in the context of romance or family. My mother and I are both proud that we have a relatively balanced rapport: there are no unresolved problems or traumas between us, we both simply live our own lives. We don’t call each other very often, which might sound strange to some people, but we are just too busy, and I certainly don’t have time to tell her every single thing that happens during my day. She, on the other hand, not only does she not find my behaviour offensive, she actively encourages me not to spend hours on the phone, as she has neither the time nor the desire, to listen to me talking for long.

Feeling pretty demoralised by my inability to work out where I’m going, I decide to stop somewhere along the road and see if there’s a map anywhere in the car. I’m just hoping that hire car companies still equip their cars with them.

If my newspaper paid a little more for assignments, I could have chosen a car with more accessories. I could have rented a car with a built-in navigator, for example, but instead, I had to choose the most basic model available. It’s no surprise that the monthly rent for this car is less than what a normal one would cost for a week.

I brake hard and turn off towards a stopping place, and a huge cloud of dust submerges the whole vehicle. “What the hell…” I shout in disbelief as I climb, coughing, out of the car. Aren’t pull-ins tarmacked in Arkansas? Evidently not.

I wait for the dust to clear a little so I can see the view and then I head towards the trunk. I open it and only barely manage to avoid bursting into tears of joy: it’s full of maps! I love people who ignore technology and stubbornly continue to use things like paper road maps.

I take out the one I need and start looking at it and turning it in every possible direction in the hope of finding my location. I peer around, but can’t see any landmarks anywhere… Of course, if the dust would stop obstructing my view for a moment I might have a better chance at finding one.

While I’m trying to study the horizon, I hear someone braking very close to me. Startled, I turn to see a dark pickup truck pulling up behind my car. Before it appeared the dust had almost settled, but now the air’s full of it again, damn it!

“Oh, what the hell!” I can’t help shouting. And my next instinct is to go grab the pepper spray I keep in my bag: you never know how many psychopaths there are roaming the streets these days – especially the dustier ones. And on top of that, I’m a New Yorker, and we’re suspicious of everything. The world is full of serial killers, and given my luck, I might have bumped into one just as soon as I entered this state with its dusty pull-ins.

The door of the pickup opens and out climbs a guy dressed in clothes that have seen better days: his jeans look so old that the pair I’ve got at the back of the closet, and that I considered totally out of fashion, looks almost brand new in comparison. He’s also wearing a very dusty black t-shirt, worn boots, sunglasses, and has a cowboy hat on his head.

Is this guy actually wearing a cowboy hat in 2015? Someone should tell him this isn’t Texas. I wouldn’t wear one of those things if they put a gun to my head. My expression is half worried by the possibility that he might be dangerous and half amused at the sight of him – he’s a very different specimen from the city people I’m used to seeing. His tight t-shirt reveals very toned muscles, which makes me think that if he is a serial killer, at least he’s a buff one. Not that it makes the situation any better… Ok, I’ll admit it: it does make it a tiny bit better.

He notices my rigid posture and takes off his hat and glasses as though to reassure me. The sight of his face makes me at least relax my grip on my bag and its contents a little. Maybe I won’t need to use my pepper spray after all.

His dark blond hair is cut very well. It’s short and practical in a way that suits his face perfectly. But there is nothing at all practical about those eyes, though: they are light blue and somehow remind me of my friend Amalia’s. I’m guessing a man with eyes as beautiful as those can’t be a psychopath, right?

“Do you need help?” he asks. The man has a deep voice, and I can’t detect any accent. That is a very suspicious trait around these parts. I stand there perplexed for a moment. Should I ask for directions or shouldn’t I? I can’t decide.

He waits for me to say something, but after my prolonged silence adds, “I saw your car parked here and was wondering if you’re having some kind of trouble.” If possible, I’m even more suspicious after those words. I’m not used to strangers stopping on a road to ask me if I need help. That type of thing just doesn’t happen in my city.

“Are you a serial killer?” I ask him seriously.

Instead of taking offence or punching me in the face, he bursts out laughing, showing his perfectly straight teeth. “Do you really think that if I were a serial killer I’d come out and tell you I was?” he asks, visibly amused.

“The world is full of crazy people, and some of them like to terrorise their victims,” I reply.

He shakes his head incredulously. “Do you know what the real problem in this country is?” he says, taking a step towards me.

I instinctively step backwards. “Is it that China owns such a large share of our public debt?” I say, hazarding a guess. It happens to me all the time when I’m stressed: I come out with weird, but strangely intelligent, things. Luckily it doesn’t happen often… He looks at me surprise. Okay, it wasn’t exactly the kind the answer you were expecting to hear, I get that.

“You’re not from around here,” he says with conviction.

My Thoughts…

If you’re a fan of romantic comedy this story will appeal, the heroine is a lifestyle journalist, who is sent on an investigative journalist role back to her hometown. She faces exposure when she meets the mayor and there is an instant connection. She’s a commitment-phobe, he’s looking for happy ever after, leading to inevitable conflict, some humour and plenty of mixed messages.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted read, and are prepared to accept slightly stereotypical characters this is worth reading.

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

Anna was born in Croatia but moved to Milan as a young child and has lived there since. She has worked in the Asset Management industry for JPMorgan and is now employed in Private Banking for an Italian bank, where she manages HNW positions. She started writing romantic comedies to fight financial markets stress after the Lehman crack, when she was expecting her son, now six. The writing was supposed to be only a hobby, but her husband self-published her first novel as a birthday present four years ago, and it was a great success in Italy.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Kitty Wilson – Cornish Village School – Second Chances – Guest Post and 4* Review

Ex-ballerina and single mum Sylvie is in trouble. Juggling her ballet classes in the nearest town, preparing shy Sam for his first day at Penmenna Village school and trying to finally move out from the farm she shares with her cantankerous Uncle Tom means life is anything but easy.

Television Journalist Alex is facing challenges of his own. Seeking a calmer environment for his newly adopted daughter, Ellie, he’s swapped reporting in war zones for the school PTA in quiet Penmenna, where his best friend Chase has persuaded him to start laying some roots.

Fireworks ignite when Sylvie and Alex meet but as Ellie and Sam become instant best friends, will they be able to keep things strictly platonic for the sake of the children?

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 Guest Post –  Kitty Wilson  – What does a working day look like for me?

I used to be a primary school teacher so do like a structured day, a timetable to adhere to. On top of which my natural personality is quite owl like – I would like you all to imagine that this means I’m very, very wise but what it actually means is that I do not like mornings, not at all. I appreciate the crisp freshness of dawn, the ethereal beauty of early morning before people are up, just not on a daily basis. Consequently, my timetable for the day is structured so I can be a bit of a slug-a-bed (I just love that word) and stay in my little pit until mid-morning, slurping on vast amounts of coffee and tea, having a yummy breakfast (in bed, I know) until my brain will not allow my body to stay there one second longer and compels me downstairs.

Once downstairs though I am a powerhouse. Well, maybe more of a power-hovel, but I slide into my regular spot on the sofa, put on some background noise and start to tap away. I find if I write solidly all day my brain dries up after a couple of hours and my petulant voice takes over – I hate it all, hate it so much (I don’t at all, not really!) – so every few hundred words I’ll nip on to social media or make myself yet another cup of tea, just to break it up for a few minutes and then throw myself back in again.  I try to get at least 1,000 words written every day and will keep on going until I do. Some days it’s like wading through treacle and it just seems… to… take… forever. However, most days are fairly good and whilst 1,000 words are my must-do I try and aim for 2,000 if I can. I like to bank the words up so I’m well in advance of my deadline which then gives me the flexibility to have days off when the mood, or necessity, takes me.

After my word count is reached I relax, get on with household chores or try and catch up with friends, do normal stuff that keeps a home, a life and a head running smoothly. Then after a break of a couple of hours, I return to the laptop and read through what I’ve written and tidy it up a bit.

In the evenings I like to plan exactly what is happening next in my book so when I come to the laptop the next morning it’s there, fresh and ready to go. This in itself is sensible, but the bizarre element is that I have to do it in water. I either have a long bath where I set a timer for the first fifteen minutes and devote that only to planning (no daydreaming allowed) or I head to my local pool and sit in the water and plan there. People probably think I’m a bit of a freak, sitting and zoning out in the hot-tub, but thankfully I stopped minding that a long time ago. And besides it’s worth it – I sit there, periodically giggling as I come up with ideas that I hope will make my readers smile, like Marion’s appalling behaviour and Ellie’s much cuter naughtiness.

Of course, this is my perfect routine and is dependent upon an empty house. Whilst I like to write with background noise on (it reminds me of being adamant when revising for exams at school that yes, I did need the music on) I prefer the house to be empty. I really struggle if my adult children (as lush as they are) are home or my partner has time off. It’s as if when I’m in my role as mother or girlfriend, I can’t get fully into my writing zone. Consequently, I have a really bad habit of giving the people I love most in the world a proper big hug when I see them and following it up with a slightly desperate ‘will you be in for long?’

In a nutshell – long lie-ins, water and solitude are what shape my writing day and make me happy.

My Thoughts…

Another slice of modern village life in Cornwall as the ‘Second Chances’, continues to explore life around the village school. The story focuses on Sylvie and Alex, both single parents who form an instant attraction but put their children’s happiness first and decide to stay ‘just friends’.

The story pans out as you’d expect but this is part of the attraction for this type of literature. The characters are contemporary, realistic and vivid. You empathise with them as they find out what life is like in the village.

If you are looking for a romantic tale, with a delightful Cornish village setting, this will suit you, enjoy.

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

Kitty Wilson lived in Cornwall for twenty-five years having been dragged there, against her will, as a stroppy teen. She is now remarkably grateful to her parents for their foresight and wisdom – and that her own children aren’t as hideous. Recently she has moved to Bristol, but only for love and on the understanding that she and her partner will be returning to Cornwall to live very soon. She spends most of her time welded to the keyboard, dreaming of the beach or bombing back down the motorway for a quick visit! She has a penchant for very loud music, equally loud dresses and romantic heroines who speak their mind. 

Twitter: @KittyWilson23

Posted in Book Review

And So It Begins – 5* Review – Rachel Abbott

WHO WILL BELIEVE YOUR STORY IF THE ONLY WITNESS IS DEAD?

Cleo knows she should be happy for her brother Mark. He’s managed to find someone new after the sudden death of his first wife – but something about Evie just doesn’t feel right…

When Evie starts having accidents at home, her friends grow concerned. Could Mark be causing her injuries? Called out to their cliff-top house one night, Sergeant Stephanie King finds two bodies entangled on blood-drenched sheets.

Where does murder begin? When the knife is raised to strike, or before, at the first thought of violence? As the accused stands trial, the jury is forced to consider – is there ever a proper defence for murder?

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My Thoughts…

An engaging psychological thriller with a detailed courtroom section and a host of absorbing female antagonists and protagonists. The plot is twisty, and although I worked out Evie’s secret in the last third of the book, I think this is the author’ intention, so that the final dramatic chapters have maximum impact.

Evie, Cleo and Mark all have issues, the question for the reader to solve is who is the most twisted and manipulating the facts for their ends. This story has a menacing quality but also an inherent sadness due to the waste of life and the opportunity to be happy.

The female detective protagonist’s role in the story is pivotal, and although Stephanie has her emotional heartache, her detective skills are notable.

Packed with detail and characters who are not what they first seem, this is a standout read in the crowded genre of psychological thrillers.

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