If she tries very hard, Ami can remember when she used to have a dynamic and exciting career and a husband who she loved more than life itself, and who was equally smitten with her…
Now she has two children, a terrifyingly large mortgage, and no idea who she has become – or why she and her husband can’t even be in the same room anymore.
With life as she knew it in tatters around her, Ami is heartbroken, and in no way pulling off ‘consciously uncoupling’ like a celeb. But she’s starting to wonder if she just might come out the other side and be….happier?
‘The Story After Us…’It’s a story for everyone who found out that happy-ever-after had a sequel and for everyone who’s faced irreconcilable differences and survived.
I wanted to write about messy, modern love. I know lots of women whose families don’t look like they belong in a magazine spread but are filled with happiness, humour and hope. I am divorced myself – a long while ago – and good mates and parents with my ex-husband while happily married to my second. I’m a mother and stepmother to four kids and have had a fairly full-on job while they’ve been growing up. Ami’s story isn’t mine, but I hope it’s one that relatable to lots of women – and makes them laugh.
I’ve always written but, in 2012 I signed up for the Curtis Brown Creative writing course with a very rough draft of a novel. I learned loads about great storytelling during the short course and threw away most of my word count. Then, with the help of a spin-off writing group that met every Monday fortnight for years, I wrote it again.
Eventually, I was lucky enough to get the editorial input of my agent, Diana Beaumont, who helped me write it again a few more times. Then Aria wanted to publish it, and everything got really exciting.
The truth is I’ve always wanted to be a novelist, but there was also the day job, the kids and life, like loads of other writers. And I wanted to learn how to get it right, so it took a while. One thing I would say is if you can find a group of supportive writers, sign up, critique their submissions and get all the feedback you can on yours. My group has gone on to have four published writers and with more to come.
My next book has a mad, modern family with a difficult dilemma at its heart. It’s different the second time – I have a lot more certainty about what I’m doing. This time, I’m writing the first draft without going back to edit as I go, because I’ve learned the value of multiple drafts honed over and over. But it’s also because the story is tumbling out…
My Life as a Writer…
There’s still the day job (sales and marketing), but I’m working as a freelance now, so that makes everything a lot easier. And the kids are older and lovely (not that they weren’t, but you know…) and I’ve got a study by the sea at the end of the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall where we are restoring a decaying Edwardian house near the lighthouse. We call it life on the edge because it is (of England) and so far, it’s pretty great.
I type overlooking the lighthouse, the sea and lots of sheep. When the weather is bad (and it’s our own freak microclimate), there is a foghorn that goes off, in a low, melancholy wail. I’m quite fond of it. We call them foghorn days and, very occasionally, we make that the equivalent of a pyjama day and just laze around reading and watching rom coms. I’m a big believer in foghorn days.
Ami is a fighter, whatever life throws at her she faces it, solves it, and then the next obstacle rears up. I am exhausted after reading this. Lars may be the love of her life, but he is an annoying character and even when he eventually tries to do the right thing I still don’t like him much.
Angst and realism underscore this poignant and often amusing story, which moves between the past, Lars and Ami’s love story and the present, what happens when it implodes. I enjoyed the real-time story best because whatever happens in their past, it’s not going to end well.
Ami has to be everything to their children when Lars decides he prefers his work life to his home life. Okay, their financial struggle is relative, not everyone has the luxury of an au pair even an appalling one, but everything falls on Ami’s shoulders first, and she has to juggle her children’s well being, her fledgeling company and her failing marriage.
‘The Story After Us’, is a woman’s view of family, love, marriage and work, it’s an authentic 21st-century story where happy-ever-after doesn’t exist but happy families can.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Fiona Perrin was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us. Fiona grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire, and now writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the end of The Lizard peninsula.
Stepping in for a celebrity chef, Millie Harper is feeling the pressure to make the first ever Paradise Cookery School classes a dazzling success and ensure that bride-to-be Imogen and friends have an unforgettable experience.
Meanwhile, Millie is trying to play it cool around handsome estate manager Zach Barker. But whenever he is near Millie cannot fail to notice the chemistry between them – until someone from Zach’s past arrives and any potential romance seems out of the question.
When disaster strikes and the wedding is in jeopardy, Millie realises she may have to go above and beyond to make sure the school is a success. Can Millie manage to create a day that dreams are made of, and will she find a way to tell Zach how she feels?
Confetti & Confusion is the second book in the Paradise Cookery School series, set on the spectacular Caribbean island of St Lucia. In the story, we re-join Millie and Ella as they showcase a myriad of chocolate-themed recipes for bride-to-be Imogen and her friends in the run-up to their glamorous wedding at a luxury resort on the hilltop overlooking the stunning Pitons. It’s a dream come true for Imogen to be getting married in such exotic surroundings and, as a confirmed chocoholic, being able to attend the cookery school is the icing on the three-tiered wedding cake.
The Paradise Cookery School is in a former cocoa plantation house nestled on the hillside overlooking the St Lucian Pitons, spectacular emerald pyramids that poke from the Caribbean Sea like the spines on a dinosaur’s back. The owner and celebrity chef, Claudia Croft, hopes to one day bring the cocoa trees back to life and make her own chocolate to use in her recipes. In fact, the very first course that the school runs is called Confetti & Chocolate, designed specifically for Imogen and her friends.
The course features a variety of recipes that include chocolate, from the wedding cake pops to the chocolate tiramisu bombe, the chocolate truffle tortes with hazelnut brittle and chocolate and cherry madeleines. There’s even freshly grilled salmon in a chocolate and ginger sauce!
The Paradise Cookery School’s Molten Lava cakes
One of Millie’s favourite recipes is for Molten Chocolate Lava cakes – especially as the view from her kitchen window overlooks the volcanic Pitons! Here’s her recipe…
100g dark chocolate
150g light brown sugar
50g plain flour
Half teaspoon vanilla essence.
Grease 6 metal ramekins and place on a baking tray. Put the butter and the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of hot water, stirring until smooth and then putting to one side to cool. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar and the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla essence and finally the flour. Divide into the six ramekins and refrigerate. When ready to eat, bake in an oven, 200C, 180C fan or gas mark 6, for 10-12 minutes until the tops are firm to the touch, but the middles are still soft. Run a knife round and turn them out onto a plate, dust with icing sugar and serve with fresh cream.
What are your favourite chocolate recipes? Let me know in the comments.
If you can’t afford the Caribbean this Summer, this book is the next best thing. Full of sunshine, warmth, vividly depicted scenery with a tumultuous romance and a mystery too this will keep you happy wherever you’re reading it.
The second in ‘The Paradise Cookery School’series, ‘Confetti and Confusion’ reads well as a standalone too but I did wish I read the first in the series ‘Sunshine and Secrets’. Millie agrees to run an exclusive cookery course for a bride to be and her entourage. She’s in need of something to lift her spirits and loves cooking, so this is the opportunity she can’t turn down. Strongly attracted to Zach the acting estate manager, she wonders if she can risk her heart again.
The setting is sublime and well described, especially through the food on offer. Millie is a lovely character and her friend, and colleague Ella is a warm and giving person who helps Millie step out of her self-imposed shell.
The plot is written in the style of a ‘Death in Paradise’ story by without the murder. It gives a flavour of Caribbean life, without being overly descriptive and the characters are likeable and relatable. The ending gives Millie hope for the future, and now I can’t wait for the Christmas book.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north-east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.
A new day dawns in Sackwater, not that this sleepy backwater is taking much notice…
Inspector Betty Church – one of the few female officers on the force – has arrived from London to fill a vacancy at Sackwater police station. But Betty isn’t new here. This is the place she grew up. The place she thought she’d left behind for good.
Time ticks slowly in Sackwater, and crime is of a decidedly lighter shade. Having solved the case of the missing buttons, Betty’s called to the train station to investigate a missing bench. But though there’s no bench, there is a body. A smartly dressed man, murdered in broad daylight, with two distinctive puncture wounds in his throat.
While the locals gossip about the Suffolk Vampire, Betty Church readies herself to hunt a dangerous killer.
Cosy Mystery is a favourite genre, and this story fits neatly into it. By definition, these stories are quirky full of eccentric characters, a smart detective, often disguised as a bumbling fool and numerous gruesome, but not graphically described murders, or similarly heinous crimes.
To enjoy a cosy mystery the reader needs to connect with the detective and enjoy the cast of characters and setting. I instantly connected with ‘Betty Church’, and empathised with her, the discrimination she suffers is disturbing but historically correct. I enjoyed how she always came out on top despite working almost entirely with misogynous males. The cast of characters are undoubtedly eccentric, but they are too much. Their strangeness is returned to again and again until it becomes wearing and detracts from the sharpness of the detective’s character and the story’s pacing.
The plot is over the top but well-written and full of action and vivid description, unfortunately, it is hampered by the quirks of the supporting characters that make the story drag in parts.
So on balance, this one isn’t for me. With a different set of supporting characters, I would give this series another chance.
I received a copy of this book via Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Happiness doesn’t factor on the deliciously rugged but utterly heartbroken Greg’s radar much these days. Only his beloved Labrador Angus seems to understand his search for a way to make sense of tragedy until he meets new neighbour Mallory Westerman…
Instantly they know that the other understands how they feel, and over time, as romance blossoms, they dare to wonder if they might, one day, be truly happy again…
There are two sides to every story, and A Year of Finding Happiness is Greg’s journey back from the darkest depths to happiness…
A Year of Finding Happiness was previously published as Bridge of Hope.
This story was written as a result of reader requests. After the release of ‘A Seaside Escape’, Greg seemed to capture the hearts of people all over the world! I was asked for his story and I was only too happy to oblige!
I love stories that feature animal characters. Do animals play a big role in your life?
I love animals! I have two rescue dogs of my own—in fact, the dogs in A Year of Finding Happiness are based on my very own canine companions. They both have their individual personalities and were great fun to write about. I love that they are also represented on the book covers!
Where do you do most of your writing? Why do you like writing here?
I have my very own office these days. It’s at the top of the house and it overlooks my garden. I can see the birds on the feeder from there and have been known to daydream and get distracted.
Are you an avid reader? What genres do you enjoy and why?
I don’t read as much as I used to because when I’m writing—which is most of the time—I like to keep my head clear for my own stories. But when I do read I love books by Heidi Swain, Ann Cleves and Lisa Jewell. I like to try new genres and crime fiction is the latest genre I’ve tried.
Are you a full-time writer? What do you enjoy about writing?
I’m no longer a full-time writer. I also work part-time at a museum, purely for my own sanity. Writing is fantastic but it’s quite an isolated role and I’m very much a people person. My favourite thing about writing is the fact that I get a chance to invent new people and I get to choose their life path. I guess it calls to the hidden control freak in me!
What’s next for Lisa Hobman?
I’ve just finished edits on my next book so that will be out later this year or early next year. And now I’m on to the next project! Of course, it will be based in Scotland because I love this place so much. I intend to keep writing until the ideas stop happening—which I hope is never!
Greg has not been lucky in love. Alice his first love broke his heart with her betrayal and deceit, and Mairi loved adventure more than him and left him too. With only, Angus his dog and an ever-present bottle of Malt Whisky he is lost in grief. After such a bleak start the reader longs for light relief and the support Greg receives from the community and his meeting with Mallory provides this. A romance set in the Scottish Highlands and Isles is a treat and gives this story a unique feel.
Mallory’s story features in the first book in the series ‘A Seaside Escape’. She meets Greg at a pivotal time in her life and after a shaky start values his friendship but does she want more, or is that enough? This story reads well as a standalone, but I would like to read Mallory’s story too.
Told from Greg’s point of view it gives a refreshing perspective to grief and falling in love from the male perspective. His character is realistic and strangely endearing. Full of guilt and raw edges Greg pushes away Mallory because he feels disloyal. Mallory’s hurting too, and you wonder if these two damaged souls can find solace with the other. Greg is so sad and broken you want him to find happiness and eventually, it seems he might but then the past rears its ugly head and happiness is just an illusion it seems.
I like the way music plays an important part in this story, Greg uses it to express his feelings and as a balm to his pain, this is believable and something we all do at various times in our lives.
A story of grief, friendship, forgiveness, healing and the power of love, realistic and romantic and lovely book to read.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Lisa’s debut novel was shortlisted in the 2014 RNA. Her stories centre around believable, yet down to earth characters and the places in Scotland she has visited and fallen in love with. She is a happily married mum of one with two energetic dogs. Website
My Thoughts… ‘Watching You’ doesn’t have the menacing thread usually associated with psychological thrillers but it’s plentiful in suspense and mystery, and the ending has many twists before being revealed. The characters are believable and ordinary, no sinister serial killer looms in the background but something tragic occurs, and there are numerous suspects.
The ending is tragic and leaves its mark on the reader.
Fast-paced, there are multiple character points of views, but they’re easy to follow. Watch out for the twists because nothing is as it first appears. An absorbing read.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House UK – Cornerstone, Century via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Ben is the sole survivor of a crime that claims his mother and countless others. He is just six years old, and already he must find a new place for himself in the world.
Lucy, the doctor who tends to Ben, is grappling with a personal upheaval of her own. She feels a profound connection to the little boy who has lived through the unthinkable. Will recovering his memory heal him, or damage him further?
Clare has long believed that the lifetime of secrets she’s been keeping don’t matter to anyone anymore until an unexpected encounter prompts her to tell her story.
As they each struggle to confront the events – past and present – that have defined their lives, something stronger than fate is working to bring them together…
Three people, three generations, three stories, seemingly unconnected, yet inexplicably woven together. ‘The Possible World’ is a beautifully thoughtful story of tragedy, love that conquers death and life’s complex journey.
Ben’s tragedy touches his soul and releases something long forgotten; no-one understands until he meets a man who’s lost everything and Lucy a dedicated ER doctor whose life is missing someone to share it. Clare has lived a long life, and as the end draws near, she relives the past love and heartache.
Each story is engaging with intricate historical detail and a gradual connection with the present day. Lifelike characters draw you into their lives, and you hope they find what they seek. The ending is poignant and perfect.
I received a copy of this book from Cornerstone Digital via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Emily Charlton does not do the suburbs. A successful stylist and image consultant to Hollywood stars, she cut her teeth as the assistant to legendary fashion editor Miranda Priestly in New York. But with Snapchatting millennials stealing her clients, Emily needs to get back in the game – and fast.
She holes up at the home of her oldest friend Miriam in the upscale suburb of Greenwich. And when Miriam’s friend, model Karolina Hartwell, is publicly dumped by her husband Graham, a senator with presidential ambitions, Emily scents the client of a lifetime.
It’s not just Karolina’s reputation that’s ruined. It’s her family. And Miriam and Emily are determined he won’t get away with it. First, they’ll get Karolina’s son back. Then they’ll help her get her own back. Because the wives are mad as hell . . .
The glamorous setting, polished plot and vivid characters make ‘The Wives’ an easy to read, enjoyable story that you’ll find difficult to put down.
On New Year’s Eve, events conspire to bring three women together to fight injustice. Their seemingly perfect lives are not as glossy as they first appear. Rekindling old friendships and making new ones they unite against the man who seeks to destroy one of them and find the elusive happiness they all still seek despite their material wealth.
There is plenty of humour in this story as the women encounter the wives of Connecticut, but there is an underlying poignancy as they realise material possessions and retaining youth do not necessarily bring happiness.
A fast-paced story of revenge, friendship and power, written from multi-points of view which adds to the interest and depth to the women’s characters. They are easy to empathise, and this makes the book a perfect holiday read.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The guilt-fuelled, anxiety-filled first day back in the office after maternity leave.
But this working mum is one of a kind.
Meet Alexis Tyler.
An elite covert agent within Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Her first project back is a high-stakes hit of global significance, and the old boys’ network of government espionage is far from ready for the return of an operational mother. But woe betides anyone who ever tells Alexis Tyler ‘you can’t’.
She will have it all. Or she’ll die trying . . . And yes, she damn well will be home for bath time.
‘Killing It’ lives up to its name and manages to be entertaining while giving the reader a fast-paced thriller laced with satire and delivering a thought-provoking feminist message.
Lex is a successful woman in a predominately male world, nothing new there then, you may think, but she’s a trained assassin working for a wholly deniable government organisation. After nearly a decade of killing for a living, she decides to risk a relationship and Gigi; a lovable baby is the outcome of this. Returning to work after maternity leave, she wonders if she’s can still be the edgy killer she previously was, not helped by the less than helpful reactions of her male counterparts.
The plot is full of twists, excellent characters who are vividly depicted and soon bring the reader into the world of government endorsed assassins and London’s Yummy Mummy set. At times it seems safer to hang out with the killers, at least their weapons aren’t hidden.
Lex is always challenged in this book as she tries to be both a professional worker and consummate mother. Will she have to choose one or other or will the choice be made for her?
The final twists are well-executed and the ending realistic and satisfying.
If you enjoy a thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously but makes you think, this is the one.
I received a copy of this book from Bonnier Zaffre via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Tasha knows that she should count her blessings: married for eleven years, mother to three healthy children, she should be content with her lot. However, feelings of frustration have settled over her like a dark cloud. Despite living under the same roof and sharing the same bed, Tasha has never felt so distant from her husband, Charlie. She feels worn down by the mental load of motherhood, drowning in the never-ending chores that keep the family and household afloat. Most of all she worries that her once happy marriage is slipping away from her.
Tasha longs for something to change, but when change comes calling will it really be the answer she was hoping for? And is it possible to fall in love with the same person twice?
A modern-day love story about family, marriage and risking it all to have it all.
What inspired you to write ‘The Distance Between Us’?
The French comic Emma’s illustration “You Should Have Asked” which went viral last year about the ‘mental load’ of a woman was a source of inspiration. I also enjoyed watching TV shows like Motherland and Catastrophe; I love Sharon Horgan’s sense of humour, and I wanted to show some of the distinctly unglamorous reality of family life and long-term relationships.
Family life and women feeling as if they have lost their identity is currently a popular fiction theme, what makes your story different?
There are a couple of unexpected twists in my storyline, which may surprise some readers. (Sorry, no spoilers!)
Do you draw your characters from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?
A mixture. Some of them are inspired by people I’ve met, and some of them are imagined. But as an author, I think we always draw from our own life experiences in some way, either through conversations we have had, books we have read, films or plays we have watched, and so on.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I enjoy reading a range of different books. Sometimes I read non-fiction (I am currently reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harrari) which I normally choose if I am interested in learning more about a topic. And for fiction, I look for books that make me think ‘what if,’ allowing my imagination to explore a new setting or situation that I have not yet experienced myself.
What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?
I have always loved writing, but I sort of fell into becoming an author. I am a primary school teacher too, and I started writing purely for the love of it in my school holidays. It started as an experiment really, to see whether I had it in me to write a whole book. And now with three published books, I think I can say that I did! I love this genre because I enjoy writing about real people and real situations from the daily lives that I see in the world around me.
What’s next for Georgie Capron?
I am currently writing my fourth book, and working on another secret project on the side, more details of which will follow soon!
If you’re looking for an escapist read, this isn’t it.
Tasha and Charlie live in London; he works in the city, she stays at home with the children, even though their life looks ideal from the outside. Tasha feels she is losing her identity amongst the dirty laundry; school runs and making sure the home is an oasis of calm when Charlie ‘who’s been working hard all day comes home.’ Tasha, a former GP feels unfulfilled and feels guilty for doing so.
The scenarios created will be familiar to most stay at home mums, as the situations are believable and the actions and reactions of the characters authentic. Charlie doesn’t realise what being a ‘stay at home mum’, involves, and Tasha resents his lack of empathy.
Tasha is an independent character in the first chapters of the book until she makes a mistake that has consequences for both her and her family. This mistake changes her, and she forgets what has driven her to act so out of character and becomes dependant on Charlie’s forgiveness. The story highlights the family secrets, and that people often do something drastic just to be noticed.
Angst, guilt and sadness prevail in the central part of the book, and while this is well-written and realistic, it is sombre reading. Another tragic family event makes Charlie realise what he’s losing, and the ending is hopeful and happy.
An articulate snapshot of family life, with authentic characters and scenarios.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Georgie lives in South West London with her husband and daughter. Alongside her writing, she works as a primary school teacher, and she particularly enjoys teaching English. She studied Italian and History of Art at the University of Edinburgh and did a PGCE in primary education at the University of London.
Mitchell and Markby come out of retirement to crack a cold case…
As young children, Josh Browning and his sister, Dilys, stumbled across a dead body while playing on the outskirts of their Cotswold village. Terrified by what they’d seen, neither of them told a soul. Now, twenty years later, Josh finds the dead woman’s charm bracelet among his sister’s possessions.
Who better to tell than his trusted friend, the man he gardens for, retired Superintendent Alan Markby? As Markby listens to Josh’s confession, alarm bells start to ring. The dates and details tie in with a missing person case that was never solved.
Joining forces with Superintendent Ian Carter, who also investigated the original case, and Inspector Jess Campbell, from the region where the missing girl was last seen, Markby delves into the unsolved mystery. Together, they are determined to catch a clever killer who almost got away with murder…
An enjoyable murder mystery with realistic characters, lots of misinformation and a murderer who thought they’d committed the perfect murder.
I’ve not read any of this series before, or the Mitchell and Markby mysteries, but the main characters are easy to empathise. As this mystery reopens a cold case of a missing person from two decades previously, the reintroduction of the Mitchel and Markby characters adds depth to the mystery. It brings past events into real-time maintaining the story’s pacing while providing necessary clues to solve the mystery.
The story is simple but by the final chapters, the number of suspects grows, and the ending has some clever twists. I read this in an afternoon and its perfect Summer reading. I look forward to reading another in this mystery series.
I received a copy of this book from Headline via NetGalley in return for an honest review.