Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Guest post, Romance

The Christmas Calendar Girls Samantha Tonge 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @SamTongeWriter #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #Festive #Christmas #Heartwarming #Monday Blogs #TrueMeaningofChristmas #Friendship #Community

This Christmas fall in love with the town of Chesterwood…

Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.

Fern and her best friends call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).

As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.

In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.

Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?

This is a story about kindness and letting go of the past. It’s about looking out for your neighbours and about making every day feel like Christmas.

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

My Thoughts…

I love Christmas. December 1st, out come the Christmas decorations, and all the lovely memories of Christmases gone by. I always appreciate how lovely it is to have my family around me, but realise for many, this time is particularly devastating.

This story highlights many contemporary social issues, families in poverty, homelessness and addiction. Whilst these are prevalent at all times of the year, they are more noticeable during the festive period when the divide between the have and the have nots is more acute.

The ethos of this story is emotional and heartwarming, and it shows how communities coming together can embody the true meaning of Christmas. It is a story of friendship, women supporting each other and gives hope that with the right support, even the hardest problems can be overcome.

Fern, Davina and Cara are complex characters, bound together by the friendship, through their children. Each has a story, and sometimes things are not what they first appear, but their friendship is what motivates them through the difficult times.

Kit is an enigma, kind, generous with his time, but closed off, with high emotional boundary walls. He helps Fern, start to live again, but is she asking for something he cannot give?

This is wonderfully festive, full of community spirit, but also realistic, not everyone wants to help, some would rather look the other way. The women’s friendship is believable and uplifting, and the conflicted romance between Fern and Kit is heartwarming. There are also lots of lighter moments, which balance out the angst, making this a lovely book to read to get you in the festive mood.

Guest Post- Samantha Tonge – The Christmas Calendar Girls
                                      What is the inspiration behind the character of Kit?

Jason Momoa. If I was feeling lazy, those two words alone could answer that question. However, it’s not quite that simple. Relatable and realistic character-building is a complex process. I’ve had 12 books published now and people from my real life, celebrities, or themes have inspired the creation of my leading men…. but there is one aspect they all have in common: there is a lot more to them than being handsome.

I first came across Jason Momoa whilst watching Game of Thrones. He didn’t catch my eye. I found the character he played, unappealing. As a woman and writer, that’s one thing I find fascinating about sexual attraction. Time after time personality wins the day, despite society’s current obsession with perfect looks and selfies. A six-pack can swiftly seem less hot if it belongs to a man who is unkind or full of ego. Vice versa, a person who initially looks less sexy on the surface can become irresistible if they have a cheeky sense of humour or generous, caring nature.

As time passed, I saw real-life clips of Jason Momoa online. He revealed a hilarious side, wearing girls’ hair bobbles for example (look out for one scene in my story!). He appears to be a very loving father and husband and doesn’t care what other people think – despite his professional macho reputation, he wore a dusty-pink suit and matching hair scrunchie to the 2019 Oscars. Plus he’s a man of principle and heart and recently announced he might have to delay filming Aquaman 2 until he has finished taking part in ongoing protests in his birth country, Hawaii, against a construction site on a sacred mountain.

I don’t know him personally. Who knows what any celebrity is like in real life? But I’ve built a picture of the Jason Momoa I’ve seen through the media and it’s a seductive one, muscles and bedroom hair aside.

From a physical point of view, it was his bare-chested, marine character in Aquaman that first caught my attention – after all, I am a red-blooded woman! He’s tall, with wild chestnut hair and eyes full of humour… just like Kit. But those appealing traits are transient. They don’t have staying power. Not unless there is something more meaningful to make a man stand out.

It was the softer side I’d seen of the actor, online, that really inspired the character of gorgeous six foot five, bearded Kit who has overcome personal challenges; who is a loyal friend who’ll step out of his comfort zone to help those less fortunate than himself. He’s sensitive and empathetic and has a great sense of humour. He’s different from the crowd and also oblivious to the many crushes he inspires in the school playground.

I’m very fond of Kit, as I am of The Christmas Calendar Girls Fern, Cara and Davina. I hope readers enjoy their story as much as I’ve loved writing it.

#SamanthaTonge

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.
When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. 
She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Contemporary Fiction, Festive Read, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romance

Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage Katie Ginger 5*#Review @KatieGAuthor @HQDigitalUK #Festive #ChristmasRead #Romance #Friendship @rararesources #BlogTour #Author #Interview

#SnowflakesatMistletoeCottage

On a grey, London day, Esme’s world crumbles around her when she loses her glitzy job on a top TV programme, her gorgeous, city-slicker boyfriend and her stunning apartment, all in one fell swoop just before Christmas.

Esme is forced suddenly to move back to her sleepy hometown of Sandchester, and despite the snow blanketing the roof and the fairy lights that twinkle in her rustic little cottage, everything is looking bleak. That is until she reconnects with an old crush and finds herself unexpectedly getting swept away.

But Joe, handsome and charming as he is, is not all he seems. Esme soon realises that he has a tragic past which he just might not be able to overcome…

Surrounded by her loving, if harebrained, family and with the support of her hilarious friends, Esme is determined to have a go at forging her own path, even if it all comes to nothing. But one question still lingers in her mind: will she find someone to kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas?

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

My Thoughts…

The scene on the cover may be picture-perfect, but that isn’t Esme’s life when she returns to her home town and finds solace in a run-down country cottage. Joe is living half a life, scared to try again and overcome his tragic past.

The main protagonists are complex and emotionally damaged, they find something in each other that gives them hope, but is it enough to take the final step? The cast of characters, Esme’s family and friends are wonderfully eccentric and flawed. Despite the emotional roller coaster Esme and Joe are riding, there are lovely humorous scenes in this story that lighten it without diminishing the conflicts they have to overcome. There is lots of festive moments and some delicious sounding recipes.

A lovely festive themed romance with plenty of heartwarming moments.

#SnowflakesatMistletoeCottage #BlogTour
Author Interview – Katie Ginger – Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage

What do you enjoy about writing festive stories?

I’m pretty crazy about Christmas and I start getting excited as soon as the kids go back to school in September, so writing festive stories is never a hardship! I make notes and plot during winter so I’m fully immersed in it. I just love everything about Christmas — the planning, the gifts, the tree, and especially the food. It’s that that gets me really excited! And writing festive stories means I can pretend there’s a white Christmas, even if we never actually get one!

Festive stories are often written out of season, to fit in with publishing schedules, how do you get in the festive mood in the Summertime?

When it’s going well, writing is like watching a movie in my head and I have to keep up with what the characters are doing, describing their actions and acting like a narrator showing the reader their feelings. When it’s like this, I disappear into the story and kind of forget about the world outside. Plus, I’m one of those people who is always cold, which helps! When it’s not going well, I shove on a Christmas movie or playlist and get myself in the mood.

What inspired you to write this story?

I am completely obsessed with Christmas cookery shows! It’s actually pretty bad and my family hate it, but as soon as they come on I get all excited and start watching them. Then one day, in the middle of an episode, I just had a second where I imagined what happens when the director shouts ‘cut’ and suddenly Esme appeared! It really all went from there. But one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to have the hero carrying the emotional baggage rather than the heroine, so poor Joe got all the bad luck!

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

It really varies from story to story. For The Little Theatre on the Seafront the setting came first, for Summer Season on the Seafront it was the plot and for ‘Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage’, it was the character of Esme. It really depends on what’s inspired the story and how my imagination decides to work (or not!).

Do you have an ideal setting for your festive holiday?

I really love those Hallmark movies where there’s a little town and a big wooden lodge with an enormous tree! They’re my favourites. Having said that, I live by the sea and there’s nothing better than a walk along the harbour on Christmas Day. As long as there’s a roaring log fire somewhere you can’t go far wrong.

What are the best things about Christmas for you? Is there anything about the festive season you don’t like? Why is this?

The best thing about Christmas is definitely ALL the Christmas food! The decadent deserts, the hearty meals — and let’s be honest, the gluttony! The only thing I don’t like is the weight I put on! And I love the traditions. My mum always makes the Christmas puddings with my children and we have to stir three times clockwise and make a wish before they’re finished. My husband and I have our own Christmas traditions with our kids too. We always take a walk along the beach on Christmas Eve morning, in the dark, and then we watch Home Alone in the afternoon. I think those sorts of things are the best things about Christmas because they’re so unique to every family. And you can create your own traditions at any time!

Which books do you enjoy reading?  Do you have a favourite genre?

Of course, I love romance stories, but I also enjoy reading cosy mysteries. I’m particularly fond of ones set in the 1920s to 1950’s. I’ve just found a writer called Marlowe Benn, and I’m really enjoying her novel Relative Fortunes (A Julia Kydd Novel Book 1). It’s set in 1920’s New York and is fab and feels really glam. Perfect for autumn afternoons!

What are you currently writing?

I’m actually just about to start writing my Christmas 2020 novel! Being able to write over the festive period will be so much fun. I really can’t wait! And I’m so excited about this story even though I can’t give you any details right now!

#KatieGinger

KATIE GINGER lives in the South East of England, by the sea, and apart from holidays to very hot places where you can sit by a pool and drink cocktails as big your head, she wouldn’t really want to be anywhere else. Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage is her third novel. She is also the author of the Seafront series – The Little Theatre on the Seafront, shortlisted for the Katie Fforde Debut Novel of the Year award, and Summer Season on the Seafront. When she’s not writing, Katie spends her time drinking gin, or with her husband, trying to keep alive her two children: Ellie, who believes everything in life should be performed like a musical number from a West End show; and Sam, who is basically a monkey with a boy’s face. And there’s also their adorable King Charles Spaniel, Wotsit (yes, he is named after the crisps!).

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Snowflakes Over Holly Cove Lucy Coleman 5*#Review @LucyColemanAuth @Aria_Fiction #festive #ChristmasRead #RomCom #Family #Friends #Author #Interview #BookReview #BlogTour

#SnowflakesOverHollyCove

As the snowflakes start to fall, Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…

For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around…’

So, Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air and rugged stranger, Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart. Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…

Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly beautiful Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands, where the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.

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

My Thoughts…

If, like me, you’re a reader who likes to empathise with the story’s characters, feel every emotion, and experience something magical as you turn the pages this is the story for you.

Christmas has always been important to Tia, even when her life is hard, Christmas is time to celebrate and escape. After the death of her mother, Tia struggles to come to terms with her loss. Her job is busy, and she hopes this will get her through the grief that threatens to destroy her. Her latest assignment has her living in a picture-perfect cottage by the sea, the setting is breathtaking, and straight away she feels its healing presence. Life gets complicated, and she still has Christmas to face, but will Tia emerge stronger at the end of this experience?

The vividly described coastal setting comes alive the first time Tia visits the beach you can feel the sea spray on your face and appreciate the power of the sea. The characters are varied and realistically portrayed, you can imagine having a conversation with them. The perfectly orchestrated romance is lovely and gentle and full of magic in this poignant, story of coming to terms with life’s setbacks and valuing family and friendships. There are many lighthearted moments to offset the heartaches, rather like life itself.

A festive read that you can enjoy all year long with characters to treasure in a perfect Christmas card setting.

Interview Questions  – Lucy Coleman – Snowflakes Over Holly Cove

Do you enjoy writing festive stories?  If so why?

I’m lucky enough to have some truly wonderful childhood memories of Christmastime and when I had a family of my own, naturally I wanted my boys to have that, too. So, after I married, the wider family always came to our house. One year we even had to take off a door and turn it into a makeshift second table to fit everyone in! Memories like that are why I love it whenever Christmas features in a story of mine – it’s a magical time.

Festive stories are often written out of season, to fit in with publishing schedules, how do you get in the festive mood in the Summertime?

It’s always Christmas in my heart, so it’s easy. This summer I’ve been walking around singing and humming Christmas tunes as I write my Christmas 2020 novel. My family don’t think that’s strange for me. It does, however, see me counting down the months and wishing I could pop up to the loft and get out the trimmings!

What inspired you to write this story?

Whilst Holly Cove is a fictional place, the setting is real. Walking the headland between Caswell Bay and Langland Bay on the Gower coast is where I go to de-stress and relax. My husband and I stayed there in an apartment overlooking the sea almost ten years ago now and felt a real connection to the place. Like a spiritual home. On one of our walks, the idea popped into my head and when I sat down to write it, it virtually wrote itself.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

It varies. My ideas are usually inspired by a one-liner thought. For Snowflakes over Holly Cove, it was the setting and the sense of healing I always feel whenever I’m in Caswell Bay. I found myself imagining a cottage, nestled in a tiny cove beyond the bay. Tia Armstrong’s story is about learning to focus on the happiness life can bring and the way a community pulling together has the power to heal. Kindness is all around us, but at Christmastime, many people go out of their way to share the joy. And that’s special.

What are the best things about Christmas for you? Is there anything about the festive season you don’t like? Why is this?

I love trimming up. Our trimmings are new, though, as on a recent house move some black sacks containing them were mistaken for rubbish and taken to the tip! It was gutting at the time, although most of the hand-made decorations made by our boys when they were young had already been handed back to them to grace their own trees.

So, it was new house, new decorations and as I’m not one to get attached to things, it simply meant a hurried trip to the shops. I’m rather minimalist, anyway, so it didn’t break the bank.

However, I’m not big on Christmas presents, to be very honest with you. I think it’s great for the kids and I love shopping for them – that’s a big part of my Christmas buzz. But as for the adults, I’d rather give money so they can treat themselves.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

Having a hectic writing schedule, I don’t get as much time to read these days as I would like. But when I do relax with a book it has to have that ‘feel-good’ factor. With bad news constantly grabbing the headlines these days, the good news is often side-lined. I’m all about good karma and positivity, as a reminder that the good outweighs the bad. Acts of kindness are an inspiration and I’m all for a happy ending. There truly are a lot of those out there in real life and that’s a cause to celebrate!

What are you currently writing?

I’m a third of the way through my 2020 Christmas novel, so I’m in my happy place. But having flown off to Lisbon in May, that story is clamouring to be written. I need to keep stopping to scribble notes, as a new set of characters are making quite a bit of noise in my head. Guess I’m just going to have to write quicker!

Thank you so much for the invite, Jane – it’s always a real pleasure to be here!

#LucyColeman

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been shortlisted in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Friendship, Novella

The Birthday House Jill Treseder 4*#Review @Jill_Treseder @SilverWoodBooks #RandomThingsTours #TrueLifeCrime #DomesticViolence #Dartmouth #Secrets #Lies #FamilyDrama #Loss #CrimeFiction #1950s #SmallTown #Devon #BlogTour #BookReview

#TheBirthdayHouse
#BackCoverBlurb

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

My Thoughts…

Based on a true crime, although ‘The Birthday House’. is a fictional interpretation of the events before, during and after the tragedy. The characters too are fictional, although the author did know the young girl who was murdered.

This is a short story, but it has depth and impact, more so because this is based upon a real, historical crime. Told from the viewpoints of the people involved it paints a picture, which is both poignant and inevitable. The housekeeper, who made the discovery, and its aftereffects on her. The wife, the child, the friend, the child’s best friend, the husband, who committed such a grievous atrocity, and the grandmother left only with her memories and regrets.

The story reads well, drawing you into the 1950s Dartmouth community. There is something fatalistic about it, so many opportunities to circumvent the eventual tragedy, but still, it happened. A well-written thought-provoking story,

#JillTreseder

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I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.

But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.

Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved but left because I could no longer cope with the system.

This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.

All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book The Wise Woman Within resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.

Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.

I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing-course to explore this genre in more depth.

I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.

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Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

Gorgito’s Ice Rink Elizabeth Ducie 4*#Review @ElizabethDucie #Romance #FamilyDrama #Loss @rararesources #Russia #BirthdayBookBlitz #BookReview

#GorgitosIceRink

Two small boys grieving for lost sisters — torn between family and other loves. Can keeping a new promise make up for breaking an old one?

When Gorgito Tabatadze sees his sister run off with a soldier, he is bereft. When she disappears into Stalin’s Gulag system, he is devastated. He promises their mother on her death-bed he will find the missing girl and bring her home, but it is to prove an impossible quest.

Forty years later, Gorgito, now a successful businessman in post-Soviet Russia, watches another young boy lose his sister to a love stronger than family. When a talented Russian skater gets the chance to train in America, Gorgito promises her grief-stricken brother he will build an ice-rink in Nikolevsky, their home town, to bring her home again.

With the help of a British engineer, who has fled to Russia to escape her own heartache, and hindered by the local Mayor who has his own reasons for wanting the project to fail, can Gorgito overcome bureaucracy, corruption, economic melt-down and the harsh Russian climate in his quest to build the ice-rink and bring a lost sister home? And will he finally forgive himself for breaking the promise to his mother?

A story of love, loss and broken promises. Gorgito’s story told through the eyes of the people whose lives he touched.

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

My Thoughts…

I love reading stories set in far-flung places I have never visited and this story set in Russia, mainly in the 1990s has so much intrinsic interest. The author’s knowledge of the area and period brings it to life, full of vivid descriptions, you can visualise the setting and the bureaucracy that dominates life there.

The story. as the title suggests is about Gorgito, a forty-something factory owner who wants to build a professional ice rink in his hometown of Nikolevsky. The primary motivation is to bring his goddaughter home, from where she is training in the USA. Her brother misses her, and Gorigito knows what that feels like.

The story slips back over forty years when Gorgitos sister left him to follow her heart, with tragic results, his quest to build the ice rink is as much for her. as his goddaughter. His sister’s story, full of love and loss is particularly poignant, capturing the danger and sacrifice of Stalin dictatorship.

The ice rink project’s most virulent opponent is the mayor, who has his reasons, which are another memorable strand to this story. Emma a British engineer helps Gorgito with more than his factory, and she finds unexpected solace in return.

A delightful mix of family, friendship and romance are tempered with bureaucratic frustrations and emotional angst, to make this a complex, poignant story, in an enigmatic setting,

#ElizabethDucie

When Elizabeth Ducie had been working in the international pharmaceutical industry for nearly thirty years, she decided she’d like to take a break from technical writing—textbooks, articles and training modules—and write for fun instead. She started by writing travel pieces but soon discovered she was happier, and more successful, writing fiction. In 2012, she gave up the day job and started writing full-time. She has published four novels, three collections of short stories and a series of manuals on business skills for writers.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Saga

Good Girls Amanda Brookfield 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @ABrookfield1 #BlogTour #Author #Interview #Extract #FamilyDrama #ComingofAge #Sisters #Secrets #Romance #Saga

GOOD GIRLS NEVER TELL TALES…

Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.

Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.

This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings.  Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally, Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.

Good Girls is a love story, a coming-of-age story, a mystery and a tear-jerker. But most of all it’s a reminder of who to keep close and who to trust with your darkest secrets. 

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

My Thoughts…

Two sisters, once close, but who have become estranged as they grew older. Eleanor, the older has her own reasons, but she’s never understood her sister Kat’s. Drawn together again, by a cruel stroke of fate, is it too late to reconnect?

This is an excellent family drama, with dark family secrets that devastate the once close sisterly bond. The story begins with Eleanor rushing to be with her sister, and them drifts back in time to the mid-1980s when they were young girls, and then the early 1990s, when Eleanor left for university.

The historical events slowly illuminate the present discord and misunderstanding, but all is not revealed until it is in some ways, too late to make amends. Serendipity plays a part in this story, as it often does in reality, and Eleanor gradually comes to terms with her past and the possibility of a hopeful future.

The cast of characters resonate, they all play a part in Eleanor’s life but have their own motivations and flaws, which makes them real. The story is realistically peppered with laughter, sadness, anger and despair. It is a poignant reminder that you cannot sometimes trust those closest to you, and of the rollercoaster nature of life.

An emotional family drama, with a realistic plot and memorable characters.

Author Interview – Amanda Brookfield – Good Girls

What inspired you to write ‘Good Girls’?

My original idea was to write about two sisters who are driven apart and then re-connected by the same man, deciding to get in touch by email after twenty years.  But then the story took off in a hundred other directions, as stories do!

What interests you about family drama? Why are stories about sisters so absorbing?

We all come from families of one kind or another – our upbringings forge us, whether we like it or not – and I love looking at the myriad ways we try to deal with that.  Sisters are a prime and rich example (I have two of my own!), being a relationship that is full of rivalries and ups and downs.  But there are also, always, the ties of love and loyalty that continue to bind us as siblings, long after we have gone our separate ways in the adult world.  This is a fascinating seam to explore as a novelist.

Dialogue is very important in a family drama story.  How do you make your dialogue realistic?

You can have the most gripping plot, but if the voices of the characters do no ring true then it will fall flat.  The way I work is to hear my characters speak inside my head.  In fact, often snatches of dialogue – of how my characters would communicate – arrive at unexpected moments when I am away from my desk, driving the car say, or walking the dog.  I have learnt to trust these snatches and write them down – it is my imagination working overtime, and 9 times out of 10 it is absolutely right.  I guess it is like being an actor, trying to get inside the psyche of a protagonist.

How do you create your characters?  What makes them believable and real?

Constructing a character is a bit like doing a jigsaw.  You decide what they look like, and where they live; what age they are and what they do for a living.  You give them hopes, hobbies and fears.  Then you throw events at them and see what they do!  If there is enough substance to your creations, enough humanity, the the way they behave under pressure will feel real and credible for the reader.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read as widely as possible – mostly fiction, but also memoir, travel and some history.  I love being surprised by what I find on the page and always have my antennae up to learn new things, both creatively and factually.  If someone recommends a book to me passionately enough, then I will always give it a go!  I also try to avoid reading books that I think might be similar to whatever I am working on – I hate the idea of being influenced or feeling that someone has already gone where I am trying to go.

What are you currently writing?

I am halfway through a novel about a woman plucking the courage to leave her abusive husband – one of those subtle monsters that no one else knows about.  I am writing the story from my heroine’s point of view, so it has an intensity that feels new and exciting.  It is important for me to feel that each new writing project is stretching the boundaries of what I have done before.

Extract from ‘Good Girls’ – Amanda Brookfield
CHAPTER ONE
January 2013

Eleanor decided to take a taxi from the station, even though she knew it would cost ten precious pounds and mean a wait. Being so rural, only a handful of cars served the area, but she didn’t want to be a bother to Howard, her brother-in-law. She texted both him and Kat to say she would be there within the hour and stayed as warm as she could in the small arched station entrance. It was a cold, dank morning, not raining for once but with air like icy metal against her skin.

The taxi driver who pulled up some twenty minutes later exuded an attitude of reluctance that made Eleanor disinclined to make conversation. When they hit a tail-back, thanks to a loop round the old Roman bridge, still not fixed from the heavy flooding over the New Year, he thumped his steering wheel. ‘A bloody joke. We can land men on the moon and still it takes three weeks to fix a few old stones.’ Eleanor murmured agreement but found that she didn’t mind much. The fields on either side of the road were still visibly waterlogged. After the grimy mêlée of south London, it was a visual feast – ethereal, shimmering silver bands engraved with the black reflections of leafless trees and smudgy January clouds.

The usual criss-cross of feelings was stirring at being back in such proximity to the landscape of her childhood. Just twenty miles away, her father was a resident in a small care home called The Bressingham, which he had once included in his rounds as a parish priest, days long since lost to him through the fog of dementia. Howard and Kat’s substantial Georgian house was ten miles in the opposite direction, on the fringes of a town called Fairfield. They had moved from Holland Park seven years before, a year after the birth of their third child, Evie. At the time, Eleanor had been surprised to get the change of address card. She had always regarded her little sister and husband as life-long townies, Kat with her posh quirky dress-making commissions to private clients and Howard with his big-banker job. It was because they saw the house in a magazine and fell in love with it, Kat had explained at one of their rare subsequent encounters, in the manner of one long used to plucking things she wanted out of life, like fruits off a tree.

But recently life had not been so cooperative. A small tumour had been removed from Kat’s bowel and she was in bed recovering. Howard had reported the event earlier in the week, by email, and when Eleanor had got on the phone, as he must have known she would, he had said that the operation had gone well and that Kat was adamant that she didn’t need sisterly visits. No further treatment was required. She would be up and about in a matter of days. Their regular babysitter, Hannah, was increasing her hours to plug gaps with the children and he was taking a week off from his daily commute into the City. ‘But I am her sister,’ Eleanor had insisted, hurt, in spite of knowing better. ‘I’d just like to see her. Surely she can understand that.’ Howard had said he would get back to her, but then Kat had phoned back herself, saying why didn’t Eleanor pop down on Saturday afternoon.

‘Nice,’ said the driver, following Eleanor’s instructions to turn between the laburnums that masked the handsome red-brick walls and gleaming white sash windows and pulling up behind the two family cars, both black, one a tank-sized station wagon, the other an estate. He fiddled with his satnav while Eleanor dug into her purse for the right money. I am not the rich one, she wanted to cry, seeing the visible sag of disappointment on his sheeny unshaven face at the sight of her twenty-pence tip; I am merely the visiting elder sister who rents a flat by a Clapham railway line, who tutors slow or lazy kids to pay her bills and who has recently agreed to write an old actor’s memoirs for a sum that will barely see off her overdraft.

Howard answered the door, taking long enough to compound Eleanor’s apprehensions about having pushed for the visit. He was in a Barbour and carrying three brightly coloured backpacks, clearly on the way out of the house. ‘Good of you to come.’ Brandishing the backpacks, he kissed her perfunctorily on both cheeks. ‘Brownies, go-carting and a riding lesson – pick-ups in that order. Then two birthday parties and a bowling alley. God help me. See you later maybe. She’s upstairs,’ he added, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘

‘The Big Sister arrives,’ Kat called out before Eleanor had even crossed the landing. ‘Could you tug that curtain wider?’ she added as Eleanor entered the bedroom. ‘I want as much light as possible.’

‘So, how are you?’ Eleanor asked, adjusting the offending drape en route to kissing Kat’s cheek, knowing it was no moment to take offence at the Big Sister thing, in spite of the reflex of deep, instinctive certainty that Kat had said it to annoy. At thirty-eight she was the big sister, by three years. She was also almost six-foot, with the heavy-limbed, dark-haired, brown-eyed features that were such echoes of their father, while Kat, as had been pointed out as far back as either of them could remember, had inherited an uncanny replication of their mother’s striking looks, from the lithe elfin frame and flinty-blue feline eyes to the extraordinary eye-catching tumble of white-blonde curls. ‘You look so well,’ Eleanor exclaimed, happiness at the truth of this observation making her voice bounce, while inwardly she marvelled at her sibling’s insouciant beauty, utterly undiminished by the recent surgery. Her skin was like porcelain, faintly freckled; her hair in flames across the pillow.

‘Well, thank you, and thank goodness, because I feel extremely well,’ Kat retorted. ‘So please don’t start telling me off again for not having kept you better informed. As I said on the phone, the fucking thing was small and isolated. They have removed it – snip-snip,’ she merrily scissored two fingers in the air. ‘So I am not going to need any further treatment, which is a relief frankly since I would hate to lose this lot.’ She yanked at one of the flames. ‘Shallow, I know, but there it is.’

‘It’s not shallow,’ Eleanor assured her quietly, experiencing one of the sharp twists of longing for the distant days when they had been little enough and innocent enough to take each other’s affections for granted. They had been like strangers for years now in comparison, shouting across an invisible abyss.

#AmandaBrookfield

Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of 15 novels including Relative Love and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel.  She lives in London and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Univ College Oxford. Her first book with Boldwood, Good Girls, will be published on 8th October 2019.

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

The Last Day of Winter Shari Low 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @sharilow #serendipity #romance #relationships #Winter #family #friends #BlogTour #BookReview #PublicationDay #GuestPost

#TheLastDayofWinter

One December wedding. One runaway bride. One winter’s day to bring everyone together again.

Today is the day Caro and Cammy are due to walk up the aisle. But Caro’s too caught up in the trauma of her past to contemplate their happy ever after.

Stacey’s decision to return from L.A. is fuelled by one thing – telling Cammy how she feels before it’s too late.

Wedding planner, Josie, needs to sort the whole mess out, but she’s just been dealt some devastating news. Can she get through the day without spilling her secret? On a chilly winter’s day, they have twenty-four hours to prove that love can lead the way to a brighter future…

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

My Thoughts…

The last book in a memorable series is full of family and friends. Humour, lies and poignancy. Romance, secrets and serendipity. It all comes together beautifully.

Four lives change on one fateful day. The characters are complex and relatable. Like old friends you want them to work out their conflicts and get the best out of their lives.

Told from multi-points of view, you follow each character. The plot has many twists and turns. The reader is on an emotional rollercoaster throughout. The ending makes it all worthwhile, happy and hopeful.

A lovely winter escape, in a vibrant contemporary setting.

Guest Post – Shari Low – The Last Day of Winter

When I was a teenager, I used to think that by the time I was an adult, I’d have life all figured out. I’d know what I was doing. I’d be sorted. I’d exist in a bubble of confidence and be sure of my destiny. I might even be – shock – wise.

Now? My grey hairs are running riot. A new wrinkle pops up every morning. Several sections of my body are in a landslide situation.

And most of the time, I still have absolutely no idea what’s going on and what’s around the corner.

But the silver lining to this cloud of unpredictability?

I can share it with the characters in my books.

The Last Day In Winter follows four lives that are precariously balancing on shifting sands.  

It opens on the day Caro is supposed to marry Cammy, but she wakes up that morning with two things on her mind – a thumping hangover and a sinking realisation that she can’t go through with the wedding.

Meanwhile, two planes carrying a whole heap of turmoil touch down at Glasgow airport.

Arriving from Spain is Seb, who has just found out his ex-girlfriend had a child called Caro nine months later. Could he really have a daughter he knew nothing about?

And from LA, TV presenter Stacey has one thing on her mind – telling Cammy that he’s making a mistake marrying Caro.  

The one person who will always have Caro’s back is her friend and wedding planner, Josie. But Josie has just been dealt her own life-changing blow that morning so she has her own troubles to sort out.

Caro. Seb. Stacey. Josie. Over the course of the day, their lives will twist and turn, their fates will collide and we’ll see that just like real life, none of them has it all sussed. None of them knows what’s around the corner.

The only thing they know for sure is that everything will have changed by the time they go to sleep on The Last Day of Winter.

The Last Day Of Winter will be published by Aria on Oct 3rd.

Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In Winter, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You, Another Day In Winter and her latest release, This Is Me

And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. 
Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift.

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