Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane Ellen Berry 5*#Review @AvonBooksUK @FionaGibson #BlogTour #PublicationDay #FamilyDrama #Romance #Loss #VillageLife #Relationships #Friendships #SecondChances #UpLit #BookReview

SnowdropsonRosemaryLane

Lucy fell in love with tumbledown Rosemary Cottage as a child. So thirty years on, when she loses her city job and discovers the cottage is for sale, it feels like fate. She’ll raise her children in Burley Bridge and transform the cottage into a B&B with her husband.

But a year can change everything . . .

Now Lucy is juggling two children and a B&B but on her own. Christmas looks set to be their last on Rosemary Lane – until she meets James, a face from her past and someone who might offer a different kind of future . . .

Should Lucy leave the cottage behind? Or could this winter on Rosemary Lane be the start of something new?

Amazon UK

#SnowdropsonRosemaryLane

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

My Thoughts…

Childhood memories can be powerful, and Lucy’s love of the cottage on Rosemary Lane stayed with her for thirty years. When her career reaches a crossroads, she convinces her husband that living there would be perfect for their family. For a while it is. Then life happens and tragedy strikes and Lucy is left to rebuild her family, but will it be at the cottage on Rosemary Lane?

Whilst this story is not exclusively festive, there are many Christmassy references and touches, which show the best and worst of the season. Told from mainly from Lucy’s point of view, this is a lovely tale of family life in a small Yorkshire village, it is a story of bereavement and loss and starting over. There are some strong friendships, and interesting romantic possibilities overlaid with courage, emotion and humour. The story draws you in, and it becomes important what happens to Lucy and her young family.

The rural setting is well described and the cast of characters diverse and realistic. James’ story is intricately woven into the main plot in a believable way, with just the right amount of serendipity. The story brings hope out of tragedy and leaves the reader with a feel-good hug.

Posted in Book Review, Christmas Read, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romantic Comedy

Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses Laura Briggs 4*#Review @PaperDollWrites @rararesources #ALittleHotelinCornwall #RomCom #festive #Cornwall #BlogBlitz #BookReview

#SeaHollyandMistletoe

Christmas is coming to Port Hewer and the hotel Penmarrow, where Maisie is suffering a case of the holiday blues far from home this year — until Gavin, a young American businessman staying at the hotel through Christmas, talks her into joining him as his partner in the hotel’s ice sculpting competition in a mutual pact to enjoy the holidays to the fullest.

Meanwhile, Maisie experiences the village Christmas season vicariously through Sidney and continues writing her Poe-inspired story with only Sidney aware of her secret novel. She soon learns, however, that criticism and praise go hand in hand when he takes issue with her latest chapters, which puts pressure on their friendship, too.

But is that what’s really the issue between them? Because handsome Gavin has more than ice sculpting in mind when it comes to Maisie’s time, which comes as a surprise to no one who’s seen them together. As Maisie faces this sudden romantic dilemma, she realizes what she wants most in her life … and faces a question of what her heart wants most, too.

Amazon UK

#SeaHollyandMistletoeKisses

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

My Thoughts…

If you are looking for something different for the festive season. then this book is probably for you.
The third book in the series ‘A Little Hotel in Cornwall’, has a quirky, and intriguing protagonist, and a cast of original characters, who are drawn together in this idyllic coastal spot in Cornwall.

I haven’t read the first two books, and I suspect that I would have enjoyed this one even more if I had. The story has a saga quality, exploring Maisie’s ambitions as a novelist, friendship with Sidney, past secrets and Maise’s interactions with the other hotel workers and guests.

This story has a charming, engaging writing style and complex, original characters. It allows you holiday escapism, with a lovely festive touch. The final instalment is out in January, and I will hopefully be reading the first two in the series before then.

#LauraBriggs

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

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#BlogBlitz
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Travel

I’ll Be Home For Christmas Abbey Clancy 4*#Review #BlogTour @MillsandBoon @OfficialClancy #BookReview #TickledPink #BreastCancerAwareness #FestiveRead #RomCom #Celebrity

#HomeForChristmas

Even stars have Christmas dreams…

Popstar Jessika Malone can’t believe her luck! Not only has she signed a major record deal and is topping the charts with her latest single, she’s just been offered the chance of a lifetime: a tour with gorgeous megastar Cooper Black…

It’s everything she’s ever dreamed of – except that it means travelling thousands of miles from her boyfriend, Daniel, just when he’s finally got down on one knee and popped the question!

Far from home and followed by the paparazzi, her relationship is tested more than Jessika ever imagined – will she make it home for Christmas before it’s too late?

Amazon UK

#BlogTour

I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A lighthearted romantic comedy with a festive twist.

Jess is going on tour with pop royalty and leaving her soulmate behind for a month, The story follows her journey and the problems and temptation she faces. There is the expected realistic ethos to this story, and that makes it enjoyable,

The plot is simple but the characters are likeable, and the challenges they face a good mix of celebrity, glamour and romantic conflict. The settings are well described and make the story more interesting.

Something for lovers of celebrity-themed romantic comedy, with a festive twist.

#TickledPink
#HomeforChristmas
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Friendship, Guest post, Romantic Comedy

#No Filter Maxine Morrey 4*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @Scribbler_Maxi #romcom #Instagram #NoFilter #Relationships #Friendships #LifestyleBlogger #Vlogger #JustBeingYou #SelfDiscovery #ComingofAge #BlogTour #BoldwoodBloggers #GuestPost #Extract #BookReview

#NoFilter

Popular lifestyle blogger, Libby Cartwright, is being boggled by business when help shows up in the shape of gorgeous but shy, Charlie Richmond. Libby’s determined to keep it at ‘just good friends’ – she’s dated someone from ‘Corporate Land’ before and it didn’t end well. As she and Charlie begin spending more time together, Libby is starting to waver  – until she discovers something which makes her question if she’s ready for love.

Still reeling, she suffers another blow as her blog is attacked in a national newspaper, for promoting unachievable perfection. Libby knows it’s not true – but the only way to prove that is to strip off the armour she’s been wearing for years.

Is she brave enough to show the world she’s far from perfect? And will Charlie be by her side if she does…

Amazon UK eBook Paperback

Extract from #No FilterMaxine morrey

Chapter 1

‘That’s it! I am totally going to jail. I’m going to get it wrong, owe thousands, not be able to pay, and go to jail!’ I flung myself backwards with an overly dramatic sigh and lay sprawled on the paperwork I had been looking at. ‘And seriously? Me in an orange jumpsuit? I don’t care how on trend they are; I could never pull that off! Orange is so not my colour.’

Amy topped up her wine glass before reaching a hand down to grab my arm, tugging me in the direction of the sofa. I slid along the floor for a few moments in my prone position, like some sort of beached, four-legged starfish, until I eventually bumped into the furniture.

‘I think that’s more America, hon,’ she said, yanking me upwards. ‘I’m not sure what ours are like. Something much more subtle, I expect. And don’t worry. I’ll hide a file inside the first cake I bring you. You’ll be out in no time.’

I paused in my clambering from the floor onto the sofa, and gave her a look. She made a sawing motion with one hand, accompanied by an over-exaggerated wink as she held out my wine glass. Flopping onto the couch, I took the glass and swigged a large mouthful, before laying my head back onto the soft cushions.

‘Seriously though. I really don’t know what I’m doing with this. I thought I was handling all this business stuff OK until now.’

‘And you are!’ Amy interjected. ‘Your blog is doing amazingly well! I can’t believe the difference in a year – it’s incredible! Seriously, Libs, you should really be proud of yourself.’

I sighed. ‘Thanks, Ames. And I am, and of Tilly. I couldn’t have done it without her. But I’m so frustrated! I’ve taken on this insane learning curve and, for the most part, got the hang of things. I think. But this?’ I kicked a piece of paper with my bare toes. ‘This, I just cannot get my head round! Why does tax have to be so bloody complicated? They send you this stuff so that you are supposedly able to do it yourself, but write it in the most confusing language possible! How is that even remotely helpful?’

Amy just shook her head and took another sip of wine.

‘So, what are you going to do?’

‘I don’t know. I guess I need to start looking for an accountant.’ I twiddled the wine glass stem in my hand.

Amy leant over and bumped her head gently on my shoulder. ‘You know; it is OK to ask people for help sometimes. We can’t all be amazing at everything. Creating all this in such a short space of time is brilliant, Libby. Finding that you need some extra expertise in one area is perfectly acceptable, and perfectly normal.’

‘I guess.’ I put the glass down. ‘Before I forget, I have something for you.’

Immediately, Amy sat up straighter in anticipation and her eyes watched me as I crossed to the other side of the room and picked up a small, but fancy, cardboard bag with intricately twisted rope handles and a swirly script logo on the side. Walking back over to the sofa, I plopped the bag down on Amy’s lap.

‘Did I ever tell you that going for it with this lifestyle blog business is the best thing that you’ve ever done?’

I laughed. ‘You just like the freebies.’

‘True,’ Amy agreed, before letting out an ‘ooh’ of pleasure at the eyeshadow palette and perfume she’d just pulled out of the bag.

‘But thanks anyway.’

‘Any time. Oh!’ Amy’s eyes shone like those of a child who’d just won pass the parcel. ‘Really? I can have this?’ Without waiting for confirmation, Amy began excitedly spritzing the exclusive new perfume copiously on pretty much every pulse point she could reach, including mine.

Laughing, I lifted my wrist up to take another waft of the fragrance. It really was gorgeous. I smiled as my friend rummaged in the bag, unwrapping the various goodies from their pretty tissue-paper packaging. The cosmetic companies often sent more samples than I could possibly use so I always made sure my assistant got some to review and regularly ran giveaways on the blog, as a thank you to my readers. But occasionally I still had extra goodies left over. Amy always loved a good freebie so when I had something spare, it meant I got to make my best friend happy.

As the fumes of Amy’s fragrance enthusiasm began getting a little pungent, I pushed myself up and padded over to the doors that led out onto the balcony. Grabbing the handle, I slid the door to the side. Immediately, a warm breeze rushed in from the sea, dissipating the perfume, and bringing with it the screech of seagulls intertwined with chatter and laughter from the nearby bars and restaurants in the marina. I stepped out, grabbing a wide-brimmed, slightly battered straw hat off the nearby console table, and took a seat on one of the two wooden steamer chairs that resided on my balcony. Amy followed me out, wine glass in hand, the gift bag now swinging off her wrist.

If I was honest, the furniture was a squeeze and a trendy little bistro set would have been a better, more sensible option. I’d made the classic mistake of ‘guesstimating’ that they would fit perfectly on the balcony. They didn’t and I’d ended up building them in situ like some sort of furniture Jenga, which had proved to be the only way of getting them both to fit on there. But I loved them. I didn’t want a trendy little bistro set. The loungers were super comfy with full-length padded cushions, and reclined just enough without touching the glass. I could sit out here and read in comfort, watching the boats sway and bob gently in the marina, listening as the sound of waves bumping against the harbour wall carried across the water. Even in winter, when the wind howled and the sea reared up before crashing down forcefully onto the nearby beach, I would happily sit out here, wrapped up against the cold, just absorbing it all.

There was definitely no need for coats and scarves this evening. It seemed that spring had decisively handed off the baton early to summer and the new season was away and running. The evening was warm and the breeze soft as Amy and I, now having inelegantly climbed onto our respective loungers, sat back and sighed happily.

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

My Thoughts…

A lovely, slow to ignite friends to lovers and opposites attract romance, in a contemporary setting. Libby is a lifestyle blogger, whose popularity is now making her serious money. Worried about tax issues she eagerly accepts Charle, a friend of a friend’s offer to look over her accounts, She is accident-prone, bubbly and creative, the antithesis of Charlie who is climbing up the corporate ladder and is introverted,

Mutual attraction, proximity. and an unanswered need for someone special in their lives draws the couple together. Firstly into friendship and after much ado, romance. Both are reticent about commitment and their self-worth making them more alike than they first appear.

Libby experiences some of the negative aspects of celebrity status and social media and wants to prove that her blog is a true reflection of her and not a facsimile. Doing this is risky both from a business point of view and personally, and she wonders if people will like the true Libby, with #NoFilter.

This story has a likeable rom-com element and complex realistic protagonists. The romance is very slow-paced. which some will find frustrating.

There is also a message about the power of social media, and how it affects those who live their lives on it. There is a significant move away now, from unrealistic and negative media portrayals of self-image, especially for the young. Maybe its time for us to be more circumspect about what we share of our lives, and not try and constantly strive for an unrealistic ideal, that is probably not even real anyway?

A gently romantic, thought-provoking read.

Guest Post – Inspiration for #No Filter – Maxine Morrey

I wasn’t an early embracer of the whole social media scene. I joined Twitter to see what it was about but didn’t really use it, barely going on it. Facebook had never had any appeal for me, but writing full time meant having a ‘business’ presence on there was kind of required.

Instagram, however, was a different matter for me. As a photography fan, this platform appealed as a place to share and view interesting pictures, and perhaps connect with others who shared similar interests. It still took me a while, joining four years after its launch. But it was really about the opportunity to practice photography skills and share them. I wasn’t bothered about the Like count. It was just fun. And I think this was true of a lot of users at this time. That was the point – just having fun.

But somewhere along the line, things seem to have become a bit skewed. And there are times when it’s not fun at all– in fact, it’s the very opposite. Some users are experiencing a lack of self-worth, jealousy, violence, self-harm and heartbreakingly, even suicide. It was actually this side of things that gave me the inspiration for the book that would become #NoFilter.

Bearing in mind I write romcoms, I can see that this isn’t exactly what people would call a perfect match. But this is what many people miss about the romance genre – especially the critics, the majority of whom have never even dipped a toe into the scene before dismissing it as unworthy of their, or anyone else’s attention. Many romcoms and romances tackle subjects which are quite serious, but they do it in a way that makes it accessible, and relatable. Yes, my books have a non-negotiable happy ending but that doesn’t mean the characters have led  Pollyanna lifestyles. There’s more to these books than meet the eye if people bother to look.

The spark for #NoFilter was reading a report about the increase in reports of self-harm since the advent of social media, and how the growth of the two correlated. This was both shocking and saddening. We’ve all heard of cyberbullying and trolling and how intrusive that can be, especially to school-age children. Once our home was a sanctuary away from the school bullies. Now, unless you’re offline entirely – something that seems almost impossible, if not anathema to a generation who were practically born with a mobile phone in their hand –  it’s very hard to get away from.

But it’s not just others who bully. And you certainly don’t have to be of school age to be a victim. Sometimes the biggest bully is the one inside our head, and unfortunately, social media, especially the image focused channels have only given these more power. These problems are not exclusively female either. Men are certainly not immune to doubting their self-worth, but there has always been an added pressure on women when it comes to how they present themselves and how others perceive them.

Once it was the glossy magazines being berated for presenting aspirational images impossible to actually achieve. Not because there aren’t women just as stylish, intelligent and beautiful out there. But because the images laid in front of us weren’t genuine. The real person- a model, a woman already been singled out for her aesthetically pleasing appearance – has been made up, dressed and photographed in the most flattering way possible. And then begins hours of photo editing. In some cases, four or five different women are amalgamated to make one ‘perfect’ one. No wonder we feel like we’re not good enough – the image we’re aspiring to sometimes isn’t even one person! Even children aren’t immune from the photo editing suite – what sort of message that sends, I hate to contemplate.

So, battling against these perfect images on the newsstand was bad enough but in the back of our minds, many of us knew these were tweaked and toned and literally, perfected. But somehow, when it comes to social media, we seem to forget. All of a sudden there are these ‘normal’ women – not movie stars, or models – just regular women looking absolutely flawless. And that seems a lot more real than the glossy magazines. Which is a lot more dangerous.

The truth is a vast majority of the images on Instagram are not real. They’re just as fake as the magazines. The amount of photo editing apps available is staggering, with an enormous number dedicated specifically to selfies. It’s basically plastic surgery for your photograph and it can get addictive. When selfies are continuously filtered and edited, they are a representation of that person – but most certainly not that person. However, as we scroll through, seeing one perfect face and body after another, that logic doesn’t always make it through and instead, our own self-worth takes a mental pounding. That’s the danger and it’s only getting worse.

Social media is not a bad thing. It’s supposed to be fun, and it can be. It can also be supportive. Being a writer is a very solitary job, but social media has enabled me to be in contact with others in the same position and being able to gain and give support via these platforms is brilliant. The same goes for hobbies – you might not know anyone in your ‘real’ life that finds the same things as you interesting but social media enables you to find a community and I know people who have made long and strong friendships via it. It’s not evil. But it does need to be used with caution.

No one is perfect. But you are perfect as you are. If there’s anything that’s making you doubt that, then it may be time to do a bit of detoxing. Accounts that make you question your self-worth need to go. Press that unfollow and feel the pressure lift. Find the next one and do the same, and the next.

Replace these accounts with others that don’t adhere to the editing obsession and instead bring you joy. They’re just as interesting and encourage a world and a belief that is far, far more social.

#MaxineMorrey

 Maxine Morrey is a bestselling romantic comedy author with eight books to her name including Winter’s Fairytale and the top ten hit The Christmas Project. She lives in West Sussex. Her first novel for Boldwood, #No Filter, will be published in November 2019.

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Motivational, Travel

Mother and Child Annie Murray 4*#Review @AMurrayWriter @panmacmillan #LoveBooksTours #MotherandChild #Loss #bereavement #Friendship #Fundraising #StartingOver #bhopal #BhopalMedicalAppeal

#MotherandChild

Mother and Child by Sunday Times bestseller Annie Murray is a moving story of loss, friendship and hope over two generations . . .

Jo and Ian’s marriage is hanging by a thread. One night almost two years ago, their only child, Paul, died in an accident that should never have happened. They have recently moved to a new area of Birmingham, to be near Ian’s mother Dorrie who is increasingly frail. As Jo spends more time with her mother-in-law, she suspects Dorrie wants to unburden herself of a secret that has cast a long shadow over her family.

Haunted by the death of her son, Jo catches a glimpse of a young boy in a magazine who resembles Paul. Reading the article, she learns of a tragedy in India . . . But it moves her so deeply, she is inspired to embark on a trip where she will learn about unimaginable pain and suffering.

As Jo learns more, she is determined to do her own small bit to help. With the help of new friends, Jo learns that from loss and grief, there is hope and healing in her future.

Amazon UK

#MotherandChild

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

My Thoughts…

A thought-provoking read, which focuses on a personal tragedy for Jo and Ian, and how they learn to live again after their devastating loss. Estranged, through their different ways of dealing with loss, they decide a physical move might help, and relocate in Birmingham close to Ian’s family roots.

Ian withdraws into his work, leaving Jo alone, not wanting to continue her life. Dorrie, Ian’s mum requires care and support. Gradually as their relationship deepens, from mutual need and proximity, Jo begins to feel she has a role in life. Dorrie tries to unburden herself and help Jo by sharing her painful past. This part of the story goes back to historic Birmingham between the wars and makes interesting poignant reading.

Inspired by an article, written about the aftermath of the 1984 Bhopal disaster, she reads, Jo finds it resonates. She wants to do something to help the people, who are still suffering over thirty years on, in the wake of the chemical disaster.

Through new friendships forged out of her need to move on, she finds like-minded women, who together make a difference for Bhopal in terms of fundraising and help Jo to find a worthwhile purpose for what remains of her life.

This is a poignant story of loss and the wasteland it leaves behind, which echoes the loss in Bhopal and the devastation, in terms of lives lost and blighted since the disaster. Jo finds new purpose by helping those who are still suffering, and whilst this book is an intelligent sensitive story, it also highlights a real human disaster that will remain for generations to come.

In the book, you can read more about what happened in Bhopal and about how the book itself came to be written.

If you would like to read more about the Bhopal disaster, and the Bhopal Medical Appeal, which Annie Murray supports click here.

#AnnieMurray

Annie Murray was born in Berkshire and read English at St John’s College, Oxford. Her first ‘Birmingham’ novel, Birmingham Rose, hit The Times bestseller list when it was published in 1995. She has subsequently written many other successful novels, including The Bells of Bournville Green, a sequel to the bestselling Chocolate Girls, and A Hopscotch Summer. Annie has four children and lives near Reading.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Look at me Now Simone Goodman 4*#Review @simonegauthor @BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBlogTours #RomCom #RealityTV #Cookery #Romance #Friendship #Extract #PublicationDay #BookReview #BlogTour

#LookatmeNow

GRACIE PORTER’S LIFE IS IN A TANGLE. HER TELEVISION COOKERY SHOW IS FLAILING AND HER BOYFRIEND’S AFFECTIONS ARE WANING. IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE…

Best friend Faith rescues her place on the small screen when she unwittingly lands them both starring roles in a steamy spin-off that becomes an instant hit. The new show is more about relationships, sex and stonking big vegetables than cooking.

Throw in a fluctuating crush on her surprisingly irresistible agent, Harry Hipgrave, an unlikely friendship with a pair of D-list models and a gossip journalist intent on making her life miserable, Grace wonders if becoming famous is all it’s cracked up to be?

Romantic, utterly uplifting and poignant.

Paperback at Amazon UK Kindle at Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Definitely a story for lovers of celebrity and reality TV.

‘Look at me Now’, follows Gracie’s exploits as a celebrity chef on day time television, new owners and a tired show mean either change or unemployment. Gracie and Faith come up with a topical slant to make the show a twenty-first-century hit. What happens next pushes Gracie, who is a typical rom-com heroine, likeable and naive, well out of her comfort zone. Can she do it? Well, you’ll have to read it and see.

There is genuine humour in this story, plenty of romantic and work-based angst and conflict, and a gentle romance. The cast of characters are vividly written, and most avoid becoming stereotypical.
The writing style is inclusive and informal and makes this an easy, escapist read. Short chapters keep it well-paced.

If you like a romantic comedy with a contemporary twist, this is an enjoyable read.

Extract from – Look At Me Now – Simone Goodman

Chapter 1

‘Oops!’ Rushing into the television station where I work, escaping the demonic gale that’s sweeping across London this morning, I slide delicately across the wet tiles inside the entrance.

I say delicately. But it’s more hope that I look like an accomplished ice skater as I clumsily regain my balance. Being a healthy size 14 – I don’t consider myself fat, I’m just not reed thin – there’s a risk I’ve come off more like a comedian on a banana skin. Thankfully, no one other than Mitzi, our receptionist, is here to hold me accountable.

‘Golly, Gracie, are you okay?’ Mitzi calls from across the foyer, where she’s sitting behind the front desk, most likely reading a script.

‘I’m okay, Mitzi.’ By all accounts, my near miss looked distinctly less than elegant. Laughing, I steady myself on the death-tiles. It could have been worse. I could have toppled right over my own feet.

It’s only a short few hundred metres dash from Oxford Circus Tube station to my workplace, our studios located in a narrow but deceptively cavernous Georgian building on Soho Square. My umbrella blowing inside-out against the pelting rain and wind this morning, I covered the distance as quickly as possible. My dash best described as a nippy jog, it’s the most exercise I’ve done in months. It’s early January, the time for New Year resolutions. Possibly, it wouldn’t be the worst idea for me to consider joining a gym?

‘I’ve been warning someone will break their bones on those tiles,’ Mitzi says.

‘We could do with a non-slip mat here,’ I agree.

‘We could do with a lot of things around here,’ Mitzi sighs.

She reminds me of Daisy Lowe, the model. Dark hair. Doe eyes. Cherry-red lips. Though her role is to welcome visitors, Mitzi looks the part for television. Like many people who work here, she yearns to be in front of the camera.

I have my own show. But it troubles me, more and more lately, that I don’t look like I belong. This isn’t to say I don’t have my finer points. Pragmatically speaking, we all do. What can I tell you? My eyes are sometimes so blue as to appear violet. Almond-shaped, they’re generously framed with oodles of long, thick lashes. My dark locks cascade to below my shoulders and, at thirty-three years of age, I’ve not got a single grey hair on my head. My complexion is creamy, free of lines and, generally, spots. But before you picture me as some uber-glamourous cross between a young Elizabeth Taylor and a brunette Katy Perry, bear in mind I’m the more robustly packaged (sometimes size 14 plus) version. Some days, I fear I’m veering more into the territory of a Dawn French and Melissa McCarthy lovechild – without their comedy vehicles for kicks. But surely no one likes a thin chef?

I host my own daily cookery show, Gracie Porter’s Gourmet Get-Together.

The title is a bit of a misnomer. It’s impossible to prepare gourmet meals, haute cuisine of several aesthetically balanced and rich courses of food, within a short thirty minutes allotment of air time. Notwithstanding that with preparation of the set, the ingredients and me, it takes almost a full day to pre-record every show that then airs across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales at 10.30 a.m. the following week. Also, there isn’t much ‘getting together’ with my format. I like to think I’m always engaging with my audience as they tune in to connect with me from the comforts of their own homes, but the original concept had me hosting the occasional special guest: other chefs, celebrities and perhaps the more interesting politician. With none of us, including my producer, Robin, moving in celebrity circles, with Westminster MPs otherwise occupied with their scandals, solicitations and squabbling and me reasoning that any chef who wants to be on television would surely want their own show, we failed to deliver. When no one pushed us, we let it slide. We don’t even have a live audience. It’s pretty much me and the crew who chow down after a recording finishes. On this basis, my cookery show has aired daily for almost a year and a half.

Previously, I worked as a normal chef. I prepared mouth-watering meals in lovely places where people came to eat. When it comes to food, I’m a consummate professional. As far as television goes, I’m still cutting my teeth.

From the beginning, both investment and expectation of our little cookery show has been low. Being at the bottom end of a long list of hot shows and hotter stars left me below the radar – and this has suited me fine. Things changed late last year after Titan Media, the US entertainment giant, acquired a large chunk of our relatively tiny UK operations. This afternoon, at 3 p.m., I have a meeting with the American executives who now run things to discuss my ‘future services to the company’. It hasn’t escaped me that not everyone summoned to such meetings returned from their New Year breaks. People have been literally disappearing from the studios in droves. And I know my ratings aren’t the best.

I don’t disagree with Mitzi that things around here could be better. However, today is a day for putting the best, most confident and upbeat version of me forward.

‘I’m sure things will settle down and everything will be fine again soon,’ I assure her. I put my wet umbrella inside a cotton shopping bag.

Behind me, the front doors burst open. I turn to look. Shadowing the doorway, wearing her long, spectral black-hooded cape, stands Zelda the Magnificent, our resident daytime television psychic.

‘Gracie,’ Zelda declares on seeing me. ‘Dahling.’ Her voice is deep and melodic. Her accent is old Budapest enchantment. She’s like a darker, earthier Zsa Zsa Gabor. ‘Please, stop for Zelda,’ she implores in her dulcet tones. ‘I have, for you, a vision.’

#SimoneGoodman

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Simone’s Bio – Simone Goodman is CFO at one of the fastest-growing tech companies in Europe. She is Australian and lives in London with her daughter and her two cats.  Look At Me Now is her debut romantic comedy and will be published in November 2019.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Mystery, Romantic Suspense, Suspense

Keeper of Secrets Lynda Stacey 4* #Review @LyndaStacey @RubyFiction @ChocLitUK #Suspense #Secrets #FamilyDrama #Mystery #BlogTour #BookReview #RomanticSuspense @rararesources #BlogTour

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Should some secrets stay buried?

For as long as Cassie Hunt can remember her Aunt Aggie has spoken about the forgotten world that exists just below their feet, in the tunnels and catacombs of the Sand House. The story is what inspired Cassie to become an archaeologist. 

But Aggie has a secret that she’s buried as deep as the tunnels and when excavation work begins on the site, Cassie is the only one who can help her keep it. With the assistance of her old university friend, Noah Flanagan, she puts into action a plan to honour Aggie’s wishes. 

It seems the deeper Noah and Cassie dig, the more shocking the secrets uncovered – and danger is never far away, both above and below the ground …

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

My Thoughts…

Intriguing, poignant and romantic, ‘Keeper of Secrets’ is romantic suspense full of mysteries to solve, an undercurrent of menace and a strong family drama. Set predominately in Doncaster, it has an urban feel, with poverty, and strong family values at the forefront. The sense of place and the authentic characters are evident and give the plot a sense of realism. The prologue sets the ethos for the story. Young sisters bullied and escaping from their tormentors, only to experience something even more devastating.

The setting for the archaeological dig is real, although the artistic license comes into play with the exact nature and the timings of the dig. The descriptions are excellent and bring the setting to life in a vivid, visual way.

Aggie’s poignant secret is also grounded in reality and makes it sadder. Cassie is a strong, loyal character, she is willing to put herself in danger for the woman who raised her, and this makes her the perfect protagonist.

The mysteries are well written, but it the atmospheric setting, and sense of unease Cassie experiences that keep you turning the pages. The romance is a lovely lighthearted side of the story, which stops it becoming too dark and sinister.

The ending draws the mystery element to a satisfactory close.

An easy to read romantic suspense with intriguing elements of mystery and absorbing family drama.

#LyndaStacey

Lynda is a wife, step-mother and grandmother who grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire.

She is currently the Sales Director of a stationery, office supplies and office furniture company in Doncaster, where she has worked for the past 28 years. Prior to this, she’d also been a nurse, a model, an emergency first response instructor and a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor … and yes, she was crazy enough to dive in the sea with sharks, without a cage.

Following a car accident in 2008, Lynda was left with limited mobility in her right arm. Unable to dive or teach anymore, she turned to her love of writing, a hobby she’d followed avidly since being a teenager.

Her own life story, along with varied career choices, helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her ‘hero at home husband’, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for over 20 years.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers’ Scheme and in 2015 her debut novel House of Secrets won Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition. Lynda writes for both Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction.

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