Posted in Author Interview, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, New Books, Romance

Lorna Gray Author Interview Mrs Ps Book of Secrets/The Book Ghost #AuthorInterview @MsLornaGray @0neMoreChapter_ #30DaysofBookBlogs #PublicationDay #LiteraryFiction #HistoricalFiction #Romance #Mystery

#LornaGray #AuthorInteview

December 14 2019 is publication day for Mrs Ps Book of Secrets (UK) and The Book Ghost (US). I reviewed this original literary fiction novel on Wednesday, as the first stop on the #30DaysofBookBlogs Tour. Read my review here

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Today I have an author interview with Lorna Gray to share…

Author interview with Lorna Gray

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets (UK) / The Book Ghost (US)

What are the inspirations behind your latest story?

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets explores several themes, such as loss, returning home, belonging and family. But as you probably don’t want an essay from me, I’ll just describe the first idea I had for this book – where it all began.

The opening lines in the book speak about Lucy’s mother and grandmother performing a rather unusual war service. They were spiritualists and throughout WWII they regularly held séances in an attempt to guide the wandering souls of poor lost soldiers out of the filthy quagmire of war into the peace of the hereafter.

Those few lines in the book are autobiographical. Only in my case, it was my grandmother and great-grandmother. They acted on the principle that some of the war dead might be so shocked by their sudden end that their souls wouldn’t quite know how to move on. My great-grandmother believed she was playing a vital role in reaching out a kindly hand to them through the medium of a séance. She certainly gave comfort to their families at home who had received awful news.

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets grew from that little piece of history. It is in part a ghost story, although this definitely isn’t a novel about wartime spiritualism. What those women did was done in the spirit of giving. I didn’t want to turn the dead into a speaking part for Lucy, my heroine, where she might simply move a marker around a table to instantly demand answers to her questions.

Instead, her story is more about being sensitive to the echoes that are left behind when someone has passed. Have you ever gone into the library of an old house or a quiet garden and felt a sense of the people who have gone before? Do you ever go somewhere and find that your mind can strip away the modern layer from the scene to leave you with an idea of its history?

This is what Lucy experiences as she is pushed by the secrets of her uncle’s publishing business into exploring the boundaries between her memories and an old mystery that ought to have nothing to do with her at all.

I wanted her to walk that very fine line between reaching out and letting go.

And while she experiences all of that, I particularly wanted her to find a new friendship with Robert, her uncle’s second editor at the Kershaw and Kathay Book Press. He is the key to the other elements of the story, which involve books, and being valued, and about putting down roots in a new place and discovering whether or not they will hold firm.

Ampney St Mary near Fairford and Cirencester helped to inspire the mystery
Image Credit Lorna Gray

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets / The Book Ghost is set in the immediate post-war era, 1946. What made you choose this particular time?

I knew I wanted to bring Lucy home to a small old fashioned publishing business. I nearly set it in the present day. But then I uncovered a small piece of research about paper rationing in the war and post-war period.

Paper rationing had a massive impact on books and publishing in the 40s and early 50s. Did you know that during the war, one of the big London publishers – Penguin, I think – managed to get a large order to supply paperbacks to the Canadian army? They didn’t take payment in the form of money. They arranged for the Canadian government to send them a shipload of paper across the Atlantic because they were so desperate for supplies.

After discovering all that, I couldn’t wait to delve into the world of a small publishing business and its secrets in the era of paper rationing.

Moreton in Marsh was a wonderfully atmospheric location for a 1940s publishing business
Image Credit Lorna Gray

What is it about the post-war period that interests you?

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets is my fourth historical novel. You may not be aware that before writing this mystery, each of my previous novels has been inspired by oral history. I have always been passionate about understanding the past. The post-war period is long enough ago that for me it satisfies my urge to write about history, and yet it is modern enough that when I want to know more, I can simply ask someone to share their memories.

It makes writing and researching the period endlessly fascinating.

Do you enjoy writing stories that cross the genre boundaries? Why is this?

The way my writing seems to cross genre boundaries must come from my own reading. I don’t think I’m ever constrained by genre. I read anything from classics to modern romance and literary masterpieces and memoir.

How do you research your stories? 

Everything is researched, even down to the details of the weather. Luckily, the internet is an extraordinary resource. And then I ask people to share their memories too.

When you aren’t writing, what other interests do you have?

I keep far too many animals! Some years ago, I had the idea that I might breed goats, but when it came to finding good homes for the kids (young goats), it turned out to be very hard indeed. People weren’t terribly honest about what they intended to do with them. So now my husband and I have a large and ageing herd of pets, and they give me endless hours of happiness.

When reading to relax, what kind of books do you choose? Why do they appeal to you?

I treasure any book that has many layers. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who finds it impossible to judge a book by its cover. So I always read based on recommendations by a few trusted people. I also love to return to favourite books, discovering new details each time.

An obvious example is that I’ve read Pride and Prejudice many times. I first read it when I was a teenager and I vividly remember that initially, I could only see the characters through Elizabeth’s eyes. But then I read the book again some years later, and it turned out that the evidence had been there all along that characters such as Mr Darcy really weren’t as Elizabeth believed them to be. I love that depth of detail.

 Can you give us a brief insight into Mrs P’s Book of Secrets /The Book Ghost?

Look out for the accidental misspellings of Ashbrook. There are a few deliberate typos for the purpose of the plot, but the more I explored the concept of ‘an influence’, on Lucy’s search for the secret of a little girl’s abandonment, the more these errors crept in. For all my wise words about there being no tangible apparition in this book, the ghost certainly wanted to have his or her say. I asked the proofreader to leave them untouched.

There are no white shrouded spectres here, no wailing ghouls. Just the echoes of those who have passed, whispering that history is set to repeat itself.

The Cotswolds, Christmastime 1946: A young widow leaves behind the tragedy of her wartime life, and returns home to her ageing aunt and uncle. For Lucy – known as Mrs P – and the people who raised her, the books that line the walls of the family publishing business bring comfort and the promise of new beginnings.

But the kind and reserved new editor at the Kershaw and Kathay Book Press is a former prisoner of war, and he has his own shadows to bear. And when the old secrets of a little girl’s abandonment are uncovered within the pages of Robert Underhills’s latest project, Lucy must work quickly if she is to understand the truth behind his frequent trips away.

For a ghost dwells in the record of an orphan girl’s last days. And even as Lucy dares to risk her heart, the grief of her own past seems to be whispering a warning of fresh loss…

Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Mystery, Romance

The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall Emma Burstall 4* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction @EmmaBurstall #FamilyDrama #Cornwall #VillageLife #Secrets #Tremarnock #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview

#Tremarnock

In the quaint Cornish village of Tremarnock, Chabela Penhallow arrives for a holiday and to discover more about her Cornish ancestors. But, as always with newcomers to the small seaside town, rumours start to fly about this beautiful stranger. Is there more to her than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, Rob and Liz Hart’s marriage is on the rocks, but only one of them knows the real reason. Once the secret is out, will they be able to handle the repercussions or will it destroy their life together?

For the residents of Tremarnock, the revelations will either bond or break them – forever.

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

My Thoughts…

This is a further instalment of the Tremarnock series, I read book 4, ‘A Cornish Secret’, and this one has the same wonderful description of characters and setting. The plot is full of secrets, which threaten to disturb the tranquillity of the Cornish coastal haven.

The arrival of a beautiful Mexican woman causes a predictable stir in the coastal village, the initial impact of her arrival on one resident Rick, makes you realise she will ruffle some feathers, and make some inhabitants wish for younger days.

The writing style invites you to curl up and enjoy the escape into another world, full of diverse characters and picturesque scenery. The reception Chabela receives is typical of a small community, some friendly, others inquisitive and some wary. Her reasons for visiting seem genuine, but she is hiding unhappiness and seems to be seeking something that will only be found in Tremarnock.

An engaging, emotional tale, with detailed knowledge of Cornish village life and interesting snippets of life in Mexico. A lovely mix of humour and sadness, which makes you reluctant to leave when the story comes to its satisfying conclusion.

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Guest post – Emma Burstall – FROM LITTLE ACORNS, OAK TREES GROW

Readers often ask where I get my ideas for novels from, and I usually give the same answer: a seed from somewhere or someone somehow plants itself in my brain. The seed starts to germinate and if I’m fortunate and tend to it carefully and lovingly, it may eventually grow into a lusty plot.

I remember quite clearly the day that the seed for my latest book, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME TO CORNWALL, took root. It was during a walk in my local park one morning with my Mexican friend, Yael, who lives with her English husband, Jonathan, and their children in London.

Yael happened to mention that when she and Jonathan first started dating, she told him about a little town about two and a half hours out of Mexico City where she said they sold the most delicious, rare delicacies that you couldn’t find anywhere else in the country. These were snacks called ‘pastes’, available on almost every street corner, and the couple set off on a romantic mini-break, partly to try out the unusual food.

When they arrived, however, Jonathan was most surprised and even a little put-out. On biting into one of the snacks, encased in pastry, he exclaimed: ‘It’s a Cornish pasty!’

The only difference was that the Mexican version included ingredients such as chilli and avocado, as well as beef, onion and potato.

It soon transpired that the pasty was brought to the town by Cornish tin miners, who travelled there in their droves in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Back then, Cornish miners were considered among the finest in the world and were employed to work in the silver mines. Many eventually went home, much richer than when they arrived, while others married local girls and stayed.

Sometime later, I was lucky enough to visit the little Mexican town and the cemetery just outside where many of the Cornish miners and their families were buried. The graves bore traditional Cornish names such as Pengelly, Skewes and Carew.

I was moved by the thought of these brave men, women and sometimes children, who travelled so many miles to such an unfamiliar and sometimes hostile land to make a new life for themselves.

Before long, a character sprang to mind – a vibrant, independent, beautiful but ultimately unhappy Mexican woman called Chabela Penhallow Maldonado, who is desperate to escape from heartbreak. After receiving a letter from a stranger, she decides to visit the seaside village, of Tremarnock, where my latest series of books is based, to take her mind off her troubles and discover more about her Cornish roots.

She soon causes quite a stir and not everyone is happy to have her there. Of course, there are lots of twists and turns, shocks, secrets and surprises along the way, but does our heroine finally find what she is looking for? You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to her and all the other characters in the end!

I hope you enjoy reading The Girl Who Came Home To Cornwall as much as I enjoyed writing it. Do drop me a line at www.emmaburstall.com and let me know J.

#EmmaBurstall

Emma Burstall was a newspaper journalist in Devon and Cornwall before becoming a full- time author. Tremarnock, the first novel in her series set in a delightful Cornish village, was published in 2015 and became a top-10 bestseller.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Guest post, Murder Mystery, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

The Scorched Earth Rachael Blok 4* #Review #GuestPost @MsRachaelBlok @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction #CrimeFiction #Suspense #PsychologicalThriller #PoliceProcedural #DCIJansen #BlogTour

#TheScorchedEarth

Who really killed Leo Fenton?

Two years ago, Ben Fenton went camping with his brother Leo. It was the last time they ever saw each other. By the end of that fateful trip, Leo had disappeared, and Ben had been arrested for his murder.

Ben’s wife Ana has always protested his innocence. Now, on the hottest day of 2018’s sweltering heatwave, she receives a phone call from the police. Leo’s body has been found, in a freshly dug grave in her own local churchyard. How did it get there? Who really killed him?

St Albans police, led by DCI Jansen, are soon unpicking a web of lies that shimmers beneath the surface of Ana’s well-kept village. But as tensions mount, and the tight-knit community begins to unravel, Ana realises that if she wants to absolve her husband, she must unearth the truth alone.

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

My Thoughts…

The second book featuring Dutch detective DCI Jansen, who finds himself mystified by the close-knit English village community. It seems no one believes in plain-speaking, preferring closing ranks, and relying on innuendos.

The story is a sad one. Two brothers take a camping trip two years earlier. One is presumed dead, the other convicted of murder, but is it that simple. Ana, the accused brother’s partner. believes not. She has no chance of proving this until the missing brother’s body is found buried in the village. Now, his brother can’t be the murderer. DCI Jansen has to find the real killer, but although gossip is rife in the village, there is nothing of substance, and everyone is keeping secrets.

DCI Jansen suffers a personal tragedy, which he has to conquer, to stop his emotional state having a detrimental effect on the case. Ana wants to help her partner but doesn’t want to reveal what she knows. She feels threatened, and the suspense and menacing ethos surrounding her are well-written.

There is a strong psychological element to this story, particularly from Ana’s perspective, as events from her past invade her present situation. Events are revealed, from Leo’s point of view, in the past, and Ana, Ben and DCI Jansen’s points of view, in the present. The two timelines create dramatic irony, the reader knowing things the characters don’t at that time.

Scene setting and character dynamics form the first part of the book, this slows the pace, but the short chapters and active voice, keep the story moving satisfactorily, ensuring reader engagement. There are several viable suspects, and even though you may guess who did it, early on in the story, there are plenty of smoke and mirrors. to make you doubt it.

Clever twists and a final reveal, make this a good story, with its solid police procedural theme tempered with psychological suspense.

#RachelBlok

Rachael Blok grew up in Durham and studied Literature at Warwick University. She taught English at a London Comprehensive and is now a full-time writer living in Hertfordshire with her husband and children.

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Guest Post- Rachael Blok – ‘The Scorched Earth’, and Ana: where she came from.

The Scorched Earth has a number of different voices, but my protagonist is Ana, a woman struggling with grief as her partner is in jail, and then ghosts from her past emerge: she begins to hear footsteps behind her in a car park late and night; she begins to look over her shoulder…  Ana’s experiences are both ideas I’ve wanted to write about for a while. It was a pleasure to see her come to life on paper.

Women are told to shout ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ if they’re being attacked…

As a woman, I’ve felt on more than one occasion a burst of fear walking home in the dark, or walking into a car park late a night. My mum, my sister and I all took a self-defence course years ago, and we were told to shout ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ if we’re attacked – people respond more if their property is threatened! I have no answer for this, but I find it terrifying. This fear resonates in the novel and I think, it’s fear men and women should both be aware of. I always tell my husband that if he’s walking behind a woman on her own, late at night, he should drop back – make sure she doesn’t have to look over her shoulder or be concerned about a threat. And the very real issue of stalking is taken more seriously now than it has been in the past, but there is still some way to go. When relationships break down and men find it hard to let women go, it can be a very scary time, and women find it difficult to get concerns taken seriously, often until after an attack.

They locked him up, but they locked her up, too…

Whilst researching the novel, I spent some time in prison, which is not at all like I imagined! My main experience had been from movies and the TV. I found the reality much scarier. I saw homemade weapons; I heard stories of attacks on officers and other prisoners; I spoke to many different people from all aspects of prison life, and it was such an eye-opener. I think as a society we lock people away in all respects – there’s a sense of being forgotten, completely. Women whose partners are in jail spoke of the shame, and also the halted grief – they miss their partners, but can’t grieve for them, they can’t move on. This grief is something Ana wrestles with, and I hope I’ve done it justice.

The prison scenes almost wrote themselves after I’d visited. Even the smell is distinct. My prison officer guides me into the contraband room, where they keep the confiscated drugs. Spice is the drug they have the most problems with at the moment, which is synthetic cannabis. It’s smuggled into the prisons in all sorts of ways. One of the ways is through books and magazines. The pages are soaked in the spice, and so prisons have to scan all books now. So many ideas for plots!

It’s been a pleasure to write the guest blog and thanks to Jane Hunt for giving me the opportunity to mull over the ideas for the novel. I hope you enjoy The Scorched Earth!

Posted in Author Interview, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Noir

The Orange Grove Kate Murdoch #Author #Interview @KateMurdoch3 @RegalHouse1 #Lies #Secrets, #historicalfiction #18Century #France #historicalromance

#The Orange Grove

Blois, 1705. The chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. 

Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the Duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies.

The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in domestic politics and love strive for supremacy.

In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.

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Read my 5* Review of The Orange Grove

Author Interview – Kate Murdoch – The Orange Grove

What inspired you to write ‘The Orange Grove’?

Since my teens I’ve loved everything about French culture—I’ve studied the language and travelled to France numerous times. So, the idea of writing a French book felt like a natural step. I’m also fascinated by the period of Louis XIV’s rule, the extreme decadence of life at court and for nobles in general before the Revolution. This made researching the book a joy because I discovered many details about how people lived, their outlooks, and what their motivations were at different levels of society. 

When you begin a new story, what is the first thing you develop; characters, plot or setting? Why is this?

The setting, because I can’t have an understanding of what might happen in the story and who my characters might be if I don’t know the context of their immediate environment and the historical background.

What is the unique selling point of your story? What do you hope will make it stand out in the historical fiction genre?

A lot of historical fiction focuses on a key event and/or a particular historical figure. In The Orange Grove, I was interested in exploring how a fixation on status and position, prevalent in France in the early 18th century, might have impacted peoples’ behaviour and their relationships. How self-preservation can erode integrity and morality.

Do you find it easy or difficult to write dialogue? How do you make historical dialogue sound natural and believable?

I find it relatively easy once I work out who my characters are. It’s one of my techniques for understanding my characters—I figure out who they are as I write dialogue and watch them speak to one another. Perhaps that’s why I write a lot of dialogue! I would say I’m the most immersed in the act of writing during these ‘conversations.’

What is the best thing about being a writer? Are there any negatives?

The sense of community and understanding shared with other writers. I really enjoy the friendships and connections I’ve made since becoming a writer. I also feel so much joy when a reader understands and enjoys my words, is immersed in my stories. That’s very satisfying. A negative would be being so consumed that it’s sometimes hard to find a balance with other aspects of my life.

Do you enjoy reading? What are you reading at the moment?

I adore reading. At the moment I’m devouring The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt alongside research books for a new project.

What are you currently writing?

I’m writing a dual-timeline story set in World War Two Croatia and 1960’s Melbourne, through the perspectives of three generations of women.

Kate Murdoch is the author of Stone CircleShe exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing.

Her short-form fiction has been published in various literary journals in Australia, UK, US and Canada.

Stone Circle is a historical fantasy novel set in Renaissance Italy. It was released by Fireship Press, December 1st 2017. Stone Circle was a First in Category winner in the Chaucer Awards 2018 for pre-1750’s historical fiction.

Kate was awarded a KSP Fellowship at the KSP Writers’ Centre in 2019 to develop her third novel,
The Glasshouse.

Her novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2019.

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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 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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#boldwoodblogtours

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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