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?
I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon in return for an honest review.
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.
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…
‘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.’
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Shakespeare’s sonnets are among the great achievements in world literature. Alas, the immortal Bard never used his command of iambic pentameter to explore such themes as porn, Snapchat and Austin Powers.
#Sonnets is a collection of hilarious and inappropriate poems complete with illustrations of Elizabethan RoboCop and Snoop Dogg in tights. Musing on everything from Donald Trump to Tinder, comedy writer Lucien Young offers a Shakespearean take on the absurdity of modern life.
Sadly, I didn’t have time to read and review this, so instead,I have an extract from this book of verses to share.
Extracts from #Sonnets- Lucien Young
Lucien Young is a comedy writer who has worked on various TV programmes, including BBC Three’s Siblings and Murder in Successville. He was born in Newcastle in 1988 and read English at the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of the world-famous Footlights Club.
June 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Judy Garland’s death
August 2019 is the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz
October 4th the motion picture JUDY starring Renee Zellwegger and Jessie Buckley is released in the UK
An irresistible mixture
of memoir, biography, cultural analysis, experiment and hero-worship about one
person’s enduring fascination. This is for anyone who has ever nursed an
obsession or held a candle to a star.
Judy Garland has been an important figure in Susie Boyt’s world since she was three years old; comforting, inspiring and, at times, disturbing her. In this unique book, Boyt travels deep into the underworld of hero-worship, reviewing through the prism of Judy our understanding of rescue, consolation, love, grief and fame.
Layering key episodes from Garland’s life with defining moments from her own, Boyt demands with insight and humour, what it means, exactly, to adore someone you don’t know. Need hero-worship be a pursuit that’s low in status or can it be performed with pride and style? Are there similarities that lie at the heart of all fans? nd what is the proper husbandry of a twenty-first-century obsession, anyway?
I received a copy of this book from Virago Books in return for an honest review.
I didn’t know quite what to expect when I picked up this book. A biography of Judy Garland, whose films I have always liked, or a memoir of the author, whose life is somehow entangled with the iconic star? In truth, it is both of these, and something more, an insight into celebrity and obsession in the twenty-first-century.
Honestly written, with no filter, this is an intense book, the author truly believes that her love of Judy, someone who she never met, has and does have a profound effect on her life. Many of us have obsessions, some of us with celebrities, I love the Osmonds. I grew out of my blinkered obsession in my mid-teens, but I still like their music, and listen to it today. Few of us are so affected, but this makes riveting reading.
Aside from the biography, illustrated with wonderful images. there is the memoir, which is very readable sometimes amusing and poignant. The author also highlights obsession as an entity and explores through her experience, whether this is a positive or negative force.
Worth reading for the intrinsic interest value alone. It is thought-provoking and resonates.
‘When Judy sang to me as I grew older she seemed to confirm things that I’d all my life held to be true:’
* Things that are hard have more of life at their heart than things that are easy.
* All feelings, however painful, are to be prized.
* Glamour is a moral stance.
* The world is crueller and more wonderful than anyone ever says.
* Loss, its memory and its anticipation, lies at the heart of human experience.
* Any human situation, however deadly, can be changed, turned round and improved beyond recognition on any given day, in one minute, in one hour.
* You must try to prepare for the moment that you’re needed for the call could come at any time.
* There are worse things in life than being taken for a ride.
* If you have a thin skin all aspects of life cost more and have more value.
* Loyalty to one other is preferable to any other kind of human system.
* Grief is no real match for the human heart, which is an infinitely resourceful organ.
Susie Boyt was born in London and educated at Camden
School for Girls and Oxford University.
After a nerve-racking stint in a lingerie boutique and an alarming spell
working in PR for Red Stripe lager and the Brixton Academy, she settled down to
writing and is the author of six acclaimed novels including The Last Hope of Girls, which was short-listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys
Prize, and Only Human, which was short-listed for the Mind Award. Of her last
novel, Love & Fame The Sunday Times said ‘she writes with such precision and wisdom about
the human heart under duress that the novel is hard to resist.’
Susie wrote a much-loved weekly column about life and art for the Financial TimesWeekend for fourteen years and still contributes regularly to their books and fashion pages. Last year she edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories for Penguin Classics. Susie is also a director at the Hampstead Theatre in London and works part-time for Cruse Bereavement Care.
She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She is the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud and the great grand-daughter of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.
My Judy Garland Life was Book of the Week on Radio 4, shortlisted for the Pen Ackerley Prize, extracted in U.S Vogue and staged at The Nottingham Playhouse in 2014.
No longer content to
just be Snappigram sensations, folk hop singers Zeke and Angelique are ready to
move up from coffee house performances to the big stage. With songs like “Uh
Huh, Future Baby Mama” and “Don’t Worry About the Bills, Little Missus” there’s
pretty much no way they can fail.
But if their musical career takes off, will it leave their love behind?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review
This book fits its title perfectly, Angelique and Zeke are irritating and credible stereotypes of some of today’s celebrity media stars. The idea for this story is good, and it is amusing and satirical. However, the two main characters and their entourage are difficult to empathise and connect with. The reality doesn’t live up to the expectation, rather like Angelique and Zeke.
If you embrace the current obsession with celebrity and publicising life for all to see, this is a fun read. However, if you find it all shallow and not worth your time, this story is likely to reinforce your perceptions.
Holly Tierney-Bedord is the author of over twenty books ranging from serious women’s fiction to romantic comedies, domestic thrillers, humour, and cozy mysteries. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
An interesting exploration of celebrity, life as a media agent and a romantic love triangle. The detail in this novel is clearly well- researched, it makes the story authentic. However, it lacks the in-depth characterisation that would give it emotional weight.
It’s easy to read, and interesting. The themes of celebrity, the invasion of privacy and the blurring of professional relationships, are emotional topics. I know the characters suffered, were challenged and confused, but I didn’t feel their pain.
An interesting foray into the media world, perfect for those who enjoy plot rather than character-driven stories.
Elaine spent 25 years working in marketing and communications in the media and entertainment industries. This included seven years marketing national newspapers and a variety of senior executive roles in TV, radio and film. I Can’t Tell You Why is her first novel.
Elaine lives in North London with her husband and their two sons. When she’s not writing, she can be found looking harassed on the school run, cheering on the sidelines of her sons’ football matches or singing her heart out at her local branch of Popchoir. FacebookInstagramTwitter
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I’ve read so many ‘psychological thrillers this year, but this is one of the best.
What I like about it is authenticity, I believe in Elle, the situations she finds herself and the ending, while surprisingly is entirely believable.
The story moves from Elle in the present and then to a past time when her life changes irrevocably, this is where you are sure you know who her present tormentor is but are you right? The third voice in the story is the person who once let into Elle’s life won’t let go.
The novel abounds with paranoia, as Elle appears to become increasingly irrational, even to herself. There are many blind alleys, and part reveals before the dramatic conclusion. The atmosphere is key to this book’s impact, and it builds to a crescendo of menace. The setting is vivid and a character in itself, emphasising the storyline, to significant effect.
If you think you’re tired of this genre, this story may change your mind.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Harper Collins UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.