Posted in Book Review

BlogTour: Daisy James – Confetti and Confusion – Guest Post – 4*Review

 

The Paradise Cookery School is officially open!

Stepping in for a celebrity chef, Millie Harper is feeling the pressure to make the first ever Paradise Cookery School classes a dazzling success and ensure that bride-to-be Imogen and friends have an unforgettable experience.

Meanwhile, Millie is trying to play it cool around handsome estate manager Zach Barker. But whenever he is near Millie cannot fail to notice the chemistry between them – until someone from Zach’s past arrives and any potential romance seems out of the question.

When disaster strikes and the wedding is in jeopardy, Millie realises she may have to go above and beyond to make sure the school is a success. Can Millie manage to create a day that dreams are made of, and will she find a way to tell Zach how she feels?

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Guest Post – Daisy James – Chocolate Heaven

Confetti & Confusion is the second book in the Paradise Cookery School series, set on the spectacular Caribbean island of St Lucia. In the story, we re-join Millie and Ella as they showcase a myriad of chocolate-themed recipes for bride-to-be Imogen and her friends in the run-up to their glamorous wedding at a luxury resort on the hilltop overlooking the stunning Pitons. It’s a dream come true for Imogen to be getting married in such exotic surroundings and, as a confirmed chocoholic, being able to attend the cookery school is the icing on the three-tiered wedding cake.

The Paradise Cookery School is in a former cocoa plantation house nestled on the hillside overlooking the St Lucian Pitons, spectacular emerald pyramids that poke from the Caribbean Sea like the spines on a dinosaur’s back. The owner and celebrity chef, Claudia Croft, hopes to one day bring the cocoa trees back to life and make her own chocolate to use in her recipes. In fact, the very first course that the school runs is called Confetti & Chocolate, designed specifically for Imogen and her friends.

The course features a variety of recipes that include chocolate, from the wedding cake pops to the chocolate tiramisu bombe, the chocolate truffle tortes with hazelnut brittle and chocolate and cherry madeleines. There’s even freshly grilled salmon in a chocolate and ginger sauce!

 The Paradise Cookery School’s Molten Lava cakes

One of Millie’s favourite recipes is for Molten Chocolate Lava cakes – especially as the view from her kitchen window overlooks the volcanic Pitons! Here’s her recipe…

Ingredients:

100g butter

100g dark chocolate

150g light brown sugar

3 eggs

50g plain flour

Half teaspoon vanilla essence.

Method:

Grease 6 metal ramekins and place on a baking tray. Put the butter and the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of hot water, stirring until smooth and then putting to one side to cool. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar and the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla essence and finally the flour. Divide into the six ramekins and refrigerate. When ready to eat, bake in an oven, 200C, 180C fan or gas mark 6, for 10-12 minutes until the tops are firm to the touch, but the middles are still soft. Run a knife round and turn them out onto a plate, dust with icing sugar and serve with fresh cream.

What are your favourite chocolate recipes? Let me know in the comments.

My Thoughts…

If you can’t afford the Caribbean this Summer, this book is the next best thing. Full of sunshine, warmth, vividly depicted scenery with a tumultuous romance and a mystery too this will keep you happy wherever you’re reading it.

The second in ‘The Paradise Cookery School’series, ‘Confetti and Confusion’ reads well as a standalone too but I did wish I read the first in the series ‘Sunshine and Secrets’. Millie agrees to run an exclusive cookery course for a bride to be and her entourage. She’s in need of something to lift her spirits and loves cooking, so this is the opportunity she can’t turn down. Strongly attracted to Zach the acting estate manager, she wonders if she can risk her heart again.

The setting is sublime and well described, especially through the food on offer. Millie is a lovely character and her friend, and colleague Ella is a warm and giving person who helps Millie step out of her self-imposed shell.

The plot is written in the style of a ‘Death in Paradise’ story by without the murder. It gives a flavour of Caribbean life, without being overly descriptive and the characters are likeable and relatable. The ending gives Millie hope for the future, and now I can’t wait for the Christmas book.

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

Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north-east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.

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Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Caroline Roberts The Cosy Seaside Chocolate Shop – 5*Review

 

When Emma opened her gorgeous little chocolate shop in the harbour village of Warktonby-the-Sea, she realised a lifelong dream. Love is also blossoming with her hunky beau, Max, who’s slowly healing her fragile heart. Summer is here, and life has never felt so sweet. Until the rain clouds start to gather… A rival sweet shop and killjoy landlord give Emma a headache, and when a face from the past turns up unannounced, Emma finds herself spiralling down memory lane. With Max’s crazy work schedule driving him to distraction, Emma’s in danger of making some choices she might regret . . . With close friends, spaniel Alfie, and the whole village behind her, can Emma get the chocolate shop and her love life back on track? Only time will tell in this deliciously romantic novel of love, loss, hope and second chances.

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Tips for Writers: By Caroline Roberts

Write what you are passionate about. If you love what you write this will make the writing process so much easier, and it will come through to readers (and hopefully publishers/agents if you are looking to be published) and spark their imagination and interest too.

Finish the book! Don’t pressure yourself that it has to be perfect. Just keep going forward and get the story out. Make time to write regularly, and you will get there. Editing is for later.

 Submitting – If publication is your aim, finish the whole book, check it over and polish up your first 3 chapters, spend time on your synopsis and cover letter, and only then start sending it out. Try to be as professional as possible. Do your research on who you are submitting to – and send exactly what they ask for. (Try the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and use Google to help find suitable agents and publishers, then read their websites carefully). Do try and personalise your cover letter to show you have spent time finding out about them/their company.

 PERSEVERE – the submission process can be long and hard, and rejection is never easy. Try not to take it too personally – easier said than done, I know – but keep going and try to learn from any critical feedback you might get and keep writing. It might be your second or third novel or even a short story or poem that gets someone’s attention. Don’t give up!

Link up with other writers. Look for local groups or groups within your genre. For me, the support and friendship within organisations such as The Romantic Novelists’ Association were,  and still is, invaluable. (It was only by taking a deep breath and pitching at the RNA Conference that I got my book deal with HarperCollins and my agent.)

 Good luck!

My Thoughts…

Any story that features Northumberland gets my attention and having read the first book in the series ‘The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop’ I was looking forward to seeing what happens next to Emma and Max, whose deepening relationship faces several tests in this Summer story.

Emma’s business is growing, but despite her hard work and creativity, she is still at the mercy of an unscrupulous landlord. There are lots of colourful events in this book, including prosecco parties and food festivals. They celebrate the culture and vivacity of Northumberland life adding both authenticity and depth to this romantic story.

Emma’s tragic loss of her fiance Luke made her wary of falling in love again, and even though she is committed to Max now, the unexpected appearance of a face from the past makes her remember what she’s lost and threatens her future happiness.

The village characters make this romantic tale resonate, they are believable and demonstrate the community spirit associated with English village life. There’s also plenty of gossip and lots of advice, not all of it welcome but again this underpins village England and makes the story realistic.

The lovely chocolate descriptions are a bonus, so good you can almost taste them. Recipes are included at the back of the book if you want to sample the chocolate delights.

The ending is heartstoppingly romantic, the perfect conclusion to this sweet story.

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

Family, friends, food, a glass of bubbly and, of course, a good book make Caroline smile. She loves writing emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal and family, which explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. She also likes to write romantic comedy, letting the characters have a bit of fun too! Caroline believes in following your dreams, which led her to HarperImpulse and a publishing deal after many years of writing. Stunning Northumberland is her home – sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside have inspired her writing! 

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Posted in Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read

Christmas Read: Blog Tour – Extract The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop – Caroline Roberts – 5* Review

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Emma is the proud owner of The Chocolate Shop by the Sea, nestled in the heart of the cosy seaside village that’s become her home. With Christmas right around the corner, she and her assistant Holly are busy cooking up the locals’ festive favourites.

From cinnamon hot chocolates to reindeer lollipops, Christmas wouldn’t taste the same without a little cocoa magic. And for Emma, it’s the perfect distraction from her romantic pains of the past. So when the shop’s miserly landlord threatens to hike up the rent, Emma’s Christmas and New Year suddenly look a lot less cheerful.

With the whole village rallying behind her – and loyal spaniel Alfie by her side – Emma’s determined to hold onto her chocolate-box dream.

The chocolate calendar countdown is on. Can Emma rescue her business and her broken heart? 

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Blog tour banner - Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop

 

Extract from Chapter 1 – The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop – Caroline Roberts

Silver baubles, dangly stars, fairy lights and chocolates, hundreds of chocolates, filled the shop.

‘Hi, how can I help?’

‘I’ve been put in charge of the sweets for the children’s Christmas stockings – any ideas?’ The thirty­something gentleman smiled hopefully.

‘Of course. We have reindeers, Santas, and angels in chocolate lollipops – great stocking fillers. There are figures of Father Christmas, too. Also, we have snowy stars in a pretty bag – little girls love those, I can vouch for my nieces – and packs of chocolate­ dipped fudge.’

‘Well, there’s three kids to cater for, two boys and a girl, so can I have a selection? Oh, and I’d better get a nice box of chocolates for the wife.’

Emma pointed to the three sizes of gold boxes, positioned on the top of the truffle and ganache refrigerated display. ‘Large, medium or small?’

With a queue listening in behind him, and thoughts of fulfilling Christmas wishes on his mind, he went for the large.

‘Any particular favourites for your wife?’

‘Umm, she likes champagne truffles and caramels, I think, but a variety would be good.’

‘Great, I’ll pop a couple of champagne truffles in, and some caramels, with a lovely selection alongside that. Just give me a few moments and I’ll get them all ready for you.’ Emma set to work with boxes, bows and silver and gold ribbon, turning the gifts into works of art.

‘Wow, that all looks great. Thank you. So, how much do I owe you?’

Emma tallied it up on the till. ‘A total of fifteen pounds thirty, please.’ She popped one of her Chocolate Shop by the Sea business cards into the package.

‘Thanks.’

‘You’re welcome, and have a really lovely Christmas,’ Emma smiled.

Four o’clock, Christmas Eve afternoon, the till was pinging, the shop door chiming, and still the queue of last­minute shoppers continued to grow. Emma, proud owner of this gorgeous little chocolate shop in the harbour village of Warkton­by­the­Sea, Northumberland, and her assistant, Holly, were buzzing about like Christmas elves. In fact, they looked very like elves, dressed as they were in their festive jumpers, Holly with a Christmas pudding across her chest and Emma a red­nosed reindeer. Emma was also sporting dangly red­bauble earrings. She wished she had put some lighter clothing on now, though, something like a T­shirt: it was bloody warm dashing around, the two of them cramped in the serving space behind the counter, dressed in winter woollens.

Holly was serving an elderly chap from the village. ‘Hello, Stan. How’s Hilda?’ Emma asked him.

‘Not too bad thanks, Emma. Getting over the cough she had last week. But I thought it best she stayed home today. I’ve just been getting a few last­minute groceries in – we were low on milk and teabags – and then I thought it might be nice to cheer her up with some of those lovely coffee creams you do.’

‘Sounds a good idea. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.’

Holly passed him over a prettily tied cellophane bag with his chocolates in. ‘There you go, Stan. I popped an extra one in for luck.’

Emma gave her assistant a mock­shocked look and then smiled.

‘Well, take care then, lassies, have a good Christmas.’ ‘You too, Stan – and give my best wishes to Hilda.

Happy Christmas!’

Emma had a chance for a breather for a few seconds as Holly began to serve the last customer waiting. Her feet were throbbing, despite being in her comfiest trainers, and her fingers were aching from all the delicate tying of ribbons and making up of boxes and gift bags

– as well as having been up from 6.00 a.m. making more batches of truffles and chocolate lollipops to see them through. She gazed past the window display of baubles and dangling snowflakes that reflected the twinkle of the fairy lights in the shop, and out to the street. It was dark already out there, these short December days, but from the glow of the street lights she could tell it was still dry and a touch of frost was glinting on the pavements. She might get a chance to take Alfie, her springer spaniel and best friend, out for a quick walk down to the harbour once they’d closed. He’d been cooped up upstairs all afternoon with them being so busy.

A figure dashed past the window and came in, clanging the door. It was Danny who worked as the bar supervisor in The Fisherman’s Arms, the pub down the road.

‘Afternoon, ladies. I need a box of chocolates for my girlfriend. Something fancy­looking.’

‘Hi, Danny,’ Emma greeted him.

‘Which one’s this, then?’ Holly chipped in cheekily. To be fair, he’d had about six different girlfriends in the past six months.

‘The lovely Helen – and less of your cheek, young lady,’ he quipped back.

‘Large box then, Danny? I’ll giftwrap it for you, shall I?’ Em didn’t bother asking which flavours she liked as he probably didn’t know her that well yet.

‘Perfect. How’s tricks, Holly?’

‘Been busy, hasn’t it, Em? Just a little lull for now.’ With that, a family came in, seemingly a dad and his two kids, who started to browse the shelves. ‘Oh, and there we go again,’ Holly added.

‘Yeah, I think we’ll be having a busy night down at the Fisherman’s too. Christmas Eve usually gets cracking. You coming down, girls?’

‘No, quiet night in for me,’ said Emma. She couldn’t imagine being in a big noisy crowd, not tonight.

‘What about you, Hols?’

‘Nah, my mum and dad want me home tonight. Family day tomorrow and all that.’

‘Ah well, see you around then. Maybe over New Year.’ He paid, taking a box beautifully wrapped in star­ patterned paper with a big pink ribbon around it from Holly.

‘Maybe.’ Em left her answer deliberately vague. ‘Cheers, Danny. Oh, and there’s a gift tag for you to fill in on that box,’ she added as he turned to leave.

‘I’ll try and remember,’ he grinned. ‘Merry Christmas!’ the girls chanted. ‘And to you too!’’

Find out what happens next tomorrow on www.chicklitclub.com.

My Thoughts…

Christmas is a time that polarises peoples’feelings you either love it or hate it. I love it, though when my father died very close to the festive season it was the most painful of times, watching people around me enjoying the celebrations when I was so sad. So  I completely understand how Emma feels at Christmas time at the beginning of this story.

The instant connection I felt with the heroine made me empathic to her circumstances and had me on ‘Team Emma’ from the start. The setting is picture postcard, a small harbour town in Northumberland, It was beautifully described and the vivid imagery enhanced the story for me.

Emma has an unexpected encounter on Boxing day, which makes her revisit her pain and wonder whether there is more to life than her chocolate shop and lovable Spaniel.

This is a slow-paced, realistic life story, which highlights the importance of friendship and community. This is especially apparent when Emma’s home and livelihood are threatened by an unscrupulous entrepreneur.

The romance is slow in coming and Emma is full of trepidation that she will give her heart and be hurt again but by the time Christmas revisits the little harbour village fate takes a hand and makes her realise she has to take a risk and live for the moment. The ending is hopeful and paves the way for another story set in this charming little village.

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