Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Historical Romance, Mystery, Romance

A Postcard From Italy – Alex Brown 4* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam @alexbrownbooks #Romance #Italy #WW2 #Mystery #SelfDiscovery #Carers #Family

Grace Quinn loves her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company, finding occasional treasure in the forgotten units that customers have abandoned. Her inquisitive nature is piqued when a valuable art collection and a bundle of letters and diaries are found that date back to the 1930s.

Delving deeper, Grace uncovers the story of a young English woman, Connie Levine, who follows her heart to Italy at the end of the Second World war. The contents also offer up the hope of a new beginning for Grace, battling a broken heart and caring for her controlling mother.

Embarking on her own voyage of discovery, Grace’s search takes her to a powder pink villa on the cliff tops overlooking the Italian Riviera, but will she unravel the family secrets and betrayals that Connie tried so hard to overcome, and find love for herself?

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts...

Grace needs to escape from her daily life, she has a broken heart, a controlling mother and a family who take her for granted, no wonder she enjoys her work, where she is appreciated. Finding some letters and treasures in a storage unit whose payments have lapsed, Grace finds a kindred spirit in Connie. She finds both, courage and solace whilst learning her story and tracking down her heirs.

There is a good mystery to solve, romance, but most of all a journey of self-discovery for Grace. The Italian scenes are vividly described and give the story added interest. The historical aspect of the story is well-written and shows the problems faced by women in the 1940s. There are obvious similarities between Connie and Grace’s stories, but some important differences too.

This is an emotion-driven story, you feel for both Connie and Grace as they are constrained by their circumstances, familial demands and society’s expectations.

There is a detailed epilogue, which draws the drama together well, and gives Grace the hopeful ending she deserves.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Romance, Romantic Comedy

How to Make Time for Me – Fiona Perrin @Aria_Fiction @fionaperrin #Family Drama #Romance #Humour #SingleMum #RomCom #Carers #Relationships #Friendships #BlogTour #Guest Post 5*#Review

No-one said being a single mum would be easy…

Everyone knows that being a single mother means having no time to yourself. But for CallieBrown, it’s more exhausting than most. She’s juggling the needs of three teenage children, two live-in parents, a raffish ex-husband, and a dog who never stops eating.

The last thing Callie needs is anything more on her plate. So when she bumps (quite literally) into a handsome, age-appropriate cyclist, she’s quick to dismiss him from her life. After all, if she doesn’t have time to brush her hair in the morning, she certainly doesn’t have time to fall in love…

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

My Thoughts…

I love the easy to read writing style of this novel. The themes are familiar to everyone who parents or has parented teenagers or looked after elderly parents. There’s a glossary of teenage vocabulary at the end of the story for the uninitiated. It is the story that most of us have thought of writing at some time, but this author has actually done it and with great results.

Callie is a single mum, with twin girls and a son from her previous relationship who she has been a mother to for eight years, her ex is frankly abysmal, and her ageing parents are a further emotional and physical drain on her already depleted resources. Getting run over by a takeaway delivery bike, is the final straw, she’s invisible and surely something has to change?

Modern family stories are particularly popular and relevant at this moment. This story has many laugh-out-loud moments mixed in with strong emotional poignant scenes, especially concerning Wilf. It is a story of family, friends, self- worth and love, in all its forms.

An absorbing, yet quick read, I read it today in a couple of hours. Its charm is in its relatability and believable characters. A lovely, emotional humorous read.

Guest Post: All about time for you… Fiona Perrin

HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME was inspired by all the women I know who (in the words of the old ad campaign) juggle their lives. I was particularly interested in writing about those who find themselves part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – looking after children as well as ageing parents, mostly while holding down a job (but probably also still making the sandwiches).

It struck me that ‘having it all’ as we say, frequently means having no time to yourself. We have children to bring up, extended families to support and it can be just at the time that careers develop and grow difficult. Callie, the heroine of my novel, is also a single mother with a complicated, modern and messy family, full of happiness but also pretty challenging. How does she get any time for herself let alone the opportunity to fall in love?

I’m not a single mother now, but I was for a few years and I remember the chaos fondly, but also a constant feeling of exhaustion. Luckily, I found time to meet Alan and fall in love and now, we have just about waved all four of our kids off to Uni and careers.

But with them as teenagers, our house was hectic – demanding but also, fun. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME heavily features teenagers and shows the pressures they are up against – as well as taking the mickey out them. It has footnotes to explain teenager-speak for example – they have a whole lingo of their own. While it’s great to have time to ourselves, I really miss the madness of those teenage years, and the kids and their friends all hanging around the house, doing not much. But they all seem to come home quite often too, mostly with huge bags of washing and to eat their way through the fridge.

I’m really lucky in that my Mum is about the most active, healthy, supportive parent you can imagine. However, she is also a carer for my older stepfather, while in her seventies – he can no longer walk – so I have some understanding of being responsible for the older generation too. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME features two loopy parents that Callie adores but also add to the demands on her day. I have dedicated this book to my Mum just so she knows they were in no way based on her.

I would love it if readers took a little time out for themselves to read my novel. They might also enjoy Callie’s struggle to stop feeling ‘invisible’ just as she is knocked off her feet quite literally by a rather attractive neighbour. She immediately feels that there is no way she will have time to fall in love with him, but sometimes life has other ideas.

Thanks so much for this opportunity to appear on your brilliant blog.

Fiona Perrin was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us. Fiona grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire, and now writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the end of The Lizard peninsula.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship

The Dog Walking Club – Liz Hinds 4* #Review @Liz_Hinds99 @rararesources #Friendship #Humour #Relationships #Dogs #DogWalkers #BlogTour #AuthorInterview

Every dog walk brings new drama into the lives of these dogs and their people. A supermarket shelf-stacker, a stay-at-home dad, an elderly widow and a freelance photographer sound an unlikely bunch of friends but they have one thing in common: they all walk their dogs in Beauville Park at roughly the same time each morning.

And that’s enough for Angela, bored organiser without a cause, to get them together to form the Dog-walking Club. For Jock, the Scottie, Benji the spaniel, Pixie the boxer, Mitzi the poodle and Bassett the … all sorts, walking each day with their friends is a dream come true. And it changes the lives of widowed Sybil who’s spent a lifetime hiding her secret sorrow, hopeless-with-women Jon who’s wandering almost unwittingly into an affair, freelance photographer Jemma who is at every wedding but her own, and Maggi who is frantically trying to save money to visit her family in Australia.

And for long-suffering Angela, a nasty shock turns into a new start in disguise for her and her husband – and their love life.

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Author Interview – Liz Hinds – The Dog-walking Club

What inspired you to write a story about a dog walking club?

The idea came from my husband. At the time we were taking it in turns to walk George, our dog, and he’d always come back telling me gossip he’d heard from other dog-walkers. This was unusual because he isn’t a chatterer normally – and I go out of my way to avoid people. It’s not what we do! But telling me about various walkers he always saw together gave him the idea that it would make a theme for a book.

There are many different characters in your story, do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

A bit of both. I think they often start off as real-life characters but they develop their own personalities, especially as I tend to use people who have a particular look but whom I don’t know very well – if at all – so they’re blank canvasses.

I think dialogue is key to realism. Although sometimes I suspect I write as I talk – including the ums and ers – and get a bit waffly. (I hope I edit most of this out.) I ‘hear’ my characters speaking and I try to capture that.

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

Nothing as definite as a plot but more of a vague idea. The idea for my first novel, This Time Next Year, the diary of a middle-aged woman, came to me when I was nearly fifty and struggling with life as a middle-aged woman, and I’ve explained where The Dog-walking Club originated. Characters and the stories within the novels come later but, honestly, I don’t really know where any of it comes from.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

I took the science route in school and only started writing when I was in my thirties and the church I was part of began its own newspaper. In a peculiar twist, as a result of that, I ended up ghost-writing the autobiography of a NYPD cop. I then started writing short stories, did a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and eventually made my way into novel writing.

My collection of short stories for my dissertation could have been entitled Madness and Death because I do enjoy that sort of disturbed writing, but as my tutor said, ‘You build up a wonderful tragic moment – and then you put in a joke.’ I love the novels of Janet Evanovich for their humour and I think being able to make people laugh is such a wonderful thing. The Dog-walking Club doesn’t contain direct humour but I hope there is a lightness to it.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

Many sorts. I usually read last thing at night so it has to be fairly easy to read. I read fiction especially, what might be termed quirky. I’m thinking of Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Sends Her Regrets and Apologises. That sort of thing. The Reader on the 6.27 and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. That said, I also loved Backman’s Beartown, which was very different. I love Simon Brett mysteries, Jacqueline Winspear; do you want me to go on?

What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

The worst is easy: trying to find a publisher/agent. I was going to say, ‘having hope’ is the worst but that sounds too depressing! And the best thing is the dreaming, thinking, creating. The actual writing’s quite hard as it’s never as good on screen as it sounded in my head.

What are you currently writing?

A sequel to This Time Next Year. Several people said they wanted to know what the heroine did next. Looking back I realise that I expected my book to sell with no marketing or promotion so I’m trying to change things this time, hence the albeit belated blog tour for The Dog-walking Club, and at the moment my plan is to make a serialised podcast of the original This Time Next Year before the publication of the sequel.

So many great plans. So little time!

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

My Thoughts…

Any book that features animal characters, always has my attention and this one is certainly worthy of my interest. The characters are varied and realistic, and the antics of the dog characters are amusing and relatable for anyone who shares their life with a dog.

‘The Dog- Walking Club’ is created by Angela, someone who likes to organise. She notices that a group of individuals walk their dogs at the same time each day, after a while, she suggests formalising their meeting and the after much discussion, and qualms the club is born.

There is plenty of variety and background information in this story, which is told from several points of view. The reasons people have their dog companions, and what is wrong, and right in their lives are all revealed in an easy, chatty writing style that draws you into the group.

There is a lovely balance of sad and happy, and of course, the dogs are the stars of the book.
A lovely, mostly lighthearted look at dog owners and their dogs.

I’m a golden-retriever-loving granny, who enjoys walking by the sea or in the woods, who eats too much chocolate and gets over-excited when the Welsh team plays rugby.

Writing-wise, I am an experienced freelance writer – published in The Guardian, Christian Herald and various other magazines and newspapers – with an MA in Creative Writing (Trinity College, University of Wales). My short stories have been published in Cambrensis (the now sadly-defunct short story magazine of Wales) as well as in several anthologies including Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe (Parthian) and Catwomen from Hell (Honno). I am also the author of several non-fiction books published by Hodder & Stoughton, Scripture Union and Kevin Mayhew.

I have self-published two novels, This Time Last Year, and The Dog-walking Club.

I enjoy speaking about my writing to various gatherings and the media and I am an active blogger, facebooker and tweeter.

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Giveaway to Win a set of reusable beeswax wraps, three metal straws with a carrying pouch and cleaner, and a face wipe, all in pretty doggy fabric (Open Internationally)

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Magic, Romance

5* #Review- Jenni Keer – The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows @AvonBooksUK @OneMoreChapter @JenniKeer @rararesources #GuestPost #BlogTour #Romance #Family #Friendships #Secrets

When Maisie Meadows finds herself single and jobless on New Year’s Day, she resolves that this will be the year she focuses on bringing her scattered family back together. Romance is all very well, but it’s the people you grew up with that matter the most.

But a new job working at an auction house puts her in the path of Theo, a gorgeous but unattainable man who she can’t help but be distracted by. As their bond begins to grow, Maisie finds herself struggling to fulfil the promise she made to herself – but the universe has other ideas, and it’s not long before the Meadows family are thrown back together in the most unlikely of circumstances…

Can dealing with other people’s treasures help Maisie to let go of the past, and teach her who she ought to treasure the most?

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

My Thoughts…

What a lovely story. Maisie the youngest child in a dysfunctional family is the star of this gently paced, characterful story. Her attempts to recreate the ‘perfect family’, are spectacularly unsuccessful, as she is let down by her latest lover and loses her job as well.

The auction house job is a new start, and it feels right, but the serendipitous change in circumstances and career, and the part tea set she uncovers have a profound effect on her life and those close to her.

Maisie is a realistically flawed but easy to empathise character, her motivation for good is strong, but her foundations are rocky. Was life really as ‘rosy’ as she remembers? Is having a tidy house, the only way she can live her life, which seems so out of control. Is her secret, a true reflection of who she really is?

There are so many levels to this story, a potential romance, that is fraught with misunderstanding. A little magic, that Maisie hopes to use to bring her family together. The outcome is not what she expects, but is believable and hopeful. A multi-generational theme, that adds depth to the story and shows how the present reflects the past, and the lessons to be learnt.

It’s easy to lose yourself in this book. Character-driven, it makes you believe in the story, and want the best for Maisie and her friends. The setting is authentic, and relatable and gives the book its unique twist.

Gentle romance, quirky characters and a wealth of emotion and regret, all make this story a lovely interlude in everyday life.

Guest Post – Jenni Keer
My Love for Auctions

Thank you for inviting me over, Jane, to talk about the fascinating backdrop to my latest novel The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows, which is set at Gildersleeve’s – a fictional auction house in north Suffolk.

When I was playing about with ideas for my second book, I started thinking about environments I already had a good knowledge of (partly because I had a deadline for this book and was a bit panicky about how much research time I would have). Amongst other things, auction houses sprang to mind. My husband has an antique furniture business and we have been attending auctions at T. W. Gaze in the picturesque market town of Diss, Norfolk, for over twenty years. Over this time, I have seen the auction evolve and grow, and it has always been one of my favourite places to visit. It seemed the perfect setting for a story and much of the plot grew from this seed.

Image Credit – With Kind Permission of TWGaze ( via Jenni Keer)

The highly knowledgeable Elizabeth Talbot (you may have seen her on the TV) was very generous with her time and I had several visits behind the scenes and the opportunity to quiz her about various aspects of the business – all of it was fascinating but only a fraction made it into the book. James Bassam, the modern design expert, also gave me his time and expertise, and this helped me to make Theo a much more rounded character. I learned a lot about Scandinavian furniture, studio pottery and post-war glass – so Theo now knows all those things, too.

If you have never been to an auction, I would encourage you to go. I hope I manage to get across some of the tension and excitement of bidding in a busy saleroom, but much of the fun is to be had in wandering around on viewing days and looking at the myriad of items coming up in the weekly sale. You truly never know what you are going to come across. I asked Elizabeth about the most bizarre objects they’d had pass through their hands and she said if it’s legal to sell it, they’ve probably had it – including a coffin (which gets a mention in the book).

Image Credit – With Kind Permission of TWGaze (via Jenni Keer)

Going back a couple of hundred years, most towns held regular auctions and they would have been a thing for all. Sadly, by the middle of the twentieth century, they were not so commonplace and had become the preserve of the dealers – who bought items at auction and sold them on to the general public. But more recently, largely thanks to the TV and the internet, auction rooms have become more accessible again and, although I appreciate they remain intimidating places to some, I hope those who read Maisie Meadows might be tempted to give them a go. Even Maisie had never been to an auction until she started working at Gildersleeve’s, yet instantly falls in love with the variety and energy her new workplace affords.

Image Credit – Jenni Keer

I suspect if my husband’s profession hadn’t taken us to the auctions, I would never have discovered the thrill that is a live auction, but it’s often the highlight of my week. Much of the furniture in my house has come from Gaze’s over the years, when we’ve been looking for stock but “accidentally” purchased things we fell in love with. This is the downside – you stumble across things you never knew you needed until you see them. Consequently, we have pieces of unusual glass, dinner services (that’s my bad – I can’t resist pretty china), too many bicycles, pieces of art, garden furniture, Scalextric, ceramic clock faces, and a box of 500 old keys… to name but a few of our impulse purchases.

All of my experiences fed into my plot and I loved writing about Gildersleeve’s and its eclectic staff. I knew I wanted the plot to centre around a very unusual tea set that had been separated, so an auction house was the perfect place to start Maisie’s journey. Early on in her new job, she stumbles across a teapot that she recognises from her past – so much so that it sends prickles up her arm. Why has it ended up an auction? And is there more to this curious teapot than meets the eye?

I hope you have fun following Maisie as she tries to reunite both the tea set and her own scattered family. Thank you for having me over, and for the delicious cup of virtual coffee.

Jenni x

Jenni Keer

Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house, it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker was published in January 2019.

The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows is out in July 2019.

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Giveaway Prize
Giveaway to Win a signed copy of The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker,  pack of Scratbag notelets,  pretty purple pen and a Maisie bookmark (Open to UK Only)

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*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

The Cornish CreamTea Bus #2 – The Eclair Affair – Cressida Mclaughlin – @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #serial #RomCom #Romance #Cornwall- 4* #Review

Charlie’s unveils her signature bake…
Charlie and Marmite finally arrive in the picture-postcard Cornish village of Porthgolow in their vintage Routemaster bus. Not everything is as it seems and Charlie’s friend, Juliette, tells her about the owner of the big hotel up on the hill who has managed to upset the locals. That doesn’t stop Charlie and Marmite making new friends and the bus finds a new lease of life as the perfect mobile café for afternoon tea. But what will Charlie make of the enigmatic Daniel Harper when they meet, and more to the point, what will he think about Charlie and her bus parked outside his lovely hotel?

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I received a copy of the book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.


My Thoughts…

Charlie is more settled into her Cornish life, The cream tea bus is proving a popular attraction, and Charlie wants the village to realise its full potential Her latest foody idea is received with mixed emotions, but does introduce the prospect of romance into her life, but is she ready for it?

The characters are complex and realistic, the possibility of a love triangle is suggested in ‘The Eclair affair, and Charlie meets another of Porthgolow’s residents, who has a surprising if reticent insight into to Daniel’s motivations. There is also the hint of someone messing with Charlie’s plans, but who, and the motivation for this, are still a mystery.

An absorbing, quick read, which leaves you wanting more. Set in a delightfully quirky Cornish coastal village.

Posted in Animal Friends, Blog Tour, Book Review, Childrens Books, Friendship, Guest post

Tabby’s Big Year- Hollie Anne Marsh 4* #Review @Hollieannemarsh @rararesources #Sweetbriars2 #MiddleGrade #Horses #ComingofAge #BritishEquestrian #teen #kidslit #Family #Friendship #BlogTour #GuestPost

After Tabby’s father vanishes, a deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister, is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.

Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family. 
Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?

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

My Thoughts…

This book certainly stirred some memories for me. At Tabby’s age, I was totally obsessed with horses, and the scenes in the stable yard evoked happy times. This story is the second in the ‘Sweetbriars series, but as I haven’t read the previous book, and enjoyed it, it reads well as a standalone.

Tabby lives with her mum, who is trying to forge a new life, as a single mum. She has a career and this is her main focus, Tabby is self-sufficient and not surprisingly, old for her years because her mother leaves her to fend for herself a lot of the time. Haunted by her dad’s leaving, Tabby reveals her vulnerability and you empathise.

Estranged from her sister, who lives with their grandparents in Cornwall, this story is about reconnecting with family and understanding that everyone’s life has ups and downs, no matter how ideal it appears from the outside. It’s also about learning to trust your friends and being honest about your life and the problems you face.

The issues are those facing young pre-teens and younger teenagers in contemporary society and are explored in a clear and non- judgmental way.

The focus is on Tabby and the horses, one Bliss, she is helping rehabilitate from an accident, and another horse who she is particularly fond of, she battles to save.

The setting is vividly described, and the characters are realistic, and avoid being stereotypical.

As an adult, I enjoyed reading this story, and feel that is perfect for the intended age group.

The perfect read for any horse obsessed young person.

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

Hollie Anne Marsh and the Sweetbriars equestrian series 

I wrote the manuscript for the first Sweetbriars book over ten years ago. I had a dream to create a premium equestrian series like the successful Saddle Club series, with an addictive mix of horses and ‘coming of age’ themes.

When I was younger, I loved these kinds of books and read them all. I would trade books with my friends, and we would discuss them for hours.

After having a baby and being made redundant from my corporate job, I finished the first book; Leaving The City and then recently, I finished the second book; Tabby’s Big Year… it’s been great to do something creative again and fulfil a lifelong dream!

There are three main characters; Cate, Tabby and Violet and they spend most of their spare time at the Sweetbriars Farm.

Cate Sullivan is the daughter of the family who owns the farm and is the main character in the first book. She is sweet and endearing, however a bit of a worrier!

In the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, we follow Tabby’s story. Tabby lives with her mother in the quaint village of the Dales. She is diligent and hardworking, however, is grappling with her family situation as her father vanished and her older sister Ava moved to Cornwall to live with their grandparents. Tabby becomes a regular at Sweetbriars, finding solace with the horses and her dear friends.

The last character; Violet, she is the sassier of the three girls and she also keeps a horse at ‘Sweetbriars’. She says what she thinks and keeps you guessing with her peculiar ways and habits!

I ran a ‘Search for a Cover Star’ competition for both books in the series and for Leaving The City (the first book), I found a talented young rider, Faye Heppelthwaite, alongside her show pony Gigman George to grace the cover. The photo was taken in an English meadow by the photographer Paul Ruffle and it’s pretty stunning.

For the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, I took it one step further and ran a competition where a young girl could not only grace the cover, she could also win a photo shoot with her pony or horse with photographer Katie Amos. Twelve-year-old Sia Reiss won the competition and participated in a photo shoot in scenic Yorkshire with her eighteen-year-old horse Frankie.

As part of entering the competition I asked entrants why they thought they should win the competition and here is what Sia said, which I thought was gorgeous: “My pony Frankie is 18 years old and has arthritis. His glory days are over. He is a one in a million pony and I love him so much. To me, the best way I can think of celebrating Frankie is having him on the cover of a wonderful book.” 

Here is one of my favourite photos from the photo shoot. I think it’s easy to see the special that Sia and Frankie have.

Image Credit – Kate Amos

In Tabby’s Big Year, there are important lessons for young readers. The main character, Tabby has been through a lot in her young life and has a habit of bottling things up and pretending she is ok. The book teaches that by bottling things up, problems only seem more significant.

Tabby also thinks she is the only one with problems, and there is a moment in the book where the neighbour of the Sweetbriars farm Sophia, opens up and reveals how her father also abandoned her… this is a lightbulb moment for Tabby, as she thought everyone around her had things perfect.

Tabby also found Sophia strange (she’s eccentric, lives in a rundown house with oddball parents), but realizes they have a lot in common and Tabby and Sophia become quite close. So, I think the book also teaches young readers not to judge people by the way they look. This was also quite prevalent in the first book too.

What’s next? 

Well, the obvious thing seems to write another Sweetbriars book from Violet’s point of view. It could also be fun to write a book about the quirky neighbour of Sweetbriars Sophia and her life… she is a bit of an enigma. Then the books could continue – as the series is in its infancy. At this stage, I am not sure how far I will take it, but I do think it has potential.

Tabby’s Big Year

The second book in the Sweetbriars Equestrian Book Series tells the story of twelve-year-old Tabby and is set in The Dales – a fictional rural Devon village in the Southwest of England.

After the disappearance of her father, several years before, Tabby, her older sister Ava and her mother, are still grappling with the consequences. Things need to be brought out into the open… but go on being unsaid, as a huge rift develops leaving the family at odds with each other.

While Tabby battles her feelings of being neglected by her mother, she unexpectedly has to face another battle – to find the courage to save her last horse, Nancy from being sent to a premature end at the knacker’s yard.

Tabby also has the responsibility of caring for a young horse, Bliss – her dream horse who was entrusted to her and is recovering from a serious accident. The clock is ticking as Tabby nurses him back to health and peak performance to be able to achieve her dream: to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

By her side are her two best friends, Cate and Violet. Tabby also develops an unlikely friendship – with Sophia. Tabby realises she has much more in common with her than she ever could have imagined. 

It’s a big year for Tabby… will she be able to find the courage not only to save the horses she loves the most but also to speak up and tell the people closest to her how she really feels?

Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda. 

Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage. 

The ‘Sweetbriars’ series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments! 

Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had. 
Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books’ fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post

A Year of Second Chances- Kendra Smith 4*Review #blogtour #GuestPost @KendraAuthor @Aria_Fiction #friendship #familydrama #secondchances @HoZ_books

Three women. Three very different lives. One life-changing adventure.

Charlie is a single mum unlucky in life. Her multiple jobs make barely enough to feed the family cat, never mind being able to give her son the life he deserves. So when an opportunity to make a lot of cash comes along, she simply has to take it.

Suzie has always wanted to be a mother. But fate has been cruel and now time is running out. Soon her final frozen egg will be destroyed and her last chance of having a baby will go with it. With her husband resolved to their childless life, Suzie takes matters into her own hands.

Dawn is about to turn fifty and seems to have misplaced her mojo along with the car keys. But with an interfering mother-in-law and a gaggle of judgemental mums at her children’s school, it’s proving harder to find than a decent fitting bra. Especially after a series of highly embarrassing incidents…

Over the course of a year three lives are about to collide and as they do be prepared to laugh, cry and fall in love with these women as they discover how life can give you a second chance.

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

My Thoughts…

Three women, with little in common, except they are all at a point in their lives where something has to change. Charlie a single mum is in debt, working all hours, and still cannot make ends meet. Suzie is facing infertility issues, and her partner doesn’t share her urgency to take the last chance left to them. Dawn is nearly fifty and is struggling to give her future life meaning.

The start shows the disparity between Charlie and Dawn’s situations, but it also highlights their desperation and willingness to take drastic action. This makes the decisions they take as the story progresses more realistic than they would otherwise have been.

The characters are slightly stereotypical, but this doesn’t detract from the situations they find themselves, and the genuine emotions they feel. It is this emotion that makes the story worthwhile. There are lighter moments, but this is poignant read.

It’s not a story to dip in and out of, you need to stick with it to appreciate its impact. I did, and it is a satisfying, ultimately hopeful book.

Guest Blog – Kendra Smith – A Year of Second Chances

First of all, thank you for letting me guest blog, Jane!

People often say ‘ooh, you write books!’ It’s such a nice feeling, and probably better than if I said I wrote the copy for the back of baby wipe packets – oh, but I’ve done that too! (That didn’t used to get so many ‘oohs’). I have been a journalist for over 20 years, working in both Sydney and London and have written in-house as well as freelance for various women’s magazines, health, food and more – including a famous high street supermarket where I did write the copy for the baby wipe packets!

My heart was always set on writing novels, though, and this is my second book. A Year of Second Chances weaves together the story of three women all with different issues in life. I wanted my book to feature capable but flawed heroines and the 3-way narrative was a new writing challenge for me, but with the help of Post-its, a lot of A3 paper stuck to the walls for timelines, I (hope) I pulled it off!

I had a fairly strong idea of where I wanted the novel to go, but I do remember an early assessment where my writing coach said, ‘try not to throw everything into the plot!’ I had to choose my battles for my heroines – as well as their love stories too…

The early reviews have been really encouraging (“This was a sweet, fast read for me.  I couldn’t put it down!  Five stars for sure!!” NetGalley.) So I hope your readers enjoy it, too!

Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space but quickly made the leap to editorial – and went on to work on several women’s magazines in both Sydney and London. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.

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