Olivia Hamilton can do no wrong. Or at least that’s what the community of Fox River, North Carolina thinks of the odd but sweet young lady. She’s hiding a past she’d rather forget, engaged to the town’s most eligible bachelor, and longing for someone to see past the mask she wears. Olivia wants to find herself, forgive herself, and fall in love with someone who sees and embraces her flaws.
Denver MacKenna grew up the fiddle-playing prodigy of not only his hometown of Fox River but of North Carolina and the surrounding states. He plays obsessively and tours as often as possible, escaping a life of loneliness at home. Until he meets a beautiful siren who calls to him and has him making plans to settle down. Denver knows it’s wrong to covet the elusive Olivia, but finds himself inexplicably drawn to the brief glimpses she gives him of her true self.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is a lovely gentle romance set in a small town. The romance is sweet, but Olivia is living with controlling parents. She is living half a life until her singing draws Denver to her like a siren’s song.
Olivia’s character development is satisfying, as her slow burn romance with Denver progresses. There is an inevitable conflict with her parents and the man they want her to marry, but finally, her true self emerges independent and strong.
Jess B. Moore is a writer of love stories. When she’s not writing, she’s busy mothering her accomplished and headstrong children, reading obscene numbers of books, and knitting scarves she’ll likely never finish.
Jess lives in small town North Carolina with her bluegrass obsessed family. She takes too many pictures of her cats, thinking the Internet loves them as much as she does. She is a firm believer of swapping stories over coffee or wine, and that there should always be dark chocolate involved.
The Fox River Romance novels combine her interests in family, music, and small towns into thoughtful tales of growing up and falling in love. These books can be read as stand-alone, or as a series starting with The Guilt of a Sparrow.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK- Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A heartwarming, serendipitous story, about Charlotte’s life and loves. At twenty-two, she meets the one, but there’s someone else in Tom’s life, and the love remains unrequited. The story continues with chance meetings, but life events force them apart.
Music is a recurrent theme in this story, reflecting life events and changes in emotions.
The romance is chequered, but Charlotte faces family tragedies and difficult decisions that shape her as a person. The impact of mental health issues on families is explored with sensitivity. The idea that our lives could be different if we’d made another choice is also a theme of this emotional story. As Charlotte matures and changes, as life events occur.
There is a strong sense of place in this story that grounds it, adds interest and give it authenticity. The characters are realistic and draw you into their world.
Family means everything to Lily and Zinnia Cortez and, growing up in their non-conventional family unit, they and their two mums couldn’t have been closer.
So it’s a bolt out of the blue when Lily finds her father wasn’t the anonymous one-night stand she’s always believed. She is, in fact, the result of her mum’s reckless affair with a married man.
Confused, but determined to discover her true roots, Lily sets out to find the family she’s never known – an adventure that takes her from the frosted, thatched cottages of Middledip to the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, via a Christmas market or two along the way…
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’m starting to get in the festive vibe now, well it is the last day of September, and this story is a festive gem. The conflicted romance between two likeable protagonists, Lily and Issac, is at the heart of this story. Rather like a festive ‘pass the parcel’, it has so many layers, with a surprise every time you peel one-off.
There is a family drama, as Lily’s search for the other half of her family, raises hidden secrets in the other half. There tumultuous consequences. for Lily, Zinnia and their mothers. This story is wonderfully contemporary, internet dating and same-sex relationships are interwoven into the complex plot, which adds to the story’s authenticity.
A significant part of the story takes place in Switzerland, where Lily and some of the villagers, take their choir to deliver some quintessentially British Christmas cheer. This is where the title really comes into its own, The ambience, food and scenery are beautifully vivid.
The darker themes explored in this story are a good contrast to the festive frivolity and fun, It reads perfectly as a standalone, even though it features characters from the Middledip series.
The perfect book to get you in the festive mood. With family, friends and sparkling romance wrapped beautifully in a snow covered world.
Award-winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. She’s won a Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award and been nominated for others, including a ‘RoNA’ (Romantic Novel Award). Sue’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, a past vice-chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and editor of its two anthologies.
She also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor.
The daughter of two soldiers, Sue was born in Germany and went on to spend much of her childhood in Malta and Cyprus. She likes reading, Zumba, FitStep, yoga, and watching Formula 1.
Emily Parker is set to have
the worst Christmas ever!
Her flatmate’s moved out, she’s closed her heart to love and
she’s been put in charge of the school original Christmas show – with zero
Disgraced superstar, Ray Stone is in desperate need of a quick
PR turnaround. Waking up from a drunken stupor to a class of ten-year-olds
snapping pics and Emily looking at him was not what he had in mind.
Ray needs Emily’s help to delete the photos, and she needs his with the show. As they learn to work together they may just open their hearts to more than a second chance…
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Children at Christmas are what make it special, and this lovely feelgood, festive romance has thirty-three children in its cast of characters. Don’t panic you haven’t got to remember all their names, only a few are introduced in-depth, but their enthusiasm, sense of wonder, and innocence as they embark on their festive show gives this story authenticity and a lovely Christmassy ethos.
Another positive theme in this story is its diversity. Many cultures and family groupings and beliefs are in evidence, reflecting contemporary life well.
Then, there’s the romance, which starts to grow between school teacher Emily and famous musician Ray, they meet serendipitously, at a low point in both their lives. They find something in each other that helps them to accept, heal, and move on from their emotional baggage, some of which is severe.
This is gently paced and detailed. You find out a lot about the characters, main and subsidiary. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily move the story forward, it does build the world, and make the reader believe in the characters, their stories and their motivations.
Music is an important element in this story and this celebrated throughout.
If you enjoy a book that absorbs you, and takes you on a journey, with a positive hopeful conclusion, this one is perfect.
Guest Post- Mandy Baggot – One Christmas Star
Never work with
children or animals…
Animals will poop everywhere! Children will say the most embarrassing things! In One Christmas Star, I have children and animals, all being brought together in one festive extravaganza!
So, how do you go about writing children in novels? How do you make your ten-year-olds authentic and leap off the page? Well, I have to say, it does help if you have children yourself.
I am the mum of two daughters (12 and 14 now) and they absolutely provide me with inspiration for my books every single day. We can be talking randomly on the school run and then when I’m sat at my desk ready to start writing, this conversation will come back to me and end up slap-bang in the middle of my novel. And those chapters are always much richer for it.
One Christmas Star stars thirty-three Year Six’s under the care of teacher, Emily Parker. Here’s how I handled them as a writer and some top tips for making your characters authentic: –
The first thing I would say is, if you’re writing about a group of children, you are not going to make characters out of all thirty-three of them and nor should you. A) The reader is never going to remember all their names, B) neither are you and C) you aren’t going to be able to make thirty-three characters stand out. If you have children yourself, listen up! Take in what they talk about, what’s important to them and how they express this. What are their quirks and their individualism? If you don’t have children yourself, talk to people who do. Facebook is a great place to ask questions like this and you will find you will get loads of interaction and friends eager to give you their thoughts on this kind of topic.
Mix it up. You need girls and boys and you need to reflect society as it is today. Emily works at a Church of England funded school, but she has pupils from all faiths, of all colours and with many different home-life situations – working parents, unemployed parents, two dads, guardians, step-parents. Not just with children, make all your characters real, bring modern-day living to life. We don’t all speak the same. We don’t all look the same. Embrace all those qualities in your writing. Diversity is so exciting!
Keep it real. Make sure your child characters are absolutely true to their age range. Make their dialogue fit. They are not always going to talk in full, grammatically correct sentences. For me, dialogue always has to be true to the character, not to the grammar. I’ve altered many things after a proofreader has said it isn’t grammatically correct. It has to read the way your character would actually say it if he/she was standing in front of you. Read it aloud! How does it sound then? Like the child, it’s supposed to reflect? Or not?
I hope these tips have been useful and I really hope you love meeting the children from Stretton Park Primary School because they are ready to give you a Christmas to remember!
Mandy Baggot is an internationally bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.
Christmas is a joyous time, but not everyone is merry and bright. Nicola is a star at the top of the corporate ladder, but her personal life is a disaster. Her office affair has run its course, and the last thing she wants to think about is Christmas. A night of cancelled trains and festive Christmas carols at Waterloo Station is the last straw… Dmitri loves conducting his pop–up choir during the festive season, meeting people, and spreading joy and cheer around London. But he carries deep secrets from his past that robbed him of his dream to become a concert pianist. Can two lonely hearts and souls be unlocked by music and moonlight and will they discover the healing power of love?
Guest Post – Music, Moonlight and Inspiration – Lauren Westwood
As a writer, I’m often asked where I get my inspirations from. The simple answer is that inspirations come from everywhere! For me, usually, a book will start out with just a simple idea or image, or some kind of trigger event from real life. For Moonlight on the Thames, the opening scene was inspired by a real choir who were performing last year at Waterloo Station during the Christmas season, and a real delayed train. I’m happy to say that unlike my main character, Nicola, I did not create a scene (nor, unfortunately, did I meet the love of my life as a result). But thanks to that night and that choir, my book was born.
To create the two main characters, I also drew on my past. Nicola is a high-powered investment banker, and over the years I’ve dealt with a lot of those in my day-job as an in-house lawyer. I thought it would be interesting for the heroine to be the ‘alpha’ character in the book, though this was somewhat risky. She’s not instantly likeable, but I’m hoping that she’s interesting and different enough for people to stick with her, find out why she is like she is, and see her story unfold.
In contrast, Dmitri is more likeable upfront, but he too has secrets from his past that adversely affect his whole life and forced him to give up his career as a concert pianist. Many years ago, I studied music at university, and though I was not suited for a life as a performer, I did encounter some brilliant musicians who inspired me to want to write about music. There is truly an agony and ecstasy about being a musician, and it takes a very particular personality type to be able to achieve the focus and sacrifice that is required.
The piano music that Dmitri plays in the book was also an inspiration for the tone of the book and also some of the scenes. It was great fun trying to search out the perfect pieces that evoked the mood and emotion that I was going for. And while it is hard to ‘describe’ the effect of music in words, I have put together a playlist to accompany the book that hopefully allows the music to speak for itself. The link is here: http://www.laurenwestwoodwriter.com/playlist.
Finally, I also drew inspiration from a trip I took twenty years ago to Russia. There is something incredibly poetic about the country, its past, its people, its music and literature, that resonates with me. Growing up in America in the 70s and 80s, we were brainwashed into thinking of Russia as ‘the evil empire’ governed by dictators whose fingers were on the red button (hmm, who does that sound like nowadays?) So, it was interesting to travel there myself, form my own opinions, and meet some of the people. I also really like Russian literature, and I have a lovely illustrated book of Russian fairytales with lacquer box designs that inspired the retelling of the Firebird that is in the book.
So, all in all, Moonlight on the Thames was a fun book to imagine and write, and I really hope that readers will enjoy it. I am grateful to Aria for the lovely cover, and also for believing in my somewhat dubious interpretation of an ‘escapist Christmas romance’ that also covers many darker, more serious issues.
If you do read Moonlight on the Thames, please do leave a review or a rating where you purchased it. This helps so much to spread the word to people who might not otherwise find the book.
Most of all, best wishes for the rest of the year and the holiday season.
‘Moonlight on the Thames’ is not the lighthearted festive read the title suggests but it does have romance, a fairytale quality and a Christmas message.
Nicola’s successful career masks an empty life and deep, damaging secrets that seem worse at Christmas time. Dimitri’s giving nature is especially evident at Christmas, but he is finding it increasingly difficult to hide the despair and guilt he feels. The couple’s meeting is festive, and Nicola is more ‘Scrooge’than ‘Santa Claus’, but their serendipitous meeting makes them both look at their empty lives.
Poignant and romantic this festive tale focuses on those less fortunate at this time of the year. Dimitri and Nicola’s life are both blighted despite their outward success, and this story explores their inner turmoil and seemingly unlikely romance. Both protagonists are authentic and flawed and carry a damaging amount of emotional trauma but their courage and need to find more in their lives lets both characters develop in a believable and heartwarming way.
Music in all its forms underscores this story and gives it a uniqueness not usually found in festive reads. There are no sugar-coated platitudes in this story, just two people trying to make the best of shattered lives but the outcome makes all the angst worthwhile and leaves an important message in the readers’ minds.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Lauren Westwood writes romantic women’s fiction and is also an award-winning children’s writer. Originally from California, she now lives in England in a pernickety old house built in 1602, with her partner and three daughters.
‘Sometimes time is all we have with the people we love the most. I ask you to slow down in life. To take your time, but don’t waste it….’
Maggie O’Hara knows better than most that life can change in a heartbeat. Eighteen years ago she was given the most precious gift- a second-hand heart, and a second chance at life.
Always thankful, Maggie has never forgotten Lucy Harte – the little girl that saved her life. But as Maggie’s own life begins to fall apart, and her heart is broken in love, she loses sight of everything she has to live for…
Until an unexpected letter changes everything and brings Maggie back into the life of Lucy Harte – and a chance for Maggie to get her life back on track once more.
Lucy’s final gift to Maggie is much more than the heart that beats inside her. It’s a legacy that Maggie must learn to live by. A chance to make her heart skip a beat with every new discovery she makes; a promise to live, laugh, fall in love and heal her broken heart for good.
Because as the keeper of a borrowed heart, Maggie’s time is more precious than most and she must make every cherished second count…
Reading this book is an emotional experience but so worth it.
Maggie has a second chance at life when she receives a donor’s heart. She feels a unique connection with her donor and longs to connect with her family to thank them. Seventeen years after her transplant Maggie’s emotional well-being is threatened she feels she is on borrowed time but seems set on hastening her demise.
Maggie is a strong character with a supportive network of family and friends, but she pushes them away, as she battles with the ever-present survivor guilt and her tumbling self – worth issues. I like the serendipity of the letter arriving just when Maggie is teetering on the edge of self-destruction. Lucy’s legacy forces Maggie to focus on the gift of life she has been given, and the story takes on a hopeful theme from this point. There are many slip-ups and misunderstandings, but Maggie realises her life’s purpose.
A well-paced plot full of vivid characters and unexpected adventures is both poignant with many lighter humorous scenes. The importance of love and living life to the limit, whatever this may be for you, is reaffirmed. Reading it is like riding an emotional roller-coaster, but the overall feeling that remains is of hope and love and the importance of giving the gift of life.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Nora Dervan is ready for her Happy Ever After. With her darling Harry waiting at the altar, and all her family and friends around her. She is certain that her special day will not be forgotten/will be one to remember…
But with her four bridesmaids hiding more secrets, than bottles of champagne. Will her big day be remembered for all the right reasons?
Bea has barely gotten past the fact that her two best friends are dating, and now they’re engaged, whilst cupid’s arrow points in a forbidden direction for Cleo. She is so distracted by her off limits, hot new colleague that she has forgotten Daisy, who has been left dreading the singles table. There’s more romance in the cheesy pick- up lines than Sarah’s own marriage, which hasn’t turned out as she hoped it would be.
Reacquainting with bride to be Nora and her prospective bridesmaids, as they celebrate Cleo’s thirtieth birthday is easy, despite the months that have passed since I read part 1 of the Bridesmaids’ story. Experience, a nerve racking but hilarious weekend finding the perfect wedding dress. There is plenty of tension between bridesmaids Cleo and Bea and Nora and her mum, who seems set on ruining her daughter’s wedding dress buying experience. It’s enjoyable sharing the ups and downs of the weekend and the story ends with an unexpected cliff-hanger that could threaten the stability of the group and turn the wedding into a disaster. This is a quick easy read but there are complex characters and vivid imagery which make this story addictive. I also love the snippets of real wedding memories at the beginning of each chapter. Looking forward to the hen weekend, all the fun without the hangover, what could be better? I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This week’s topic is ‘music I love’ and ‘book playlists’. Playlists are popular with writers now but in the four books I’ve written, I only made a playlist for one of them.
Perhaps this is because I’ve never really understood whether a playlist is supposed to reflect the characters and the plot of the book? Or just what the writer listens to whilst writing? What do you think?
I don’t usually listen to music when I’m writing, but when I wrote The Dangerous Gift, I did and the playlist below is the result.
These were songs I listened to whilst wrote the final draft of The Dangerous Gift, I loved the US series Nashville and so that’s why over half of the songs are from the series. Since The Dangerous Gift is a Western Romantic Suspense, it put me in the right mind set, even though my story is set in Texas and not Nashville.
The other songs are longtime favourites of mine. I first listened to The Eagles when I started going out with my husband in 1980. ‘Take It Easy’, always manages to send me back in time , to a Bronze Ford Capri, with an an Eight Track Player. The days were full of sunshine and love. When times are hard, this song always makes me feel good and remember why thirty six years later we are still together.
The Roxy Music songs have similar poignant memories, so I listen to them frequently. Jimmy Nail’s ‘Cowboy Dreams’ and ‘What Kind of Man Am I’, fitted in with how Jared felt at times in the story and Savage Garden’s ‘ Truly, Madly, Deeply’ epitomises the love between Jennie and Jared.
If you haven’t read The Dangerous Gift, it’s available on Amazon and Free for Amazon Unlimited members.
CHASING DREAMS by Alison Mello Release Date: April 5, 2016 Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Young, gorgeous, and with the voice of an angel, Skyler Jones dreams of becoming a singer…
After the death of her parents in a tragic car accident, there’s nothing to tie twenty-five-year-old Skyler to the East Coast. But if she’s learned one thing, it’s that life is short. So with aspirations of landing a record deal, she moves to the land of champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
Sexy, rich, and wildly successful, Logan Michaels’ club is the hottest nightspot in Los Angeles…
While at his club, Logan spots a stunning woman ordering a drink. In L.A., beautiful women are a dime a dozen, but this one’s different—and so is their connection. He’s never been so infatuated, and he’s determined to know more about the striking stranger. After pulling some strings, he finds out where she works and asks her to dinner.
They find more than love—they find opportunity…
After a few dates, Logan convinces Skyler to perform at his club. But when Skyler dances with one of Logan’s connections, he’s unable to contain his explosive jealousy. However, his major screw-up with Skyler is the least of his problems. When a scorned ex-employee seeks revenge in the most deadly of ways, it puts both himself and Skyler’s life in danger.
Will Logan be able to protect Skyler from the growing threat? Or will she run…and write off this chapter of her life as chasing dreams?
Strong characters, an original plot, sensual romance and a suspenseful twist kept me turning the pages of ‘Chasing Dreams’; Sky is a typical new adult heroine, running from a tragic loss she decides the only way is forward and sets off to the bright light of LA to realise her dreams as a professional singer. Serendipity and a great best friend play a part in Logan and Sky’s meeting but the instantaneous attraction is down the them. The passion between them dominates their developing relationship and makes for some memorable love scenes. Logan is controlling and I find this trait irritating but his caring nature and deepening love for Sky redeems him for me, as the story progresses. Sky is independent and tenacious and easy to like. Her obvious physical attraction to Logan reveals her vulnerable side but when he oversteps, her feisty nature returns and demands his respect. The suspense element enhances the story and contrasts with the sensuous romance. Well paced,it probably won’t turn out like you expected, which is always the mark of a good book. I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Alison Mello is a wife and stay at home mom to a wonderful little boy. She lives with her amazing family in Massachusetts. She loves playing soccer, basketball and football with her son.
After having her son, Alison started reading again and fell in love with Contemporary Romance. Reading made her happy and gave her something to do when she had downtime. As she started to read more, she started to noticed things she really enjoyed in a book and things she didn’t. She began to have ideas for writing one of her own. One day she literally woke up and started writing. She realized that if there was ever a time for her to write, it was now. She had a part time job to give her something to do. The hours at work were slow and she was bored with what she was doing, so while her son was off enjoying his friends over summer vacation she got started.
Alison finished the first book in two weeks and decided that she really enjoyed writing, so she kept going. She already had ideas in mind for books two and three, so she kept writing. That is how the Learning to Love Series was born. Somewhere along the line, one of my Beta readers convinced me that Michael, a character from Finding Love, needed his own story. That is when Alison added the fourth and final book. Alison hopes you enjoy her books as much as she enjoyed writing them.
She’s so glad she started this writing journey and hopes you will stay with her for the ride. Chasing Dreams is scheduled to release in April and the first two books of the Love Conquers Life series will be out this summer!
Love never comes easy, especially to those who aren’t prepared for it… Twenty-four-year-old musician Charlie Stone has always played the classics. It’s just another day of playing the same old songs until he notices her—Anna Garrett, a beauty with cold-bitten, rosy cheeks and a coffee cup clutched in her hands.
Five songs later, and she’s still standing there. He vows to steal her heart the only way he knows how.
In the heart of London, chance encounters are few and far between, but a warm melody can bring people together…
New day, same old disappointments. Anna Garrett believes her luck at finding love has stalled before it’s even started when she’s stood up for a second date with a friend of her housemate. But when she sees a handsome musician playing his heart out, everything changes. Memories come flooding back. As she listens to the music, Anna realises she must take matters of love and luck into her own hands.
When opposites attract, sparks fly…
After a series of wonderful, unconventional dates, feisty Anna and hopeless romantic Charlie declare their love for each other. But their newfound bond is rocked to its core by a New Year’s Eve party gone awry that threatens to throw them off course.
Finally, a bright future appears to be within their grasp. But when Anna’s world fractures and distance comes between them, the real work begins.
Will their love go on in perfect harmony, or become another old song full of Lines We Forget?
This is an unusual love story set in London. Charlie is a musician who despite his privileged background craves a simpler life, filled with music, which he funds working in a music shop and busking outside a London Underground station. Country girl Anna works in London, living the dream; except she doesn’t like her job or her bitchy colleagues and is fed up of being constantly set up by her flatmate with materialistic arrogant men. Charlie’s attraction to Anna is instant and powerful and he tries to charm her with his music. Anna doesn’t notice him at first until he plays a song that captures her heart and evokes loving memories of her childhood. Charlie and Anna are opposite in background, family and aspirations but they form an unlikely bond. Seen through Anna and Charlie’s eyes we experience their emotional highs and lows as they try to discover their happy ever after. For me Anna and Charlie are difficult to warm to. However they are realistic characters and reflect twenty-first century relationships. The setting is vibrant and contrasts with the introspective nature of the story, which is full of angst. If you like your romance totally focused on the hero and heroine and a little quirky, this story should appeal to you. I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
J.E.Warren currently resides in a somewhat sleepy seaside town, and is a British Romance/YA writer who has a long standing love for milky tea, travel, shaggy haired 90’s band Hanson, and small dogs.
She enjoys writing and bringing to life realistic and relatable characters, especially strong, sharp and savvy females who aren’t afraid to speak their mind.
Music has always played a big part in her life – from noisy rock to reggae, folk to pop punk and everything else in between. And is a constant source of inspiration when writing, especially when plotting new ways to steal reader’s hearts, or make them swoon (usually with the help of guitar playing heartthrobs.)
When she’s not writing, J.E likes to curate perfect playlists – of which she has many, and catch up on her favourite shows (again too many), though you can be certain to find Buffy The Vampire Slayer on heavy rotation.