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

The Time of Our Lives Abby Williams 4* #Review @fionajourno @Aria_Fiction @HoZ-Books #MultiGenerational #Friendship#SecondChances #NewBeginnings #BlogTour #GuestPost

Two women from two very different generations are brought together through dramatic circumstances and help each other to forge new paths.

Twenty-six-year-old Erin has everything she’s ever wanted – a good job, a gorgeous fiancé and a best friend who’s always there for her. But suddenly her life comes crashing down around her. Unable to return home to her parents, she takes a room in a house nearby and her life starts over in the most unexpected of ways…

Seventy-six-year old Lydia, who, shocked by the sudden death of her husband, is devastated to discover that he has left her in crippling debt. With no choice but to take in a lodger, Erin comes into her life. When they find a letter hidden in the attic old secrets come to light and, with Erin by her side, Lydia finds herself going on a trip of a lifetime.

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

My Thoughts…

A delightful multi-generational story of love, loss, friendship and new beginnings.

Erin’s life implodes, when she is betrayed by those she loves, she needs to escape, to rebuild her life. Lydia still in shock from her sudden bereavement, finds that loss isn’t the only emotion she has to contend with. Her financial security is compromised, and taking in lodger seems the only way to make ends meet. The unlikely pair, find that material security isn’t the only benefit of living together, and they forge a friendship that opens up a new lease of life for both.

A chance discovery, reveals more family secrets, and a chance to experience something special for both women.

This is a story full of emotion and poignancy, but there are plenty of humorous moments too. Lydia is a witty woman, and Erin soon realises that age is no barrier to a true friend.

A lighthearted, emotional read, with characters who you can empathise and a heartwarming ethos.

#TheTimeofOurLives
Naked Saunas – The Inspiration behind The Time Of Our Lives– Abby Williams

I’ve always enjoyed running. Not only is it a great stress reliever, it’s great for allowing you to eat lots of cake, and also great for me, as I usually find all my best novel ideas come to me when I’m pounding the pavement.

The idea for The Time Of Our Lives was no different. One summer’s evening, I was out with my running club, when Nella, my lovely Finnish friend started telling us all about the naked saunas she and her fellow Finns all enjoyed back home! Cue much hilarity amongst us British girls who were positively squeamish at the thought of showing off our bits and pieces to all and sundry. Not so for Nella. She said she thought it was a good thing – young and old came together to enjoy simple pleasures. Inhibitions and modesty were left at the door she said, and real, lasting connections were formed, regardless of age.

She was right. It was us Brits that were repressed. After that conversation, I couldn’t get the idea of these generations coming together and although I didn’t really want to write about naked saunas, (Sorry Nella, it was a step too far), what did strike a chord was the idea of age being no barrier to friendship. It was then I knew that what I wanted to write about next was the power of friendship.

And so I found millennial Erin and almost-octogenarian, Lydia. Two women who come to need each other more than they can ever realise after their lives implode in very unexpected ways.

The moment I hit upon the idea I found I couldn’t wait to spend time with my characters. Lydia and Erin became as real to me as any of my friends and family, and I found their friendship as charming and inviting as any relationship I’ve experienced in real life. It was funny because even though I never wrote about naked saunas the image Nella created for me that day was so strong, I only had to shut my eyes and I could see young and old coming together, laughing, sharing, joking and confiding about all manner of things to bond Lydia and Erin.

And so no, there are no naked saunas in this book, but there’s still lots of running for me. The last time I ran with the girls we started talking about the best places to go to the loo on a long run…someone mentioned the bushes and Paula Radcliffe. Safe to say, that hasn’t inspired anything in me quite yet.

Fiona Ford – Abby Williams

Abby Williams is the pseudonym for Fiona Ford, writer of romantic up-lit and historical fiction. Fiona started out as a freelance journalist for titles such as Grazia, Sunday Mirror and Stylist before realising her passion lay in novels. Now she spends her days immersed in made-up worlds and reckons she has the very best job in the world. When she’s not writing, Fiona is a gym nut, but only so it means she can eat lots of cake and drink lots of wine – not necessarily in that order. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and two cats who she sometimes thinks she might love just a little bit more than all the humans she knows. The Time of Our Lives is her first romantic novel and she is now busy scribbling away her second.

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Posted in Book Review

The French Adventure – Lucy Coleman 5* Review

 

Suddenly unemployed and single, Anna escapes to her parents’ beautiful house in France for a much-needed recharge – and to work out what she wants to do next with her life now her carefully mapped out plan has gone out the window.

Anna gives herself 6 months to recuperate, all the while helping renovate her parents’ adjoining gites into picturesque B&Bs. But working alongside the ruggedly handsome Sam on the renovation project, she didn’t expect for life to take an unexpected, if not unwelcome, twist…

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My Thoughts…

The setting for this story makes it special from the beginning. Anna is at a crossroads in her life, she has a plan and thought it was working out but soon discovers it isn’t. Arriving at her parents’ French B&B gives her chance to heal from her toxic relationship and plan her next move. Anna’s journey is more than a hop over the channel, it brings her into contact with Sam, her polar opposite, he doesn’t plan and doesn’t see the need to finish everything he starts,  yet they manage to work together renovating two smaller properties on their parent’s estate. There are lots of renovating tips as the story progresses, which increase the story’s visual impact, very useful also if you want to do any house renovation. 🙂

Sam has a tragic secret, which blights his life,  his attitude frustrates Anna, but she can’t help but like him, maybe because of their differences. There’s a mystery to solve and some lovely characters to meet, and there’s Karl, Anna’s ex-boyfriend who won’t leave her alone, but is this more about saving face than a broken heart? Anna’s journey of self-discovery is at a realistic, gentle pace but the setting combined with the possibility of romance and the mystery Anna and Sam have to solve makes this an easy to read, page-turner, with a believable outcome.

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

Here’s an extract from The French Adventure…

‘Karl sidles up to me. Nestling his body up against my back, he wraps his arms around my waist to give me a hug. I continue to unwrap a few cheeses and lay them out on a platter, laughing as he buries his head in my hair. We always come back to my place after a night out. He lives like a bachelor, and his fridge is never stocked.

‘You’re very quiet tonight, Anna. Anything I should be worried about?’

I tried to join in with the spirit of the film, but with my head filled with so many conflicting emotions, it was hard to concentrate. I’m on the brink of challenging him about our situation and telling him how unhappy I am with the way things are. Tonight, all I could think about was how I would begin that conversation. But there’s an underlying problem. Assuming that Karl immediately wants to do the right thing and make me happy, rather than risk losing me, what if I don’t suddenly feel my life is complete, after all?

What if things don’t fall nicely into place? It’s like I have this disconnect. I want to love him; I want this to be right. However, I can’t engage until he’s proven beyond any doubt whatsoever that he loves me. Only then will I truly know how I feel and hopefully be able to say that back to him.

‘I’m… tired. That’s all.’

‘Hey,’ he turns me round so he can stare into my eyes. I have a cheese knife in one hand and a piece of kitchen towel in the other. ‘I don’t like to think of my girl overdoing it. If you need to take some time off the boss is saying yes.’

When he looks down at me with that look on his face, it’s a different Karl I see. There is a vulnerable streak there, a softness to him that never shows at work.

‘I’ll be fine. It’s only that… sometimes I’m not sure what the future holds.’

Damn it, Anna, why do you have to soften it? Ask him outright! Or are you scared you won’t get the answer you think you want?

‘The future is bright, I can promise you that. We’re going to be trailblazers, Anna. You’re going to love being driven around in a Porsche and taken to the best restaurants. And it’s not just my success we’re talking about here, Anna, we’re a team. Your parents are going to be very proud of their daughter’s achievements.’

I stare back at him, trying hard to hide my bitter disappointment.

‘I just want to be happy, Karl, and have a good work/life balance. Work is only a part of it.’

He looks at me and emits a slow sigh.

‘I see this as a start, and my aspirations go way beyond that. I don’t want a mediocre life, I want it all – for us. One day I’m going to run my own company and prove to my father I have what it takes.’

I met Karl’s parents once, and that was enough. I felt uncomfortable in their company as if I wasn’t good enough for their son. Which was bad enough, but the way his father treated him was appalling. He kept asking questions and challenging every single little thing. I knew Karl was embarrassed and we hardly spoke a word on the journey back home.

‘Money and material things don’t necessarily bring happiness, Karl.’ I catch his eye, even though I can see he doesn’t want to listen.’

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

Posted in Book Review, Book Spotlight, Release Day Spotlight, Summer Impulse

Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson – 5* Review

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Summer at the Comfort Food Café
By Debbie Johnson

eBook: 29th April 2016 | PB: 16th June 2016

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The Comfort Food Café is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.

For widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, the decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad.

But following the death of her beloved husband David two years earlier, Laura knows that it’s time to move on. To find a way to live without him, instead of just surviving. To find her new place in the world, and to fill the gap that he’s left in all their lives.

Her new job at the café, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.

For her, the Comfort Food Café doesn’t just serve food – it serves a second chance to live her life to the full…

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Buy Links

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My Review - Coastal

Even at the story’s poignant beginning, the humour shines through, in the words of the enigmatic Laura, the heroine of this unusual story. I loved that we gathered all the necessary back story information, in letter form, as she answered a unique advertisement for a strange but intriguing, lifestyle job.
Laura is honest, loyal and has a lovely self -depreciating humour that is recognisable to most women, who have families, where they are the unappreciated lynchpin. The journey to their new adventure shares similarities, with most people’s long car journeys, with children and animals. The realistic dialogue and bordering on chaos scenarios made me giggle and reminiscence.
Despite Laura’s fragile emotional state, a delightful sense of humour runs through this story. From the first meeting with the ‘Tall bloke.’ the visuals are great, so easy to imagine, especially ‘the flying undies as the top box is unpacked’.
The VIPS that make up the cafe regulars, all have a story to share as they reveal idiosyncrasies and secrets. Laura starts to heal as she listens to the cafe’s regulars stories and Matt (the tall bloke), help’s her discover the side of herself she never really knew existed.
This is a story of healing, family and being brave enough to dip your toe back in the pond again, after life’s unpredictable knocks. I would love to find this Cafe that restores your faith in human nature.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins in return for an honest review.