Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Parenting and Famlies

One Day In Winter Shari Low 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @sharilow #festive #relationships #serendipity #marriage #parents #children #secrets #lies #Paperback

#OneDayInWinter
#Aria-HoZBlogTour

Amazon Kobo iBook Google Play Waterstones

#AriaBlogTour

I received a copy of this book from Aria – Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I love stories that have an element of serendipity, and this story of four people, seemingly unconnected, is an engaging read. It follows Caro, Cammy, Lila and Bernadette through 24 hours just before Christmas. Some of the characters feature in other books, so if you are a fan of this author, like me, you may recognise them.

The day is divided into time slots, and each of the four main protagonists has a chapter within. As the story progresses, the reader realises they are connected, and eventually so do they. All of the main characters are complex and realistic. Some have more flaws than others, but they are all relatable, and most are easy to empathise.

The plot is cleverly written, it all fits together and the coincidences are realistic. Coupled with the beautifully written characters, the emotion and poignancy of the story make this is a page-turner that you won’t easily, put down.

The ending is satisfying, it fits, and everyone gets the outcome they deserve.

Guest Post – Christmas Blog Shari Low – One Day In Winter

Confession time! I’m one of those people who has a Countdown To Christmas clock and I check it regularly. Please don’t judge me. I know that I’m supposed to harrumph in disapproval at the frivolity and commercialisation of the festive season, but the truth is I love every flashing-elf-hat, neon-reindeer-on-my-roof, pass-me-a-red-hankie-because-I’m-going-to-watch-It’s-A-Wonderful-Life moment of it.

I embrace the tat and naffness of the season because I absolutely believe that there is no day that isn’t made better by a Santa snow globe.

On the first of December, I break out my favourite Christmas sweatshirt – the one that announces in large letters that I’m a Gangsta Wrapper.

I know the names of all the reindeers: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, Argos, Visa and Mastercard.

And now that my two little yuletide thespians have flown the nest (one who delivered a memorable performance as the third sheep from the left, and the other who had a starring role as that well known Biblical character, Humph the Camel), the younger members of my extended family know that I’m a shoo-in for a ticket and some enthusiastic audience participation if they invite me to their nativity play.

But my very favourite pastime during the season of goodwill? Deck the halls with big blooming piles of Christmas novels.

When I decided to write my first December-time book, One Day In Winter, I knew that I wanted to write stories that came together like a big pile of surprises under a tree. 

The novel follows four characters over the course of a 24 hour period on the Friday before Christmas. Caro sets off on a quest to find out if her relationship with her father has been based on a lifetime of lies. Lila decides to tell her lover’s wife of their secret affair. Cammy is on the way to pick up the ring for a proposal to the woman he loves. And Bernadette vows to walk away from her controlling husband of 30 years. As the hours’ pass, their lives intertwine and connections are revealed, with lots of shocks, twists and dramas along the way.

When it first came out in ebook, One Day In Winter was a number one bestseller, so I’m thrilled that it’s now being released in a glossy, shiny, gorgeous paperback.

I hope readers will love it because it makes them laugh, cry and captivates them from beginning to end.

And the extra little gift that the book delivers?

After the last page is turned, it makes the perfect stand for that Santa snow globe.

One Day In Winter is published by Aria in ebook and paperback.

Extract From One Day In Winter – Shari Low

When Gran and Granda passed away, their house had been left jointly to Mum and her sister, Auntie Pearl. When Auntie Pearl married and moved out, they’d worked out a rental agreement and Mum had stayed behind, living on her own until she’d met Jack Anderson at college, got pregnant, married him and he’d carried her over the threshold into the home she’d already lived in for twenty-two years.

Not that Caro could ever remember him being there full-time. He probably was for the first few years, but then he’d capitalised on the oil boom, and ever since then he’d been gone more than he’d been home. Some months he’d be home for a few days, sometimes two weeks, rarely more. She’d never felt neglected or that she was losing out in any way. It was what she’d always been used to and, as Mum always said, just one of the sacrifices they had to make because Dad had a Very Important Job.

The payback for the sacrifice? A couple of years ago, just as her parents should have been starting to contemplate cruises and bucket lists for their early retirement, Jack Anderson had walked out of the door to go to his Very Important Job and he’d never come back.

Caro felt the familiar inner rage start to build now and she squashed it back down. He’d left them a week before her thirtieth birthday, so she was old enough to process her parents splitting up by some mutual consent. Yet she couldn’t. Because it wasn’t mutual and he’d bolted when her mother had needed him most, walked out to a new life and he hadn’t looked back.

For a long time, Caro didn’t understand why.

Only now, did she realise that on the Importance scale, the job was up there with his Very Important Secret.

Maybe.

She still didn’t believe it to be true.

She must be wrong.

Mistaken identity.

Surely?

Yet, here she was, sitting on a train, on a cold December morning, on her way to Glasgow.

She pulled her iPad out of her satchel, logged on to the train’s Wi-Fi, then flicked on to the Facebook page she’d looked at a thousand times in the last few weeks.

It was one of those coincidental flukes that had taken her to it in the first place.

It had been late at night, and she’d been sitting beside her mum’s bed in the hospital, feeling like she’d been battered by the storm that was raging outside. She shouldn’t even have been there because it was outside of visiting time, but the nurses overlooked her presence because her mum was in a private room at the end of a corridor, and they made exceptions when it came to patients at this stage in their lives. Yvonne’s eyes were closed, her body still, but Caro wanted to stay, whether Yvonne knew she was there or not. It was the first night of the October school holiday, so she didn’t have to get up early to be the responsible Miss Anderson for a class of eleven-year-olds the next morning.

Instead, she could just be Caro, sitting there passing the time catching up with Facebook. She only dipped in and out of it every few weeks, caught up with a Carpool Karaoke, the launch of a new book, or maybe a movie trailer.

A promotional link appeared for the new Simple Minds tour, twenty dates around the country, yet another band riding the nostalgic affection for the eighties and nineties.

Before she could stop it, the opening bars of Jim Kerr’s voice belting out ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ flooded her head and she felt the bite of a sharp-toothed memory. Her dad had been a big fan, their music playing alongside Oasis and Blur on his CD player when he was home or in the car on the few mornings he was around to take her to school, and that had been his favourite song.

The irony in the title didn’t escape her. Don’t You Forget About Me. If only she could forget he ever existed, then she wouldn’t have to deal with the soul-sucking fury that he wasn’t here.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is low_shari_400pxh.jpg

Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In Winter, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You, Another Day In Winter and her latest release, This Is Me

And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. 
Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction

The Teacher at Donegal Bay Anne Doughty 4* #Review @HQDigitalUK #BlogTour #BookReview #bookbloggers #FamilyDrama #1968 #NorthernIreland #historicalfiction #Irish #Saga

When Jenny McKinstry is offered a new post as the Head of English at her Belfast school she’s elated! Yet she can’t help but feel conflicted about the position.

With all those around her mounting the pressure to start a family and her husband’s career about to take off, Jenny feels bound by an overwhelming sense of duty.

Will she be able to support her husband’s ambitions and land her dream job…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

A historical family drama set in Northern Ireland in 1968. It focuses on Jenny’s ambition to have a career in teaching, despite being married. She faces well-meaning and intrusive advice on how she should live her life. From those she trusts, and people in the wider community. The community is divided, sometimes families are divided because of the political climate, and maintaining old values assumes a disproportionate importance in this community.

The expectation that married woman should stay home and not pursue a career is the norm at this time, and Jenny is seen as a misfit, someone who wants to destroy the fabric of the community. Jenny is ambitious, brave and committed to her career, but will she sacrifice her friends, family and even her marriage to pursue her dream?

An emotional journey pathed with angst and prejudice, the characters are authentic and complex, and the plot is slow-paced and relentless. You empathise with Jenny and rile at her accusers, but the ending is hopeful.

A gritty and poignant story, which reflects the setting and time well, and demonstrates what it is like for a working wife in the 1960s, and the battles they endure to live life as they choose.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

We Met in December Rosie Curtis 4*#Review @AvonBooksUK @karamina #Christmas2019 #FestiveRead #ChristmasinSeptember #romcom #Friends #Relationships #Romance #London #BookReview #bookbloggers #MondayBlogs

What if you couldn’t get away from the one who got away? 

Unlucky in love Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling Notting Hill house‐share with four strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor. They don’t kiss under the mistletoe, but as far as Jess is concerned, the connection is instant. She lets herself imagine how their relationship will grow over the following year.

But when Jess returns from a Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else – beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams… and the woman of his.

Jess is determined to move on and survive the next twelve months… but love has a way of hampering even the best-laid plans…

Set over the course of one life‐changing year, this is the most uplifting and moving love story of 2019.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

#WeMetDecember #BlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

So, my first festive book this year is ‘We Met In December’, to be strictly accurate, although Christmas features in this story at the beginning and at the end, it follows Jess and Alex’s emotional journey, month by month, after their initial meeting in December. Both are emotionally scarred from failed relationships, and childhoods, that were less than ideal, and so a serious romantic relationship is not what either is looking for.

When they meet in December, as new housemates in a household where a firm house rule is no couples, they ignore their initial attraction, both believing it is one-sided. Jess focuses on her new career and her two best friends. Alex focuses on his new vocation as a nurse, but he can’t resist a non-relationship with another housemate Emma.

The friendship that develops between Alex and Jess is gentle and lovely, they explore London together and find out what makes each other tick, but romance is denied by both of them. The travelogue through London is vividly portrayed and adds extra depth to the story.

Told from two points of view, there is a sense of dramatic irony. The reader knows what each character is feeling, but they are both in ignorance of the other’s regard. Most of the conflict to the romance is internal, from their past emotional baggage, but other well-meaning people provide external conflict, and you do wonder if they will be able to see, and more importantly act on what is right in front of them.

This is a lighthearted relationship story with a festive ambience. The ending is so romantic and leaves you with a heartwarming feeling.

Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Noir, Psychological Thriller

The Truth Naomi Joy 5*#Review @naomijoyauthor @Aria_Fiction #psychologicalthriller #contemporaryfiction #BlogTour #GuestPost #Extract #DomesticThriller #Noir

Perfect wife. Perfect life. Perfect crime.

Anthony is not the man everyone believes him to be. And Emelia is not the woman he wants her to be.

Theirs was a whirlwind romance, Anthony was the doting boyfriend, the charismatic and successful career man who swept her off her feet. But now Emelia is trapped in a marriage of dark secrets and obsession. She is no more than something Anthony wants to ‘fix’, one of his pet projects.

Emelia has no escape from the life that Anthony insists on controlling, so she shares her story through the only means she can – her blog. Yet Anthony can never find out. Forced to hide behind a false name, Emelia knows the only way that Anthony will allow her to leave him, is death.

Trapped with a man she knows is trying to kill her, Emelia is determined that someone will hear her story and Anthony will meet his ends. That everyone will discover the truth.

Amazon Kobo iBooks Google Play

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

My Thoughts…

A story of two halves as many psychological thrillers are.

The story begins with a blog post, Emelia has a life-limiting condition and wondered if she would have the chance of a normal marriage. Anthony was more than she thought possible until he wasn’t. Once married, things change and the doting man becomes increasingly controlling. Limiting her life, even more than her physical state does.

This is a domestic thriller, claustrophobic and dark, and you wonder if she has it in her to escape. Then there’s a twist that turns this into a noir psychological thriller, where you doubt what you read, and don’t know who to believe, and wonder if anything that came before is ‘The Truth’?

The ending has another twist and leaves ‘normal’ minds with more questions. Based on a collection of real events, this is chilling, claustrophobic and clever, something different.

Guest Post – Naomi Joy – The TruthNotes on Inspiration

If you ask authors where they get their inspiration, you’ll receive a range of answers. It might be an amazing location that’s captured their imagination – I think of Mandy Baggot’s Greek settings or Pat Black’s dark forests. They could have picked up on trends in our society – how more and more people are meeting one another online (Click, L.Smyth). It could have been a big change in their own lives – a new baby, a new job, a new man on the train (The Note, Z.Folbigg) – that sparked their creative fuse. I read about an author whose grandparent had lived through the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and written a diary about the day – inspiration indeed. It could be other worlds, imagined worlds, or a hypothetical question they’re keen to explore. But for me, my interest is usually piqued by a real-life person, most often a fascinating female case-study who’s done something terrible. I love to start from that point and imagine what’s come before: how did this evil emerge? What made this person who they are? Why?

Before I started writing The Truth, I was inspired by a collection of real people who’ve all committed the same sociopathic crime and, though I can’t go into detail about the specifics, as soon as I heard about them I couldn’t do anything else until I’d written a version of their stories myself.

The Liars, inspiration came from a number of toxic women I’d worked with, but, more interesting than their devious and despicable behaviour, was what made them that way. I read about how modern office culture favours competition and actively encourages employees to cut-down their competitors rather than collaborate, and thus the office-culture at the heart of the story was born.

As I sit down to work on my third novel for Aria Fiction, I will follow the same process, so, if you hear about any deranged and dastardly women: send them my way!

Naomi Joy is the pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.

Twitter Facebook

Extract from ‘The Truth’.

‘Emelia? Are you up?’

My ears prick, and I tune into the crescendo of footsteps, the turn of a lock, the twist of a doorknob. I push my laptop under the bed, determined to keep my blog a secret. It’s not that I don’t trust him, I just… It thuds as it hits the damask rug beneath and I recoil my arm quickly, pulling the covers back over my body and up around my neck to make it looks as though I’ve been sleeping rather than typing, but this sudden movement throws fistfuls of confetti-dust into the splinters of light in the room and I worry he’ll suspect that I’ve been up to something.

He knocks.

‘Come in,’ I reply.

My dressing gown fans as the door opens, the gust catching the silk sleeve and part of the body, transforming it, for a second, from inanimate object to ghostly spectre.

‘Morning, darling. How are you feeling?’

He peers at me through full-moon black-rimmed spectacles, the paper-thin skin beneath his eyes tinged purple – not enough sleep – his long fingers curled around the door handle. His carefully groomed moustache quivers above his top lip flicked up at the ends. He’s excited about something.

‘Any better?’ he asks.

‘No,’ I croak from my resting place. ‘I still feel like death.’

He walks towards me, eyebrows crooked, wedding ring flashing as he passes through the bursts of sunlight. He dabs the sweat slathering my brow and folds back the duvet gently, eager to help, but the movement releases the smell of my own stench into the otherwise beautiful room. His lips pucker in response. He tries not to gag.

‘I want to take you somewhere today,’ he says, bitter coffee on his breath.

I turn my head fully towards him and we lock eyes.

‘Where?’ I ask too quickly, too eagerly, droplets pooling anew in the curve of my lower back.

‘The excavation. I thought it might make you feel better.’

I smile, elated for a moment, then look away, my eyes on the opposite wall. There are a couple of problems with this suggestion. The first: he’s promised this before. I must not get my hopes up. The second: I am sick, deathly unwell, and, though I have the will to leave, I’m not sure there’s any possible way that I can. My stomach twists and jealousy rumbles in its pit. He is well. He can go wherever he likes. He can work and, better still, he loves his job. Anthony’s a famous archaeologist and, although that might sound oxymoronic, to those in the industry he’s a rock star. Literally.

‘I’d love to,’ I answer.

Despite my reservations, I am hopeful that I will go outside today. In fact, it is imperative that I do; Anthony is nothing but kind and patient with me and yet my brain is turning me against him, doubting his intentions. If I could just find the strength to ignore the searing pain in my abdomen, the tightness in my chest, the raging sweats, the all-consuming itch of my skin, the fire beneath, things would start to improve, we’d get back to who we were before. I know we would. My heart thumps, already exhausted, as I heave my reluctant body up to a seated position and swing my feet to the floor. I balance on the edge of the mattress, letting the black spots from my headrush pass, and, just as I’m about to stand, my toes hit the edge of my laptop hidden beneath the bed, making me jump. I glance behind me, hoping he won’t have noticed.

‘Now then,’ he says softly, taking my hand. ‘Time for your medicine.’

Two pills land in my palm – Antriptophene – and for once I stutter at what he’s given me: I don’t recognise this brand and I’m immediately suspicious of it. I look at the long drink of lukewarm water left on the bedside table overnight, coated now with a thin film of dust. Something doesn’t feel right.

‘What are these?’

‘Your doctor’s recommended them, they’re supposed to be excellent.’

I look at the pills again, at the blocky red writing atop bright orange casing and make a decision.

‘I’m not taking these.’

Anthony’s face breaks with lines, lips curling at my refusal, shocked that I would even question what he’s giving me. Taken aback, he stalls, then relents, folding them into his hand and leaving the room without another word, his tall frame pausing momentarily in the light of the doorway.

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

A Question of Us Mary Jayne Baker 5* #Review @MaryJayneBaker @Aria_Fiction #RomCom #Yorkshire #PubQuiz #Romance #Humour #VillageLife #Friends #Family #Anxiety #Community #Relationships #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #bookbloggers

#AQuestionofUs

Two best friends. Eight pub quizzes. One-shot at love…

There are some people who seem like they have all the answers in life. Clarrie Midwinter isn’t one of them.

At the age of 26, tomboy Clarrie is still struggling to become a ‘proper’ grown-up. She’s eternally strapped for cash, she hasn’t had a date in nearly a year and her attempts to quit smoking tend to take a nosedive after the second pint. Most annoyingly of all, her ladykiller best friend Simon just won’t stop asking her out. The only thing keeping her sane is her pub quiz team, the Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers.

But when Simon bets her a date their team will win the quiz league, Clarrie is forced to confront what she really wants out of life – and love. Is it finally time for her to grow up?

Gloriously irreverent, badly behaved romantic comedy from the author of Meet Me at the Lighthouse.

Amazon Kobo iBooks Google Play

#AriaBlogTour
#AriaBlogTour

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

MyThoughts…

Another original romantic comedy from the author, whose love of Yorkshire is evident from reading her believable, hilarious and romantic stories.

This story’s characters are the members of a pub quiz team, a quintessentially British pastime, ‘The Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers’. A friends to lovers trope, this a gentle romance, despite the often raucous goings-on, and language that dominates the story.

Clarrie and Si have been friends since pre-school, Clarrie harbours a secret and inconvenient passion for her friend, who constantly asks her out, but never she believes in seriousness. She of course, always makes a joke of it and refuses. Now Si has changed the rules, he wants Clarrie to agree to a date if the team win the pub quiz league, what will she do?

The romance is predictably full of obstacles, most of which are Clarrie’s internal battle over her feelings and whether she is brave enough to take a chance on love. Suffering from anxiety issues that already make her life choices difficult, whether or not to risk the friendship they have, for something romantic is a major issue for Clarrie.

The village life experience is interwoven into the story, the gossip, the interfering, well-meant of course, and the secrets that everyone knows. The sense of community and the tight friendship amongst Clarrie and Si ‘s group are realistic and give this story depth and interest.

The romance although slow to start is lovely and worthwhile, enough to satisfy the romantics, and melt the cynics a little.

If you are unfamiliar with the author’s take on life in a Yorkshire village, this book is an experience you won’t forget, and for those of us, who are already fans, this is another great story full of fun, heartache, quirkiness and romance.

Guest Post – Mary Jayne Baker – A Question of Us

Maserati Tim’s Big Pub QuizMary Jayne Baker

In my new Yorkshire-set book A Question of Us, which is published this month, heroine Clarrie’s ladykiller best friend Simon bets her a date their team will win that year’s pub quiz league. As Simon starts putting every spare minute into trivia revision and their team The Mighty Morphin’ Flower Arrangers find themselves climbing up the leaderboard, Clarrie is forced to confront her true feelings for her oldest friend. It looks like Clarrie is going to lose the bet – the question is, does she want to?

To celebrate the release of A Question of Us, quizmaster Maserati Tim has put together twenty fiendish questions to test those little grey cells. Get yourself in the mood for a trivia-filled read below! Hint: you can find some of the answers in the book…

Questions

  1. What type of monkey commonly accompanied organ-grinders?
  2. What was the favourite food of Dandy cowboy Desperate Dan?
  3. By what name is the peace agreement reached in 1998 between the British and Irish governments commonly known?
  4. By what nickname was Louis Armstrong known?
  5. “The lighter way to enjoy chocolate” was an advertising slogan for which chocolate treat?
  6. What were the names of the seven dwarves in the Grimm Brothers fairytale Snow White?
  7. In 1951, which area became Britain’s first national park?
  8. Which persona did David Bowie retire in 1973?
  9. What animal has the Latin name ursus arctos horribilis?
  10. Which movie monster’s enemies include Mothra and King Ghidorah?
  11. Which king did Shakespeare refer to as the “bottled spider”?
  12. In 1477, King Edward IV ruled which traditional sport illegal?
  13. Which dinosaur’s name means “swift robber”?
  14. Who succeeded Richard II to the throne of England?
  15. Who was the fourth actor to play The Doctor in Doctor Who?
  16. James Hargreaves invented what piece of industrial equipment in 1764?
  17. Until the 1980s, which football team’s players were known as “The Biscuitmen”?
  18. Which planet in our solar system is the sixth furthest from the Sun?
  19. In the Old Testament, what were the names of Noah’s three sons?
  20. When sending an email, what do the initials BCC stand for?

So get reading ‘ A Question of Us’ this weekend, answers next Friday

#MaryJayneBaker

Mary Jayne Baker grew up in rural West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country… and she’s still there. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature, she dallied with living in cities including London, Nottingham and Cambridge, but eventually came back with her own romantic hero in tow to her beloved Dales, where she first started telling stories about heroines with flaws and the men who love them.

For those of you who had a go at Mary Jayne’s quiz, here are the answers.
  1. Capuchin
  2. Cow Pie
  3. The Good Friday Agreement
  4. Satchmo or Satchel Mouth
  5. Maltesers
  6. They weren’t given names
  7. The Peak District
  8. Ziggy Stardust
  9. Grizzly Bear
  10. Godzilla
  11. Richard III
  12. Cricket
  13. Velociraptor
  14. Henry IV
  15. Tom Baker
  16. The Spinning Jenny
  17. Reading
  18. Saturn
  19. Shem, Ham and Japheth
  20. Blind carbon copy
Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Romance

The Secret to Happiness Jessica Redland 5* #Review @BoldwoodBooks @JessicaRedland #Friendship #Relationships #SelfDiscovery #NorthYorkshire #BlogTour #Extract #WhitsboroughBay

#TheSecrettoHappiness

EVERYONE DESERVES A CHANCE AT HAPPINESS…

Danniella is running from her past, so when she arrives at the beautiful seaside resort of Whitsborough Bay, the last thing on her mind is making friends. After all, they might find out her secrets…

Alison is fun, caring and doesn’t take herself too seriously. But beneath the front, she is a lost soul, stuck in a terrible relationship, with body confidence issues and no family to support her. All she really needs is a friend.

Karen’s romance has taken a back seat to her fitness business. But she doesn’t want to give up on love quite yet. If only those mysterious texts would stop coming through …

When the women meet at their local boot camp, a deep friendship blossoms. And soon they realise that the secret to happiness is where they least expected to find it…

An uplifting story of friendship and finding the strength to come to terms with the past.

Paperback – Amazon UK Digital

#boldwoodBlogtours

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

My Thoughts…

Three women, three different lives, but all with troubled pasts, that make their present less than perfect, and the future something they’d rather not think about.

Alison, Danniella, and Karen are drawn together when they meet at a boot camp, and improved fitness isn’t the only benefit they receive. The women become friends. This friendship makes them individually strong enough to face their daily demons, and discover that the elusive concept of happiness has to begin with yourself.

The three female points of view and characters are authentic and easy to empathise. Alison is initially the easiest to root for, but I like them all, and as I shared their emotional journey, I wanted them to find the happiness they sought. The cast of supporting characters are also realistic, and add depth to the story, highlighting important events and issues in the women’s lives.

This is an inclusive story, the characters want you to be part of their lives, and as you are drawn in, you experience many emotions. It’s not an easy read in parts, but in the end, there is hope, friendship, and a future for each of the women, they could never have believed possible.

The Secret to Happiness – Jessica Redland – Extract

Chapter 1

Alison

It had to be time to get up for work. Surely. Alison stretched her arm out from under the duvet and retrieved her mobile from the bedside drawers. The bedroom briefly illuminated as she checked the time. 5.38 a.m. Not time for work, then. She turned her head towards the window. It had been raining for three hours and forty-seven minutes now. Starting with a torrential downpour at 1.51 a.m., it had now settled into a slow but steady rhythm. And she’d been wide awake for every single drop.

Beside her, Dave was in a deep untroubled sleep, punctuated by the occasional grunt or snore. She slowly turned over to face him, but he had his back to her as usual. He muttered something when she gave him a gentle nudge, but didn’t wake up. She was about to give him a harder shove but stopped herself. What was the point? He’d only tell her to go back to sleep. Sleep? If only she could. And he’d tell her that getting upset about it wasn’t going to change anything. No, it wasn’t. But a hug and comforting words might help her find the strength to face the hardest day of the year.

Peeling back the duvet, Alison pulled on her fluffy dressing gown and padded downstairs to the kitchen. The familiar feeling of despair enveloped her as the fluorescent tubing flickered then burst into life revealing the concrete flooring, bare plaster, and dilapidated dark wood units. Oh, the joys of living with a builder: a house full of unfinished projects because Dave couldn’t bear to spend his evenings and weekends doing what he did all day. Of course, paying someone else to do it was completely out of the question. She’d stupidly suggested that once. Never again.

The dining room had been out of action for four years because it was packed outwith boxes containing the new kitchen. It wasn’t good to moan about that either. Besides, they had no social life, so who would they invite round for a meal even if it was in use? He’d promised this would be the year for sorting it, though, and had even booked a week off work next month to finally fit the kitchen. She wouldn’t hold her breath.

*

Alison placed a giant mug of milky, sugary tea on the coffee table in the lounge and took a few deep breaths. It was time. Crouching down, she opened the cupboard on her grandma’s old dresser. There it was, nestled under Trivial Pursuit, a guidebook for Corfu, and a pack of playing cards. She lightly ran her fingers down the navy spine of the large photo album, goosebumps pricking her arms, then carefully removed it.

Curling up on the large tub chair with the unopened album resting on her legs, Alison closed her eyes and breathed in and out slowly, trying to steady her racing heart. Fifteen years. Had it really been that long? As she slowly turned page after page, photos first, then newspaper clippings, the rain continued its patter against the front of the house and Alison’s tears kept in time with the slow and steady rhythm of the drops.

*

Alison was in the kitchen eating breakfast when she heard Dave thunder down the stairs. She glanced at her watch, tensing. He was running late as usual, which would somehow be her fault.

‘Where’ve you put my phone?’ he demanded as he strode down the hall, sounding more like an army sergeant than a loving boyfriend. A hefty six-foot-three rugby player, he dominated the kitchen doorway, blocking out the natural light from the glass either side of the front door.

‘I think you might have plugged it in to charge in the lounge,’ she said softly, knowing full well that he had.

When Dave returned to the kitchen, phone in hand, she looked up at him expectantly, but he didn’t even glance at her. She willed him to look at her, to hug her, to tell her he was there for her. He’d forgotten last year but surely he wouldn’t do that again.

‘What were you doing up so early?’ he asked, his voice still gruff.

Alison felt herself deflate. ‘I couldn’t sleep,’ she muttered. ‘Too much in my head.’

He yanked open the fridge. ‘Where’s my butties?’

Alison’s shoulders drooped even further. ‘In the blue container.’ She picked up her second warm croissant and slathered it with butter, blinking back the tears. He’d forgotten it again; he was more concerned with his sandwiches than her, as usual. Pushing a stray dark curl behind her ear, Alison took another deep breath. She’d have to prompt him. Last year, she hadn’t said anything until the following day and he’d had a go at her for not reminding him on the day. She wouldn’t make that mistake again.

‘So, it’s the 11th of May today.’

He closed the fridge door and stared at her. ‘And…?’

‘And… well… it’s… you know…’

‘Ali! I’m late. Spit it out or shut up.’

His eyes bored into her and she felt that momentary burst of confidence ebbing away. ‘Never mind. It’s nothing.’

Dave dropped his packed lunch into his toolbox. ‘Where’s the bananas?’

Damn! She knew she’d forgotten something. ‘Still on the shop shelves? Sorry. There’s pears.’

‘Bloody hell, Ali,’ he snapped. ‘When have I ever liked pears?’

She continued eating while he wittered about pears being the devil’s fruit. Why did he have to make such a fuss about little things like that? Especially today. Watching him choose a pear from the bowl – with such a disgusted look on his face it could just as easily have been a decaying mouse – Alison shook her head and bit into her croissant again, closing her eyes as the melted butter oozed onto her tongue. Heaven in pastry format.

‘Jesus Christ, Ali!’

She snapped open her eyes, startled to find him right next to her.

‘No wonder.’ He shook his head. ‘No bloody wonder.’

She flinched as he grabbed his toolbox and stormed out of the kitchen.

As the front door slammed, she ripped off a piece of croissant and crushed it between her thumb and forefinger, a mixture of guilt and frustration flowing through her. She hadn’t needed to ask him what he meant. She could fill in the rest of the sentence for him. No wonder you’re so fat. No wonder you keep ordering bigger uniforms. No wonder the stairs leave you breathless. No wonder we never have sex.

She surveyed the plateful of pastries, the full-fat butter, the luxury jam, her third giant mug of milky, sugary tea. All for one person. Yes. No wonder. She had a good excuse for the feast that morning, though, not that Dave had acknowledged it.

As she cleared the table, tears welled in her eyes once more. How could he have forgotten again? Maybe he’d remember that evening. Maybe he’d come home with flowers and a hug. Alison wiped the table with such a furious swipe that crumbs scattered across the concrete. Sod it! They could stay there.

Jessica Redland is the author of nine novels including Searching for Steven which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay.  Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Twitter Website Instagram Facebook

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Romance

I Can’t Tell You Why – Elaine Robertson North @RobbieNorth @rararesources #ContemporaryFiction #Romance #Relationships #Media #Secrets #Lies #Guilt #Celebrity #3* #Review #BlogTour

Having an affair is inconceivable to Dani and yet she’s having one with Alex. He’s married, he’s an actor and she’s his agent.

Then Dani meets Sean, a paparazzi photographer with a formidable reputation. It’s a profession that makes him unpredictable at best. A dangerous trait when his motivation to expose becomes personal.

Dani knows she’s made mistakes. She also knows she’s not the first person who wilfully hurt someone they love and is simply unable to explain why.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

An interesting exploration of celebrity, life as a media agent and a romantic love triangle. The detail in this novel is clearly well- researched, it makes the story authentic. However, it lacks the in-depth characterisation that would give it emotional weight.

It’s easy to read, and interesting. The themes of celebrity, the invasion of privacy and the blurring of professional relationships, are emotional topics. I know the characters suffered, were challenged and confused, but I didn’t feel their pain.

An interesting foray into the media world, perfect for those who enjoy plot rather than character-driven stories.

Elaine spent 25 years working in marketing and communications in the media and entertainment industries. This included seven years marketing national newspapers and a variety of senior executive roles in TV, radio and film. I Can’t Tell You Why is her first novel.

Elaine lives in North London with her husband and their two sons. When she’s not writing, she can be found looking harassed on the school run, cheering on the sidelines of her sons’ football matches or singing her heart out at her local branch of Popchoir. Facebook Instagram Twitter

Giveaway to Win 5 x paperback copies of I Can’t Tell You Why (Open Internationally)

Giveaway Link

*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 be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the 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.