Posted in Book Review, Romantic Comedy

5*#Review I Owe You One Sophie Kinsella- @KinsellaSophie

Fixie Farr can’t help herself. Straightening a crooked object, removing a barely-there stain, helping out a friend . . . she just has to put things right. It’s how she got her nickname, after all.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees, she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank her, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, scribbles her an IOU – but of course, Fixie never intends to call in the favour.

That is, until her teenage crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and needs her help – and Fixie turns to Seb. But things don’t go according to plan, and now Fixie owes Seb: big time.

Soon the pair are caught up in a series of IOUs – from small favours to life-changing debts – and Fixie is torn between the past she’s used to and the future she deserves.

Does she have the courage to fix things for herself and fight for the life, and love, she really wants?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK- Transworld Publishing – Bantam Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is my first Sophie Kinsella novel and what a treat it is. I was smiling as soon as I met Fixie. The characters are vividly depicted, they jump off the page.

The story’s a curious mix of family drama and serendipitous romance. Fixie’s siblings are so irritating, but maybe all the fault doesn’t lie with them. Fixie’s obsessively helpful nature makes it easier for them to let her do everything.

The plot is easy to follow, not too many surprises here for the reader, but many for Fixie, as she embarks on a journey of self-realisation.

The romance is gentle and riddled with conflict, but there’s a satisfying ending. If you like to see ordinary people and situations made extraordinarily, this book will be a perfect read.

Advertisements
Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* Review- Zara Stoneley – No One Cancels Christmas @ZaraStoneley#Festive @HarperImpulse

 

A holiday she’ll remember forever…

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl – visits to Father Christmas, husky rides in the snow and hot chocolate by a roaring fire. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling tinsel!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be….

But getting Will into the Christmas spirit is hopeless – he is Bah Humbug personified! But as Sarah gets to know him better, she realises that underneath all the gloom is a man struggling with a pain of his own.

With the big day approaching, Sarah realises that the magic and sparkle can wait. This year, she’s going to spend Christmas day with someone special her very own Mr Scrooge…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Funny, festive and fabulous, everything you want in a Christmas holiday read.

Sarah is such an authentic, believable character, her sense of responsibility makes her confront Will, co-owner of a holiday resort that is threatening the reputation of her aunt’s travel agency. The emails soon turn from caustic to cosy, and when she decides to visit the resort, the fun really starts.

Will has secrets and hides them well under a Mr Scrooge persona. The romance is slow to build but so worth waiting for and really threatens to melt the snow. There are plenty of poignant moments, as Sarah lets go of past hurts and finds out things are not always right or wrong but somewhere in between.

All the supporting characters are vivacious and add to the story’s imagery. The setting is well-described and breathtaking and the plot is full of twists, turmoil and tenderness.

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

Posted in Book Review

#blogtour: A Village Affair – Julie Houston- Guest Post – Extract -5* Review

Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy headteacher at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.

As if it weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the front of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.

But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…

 Kobo  iBooks Amazon Google Play

Guest Post –  The Reading |Gene – Julie Houston

I’ve spent a good part of the last hour searching through albums for this particular photo. What is perhaps strange is that, as a prolific reader and writer myself, this is the only photograph I have of my offspring reading. And this is the reason: now twenty-four and twenty-one, my children have never, as far as I know, read a book in its entirety in their whole life. Which brings me to the conclusion that one is either born with – or without – the reading gene.

I think it’s fair to say my makeup is almost entirely made up of the reading gene. While my parents were both readers, I don’t actually ever remember them reading to me but, by the time I was four, I was more than happy to read to myself, head stuck in a book and totally engrossed. I can still see the black and white front covers of the reading books at infant school and the utter joy of immersing myself in a world of Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel.

Comics played a big part in my life and the excitement of waiting for my first copy of Bimbo, aged five was almost palpable.

I’m not making this up – by the age of five I had a subscription to Bimbo! I’m also not making up that I have every copy of Bunty ever read, up in my loft. Every time I’ve moved house, Bunty and Petticoat and Romeo have come with me, despite my husband’s protestations that one night we’ll drown in a sea of girly stories when the ceiling caves in on top of us. I had a tendency towards bronchitis as a child and craved comics to read when I was ill in bed. What I really wanted was a box of comics that I didn’t have to wait until the following week to know what the Four Marys – Mary Cotter, Mary Field, Mary Radleigh and Mary Simpson (I promise you, those names have just rolled out without any Googling) – were up to. Thus, the thinking behind this hoarding was that if ever I had a daughter – with or without bronchitis – she would be delighted when I presented her with my cache of comics.

Wrong. She showed no interest whatsoever.

I empathise totally with children I teach who are totally swept away into a different world through their reading book and have to be brought back, almost blinking against reality, because it’s now Maths or Science and we have to ‘get on.’ They have the reading gene and almost definitely will remain readers throughout their life. They will get a thrill as they go into bookshops and come to recognise and love the smell of the library. They will hover around friends’ bookshelves and stroke new editions that have never been read. They will be found behind the sofa at parties – as I still am – excited by the find of an unknown title by a favourite author.

I read to my children when they were still bumps, lovingly stroking my abdomen as I read my favourite childhood books to them in the womb. They were going to love reading like I did, be readers before they went to school. Well, yes, they could both mechanically read at the age of four and adored being read to, but neither had any inclination to pick up a book and immerse themselves in it. The rugby, hockey, skiing, deep-sea diving and watching TV gene firmly entrenched in my husband’s gene pool trounced any reading gene of mine.

Checkmate.

Both my offspring were bright children who did well at school and are now intelligent young adults with excellent degrees from a top university, and yet will cheerfully admit to never having read a book in its entirety. For them, reading is a necessary evil to be got through in order to filter required information before leaping down slippery slopes, scuba-diving or pre-lashing (drinking copious amounts for the uninitiated) and socialising, and certainly not the wonderful pleasure that it affords me.

There may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. My daughter asked to read one of my books while we were away in the summer.

‘Gosh, Mum, I can’t stop reading this. It’s good isn’t it…?’

My Thoughts… 

A lovely mix of humour and romance set in a vibrant English village.

Cassie’s world crumbles when she finds out her husband and best friend are having an affair, starting a new job as a  Deputy Headteacher seems impossible, how will she survive the gossip.  Cassie’s life takes on the appearance of a roller coaster, but she discovers she likes who she has become.

The plot is pacy and full of twists and the characters bring the setting to life, and you feel part of the community. Cassie is a great character, easy to empathise, and the story has so many laugh-out-loud moments that it’s guaranteed to brighten up a dull day.

The romance is gentle and unexpected and the not without its challenges but the ending is worth the angst and makes you want more of Westenbury and its inhabitants.

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

Extract

‘She’s Right Off My Christmas Card List…

At 1 a.m. on the Monday morning – the morning when I was apparently supposed to breeze into Little Acorns and take over at the helm, steering both staff and pupils in the direction demanded by the local authority, the governors and, more pertinently, bloody Ofsted, my husband slunk back home. I say ‘slunk’ but to be honest I didn’t have a clue as to the speed or mode of his arrival, being dead to the world as a result of a couple of Fiona’s little helpers.

Totally shattered from lack of sleep and the shock, as well as the bombshell of my sudden promotion, I was in a pretty catatonic state by the time Fiona and Clare left, late in the afternoon, to sort out their weeks ahead.

Clare, who was in the process of expanding her rather successful stag do business, Last Stagger, to incorporate hen dos, had been given a lift by Fiona to get her own car and laptop and, on her return, set herself up at my breakfast bar dealing with emails and the many enquiries for new business. Fiona, who believed any problem could be solved through food, and lots of it, found my pinny, ingredients in the fridge and freezer and set to rustling up a meal in order to have some semblance of normality for the kids. At least when Freya and Tom finally got around to realising this particular Sunday was shaping up to be rather different from the usual Sunday in the Beresford household, I had the excuse of being in shock and terror at suddenly finding myself headteacher instead of deputy. Having said that, while there might be a shepherd’s pie in the oven, I still didn’t know how I was going to explain Mark’s absence.

Before Fiona left to feed her own brood, she’d nipped down to Sainsbury’s, returning with an enormous chocolate cake, concealer and a pack of Nytol.

‘The cake’s for pud to stop your two talking,’ she announced drily. ‘If their mouths are full, they can’t be asking too many questions. You’ll need the concealer to cover up those red eyes in the morning and the Nytol…’

‘I’m not taking sleeping tablets,’ I protested. ‘I don’t believe in them…’

‘They’re just antihistamine,’ Fiona said calmly. ‘Far better that you actually get some sleep to face tomorrow than have another night like last night. You probably won’t need them, you’ll be so exhausted. I usually drop a couple when Matthew is snoring horrendously and doesn’t respond to my clapping.’

‘Clapping?’ Clare looked up from her laptop, bemused. ‘You applaud him for bloody snoring. God, I’d be kicking him, not encouraging him. Clapping?’

Fiona laughed. ‘Honestly, it works. Try it next time one of your men happens to be a snorer. You just gently clap two or three times and they turn over and sleep without another sound. It doesn’t always work.’ Fiona started giggling. ‘The other night I was so fed up with him I clapped really angrily – staccato – in his left ear, and he shot out of bed shouting, “What is it, what is it, wassamatter…?” fell over his bloody great size-fifteen boots – that I’m always telling him to shift from the bedroom – and landed in a naked heap on the carpet.’ Fiona carried on chortling. ‘Great entertainment,’ she added.

‘I think you need to get out more,’ Clare said. ‘Why don’t you go into the spare room when the snorer from hell kicks off?’

‘Haven’t got one any more. Now that the girls are horrible adolescents and can’t stand sharing a bedroom – or each other, come to that – Bea has purloined the spare room for herself. Moved all her stuff in there a couple of months ago and refuses to move.’

‘I’d smack her bottom,’ Clare said.

‘Not when she’s almost six foot and her hockey stick’s a constant accessory, you wouldn’t,’ Fiona said mildly. ‘Anyway, enough of my lot. How are you feeling now, Cassie?’

‘Like I’m in a dream,’ I shrugged. ‘Totally not with it. Even if Mark hadn’t done what he’d done, if he was here now with me instead of you two, I’d still be in a state about tomorrow.’

‘But why?’ Clare looked up again. ‘I thought you wanted to be in charge?’

I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself as terrifying thoughts of the next day replaced incredulous thoughts of Mark’s recalcitrant behaviour. ‘I know you two – particularly you, Clare, not having any kids in the system – don’t know much about what’s going on in education at the moment, but being a deputy head in a primary school is totally different from being the head. I have a class of my own to teach, albeit on a slightly, and I emphasise the word slightly, reduced timetable. I’m given two afternoons off to perform my deputy’s role.’

‘Sounds much better now then,’ Clare said, draining her cup of coffee. ‘As head, you won’t have a class to teach and you can shut yourself away in your office and swivel round on your chair, pressing those red and green lights that say, “Come In” or “Bugger Off”.’

I actually laughed at that. ‘You don’t know the half. I’m still going to have to deal with my new class tomorrow; someone will have to teach them and I can’t see David Henderson having sorted out any supply.’

‘David Henderson.’ Fiona whistled. ‘I’m still amazed that the man they call “the Richard Branson of the North” is actually your Chair of Governors. What’s he like? Rather attractive, isn’t he?’

‘Rather?’ Clare snorted. ‘Very, you mean. He’s gorgeous…’

‘With a very attractive wife,’ I smiled.

‘Since when’s that stopped Clare?’ Fiona sniffed, giving me an anxious look. ‘Look, Cassie, you can’t do everything. You can’t be expected to teach a class of thirty ten-year-olds and be deputy head and now head as well. What did David Henderson say? What’s likely to happen?’

‘Well, in cases like this, where the head is suddenly no more if the deputy has been in situ for years then they will be acting head and another member of staff will be acting deputy until the post of head is advertised and filled. In my case, where I’m brand new, a new acting head is usually brought in from the authority. You know, someone who’s been a deputy for years in their own school and is actively looking for a headship. They’ll ship them in to take over temporarily.’

Clare looked disappointed. ‘Oh, so you’re not going to be head after all? Well, that’s all your problems halved in one fell swoop. You just need to sort Mark out and you’ll be back to square one, job done.’

‘Clare!’ Fiona frowned as she saw my face. ‘I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that. You get back to sorting your rampant stags and don’t be so damned flippant.’

I smiled at Fiona but realised my stomach was churning and I wanted to throw up. ‘I’m sure they will bring someone in to take over as head but, according to David Henderson, it won’t be tomorrow. He said he’d be on hand in the morning to help me. Shit,’ I said, suddenly realising. ‘I’m going to have to do a new-term, new-year, new-beginning assembly and I’ll have to explain to the children that Mrs Theobold is dead. Or do I say she’s with Jesus? No, I can’t; what about the Muslim children? OK, Mrs Theobold is with Jesus or Mohammed – take your pick, kids.’

‘Calm down,’ Clare said as she realised panic was mounting in every fibre of my being once more. ‘Sit yourself down, pen and paper in front of you, and we’ll help you compose your very first assembly as head. How hard can it be?’’

Julie Houston is the author of The One Saving Grace, Goodness, Grace and Me and Looking for Lucy, a Kindle bestseller top100 general, and a Kindle bestseller Number1. She is married, with the two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.

 Twitter Facebook Website

Posted in Festive Read

#BlogTour T.A. Williams – Dreaming of Christmas- Guest Post -5* Review

Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it’s been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all-expenses-paid skiing holiday with old university friends.

The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime, he’s done rather well for himself.  As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it’ll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others…

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Guest Post –

T.A. (Trevor) Williams talks about his new book, Dreaming of Christmas and how potentially tricky it was to write.

I’ve never been big on Christmas. Like a lot of men, I find it creeps up on me and suddenly it’s Christmas week and I haven’t bought anybody any presents. This realisation has me scuttling off to the city centre on Christmas Eve with little or no idea of what to buy. Mind you, ever since one memorable Christmas forty years ago, I definitely know what NOT to buy for my wife. If any men are reading this, heed my words – underwear is not a good idea. Indeed, clothes of any kind are definitely a risky business and best avoided. Luckily my wife has a definite weakness for marrons glacés, so if all else fails, I go for a ridiculously expensive box of those. Anyway, as Christmas approaches, the pile of Christmas cards on my desk grows ever taller and, with it, so does my sense of guilt. If you are one of the rare recipients of a Christmas card from me, don’t be surprised if it was postmarked 24th December.

So how, you may ask, does such a pathetic specimen manage to write a Christmas book? It’s a question I asked myself a good few times last winter when I sat down to write Dreaming of Christmas. The answer has to be imagination. Just because I’m useless at Christmas, this doesn’t mean I can’t imagine what it must be like for people who know what it’s all about and how to do it properly. Over the course of my writing career, I have written about medieval knights, Hollywood film stars, Italian winemakers and internet billionaires. I have no experience of any of these job descriptions so I have had to use research and imagination. So it was with Dreaming of Christmas. I had to think myself into the mind of a Christmas aficionado and write accordingly.

Even so, when I sent the first draft to my editor at publishers, Canelo, I was unsurprised to receive his subsequent advice to “ramp up the glitter” and I did my best to comply. In fairness, I did make life easy for myself by setting the book in a very posh luxury hotel in the beautiful Austrian Alps. This place in my mind’s eye was smothered in deep snow, surrounded by snow-covered pine trees hung with fairy lights, and inside there were Christmas decorations galore. I even Googled “Christmas decorations” so as to remind me what sort of things constituted a really special Christmas and included as much as possible, from angels on top of trees to presents beneath them. I even gave the hotel manager – a figure I image to be a short, chubby man in an impeccable grey suit – a pair of plastic reindeer antlers on his head.

The characters in Dreaming of Christmas are a group of old university friends meeting up again after ten years. They all spend Christmas together so this inevitably meant I had to think about Christmas presents. The eagle-eyed reader will soon spot that nobody gives anybody else any underwear (when I learn a lesson, I really learn a lesson), but it was a struggle to imagine what, say, a thirty-something billionaire would give to his former housemates. Luckily I hit upon the idea of a “Christmas Market” in the village and that opened to doors to snow globes, candles, mugs, scarves and gloves, as well as a rather fine little silver necklace.

Hopefully, the description of Christmas in the book will satisfy the reader. To be totally honest, I ended up rather liking the environment I created. So much so that Casa Williams this Christmas may well find itself with an all singing and all dancing Christmas tree and ancillary baubles, just like in the book. Who knows? I might even buy a few presents in advance. Maybe writing the book has been good for me.

My Thoughts…

A lovely festive setting, an interesting group of people and an unlikely romance make this an enchanting Christmas story.  Glamour, reunion, troubled relationships and romance simmering under the surface bring this modern-day fairytale to life, and it will have you turning the pages lost in its ambience.

Billy is definitely romantic hero material and Zoe can’t believe how he’s changed in ten years, but he’s married and so she has to look elsewhere for her prince charming. Zoe is faced with numerous dilemmas, as she deals with her former flatmates’ problems, but can she sort out her own life and make it a truly memorable festive time?

This is an easy to read, well written festive romantic comedy, set in the picturesque Austrian Alps, complete with a perfect fairytale ending.

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

T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing.  Twitter

Posted in Book Review

Love in the Dales Series- Mary Jayne Baker – Guest Post and 5* Reviews

In a lost corner of the Yorkshire Dales, Lana Donati runs a medieval theme tourist trap restaurant with her brother. As a distraction to help them get over losing the father, they loved dearly, and as a tribute to his passion for the beautiful area they live in, Lana hatches a plan to boost business for everyone by having the Grand Départ route pass through their village. 

But this entails getting the small community to work together to convince the decision-makers that their beloved village is Tour material. Not an easy task when the people involved include Lana’s shy, unlucky-in-love brother Tom, the man-eating WI chair Yolanda, bickering spouses Gerry and Sue, arrogant celebrity Harper Brady, and Lana’s (attractive) arch-nemesis, former pro-cyclist turned bike shop owner, Stewart McLean, whose offbeat ideas might just cost them everything. 

Amazon UK

mirrorbooks.co.uk

My Thoughts…

Authentic characters that have emotional depth and realistic flaws are the lynchpins of this romantic comedy set in the lovely Yorkshire Dales.

A story about community spirit, village life and honouring those we love. The main protagonist is independent, but with a vulnerability that endears her. The romance she finds is paced realistically and adds interest to this story of family, relationships and friends.

Another charming story by this author who has the knack of bringing her setting to life to enhance her wonderful characters. Looking forward to the next one.

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

After years living in London, costume shop owner Becky Finn is trying to build a new life for herself and fiancé Cole in her old home of Egglethwaite, a sleepy village in the Yorkshire Dales.

Keen to raise funds for the struggling village hall she loved as a child, Becky soon finds herself at the head of a colourful group intent on resurrecting Egglethwaite’s Christmas pantomime. But, as she quickly discovers, there’s more to panto than innuendo and slapped thighs.

As the opening night grows closer, Becky starts to wonder if her embattled panto will ever make it to the stage and, with handsome co-star Marcus on the scene, if shes picked the right man for her after all.

Amazon UK

mirrorbooks.co.uk

My Thoughts…

What I love about this author and this series is the humour that dominates the plot and acts as the perfect counterpoint to the deep emotion of some scenes. Again, this story concentrates on community spirit. How after a little persuasion and give and take, they work as one for the good of the village.

The storyline is engaging and unique, again a characteristic of this author. The quality of characters, the events and emotions bring James Herriot’s Vet stories to mind, which I love.

There’s romance too, which is a realistic mix of poignancy and laughter and adds just the right amount of sweetness and spice to this delightful story.

Love in the Dales is a great series, well worth reading.

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

Guest Post – Mary Jayne Baker 

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Ok, so here’s a tweet of mine from 23rd October 2016, as I was planning out my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those who’ve not come across it) for that year:

That book became A Bicycle Made for Two, the first book in the Love in the Dales series. It was published in April 2018, with the second book in the series, The Perfect Fit, following in November. And yes, it does indeed feature trombones, chips shops and morris dancing, as well as Flash the border collie pup!

I’ve been asked to write a few words about the inspiration behind the series. As the tweet above shows, when it comes to where an author gets their ideas, it’s often a bit of a mishmash, chucking in ingredients as and when they occur to you. Mine go into a big brainstorming document, then are weeded down when I come to write an outline. So, I wanted my heroine to play in a brass band because I used to play in a brass band (saving myself research, basically…). I wanted to include a chip shop because I’d been standing in one when I’d had a vision of a scene I could set there. Morris dancing – I’d noticed that morris dancers were often older, very serious-looking men and I thought there was potential for humour in creating a character who was such a man. And the dog is called Flash for the sole purpose of one Queen-based joke that made me giggle.

In terms of having a plan, all I really knew when I decided to write the first book – which I didn’t know at the time would end up being part of a series – was that I wanted to write about Yorkshire. I wanted my deep affection for my home county to shine through in the story, the characters, the setting and the writing.

I’d written books with Yorkshire characters and settings before. My debut novel, The Honey Trap, was set in London but featured a villainous editor from Bradford, who became my favourite characters to write for. My next book, Meet Me at the Lighthouse, was set on the Yorkshire coast, and Runaway Bride had a heroine from Settle. But I wouldn’t have said Yorkshire was the primary inspiration for those books in the same way as A Bicycle Made for Two. This brings my bit of the West Riding into focus: the glorious blend of moorland and mill towns often referred to as Brontë Country.

I wanted the book to reflect a tight-knit village community such as the one I’d grown up in, and as with all my books, the individual ingredients came more often than not from my own experiences. As mentioned, like my heroine I once played in a brass band (2nd Euphonium). The village, Egglethwaite, is a patchwork of bits and pieces I’ve stolen from other villages near where I live. The viaduct and reservoir are based on Hewenden viaduct and reservoir, near my home in Harden (and although the viaduct is integral to the story and features on the cover, it only occurred to me to include it about a third of the way through writing the first draft – some insight into the writing process there!). The beauty spot of Pagans’ Rock is based on Druids’ Altar near Bingley. Egglethwaite’s cobbled main street was borrowed from Heptonstall, its pub name from Oxenhope. When I come across something that lights a spark for whatever reason – whether that’s a cobbled street, a pub name, a phrase or tic of an individual I encounter, an event or anecdote – I jot it down to add to my brainstorm. Even things that don’t become part of the core plot can add texture and character to a book, and help to flesh out the people who live in its pages.

With this series particularly, I wanted to include all the things I loved best about Yorkshire, from the sweeping beauty of the moors to the dry humour of the people. I wanted this to be Yorkshire as it is, my experience of it, rather than the view of it from the outside as a land of whippets, flat caps and puddings. So I made the decision to set the first book around an event we’re still talking about in the county: the Grand Départ of 2014 when the eyes of the whole world were on the county and it really showed itself at its best. I’m not a follower of professional cycling but like everyone in Yorkshire, I got carried away by that event and the sense of community spirit it brought out.

For the second book, I knew exactly what I wanted to write. Again, I wanted to bring out the community spirit at the heart of Egglethwaite. I’d always wanted to write a story about a village pantomime, and now I had the perfect village and the perfect set of characters to take the job on. With all the old friends I’d got to know writing A Bicycle Made for Two, plus a new hero and heroine and their families, I set about throwing obstacles at my wannabe amdrammers, both romantic and theatrical. These included randy cast members, bad acting, iffy Welsh accents, piddling puppies and deflating boobies. It was so much fun to write, I do hope I’ll get the chance to visit Egglethwaite again in future!

 

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

BlogTour: Darcie Boleyn- Love at the Northern Lights – Guest Post – 4*Review

 ‘Climbing out the window in her dress and tiara wasn’t exactly how Frankie imagined her wedding day…’

Runaway bride Frankie Ashford hops a plane to Norway with one goal in mind – find her estranged mother and make peace with the past. But when a slip on the ice in Oslo lands her directly in Jonas Thorsen’s Viking-strong arms, her single-minded focus drifts away in the winter winds.

When it comes to romance Jonas knows that anything he and Frankie share has an expiration date – the British heiress has a life to return to in London that’s a world away from his own. But family is everything to Jonas and, as the one man who can help Frankie find the answers she’s seeking, he’ll do whatever it takes to help her reunite with her mother.

Now, as Christmas draws closer and the northern lights work their magic, Frankie and Jonas will have to make a choice…play it safe or risk heartbreak to take a chance on love.

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

 

Guest Post – Darcie Boleyn – The Inspiration Behind Love at the Northern Lights

Do you ever wonder where you’ll be ten years from now? I certainly do and have done throughout my life.

Growing up, I had many deep conversations with my dad about the future and about what we’d like to do. He wasn’t just my dad; he was one of my best friends. We planned on travelling together – with any (understanding) future partner and children I might have – and we had a bucket list of places to go and things we wanted to see.

Twenty years ago, he was still around, and we took a trip to Orlando, Florida. It was a fabulous week, and we laughed a lot. Sixteen years ago, I had my daughter, and my dad was delighted to be a grandfather. His plans for what we would do grew even more exciting and adventurous, and he was so enthusiastic about where we would take my daughter and how well travelled she would be.

Norway was one of the places we talked about visiting. With its mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords, it sounded perfect. There would be the chance to see authentic Viking ships in Oslo’s museum, to take a cruise on the Sognedfjord – Norway’s longest and deepest fjord – and to hike and ski. And, of course, there would be the opportunity to visit Tromsø, to ride on a sleigh through the snow, and hopefully witness the magnificent Aurora borealis.

Sadly, my dad passed away in 2004, when he was just fifty-eight, and my daughter was eighteen months old. My world fell apart, and it seemed that my dreams did too.

However, my dad was a man who seized life, who lived every day and who would have hated for me to give up. As I gradually came to terms with my loss, I grew stronger and began to enjoy life again. Fourteen years on, I still miss him every day, but I have so much to be grateful for and so much to live for. With my loving husband, two beautiful children and three funny dogs, there is much to smile about. I’m also living my childhood dream as an author, something that would have made my dad very proud indeed.

Love at the Northern Lights is dedicated to my dad and to the dreams we shared. The story isn’t about him, or me, but it was inspired by our conversations and our bucket list.

I don’t know where I’ll be ten years from now, but I know where I want to be and what I’d like to do.

One day, I will get to see the northern lights, and when I do, I’ll be holding my dad in my heart.

My Thoughts…

A  story of mothers and daughters, injustice and second chances in scenic Norway and fashionable London and romance that will last longer than the festive season.

A lovely, romantic tale with a festive twist. Frankie runs away from her wedding and her controlling grandmother and decides to find the mother who walked out on her when she was a baby.  Her only clue a postcard her mother sent from Norway.

Norway is full of surprises and possible romance until a call from London means she has to go home. The relationship between Frankie and her mother is poignant and realistic and there is lots of simmering romance amid the snow and the Northern Lights.

An easy to read festive tale which will make you smile.

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

 

Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night. Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi, but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away. She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.    Twitter       Website

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Finding Felix – Jo Platt – Extract and 4*Review

Singleton Dot Riley’s grandmother, Nanny Flo, is on her deathbed, surrounded by family and distraught at the thought of Dot being all alone in the world.  Desperate to make Flo’s final moments happy ones, Dot invents a boyfriend – plumping in panic for her childhood friend, Felix, a firm favourite of Flo, but whom Dot hasn’t actually seen for 15 years.

But when Flo makes an unexpected recovery a few weeks before a family wedding, Dot is faced with a dilemma.  Should she tell her frail grandmother that she lied and risk causing heartache and a relapse?  Or should she find Felix and take him to the wedding?

Dot opts for finding Felix.  But it’s not long before she discovers that finding him is the easy bit: liking him is the real challenge.  

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Extract

‘And here’s Becca in her Hawaiian outfit at the school fete. Do you remember that, Becca?’ My mother passed the photograph to my sister, who was sitting to her left.

Becca laughed. ‘How old am I here? Four?’

‘It was 1989, I think. So you’re five,’ said my mother, leaning towards her to peer again at the photograph. ‘It took me hours to make that crêpe-paper hula skirt and all those flowers for the lei and the headdress.’

‘It did,’ agreed Dad. ‘And then just three minutes for heavy rain to turn everything to mush and leave Becca in nothing but her vest and pants.’ He laughed loudly, and I joined in, reaching for the photo.

It had, against all my shameful expectations, been a lovely evening with my parents and Becca. We had met in the lounge of the Bear in Devizes marketplace for drinks at six thirty, before moving through to the cosy wood-panelled restaurant at seven. Mum told us that she had booked early so that we could all get our beauty sleep, although as I was actually staying at the Bear that night, I knew I could be in bed within fifteen minutes of waving them off.

Mark was spending the night with his best man, and my sister had, quite valiantly I thought in light of my mother’s pre-wedding nerves, insisted that Mum and Dad stay with her. I was invited to stay too, but, as I wasn’t quite as valiant as Becca, I had declined, instead booking myself in for an extra night at The Bear.

I smiled down at the glossy 6×4 picture of my little sister and then up at Dad, feeling grateful for his suggestion that Mum bring along the photographs she hadn’t found room for on the wedding reception storyboard. The snaps had been viewed between courses, prompting memories and anecdotes which had kept the evening firmly focused on Becca, which was just what I had hoped for.

‘You were beautiful from the off,’ I said to Becca, returning the picture to her. ‘And you’ll be at your most beautiful tomorrow.’

She sighed. ‘I just hope I can make it down the aisle without tripping.’

‘It’s me you’ve got to worry about,’ said Dad. He reached out and took her hand. ‘But together we’ll make it,’ he added a little emotionally.

There was a short pause, during which my mother murmured, ‘Oh Don,’ and dabbed at her eyes with her napkin.

Becca looked at me across the table, offering me an affectionate eye roll.

I cleared my throat. ‘Come on then,’ I said to Mum. ‘Show us the next picture. Dessert will be here soon.’

‘Ooh, yes,’ she said, returning her attention to the pile of photographs sitting next to her on the table. ‘Here you are on top of Cat Bells, in the rain, in the summer of ’91,’ she said, handing one to Becca. ‘And swimming in Derwent Water, in the rain, in ’92. And waiting for the launch at Hawes End, in the rain, in ’93.’ She paused, putting a hand to her mouth and giggling. ‘And oh my goodness, I’d forgotten I’d found this one. Just look at that, Becca!’ She laughed again, but my sister, although smiling, didn’t seem to find the picture quite so funny.

‘What is it?’ I asked, smirking and holding out my hand. ‘It’s not Becca’s Hawaiian costume post-downpour, is it?’

‘No, no, it’s you, darling,’ said Mum. ‘You and Felix in the school play.’ She turned it over. ‘It says Christmas 1994.’

‘Oh.’ I stopped smirking and took the picture from her as she held it out to me.

‘Yes, just look at him. There he is. Such a sturdy boy.’ My mother leaned forward and tapped the picture. ‘Didn’t he make a marvellous Christmas pudding? And there you are, the candle, a good four inches taller than him, right next to him. See? You’ll have to show him that tomorrow.’

‘I will,’ I said quietly, extending the long list of falsehoods told to date, whilst retrieving my handbag from the back of my chair and slipping the picture inside without looking at it.

When I looked up, my mother was still smiling broadly at me, increasing my sense of guilt.

‘I’ve forgotten what I’m having for dessert,’ I said. ‘Did I go for the torte or the cheesecake in the end?

‘That was the only picture of him I came across. But I wasn’t really looking and you’ve probably got lots of him now, haven’t you?’ My mother looked at me expectantly. ‘On your phone,’ she added, nodding her head towards my bag, which was still on my lap.

‘I have a few,’ I said, wondering what number lie that was. I decided that I must have hit the high nineties by now.

‘I think you’re having the torte, Dot,’ said Becca. ‘I’m having the cheesecake.’

‘I’d love to see a picture of what he looks like now,’ said Mum, pointing at my bag.

‘You’ll see him in the flesh tomorrow, Helen,’ said Dad.

‘I know, Don, but I may not recognise him if he’s very changed, and how embarrassing would that be? Apparently he looks quite different now, doesn’t he, Dot? Shorter hair and less sturdy.’

I experienced a sinking feeling. She actually had a valid point. ‘My phone is dead,’ I said desperately, and waited with grim resignation for her to insist that I check.

But she didn’t. Instead, she looked over my shoulder towards the entrance to the restaurant, her eyes narrowing and her lips thinning. It was the kind of look she used to give me as a teenager whenever I mentioned Sean Dowse’s DIY tattoo in front of her sister-in-law, my Auntie Dawn, with whom she was fiercely competitive. I glanced at Becca and together we turned and followed my mother’s gaze.

I saw Alistair just as he saw us.

He smiled in surprise and then waved hesitantly. My father was the only one of us with the wherewithal to respond. ‘Alistair,’ he said, standing up and holding out a hand as my ex-walked uncertainly towards us.

‘Hi, Don,’ he said, shaking Dad’s hand. ‘Helen, Rebecca, Dot,’ he added, smiling at each of us in turn.

‘Hello, Al,’ smiled Becca.

My mother folded her arms. ‘Good evening, Alistair,’ she said coldly.

I frowned at her before turning back towards him. ‘Hi,’ I said, trying to keep my voice light. ‘Are you here for a drink?’ I looked at Becca. ‘Is Mark coming here?’

Alistair answered for her. ‘No, I’m meeting Mark in the Three Crowns at…’ he checked his watch, ‘just about now, actually. But I need to check in first.’ He gestured with his thumb over his shoulder while smiling down at me. I nodded and tried desperately not to miss him.

‘You’re staying here?’ asked my mother unsmilingly. ‘That’s interesting, because so is Dorothy.’

‘Oh?’ Alistair’s eyebrows raised slightly as he nodded his acceptance of the fact.

‘Yes. And so is her boyfriend, Felix,’ continued Mum, repeating an assumption which, for obvious reasons, I hadn’t bothered to contradict. ‘He’s a lovely accountant with his own business and he is completely smitten with her.’

I closed my eyes briefly and heard my father murmur, ‘Helen,’ and my sister, ‘Mum,’ simultaneously.

When I opened my eyes, Alistair was still smiling. ‘That’s great, Dot,’ he said, and to my devastation, he sounded like he meant it. ‘I take it he hasn’t arrived yet? Or is he having a drink with Mark?’

‘He doesn’t get here till tomorrow,’ I said quietly.

‘OK, I’ll look forward to meeting him then,’ said Alistair. ‘And now I’ll leave you to your meal, but I’ll see you all at the church tomorrow. Especially you,’ he added, pointing at Becca. ‘Don’t keep the man waiting.’

 

 

My Thoughts…

Like all the best romantic comedy, this story starts with a dilemma that forces the well-meaning heroine to do anything to achieve the desired end, regardless of the consequences for herself. Dot wants to make her dying grandmother’s wish come true and so plucks a friend out of her past and turns him into her fantasy boyfriend. Not unsurprisingly her well-intentioned lie comes back to haunt her when her grandmother rallies and wants to see the mystery boyfriend for herself.

Full of misunderstanding, which provides the story’s humour and an undeniable wake-up call for Dot that Felix, in reality, is not how she remembered him. There’s something there though, and despite the opportunity to extricate herself from the lie, she doesn’t. An excellent supporting cast of believable characters adds depth to the story, which like all good romcoms ends happily.

Sophisticated romantic comedy that’s fun to read and guaranteed to make you laugh.

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


Jo Platt was born in Liverpool in 1968 and, via the extremely winding route of rural Wiltshire, London, Seattle and St Albans, she is now happily settled in Bristol with her husband and two daughters. She studied English at King’s College London before going on to work in the City for ten years. In 2000 she escaped into motherhood and part-time employment, first as an assistant teacher in a Seattle pre-school and then was a Bristol-based secretary to her husband.  

Website ‎Twitter

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Kitty Wilson – The Cornish Village School – Q&A and 4*Review

 

Rosy Winter is definitely not looking for love

Following heartbreak, Rosy has rebuilt her life in the beautiful Cornish village of Penmenna. Now, headmistress of the local school, she is living by The Rule: no dating anyone in the village. Easy right? But Rosy Winter has a new neighbour, handsome gardener Matt.

In Penmenna for his new gardening TV show, this guy next door will do everything he can to persuade her to break her rule and win her heart. Meanwhile, Penmenna Village School is threatened with closure, and it’s up to Rosy to rally the local community and #SaveOurSchool. Can she bring her worlds together and accept help from the most unlikely of sources? One thing’s for sure… she won’t be giving up without a fight.

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Amazon

Q&A with Kitty Wilson – The Cornish Village School Blog Tour

What inspired you to write a story set in a Cornish Village?

They say write what you know and I have lived here for over two decades. Every morning I open my eyes and out of the window there is the sea stretching in front of me just past some fields. I live in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a network of Cornish villages, and there is nothing like it. It’s hard not to be inspired by my surroundings. The villages are quirky, picturesque and a perfect microcosm of all human behaviour. I love the community feel and the things you learn. People are quick to gossip, but they are even quicker to help. Spending time in these villages, and I do seem to be in the village pub with alarming frequency, helped me shape the book. I knew I wanted to write romance, but I also knew I wanted it to be a story of a community and how it pulls together, how it’s supportive and funny and a character in its own right.

There are lots of stories about Cornish life currently, what makes yours different?

A book takes me about a year to write, so I was a bit panicked as I saw Cornish title after Cornish title hitting the shelves. But the truth is that the setting is so magical, memorable and lends itself beautifully to all types of fiction that I am not surprised that many great stories are set here.

What makes mine different? I hope the fact that I am so deeply immersed in Cornish life and culture makes a difference. I know the people intimately, the everyday customs and practices that make this county are ingrained in me and my children. We do like to go at a slow pace although everything is thrown down for the day if the sun shines, then we race to the beach with our bags and BBQ kit which are permanently packed and kept by the door. We have experienced, over two decades, so much that Cornwall has to offer; beach and moors, hidden forests and ancient monuments. I hope my book is weaved through with the spirit of Cornwall in the same way that Cornwall is woven through me, and that Cornwall jumps out from the pages with real depth, a passion, knowledge that can’t always be captured without having lived it. 

Do you draw your characters from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

My characters tend to start with a real person if for no other reason that then I can picture them in my head and go from there. In this instance, Rosy was made of an amalgamation of a few teacher friends and Matt was a young Monty Don. However, it doesn’t take long before they seem to take over themselves and become very much their own person with barely any resemblance to the initial inspiration at all. So, I start with real life, but that barely lasts ten minutes before they, or my imagination, takes over and runs wild.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read all sorts of books and always have done. I grew up devouring the classics which has helped shape my love of history, and my comfort reads tend to be historical or romance. I love romantic comedies, and there is nothing that lifts the soul as beautifully on a grey day. I read literary fiction occasionally as well but think that the escapism of a commercial novel is a wonderful thing that should be celebrated a lot more than it is. But the truth is I will read anything and do. Why do I love reading? That is an essay worthy question so I shall say simply because it is something I have always done and cannot imagine a life in which I didn’t. It enriches my heart, mind and soul.

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

I have always wanted to write, ever since I was a small child and used to create story after story. Rather like reading it was just part of me for as long as I can remember. I did let real life get in the way and found little time to write when I was working full-time as a teacher and was a lone parent with two children, but still, I would occasionally try, although I tended to write poetry, time being in short supply. I think writing is an itch and is always there niggling in your mind if you’re not doing it. I had to stop teaching when I became poorly, but on the upside, I suddenly had time on my hands, and I started to write. This genre was a natural fit, and it just seemed to flow, I have loved to read romance ever since (and maybe a little before) it was age appropriate, so that was what I started with. I found that as I was writing, I was writing things that made me cackle and decided to embrace the humour rather than cut it out. My romantic comedy voice was born, and I love writing this genre. It’s warm, it’s comforting, and it provides an escape – what is not to love?

What’s next for Kitty Wilson? Have you written any more books set in this lovely village?

I am currently writing the second in the series set around Penmenna School and have more planned in my head. Each will centre around a different protagonist, but favourite characters (and mine is Marion) will feature heavily in each. In fact, I am giving Marion a longer-running storyline which I hope will carry over a couple of books, so yes, hopefully, lots more Penmenna village. I have so many stories in all sorts of places that I’m desperate to write, jostling around in my head, so I’m hoping I can carry on writing books for a very long time.  

My Thoughts… 

Strong female characters and the author’s knowledge and appreciation of all things Cornish makes this a welcome addition to growing number of fictional tales set in England’s most south-westerly county.

Rosie, the village school headteacher, sees the village as her new start, nothing will spoil it for her as long as she follows her rules. Matt, a celebrity gardener, moves in next door, and their growing physical and emotional attachment threatens Rosy’s rule book.

Aside from the emotional angst, the school is under threat of closure, and the subsequent campaign to #SaveOurSchool draws the community together and gives the Matt and his sister a chance to become part of something real and worthwhile.

The plot is simple and a little predictable, but the characters are believable, quirky and vividly portrayed, so the complete package makes a satisfying read. 

Romance, humour, trust and community are all themes of this village based tale, and I look forward to seeing who comes under the village spotlight next.

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

Kitty Wilson has lived in Cornwall for the last twenty-five years having been dragged there, against her will, as a stroppy teen. She is now remarkably grateful to her parents for their foresight and wisdom – and that her own children aren’t as hideous. She spends most of her time welded to the keyboard or hiding out at the beach and has a penchant for very loud music, equally loud dresses and romantic heroines who speak their mind.

Twitter: @KittyWilson23

Posted in Book Review

The Sister Swap – Fiona Collins – 4*Review

Meg simply doesn’t have time for men in her life. Instead, she has a strictly one-date rule, survives on caffeine and runs one of the biggest model agencies from her smart office in London. That is until she collapses one day at work and the doctor orders her to take some R&R in the country…

Sarah is used to being stuck behind tractors and the slow pace of her cosy village life. But now her children are all grown-up (and her ex-husband long forgotten) she’s ready to change things up a bit – starting with taking back her old job in the city!

After a devastating falling out, the sisters haven’t spoken in years. Swapping houses, cars, everything is the only option – surely they’ll be able to avoid bumping into each other?

Amazon UK

Amazon

 

My Thoughts…

Meg and Sarah estranged for twenty years. Both sister’s lives changed because of a devastating family tragedy. They led different lives, Meg’s career driven, Sarah’s, forsaking her career for her family. Illness and the prospect of an empty nest make both sisters assess their lives. They make contact and agree to swap their houses but will they become family again?

Both characters are flawed, Sarah on first acquaintance appears to be the most selfless, but as the story progresses it’s clear Meg’s colleagues like and respect her, which Sarah finds surprising. Living in a different setting makes them realise something is missing from their previous life and gives them a new perspective.

There is a mix of comedy, romantic and thought-provoking moments in this story. Your empathy with the characters increases as the story progresses and by the end you want their new lives to succeed.

Just the book for a lighthearted beach read.

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

Posted in Book Review

4* Review – A Beautiful Day for a Wedding – Charlotte Butterfield

Wedding journalist Eve is over the moon when her three best friends and her brother all decide to get married in the same summer. But when she finds out the man she once thought she’d be walking up the aisle with is back in the country and on all the guestlists, she can’t wait for wedding season to be over.

As if Ben’s sudden reappearance isn’t enough, her bridezilla besties have her polishing floors, searching for giant flamingos and dog-sitting while they jet off on honeymoon. Her only release is writing an anonymous column full of her bitter bridesmaid tales – she just needs to make sure the happy couples never find out…

Between facing her relationship demons and juggling her maid-of-honour duties, is Eve doomed to be left out of this summer of love?

Amazon UK  

Amazon

My Thoughts…

If you’re a fan of ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and ‘The Wedding Planner’, you will enjoy this 21st-century take on weddings and always being a bridesmaid and wedding planner.

Like all good romantic comedy, it has a likeable, flawed heroine and an assortment of quirky friends and admirers. We are treated to a full gambit of weddings and, all have their humorous and poignant moments. There is an added twist as, wedding journalist  Eve makes full use of her ‘fly on the wall’ opportunity, which threatens to undermine the real friendships she has. 

I didn’t enjoy Eve’s neglect of her friend’s dog, albeit unwittingly, after the first wedding. Using an animal’s suffering for comic purposes doesn’t sit well with me, but apart from that, this is a fun, romantic, hilarious romp through several couples special days.

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