Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Humour, Romance

The School of Starting Over Lisa Swift 5* #Review @LisaSwiftAuthor @HeraBooks @rararesources #BlogTour #BookReview #startingover #School #Teachers #secrets #RuralLife #VillageLife #Family Secrets #Lies #YorkshireMoors #TheSchoolofStartingOver

Nell’s going back to school… but now she’s learning lessons of the heart

Reception class teacher Nell Shackleton has a plan. At least, she had until she arrived at her new home of Humblebee Farm, a dilapidated farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors. But so what if the roof’s full of holes, the back door’s hanging off and there’s a sheep in the front room? Because sometimes a new beginning means starting at the bottom… right?

Xander Scott is one of the youngest headteachers Leyholme Primary School has ever had. But managing over-zealous parents and their semi-feral kids proves a tricky task for shy Xander – as does keeping his mind on the job when his feelings for the new Reception teacher become more than strictly professional…

At 43, Nell’s new friend Stevie Madeleine has given up on love. After losing her wife, Stevie’s decided that her four-year-old daughter Milly and cocker spaniel Red are the only girls she needs in her life. That is, until larger-than-life dog-walker Deb arrives on the scene. But will the secrets of Stevie’s past stop her new romance dead in its tracks?

Meeting Xander and Stevie brings joy back into Nell’s life – but when old secrets start to surface, there may be some hard lessons to learn for them all…

A gorgeously uplifting and hilarious romantic comedy.

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

My Thoughts…

Heartwarming, humorous, immersive and poignant. ‘The School of Starting Over’, evokes so many emotions in the reader, as you discover the secrets hiding within the complex and relatable characters.

A new beginning for Nell in a rundown farmhouse, her heart’s battered and she wants a new start. Reading, the first few chapters I was expecting a lighthearted rom-com, with lots of interactive village gossip. Whilst. this is superficially what this story delivers there is so much more as you read on.

Just, when you are relaxing, and enjoying the happy ever afters you expected, the plot twists into an emotional family drama, which resonates. The story’s main protagonists’ happiness is intricately connected. and like a house of cards. it could disappear without a trace.

Vivid characters, heartrending conflict and an authentic Yorkshire village ethos and setting make this addictive reading.

Lisa Swift

Lisa Swift is a romance author from West Yorkshire in the UK. She is represented by Laura Longrigg at MBA Literary Agents. Her first book is due to be published by Hera Books in August 2019.

As Mary Jayne Baker, Lisa also writes romantic comedies for Aria Fiction.

Lisa is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Guest post, Romance

One Christmas Star Mandy Baggot 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @mandybaggot #festiveread #Christmas #Romance #Friendship #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview

#OneChirstmasStar

Emily Parker is set to have the worst Christmas ever!

Her flatmate’s moved out, she’s closed her heart to love and she’s been put in charge of the school original Christmas show – with zero musical ability.

Disgraced superstar, Ray Stone is in desperate need of a quick PR turnaround. Waking up from a drunken stupor to a class of ten-year-olds snapping pics and Emily looking at him was not what he had in mind.

Ray needs Emily’s help to delete the photos, and she needs his with the show. As they learn to work together they may just open their hearts to more than a second chance…

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#OneChristmasStar #BlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

Children at Christmas are what make it special, and this lovely feelgood, festive romance has thirty-three children in its cast of characters. Don’t panic you haven’t got to remember all their names, only a few are introduced in-depth, but their enthusiasm, sense of wonder, and innocence as they embark on their festive show gives this story authenticity and a lovely Christmassy ethos.

Another positive theme in this story is its diversity. Many cultures and family groupings and beliefs are in evidence, reflecting contemporary life well.

Then, there’s the romance, which starts to grow between school teacher Emily and famous musician Ray, they meet serendipitously, at a low point in both their lives. They find something in each other that helps them to accept, heal, and move on from their emotional baggage, some of which is severe.

This is gently paced and detailed. You find out a lot about the characters, main and subsidiary. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily move the story forward, it does build the world, and make the reader believe in the characters, their stories and their motivations.

Music is an important element in this story and this celebrated throughout.

If you enjoy a book that absorbs you, and takes you on a journey, with a positive hopeful conclusion, this one is perfect.

Guest Post- Mandy Baggot – One Christmas Star
Never work with children or animals…

Animals will poop everywhere! Children will say the most embarrassing things! In One Christmas Star, I have children and animals, all being brought together in one festive extravaganza!

So, how do you go about writing children in novels? How do you make your ten-year-olds authentic and leap off the page? Well, I have to say, it does help if you have children yourself.

I am the mum of two daughters (12 and 14 now) and they absolutely provide me with inspiration for my books every single day. We can be talking randomly on the school run and then when I’m sat at my desk ready to start writing, this conversation will come back to me and end up slap-bang in the middle of my novel. And those chapters are always much richer for it.

One Christmas Star stars thirty-three Year Six’s under the care of teacher, Emily Parker. Here’s how I handled them as a writer and some top tips for making your characters authentic: –

The first thing I would say is, if you’re writing about a group of children, you are not going to make characters out of all thirty-three of them and nor should you. A) The reader is never going to remember all their names, B) neither are you and C) you aren’t going to be able to make thirty-three characters stand out. If you have children yourself, listen up! Take in what they talk about, what’s important to them and how they express this. What are their quirks and their individualism? If you don’t have children yourself, talk to people who do. Facebook is a great place to ask questions like this and you will find you will get loads of interaction and friends eager to give you their thoughts on this kind of topic.

Mix it up. You need girls and boys and you need to reflect society as it is today. Emily works at a Church of England funded school, but she has pupils from all faiths, of all colours and with many different home-life situations – working parents, unemployed parents, two dads, guardians, step-parents. Not just with children, make all your characters real, bring modern-day living to life. We don’t all speak the same. We don’t all look the same. Embrace all those qualities in your writing. Diversity is so exciting!

Keep it real. Make sure your child characters are absolutely true to their age range. Make their dialogue fit. They are not always going to talk in full, grammatically correct sentences. For me, dialogue always has to be true to the character, not to the grammar. I’ve altered many things after a proofreader has said it isn’t grammatically correct. It has to read the way your character would actually say it if he/she was standing in front of you. Read it aloud! How does it sound then? Like the child, it’s supposed to reflect? Or not?

I hope these tips have been useful and I really hope you love meeting the children from Stretton Park Primary School because they are ready to give you a Christmas to remember!

#MandyBaggot

Mandy Baggot is an internationally bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

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