Born in 1973 to a Greenlandic mother and an English-Explorer father, Malik has always been something of a misfit. He has one black eye and one blue. As a child, his mother’s people refused to touch him and now his own baby daughter’s family feel the same way.
On his own now, Malik’s only companion is a guiding spirit no-one else can see, but one day a white man with a nose like a beak and a shadow like a seagull appears on his doorstep and invites him to England.
Martha has had enough of living with domestic abuse. She compares bruises with her friend Neil, who regularly suffers homophobic attacks. With Martha’s baby, they go on the run to Shetland, where Martha has happy childhood memories of summers spent with her aunt.
On their way up north in a camper van, they come across a dejected Malik, alone again after a brief reconciliation with his father’s family.
They arrive safely together in the Shetland Isles, but Malik still needs answers to the identity of the beak-nosed man who casts a shadow over his life, and must now embark on a further journey of his own.
The Seagull’s Laughter is an immersive read, intertwined with nature and the magic of Greenlandic folk tales.
I received a copy of this book from Wildpressed Books in return for an honest review.
I love the colourful cover of this book. It makes you want to pick it up and read it, but what lies within, is even more enticing.
An original tale of differing cultures, family, friendship, magic, myths, prejudice and self-realisation. Set in the 1970s, with flashbacks to the late 1940s, it has so many layers. Each one has a purpose, and all it demands from the reader is time to absorb and enjoy it.
To begin with, this is Malik’s story, he lives in Greenland in the early 1970s. His life isn’t easy, but he accepts it, even though his people, don’t embrace him. You realise early on that he has a differing set of beliefs to an urbanised man. He has a spirit guide, and it is his importance that leads Malik on a journey that covers many miles geographically, culturally and spiritually.
Mythical quests are never easy, and neither is Malik’s journey of self-discovery, he encounters misunderstanding and prejudice. Emotionally raw, he meets two similarly, damaged people Martha and Neil, who share part of his journey and make him appreciate true friendship. He realises that family is sometimes not only those you share blood with.
The appearance of a strange man who resembles a seagull plagues Malik. The last part of his journey is solitary and demands the most courage. The descriptions of the cultures, settings and time periods are vivid and illuminate Malik’s story. The ending is powerful and uplifting.
Holly grew up in Derbyshire but has always been drawn to the sea. She has written from a young age. Her love affair with island landscapes was kick-started on a brief visit to the Faroe Islands at the age of eighteen, en route to Iceland. She was immediately captivated by the landscape, weather, and way of life and it was here that she conceived the idea for her first novel, The Eagle and The Oystercatcher.
Holly studied Icelandic, Norwegian and Old Norse at University College London. She also studied as an exchange student at The University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands) and spent a memorable summer working in a museum in South Greenland.
She decided to start a family young and now has three small children. Holly helps run Life & Loom, a social and therapeutic weaving studio in Hull. She likes to escape from the busyness of her life by working on her novels and knitting Icelandic wool jumpers.
When Jenny inherits her estranged grandmother’s cottage in Sherwood Forest, she has nothing to lose – no money, no job, no friends, no family to speak of, and zero self-respect. Things can only get better…
Her grumpy, but decidedly handsome new neighbour, Mack, has a habit of bestowing unsolicited good deeds on her. And when Jenny is welcomed into a rather unusual book club, life seems to finally be getting more interesting.
Instead of reading, the members pledge to complete individual challenges before Christmas: from finding new love, learning to bake, to completing a daredevil bucket list. Jenny can’t resist joining in, and soon a year of friendship and laughter, tears and regrets unfold in the most unexpected ways.
Warm, wise, funny and utterly uplifting, what one thing would you change in your life before Christmas comes around?
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review
Jenny sees the rundown cottage, she’s inherited from a Grandmother, she hardly knew, as a lifeline from her imploding life. Romance, family and career disintegrate just before Christmas and she needs somewhere to heal and start again.
The cottage has issues and on first acquaintance seems to reflect her shattered life, but with help from the village community, she starts to repair both. There are lots of great characters in this story, the villagers and the members of the unusual Christmas book club are believable and in most cases lovely.
Romance realistically isn’t the focus of this story, but where it occurs, it is gentle and born out of friendship. The festive atmosphere is evident and given a quirky twist by the Christmas book club.
Humorous, poignant, with a romantic sparkle, this is a good festive read, that leaves you with a warm Christmassy feeling.
Author Interview – Beth Moran – Christmas Every Day
Do you enjoy writing festive stories? If so why?
Christmas Every Day is the first festive story I’ve written, but as my other books are spread over several months, I always make sure I include some lovely Christmassy scenes. It’s one of my favourite times of the year, so I have great fun creating the warm, joyful atmosphere, and of course, it’s always a time when something magical might happen!
Festive stories are often written out of season, to fit in with publishing schedules, how do you get in the festive mood in the Summertime?
I wrote a lot of the festive scenes for Christmas Every Day in a summer heatwave. To get in the mood I listened to Christmas music in my car, guaranteeing I ended up with a festive tune stuck in my head! I drink a lot of tea while writing, so I swapped to spicy chai tea with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in my favourite Christmassy mug. It was also a great excuse to spend ages admiring a lot of beautiful decorations, trees and all things festive on Pinterest!
What inspired you to write this story?
wanted to write about someone who had grown up in a cold, unfeeling family and
ended up becoming part of one that was the complete opposite – warm, noisy,
chaotic and bursting with love. I also walk a lot in Sherwood Forest, and had
this picture in my head of a run-down, ramshackle cottage in the middle of the
trees, and wondered how a woman would cope if she suddenly found herself living
someone who loves books, I could easily spend way too much time reading about
other people’s stories, rather than getting out there to live some stories of
my own, so that was how the Christmas Book Club Challenge came about. But all
that is just for starters – like any writer I’m nosy, and always picking up new
ideas or overhearing snippets of conversation that get me thinking. I used to
carry a pen and paper to jot down interesting ideas as they came to me, but now
I just add them to the dozens of notes on my phone.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
My books are mainly set in and around Sherwood Forest where I live – I think for me to write with authenticity I need to stick to places I know, and my life doesn’t currently allow for many research trips elsewhere! So usually it starts with a plot idea – how would someone react to this happening to them, or what if someone did this. Then I start asking a lot of questions about who this person is, and who they might meet, and what would happen next, and it goes on from there. I got the inspiration for my first novel, Making Marion, while I was camping in France. I had a random thought about how a campsite would be a great place for a wounded woman to hide away and heal for a while. I then start wondering about this person – who is she, and what is she running from? – and took it from there.
What are the best things about Christmas for you? Is there anything about the festive season you don’t like? Why is this?
so much about Christmas! These days, one of the best things is that my two
eldest children come home from university, so the house becomes full of noise
and laughter again. I’m a huge foodie, so really enjoy planning meals, shopping
for ingredients and then cooking and baking it all. On Christmas Eve my mum and
sister-in-law come over with my nieces, and we chop vegetables, make stuffing
and do all the other prep for Christmas dinner for 10 people, while the cousins
hang out together. So – I suppose food and family, and all our quirky
traditions that have built up around them are the best things. I think the only
thing I don’t like is all the mess afterwards!
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
As a writer, I try to read a variety of different genres. I grew up reading my dad’s crime and thriller books and was a real Tolkien geek. Since then I’ve broadened into women’s fiction – I love how Cathy Lamb and Kristan Higgins write books that make you laugh one page and cry the next. I also became a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books several years ago – I love the detailed history, and how she’s written a powerful love story that takes places over several decades. Of course, I love a good festive read, and every December treat myself to Karen Swan’s new Christmas book. Generally speaking, I will give most things a go as long as they don’t leave me feeling too depressed afterwards!
What are the best and worst things about being a writer? Why?
best thing is when other people let me know how much they’ve enjoyed one of my
books. One of my greatest treats in life is discovering a new author who keeps
me reading far too late into the night because I can’t put a book down, those
books that make our hearts swell and our spirits soar. Knowing that what
started out as a hopeful jumble of ideas in my head has become one of those
books for someone else is priceless, and such a huge joy. I consider myself
very blessed to get to do this for a living.
The worst thing is probably the inevitable moments of doubt. I take months to write the first draft, and in all that time no-one else reads the book apart from me, so when I hit a plot snag, or a character won’t behave themselves, it can be easy to get discouraged. That’s when the messages from people telling me they love my books become so helpful in motivating me to stop faffing about on the internet and get back on it!
What are you currently writing?
currently writing a book about someone who as a teenager was a sporting
celebrity, and then gave it all up for a man who promptly dumped her. She’s
spent thirteen years raising her son alone while battling agoraphobia and
crippling shame, but thanks to a scary invitation, a fabulous running club and
a very lovely personal trainer, things are about to change…
Beth Moran is the author of three previous books, including Making Marion. She regularly features on BBC Radio Nottingham and is a trustee of the national women’s network Free Range Chicks. She lives on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest.
Phoebe’s adventure is waiting. Sam has to deal with his past so he can move on with his future. But will love wait, while life happens?
Phoebe and Sam meet by chance at St Pancras station. Heading in opposite directions, both seeking their own adventures, meeting the love of their lives wasn’t in the schedule. So they make a promise: to meet by the statue of Sir John Betjeman in twelve months’ time if they still want to be together.
But is life ever as simple as that?
This is a story of what-ifs and maybes – and how one decision can change your life forever…
I received a copy of this book from HQ Stories in return for an honest review.
A chance meeting at Sir John Betjeman’s statue in St Pancras station seems serendipitous, but Sam is on his way to the Scottish Isles and Phoebe is off to France for the trip of a lifetime. Both are searching for something, their journeys more emotional than geographic, but something happens at the station, but will it have a happy ending?
The two main characters are lovely, but also frustrating, they both have emotional damage, and anxiety, which in some ways increases as the story progresses. The setting and cast of characters for their travelogue is wonderful and gives the story authenticity and depth, as they start to realise the true purpose of their year away from their everyday lives.
The twist stops this story from being predictable. The last part of the book shows how the couple have developed emotionally but is it enough for them to live fulfilled lives?
A story of self-discovery, friendship and love, with just a hint of magic.
is invisible. No one seems to notice her – not really. Heck, she often doesn’t
notice herself, except for her monthly scrutiny in the mirror to check on her
body’s steady slide towards middle age.
But when her ancient, practical estate
car is consigned to the scrap heap, Candice falls in love with a cute, purple
convertible, and from that moment on her life begins to take on a whole new
meaning. Strangers wave at her and people stop to talk, and suddenly she isn’t
invisible any longer.
Life seems to be looking up,
especially when she meets silver fox and handy-man, Paul. There’s
just one fly in the ointment, one thing she that has her second-guessing
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
A funny, poignant romantic tale, about a woman who never overcame her husband’s deceit, and let it affect her future life. Growing older is never easy, women who have devoted their lives to their partners and children often feel invisible, even if the relationships are good, so for Candice, her emotional damage is deep and lasting.
‘Jelly Bean’ is a soft-top car, and more importantly, something just for her. Buying the car is the first step on her journey of self-realisation, it makes her visible. There are many humorous moments in this story, but they are usually tempered with poignancy. Her astute but cruel self-assessment of her face and body is probably something every woman of her age does, and most of us, if we’re honest fall short of our expectations.
The romance unfolds at a realistic pace, it doesn’t have the passion and speed of a young romance, and importantly Candice is not defined by it, even though it is important to her. Her family, ex-husband and sons are not the most likeable of people, but as she becomes stronger, what they think and want are less important.
This story has a powerful message, couched in an easy to read, lighthearted way. Candice is believable and easy to empathise. The ending is dramatic, and ultimately, heartwarming and hopeful.
Liz Davies writes feel-good, light-hearted stories
with a hefty dose of romance, a smattering of humour, and a great deal of love.
She’s married to her best friend, has one grown-up
daughter, and when she isn’t scribbling away in the notepad she carries with
her everywhere (just in case inspiration strikes), you’ll find her searching
for that perfect pair of shoes. She loves to cook but isn’t very good at it,
and loves to eat – she’s much better at that! Liz also enjoys walking
(preferably on the flat), cycling (also on the flat), and lots of sitting
around in the garden on warm, sunny days.
She currently lives with her family in Wales, but would ideally love to buy a camper van and travel the world in it. Twitter
Being Someone is a life story, a
love story, a human story.
James has fallen through life, plotting a course of least resistance, taking
each day as it comes and waiting for that indefinable something to turn up, to
give his story meaning. His journey lacks one vital element a fellow traveller.
Then he meets Lainey. Confident. Beautiful. Captivating. And James rewrites
himself to win her heart. Lainey gives James a reason to grow, paints a bright
future, promises the happy ending he has sought so keenly. But when we discover
we can live the greatest story of all, are we able to share the pages with
Being Someone is an emotive tale of love, of self-discovery and adventure a
story of the eternal search for happiness in another, without ultimately losing
I received a copy of this book from Urbane Books in return for an honest review.
A thought-provoking contemporary story, about life choices, and the mystery that is love.
The story begins with a story told to James, one of the protagonists, about an elephant and his mahout. The story is one of love, respect and trust, which is shattered by one careless, almost unconscious action. Leaving the elephant guilty and lonely, seeking solace by honouring his dead mahout, until his own demise. Whilst this is a beautiful, poignant tale, you, like James, question what relevance it may have to his life story until it does.
James is a twenty-first-century man, entitled, and content to let life come to him until he meets the one, Lainey, who unsettles him and makes him want more. She is a vital, passionate woman, and their love story is epic, but then life happens, and the cracks appear.
The story explores their love, the conflicts they face, both internal and external, and the consequences of the life choices they make, for their forever happiness. It is brutal in parts, and honest, and James’ often appears cold and unfeeling, but it is interesting to explore his emotions and motivations.
The settings add to the story by echoing their relationship status, The first story’s relevancebecomes clear as the story progresses.
An engaging contemporary love story, and insight into relationships in the twenty-first-century.
Carla Sullivan’s 50th birthday is fast approaching when her whole world is turned upside down. Discovering her feckless husband is having yet another affair and following her mother’s death, she is in need of an escape. Finding an envelope addressed to her mother’s estranged sister Josette in the South of France gives Carla the perfect plan.
Seizing the moment, she packs her bags and heads to Antibes to seek out the enigma known as Tante Josette. But as the two women begin to forge a tentative relationship, family secrets start to unravel, forcing Carla to question her life as she has always known it.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The author’s knowledge and love of France come through clearly in this story. The setting is vivid, beautiful, and sometimes in sharp contrast to the revelations at the villa.
This is a multi-generational story, a family drama, which unfolds in Tante Josette’s villa in Antibes. Carla’s life has not been easy, an unfaithful husband, looking after her sick mother, and now an empty nest, something needs to change. Finding something in her mother’s possessions gives her the opportunity of a break from her life and uncharacteristically she takes it.
This is a story of love, lies and secrets, new relationships and forgiveness. The chance to see an ending as a new beginning. The issues explored are emotionally draining, but the outcome is hopeful and makes the angst worthwhile.
The characters are flawed, sometimes they lack the courage to take the first step to something better, but they are easy to empathise and believable. The setting is a lovely contrast to the drama and emotions and the story’s ending is heartwarming.
Author Interview – Jennifer Bohnet – Villa of Sun and Secrets
What are the inspirations behind your story?
Villa of Sun and Secrets was inspired by the french word for memories – souvenir. Everyone has memories, some good, some bad, some unforgettable and some pushed into the deepest recess of the mind until something, somehow, draws them to the front. Some souvenirs are shared with other people, others are private to the individual and yet sometimes when other people’s private memories begin to be shared it can affect everything you’ve ever known.
What made you choose France for your setting?
I’ve lived in France for twenty years now – for a lot of the time down on the Cote d’Azur, which is a place I realised people love reading about. I’m probably more familiar with the way things are over here than I am with life in the UK these days.
Your story focuses on older women, do you find older or younger women easier to write? Why is this?
A character is a character and you have to get to know them whatever age they are and sometimes they are easier to understand and write than others. But basically, I have to admit I prefer writing about characters who have had some life experience.
When you write what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why is this?
It’s usually the setting for me – swiftly followed by the characters I place there, then they help me to work out the storyline and the plot.
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
It’s a mixture of both but probably 85% imagination. And I really don’t know the answer to the last part of the question although I do try and ensure that they have flaws which hopefully makes them realistic in the reader’s eyes.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
There are so many authors out there I enjoy reading, but there are a few whose new books I look forward to and buy without hesitation. Veronica Henry, Erica James, Marcia Willett, Jill Mansell are four writers I admire hugely. They draw you in from the first page, their characters are superbly drawn and their stories just flow.
When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?
It feels as though I’ve never, not written to be honest, but it was coming to France that really gave me the time and the space to start writing short stories, serials and finally novels. Before that, I wrote features and lifestyle pieces for various papers. I love finally being able to write full-time. The worst? Social media to be honest – so much promo has to be done and it takes away from writing time.
What are you currently writing?
My next book which is again set in France, tells the story of 4 women, strangers to each other, on holiday on the Riviera, is currently with my editor and I’m awaiting edits. In the meantime, I’m starting to re-edit my backlist which Boldwood Books will be re-issuing soon.
Jennifer’s bio – Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 10 women’s fiction titles, including Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera and The Little Kiosk By The Sea. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.
Two women from two very different generations are brought together through dramatic circumstances and help each other to forge new paths.
Twenty-six-year-old Erin has everything she’s ever wanted – a good job, a gorgeous fiancé and a best friend who’s always there for her. But suddenly her life comes crashing down around her. Unable to return home to her parents, she takes a room in a house nearby and her life starts over in the most unexpected of ways…
Seventy-six-year old Lydia, who, shocked by the sudden death of her husband, is devastated to discover that he has left her in crippling debt. With no choice but to take in a lodger, Erin comes into her life. When they find a letter hidden in the attic old secrets come to light and, with Erin by her side, Lydia finds herself going on a trip of a lifetime.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A delightful multi-generational story of love, loss, friendship and new beginnings.
Erin’s life implodes, when she is betrayed by those she loves, she needs to escape, to rebuild her life. Lydia still in shock from her sudden bereavement, finds that loss isn’t the only emotion she has to contend with. Her financial security is compromised, and taking in lodger seems the only way to make ends meet. The unlikely pair, find that material security isn’t the only benefit of living together, and they forge a friendship that opens up a new lease of life for both.
A chance discovery, reveals more family secrets, and a chance to experience something special for both women.
This is a story full of emotion and poignancy, but there are plenty of humorous moments too. Lydia is a witty woman, and Erin soon realises that age is no barrier to a true friend.
A lighthearted, emotional read, with characters who you can empathise and a heartwarming ethos.
Naked Saunas – The Inspiration behind The Time Of Our Lives– Abby Williams
I’ve always enjoyed running. Not only is it a great
stress reliever, it’s great for allowing you to eat lots of cake, and also
great for me, as I usually find all my best novel ideas come to me when I’m
pounding the pavement.
The idea for The Time Of Our Lives was no different.
One summer’s evening, I was out with my running club, when Nella, my lovely
Finnish friend started telling us all about the naked saunas she and her fellow
Finns all enjoyed back home! Cue much hilarity amongst us British girls who
were positively squeamish at the thought of showing off our bits and pieces to all
and sundry. Not so for Nella. She said she thought it was a good thing – young
and old came together to enjoy simple pleasures. Inhibitions and modesty were left
at the door she said, and real, lasting connections were formed, regardless of
She was right. It was us Brits that were repressed. After that conversation, I couldn’t get the idea of these generations coming together and although I didn’t really want to write about naked saunas, (Sorry Nella, it was a step too far), what did strike a chord was the idea of age being no barrier to friendship. It was then I knew that what I wanted to write about next was the power of friendship.
And so I found millennial Erin and
almost-octogenarian, Lydia. Two women who come to need each other more than
they can ever realise after their lives implode in very unexpected ways.
The moment I hit upon the idea I found I couldn’t wait to spend time with my characters. Lydia and Erin became as real to me as any of my friends and family, and I found their friendship as charming and inviting as any relationship I’ve experienced in real life. It was funny because even though I never wrote about naked saunas the image Nella created for me that day was so strong, I only had to shut my eyes and I could see young and old coming together, laughing, sharing, joking and confiding about all manner of things to bond Lydia and Erin.
And so no, there are no naked saunas in this book, but
there’s still lots of running for me. The last time I ran with the girls we
started talking about the best places to go to the loo on a long run…someone
mentioned the bushes and Paula Radcliffe. Safe to say, that hasn’t inspired
anything in me quite yet.
Abby Williams is the pseudonym for Fiona Ford,
writer of romantic up-lit and historical fiction. Fiona started out as a
freelance journalist for titles such as Grazia, Sunday Mirror and Stylist
before realising her passion lay in novels. Now she spends her days immersed in
made-up worlds and reckons she has the very best job in the world. When she’s
not writing, Fiona is a gym nut, but only so it means she can eat lots of cake
and drink lots of wine – not necessarily in that order. She lives in Berkshire with
her husband and two cats who she sometimes thinks she might love just a little
bit more than all the humans she knows. The
Time of Our Lives is her first romantic novel and she is now busy
scribbling away her second.