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.
The sequel to the bestselling phenomenon The Note – based on the true story of one girl and her ‘Train Man’…
year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station
doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the
The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding. But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk-tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same.
Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all…
I received a copy of this book from Aria – Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.
I must be the only person in the UK who didn’t read ‘The Note’, but fortunately ‘The Postcard’ whilst being a sequel, is also a separate adventure for Maya and James and reads well as a standalone.
There is a curious diversion from Maya’s story as she prepares to go on around the world trip with #TheTrainMan. A different character, confused, lost and vulnerable, is introduced, the menace and mystery of this encounter are on your mind as Maya and James start their journey, and then the person’s identity and the situation is revealed, and you wonder if, where and when, Maya will meet her?
The characters and relationships you explore in this story are complex and realistic, whether they be from Maya’s past, present or on the trip of a lifetime. Her best friend’s story is so far removed from Maya’s at this time, and yet both think they want what the other is experiencing.
There is a lovely balance of humour and poignancy in this, the romance is still there, but tempered with reality and therefore authentic.Maya and Jamesfind out who they are as a couple as a series of conflicts, try to break them.
The final conflict is adrenaline-fueled, suspenseful and unexpectedly poignant. These scenes are full of vivid imagery that really lets you experience the tension, terror and tumultuousness of the events. Romance and love prevail, and the final scenes provide a heartwarming and believable ending.
Guest Post – Zoe Folbigg – The Postcard
Welcome back, Maya and James! –
If you enjoyed my debut book The Note then I hope you love the sequel, The Postcard, even more. At first, I was nervy about revisiting Maya and James and writing about what happens after the happy ever after. The Note was based on my own story of how I fell for a stranger on a train on my daily commute and then married him. It was a story I had told a thousand times even before I’d fictionalised it; before Aria offered me a book deal; before it became a bestseller.
When I wrote my second novel, The Distance, a story about long-distance love, based (almost) entirely on characters plucked from my imagination and nothing to do with me or my husband, I enjoyed the liberating feeling of writing about something totally different, telling a new story.
So when Aria suggested a sequel, I was worried. How could I move Maya and James’ story on? In reality, Train Man and I got married and had kids. We settled down to school runs, sports clubs and Friday-night fajitas. Nowadays the most drama in our lives tends to be Sainsbury’s selling out of coriander (those fajitas matter), or me falling over in the mums’ race on Sports Day. Embarrassing, yes, but none of my current life felt like novel material.
Then I remembered the “in-between”. Those years in a relationship when you’re out of the early throes of glorious newness, when you’re still self-conscious about morning breath and think each other’s bad outfit choices are adorable, but you’re not quite ready for his ‘n’ hers Mahabis or actually saying, “This is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with!”, even if you think it. A period when family and friends ask about marriage and babies in hushed tones and want to move your relationship on to the next stage, even if you haven’t discussed it yet.
Our “in-between” coincided with some amazing travels: a holiday to Argentina with friends, Costa Rica for my 30th (double income no kids = nice holidays) and then a year-long round-the-world trip (redundancy = a “sod-it, it’s now or never” attitude).
Before these trips, friends would gush about the proposal opportunities, how we would definitely come back engaged, that surely Train Man had something up his sleeve, and I felt a mixture of hope and pressure, excitement and resentment.
So while pondering a sequel I remembered that phase. The round-the-world trip was chock full of vibrant places, crazy characters, beautiful scenery, and weirdly that in-between issue that I realised would be as pertinent to Maya and James as it is to many people.
Once I started writing The Postcard and I took Maya and James on their own travels, I fell in love with their new chapter: I could almost smell the coriander and coconut of dinner on the Mekong; hear the beat of a drum at a Hindu wedding; see the mossy limestone karsts looking down on them at a beach in Thailand. And I could hear the ring of that lingering question: “Do you think he’ll ask you to marry him?!” “Do you think you’d ask him?” All from my kitchen table.
So welcome back Maya and James! It’s been an honour to pick up their story and revisit all these amazing places for The Postcard – and I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. Twitter FacebookInstagram Website
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn’t be more different.
Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accoutrements of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.
By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.
It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.
Two women are uneasy neighbours. On the surface, they have very little in common except for the hostility between them. New Year’s Eve starts a chain of events that draws their paths together in ways they would never imagine. This is classic Irish storytelling, which spans three time periods. Each foray into the past builds a picture of why Amanda and Tess are the people they are. Neither character is immediately likeable but they are believable and as the story unfolds, so do their true personalities. The revelations make their past choices and present situations easier to understand and Amanda and Tessa easier to empathise.
Amanda’s life is cosmetically perfect but underneath the surface, there are too many cracks, and she realises she is existing not living.
Tess’ accidents make her take stock of her life and vow to make something of the time she has left. It is this realisation, coupled with a teenage girl who wants to help and a cat who wants a warm welcome that makes her start to trust again and value herself.
The story is well-paced, and the ending ties up everything and gives hope for a happier future.
A poignant, sometimes comical, enjoyable story.
Guest Post – The Magic of Friendship- Faith Hogan
The Girl I Used To Know has been described as Uplit, feel good, grown-up, women’s fiction. It certainly falls into all of those brackets, but in writing it, I wanted it to be a manifesto for women’s friendship. Friends are the lifelong anchor for many of us to keep us who we are and what we’re striving to become. Friends are the common denominator that we can choose and if we’re wise, we choose them carefully.
The reality is, that we can make friends at any stage in life, often the best of friends are found the last place you expect and sometimes, they are right under your nose if you just take the time to really look at the person before you. The Girl I Used To Know is about seeing past the façade that we so often build up around ourselves and looking at the person underneath. Very often, it’s surprising to find that ultimately, we are all the same – we all want the same things, to be happy – to be loved.
Tess Cuffe, a curmudgeonly woman (who is not nearly as old
as she imagines herself to be) has long since given up any desire to make
friends, certainly not with the snooty Amanda King. The thing about Tess is
that above anyone, she probably needs a good friend the most, but of course,
like so often in life, she’s the only one who can’t see this. Her ability to
get along with others has long since been buried in her own bitterness and
Once, Tess had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.
A simple act of kindness opens things up for Tess and like a
complicated set of dominoes, opening her heart to one small creature is enough
to create a fissure to allow a sliver of something better through.
Tess has spent twenty years living her life to spite her neighbours, but it’s a funny thing when she realises that Amanda King’s life is not so perfect as she imagined she doesn’t get quite the same pleasure out of it that she might have imagined. It is too late to luxuriate in the misery of her nemesis – it seems to Tess that somewhere, somehow, she is forced to chose a side and going against all that has propelled her for so long, she chooses Amanda.
Amanda King has lived a life of her own choosing, or at
least that’s what she believes, but when her world comes crashing down, she’s
forced to admit that she’s become someone that she hardly recognises anymore.
Once, Amanda had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.
This is a story of two women who realise that in spite of the fact that on the outside, they appear to be very different, it turns out they have more in common than they realised. Friendship may not be the answer to their problems, but it certainly makes life better in ways they could never have imagined, if only they can meet halfway.
Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
After her husband left her, Ali and her
daughter Grace enjoyed living in what became known as ‘the Single Mums’
Mansion’. However, with her best friends Amanda and Jacqui moving on, it’s time
for Ali and Grace to make their own way. Thankfully, a chance conversation
leads to them moving into the infamous South London gated community known only
as ‘The Mews’.
In ‘The Mews’ everyone lives in each other’s pockets and curtain-twitching is an Olympic sport. The neighbours are an eclectic bunch – from Nick the alleged spy, Carl the gorgeous but clearly troubled Idris Elba lookalike, to Debbie who is about to face the hardest fight of her life, and TV agent Samantha who is not as in control as she likes to pretend.
Each day brings another drama, but along with
the tears, real friendships grow. And her neighbours’ problems might unlock the
key to something Ali has yearned for all along…
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I enjoyed the first book in the single mums series, but for me, this one is even better. This is Ali’s story, although Amanda and Jacqui are featured. Ali is stumbling out of, yet another terrible relationship, Amanda suggests, there is a pattern to this self-destruction, and maybe she needs to be single for a while, to find out who she is, and what she wants out of life.
When it looks like Ali and Grace may have to take refuge with Amanda, a lifeline from an unexpected source, brings them to ‘The Mews’, an enigmatic gated community in South London. The characters that live there are beautifully flawed and realistic and their lives make Ali realise that she’s not the only one with problems.
The friendships that follow, are full of love, laughter and sadness. Ali finds a way forward and romance in an unexpected place, The story flows well, and the ethos of the community, is addictive, making me read this story in one sitting.
Guest Post – Janet Hoggarth – The Single Mums Move on
Single Mums Move On is my difficult second album after the popular Single Mums’ Mansion. Because the first
book was based on my life, taking the reader on a bumpy ride traversing
heartache and divorce through to a satisfyingly redemptive ending, I was
nervous about trying to repeat that. Especially when what happened to me
afterwards (a genuine happy ever after) wasn’t as page-turning as living in a
mommune (sorry husband)! So I decided to write the next branch of the story from
Ali’s point of view. It has its roots planted in the truth, but there are a
handful of fictional characters with some of the situations sprouting from my imagination.
book opens a few years after Ali has left the mommune and is in a supposed
stable relationship. However, on closer inspection there are so many cracks, it’s
a surprise it’s not yet imploded. When the inevitable does happen, Ali finds herself alone again with Grace, her
daughter, in her scabby flat with mould on the walls, wishing she was back in
the mommune. After a chance encounter with a shaman in the local health food
shop, Ali is given the opportunity to move into the notorious south London
gated community named the Mews (this is a real place!). Ali decides to finally
swear off men, and with the guidance of her mommune pals, Amanda and Jacqui,
she embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
Behind the Mews gates, Ali encounters the eclectic bunch of residents who mostly make her feel welcome, but it soon becomes obvious that things aren’t as perfect as they first seem. There’s the photographer with an out of control addiction; the nosy neighbour with a tragic past; the college professor navigating a nasty divorce about to face an even bigger struggle; the mysterious man nick-named the Spy who might be involved in illegal activities; the wise shaman who heals everyone else but can’t heed her own advice; the talent agent who needs a best-selling act to save her from going under; the posh older divorcee who is sick of institutionalised men and desperate for some excitement; and the undisputed boss of the mews who tries to save the world, but continually cocks up her own love life. The Mews is like the Single Mums’ Mansion but with more players and as Ali gets sucked into the tangled lives of everyone there, she realises that other people’s drama could lead her down the path to happiness.
Janet Hoggarth has worked on a chicken farm, as a bookseller, children’s book editor and DJ with her best friend (under the name of Whitney and Britney). She has published several children’s books, the most recent ones written under the pseudonym of Jess Bright. Her first adult novel The Single Mums’ Mansion, a huge bestseller, was based on her experiences of living communally as a single parent.