A broken heart, an island escape, a boy from the past. Will Lottie’s search lead to love?
When a special anniversary takes Lottie on a journey to find the little boy she once knew, it’s a chance to put heartache behind her.
Lottie’s search takes her to Greece and a family who have known about her for decades. A warm welcome gives her some much-needed time out and the chance to reflect. Yet an emotional revelation and two handsome but complicated brothers make her question her past decisions.
Learning to love herself and be content on her own is the first step. But will Lottie be able to follow her heart and find lasting happiness?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Lottie’s emotional journey takes her to the Greek Islands to look for someone she once knew and to repair her shattered self-worth. This is a book with vivid descriptions that brings the places Lottie visits to life. Character-driven, it focuses on Lottie’s travels, the people she meets and how she rebuilds her life. It’s a poignant read but uplifting with a lovely conclusion.
The writing is descriptive, and the characters relatable you empathise with Lottie and want her to be happy. If you are looking to escape from wintery England, this book will immerse you in the Greek Islands and a lovely positive story.
Kate Frost is the author of character-driven women’s fiction (The Butterfly Storm series and Beneath the Apple Blossom), romantic escape novels (The Baobab Beach Retreat, A Starlit Summer, The Greek Heart and The Amsterdam Affair), and Time Shifters, a time travel adventure trilogy for children. She has a MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, where she also taught lifewriting to creative writing undergraduates.
Kate lives in Bristol with her husband, young son, and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Frodo. She feels very lucky to spend her days writing, but when she’s not working on a novel, she’s the Director of Storytale Festival, a new city-wide children’s book festival that she co-founded in Bristol in 2019 with the ethos of making books accessible to all and encouraging children and teens to read, write and be creative.
Sometimes the best holidays are the ones you least expect…
After a long and turbulent year, Sarah is dreaming of the five-star getaway her sister has booked them on. White sands, cocktails, massages, the Caribbean is calling to them.
But the sisters turn up to tatty beaches, basic wooden shacks, a compost toilet and outdoor cold water showers. It turns out that at the last minute Amy decided a conservation project would be much more fun than a luxury resort.
So now Sarah’s battling mosquitos, trying to stomach fish soup and praying for a swift escape. Life on a desert island though isn’t all doom and gloom. They’re at one with nature, learning about each other and making new friends. And Sarah is distracted by the dishy, yet incredibly moody, island leader she’s sure is hiding a secret.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus – Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Humour, originality and romance are all integral to this motivational story. There are good intentions, misunderstandings and an idyllic if not expected setting. Deeper issues of controlling behaviour and conservation add depth and engagement.
Forced out of her comfort level, Sarah confronts issues caused by her difficult childhood. She is conflicted but easy to empathise. Gentle romance is the catalyst for her emotional journey, which is positive and satisfying.
Extract from Summer Island Swop – Samantha Tonge
‘I’ll still have to clear it at work. I’m not sure how Prue will feel about me taking a month off.’
Just the mention of my boss’s name made my stomach knot.
‘No one’s indispensable. Not even wonderful you,’ she called back.
My chest felt warm. Over recent years, Amy had matured and started to look out for me, cooking dinner and mowing the lawn. However, I’d never lose my maternal feelings towards her. When we were ten and six ours was quite an age gap. As was eighteen and fourteen when I’d had to leave her behind with Dad but promised we’d live together again. I beat the sugar and butter, remembering her tears and his folded arms as I dragged my suitcase past the fountain and out of the huge driveway, into the street. I’d finally realised I had to leave after… I swallowed. No. I wasn’t going to think about that now.
I let Nelly into the back garden, busied myself with ingredients and cleaned up whilst the cookies baked. Their sweet aroma wafted through the air as I carried them into the lounge, on a tray, with two coffees.
‘Good timing,’ said Amy and turned off her screen, looking pleased with herself. I put the tray on the table and joined her.
‘Is it all booked?’
She nodded. ‘A modest deposit paid. The rest is due in the middle of June, two weeks before we leave.’
‘Can’t you at least share which part of the world we’re visiting?’
‘That would be telling,’ she replied airily and took the largest cookie.
I jumped up and held her right arm firm whilst tickling the armpit. ‘I won’t stop until I find out, Amy Sterling.’
However, she was as strong as me these days and, giggling, held the cookie in her mouth and forced both of my hands away. I sat down once more. I recognised that expression. She was determined to keep her secret. Sometimes, with my impulsive sister, that could be a dangerous thing, like when she’d agreed to do a charity skydive with colleagues at work. She didn’t tell me until the morning of the jump.
‘Just a clue. A teeny one,’ I said. ‘Please…’
‘I’ve never seen you this excited before. Well, not since you were made assistant manager. Oh, and the time you found that fancy moisturiser for half price.’
‘It wasn’t just any moisturiser. The Duchess of Cambridge uses it.’ I pressed my palms together. ‘At least let me guess… the Canary Islands? Barbados? Australia’s an island, right? I mean, you and me – we share most things, don’t we?’
‘Best buddies, always,’ she said solemnly.
It was a promise we’d made to each other, the day after Mum’s funeral. And sure enough, we confided in each other about our latest celebrity crushes, about our dreams for the future; we put the world to rights over Chardonnay and Pringles. I knew her favourite colour, favourite food, favourite band. She could always tell when I’d had a stressful day at work and, without prying, would make me a hot chocolate, fetch a blanket and switch on my current Netflix obsession.
Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.
When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.
She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo and in 2020 her novel Knowing You won the RNA’s Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award.
No one knew it at the time, but April 19, 2011, was the most important day in the history of the world.
After his only friend and colleague, John Manta, disappears without a word, Dave Randall further entrenches himself in the humdrum life of an unenthusiastic lawyer. But once he begins to understand what happened, he embarks on a journey to uncover the deeper meanings and implications of John’s fate.
Accompanied by Peaches the cat, Dave uproots his life and reinvents himself in the midst of his search. Along the way, he is haunted by his piecemeal understanding of John’s fate and what it means for his existence. Little does Dave know, his journey of self-discovery will have ramifications that extend far beyond the borders of his own little life.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Entertainment and escapism mix with philosophical questions that most of us consider at some time. Belief, faith love and self-realisation are explored in this story. The multi-layered plot is part fantasy and part literary fiction with a liberal amount of humour.
Relatable characters keep the story moving forward. The cat is a vital companion for Dave on his journey of self-discovery. The motivational ethos makes this an uplifting read that has something of interest for most of us.
When he is not writing, Daniel Maunz works as an attorney as in-house counsel for a major insurance company. He currently lives in Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, with his wife Lynne, their son Patrick, and their two cats: Admiral Meowy McWhiskers and Captain Cutie (or “Admiral” and “Captain” for short). Questions of Perspective is his first novel.
Three women. One family curse. The summer of a lifetime.
For generations, no second-born daughter in the Fontana family has married. Lucy desperately wants to find love, but for her cousin Emilia, their family curse is a blessing in disguise.
But then their Great Aunt Poppy declares she’ll reunite with her long-lost love on her eightieth birthday – and break the curse once and for all.
And so the three women embark on a journey to Tuscany to fulfil Poppy’s last wish. But the secrets they uncover there could change their family forever…
A gorgeous story about love, family, and finding yourself in the unlikeliest of places
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
An engaging romantic story that spans familial generations from post-war Italy to North America.The Fontana family curse still prevails. Aunt Poppy is determined to end it with the help of her great-nieces Emilia and Lucy on a life-changing trip to Italy.
The story reveals family secrets told from Emilia’s and Poppy’s points of view. The family dynamics and individual characters are authentic and relatable. The settings are vivid and bring the story to life.
This is a charming, poignant romantic story. Full of humour, misunderstandings and self-sacrifice.
Some women have it all. Others are thirty-four and rent a tiny flat alone because they recently found their long-term boyfriend in bed with their boss. Ginny Taylor is certain her life can’t get any worse. But then she meets her downstairs neighbour…
Cassie Frost was once a beloved actress, but after a recent mishap, she desperately needs a new publicist. And Ginny is a publicist who desperately needs a job – but can she be persuaded to work for the prickly woman who lives below her floorboards?
Ginny and Cassie are two very different women, but they have more in common than they’d care to imagine (or admit). And when their worlds collide, they realise that sometimes – just sometimes – bad neighbours become good friends…
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.
An excellent multi-generational look at friendship, romance, career, self-esteem, self-realisation, seen from 30 something, Ginny’s point of view. The writing style is contemporary, referencing current events and issues. It’s easy to read and focuses on the lives of Ginny and Cassie, who is in her fifties and experiencing the sharper end of being a media star.
It takes a while for us to meet Cassie, and to begin I wondered where the title ‘The Neighbours’, related to the story. When the two do meet, both women are experiencing all-time lows in their lives, and consequently are lashing out. Any kind of friendship seems unlikely, but Cassie needs someone to promote her positively and Ginny needs a job, so they start there, and out of a professional need, a worthwhile. mutually beneficial friendship grows.
Ginny is lovely but flawed, and meeting Cassie forces her to look at herself, and see how she can achieve her life goals. The relentless, unforgiving nature of modern life is explored, with its consistent toll on mental health, and self-worth. Like many good friendships, the two women are different in many ways, and this draws them together because they both have something positive to offer the other.
Humorous and poignant, this is a relevant story about life in the twenty-first century and the importance of friends, who care about you, and not your career or financial status.
What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?
Seventeen years ago, Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.
Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.
With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
A motivational story with a relatable main protagonist, and an authentic life story. There is a fusion of heartwarming, humorous and poignant moments in Eve’s story of self-realisation. Family secrets are revealed, and Eve is forced to confront the rest of her life when Caitlyn leaves to begin the next chapter of hers.
The love Caitlyn has for the woman she calls mum is evidenced by her tokens. Each one giving Eve, a chance of a new beginning, or a way to recapture the potential of life chances, she believed lost.
The characters are believable, there is a nice multi-generational aspect to the story and a realistic romance.
Kate Field writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire where she lives on the edge of the moors with her husband, daughter and cat. Her debut novel won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.
When a time travelling Jane Austen gets stuck in modern-day Bath it’s up to avid Janeite Rose Wallace to save her… because she’s the only one who knows that Jane exists!
Rose Wallace’s world revolves around all things Austen, and with the annual festival in Bath – and the arrival of dishy archaeologist, Dr Aiden Trevellyan – just around the corner, all is well with the world…
But then a mysterious woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to the great author moves in upstairs, and things take a disastrous turn. Rose’s new neighbour is Jane Austen, whose time travel adventure has been sabotaged by a mischievous dog, trapping her in the twenty-first century.
Rose’s life is instantly changed – new home, new job, new friends – but she’s the only one who seems to have noticed! To right the world around her, she will have to do whatever it takes to help Jane get back home to write Rose’s beloved novels. Because a world without Mr Darcy? It’s not worth living in!
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I was intrigued by the ideas behind this story, and after reading it, I can confirm it fulfils its potential.
It begins conventionally with Rose who lives in Bath, loves Jane Austen and doesn’t realise what a lovely person she is. Hardworking, she is appreciated by her boss and her long-distance Californian friend Morgan, who is finally coming to Bath. Rose has a long term crush on an archaeologist, she only sees briefly in a professional capacity once a year. She dreams of a happy ever after but doesn’t have the self-belief to make it a reality.
Then everything changes, and you have to suspend belief, but if you do the fictional adventure with a historical legend is fun. The setting in Bath is well described and the characters are believable, even if the scenario they are playing is pure fantasy.
This is a good story of friendship, romance, self-realisation and time travel, something for everyone in this tale.
A proud bookworm since childhood, Cass writes the sort of stories she loves to read – heart-warming, character driven and strong on location. Having moved around extensively and lived in three countries, she finds places inspiring and the setting of her novels often becomes as much a part of the story as her characters.
She has an over-active imagination, is prone to crying with happiness as much as she is at sadness, but when it comes to her writing she leans heavily towards the upbeat and insists on a happy ever after. As one of her favourite authors, Jane Austen, once wrote, ‘let other pens dwell on guilt and misery’.
Cass loves travelling, words, cats and wine, and enjoys them in any combination. She currently splits her time between Switzerland, where she lives with her husband, and England, where she lives with her characters.
Ada has lived all her life in Southern California, which makes her intolerant to any weather above or below 72 degrees Fahrenheit. She grew up much more fond of reading than sports or socializing and still tends to ignore everyone she loves, all her responsibilities and basic life needs when she’s in the middle of a book.
She is luckily married to a handsome and funny man who doesn’t mind that the laundry never gets put away and she has three amazing children. Ada spent over a decade as a photographer before dedicating herself to writing, though she still believes that life should be documented well and often.
There is nothing she loves more than a good, subtle love story whether it be in real life, tv, movie, theatre or book form… well, except cake. She also really loves cake.
Roxy found love . . . but is it enough? In the second instalment of the Polo Diaries series, polo player
Roxy goes back to Argentina a year after the events in Single in Buenos Aires, filled with dreams of settling down with the man she loves. This time, once again, Argentina is full of surprises and things are not what they appear to be. Or maybe they’re exactly what they’re meant to be, as a fortune-teller informs her.
Roxy takes a leap of faith and follows her dreams once again. She spends time at glamorous party venues of Buenos Aires and travels to the rough and wild pampas. Along the way, Roxy’s friends support and champion her quest for love, but when things get out of hand, Roxy realizes she needs to listen to her own inner voice and must make a hard choice. Two paths open in front of her, each one with far-reaching consequences. Which will she choose?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
After her last trip to Argentina Roxy returns to the country, considerably more emotionally and physically damaged than on her previous trip. She wants her happily ever after, and to continue doing what she loves, but starts to question if it is the right thing for her, now?
Self-realisation is a key element of this second story, completing her to-do list on her previous visit didn’t fulfil her. Can she see that the answers to her happiness lie within? I empathised more with this damaged, yet mature woman, perhaps because I’m older and understood this Roxy more? This story is uplifting and held my interest throughout.
Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.
As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–travelling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.
Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.
Maya Galen’s oldest son, Jamie, left home eight years ago after a massive row with his parents and now Joe, her youngest child and apple of her eye, has cut off all contact with them too.
Called to Australia to identify the body of a young man, Maya is given her son’s journal. After a sleepless night, she decides that the only thing she can do is follow in Joe’s footsteps and try to discover her most basic human self. Eschewing a monetary lifestyle, from now on she must rely on her physical and emotional strength to survive.
Following Joe’s hand-drawn maps and journal entries, she travels from Australia to Denmark and beyond, meeting many other travellers along the way and learning valuable lessons.
Eventually, a crisis forces her to return home and confront the end of her marriage, but also a new understanding of what family, in the widest sense, really means.
I received a copy of this book from Wild Pressed Books in return for an honest review.
It’s clear from reading this book that the author has done her research, I read that the story is inspired by her young son’s travels. ‘The Vagabond Guide’ at the end of the book is provided, courtesy of his experience and the author’s thoughts as a mother. She also includes travel and work experiences from other family members, as well as her own travelling exploits.
As someone who has travelled very little, I found the book enlightening. Whilst, it didn’t give me the vagabond travelling bug, I can understand why people do this, especially someone like Maya, the main protagonist. Maya’s previous life was totally different from her travelling experience. It was losing contact with her youngest son and then recovering his journal that made her follow in her son’s footsteps.
This story is partly a travelogue, with fascinating experiences retold, of places Maya sees, the people, her fellow travellers and the food. It is also an emotional journey, feeling closer to the young son, she lost touch with. His journal guides her and us, and this is an emotional journey as much as a geographical one. This is a journey for the senses and the spirit and needs to be read with this in mind. I enjoyed it.
Relationships are an important part of this story, and it’s interesting that Maya’s daughters value her more in her absence as if they are seeing her for her true worth. Her relationship with her husband is also explored, as her independence strains the previous roles in their marriage.
Topical and timeless, if you are looking to escape and are prepared for a gamut of emotions this story is for you.
High priestesses are few and far between, white ones in Africa even more
so. When Diane Esguerra hears of a mysterious Austrian woman worshipping the
Ifa river goddess Oshun in Nigeria, her curiosity is aroused.
It is the start of an extraordinary friendship that sustains Diane
through the death of her son and leads to a quest to take part in Oshun
rituals. Prevented by Boko Haram from returning to Nigeria, she finds herself
at Ifa shrines in Florida amid vultures, snakes, goats’ heads, machetes, a
hurricane and a cigar-smoking god. Her quest steps up a gear when Beyoncé
channels Oshun at the Grammys and the goddess goes global.
Mystifying, harrowing and funny, The Oshun Diaries explores the lure of Africa, the life of a remarkable woman and the appeal of the goddess as a symbol of female empowerment.
I received a copy of this book from Eye Books in return for an honest review.
The cover of this book draws you in, it is vibrant and interesting and makes you want to see what’s inside.
The book is in two parts, the first associated with the meeting with the Austrian Oshun priestess in Africa, and the second with other worshipers in Florida. The professional writing style is easy reading, even if some of the content, especially in the second part is complex. The prose reads like a fictional story, full of vivid imagery, authentic characters and amazing content and events. Its historical details provide a believable setting for the diaries and it resonates.
The African experience is insightful and political, it gives meaning to some of the headlines of the time that I recall. The meeting with the charismatic, dedicated priestess, is enthralling, and it is a page-turning read.
The second part of the book is equally as honest and detailed, this is where the author truly understands what she is exploring. It is an interesting read, with the first part with its astute political comment, is the best part of the book.
A recommended read, if you enjoy adventure, culture and spiritual experiences.
Guest Post – Diane Esguerra – Goddess for the #MeToo Era
Looking for a ballsy, bewitching goddess with green credentials to follow? Then look no further: Oshun, the ancient river goddess of the Yoruba people of West Africa, is the one for you.
Sure, there are plenty of cool female deities around to choose from – if goddess worship is what you’re into. Amaterasu No Kami, the Japanese Goddess of the Sun and theAborigine Holy Goddess Mumuna -Who-Made-Us-All, have sizeable followings. Even old favourites like the European Great Mother and Diana and Isis the ancient deities of Rome and Egypt still appeal to a surprising number. So, what is it about Oshun that makes her so special?
Well, for a start she’s not only a goddess of love but also of female empowerment. And she’s prepared to defend to the death women’s right to be respected by men and treated as their equals. If she sees them being given a hard time her anger can be volcanic. Yet with her love of gold, honey, bathing and carrying a mirror around to admire her beauty, Oshun is quintessentially feminine and proud of her abundant sensuality.
She’s a hard worker, too, who played a key role in the Yoruba creation myth. According to the legend, primordial male gods pushed aside the female ones – including Oshun – and decided they would go about creating the earth themselves. They failed miserably. Oshun set herself up as the ringleader of the female deities and protested vigorously on their behalf to the chief deity, Olodumare. He/She gave the order that the female deities should be given the chance to have a go at creation, too. And as it turned out they made a much better job of it, and the earth as we know it came into being.
Indeed, the chief divinity was so impressed with Oshun’s efforts that He/She issued an oracle to the effect that only stupid people think a woman won’t amount to anything in life, and that negative language should never be used against women. The divinity even goes so far as to say that men should kneel and prostrate themselves before women as they have to shoulder the massive responsibility of giving birth to humankind.
Compare this respectful, life-affirming ancient African myth to the creation myth in the bible. Here, not only is Eve held responsible for tempting Adam, and therefore triggering humanity’s fall from grace, God also decides to make her well and truly suffer for it – giving the green light to the patriarchal societies that inevitably followed:
To the woman, he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain, you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:14-16)
While we’re on the subject of children, Oshun is also a fertility goddess who has the power to grant them. During the annual Oshun Festival which is held in the goddess’s birthplace – the Sacred Groves of Oshogbo in Oshun State, Nigeria – women come from as far away as China in search of a cure for infertility.
Nature is deemed precious in Oshun’s Sacred Groves. Hunting is forbidden, fishing too – even the trees can’t be chopped about. Woe betide the person who attempts to do so!
To get a closer idea of how this goddess might appear in human form look no further than Beyoncé. The most famous black female singer on the planet once appeared at the Grammy’s channelling the goddess. This multi-talented, beautiful and sensuous woman isn’t afraid to speak out for women’s rights and against injustice. And in the video which accompanies the track Hold Up on her Lemonade album, she writhes around and levitates in water before emerging in torrents of it and descending a long flight of steps in a golden gown. She then proceeds to roam the neighbourhood smashing open fire hydrants with a baseball bat in Oshun-like anger at her husband Jay Z’s alleged infidelity.
But you don’t have to be a famous singer to tap into the power of this very special goddess. Dress yourself in yellow or gold, light a candle, place a few of Oshun’s favourite items nearby: a bowl of water; a mirror; peacock feathers; honey; a couple of oranges, and then summon the goddess with the following incantation: Yeye, Ye Ye O…Yeye, Ye Ye O…Oshun.
Sit back and enjoy!
Diane Esguerra is an English writer and psychotherapist. For a number of years, she worked as a performance artist in Britain, Europe and the United States, and she has written for theatre and television. She is the recipient of a Geneva-Europe Television Award and a Time Out Theatre Award. She is previously the author of Junkie Buddha, the uplifting story of her journey to Peru to scatter her late son’s ashes.
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