Posted in Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, Excerpt, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Humour

How Not To Be A Loser Beth Moran @BethCMoran @BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodbloggers #BoldwoodBlogTour #Extract #AudioExtract #Family #UpLit #Mother #Son#Friendship #Love #Courage #MondayBlogs #MondayThoughts #Humour

AMY PIPER IS A LOSER. SHE’S LOST HER CONFIDENCE, HER MOJO AND HER WAY.

But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…

What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.

Once upon a time Amy was a winner – at life, at sport and in love. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, she is determined to reclaim the life she had, for herself and for Joey. And who knows, she might just be a winner again – at life, sport, and love, if she looks in the right places…

Uplifting, funny and unforgettable, Beth Moran returns with a joyous tale of friendship, love and facing your fears.

Amazon UK

How Not To Be A Loser – Beth Moran – Extract

Stop Being a Loser Plan

Day One

It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t get woken up by my phone alarm blaring, spring out of bed and decide today was the day. I didn’t open up Facebook and one of those irritating quotes – embrace the rain if you want to dance under the rainbow – actually inspired someone for the first time ever to change something. After cajoling my son, Joey, out of bed, I didn’t gaze at his beautiful face as he poured a second giant bowl of cereal, raving about the school football match coming up, and in a surge of love and regret suddenly experience the pivotal moment in a decade of non-moments.

In fact, apart from the invitation that arrived in the morning post, most of the day went precisely as expected. Which was, in summary, exactly the same as pretty much every other weekday. I waved Joey off to school, reminding him to hand in the form about the meeting that evening and cleared away the breakfast dishes. I worked at my desk in the kitchen, breaking the monotony of writing about corporate social responsibility policies by swanning off to eat lunch in the living room, because that’s the type of wild and crazy woman I am.

I rescued Joey’s football kit from festering on his bedroom floor and stuck it in the wash, because despite telling myself on a daily basis that it’s time he learnt the hard way, circumstances dictate that I also live with an extra-large pile of parental guilt, so I make life easier for him where I can.

By the time Joey came home at four, I had spoken to no one since he left, unless you count talking to myself. Oh, and to the enormous spider who appeared out of nowhere and started edging across the kitchen while I debated whether to have another chocolate cookie or the bag of seeds I’d bought precisely to avoid eating a whole packet of cookies.

‘I’d get out of here if I were you. While your impressive size might earn you respect in the spider world, my son doesn’t take kindly to home invasions by anything with more legs than him, and he’ll be home any minute. Go on, shoo. Or else I’ll have to squish you.’

Too late. While the spider was weighing up whether to heed my advice, Joey burst through the front door, in his usual whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm.

‘Hey, Mum. I’m starving, are there any of those cookies left?’

I clicked save and pushed my chair back to face him. ‘Hi, Joey, and yes, I had an okay day, thanks. How was yours?’

‘Oh. Sorry, yeah. It was good, actually.’ He paused, mid-search of the snack cupboard, to offer an apologetic smile. ‘We did this experiment in science where we had to heat up this white stuff, and— WHAAAAAAT!?’

In an instant, my strapping thirteen-year-old reverted to a frightened child, leaping up to sit on the worktop, cookie packet hugged protectively to his chest.

‘How long’s that been there?’ he shrieked.

‘Not long.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me the biggest spider in the universe was right behind me?’

It was a pointless question. We had been through this too many times before. Joey knew that the reason I hadn’t told him was because of what would inevitably happen next.

And, in line with the rest of the day’s predictability, it did. After a brief negotiation about Joey’s phobia, the value of the spider’s life and what I was willing and able to do about both these things, given that I didn’t think it was quite worthy of calling either the police or pest control, I ended up scooping the monster arachnid in both hands and facing my own worst nightmare.

‘Ready?’ Joey looked at me with solemn eyes as he gripped the door handle. He tried to keep his voice steady, but the rise and fall of his chest betrayed his terror.

I nodded, aware that my own eyes, while the exact same light brown as my son’s – caramel, his dad used to call them – were darting wildly like two wasps caught in a Coke bottle.

Before I had time to take another wheezing, shallow breath, Joey flung the door open and ducked behind it. I threw myself forwards, crashing against the door frame, eyes now firmly squeezed shut, and flicked my hand outside. A sudden gust of wind sent me reeling back in panic.

‘CLOSE THE DOOR!’ I gasped, clutching at my heart as it careened about my ribcage and stumbling back into the middle of the kitchen.

‘Is it gone? Are you sure it’s gone?’ Joey garbled back.

‘Yes! It’s gone. CLOSE THE DOOR, JOEY, NOW!’

I heard the door slam, took another two calming breaths and forced my eyes to take a peek. ‘Oh, please.’

The spider levelled me an ironic gaze from the welcome mat. It was so humungous I could see the lazy challenge in each of its eight eyes.

‘What? What? What is it? Is it still here?’ Joey spoke from where he’d scrambled behind me.

‘It might be.’

‘WHAT? Where-is-it-what’s-it-doing-is-it-moving-is-it-near-me-how-is-it-still-inside? MUUUUUM!’

‘It may have blown back in and now be sitting on the mat.’

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. Beth’s first novel for Boldwood, Christmas Every Day, was published in September 2019

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Parenting and Famlies, Romance

Starting Over At Acorn Cottage Kate Forster 5* #Review @kateforster @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #UpLit #Friendship #Romance #DomesticAbuse #StartingOver #Lies #Secrets #Serendipity #VillageLife #Bereavement #Forgiveness

Clara knew Acorn Cottage would be a fixer-upper… Yet in person, the cottage is less charmingly ramshackle and more a real health and safety concern. When Henry Garnett, her (rather handsome) new contractor, turns up with his little daughter Pansy and a van shaped like a cottage in tow, she isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. What on earth has she gotten herself into?!

Still, there is something strangely lovable about the people in the little village of Merryknowe, from Rachel Brown, the quiet, lonely girl who bakes magical confections for the tearooms, to Tassie McIver, a little old lady with a lot of wisdom and a penchant for reading tea leaves. And Clara can’t deny that Henry and Pansy are quickly worming their way into her heart…

With all the heartbreak of the year behind her, could Acorn Cottage be the fresh start Clara so desperately wants?

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

My Thoughts…

A story about gentle souls reeling from the harsher aspects of life, being drawn to a village whose life is ebbing away. The story is told from multi-point of view and explores how friendship love and a little bit of magic can transform lives and places.

Bereavement, domestic abuse and forgiveness are the story’s major themes. The horror of them sensitively portrayed. As is, the power of good friends, love and sharing dark secrets with someone you trust.

Even though the subject matter is dark, there is plenty of light in this story. Delightful characters, you want to succeed and a special older lady Tassie who is distinctly mystical. The conflicts are real and angst-ridden, but so is the love and understanding that overcomes them.

This is an engaging, heartwarming, story with characters that resonate.

When your dreams come trueGuest Post – Kate Forster

When I was a child I had a book called Lavinia’s Cottage by John S. Goodall. It was a pop-up book and it was my go-to book when I felt unwell or things in my small life felt too complicated. It was written for the illustrator’s granddaughter when she was four, the story, told entirely in pictures, was about a little girl who lived in a country cottage, with her grandmother. Because Lavinia is almost well from the measles, two of her friends and a grandmother visit Lavinia and her mother at their cottage. Lavinia spots them as they walk up and pops out of bed to show them all the wonderful things in the attic. There is a cupboard filled with old toys, and a rocking horse and at the end of the visit we know everyone has a grand time.

This is the front cover.

A close up of a sign

Description automatically generated
Lavinia’s Cottage – John S. Goodall

When I was an adult, I wrote a book about a woman who is hurt and betrayed and who buys a pink cottage that needs to be fixed and healed, just like her heart. I forgot about Lavinia’s Cottage until I saw the beautiful cover and it all came flooding back.

I had made my dream come true, just like Clara, the heroine of my new book.

This book was restorative to write. It is book about looking for a simpler life, about letting the ghosts of the past lead you to your true place of belonging, so they can find their peace and you can find your own inner calm. My pink cottage fantasy finally came true.

Buying a thatched cottage in the country may not be the usual cure for a broken heart. But after Clara Maxwell finds out her boyfriend and best friend have been sneaking around behind her back, packing her bags and leaving everything in London behind feels like it’s the only way forward.

Clara knew Acorn Cottage would be a fixer-upper… Yet in person, the cottage is less charmingly ramshackle and more a real health and safety concern. When Henry Garnett, her (rather handsome) new contractor, turns up with his little daughter Pansy and a van shaped like a cottage in tow, she isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. What on earth has she gotten herself into?!

Still, there is something strangely lovable about the people in the little village of Merryknowe, from Rachel Brown, the quiet, lonely girl who bakes magical confections for the tearooms, to Tassie McIver, a little old lady with a lot of wisdom and a penchant for reading tea leaves. And Clara can’t deny that Henry and Pansy are quickly worming their way into her heart…

With all the heartbreak of the year behind her, could Acorn Cottage be the fresh start Clara so desperately wants?

Kate Forster

Kate Forster lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, two children and dogs and can be found nursing a laptop, surrounded by magazines and talking on the phone, usually all at once. She is an avid follower of fashion, fame and all things pop culture and is also an excellent dinner party guest who always brings gossip and champagne.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Excerpt, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

The Whitsborough Bay Series Jessica Redland @BoldwoodBooks @JessicaRedland #Friendship #Relationships #Romance #FamilyDrama #Uplit #NorthYorkshire #BlogTour #Extracts #WhitsboroughBay #boldwoodbloggers

SOMETIMES LOVE CAN BLOOM WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECT IT…

For Sarah Peterson, it’s time for change. Coming out of a dead end relationship and having had enough of city life, she just needs to escape and have a fresh start – a new job, a new home and a new lifestyle.

So when her Auntie Kay unexpectedly offers her the opportunity to take over her flower shop, Seaside Blooms, the timing could not be more perfect. She could escape to the beautiful seaside town of Whitsborough Bay, start a new chapter in her life – and learn how to run a business!

But, as she packs up her life in London, she isn’t prepared for the discovery of a clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All of the predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven…

As she prepares for the biggest move of her life, Sarah can’t help but wonder if Seaside Blooms could be a new beginning for love too?

A warm, uplifting novel of love, friendship and destiny from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is a new, revised and updated edition of a novel previously published as Searching For Steven.

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New Beginnings at Seaside BloomsAudio Extract

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – Extract

It was now after half six. Sod it! I couldn’t do this anymore.

* To Jason

This is killing me! Where are you taking me? I’m all ready and awaiting my instructions! Please tell me you haven’t forgotten xx

I hoped that reading my birthday cards again would distract me. It didn’t. A little voice in my head kept telling me he had forgotten and Clare’s joke about McDonald’s or my local might not be far from the truth. Perhaps he was frantically phoning round restaurants right now and that’s why he hadn’t been in touch. Another text arrived and, finally, it was from him. Please don’t say McDonald’s

* From Jason

South Kensington Tube Station. 1915hrs. Table booked for 1930hrs xx

Butterflies stirred in my stomach. Oh my God! South Kensington. Could it be…?

I hastily shoved my phone in my bag, pulled on my coat and left the flat, legs shaking as I strode towards the tube station. It was just a coincidence. There were hundreds of restaurants in South Kensington and we could be going to any of them. With Jason’s track record, it could be McDonald’s. But what if…?

He’d taken me to Luigi’s to celebrate me moving down to London shortly after we started seeing each other. During dessert, the man on the table next to us proposed to his girlfriend. It was such a moving and romantic moment and, on the way home, Jason said that he could imagine proposing there too. But that didn’t mean he’d booked a table there tonight to propose to me, did it?

When I reached South Kensington tube station, it took all my willpower to stand still on the escalator when all I wanted to do was to shove past the travellers, run up the steps, and skip across the concourse screaming, ‘Yes, Jason, I will marry you.’

I spotted him by one of the exits. My breath caught as I saw what he was wearing. Classically tall, dark, and handsome, he looked particularly hot in the three-piece suit he’d bought for his brother’s wedding last summer. After his firefighter uniform, it was my favourite outfit on him. Although to be perfectly honest, with a toned body like his, I preferred no clothes at all.

‘Happy birthday.’ He bent down and gave me a soft kiss. I breathed in his musky scent and those butterflies went crazy. ‘You look good.’

‘Thank you.’ I whipped open my coat like a flasher, revealing the LBD I’d agonised over wearing for fear I’d be overdressed.

He wolf-whistled and I flushed from head to toe. ‘I approve. Although you may be a little over-dressed for what I have planned later tonight.’

I flushed again and Jason laughed as he took my hand in his. ‘Shall we?’

‘Where are we going?’ I tried to sound casual but failed abysmally. Please say Luigi’s. Please.

He winked at me, grinning widely. ‘It’s a surprise.’

Oh my God!

It could only have been three minutes, but I swear that walk felt like an hour. My sweaty hand kept slipping from his, I stumbled several times and I even hiccupped, causing Jason to ask if I’d been on the wine before leaving the flat.

The Italian flag and deep green canopy of Luigi’s loomed ahead of us. My breathing quickened and I mentally prepared myself: must not look gutted if we walk past, must look happy wherever he takes me.

But we didn’t walk past. We stopped. We went in. He gave his name and we were led to a table towards the back where a bucket of champagne on ice was waiting for us. Champagne. Proper Champagne. Jason always said that supermarket own-label Cava was overpriced. Which could only mean… Oh. My. God!

I put my glass of champagne down as Jason pushed the candle aside and reached for my hand across the table a few minutes later.

‘You really do look gorgeous tonight,’ he said.

‘You don’t scrub up too badly yourself,’ I whispered, barely able to speak for anticipation of what was coming.

His dark eyes twinkled as he gazed at me over the table. ‘Thank you. I thought I should make a special effort. It’s a special occasion, after all.’

Eeeeeeekkkkk!

‘I haven’t given you your birthday present yet.’

WHEN IT FEELS LIKE EVERYTHING IS AGAINST YOU, SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED A LITTLE BIT OF HOPE…

Married to her childhood sweetheart for over twelve years, Elise feels like starting a family is the next natural step. However, her husband, Gary, has other ideas…

Suddenly single, Elise is completely heartbroken and struggling to start over on her own. But when she’s enlisted to be bridesmaid to her best friend, Sarah, she has to put on a brave face, put her own feelings aside and find a way to get over Gary. Fast.

So when she meets handsome, recently-divorced, Daniel, she thinks he could be just what she needs. But why can’t she shake the feeling that he must be too good to be true?

Will she ever be able to take that leap and trust again?

An uplifting read of love, loss and finding yourself from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.

This book was previously published as Getting Over Gary

Amazon UK

Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove Audio Extract

Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – Extract

‘I have exciting news,’ Jess announced when we’d placed our food orders. ‘Bay Brides called earlier and the bridesmaid dresses are ready early. They’ll be in on Wednesday so I’ve made an appointment for a fitting a week tomorrow at two. Are you free?’

I grinned at my younger sister – a shorter, slimmer version of myself. ‘How exciting!’

‘We don’t have any plans for next Saturday, do we?’ I asked, turning to face Gary.

‘I don’t know about you, but I’ll be going into the surgery.’

I frowned. ‘I thought you were going in tomorrow.’

‘I’m doing both. Maybe the one after too.’

It was on the tip of my tongue to say, ‘But we always spend weekends together,’ but what was the point? I had two choices: confront Gary and spoil the whole evening or ignore him and focus on my little sister’s news. Forcing a bright smile, I said, ‘Two’s perfect. Can Izzy and Megan make it?’ The wedding was less than three months away on the first Saturday in August. I was chief bridesmaid, supported by Jess’s best friend, Izzy, and Izzy’s four-year-old daughter, Megan.

Jess nodded. ‘I texted Izzy earlier. They’ve got no plans.’

‘Brilliant. Do you know when your dress will be ready?’

‘Four weeks later. I managed to order a bigger size just in time and I’m desperately hoping it will still fit on the day.’

I frowned. ‘Why would you need a bigger size? You haven’t put on weight, have you?’

Jess and Lee exchanged big grins.

‘She hasn’t,’ Lee said. ‘Well, not yet anyway…’

I gasped as realisation hit. ‘Oh my goodness! Are you saying…?’

‘We had our twelve-week scan this afternoon and everything’s looking good. In fact, it’s looking doubly good.’

I gasped again and clapped my hand over my mouth. ‘Twins?’

Jess nodded and I let out a little squeal as I leapt up and dashed round the table to hug them both.

‘Congratulations you two,’ Gary said. ‘Wow! Twins? Two kids? That’s some news!’ He stood up, shook Lee’s hand and kissed Jess on the cheek.

‘I can’t believe it!’ I sat down again. ‘My baby sister’s having her own babies, which means I’m going to be an auntie. I’m so excited for you both. Twins? That’s so amazing. And that’s cause for celebration.’ I signalled a waiter and ordered a round of drinks including a very large glass of wine for myself, then giggled as I added, ‘Make that two. One per baby.’


*Winner of Chill With a Book Book of the Year 2019 Award as Dreaming About Daran*

FOR CLARE O’CONNELL, HOME IS WHERE THE HEART ACHES…

Since the age of sixteen, Clare O’Connell has lived her life by four strict rules:
1. Don’t talk about Ireland
2. Don’t think about Ireland
3. Don’t go to Ireland
4. Don’t let anyone in

And so far, it’s worked well. She’s got a great career, amazing friends, and she’s really happy. The future is all that counts, isn’t it?

However Clare is about to realise that you can run from the past, but you can’t always hide from it…

When her boss insists she travels to Ireland for work, Clare finds herself drawn back to the village of Ballykielty – the home of her family, and the home of her secrets. The one place where vowed never to return to again…

With the door to her past now wide open, the first three rules have gone out of the window. Will Clare stick to rule number four?

Can she be brave and face up to her family and the demons of her past?

An emotional novel of family, friendship and dealing with your past from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.

This book was previously published as Dreaming About Daran.

Amazon UK

Coming Home To Seashell CottageAudio Extract

Coming Home To Seashell Cottage – Extract

‘Your friend Pete was right,’ I said when the closing credits started rolling. ‘Cracking film. What did you think?’

‘I agree. The king thing was a spooky coincidence, don’t you think?’

In the film, best friends Edmond and Fernand exchange a chess king when one of them overcomes a challenge, to symbolise who is ‘king of the moment’.

I nodded towards the king nestled in his fruit bowl. ‘Did you plant it there knowing it was in the film?’

Ben shook his head. ‘Honestly, I’ve never seen the film or read the book so I didn’t know about the chess piece. I genuinely found that bad boy sitting on my doorstep, just like I told you.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Have you ever known me to lie?’

He made a good point. He was one of the most honest people I knew, although, unlike me, he was tactful with his honesty. Generous to a fault, ridiculously considerate of others and gifted in spades with patience, Ben definitely deserved his nickname of ‘Saint Ben’. By contrast, I could be pretty blunt and to the point, not particularly patient and quite selfish. I was lucky he only called me ‘Irish’ because I probably deserved something a little less affectionate.

‘Tell you what we can do.’ He grinned at me, wrinkled his nose in a clear act of mischief, then lifted the king out of the fruit bowl. Picking up a chilli pepper discarded from his curry in his other hand he said, ‘If you eat the whole chilli, you win the king.’

I was about to refuse his stupid challenge, but then he added, ‘I bet you can’t do it.’

Defiantly, I picked up the chilli and shoved it in my mouth. Tears streamed down my face, my nose ran like a tap and my head felt as if it were about to explode. But that king was going to be mine. Nobody told me what I could and couldn’t do and I would come out on top whenever challenged. Always.

‘Oh my God! I can’t believe you just did that.’ Ben handed me a box of tissues. ‘Serious respect to you, Irish.’

I gasped for breath and rasped, ‘Wait till I tell your sister what a mean boy you are.’

He laughed. ‘You’re king of the moment, Irish. He’s all yours.’

And so it began.

Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland is the author of nine novels including Searching for Steven which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay.  Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Motivational, Travel

Away With The Penguins Hazel Prior 5*#Review @HazelPriorBooks #BantamPress #RandomThingsTours @TransworldBooks #Penguins #Multigenerational #Adventure #love #friendship #loss #Self-Discovery #Travel #Conservation #Secrets #BookReview #BlogTour #humour #HistoricalFiction #ContemporaryFiction @annecater #AwayWithThePenguins

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick, although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.
She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’). Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.
But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this. She is going on an intrepid journey – to save the penguins.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Transworld Publishers in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I was drawn to this book initially because my son has always loved penguins. This story has so much to recommend it.

The star of the show is, Veronica McCreedy, a virtual recluse, who feels at 85 years she still hasn’t made her mark on the world and has lots to offer. She dislikes how she looks because inside she is vibrant and young. Her life is steeped in tragedy, which has contributed to her current reclusive state.

Patrick is at a particularly low ebb in his life, and he becomes introverted and prickly with others. The story unfolds from Veronica and Patrick’s viewpoints, as they get to know each other. Through journals, we learn of Veronica’s past life and find it has some similarities with Patrick’s. Then there is a great adventure, which proves more significant than the geographical miles travelled.

The characters are believable and for the most part lovely. Everyone has their flaws but its this humanity that makes them relatable. Veronica’s relationship with Patrick and the people she encounters on her journey of self-discovery are humorous, poignant and uplifting.

The plot flows and the storytelling is engaging. The conservation message is implicit in Veronica’s quest for the penguins, Like so much in life, Veronica’s life is enriched as she works tirelessly in helping the penguins and Patrick. This is an original, story which entertains, informs and motivates, It gives hope to those of us, firmly on the wrong side of fifty, that we are still important, and can make a difference.

Hazel Prior

HAZEL PRIOR lives on Exmoor. . As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. 

AN INTERVIEW WITH HAZEL PRIOR 

VERONICA MCCREEDY, MY AGING HEROINE 

Veronica McCreedy is eighty-six when she has her adventure with the penguins. Why did I want an old woman for my main character? I have some way to go before I reach her age, but, as I gather wrinkles, I find myself often reflecting about the pros and cons of ageing. Our society still seems to lead us to believe that it’s better in every way to be young. It would have us think that at 30 the best part of your life is over, at 40 nobody notices you anymore and from 50 onwards you may as well not exist – particularly if you’re a woman. The vast majority of novels seem to echo this view, with the protagonists finding fulfilment/tragedy/ happy-ever-after while still in their twenties. This is so wrong. 

We develop at different rates, but I suspect a person is never fully-formed. We are in a state of evolution throughout our lives. This evolution isn’t a steady process, but stagnates sometimes and then goes in spurts, depending on events and our reactions to them. I admire people who are hungry for life, who go out and seek new experiences regardless of their age. For example, a friend of mine started learning the harp at the age of ninety. And my neighbour’s father took up skydiving in his eighties. These are extreme examples, but we never stop dreaming, learning or having new adventures. Every year that passes adds to our rich bank of experiences, our store of stories. The logical conclusion is that the older you are, the more interesting you are – so wouldn’t an octogenarian be the perfect heroine? 

VERONICA PAST AND PRESENT 

I’m very aware that we all judge by appearances, and the first thing you’d notice about Veronica McCreedy if you met her might be her age. But I wanted to show her as a complete person; I wanted to make the reader review this initial impression. We get to see her as a young girl, too, and gradually some of the elements that have shaped her come to light. These days she has slipped into certain habits: tea-drinking, litter-picking and dishing out scorn, but there is much, much more to her than this. Look inside the dry old lady exterior and you will find a vitality and strength to rival that of many young people. And she cares deeply about things, much more than she’s prepared to let on. 

Veronica’s advanced years also gave me the opportunity to explore wartime Britain. That time interests me particularly because my parents were alive then. My father was in the RAF. My mother – who would have been contemporary with Veronica – was a teenager, and her entire school was relocated to a country mansion in the north of England. (That’s where the similarity ends though!) As I researched, I became drawn into this poignant time in our history. There is something very nostalgic about an era without computers, traffic and smartphones, but at the same time, the whole population was living on a knife-edge. It seems that life was lived with added intensity on every level, people grasping whatever joy they could because the future was always in question. The moral values were completely different as well (oh, the shame of having a baby when you weren’t married! The double-shame of sleeping with the enemy!). So much food for thought… 

The cruel side of getting old is, of course, the physical deterioration. Veronica is very conscious of this because as a girl she was exceptionally attractive. Her beauty brought her the benefits of (briefly) requited love and (eventually) a millionaire lifestyle, yet it also led her to shame and utter degradation. She misses her beauty, though. These days wealth has replaced it as her means of getting what she wants. It takes her a long time to realise that she doesn’t need to be so manipulative. There is another pathway to happiness if only she can learn to accept genuine human kindness. 

Although Veronica is now robust for her years she’s deeply frustrated by the ageing process. Her body has become an encumbrance that won’t work as well as she wants it to and she hates the fact that she now has to operate within this unreliable vehicle. In a way, however, her body’s failings also serve her because she is eager to contradict naysayers and prove what she can do. She pushes herself to her limits. When her body nearly gives out, her spirit fights on. I believe this is the stuff of true heroism. 

WHY PENGUINS? 

What Veronica’s experiences have given her – along with certain prejudices and a fear of forming close relationships – is resilience. This resilience is perhaps one of the reasons she’s so drawn to penguins. 

Like Veronica, penguins are feisty and stubborn. They defy harsh conditions and refuse to be beaten. But, unlike Veronica, they communicate and cooperate. They live in a vast community and do everything together. Ever since Veronica’s teenage tragedies, she has remained closed to human contact (reflected by her obsession with keeping doors closed). As she witnesses the penguins’ mutual support system, Veronica begins to realise what has been lacking in her own life. Penguins are the perfect teachers for her. 

I also wanted to write about penguins because: 

• They are funny. 

• They are very relatable. Let’s face it, they do look a bit like miniature humans and they act like us in many ways too. 

• Adélies live in Antarctica – pretty powerful for a setting. 

• I was inspired by my friend, Ursula, who made it her mission to tour the world taking photos of penguins after her husband died. 

PANIC ABOUT THE PLANET 

My job as a writer is to tell a good story and entertain people, not to preach. But I do like to deal with serious issues, wrap them up in a bit of fun and maybe provoke a thought or two. To the perceptive reader, my own values will doubtless show through. You can hardly miss the fact that I love wildlife and care deeply about it. So I’m bound to be worried… 

I’m not a fan of doom-mongering, but it strikes me that our current environmental crisis can’t be ignored. There are many strands of thought here, and powerful feelings, too. Even though I, with my carbon footprint, am partly to blame, I am dismayed that lots of my favourite animals are hurtling towards extinction. A world without tigers, polar bears, gorillas, elephants, snow leopards… and of course, penguins? I’m mentally screaming at the mere idea. I don’t have any children but to leave such a legacy is surely a terrible abuse, both of the animals themselves and the next generation of humans. 

We tend to treat wildlife as if it exists solely to serve our own purposes. It doesn’t. As Jackie Morris, illustrator of The Lost Words, states ‘We are not ‘stewards’ of the natural world, we are not something that stands apart from it. We are a very small part of an amazing ecosystem. The Earth is our home, but it is also the home to so many forms of life, life that is so astonishing, intelligence that puts our arrogance to shame’. 

It’s not clever to destroy our own habitat. The effects of global warming have been well-documented. In addition to mass extinction, there are devastating consequences for humans: Floods, wildfires, malnutrition, disease… the list goes on and on. Scientists say we are horribly close to the point of no return, and if we don’t change our ways the planet will sooner or later become uninhabitable for us too. All this is now old news, but I just want to stress that this isn’t a bandwagon thing for me. In fact, I wrote my novel’s first draft before anyone had seen the David Attenborough programme or heard of Greta Thunberg. The publication of AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS is timely, though, and I’m glad that my quirky Antarctic story adds another small voice to the clamour for change. 

Action is need on a vast scale and movements across the world are pushing politicians and businesses to act more responsibly regarding the future of the planet. But I think the little things matter, too. In my novel, Veronica spends her energy-saving a single penguin chick. To me, that is valid. We experience life as individuals and each individual is important, whether animal or human. I recently saw a photo of a baby turtle next to a hundred pieces of plastic that were found in its stomach. The shocking image was a reminder that everything we do has its consequences. 

In my household we do our best in terms of everyday lifestyle. We grow our own beans, courgettes, potatoes etc; we spurn pesticides and slug pellets. We have a hybrid car and I can’t even remember the last time I got on a plane. I indulge in a rant whenever I see the words ‘packaging not currently recyclable’ and seek out some alternative on the supermarket shelves. I even use a bamboo toothbrush. Still, we often have that “If we’re doing it but nobody else bothers, what’s the point?” conversation. Then I think of the turtle. Yes, every little helps… And in fact more and more people are bothering. And if enough people bother, there’s hope. 

In AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS I’ve hinted at a parallel situation. Wartime forced people into drastic action. During a national emergency, they managed to cooperate on a heart-warmingly huge scale. Women suddenly started working in all sectors. People dug up their gardens to grow food, they re-used everything, they used their initiative as never before. They gathered all their strength and kept on trying despite the odds stacked against them. Now that we have an international crisis that threatens life itself, perhaps we can finally get our act together?”

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Cover Reveal, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

The Cottage in a Cornish Cove Cass Grafton #CoverReveal @CassGrafton #Romance #Cornwall #RuralRomance #RuralLife #FamilyDrama #February11 @rararesources

A heart-warming tale of discovering all you never wanted is exactly what you needed.

Orphaned as a baby and raised by indifferent relatives, much of Anna Redding’s happiness as a child came from the long summer holidays spent with an elderly family friend, Aunt Meg, in the quaint village of Polkerran.

With Aunt Meg’s passing, Anna is drawn back to the West Country, relocating to the Cornish cove where she was once so happy. Filled with memories, she hopes to perhaps open a B&B—and perhaps cross paths with Alex Tremayne again, a local boy she used to have a major crush on and who only had to walk past Anna to make her heart flutter.

Settling into her new life, and enjoying her work for the older, reclusive and—to be honest—often exasperating Oliver Seymour, Anna is delighted when Alex reappears in Polkerran and sweeps her off her feet.

The stars are finally aligned, but just as Anna thinks all she’s ever wished for is within reach, a shock discovery brings everything under threat, and she finds herself living a dream that isn’t hers.

Can Anna rescue the new life she has made for herself and, when the testing moment comes, who will be there to hold her hand?

The Cottage in a Cornish Cove is the first in an uplifting series of romances from Cass Grafton. Get to know the locals, wallow in the quaintness of Polkerran and fall in love with romance all over again.

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Publication Date: 11th February

#CassGrafton

An avid bookworm since childhood, Cass Grafton 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 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 but never in the same glass. She has two grown-up children and currently splits her time between Switzerland, where she lives with her husband and imaginary cats, and England, where she lives with her characters.

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The Cottage in a Cornish Cove will be reviewed on my #blog on #publicationday #February11 2020.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane Ellen Berry 5*#Review @AvonBooksUK @FionaGibson #BlogTour #PublicationDay #FamilyDrama #Romance #Loss #VillageLife #Relationships #Friendships #SecondChances #UpLit #BookReview

SnowdropsonRosemaryLane

Lucy fell in love with tumbledown Rosemary Cottage as a child. So thirty years on, when she loses her city job and discovers the cottage is for sale, it feels like fate. She’ll raise her children in Burley Bridge and transform the cottage into a B&B with her husband.

But a year can change everything . . .

Now Lucy is juggling two children and a B&B but on her own. Christmas looks set to be their last on Rosemary Lane – until she meets James, a face from her past and someone who might offer a different kind of future . . .

Should Lucy leave the cottage behind? Or could this winter on Rosemary Lane be the start of something new?

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

My Thoughts…

Childhood memories can be powerful, and Lucy’s love of the cottage on Rosemary Lane stayed with her for thirty years. When her career reaches a crossroads, she convinces her husband that living there would be perfect for their family. For a while it is. Then life happens and tragedy strikes and Lucy is left to rebuild her family, but will it be at the cottage on Rosemary Lane?

Whilst this story is not exclusively festive, there are many Christmassy references and touches, which show the best and worst of the season. Told from mainly from Lucy’s point of view, this is a lovely tale of family life in a small Yorkshire village, it is a story of bereavement and loss and starting over. There are some strong friendships, and interesting romantic possibilities overlaid with courage, emotion and humour. The story draws you in, and it becomes important what happens to Lucy and her young family.

The rural setting is well described and the cast of characters diverse and realistic. James’ story is intricately woven into the main plot in a believable way, with just the right amount of serendipity. The story brings hope out of tragedy and leaves the reader with a feel-good hug.