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 Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

A Village Affair Julie Houston 5* #Review @JulieHouston2 @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #Paperback #BlogTour #BookReview #extract #AVillageAffair #MondayBlogs #MondayMorning #MondayMotivation

Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy headteacher at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.

As if it weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the front of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.

But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…

dav

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

My Thoughts…

A lovely mix of humour and romance set in a vibrant English village.

Cassie’s world crumbles when she finds out her husband and best friend are having an affair, starting a new job as a  Deputy Headteacher seems impossible, how will she survive the gossip.  Cassie’s life takes on the appearance of a roller coaster, but she discovers she likes who she has become.

The plot is pacy and full of twists and the characters bring the setting to life, and you feel part of the community. Cassie is a great character, easy to empathise, and the story has so many laugh-out-loud moments that it’s guaranteed to brighten up a dull day.

The romance is gentle and unexpected and the not without its challenges but the ending is worth the angst and makes you want more of Westenbury and its inhabitants.

Extract From A Village Affair – Julie Houston

An hour had passed, the starter – a doughy, tepid mushroom vol-au-vent – had been served and, in some cases eaten with gusto; in most, attempted and left on the sides of plates. Fi and I, enjoying the champagne and Clare’s tale involving her latest conquest – a traffic warden whom she took up to her office in order to avoid a parking ticket – had to be shushed by Tina as Mark took the auctioneer’s stand and someone on the front table affected a drum roll with a couple of side plates on its wooden top.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 2017 Midhope Families in Need appeal. The majority of us here in this room will never understand what some families have to go through just to survive and stay together…’ Mark paused theatrically and surveyed the room, smiling. ‘… So, dig deep in those pockets, refill your glasses and let’s get going with the first ten lots in your booklet this evening.’

I felt tears threaten and swallowed hard. Mark had always been determined to put others first, but even so, it was ridiculous to be still so in love with one’s husband after all these years. Fi and Clare were laughing at me: they knew how Mark and I felt about each other.

‘Simon, are you ready?’ As soon as the auction for Lot four – the villa in Portugal – was about to start, Tina shook Simon’s arm none too gently and the white wine he’d been about to lift to his mouth spilt over both their hands. Tina glared at him. ‘Look, I really want this. Do you want me to do it? Shall I bid…?’

Simon was very drunk.

He staggered to his feet with the auction pamphlet in one hand and, after stabilising himself by grabbing the loose folds of the starched white tablecloth, refilled his glass and immediately downed it in one.

‘So, we come to Lot four. A really fabulous villa in Carvoeiro in Portugal…’ The sound of Mark’s steady, encouraging tone momentarily distracted my attention from Simon, who was now standing calmly to my left. Only his eyes, glittering almost manically, portrayed how much alcohol he’d consumed.

‘… We’re up to £2,000. Come on, a fabulous villa for fourteen must be worth a lot more than this. Who’ll give me £2,200?’ Mark smiled at the guests in front of him. He wasn’t going to hurry this; he knew he was on to a winner with this villa.

‘Mr Auctioneer,’ Simon shouted loudly and the whole room turned, surprised, towards our table ‘… Mr Mark Fucking Auctioneer. Tell you what. You stop shagging my wife, as you’ve been doing for the last… um, let me see… two years isn’t it…? You stop shagging my wife and I’ll give you however much you think that’s worth…

Julie Houston

Julie Houston is the author of The One Saving Grace, Goodness, Grace and Me and Looking for Lucy, a Kindle bestseller top100 general, and a Kindle bestseller Number1. She is married, with the two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Romance

A Country Dilemma Sasha Morgan 5* Review @Aria_Fiction @SashaMorgan_ #Romance #Village #Rural #Relationships #SecondChance #BlogTour #BookReview

For Christie Newbury, moving to the Cotswolds as the new owner of The Templar, a quaint countryside inn, was supposed to be a dream come true. But then her husband drops a bombshell that turns her life upside down.

Architect Daniel James has just one month to find the perfect home. When his search takes him to the village of Treweham, his instant attraction to the Templar’s beautiful – and newly single–owner is a distraction he can’t afford.

Christie needs an expert’s eye. Daniel needs a place to stay. It’s only a business deal – but it has never been more tempting to mix business with pleasure…

Welcome back to Treweham, a village of scandal and secrets.

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

My Thoughts…

I’ve enjoyed the first two books in this series, and ‘A Country Dilemma’, is a fitting ending to the trilogy. In many ways, this is my favourite book, perhaps because I am familiar with many of the characters, yet still, get to enjoy a new story, with new characters too. The story is standalone, and you are given the necessary backstory to enjoy it, but it’s such a good series, for those who like country life, with all its peculiarities. Treat yourself, and read all three books.

The main focus of this story is Christie the new owner of The Templar, and Daniel, a soon to be single dad who wants a good place to bring up his daughter. The attraction is instant, but the conflicts are many, and there is much angst and a veritable roller-coaster of emotions before the resolution.

The style of this story is a fusion of romance and bonkbuster romance. The romance is sensual, rather than gentle, but it fits with the contemporary storyline, and works well, especially for those, like me, who enjoy Zara Stonely, Fiona Walker and Jilly Cooper books.

Believable, complex characters, who fit the setting, without becoming stereotypical. A picturesque, recognisable, rural setting. Coupled with a simple, but effective plot, make this an enjoyable, escapist read, written in an easy to read style full of visual imagery.

Writing a series – Guest Post by Sasha Morgan

The beauty of writing a series is that you can really allow your characters to grow and develop.  You’ve more scope, without the boundaries of just a single novel.  Very often ideas spring from one story, which can nicely lead into the sequel, and so on.

I think it’s good to have some form of continuity.  When picking up a book from a sequel, it’s like reacquainting yourself with old friends and re-connecting.  Familiar places, events and characters give a sense of reassurance and help the reader settle into a pleasing read; because if you liked the first story, then chances are you’ll also enjoy the ones that follow.

I think it’s important though for each book to also read as a stand-alone in its own right.  As sequels aren’t always read in the right order, it could prove rather confusing and a touch disorientating if the story was relying on the reader to have read the previous books.  Very often readers aren’t even aware that a certain book is in fact part of a sequel, as reviews have proved.

It’s crucial to pitch the right amount of background knowledge.  Enough to fill in the reader, but not appear too repetitive.  Also, this enables the reader to want to read all the books in the series – they’ve grown attached to the characters and want to discover their own storylines.

The only downfall in writing a series is having to say goodbye to the characters when you’ve finally completed writing it.  I’ve just finished the last, ‘A Country Dilemma’ is the final book in the Treweham Hall series.  I’ll so miss Tobias Cavendish-Blake and the goings-on at Treweham Hall, not to mention slipping into The Templar for a glass of fizz and spying on the locals.  They’ve become real to me!

I’ve just started a new book, this time set in rural Lancashire where I’m from.  Hopefully, this will be the bedrock for a whole new series.

Sasha Morgan

Sasha lives in a rural, coastal village in Lancashire with her husband and Labrador dog. She has always written stories from a very young age and finds her fictional world so much more exciting than the real one

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Read my reviews of the other books in the series:

A Country Scandal (Formerly Scandal), A Country Rivalry

Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Mystery, Romance

The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall Emma Burstall 4* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction @EmmaBurstall #FamilyDrama #Cornwall #VillageLife #Secrets #Tremarnock #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview

#Tremarnock

In the quaint Cornish village of Tremarnock, Chabela Penhallow arrives for a holiday and to discover more about her Cornish ancestors. But, as always with newcomers to the small seaside town, rumours start to fly about this beautiful stranger. Is there more to her than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, Rob and Liz Hart’s marriage is on the rocks, but only one of them knows the real reason. Once the secret is out, will they be able to handle the repercussions or will it destroy their life together?

For the residents of Tremarnock, the revelations will either bond or break them – forever.

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#TheGirlWhoCameHometoCornwall

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

My Thoughts…

This is a further instalment of the Tremarnock series, I read book 4, ‘A Cornish Secret’, and this one has the same wonderful description of characters and setting. The plot is full of secrets, which threaten to disturb the tranquillity of the Cornish coastal haven.

The arrival of a beautiful Mexican woman causes a predictable stir in the coastal village, the initial impact of her arrival on one resident Rick, makes you realise she will ruffle some feathers, and make some inhabitants wish for younger days.

The writing style invites you to curl up and enjoy the escape into another world, full of diverse characters and picturesque scenery. The reception Chabela receives is typical of a small community, some friendly, others inquisitive and some wary. Her reasons for visiting seem genuine, but she is hiding unhappiness and seems to be seeking something that will only be found in Tremarnock.

An engaging, emotional tale, with detailed knowledge of Cornish village life and interesting snippets of life in Mexico. A lovely mix of humour and sadness, which makes you reluctant to leave when the story comes to its satisfying conclusion.

#BlogTour
Guest post – Emma Burstall – FROM LITTLE ACORNS, OAK TREES GROW

Readers often ask where I get my ideas for novels from, and I usually give the same answer: a seed from somewhere or someone somehow plants itself in my brain. The seed starts to germinate and if I’m fortunate and tend to it carefully and lovingly, it may eventually grow into a lusty plot.

I remember quite clearly the day that the seed for my latest book, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME TO CORNWALL, took root. It was during a walk in my local park one morning with my Mexican friend, Yael, who lives with her English husband, Jonathan, and their children in London.

Yael happened to mention that when she and Jonathan first started dating, she told him about a little town about two and a half hours out of Mexico City where she said they sold the most delicious, rare delicacies that you couldn’t find anywhere else in the country. These were snacks called ‘pastes’, available on almost every street corner, and the couple set off on a romantic mini-break, partly to try out the unusual food.

When they arrived, however, Jonathan was most surprised and even a little put-out. On biting into one of the snacks, encased in pastry, he exclaimed: ‘It’s a Cornish pasty!’

The only difference was that the Mexican version included ingredients such as chilli and avocado, as well as beef, onion and potato.

It soon transpired that the pasty was brought to the town by Cornish tin miners, who travelled there in their droves in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Back then, Cornish miners were considered among the finest in the world and were employed to work in the silver mines. Many eventually went home, much richer than when they arrived, while others married local girls and stayed.

Sometime later, I was lucky enough to visit the little Mexican town and the cemetery just outside where many of the Cornish miners and their families were buried. The graves bore traditional Cornish names such as Pengelly, Skewes and Carew.

I was moved by the thought of these brave men, women and sometimes children, who travelled so many miles to such an unfamiliar and sometimes hostile land to make a new life for themselves.

Before long, a character sprang to mind – a vibrant, independent, beautiful but ultimately unhappy Mexican woman called Chabela Penhallow Maldonado, who is desperate to escape from heartbreak. After receiving a letter from a stranger, she decides to visit the seaside village, of Tremarnock, where my latest series of books is based, to take her mind off her troubles and discover more about her Cornish roots.

She soon causes quite a stir and not everyone is happy to have her there. Of course, there are lots of twists and turns, shocks, secrets and surprises along the way, but does our heroine finally find what she is looking for? You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to her and all the other characters in the end!

I hope you enjoy reading The Girl Who Came Home To Cornwall as much as I enjoyed writing it. Do drop me a line at www.emmaburstall.com and let me know J.

#EmmaBurstall

Emma Burstall was a newspaper journalist in Devon and Cornwall before becoming a full- time author. Tremarnock, the first novel in her series set in a delightful Cornish village, was published in 2015 and became a top-10 bestseller.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Christmas in Little Penhaven Angela Britnell 4* #Review @AngelaBritnell @ChocLituk #NewRelease #ChristmasReads #romance #Cornwall #Tennessee #villagelife #family @rararesources #BlogTour #BookReview

Have yourself a little Cornish Christmas …

Wannabe author Jane Solomon is expecting an uneventful Christmas in her Cornish village of Little Penhaven.

But then super-fit American gym owner Hal Muir comes to town, and suddenly the holiday season looks set to be far more interesting. Hal is keen on embracing every British tradition on offer, from mince pies to Christmas pub quizzes – and perhaps some festive romance too …

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#ChristmasinLittlePenhaven

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

It’s so close to Christmas now, and this story is full of festive traditions. Jane and Hal are two lovely people, who appear to have little in common, but they are both in need of some Christmas cheer and mistletoe magic.

Jane’s life is not easy, she looks after her family and dreams of becoming an author. Hal is running from his problems but realises after meeting Jane, he needs to face them to move on. This story is full of Christmassy village events and a slow-burning romance, between two opposites who deserve a little happiness.

Poignant and romantic this story, encapsulates everything good about the season, in a lovely Cornish village setting.
The perfect festive romantic read to get you in the mood for Christmas.

#AngelaBritnell

Angela grew up in Cornwall, England and returns frequently from her new home in Nashville, Tennessee to visit family and friends, drink tea and eat far too many Cornish pasties!

A lifelong love of reading turned into a passion for writing contemporary romance and her novels are usually set in the many places she’s visited or lived on her extensive travels. Thanks to over three decades of marriage to her wonderful American husband she’s a huge fan of transatlantic romance and always makes sure her characters get their own happy-ever-after.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Romance Writers of America and the Music City Romance Writers.

If you’d like to find out more of what Angela gets up to (Advance warning: this may include references to wine, chocolate, Poldark and the hunky Aidan Turner).

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

Country Lovers Fiona Walker 5*#Review @fionawalkeruk @HoZ_Books #Romance #RuralLife #Friendship #Equestrian #humour #secrets #mystery #FamilyDrama #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview #ComptonMagna

#CountryLovers

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#CountryLovers

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

My Thoughts…

Horses, romance, scandal and secrets in the delightful rural setting of The Cotswolds. It begins with a nail-biting prologue and then launches into life in Compton Magna several years later. The connection is Luca, someone who has an extraordinary gift with horses. He has a reputation as a womaniser, but he has hidden depths and a plethora of secrets to be revealed as the story progresses.

The characters are many, and all of them richly described in such a vivid way that they are believable. The plot is complex, exploring relationships, village life, family drama and mysterious events and secrets. The Compton Magna stud is the focus of the story, so the horses and dogs are important characters too, which is part of the charm for me.

This is written in true bonkbuster style. It’s long, packed to the rafters with glamorous and enigmatic characters, many of whom behave less than circumspectly. Scandal, secrets and sex are rife in Compton Magna, which is a sharp contrast to the glorious rural setting. The humour is what makes this story so readable, and the snapshots on life and people so astute, that its worth reading for characterisation alone.

I loved this author’earlier stories, and this one reminds me of them, an enjoyable escapist read, full of emotion and sparkling dialogue, in a quintessentially rural England setting.

Fiona’s Writing Corner Image Credit Fiona Walker
Guest Post – Fiona Walker – The Three Big Questions Most Author’s Get Asked Are:

How did you first get published?

The answer I always give is: my novel was plucked out of the infamous Slush Pile when I was twenty-three and sold in a weekend. I was just so lucky!

That was more than half my lifetime ago now, and I still marvel at the Disney Princess naivety with which I stumbled into my writing career in the 1990s. Luck played an undeniable part: right time, right place. But I’d already done the hard bit – written a full-length book – before it surfaced in that slush pile. For me, getting published was enviably easy. My first few books were big best-sellers. I had no idea of the knock backs and soul-searching that would come further along the road. Staying published twenty-seven years later, now that’s taken a lot more blood, sweat and tears…

Yet writing Country Lovers reminded me exactly why I love this job so much, and why I can’t imagine doing anything else.

How do you discipline yourself to do it?

Ask me this, and I’ll tell you I sit alone in a room with my imagination for most of the day, most of the year, at the end of which a book pops out.

Really?

The truth is I procrastinate endlessly. I talk to the dogs, I wander around my office, I play the ukulele I keep on a stand on my desk, I shout at myself, I look up my reviews on Amazon, then everyone else’s reviews on Amazon. I type sentences then delete them. I look at the clock a lot. I make countless cups of coffee most of which get ignored go cold. If I do drink them, I need to get up to go to the loo a lot. I think, think, think about my plot and the characters.

Then suddenly, from nowhere, I’m through the door to my imaginary world and I can’t type fast enough. A thousand words, three, five. Oh hell, I’m on a roll and I need to do the school run. I try to keep in my head what’s going to happen next, the loon mum waiting in her car with the two pairs of reading glasses on her head, muttering repeatedly to herself.

Back at my desk, children abandoned elsewhere in the house, I write on, Seven thousand words, eight. I don’t look at the clock at all. Long-suffering partner makes supper. I appear briefly, thinking about the book all the time, disappear back into my study and tell him I’ll be up to bed in a minute. Ten thousand words, eleven.

At three in the morning, I go to bed, knowing I must sleep. I think about the book until I drift off. My eyes snap open five hours later, still thinking about it, and I rush back to my desk.

It really does happen like that sometimes.

Writing Country Lovers was like that.

Where do you get your ideas from?

To which, I laugh gaily laugh and say ‘they’re all around us – just look and listen! I find stories every day in the news, at the school gate, overheard in the train, meeting friends for coffee. It’s limiting the ideas I have trouble with.’ Stock answer, and absolutely true.

But…

When I set out to write Country Lovers I was all-too-aware that it’s my eighteenth full-length novel, on top of which I’ve written countless short stories, some nearer novella length. My novels are big – 600 plus page full-week-on-a-sun-lounger big – and full of multiple strands. I could make at least three smaller novels out of one of them (a friend once joked ‘you put absolutely every plot idea you’ve had in each one because you’re frightened you might never get to write another!’).

That’s a lot of ideas. I genuinely never run out of them, but I do worry I’m going to repeat myself.

Country Lovers might have a setting I’ve used before and a few favourite characters returning in it, but the central story is one I’ve never explored: what would happen if you met your perfect match on the worst night of your life?

I hope the only thing that repeats itself is that incredible luck I had twenty-seven years ago.

Fiona Walker, Oct 2019

#FionaWalker

Fiona Walker is the author of eighteen novels, from tales of flat-shares and clubbing in nineties London to today’s romping, rural romances set amid shires, spires and stiles. In a career spanning over two decades, she’s grown up alongside her readers, never losing her wickedly well-observed take on life, lust and the British in love. She lives in Warwickshire, sharing a slice of Shakespeare Country with her partner, their two daughters and a menagerie of animals.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Humour, Romance

The Weekender Fay Keenan 4*#Review @faykeenan @boldwoodbooks #Familydrama #Romance #humour #Somerset #politics #smalltown #BoldwoodBloggers #Willowbury #Extract #BookBloggers #BookReview #BlogTour

#TheWeekender

When Charlie Thorpe met Holly Renton, they were not a match made in heaven…

Holly lives and works in the beautiful town of Willowbury in Somerset. An incorrigible optimist, she is determined to change the world for the better.

Charlie Thorpe, on the other hand, is the ultimate pragmatist. As Willowbury’s new member of parliament, he has to be. While he’s determined to prove himself to the town, as far as Holly’s concerned, he’s just another politician on the make.

But when their paths cross again, it’s clear they’ve got more in common than they think. Can Holly and Charlie overcome their differences and work together, or are they destined to be forever on opposite sides? And why does Holly have a funny feeling she has met Charlie before…

Let Fay Keenan whisk you away to a world of glorious country views, unforgettable characters and once-in-a-lifetime love. 

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#BoldwoodBlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

A family drama with a gentle romance between two unlikely individuals, who find they share more common beliefs than they thought. The setting in a small Somerset town is charming and realistic, and the political and social issues raised are integral to the story but resonate. This story has important messages but still manages to remain entertaining.

The pacing is slow, which takes a little getting used to but you do warm to the characters, once you get to know them. Similarly, the romance is realistically delivered in tantalising snippets, but they get there in the end.

Contemporary causes, family drama, and sweet romance are all found in this originally crafted story, with a relatable small town ethos.

The Weekender – Fay Keenan – Extract

1

White sage is all very well,’ Holly Renton reflected, ‘but the ashes are a bugger to get out of the carpet.’ Earlier that morning, before the shop had opened, Holly had carried out a ritual called smudging, which was meant to purify the energy in a building, promote positivity and remove negative energies. Picking up the dustpan and brush, she emptied the pungent remains of the dried herb bundle she’d ignited and then wafted around the windows and doors of the shop into the bin.

‘I know you recommend this all the time for other people’s houses, but why are you so bloody obsessed with doing it in the shop?’ Rachel, Holly’s sister, glanced down at where Holly was still brushing the rug under the mullioned front window of ComIncense, the shop specialising in herbal remedies and well-being aids that Holly ran in the sleepy but nonetheless New Age small town of Willowbury and smiled. Just beyond the shop’s counter, the door that led to Holly’s small back yard was open and Harry, Rachel’s three-year-old son and Holly’s nephew, was playing happily with a set of wooden animal-shaped blocks in their own lorry, which had come from a box of assorted toys that Holly kept specifically for the younger customers. Holly didn’t believe, unlike some of her business-owning neighbours, that children should be banned from places like hers, and since the early-spring weather was warm and pleasant, Harry had trundled out into the sunlight to play.

‘You’ve got to refresh places from time to time,’ Holly replied. ‘Especially when there’s been a lot of negative energy about, and since all of the scandal with Hugo Fitzgerald, I really felt like this place needed a spiritual cleanse!’

‘You can say that again,’ Rachel reached under the wooden apothecary’s dresser that displayed countless jars and pots of dried herbs and flowers, all purporting to be of some spiritual or physical benefit, to retrieve one of the toy llamas that Harry had thrown under it. ‘What a way to go…’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Holly replied, still sweeping. ‘At least, having had a massive coronary, he wouldn’t have known much about it.’

‘But what a waste of a good plate of scones and jam!’ Rachel grinned. ‘Mum told me that his constituency agent found him face down in them at his desk.’

‘I wouldn’t have fancied digging him out of them,’ Holly said. ‘But from the size of him, the heart attack was an accident waiting to happen. And gossip has it, he had his finger in a lot of pies, not just the odd plate of scones.’

‘Oh, you know how the rumour mill goes into overdrive when something like this happens.’ Rachel, who had more of a tendency to see the good in people than her sister did, dismissed Holly’s comments with a wave of her hand. ‘I mean, I’m not saying he wasn’t a prat, but nothing was ever proven about his financial misdemeanours. Although I have to admit, since he couldn’t have given a stuff about Harry’s condition, and getting access to these new drugs, I’m hoping the new guy will be more receptive to the cause.’

‘It’s still bloody unfair that he gets to swan in here and take the seat after only the quietest by-election,’ Holly grumbled as she replaced the dustpan and brush on the shelf behind the counter. ‘I mean, the guy’s only a year older than me and he’s been parachuted into one of the safest seats in the country. Even if we have a change of government, he’s unlikely ever to lose his seat. What if he’s just as crap as Fitzgerald and couldn’t care less about us here in his constituency? We’re stuck with him until he chooses to retire.’

‘Give him a chance,’ Rachel said reasonably. ‘He might be good for this place.’

‘Have you made an appointment to see him yet?’ Holly asked, glancing down to where Harry was now building a tower of exotic wooden animals that was getting more and more precarious the higher it got.

From the outside, Harry looked like any other energetic three-year-old, but on the inside, it was a different story. Weeks after he’d been born, Rachel had been launched into a perpetually revolving carousel of physiotherapy, medications and experimental trials in an attempt to alleviate the chronic condition, cystic fibrosis, that would, in all likelihood, limit Harry’s life. The latest medication, which might make a huge difference to Harry’s life expectancy, was currently being held up because the government was still negotiating with the pharmaceutical company involved over a reasonable price to supply it to the National Health Service. How it was possible to put a cost on a life such as Harry’s was a source of increasing frustration and heartbreak for Rachel and the family.

‘Not yet,’ Rachel sighed. ‘If Hugo Fitzgerald couldn’t be arsed to do anything other than toe the party line, then why should this new guy be any better? Especially if he is a total rookie. I doubt he’ll stick his neck out for Harry.’

Noticing Rachel was, unusually for her, close to tears, Holly hurried around from behind the counter and gave her sister a hug. ‘Don’t let it get you down,’ she murmured. ‘I’ll always be right there with you, campaigning to get this little munchkin the treatment he deserves.’

‘I know,’ Rachel replied, giving Holly a shaky smile. ‘I’m fine, really. It’s just when he has a bad day, it reminds me of the challenges he’s facing, which will only get worse as he gets older. And knowing that the new medications could potentially make those challenges so much easier to face…’

‘We’ll get there,’ Holly said. ‘I’ll be with you every step of the way, like I always have been. And I still think it’s worth a punt with this new guy, you never know.’

‘I’ll try and get in to see him over the summer,’ Rachel replied, breaking the embrace from her sister and grabbing the last of the wooden animals to add to Harry’s tower of jungle wildlife. ‘Can I make a drink?’

‘Of course,’ Holly said. ‘I’ve got some organic fair-trade matcha tea in the kitchen.’

‘Is that the super-energising stuff?’ Rachel asked. ‘After being up with Harry last night, I could certainly do with a lift.’

‘Honestly, it’ll keep you going until midnight!’ Holly said. ‘Go on… you know you want to.’

‘All right,’ Rachel replied. ‘But if I end up buzzing around Willowbury like a wasp for the rest of the day, I’m blaming you.’

‘Fair enough. And make me a cup, too,’ Holly called as Rachel disappeared up the stairs to Holly’s flat above the shop. Popping the dustpan and brush behind the counter again, she continued the conversation, since Rachel had left the door to the flat open. ‘Perhaps I should give this new guy the benefit of the doubt,’ she said, adjusting the labels on the jars of dried herbs and plants on the dresser so they all pointed uniformly outwards. ‘After all, new blood could be a good thing.’

‘Perhaps we should be fair and reserve judgement until he’s been in the job a few months,’ Rachel said over the bubble of the kettle. ‘You never know, he could be just the tonic this place needs, politically.’

‘You always try to look on the bright side, don’t you?’

#FayKeenan

Fay Keenan is the author of the bestselling Little Somerby series of novels. She has led writing workshops with Bristol University and has been a visiting speaker in schools. She is a full-time teacher and lives in Somerset. Fay’s new series for Boldwood will begin with The Weekender.

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