The Paradise Cookery School is officially open!
Stepping in for a celebrity chef, Millie Harper is feeling the pressure to make the first ever Paradise Cookery School classes a dazzling success and ensure that bride-to-be Imogen and friends have an unforgettable experience.
Meanwhile, Millie is trying to play it cool around handsome estate manager Zach Barker. But whenever he is near Millie cannot fail to notice the chemistry between them – until someone from Zach’s past arrives and any potential romance seems out of the question.
When disaster strikes and the wedding is in jeopardy, Millie realises she may have to go above and beyond to make sure the school is a success. Can Millie manage to create a day that dreams are made of, and will she find a way to tell Zach how she feels?
Guest Post – Daisy James – Chocolate Heaven
Confetti & Confusion is the second book in the Paradise Cookery School series, set on the spectacular Caribbean island of St Lucia. In the story, we re-join Millie and Ella as they showcase a myriad of chocolate-themed recipes for bride-to-be Imogen and her friends in the run-up to their glamorous wedding at a luxury resort on the hilltop overlooking the stunning Pitons. It’s a dream come true for Imogen to be getting married in such exotic surroundings and, as a confirmed chocoholic, being able to attend the cookery school is the icing on the three-tiered wedding cake.
The Paradise Cookery School is in a former cocoa plantation house nestled on the hillside overlooking the St Lucian Pitons, spectacular emerald pyramids that poke from the Caribbean Sea like the spines on a dinosaur’s back. The owner and celebrity chef, Claudia Croft, hopes to one day bring the cocoa trees back to life and make her own chocolate to use in her recipes. In fact, the very first course that the school runs is called Confetti & Chocolate, designed specifically for Imogen and her friends.
The course features a variety of recipes that include chocolate, from the wedding cake pops to the chocolate tiramisu bombe, the chocolate truffle tortes with hazelnut brittle and chocolate and cherry madeleines. There’s even freshly grilled salmon in a chocolate and ginger sauce!
The Paradise Cookery School’s Molten Lava cakes
One of Millie’s favourite recipes is for Molten Chocolate Lava cakes – especially as the view from her kitchen window overlooks the volcanic Pitons! Here’s her recipe…
100g dark chocolate
150g light brown sugar
50g plain flour
Half teaspoon vanilla essence.
Grease 6 metal ramekins and place on a baking tray. Put the butter and the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of hot water, stirring until smooth and then putting to one side to cool. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar and the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla essence and finally the flour. Divide into the six ramekins and refrigerate. When ready to eat, bake in an oven, 200C, 180C fan or gas mark 6, for 10-12 minutes until the tops are firm to the touch, but the middles are still soft. Run a knife round and turn them out onto a plate, dust with icing sugar and serve with fresh cream.
What are your favourite chocolate recipes? Let me know in the comments.
If you can’t afford the Caribbean this Summer, this book is the next best thing. Full of sunshine, warmth, vividly depicted scenery with a tumultuous romance and a mystery too this will keep you happy wherever you’re reading it.
The second in ‘The Paradise Cookery School’series, ‘Confetti and Confusion’ reads well as a standalone too but I did wish I read the first in the series ‘Sunshine and Secrets’. Millie agrees to run an exclusive cookery course for a bride to be and her entourage. She’s in need of something to lift her spirits and loves cooking, so this is the opportunity she can’t turn down. Strongly attracted to Zach the acting estate manager, she wonders if she can risk her heart again.
The setting is sublime and well described, especially through the food on offer. Millie is a lovely character and her friend, and colleague Ella is a warm and giving person who helps Millie step out of her self-imposed shell.
The plot is written in the style of a ‘Death in Paradise’ story by without the murder. It gives a flavour of Caribbean life, without being overly descriptive and the characters are likeable and relatable. The ending gives Millie hope for the future, and now I can’t wait for the Christmas book.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north-east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.
Two people. One love story. A million possibilities. They’re soulmates. Ivy and Abe were inseparable as children until an accident tore them apart. Several decades later, when both are in their seventies, a chance encounter reunites them. But time is not on their side. What if they’d met in a different time and place? In another life, Ivy and Abe meet in their forties, when both are married already. Unable to resist the attraction between them, they embark on a passionate affair. In yet another, they marry young, with a bright future ahead of them – only for a dark shadow to threaten their happiness. Throughout various incarnations of their lives, they come together and go their separate ways, fall in and out of love, make or break promises. In every universe, Ivy and Abe are meant to meet. But are they meant to be?
Everyone meets people in their lives that they seem to know or act out of character inexplicably drawn to a stranger. Are they supposed to be together or merely to meet?
‘Ivy and Abe’ meet in school and then are torn apart only to meet again in the Autumn of their lives. This story explores what happens to them when they meet again and all the ‘What If?’ scenarios. Told from Ivy’s point of view, all the stories have common characters, but they have different importance in Ivy and Abe’s lives.
Poignant, romantic, selfish and tragic the stories map out possible lives and their consequences.
Whether Ivy and Abe are soulmates is left to the reader’s interpretation. The ending adds yet another possible outcome but the hope for the future is undeniable and a fitting end for such a lovely story.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Amanda Wilkie unexpectedly finds herself alone with three children under five in a rambling Victorian house in London, after her husband walks leaves them claiming he’s just ‘lost the love’, like one, might carelessly lose a glove.
A few months later, Amanda’s heavily pregnant friend, Ali, crashes into her kitchen announcing her partner is also about to abscond. Once Ali’s baby Grace is born, Amanda encourages them to move in. When Jacqui, a long-lost friend and fellow single mum, starts dropping by daily, the household is complete.
Getting divorced is no walk in the park, but the three friends refuse to be defined by it. And, as they slowly emerge out of the wreckage like a trio of sequin-clad Gloria Gaynors singing ‘I Will Survive’, they realise that anything is possible. Even loving again…
When one door shuts, another one opens
For eighteen years I had written children’s books as a jobbing author. For various reasons I was asked to change my name to Jess Bright by my last publisher, so they could relaunch me as a new, box-fresh, younger, cooler Jacqueline Wilson-type for tweenage girls. As with a lot of gambles, it didn’t really pay off because I wasn’t able to be myself, I was pretending to be a big sister to my readers when in fact I was old enough to be their mum. I submitted my last book to them in 2016, it was a story about bullying told from the bully’s point of view, how she became a bully and her journey to redemption when she loses everything. She wasn’t a ‘nice’ character, but she wasn’t meant to be, I wanted her to feel genuine.
At the same time as submitting my book, I slipped disc in my back leading to crippling back pain, morphine patches, and eventually an epidural injection to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord so I could come off the painkillers. On the drive back from the hospital after the procedure, I received an email from my agent telling me the publishers had rejected my book because of the Marmite plotline and the amount of work it needed, and in doing so, didn’t want to carry on the partnership with my brand of Jess Bright. To say I was gutted was an understatement. I think I cried solidly for twenty-four hours. I know it’s only work, no one died, but for me, it was so much more.
Writing had saved me during my darkest hour years previously when I had been left holding three kids under five after my husband had walked out. I had taken a career break, writing the odd book between babies, but essentially remained a stay at home mum. Then overnight I was a single parent and the buck stopped here – this filled me so much fear, doubt, grief, instability, I was a crazy hot mess of emotions and never knew how I was going to be feeling from one minute to the next. One thing I could do, however, was restart my career. I had never had an agent, so I set out to find one knowing this was one journey I couldn’t undertake alone. I remember sitting in Charlie’s office, telling him about my situation, bursting into tears, and him promptly offering to represent me! It was Charlie who encouraged me to write Gaby’s Angel, the first book Oxford University Press bought as part of my working relationship with them.
So when I received the news my collaboration with them had been terminated, I felt the same kind of rejection I’d experienced when my marriage ended. I was facing a real career crossroads. Charlie tentatively suggested writing adult fiction because he knew it had always been a pipe dream of mine. I sent him a secret blog I had written during a time when I lived communally with my friend, Vicky, her baby and my three kids in my house that we jokingly called The Single Mums’ Mansion. He leapt on it immediately and said that it had to be my next book.
The story is set during this tumultuous yet uplifting time in the single mum commune. Another friend, Nicola, was also going through a divorce with her two kids and she practically moved in, spending whole weekends with us, 6 children all squashed in together. We went on holidays, celebrated Christmases as a patchwork family, held wild parties, helped each other through heart-breaking situations when the ex-husbands got remarried and started new families. I can honestly say I do not know how I would have coped with it all had I not had those other two women to stand next to and gather strength from. The Single Mums’ Mansion is my love letter to my two friends, not sparing any visceral details and certainly not sugar-coating the life of a single mum. Here’s to us, ladies, and all those other single parents, bossing the hell out of life and making the best out of a difficult situation!
The first thing that strikes me about this story is its authenticity and honesty. Numerous comic moments provide much-needed light relief amidst the despair and sadness these single mum’s experience at the destruction of their perfect family dreams.
The inspiration for this story is the author’s blog, and the story reads like a journal of her feelings and experiences, as the main character Amanda, comes to terms with life after her husband walks out and leaves her with three kids under five.
Realistic, flawed characters underpin a fast-paced, intricate plot, which shares Amanda. Ali and Jacqui’s experiences of being a single mum. What stands out is the camaraderie between the three women. Despite the sad events this story has many laugh-out-loud moments which make it a worthwhile read.
The language is uncensored, but it isn’t gratuitous, merely an illustration of the characters’ personality and stress experienced. There are also episodes of drunkenness and drug taking, which I didn’t like, especially when the children were present. Again it gives the story authenticity, but the casual attitude took the edge off the enjoyment of the story.
If you enjoy your stories with no filters, crammed full of laughter and poignancy, this is the book for you.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Janet Hoggarth has worked on a chicken farm, as a bookseller, children’s book editor and DJ with her best friend (under the name of Whitney and Britney). She has published several children’s books, the most recent ones written under the pseudonym of Jess Bright. Her first adult novel, The Single Mums’ Mansion is based on her experiences of living communally as a single parent.
When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend.
Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?
In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go?
Over the next twenty years we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv’s life, heart and future have been better with Nate… Or without him?
Guest Post – Shari Low
So here we are, on the publication of my 21st book and I’m still as excited and terrified as the very first time.
My first novel, What If? was released in January 2001. The year before, I’d found out that I had a publishing deal and twenty minutes later, I’d discovered I was pregnant with our first child.
What if your whole life changed in the space of a few ticks on a clock?
That year, I went from living in London, with an all-consuming career in sales management and roots that were touched up every six weeks, to a life as a full-time mum and writer back in my native Scotland. I don’t think I found my make up bag for the best part of a decade.
That transition came with countless what if’s.
What if leaving the security of a full-time job is a mistake? What if I only have one story to tell? What if I miss the excitement of a carefree life with no little humans depending on me? And, when my second baby came along the following year, what if these kids don’t sleep through the night until they’re 21 and I never get peace to write?
Thankfully, it wasn’t, I didn’t, I definitely didn’t, and they eventually did.
But that theme of what if was a starting point for my latest novel, With Or Without You. What if one decision changed the rest of your life?
Everyone has reached a crossroads at some point, where they had to move left, more right, go forward, go back. For me, the biggest one happened a few years before that life-changing time in 2000, when my husband and I had only been married for a few years, and we agreed to go our separate ways. There was no drama, no fallout, just an amicable realisation that we both wanted different things.
In the end, we got back together a few months later, and now, twenty-five years after we met, I couldn’t imagine finding more happiness in any other life.
But I’d love to know where fate would have taken us if we’d made a different choice.
That’s the dilemma facing Liv, a palliative care nurse, and Nate, a PE teacher, in the opening chapter of With Or Without You. Married straight out of college, they both feel like something is missing in their relationship, so after a year of trying to reignite the spark, they agree to go their separate ways on the last day of 1999. However, as the clock ticks down to midnight, Nate changes his mind and asks Liv to give it another try. In the moment that the new millennium dawns, the narrative splits, with one storyline following their lives over the next eighteen years if they stay together, and the other covering their future if they stick to their plan to part.
What if staying together is the right thing to do? What if it’s not? What if they miss out on another great love? What if they never find their happy ever after? What if their decision irrevocably changes the lives of the people they love the most? What if they discover they were right for each other after all? What if they don’t?
I hope readers will love following the two different paths as much as I enjoyed writing them. I fell hopelessly in love with Liv, Nate, and their group of friends, flawed as they are, and it brought me to yet another of those deliberations.
What if I bring a few of them back in book number 22?
Love, Shari x
With Or Without You will be published by Aria – available in ebook on June 1st.
If like me you believe in fate and love the film ‘Serendipity’, you’ll enjoy this well-written ‘what if’ story. Most people in a long-term relationship wonder, whether they are with their soulmate, or if under different circumstances they would be with someone else. This story explores Liv’s decision taken at the cusp of the 21st-century, stay with Nate or split up and live their lives apart.
A story of two halves, the outcome of being ‘without him’ is explored first and then ‘with him’. There’s friendship, conflict, romance and sadness but the ultimate conclusion is satisfying in both stories. The setting and relationships are believable, and though flawed, the characters endear themselves to the reader, and you want them to find happiness and fulfilment.
The pacing of the story makes it easy to read, and even though the storyline focuses on ordinary, everyday life, it is full of suspense, poignancy, laughter and love and makes this a lovely lighthearted read.
Shari Low has published twenty novels over the last two decades. She also writes for newspapers, magazines and television. Once upon a time, she got engaged to a guy she’d known for a week, and twenty-something years later, they live in Glasgow with their two teenage sons and a labradoodle.