The Daughter of River Valley: Blog Tour

The Daughter of River Valley by Victoria Cornwall

TDORV_FRONT_RGB150dpi (1)

Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …

Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she has been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.

Brought together by unknown circumstances, and fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest? As they learn to trust one another, the outside threats worsen. Are they linked to the man with no past? Or is the real danger still outside waiting … and watching them both?


Reading historical romance can be a bit of a minefield for an historian. My research spans the 17th to 19th centuries, but I spend my time predominantly in the 19th century. With novels there must be a level of give and take; I’m not one to insistent on stringent historical accuracy, but there is a line in the sand however, that when crossed makes reading some historical novels impossible. Daughter of River Valley has such an intriguing plot that I couldn’t resist, and it was with hope and a little trepidation that I started to read. I wasn’t disappointed. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, slow-burning romance, with enough twists and turns to make it a bit of a roller-coaster ride – albeit of the gentle sort.

In general terms, while the 19th century was one of innovation, industrialisation, and progress on many fronts, a great many rural and cottage industries were lost or mechanised. Cornish mining was at once point a leading, cutting edge industry, but copper mining was petering out by the 1840s, and while tin mining boomed, it too was dying by the 1870s. It was a case of bust following boom. Cornish mining was also at the mercy of globalisation as other countries started mining tin and copper less expensively, and we started importing it.  (Sound like our recent history?) Arguably, the greatest exports Cornwall gave the world were its miners and their expertise. Our tale is set against this sad background.

Beth is an amazing young woman, proud and self-reliant. Having found an intruder in her cottage and rendered him unconscious, she hilariously tries to move him out before he comes around. Her worry about being arrested is all too real, as is her concern over being watched, and her ownership of the cottage. She wants this man gone, but her guilt coupled with a compassionate nature, makes her get help and nurse him back to health. Unfortunately, he has no idea who he is, and no clues about his person. Although strong and independent, Beth has insecurities from her childhood that make trusting new people difficult, and a vulnerability that has her questioning herself. She has suspicions she can’t prove, and a stubborn self-reliance that won’t let her take things at face value.

Luke/Joss is equally proud and equally vulnerable, and not just because of his loss of memory. His nightmares allude to a dark period of his life; demons that he is half convinced make him either a criminal or a ‘bad man’. At the same time there is a gentleness that hovers beneath his scowling, sullen demeanour. Like Beth, he is stubborn as a mule, and just as fiercely independent, even though he needs her help. He displays skills that belie Beth’s original notion of his social class. Joss is an honourable man, as keen to protect her as well as her reputation. As he works at repairing the shed, Beth can say he is a labourer in her employment.

As soon as you think you have a handle on where the author is taking you, she takes a quick turn, and you head off in a different direction. She does this all through the book, and readers will be wondering by the last few chapters, what on earth is happening with Beth and Joss. It’s a bit nerve-wracking. Both have the shadow of their pasts hanging over them. It informs their behaviour, their reactions to people, and to events. It can be a chain to hamper them, as well as an armour to protect them. Beth does not want to make the same mistake as her mother for example.

All the while we are travelling with these two characters, we are given glorious and vibrant descriptions that bring the Cornish coast and countryside beautifully to life. Altogether Victoria Cornwall has given us an atmospheric and fascinating novel. The captivating romance combined with elements of Cornish history, both fascinating and heart-breaking, raises this from a standard historical novel, to excellent.

Full five stars. Go, read, and enjoy.


Purchase Link

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daughter-River-Valley-Cornish-Tales-ebook/dp/B07DHWTH5T

The Daughter of River Valley


Author

Victoria Cornwall. Profile Picture JPGVictoria Cornwall can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.

Victoria’s writing has been shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction and her debut novel reached the final for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.

Victoria likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Social Media Links –

Website: http://victoriacornwall.com/

Blog: http://victoriacornwall.com/news-blog-2/

Facebook (Author Page if you have one): https://www.facebook.com/victoriacornwall.author/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickieCornwall

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16069968.Victoria_Cornwall

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/vickiecornwall/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victoria_cornwallx/


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Oh, Crumbs : Blog Tour

Oh, Crumbs by Kathryn Freeman

OC_FRONT-150dpiRGB copySometimes life just takes the biscuit …
Abby Spencer knows she can come across as an airhead – she talks too much and is a bit of a klutz – but there’s more to her than that. Though she sacrificed her career to help raise her sisters, a job interview at biscuit company Crumbs could finally be her chance to shine. That’s until she hurries in late wearing a shirt covered in rusk crumbs, courtesy of her baby nephew, and trips over her handbag. 
Managing director Douglas Faulkner isn’t sure what to make of Abby Spencer with her Bambi eyes, tousled hair and ability to say more in the half-hour interview than he manages in a day. All he knows is she’s a breath of fresh air and could bring a new lease of life to the stale corporate world of Crumbs. To his life too, if he’d let her. 
But Doug’s harbouring a secret. He’s not the man she thinks he is. 


I expected this to be a usual, run-of-the-mill romance, but Kathryn Freeman has given us a considered and insightful study of human nature, relationships, and moral integrity. I could write a dissertation on this book, its characters, themes and motifs, and indeed have had several attempts at writing a review that doesn’t run on for pages.  Equally, it is not often that a book has me running through the entire A to Z of emotions, but Oh Crumbs did. I was angry, laughing, anxious, happy, sad, joyful, and wished to throw a well-aimed punch or two.

It’s also been a while since an author has rendered me conflicted in my opinion of some of the people in their book. Freeman’s depiction of her characters is an exercise in creating real and believable individuals, complete with the strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failings that you expect in real life. They are very definitely not cardboard cut-outs.  If the best place for the family is framed on the shelf, then in very many ways that is true of the families in this book.

Be assured, while some of this review makes the novel sound dark and miserable, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m saying now, before going any further, this is another book that will make it onto my Books of the Year list. I relished it. Get yourself a copy, grab drinks and snacks, then settle down for a great read with wonderful and horrible characters!

On the surface, Abby and Doug come from different worlds, one privileged, titled, and rich, the other ordinary, struggling, and disadvantaged. Yet we have two people suffering from the same trials and tribulations. Freeman’s skill in bringing us this story, is that she writes the sadder, darker elements with a light-hand. You feel sorrow but not misery, sadness but not depression, balanced with hilarious banter, cheeky teenagers, and moments of great comedy.

Abby is the obvious mainstay of her family; a family that doesn’t appear to appreciate all that she has sacrificed for them. The Prologue covers two periods, first 12 years before our tale starts, and then 6 years before. The Spencer’s wife and mother has been ill for a while and dies; Abby is expected to step up and care for her younger sisters. She is just 13 years old and, at their mother’s funeral, she is the one in charge of Mandy 9, Sally 5, Holly 3, and baby Ellie just 1. As each of the three youngest have a problem that day, it is Abby who sorts them out, and it was the first time I questioned what their father was doing. At the wake, when she refuses to help, Mandy gives us an insight into what life has been like for Abby in recent months, ‘No way. You’re the oldest. That’s your job.’ Later their father apologises to Abby for not being much help over the previous months, and I wanted to give the man a damned good slap.

At the 6-year part of the Prologue, Abby is 18 and just finished school, but while her friends are all going off to university she is not. She must look after the family. Again, it is Mandy who challenges Abby about responsibility, ‘You’re always banging on at me to help you. Why don’t you tell him to come home earlier instead? He’s the parent.’  Abby points out his ineptitude, but my mind screamed that he needed to learn how to use the washing machine, cook, and so forth. Abby misses her mother very much, and we must ask the question – when did she get the time to grieve? Now, instead of breaking out into the world, she is going to find a job so she can stay at home and look after her sisters and supplement the family income. It’s heart-breaking.

Doug employs Abby and gradually realises what a clever and misplaced young woman she is. While she’s an excellent and efficient PA, he recognises that she is woman with a head for business. He is drawn to her but is emotionally closed and withdrawn. Lord Faulkner, his father, is a cruel and vindictive bully who humiliates Doug at every opportunity, and it is clear that something is festering under the surface of their toxic relationship.

Both sets of parents represent the light and dark side of the other. One mother is dead but still a presence in her daughter’s life, the other mother is alive, but has chosen to withdraw emotionally from her son. One father is a tyrant, selfish and unloving, the other is inept and while allowing Abby to make sacrifices, he loves his children and works hard to help provide for them. The actions of both fathers, combined with the absence of the mother figures, have serious consequences for Doug and Abby, though the unquestionable detrimental effect emotionally is on Doug. His sacrifice is treated with cold contempt by his mother.

Both Abby and Doug have hidden talents that neither is able to pursue as they have sacrificed their independence for the sake of their families. Abby has a great business mind but is working as a secretary and PA. Doug is an artist but was forbidden to pursue his talent as a child and young man. In sharp contrast are Mandy and Thea, sisters to Abby and Doug.  They have seized a form of independence albeit in different ways and encourage their sibling to make their own lives. Thea has left home, escaped to university, so isn’t around much, leaving the youngest sister, Margaret, at home under the strict thumb of their parents. Mandy may be living at home, but she doesn’t take on any of the parental responsibilities Abby has, not because she can’t but because she doesn’t accept that it is her duty. When the time comes, we find she faces the consequences of her actions and shoulders her own responsibility without hesitation.

Abby is a delightful. A warm-hearted and loving young woman yet simmering quietly beneath the surface is an unhappiness. She is bright and intelligent, has taken an Open University degree in between balancing job, sisters, and domestic life. The only relationships she has managed to have were with her two bosses, and at best were mediocre.  Whilst her father clearly loves his children, it is Abby who is the strong centre. Rituals build a family and hold it together, and throughout the book Abby is the one who has built the rituals that stop them from falling apart. She is open, direct, and honest. It is this strength of character and lively personality that Doug is drawn to.

At first Doug appears to be aloof and cold. He is a man very much in control of his behaviour, his emotions, and his thinking. He’s hasn’t so much built a wall around himself, as he has taken all romantic ideas and notions of a loving relationship and buried them so unfathomably deep. Yet bit by bit we find that he has a warm and passionate nature. No matter how hard he fights, Abby confronts and provokes him in small and surprising ways. Her guileless and unsophisticated nature has Doug questioning everything he thinks he believes in. His friend Luke is the only person with whom he behaves anything like his true self, and even then, he is guarded. Abby doesn’t understand why Doug lets his father treat him so badly, and challenges Doug on why he doesn’t defend himself.

Freeman has written a book that is funny and romantic, bright and cheerful. She cleverly and subtly weaves the pain and heartache into the narrative of the burgeoning romance in such a way that it doesn’t detract from the relationship building between Doug and Abby. Here are two people who have sacrificed their lives and independence for their families and who in finding each other may stand a chance of a life for themselves. Will they break free? Can they? Will they get the life they deserve? Or will the pull of family be too strong to overcome?

Will we find out?

The full 5 stars, and then some.

Buy the book.


Purchase Links

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crumbs-Choc-Lit-Kathryn-Freeman-ebook/dp/B07BYDG51M

Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Crumbs-Choc-Lit-Kathryn-Freeman-ebook/dp/B07BYDG51M


Giveaway

Giveaway Prize - Too Damn NiceWin a paperback copy of Too Damn Nice by Kathryn Freeman (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494111/?


Author

5707-2A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero.

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes come in many disguises.

Social Media Links –

Website:  http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kathrynfreeman

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KathrynFreeman1


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Barnabas Tew: Blog Tour

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan

Barnabas Tew - CoverBarnabas Tew, a detective in Victorian London, is having a hard time making a name for himself, probably because most of his clients end up dead before he can solve their cases. His luck is about to change, though, for better or worse: Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, notices him and calls him to the Egyptian underworld. A terrible kidnapping has occurred; one that promises to put an end to the status quo and could perhaps even put an end to the entire world. It is up to Barnabas (along with his trusty assistant, Wilfred) to discover the culprit and set things to right. Can he turn his luck around and solve the most important case of his life?


As a huge Sherlock fan, I thought it would be fun to give this a go. The book wasn’t quite what I anticipated, and to be honest, once I started reading and realised the direction the plot was taking, I was expecting to dislike intensely. You see, since childhood when it comes to history, I’ve always been very firmly in the Roman and Norse camp, Greeks are ‘meh’, and Egypt has never held any interest or fascination for me. Quite the opposite, I’m bored by it, so I was rather taken aback at how much I liked this novel, and whilst we are never supposed to judge a book by its cover….I really like this one.

The author has attempted to write in a way that befits the Sherlockian period and style, and most of the time she succeeds. While some odd phraseology jarred a little, and led me to read it in stages, the fabulous cast of characters and their interactions with each other, makes this book a real delight.  It has levels of absurdity which draw you in, and a degree of farcicality that leaves you shaking your head and laughing. Yet the whole preposterousness nature of the story is so well drawn that, whatever madness the writer throws at you, the reader blithely accepts it and carries on with their enjoyment.

Since reading his first Sherlock story as a child, Barnabas Tew has wanted to emulate his hero, and worked towards it ever since. Complete with caped coat and deer-stalker, an assistant called Wilfred, and a decade of calamitous cases, Barnabas has not had the meteoric rise to detective stardom that he had hoped for. Indeed, more often than not, someone has ended up dead, and this is the fate that Barnabas and Wilfred meet.

Barnabas is a lovely character, quite modest, and often admits his shortcomings. He makes detailed descriptions, minute observations, and works through them with meticulous good intentions, sadly to little or no avail. He is a bit of a bumbler, and his assistant, the well-intentioned Wilfred, is the perfect foil to Barnabas. It is the eminently patient Wilfred who takes the pair of them off to the Egyptian exhibition at the museum, to distract his employer from their lack of success and failure to acquire more clients. The interaction between Barnabas and Wilfred is at times hilarious, and the more you read, the more you realise how Wilfred is NOT like Dr Holmes, and Barnabas is no Sherlock.

I loved the humour, and the well-developed characters. The author plays with mythological Gods; through the use of anthropomorphism she makes them more accessible as personalities, hence more 3-dimensional and so less distant from our understanding.  You can’t help but laugh at the odd statements that pop up. Like the Ferryman stating that Barnabas’ demise was definitely ‘in the top ten of strange deaths’ he’d ever seen, or when Anubis was exasperated with Barnabas rambling and interrupting, put his head in his hands and muttered, ‘Oh sweet baby Horus why me?’

This strange, humourous, Victorian, supernatural detective novel, with its mythological afterlife (or afterlives….)  is a real peach. I want to say lots more, but there are two more books coming and I’d rather you read and enjoy this one now, so we can go deeper and discuss more next time.

A happy 4 stars so, Go, Read, Enjoy!


Purchase Link

mybook.to/Barnabas

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab


Author

Barnabas Tew - ColumbkillNoonanPhotoColumbkill Noonan lives in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, where she teaches yoga and Anatomy and Physiology.  Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Her first novel, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” by Crooked Cat Books, was released in 2017, and her latest work, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds”, is set to be released in September 2018.

In her spare time, Columbkill enjoys hiking, paddle boarding, aerial yoga, and riding her rescue horse, Mittens. To learn more about Columbkill please feel free to visit her website (www.columbkill.weebly.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan) or on Twitter (@ColumbkillNoon1).

Social Media Links –  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan/

                                       Twitter: https://twitter.com/columbkillnoon1?lang=en


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The Secrets of Villa Rosso: Blog Tour

The Secrets of Villa Rosso by Linn B Halton

The Secrets of Villa Rosso lrgSome places stay with you forever…

When Ellie Maddison is sent on a business trip to Southern Italy, she’s reminded why she loves her job – set amongst rolling vineyards and rich olive groves, the beautiful Villa Rosso is the perfect escape from her life back home. But what Ellie isn’t prepared for is the instant connection she feels to the estate’s director Max Jackson, or the secrets they share that are as intertwined as the rambling vines that cover Villa Rosso.

It’s not long before Ellie finds herself entangled in the history of the place, trying to understand the undeniable effect Max is having on her. As their relationship grows, what will Ellie discover about this idyllic villa and those who have walked through its doors?

What started as a simple work trip will change Ellie’s life forever.


Let me say up front that this is a lovely story about soul mates. relationships, and the eternity of love.

The author’s loquacious style, combined with the restating at various junctures of the soul-mate status of Ellie and Josh’s relationship, made this book difficult for me to settle into.  I’ve never suffered from homesickness, and I’m married to a (now retired) military man, so the sort of wobbling and faintheartedness about being separated that Ellie and Josh display, had no room in our lives. I was irritated by Ellie’s bleating about leaving home, nervous I can understand but she was more fearful than that. I get that she had never travelled alone before, but she was about to make some major business decisions, so these two aspects did not balance for me.

Equally, Josh is a lovely man, but telling her on the one hand that she was more than capable of the task in hand, and then fussing about her being gone, missing her, and wanting her home, undermined that. And don’t get me going about the daughters, and who would take them to wherever they needed to be. At various stages I was given to growling ‘your bloody husband’, ‘get a grip’, and other remarks I shan’t publish.

We start with Ellie and Josh’s 19th wedding anniversary, hosted by Ellie’s friend and boss Livvie. At a certain point in the party, Ellie picks up a crystal ball and an image appears to her. We are told by Livvie that since she bought it no-one has ever seen anything in it, although it was supposed to belong to a famous medium. She declares it broken. Ellie says nothing. This is the first hint of the paranormal.  We walk through the courtship and 19 year marriage, the arrival of children, and Ellie as homemaker. They have a lovely life, and it all sounds so delightful, domestic, and happy. The unexpected turn comes when Ellie has to take Livvie’s place on an important business trip to Italy. Here she meets Max, and they have an instant rapport.

What this book does encompass and handles beautifully, is how relationships mould and shape us, how we make relationships, and how the situations they create impact on everyone involved; husband and wife, mother and daughter, man and woman. It embraces that strange phenomena of deja-vu, of the sensation that we know someone we’re meeting for the first time, of familiarity, of connection.  It’s a very interesting subject, and these feelings can be negative as well as positive.  The mystical element that twists and curves its way from the beginning,  directs the latter half of the book and gives the tale an appealing and edgy fascination.

Ellie is a lovable character with the ability to charm and irritate in equal measure. Yet as the story progresses, she gains in confidence and strength, and Josh senses this. As she struggles with her emotions, her character deepens, and she emerges from that ‘little housewife’ shell, into a more self-assured woman. This is when we see what I believe is the real Ellie, the one that was hiding under the surface all along. She is only going to be gone a few days, but Josh reminds her often that the family isn’t the same without her. He clearly loves and cherishes his wife and family, and on the surface Ellie leans on him for love, support, and friendship. With other people, even her friend Livvie, she holds something back, yet underneath that veneer is the very strong impression that within their relationship, even if they are soul-mates, Josh is the less emotionally robust of the two. Sub-consciously, I believe Ellie has known this all along, has bolstered his ego, and happily fits everything into the comfortable world they have created for themselves. This is not a negative quality; Ellie is very much the glue that holds them all together, including Livvie, and Josh and their daughters recognise this.

Max is a charming man that life has dealt with unevenly. He and Ellie are deeply and mystically coupled, yet like Ellie, he is bound by the commitments he has made, as well as his love and affection for the people in his life. He deserves so much, yet the heartbreak is that no matter what you deserve, it means nothing.

Whilst this wasn’t a book for me, I can heartily recommend it to others. It’s a great story, and if you don’t mind a verbose style, you’ll love it.

Hovering around the 3.5+ star mark. Read and enjoy.


Purchase

HERE


Giveaway to Win a signed copy of The Secrets of Villa Rosso

(Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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The Rosso daisies


Author

The Secrets of Villa Rosso - LinnFrom interior designer to author, Linn – who also writes under theThe Secrets of Villa Rosso Full Tour Banner pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Harper Impulse (Harper Collins) and Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Social Media Links –

Read chapter one from each of Linn & Lucy’s novels: Website: http://linnbhalton.co.uk/

Twitter: @LinnBHalton and @LucyColemanAuth

Facebook: LinnBHaltonAuthor

Amazon author pages: Linn B. Halton and Lucy Coleman


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Undeclared – Jen Frederick : Review

Undeclared by Jen Frederick

Undeclared-coverFor four years, Grace Sullivan wrote to a Marine she never met, and fell in love. But when his deployment ended, so did the letters. Ever since that day, Grace has been coasting, academically and emotionally. The one thing she’s decided? No way is Noah Jackson — or any man — ever going to break her heart again.

Noah has always known exactly what he wants out of life. Success. Stability. Control. That’s why he joined the Marines and that’s why he’s fighting his way — literally — through college. Now that he’s got the rest of his life on track, he has one last conquest: Grace Sullivan. But since he was the one who stopped writing, he knows that winning her back will be his biggest battle yet.


I was confused by the time-line on this and had to do a bit of research. I understood the notion of having to ‘declare’, but the timescale seemed skewed. As it turns out, American undergraduate degrees take four years, and students do not start with a single or double main subject as we do in British universities. American students study a wide range of topics and subjects for two years before declaring their ‘major’. Simply put by Prajwal Ciryam, a former Fulbright scholar, Americans champion a breadth of knowledge, the British a depth…You can see it in the way the undergraduates identify themselves. In America, a student ‘majors in biology’  implying she does other things as well,  while in Britain, she ‘is a biologist,’ (The Independent, August 2013)

I still think the timescale is skewed, either that or Grace started writing to Noah when she was in Freshman Year (or 9th Grade) in order for 4 years writing and 2 years not writing to take her to the second year of university. And yes it matters, perhaps Jen could let me know?

Jen Frederick had me torn in three. The long-time feminist in me wanted to rant about possessive and over-protective men, then the socially just me said everyone deserves a second chance and we shouldn’t judge, finally the romantic in me shouted just shut up and kiss already!!

Reconciling these three has been hilariously difficult. I read some reviewers comments about Noah’s behviour, and I had to think long and hard about my own attitude towards it. Yes, there are some ‘feminist flaws’ in this tale, but it’s a love story. There are ‘feminist flaws’ in most romances, it is the nature of the genre. Readers who don’t like how Noah behaved should read something else. If we can only read politically correct books, then the entire romantic fiction business will collapse in a heartbeat. (Or is heartbeat too romantic a word? Should I say in one beat of the blood pumping cardiac muscle?) Men won’t be able to read their spy, special forces, action adventure thrillers, and girls and boys can’t have Disney. We can’t live without Disney, so sod that!

The point is that none of these books are real life, and they’re not meant to be. They reflect an idealised or romantic view of real life, so I don’t understand why reviewers whinged about Grace and Noah’s behaviour. Can’t they use their imagination? Einstein said that it was more important than knowledge, and that it could take you anywhere and everywhere.  I don’t always want to read or be educated about the real-world issues when what I need is escape from them, and I know an huge number of readers feel the same..

Noah – there must be some leeway given to this character. He is a young marine who has been deployed in one of the most dangerous areas of the world and who comes back damaged and dysfunctional. Let me also say that on the whole, military men are not necessarily possessive as such, but they can be protective when it comes to the females of the species. While it raises our feminist hackles, we need to understand the world they have been trained and programmed into. They experience the awful depths that humanity can sink to. They see the world at its cruellest, its deadliest, its bloodiest, and its most violent. Noah saw the place Grace came from, her spacious, gated home and beautful surrounding, and felt inadequate and unworthy of her. He had to sort himself out before he could feel able to present himself to her. Maybe he goes about it the wrong way, but nevertheless, Noah does get the help he needs, works, trains, and studies hard, and gets himself to university.

Grace – what Grace hasn’t had is that overused word ‘closure’. Four years of letter writing, and getting closer to Noah, each sharing confidences and dreams, and then nothing. No real explanation, just a brush off. She’s not coasting, she lost, and has had a massive dent to her ego and her confidence. Let’s also put this into perspective. She’s hasn’t been ‘coasting’ for many years;  she is not Miss Haversham in the 21st century. It’s more like a grieving process. The fact this was a relationship by letter is irrelevant, they’ve both invested four years of their time, sentiments, and emotions. So how long does it take to get over any kind of meaningful relationship?

They each know what they had and lost, they each know what they want. I found some of the scenes around other men hilarious; Noah might as well have pee’d on her leg and marked his territory. Excellent writing that momentarily had my feminist hackles standing upright, but at the same time it’s just bloody funny! Grace is not a pushover; she knows what is happening and in her own way calls Noah on his behaviour. He has a tense, uneasy quality that shows itself most around other men and his MMA bouts, but Grace is the one that softens his hard edges and he knows it.

The dilemma over the Vegas meet is a tricky one. I know others have called the character out over her actions, but to be fair to Grace, the opportunity was impossible to turn down.

Writing from a dual point of view is interesting and engaging, though I would have liked some more depth to both Grace and Noah’s thinking.

The characters around them are funny, annoying, and all points in-between. They are generally well-drawn, but Bo could have had more character development. Then again, he’s in the next book, so perhaps the author was holding back a little.

I really enjoyed reading Undeclared; it is sweet, funny, and heart-warmingly romantic, but with a slightly edgy quality. Any criticism is because I liked it so much and wanted it to be ‘more’. I look forward to reading the next one, but in the meantime, I’ll check some of the author’s other books, and you should too.

Go read and enjoy.


Purchase

Amazon UK

Amazon USA

 


Author

Jen Frederick is the USA Today bestselling author of Unspoken, part of the Woodlands series, and Sacked, part of the Gridiron series. She is also the author of the Charlotte Chronicles and has had several books on the Kindle Top 100 list. She lives in the Midwest with a husband who keeps track of life’s details while she’s writing, a daughter who understands when Mom disappears into her office for hours at a time, and a rambunctious dog who does neither

She also writes under the name Erin Watt

Here Comes the Best Man : Blog Tour

Here Comes the Best Man by Angela Britnell

HCTBM Cover

Being the best man is a lot to live up to …

When troubled army veteran and musician Josh Robertson returns home to Nashville to be the best man at his younger brother Chad’s wedding he’s just sure that he’s going to mess it all up somehow, but when it becomes clear that the wedding might not be going to plan, it’s up to Josh and fellow guest Louise Giles to make sure that Chad and his wife-to-be Maggie get their perfect day.
Can Josh be the best man his brother needs? And is there somebody else who is beginning to realise that Josh could be her ‘best man’ too?


Josh is the ‘black sheep’ of the family. He is a military veteran with twenty odd years’ service behind him, that combined with issues from his past have kept him away from home. We discover that he and his father have always had a turbulent relationship, but he promised his brother Chad to be at his wedding.

Louise works for Audrey, an elderly but feisty art collector who is also god-mother to the bride. Louise has her own issues with family, as well as relationships. Like Josh, she guards her emotions and keeps them securely trapped behind a high wall.

Several chapters after I started to read this book, I wondered if I’d missed something. I couldn’t immediately put my finger on the problem, so I put it away for a couple of days, and then started at the beginning again. I quickly realised what had tripped me the first time. With most romances we are used to things happening in a certain order, and that has been true of most of the books I’ve read recently. The order may have variety, but its there nevertheless. What the author has done here is move almost immediately in to an area I had expected to come later.

When Josh and Louise meet for the first time there is a clear and obvious spark between them.  Rather than spend chapters on navel-gazing angst or regurgitating all the reasons why they must avoid each other, we go straight away to the building of their relationship. This was where I stumbled, but it is artfully done by the author, and in fact quite realistic. I’ve known several couples who met and married in less than a year.

Josh being the type of guy that doesn’t play games, decides what he wants, and goes for it. He may hesitate occasionally, he may doubt himself from time to time, but his hope and longing for what his younger brother has, beats it all away.

Louise cannot help but be captivated by Josh. She too sees the radiant love between Chad and Maggie, and wishes she could experience the same for herself. The reaction she has every time Josh is near, starts to jolt her out of her trepidation regarding romantic entanglements. By helping Maggie achieve the wedding she really wants, Louise finds her emotional barriers breaking down, and slowly lets Josh woo her.

Considering the time-scale, their relationship moves fast. They both believe in having to be honest, and not having secrets, and the scenes where they share their romantic ordeals are heartfelt. The come-uppance toward the end is an air-punch moment. I’m pleased the sex scenes stayed behind closed doors. Louise’s feeling and fears made it necessary, otherwise I might have felt a little voyeuristic.

While Josh and Louise are fabulous characters, the others in this book are equally wonderful. Audrey, Grandma, Josh and Chad’s parents, Chad and Maggie – they all give sterling performances. I laughed at the honkytonk trip; cheered at Louise stepping up to claim her man; and loved the ‘southern charm’ feel of it all, though I think the author could have done a bit more to bring both Cornwall and Nashville alive for readers like me. I don’t really know Cornwall I prefer other places much further north, and I’ve never been to the USA, let alone Nashville.

This, I have discovered since reading it, is part of a series, but to be honest you can read it as a stand-alone. I enjoyed the story immensely and will certainly acquire some of the author’s other books, (heaven alone know when I’ll find time to read everything). In the mean time, its great and certainly worth the four stars I give it.

Read and enjoy.


Purchase Links

Amazon UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07DCDQK6T/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527549375&sr=8-1&keywords=here+comes+the+best+man+angela+britnell

Amazon US:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DCDQK6T/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527533459&sr=8-1&keywords=here+comes+the+best+man+angela+britnell

 


Author Here Comes The Best Man Full Tour Banner

Angela RONA Award Pub PhotoAngela grew up in Cornwall, England and returns frequently from her new home in Nashville, Tennessee. 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. After more than three decades of marriage to her American husband she’s a huge fan of transatlantic romance and always makes sure her characters get their own happy-ever-after. Over the last twelve years she’s published over 20 novels and several short stories for women’s magazines. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Romance Writers of America and the Music City Romance Writers.

Social Media Links –

www.angelabritnellromance.com

www.facebook.com/angelabritnell

www.twitter.com/angelabritnell

https://www.instagram.com/angelagolleybritnell/


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An Artisan Lovestyle : Blog Tour

An Artisan Lovestyle – Kiltie Jackson

An Artisan Lovestyle - Hi-resAre you ‘living’ your life or just living your life?

Elsa Clairmont was widowed barely five years after marrying her childhood sweetheart. She has struggled to come to terms with the loss and, six years later, has almost ceased to live herself. She does just enough to get by.
Danny Delaney is the ultimate ‘Mr Nice Guy’. He’s kind, caring and sweet. A talented artist in his teens, his abusive mother ruined his career in art and he turned his back on his exceptional gift. Now, he does just enough to get by.
On New Year’s Eve, both Danny and Elsa die in unrelated accidents.
Thanks to some poker playing shenanigans, Elsa’s husband Harry, and Danny’s old Art teacher, William, manage to orchestrate a deal with Death that allows Danny and Elsa to live for one more year on the condition they both agree to complete three tasks. They have until the last chime of Big Ben on the 31st December to fulfil their quests.
If they succeed, they stay in the world of the living.
If they should fail however…
An Artisan Lovestyle’ is a story of personal growth and self-discovery as two people find themselves forced to make overdue changes in their lives, changes in other people’s lives, and all with the added challenge of  finding true love before their time runs out.
Will they do it?
Can they do it?
After all, it’s a matter of Life or Death…


One of the things I love about the growth in romance publishing is not only the very broad scope of sub-genres, but also the books that bring an occasional ‘wow’ factor. No, I don’t mean sizzling sex scenes, or super-hot heroes, welcome though they may be. I’m talking about writers who come up with a plot that is way beyond the standard and slightly formulaic, albeit thoroughly enjoyable, romances. This book is one that has that ‘wow’ factor. Who in their right mind would contemplate writing a romance that includes Death, two dead men, and Purgatory/Hades’ Waiting Rooms? Not only that, but make Death such an insanely funny and completely bonkers character that you practically wet yourself laughing?

Well, Kiltie Jackson has.

Kiltie writes with passion and enthusiasm, and clearly loves to toy with her audience. Romance in this book is multi-faceted, and not  in any way, shape, or form clear-cut, nor is the road to achieving it conventional or straightforward. It crosses age, genders, and subjects. Both Elsa and Danny are in love with art, for example. It’s hard to write this review, not because I can’t think of what to say, quite the opposite, but because I don’t want to give anything away. I want readers expectations to be as teased, thwarted, and challenged as mine were.

Elsa is stuck. Stuck in habitual grief, stuck in life, stuck in a job she detests. Her only joy is her dog, and her love for him is what brings about her demise. Danny is stuck too. Stuck in a life forced upon him through deception, stuck with a job he has little enthusiasm for, stuck with the girlfriend from hell. Neither has the energy or strength to make changes, neither can see a way to move forward to better things. It’s easier to just accept the life you have, not rock the boat, and to forget foolish dreams. Their respective ruts are as deep as the Mariana Trench!

Sitting in Hades or Purgatory (call it what you will) Elsa and Danny meet briefly while waiting to be told what to do. They are each offered a second chance at life but with conditions attached. Who wouldn’t want that? Even if you fail to complete the tasks, wouldn’t you grab the opportunity to say and do the things you should have but didn’t? To strike out for those dreams long suppressed and locked away? Second chances don’t come around often and grabbing them with both hands is exactly what Elsa and Danny do.

I adored the twists and turns, the edge-of-the-seat guessing game that went on right to the very end. I started to read thinking I knew the outcome. Then I wasn’t sure. Next, I was trying to second guess the author, trying to figure out how she’d turn readers’ expectations on their head. Finally, I told my brain to shut up and get on with reading and enjoying it.

I did. And then some.

The characters in this book are so well-defined that I recognised them instantly. Some you want to hug, others you want to hang out with, and quite possibly two you want to kill, on a dark night, out at sea…! Some relationships within the book are beautifully written and portrayed, exhibiting love in all its infinite variety. Others are clearly cut with a scalpel, sharp-edged and lethal.

Kiltie has a talent for using humour to put across an otherwise complicated issue. She distils it to its essence and feeds it through her characters in such a way that you don’t realise it’s happening. For example, Sukie and Charles carry enormous emotional burdens. Death, grief, fear; it’s not just Elsa and Danny who experience these things and suffer the consequences of them. Some cope, but some fall at the first hurdle and it takes a special person to pick them up. Sometimes its just doing the right thing at the right time and giving a helping hand. This is where Elsa and Danny are at their best.

Elsa is lovely, and I whooped with delight at the office scene. Once she starts to break out from her self-imposed prison, she bursts into her new life. I can best describe it as a beige woman unexpectedly reflecting the all the colours of the rainbow. As she finds her way, she is surrounded by family and friends who love and support her. Danny is the ultimate genuinely kind and caring guy. He is honourable to the point of self-destruction, but he is also a hero. While he had the misfortune to be the talented child in a family that cares little for anything and was brow-beaten down by a mother who uses him, he has great friends. Nigel and Guy are wonderful; warm, funny, and compassionate. Their relationship is delightful.

I was on tenterhooks hoping that perhaps what I thought was going to happen, wouldn’t. It isn’t a roller-coaster ride, but it is a bit of an edge-of-the-seat tale. The outcome, after a series of tantalising near-misses and teasing ‘sliding door’ scenarios, left me exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

This is a beautiful emotional and moving story, but utterly hilarious too. Highly recommended – yes – the full five stars again. Read and enjoy!


Purchase Link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07D23TM38


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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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An Artisan Lovestyle Blog Tour


 

Author

An Artisan Lovestyle Head Shot Piccie

Kiltie grew up in Glasgow in Scotland,
This is a very unique city with a very unique way of looking at life.

When she was old enough to do so, she moved to London and then,
after several years of obtaining interesting experiences -which are
finding their way into her writing – she moved up to the Midlands.

Kiltie currently lives in Staffordshire with five cats and one grumpy husband.
Her little home is known as Moggy Towers, even though despite having
plenty of moggies, there are no towers!

The cats kindly allow her and Mr Mogs to share their house on the
condition they keep paying the mortgage!

She loves reading, watching movies, and visiting old castles.
She really dislikes going to the gym!

Her biggest desire is that one day she can give up the day job
and write her stories for a living.

Kiltie’s debut novel, ‘A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle’, was released in September 2017 and won a “Chill With A Book – Reader Award” in December 2017.

She first began writing her debut novel eleven years before it was released but shelved
it as she didn’t think it was very good.

In November 2016 when, having read more on a best-selling author who had begun
her own career as a self-published author, she was inspired to revisit the unfinished

manuscript and finally finish what she had started.

Since beginning to write again, the ideas have not stopped flowing.
‘An Artisan Lovestyle’ is the second book in the Lovestyle Series.

Work is due to begin on book three (not yet titled but also part of the Lovestyle Series)
in the Summer of 2018.

She currently has a further ten plots and ideas stored in her file (it’s costing a
fortune in USB drives as each story has its own memory stick!) and
the ideas still keep on coming.

Kiltie now lives her life around the following three quotes:
“I love having weird dreams, they’re great fodder for book plots!”
“Why wait for your ship to come in when you can swim out to meet it?”
“Old enough to know better, young enough not to care!”

Website www.kiltiejackson.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kiltiejackson

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KiltieJackson


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If You Love Me, I’m Yours : Blog Tour

If You Love Me, I’m Yours by Lizzie Chantree

IYLMIY book cover small

Maud didn’t mind being boring, not really. She had a sensible job, clothes, and love life… if you counted an overbearing ex who had thanked her, rolled over and was snoring before she even realised he’d begun! She could tolerate not fulfilling her dreams, if her parents would pay her one compliment about the only thing she was passionate about in life: her art.

Dot should have fitted in with her flamboyant and slightly eccentric family of talented artists, but somehow, she was an anomaly who couldn’t paint. She tried hard to be part of their world by becoming an art agent extraordinaire, but she dreamed of finding her own voice.

Dot’s brother Nate, a smoulderingly sexy and famous artist, was adored by everyone. His creative talent left them in awe of his ability to capture such passion on canvas. Women worshipped him, and even Dot’s friend Maud flushed and bumped into things when he walked into a room, but a tragic event in his past had left him emotionally and physically scarred, and reluctant to face the world again.

Someone was leaving exquisite little paintings on park benches, with a tag saying, ‘If you love me, I’m yours’. The art was so fresh and cutting-edge, that it generated a media frenzy and a scramble to discover where the mystery artist could be hiding. The revelation of who the prodigious artist was interlinked Maud, Dot and Nate’s lives forever, but their worlds came crashing down. 

Were bonds of friendship, love and loyalty strong enough to withstand fame, success and scandal?


So what adjectives can I find to describe If You Love Me, I’m Yours?

Romantic, certainly; charming and heart-warming, definitely; it is also unexpectedly moving, and fist-clenchingly provocative, with hidden depths and multiple layers. The romance is not just between people, but also with art which obviously plays a central role in Maud’s story.

For the reader, the brilliance of this narrative is that its rather like a game of snakes and ladders, just as you think you have the hook on a character or situation, something happens to make you reassess your judgement. Sometimes climbing up the ladder, sometimes sliding down the snake. Good, bad, misunderstood, or fully comprehended, some characters will have you changing your mind again and again over many chapters.

Maud is a lovely character, whose personality and spirit has in many ways been crushed by her narrow-minded, dictatorial mother and inept father. Her parents have a star-shaped daughter that they have tried hard to hammer into their very square life. Years of criticism and complaints have left her doing ‘everything in her power to please her parents’. Painting is the exception, and it’s the one thing her mother cannot and will not allow. ‘I am not a monster’ Rosemary declares, but she is, endlessly chipping away at Maud, who only wants one thing – a single word of praise or thanks.

Whatever Maud’s uncertainties and fears, she is a tender yet feisty young woman, finally fighting her way out from under an overbearing mother to reach for her dreams. Maud’s best friend Daisy encourages her in all aspects of her life and is generally a force for good. It is Daisy who submits one of Maud’s artworks into the competition that finally ignites the life-changing touch-paper, but it is Dot who adds oxygen to the flame.

Maud and Dot are fantastic foils for each other. The author has written them so subtly, and in such a way that it is probably only on reflection that the reader realises that each illuminates the other, that each has seemingly opposite, but in fact similar problems. Maud is quiet, reserved, and neutrally dressed; Dot is outgoing, flamboyant, and an explosion of colour. Both dress the way they do for good reasons. Maud has an obvious talent that is demeaned and oppressed by her parents; Dot claims no artistic talent but has a family who believe she just hasn’t found her forte yet. The pressure from family is immense for both.

Underneath these artificial exteriors created over the years by Maud and Dot for their respective families, and behind which they hide, the truth is very different. The common ground is in the spaces between. These characteristics and behaviours hide a fear of failure and a lack of confidence in their abilities outside their current careers.  Both have jobs they are good at, but not what they really want to do with the rest of their lives, and their meeting eventually ignites an explosion of creativity, transformation, and change.

Lizzie Chantree brings us a tale that is also about fame and celebrity, and not always in the way you’d expect. Think how we refer to people in the workplace for example, as being ‘a bit of a celebrity around here’. It highlights how people use that status to manipulate and deceive even at the most innocuous level when we tell ourselves we are doing it to help our friend/child/sibling. Lizzie also shows us how rash decisions can destroy something we love and cherish, and how bad behaviour can come back around and bite you in the rear!

Our ‘heroes’ Tom and Nate are foils in a similar way as Maud and Dot. Both handsome and attractive, both with their issues, they hide themselves behind an exterior that masks their true characters. As the story progresses, each man meets and deals with almost as much change and adjustment in their lives, as the two young women. Each must come to terms with and face up to their present lives and situations. Equally, each treat their relationship with Maud differently; from the careful manipulation by one to the slow-burn romance of the other. Another ‘snakes and ladders’ scenario skilfully crafted by a very adept writer.

It is a wonderful book, its full of humour and laughter, love and friendship, and an altogether fantastic read. As I haven’t read any of Lizzie Chantree’s other books, I shall have to add a couple to my library. Her writing is lovely and if this book is a good example, then I have some great reading ahead of me – when I can fit it all in.

A full five-star recommendation. Read and enjoy!


Purchase Link – viewbook.at/IfYouLoveMe-ImYours


 

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Win signed copies of If You Love Me,  I’m Yours and Ninja School Mum

(Open Internationally)

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


Author

Lizzie Chantree. Author photo small

Award-winning inventor and author, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now runs networking hours on social media, where creative businesses, writers, photographers and designers can offer advice and support to each other. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Website: www.lizziechantree.com

Author page: viewAuthor.at/LizzieChantree

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lizzie_Chantree

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lizzie.chantree.3

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lizzie_chantree/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/LizzieChantree/pins/


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The Guilt of a Sparrow : Blog tour

The Guilt of a Sparrow by Jess B Moore

Guilt of a SparrowMagnolia Porter has spent the entirety of her twenty-four years satisfying her mother’s guilt.  She was the good girl to her trouble making brother, Lucian.  She was the one left behind to hold her mother together after her brother died.  She is an invisible girl in a small town carrying the burden of her family’s loss and pain.  She was nobody trying desperately to be somebody.

Cotton MacKenna is the one with the temper.  Of the five MacKenna boys, he’s the one most likely to throw the first punch.  Never mind all those fights were a decade prior, all in an attempt to save a sweet girl from her bullying older brother.  Cotton has grown up, has his own photography business, is the fourth in the line of McKenna’s, and would only ever be known for his past.

Maggie and Cotton are more than the labels placed on them.  Put there by their families, the town, and themselves.

Time for a change.

A meddling best friend.  Bluegrass jams.  Small town gossip.  Love, loss, and family ties.  Learning how to be who you are outside of who you were told to be.  With humor and plenty of romance, of course.


Whatever else I may read before 2019, this book is already on my 2018 Books of the Year list. I was gripped from page one, couldn’t put it down, and yes, I stayed up all night to read it in one sitting.

I was drawn to Maggie and Cotton, and flooded with compassion for two characters struggling to break free from behind the walls they have built to protect themselves. It is a beautifully nuanced journey about personality and character, dealing with the past, and overcoming the perceptions of family and community regarding who and what you are, as well as love, romance, and overwhelming emotions.

Families are supposed to be the rock-solid foundation from which a child grows into a confident and well-adjusted adult, and communities are supposed to protect and help its citizens as they do this. The reality is far from the ideal. Incidents from childhood and adolescence can lead to us being ‘stuck’ in patterns of behaviour which can vary depending on the people whose company we are in, or the circumstances within which we find ourselves. The psychological aspects of how families and communities function and behave influences all members, and particularly so in small communities. The need to conform to societal ‘norms’ within a given family or community is strong, as is the reaction to any deviancy from those ‘norms’. Living and growing up in a place where other people’s opinions colour who and what you are, without ever knowing the reality, can mean years of raising barriers and building walls, or being unable to escape the behaviour patterns. Irrespective of how invisible you try to make yourself, or how you behave today. You are ‘stuck’.

What if, as you grow up, you are pigeon-holed as violent and aggressive? What if over the years you come to believe it?

And what if the behaviour of your family tars you with the same brush? What if you have spent a decade hiding from that?

How can anyone escape from beneath those burdens?

Maggie tells us that, ‘we all had our reasons for becoming who we were; for staying that way.’ The author takes us behind the barriers that Maggie and Cotton have built, to uncover the reality unseen by almost everyone else. Whilst these two people have so much in common, their respective families are poles apart. Maggie’s brother Lucien was a badly behaved child who grew into a bullying violent, teenager and young man.  When the book opens Lucien is dead, but his legacy hangs around Maggie like an albatross. Her mother is controlling and unpleasant, monitors and comments negatively on Maggie’s behaviour, yet we find out later that her own behaviour leaves much to be desired. She blames others for her son’s behaviour and death, including the MacKenna family, particularly Cotton.

Maggie is sweet and unassuming. At first I thought she was going to be a loveable but pathetic creature however, as her story unfolded, I was overjoyed to find I was wrong. Cotton was also a surprise. Seemingly moody and rude, any reader could be forgiven for wondering how he could be our ‘hero’ as he is described by Maggie as ‘all hard lines and no excuses. He was the scary one‘. She corrects herself , ‘no not scary. Intense. Which is sometimes the same thing.‘ As brick by brick, the author gradually knocks down the walls that each character has built around themselves, like butterflies emerging from the chrysalis, we are presented with an amazing young woman who is stronger and braver than she realises, and a young man who is honourable and principled.

Maggie’s friend Alyssa is a real tour de force and I loved her. She manages to persuade Maggie to get out and about, and it is through her that Maggie goes to the weekly Bluegrass jam. Dominic is a delight, and his plotting and manoeuvring is amusing. I could go on at length about the story and the characters, the scene setting and the overwhelming sense that I know these people, but this is a novel that requires the reader to experience each gradual move, step, and challenge that both Maggie and Cotton encounter. To meet for themselves the truly wonderful characters who entertain and amuse us, annoy and irritate. To give any detail would be to deprive you of a great reading experience, and I can’t do that. I skipped no pages, every age was read in full, and from me that’s says a great deal about this book.

The romance is gripping and powerful as Maggie and Cotton struggle to overcome the labels that have been stamped upon them and the consequences those labels have produced.. There is nothing salacious in the overwhelming emotions that envelope Maggie and Cotton.  Jess’ use of language and her descriptive prowess range from the hilarious to the downright beautiful. She has written passages that make every nerve quiver with anticipation, and others that will have you laughing out loud. She has created characters riven with flaws and a complexity of issues, yet they are warm, compassionate, and true to life. There are no cardboard cut-outs in this romance. No-one is dialling in their part.

The Guilt of a Sparrow is a wonderful book, full of hilarious moments and heartbreaking ones, great victories and small defeats. For this to be a debut novel is outstanding. It is compelling and uplifting, and while I couldn’t wait to get to the ‘grand finale’, I didn’t want the story to end either. I know I will read it again, and I rarely read books a second time.

Bravo Jess!

The scene has been set for the other characters to have their own books — potentially. I want to know what happens with Dominic. What about Denver? And Beau? What happens with Alyssa? After that, can we revisit Maggie and Cotton further down the line? I hope so.

This has the full five-star treatment with a cherry on top! Read it. Enjoy it. Love it.


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UPDATE:

Fierce Grace by Jess B Moore

In Fierce Grace you will revisit the town of Fox River, NC and a few of the characters from The Guilt of a Sparrow – but this is a stand alone novel with all new characters introduced as well.

Release date:  November 3, 2018.


 

The Letter – Kitty’s Story : Blog Tour

The Letter: Kitty’s Story by Eliza J Scott

THE LETTER_FRONT_RGB_150dpiThirty-four-year-old Kitty Bennett is trapped in a loveless marriage to criminal barrister, Dan, who’s gradually isolated her from her family and friends. Until the day she (literally) bumps into her first love, the handsome and easy-going Ollie Cartwright – someone she’s done her best to avoid for as long as she can remember. Looking into Ollie’s eyes awakens feelings for him she thought she’d buried deep years ago, and he clearly feels the spark, too. As she walks away, Kitty can’t help but wonder what might have been…
Dan senses that his marriage is on shaky ground and knows he needs to win his wife round. He turns on the charm, skilfully using their two children, Lucas and Lily, as bargaining tools. But Kitty’s older brother, Jimby, and her childhood best-friends, Molly and Violet, have decided enough is enough. For years they’ve had to watch from afar as Kitty’s been browbeaten into an unrecognisable version of herself. They vow to make her see Dan for what he really is, but their attempts are no match for his finely-honed courtroom skills and, against her better judgement, Kitty agrees to give her husband one last chance. But, all-too-soon, a series of heart-breaking events and a shocking secret throw her life into turmoil…
Will she  stand by Dan, or will Kitty be brave enough to take the leap and follow her heart to Ollie?

Life is anything but peaceful in the chocolate-box pretty village of Lytell Stangdale, where life unravels, and hearts are broken. Full of heart-warming moments, this book with have you crying tears of joy, laughter and sadness.

An amazing debut novel! I was blown away by its depth and perception. Yes its a romance, in fact several romances, but it is oh so much more!

Eliza J Scott has woven a colourful and complex tapestry that slowly reveals both its bright treasures and hidden demons. The author’s tale is about Kitty, her marriage to Dan, their children Lily and Lucas, and her wider family and friends. Eliza touches on what life is like in rural communities, where not everyone is friendly, and not everyone fits in. Within these communities, people find they have to rub along as best they can with as little friction as possible, and often fail. The mum’s at the school gate, rich incomers, poorer locals, mixing or not at the pub – the potential for disharmony can simmer ominously under the surface.

Whilst the central love interest is Kitty, her husband, and Oliver, this is not a single love story, nor are all the love stories about romantic love. For example, taking someone to your heart and into your family, irrespective of how and why they arrived in your life, is a great love story. (You’ll just have to read to know exactly what I mean). Sadly, whilst all the varying romantic entanglements weave and wind around the central relationships, the authors also deals with the very real and very abusive psychological manipulation known as ‘gaslighting’, but I will come to that later.

Eliza reveals her love of the wild, rugged, and wonderful North Yorkshire countryside, which she has made a character in this book whether she realises it or not. From the moors to the crags and dales, she evokes a place that has been moulded by time and nature, and its hardy people. I lived in Swaledale for several years, indeed my second child was born there, and Eliza’s evocative and stirring descriptions have given me a yearning to return. Her characters too, have been moulded by the history and environment of the dale. She cleverly delineates between the locals steeped in their community, the incomer who has taken on board the local culture and all that it means, and the incomer who remains aloof and distant from it. It is sometimes done subtly, and sometimes not, but that is merely a reflection of real life.

Swaledale

Kitty comes from a loving, decent local family which goes back many generations. As a teenager she had a budding romance with Oliver, until Daniel Bennett appeared on the scene. A handsome, educated young man full of confidence and his own self-importance, a belief instilled and fostered by his officious mother,  Dan doesn’t so much sweep Kitty of her feet as entice and manipulate the innocent and naive seventeen year old into a relationship and marriage. They have two children for whom Kitty works hard to be a good mother, and works hard for them to have a good relationship with their seemingly stressed, hardworking father. She also works hard to maintain their perfect life, but the surface gloss hides a dark reality.

Dan is gaslighting Kitty. He has done so since the start of their relationship. It is one of the most widespread, insidious forms of abuse, and do not be fooled, we are all susceptible to it. It is not the exclusive domain of romantic relationships; it also encompasses parent-child relationships and the workplace for example. The name comes from the 1938 play Gas Light, which was also made into a film in the 1940s, where a man manipulates his wife until she believes she is losing her mind. Elements of gaslighting are when they blatantly lie, use your loved ones, including your children against you, block and distract you from family and friends,  tell you that you are over-reacting, must  be confused, not remembering correctly, too sensitive, it never happened, you need to calm down, you’re crazy. They do this and more until you find that you make excuses for their behaviour, constantly question yourself, struggle to make even simple decisions and feel that you always make bad choices anyway, constantly apologise, believe you are not good enough, change your appearance for them, and more.

Dan is toxic. He has over the years become a leading barrister with a high profile career, which has fed his ego and arrogance. He is convinced that he can and is entitled to do what he wants, and can justify his behaviour, including his adultery. Dan is clever in a manipulative way, using his education, position, charm, and good looks to disarm and control. He is emotionally abusive to all but one of his mistresses, and it is she who controls their relationship. In all of this he is aided and abetted by his equally toxic mother. While you can find a modicum of sympathy for a man who is the product of a scheming controlling mother, by the end you really just want to frog-march them both to the nearest psychiatric hospital and have them committed!

Kitty’s brother Jimby and her friends Violet and Molly are loyal to Kitty, and each in their own way has been as supportive as they can, but have been distanced by Dan. For them it is a Catch 22 situation. They point out his behaviour, she addresses it, he claims its proof of what he has said all long, that they don’t like him and want to split them up, so she defends him to everyone.  Just seventeen when they meet,  Kitty is young, naive, and inexperienced, and she reacts like a typical teenager when any parent seems to intervene. So in the end, bit by slow encroaching bit, she is isolated, her self-confidence undermined, and the strain of the emotional balancing act takes its toll. As the book progresses and characters reveal their true natures, we are rooting for her to act; for herself and for her children.

STOP – let’s take a breath, because this sounds dire and depressing, but in fact the book is chock full of warmth, humour, and fun, which makes reading the darker scenes less painful. The author writes with a ‘light hand’, so the reader is not pulled into Dan’s toxicity along with Kitty and her children.

The different characters in Lytell Strangdale are engaging, annoying, humorous, and frightful in equal measure.

Violet is a full on force of nature. Molly is hilarious and recounts awful tales from her work as a District Nurse, to the amusement and dread of her friends and family. Jimby is a real country bloke, with a great sense of humour. Oliver is lovely, and the layers to his life and character are gradually peeled away for us. Just as I was starting to feel that he was a little too good to be true, just a little too perfect, he behaves likes an ass. It was great!

Anyone who has lived in some of the more rural parts of the country will happily recognise the cast of characters, all of whom are terrific. My favourites though are Reg, who is an absolute legend; Granny Aggie and her predictive text messages; Lucas who is a little hero in his own right.

This is a wonderful story about love in all its varying forms and dimensions. It is also about caring and compassion, acceptance and second chances, and yes, even forgiveness. It is romantic, heart-warming and heart-felt. Eliza J Scott is a great writer and I cannot wait to see what she brings us next.

I give this a full five stars and highly recommend you read it.

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If anything regarding ‘gaslighting’ has triggered a need to get help or speak to someone here are places to contact:

Samaritans  – call free any time, from any phone on 116 123

Refuge –  if you think you may be experiencing domestic violence  visit the website for support and information OR call 0808 2000 247 – the 24-Hour Freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge and Women’s Aid.

 

 

Dangerous Waters – Blog Tour

Dangerous Waters by Anne Allen

Dangerous Waters 3D CoverTragedy seems to follow Jeanne Le Page around . . .
Can she really go through it again and survive?
She is lucky to be alive at sixteen Jeanne was almost killed in a boating accident which brought heart-breaking family tragedy. Now, fifteen years later, Jeanne returns reluctantly to the island of Guernsey following the death of her beloved grandmother. Struggling for breath as the ferry nears the island; she is overwhelmed by a dark foreboding as hazy memories of that terrible day resurface.
Only returning to sell her inheritance – her grandmother’s old cottage – Jeanne has no intention of picking up her old life. But the cottage holds a secret, dating back to World War II and the German Occupation, and Jeanne becomes drawn into discovering more. Then, soon after her arrival, a chance meeting with an old teenage crush leads her to thoughts of love.
Jeanne is forced to face her demons, reliving the tragedy as her lost memory returns.
When the truth is finally revealed, her life is endangered for the second time. 

Dangerous Waters is the first in the Guernsey Novels series

The Guernsey Novels

The author Anne Allen proudly presents an exciting prize draw to win a short-break to the beautiful island of Guernsey & signed copies of The Guernsey Novels, enter at end of review

Anne AllenDangerous Waters is a good story. A really good story. Author Anne Allen plays with genre; mixes it up, and slips seamlessly between them. This is romance, history, and mystery, but on so many levels – distant past, recent past, and present. She maintains a good balance on the whole, though I would have liked more of the distant past story, it’s  research, and piecing it together (but then I’m a historian).

The writing is too verbose for my taste, with irrelevant information and over-laboured issues. Examples:

  • Unless the dishwasher is ploy to introduce a character or an incident, and being used to move the plot along,  we don’t need to know anything about it
  • There is a lot of eating and drinking, but the  real food interest is the collection of historical family recipes and their modern reconstruction. An important catalyst in Jeanne’s story. By the time we get to their being cooked, I was bored reading about characters eating & drinking. Writing should have been confined to the recipes.

The Letters:

These are an historian’s dream! I appreciate that Jeanne is not an historian, but she is a journalist and writer. Who in their right mind would delay reading them?  Yet Jeanne does. This doesn’t quite fit in with her character and motivation.

AND YES  *head in hands* tracing ‘W’  IS a priority.  The letters and the recipes are the whole soul and centre of Jeanne’s book. It is their stories from the 19th and 20th centuries that give it a unique selling point, and thereby make it very attractive to a publisher. Equally, they are at the centre of this book too. An amazing opportunity allowed to just gradually slip away by the end (which came too swiftly). I couldn’t help but think that with DNA kits, Ancestry, Find My Past, and myriad of other sites online, Jeanne potentially had the chance to find someone from W’s family. DNA is a part of the story, but missed that vital and fascinating opportunity.

What I loved.

Guernsey Author and BooksAnne Allen’s genre mix is excellent, quite well-balanced, and works well. She doesn’t follow the easy path of an angst and issue ridden character where ‘misery loves misery’, creating morose people missing opportunities to make their lives better. Of course life’s experiences leave their mark, but her main characters generally take responsibility for themselves rather than sink deeper and further into their unhappy episodes.

Jeanne, Marcus, and Nick are great characters; well-drawn, rounded, and full-bodied, to pinch a wine metaphor. If we ignore the occasional ‘not so great’ dialogue, the interplay between characters is good. Jeanne’s inner monologue could have done with an edit, but its insightful, funny, and utterly realistic. I certainly felt an affinity with her on certain points.

There are typical romance novel teases. Will she won’t she? But I also loved the will he won’t he? I don’t know why, but at one point I half expected ‘A’ to appear full of remorse (or with an eye to the main chance, given Jeanne’s inheritance). At first Jeanne comes across as an easily manipulated young woman, but her development through the novel is subtle, and she soon shows that she had an iron rod back.

Molly and Peter are lovely, though more use could have been made of Peter. Molly is gentle and loving, though at times I think a little misguided. This makes her a lovely flawed human being, and she is certainly not a ‘substitute-mother’ trope. They’re Islanders, they know the people Jeanne went to school with and with whom her parents and Grandmother were friends. They would have heard the gossip and rumours, but little is made of this. This is an island community, people know things, guess things, and stories would have been flying around about the accident. Even so, they add an interesting perspective.

Historically, wartime occupation romances can be tricky things, and depending on the country, retribution against females was mostly violent and abusive, even towards the children of those relationships. Allen is no apologist. She writes fictionally about events that actually happened, and the character of Mrs Ozane was crucial. She came into the picture late in the day, but not too late. A lovely little old lady now, yet a very vibrant young woman during the occupation. What a lost opportunity  – in real life she could have furnished us with a fascinating tale or two from wartime Guernsey. Through her we get to feel the desperation and despair of the elder Jeanne, her fear of the consequences of her actions, but no guilt. Love is love. Although these things are merely touched upon in comparison to other parts of the story, she still tugs at our heartstrings, and we can only feel sympathy for such awful events in a terrible time.

There are lovely descriptions of the island, the walks on the beach, the countryside –  I’ve never been to the Channel Islands, but the author makes Guernsey a ‘must see’ place.

Then there is the garden. I could see myself there, in summer, with a good book. All the way through I hoped for something magical to happen concerning it, because young Jeanne clearly has some sort of sixth sense, and with all the herbs and so forth, it sounded like a white witches’ charm!  (And I wanted magic, damn it!)

Dangerous Waters a great story, and I did enjoy it. I just wish Anne Allen had a much better Editor. On the whole her writing is lovely, and she certainly has great story-telling instincts. It’s a shame so much was lost in the extraneous prose. I’m torn but for this novel can only give 3 stars while wishing it could be 5.

Please pick up Dangerous Waters and read it. If you’re unsure, try a sample from Amazon first.

I will never read Anne Allen’s entire series – not all the plots appeal to me – however I’m hoping that, with another five books under her belt, the editing skills have been honed. So I have chosen three that  do interest me, and downloaded samples. If I do read the books in full, I shall post reviews for them here, though it may be many months before I can.

SO WATCH THIS SPACE.

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Click here to enter.

 

My Life in a Gif

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I’ve had a few of my health problems raise their ugly heads higher than usual recently, so to make life a bit easier,  I set a couple of posts to go automatically, but for some reason they didn’t get uploaded. Damned annoying.

Hence the recent silence on Heartshaped.

Happily though, I have good news.

Over the next three months I have a raft of books to read and review, and several lovely authors have kindly agreed to a Heartshaped Interview.

I have about 50+ questions that I’ve honed and adapted over the last 20 years, so hopefully both the authors and the readers will enjoy answering a selection of them.

Watch this space.

Teashop of Horrors – Blog Tour

 

Little Teashop of Horrors – Jane LoveringJane Lovering 2

Cover

Secrets, lies, carrot cake and an owl called Skrillex!

Amy Knowles has always been the plain sidekick to her pretty best friend Jules. And whilst the tearoom they both work in on the Monkpark Hall estate in Yorkshire is not exactly awash with eligible bachelors, it’s obvious where the male attention is concentrated – and it’s not just on the cakes!

There is one man who notices Amy. Joshua Wilson also works at Monkpark, where he flies his birds of prey for visitor entertainment. He lives a lonely existence but he has reasons for choosing isolation – and, in Amy, he may have found somebody who understands.

Then a management change brings slick and well-spoken Edmund Evershott to Monkpark. He’s interested in Amy too, but for what reason? Josh suspects the new manager is up to no good – but will Amy? Because Edmund could leave her with much worse than a broken heart…

Let me say upfront, that I really enjoyed this book. The characters are very relatable and  very real. A couple are annoying, horrible, selfish, and downright revolting. They do not, however,  take away from the fact that this odd, idiosyncratic romance is an absolute delight, and is a great anti-dote to the standard sickly sweet romantic tropes churned out ad nausea.

I found the title to be a little misleading; the ‘Little Teashop of Horrors’ led me to expect something very different. I’m not exactly sure what the ‘horror’ was meant to be, maybe it was the new boss…

Amy is a character that makes you want to shake her, but only because you are rooting for her to stand up for herself. The two people closest to her, her grandmother and friend Julia, are more concerned with themselves, and don’t appear to see the negative impact they have on Amy’s life.

Her Grandmother has brought Amy up within a confining set of rules and behaviours to the extent that Amy’s gentle character consistently buries her anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction. The behaviour and strictures are the product of Grandma’s generation, class, and upbringing, and from having lived and worked all her life within the small community on the estate. Though I wouldn’t put up with the tea-making shenanigans, Amy must also deal with the early symptoms of her Grandmother’s dementia.

Amy’s childhood friend Julia knows how to manipulate and sway Amy to get her own way. I found her to be selfish and ego-centric, and given what happened between them in the past, I would have questioned their friendship except that Amy is so used to burying any irritation or grievance,  her life has become governed by other people’s wants and needs rather than her own. She sees nothing in herself that would be attractive to the opposite sex, or make her of more value to those around her.

Evershott is brilliantly drawn as one of those men who plays with the emotions of people he perceives to be ‘weak’, in order to get what he wants. His manipulation of Amy is almost textbook and very unpleasant. Gaslighting springs to mind. As the new boss who holds the future of the estate’s employees in his hands, and by extension their homes, he is in a position of power, and he uses it for his own ends, especially with Amy.

Josh is the unlikely hero of this tale, and by far one of the best characters in the book. He is a loner, a bit odd, and is plagued by his past. In Amy, he sees someone he can relate to. He is attracted to her but not sure what to do about it. His behaviour at one point is totally un-hero-like, and I loved it. None of that ‘man to the rescue’ stuff we are plied with repeatedly. The other great characters are Josh’s birds. They are such a refreshing addition, and I love their disobedience! The relationships between humans and birds are terrific – Skrillex is just a delight!

Written slightly tongue-in-cheek, it is gentle and warm with a most liberal sprinkling of humour. I read it in two sittings (I do sleep occasionally), and thoroughly enjoyed how the story panned out. Peopled by refreshingly real characters, this isn’t a fast-paced read, but it doesn’t need to be; the story unfolds around the characters and the romance builds naturally. Lovely!

Read and enjoy.

Buy your copy here

http://www.rachelsrandomresources.com

Being ill with my iPhone

Dr. Delgado's bedside manner did not instill confidence in his patients.'Recently I’ve been unwell. It started off with food-poisoning-like rushes to the loo to be sick, wobbly legs, aching muscles, and so forth, which morphed into days of evil, brain-mushing migraines and overwhelming nausea. Yes, its been fun. I’ve barely been able to raise a glass to my lips, never mind operating my iPhone.

As I lay on my sick-bed, contemplating life, the universe, and what the hell had I eaten? –  my phone became increasingly busy, insistent on gaining my attention..

Now at this juncture I should point out that I have a ‘thing’ about my much adored iPhone, or more accurately, the access it gives others to me. I use it for everything from 3b41bac6461377ac7b9e1be182e203f3calls, texts, and emails, to shopping, reading, writing, and ordering take-aways. I’m normally quite responsive to calls, unless I’m busy with other things. Don’t expect me to respond if I’m at the Record Office, for example, you’ll have to wait until I emerge back into the 21st century. I spend a lot of time in archives, as well as writing and researching online at home, so the phone is always on silent. It is set to vibrate or buzz when contact is made, however I need to be close enough to hear it.

dig23There’s the rub, because while I am addicted to using it, I am NOT addicted to being available on it 24/7.  Quite apart from the history work, I also want to relax without interruption. I’ve earned that right through years of bringing up my children while Mr Heartshaped marched around the world with the British Army. Alone with two small vomiting children in the early hours of the morning is not funny. Time to read doesn’t exist. Sleep was constantly craved. So it has taken me years, nay, decades, to learn to ignore calls. It all started before the advent of mobiles phones, when family meals or watching videos with my children (yes that long ago), or my very precious reading time after they were in bed, was ruined by persistent telephone callers. Ignoring isn’t an option when the caller knows Mr Heartshaped is away so you MUST be at home. In desperation, I acquired an answer-machine. Ha!

Of course, important and urgent calls were dealt with ASAP.

Heartsharped 1 – Annoying Calls 0Telephone-Item-Code-870758-BT-Relate-250-Retro

So, back to my sick-bed and my busy, buzzy, iPhone

I received constant demands for my attention even though people had been told I was too ill to speak or to deal with them. Mr Heartshaped stuffed the phone into my bedside drawer whilst muttering rude words about idiots who’ve been told I’m ill.

It got worse.

I could still hear it buzz and vibrate. He switched it off.

When I was compos mentis enough to read the messages, I was dismayed and then angry at what I found. They were all from a very small number of people, and the content gradually moved from “sorry to hear you’re ill but…”, through “I hate to disturb you when you’re ill but I really need” to “you could at least acknowledge my message”. The demanding flowed over from solicitous into sarcastic,  passive aggressive, and in some cases just plain out-and-out aggression. Why?

Nursing a migraine today, I distracted myself by trying to think about it. I decided that these people shouldn’t be allowed to operate communication technology. There should be a law. I shall contact my MP. (Eldest Offspring suggests I wait until the hefty dose of painkillers have worn off and review the situation. She’s always been sensible.)

Early Computer 2I love the Internet. We have been connected almost constantly (house moves aside) since about 1992. Oh, how I fondly remember the days of CompuServe. The electronic banshee cries as the 386 computer screams to get connected. The excitement of the page downloading.

Slowly.

Very slowly.

So slowly. You could go to the loo, wash your hands, make tea and toast, and get back to your computer before the bottom quarter of the page appeared. Yet it was all so new, so cutting edge, so exciting, and evolution-of-the-mobile-phonewe now have phones with more ‘power’ than the computers used to get the men to the moon. We have wi-fi access all over the UK; in shops, cafes, restaurants, the street, almost anywhere we go. Once connected we are instantly available to talk to our friends no matter where in the world they are, so long as they have access too. No hanging around waiting and waiting for letters and postcards; just send an email. No worrying if November is too late to send the Christmas cards to family in Australia or New Zealand; send an e-card. No waiting inordinately long periods of time for replies from banks, the utility companies, et al. It’s all texted, emailed, WhatsApped, Facebooked, Messaged….ad lib, ad nausea. I love it.  I have a couple of friends in remote parts of our planet with whom I’d be lucky to exchange half a dozen letters a year. Today I can keep in touch on a daily basis, see photos within hours, and enjoy electronic conversations about all manner of topics. It’s a such a massive boon. Thank you internet.

But back to my sickbed.

The downside is that people believe you should be available to them 24/7. There is no let up; no escape from unrelenting communication. This includes bosses who are outraged when employees don’t respond outside working hours.

imagine-an-oasisIt doesn’t surprise me that more and more people are going ‘off grid’. This expectation of instant availability results in deep frustration for the message sender, but great irritability for the person who is being contacted in their ‘down time’. The notion that because we have this technology, we should be attached to it hip and thigh, all the time, even in the middle of the night, is ridiculous. My phone is also my alarm clock, but I do NOT appreciate a barrage of texts at 3 o’clock in the morning. Or in the middle of my dinner. Or when… well, you get the picture. This culture of ‘how dare you ignore me’ is rife, ignoring it is my stand against the unrelenting invasion of my peace and quiet, the time I spend reading, or time with my family.

As for those people who were selfish enough to bombard me with texts and emails whilst I was sick check your ‘Friend’ status, or WhatsApp. Today I deleted about 80 texts, and more than a dozen WhatsApp ‘chats’. NONE were important.  The senders will know who they are because I have blocked or unfriended them.

The Apocalypse never happened.

No wars were declared.

The sky didn’t fall.

The sun still rose.

Your life didn’t collapse around you because I didn’t answer when you wanted me too.

Life is too short to put up with that kind of selfish nonsense.

7539d7b1a902be32cadf56bdab4a168dAhhhhhh…..

peace perfect peace.

Blog Tour – Elle Spellman Interview

Shes Bad News Banner

The joy of asking an author questions is that you can be as imaginative as you want to be with the questions. Of course they don’t have to answer, but when they do, what an interesting insight you get into the author.

Today we have Elle Spellman, author of the great fun read She’s Bad News, who hasShe's Bad News - Author Photo ES HSBS agreed to join the fun Here are the questions with her repleis.answer my questions.

Here are her replies:

If you had to spend a day with Bella, what would the two of you do?

Fight crime! Well, maybe. Bella is definitely someone I’d like to hang out with. I’d love to be part of her slightly crazy life if just for one day, as she tries to find some interesting stories for the Hartleybourne Gazette. I’d love to meet Chloe too. And yes, I would love to head out in the night and catch some criminals with her. Sure, I don’t have powers, but I could be the lookout!

If you could have any, what super-power would you choose and why?

Oh, that’s such a tricky question (but definitely one of my favourites)! There are so many possibilities that it’d be hard to choose. I mean, I’d love to have superhuman strength, for a variety of reasons. But I’d also like to have sentient hair like Marvel’s Medusa. I guess it would have to come down to what would be the most useful. So for me, my super-power would probably be something like the ability to control or freeze time, so that I’d have more hours in the day!

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

I think the main problem I have is being overly-cautious when it comes to writing male characters. I tend to worry that I might be writing a stereotype, or adhering to certain traits often found in women’s fiction. That’s normally just me overthinking things! Luckily I have a lot of male friends, so it helps me to draw from experience, or that of my friends.

When writing, do you have a favourite snack and/or drink?

Definitely tea! I’m not so particular when it comes to snacks, but I have to have a mug of tea as I’m writing.

 How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I’ve just put aside my third book (which I’ve only just started) in order to rewrite my second. Both books are standalone novels and not related to She’s Bad News, although I do have ideas for a sequel. Currently I’m enjoying working on other projects so if I do decide to write a second Bella book, it won’t be for a little while yet. After that, I have a fourth book planned, which is currently just a fun personal project. There’s also a YA novel that’s been in my head for over a decade so hopefully at some point in the near future I can sit down to work on it. (And this is why I need that time-stopping power!)

If you could invite any fictional character to dinner, who would it be and why?

Can I stick with the superhero theme here and say Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman? Catwoman has always intrigued me, and she’s one of my all-time favourite Batman characters. Most people would recognise her as a villain (especially when working with fellow Sirens: Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn) but personally I’ve always found her to be neutral. An anti-hero. Sure, she’s an expert thief, but she only hurts those who truly deserve it. She does her bit to help Gotham, and often Batman, in her own special way. Her attitude and willingness to fight often masks the fact she has a big heart. Plus, she’s sassy, strong and kick-ass. What’s not to love about Catwoman?

What was your favourite childhood book?

I had many! I learned to read with Ladybird Books, so had a big collection of those, which included the Garden Gang series and a lot of fairytales. I still love reading fairytales, but nowadays I like to read the original, much older versions that are were a lot more sinister! But I think my all-time favourite childhood book is Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Everything about it is wonderful. I read it again and again, and still love it to this day.

What is the naughtiest thing you did as a child?

I don’t think I was a particularly naughty child but I did play the game ‘knock down ginger’ (when you knock on someone’s door and run away) a couple of times with friends in my street even though I would have been in a LOT of trouble if my mum knew!

What books are currently on your bedside table?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, because I’ve wanted to read the James Bond novels for so long and it’s about damn time! I’m also about to start The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne, followed by The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. As for comics, I’m currently reading Gotham Central #2, by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka.

If Heaven is a library, in which section will you spend eternity?

It would have to be fiction! I would spend every blissful day in a different fictional world. I would never feel alone. The very idea of Heaven being a library is an amazing one indeed.

She's Bad News Cover HSBS

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She’s Bad News – Blog Tour

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She’s Bad News – Elle Spellman

What would you do if you woke up with super powers?
For Bella Brown, life hasn’t gone according to plan. She’s almost thirty, still living in her uneventful hometown, and her dreams of becoming an investigative reporter have fallen by the wayside.
That is, until she wakes up one morning to find she’s been gifted with some amazing new abilities. What’s a girl to do with heightened senses, super speed and the ability to lift a truck one-handed? Bella quickly discovers that her new powers can easily help her land front-page leads at local newspaper, The Hartleybourne Gazette. 
Soon Bella’s out every night chasing down local criminals for stories, while keeping her powers a secret from everyone besides flatmate Chloe. But when a burglary-gone-wrong accidentally turns her into the mysterious Hartleybourne Heroine, Bella finds herself on the front page for the wrong reasons. Her secret becomes harder to keep as she tries to track down the source of her powers, and especially when crime reporter Matt Gilmore is intent on unmasking the town’s new vigilante…
Suddenly, having an extraordinary life is far more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She's Bad News - Author Photo ES HSBSIt would be very easy for any reviewer to classify this story as a nice easy read with nothing much to think about, or that it is a silly book, and over the top. Yes, it is all those things, but it is also much more. It very subtly addresses weight issues, the diet industry, workplace bullying, amongst other things.

Elle Spellman has written a fun superhero novel, where an ordinary girl accidently acquires some super-powers. It is funny, cringeworthy, sad, and scary. Yes, there are sections that could have been edited more tightly, others that should have been cut or condensed, but all in all this author has given us a book that covers some interesting issues and does it within the confines of a delightfully eccentric, entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable story.

Bella, our heroine, can be irritating, but is adorable. She is the girl who left her mundane life, went to university and graduated with a journalism degree, and hoped for a bright future in London with a national newspaper. Sadly, she finds herself locked into a job with the local newspaper where she writes the Better Self column, covering slimming aids, the health benefits of asparagus, and such trivia, but not anything she regards as journalism. Layla, her boss, is a bitch, and belittles Bella at every opportunity. No matter how many article idea Bella tries to get approval for, Layla cruelly shuts her down, telling her that she is overstepping, and to leave the journalism to the reporters.

‘You’re responsible for Better Self, not Bella Brown Investigates…read the PR, write the reviews and the copy. It’s all I want you to do.’

Alice, Bella’s sister, doesn’t treat her much better. Everything is about Alice. She contacts Bella at anytime she deems fit, ignoring the fact that Bella is at work, for example, or anything else Bella may be doing. Bella may as well answer her mobile at work, she not a reporter, after all she failed at journalism.  As Bella tells us:

‘She would either call my desk phone all day, hire a sniper to take me out, or worse, take a three-hour drive…and turn up at my office just to make a point.’

Chloe is a health and fitness trainer and Bella’s best friend. She’s as mad as Bella, and though a bit annoying and ‘preachy’ at times, she has Bella’s best interests at heart, and helps and supports her. Add to the character mix the attractive crime reporter and the mysterious CEO of the company that produces NARCIS Ultra-Boost, the slimming pill that Bella must review, and the stage is set for madness, mayhem, and mishaps.

She's Bad News Cover HSBSShe’s Bad News is pure escapist fun, with a subtle lifting of a mirror to reflect the insanity of our world. A world that bullies, denigrates, and belittles those who don’t meet the standards of others. One of the things I liked about Bella and her acquisition of superpowers, is that she remained the same – a curvy overweight, awkward, sweet, down to earth girl. The superpowers gave her back the confidence and self-worth that was being slowly chipped away by her boss, her family, and others.

There is plenty of laughter, plenty of action, and some scary moments, as Bella uses her powers for crime-fighting investigative good. I just couldn’t read the last few chapters fast enough. Whatever the need for editing, She’s Bad News is a one of the most fun and enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. I’m keen to read whatever Elle Spellman writes next and I hope she’ll bring us a Bella sequel.

Highly recommended.

April Release Box Sets

Sometimes I enjoy just binge reading a series. If you want to catch up on some very read-worthy box-sets, here are April’s releases:

Lords of the Underworld Vol 2Lords of the Underworld Collection Volume 2 by Gena Showalter

New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter’s sizzling Lords of the Underworld series continues with three stories featuring dangerously seductive immortal warriors and the women who change them forever. Journey through this dark and sensual world, where the line between good and evil blurs and true love is put to the ultimate test. Bundle includes: The Darkest Prison, The Darkest Whisper, The Darkest Passion and The Darkest Lie. BONUS: The Darkest Facts and an excerpt from The Darkest Warrior!

 

Navy Series

Navy Brides by Debbie Macomber

Fall in love with the Navy! These popular stories salute the men and women in the U.S. Navy, and the families and friends who support them. Each is an emotional story, a dramatic romance featuring Debbie Macomber’s always-believable characters, as well as her trademark touches of humor. Each is highly enjoyable on its own, but together they create a memorable reading experience. Life and Love in the Navy. There’s nothing like it!

The six books, in chronological order, are:
NAVY WIFE;  NAVY BLUES;  NAVY BRAT;  NAVY WOMAN;  NAVY BABY; NAVY HUSBAND

Highland Grooms Vol 1The Highland Grooms Collection Volume 1 by Julia London

These Highlanders stay strong and true to their hearts… don’t miss a single classic story in this unforgettable collection from New York Times bestselling author Julia London!
Wild Wicked Scot
Born into riches and groomed in English luxury, Margot Armstrong didn’t belong in a Scottish chieftain’s devil-may-care world. Three years ago she fled their marriage of convenience and hasn’t looked back—except to relive the moments spent in wild, rugged Arran McKenzie’s passionate embrace. But as political tensions rise, Margot must return to her husband to uncover his role in the treachery before her family can be accused of it.

Lord for Every LadyA Lord for Every Lady – several authors

Every lady dreams about a dashing lord sweeping her off her feet and into her happily ever after. Immerse yourself in these six tales of romance and discover how each lady lands her lord.

TO LOVE A THIEF by Darcy Burke

Former constable Lord Daniel Carlyle thinks he’s met the girl of his dreams, until he catches her stealing from his mentor. Jocelyn Renwick vows to stop at nothing to recover her stolen treasures, but does that include risking a chance at love?

TO LURE A LOST DUKE by Christy Carlyle

Killian Graves, Duke of Strathmoor, doesn’t wish to be found. An unforgivable act in London and haunting memories of war have turned him into a recluse. Not even Octavia Fowler, the fetching lady detective Queen Victoria has set on his trail, can lure him back from seclusion. Though she may prove extremely dangerous to his heart.

SCANDALOUS INTENTIONS by Amanda Mariel

Lady Sarah Roseington is determined to marry for love or not at all, and she will do anything to obtain the freedom granted to a man. A blackguard like Lord Luvington could destroy her hard-won reputation, but marriage to him also offers her the opportunities she cannot achieve on her own. What’s a lady to do?

THE MAD COUNTESS by Erica Monroe

Bashful Teddy Lockwood, the Earl of Ashbrooke, has always loved his best friend. When they’re drawn together at a mysterious Gothic castle, he’ll have to break a wicked curse to win her heart.

THEODORA by Christina McKnight

When Lady Theodora Montgomery is unmasked while competing in an archery tournament, she fears her reputation is ruined. To save face, she accepts a marriage of convenience with her friend’s older brother, Alistair Price—who soon shoots arrows to her heart with perfect aim.

THE ART OF SEDUCTION by Eileen Richards

Reduced circumstances have taught spinster Elizabeth Bishop to be an independent woman. But when a chance meeting brings Michael Camden, Marquess of Langston, back into her life, will she give up her independence for love?

 

Last Letter Home

Last Letter HomeLast Letter Home – Rachel Hore

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Wood becomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey
In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Hartmann, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen. 
When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain.

This book is like glue, it doesn’t matter what you want to do, you can’t put it down. I read it in two sittings BUT only because I had to sleep in between. Some bits I read twice, which I’ll explain later.

Compelling, romantic, and mysterious, it’s a thoroughly fascinating tale that moves between two time-periods, present day and World War 2, revealing some interesting relationships in both. This appealed to the historian in me, and it highlights a much-ignored subject, those Germans who lived here, served, and fought for this country.  Few people know that some 10,000 German and Austrian nationals volunteered to fight for Britain.

These won’t spoil the story, but I had some ‘niggles’. Let me get those out of the way first. Research historians enjoy the chase. In fact we LOVE the chase; hunting down information, solving the riddles, answering the questions, there is nothing quite like the thrill of it. So that being the case I had some issues with Briony as a research historian with a PhD, and why I had to read certain parts twice, in case I had missed something. Given that her specialism is supposed to be World War 2, I found it difficult to believe that she struggled at certain points about what to do, and at another had a museum assistant to direct her to what amounts to the county record office. No doubt some of her research was done ‘off stage’ as it were, but when she’s questioning herself, I was mentally shouting things like ‘look on bloody Ancestry’ or ‘go to the National Archives for heaven’s sake’. This is stuff she should and would know. A missing part for me is how she researched Sarah and Paul’s story, and I was disappointed that the author didn’t give us more of that.

None of this will spoil the enjoyment of an otherwise great story, or more properly, two great stories.

Rachel Hore writes the historic sections exceptionally well. Her subtle composition reflects the social divisions of the 1930s and how they work under the surface, while clearly highlighting the awful calculating snobbery and conceit of some of the characters. She recreates the period splendidly and doesn’t shy away from the unpleasant and ugly aspects of war and society.

I liked Briony, though occasionally her lack of confidence became very annoying, but I couldn’t like her friend Aruna no matter how I tried. There were moments when I wondered how and why they were friends though towards the end there is some resolution on that front. Lavender, her step-mother develops beautifully, as does Briony’s relationship with her. The men in her life are not perfect, indeed far from it, but they are real in as much as they are fleshed out, flawed, and recognisable.

Sarah and Paul are fantastic characters. The chapters dealing with their story had me glued to every word on every page, and they raise the book from an average to an outstanding. The beautifully paced journey of their relationship makes for great reading, and the whole mystery element makes this a page-turner. At certain parts you will find yourself anxious to find out what’s going on and so rush to read, yet at others you’ll enjoy and relish the slower pace that lets the story unfold gently. The ‘will they, won’t they’ conundrum will have you rapidly reading and page turning through secrets, heartbreak, and tightly bound emotions, all of which builds to an end that is both bitter and sweet at the same time.

Enjoy!

Spring and thoughts of love…

In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love (Tennyson)

I’ve often thought it would make more sense to start the New Year in Spring. It’s the most wonderful time of year when, as we creep slowly from the cold and dark of winter, we change the clocks a second time, and greet nature’s new and renewed life in both the plant and animal worlds.

So as the poem says, turning to thoughts of love, here are some great new titles being released in April, and one or two older titles being re-released for a new audience. I hope you’ll find at least one book amongst them that you’ll want to read.

Mornings on MainMornings On Main – Jodi Thomas

When Jillian James lands in the small-town Texas community of Laurel Springs, she’s definitely not planning to stay, just long enough to find a few clues about the father who abandoned her and destroyed her faith in family.

Connor Larady is a single dad, and the only one caring for his grandmother, Eugenia, who has Alzheimer’s. Now he has to close Eugenia’s quilt shop, and when Connor meets down-on-her-luck Jillian, he’s out of options. Can he trust the newcomer to do right by his grandmother’s legacy?

Jillian is done with relationships, but as she grows closer to Connor and Eugenia, she must consider giving up her nomadic life for a future with those who need her.

Scandalous HeiressA Wedding for the Scandalous Heiress – Elizabeth Beacon

A stolen kiss from a dashing stranger at her own betrothal ball!

When Isabella Alstone receives a shockingly passionate kiss from a handsome stranger at her betrothal ball, she scandalously ends her engagement. She is even more surprised when she discovers exactly who the stranger is! Ruggedly striking Wulf FitzDevelin is illegitimate, penniless, and her ex-fiancé’s half-brother—their match is wholly unsuitable. Yet Isabella cannot escape the burning longing to feel his touch again!

Second Chance FamilySecond Chance Family by Margaret Daley

Savor once again this story in the Fostered by Love series, from top-selling author Margaret Daley.
Dedicated teacher Whitney Maxwell gave up her dream of a family years ago. But she’s about to get a lesson in faith and family from an unexpected source—a brave little boy named Jason. Jason and his dad are dealing with his autism the best they can, but Dr. Shane McCoy can’t put his tragic past behind him. As Whitney and Shane work together to help his son, could these two lost souls open their hearts to love again and become a lasting family?

Mail Order Bride SwitchMail Order Bride Switch – Dorothy Clarke

Garret Stevenson must find a bride or forfeit his newly built hotel. With his deadline approaching, he plans an in-name-only marriage with a maid who’ll cook and clean for his guests. When a pampered, pretty heiress arrives instead, the deception confirms Garret’s distrust of women, but Virginia Winterman has more substance than her elegant clothes suggest.

Fleeing West to escape a cruel suitor, Virginia finds a business arrangement with Whisper Creek’s brusque hotel owner is mutually beneficial, and she relishes being useful. Yet what was once a practical solution soon blossoms into a deeper union. Can Garret get past old betrayals before his future with Virginia slips away?

Love and Other WordsLove and Other Words – Christina Lauren

The heart may hide, but it never forgets.

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away. When she runs into Elliot Petropoulos – the first and only love of her life – the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world – growing from her gangly teen friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother . . . only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends into much more – spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco reading books, sharing favourite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

Family GatheringThe Family Gathering – Robyn Carr

Can he forget the wounds of his past? 

Dakota Jones had a difficult upbringing but he escaped to the military as soon as he could. Now, after several tours of duty he has finally been discharged. Refusing to return home he arrives in Sullivan’s Crossing where his brother Cal and sister Sierra have found a home. Nestled at the crossroads of the Colorado and Continental Divide Trails, the area attracts those looking for answers or direction or a new lease on life. Dakota will come to terms with his less-than-perfect family and will plant the roots he’s never had.

Annas Forgotten FianceeAnna’s Forgotten Fiancee – Carrie Lighte

An accident leaves Anna Weaver with no memory of her Amish hometown’s newest arrival—her fiancé! After a whirlwind courtship, their wedding’s in six weeks…but how can she marry a man she can’t remember? Carpenter Fletcher Chupp takes her on a walk down memory lane, but there’s one thing he wants to keep hidden: a secret that might just lose him the woman he loves.

Family Other CastastrophesFamily and Other Catastrophes by Alexandra Borowitz

Emily Glass knows she’s neurotic, but she’s got it under control. Sort of. She dons compression socks when she flies (because, you know, deep vein thrombosis) and responds to people routinely over-estimating her age with more Life-spin classes and less gluten. Thankfully, she also has David, the wonderful man she’ll soon call husband—assuming they can survive wedding week with her wildly dysfunctional family.
Emily’s therapist mother, Marla, who’s been diagnosing her children since they were in diapers, sees their homecoming as the perfect opportunity for long-overdue family therapy sessions. Less enthused are Emily and her two siblings: ardently feminist older sister Lauren, who doesn’t think the wedding party should have defined gender roles, and recently divorced brother Jason, whose overzealous return to single-hood is only tempered by his puzzling friendship with David’s Renaissance Faire—enthusiast brother.
As the week comes to a tumultuous head, Emily wants nothing more than to get married and get as far away from her crazy relatives as possible. But that’s easier said than done when Marla’s meddling breathes new life into old secrets. After all, the ties that bind family together may bend, but they aren’t so easily broken.

Bachelor's Perfect MatchThe Bachelor’s Perfect Match – Kathryn Springer

He loves adventures…
She only reads them…until now!

Maddie Montgomery, Castle Falls’ shy librarian, has always played it safe. Enter Aiden Kane, the town’s resident adventurer, on the mend from an accident and in need of Maddie’s help. As Maddie assists Aiden with his search for a long-lost relative, the handsome outdoorsman coaxes Maddie out of her safety zone. Can Maddie take the biggest risk of all—giving in to love?

 

Heros returnHero’s Return – B J Daniels

Tucker Cahill disappeared from Gilt Edge, Montana, hoping to escape a secret that has haunted him for nineteen years. Then, when a young woman’s remains are found in the creek near his family’s ranch, he has no choice but to face his demons. The truth that sent him running years ago could take away his freedom now.
Kate Rothschild came to town looking for vengeance—and Tucker Cahill. What she finds is a tortured and irresistible man who’s more than meets the eye. Caught up in the past, they are drawn deeper into a twisted game that’s not over yet. And the consequences could prove fatal for them both…

Flirting with DisasterFlirting with Disaster by Sherryl Woods

There’s a fine line between desire and disaster.

At least, that’s what improper Southern belle Maggie Forsythe thinks when she’ unceremoniously dumped by a fiancé even her mother approved of. Maggie has never cared what anyone thinks, so why is she hiding away from her South Carolina Low Country home?
Then an intervention by friends shows her she has options. Lots of them! And one includes a man who can make her forget all about being jilted.
But one look at Maggie convinces project foreman Josh Parker that he’s corn bread to her caviar. Sure, they have enough sparks to ignite a bonfire, but growing up broke has made him wary of sweet-tea-swilling debutantes. So why is he suddenly singing “Tea for Two”?
Originally published in 2011.

Ready for RomanceReady for Romance by Debbie Macomber

At fourteen, Jessica Kellerman was madly in love with Evan Dryden, one of the boys next door, much to the amusement of both their families. Now, ten years later, she’s about to start working for the Dryden brothers, Evan and Damian. But no one will let her forget her girlish infatuation, and Jessica finds it frustrating in the extreme. Because she’s in love with a Dryden, all right—but it’s Damian, not Evan. And this time she knows it’s not puppy love; it’s the real thing.
How can she convince Damian of her true feelings when he’s still trying to push her toward his brother?

Originally published in 1993

 

Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe

JohnsonSunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson

My name is Willow Longville. I live in a village called Budbury on the stunning Dorset coast with my mum Lynnie, who sometimes forgets who I am. I’m a waitress at the Comfort Food Café, which is really so much more than a café … it’s my home.

For Willow, the ramshackle café overlooking the beach, together with its warm-hearted community, offers friendship as a daily special and always has a hearty welcome on the menu. When a handsome stranger blows in on a warm spring breeze, Willow soon realises that her quiet country life will be changed forever.  Perched on a windswept cliff on the coast at what feels like the edge of the world, the café and its warm-hearted community are a haven for lost souls who happen to wander by with a heavy heart and a story to tell. Serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes, there’s nothing a cup of tea and a delicious treat won’t fix. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.

When I started reading this I didn’t realise it was part of a ‘Comfort Food Cafe‘ series. I had a quick look at the synopsis for each of the other titles, and they all sound fabulous. That said, Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe works just as well as a standalone,  certainly  I don’t feel that I have missed anything, in the way that you do sometimes with a series. It took me a while to settle into the book, but once we got going, I was glued to it.

Willow, the central character, doesn’t have it easy as not only does she work cleaning as well as waitressing at the cafe, but she is also she is her mother Lynnie’s carer. Sadly, Lynnie has early onset dementia, and as this progresses, Willow’s struggles and issues are heartbreaking.  I could make a long list of the things that pulled me into the heart of this book, here are but a few. Willow’s pink hair, Doc Martens, piercings, and tattoos (very close to home…); the journals they both keep, one to remember, one to unburden;  the dogs; the colourful array of characters. There is something a little magical about it.

Then enters Tom, a boy from Willow’s childhood; an inventor and rich, but still geeky and awkward, yet totally on Willow’s wavelength – let’s just say Zombie Apocalypse. Read and you’ll understand.

It would be easy to go down a clichéd and superficial route, but the author has dealt with issue of dementia in a real yet sensitive manner, and is to be applauded for that. She’s written a lovely book full of love and optimism, humour and tears. I’m going to arm myself with the previous books, and will read them all at some point – that’s how much I enjoyed this one. Seriously, just go and get a copy and read it.

BE WARNED: you’ll need a supply of tea and cake, and tissues to wipe your damp eyes….

Pets and Romance : Purrfect recipe or Howling mistake?

We all love our pets; I certainly adore my dog.  Like some I’m allergic to cats, and that has caused some disruption in my early days of dating. Since then I’ve known a few budding romances falter and fail when it comes to pets – I’ve heard that clichéd phrase more than once –  ‘love me love my dog’ (or cat).

So to celebrate pet’s month, here are a some great romances with additional pets. What’s not to love!

Getting Rid of BradleyGetting Rid of Bradley – Jennifer Crusie

Lucy isn’t sure who’s more dangerous, Bradley her ex-husband who may be trying to kill her, or Zack the detective who’s assigned to keep her alive.

Lucy Savage is finally getting rid of Bradley—and his hideous green recliner. Bradley is out of her life for good. Or so she thinks. Turns out Officer Zack Warren wants to arrest the very same Bradley for embezzlement and figures the lovely Lucy can lead him straight to his target. Good thing there’s a cop around. Because someone shoots at Lucy and then blows up her car. Zack insists she needs twenty-four-hour protection. What does he think her three dogs and attack cat are for? Still, he insists on moving right in to Lucy’s house. Now there’s danger lurking outside and in her own kitchen, bathroom—and bedroom. Or maybe Zack is just what Lucy needs.…

Nerds Pocket PetsThe Nerd’s Pocket Pets – D R Grady

Shelby Conroy has always had a thing for Mr. Clean and now she’s met his look-a-like.  Sam Welby is an oncology paediatrician, former Navy SEAL, and all around yummy man, except she’s supposed to be working for him, not drooling over him.  Sam has managed to fight his attraction to Shelby so far, but he’s a little confused as to why her lab coat pockets wriggle.

The Secret WeddingThe Secret Wedding – Jo Beverley

At the age of seventeen, Christian Hill impulsively defends young Dorcas Froggatt’s honour–and finds himself forced into marriage. That doesn’t stop him from pursuing his military career abroad, where he swiftly puts his young bride out of his mind–until the past comes back to haunt him. Not long after her traumatic marriage, Dorcas hears that her new husband, Hill, has died in battle.

Home from a decade of war, Christian wants to enjoy bachelor pleasures, but his father is wooing a rich woman on his behalf. Awkward when he doesn’t know for sure if Dorcas Froggatt alive? He heads north to the industrial town of Sheffield to find out. She’s shocked to discover that her husband is not only still alive but searching for her. She’s determined not to sacrifice her independence, not expecting the true dangers she’ll soon face and, even less, the true love she’ll discover with the man who rescued her all those years ago.

Soon he’s on the run from the law with a woman who’s nothing but trouble, especially when they’re joined by a very peculiar cat.

Anyone But YouAnyone But You – Jennifer Crusie

Part basset, part beagle, all Cupid…

For Nina Askew, turning forty means freedom—from the ex-husband, freedom from their stuffy suburban home, freedom to focus on what she wants for a change. And what she wants is something her ex always vetoed—a puppy. A bouncy, adorable puppy.

Instead she gets…Fred.

Overweight, middle-aged, a bit smelly and obviously depressed, Fred is light-years from perky. But he does manage to put Nina in the path of Alex Moore, her gorgeous, younger-by-a-decade neighbour. Alex seems perfect—he’s a sexy, seemingly sane, surprisingly single E.R. doctor—but the age gap convinces Nina that anyone but Alex would be better relationship material. But with every silver-haired stiff she dates, the more she suspects it’s the young, dog-loving doc she wants to sit and stay!

 

Take a Chance on MeTake a Chance on Me  – Susan Donovan

They’ve Got Nothing In Common… For animal behaviourist Emma Jenkins, romance has been at the bottom of her daily “to do” list since making it through a messy divorce. But everything changes the day six-feet-of-gorgeous Thomas Tobin walks into her office with a quivering Chinese Crested named Hairy, a canine that looks more like an underfed rodent than a dog. Sure Thomas is sending her mixed signals-but that charming smile just sent Emma’s dormant sex drive through the roof… 

But Animal Attraction…Thomas isn’t looking for a fling. In fact, he wants nothing to do with women. He just wants to know if Hairy witnessed his owner’s murder. But something tells him that asking Emma to help him with the case will spell nothing but trouble-trouble in the form of serious temptation.

And the Willingness To Take A Chance On Love…Thomas knows that relying on Emma’s expertise-and her soft touch with a weird dog that has somehow become his-may be a crazy way to track a killer. Especially when Emma’s down-home warmth makes him want to believe that anything is possible-even true love. 

Chocolate Cake for BreakfastChocolate Cake for Breakfast – Danielle Hawkins

Helen McNeil is a vet in a small rural Australian town. While taking evasive action from a dull girl at a party one night she falls over—and fails to recognize—national sports hero, Mark Tipene. For some mysterious reason Helen never really grasps, Mark finds this charming and the chemistry between them sky-rockets, aided by a glass of wine or six. Still suffering the after-effects of the wine, Helen is both horrified and delighted when Mark appears the next day at the front counter of the vet clinic to ask her out. Her coworkers are just the first of many friends, family, and acquaintances to be agog at the identity of her date. Love soon blossoms between the two, but when Helen finds out that she is pregnant, things start to get seriously complicated. . . Full of warm, witty, and well-rounded characters, Chocolate Cake for Breakfast is a hugely entertaining romance set in the middle of nowhere.

 

‘Lost’ Bronte Manuscripts

‘Lost’ manuscripts of Charlotte Brontë to be published

According to The Bookseller, the UK’s publishing trade magazine, ‘The Brontë Society is marking its debut as a publisher with a title featuring two unpublished manuscripts by Charlotte Brontë, found in a book belonging to her mother. Written in the Jane Eyre author’s own hand, the 77-line poem and a 74-line story were found in the leaves of a book belonging to her mother and sold to the society in 2015.’

Fascinating stuff! Read more here .

 

Waterstones Announce Winner

Waterstones CBP 20182018 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize

Waterstones have announce the winners of this years prize, and what three fantastic books they are.

Every year since Ottakar’s (remember them?) started the prize, the longlist titles have always been great. The short list is inevitably fantastic, voted from the longlist by Children’s Booksellers, and always food for debate as everyone has their favourites. What we can always be assured by, is that the winners will be outstanding!

This year the category winners are:

Secret Black Roc winnerIllustrated Book

 

Nevermoor winnerYounger Fiction

 

Hate u give winnerOlder Fiction and Overall Winner

Reviews will be forthcoming,

Women are having different fantasies…

Romantic Fiction in the Age of Trump

In the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up, how do authors write a good sex scene? How ‘bad’ should the bad boy be?

This is a very interesting and thought-provoking piece on the romance genre. It gave me cause to go back to when I started pinching my Mum’s Mills and Boon to read under the blankets. I would have been about 14. I really loved those books, and have thought about trying to track down some titles from that era to read again. I never have, because I think is would spoil those teenage memories, as I’d probably dislike them now.  I looked at some old book covers. These three are quite tame but still reflect what we would now consider a very disturbing feature of the story. The heroines are NOT having fun. On the first she is clearly scared, on the second she looks like she’s in pain (is he spanking her? a play on the word ‘tenderkiss’ ?) and on the third she’s holding a knife to her throat!

Having come back to reading romance this past year, I’m staggered at the breadth of sub-genres there are, and at the very dramatic change in covers. I wonder if in years to come there’ll be a newspaper article about naked/semi-naked men on books covers?

I can honestly say that I cannot think of anything that isn’t covered. Erotica and BDSM coverage didn’t surprise me, I was a bit surprised at the amount of shape-shifter romance, but amusingly surprised at the Artificial Intelligence, ‘million dollar man’ style of romance. I can honestly say that romance and sex with what is tantamount to a robot, is not my genre. If it’s yours, that’s great – whatever rocks your boat!

More to the point though, this article raises some very interesting points about the leading men in the novels we read, and the leading ladies who dally with them. Read it and see what you think, and let me know – I’m interested in other people’s opinions.

Read it here.

 

Smugglers!

I couldn’t find any romance novels about book smuggling, but here instead are some about smugglers of various sorts. Enjoy!

Unknown Ajax – Georgette Heyer

Unknown AjaxHugo Darracott, an enormous figure of a young man, arrives at Darracott Place in Sussex to find his family waiting: his grandfather, Lord Darracott; his uncle, Matthew, a politician, his wife, Lady Aurelia and their sons Vincent and Claud; and his uncle Rupert’s widow Elvira and her children Anthea and Richmond. They are, it is immediately apparent, expecting “a fellow who eats off his knife”: that is, a working or at best lower middle-class man. Hugo obligingly applies a Yorkshire accent and looks gormless. It rapidly becomes apparent to Hugo that things are not all quite straightforward at Darracott Place; among other things he is disconcerted by the positive attitude towards smuggling that his family display. He is also unimpressed by the financial status of the family: while the lands are clearly rich, the tenants’ farms are ill-maintained and so indeed are the family buildings (both Darracott Place itself and the Dower house which is reputed to be haunted and is maintained by a single servant). It emerges that Richmond, bored with being kept at home with nothing to do, has joined in the smuggling .

The Talisman Ring – Georgette Heyer

Talisman RingOn his deathbed, Baron Lavenham arranges a marriage between his great-nephew, Sir Tristram Shield, and his young French granddaughter, Eustacie de Vauban. His grandson and heir, Ludovic, is on the run on the Continent, after allegedly murdering a man in a dispute over a valuable heirloom, the talisman ring. The romantic Eustacie, appalled by her betrothed’s phlegmatic character, runs away and soon encounters a smuggler, who turns out to be her cousin Ludovic. The two take refuge at a local inn, after Ludovic is injured escaping from Excisemen. There they encounter an older lady, Miss Sarah Thane, who vows to help them.

 

Smuggler’s Summer – Carola Dunn

Smugglers SummerWhat a difference there is in the way our two young ladies view a summer spent at an isolated castle in Wales! To beautiful young Julia Langston, used to the doings of the ton, it is a dreary incarceration; her father has banished her from London in the hope she will forget her most unsuitable suitor, James Winn. But to Octavia Gray, her plumpish, rather plain cousin, just to able to leave her busy home, where the hum of political discourse dominates all conversations, and see the countryside for the first time, is an adventure.
Octavia, summoned to be company for Julia, doesn’t have an easy task. Julia wants her sympathy and her help in furthering the forbidden romance with James. Sir Tristram looks to her for reassurance that his chances are still alive. And Octavia finds to her distress that — dare we tell? — she herself has a growing romantic interest in the delightful Sir Tristram, although he, alas, is smitten by the uncaring Julia.
In spite of all this, there are more adventures for Octavia than merely a change of scene.  Read on with hope.

The Smuggler and the Society Bride – Julia Justiss

Smuggler and BrideLady Honoria Carlow, leading Diamond of the Ton, daughter of the Earl of Narborough, was in disgrace. Her spirited nature had led her too far this time. And she was – in reputation at least – ruined. And it seemed, even on the storm-tossed coast of Cornwall, she was not free of temptation. Gabriel Hawksworth may be a gentleman by birth, but a smuggler was unlikely to rescue a Lady from scandal. Indeed Honoria began to suspect the dazzling blue eyes of the Irish sea-captain were luring her right back to what she’d run from – trouble!

Smuggler – Angelina Spears

SmugglerA shy young woman, a mysterious smuggler, a steamy Caribbean adventure…
With university behind her, Jessica Densley is on one last vacation before starting her safe, uneventful career as a geologist. She’s perfectly happy just lounging by the pool but her wild friend Daphne will have none of it. While out exploring, she disappears!
At her wit’s end, Jessica has no choice but to team up with the mysterious Ryker Prins, a man everybody on Curacao respects… and fears. As dangerous men are after them, Jessica will need to learn to trust Ryker in spite of his deep secrets. But mostly, she will need to find a way to not fall prey to his irresistible charm.

Waiting for a Rogue Like You – Samantha Holt

Rogue Like YouHe knows trouble when he sees it. Fortunately, Drake likes trouble, especially when it comes in a particularly attractive package. While he and his crew of smugglers are waiting for their next job, Julianna makes a welcome distraction from the damned ache in his leg and the scars making his skin itch. A shame Julianna doesn’t like him one jot then, not even when he rescues her and promises to bring her to her brother. She knows a rogue when she sees one and the last thing she needs is another man in her life telling her what to do. Not even her brother.
A brother who happens to be the face of the smuggling operation Drake partakes in. And a terrifying face at that. Knight is the muscle behind the crew, ensuring their cover remains in place so that they can help the war effort whilst making a pretty penny. Knight won’t be too happy when he finds out Drake has decided Julianna is a challenge he more than welcomes.
It’s a risk he’s more than willing to take.

The Reluctant Smuggler – Teresa Desjardien

Reluctant SmugglerLeft penniless after the death of her husband, widow Charlotte Deems is desperate for funds to help provide for her young son and joins forces with Lord Sebastian Whitbury, a handsome aristocrat lacking the funds to marry his intended, in an illicit but perilous scheme to make a fortune.