Book Review: Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons

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Eudora Honeysett is done – with all of it. Having seen first-hand what a prolonged illness can create, the eighty-five-year-old has no intention of leaving things to chance. With one call to a clinic in Switzerland she takes her life into her own hands.

But then ten-year-old Rose arrives in a riot of colour on her doorstep. Now, as precocious Rose takes Eudora on adventures she’d never imagined she reflects on the trying times of her past and soon finds herself wondering – is she ready for death when she’s only just experienced what it’s like to truly live?

This week I have been taking part in the One More Chapter Readalong for Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons, and today I am sharing my review of the book. I want to thank One More Chapter for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

It’s going to be very difficult to do this book justice in my review without giving away any spoilers because what I would really like to do is gush endlessly about how marvellous every word of the novel is and tell you in excruciating detail exactly why. However, this blog is, and always will be, guaranteed spoiler-free, so I’ll do my best by the book in more limited terminology.

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is one of those gems of a book that comes along quite quietly, without huge fanfare, but when you discover it you are torn between wanting to tell everyone you meet that they must read it immediately and hugging it to yourself as a cosy little secret. But since I am a kind and generous book blogger, I am going to share the secret with all of you. Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is going to be one of my books of the year, without a shadow of a doubt. I absolutely loved it, have already bought the paperback, want to tell everyone I ever meet about it and am telling you that you absolutely must, must read it at once.

This is a story about loneliness and friendship and family and disappointment and giving up and not giving up and intergenerational relationships and death and all kinds of love and how life isn’t over until it’s over. It has a dual timeline, amazing characters and every single emotion you can think of ranging through it. It will make you laugh and possibly cry (don’t read it at bedtime unless you want to have to sleep on a soggy pillow) and, as soon as you have turned the last page, want to immediately go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Annie Lyons has created a superb character in Eudora Honeysett. She goes on one of the most transformative journeys of any fictional character I have come across in fiction this year. The Eudora I met in the first chapter of this book is a totally different person to the one I left on the last page. The author’s deftness in peeling back the layers of Eudora’s back story over the course of the book at the same time as showing her emotional journey in the present is a thing of joy to behold and I am full of awe and admiration for her skill in playing with the reader’s emotions in this way. Despite being a very prickly character when we first meet her, she is totally sympathetic and, by the end of the book I was completely and irrevocably in love with her as if she were real and a member of my own family. Anyone who loved Eleanor Oliphant, Susan Green from The Cactus or Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things is going to adore Eudora Honeysett.

But Eudora doesn’t go through this transformation in isolation. All changes need a catalyst, and Eudora’s comes in the form of a tiny, rainbow tornado of a next door neighbour who shakes up Eudora’s ordered but sterile life, completely against Eudora’s will. Rose is a bright force of nature and a more delightful character has never been written. She represents all that is good and pure and positive in this cynical world and is the perfect antidote to all the stress and worry and loneliness that we are currently experiencing. This book could not have come along at a more opportune time for all of us and, if you are looking for a cheering, uplifting, escapist read that addresses a lot of issues that we are all currently facing, look no further.

There are a host of other fantastic characters to support these two, including the adorable Stanley ,who everyone must want as their grandad, Rose’s mum and baby sister, and Montgomery, a cat full of personality. The plot is unique and thought-provoking. It really made me think about getting older, loneliness and what it must be like to contemplate your death in old age. The author does an impeccable job of capturing the unique perspectives of the different generations and their individual concerns. Every word of this book is believable and informative and reading it was an enriching experience, as well as being fun and emotionally moving. Quite an accomplishment.

I really cannot sing the praises of this book highly enough. If you haven’t realised by now, I adored it and think everyone should read it. I hope it gets a lot of attention, because it really deserves it. I know it is a book I will continue to think about long after I’ve finished it and will return to again. The pinnacle of uplit and the perfect book for a lockdown lift.

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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After a career in bookselling and publishing, Annie Lyons published five books including the best-selling, Not Quite Perfect. When not working on her novels, she teaches creative writing. She lives in south-east London with her husband and two children.

Connect with Annie:

Website: https://annielyons.com/

Facebook: Annie Lyons

Twitter: @1AnnieLyons

Instagram: @annielyonsauthor

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Desert Island Books with… Michelle Kidd

Desert Island Books

This week’s Desert Island Books have been chosen by author Michelle Kidd. Let’s see what she has picked to take to keep her company in her isolation, shall we?

Book One – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

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Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The magic starts here!

It’s almost impossible to choose just one Harry Potter book!  I love each and every one, but I guess the sensible thing is to choose the very first, as that is where it all started! When they first came out, I always believed that the Harry Potter books were for children – but how wrong could I be! They may start out as children’s books, but with each and every new book I think they mature and grow into something completely different, something that manages to transcend all ages. JK Rowling’s ability to set a scene and create characters is impeccable. Characters, for me, make or break a book, and she creates such vivid characters that you cannot help but feel as though you transported into each scene and see it first-hand. Every so often I have a Harry Potter binge and read them all from start to finish.

Book Two – The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

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Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quiet and contented life, with no desire to travel far from the comforts of home; then one day the wizard Gandalf and a band of dwarves arrive unexpectedly and enlist his services – as a burglar – on a dangerous expedition to raid the treasure-hoard of Smaug the dragon. Bilbo’s life is never to be the same again.

I was probably about twelve when I first read The Hobbit. It remains one of my favourite all-time ‘go to’ books – I have lost count of the number of times I have read it, but each time always feels like the first time. I remember that, as a child, I bought myself a set of limited edition hardbacks of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with my pocket money, and they still take pride of place on my bookshelf today. Although I love the whole set, The Hobbit remains my favourite as this is where I was first introduced to the notion of a Hobbit. And second breakfasts. The descriptions Tolkien manages to convey into The Hobbit, and the magical and mythical creatures he creates, for me mark this book out as a masterpiece.

Book Three – BIKO by Donald Woods

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‘You are either alive and proud or you are dead … and your method of death can be a politicizing thing’ Steve Biko Founder of the Black Consciousness Movement

Steve Biko was a natural target for the South African authorities. On 13 August 1977, Steve Biko was arrested, interrogated and beaten. On 12 September he was dead. Editor of a leading anti-apartheid paper, Donald Woods was a friend of Steve Biko and went into exile in order to write his testimony about the life and work of a remarkable man.

As a teenager I read a lot about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and became totally obsessed with books and films on the subject. I even bought myself an ANC badge and wore it with pride! I was lucky enough to see Nelson Mandela in the flesh when he attended the concert in his name at Wembley after being released from prison in 1990.  For many reasons, BIKO is a book that has always remained with me from the minute I read it. It formed the basis for the Oscar nominated film ‘Cry Freedom’ starring Denzil Washington (one of my all-time favourite films!) and tells the true story of Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. It is a highly emotive book; as thought-provoking now as it was when I first read it in the 1980s. The research and detail that went into this book is astounding. The content is, at times, upsetting – and pulls no punches in detailing how cruel human beings can be towards each other.

Book Four – The Shining by Stephen King

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Danny is only five years old, but in the words of old Mr Hallorann he is a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, Danny’s visions grow out of control.

As winter closes in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seems to develop a life of its own. It is meant to be empty. So who is the lady in Room 217 and who are the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why do the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow, there is an evil force in the hotel – and that, too, is beginning to shine . . .

I was a voracious reader from a very early age, and I basically grew up reading Stephen King’s books. The man is such a phenomenal author and classic storyteller, it is hard to choose just the one book – but I think The Shining has to be one of his very best. The book is chilling to read and still gets my heart pumping even after all this time. I read it as a teenager, long before I watched the film, and I still feel that it is the pinnacle of a classic horror book. You don’t get much more frightening than the goings on at the Overlook Hotel!

Book Five – Murder at the Farm by Paul Foot

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A revised edition of an investigation into the murder of schoolboy Carl Bridgewater in 1978, updated to include coverage of the release in February of the three men accused of his murder (a fourth one also wrongly convicted died in prison). Foot questions why the men remained in prison for so long, and asks who did kill Carl Bridgewater.

Another one of my obsessions is true crime and miscarriage of justice books. As a former defence lawyer, I find them fascinating and upsetting in equal measures. This book tells the story of the wrongful conviction of four men for the killing of Carl Bridgewater. It took seventeen years to clear their names. This book is incredibly detailed, analysing all the facts and evidence, enabling the reader to see where the grave mistakes were made. This book is a favourite of mine because of the way Paul Foot shows how the mistakes and inadequacies in the way crimes were investigated back in the 1970s led to such a devastating miscarriage of justice, and then just how hard it is to turn the scales of justice back in your favour. A thought-provoking read.

My luxury item:

It would have to be my tabby cat, Livi! (Assuming animals are allowed!) Livi came to live with us in November 2015 from our local stray cat rescue centre. She was only seven months old at the time. After a cautious and anxious start, she has now firmly stamped her authority on the house as her territory, and sleeps on my bed nestled up against my legs. I’m not sure I would be able to sleep on the desert island if I couldn’t feel her pressed up against me! She may well decide that the sandy beach is just one large litter tray, but she might make up for it by being an expert hunter!

About Michelle Kidd

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Michelle Kidd is a self-published author known for the Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh series of novels.

Michelle qualified as a lawyer in the early 1990s and spent the best part of ten years practising civil and criminal litigation.

But the dream to write books was never far from her mind and in 2008 she began writing the manuscript that would become the first DI Jack MacIntosh novel – The Phoenix Project. The book took eighteen months to write, but spent the next eight years gathering dust underneath the bed.

In 2018 Michelle self-published The Phoenix Project and has not looked back since. There are currently three DI Jack MacIntosh novels, with a fourth in progress.

Michelle works full time for the NHS and lives in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. She enjoys reading, wine and cats – not necessarily in that order 

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Michelle’s latest book is The Fifteen, the third book in the DI Jack MacIntosh series and you can buy a copy here.

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When the past finally catches up with you, is it murder? Or justice?

When a bedbound, defenceless man is found dead in his London nursing home, nobody saw his killer. But the killer left their mark.

Detective Inspector Jack Macintosh soon discovers that this was no random killing; this one was personal.

And it was just the beginning.

As the case unfolds, Jack is forced to think the unthinkable as the evidence begins to point disturbingly close to home.

Revenge – how long would you wait?

Connect with Michelle:

Website: https://www.michellekiddauthor.com

Facebook: Michelle Kidd Author

Twitter: @authorkidd

Instagram: @michellekiddauthor

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Blog Tour: Love & Pollination by Mari Jane Law #Extract

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I’m very happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for Love & Pollination by Mari Jane Law and I’m thrilled that I can share an extract from the book with you. My thanks to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Tours for offering me a place on the tour.

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Perdita Riley is facing the greatest dilemma of her life. Why had she taken Violet Freestone’s advice on how to make herself look more alluring? It led her into the arms of a womaniser. And now Perdita has to deal with a huge setback. Actually, Setback Number One isn’t huge yet, but it won’t be long before it is.

To cheer herself up, Perdita goes shopping, where an extraordinary encounter deposits her, literally, into the lap of Saul Hadley. She would like to stay there, but Setback Number One is going to get in the way.

Will she find a way to deal with what has happened? Can she manage the complications of her growing attraction to Saul?

Extract from Love & Pollination

“Perdita glimpsed her reflection in the bathroom mirror.

If she’d been attacked by an over-ripe tomato, she wouldn’t have appeared much different. But peering at her blotchy skin and swollen eyes was not going to help with either Setback Number One or Setback Number Two. She splashed her face with water, smoothed down her brown bob and went back to the sofa to bury herself under her duvet and think.

The doorbell rang. It was too early for the post.

Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, she buried herself deeper under the bedding. But the doorbell pealed again.

‘Perdita?’ A male voice sounded through the letterbox. And she recognised it. ‘Perdita, we know you’re in there. We heard you moving about.’

Damn. What had happened to privacy? Although Luke and Gavin were the closest thing to family she had, taking her under their wing from the day she’d moved into the flat in Clifton, she didn’t want them to see her like this. Nevertheless, she donned her dressing gown, padded to the front door and opened it a crack.

‘Hi,’ Luke and Gavin said in unison, smiling brightly at her. They were dressed ready for work: Luke in fitness instructor gear, and Gavin, an undertaker, wearing a smart dark suit.

‘We’re worried about you,’ Luke said. He was bigger than Gavin, taller and broader.

‘We heard you crying last night,’ Gavin explained.

‘And, if it’s a matter of life or death, you have both of us calling so you can take your pick.’

Opening her mouth to comment on the lack of sound-proofing between the floors of the flats, and to say she was okay and that she didn’t need any assistance, she suddenly blurted, ‘Can you find me a job?’”

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If this extract has whetted your appetite for the book, you can buy a copy of Love & Pollination here.

Make sure you look out for reviews and other content for this book as it takes a tour around the blogosphere this week.

About the Author

Mari Jane Law lives in the UK. She loves books, TV series and films that make her laugh and, through her writing, discovered she could make other people laugh as well. She hopes those who buy or borrow her work have as much fun reading it as she had in writing it! 

Love & Pollination is the first in a series of whacky romantic comedy novels she is working on. Her characters appeal so strongly to her that she is unable to let them go – hence the series. She enjoys their humorous behaviour, quirky personalities and sharp, witty dialogue.

She was very pleased to have been shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2019 Search for a Star competition.

Member of Cambridge Writers.  

Connect with Mari Jane:

Website: https://marijanelaw.com

Facebook: Mari Jane Law

Twitter: @MariJaneLaw1

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Romancing the Romance Authors… with Colette Kebell

Romancing The Romance Authors

Today I am thrilled to be quizzing author Colette Kebell on all facets of romance writing.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Hello Julie, thanks so much for having me on your blog.  

I write mostly Contemporary Female which would fall under the umbrella of chicklit or romcom They are light-hearted, fun and quirky.  The aim is to bring a few smiles and laughter to the reader to brighten their day.  That’s not the only genre I write in though.  I also have a financial crime thriller out there in the world, which does have an element of both romance and suspense and the one I don’t talk about, an erotic historical western set in pre-Civil War America.

As to my journey I knew little or nothing about being an indie author when I set out, or any kind of author for that matter.  I’d read plenty of books and had quite a good grasp of the English language, thanks to my days as a legal secretary, but had to jump through quite a few hoops and navigate a steep learning curve to get to where I am.  I had some help though, from an American indie author called Donna Jane McDonald, which was invaluable and thus was mentored by her for a time.  Once in a while I have a go at approaching traditional publishers, out of curiosity more than anything else, but nothing has come from those approaches to date.  I guess I like the control and freedom of being an indie author and might find it quite strange to have to work to deadlines as this point in my writing career, though, having said that, if the right deal came along, I’m sure I would manage.

Why romance?

For the feel-good factor.  There are many categories that fall under that umbrella, but I read light-hearted books, on the whole and so it felt natural to me to write books under that sub-category

What inspires your stories?

Any number of things have inspired my stories.  My first two I drew partially, at least, on my past experience as a legal secretary.  There are elements of each of those books which are true to my own past, though I’m not about to let on which those are, I like to keep the readers guessing…  Other than that, it depends on the book.  My financial crime thriller was partly inspired by my Dad, who was a stock broker, and my raunchy was inspired by Roots and The Colour Purple, as well as good old fashioned westerns such as Calamity Jane.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I’m a fan of Jill Mansell’s books, then there are the likes of Jackie Collins, whose books I grew up reading.  I came across Donna McDonald by having loved her books and so I have a varied taste you could say.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Do I honestly have to pick one?  If that’s the case, I would say it would have to be Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  Is that truly classed as a romance novel… I think so, though there is a whole plethora of emotions to experience from reading that book.

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Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun teashop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Which romantic hero would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Hugh Jackman when he played the character of Leopold in the film Kate and Leopold would be my ideal date.He is a perfect gentleman, but is also an intellectual with a very good grasp on life despite having been thrown out of his own time zone. Due to the nature of his character I’d like to take him to a museum where there were plenty of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions on display as although I would also find it fascinating I know he would. A private viewing would be even better as that’s one character I’d quite like to … erm… well I won’t go there… with perhaps a candle lit meal at the end of it where we could discuss the day and get to know each other better.  

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

The RNA to me is all about camaraderie and support.  I have met some fabulous fellow members despite not having attended one of the major events yet.  Don’t worry though, all things being well, I shall attend one next year, given the chance.   

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Read, read and read, write, write and write.  Exercise your writing every day, whether it be answering interview questions, writing a blog, a review or entering a competition, as well as writing that first all-important novel.

Tell me about your latest book.

My latest book is called I Don’t Do Mondays! and the tagline is ‘Anything can happen on a Monday… even love…’ You can buy a copy of the book here.

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How can Mia find happiness?

Lawyer Mia’s picture-perfect dream life in New York is imploding. Her job has become too stressful, she’s exhausted from carrying her friends and what’s up with her striking, wealthy fiancé?

But when life-changing decisions force her to move to Maine, where she’ll face her often critical father and hard truths about what truly matters in life, she re-discovers a passion of her youth.

What begins as a low moment in her life quickly pushes her to consider what she genuinely wants and leads her down a new path where she must embrace the future and let go of the past.

Will this move help Mia to fix her life, once and for all, and will she finally find true love?

About the Author

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Colette Kebell is an eclectic author, though a relatively new one and thus far has self-published her books. Her books are light-hearted, fun and quirky and even considered by some to be inspirational. She publishes mostly for the English speaking market and the Italian one. Colette Kebell does not stick to just one genre when writing though, as you shall discover from her latest book which launched on 5th April 2019.

As a career, Colette spent her later years as a legal secretary. After a first attempt at writing many years ago (a book that still remains in her drawer) she resumed this passion a few years back, after being made redundant. After few book signing events and a book talk, which almost caused her to collapse with nerves, Colette now spends her time between her home in the UK and her home in France.

Colette has two adorable dogs and, when not writing and marketing her books, she likes cooking for herself and her husband, gardening or designing various items for their home. Amongst her other hobbies, she has also experimented with furniture upholstery, and she might, from time to time, have a paintbrush in her hand.

Connect with Colette:

Website: http://colettekebell.com/

Facebook: Colette Kebell Author

Twitter: @ColetteKebell

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Tempted By… Over The Rainbow Book Blog: The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox

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A town gripped by fear. A woman accused of murder. Who can save Pale Harbour from itself?

1846. Desperate to escape the ghosts of his past, Gabriel Stone takes a position as a minister in the remote Pale Harbour, but not all is as it seems in the sleepy town.

As soon as Gabriel steps foot in town, he can’t escape the rumours about the mysterious Sophy Carver, a young widow who lives in the eerie Castle Carver: whispers that she killed her husband, mutterings that she might even be a witch.

But as strange, unsettling events escalate into murder, Gabriel finds himself falling under Sophy’s spell. As clues start to point to Sophy as the next victim, Gabriel realises he must find answers before anyone else turns up dead.

I have to admit, it was the fabulous cover of this book that first caught my eye when I saw it on Joanna’s fantastic blog, Over The Rainbow Book Blog. Whoever designed it is a genius because it is so atmospheric, it draws you right into the story before you have even read a page.

Once I started reading the review Joanna had written about the book, I was irretrievably Tempted By… her glowing words and absolutely had to get a copy for myself. I absolutely love a gothic novel, and the allure of a dark mystery tied to the works of Edgar Allan Poe was too good to resist.

Reading the review, the book hints at a gothic mystery combined with a crime story and a romance, all wrapped up in one. Who could possibly turn down the chance to read their three favourite genres in a single novel? Jo does a great job of boiling all of the most attractive features of the book into a short, sweet review and it certainly worked its magic on me!

I absolutely love Joanna’s blog. She is so down to earth and to the point with her reviews that you are never in any doubt how she feels about a book and she manages to get to the heart about what is great about any book she reviews. If you are looking for straight forward opinions about a book that will really give you an clear idea about whether you will like a book or not, make sure you head over to Over The Rainbow Book Blog.

And if you have been tempted by Jo’s review to get your own copy of The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox, you can buy it in all formats here.

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Blog Tour: One Winter’s Night by Kiley Dunbar #BookReview

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I’m so thrilled to be taking part in this tour today. This author is fast becoming one of my favourites. The prequel to this novel, One Summer’s Night, was one of my favourite romances of last year (you can read my review here), so I was really looking forward to reading One Winter’s Night by Kiley Dunbar. Huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for asking me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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It’s autumn in beautiful Stratford-Upon-Avon and Kelsey Anderson is enjoying her new life in her adopted town. Her Shakespearean tour guide days behind her, she’s now opened her own photography studio and loved up with boyfriend Jonathan – even if a long-distance relationship is sometimes lonely.

When best friend Mirren Imrie moves down from Scotland, Kelsey is delighted to have her friend at her side – and as the nights turn colder, Mirren throws herself into dating, until she finds herself growing closer to sexy journalist, Adrian Armadale. But when Mirren uncovers a long-buried scandal while working at the local newspaper, her big scoop might throw Kelsey’s – and Jonathan’s – life upside down. Will she choose her career over her friends’ happiness?

And when Jonathan returns from America and discovers the secrets Mirren has uncovered about his family, it throws his relationship with Kelsey onto shaky ground. Can they find their way back to love, before it becomes the winter of their discontent?

The author has knocked it out of the park again with this cosy, autumn read. The minute I started reading, I was back in Stratford with Kelsey and eager to find out  what was going on with her fledgling photography business and her blossoming romance with actor boyfriend, Jonathan. This book would work equally well as a standalone, though, if you haven’t read the first book.

Kelsey is absolutely brilliant at creating a sense of place in her books and you can tell she has a detailed knowledge of Stratford and a great affection for the place, it shines out from the page and takes the reader to the heart of the town. Her prose is full of beautiful descriptions which evoke the season and stimulate all of the readers senses, so they are experiencing the action, rather than just reading it. Her writing always gives me the warm fuzzies!

As well as finding out how Kelsey’s new life is moving on in Stratford, the action catches up with Kelsey’s best friend Mirren, who is having a big shake up in her own circumstances and decides that she needs to take a leaf out of Kelsey’s book and make some brave changes. She ends up joining her friend in Warwickshire, with some unforeseen consequences for both of them. It was fabulous to have some new characters to freshen up the scene; I particularly loved Kelsey’s neighbour Blythe.

Kiley’s books are full of charm and warmth, her characters always likeable and empathetic and she makes you care about what is happening to them. Reading one of her books is a bit like sinking into a warm bubble bath, relaxing and soothing. In fact, a warm bubble bath is the perfect place to read them. I absolutely cannot get enough of her books, and she is such an inspiration to me as a writer. I find myself studying her books to see how she manages to create the atmosphere she does, and then stepping back in awe because she is so skilled. I hop this isn’t the end of our visits to Stratford with Kelsey, I have grown so attached to the world that Kiley has created here.

This novel is perfect to curl up with at this time of year and, any fans of cosy romance novels who hasn’t picked up one of Kiley’s books yet needs to remedy that omission immediately. I know you will fall in love with her writing just as I have. I am now just waiting to get hold of a paperback copy of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach now to complete my collection. Please, Hera Books, if you are listening!

One Winter’s Night is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews and other content:

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About the Author

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Hi, I’m Kiley Dunbar, author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places.

If you’re looking for travel adventures, swoony heroes, and dreamy escapism that will let you forget the world just for a wee while then I’m your author.

Take your pick from my first three novels:

Summer at the Highland Coral Beach (2020), the first in the Port Willow Bay Series, takes you on an impromptu crafting holiday in the Scottish Highlands and reminds us that after the storm comes the rainbow. Crafts, ceilidhs, coral bays and gentle recovery. (Part two coming September 2021 – both parts can be read alone)

Christmas at Frozen Falls (2019) will fly you to snowy, remote Finnish Lapland over Christmas where Sylvie Magnussen is getting a second chance at love with an old flame – sexy Stellan Virtanen – the one who got away – well, he ran away actually, and Sylvie never understood why. Hot kisses in a cold climate, Northern lights and a stunning resort setting. (Standalone novel)

One Summer’s Night (2019) whisks you away on a working staycation in beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon during a sultry heatwave summer. Kelsey Anderson, Shakespeare nerd and aspiring photographer, navigates her new life in a new town. A starting over story, handsome actors, backstage passes, and a whole lot of drama in the Heart of England. (Sequel coming September 2020 – both parts can be read alone)

And if you’ve enjoyed one of my books I’d be thrilled if you left a review!

Connect with Kiley:

Facebook: Kiley Dunbar Author

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

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Friday Night Drinks with… D. Ellis Overttun

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Tonight I am delighted to be joined for my weekly Friday Night Drinks by author… D. Ellis Overttun.

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I’m not really a drinker. So, it would probably be cranberry and seven. However, if I had to pick an alcoholic beverage, it would be a Kir Royale.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Well, given I’m not much of a drinker, I don’t really have a spot that comes to mind. One place is basically as good as any other. However, if I had to pick a place that could be any place, it would be Rick’s Café in Casablanca. Believe it or not, it’s a real place, inspired by Rick’s Café Américan.

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I’ll be wearing a double-breasted, ivory dinner jacket ensemble a la Bogie, minus the cigarette. How about you?

Instead of Sam singing “As Time Goes By”, I think I would like to hear Carly Simon’s version backed up, of course, by the incredible harmonics of Stevie Wonder (http://dld.bz/jhag9). What would follow would be a set a la the one from her Live at Grand Central Station performance.

That is very specific imagery, you must be a writer! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

The first person has to be Alice Roberts. I first bumped into her when I came across a BBC documentary series called Origins of Us. It traces the evolution of our bodies from the trees to the plains of ancient Africa. Using her training as an anatomist, she shows how the changing environment shaped our bodies. Several of the chapters throughout my Terra Nova series have been inspired by this BBC series. Apart from getting her take on those parts, I would like to get her opinion on a speculative scifi concept on which my novels hinge: What would happen if sexual relations for pleasure and procreation separated? My take on it is the backdrop to my first novel, Universe: Awakening.

The next person I would like as part of our merry band would be physicist, Brian Cox. I’ve probably seen most of his documentaries, but my favourite is Human Universe. I would like to get his take on the physics in the Terra Nova series, particularly my concept of subspace. It is another speculative scifi concept that postulates that most of the mass/energy of the universe is inaccessible to us under normal circumstances. Also, it would be great fun to hear some of his stories when he was the keyboard player in his Dare days.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am in the process of finishing up my 4th book, Mirror in Time. As the title suggests, it’s about time travel. It is a standalone novel with (I think) very accessible science that is faster paced than my other novels. I’ve included the as yet unpublished prologue. Any sci-fi bloggers who want to review an ARC of the soon-to-be-finished book can DM my wife, Natasha (@neoverttun).

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I suppose the proudest moment has been having guest posts hosted on various sites. The biggest challenge has been to generate content for those posts. I have found it quite daunting. It has given me a lot of respect for bloggers like yourself who constantly have to deal with writing reviews on what I only imagine are tight schedules.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

I would like to be a panelist at MCM London Comic Con discussing the Terra Nova series.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favorite place has to be the south of France, mainly because of the food and the ambiance.

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I don’t have a bucket list. For me, it has always been more about the journey than the destination. Also, I suppose it’s because I think it means you can see the end somewhere on the horizon. I think I would find it a little depressing. Having said that, I live each day as if they are in short supply and approach everything with a sense of urgency.

The closest thing I would have to an item on a bucket list would be to be able to play the piano totally by ear (because fingers are so boring.) I’m almost there, but to be able to free myself from having to read music would be so liberating.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

When I was young, I used to take French at a convent in the neighbourhood where I grew up. There was a story that I had to translate in one of the lessons. I remember it was prefaced by a picture of a wolf who had experienced lean times and a well-fed dog. They met at the edge of a forest on opposite sides of a fence surrounding a farm and had an exchange about their current circumstances. The wolf complained about how hard his life was, constantly searching for food and braving the elements. The dog, on the other hand, was quite content. He led a comfortable life with plenty of food and shelter. Now, I’m paraphrasing…

“Gee, it would be great if I could live like that,” the wolf said.

“Well, let me speak to the farmer. Maybe, you can come live with me,” the dog replied.

“Would you?” Then, the wolf noticed the dog’s neck. “Why is your fur matted?”

“That’s from my collar when the farmer ties me up.”

The wolf smiled and returned to the forest.

Where safety and security are concerned, I am like the dog. However, there is one place where I am like the wolf, and that is my writing. I write the way I write, take it or leave it. It is probably the only place where I have true freedom.

I think Cyrano de Bergerac sums it up best: “To sing, to laugh, to dream, to walk in my own way, free with an eye to see things as they are, a voice that means manhood. To cock my hat where I choose. At a word, a yes, a no, to fight or write. But never to make a line I have not heard in my own heart. To travel any road under the sun, under the stars, nor care if fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne. Yet, with all modesty to say: ‘My soul, be satisfied with flowers, with weeds, with thorns even; but gather them in the one garden you may call your own.’ “

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t think you’d find the things I read very interesting since I rarely read fiction. However, I did recently depart from that when I did a one-off review of The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes. My three favourite books are: The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, The Art of War by Sun Tzu and Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Taleb. Which one would be my must-read probably changes depending on where I am at the time. Right now, with all that is going on with COVID19, I am in an antifragile mood, so I would go with Taleb.

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Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.

In The Black Swan, Taleb showed us that highly improbable and unpredictable events underlie almost everything about our world. Here Taleb stands uncer­tainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary. The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resil­ient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better.

Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls antifragile are things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.

Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world. Erudite, witty, and iconoclastic, Taleb’s message is revolutionary: the antifragile, and only the antifragile, will make it.

I love to read non-fiction, as well as fiction. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Being a non-drinker is my first line of defence. (I can nurse a drink an entire evening.) I also hear that staying hydrated is the best go to cure for a hangover.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

The question reminds me of the Big Bang Theory episode “The Intimacy Acceleration” where Sheldon and Penny participate in an experiment designed to see if two people could fall in love. It involves a series of questions they ask each other that are designed to promote intimacy. One of the questions was: Describe your perfect day. It gave me pause, and I turned to Natasha, and said, (and I’m paraphrasing), “Almost everyday is a perfect day. The only thing that would make it absolutely perfect is money.” She understood that what I meant by “money” was Bill Gates, George Soros or Andrew Lloyd Webber kind of money: MONEY!

She and I are sort of a recluse couple. To quote Elton John, “Looking for an island in our boat upon the sea.” We spend most days side by side either pursuing our literary endeavour with the Terra Nova series or our non-literary endeavour.

Being Saturday, I would probably spend the morning writing then reading to Natasha. Then, I would make lunch. (Yes, I do all the cooking.) A catnap après le déjeuner then on to some serious movie watching. Around 5:00 or 6:00, we would work out for about an hour or so followed by a light supper while watching Real Time with Bill Maher, closing with some CNN. Then, to bed to bed my sleepy head.

Pretty boring, no?

Well, it’s something I promised Natasha long ago, (and I mean years not decades). It probably is best incapsulated by a line from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd: “And at home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be — and whenever I look up, there will be you.”

Not boring at all, pretty romantic! I’m a huge fan of Real Time… myself. Thank you so much for joining me on the blog and being so open and detailed in your responses, I have enjoyed it very much.

D. E. Overttun is the author of the Terra Nova series of novels which are Universe:Awakening, Genesis: Vision of the New World and Prophecy: Vision of Darkness and you can buy them by following the links.

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You can find out more about D. E. Overttun’s writing via his wife, Natasha’s Twitter account.

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Guest Post: Plague by Julie Anderson

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There are many ways to die. Plague is just one.

Work on a London tube line is halted by the discovery of an ancient plague pit and in it, a very recent corpse. A day later another body is found, also in a plague pit. This victim is linked to the Palace of Westminster, where rumours swirl around the Prime Minister and his rivals.

As the number of deaths climbs, the media stokes fear. Government assurances are disbelieved. Everyone feels threatened. This has to be resolved and fast.

A disgraced civil servant and a policeman must find the answer before Westminster closes for recess. Power, money and love curdle into a deadly brew that could bring down the Mother of Parliaments.

Time is running out. And it’s not clear what – or who – will survive. 

Plague by Julie Anderson is a new title out this week, and I am delighted to be sharing a guest post by Julie on the blog today in celebration of the book’s publication. Given what is currently going on in the world, Julie has written about how it feels when the dystopian fiction you have created collides with real world happenings.

When life and fiction collide… by Julie Anderson

Back in 2018 I began writing a novel, a Westminster murder mystery/thriller entitled ‘Plague‘. I was about to undergo surgery and knew that I’d have a long period of convalescence and recovery in which to plan out and begin writing my book. Without giving away too much of the plot (my publishers would shoot me if I did) the story is about a potential outbreak of a strain of plague in London in 2020. The atmosphere is tense and fearful and there is a general reluctance to accept what the authorities are saying, including medical experts and the police. People believe the real facts are being withheld. Entrenched and aggressive positions don’t help and a predilection for opinions, whatever their source, which reinforce existing prejudices, heightens anxiety. Sound familiar?

None of this was particularly new or controversial when I began writing it.

Populist politicians choosing to deny facts are now commonplace. The current President of the United States springs to mind, but there are European heads of state who do the same, including our own. This is amplified in the echo chamber of social media.  In medicine, Anti-Vaxxer groups illustrate how people make potentially life-changing decisions based on belief rather than on scientific evidence. My villain in the novel chooses to exploit circumstances to increase his own fortune and power, despite knowing the views he encourages are false. He uses social media to help do this. This too has happened in real life, when an individual exploited people’s genuine concerns for their own benefit. Former doctor Andrew Wakefield, now barred from practising in the UK and described as fraudulent, made the spurious link between the MMR vaccine and child autism. This resulted in a reduction in vaccination rates and subsequent suffering and death.

I wanted my book to highlight, in so far as I could within the confines of a commercial thriller, how dangerous disregarding fact and science is and how easily it can be exploited by people for their own ends. And it is, of course, a Westminster based thriller, so politics and democracy are involved. As are the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor, who regularly give press conferences, just as they did during the first months of the COVID-19 lockdown.

It’s genuinely unsettling to find events, so similar to those in my tale, unfolding in real life and seeing the reactions of media, institutions and individuals to the COVID-19 virus.  Some is horribly familiar – and irresponsible. Celebrities or TV ‘personalities’ asked for views on something they are not qualified to comment upon and the media rabble-rousing and setting people against each other.  In the novel the media is used to manipulate opinion to better serve the interests of wealthy owners and investors. As a character in my novel says, ‘It’s dishonest and dangerous!’ something with which I agree.

There have been demonstrators outside Downing Street, to protest the ‘lack of action’ by government, something which occurs in ‘Plague’. My heroine is caught up in just such a demonstration in Chapter 42. Pharmacies have been hiring body guards because of attacks from members of the public attempting to access medicines or other items which were out of stock.  This happens on Page 106 of the novel! 

Now we have multiple real life procurement scandals, all those non-advertised ’emergency’ government contracts worth many millions being given to companies owned by donors or associates of the governing party, while companies which are experts in their field and offering their services are ignored.  At least one of these has already spawned a law suit. In my novel there are contracts worth billions which are given to associates of the villain without going through the correct, legal procedures. It’s part of the corruption of democracy which my villain seeks.  I have to tell you that there’s even a shadowy but powerful Russian character, an international ally of my villain, who encourages his crimes and makes financial investments!

The plague in my book isn’t COVID-19, it’s power and the desire for and love of it. My book isn’t even about a pandemic, but the ‘plague scare’ in it has mirrored real life to an eerie degree. That doesn’t stop the book being a really good read, about a series of macabre murders, with my heroes working against the clock to prevent more deaths and a love story and quite a lot of history thrown in.  Pre-publication reviews describe it as ‘gripping’, ‘page turning’ and ‘gorgeously written’ though another word which keeps cropping up is ‘prescient’.

The number of usually well informed folk who simply don’t believe current government plans are based on science and the over-riding priority to save lives alarms me. Are they right? Is the government putting money before human life? I don’t know.  It’s a new disease strain.  There is much we don’t know.  Like in the book, it’s frightening. I spent eighteen months writing a novel but in life I can’t write the ending. That’s what’s really scary.

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Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Julie, it must have been very odd to see so much of what you envisaged in your work of fiction manifesting in the real world! I look forward to reading the book soon.

Plague is out now in both ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Julie Anderson was a Senior Civil Servant in Westminster and Whitehall for many years, including at the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister, the Inland Revenue and Treasury Solicitors. Earlier publications include historical adventure novels and short stories. She is Chair of Trustees of Clapham Writers, organisers of the Clapham Book Festival, and curates events across London. 

Connect with Julie:

Website: https://julieandersonwriter.com/

Facebook: Julie Anderson Author

Twitter: @jjulieanderson

Instagram: @julieandersonwriter

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Romancing The Romance Authors… with Stefania Hartley

Romancing The Romance Authors

Today I am welcoming to the blog, author Stefania Hartley, to be forensically grilled on being a writer of romance.

Welcome to the blog, Stefania. Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey. 

I write contemporary romance/romantic comedy and short stories for women’s magazines. Sun, Stars and Limoncello is my first full-length novel.

Why romance?

I love reading romance and I love writing it. There’s nothing like the thrill of falling in love!

What inspires your stories?

Most of my characters are inspired by people I’ve known or met and found interesting. Once I’ve decided on my hero or heroine, I imagine who would be the last person they’d want to fall in love with, and I put them in a situation where they just can’t help it.  

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I love Helen Fielding for her amazing humour, I fell in love with Beth O’Leary’s incredibly sweet hero in The Flatshare, I enjoyed Helen Hoang’s steamy The Kiss Quotient, and I’ve just discovered Talia Hibbert with the Brown sisters series. I was swept by Elizabeth Enfield’s Ivy and Abe, and I like Sarah Morgan’s style. There are many other romance authors that I like, but I’m leaving out all the ones that I know personally, just to make sure I’m being objective.

I adored The Flatshare! (Cute fact: Helen Fielding and I went to the same school, although not at the same time. Joanne Harris also went there!) If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

This is another difficult question, because I would probably recommend Bridget Jones’s Diary, but I guess that you have already read it.  

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A dazzlingly urban satire on modern relationships?
An ironic, tragic insight into the demise of the nuclear family?
Or the confused ramblings of a pissed thirty-something?

As Bridget documents her struggles through the social minefield of her thirties and tries to weigh up the eternal question (Daniel Cleaver or Mark Darcy?), she turns for support to four indispensable friends: Shazzer, Jude, Tom and a bottle of chardonnay.

Welcome to Bridget’s first diary: mercilessly funny, endlessly touching and utterly addictive.

Which romantic hero would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

I would spend my perfect romantic weekend with Mr Darcy at his ‘place’, possibly frolicking in the pond while he wears the famous white shirt. 

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

The RNA is a wonderful family. I have never felt so understood as in the RNA. I don’t think that family and friends can ‘get’ a writer like another writer can, because we are all a little obsessed. And nobody can understand a romance writer quite like another romance writer or a romance reader, and in the RNA we are all both things. 

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Read a lot of romance books because there is an enormous variety within the genre, and readers have specific expectations from each subcategory of romance. A tip to writers in general: develop a thick skin against rejections and arm yourself with shiploads of perseverance. 

Tell us about your latest book.

Sun, Stars and Limoncello is my first full-length novel and it is set in Sicily. You can buy a copy here.

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Sonia believes that men equal heartache and disaster. Brad has sworn never to love a woman again. It’s a pity they’re so irresistibly attracted to one another.

After her traumatic teenage years, Sonia’s teaching job would be the best thing that has happened to her if it weren’t for Brad Wilson. Her arrogant, standoffish colleague never fails to rub her the wrong way. But when she’s faced with the choice between canceling the school trip to Sicily or accepting his ungraceful help, she swallows her pride and resigns herself to spending an entire week in close quarters with him. Little does she know just how close.

A tragedy from his past still haunts Brad, and he’s sworn never to let his heart be shredded by grief again. Loving another woman is not in the cards. That’s why his petite olive-skinned colleague is so very dangerous.

What could possibly go wrong when their mutual destination is one of the most romantic places in the world?

About the Author

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Stefania Hartley, also known as The Sicilian Mama, was born in Sicily and immediately started growing, but not very much. She left her sunny island after falling head over heels in love with an Englishman, and she’s lived all over the world with him and their three children. Having finally learnt English, she enjoyed it so much that she started writing stories and nobody has been able to stop her since. She loves to write about hot and sunny places like her native Sicily, and she especially likes it when people fall in love. Her short stories have been longlisted, commended and won prizes. Sun, Stars and Limoncello is her first novel and is a contender in the Joan Hessayon Award.

Connect with Stefania:

Website: https://www.stefaniahartley.com/

Facebook: Stefania Hartley Author

Twitter: @TheSicilianMama

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Tempted By… Rea Book Reviews: If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

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Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

I’ve had to sneak in an extra Tempted By this week, because I missed one while I was in Wales last week and, I am such a sucker for buying brilliant books recommended by my blogger friends that I don’t have any spare weeks to slot in missed posts!

So, my surprise Tempted By feature this week is for If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman, as recommended by Rea in her review here on her marvellous blog, Rea Book Reviews. This is another one that has been a good while in getting to the top of the pile for this feature but, as I said, I am absolute sucker for buying books on blogger recommendation and the waiting list is substantial!

When you visit the review that inspired me to buy this book, you will soon see why it drew me in. Rea’s review is so detailed, giving you a lot of information on which to base your buying decision, but at the same time not giving away any spoilers which, as a blogger, I know is a very valuable skill. She has obviously fallen in love with the story and is trying to convey exactly what it is that she found so appealing about it, identifying all its strongest attributes, and it is extremely effective. I came away from this review knowing exactly what this book was going to deliver and, being sure that I was not going to be disappointed if I did buy it.

This is the great strength of Rea’s blogging style and the reason I always read her reviews with interest and excitement. You can see she puts a huge amount of thought and effort into her reviews, they are obviously not dashed off without any thought, and they are always balanced and honest. I always know that I am going to get exactly what I am expecting when I’ve based a purchased on Rea’s reviews, she is 100% reliable and always seems to hit the heart of the book in her review. Make sure you head over to her blog and take a look for yourself, you can find it at https://reabookreview.blogspot.com.

And if you now need to get hold of a copy of If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman, you can find it here.

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