Desert Island Books with… Julie Ryan

Desert Island Books

Today I have packed author, Julie Ryan, off to a desert island with only five books to keep her company while she await rescue. Which titles has she elected to take with her?

Book One – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

Working as a lady’s companion, the orphaned heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers . . .

Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

I don’t often re-read books so this one definitely has to come with me. I must have read it four or five times and each time, I can’t help thinking how cleverly plotted it is. As a psychological thriller that makes you wonder who to trust, this book has to be up there as one of my all-time favourites.

(Blogger’s note: This book has the BEST opening line of any novel ever. This is a fact and not open for debate.)

Book Two – The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

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Charles Smithson, a respectable engaged man, meets Sarah Woodruff as she stands on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, staring out to sea. Charles falls in love, but Sarah is a disgraced woman, and their romance will defy all the stifling conventions of the Victorian age.

I’ve chosen this book because of the clever way in which the narrator becomes a character in his own right and shows how the ending of the book is open to interpretation. In this case there are three possible endings, which means that it’s like having three stories in one. I have to admit to being fascinated by this concept.

Book Three – The Island by Victoria Hislop

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On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion.

She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip…

As a long time Hellenophile, this book highlights the plight of the lepers sent in exile to the island of Spinalonga. This book brings back memories of time spent in Greece and a reminder of how stalwart people can be under duress. Thinking about other people’s suffering would take my mind off being stuck on a desert island.

Book Four – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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Plain orphan Jane Eyre is not expected to amount to much. A pleasant existence as a governess is all she is supposed to hope for – but Jane desperately wants more.

An appointment at the gothic mansion of Thornfield offers her more than she could ever dream of -including a chance at real love. But when tragedy strikes, she will have to use all her bravery, spirit and resolve to overcome her supposed fate, and forge her own destiny.

This was a set text in school and has remained with me ever since. I’ve chosen it simple because it’s a book I enjoy and never get fed up of.

Book Five – My Family and Other Animals –by Gerald Durrell

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Escaping the ills of the British climate, the Durrell family – acne-ridden Margo, gun-toting Leslie, bookworm Lawrence and budding naturalist Gerry, along with their long-suffering mother and Roger the dog – take off for the island of Corfu.

But the Durrells find that, reluctantly, they must share their various villas with a menagerie of local fauna – among them scorpions, geckos, toads, bats and butterflies.

Recounted with immense humour and charm My Family and Other Animals is a wonderful account of a rare, magical childhood.

This is my go-to favourite when I need cheering up. It never fails to delight and always brings a smile to my face. I think I would definitely need one light-hearted book to make me smile.

My luxury item

The one item I couldn’t live without is pen and paper.

Ok, so I cheated here as that’s two items. Perhaps a notebook and pen set? I would find it really hard not to be able to write whilst on a desert island.

Who knows, I might even get a bestseller out of it?

About Julie Ryan

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Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances; thrillers set in the Greek Isles. She has also written a Christmas rom-com and her latest work, Finding Rose, is a contemporary novel with a strong historical element.

A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and rescue cat. She manages to write a book a year although without their help, she would probably write more quickly. She is a book addict and will soon need either a bigger house for her collection or a new husband!

When not writing or reading or eating chocolate, she can be found treading the boards in the local amateur dramatic society – Oh yes she can!

Make sure you check out Julie’s latest novel, Finding Rose, which you can buy here.

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When three sisters, Ginny, Sally and Molly are brought together at their father’s hospital bed, they are forced to confront not only the prospect of a future without him but also the secrets of the past that have kept them apart.

Their father, Eddie Matthews, drugged up on morphine, seems to be rambling but could he, in fact, be reliving previous lives as a Tudor monk and as a soldier on the Front in WW1? Struggling to speak he reveals that he has a secret and urges his daughters to ‘Find Rose’. Can the sisters put aside their differences to fulfil his last wish? 

Connect with Julie:

Website: http://julieryanwriter.com/

Facebook: Julie Ryan Author

Twitter: @julieryan18

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Friday Night Drinks with… Pernille Hughes

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

I’m delighted to be welcoming to the blog tonight for Friday Night Drinks, fellow RNA member and author… Pernille Hughes.

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Pernille, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Ooh, I’ll have an Aperol Spritz please. I spotted people drinking them on a trip to Venice many moons ago, was seduced by the colour and ensnared ever since.

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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?

I think we’d go to a Cringe night. Imagine the downstairs bar of a pub in a London square. There’s a stage and we are sitting with our drinks, listening to brave people read from their teenage diaries to enthusiastic strangers. Such a fun night out, and we’d laugh so much.

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Ooh, I haven’t heard of those, that sounds like fun. I’ve got an old one somewhere with a picture of Tom Cruise as Maverick stuck to the front. 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?

I think Dorothy Parker or Doris Day. I can’t quite decide, but they would be very different experiences, I think. Dorothy would bring the biting wit and Doris would just be super lovely at all times. And obviously George Clooney, because George Clooney.

Yes, George Clooney requires NO explanation! 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’m just finishing a draft of a enemies to lovers romcom at the moment. It’s an idea my editor has asked me to write, so I’m really hoping she likes it! And then I’m revising a draft of another romcom, a ‘bristly neighbours’ plot which is one of my own ideas. It’s setting is somewhere akin to Highgate Cemetery, which is the most beautiful-in-a-rambling-way, story-rich place (I recommend to tour to anyone who loves a bit of social history) and while it’s probably an unusual romcom setting it was just somewhere I wanted to write about. I’m hoping they’ll go down well with my readers!

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

Overcoming my Inner Critic is definitely my biggest challenge, because maaan, she is a cow. My proudest moment is probably holding a copy of my first book in my hands and giving it a good hard sniff. Or else it was telling my husband that my second book Probably the Best Kiss in the World was number one in the Amazon Beer category.

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I have one of those bitchy inner voices too! What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

Doesn’t every writer dream of their book on the big screen? Probably that, but on a smaller scale I’d love to have a foreign language version of my book in my grubby mitts. That would be special. And an audiobook too. Actually, just hit me up with an entire shelf of various versions. And more books to my name, of course – I just have to write them.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Well, here we are in the times of Corona, so all the plans I had have been shelved over the last months. My youngest daughter and I had a week in Copenhagen cancelled, so I am looking forward to having that with her one day, and later, when the world is safe and open again, I’d like to take a lot of city breaks. My critique partner of 7 years who lives in California and I were supposed to meet for the first time in Amsterdam at Easter, but that got cancelled too. Crossing fingers for next year …

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?

The British Virgin Islands were beautiful –  my husband and I sailed around the islands before we had children, and I’d love a revisit. Otherwise I love Mauritius, in fact anywhere where I can be warm and have barefeet. That said I’m always happy when back in Denmark where my parents live– and I get to have bare feet there in the summer too. I have a thing for canals in cities, hence I wrote a hero with a Copenhagen houseboat in Probably the Best Kiss in the World, so I would really like to go to Amsterdam and also Stockholm one day. In fact, my husband and I did plan to go to Stockholm for our honeymoon, but kids happened and 19 years on we have yet to go.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

My publisher first introduced me on social media by having me jump out of a wheelie bin, because they couldn’t find a box or enormous cake. Such is the glamour of my life.

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’?

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein knocked my socks off. Normally I would shy from a wartime book, but this is a fabulous story of female friendship between a spy and a pilot in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

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‘I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.’

In wartime could a stalwart lass from Manchester rub shoulders with a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a special operations executive.  When a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France, she is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in ‘Verity’s’ own words, as she writes her account for her captors.

Truth or lies? Honour or betrayal? Everything they’ve ever believed in is put to the test . . .

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?

Not drinking Chardonnay is my preventative plan, and also having Paracetemol by my bedside for when I wake up in the night and feel the first twinges of what is to come. Going back to sleep on a painkiller seems to work for me. Go to cure is simply to revert to bed, lamenting ‘poor me’ and telling myself I am old enough to know better. That or a fry-up, with a hair-of-the-dog drink later in the day.

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

Brunch somewhere with Eggs Benedict (ham not bacon), and cosying up after, on a sofa with a romcom (film or a book) but this never happens ever, because I have a family with four teenagers and there is always stuff to be sorted. I can dream though …

Pernille, it has been so lovely chatting to you, thank you very much for taking the time to join me on the blog this evening.

Pernille’s latest book is Probably the Best Kiss in the World, a romcom part-set in Copenhagen. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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Jen Attison likes her life Just So. But being fished out of a canal in Copenhagen by her knickers is definitely NOT on her to do list.

From cinnamon swirls to a spontaneous night of laughter and fireworks, Jen’s city break with the girls takes a turn for the unexpected because of her gorgeous, mystery rescuer.

Back home, Jen faces a choice. A surprise proposal from her boyfriend, ‘boring’ Robert has offered Jen the safety net she always thought she wanted. But with the memories of her Danish adventure proving hard to forget, maybe it’s time for Jen to stop listening to her head and start following her heart…

Pernille (pronounced Pernilla) studied Film & Literature at uni and took her first job in advertising, having been lured by the temptation of freebies, but left when Status Quo tickets was as good as it got. After a brief spell marketing Natural History films, she switched to working in Children’s television which for a time meant living in actual Teletubbyland, sharing a photocopier with Laa-Laa.

Now, she lives in actual Buckinghamshire, sharing a photocopier with her husband and their four offspring. While the kids are at school she scoffs cake and writes RomCom stories in order to maintain a shred of sanity.

She’s written for the Sunday Times Travel section, and had two short stories published in the bestselling Belinda Jones SUNLOUNGER anthologies.

She currently has two books out with One More Chapter (HarperCollins); PROBABLY THE BEST KISS IN THE WORLD and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (formerly Sweatpants At Tiffanie’s).

you can find out more about Pernille and her writing on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Has Anyone Seen My Mojo? #writingcommunity

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What is going on at the moment? I have completely lost my writing mojo and I have no idea where it is gone or how to get it back!

Since mid-September I have really had no desire to write, either on the blog or on either of my novel WIPs. Every day I keep getting up, determined that today will be the day that I power through some book reviews and do at least a thousand words on my novel, and every day I find twenty different projects that ‘need’ attention as the perfect way to procrastinate on the writing front. It is very frustrating because I don’t know why it has happened.

Normally in September I have that ‘back-to-school’ feeling, an excitement for a new period of opportunity, and I’m geared up and ready to go. I’ve written about this phenomenon on the blog before here. But I’m just not feeling it this year. I am in the doldrums, unmotivated on the writing front, and I don’t know why. Is it a coronavirus side effect? Is it because this year hasn’t felt like a normal year? Because this autumn doesn’t feel like a season full of possibility, but the beginning of a long, dark winter with more misery and further restrictions? I don’t know but it is bothering me and I don’t know how to snap out of it.

This is only affecting my writing, not my reading. My reading mojo is operating on steroids. I am about to hit my Goodreads reading challenge goal of 150 books with 11 weeks to go, so I could well hit the 200 mark this year. Problem is, I don’t feel any compulsion to write reviews. I now have a backlog of 12 books waiting for review, some of which I absolutely LOVED and have many things to say, but I keep putting off writing them. What is wrong with me? I can only bring myself to do the posts I have promised other people that I will do by way of blog tours and author features. My Instagram game has also fallen off. I had really got in to posting beautiful bookstagram pictures daily earlier in the year but recently I just don’t have the desire or energy.

Whatever is causing this lethargy, I need to snap out of it, it is dragging me down. I love my blog and I don’t want its appeal to drop off. NaNo is looming and I need to summon some writing mojo from somewhere. My lovely writing group, the Bar Babes, are all enthusiasm and are surging ahead with their projects, I am being left behind and it is depressing me. So, lovely readers and fellow writers, do you have any words of wisdom or handy tips for me? Useful insights? Strategies? I’ll take magic beans at this point, to be honest. Has this happened to you and how did you snap out of it?

I need my writing mojo back!

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Tracy Baines

Romancing The Romance Authors

Today author Tracy Baines has kindly volunteered to undergo my grilling on what it means to be a writer of romance.

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

My books are WW2 sagas set in Variety Theatres. It’s something I know well but more importantly, something I love. I used to work in stage management and my husband was a variety entertainer.

My first two novels, The Variety Girls and Christmas With The Variety Girls, have been published this year by Ebury Press – an imprint of Penguin. For many years I wrote short stories and articles because our life was chaotic and I could always find time for them. All the things I learnt writing short stories have been invaluable in the long run – especially learning to get over the rejection. I learnt that it was nothing personal, I just hadn’t got it quite right that time.

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Why romance?

I think every story is a love story. Whether it is between two people or between a character and their dream. Passion in anything is attractive. The energy that drives you towards your heart’s desire is my idea of romance.

What inspires your stories?

My love of theatre, but mostly of my family and home. My books are set in Lincolnshire and Norfolk the place of my birth and that of my ancestors. I haven’t lived there for over 30 years but when I go back home to visit my mum and sisters everything becomes so clear and pronounced and I carry all the sensory memory back to Dorset with me. When I work at my desk I am hearing the voices of the past. It’s the sense of community, of people facing hardship and pulling together to overcome it.

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

I don’t have a particular favourite – I just like discovering stories. I’ve enjoyed so many great books over the years that it’s hard to choose.

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

Canopy of Silence by Margaret Graham. It’s set in Australia in the 1920s and covers the Group Settlement Scheme devised to develop a self-sufficient dairy industry. I was absolutely swept away by it. Those people endured such hardship and their struggle is conveyed so piercingly. My heart ached for dear Debs, that she world find love and happiness. It is brilliantly written with tension that keeps you turning page after page. It stirs my emotions just thinking about it.

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Deborah Morgan, an only child, is unwanted by her parents, who only have time for each other; as a result, she leaves Somerset and follows sheep farmer Patrick Prover to Australia, but finds herself an outsider there too, especially when Patrick leaves her to run the farm alone.

She embarks on an ill-advised affair but soon returns to her loveless marriage, pouring all her love into the care of her baby son.

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

It would have to be Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind as played by Clarke Gable in the film. Was there ever a finer hero? Devilishly handsome and undoubtedly dangerous. We’d go to the theatre, to a musical or preferably back in time to the golden age of the Crazy Gang and Gracie Fields. Dancing afterwards and then a meal in a cosy backstreet restaurant that stayed open just for us; then a walk through Hyde Park until the dawn broke. A day on the Thames and dinner at the Ritz the following day. It would have to be something perfectly glamorous – and so not me!

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

The support and encouragement is second to none. I have two local chapters within easy distance and it’s great to meet up and chat with people who know exactly what you’re going through.

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

Keep going and keep learning. Writing a book takes a lot of mental energy and it’s easy to get disheartened. Nothing is ever wasted. I learn more with every piece I write and I hope it always stays that way.

Tell us about your latest book.

It is the latest in my Variety Girls series, Christmas with the Variety Girls and you can buy it in all formats from Thursday here.

Christmas with the Variety Girls

Will Christmas bring an unexpected reunion?…

Frances O’Leary has always dreamed of being a dancer. But after war is declared and the theatres begin to close, Frances and the variety girls must search for work elsewhere.

However, Frances is hiding a secret. As far as her best friend Jessie knows, Frances is a young aunt who adores her niece, Imogen – but what she doesn’t know is that their relationship runs much deeper. Now, with the sweetheart who cruelly abandoned her returning to England, will her secret finally be revealed?…

About the Author

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From the age of sixteen, Tracy Baines worked summer seasons, pantomimes and everything else in-between at the local end of the pier show. She met her husband when he was appearing with the Nolan Sisters and she was Assistant Stage Manager.

Her knowledge of the theatre world from both sides of the stage and the hierarchy that keeps the show running really bring this saga to life. She’s also written articles and short stories for key publications for this audience including Woman’s Weekly, Take a Break, The People’s Friend and My Weekly.

Connect with Tracy:

Website:  www.tracybaines.co.uk

Facebook: Tracy Baines Author

Twitter: @tracyfbaines 

Instagram: @tracyfbaines         

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Blog Tour: The Wicked Oath by Michael L. Lewis #Spotlight

The Wicked Oath

It is my turn on the blog tour today for The Wicked Oath by Michael L. Lewis and I am pleased to be able to spotlight this book for you today. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for offering my the opportunity.

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A wicked conspiracy. A diabolical offer. Survival: a matter of life or death!

Behind the walls of Blackleigh, a prestigious public boarding school in northern England, lurks wickedness and bullying. Those in power form a conspiracy to devise any means to expel certain boys. Surviving for their victims becomes a matter of life and death…

Jonathan Simon, in his second year, returns to school to find that ruthless prefects – Sleeth, Tunk and Miller – are in charge of his house. Things take a turn for the worse when the new Headmaster starts, and Jonathan and his friends are targeted.

As the pressure mounts, friendships become closer and scheming increases as unexpected revelations occur. For Blackleigh, the year is just beginning...

The Wicked Oath is the second book in the Oath series by Michael L. Lewis, set in the enclosed world of an elite boys’ boarding school in the 1950s. However, the book will work quite well as a standalone and will appeal to anyone who loves a thriller, filled with conspiracy theories and details of the secretive, esoteric goings on behind the doors of Britain’s public schools. How true is the story? Only people who have experienced that world, like the author, can really know.

If this sounds like something that would appeal to you, you can buy a copy of The Wicked Oath here, along with the first book in the series, The Oath.

If you would like to read some reviews of the book, to see what my fellow bloggers thought, you can follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Michael L. Lewis was born and raised in England. After preparatory school in London, he was educated at Stowe School, Buckingham. Michael now lives in Los Angeles, California, has a law degree, and writes full-time. He was on the Board of Trustees for several schools and has been a member of the same book club for twenty-five years.

Connect with Michael:

Facebook: Michael L. Lewis

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Saturday Night Drinks with… Kathy Obuszewski

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author… Kathy Obuszewski. Apologies to Kathy, this post should have gone up yesterday but I found myself in a wifi blackspot and wasn’t able to get it up until now.

To my wonderful buddy, (1)

Kathy, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Yards Big Hayes-y 13  which is a big hazy IPA

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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?

I would take you to my favorite brewery in Philadelphia: Evil Genius. They have a fun open space and really creative beers. I haven’t been to Philly without going there and spending at least a few hours.  Then after that, I like to hit Barcade. Then we can play some arcade games including a crazy Michael Jackson one that Sega made and they have like seven different pinball machines. It’s a great selection of local craft beers and a solid mixed drink place.   If it was a Thursday or a Saturday, I would also go to my other place which is called Fermentery Form. They have a really cool speakeasy vibe especially since you have to go down an alley and past a dumpster to get there and there is no sign. You only know it’s open if the green light is on.

If it was local to Cleveland, I would go to Goldhorn Brewery.  I love the space with its very open feel and hardwood bar.  The beers are very solid. Not always exciting but I have only had one beer that disappointed me there.  You can talk and hang out there. The food is solid.  It’s my favourite place to hang out and drink.   Even though I like beer at Market Brewing and VooDoo Brewing better, I love the overall vibe of Goldhorn. it’s not as well known. It’s actually where I will go to drink to celebrate a new book release or just want a drink to forget life after having to testify in court. The fact one of my friends from hockey is the manager there is a huge plus.

You sound like a bar & beer connoisseur! 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?

Given the name of the drink, I would have to hang out with Kevin Hayes, the centerman for the Philadelphia Flyers who the beer was named after. He’s incredibly funny and has created a great addition to my favourite hockey team.

I would love to go drinking with Dorothy Parker. She’s one of my favourite writers of all time and is so incredibly witty even if she’s rather cutting.

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’m releasing my new novella, Hockey Hottie. It’s the launch of my second hockey series and a new pen name for me. Plus I love the idea of merging Halloween and romance together especially in a hockey setting. It’s basically mixing all my things together.  I started this novella because I was reading Zoey Indiana’s halloween novella and I thought it was a neat idea. I haven’t seen it with hockey romances but when I said I had this crazy idea to do a Halloween hockey romance to a few friends they all encouraged me to do it. The story is super sweet and a lot of fun.

That does sound fun, and very different! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment was publishing each book, especially my first one Deking the Puck. It took so much labor and love to really get it done. I loved it.  It was true sending out 200 Foot Game.

My biggest challenge is twofold.  First is marketing and letting people know that my books exist. I initially published under my name Kathy Obuszewski and I know it’s super difficult for people to spell. So I’m going to be republishing my books under Kat Obie.  Plus all my book titles are hockey references that those who aren’t in love with the sport won’t get them.

Then from a writing standpoint, I get major doubt in my story.  Is it good enough? Did I lose the plot? Will people like it? Am I improving my writing? Will people read it? I will turn to my alpha readers and get their thoughts. That way I know if I am on the right track.  Plus I will say as I re-edit and go through Deking the Puck to make it ready for it to become Falling Fast, I can really see the growth in my writing.

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

A goal of mine is to make enough money to have a house in Lausanne, Switzerland and be able to write and overlook the lake.  Initially, it was a house in the French countryside. But the more I thought about it, it switched to Lausanne.  I loved all the social media posts from the Flyers when they played there. The lake is so beautiful. Also, they are home to a hockey team. While it’s not the NHL, I could still have access to my favourite sport.  I would be able to play.

I want to do that all with book sales. So I know I have to become a best selling author and develop a real following.

I love a big ambition! What are have planned that you are really excited about?

So I’m super excited about the release of the Hockey Hottie. This is one of my favourite stories that I have written. It comes out on October 1st.

Then in the next book in the series will be called Hockey Hellion which will come out on January 20th.  I have some more holiday novellas in the works and I enjoy writing those.  I like how I’m doing some nontraditional holiday novellas including April Fools.

Then on October 28th, I will be releasing Falling Fast. It’s the reworking of my first book. Then on Nov 11th, I will be releasing Crashing Hard. It’s the renaming of my second book. Then on Dec 2, I will be releasing  Loving Baby which is my Christmas themed story in the  Loving the Sound Series. Then I can release Stepping Up on December 26th which was a really fun story to write.

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?

The favourite place I’ve been is Copenhagen, Denmark.  I studied there for a year. I love how I could learn a whole new language there and yet I was there for six months and only knew a handful of Danish and had no issues.

They have magical little places like Tivoli Gardens which is the closest thing to a TARDIS out there. It’s not a huge allotment of land but I could spend hours there and it was so much larger on the inside.   

I loved how much I learned about a small nation mindset and their form of governance. I healed there and worked on myself. 

Although my other favourite places: Dublin, London, Paris, Philly, Prague and Lake Placid, New York.

On my bucket list that I would like to go to next: I would like to go to Iceland. Spend a day or two in Reykjavik. See the Northern Lights, explore the area. Then I want to travel on to Switzerland and stay there for a week in Lausanne. I want to have Swiss chocolate, explore their Olympic museum, Musée de l’Élysée, and other places.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

While this isn’t a secret everyone finds it very surprising that I have two very different master’s degree specializations. I got my Master’s in Public and International Affairs with a major of Security and Intelligence studies. I did capstones on space power war theory and on biological terrorism (and the best way to spread disease).   Then I returned to my love of sports and wanting to work in collegiate recreation. So I got a Master’s of Science in Sports Management from my Alma mater. I love working sports and being the playground on campus.  The two degrees don’t have a ton of overlap other than being able to interact and understand non-domestic students.

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’?

For my must-read that hasn’t changed in years is The Portable Dorothy Parker.  I think she touched upon a lot of things like microaggressions with racism, depression, alcoholism and mental health in a beautiful and poignant way.  It’s amazing how many things have changed and haven’t since the 1920s. She writes plain but beautiful.

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In this new twenty-first-century edition, devoted admirers will be sure to find their favorite verse and stories. But a variety of fresh material has also been added to create a fuller, more authentic picture of her life’s work. At the heart of her serious work lie her political writings dealing with race, labor, and international politics. A Dorothy Parker Sampler blends the sublime and the silly with the terrifying, a sort of tasting menu of verse, stories, essays, political journalism, a speech on writing, plus a catchy off-the-cuff rhyme she never thought to write down.

The introduction of two new sections is intended to provide the richest possible sense of Parker herself. Self-Portrait reprints an interview she did in 1956 with The Paris Review, part of a famed ongoing series of conversations (Writers at Work) conducted with the best of twentieth-century writers.

Letters: 1905-1962, which might be subtitled Mrs. Parker Completely Uncensored, presents correspondence written over the period of a half century, beginning in 1905 when twelve-year-old Dottie wrote her father during a summer vacation on Long Island, and concluding with a 1962 missive from Hollywood describing her fondness for Marilyn Monroe.

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?

So I always eat when I drink and I try to moderate myself throughout the night.   I will drink Gatorade to help rehydrate my body and put the electrolytes back in in the morning.

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

I’m a workaholic by nature so for me my perfect weekends include going back to Philly where I hang out with my friends and I go there just to rejuvenate myself.  I tend to pack in a lot of things while keeping it kind of lazy.  I loved that on a recent trip, I went to ballet class in the morning, went to the Home Show with some friends,  went to my favorite bars: Fermentery Form, Evil Genius, and Varga with friends.  Watched the Flyers play a game.  That particular trip even got to go to a signing event with the Flyers where I got a bunch of the Flyers to sign a birthday card for me. Do a game night with my friends where we played Cards Against Humanity and Unlabl’d (a beer guessing game). Got baked treats from Isgro’s Bakery. Ate hoagies and fried brussel sprouts.

That sounds like a packed weekend. Kathy, thank you for chatting with and good luck with the new book and the new pen name.

Kathy’s new book, as Kat Obie, is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

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I’ve always had a thing for the coach’s daughter.

Not that he needs to know that. Coach thinks she and I are friends… and we are, have been for years. But I’d sure like to be friends with benefits.

Except then I’d be dead, because coach wants to believe his daughter is still the angelic little figure skater who just needs a workout buddy.

Why, oh why did I ever agree to help her train?

There’s no way I can keep my feelings for her a secret when we’re getting hot and sweaty together.

But I’ve got the perfect plan.

Just one little date won’t hurt.

Until she shows up to the Halloween party wearing that.

Puck me.

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

Kat Obie is a passionate hockey fan. She plays, she watches, she dreams of it so she decided to start writing hockey romances.

You can find out more about Kat via Facebook and Twitter.

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Desert Island Books with… Morton S. Gray

Desert Island Books

Today’s Desert Island Books have been chosen by Morton S. Gray. Morton, very naughtily, has tried to squeeze in extra books by sending me a picture of her ‘keeper shelf’ to include. I am on to you, Morton, it is five books only! No exceptions. Let’s see what she has picked.

Book One – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice, which opens with one of the most famous sentences in English Literature, is an ironic novel of manners. In it the garrulous and empty-headed Mrs Bennet has only one aim – that of finding a good match for each of her five daughters. In this she is mocked by her cynical and indolent husband.

With its wit, its social precision and, above all, its irresistible heroine, Pride and Prejudice has proved one of the most enduringly popular novels in the English language.

I’ve loved this book ever since I read it as a school text many, many years ago. I don’t think I could ever get bored of Austen’s wit.

Book Two – Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon

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When the abandoned strays from a local dogs’ home are matched with brand new owners, it turns out it might not just be the dogs who need rescuing.

Rachel’s aunt has left her a house, a Border Collie and, despite knowing nothing about dogs, a crowded kennel. But since her life has collapsed she’s not sure she can deal with any more lost souls.

Zoe’s ex-husband has given their children a puppy. The kids are in love, but she’s the one stuck training Toffee the impossible Labrador. She’s nearly at the end of her tether – until Toffee leads her to a handsome doctor . . .

Meanwhile Natalie and Johnny’s marriage hasn’t been easy since they started trying for a baby. But is a fridge-raiding, sofa-stealing Basset hound like Bertie really the child substitute they’re looking for?

As the new owners’ paths cross on the town’s dog-walking circuits, their lives become interwoven. And they – and their dogs – learn some important lessons about loyalty, companionship and unconditional love . . .

I must have read this one three or four times, so it would be a good choice for the desert island. Full of real life highs and lows, love and loss, it makes me laugh and cry.

Book Three – North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Set in the mid-19th century, and written from the author’s first-hand experience, North and South follows the story of the heroine’s movement from the tranquil but moribund ways of southern England to the vital but turbulent north. Elizabeth Gaskell’s skilful narrative uses an unusual love story to show how personal and public lives were woven together in a newly industrial society.

Another classic – I don’t think new readers would guess how long ago this book was written. The television adaptation starring Richard Armitage as John Thornton was fantastic and true to the book, so I can always imagine Richard when I’m reading the book again on my desert island. Another book full of love, loss, emotion and real life.

Book Four – Wintercombe by Pamela Belle

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Sometimes we find light in the darkest of places…

Tortured by a cold, Puritan father, Silence has learned to conceal her passionate nature inside a prison like shell of passivity. Her eventual marriage does not offer her the escape that she longs for and she craves some semblance of autonomy. It is only the sweep of history that finally offers Silence the freedom she so desires.

Civil war has raged and her sombre husband has been away for two years. Wintercombe, once a tranquil bastion of family virtue, is transformed into an unruly, drunken, and licentious garrison. From this turmoil a still more subtle threat dawns in the handsome shape of Captain Nick Hellier.

As the battle for England is matched by the struggle within her soul, it’s not long before Captain Hellier starts to slowly unlock the chains around Silence’s fragile, Puritan heart…

I’m afraid I always mention this one if I’m asked about a favourite novel, but it is my all time favourite.

The period of English history that fascinates me most is the English Civil War. I’ve been to numerous talks about it and my bookshelves are full of accounts of the war. My son and I even used to go to battle reenactments by The Sealed Knot. I’m particularly interested in the role of women in the conflict and really must get around to finishing my own series of novels about this time.

Wintercombe is set in the period and I can easily imagine myself in the shoes of Lady Silence St Barbe, the heroine of the novel. This must be the book I have read more times than any other, at least ten times already.

Book Five – The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain

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Will love bloom this winter?
 
Freya Fuller is living her dream, working as a live-in gardener on a beautiful Suffolk estate. But when the owner dies, Freya finds herself forced out of her job and her home with nowhere to go. However, with luck on her side, she’s soon moving to Nightingale Square and helping to create a beautiful winter garden that will be open to the public in time for Christmas.
 
There’s a warm welcome from all in Nightingale Square, except from local artist Finn. No matter how hard the pair try, they just can’t get along, and working together to bring the winter garden to life quickly becomes a struggle for them both.
 
Will Freya and Finn be able to put their differences aside in time for Christmas? Or will the arrival of a face from Freya’s past send them all spiralling?

Morton let me pick her last book from a list that she had recently enjoyed, so I’ve chosen the new novel by Heidi Swain because I adore Heidi’s books and it would be great to have one to keep you company on a desert island.

My luxury item

I love my perfumed soaps! I went on a course to learn how to make them and I’m hooked. So, I guess I’d want a bag of different soaps. I’m now experimenting with putting a crystal in the middle of my creations and using flower essences in the soap mix, to combine crystal healing and mood enhancers with my shower. At least I’d be clean on my desert island.

About Morton S. Gray

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Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was published after she won the Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition. This story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s new headteacher, Harry Dixon. The book is available as a paperback and e-book.

Morton’s second book for Choc Lit The Truth Lies Buried is another romantic suspense novel, The book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past. This book is available as an e-book, paperback and audiobook.

Christmas at Borteen Bay is Morton’s first Christmas novella. It is set in her fictional seaside town of Borteen and follows the story of Pippa Freeman, who runs the Rose Court Guesthouse with her mother, and local policeman Ethan Gibson, as they unravel a family secret as Christmas approaches.

Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

Morton’s latest release is bestselling Sunny Days on the Beach, her fourth novel for Choc Lit. Now available as an e-book and audio download, this is what the book is about:-

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From party nights at the pub to sunny days at the beach …

Craft shop owner Mandy Vanes has always enjoyed a commitment-free singleton lifestyle — in fact, she’s well-known for her wild ways in her small seaside town on the coast.

But when local teenager, Nick Crossten, turns to her for help, Mandy has the opportunity to prove she can be a responsible adult. Although things get tricky when gin distillery owner Graham Frankley comes to town with some unexpected news.

Could this mean that Mandy the party girl is finally ready to grow up?

Connect with Morton:

Website – www.mortonsgray.com

Facebook: Morton S Gray

Twitter – @MortonSGray

Instagram – @morton_s_gray

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Arabella Sheen

Romancing The Romance Authors

Today I am grilling author, Arabella Sheen, on all aspects of writing romance.

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

I’m Arabella Sheen, a British author of Contemporary and Historical steamy romances, published with Beachwalk Press, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Having graduated from the RNA’s -New Writers’ Scheme in 2016 when my debut novel, Castell’s Passion, was accepted for publication by Beachwalk Press, I haven’t looked back.

Beachwalk Press is a publisher of romance novels with heat levels of sensual and higher. They are fantastic to work with and generously supportive when throwing professional comments back at me during edits.

I’ve also travelled the self-publishing route, and even though to date I’ve had seven novels published, I feel I still have a lot to learn about the art of writing.

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Why romance?

Oh, this is an easy question to answer…I love a happy-ever-after ending.

What inspires your stories?

Anything and everything.

There were a couple of factors that inspired the writing of A Gentleman in Love.

One was a visit to the United Kingdom’s buzzing capital, London, where classical ‘old’ buildings such as the beautiful Palace of Westminster and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office are situated. Another creative trigger was a desire to write a Christmas romance.

Domestic and foreign diplomatic scandals have hit the news headlines recently, and the urge to delve deeper and create a fictitious world involving an embassy, an ambassador, and a political protocol gone wrong intrigued me.

A Gentleman in Love follows the sizzling romance of Shelby and Sam as they come to terms with the problems they face and the unexpected passion they feel for one another. Shelby wishes to clear her father’s name of political blame and Sam needs a wife to secure the adoption of his ward – Nicola. The question is: can Sam and Shelby join forces and help one another achieve their goals?

As for Christmas, well, who doesn’t love a steamy Christmas romance?

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

In my teenaged years, Georgette Heyer was my go to author for romantic and historical satisfaction. She still is.

At the moment, my nose is buried in Helen Dunmore’s Birdcage Walk. I was born and bred in Clifton, Bristol, and the story features Georgian life in this area during 1792. Helen weaves a dark, sinister tale about Diner and Lizzie’s marriage and turmoil in Europe. I’m not sure this book can be classed as a true romance novel as I’ve yet to read to the end…so no spoilers, please.

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It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence.

Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war.

Diner believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants.

But as Diner’s passion for Lizzie darkens, she soon finds herself dangerously alone.

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

I’m not sure what your taste is in romance. There are so many sub-genres to choose from. Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, LGBT, New Adult romance, etc, etc, etc.

Saga Author, Rachel Brimble has a delightful romance series about Pennington’s, Bath’s finest department store you might enjoy.

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

Can I cheat and say romantic hero and film star- Denzel Washington. If it means I would get my man, I’d be prepared to travel back in time and experience the perils of Déjà Vu with him any day!

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(Blogger’s Note: Apologies for interrupting your viewing but I could not let this opportunity pass to include a completely gratuitous picture of handsome men in leather trousers. As this is shot from Much Ado About Nothing, it counts as romantic literature and is, therefore, completely relevant to the subject matter of this post. Now back to Arabella.)

But if it’s to be a hero in literature, then it would have to be the Marquis of Alverstoke from the Georgette Heyer novel Frederica, and we’d have the pleasure of a balloon ride across the undulating green fields of Somerset.

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

My favourite thing about being a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association is knowing I have one thing in common with other members…the love of romance and books.

And to answer the question about what I have gained from my membership…I’ve gained friends.

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

Learn the craft of telling a good story. Not just the mechanics of writing and penning a story, (although these skills are important), but unearth the ability that comes with sharing a story around a campfire. Learn how to captivate and hold your readers spellbound to the last word.

Write because you have a story to tell. And don’t worry about becoming an instant bestselling author. Some wise words from an author friend have carried me forward on my writing journey: “Persist. It took me twenty years to become an overnight success…”

So, perhaps there is hope for me yet.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is a contemporary romance called A Gentleman in Love and you can buy a copy here.

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A Christmas wedding and a growing passion. Will a political scandal destroy their love?

Desperate to exonerate her family name of any wrongdoing, Shelby Chesterfield gate-crashes the Foreign Office Christmas party to ask her father’s accuser for help. When Ambassador Samuel Hardwick refuses to cooperate, Shelby is determined to ruin his diplomatic career any way she can, and a chance to do so arrives sooner than she expected.

Caught in a passionate embrace, Shelby puts Sam on the spot and tells journalists they’re engaged. But her plan backfires when Sam turns the tables on her.

Sam wants no commitment to anything or anyone except his career. But when his best friends are killed in a violent terrorist attack, leaving their daughter orphaned and in his care, he has the daunting task of finding a wife and substitute mother, or he will risk losing his newly acquired ward into the foster care system. With time running out, when Shelby asks for help to clear her father’s name in a political scandal, Sam offers support in exchange for a Christmas wedding.

The trouble is…Shelby knows about his ongoing affair with Lady Donna Ruston.

Can Shelby and Sam work together to achieve their goals, or is their winter romance fated to fail before it’s begun?

Content Warning: contains sensual love scenes

About the Author

Arabella Sheen - Author

Arabella Sheen is a British author of Contemporary and Historical sensual romance. Published with Beachwalk Press, she is also a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

One of the many things Arabella loves to do is to read, and when she’s not reading or writing romance novels, she is either on her allotment sowing and planting with the seasons or she can be found curled on the sofa pandering to the demands of her attention-seeking cat.

Having worked and lived in the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands for nearly twenty years, she now lives in the South West of England with her family.

Connect with Arabella:

Website: http://www.arabellasheen.co.uk/

Facebook: Arabella Sheen Author

Twitter: @ArabellaSheen

Blog: http://arabellasheen.blogspot.com/

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Blog Tour: The Cottage of New Beginnings by Suzanne Snow #BookReview

The Cottage of New Beginnings

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for The Cottage of New Beginnings by Suzanne Snow. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting 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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One crumbling cottage. One broken heart. A chance to start over?

When Annie returns to Thorndale, the village where she spent much of her childhood, she’s looking for a new start. All she wants to do is fix up the cottage her godmother left her, and fix up her broken heart.

When she clashes with local hero, Jon, Annie can’t help but wonder if coming back to Thorndale was a mistake. The village has clearly changed and the last thing she needs is more drama. But avoiding the distractingly handsome Jon is proving impossible, especially when Thorndale seems to be conspiring to throw them together…

Annie is looking for a fresh start with zero romance – but what if the only way to learn to trust again is to take a risk on love?

The weather has been really miserable where I live this week. I was actually forced, by all the wimps who love in my house with me, to turn the heating on last weekend in violation of my no-heating-until-October rule. Damp and miserable and definitely the death of summer.

However, I managed to salvage a little of that lazy, sweet summer feeling by diving into this lovely, gentle book by Suzanne Snow. Perfect for relaxing into, like dozing a softly swinging hammock under a shady tree on a hot, August afternoon, there could not be a more pleasant way to lose yourself for a few hours.

The book introduces us to Annie, a young woman who has recently been deeply hurt by the person whom she believed she was destined to be with forever. She retreats to her godmother’s cottage, left to her in her will, to lick her wounds far away from her old life, hoping that doing up the cottage and a new job will distract her. She is wary and has no plans to engage with anyone, particularly men, but, of course, she immediately meets a random stranger who throws a romantic spanner in the works.

This may not be the most original storyline you’ve ever come across, but Suzanne’s interpretation of it, her characters, the setting and her voice are all completely her own and are beautifully done. The village of Thorndale is a place to fall in love with in itself, you will easily be able to imagine yourself there and getting sucked in to its welcoming and idyllic community. The supporting cast introduced to drive the main story along are all delightful and necessary, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them all.

Annie was a very believable protagonist, I bought in to her pain and reluctance very easily, and felt her dilemma in wanting to avoid further heartbreak by fighting her attracting to Jon. Their romance is not especially dynamic, but reads realistically and, as such, worked well to keep me interested. If I had one small niggle about the book, it was that Jon seemed a tiny bit TOO good to be true. He is absolutely a superman, being all things to everyone in the village, helping out everywhere at once. A couple of more obvious flaws might have made him a little more interesting to me, but my complaint wasn’t enough to prevent me reading this book in a little over 24 hours and feeling a sense of pleasure and satisfaction in having done so.

The Cottage of New Beginnings is a charming read that will transport you back to the glorious summer days and the magic of instant attraction. Parts of it reminded me of those long ago days when I first met The Irishman, the excitement of seeing him and getting to know someone new. The author managed to capture this sensation really well, and I really loved the nostalgic feeling the book gave me. A better way to relive those heady days than the drastic alternative of ditching a long-term relationship in favour of a new one! Highly recommended.

The Cottage of New Beginnings is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to read some alternative reviews of the book and other content, please make sure you follow the rest of the tour:

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About the Author

Suzanne Snow Headshot High Res

Suzanne lives in Lancashire with her family and loves to read. Amongst her favourite books are historical crime fiction and writers’ biographies. Suzanne enjoys cooking, walking, especially in the Lake District, and developing and planting gardens. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors.

Connect with Suzanne:

Website: https://www.suzannesnowauthor.com

Facebook: Suzanne Snow Author

Twitter: @SnowProse

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jane Davis

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Tonight I am delighted to be welcoming to the blog for the first Friday Night Drinks of October, author… Jane Davis.

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Jane, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

I’ll have a gin and tonic, please. If there’s a choice of gin, my favourite is Portobello Road.

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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?

Sky Garden, which styles itself as London’s highest public garden. When the Walkie Talkie was built, it was the city skyscraper everyone loved to hate (there was controversy when it was still under construction and was blamed for reflecting light which melted parts of a car in a nearby street) but then some bright spark had the idea of creating a palm house and viewing platform on its uppermost floor. Add a bar and a restaurant and it has become one of the best spots to look down over the City. But the time when Sky Garden really comes into its own is sunset. There is a moment at which the glass and steel constructions of Canary Wharf turn to gold, and it’s just magical.   

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That sounds fab, I will have to pay it a visit if I ever make it to London again! 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?

My first guest would be someone who was very famous in his day, but who history has almost completely forgotten, and the reasons for that interest me. James Naylor was a pastry chef by trade, but in 1784 he became the first English aeronaut, just a year after the first balloon flights. Naylor had no formal education to speak of and was almost certainly illiterate, but his understanding of heat (learned in the kitchen) enabled him to introduce innovations to his balloon design. He was the first to create an adjustable fire to control altitude, and the first to use hydrogen, but his inventions weren’t restricted to hot air balloons. He also worked on steam engines and improved on the design of rifles and cannons (including the ones aboard Nelson’s HMS Victory), after noting that over one third of weapons missed their target by over five feet. Like Nikola Tesla, Naylor is someone who was interested in the science rather than money. I’m sure he would have a few stories to tell.

My second choice would be the poet Edith Sitwell. Her eccentric style of dress, captured so perfectly by Cecil Beaton, gave the impression that she was a throw-back from another era. She herself told the tale that she was descended from the Red Rose Plantagenets on one side, and on the other from an errand boy who walked all the way from Leeds to London, barefoot, where he made his fortune. She mixed in extraordinary literary and artistic circles and, although she described one of her hobbies as ‘silence’, recorded interviews suggest she was never short of something to say. I hope that she might be persuaded to tell us how she struck up a friendship with Marilyn Monroe after a meeting in Hollywood. It would probably be some time before I plucked up the courage to confess that my character Lucy Forrester from My Counterfeit Self is a cross between her and Vivienne Westwood. I wonder if she’d recognise herself.

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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’ve also started work on a new novel, Encroachment. I’m very superstitious about saying too much about works in progress, but the plan is that it will have a dual timeline, one in the late Victorian era when my main character spends his life savings on a plot of land, where he creates what will be one of England’s last pleasure gardens. The gamble doesn’t pay off and he is forced to sell off the land, plot by plot, to property developers. The second part of the story is set in the present day, in a house that was the ticket office for the pleasure gardens, when the encroachment comes in the form of neighbours from hell. It’s a story about trying to live out our dreams only to have them trodden on. The second project I’ve been working on is editing the diary I kept about helping to care for my father during his last eighteen months of dementia. (He passed away in April during the COVID crisis.) I’m not quite sure what I should do with it yet, except that I would like to do something. One in fifteen adults over the age of 65 suffers from some form of dementia. By the time you reach the age of 80, the odds increase to one in six – and yet talking about dementia seems to be taboo. I have so many incredible anecdotes that might provide reassurance to those whose relatives have a diagnosis, but another approach would be to produce a more serious work of non-fiction about how so little help is available for the army of unpaid carers who are looking after family members. And that’s a national scandal.

They both sound fascinating, but what a difficult topic you have chosen for the second. You are very brave. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My debut novel, Half-Truths and White Lies won the Daily Mail First Novel Award, and Joanne Harris gave me a lovely quote for the front cover, but it’s actually the two smaller awards I won since I turned indie that acknowledge both writing and publishing standards that I’m most proud of. The single biggest challenge is how to gain visibility in a saturated marketplace. On the 3 September, 600 new titles were released on a single day, and that figure doesn’t include self-published books. How to make ourselves stand out from the crowd is the question we authors have to ask ourselves most often.

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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!

The organisers of many awards claim to be looking for the best in fiction, but even when self-published authors are allowed to enter (which is rarely), many awards have prohibitive entry fees. Even the Guardian’s Not the Booker which relies on nominations from its readership excludes self-published titles. For a competition that is supposed to provide an alternative, that seems particularly narrow-minded. What I’d like is the opportunity to compete on an even footing with traditionally published authors.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

2020 is a year when planning seems futile. Every event I planned to attend has been cancelled, so I’ve more or less given up getting excited. On the bright side, next year’s calendar is filling up quite nicely… But seriously, I think now is a time for caution and taking care of those around us. Perhaps to make longer term plans.

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?

That’s a hard choice. I fulfilled one of my longest-held ambitions by going to China. Seeing the Terracotta Army was one of the most mind-blowing experiences I’ve had. Not just the scale of it, but to understand the belief systems that went behind it. But I also loved the temple complexes at Angkor in Cambodia.

For myself, these days I tend to stay far closer to home. (When I renewed my ten-year passport last year, I realised I hadn’t used it once.) I’m a keen hillwalker and enjoy regular trips to the Lake District, but there are so many parts of the UK I have yet to explore. I’d love to go to what I think of as ‘Local Hero’ country – the northern reaches of Scotland in the hope of seeing the northern lights. I’d also like to walk the St Michael ley-line which runs from Cornwall to Essex.

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Cambodia is top of my wishlist. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

Although most of my musical connections are on my mother’s side of the family (my grandfather was a composer and maternal uncles were very well-known flautists), it’s on my father’s side that I’m related to Annie Adams, one of our first Music Hall singers to become an international stars. She began her singing career singing in her father’s pubs but by 1871 she was touring the States, from New York to San Francisco.

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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’?

My favourite fiction title of last year was Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott. I instantly fell in love with the tone set by the book’s anonymous narrator, who recalls the story of Truman Capote’s relationship with his ‘swans’, who invited him into their homes (and onto their yachts and private jets) and confided in him, only to discover that he had betrayed them when he used their stories in his fiction. When he found himself shunned, Capote’s reaction was ‘What did you expect? I’m a writer’.

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They told him everything.

He told everyone else.

Over countless martini-soaked Manhattan lunches, they shared their deepest secrets and greatest fears. On exclusive yachts sailing the Mediterranean, on private jets streaming towards Jamaica, on Yucatán beaches in secluded bays, they gossiped about sex, power, money, love and fame. They never imagined he would betray them so absolutely.

In the autumn of 1975, after two decades of intimate friendships, Truman Capote detonated a literary grenade, forever rupturing the elite circle he’d worked so hard to infiltrate. Why did he do it, knowing what he stood to lose? Was it to punish them? To make them pay for their manners, money and celebrated names? Or did he simply refuse to believe that they could ever stop loving him? Whatever the motive, one thing remains indisputable: nine years after achieving wild success with In Cold Blood, Capote committed an act of professional and social suicide with his most lethal of weapons . . . Words.

I have this on my TBR, I must get round to it soon. 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?

My failsafe plan is the stick to the same drink. (I probably should never have started on the gin!) I have to tell you, things get pretty ugly if I have a hangover. In all honesty, I’d probably pull a duvet day.

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

If we were to stay overnight in the City, I’d use it as an excuse to continue my exploration of its nooks and crannies and take you to see some of my favourite finds. A short wander will take us to Bunhill burial grounds where we’ll find William Blake’s gravestone and those Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan, author of pilgrim’s progress. I’d take you to see the Thomas Hardy tree in old St Pancras churchyard. (Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley’s mother is also buried here.) Just around the corner is Word on the Water – a floating bookshop based on the Regent’s Canal at King’s Cross. If you follow the canal in the direction of Camden you come to one of my favourite architectural developments, Gasholders, literally built within the framework of the decommissioned Victorian gas holders. We could picnic in the park, or have lunch in nearby Coal Drops Yard. On Sunday, I might take you for a tour of Highgate cemetery. We can explore the East cemetery at our leisure, where we’ll find the graves of plenty of authors, from George Elliot to Douglas Adams. To access the West cemetery, we’ll have to book a place on a tour, but it’s well worth it to see the Grade 1 listed Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon. Perhaps I’ll be able to tempt to you back to Carshalton for a pint at my local, The Hope, which the community clubbed together and bought to save it from being snapped up by a supermarket chain. It’s clocked up no less than five CAMRA Greater London Pub of the Year awards and holds monthly beer festivals. Our pub cat even has its own Twitter account @pubcathope.

Jane, I have had a wonderful evening, thank you so much for joining me.

Jane’s latest book, At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock is out now and you can buy a copy in either ebook or paperback format here.

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London 1949. The lives of three very different women are about to collide.

Like most working-class daughters, Caroline Wilby is expected to help support her family. Alone in a strange city, she must grab any opportunity that comes her way. Even if that means putting herself in danger.

Star of the silver screen, Ursula Delancy, has just been abandoned by the man she left her husband for. Already hounded by the press, it won’t be long before she’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Patrice Hawtree was once the most photographed debutante of her generation. Now childless and trapped in a loveless marriage, her plans to secure the future of her ancient family home are about to be jeopardised by her husband’s gambling addiction.

Each believes she has already lost in life, not knowing how far she still has to fall.

Six years later, one cause will reunite them: when a young woman commits a crime of passion and is condemned to hang, remaining silent isn’t an option.

“Why do I feel an affinity with Ruth Ellis? I know how certain facts can be presented in such a way that there is no way to defend yourself. Not without hurting those you love.”

Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis is the author of nine thought-provoking novels.

Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing.

Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards. Smash all the Windows was the inaugural winner of the Selfies (best independently-published work of fiction) award 2019.

Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.

You can find out more about Jane and her work on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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