The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan #bookreview (@KarenSwan1) @panmacmillan

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Alex Hyde is the leaders’ leader. An executive coach par excellence, she’s the person the Great and the Good turn to when the pressure gets too much; she can change the way they think, how they operate, she can turn around the very fortunes of their companies.

Her waiting list is months’ long, but even she can’t turn down the unorthodox but highly lucrative crisis call that comes her way a few weeks before Christmas, regarding the troublesome – and troubled – head of an esteemed whisky company in Scotland: Lochlan Farquhar, CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, is a maverick, an enigma and a renegade, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees.

It should be business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, when she gets to the remote island of Islay, with the winter snows falling, Alex finds herself out of her comfort zone. For once, she’s not in control – Lochlan, though darkly charismatic, is unpredictable and destructive, her usual methods gaining no traction with him – and with Christmas and her deadline fast approaching, she must win his trust and find a way to close on this deal.

But as she pulls ever closer to him, boundaries become blurred, loyalties loosen and Alex finds herself faced with an impossible choice as she realizes nothing and no-one is as they first seemed.

This is the latest book by Karen Swan, and the second of her titles I have read, following The Rome Affair which I read last summer. Following the first book, I had high expectations for this novel and I was not remotely disappointed.

Firstly, Karen Swan’s books are hefty tomes. This one comes in at just under 500 pages but, despite its length, I was gripped from start to finish and there was not a superfluous word in the whole book. It starts out a few weeks before Christmas when business coach Alex is called to an emergency job to save the fortunes of a Scottish whisky distillery on the island of Islay. This puts Alex outside of her urban comfort zone, but this is only the start of her troubles. The CEO of the company does not want her there, making her job practically impossible, and internal tensions within the business add further complications. Alex is also tussling with personal issues of her own, and throw in an unprofessional attraction between Alex and her client and you have the basis of a book it is impossible to put down. On top of this, we have a thread of island history running through the book linking current events to the true story of the sinking of a US naval troopship off the coast of Islay during World War 2 which was a fascinating dimension and made me eager to read more about it outside of the novel.

There are so many reasons I loved this book. The setting was sublime – a remote Scottish island in the depths of winter – and the author brings it to life beautifully. The landscape, the history, the sense of community, the way the residents’ lives are inextricably linked with the success of the local industry and the responsibility that places on the shoulders of the management in a way it doesn’t in less close-knit communities. Karen Swan brings this vividly to life, I felt like I was there and could feel the warmth, and simultaneously the claustrophobia, of the situation. It was also a fabulous contrast to the background of the main character and how being catapulted into this alien environment helps to throw her off kilter and is partially responsible for the way events unfold.

The amount of detail that Karen goes in to regarding the setting, the history, the process of whisky distillery. Every aspect of the novel is perfect and it must have taken her months to research it all so carefully and precisely. At the same time, every bit of it she uses is essential to the story and she isn’t shoehorning anything in for the sake of it. This can be a difficult line to walk but she does it wonderfully.

The characters are a delightful array, from her local elderly hosts to the Lochlan’s friends and the staff and workers at the distillery. Alex and Lochlan were both complicated, spiky characters that made them interesting but not so awkward that you can’t warm to them. I cared enough about them to be wishing for a happy ending without being sure they were going to get it, you can’t really ask for more in a romance novel. At one point I started to get a little annoyed at the way the main character was acting, thinking she was taking her stance in refusing to get involved with Lochlan beyond what I thought was realistic but, a little further on, it became clear that I had misjudged the situation and there were more factors in play than had been revealed to that point and, when they came to light, her behaviour made perfect sense. It was cleverly done.

If I had a small niggle, it was that at the beginning I was a little confused about where Alex was based and thought she was American but this was the smallest of small quibbles and it may read differently if I went over it again. It did not detract one iota from my enjoyment of the book.

This is a gorgeous story, beautifully written, absorbing, enchanting, beautiful in scope and detail. I can’t wait to go through Karen Swan’s back catalogue.

The Christmas Secret is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and a puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her books include Christmas at Tiffany’s,Summer at Tiffany’s, The Perfect Present, Christmas in the Snow, Christmas on Primrose Hill and The Paris Secret.

The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club by Maeve Binchy #bookreview @penguinrandom


“The most important thing to realize is that everyone is capable of telling a story.” –Maeve Binchy
If you scribble story ideas on the backs of receipts…
If you file away bits of overheard conversation from the coffee shop…
If you’ve already chosen the perfect pen name…
Well, then the journey has begun!
In this warm and inspiring guide, beloved author Maeve Binchy shares her unique insight to how a best selling author writes: from finding a subject and creating good writing habits to sustaining progress and seeking a publisher.
Whether you want to write stories or plays, humor or mysteries, Binchy prescribes advice for every step with her signature humor and generous spirit. She has called upon other writers, editors, and publishers to add their voices to this treasury of assistance for budding writers and a refreshing dose of encouragement for longtime scribes. And once you are ready, an appendix offers of writing awards and competitions and a selection of websites and literary journals.

I picked up this book as part of my quest to focus on my writing this year and get that novel completed and off to the RNA for critique. Maeve Binchy is one of my favourite authors, she really knows how to write honestly about genuine people and ordinary lives in an interesting way that pinpoints the fears, desires, and emotions that drive our behaviour. If I could write 20% as well as she did, I would be completely satisfied.

This book is a collection of letters written by Maeve to the reader, each on a different aspect of the writing process, together with some pieces of advice from other contributing writers such as Marian Keyes. The book came about based on a writing course that Maeve delivered in person to aspiring writers in Dublin.

I have mixed feelings about this book. In some ways, it is really interesting to hear Maeve’s take on the writing process and she speaks with the same warmth and friendliness that you see in her novels. She is encouraging and evidently believes that if she can have the success she has had, anyone can do it. There are some really useful nuggets of advice in the book about writing, and about the nuts and bolts of the publishing process in general.

On the negative side, the book is very short and, therefore, sparse in detail. It also tries to cover a lot of topics within its covers, including writing plays, comedy, for the radio, for children and I think it tries to cram too much diverse information into too few pages, so there is little detail on any topic.

Overall, it is a interesting little introduction to writing, particularly for fans of Maeve Binchy and her writing style and voice and who miss her now she is gone. It is not an in-depth guide to writing and anyone who wants a detailed creative writing book should look elsewhere.

You can buy a copy of the book here.

About the Author

Maeve Binchy was born in County Dublin and educated at the Holy Child convent in Killiney and at University College, Dublin. After a spell as a teacher she joined The Irish Times. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982, and she went on to write more than 20 books, all of them bestsellers. Several have been adapted for film and television, most notably Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for 35 years, and died in 2012 at the age of 72.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson #bookreview


The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with the ‘damnable young man’ Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil. The other stories in this volume also testify to Stevenson’s inventiveness within the Gothic tradition.

This was another short story I chose to quick start my Goodreads Challenge for 2018, and also to start my personal challenge to read at least one classic novel a month throughout 2018 that I have never read before. I’m not counting this as January’s effort, as it is not a full length novel, but it was a good warm up.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of those stories that we all know so well, its premise has become so firmly embedded in the lexicon of how we describe people with a split personality, that we feel like we must have read it at some dim and distant point but actually many of us have probably never sat down and actually read the original text. This was certainly the case for me.

The story starts out with the main narrator, a lawyer named Mr. Utterson, taking a walk with a friend who tells him a horrible tale about an assault on a young girl by a sinister figure named Mr Hyde who pays off the girl’s family with money seemingly provided by a respectable acquaintance of theirs named Dr. Jekyll. Later, Utterson is instructed by Dr. Jekyll to rewrite his will, leaving all of his possessions to Mr. Hyde. Utterson takes it upon himself to find out what the connection is between the upstanding Dr. Jekyll and the abominable Mr. Hyde and, by the end of the story, the horrible truth is revealed.

This story is a riveting read on so many levels. Just as a straight-forward horror story it is  gripping in its vivid and terrible descriptions, and how the story moves forward as told through the eyes of the bewildered lawyer Mr. Utterson who cannot understand why the seemingly noble Dr. Jekyll is associating himself with the terrible Mr. Hyde. It also works well as a mystery, in which the clues are unveiled slowly, piece by piece, and this remains true even though we all know the outcome of the tale, which is demonstrative of how cleverly it is written. I let my bathwater go cold as I devoured this story in one sitting. The writing is creepy and atmospheric, bringing to life the horror of the monster stalking the fog-bound streets of Victorian London.

Finally, I think the story is fascinating in pondering exactly what it is the Stevenson is trying to say about human nature in this story and, I have read numerous different theories on what this tale is an allegory of. Is it a religious warning against playing God and straying from the path of virtue and righteousness? Is it a veiled reference to the perils of homosexuality in the Victorian era? Is it a sexual morality tale? Are we to draw the conclusion that Stevenson believed that all men are, at heart, primitive beasts whose base instincts are only suppressed by a thin veneer of civilisation that is just waiting to be scraped aside to let our true natures run amok? Everyone reading the story is going to take something different from it and Stevenson himself said “Everything is true, only the opposite is true too; you must believe both equally or be damned.” It seems that he did not want his story boiled down to a simple, neat explanation. Maybe the mark of a good storyteller is to allow the reader enough room to take from his tale what he will, and it certainly makes for a much more entertaining debate.

You may think you know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but I highly recommend that you read the original text for yourself and see if what you THINK you know, is really the essence of the tale for you. you won’t be disappointed. You can purchase a copy here.

About the Author

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was born in Edinburgh, the son of a prosperous civil engineer. Although he began his career as an essayist and travel writer, the success of Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886) established his reputation as a writer of tales of action and adventure. Stevenson’s Calvinist upbringing lent him a preoccupation with predestination and a fascination with the presence of evil, themes he explored in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), and The Master of Ballantrae (1893).

The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe #bookreview


Horror, madness, violence and the dark forces hidden in humanity abound in this tale of the bloody, brutal and baffling murder of a mother and daughter in Paris.

I ended last year by reading a series of short stories in order to hit my Goodreads goal of 100 books and I really enjoyed the experience. It made me pick up stories that I would never otherwise have read such as The Walk Up Nameless Ridge and which have taught me things I would never have known, such as the loss of Texas Tower 4 in Safety Tips for Living Alone which is a fascinating and moving story that I would highly recommend to everyone. One of the stories I read was Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, which i enjoyed, so I decided to kick off my Goodreads Challenge for 2018 in the same way with The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Well, this is a very different book to The Fall of the House of Usher. It starts off oddly, with  a discourse on the virtues of an analytical mind. The language is dense and hard to navigate and I have to say that I did not enjoy the first few pages of the story at all but I was determined to persevere (I’m stubborn like that!)

We are then introduced to the main character, Auguste Dupin, and the way his brain works – deducing what his companion is thinking from a few small, obscure clues which I felt was so far-fetched as to almost ludicrous.

The gentleman are then drawn to a case in the Paris paper involving two gruesome, violent and seemingly unsolvable murders in the Rue Morgue which lead them to trying to solve a classic ‘locked room’ mystery. They do eventually reach a conclusion, which is a crazy ending in itself, and all is neatly tied up hopefully to the reader’s satisfaction.

This story requires a lot of effort to read, the resolution asks for a huge suspension of disbelief and I cannot say that it was one of the best stories I have read or that I would rush to read it again. However, this story is hailed is one of the earliest detective stories, and is a clear fore-runner to Sherlock Holmes and so is a must-read for anyone who enjoys that genre and wants to read the gamut of stories. I also would not let it put you off reading any more of Poe’s work. I thoroughly enjoyed The Fall of the House of Usher and will definitely be exploring more of his work, as it is interesting and very different to my usual choices.

A copy of The Murders in the Rue Morgue can be purchased here.

About the Author

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) was born in Boston and orphaned at an early age. Taken in by a couple from Richmond, Virginia, he spent a semester at the University of Virginia but could not afford to stay longer. After joining the Army and matriculating as a cadet, he started his literary career with the anonymous publication of Tamerlane and Other Poems, before working as a literary critic. His life was dotted with scandals, such as purposefully getting himself court-martialled to ensure dismissal from the Army, being discharged from his job at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond after being found drunk by his boss, and secretly marrying his thirteen-year-old cousin Virginia (listed twenty-one on the marriage certificate). His work took him to both New York City and Baltimore, where he died at the age of forty, two years after Virginia.

Big Skye Littleton by Elisa Lorello #bookreview (@elisalorello) @AmazonPub


Skye Littleton said goodbye to her job, her best friend, and her home in Rhode Island to start over in Billings, Montana, with Vance Sandler, a gorgeous guy she met online. On her cross-country flight, Skye shares her happy story with her seatmate, Harvey Wright, a Billings resident who knows Vance—and his reputation for heartbreak. Harvey’s infuriating advice to Skye? Go home.

When Skye arrives, she discovers that Vance has changed his mind and wants nothing to do with her. Despite the setback, Skye is determined to rebuild her life and begin a new chapter in Montana’s largest city, which sometimes feels like a small town. With Harvey’s help, Skye finds a job—and a passion for organizing closets and clearing out clutter. But as she grows closer to Harvey, she finds herself homesick for her former life. Could Harvey be her future, or is she his chance at revenge? Can Skye finally trust her own heart enough to let it show her the way home?

This was my first read of the year for the 2018 Reading Challenge of my online book club,   The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The first challenge was to read a book with food on the cover.

I’m not sure why I picked up this book originally, I think I must have read a review somewhere, but it has been sat on my TBR for a while (as have hundreds of other books, that is no indication of how much I wanted to read it. There are just too many appealing books out there and too few hours in a day!). The setting of Montana was the main draw for this book originally – the USA is my favourite place to travel and Montana is a state that I long to visit – but once I dove in, I was charmed by the whole story, not just the setting.

Refreshingly, the main character in this book is not some fresh-faced, lithe twenty-something, but a real-life, realistically-shaped, flawed but likeable woman in her mid-thirties to whom I could totally relate. At the beginning of the book, Skye Littleton is having a personal crisis which leads her throwing caution to the winds and moving across the country to a strange state where she knows no one, for a man she met on the internet. Predictably, it all goes horribly wrong and Skye has to face up to crawling home with her tail between her legs to the life with which she had become disillusioned or start again from scratch.

I was concerned that I wouldn’t buy in to anyone being so reckless, but Elisa writes Skye’s story so emotively and with such understanding that I totally bought in to why she would do something so foolhardy, and why she then can’t bring herself to go back. I was rooting for Skye from the beginning, wishing her the best and feeling every setback and every triumph with her throughout the book. The story is beautifully put together in this regard.

The location of Billings, Montana was fabulously brought to life in the book, as I’d hoped, and it has only increased my desire to visit this state. The romantic hero of the story is also realistically and sympathetically drawn, and it seems to be the perfect match for Skye, although the path of true love never did run smooth as we all know and, cleverly, I really was not sure right until the end whether Skye would get a happy ending, or even what I wanted that happy ending to be. Ultimately, I found myself wanting what was best for Skye, whether or not that was as part of a couple or single, and I could not decide what that was going to be until Skye herself realised what she wanted.

Ultimately, this is a story about a woman who has lost her sense of self and is trying to find it again, but not in a spiritual ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ way. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, I loved that book, but this isn’t the same). It is the story of someone who doesn’t love or respect herself very much and who is on a journey to understand that, until she learns to do that, she will never find a man who can love or respect her either.

This book is a cut above the standard romantic fiction. It is believable, thoughtful, emotive and warm and I totally loved it. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read an honest story about a real woman and real love.

Big Skye Littleton is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Elisa Lorello is a Long Island native, the youngest of seven children. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and taught rhetoric and writing at the college level for more than ten years. In 2012, she became a full-time novelist.

Elisa is the author of seven novels, including the bestselling Faking It, and one memoir. She has been featured in the Charlotte Observer and, more recently, Last Best News and was a guest speaker at the Triangle Association of Freelancers 2012 and 2014 Write Now! conferences. In May 2016, she presented a lesson for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association spring workshop. She continues to speak and write about her publishing experience and teach the craft of writing and revision.

Elisa enjoys reading, walking, hanging out in coffee shops, Nutella, and all things Duran Duran. She plays guitar badly and occasionally bakes. She moved to Montana in 2016 and is newly married.

SPECIAL POST: Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour (@JenLGilmour) FREE ON KINDLE 8-12 JANUARY 2018

IsolationJunction Cover

Today I am sharing a very special blog post for Jennifer Gilmour, whose debut novel Isolation Junction is currently available to download for free on Amazon Kindle for the next two days. Here is Jennifer, in her own words, to tell you why she is currently giving away her book.

Jennifer Gilmour

“My name is Jennifer Gilmour and I am a survivor of domestic abuse, I have published two books both with a focus on raising awareness about domestic abuse at their core. Whilst both aim to raise this awareness one is written as a work of fiction whilst the other is a compilation of survivor stories and therefore non-fiction. Both work in different ways to educate and raise awareness of this insidious and unacceptable behaviour.

Over Christmas, incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police rise. Assault and domestic murders increase 25% during the festive period with a third of them been on Christmas Day itself. Bombarded with images of the perfect nuclear family gathered around the gold baubles of a Christmas tree, it can be easy to forget that Christmas is a time of coercion, punishment and violence for many women* and men.

Now I know it isn’t Christmas anymore but January can be just as bad because all those credit card bills come in alongside your usual direct debits. There is even a day in January called Blue Monday and this year its on the 15th. The date is generally reported as falling on the third Monday in January, but also on the second or fourth Monday, or the Monday of the last full week of January. The formula uses many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action. Can you imagine this formula and applying it to an abusive relationship?

For 5 days my debut novel Isolation Junction is going to be FREE on Amazon Kindle, this is the first time ever to happen. It’s the week before Blue Monday, I wonder if those reading will be inspired to take action?

I ask you all to share the link and break the silence surrounding domestic abuse.

UK link:
US link:″

My reason for supporting Jennifer in her giveaway is to help raise awareness of domestic abuse that is still a hidden and relatively taboo issue in our society. Having never been affected myself, I found reading Jennifer’s book both eye-opening and horrifying and it made me realise that I had never considered whether anyone I know might be affected and resolved to be more alert to potential warning signs that might indicate someone needs help. I would be very grateful if you could share this post and news of Jennifer’s giveaway amongst your friends, relatives, acquaintances and followers. If this helps just one person break from the cycle of abuse, it will have been worth all of our efforts.

Book Synopsis:

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?

Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

About the author:

Born in the north-east, Jennifer is a young, married mum with three children. In addition to being an author, she is an entrepreneur, running a family business from her home-base. Her blog posts have a large readership of other young mums in business.

From an early age, Jennifer has had a passion for writing and started gathering ideas and plot lines from her teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, she has drawn on her personal experiences to write her first novel Isolation Junction. It details the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.

Since the publication of her debut novel, Jennifer has continued to be an advocate for those in abusive relationships through her blog posts, radio interviews and Twitter feed. Jennifer also gained a qualification in facilitating a recover programme for those who have been in abusive relationships.

Jennifer continues to publicly support those who are isolated and struggle to have a voice. Jennifer hopes that Clipped Wings give’s a voice to survivor’s experiences and raise’s awareness further of the types of unacceptable behaviour which fall into the category of domestic abuse.


If you, or anyone you know may be affected by the issues discussed here and in Jennifer’s book, please contact the UK 24-hour free-phone National Domestic Violence helpline, which is 0808 2000 247. There is also a support page on Jennifer’s website:

2018 – The Year of Writing (#amwriting)


‘And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.’
– William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

So, 2017 is over and it was a year of mixed results as far as my reading challenges went. I managed to read 101 books to beat my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 100 books last year, which was pleasing. However, as far as my self-imposed ban on book-buying went, I had slightly less success.

I was rock solid until the end of May, which was a huge achievement. However, in June I allowed myself a little loophole when I bid on some signed books in the Authors for Grenfell auction. Turns out this was a slippery slope. I managed to resist through July and August but then, in September, I went to the launch of Cathy Bramley’s new book and decided it would be rude not to buy a copy for signing, and that was that. The floodgates opened and I caved in and bought loads of books in the last third of the year, so my TBR is bigger than ever!

Still, I lasted longer than I, or anyone else who knows me, could have predicted. I also launched my blog and as a result got to meet and interact with lots of great new people, so it was a worthwhile experiment but one I won’t be repeating. I have a book-buying addiction and I have resigned myself to it gladly- after all, there are more harmful vices.

Despite my failure in last year’s challenge, I am keeping my blog alive and have set myself some new challenges for 2018. I have set my Goodreads Reading Challenge 2018 goal at 105 books, please link up with me using the button on the right to follow my progress. I have also joined a fabulous Facebook Book Club called The Fiction Cafe Book Club and will be taking part in their Reading Challenge for 2018, which is bi-weekly. First up we have to read a book with food on the cover so my first read for that will be Big Skye Littleton by Elisa Lorello. I will also be reading at least one of their monthly book choices, starting with The Surrogate by Louise Jensen, a fellow group member.

I have also set myself the individual challenge of reading one classic novel per month that I have never read before. I am going to try and tie this in with my other challenges if possible. The title for January is Howard’s End by E.M. Forster. I am not sure how I have managed to overlook this all these years, especially as I adore A Room with a View, so I am looking forward to reading it.

I am going to endeavour to be much better about reviewing all my reads this year, and be more active on my blog, so watch out for the reviews of these coming up. This is all part of my main resolution for the year, which is to prioritise my writing. The blog is a small part of this, but the bigger part is finishing the novel I have been promising myself that I will write for years.

On turning 45 last year, I realised it was now or never for my writing so I have taken certain steps towards making it happen. I started my novel for NaNoWriMo in November and, as part of that I was lucky enough to spend five days on a writing retreat with the author Veronica Henry. Not only did I get a lot of writing done, I got to pick the brains of one of my favourite authors, and made a great new friend in the process, so that was an amazing experience.

I did not reach 50,000 words in November but I do have the first third of my novel done and, in an effort to push my writing on, I applied for and managed to gain a place on the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme for this year. For those of you who haven’t heard of this great programme, you can find some information here. As a member of the New Writers’ Scheme, no only will I be able to attend the many fabulous events they hold throughout the year and get to meet other (proper) authors, agents and publishers, but I will also get an expert critique of my manuscript by a published author, in an attempt to get it into shape for publication. So, I now have a deadline. I need to have a full manuscript in the best shape possible ready to submit by 31 August at the latest. If that doesn’t motivate me, nothing will.

As well as the above, I will be attending an Arvon writing retreat in Shropshire courtesy of my generous and supportive partner, The Irishman. I have also joined a wonderful writers’ group online, who are full of amazing support, encouragement and advice. I feel like, in them, I have finally found my ‘tribe’ that I am always hearing so much about so, if I don’t get a novel written this year, it will be no one’s fault but my own. Whether or not it gets published will be a story for another time, but I am determined to finish the book at the very least.

So, a busy exciting year ahead and I look forward to sharing my progress with you all. What are your goals for 2018? I’d love to know.