The Case by Leopold Borstinski #BookReview #BlogTour (@borstinski) @damppebbles #damppebblestours #TheCase

Case - High Res

One Private Eye. One Case. One sackful of trouble.

When Jake agrees to take a package across America, he doesn’t know if he’ll live to tell the tale. If the CIA, the Feds and the British Secret Service don’t get him then the mob will.

How’s a cowardly private dick going to survive in these bloody times?

Delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour today for The Case, a noir thriller by Leopold Borstinski. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles tours for inviting me on to the tours and to the author for my e-copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was a really different read for me in more ways than one and, for that reason alone, I really enjoyed it. My favourite thing about taking part in blog tours is getting pushed out of my comfort zone and picking up books that I would not normally read. Expanding our reading horizons is a great thing, I learn things I would never have known before, become exposed to different styles of writing, different genres and different life experiences. All of this helps with my own writing, and also my own experience and empathy in life. A lot to gain from one little book, hey? This is the secret that avid and diverse readers know and want to share with the rest of the world!

Anyway, enough waxing lyrical about the advantages of reading widely and back to the book in hand. This is a an old school pulp fiction-style novel of a kind I would never normally pick up under my own volition. It’s protagonist is a low-level gumshoe with dubious morals, grifting his way through life doing PI work for suspicious spouses and local hoodlums, until he gets entangled with the Mob and becomes embroiled in events above his usual pay grade which offer him greater rewards and greater dangers than he usually experiences.

The way the book is structured is quite unusual, because it involves the biggest case of the MC’s career, recovering a missing case for a Mafia boss (The Case of the title, but also a play on words because it is his biggest case. Clever.) But, whilst we are following this investigation, the PI is also reminicising about previous cases that have shaped him and his business over the years, so the book jumps around between different time periods, different cities and different investigations. This is a really interesting and informative way of informing us about the character and providing a lot of interesting stories. In fact, I felt like this actually read like a collection of short stories, rather than a contiguous novel, which I quite liked but I guess may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, the fact that it jumps around, and not always in a very obvious way, requires a higher level of concentration than may otherwise be needed for this type of book and it did get confusing a couple of times, particularly when I was reading late at night.

The story itself is gritty and does not pull any punches. This book is dark, containing a lot of violent scenes, graphic descriptions and gratuitous sex. Anyone who is not a fan of any of these things in books will not enjoy this because it runs unapologeticically throughout. I had no problem with it as I’m not squeamish and it felt very true to the story and the character and the style of novel being written, but it certainly will not be for everyone. The characters in this book are not pleasant people, they do very unpleasant things to one another and feel no remorse. This is even true of the main character, although he does seem to have a moral line which he will not cross and, because we get an insight into his motivations and inner thoughts, the reader does end up having some sympathy and affection for him, despite his many failings. I think it is a cleverly written book.

This was a really interesting and diverting read for me which stretched my mind and my reading experiences out of my normal safe zone. Has it converted me to a huge fan of dark pulp fiction? Probably not, it will still not be my genre of choice. However, if you do like this style of book, I think you will get a lot from this interesting new take on it and the writing is great. Have a look and see what you think.

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

To follow the rest of the blogs coming up on the tour, please check out the poster below:

The Case Blog Tour

About the Author

Leopold Borstinski

Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Connect with Leopold:


Facebook: Leo Borstinski

Twitter: @borstinski

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Friday Night Drinks with…. Rosie Travers @RosieTravers @crookedcatbooks @RNATweets #FridayNightDrinks


I am delighted to welcome to Friday Night Drinks tonight, fellow RNA member and author….Rosie Travers.


Hi Rosie. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

A glass of white wine. A fresh, crisp Sauvignon Blanc is my favourite tipple.

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?

Anywhere beside water.  I grew up on the coast and I tend to get a bit panicky if I’m away from the water for too long. When I was writing my second novel, Your Secret’s Safe With Me, I was lucky enough to have a very quaint old waterside pub within walking distance of my house – I’ll admit the location did provide a lot of inspiration for the story.  


Sounds lovely. I also find water, particularly the sea, inspirational. 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 it would have to be William Shakespeare – although I imagine he might be a bit full of himself – would we get a word in edgeways? And JK Rowling – for writing tips!

That would be an interesting evening. I’d love it if Shakespeare actually was like David Mitchell in Upstart Crow! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am currently working on a new romantic comedy. I’m a complete pantser, so at the moment it’s very organic and fluid as the characters develop.  Originally a search for a missing family heirloom was at the crux of the story, but now another subplot has developed which might take precedence. I write escapism – the world is grim enough without me adding to it – although I do like my stories  to have deeper undercurrents and unpredictable twists and turns. Ultimately, I want my readers to feel uplifted and entertained by my books, even if they have to shed a tear or hold their breath along the way.

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

Obviously the publication of my first novel, The Theatre of Dreams, was my big ‘moment’. That book was so close to my heart – I actually turned down a publishing contract for the first book I’d written because I didn’t want to have to dilute the grittier aspects of The Theatre of Dreams to fit into a required series. I took a huge leap of faith and put the first book to one side to concentrate on finding a publisher who would let me keep the Theatre of Dreams intact – which I did with Crooked Cat. Having said that, it has been a challenge promoting books which don’t fit into a specific genre! Your Secret’s Safe With Me is more of a traditional romantic suspense, but it still has its quirkier moments. Crooked Cat are a small indie publishing house and marketing has been very much to up to me. I think it would be fair to say writing is what I do best, and social media/self-promotion what I do worse! 


That was a brave thing to do, to stay true to your book. 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!

I would love one of my books to suddenly take off and subsequently be picked up by one of the big publishing houses. Obviously there would be a film, or a TV series – although personally I think the Theatre of Dreams would make a great stage musical – it’s got all the aspects, OTT characters, tragedy, drama, dance, comedy and of course, music! I live in hope.

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

My current WIP, despite being in a somewhat chaotic state is coming along nicely. It’s a dual time-line which is something I’ve never done before but I wanted to set myself a challenge. It’s had to take a bit of a backseat while I move house but once I’ve unpacked all my boxes I’m looking forward to picking it up again – my characters keep nagging me to get back to the keyboard!

Sounds exciting! 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?

I am so lucky to have had opportunities to travel and also to live abroad. I spent three years in California and three living in the Netherlands due to my husband’s job.  The Netherlands was great – I gave up my car and rode my bike everywhere – I’ve never been so fit. Definitely one of my favourite places! I don’t have a bucket list as such, I’m not a great one for setting goals and I have spent an awful lot of time in airport lounges in recent years. Now I’d actually like to see more of the UK. I’ve been all the way to  the Middle East, China, Australia and New Zealand but I’m ashamed to say as an English southerner, I’ve rarely ventured north of Watford. 

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Well, staycations are very in these days! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Actually a lot of people – friends and former work colleagues – were very surprised when they’d heard I’d written a book! Seriously, I’m quite a creative person and very much into re-cycling and up-cycling. I’ve turned my hand to a few furniture projects and would like to do more, I just need a bigger workspace, or a barn.

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’?

I always recommend Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon because it is my favourite book of all time, but a close second is Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald. Everyone raves about The Great Gatsby but I think Tender is the Night has much more depth to it and it often gets overlooked. 


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?

I always hope a large glass of water before I go to bed will do the trick, but failing that fresh air is the answer. A long walk by the sea usually blows the cobwebs away.

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

A perfect weekend would be catching up with family – my husband and two daughters.  Family time is precious as we have spent time living overseas so having chances to be together is actually quite rare. I am super excited my oldest daughter is moving back to the UK from Hungary this summer and for the first time in nearly 10 years we will all be living in the same country. I’d probably be in my garden, as gardening is my second love after writing – and I find it very therapeutic! Inspiration for writers block can often occur while tugging up the root of big weed!

Well, you are welcome to come round and dig around in my garden any time, I can provide plenty of big weeds to inspire you as I hate gardening! Rosie, thank you for joining me on the blog tonight, it has been a real pleasure.

Rosie’s new novel, Your Secret’s Safe With Me is out now, and you can buy a copy here.

Your Secrets Safe With Me Cover 1

Romantic Novelist Pearl makes a surprise announcement and sends daughter Becca’s organised life reeling into chaos. The pair quit their London home and move to a tight-knit waterside community on the south coast. As Pearl embraces her new life amongst local sailing fraternity, Becca receives a grim warning that if she wants to keep her family safe, she should keep them away. But why should Becca trust the man who has betrayed her before, the man who broke her heart, the man who thinks he knows all her secrets?

Rosie Travers grew up in Southampton and began scribbling stories at a very early age. After juggling a career in local government with raising her family, she moved to Southern California with her husband in 2009. She began a blog about her life as an ex-pat wife which re-kindled a teenage desire to become a writer. Her first novel The Theatre of Dreams was published by Crooked Cat Books in August 2018 and her second Your Secret’s Safe With Me in February 2019.   Rosie takes inspiration from her local surroundings for her writing and both books are set in fictional locations along the south coast. She is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association and endeavours to entertain her readers with quirky stories populated by colourful characters, intrigue, romance and good dose of humour. You can connect with Rosie via her website, on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Next week I will be joined on the blog for Friday Night Drinks by author, Jane Cable.


The Gingerbread Houses by Benedict J Jones #BookReview (@benedictjjones) @crimewavepress #thriller #crime #london #charliebars #TheGingerbreadHouses


A dark secret lies at the heart of the British government; a secret so appalling that they will kill to protect it.

Charlie Bars is back in London and has taken on a missing persons case. Easy money –or so he thinks. The man he is looking for is inextricably linked to the evil perpetrated in the Gingerbread Houses and as Charlie’s search progresses, he finds himself drawn into the seedy underbelly of the capital; a world of abuse, exploitation and deviancy that threatens to destroy his soul.

Others are looking for the missing man too and hunter soon becomes hunted as Charlie finds himself the target of an insane torturer haunted by the ghosts of his military past.

As he descends into the darkest depths of human depravity, Charlie desperately tries to stay out of prison, on the right side of his morality and, most importantly, alive as he seeks to uncover the buried secrets of the Gingerbread Houses.

Something a bit grittier on the blog today with a review of The Gingerbread Houses, the latest Charlie Bars thriller from Benedict J JonesMy thanks go to Henry Roi at Crime Wave Press for inviting me to review the book and for my digital copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is the third Charlie Bars thriller, but the first I have read, and my first book by this author. Having had a nosey through his back catalogue, I can see a diverse array of titles and genres and quite a few that I would be interested in reading once I have my teetering TBR cut down to a more manageable level. The fact that I had not read the previous two books featuring the main character did not detract from my enjoyment or understanding of this novel at all, it works perfectly well as a standalone book, although I would very much like to go back and read the previous books to gain some more insight into Charlie’s back story and how his relationship with Ellie came about.

This is very much a dark noir novel with an extremely disturbing premise at the heart of the story, and one that will not be unfamiliar to those of us who have been paying attention to the news over the last decade. The fact that the story covered in this book is not too far distant from real life events made it even more upsetting as far as I was concerned and, if you are not a fan of your crime on the darker side, this book will not be for you. That being said, my tastes err on the safer side of twisted and there are lines that I am not comfortable with books crossing and this novel stayed on the acceptable side of those, so it is not damningly dark as far as I am concerned. Given the subject matter, I was glad that the author did not go into very graphic detail on some of the crimes committed, and some things were suggested rather than explicitly described. I think the author walked the line between dark and too dark perfectly and I was comfortable reading to the end, although not too comfortable, it was definitely disturbing.

The book revolves around private eye, Charlie Constantinou, a man who has had been on the wrong side of the law more than once, now earning a living as a gumshoe, but one with a conscience of sorts. It may not be honour as we would recognise it, but there are crimes that are even too low for him to condone and he finds himself mixed up in a scandal that goes right to the top of power in the country and is almost too much for him to handle. I found him to be a compelling and fascinating character, a tough guy with a softer side and a particular sense of right and wrong, that made him likeable despite his shady side. It is quite hard to write a convincing anti-hero, but the author here manages it magnificently and the reader finds themselves firmly of the side of a man with dubious  morals, mainly because he is dealing with people even more deplorable than he is.

And there are certainly plenty of those in the book, ranging from the perverted and corrupt to the mentally unstable. This is a book that mines a very seedy seam of the London underworld for its inspiration and reflects that dark crucible perfectly. There is a lot of graphic violence and unpleasantness in this book, it is not a happy crime caper like the book featured in my last review, but if you like your thrillers on the noir side, you will really enjoy this. The plot twists and turns with cross and double cross, red herrings, unexpected twists and shock events from chapter to chapter and will keep the reader hooked from page to page. I was glued to it and read it in just under 24 hours, definitely a book with plenty of plot propulsion.

Aside from the crime aspect, I really enjoyed the relationships between Charlie and Mazza, which felt very authentic and well-written, and between Charlie and Ellie, which showed a different side to him as a character. The best bit for me though was the reflection in the writing of the dark side of London. One that, as someone who only visits as a tourist, I don’t really get to see. It felt grimy and sordid and completely convincing. One of the main reasons I read is to immerse myself in places and experiences that I will never have in my day to day life, and this book really delivered on that score. I highly recommend it for lovers of dark noir crime fiction.

The Gingerbread Houses is out now in ebook format and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author


Benedict J Jones is an author of crime, horror and western fiction from south east London. His work has been published in various anthologies and magazines. Since 2008, he has published almost thirty short stories.

Connect with Benedict:


Twitter: @benedictjjones

Last Victim of the Monsoon Express by Vaseem Khan #BookReview #novella (@VaseemKhanUK) @MulhollandUK #BabyGaneshAgency #LastVictimOfTheMonsoonExpress


In a symbolic journey of reconciliation, the Monsoon Express is travelling between hostile neighbours India and Pakistan. The passenger list includes politicians, celebrities, former Mumbai policeman Inspector Chopra and his baby elephant ward Ganesha.

Then a senior diplomat is found murdered in his cabin. Accusations fly, tensions rise, and an international incident seems certain. But is the murder political – or personal?

Tasked to investigate, Chopra has just hours before the train reaches its destination and the news goes public. He must unmask the killer quickly if he’s to stop the last journey of the Monsoon Express going entirely off the rails…

If, like me, you are a huge fan of Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh Agency detective series and you are waiting impatiently for the next book in the series to be released, you can damp your impatience in the meantime by reading this little novella featuring Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick, Ganesha, as they solve a murder mystery on the Monsoon Express.

That’s right, in this book Chopra becomes India’s answer to Hercule Poirot as he is embroiled in a mystery on a diplomatic train journey between India and Pakistan and the peace and prosperity of both countries may rest on the outcome of his investigation, so no pressure there!

This book contains all the usual charm and fun you will have come to expect from the Inspector Chopra books and Ganesha has a starring role in the investigation which makes me happy as the little elephant is my favourite character in the series. It only took me a couple of hours to read, so perfect for a rainy afternoon, and was just enough to tide me over while I wait for the next full-length book. I missed Poppy and Rangwalla, as there was not really enough room in the novella format for them to have a role, but I know they will feature in the next book and I enjoyed this for the fun story it was.

With a nod to ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ fans of Agatha Christie will get a kick of reading this story and spotting the similarities whilst enjoying the Indian twist that adds a delightful colour and flavour to the story. The story is very quick, so not too much room for a lot of character development or lengthy plot twists but the author makes the most of the small word count and includes enough to keep the reader interested throughout. There is nothing not to like about this book, I was thoroughly entertained and would highly recommend. If you haven’t read any of the Inspector Chopra mysteries before, this book will give you a delicious taste, and I’m sure you will find it very more-ish.

Last Victim of the Monsoon Express is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here. The next full length novel in the Baby Ganesh Agency series, A Bad Day at the Vulture Club, is out on 8 August and you can pre-order it here.

About the Author


Vaseem Khan first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when he arrived in India to work as a management consultant. It was the most unusual thing he had ever encountered and served as the inspiration behind his series of crime novels.

He returned to the UK in 2006 and now works at University College London for the Department of Security and Crime Science where he is astonished on a daily basis by the way modern science is being employed to tackle crime. Elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order.

Connect with Vaseem:


Facebook: Vaseem Khan

Twitter: @VaseemKhanUK

The Hotel Where We Met by Belinda Jones #BookReview (@belindatravels) @NottingHillPR @delcoronado #TheHotelWhereWeMet #california #travel

The Hotel Where We Met

There’s a very particular reason why Chloe Sinclair has not met her Mr Right – he doesn’t exist. And he doesn’t exist because he was never born. And the reason he was never born is because the right couples in history did not get together. It now falls to Chloe to travel back in time to matchmake like her love-life depended on it…

Each of Chloe’s trips revolves around the iconic Hotel Del Coronado – part historic landmark, part Californian fairytale. Here she experiences the Victorian era when the doors first opened, the Roaring Twenties, the Fifties during the filming of Some Like It Hot and the Eighties karaoke party of your dreams!

A very special friendship has guided her to this point but the adventures go way beyond Chloe’s expectations and she soon learns that, when it comes to love, it’s all in the timing…

About flipping time! It has been waaaaaaay too long since I had a new Belinda Jones book to read, so I was absolutely delighted when I found out that Belinda had a new book coming out and that she was looking for bloggers to give it some early reviews. I have been a huge fan since I read her first book (Divas Las Vegasstill one of my favourites) so I jumped at the chance to get my hands on an early copy of her latest book, The Hotel Where We Met. Huge thanks to Belinda for sending my an e-copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

For anyone who has never read a book by Belinda before (and why not, I ask?), she writes fabulous, fun romance stories set in exotic locations, and this is no exception. The story revolves around the famous Hotel Del Coronado set on Coranado Island, just off the coast of California near San Diego. Many of you will recognise it as the setting for the movie Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis, and this fact does not escape comment in the book, but you’ll have to read it to find out the significance. Disney lovers will also recognise the hotel as the inspiration for the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World.

The main reason that I love Belinda’s books so much is that she is a genius at bringing the settings of her book to life in the mind of her reader. She whisks you away from whatever mundane location you happen to be reading the book in and straight into the heart of the book, so they are perfect for armchair travellers such as myself. There is not a book of hers that I have read without wanting to jump on a plane and head off to its setting immediately. The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo has been on my bucket list for years after it featured in The California Club (my one chance to go was thwarted by heavy rain washing the road into the sea just before our Highway 1 trip was due to happen. One day I’ll try again!) and Quebec City jumped straight to the top of my dream destination list after I read Winter WonderlandNow I am busy Googling holiday packages to California so I can visit the Del. (I think I’ve got a good chance on this one as The Irishman is desperate to do a California trip.) This book sells the destination and lifestyle better than any glossy travel brochure or expensive commercial could do. I could picture the hotel clearly in my minds eye and was right there with Chloe. Now I want to be right there for real.

Aside from the exotic setting, this book has a great romance story and fantastic characters that you will absolutely fall head over heels for, but what sets this book apart is the time travel twist. I don’t want to say much and include any spoilers in my review, what I will say is that Belinda is a genius and has really pulled the plot of all plots out of the bag for this book. I absolutely loved it, and loved how it enabled her to twist lots of fun time periods and historical detail together. It is like she has taken everything I ever loved about my all-time favourite romantic fiction books and crammed them all in to this story. I feel like she wrote it just to make me happy, it warmed every cockle of my heart. I raced through it, but didn’t want it to end. It was summer reading perfection, especially for a week that has been damp and dreary here in Yorkshire. Escapism, in every sense of the word, at its best.

Belinda Jones fans will not be disappointed in this book, and those of you who haven’t read any of her books before will get a great introduction to what makes her books so special. As for me, I have a question and a suggestion for Belinda. Firstly, when is the paperback coming out, because I need it for my ‘Belinda Jones’ shelf? Secondly, please don’t leave it so long before you write another book, I have really missed you.

The Hotel Where We Met is out now in ebook format and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author


Belinda Jones is the bestselling author of 12 travelicious novels set in dream locations from Tahiti to Capri. Her latest novel – THE HOTEL WHERE WE MET – takes the travel theme a step further with time travel to the Victorian era, Roaring Twenties, Fifties and Eighties for the best music party – all set on a dreamy Californian beach!

If you like Red Velvet Cake, Whoopie Pie or pink cupcakes, join four generations of women on a cake-themed odyssey around New England with THE TRAVELLING TEA SHOP

If you’re a Dog-lover or USA-lover you’ll enjoy Belinda’s real life memoir BODIE ON THE ROAD – The Dogged Pursuit of Happiness. (Think EAT PRAY LOVE meet MARLEY & ME!) There’s also a matching website with lots of fun dog travel tips & guides:

Belinda’s first real-life road trip memoir – ON THE ROAD TO MR RIGHT: The Search For The American Dream Guy – made the Sunday Times Top 10 alongside her hero Bill Bryson.

The Romantic Novelists’ Association nominated her one snowy story – WINTER WONDERLAND – for Best Romantic Comedy of the Year. The action takes place during the magical Quebec Winter Carnival and features husky puppies (hence the pic!)

For everyone who wishes life could be one long holiday but has a short attention span, Belinda has teamed up with some of the hottest writers in women’s fiction to take you Around the World in 80+ Stories with the bumper SUNLOUNGER & SUNLOUNGER 2 short story anthologies! Visit to discover more about the talent involved, including Milly Johnson, Alexandra Potter, Ruth Saberton, Talli Roland and Victoria Fox.

Belinda’s dream home is the paradise island of Coronado (the setting for THE HOTEL WHERE WE MET) but she and Bodie are currently spending the summer in Devon, UK doing intensive Cream Tea research.

Connect with Belinda:


Facebook: Belinda Jones Travel Club

Twitter: @belindatravels

Instagram: @bodieontheroad

Pinterest: @belindatravels

Friday Night Drinks with…. Liam Livings @LiamLivings @RNATweets #FridayNightDrinks


So, it’s been a while since I’ve been well enough to indulge in Friday Night Drinks, but tonight I am back with a bang with one of my most fabulous virtual nights out so far. Tonight I’m joined by someone I’ve been lucky enough to meet IRL, and who has produced probably the best set of images I’ve ever had for one of these guests spots, author and fellow RNA member, the lovely…Liam Livings.

Liam Livings

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

A strawberry daiquiri please. In a large glass, with a glace cherry and a straw. 


Oooh, one of my favourites! But we should really be drinking these in Sloppy Joe’s down in Key West, preferably when Hemingway was still frequenting the joint. But hey, this is your night so,  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?

Heaven. A gay club over 4 floors, right next to Charing Cross station. They have cheesy pop music and live acts on Saturday night – GAY is the name of the night since the Astoria was demolished. Himself, my boyfriend, used to be a member of the VIP lounge there. Oh, if those walls could talk, the celebrities we used to see! 

I’m in! 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?

Goldie Hawn and Chris Hemsworth. Goldie Hawn because I’ve loved her so much since forever. Seeing her in interviews I reckon she’d be a great laugh. And Chris Hemsworth, because he’s fun, but also because Thor. 

Great choices, but we might have to arm wrestle for Chris! 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 taking a break from self-editing a big backlog of my WIPs. I had 8 of them and have been working my way through and submitting them since late 2018. I’ve got one left to do and I’m just giving myself a week or so off for a change. I’m just about to read a RNA New Writers’ Scheme manuscript and write an appraisal. I’ve been a reader for the NWS since 2014 and think it’s a wonderful scheme. It’s given me lots of suggestions for common pitfalls when teaching writing workshops with my partner in sarcasm and writing crime, Virginia Heath – together we’re Real People Write Books. 

I’ve not submitted my NWS manuscript this year yet so I know it’s not mine you are reading! I agree, for new writers it is the most fantastic scheme, and I am so privileged to be a part of it. We all appreciate the helpful feedback from the readers so much, so thank you!

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

My proudest moment was being shortlisted for the romantic comedy novel award in the 2019 RONAs. I couldn’t believe that a story about a cross-dressing gay man looking for love in Hampshire in the 1990s would be published, never mind end up shortlisted. Kev is a secondary character in my Best Friends Perfect series – the first of my published books – and he screamed for his own story. So I wrote him a trilogy. 

My biggest challenge has been fitting in writing around the rest of my life. 

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!

I’d like one of my books to be for sale at airports. I’d love for one of my quirky British gay romance stories to be something holiday makers pick up to read on a sunbed by a pool. I think society has a while to go until that’s the case, but it’s definitely a big dream of mine. 

That would be a wonderful thing to see. Let’s hope we are moving in the right direction for that to happen soon. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I have at least three fiction novels I’m planning to write in 2019. The one that’s most exciting me at the moment is a historical gay romance. Set in the 1950s, with all the societal challenges of being gay then. It’s about a surgeon and a farm hand who at first hate one another as they’re complete opposites, but soon find there’s a mutual attraction. But they need to overcome societal, professional, emotional and legal challenges to be together. I’ve never written historical before, so this is going to be a special sort of challenge. I’m really looking forward to writing it from April on wards. 

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?

I love the Canary Islands – 4 hours from the UK and it’s so warm. I recently went to Florida for the first time and it won’t be the last. The climate, the food, the people, the laid-back nature of Key West and party atmosphere of Miami South Beach. I loved all of it. I’d like to visit India at some point, plus China and Japan. I’ve read that the combination of language and culture makes China and Japan about as different from the West as you can get without leaving the planet. 

I LOVE Key West, I’ll be back there in 6 weeks. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I was born with bilateral (both) club feet. 

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’?

I can’t pick one, so here’s a list: Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Montana Sky by Nora Roberts. Romancing The Wrong Twin by Clare London. The World is Full of Married Men by Jackie Collins. Octavia by Jilly Cooper. 


Great choices, Rachel’s Holiday is one of my all time favourite books too. 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?

Alternate soft drinks with alcoholic ones. Have small drinks – singles and little glasses of wine. Stop drinking at 3 alcoholic beverages. Eat food while drinking. I had a rose wine based incident in Hampshire last summer and was completely useless for the whole of the next day. 

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

A walk in the forest. A long bath with a book. Making food – particularly baking a cake. 

Liam, thank you so much for joining me this evening, I’ve had a great time and look forward to seeing you in person again soon at the RNA Conference.

Liam’s book, Adventures in Dating…In Heels was shortlisted for the romantic comedy novel RONA 2019 award and you can buy a copy here.

Kev-AiD-InH-f500 (1)

Kev Harrison is a teenager, looking for a boyfriend and friends who will accept his cross-dressing. Only thing is, he lives in a small village near Salisbury, England, and it’s the nineties.

Tony Collins is Kev’s best friend, a Goth with a passion for fashion and anything to do with the Human League. He stands as the voice of reason while Kev muddles his way through coming out, career choices, and dating…in heels.

Liam Livings lives where east London ends and becomes Essex. He shares his house with his boyfriend and cat. He enjoys baking, cooking, classic cars and socialising with friends. He has a sweet tooth for food and entertainment: loving to escape from real life with a romantic book; enjoying a good cry at a sad, funny and camp film; and listening to musical cheesy pop from the eighties to now. He tirelessly watches an awful lot of Gilmore Girls in the name of writing ‘research’.

Published since 2013 by a number of British and American presses, his gay romance and gay fiction focuses on friendships, British humour, romance with plenty of sparkle. He’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. With a masters in creative writing from Kingston University, he teaches writing workshops with his partner in sarcasm and humour, Virginia Heath as and has also ghostwritten a client’s 5 Star reviewed autobiography. 

You can find out more about Liam via his website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author Rosie Travers, so you won’t want to miss that.


The Gift of Friends by Emma Hannigan #BookReview #BlogTour @headlinepg @annecater @NetGalley #RandomThingsTours #NetGalley #TheGiftOfFriends

FINAL The Gift of Friends Cover

Kingfisher Road – a leafy, peaceful street in the town of Vayhill. But there are whispers behind closed doors. Who is moving into Number 10?

Engaged to handsome, wealthy Justin Johnston, Danielle appears to her new neighbours to have the perfect, glossy life. But not everything is as it seems…

In fact, each of the other four women who live close by has a secret, and each is nursing their own private heartache.

But could a gift be waiting on their doorsteps? And, by opening their front doors, and their hearts, to each other, could the women of Kingfisher Road discover all the help they need?

This thirteenth and final novel from the beloved and inspiring Emma Hannigan is a life-affirming, uplifting story that celebrates the strength and joys of female friendship.

I’m thrilled to be winding up the blog tour for The Gift of Friends by Emma Hannigan today and I send my huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours who squeezed me in to the tour because she knew I was desperate to be included, and to Headline for my copy of the book via NetGalley, a book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a beautiful book. Truly. I enjoyed every single second I spent between its pages and I was incredibly sad when it was over. I wanted to linger in the story, and in the lives  of the five women who were the main characters of the book, what better endorsement could you possibly give a book?

The book follows the lives of five women who live on the same beautiful street in Ireland. The women are friends, but they all have problems and secrets that they aren’t sharing with one another, until circumstances force hidden issues out in to the open. This is a book about how the support and understanding of people who care about you can help you through and make problems easier to bear.

The writing in this novel is very warm and engaging, it draws you in and holds you in its grasp throughout the book. As soon as I started reading, I was completely lost in the story, the world outside the book ceased to exist and I was totally engrossed in the world that the author created. Being pulled from the pages felt like a loss each time, and I couldn’t wait to get back into the story every time I had to put it down; I raced through the pages, whilst not wanting the story to end.

The characters are very well written and believable. I believed these women could exist and have the relationships and the problems that were featured in the book. Their lives perhaps are not extraordinary, or particularly exciting, but they were real and relatable and exactly the kind of thing that you or I might experience in our lives. I felt like they could be me and my friends and I loved reading about them as if they were my own friends.

Although the issues dealt with in the book may not seem earth-shattering to the outside world, the book deals with the type of things that can really rock the world of the woman involved, even if it is invisible to the outside world and makes little ripple in the fabric of  the universe outside of that life. It shows how people can be struggling in secret without anyone noticing the seismic things that are happening within them, and what a difference it can make when someone does notice and reaches out. The storylines were written so tenderly and with such empathy that there were many parts that truly moved me and had me welling up, a lump at the back of my throat. It is a really wonderful and well-written book that rewarded me in spades for picking it up.

I think this book has made it on to my list of my favourite reads of the year so far. It is charming, engaging, thought-provoking, uplifting and moving. The fact this is Emma’s final book lends it an additional poignancy and I really hope it is widely read. it deserves to be, and any reader will not regret picking it up.

The Gift of Friends is out now. I have bought a paperback copy and you should get one too. You can purchase the book here.

To read the reviews of the book by the other bloggers on the tour, please find their blog details below:

The Gift of Friends BT Poster

About the Author

Emma Hannigan Author Picture

Emma Hannigan was the No. 1 bestselling author of eleven novels including Letters to My Daughters, The Wedding Promise, The Perfect Gift, and The Summer Guest, as well as a memoir, All to Live For, which was about surviving an eleven year battle with cancer – facing cancer 10 separate times over the course of those years – and remaining strong, positive and warm. Very sadly, we have now lost Emma in the fight against cancer – she passed away at the end of February 2018.

The Gift of Friends went straight to number one on the bestseller lists in Ireland and has remained there ever since.


Literary Tube Map of London (@inthebookwith) #bookishthings # booklovers #TheTube #London #LiteraryTubeMapOfLondon


I have a really fun, bookish thing to share with today which immediately caught my eye when I first saw it doing the rounds on Twitter. Those lovely people at In The Book have replaced all of the stations on the iconic Tube map with famous London books, equating to their settings. So now, instead of navigating your way around London by the ordinary stations, you can pop your head above ground at the location of some of your favourite books. Which for literary nerds like me sounds perfect.

There are a huge range of books included, from literary classics to contemporary fiction, Charles Dickens to Sophie Kinsella via Martin Amis and Zadie Smith, there is something for everyone and every taste. I’m particularly taken with the idea of visiting the haunts of Bridget Jones, Mary Poppins and Nigel William’s hilarious suburban poisoner in Wimbledon.

Some authors have a bigger presence than others, as you can imagine. Charles Dickens features most heavily as you’d expect, with the locations of seven of his novels featured. If you’d like to have a look and see if any of your favourite London-based novels have made the cut, you can find a full-size copy of the map with zoom feature here.

In The Book kindly sent me some details about the map and what inspired it, here is what they had to say:

The map was designed to act as a definitive book tour of London for both locals and tourists. Literature has the wonderful ability to colour a certain area like nothing else, and while everyone recognises Baker Street as Sherlock’s home and can picture Scrooge skulking home from work in the City, the lesser known works are what helps make London’s literary history so diverse: wonderfully named titles such as “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows” and “The Wimbledon Poisoner” are prime examples of this.

We also found it fascinating how certain genres and authors “owned” certain parts of the map: Dickens’ London dominates the Central Line, while gothic Victorian works Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray can be found haunting the Piccadilly Line. Zadie Smith takes the Jubilee Line to the northwest while Martin Amis is more prominent around West London.

I think this is a really lovely idea. Anyone who has seen the hordes queuing up at King’s Cross to have their photo taken with the trolley embedded in the wall at Platform 9 3/4 knows the power of visiting the setting of a favourite book, so I am sure there are lots of other people like me who might be bookmarking locations to visit on their next trip to London. Let me know in the comments below where you would go.

About the publishers

The creators of the map, In The Book are a publisher of personalised children’s books, established in Hertfordshire in 2017. Their passion is getting kids to read. They recognise books as not only worlds where one can lose themselves but as a means to develop cultural understandings, social skills and help us affect positive changes in the world around us.

Find them at:


Facebook: In The Book With

Twitter: @inthebookwith


One Last Greek Summer by Mandy Baggot #BookReview #BlogTour (@mandybaggot) @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #PublicationDay #NetGalley #OneLastGreekSummer

Book cover

Beth Martin is 31, newly divorced and wondering just what life holds for her…

Best-friend, Heidi, is adamant that all the answers lie in Corfu – the island where the girls’ partied away their youth.

So cue a trip to a sun-drenched Greek island, ouzo cocktails, a trip down memory lane…and Alex Hallas, the man Beth has never quite forgotten.

As they dance under the stars, the sand beneath their toes, old feelings begin to resurface and Beth might just have a chance to take back her life. If they can learn to love the people they’ve become…

Today is publication day for Mandy Baggot’s new book, One Last Greek Summer, and I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour to celebrate. Happy Publication Day, Mandy. My thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

You may or may not be aware, but I haven’t been able to read a book for five weeks. (If you are remotely interested in why, you can find out here) and this was the first book I picked up after my hiatus. What a delightful novel this was to ease myself back into the reading habit.

This is a sweet, gentle story of lost love, re-evaluating life and new beginnings and it was charming from start to finish. I loved the fact that this was not a book about twenty-somethings, but people slightly later on in life who have made mistakes, lived life a little and are making decisions based on experience and thought rather than impulse and dreams, although there is still some room for romance and dreams in the novel!

Set on the sun-drenched island of Corfu, the author does a wonderful job of transporting the reader into the heart of that beautiful place and surrounding them with all the sights, sounds and smells of Greece. I could almost smell the lemon groves and feel the sand between my toes. It really lifted my spirits after a trying period for me and I savoured every minute of it. This is the perfect book with which to kick off the summer holiday season.

There is nothing to dislike about the characters in this book. The heroine, Beth, is someone I connected with from the start of the book and I was fully invested throughout. Alex was attractive without being two-dimensional and I really believed in their romance and was willing them on. Heidi, Margalo and the goats provided a lot of fun throughout the book and the ‘villain’ was not really villainous to the point of caricature, which is sometimes the downfall of a romance novel, so all in all, this book was pretty perfect.

I thoroughly enjoyed One Last Greek Summer. It was easy reading from start to finish, well-paced throughout and the prose carried my through effortlessly. If someone is looking for a great, escapist read with a warming dose of romance and a really charming story, you won’t do better. I highly recommend it.

One Last Greek Summer is out now and you can buy a copy here.

This book is taking an extended tour, so make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part over the next few weeks:

One Last Greek Summer Blog Tour Poster 1

One Last Greek Summer Blog Tour Poster 2

One Last Greek Summer Blog Tour Poster 3

One Last Greek Summer Blog Tour Poster 4

About the Author

Mandy Baggot

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Connect with Mandy:


Facebook: Mandy Baggot Author

Twitter: @mandybaggot

Instagram: @mandybaggot


Bell’s Palsy, Audiobooks & Gaining Perspective


Hello, my friends! I know, it has been a while, did you miss me while I was gone? I hope so. I’m going to assume you did, and that you noticed I wasn’t posting for the last six weeks, otherwise all of this is a bit pointless, isn’t it?

So, I’m sure you are dying to know what kept me away from my beloved blog, and the fabulous book community. If you haven’t seen any of my brief social media posts, you won’t know that I have had Bell’s Palsy for the last month and a half, which has been a massive nuisance.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, here is a link to some information about Bell’s Palsy. When I woke up on the Tuesday morning after the Easter bank holiday weekend, the whole left side of my face was drooping down and I could not close my eye. My first thought was that I was having a stroke, it was absolutely terrifying. I immediately called an ambulance as I was home alone with my eleven-year-old daughter and I did not want her having to deal with me if I collapsed. As it was, it was really upsetting and frightening for her until my sister arrived. Luckily, she lives close by and the ambulance soon arrived, and they took great care of me. I was assessed quickly at the hospital who confirmed it wasn’t a stroke and I had Bell’s Palsy. They gave me steroids and sent me home, and then the most boring and frustrating six weeks of my life began.

I could not close my left eye at all, which meant I was constantly having to lubricate it with artificial tears, tape it closed at night and, unexpectedly, I could not drive, write or work on a screen, because trying to focus my eye on a screen or print for more than a minute or two made my vision blurry and gave me a headache. Worst of all, I couldn’t read. At all. For FIVE-AND-A-HALF WEEKS!

I haven’t gone five and a half days without reading for as long as I can remember, probably never, so this was an appalling situation. I did try and remind myself that at least I hadn’t had a stroke, and this would pass in time and that, for some people, this was their permanent reality and I was lucky, but this only worked some of the time. I missed it so much, it is such a central part of my daily life. I had blog tours scheduled that I had to pull out of, which I hated to have to do. I have a novel in progress that I had promised to my beta readers by mid-May which was laying unattended. I was so frustrated.

I turned to audiobooks, for which I was both grateful and disgruntled. I only normally listen to audiobooks while I am doing something else – driving, walking the dog, cleaning, washing up. Sitting and just listening to them didn’t quite work for me. They go by so slowly compared to how quickly I read. They kept sending me to sleep. I only managed to get through six-and-a-half in five weeks, when I would normally have read about 15-20 books in this time. I could actively FEEL my TBR mounting in the background, my blog shedding followers, people writing me off as a disappeared blogger. My timeline for my novel slipping away. Honestly, I know I sound moan-ey but it was awful. I’m so rubbish at being ill because I so rarely am and I normally try and ignore it, and I’m even worse at being unproductive. I’m usually someone who multi-tasks, so enforced periods of inactivity drive me mad. I was a terrible patient, but luckily I was just looking after myself so at least I didn’t bother anyone else with my general misery.

The good news is, I’m pretty much back to normal now. Back behind the wheel, back on the books and, at last, on the blog. I’m looking forward to catching up on all the reviews and blog posts I had to postpone, and my apologies to all the authors, blog tour hosts and guests that I had to disappoint. I promise I will catch up and reschedule as soon as I can.

Aside from moaning and complaining, I have used this time to reassess some of the things going on in my life and what is important. Not being able to read and blog has reinforced how central to my happiness these two things are. I realise that I have taken my usual good health for granted and this is not good. Things could have been very different if the diagnosis had been worse and I need to take the time and trouble to be fitter and healthier. To this end, I have started a new healthy eating plan and have lost 10 pounds so far, and have rejoined the gym to start getting fitter. I really appreciate my family, particularly my kids who have been so helpful and understanding about my inability to do much for the last six weeks, my partner, and my poor sister who had to do all of the school runs while I couldn’t drive. I am very lucky to have so much support.

I also found that, having not been able to work on my book for six weeks, I now know how much this matters to me. so, it is time to crack on and get this finished, albeit now on a delayed timetable. But life throws us obstacles and curveballs and we need to learn to roll with the punches, adapt and find a way to get back on track. I am taking the last six weeks as a chance to slow down, reassess, take stock and learn some lessons. Now it is onwards and upwards, and I am so glad to be back amongst you all. I missed you, even if you didn’t notice I was gone.