Ten Things I Learned From The Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme by Helena Fairfax (@HelenaFairfax) #GuestPost #RNA #NewWritersScheme @RNATweets #amwriting #amwritingromance

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Tonight I have a slight departure from my usual Friday Night Drinks post. Instead, I am delighted to welcome fellow RNA author and New Writers’ Scheme alumni, Helena Fairfax, to the blog with a guest post on ten things she learned from participation in the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.

So, let me hand over now to Helena:

Every year the Romantic Novelists’ Association offers an opportunity to 300 unpublished writers to have their work critiqued by an experienced romance author. I joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme ten years ago. I look back now on how much I’ve learned since posting off my first manuscript (yes, it was all done by post then!) and I continue to feel an enormous debt to my RNA reader for giving me a grounding in what makes a great romance novel.

I passed through the New Writers’ Scheme twice.  The first year I sent off just the first three chapters and a synopsis of my novel.  I knew the story was going astray, and I was right to have reservations.  I received a four-page, detailed report highlighting where the reader felt the manuscript wasn’t quite right, along with some constructive suggestions on how to improve it.

So, back to the keyboard I went, to do what all successful writers do – rewrite. And this was the first lesson I learned:

  1. Writing is rewriting. Writers need to be able to look at their work dispassionately and not take a critique personally.
  2. My fictional characters are real. I take this for granted now, but I found it exciting and strangely alarming to have someone else talk about them as though they were actually living beings and not just creatures in my head.
  3. Because the characters are living and breathing people, they MUST have a clear motivation for their behaviour. What is it in a character’s past that has made her this way? As my reader advised, ‘Keep asking yourself why/why not?’ If you give your characters a solid past, they become well-rounded people your readers can believe in.
  4. A romance story revolves around conflict. My reader said, ‘It’s about why the hero and heroine, so obviously attracted to each other, not only won’t admit they have fallen in love, but feel that they can’t…Your hero and heroine should have goals that are in direct opposition to each other.’ The greater the emotional tension, the more the reader will want to keep turning the pages, desperate to know how these two will ever get together.
  5. There must be a situation which FORCES the hero and heroine together. If not, then why not just part on page four, if they are in opposition to one another?
  6. Romance novels are all about character. ‘When you’re structuring a romance, you should be thinking about the plot not so much as moving your characters from A to B, but as a series of situations that test their fears and bring their goals into conflict.’ Take it from me, this focus on character rather than plot makes it very difficult to sustain the tension necessary for a page-turning read. Anyone who thinks writing a romance is easy should try it for themselves!
  7. Romance novels aren’t about the perfect heroine. Readers don’t take to the heroine who is beautiful, successful, has lots of friends, and always does the right thing. We can relate to someone who has flaws. Lizzie Bennett, one of the most famous romantic heroines of all time, spends almost the entire book being prejudiced, but we all love her. (On the other hand, don’t make the heroine too silly, or readers will put the book down. Again, romance writing is a tricky business.)
  8. The synopsis needs to encompass all the above points: the characterisation, motivation, goals, source of conflict, how the hero and heroine are forced together, and how they overcome the demons that are keeping them apart.
  9. Handling rejection. Of course I was disappointed the story needed more work, but the letter that accompanied my critique stated: ‘Always bear in mind that most published authors have experience of rejection. All writers, published and unpublished, need to be tenacious and determined…Have faith in yourself!
  10. And so back to the dreaded rewrite. I resubmitted the entire novel the next year. This taught me another valuable lesson – that if you want to write a book, the only way to get it done is to put your bum in the chair and type. I had a deadline, and I stuck to it.

Since receiving my first ever developmental edit, I’ve written a further four novels, contributed to and edited a best-selling anthology , and written a non-fiction history of women’s lives in Yorkshire. My first critique helped me to focus on the craft of writing. Two years ago I joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. I’m now an intermediate member of the SfEP and an associate editor at the Betterwrite Literary Agency.

Nowadays I work with both new and established authors, and I find it a great pleasure passing on the lessons I learned from my own first critique from the RNA.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the New Writers’ Scheme with us, Helena. Despite not yet being published, I have already found it invaluable to my writing and would urge any aspiring author whose novel has a touch of romance to consider applying to the Scheme. Details of how to do it can be found here.

Applications for the Scheme in 2020 will open on 2 January.

About the Author

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Helena Fairfax is a freelance editor and author. She was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors and the home of the Brontë sisters. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.

Helena’s latest release is a non-fiction historical work called Struggle and Suffrage in Halifax: Women’s Lives and the Fight for Equality. Women’s voices are all too often missing from the history books. This book looks at some of the key events in the fascinating history of the mill town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, from the point of view of the women who shaped the town. It’s available on now from bookshops and retailers and from Pen & Sword Publishing and you can buy a copy here.

Connect with Helena:

Website: https://helenafairfax.com

Twitter: @HelenaFairfax

Facebook: Helena Fairfax

 

 

The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White, Narrated by Ana Clements & Paul Heitsch #AudiobookReview #BlogTour (@bclaypolewhite) @RaRaResources @audibleuk @SpokenRealms #TheUnfinishedGarden #RachelsRandomResources

The Unfinished Garden

I’m very excited to be doing my very first audiobook blog tour for The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White, so big thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for my audio copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The Unfinished Garden Front

A love story about grief, OCD, and dirt 

Tilly Silverberg is rebuilding her life with her young son, Isaac, one potted-up plant at a time. Since her husband’s death, gardening has become her livelihood and her salvation. Hiding out in the North Carolina forest, she wants only to be left alone with Isaac and her greenhouse.

New to the area, successful software developer James Nealy needs a garden. On a solitary mission to reclaim his life from irrational obsessions and relentless compulsions, he has a plan: to conquer his greatest fear. Dirt. One glimpse—or two—of Tilly’s garden, and he knows she holds the key. But when he asks her to take him on as a client, she refuses.

After a family emergency pulls Tilly and Isaac back to her native England, she’s quietly happy, because nothing has changed in her childhood village. Or has it? Her first love is unexpectedly single, her mother is scheming, and her best friend is keeping secrets. Then James appears on her doorstep.

Tenuous at first, but gradually taking root, James and Tilly forge an unlikely bond. As they work together to rescue a garden choked by neglect, they unearth each other’s secrets, each other’s fears, each other’s hopes—and maybe, a shared second chance.

I do listen to quite a lot of audiobooks in the car but my taste in aural literature tends towards thrillers, which I find make journeys pass quite quickly with their tension and short chapters, so this was a bit of a departure for me as far as audiobooks are concerned and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it.

It is a very long book to listen to, and definitely very different to my thrillers as there is a long of internal dialogue from the characters and the pace of the story is quite slow and languorous, like the Carolina summer where the story starts. However, the pace of the writing was perfect for the story which tells the tale of a timid, blossoming relationship between bereaved Tilly and James, plagued and tormented by his OCD. Once I got used to the slower pace, I was completely enthralled by the story.

There are two narrators for the book, one telling the story fromTilly’s perspective and one from James’s, so it was very easy to tell whose point of view we were hearing at any given time. It was well done, and I think it was necessary because, given how much internal musings there are in the story, it would have been quite difficult to follow them whilst listening if there had been a single narrator.

This is a really beautiful story exploring the relationship dynamics between two damaged people and how they recognise things they need in one another. There are further complications involving extended family with internal tensions and old, unresolved relationships that add layer upon layer of texture to the tales of our internal, human stressors and difficulties. The book is a beautiful exploration of the human condition with complex but sympathetic characters and a beautiful setting that provides the ideal metaphorical backdrop for the issues dealt with in the book.

The reason I mostly listen to thrillers in audio format is that I find it difficult to fully appreciate the nuances of language and construction of the more literary novel when I am listening to, rather than reading them. When I am reading, I will often go back to read and re-read and highlight beautiful sentences or passages, to fully wring the meaning and emotion from the words. I find this more difficult to do with an audiobook and worry that I am missing some subtlety or impact in the language. I think this is a book I would like to go back and read in a physical format to make sure I have fully appreciated it, but this may well be a personal quirk of mine and should not put anyone else off listening to the audiobook.

I thought The Unfinished Garden was a rich and beautiful story, full of emotion and complexity and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The audio version is very well done and I would highly recommend it if you enjoy this genre in audio format. I will definitely go back and re-read this book in a physical format.

The Unfinished Garden is out now and you can get the audiobook here.

To read some alternative reviews of this audiobook, check out the tour stops on the poster below:

The Unfinished Garden Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Born in England, she works and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her family. Her novels include: The Unfinished Garden, which won the Golden Quill for Best First Book; The In-Between Hour, a SIBA Okra Pick; The Perfect Son, a Goodreads Choice Awards Semi-finalist; Echoes of Family, a WFWA Star Award Finalist; and The Promise Between Us, a 2018 Nautilus Award Winner.

Barbara is an OCD advocate for the nonprofit A2A Alliance, which promotes advocacy over adversity. 

Connect with Barbara:

Website: http://www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com

Facebook: Barbara Claypole White

Twitter: @bclaypolewhite

Instagram: @bclaypolewhite

 

The Secret Cove in Croatia by Julie Caplin #BookReview (@JulieCaplin) @OneMoreChapter @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam @NetGalley #TheSecretCoveInCroatia #NetGalley

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Sail away to beautiful Croatia for summer sun, sparkling turquoise seas and a holiday romance that’s forever…

When no-nonsense, down-to-earth Maddie Wilcox is offered the chance to work on a luxury yacht for the summer, she can’t say no. Yes she’ll be waiting on the posh guests… But island-hopping around the Adriatic sea will more than make up for it – especially when Nick, her best friend Nina’s brother, is one of them.

Sparks fly when they meet on board and Maddie can’t believe self-entitled jerk Nick is really related to Nina.

But in a secret, picture-perfect cove, away from the real world, Maddie and Nick discover they might have more in common than they realise…

My thanks to HarperImpulse for my copy of this book received via NetGalley, which I reviewed honestly and impartially.

How could you not want to pick up this book when you see the beautiful cover? It looks like the perfect summer read, doesn’t it? Well, if you are not managing to escape the UK for your holidays this year but want to travel vicariously through your summer reading, you won’t do better than picking up a copy of The Secret Cove in Croatia by Julie Caplin.

Up until recently, I worked in travel and Croatia has become one of the hottest destinations in Europe over the past few years, although I haven’t managed to get there in person yet. Having read this book, I feel like I have actually been because, like all of her titles in the Romantic Escapes series, Julie has managed to capture the feeling and all the tiny details that transport the reader to the location of the story. Having spent a lot of time selling this destination to my travel clients, I could tell that the author had actually visited the location she was writing about and had fallen in love with the place, this really shone through in the writing and made me fall in love with it too.

The books follows the story of Maddie. Struggling to find a way to follow her passion in life, she takes a job as crew on a yacht for the summer, only to find that the brother of her best friend is one of the passengers, which causes endless difficulties. I adored both Maddie and Nick from the beginning. Maddie is just the kind of heroine a modern woman can relate to, not perfect but kind, determined and sassy, she knows her own mind and isn’t going to take any nonsense from a man. She does have her vulnerabilities though, which make her very sympathetic and I can guarantee you will be on her side and praying for her to get a happy ending from the start. Nick is a suitable foil for her, and I really enjoyed the glimpses we got inside his head too. I think it can be tricky to switch between male and female perspectives sometimes and make it equally convincing, but it really works in this book.

There are lots of other characters to round out the plot, lovely and loathsome to give a fun balance, and there is a refreshing mix of funny moments with some serious topics, a huge dash of romance and a sexy frisson as well. It really makes a tasty summer cocktail of a read which will tickle your reading tastebuds and give you a happy rush by the end. I absolutely loved it all, but the real pleasure was feeling that I had truly taken a trip to Croatia without having to leave the house. As a writer, I can see the skill that has gone in to this book and I am in awe.

I defy anyone to pick up this book and not finish it without a big smile on their face and a happy heart. The perfect romantic, summer read, I was very sad when it was over. Big high five from me, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The Secret Cove in Croatia is out today as an ebook and in paperback on 22 August and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

The Secret Cove Author

Jules Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury brands, taking journalists on press trips to awful places like Turin, Milan, Geneva, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam and occasionally losing the odd member of the press in an airport. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to eat amazing food, drink free alcohol, hone her writing skills on press releases and to research European cities for her books. 

She writes best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for HarperImpulse.

Under her pen name, Julie Caplin, her twelfth novel, The Secret Cove in Croatia published in ebook format this July.

Connect with Jules:

Website: http://www.juleswake.co.uk

Facebook: Julie Caplin Author

Twitter: @JulieCaplin

The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson #BookReview (@DorothyKoomson) @penguinrandom #TheBrightonMermaid

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Brighton Beach, 1993

Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…

I’m writing this review from a very interesting place today, because I have just come away from a weekend spent at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference in Lancaster where one of the highlights of the weekend for me was listening to Dorothy Koomson in conversation about her writing with RNA Chair, Alison May.

I have been in love with Dorothy Koomson’s writing since the very first book of hers that I picked up more than ten years ago. That book was Goodnight, Beautiful and it has remained very special to me because, not only was it a book I loved as a reader, but it is one of the books that has influenced me very deeply as a writer. The way I felt whilst reading this book is the way I want to make people feel when I write.

Dorothy’s writing has moved on a great deal since that book and she is one of the few authors writing who has managed to change genres very successfully. In fact, she has done this more than once, and it was fascinating to hear her talk about the resistance she had to these changes from others involved in her career and the absolute conviction in her own writing that has carried her through. It is this passion, this conviction, that comes through so clearly in her writing and carries we, the reader, along with her wherever she chooses to take us. I, for one, am always happy to follow and never regret the journey.

The Brighton Mermaid is no exception, it was an outstanding read for me. I finished it just before the conference, and was fascinated to hear some of the stories behind the writing of this book afterwards, which would never have been apparent from the finished product. Dorothy joked that she has invented a new genre, the emotional thriller, and this label definitely sums up the journey in this novel. It is quite unlike anything that anyone else is writing and I really felt that I were reading something new and interesting, that made me think and feel differently to anything else I had read when I had finished it.

The book follows the story of Nell, who has an experience in her teenage years that has a deep and lasting effect on her and all of the people who are close to her. A simple act on one night ripples through her family and friends and changes all of their lives forever. Nell is haunted by the experience and is still searching for answers when we catch up with her in her thirties in the present day. Her sister has also been impacted in a way that has left her with mental health issues and her parents lives were turned upside down. Her best friend disappeared and has left a question hanging over them all which has never been answered. Nell’s pursuit of the truth and a resolution to all their difficulties draws us in and holds us captive to the very last page.

This is not a traditional detective story or psychological thriller but a fascinating blend of the two, with a complex layer of emotional truth woven through it that asks more questions than it answers. Despite the fact that this is a very different book than the first Dorothy Koomson I fell in love with all those years ago, I was left with many of the same feelings by the end: riveted, moved, challenged and, ultimately, blown away by the skill of the author. This book could not have been written by anyone other than Dorothy Koomson and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I’m looking forward to reading the next one, and I have a copy of this which I will cherish.

The Brighton Mermaid is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. Dorothy’s latest book is Tell Me Your Secret and it is also out now in hardback.

About the Author

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Dorothy Koomson is the award-winning author of 14 novels and has been making up stories since she was 13 when she used to share her stories with her convent school friends. Her published titles include: The Friend, When I Was Invisible, That Girl From Nowhere, The Flavours of Love, The Woman He Loved Before, Goodnight, Beautiful and The Chocolate Run.

Dorothy’s first novel, The Cupid Effect, was published in 2003 (when she was quite a bit older than 13). Her third book, My Best Friend’s Girl, was selected for the Richard & Judy Summer Reads of 2006 and went on to sell over 500,000 copies. While her fourth novel, Marshmallows For Breakfast, has sold in excess of 250,000 copies. Dorothy’s books, The Ice Cream Girls and The Rose Petal Beach were both shortlisted for the popular fiction category of the British Book Awards in 2010 and 2013, respectively.

Dorothy’s novels have been translated into over 30 languages, and a TV adaptation loosely based on The Ice Cream Girls was shown on ITV1 in 2013. After briefly living in Australia, Dorothy now lives in Brighton.

Connect with Dorothy:

Website: https://www.dorothykoomson.co.uk

Facebook: Dorothy Koomson Writer

Twitter: @DorothyKoomson

Instagram: @dorothykoomson_author

Secret Wishes and Summer Kisses on Lily Pond Lane by Emily Harvale #BookReview #BlogTour (@emilyharvale) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #RaRaResources #LilyPondLane

Secret Wishes and Summer Kisses on Lily Pond Lane

This is, sadly, my final visit to Little Pondale as I take part in the blog tour for Secret Wishes and Summer Kisses on Lily Pond Lane by Emily Harvale. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour to finish the journey with these characters and to Emily for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you enter the giveaway detailed below!

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Everyone’s got a secret wish in Little Pondale this summer.

Mia’s been exceptionally lucky since moving to Lily Pond Lane. But even on her honeymoon with the man of her dreams, she still has one remaining wish.

Ella wishes Gill would propose. But since Mia’s wedding something’s changed in their relationship. Now he’s spending time with newcomer, Tabbie Talbaine, Ella wishes Tabbie will leave as quickly as she arrived.

Tabbie wishes she hadn’t driven her car into a pond. But it could be the best thing that’s ever happened to her. When she discovers Hollywood heartthrob, Justin Lake’s staying in the village, getting an interview for her popular blog isn’t her only wish.

Bree was told she couldn’t have a baby. Now she’s expecting twins and is simply wishing it all goes well.

And as for Hettie … she wishes she could get her hands on an old map of the village. Because there’s something hidden in Little Pondale that Hettie Turner really wants to find.

I have truly loved visiting Lily Pond Lane on and off with Emily Harvale over the last year to see how Mia, Jet and her friends were getting on, so I was happy to get one last chance to see how things had moved on after Jet and Mia’s wedding. What more could possibly happen?

Well, plenty is the answer, although mostly to people other than Jet and Mia, since their happy ending was pretty definitively sewn up in the last episode. It was the turn of the other characters to have their stories completed, along with newcomer Tabbie. There was just room for me to join Mia on her enviable honeymoon in the South Pacific, though, and for her to have a final surprise for the reader.

Emily, with her trademark charm provided me with plenty of feel good romance in this book, and some round ups for the characters we have come to know and love in Little Pondale, as well as introducing some new ones. I particularly loved the introduction of the reclusive Aurelia Jenkins, a woman who gives Hattie a run for her money through the course of the book. There is an extra dose of the Little Pondale magic in this book, literally in the plot and figuratively in the writing, and I was charmed from beginning to end.

This book, as the others do, will work as a standalone, but I think readers will get most out of it if they have read at least some of the proceeding titles in the series first. It definitely felt like a ‘tying up of loose ends’ novel, with some of the unresolved stories being concluded, and had less of a meaty, although still rewarding, plot of its own. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and have continued to fall in love with Emily’s writing throughout the series, but it one more for established fans rather than one I would advise new readers to start with. But what better excuse could there be for buying them all? You definitely will not regret it.

I am going to miss the gang in Little Pondale but I hope they all enjoy their futures in the village. See, they have become real friends to me. Thank you, Emily, for this series, a great addition to the romantic comedy genre.

Secret Wishes and Summer Kisses on Lily Pond Lane is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, make sure you visit the blogs detailed on the poster below:

Secret Wishes and Summer Kisses on Lily Pond Lane Full Tour Banner

Giveaway

Secret Wishes Blog tour giveaway

To win a signed paperback of Secret Wishes and Summer Kisses, a pen, novelty sticky notes and a bookmark, click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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

About the Author

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Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now spends her days writing… and chatting on social media. Emily is a Member of the SoA, a PAN member of the RWA and a Pro Member of ALLi. She’s an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. Emily loves writing and her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.


Emily says, “I write about friendship, family and falling in love. I believe in happing endings.” When she isn’t writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both.

Connect with Emily:

Website: https://www.emilyharvale.com/

Facebook: Emily Harvale Writer

Twitter: @emilyharvale

Instagram: @emilyharvale

The Things I Know by Amanda Prowse #BookReview (@MrsAmandaProwse) @AmazonPub @NetGalley #NetGalley #TheThingsIKnow

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Thomasina ‘Hitch’ Waycott loves living and working on the remote family farm and B&B. But she also wants more. To see the world. To own her own home. To fall madly in love.

But those are fairy tales, and if her life is a fairy tale, then she’s the ugly duckling. Her deformed lip, her crooked limbs and her weak heart have kept her from taking chances. But that’s about to change.

When Grayson Potts comes to stay, he’s unlike anyone Thomasina has ever met. He’s aloof, eccentric and exceptionally kind. He’s also totally unconcerned with the physical flaws that have always defined Thomasina.

The two form a bond that neither has had before. It’s possible that it could become something more, but Thomasina also wonders if it’s too good to be true. By putting her heart on the line, Thomasina may open herself to heartbreak. But she may also open herself to so much more.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital review copy of the latest book by one of my favourite authors, Amanda Prowse, The Things I Know. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

Amanda Prowse is the queen of emotionally intricate women’s fiction and this book is another fine example of the genre. I loved it from start to finish. I was drawn in to the small, confined, but deeply complex life of ‘Hitch’ Waycott, a person who is full of potential but hemmed in by family circumstances and the under-estimation of the people who surround her. She wants more from life, and we follow her as she starts to believe she might get it, as do we. The author is so good at building deeply rich and believable characters that the reader cannot help but fall in love with from the start.

This book is set within a small world, with small lives and small concerns, or so it might seem from the outside. But, of course, nothing is small to those people involved and what may seem unimportant, insignificant, to outsiders, means everything to the people involved and Amanda is a genius at making us just as involved in these seemingly minor troubles as those people to whom they mean the world, literally. Hitch’s entire world has been built on one tiny patch of land and, when that is under threat, so is her stability, her security, everything she has ever known, unless she is brave enough to recognise that it could be the opportunity she has been waiting for.

This book had, for me, a very curious and unusual ‘other-worldly’ feel to it. Despite being set in contemporary times, it had the feeling of a piece of period writing, as if it could be set at any time, as if it were happening out of the normal ambit of current experience. I fear I am not explaining myself very well here, possibly because I have never experienced anything quite like it before and I cannot quite put my finger on what it is that felt so different about it. It was a little dream-like maybe, disconnected…I am not sure. Maybe this was a reflection of the disconnection that Hitch feels to the world around her, sheltered as she has been from it. Whatever it was, it really added to the suspension from reality I always feel when I lose myself in a really good book and I welcomed it as part of the reading experience.

This book really moved me. The characters captured my heart and made me care for them. They were beautifully written, sympathetic and realistic. The story, for all its gentleness, packed an emotional punch and I was compelled through the story by the connection I had with the characters and the ease and beauty of the writing. This is as pretty much perfect as you can get for a book in this genre.

Amanda Prowse has produced another magnificent read and remains the author to whose heights I aspire with my own writing. If only.

The Things I Know is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author who has had twenty one novels published in dozens of languages. Her chart topping No.1 titles ‘What Have I Done?’, ‘Perfect Daughter’, ‘My Husband’s Wife’ and ‘The Girl in the Corner’ have sold millions of copies around the world.

Other novels by Amanda Prowse include ‘A Mother’s Story’ which won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the year Award and ‘Perfect Daughter’ that was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016. Amanda’s latest book ‘The Coordinates of Loss’ went straight to No.1 in Literary Fiction when it was launched. She has been described by the Daily Mail as ‘The Queen of Family Drama.’

Published by Lake Union, Amanda is the most prolific writer of bestselling contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also consistently score the highest online review approval ratings across several genres.

A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda is a regular panellist on Channel 5’s ‘The Jeremy Vine Show’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She makes countless guest appearances on BBC national independent Radio stations including LBC and Talk FM, where she is well known for her insightful observations and her infectious humour.

Amanda’s ambition is to create stories that keep people from turning the bedside lamp off at night, great characters that ensure you take every step with them and tales that fill your head so you can’t possibly read another book until the memory fades…

Connect with Amanda:

Website: https://www.amandaprowse.com

Facebook: Amanda Prowse Author

Twitter: @MrsAmandaProwse

Instagram: @mrsamandaprowse

Friday Night Drinks with…. Gail Aldwin @gailaldwin @VictorinaPress @PeoplesBkPrize #FridayNightDrinks #TheStringGames

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Well, it’s a beautiful, sunny July evening here in Yorkshire so I think I will take my Friday Night Drinks outside with tonight’s guest, debut author….Gail Aldwin.

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

 A chilled glass of prosecco, please. 

My favourite, I think I will have the same. If we weren’t here in my virtual beer garden tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I live in the county town of Dorchester, so I suggest we have a wander through the water meadows in the late afternoon sun then go to a local bar for a cocktail. 

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That sounds like the opening chapter of a Jilly Cooper novel, right up my street and perfect for this glorious weather! 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 like a good laugh so I’d be pleased to spend an evening with Richard E Grant (ever since he played Withnail in the 1987 film, I’ve been a fan.) And I’d also invite Caroline Aherne to make up the party. Such a shame she died young. 

Both geniuses. I thought Richard was magnificent in Can You Ever Forgive Me? with Melissa McCarthy recently. If you haven’t seen it, you must give it a watch, it was so brilliant and she was a real surprise in it, after all her comedy roles.

 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?

My debut novel, The String Games was published by Victorina Press last month, and my debut poetry pamphlet adversaries/comrades was published in April, so I am flat out marketing and promoting both of these publications in order to reach readers. Alongside my independent writing, I’m also part of a collaborative comedy sketch writing group call 3-She. We’re taking a new show called Big Heads & Others to the Shaftesbury Fringe on 6 July. 

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That looks like an interesting show! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I wanted to take a photograph of my collection of short fiction Paisley Shirt on the shelf at my local library. However, when I got there the book was already on loan. It’s such a thrill to think of people reading my stories.

It was also announced this week that, The String Games has been longlisted in The People’s Book Prize. This is a national award that aims to find and promote new and undiscovered work. One of the the organisation’s aims is to support the complete eradication of illiteracy. This is something very important to me as, following years of working with parents and children to build their literacy skills, there is still a need in communities for further work. In this longlisting, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect match: an opportunity to gain a wider readership for The String Games and support a cause close to my heart, so I am absolutely thrilled, as you can imagine.

The biggest challenge, of course, is finding ways to reach new readers, so I really appreciate your work as a book blogger, Julie. 

Thank you, Gail, it is nice for the work we bloggers do to be recognised by authors. 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 love to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe. And then get the show on TV. And then get my own TV show … 

Modest ambitions – I love it! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m working on a new novel called This Much I Know, which has a six-year-old narrator called Mikey Griffiths. Set in suburban London, Mikey is friendly with his neighbour called Leonard and he can’t understand why a vigilante group would terrorise an old man. Mikey decides he is the best person to show Leonard isn’t a threat to anyone. It’s fun working on a story using the restricted viewpoint of a child – and quite challenging at the same time. 

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?

This year I fulfilled an ambition I’d held for at least eight years. I spent the whole of January in Guatemala trying to learn Spanish. By the end of my time in the city of Antigua, I could use four different tenses, but every single sentence I rehearsed in my head before making an utterance. It would take considerably more time to become fluent in Spanish than I had imagined. Another burning ambition is to work in a developing country with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). I’d love to share my skills with learners and understand what it’s like to integrate into the workplace in a different country and culture. 

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Wow, that is a different twist on the bucket list entries I usually have. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

My first husband was twenty years older than me. (The marriage didn’t last very long!)

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’?

Love by Hanne Ørstavik (translated from Norwegian by Martin Aitken). This is an extraordinary novel that explores the loneliness experienced by a mother and her nine-year-old son. 

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Love is the story of Vibeke and Jon, a mother and son who have just moved to a small place in the north of Norway. It’s the day before Jon’s birthday, and a travelling carnival has come to the village. Jon goes out to sell lottery tickets for his sports club, and Vibeke is going to the library. From here on we follow the two individuals on their separate journeys through a cold winter’s night – while a sense of uneasiness grows.

I will add it to the TBR. 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?

Hangovers are an occupational hazard for any little book problem drinker. I usually eat apples if I end up with one. 

I have not heard of that as a cure before, I will add it to list. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

A good walk on a windswept beach is an absolute must. 

Perfect. Thank you so much for joining me, Gail, it has been a fascinating evening, and good luck with your show tomorrow.

Gail’s book, The String Games, is out now and you can buy a copy here. Jacquelyn Mitchard, bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean says of the book ‘Gail Aldwin’s The String Games takes hold of the reader and the juncture of the head and the heart and simply does not let go. With courage and tenderness, and an unblinking eye, Gail Aldwin explores the ways in which the loss of a child explodes a family. Treat yourself and read this one.’

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When four-year-old Josh is abducted and murdered during a family holiday in France, Nim, aged ten, becomes an only child. To cope with the tragedy, Nim reinvents herself but continues to carry a burden of unresolved grief. As an adult she returns to France determined to find out more about the circumstances of Josh’s death. How will she deal with this new information and what are the implications for her future? 

Settled in Dorset since 2006, Gail Aldwin has lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Spain. Her short fiction collection Paisley Shirt was longlisted in the best short story category of the Saboteur Awards 2018. She co-writes comedy sketches and short plays which have been performed in Brighton, Salisbury and Bridport. Winner of the Bournemouth National Poetry Day competition 2016, Gail’s poetry is included in the poetry trail at Beaumont Park, Huddersfield and can be found at Flaghead Chine Seaside Garden, Poole. Her first poetry pamphlet adversaries/comrades is based on the theme of siblings and is published by The Student Wordsmith in 2019. Gail’s debut novel The String Games is published with Victorina Press and has received outstanding reviews. As chair of the Dorset Writers’ Network, Gail works with the steering group to inspire writers and connect creative communities. She also supports undergraduates on the Creative Writing BA (Hons) at Art University Bournemouth as a visiting tutor.

You can connect with Gail via her blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

If would like to support Gail by voting for The String Games in The People’s Book Prize, you can do so by following this link.

Next week, I will be spending my evening, literally, with Kim Nash, author and social media manager at Bookouture, as we both attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference in Lancaster, so make sure you join us.