Desert Island Books with… Rosanna Ley

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I’m off to Spain for a few days today, so I am not as jealous as I usually am at the thought of today’s castaway sitting in the sunshine with all the time in the world to read, as I will be doing that myself. I did, however, fail to stuff the latest James Patterson hardback that I really wanted to read, Jailhouse Lawyerinto my luggage as it was far too big and heavy, much to my disappointment. My guest today, author Roasanna Ley, will not have that problem as there are no weight limits when you travel virtually. Let’s see what she has chosen.

Book One – A Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri

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A Poem For Every Day of the Year is a magnificent collection of 366 poems compiled by Allie Esiri, one to share on every day of the year. Reflecting the changing seasons and linking to events on key dates – funny for April Fool’s Day, festive for Christmas – these poems are thoughtful, inspiring, humbling, informative, quiet, loud, small, epic, peaceful, energetic, upbeat, motivating, and empowering!

If I were stranded on a desert island with only five books to read again and again, then I’m guessing I would be looking for something more than fiction. Enter A Poem for Every Day of the Year as complied by author and editor Allie Esiri. This is a wonderful collection and since there really is a poem for every day of the year, there will be something new to read (and maybe also learn by heart?) every day. By the end of the year (and I have just realised that this volume could function as a calendar too), I will have forgotten each poem so then I can simply start again… The collection reflects the changing seasons which will keep me grounded on the island (literally) and the links to certain events and dates will make me feel nostalgic – hopefully in a good way. A poem for every mood will satisfy all my conflicting emotions as I fight to survive and hopefully be empowering too. I love poetry and never make enough time to read it. Problem now solved…

Book Two – Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence

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Women in Love begins one blossoming spring day in England and ends with a terrible catastrophe in the snow of the Alps. Ursula and Gudrun are very different sisters who become entangled with two friends, Rupert and Gerald, who live in their hometown. The bonds between the couples quickly become intense and passionate, but whether this passion is creative or destructive is unclear. In this astonishing novel, widely considered to be D. H. Lawrence’s best work, he explores what it means to be human in an age of conflict and confusion.

I very rarely read a book a second time – even those I love – with the exception of the books I have studied academically. Out of all the books I have studied, I’ve found those of DH Lawrence the most rewarding. His writing first inspired me to write many years ago and certainly influenced my writing hugely in the early days and beyond. I love the way he writes about landscape (although the intensity and the detail is somewhat out of fashion these days). I can literally drown in his language! I never studied ‘Women in Love’ but I found it inspirational and crammed with earthy, sensual descriptions – of love and landscape. This book about the love affairs of two sisters was also Lawrence’s response to a cultural crisis: the ‘progress’ of the modern industrialised world which arguably led to the carnage of the First World War. It therefore definitely warrants a re-read over forty years later. I think I would find it hugely satisfying and I could wallow in Lawrence’s prose to my heart’s content.

Book Three – The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella

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It is 1895. Robert Wallis, would-be poet, bohemian and impoverished dandy, accepts a commission from coffee merchant Samuel Pinker to categorise the different tastes of coffee – and encounters Pinker’s free-thinking daughters, Philomenia, Ada and Emily. As romance blossoms with Emily, Robert realises that the Muse and marriage may not be incompatible after all.

Sent to Abyssinia to make his fortune in the coffee trade, he becomes obsessed with a negro slave girl, Fikre. He decides to use the money he has saved to buy her from her owner – a decision that will change not only his own life, but the lives of the three Pinker sisters . . .

I feel as if I will need a comedy to lift my spirits during dark days on this island, but I don’t read many comic writers, so… I decided to choose a book by one of my favourite authors, ‘The Various Flavours of Coffee’ by Anthony Capella which made me laugh and cry at the same time – an impressive achievement. I’d love to read it again and I have the feeling that I would discover so much more second time around as the author takes me on an exotic, delicious and historical journey filled with humour and poignancy. The story also contains lots of coffee, which has to be a good thing. Anthony Capella also writes brilliant psychological thrillers under the name of JP Delaney – is there no end to this author’s talents? Perhaps re-reading ‘The Various Flavours of Coffee’ will give me some valuable insight on how he does it…

Book Four – How To Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation by Bear Grylls

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Do you know how to…
Survive a bear attack?
Make fire from virtually nothing?
Fly a plane in an emergency?
Survive in the most extreme conditions?
Bear Grylls does.
There is barely a terrain he hasn’t conquered or an extreme environment he hasn’t experienced. From his time in 21 SAS, through to his extraordinary expeditions in the toughest corners of each of the seven continents, Bear has accumulated an astonishing wealth of survival knowledge.
Now, for the first time, he is putting all his expertise into one book. How To Stay Alive will teach you all of the essential skills you need to survive in the modern world.

I’m not a very practical person. I have trouble with my balance and my sense of direction and I’m terrified of spiders. Hence, I won’t be good on the island, apart from the fact that I quite enjoy spending time alone. So, my next choice is here to help me survive physically: ‘How to Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation’. It’s written by Bear Grylls of course, and if you were stranded on a desert island, why wouldn’t you want a book by Bear telling you how to survive? I haven’t read it yet since I haven’t had the need, but apparently it can help you survive a bear attack (hah – he should know), make fire from virtually nothing, fly a plane in an emergency and just generally survive in the most extreme conditions. Bear knows what he’s talking about since there is barely (geddit?) a terrain he hasn’t conquered or an extreme environment he hasn’t experienced. When it comes to survival knowledge, if Bear doesn’t have it, then it doesn’t exist. 

Book Five – Easy Learning Italian by Collins Dictionaries

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A handy 3-in-1 Italian study book: grammar, verbs and vocabulary in one volume, ideal for beginners who need a clear and easy-to-understand Italian reference and revision guide.

This book gives you the essential tools to help you progress quickly in your study of Italian. The grammar, verb and vocabulary sections have been designed for all those learning Italian at school, in an evening class, for work or for leisure.

With its clear, user-friendly grammar, all the most important Italian verbs shown in full, and an extensive vocabulary guide, this book gives you all the elements to start speaking and writing with confidence in Italian.

I’ve always meant to learn Italian. I love Italy and if I were to be born again and could choose my country of birth, I would be Italian, no contest. So here I am on a desert island with (presumably) no one to distract me. Why not learn the Italian language? There wouldn’t be anyone to laugh at my poor efforts and I could practice as much as I wanted. I feel as if I could become fluent if I really tried and had enough time, and what better guide to help me than ‘Easy Learning Italian Complete Grammar, Verbs and Vocabulary (3 books in 1): by Collins Dictionaries. Who knows – if my luck’s in, I might even get rescued by an Italian, and then I could at least communicate with the guy…

My luxury item

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You will have heard this before of course, but I need to write, I love to write and so a spiral notebook set with pen attached and everlasting ink (and paper) would be perfect. Or perhaps Bear Grylls knows how to make writing materials from a palm tree?? 

About the Author

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Rosanna Ley has written ten novels published by Quercus Books and translated into fourteen different languages around the world.

Rosanna has worked as a creative writing tutor for over 30 years. She has led courses for colleges and universities in England, and mentored and appraised the work of new writers. She now runs her own writing retreats and holidays in the UK and in stunning locations in Europe. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in creative writing for personal development in order to support this.

Rosanna loves reading, playing tennis and walking on the beach in West Dorset where she lives. Her favourite writing place is anywhere with a sea view.

Rosanna’s latest novel The Orange Grove was published by Quercus in June 2021. You can buy a copy here.

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Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city-job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood and opening Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her. 

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville Orange and Almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family? 

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. 

Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet. Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

Connect wit Rosanna:

Website: https://rosannaley.com/

Facebook: Rosanna Ley Novels

Twitter: @RosannaLey

Instagram: @rosannaleyauthor

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Blog Tour: Murder at the House on the Hill by Victoria Walters #BookReview

Murder At The House On The Hill

It is my turn on the blog tour today for Murder at the House on the Hill by Victoria Walters and I want to thank Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me a slot on the tour, and to the author and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

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Once Upon A Crime…

Nancy Hunter and her grandmother Jane Hunter run the Dedley Endings Bookshop, selling crime, thriller and mystery books, in a small, quiet Cotswold village where nothing ever happens…

That is, until the wealthy and reclusive Roth family open up their mansion for the first time in twenty years, inviting the people of Dedley End to a lavish engagement party.

While everyone is thrilled to finally look around the mansion on the hill, the festivities are quickly cut short when beautiful Lucy, recently married to young Harry Roth, is found dead after being pushed over the first-floor balustrade.

But who among the guests could have been capable of her murder – and why?

Nancy and Jane decide to investigate – after all, not only do they own a crime themed bookshop, they were also both named after famous literary detectives – but soon wonder if they’ve taken on more than they can handle. Especially when it seems the killer has worked out that they’re hot on their heels…

Can they catch the murderer before the murderer catches up with them? Or will there be a deadly ending to this story?

I really love a cosy crime novel and the cover of this one drew me in straight away, I absolutely love it, it’s one I will be buying to grace my shelves and the marketing team have done a great job to reflect the book here. Kudos to the cover artist as well. The hook of the book also got me – a mystery-solving grandmother and granddaughter duo who own a crime book shop? Who wouldn’t want to read that?

I absolutely loved the dynamics in this book between Nancy and her grandmother, they make a great team. The author is fabulous at characterisation, and all of the players in this book are interesting in their own way. Nancy’s best friend, Jonathan, is also a fantastic character and his relationship with Nancy was one of my favourites.

The setting of the book in a quaint Cotswold village where nothing much happens is perfect and, Dedley End, what a great name that is. It just encapsulates this books completely, clever and funny, not taking itself too seriously at all.

This book was a really easy, quick read for me because the writing is clear and the plot so entertaining and pacy that I just rattled through it at speed. I did not work out the ending in advance and thoroughly enjoyed the journey of getting there. There was nothing about this book that was not a pleasure and I really look forward to reading more in the series. I really hope all the other covers are as good as this one. If so, I’ll be a paperback devotee!

Perfect as an autumn read now the days are getting shorter and chillier and fans of cosy crime will love it. Highly recommended.

The book is out in ebook and paperback now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

Victoria Walters author picture

Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of the bestselling GLENDALE HALL series, which continues with its third book HOPEFUL HEARTS at GLENDALE HALL in September, as well as two other standalone novels – SUMMER at the KINDNESS CAFE, and THE SECOND LOVE of my LIFE. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for two RNA awards. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

Connect with Victoria:

Website: https://victoria-writes.com/

Facebook: Victoria Walters

Twitter: @Vicky_Walters

Instagram: @vickyjwalters

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lynda Stacey

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This week’s romancing writing guest is my neighbour, good friend and amazing author… Lynda Stacey.

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

Hi Julie, thanks for having me. The books that I write are suspense, however they always have an underlying romance. I like to mix the two, because in normal life, none of us can tell what will happen from one day to the next. So, to ensure that my heroine has a great story, along with a varied lifestyle… I throw everything at her, all at once.

Why romance? 

Because in life, we all love to be loved. I honestly believe that people are like pack animals, they want to be part of a group, a tribe, a couple. So romance is a lovely way to show my hero and heroines softer side, even though most of the time I like to give them truly kick ass attitude.

What inspires your stories?

I really have no idea. It’s normally a house, a hotel, a landscape. There’s always a place, or moment in time that I like to grab hold of. Once I have a location, then I tend to build the story around it.

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

I grew up devouring Enid Blyton. All of my age group did. I read every book repeatedly. 

As an adult, I love Lesley Pearce, Kate Morton and Nora Roberts, I’ve read almost everything they wrote and to be honest, one of my favourite ever quotes that a reader gave to my books was that I wrote like Nora Robert. It’s an accolade which I find both amazing and terrifying at the same time, because I’d love to be compared to her.

This was the quote:

‘Lynda Stacey is up there with Nora Roberts when it comes to writing jaw-dropping, nerve-twisting and addictive tales spiced with intrigue, passion and suspense.’

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

Oh wow, that’s like asking if I have a favourite child. If I were pushed, I’d probably say pretty much anything by Nora Roberts.

Maybe, Sanctuary. It had quite a few twists and turns that I really loved the island setting, along with a ‘will they, won’t they’ love affair that set my spine tingling, that was balanced with the underlying thriller, where you were never sure who was the killer.

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Successful photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway thought she’d escaped the house called Sanctuary long ago. She’d spent her loneliest years there after the sudden, shattering disappearance of her mother. But now someone is sending Jo strange, candid pictures, culminating in the most shocking portrait of all – a photo of her mother, naked, beautiful and dead.

Jo returns home to face her bitterly estranged family, only to find an unexpected chance for happiness in the form of architect Nathan Delaney. But while Jo and Nathan hope to lay the past to rest, a sinister presence is watching from the shadows. And Jo will soon learn there is no peace at Sanctuary . . .

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

I’d have to say, ‘my hero at home’, my husband Haydn is my everyday romantic hero. We’ve been together for 30 years, and I’m not planning on swapping him anytime soon. So, my perfect romantic weekend with him would be on the Maldives, where we could lie in the sun, scuba dive and drink cosmopolitan’s while watching dolphins leap through the waves and take in the sunset as it slips into the sea.

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

The RNA is amazing. I love everything about it. From the day I joined, I became part of a tribe. I got to meet and listen to some of the most amazing authors, who freely gave their knowledge, time, and wisdom. The small nuggets of information that you pick up are priceless and I can honestly say that being a part of the RNA put me on the right path. Without them I doubt I’d have ever become a published author.

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

Listen and learn, and no matter how busy you are each day, take a moment to congratulate yourself for every word you write. It’s one more word that counts and a word closer to writing ‘The End’.

And remember, every word you write means something – even if only to yourself.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest book is called No Place Like Home. 

Sister’s Molly and Beth move to a remote, cliff top property that they inherit following their mother’s brutal murder. It’s a house that overlooks the beach, the sea, and the town of Filey and should be the most beautiful place on earth to live. But someone is out to kill them, and they have no intention of stopping. 

It’s a story of loss, of love and of family ties. A story that shows how extremely protective of her sister Molly is, but it also shows the way she struggles with the fact that she’s suddenly become an impromptu parent – to a very vocal teenager. 

Doing all she can to keep Beth safe, she realises that danger could literally be around every corner, she doesn’t know who to trust and, in the end, she finds herself living in a world where almost everyone around her could want her dead. 

Will Molly manage to survive, will she keep Beth safe? Or will life on the edge of a cliff suddenly become more dangerous than she’d thought?

It’s out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. (You can read my review of No Place Like Home here.)

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He knows where you are…

Sisters Molly and Beth Winters thought the remote clifftop house would be the perfect place to hide away after their mother’s brutal murder. They were wrong….

He wants revenge…

Because someone from the girls’ past has already found their safe house and he is watching and waiting in the shadows ready to make them pay.

He won’t stop until you’re dead…

Their new home should have been the place the sisters were safe.

But no place is safe forever.

About the Author

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Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire,

Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for almost 30 years.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

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Blog Tour: Matchmaking At Port Willow by Kiley Dunbar #BookReview

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I am so happy to be on this blog tour today, as I loved, loved, loved the first book in this series! (You can read my review of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach here.) My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting to take part, and to the author and publisher for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

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Beatrice Halliday has been working hard at the Princess and The Pea Inn, loved up with landlord Atholl and enjoying planning events for the locals. But at Christmas there’s a kick – as she realises she’s expecting.

Despite being fearful of the future, Beatrice is graced with a distraction: the prospects of helping a romance flourish when a married couple spend their first child-free holiday at the Inn – and it becomes clear they need some help rediscovering each other. In true Beatrice fashion, she can’t help meddling.

I couldn’t wait to get back to Port Willow and find out what was happening to Beatrice and Atholl after the end of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, as I had fallen in love with all of the characters and the setting in the last book. Beatrice’s story is particularly close to my heart, having been through a similar experience myself, so I have a real soft spot for this couple and I wanted to see what Kiley had in store for their future, hoping it was a happy one. Sure enough, they are still loved up and working on improving and building up the business at The Princess and the Pea Inn, and Beatrice has lots of ideas about how to bring in new customers, including trying to find other people the happy-ever-afters she has discovered with Atholl. But, of course, life is never plain sailing and, when Beatrice gets some unexpected news, it stirs up the past and lots of emotion. I can’t say much more without spoiling the story for people who are new to the series but, suffice it to say, Kiley’s handling of this sensitive storyline continues to be delicate and true and I thought it was beautifully done.

And then we have a new character to bring new drama to Port Willow. Poor Nina, she’s like a fish out of water. Transported from a life of glamour in New York to this tiny Scottish village, recently dumped, demoted and spending Christmas amongst strangers, she can probably be forgiven for being a bit miserable and unpleasant, but she is definitely a hard character to like at the beginning. She doesn’t even try and endear herself to the locals, so intent is she on her own misery, but Port Willow and its inhabitants creep under skin anyway. Especially Mutt. Who wouldn’t fall in love with Mutt? (Anyone else got pictures from the first few seasons of Schitt’s Creek in their heads when they hear this name, which isn’t in any way a bad thing as you’ll know if you’ve watched it. I wonder if Kiley is a fan?) Surely Nina can’t be immune to his charms for long? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

There are other guests that arrive in need to Beatrice’s matchmaking skills, the return of my favourite character, Seth, and plenty of and lots of fun going on that feels uniquely Port Willow. If you enjoy Kiley’s writing, all of her usual trademarks are here – gentle humour, great characterisation, a rolling good plot, and serious topics handled with care and charm. I haven’t yet read a book by this author that I didn’t love, and this is no exception. In fact, her writing feels to me like it is getting better and better and I can’t wait to read more. I particularly hope that we will be coming back to Port Willow in the future because I am not ready to leave these characters or this place behind yet. And here I will make my persistent plea to the publisher, please, please, please can we have paperback copies of Kiley’s books for our bookshelves (or just a single copy of each for me will do!) I am determined to wear them down on this issue eventually because these novels really need to exist in physical format for posterity!

Matchmaking at Port Willow is out now in ebook format, and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Kiley Dunbar author portrait

Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places, with One Winter’s Night being shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.

Kiley’s five novels include: The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday (May 2021), One Winter’s Night (September 2020), Summer at the Highland Coral Beach (2020), Christmas at Frozen Falls (2019) and One Summer’s Night (2019).

Connect with Kiley:

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

Facebook: Kiley Dunbar Author

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

Instagram: @kileydunbarromance

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Friday Night Drinks with… Isabella May

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Tonight’s guest is definitely someone who enjoys a good chat session over food and drink, as exhibited by her wonderful foodie-based romance novels. So I am delighted to be having Friday Night Drinks with author… Isabella May.

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

As it’s Friday night and we’ve only just left summer behind, I’ve plumped for a goblet of Aperol Spritz in the hope of hanging onto the sunshine for a little longer…

Cheers!

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

I’d teleport you to Spain and we’d go to an amazing cocktail bar in Estepona, just down the coast from where I live, to enjoy refreshing drinks and a beach view – with the rock of Gibraltar and Morocco putting in an appearance in the distance if it’s not too hazy.

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?

That would have to be Prince and Nigella.

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

It’s been quite a busy book year as I’ve released two novels in fairly quick succession. Bubblegum and Blazers was published in July, and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar (my first Christmas novel) was published a couple of days ago. I also have my 9th book on the go: The Custard Tart Cafe launches on April 1st 2022, and I’m busy adding to my word count for that.

I was always writing funny little stories as a small child, accompanying them with quirky drawings, but growing up, I never perceived that as a sign that I’d go on to become a romcom author; I mean lots of children were doing the same thing at that age – if only at school during lessons! 

In my late twenties, the storytelling bug began to bite at my heels again, and I invented a couple of children’s characters called Poodle and Noodle… and did nothing with them (in hindsight, they really weren’t all that innovative; I think I just got carried away after watching Toy Story at the cinema!). Then I had a few comedy script writing ideas which I sent off to TV production companies… only for them to be rejected. 

A few years after escaping a very bad relationship, I knew I had to use my experience to help other people, and so the seed for my debut novel, Oh! What a Pavlova, was planted. But I wanted to write the book differently. I wanted it to reflect the double life I was living whilst working in international publishing at the time. I felt this two-tone aspect of domestic violence was rarely portrayed and that more awareness of it was needed. I was one very down-trodden person behind closed doors, and a whole other version of myself (the true version of myself, at least most of the time) from the moment I stepped out of my front door. That’s how Kate Clothier’s character was born. Essentially, ‘Pavlova’ is a cross-genre title as it had so many elements to it: romance, comedy, food and travel writing, and magical realism. It is as dark as it is light.  

In other words, I took to breaking ‘the writing rules’ with book one like a duck to water… and I have never looked back. This has been as much a source of joy as it has disappointment. 

On the one hand, I have a true USP, and I have built up a distinctive brand by remaining true to myself and refusing to tick the boxes required by most publishers. On the other hand, I have faced crushing rejection. The latter has been really hard to accept at times. I know I write well because my loyal and growing readership, and their fantastic reviews, reflect that back to me. And yet… whenever I try to take my books to a wider audience via an agent or a large digi publisher, I am met with the same old perceived problem of a dichotomy:

‘You write really well but you are trying to do too much and we just aren’t sure how we’d market you.’

In July 2020, fed up with the gate keeping, I decided to walk away from subbing for good and take my destiny in my own hands. I genuinely haven’t looked back, although it is very much a marathon, not a sprint.

I have a solid brand and so many more titles lined up, and I am super-charged and inspired by all of the indie and self-published trailblazers who are shaking up the industry in all of their various genres. It honestly feels like anything is possible and I am just excited to see where the journey takes me and my books.

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

I like to celebrate the little wins so there isn’t one defining moment – with the exception of getting that first novel out there, of course. That said, I do think, particularly as an indie, knowing your books are genuinely being loved and devoured by bookworms who aren’t just family and friends, is a huge turning point! 

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

I spent 15 years working in foreign rights, selling children’s books all over the world in 45 languages – from Norwegian to Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese Simplified to Afrikaans, Thai to Basque. It was a fascinating job and knowing all of the hard work that goes into the sale and production of foreign rights, it would be an absolute dream to see my own books translated into just one foreign language! Don’t get me wrong, the NYT bestseller list and hitting the UK Amazon Kindle number 1 spot would be lovely… but as a linguist, I would take so much more joy from seeing my books out there on sale for readers in other countries. I hope those authors who are in such a situation view their good fortune as more than a ‘cherry on the cake’. It’s a huge privilege to see your novel ‘travel’.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

I am very eager to become a fully-fledged indie author as of the end of this year. The rights for all 3 of my traditionally published books revert this year, with the final book of that trio, Costa del Churros (and a brand new and beautiful cover), returning to me at the very end of December. Then I plan to start the marketing of my Foodie Romance Journeys in earnest. Until then, things have been a little in limbo as it’s only really made sense to market organically. But once all of my books are in my hands as a self-published author, I plan to ramp the marketing up and treat this whole gig as a business.

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 to travel too! It’s been really disappointing to have to cancel so many trips over the past eighteen months, hasn’t it? 

My obsession with travel, and the perks of my former career, have taken me to some amazing places, but nowhere was been quite as chocolate box beautiful as New Zealand – particularly its south island. I also have a huge soft spot for Italy. All of it! It’s just everything you could ever want from a travel destination, and so much more. I could never tire of Italy.

I will need to save up for the place that is probably top of my future travel list (overlooking my burning desire to get back to the UK to see my family!), and that’s Melbourne, Australia. Since becoming an author, I have made a number of really good author friends in the city, and I really want to visit them and hang out at all of the trendy eateries they have on their doorstep! Coinciding it with the tennis would be amazing.

I love Italy too, I’m hoping I can get over there for my big 5-0 birthday trip as planned next year. (Well, I’m hoping it’s planned, maybe this will give my OH another nudge. I’ve been dropping hints since I planned EXACTLY what he wanted for his fiftieth three years ago!)

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

I speak four languages: English (well, sometimes that’s a little more Somerset, a little less Queen’s BBC… especially after all these cocktails!), French, German, and Spanish.

I understand written Italian and Portuguese too.

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

My favourite book (so far) this year has to be The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley. Rosanna is a very well-established author, but a new author to me. TOG is superbly written, emotional, sensual, life-affirming, thought-provoking, and full of the sights, sounds and smells of Seville. An absolute page-turner of a romance. One of those novels that will stay with me for a long time. I’d highly recommend it!

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Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood to open Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her.

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville orange and almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family?

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet.

Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

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 try to make sure I have a glass of water in-between each cocktail! If this hasn’t worked and I’m feeling ropey the next day, then there is always CAKE 😉

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

Seeing as we’re in Spain, we’d have a late breakfast of churros (books in hand), hit the beach (books still in hand!) and brave the sea for a quick dip, then take ourselves into Gibraltar for afternoon tea on the Sunborn Yacht and a spot of tax-free shopping, before driving back into Spain and inland to Ronda for dinner overlooking the glorious and ancient Puente Nuevo bridge which is built into the cliffs of a dramatic gorge.

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The next day we’d pop down to Malaga city for arty-farty sightseeing, Antonio Banderas spotting and tapas, finishing up with a champagne sunset cruise setting off from nearby Marbella. The perfect way to finish reading our books!

That sounds amazing, I’m jumping on a plane as soon as I can! Thank you so much for chatting with me this evening, I have had the best time.

Isabella’s latest book, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar, is her 8th novel and it was published on 21 September. You can buy a copy here.

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River and Alice miss Somerset. Christmas isn’t Christmas without family and friends, even when you live in quaint Cornwall.

 

When River’s Aunt Sheba dies unexpectedly, leaving him her ancient VW campervan, nostalgia nudges him and Alice back to Glastonbury – and the surrounding villages – to rediscover their roots whilst serving the most decadent hot chocolate and delectable gingerbread from their renovated ‘bar on wheels’.

 

A bar on wheels complete with a fold-up stage to host local talent competitions rivaling anything Simon Cowell could dream up, even if he’d gorged on a truckle of Cheddar cheese!

 

As the villagers sip their cocoa and ice their gingerbread houses amidst the festive backdrop of song, dance, and slightly more unconventional talents, River and Alice find themselves in an unexpected race against time:

 

Zara, their chocolate supplier is leaving Glastonbury on the twelfth day of Christmas, keen to put a string of disastrous relationships behind her to make a fresh start.

 

Bruno, their gregarious and gorgeous baking supplier is secretly smitten with Zara – ticking every box on her New Year’s wish list.

 

If only they can get them together for one experimental kiss under the mistletoe…

 

They’ve even enlisted their customers’ help in their mission to wrap this budding romance up in all the jingle bells and whistles. How hard can it be?

 

So, ho, ho VERY tricky, as it turns out…

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic, as well as a Pranic Healer.

After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!

All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her cross-genre novels, fused with a dollop of romcom, and a sprinkle of magical realism.

You can find out more about Isabella and her books on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: The Shanghai Wife by Emma Harcourt #BookReview

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I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Shanghai Wife by Emma Harcourt. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Forbidden friendship, political conspiracy and incendiary passion draw Australian woman Annie Brand deep into the glamour and turmoil of 1920s Shanghai.

Leaving behind the loneliness and trauma of her past in country Australia, Annie Brand arrives to the political upheaval and glittering international society of Shanghai in the 1920s. Journeying up the Yangtze with her new husband, the ship’s captain, Annie revels in the sense of adventure but when her husband sends her back to Shanghai, her freedom is quickly curtailed.

Against her will, Annie finds herself living alone in the International Settlement, increasingly suffocated by the judgemental Club ladies and their exclusive social scene: one even more restrictive than that she came from. Sick of salacious gossip and foreign condescension, and desperate to shake off the restrictions of her position in the world, Annie is slowly drawn into the bustling life and otherness of the real Shanghai, and begins to see the world from the perspective of the local people, including the servants who work at her husband’s Club.

But this world is far more complex and dangerous than the curious Annie understands and, unknowingly, she becomes caught in a web of intrigue and conspiracy as well as a passionate forbidden love affair she could not have predicted: one with far–reaching consequences…

I was very eager to be on the tour for this book, as this is a time period and setting that I know very little about, and one of the great joys for me in reading is learning. I have to say, this book really opened my eyes to a fascinating time and place in history and am now keen to read more about it. You can’t ask much more from a book than inspiring curiosity in you whilst it entertains.

This book is an intriguing mix of history, social commentary and thriller, and I was drawn into the exquisitely drawn setting as soon as I started to read. The book opens with a young wife, Annie, as she travels up the Yangtze river with her new husband, a boat captain. The couple are still getting to know one another, and the scenes between them are sweet and tender. However, China in the 1920s is a place of political upheaval and danger, with rioting in the cities and banditry in the hills, and Alec, fearing that the journey is too dangerous for his wife and sends her back to the relative safety of the International Settlement in Shanghai.

Annie is an unusual character in the community, young and rebellious, having run away from home in Australia, she does not fit in easily with the constraining social rules of ex-pat society in China, and she displays an unseemly (in the eyes of the other women) interest in the local issues and grows too close to some of the Chinese community. She is very naive, and meddles in things she doesn’t really understand, whilst out of her husband’s immediate supervision, and ends up in a dangerous situation.

I found Annie’s story fascinating. From the perspective of a modern woman, I can sympathise with her feelings, and understand her frustrations, whilst recognising how inappropriate and unwise her actions are. You can see that the situation is not going to end well, and, boy, is this author cruel to her protagonist. This book is an emotional rollercoaster that the reader is propelled along with Annie by the power and beauty of the author’s writing. She has painted a rich and exotic world here, that you can practically touch through the pages and it feels very alive. I absolutely loved being caught up in the machinations of the ex-pat community in Shanghai at this time.

If I had any criticism of the book, it would be that the final segment unravelling the thriller aspect of the plot felt a little rushed, and I got slightly confused. I felt that the author had really luxuriated in the historical and romantic aspects of the plot earlier on, but was less invested in this aspect and just wanted it sorting out. It didn’t feel as richly developed as I would have liked, and it gave the book an uneven cadence in the final quarter. I also didn’t really understand what was the issue between Annie and her father, and this didn’t get resolved to my satisfaction.

These niggles aside, this book is a beautiful exploration of an experience in history that is ripe for story-telling and provides the reader with a feast for all of the senses. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would not hesitate to pick up another novel by this author. If you love historical fiction, you will want to give this a go.

The Shanghai Wife is out now in all formats and you can get a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Emma Harcourt has worked as a journalist for over 25 years, in Australia, the UK and Hong Kong. In 2011, she completed the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course and The Shanghai Wife was borne. Emma lives in Sydney with her two daughters. She is currently working on her second novel.

Connect with Emma:

Facebook: Emma Harcourt Author

Twitter: @emma_harcourt

Instagram: @emmaharcourtauthor

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Desert Island Books with… Mick Arnold

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Today’s strandee will be better equipped to deal with isolation on my desert island than many, I think, as he has certain useful practical skills. However, he will still need intellectual and emotional stimulation, so let’s see what books he is taking with him to provide that. He is author… Mick Arnold.

Book One – The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

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This is a story of many different things.

Of a terrible war and an occupied land

Of the Balicki children who are determined to survive

Of a dangerous journey from war-torn Poland to Switzerland

Of a paper knife that gives them the courage to carry on when nearly all hope is lost.

The Silver Sword is the first adult novel I recall reading, and it’s stuck with me ever since. First published in 1956, this is the deceptively simple story of how a group of Polish children traipses across war-torn Europe in search of their father, picking up a troubled stray boy along the way. None older than 16, this is such a moving story which kept me guessing right until the end. For a novel seemingly aimed towards what would now be called the YA audience, this is such a powerful story full of the best and worst of humanity during the terrible conflict, which was World War 2.

Book Two – Guards! Guards! By Sir Terry Pratchett

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‘It was the usual Ankh-Morpork mob in times of crisis; half of them were here to complain, a quarter of them were here to watch the other half, and the remainder were here to rob, importune or sell hotdogs to the rest.’

Insurrection is in the air in the city of Ankh-Morpork. The Haves and Have-Nots are about to fall out all over again.

Captain Sam Vimes of the city’s ramshackle Night Watch is used to this. It’s enough to drive a man to drink. Well, to drink more. But this time, something is different – the Have-Nots have found the key to a dormant, lethal weapon that even they don’t fully understand, and they’re about to unleash a campaign of terror on the city.

Time for Captain Vimes to sober up.

I was already a huge fan of the work of Terry Pratchett by the time this novel came out. It didn’t need it, but I knew I had to read this novel as soon as read the tag – Captain Sam Vimes is searching for a dragon he believes could help him with his enquires. Who wouldn’t want to read on to find out what happens? Pratchett’s creation of the Discworld surpasses that of Tolkein’s Middle Earth – or at least it does in my opinion. To this day, if I need to cheer myself up, I’ll pick up a Discworld novel and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read Guards! Guards!; and I never get tired of it. Pratchett creates such vivid pictures of each and every character, no matter how minor they are to the plot, which means I always find something new each time I read the book.

Book Three – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

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‘Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board and we can take you anywhere you want to go.’

When the Knight Bus crashes through the darkness and screeches to a halt in front of him, it’s the start of another far from ordinary year at Hogwarts for Harry Potter. Sirius Black, escaped mass-murderer and follower of Lord Voldemort, is on the run – and they say he is coming after Harry. In his first ever Divination class, Professor Trelawney sees an omen of death in Harry’s tea leaves… But perhaps most terrifying of all are the Dementors patrolling the school grounds, with their soul-sucking kiss…

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. IMHO, the novel in the series which transformed it from purely a children’s series and into the worldwide phenomenon it became for all ages.  Barely giving you a chance to catch your breath, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a roller coaster of a story, full of mystery and suspense, and more action than you could shake a stick at. This is still one of my favourite reads when I need to relax my mind.

Book Four – Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

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Rumour has it Artemis Fowl is responsible for every major crime of the new century.

Just twelve years old and already he’s a criminal genius, plotting to restore his family’s fortune with a spot of corruption and kidnapping.

Kidnapping a fairy for ransom, to be precise.

Artemis Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous – and extremely high-tech – fairies. But he may have underestimated their powers. They will fight back. Is the boy about to trigger a cross-species war?

Let the misadventure begin.

I know it may seem that I’ve picked a lot of non-adult books, but just because a book is written with one audience in mind, doesn’t mean it can’t appeal to another. Think an evil twelve-year old James Bond, but with magic and fairies! This book takes you from Vietnam to the city of Haven inside the Earth, via Ireland.  Forget the awful Disney film, this is a rock ‘n’ roller of  book which will make you believe in fairies.

Book Five – The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

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On a snowy December evening, Sam Jermyn steps into the life of bespoke hat maker Ava. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good ones.

Times are tough for Ava – she’s struggling to make ends meet, her ex-boyfriend is a bully, and worst of all, it’s nearly Christmas.

So when Sam commissions Ava to make a hat for someone special, she makes a promise that will change her life. She just doesn’t know it yet…

I am a huge fan of Christmas romance and they don’t come any better than this novel. Sue Moorcroft is one of my favourite authors and this is one of her best. A story about someone who hates the Christmas period, this hits all the right spots. Laugh-out loud one minute, pass-me-the- tissues, the next. Forget watching The Sound of Music this coming yuletide, treat yourself to a copy of The Christmas Promise and learn why you should love Christmas.

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I’m going to be practical for my one item. For me, it’s essential, especially as it’s a desert island. I must have a good-sized hat. I burn in the sun easily, so I’d need something like a fedora to protect the back of my neck and the top of my head.

About the Author

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Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elizabeth II in the Royal Air Force before putting down roots and realizing how much he missed the travel. He’s replaced it somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and supporting fellow saga and romance authors in promoting their novels.

He’s the proud keeper of two cats bent on world domination, is mad on the music of the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. Wild Blue Yonder is the second novel in his Broken Wings series and he is very proud to be a part of the Vintage Rose Garden at The Wild Rose Press.

Mick’s latest book, Wild Blue Yonder, is available here.

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Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Doris Winter is accused of stealing a valuable item from a famous Hollywood movie star, now a Captain in the US Army Air Corps, after a dance at the air base in England where he’s stationed. Gathering her close friends together, she’s determined to clear her name.

Ruth’s POW son suffers a life-changing injury just as her own cottage takes damage in an air raid and Penny’s estranged little sister unexpectedly turns up, having run away from school. Together with the ongoing thefts of items of clothing and surprise personal revelations, these all threaten to hamper their investigation.

In spite of the worsening war situation, they must band together to rise above their troubles and prove love and friendship is worth fighting for.

Connect with Mick:

Facebook: M W Arnold Author

Twitter: @mick859

Instagram: @mick859

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Publication Day Review: A Thousand Tiny Disappointments by Sarah Edghill #BookReview

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Martha is being pulled in too many directions, trying to be a good mother, a loving wife, and a dutiful daughter. Despite it all, she’s coping. But then her elderly mother is rushed to the hospital and dies unexpectedly, and the cracks in the life Martha is struggling to hold together are about to be exposed.

When she discovers her mother has left her house to a stranger, she’s overwhelmed by grief and hurt. Getting no support from her disinterested husband or arrogant brother, Martha goes on to make some bad decisions.

If she were a good daughter, she would abide by her mother’s final wishes. If she were a good daughter, she wouldn’t destroy the evidence . . .

I am delighted to be publishing a review today for A Thousand Tiny Disappointments, the debut novel by Sarah Edghill. Today is publication day for the book, so massive congratulations on your debut, Sarah, I hope you have a fabulous day! My thanks to the author for asking me to review her novel and for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purpose of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

Very often the books we read about the break down of relationships involve some kind of huge event that is the catalyst for a marriage to explode. An affair, a lie, a deception – murder, madness and mayhem are the order of the day in fiction. Entertaining for sure, but very far from reality for most of us.

The truth of the disintegration of love is usual much less exciting. A gradual erosion of affection by the endless daily grind of life and the small, personal but no less difficult, struggles of ordinary people. This is the world that Sarah Edghill reflects in her novel, A Thousand Tiny Disappointments, and this will make the book all the more relatable for the majority of its readers.

Whilst I myself have not dealt with the particular problems Martha and Simon are dealing with in this story, I recognised my story so clearly between the pages. A personal tragedy that does not lead immediately to crisis and divorce, but which changes two people, to which two people react so differently, that eventually they become so separated there is no way back. The story was so familiar that I felt seen, and it made me immensely sad. This story is a fact for so many people, I know another friend of mine who will be able to relate to it herself, because of a different set of circumstances. The fact that it will be so familiar to so many is very sad in itself.

Sarah Edghill has captured here a very truthful portrayal of the life of an ordinary middle-aged woman. There isn’t anything particularly extraordinary about Martha or her life, which is why she will feel like so many of us. Her life isn’t terrible, or great. She has difficult things to deal with in her family, but also a life that some would envy and good friends. She makes some poor decisions in the face of adversity, just as we all have, but then her conscience kicks in and she tries to right the wrongs she has caused, just as we all hope we would. She has fraught family relationships, insecurities, delays in facing up to reality. She is so the every woman, it is a brilliant portrayal.

Despite the fact this book made me feel quite melancholy, I enjoyed it for its honesty and accuracy. I was with Martha every step of the way, feeling as she felt, crying and laughing with her. I was hugely cheering with her on the very last page for her final act of the book (which you’ll have to read if you want to know what I’m talking about!) Martha is me, you and every one else.

This book is a great achievement in truthfully reflecting modern life for the average woman of today. I defy you to read it and not feel moved. This is the kind of stuff I love to read. Bravo, Sarah.

A Thousand Tiny Disappointments is out today and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Sarah Edghill worked as a journalist for many years, before turning to fiction. She attended the Faber Academy Novel Writing course and won the Katie Fforde Contemporary Fiction Award for an early novel Wrecking Ball. She has been long- and short-listed in several short story and novel competitions and won 1st prize in the National Association of Writers’ Groups Short Story Competition. She lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, three children and far too many animals and her debut, A Thousand Tiny Disappointments will be published by Bloodhound Books on 21st September.  

Connect with Sarah:

Website: http://edghillsarah.weebly.com/

Twitter: @EdghillSarah

Instagram: @sarah.edghill

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sarah L Campbell

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Friday keeps coming around quicker and quicker, doesn’t it? Or is that just me? I have had a really packed week, so that could explain why it has flashed by I suppose. But hey, the weekend is here, yay! Time to relax and enjoy a drink and a chat with another bookish friend. Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author… Sarah L Campbell.

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Thank you for joining me tonight, Sarah and welcome to the blog. First things first, what are you drinking?

Pink Prosecco or a lovely cocktail like a passion fruit martini.  

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Yum, two of my favourites. Passionfruit is my go-to flavour in cocktails at the moment. 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?

We’d definitely have to have pre-dinner drinks at a cocktail bar, then on to an Italian restaurant, I love pasta. After that to a bar or small music venue to watch some live music. I like indie music, Jazz and folk etc. Also, 70’s and 80’s music… anything as long as it’s not dance! 

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Sounds like we are on the same wavelength for a perfect evening! 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’d probably invite Stephen Fry for good conversation and witty banter and also Charlotte Bronte. I wrote my MA dissertation on her and I’d love to discuss themes in her books!

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

At the moment, I’m writing the third novel in The Leaves of Change Café series. It will probably be the last book in the series and I wanted to tie up what’s been going on with the characters’ lives across the other books. 

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

The proudest moment since I started writing for me was actually pressing publish on my first book. It took a lot of courage and I thought a lot about it beforehand, but I’m glad that I did it.  

My biggest challenge has been getting people to read my books as an indie author. It’s certainly been a steep learning curve, but it has all been worth it for that moment when someone leaves a review saying they enjoyed your book. 

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

Oh well, I’d love for The Leaves of Change Café series to get made into a tv series or films. A girl can dream, right?

I’d like to write some mysteries, maybe that’s more achievable.  

Definitely achievable! What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

I’ve started a dual time story set in the first world war and the 1970’s. It’s completely different from what I’ve been writing. 

Sounds like your have diverse talents when it comes to writing! I guess that is one of the big advantages of being an indie author, no agent or publisher telling you that you have to stay in one niche! 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?

Norway was one of my favourite places, such beautiful, breathtaking scenery and lovely towns. I had this gorgeous pancake style cake with milk there – I can’t remember what it was called, but it was delicious. 

I’d love to do a tour of Italy, I’ve never been. 

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

I once raised money for Marie Curie by taking part in a swimathon. I had to train everyday but it was worth it in the end. I really should get back into my swimming. 

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I’ve just started open water swimming myself, it’s a great workout and exercise in mindfulness! 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’?

If you’re looking for a laugh out loud read, I recommend Escape to Honeysuckle Hall by Rebecca Raisin. 

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A fresh start brings a second chance at love…

When Orly’s boyfriend and business partner dumps her for a celebrity fling, she finds solace in tacos, tequila and tears. One terrible hangover later, she’s packed her bags and swapped her London apartment for the overgrown grounds of Honeysuckle Hall.

After years spent catering to others’ whims, Orly is going after what she wants: a simpler life, surrounded by nature. Her plan to set up countryside retreats for burned-out city-dwellers means she soon has the social life she’s been dreaming of – and gorgeous carpenter Leo is always around when she needs something fixed…

As Orly’s new life blossoms, so does her friendship with Leo, and she wonders if she’s finally found somewhere to put down roots – until she discovers a series of anonymous notes, warning her off. Was she wrong to trust Leo? Or is someone else trying to sabotage her future?

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?

A cup of tea before bed and a snack like chips to soak everything up. I think above everything, sleep is the way to go, failing that, coffee and a fry up. 

Oooh, chips (I’m on a diet, I dream of chips!) After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Out for lunch somewhere artsy, browsing quirky shops like vintage and antique places or chilling out with a good book on the beach, or with a picnic at an historic house. 

That sounds absolutely perfect, we should definitely hang out in real life! Thanks for joining me tonight, it has been great fun and best of luck with your upcoming projects.

Sarah’s latest book is A Proposal for the Leaves of Change Cafe and you can buy a copy here.

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Things are going well for Michael and Aurora in Green Leaf until his ex-girlfriend shows up and starts causing trouble between them. Aurora begins to suspect that there is something more between the two of them than organising a book launch.

She comes to a drastic decision about the future for her and her baby daughter Robin. A return to acting sounds promising for her but is it worth moving away from everyone for? Can Michael offer an explanation for his behaviour and stop her from leaving?

Meanwhile the lives of those around Aurora begin to fall apart. When her mum’s partner Colin becomes ill, her mum, Catherine makes a decision about her future. No-one, especially Aurora saw that coming…

There’s trouble when Darren leaves Rachel, just at a time that she needs him most. She’s going to need her best friend Aurora more than ever.

After completing a variety of roles including working in libraries, the theatre and even training to be a teacher, Sarah L Campbell settled on writing in her early thirties. She decided that self-publishing was the right route for her and set about writing her first ever story, a children’s book about a muddled fairy. Since then, she’s self-published 4 more children’s stories and a teenage novel. She has written two books so far in The Leaves of Change Café Series.

She lives in the northeast of England with her family and beloved cat Louie, a one-time stray now king of the castle. When she’s not at home trying to work with the cat on her knee, she loves meeting friends for a coffee and having a good old natter, or visiting somewhere new, like an historic house or museum.

You can connect with Sarah via her social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: The Dating Game by Sandy Barker #BookReview

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I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for The Dating Game by Sandy Barker. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Once upon a time, twelve women joined the hottest reality TV show looking for love. Except one had a secret identity . . .

Abby Jones is a serious writer. Or at least she will be, one day. Right now, she spends her time writing recaps of reality television under a secret identity.

When a recap for The Stag – the must-watch dating show – goes viral, her editor thinks she should be on set, writing the drama as it happens. The good news: the next season will be filmed in Sydney. Sun, sea and a glamorous trip abroad, this could be Abby’s big break.

The bad news: the producers don’t just want Abby to write the recaps, they want her to be on the show. Abby can’t think of anything worse than being undercover and followed around by cameras. But her career depends on it, and when she meets gorgeous producer Jack, Abby begins to wonder if this job might not be so bad after all . .

Even if I had never read a previous book by Sandy Barker and she hadn’t become one of my favourite romcom authors of recent years, I would have wanted to pick up a copy of The Dating Game, just based on the premise of the book alone. I’m not a devotee of reality TV shows as such, except the annual car crash that is Love Island, but the idea of a book set behind the scenes in that world was too delicious to pass on.

So, I was frothing with anticipation when I started this book, but I have to say this book exceeded even my extremely high expectations. This book is absolutely perfect in every single way and I can remember when I last enjoyed a romcom as much as this one. I devoured it in what was basically a single sitting, interrupted only when I physically could not stay awake a moment longer and I dropped my Kindle on the floor as I fell asleep, and revelled in every single moment.

Even if you have never seen a single episode of The Batchelor, (the reality show that The Stag of the book is clearly based on), you will immediately be drawn into the ridiculously fake world of so-called ‘reality tv’ which is about as far from reality as you can get and the whole scenario is scripted to play out for maximum drama and ratings. This book explores in great detail and with excoriating commentary the ludicrous notion of trying to make real people behave in a scripted way to make other people watching it believe that it is all true. When you step back and look at it, the absurdity is clear and the author plays this to the max in the book.

The main character, Abby, is very likeable and carried the story, and the reader, easily, but the person I really loved is her wicked alter ego, Anastasia Blabbergasted, an online commentator on reality TV. This woman is a total goddess with the wickedest wit and the fastest mouth in the west and her recaps on the episodes of The Stag were my favourite parts of the book and had me laughing out loud every time. In fact, Sandy could make an absolute fortune on any reality TV show doing the commentary, if Ian Bentley retires and TV companies weren’t overly worried about being sued. I’ve set myself a reminder to check out Sandy’s Twitter feed next time an reality TV show comes on. I wonder what she could come up with for the new series of Bake Off that starts on Tuesday.

There is a romance involved in the book, with the geeky but cute Jack, but for me this was a secondary plot concern compared with Abby’s dilemmas of pretending to be two things she isn’t, her struggles over her friendships in the programme with the part she is forced to play in the show, and the blurring of fiction and fact in reality TV-land. There is so much to unpack and enjoy in this book that the pages fairly flew by and it was obver well before I was ready for it to be, I was enjoying the story so much.

As I said early on, I am a massive fan of Sandy’s writing but these is by far and away my favourite of her novels yet. A big, fat five stars from me and I urge you all to go out and buy it immediately if you are looking to be amused and entertained.

The Dating Game is out now in ebook format (currently 99p!) and will be published in paperback on 9 December. You can get your copy here.

Please do check out some of the reviews of the book by the many other excellent bloggers taking part in the tour. You can find them listed below:

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About the Author

Author Photo Sandy Barker

Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob. She lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins. 

Connect with Sandy:

Website: https://sandybarker.com/

Facebook: Sandy Barker Author

Twitter: @sandybarker

Instagram: @sandybarkerauthor

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