Publication Day Review: Love Life by Nancy Peach #BookReview

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Today is publication day for Love Life, the debut novel by Nancy Peach. Happy publication day, Nancy. I have been lucky enough to have received an advanced copy of the book for the purposes of review, and am delighted to share that review with you today. Huge thanks to the author and her publisher for providing me with a digital copy of her book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Palliative care doctor, Tess Carter, is no starry-eyed heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the disagreeable son of one of her patients starts challenging her every decision.

Edward Russell might have a big job and a posh voice, but Tess is determined not to let him get to her, especially if she can get her inner monologue to stop with the endless self-sabotage. And Edward, it turns out, may be less of a prat than he first appears…

In the real world, where gentlemanlike manners and out-of-the-blue declarations of love are a story-book fantasy, it’s up to Tess to decide whose voice to listen to … and how to make her own heard.

A romance book set in a hospice might not be something many feel-good book lovers would rush to pick up but, like the tag line in the book says, ‘Love can be found in the most unexpected of places’ and, similarly, a moving and uplifting love story can be found in the most unexpected of plot lines.

The main character is Tess, a young doctor working in palliative care in a hospice. Tess has been very hurt and let down by most of the men in her life (except her brother, Jake, who I was kind of in love with by the end of the book), so she is swearing off love and concentrating on her career. This approach is tested by the reappearance of a face from the past, which sets in motion the romantic escapades of the book.

Tess will be a very relatable character to most readers of the novel. Despite everyone around her being able to see that she is a capable, caring, genuine, accomplished human being who anyone would be privileged to know, she is riddled with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy and is constantly at war with these feelings which hold her back from having the kind of life she dreams of. This is amusingly illustrated by the warring voices she has in her head, one always telling her what an abject failure she is, the other trying to buoy her up. The fact that the second voice is that of Jane Austen added an extra layer of amusement for me, as the author has captured her voice perfectly. Whilst we may not all have voices literally talking to us as Tess does, we can all relate to what the author is trying to demonstrate – how loud and persuasively our inner critic can seem to us and how much they can influence how we feel and act.

There is no getting away from the fact that the book deals with a difficult topic, that of grief, and how grief again affects the way we act towards those around us. However, the topic is obviously something that the author is experienced in, understands and manages to deal with with a light and sympathetic but authentic touch. She manages to capture the emotion without the book straying into the realms of the terribly depressing, which I think is quite a skill, and may be unexpected to people who are taken back by the blurb. Readers should not let the idea that the book deals with end-of-life issues put them off. As someone who has dealt with a tragic and deeply personal loss in her life, I found the writing relatable and also slightly comforting. The scene in the church near the end, in particular, resonated deeply with me but in a positive way. It’s a hard sensation to describe but I did not come away from this book feeling maudlin.

The chemistry and relationship between the two main characters was believable and charged with heat. I had worried that it might feel inappropriate, given the circumstances of the plot, but it didn’t, even when a scenario in the book WAS inappropriate (people who have read this will know what I mean!) I really wanted Tess and Ed to end up together, I cared deeply about the outcome. The author did a good job of leaving the question of whether it would work out or not hanging, and it caused me real pain to think they wouldn’t. You cannot possibly ask for more from a romance novel that to create this kind of investment by the reader in your characters and their story.

If I had any complaint at all about this book, it would be that I felt the author slightly over-egged the pudding on the use of colloquial dialogue for the Yorkshire-based characters (and I speak as a native of the county) and I wish this has been dialled back slightly. Also, I took the quote in Chapter 8 about people whose well-read and well-loved books remain looking pristine being untrustworthy as a personal affront, as my books always look like they have just come from the shop no matter how many times I have read them! However, if you are a serial book-abuser from any other county in the UK, none of this will bother you at all, I’m sure.

Joking aside, I really loved this book. It dealt sensitively with some difficult issues, portrayed a believable and enthralling relationship, and walked the line between humour and pathos beautifully. I have no hesitation in recommending the book at all and back up this recommendation with the fact that I have purchased a copy of it myself for future re-reading. There is no better accolade I can give a book than spending my hard-earned cash on it.

Love Life is out today as an ebook, and will be available in paperback and audiobook formats on 9 December. You can order you copy here and anywhere else great books are sold.

About the Author

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Nancy is a writer of commercial women’s fiction, a mother of three and an owner of various ridiculous looking pets including a dog who unexpectedly grew to be the size of a small horse. She is also a practicing doctor working for both the NHS and a national cancer charity. Over the years her medical job has provided her with an insight into many aspects of human behaviour, across all walks of life, and she is endlessly fascinated by the people she meets. She has always loved to write and finds the process incredibly therapeutic as well as being a welcome diversion from some of the less glamorous aspects of her other roles. Being a medical doctor, her sense of humour is already quite dark; she prides herself on being able to find comedy in challenging scenarios and has found this to be an essential skill in both her domestic and working life. Love and laughter are the best of medicines and she tries to channel as much of them as possible into her blogs www.mumhasdementia.com  and www.nancy-peach.com as well as her books – casting a wry and discerning eye over the human condition and tackling heavyweight issues with a light comedic touch. 

Nancy’s work has been longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize and shortlisted for a Harper Collins / Gransnet competition. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and is represented by Tanera Simons at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Her debut novel Love Life is published by One More Chapter at Harper Collins.

Connect with Nancy:

Website: https://nancy-peach.com/

Facebook: Nancy Peach Writer

Twitter: @Mumhasdementia

Instagram: @nancy.peach

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Nancy Peach

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Today’s guest on Romancing The Romance Authors is a debut author whose publication journey I have been following closely so I’m very interested to see her take on writing romance. Pleased to welcome to my blog for the first (but surely not the last) time… Nancy Peach.

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

I’m just beginning my publishing journey so haven’t really fixed on a type yet, but my debut Love Life is published with One More Chapter and probably sits in the rom-com category. Love Life has a Pride and Prejudice style plot, but it’s also set in a hospice, which I think gives it a different perspective. I suppose that if I have a style of writing it is to tackle hard topics with a light touch. I am a big fan of finding humour in dark places and was longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print prize last year for my novel Sandwich which deals with dementia. 

Why romance?

Because love and romance are at the heart of all universal stories – in a way I think it’s impossible to write books and not write about romance. All the greatest authors have known that the most direct route to a reader’s mind is via the heart and many of the fictional characters we hold dear are the ones who have been affected by a doomed romance or a grand passion. Every genre, whether it be crime, historical or dystopian science fiction, has romantic themes running through it and without a hint of a love interest a story loses depth and fails to engage a reader. 

All of the above, plus I like writing sex scenes.

What inspires your stories?

Daily life – I enjoy finding inspiration hidden in the mundane, whether that be at home or at work. Being a doctor means that I am fortunate enough to witness many elements of human behaviour and interaction. It is a great privilege to have this level of access to people’s lives and relationships and it’s one of the things I enjoy most about my job. I am obviously very careful never to break confidentiality and none of my patients’ details will ever make it directly to the page, but a lot of what forms the basis of my books comes from making general observations about the human stories I see unfolding in front of me every day. 

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

Generally, those who introduce an element of humour in their writing. Whether it be sharply satirical like Jane Austen or gently comical like Beth O’Leary, or full-blown hilarious like Helen Fielding, Marian Keyes, Mhairi McFarlane and Lucy Vine. 

Having said that, some of the most deeply affecting love stories I’ve read recently have not fallen into the comedy category – Delia Owens’ ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and Anthony Doerr’s ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ had me in absolute bits.

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

That is such a hard question to answer (frantically tries to narrow down enormous shortlist). I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect package than Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare as an example of a modern contemporary romance, but the gold standard for me will always be Pride and Prejudice. I can’t possibly say anything about this book that hasn’t already been said, but each line is a masterclass in wryly observed understatement, like a permanently raised eyebrow. Jane Austen is a genius.

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The pride of high-ranking Mr Darcy and the prejudice of middle-class Elizabeth Bennet conduct an absorbing dance through the rigid social hierarchies of early-nineteenth-century England, with the passion of the two unlikely lovers growing as their union seems ever more improbable.

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 would jump into bed with Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy and likely never be seen again.

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(PSA: Anyone who ever chooses Mr Darcy as the answer to this question will invoke the gratuitous photo of Colin Firth in a wet shirt. you have been warned.)

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

The RNA was my first introduction to fellow writers. Before joining I had no idea about the publishing industry, no knowledge of writing technique and no concept of how to turn my idle scribblings into a real piece of work. I stumbled across the New Writer’s Scheme in 2019 when I had completed a very rough draft of what was to become Love Life and couldn’t believe that there was a way of having my manuscript critiqued by people working in the industry and for it to be included in my membership fee. More specifically, the RNA was an invaluable source of advice during that first year when I was hopelessly naïve about publishing deals. If I hadn’t had their support at that critical point in my writing journey, I think I would be in a very different place now.

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

Keep writing and make sure you are always doing it for fun. It’s easy to get bogged down with whether you’re going to get an agent, whether you’ll be published, and whether you’ll be able to give up the day job and pursue a career as a writer. This makes the whole thing feel terribly pressurised and the reality may be that an ultimate dream of being a professional writer is either unattainable or takes an extraordinarily long time to realise. So, whilst you are waiting for international fame and glory, my advice is to treat writing like a brilliant, gloriously fulfilling hobby. By saying this I am in no way intending to diminish the experience or the process, but I see writing as a release valve, its primary function is to do me good and to make me happy. If what I produce makes other people happy too then great, but I try not to lose sight of why I write – I do it because it love it, anything else is a bonus.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Love Life is a romantic comedy featuring a hospice doctor, Tess, who is having difficulty recovering from the shock of finding her boyfriend in bed with another man. Whilst at work she encounters Edward, a man who is in denial about his mother’s terminal illness and who, as a result, hates the hospice and all it stands for. Unsurprisingly Tess and Edward dislike each other in the beginning, despite having met before in entirely different circumstances, but as Edward’s mother becomes more unwell, they begin to discover common ground. The story also features a daytime television host battling it out with a Jane Austen character as dual narrators, an absent father, an over-protective mother, a problem with binge-eating, a blind date with an estate agent, a veterinary emergency, a brush with the General Medical Council and a fair bit of shagging. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Yorkshire lass in possession of a career, a house, and a cat, must be in want of a husb—
Oh get a grip!

Dr Tess Carter is no starry-eyed Jane Austen heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the proud and disagreeable son of one of her patients starts challenging her every decision.

Edward Russell might have a big job and a posh voice, but Tess is determined not to let him get to her, especially if she can get her inner monologue to stop with the endless self-sabotage. And Edward, it turns out, may be less of a prat than he first appears; he’s certainly handy in a crisis.

In the real world, where gentlemanlike manners and out-of-the-blue declarations of love are a story-book fantasy, it’s up to Tess to decide whose voice to listen to … and how to make her own heard.

About the Author

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Nancy is a writer of commercial women’s fiction, a mother of three and an owner of various ridiculous looking pets including a dog who unexpectedly grew to be the size of a small horse. She is also a practicing doctor working for both the NHS and a national cancer charity. Over the years her medical job has provided her with an insight into many aspects of human behaviour, across all walks of life, and she is endlessly fascinated by the people she meets. She has always loved to write and finds the process incredibly therapeutic as well as being a welcome diversion from some of the less glamourous aspects of her other roles. Being a medical doctor, her sense of humour is already quite dark; she prides herself on being able to find comedy in challenging scenarios and has found this to be an essential skill in both her domestic and working life. Love and laughter are the best of medicines and she tries to channel as much of them as possible into her blogs www.mumhasdementia.com  and www.nancy-peach.com as well as her books – casting a wry and discerning eye over the human condition and tackling heavyweight issues with a light comedic touch. 

Nancy’s work has been longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize and shortlisted for a Harper Collins / Gransnet competition. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and is represented by Tanera Simons at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Her debut novel Love Life is published by One More Chapter at Harper Collins.

Connect with Nancy:

Website: https://nancy-peach.com/

Facebook: Nancy Peach Writer

Twitter: @Mumhasdementia

Instagram: @nancy.peach

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Friday Night Drinks with… Tobias Bukkehave

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Time for another Friday Night Drinks and, after a very long and busy week, I am ready to kick back and relax by chatting with author… Tobias Bukkehave

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

I’m having a good old G’n’T. If made correctly its just the best. So refreshing.

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My favourite drink. 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 take you around my home town of Copenhagen, Denmark and show you a good time. It’s a wonderful city with a lot of great places to go out.

Somewhere I have always wanted to visit. 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 invite the recently deceased John LeCarre to pick his brilliant brain on my favorite genre, clever spy literature. And then, just for kicks, I’d bring Steven Spielberg too, just because he is the greatest cinematic storyteller of our times and maybe me and John could convince him to make our books into films ; )

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?

Well, I had a breakthrough with my spy novel For King and Country last year and right now I’m writing the second instalment of the series. We just sold the movie rights and my agent is working hard to get the book published in the states and UK. So things are busy but great.

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

My proudest moment was probably when For King And Country got its first major review. It was a 5 star in the leading Danish newspaper and it just accelerated things massively. The biggest challenge is right now. Getting a wrap on that sequel is pretty brutal and I’m really feeling the pressure.

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 really want my books to reach an international audience. Lockdown made the whole thing difficult but when the second book hits the market early next year we plan on making another big push in order to find strong publishers in the UK and US markets. Apart from that, I just wish to get my stories out there.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m super excited for the movie deal with Nordisk Film, the biggest Scandinavian production company. I cant wait to see what they do with my novel.

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 go to the States. Its just so different and I have a lot of friends over there so visiting is always nice. Japan is on my bucket list for sure. 

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

Hmm.. I skateboard. Yes. I am a 41-year-old skateboarder..

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

I could mention a ton of stuff here, but in order to say something a bit different i’ll go with James Clavells Tai Pan. It’s just amazing. 

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Set in the turbulent days of the founding of Hong Kong in the 1840s, Tai-Pan is the story of Dirk Struan, the ruler – the Tai-Pan – of the most powerful trading company in the Far East. He is also a pirate, an opium smuggler, and a master manipulator of men. This is the story of his fight to establish himself and his dynasty as the undisputed masters of the Orient.

Outside of my normal reading comfort zone, so I will add it to the list. 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 drink water the last hour before I go to bed. If its bad, I chug a big glass of water with salt and 2 panodil (headache pill).

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

Hang out at the canals of Copenhagen where I happen to live. Eat some good food, see the city and go for drinks again tomorrow : )

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Thanks for joining me tonight, Tobias, it has been a fun chat.

Tobias’ book, For King and Country is not currently available in English in the UK, but keep your eyes open for it in the future.

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He was betrayed by his country and by his father.
He did not swear to look back.
Now Denmark needs him.

For Rear Admiral Richard Cortzen, everything started and ended with the fatherland. However, that concept does not say anything to his son, Tom. After a traumatic experience as a fighter soldier in Iraq, he has turned his back on both his father and his homeland.

However, when the father dies and Tom has to hurry home for the funeral, something happens. An old fellow soldier taps him on the shoulder: Denmark needs Tom.

Divided between the father’s lifelong struggle for God, king and fatherland and his own.

Tobias Bukkehave (August 1980) is a Danish writer who started out in fantasy literature. His fist two books about the boy Elmer Baltazar who travels to the mystical world of Arkadia were both nominated as best youth book of the year in Denmark.
In 2029 Bukkehave signed with Politikens Forlag and in 2020 he published ‘Kongetro’ (For King and Country) a spy novel inspired by current geopolitical events and focusing on the Danish special agent, Tom Cortzen. The book spend 15 weeks on the Danish bestseller list and topped that list for three weeks. The film rights have been sold to Nordisk Film and a feature film is under development there. Right now, Bukkehave is finishing the second book in the series and has signed for a third.
 
Connect with Tobias:
 
 
Instagram: @tbukkehave
 
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Desert Island Books with… Jill Piscitello

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Today I am transporting another literary traveller to my virtual desert island with only five books and one luxury item to keep them company. Today’s willing strandee is author… Jill Piscitello.

Book One – The Bible

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The Bible is the most important book in the history of Western civilization, and also the most difficult to interpret. It has been the vehicle of continual conflict, with every interpretation reflecting passionately-held views that have affected not merely religion, but politics, art, and even science.

To date, I have not read The Bible cover to cover.  However, I imagine if stranded on a desert island, this is the one book that I would want to have with me.

Book Two – The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

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The phenomenal and inspiring bestseller by the father of positive thinking. THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING is a practical, direct-action application of spiritual techniques to overcome defeat and win confidence, success and joy.

Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking and one of the most widely read inspirational writers of all time, shares his famous formula of faith and optimism which millions of people have taken as their own simple and effective philosophy of living. His gentle guidance helps to eliminate defeatist attitudes, to know the power you possess and to make the best of your life.

A tried and true read to encourage faith in one’s own abilities to persevere, to reduce stress and worry, to tackle problems, and to (of course) maintain a positive outlook regardless of circumstance.  This book would provide the extra dose of optimism needed if marooned in the middle of nowhere.

Book Three – Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

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Pippi Longstocking is nine years old. She has just moved into Villa Villekulla where she lives all by herself with a horse, a monkey, and a big suitcase full of gold coins. The grown-ups in the village try to make Pippi behave in ways that they think a little girl should, but Pippi has other ideas.

She would much rather spend her days arranging wild, exciting adventures to enjoy with her neighbours, Tommy and Annika, or entertaining everyone she meets with her outrageous stories. Pippi thinks nothing of wrestling a circus strongman, dancing a polka with burglars, or tugging a bull’s tail.

This childhood favourite would elicit fond elementary school memories of one of my first introductions to chapter books.  I remember being fascinated by Pippi’s outrageous life, non-traditional pets, and friendships.  Pippi’s adventures might help my new castaway-self find the joy in making discoveries and having new experiences on the island.

Book Four – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.

She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.

However, there is great kindness and warmth in this epic love story, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Yorkshire moors. Ultimately the grand passion of Jane and Rochester is called upon to survive cruel revelation, loss and reunion, only to be confronted with tragedy.

This classic book lacks for nothing and is a joy to revisit over and over again.  A coming of age tale infused with love, secrets, betrayals, 3D characters, and a setting that envelops the reader.

Book Five – A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford 

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A WOMAN’S AMBITION…
In the brooding moors above a humble Yorkshire village stood Fairley Hall. There, Emma Harte, its oppressed but resourceful servant girl, acquired a shrewd determination. There, she honed her skills, discovered the meaning of treachery, learned to survive, to become a woman, and vowed to make her mark on the world.

A JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME…
In the wake of tragedy she rose from poverty to magnificent wealth as the iron-willed force behind a thriving international enterprise. As one of the richest women in the world Emma Harte has almost everything she fought so hard to achieve-save for the dream of love, and for the passion of the one man she could never have.

A DREAM FULFILLED-AND AVENGED.
Through two marriages, two devastating wars, and generations of secrets, Emma’s unparalleled success has come with a price. As greed, envy, and revenge consume those closest to her, the brilliant matriarch now finds herself poised to outwit her enemies, and to face the betrayals of the past with the same ingenious resolve that forged her empire.

My first four book choices came easily.  The fifth was a challenge.  I wanted this book to be an entertaining, fictional read.  I finally decided on one of my favourites, A Woman of Substance, because this expertly written saga has it all.  Emma’s story begins in the servants’ quarters in the Yorkshire moors and follows her ascension from poverty to power and wealth.  Her tale of perseverance, grit, and determination never gets old.  Love, betrayals, a vivid story world, and a cast of complex characters round out this unforgettable book.  An added bonus for someone stranded on a desert island is the hours slipping by unnoticed due to an 800+ page count.

(Blogger’s note: A Woman of Substance is currently available for 99p on a Kindle special deal)

My luxury item

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Besides books, another essential item that I could not live without would be a blanket for cool nights.  I’m one of those people who is always cold.  Having a blanket handy would provide a huge dose of comfort.

About the Author

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Jill Piscitello is a teacher, author, and an avid fan of multiple literary genres. Although she divides her reading hours among several books at a time, a lighthearted story offering an escape from the real world can always be found on her nightstand.

A native of New England, Jill lives with her family and three well-loved cats. When not planning lessons or reading and writing, she can be found spending time with her family, trying out new restaurants, traveling, and going on light hikes. 

Jill’s upcoming novella, Tinsel and Tea Cakes, has been contracted by The Wild Rose Press as part of the Christmas Cookies series and will have a cover reveal soon.

Hair stylist Scarlett Kerrigan lost her job and her apartment. To alleviate a touch of self pity, she succumbs to her stepmom’s pressure to attend a wedding in the New Hampshire White Mountains. Unfortunately, she runs into the vacation fling who promised the moon but disappeared without an explanation. Months have passed, but she is not ready to forgive and forget.

After a chaotic year, executive Wes Harley settles into his family’s event venue, The Timeless Manor. His carefully structured world is shaken to its core when Scarlett arrives for the Victorian Christmas wedding weekend. The feelings he never quite erased flood to the surface.

When secrets are revealed, will a magical chateau and a sprinkle of tinsel be enough to charm Scarlett?

Jill is also the author of Homemakers’ Christmas published by Satin Romance, an imprint of Melange Publishing and you can buy a copy of that book here.

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One woman’s journey from nothing to everything…

A recent error in judgment has deposited Cricket Williams, her daughter, and a son spiking a high fever into a homeless shelter. A touch of Christmas magic is sprinkled upon her family when an eccentric volunteer invites them into her New England farmhouse. Blindsided with the proposition of a contractual living arrangement, Cricket is seized with renewed hope for her future.

Boris Glynn is in town visiting his grandmother but harbors a secret that will impact her life and the lives of his dearest friends. Complications arise when he is unable to restrain himself from pursuing his grandmother’s beautiful new neighbor.

As Cricket begins to succumb to Boris’s attention, her new world is shaken by a series of events that have the potential to destroy her plans for a fresh start.

Connect with Jill:

Website: https://jillpiscitello.com/

Facebook: Jill Piscitello

Twitter: @Piscj18

Instagram: @jillpiscitellobooks

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Book Review: The Chateau by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

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They thought it was perfect. They were wrong…

A glamorous chateau

Aura and Nick don’t talk about what happened in England. They’ve bought a chateau in France to make a fresh start, and their kids need them to stay together – whatever it costs.

A couple on the brink

The expat community is welcoming, but when a neighbour is murdered at a lavish party, Aura and Nick don’t know who to trust.

A secret that is bound to come out…

Someone knows exactly why they really came to the chateau. And someone is going to give them what they deserve.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, for which they have my heartfelt thanks. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I really enjoyed Catherine’s debut novel, The Chalet, when I read it last year (you can read my review here) so I was very much looking forward to this follow up, and I can tell you it didn’t disappoint.

The story is a dual timeline, narrated by a married couple, Aura and Nick, who have just purchased a ramshackle chateau in France to renovate. I’d say ‘happily married,’ except that wouldn’t be accurate. They have moved to France after some issues in the UK, the nature of which are gradually revealed through Nick’s narration of the past timeline and their marriage still seems a little shaky, or certainly it looks that way to Aura who is the narrator of the present tense timeline.

As well as the issues in their marriage, they have all the difficulties of integrating into a new community in a new country, and things are certainly a lot livelier and more interesting that a person might imagine life in a quiet rural area of France to be! There are plenty of surprising revelations gradually fed through the story in both the past and present timelines to keep the reader on the edge of their seat throughout.

The characters in the book are drawn in a very interesting way, because none of them are particularly likeable. This is quite a brave step by the author, because it is quite easy to lose the readers if you don’t love any of the characters, but she has given us enough intrigue to keep us hooked regardless. I had no idea really where the story was going, I didn’t see the ending coming and I think the denouement was a surprising and left field step by the author which really worked for me.

All in all, a gripping and entertaining thriller which will delight readers who enjoyed the author’s first book and new readers alike. Highly recommended.

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

About the Author

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Catherine Cooper is a journalist specialising in travel, hotels, and skiing who writes regularly for the Telegraph and the Guardian among others. She lives near the Pyrenees in the South of France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier. The Chalet was her debut novel.

Connect with Catherine:

Website: http://www.catherinecooperauthor.com/

Facebook: Catherine Cooper Author

Twitter: @catherinecooper

Instagram: @catherinecooperjournalist

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Friday Night Drinks with… Nicola Cornick

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Well, it’s a new month and, for me, September always feels like the beginning of a new, fresh period of excitement, with blank slates for everyone – throw back to school days I suppose. So, for my first guest of the new ‘term,’ I’m delighted to welcome to the blog for drinks and chat, wonderful author… Nicola Cornick.

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

My current favourite is an English Garden cocktail, which is gin, elderflower, apple juice and lime. It feels appropriate as I live in a cottage in the middle of the country – although my garden is more like a jungle at the moment!

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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?

We’d go to my local pub, which is a 10 minute walk, and sit outside by the fire pit with a great view of the stars and equally great food! It’s very relaxed.

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?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to only two, isn’t it. I’d like to invite Barack Obama because I dreamed once that I had met him and we had the most fascinating conversation. I was really disappointed to discover it wasn’t true! So I’d like to try to recreate that for real. I’d also invite Jane Austen along too. That would be fun!

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 doing a series of talks and events at bookshops and literary festivals about my latest novel The Last Daughter. It’s a dual-time mystery set in the Wars of the Roses and the present day, taking in the big historical mystery of what happened to The Princes in the Tower and featuring that most fascinating historical monarch, King Richard III. In my talks I discuss the real historical background to my books and chat about all things history and writing. It’s wonderful to be out and about again, meeting readers and history fans in person! This month I’ll be at the Kenilworth Festival of Arts on 12th September and the Burford Literary Festival on the 27th.

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I wish I could attend one of your events, I am obsessed with the Wars of the Roses! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

I’ve been writing for a long time – over twenty years – and have experienced some wonderful highs such as when one of my books was featured on a huge billboard in Times Square in New York. That was awesome, as were the times I’ve been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association awards and other prizes. My proudest moments though are when readers tell me how much they have enjoyed my books. Nothing beats that sensation and even after twenty years it still gives me joy. With such a long career I’ve also had my share of challenges. One of the things I find the most difficult is those periods when for whatever reason you need to dig deep to find the motivation to carry on. Writing can be lonely that way and it’s at times like that I’ve really appreciated the support of my writing colleagues and friends.

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

I’d like to write a big, sweeping historical fiction novel and see it hit the bestseller chart!

What have you got planned that you are really excited about?

I’m currently writing a book set in the years leading up to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It explores the plotters’ background from the perspective of their female relatives and I’m really enjoying looking beyond all the men to discover the women’s stories.

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?

Oooh, I love travelling too! I’d love to hear more of your bucket list. A couple of years ago we took a trip to Alaska and the western coast of Canada. A lot of the trip was on the ferries that serve all the little islands and towns along the route. That was exciting, even more so when there was a ferry strike and we were stuck in the middle of the wilderness for 5 days! For my next trip, I’d love to go to Greenland and the Faroe Islands. I have ancestors from there and I think they must have been a lot tougher than I am!

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

My mother was a Languages teacher and would insist on speaking French at breakfast to us every day when I was a child. I didn’t appreciate it much at the time but it meant that I was fluent in French by the time I was in my teens and can still speak and understand it reasonably well now.

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

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Morgan and her book The Summer Seekers is one of my all time favourites, a real must-read. I love the way she is able to go right to the heart of an emotional dilemma and the way she draws out the relationships between the generations and the tensions within families that are so real and familiar. I also love that her books have happy or hopeful endings and always contain some hot romance as well! Happy, wise stories!

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Kathleen is eighty years old. After a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move into a residential home. She’s not having any of it. What she craves – needs – is adventure.

Liza is drowning under the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza dream of a solo break of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advert for a driver and companion to take an epic road trip across America, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. Travelling with a stranger? No problem. She’s not the world’s best driver, but it couldn’t be worse than living with her parents again. And anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late for adventure…

Shamefully, this is languishing on my 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?

I’ll do my best to avoid that but if the hangover is going to strike, lots of water before I go to bed and a cooked breakfast in the morning followed by a walk in the fresh air.

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

It has been fabulous – thank you so much! For me a perfect weekend is a modest lie-in, a cup of tea in bed, breakfast at a little local cafe followed by a dog walk and a visit to a historical house or some other interesting history site. Then back home for a delicious meal and an evening relaxing with a good book!

The pleasure has been all mine, I can assure you and I think I may dash off and buy a ticket to your talk at Kenilworth next weekend! Thank you so much for chatting to me tonight.

Nicola’s latest book, The Last Daughter, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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A secret hidden in the past.

A family bound by a dark legacy…

Ever since her sister disappeared eleven years ago, Serena Warren has been running from a ghost, haunted by what she can’t remember about that night.

When Caitlin’s body is discovered, Serena returns to her grandfather’s house, nestled beside the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire, determined to uncover the truth. But in returning to the place of her childhood summers, Serena stands poised at the brink of a startling discovery – one that will tie her family to a centuries-old secret…

International bestselling author Nicola Cornick is a writer and a historian. After gaining a BA in History from the University of London she worked in academia for a number of years before returning to university as a mature student at Ruskin College, Oxford. Her specialism is Public History and she gained a Masters with Distinction for her work on heroes and hero myths. She is a trustee of the Friends of Lydiard Park, an 18th century stately home in Wiltshire, and she researches the history of the Craven Family and Ashdown House for the National Trust.

Nicola’s most recent books are dual time mysteries that combine an historical and a contemporary thread. The first of these, House of Shadows, was based on the research she has done into Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen. Her new novel, The Last Daughter, is inspired by the 15th century mystery of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and was described by Alison Weir as: ‘An engaging, beautifully crafted romance that weaves together several intriguing mysteries, both ancient and modern, and questions the very essence of time itself.’ 

Nicola is a trustee of the Wantage Literary Festival and in her spare time, a puppy raiser for the Guide Dogs charity.

You can discover more about Nicola and her work via her website, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: Starlight Cottage by K. T. Dady #BookReview

Starlight Cottage

I am delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for Starlight Cottage by K. T. Dady. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Welcome to Pepper Bay. A small close-knit community where you’ll find chocolate box cottages, quaint shops, drama, friendship, and love.

Starlight Cottage – Anna Cooper and Jake Reynolds both live at the luxury London building, River Heights. The only difference is that Jake lives in the penthouse, and Anna lives in a tent on the roof.

When Jake finds out, he offers Anna a chance of a new life in his grandmother’s childhood home in Pepper Bay, and she decides to take the opportunity to see if she really can make a fresh start somewhere else.

The beauty of Pepper Bay, with its quaint shops, chocolate box cottages, and all of Jake’s closest friends, immediately fills Anna’s heart with nothing but love, and it isn’t just Starlight Cottage that she finds herself falling in love with.

This is the first in a new series set in the charming Pepper Bay and sets up the community and a cast of characters that I am sure are all going to get their own full stories in future editions. However, in this first book we are mainly concerned with Jake and Anna in an ‘opposites attract’ story.

Anna has had a tough life. Raised without parents, she latched on to others who don’t treat her well and finds herself homeless and living in a tent on the roof of a posh apartment building in London with only her dog for company. Jake lives in the penthouse, and meets Anna by chance, eventually figuring out where she is living and taking her under his wing, despite them being totally different in every way, from personality to circumstance.

Anna as a character was someone that my heart went out to from the beginning. She seems kind and sweet, but way too trusting and I just wanted someone to take care of her. Her most recent ex is one of the most despicable characters I have ever seen written in a book and I was desperate for him to get him comeuppance, so the author has done a great job of getting me invested in the outcome of the book from early one.

Jake was a totally different personality and I wasn’t sure about him to begin with. He didn’t seem like a good fit for Anna, and I was worried he was going to crush her further, and I suppose that this tension is what makes for a compelling story. However, the author gradually reveals hidden depths to Jake, and we see that his life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses and that he has his own problems that make him more sympathetic.

Once we leave London and arrive in Pepper Bay, I was completely sold on the charming setting and great community that the author has created there and can see how this is going to make the beginnings of a great series. This is the perfect type of cute, cosy romance that will ease you out of summer and into the darkening, cooling days of autumn and you begin to curl up on the sofa of an evening and lose yourself in a good book.

If I had to pick any faults with the book that just stop it being a five-star read, I would say that the feelings between Anna and Jake develop a little too quickly to be entirely credible, given their vastly different circumstances, so the plot requires quite a stretch on the suspension of disbelief front. There were also a couple of places where events took an inexplicable jump and I thought I had missed a page out, which made me a bit confused (although I was reading late at night sometimes so it could just be my sluggish brain!).

Overall, I enjoyed the book very much and would not hesitate to recommend it to fans of the genre. An exciting new author to look out for.

Starlight Cottage is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more reviews:

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About the Author

Author, reader, mum, chocolate lover, and a huge fan of a HEA. I was born and raised in the East End of London, and I’ve been happily writing stories since I was a little girl. When I’m not writing, I’m baking cakes or pottering around in my little garden in Essex, trying not to kill the flowers. I’m the author of contemporary romance, middle-grade, and the thought-provoking thriller about mental illness, The Focus Program.

Connect with K. T. Dady:

Website: https://ktdady.com/

Twitter: @kt_dady

Instagram: @kt_dady

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The 2021 Romantic Novel Award Winners Interviews with…. Clare Pooley

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In my final interview in the series, I am chatting to the winner of the 2021 Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award with her novel, The Authenticity Project, … Clare Pooley.

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Clare, congratulations on your win in the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards 2021 with your novel The Authenticity Project and thank you very much for agreeing to appear on my blog during the entry period for the 2022 awards.

You seemed rather shell-shocked to hear your name read out as the winner of the award on the night. How did you feel in that moment?

Ha ha! I was totally shell-shocked! It had been such a strange year, with all the excitement building up to my publication date and then, just a couple of weeks before the big day, BANG – a global pandemic. With all the bookshops closed, I worried that my little story didn’t stand a chance. So, to have such a wonderful accolade from such a fabulous organization was a real thrill. 

The Authenticity Project is your debut published novel, but many writers spend years writing and working on dozens of discarded manuscripts before they finally have one accepted for publication. How long have you been writing and is The Authenticity Project the first novel you have written to completion?

I loved writing as a child, and dreamed of being a novelist, but then I went into the advertising business, spent decades working hard and playing harder, and forgot about my writing. 

Then, six years ago, my drinking habit got out of control and I knew I had to quit. I turned to writing as therapy – in an anonymous blog I called Mummy was a Secret Drinker. That blog turned into a memoir – The Sober Diaries. 

Once I’d started writing, I couldn’t stop, so I turned to fiction. The Authenticity Project was a story I’d had going round and round my head for years, so once I finally started putting it down on paper it flowed really easily, and I wrote the initial draft in under six months.

Aside from this award, this book has received so much love and admiration from everyone, including every one of my fellow bloggers I recall reading it. Did you anticipate the success this book would have before it was published and how has it made you feel? What pressure does that put on you for your next project? Do you have something already underway?

Thank you, I’m blushing! 

It’s always terrifying putting something you’ve created out into the world, so when people embrace your characters and love them as much as you do it’s an incredible feeling. I’m particularly thrilled with the messages I’ve had from people who’ve said that my story helped them through the dark days of the pandemic, restoring their faith in humanity. 

But yes, that does pile on huge pressure with book two! In fact, I wrote a whole second book which I threw in the bin because I didn’t think it was good enough! I then started all over again, and the new novel is out in the spring. I wish I could tell you the title, but we’re still arguing over that one!

Uplit has been a growing trend ever since Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and we have never needed it more than over the past eighteen difficult months, a fact reflected in the outpouring of love for your novel. Did you set out to write an uplifting story, or was it just the way it unfolded on the page? 

Because I started writing as therapy, I’m naturally drawn to stories that attempt to make sense of the world, that take issues and try to find a way through them, and that make connections and friendships between people. I like to feel better about the world when I’ve finished writing a novel, and I hope my readers feel the same. I think if I tried to write psychological thrillers, I’d end up feeling incredibly miserable!

Authors often describe their characters taking on lives of their own and changing the direction of the novel as it is written, how much control did you have over the characters in this book, or did they insist on going their own way once you released them from your imagination on to the page?

That’s such a good question! I started off with a vague idea about my characters and what they might do, but they totally morphed and developed as I wrote, and often changed the direction of the story completely! There’s a major twist near the end of the story which nobody I’ve spoken to has seen coming, and I’m sure that’s because it was a total surprise to me too! One of the greatest joys of writing fiction is the magic that happens when you set your characters free and see where they take you.

Your book has a very original premise, which is one of the things the reviewers seem to love about it and, as blogger and prolific reader, a refreshing and unique idea is certainly something I get excited about. What first sparked this particular storyline and how long did it take to develop into the finished novel?

The inspiration for the story really came from my own experience. My life six years ago looked perfect from the outside, but the truth was very different, as I grappled (like Hazard in my novel) with a terrible alcohol addiction. I told the truth about my life in a blog, and that act of authenticity changed my life and the lives of thousands of people who read it. Which got me thinking: what would happen if other people shared the truth about their lives with strangers? I turned that thought around in my head for a couple of years before I dared to start putting it down on a page…

I noticed one reviewer speculate that the book would make a great Richard Curtis film. Do you agree and do you have any thoughts on who you would like to be cast in such an adaptation? Has there been any interest in developing the book for the screen?

I have actually sold the film and TV rights, so watch this space! I would LOVE Bill Nighy to play Julian, and Bradley Cooper to play Hazard. But I haven’t yet got further than that. I love it when readers start casting the film version, which I often see on social media!

Thank you so much for answering my nosey questions so brilliantly, and good luck with the next book.

The entry period for the Romantic Novel Awards 2022 is open now and will close on 30 September. Further details on entry can be found on the romantic Novelists’ Association’s website.

Clare’s award-winning novel, The Authenticity Project, is available in all formats here and I will be reviewing it on the blog soon.

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Six strangers with one thing in common: their lives aren’t always what they make them out to be.

What would happen if they told the truth instead?

Julian Jessop is tired of hiding the deep loneliness he feels. So he begins The Authenticity Project – a small green notebook containing the truth about his life.

Leaving the notebook on a table in his friendly neighbourhood café, Julian never expects Monica, the owner, to track him down after finding it. Or that she’ll be inspired to write down her own story.

Little do they realize that such small acts of honesty hold the power to impact all those who discover the notebook and change their lives completely.
 
About the Author
 
Clare Pooley spent twenty years in the heady world of advertising, working hard and playing even harder. When she realised that her alcohol habit was out of control, she quit drinking and started a blog called Mummy was a Secret Drinker. The blog went viral and became a memoir – The Sober Diaries.
Clare then turned to fiction, and her first novel – The Authenticity Project – was published in thirty languages, became an international bestseller and was the winner of the RONA debut novel award. Clare’s second novel is out in Spring 2022.
 
Connect with Clare:
 
 
 
Instagram: @clare_pooley
 
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