Romancing The Romance Authors with… Victoria Walker

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Today I am delighted to be discussing the writing of romance and all things love-related with author… Victoria Walter.

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

I write contemporary romance novels and I’ve just self-published my first book. I have re-written it so many times and I love the hero, Jonas, so much I just had to get him out there! I’ve written another three books since and am querying with publishers for one of those at the moment. 

Why romance?

I grew up reading Enid Blyton, especially Malory Towers and the Famous Five. My year 6 teacher was pretty exasperated about my lack of author variety and tried to make me read Douglas Adams – which I did much later on and loved – but I knew that I could rely on Enid Blyton to tell me a story I wanted to read. That philosophy is probably why I like romance. It’s sometimes described as formulaic but you will never read the same book twice. I love the initial spark of attraction and the journey as it builds into a relationship between the main characters. There is always a will they/won’t they element to a romance that keeps me reading on, wondering if there will be a happy ever after even though I know there will be!

What inspires your stories?

So far my books have been inspired by places I’ve visited. Before I started writing my first novel, I’d been reading a lot of romances set in New York and for some reason thought that’s where my novel should be set, even though I’d never been there. So when I went to Reykjavik and fell in love with the place, I thought it was easily as romantic as New York and would be the perfect backdrop for a love story.

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

I love Jilly Cooper. She’s not perhaps a traditional romance author but some of her heroes are just knee-weakeningly gorgeous. I’m thinking of Luke Alderton in Polo when I say that. I also love anything by Sarah Morgan. I felt so lucky when I discovered her and could then plough through her back catalogue.

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

Oooh, it’s so hard to choose one but I’m going to go with Not Your Cinderella by Kate Johnson because I’ve read it at least three times and I love the chemistry between Jamie and Clodagh and Jamie is probably my perfect man and is strikingly similar to my husband now that I think about it. Apart from the royal element. I love the third book in the same series too, Not Your Knight in Shining Armour which has a fabulous heroine.

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The most eligible bachelor in the country? All Jamie wants to do is finish his PhD and live a quiet life, but since he’s actually Prince Jamie and he’s been famous since the minute he was born, that’s not likely to happen.

Clodagh doesn’t believe in fairytales, and no handsome prince is going to sweep her off her feet. She’s worked too hard to escape the wrong side of the tracks, and the last thing she needs is the world’s press finding out who she truly is.

But Jamie and Clodagh can’t fight the heat between them, and when the eyes of the world turn on them the pressure is only going to rise. Can true love conquer all? Can the fairytale come true? And what kind of girl wears a glass slipper anyway?

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 head to Snow Crystal resort and spend the weekend with Jackson O’Neill from Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan. We’d take a sleigh ride through the forest, snuggled together underneath plenty of blankets, and end up at the chocolate shack for a Bailey’s hot chocolate. He’d take me onto the slopes and teach me how to ski. I’d be brilliant obviously but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I fell over and needed a hand to get up. We’d relax in a hot tub with a glass of rose before he’d cook an amazing dinner which we’d eat by candlelight in his cosy log cabin. And if we ended up in a nest of rugs and blankets on the floor in front of the roaring fire while the snow fell gently outside, that’d be the perfect end to the day and would probably see us through the rest of the weekend.

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

My favourite thing about the RNA are the people I’ve become friends with. Everyone is so willing to share their experience and are so supportive to new writers and have the unwavering belief that getting published is just a matter of perseverance. I’ve been on the New Writers’ Scheme for five years and I would never have managed to write a novel worthy of anyone reading it without the feedback from the reports or the access to the amazing conferences. 

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

Join the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and go to the annual conference! And read as much as you write in the genre you’re writing.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Snug in Iceland is a winter romance which follows Rachel’s journey from London to Reykjavik as she is tasked with setting up a new retail store for the company she works for, Snug. Rachel relishes the opportunity to take a break from her everyday life, even her boyfriend Adam, to see if her absence might inject a spark into their staid relationship. Iceland captures Rachel’s imagination and she realises with the help of tour guide, Jonas, that there is more to life than the one she was living in London and she has to decide whether going back to the same life is what she really wants. There are lots of great Icelandic locations which readers have really loved so far with lots of reviewers saying they want to visit. Iceland is amazing. I can’t wait to go again myself. My husband is keen to go in the summer for a change but I think the magic is in the ice and snow.

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Rachel Richards is stuck in a rut. Her boyfriend Adam barely notices her most of the time and her life in London isn’t as exciting as it should be. When the company she works for, Snug, asks her to oversee the opening of a new store in Iceland, she jumps at the chance for a change of scenery.

Exploring Reykjavik with the help of Icelandic tour guide Jonas, Rachel discovers that life is out there waiting to be lived. As she falls in love with Iceland, she begins to see what is important to her and wonders whether the life she left behind is what she wants after all…

You can buy a copy of Snug in Iceland in paperback and ebook formats here.

About the Author

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Victoria Walker has been writing romantic fiction since a visit to Iceland in 2014 inspired her first novel. As well as writing, she spends her free time dressmaking, knitting and reading an inordinate amount of contemporary romance, occasionally punctuated by the odd psychological thriller and saga.
In the past she has worked as a cinema projectionist, a knitting and sewing tutor and has owned a yarn store, all things which will no doubt appear in her books if they haven’t already.
Victoria lives in the Malvern Hills with her husband and two teenage children. 

Connect with Victoria:

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

Facebook: Victoria Walker

Twitter: @4victoriawalker

Instagram @victoriamakes

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Friday Night Drinks with… Heather Martin

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Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by an author whose authorised biography of Lee Child has just been published in paperback, so we are enjoying a big celebration tonight. Please welcome to the blog… Heather Martin.

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Heather, welcome to the Little Book Problem  virtual bar and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for the invitation! Since we are celebrating the launch of The Reacher Guy in paperback, I thought I’d crack open something bubbly, but a rosé, because when not drinking coffee, black, my biographical subject Lee Child has a sneaking preference for pink drinks. If he’s eating a hamburger he’ll wash it down with strawberry milkshake.

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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 think I would whisk you off to Balthazar on Spring Street in downtown Manhattan. I lived just round the corner from there for a year while I was working on the biography, in a New York University complex on Bleecker Street known as Silver Towers. Weirdly and by complete coincidence, my apartment number was the same as Lee’s on the Upper West Side. It’s noisy at Balthazar, but irresistibly glamorous – full of beautiful people and gleaming with brass and mirrors. On our way out we might pick up a loaf from the bakery, or stop by the deli counter at Dean and DeLuca on Broadway. Except I fear it may be a casualty of COVID …

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I think immediately of my all-time literary hero the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who already inhabits my head, but I doubt I’d be able to lure him out of the library. So I’ll probably go for Pep Guardiola or Arsène Wenger: they’ve never heard of me, so they don’t realise how much we have in common, but I think we’d hit it off. And then Toni Morrison. I was supposed to meet her at a literary gala in New York, but sadly she was unwell on the night. The intensity of writing in Beloved rivals that of Nina Simone live at the Montreux Jazz Festival.  

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?

In some ways it started a year ago, when The Reacher Guy was first published in hardback. But really it started five years before that, when I first met Lee Child over dinner at the old Union Square Café in New York. Or maybe even earlier, when I picked up my first Reacher book and couldn’t put it down. Or when I learned to speak Spanish in London last century, since it was when I read Reacher in Spanish that Lee and I first started talking seriously about his work. Origins are always mysterious: who knows where things begin? Right now I’m exploring some of the more literary angles of my subject, themes I couldn’t pursue in the original book. I’m not looking too far ahead.

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

Many proud moments, but I think I’ll go for the time Lee Child interviewed me for The Big Thrill, which is the monthly magazine of the International Thriller Writers organisation. That was pretty cool, and is all thanks to the lovely Kimberley Howe and editor Dawn Ius. The hardest thing has been signing books: I always worry I’ll spoil them. And overcoming the multiple disappointments of releasing my book during (virtual) lockdown.  

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’m happy with what I’ve achieved. And I’m not sure I have an arena. But bearing in mind my answer to your last question, I suppose I still dream of doing just one big live event with Lee, so we can celebrate my story of his life in the same room, and so I can finally rise to the challenge of signing books for people in person! I’ve had so many heartwarming messages from readers: I’d love a chance to meet them. Otherwise my biggest personal ambition is to help my two musician sons buy a place they can convert into a rehearsal and performance space …

Two great things to aim for there, and not unrealistic! What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

I think many of us have got out of the habit of making plans. I’m looking forward to seeing my first short story in Everyday Kindness, an anthology edited by the amazing L. J. Ross in aid of Shelter – that’s coming out in November, and my story, inspired by an act of compassion within a local community, is called ‘Goodbye, Wendy’. And I’m excited about the first ever Lee Child Symposium at the University of East Anglia next spring and the official opening of his archive at the British Archive for Contemporary Writing. That should be pretty special. 

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Everyday Kindness is a charity anthology of short, fictional stories of kindness, edited by LJ Ross. These uplifting tales of hope and of small, everyday kindnesses are intended to support wider, positive mental health goals and foster wellbeing through the act of reading tales of goodwill inspired by others. Featuring authors across the spectrum of literature, some international bestsellers and award-winning writers amongst them, this is a unique collection of words.

All proceeds from the book will be donated to Shelter, a charity that helps millions of people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness.

Authors include: LJ Ross, Adam Hamdy, Alex Smith, Alexander Gordon Smith, Alison Stockham, Anne O’Leary, Barbara Copperthwaite, JD Kirk, CL Taylor, Caroline Mitchell, Chris McDonald, CK McDonnell, Claire Sheehy, Clare Flynn, Darren O’Sullivan, David Leadbeater, Debbie Young, Deborah Carr, Emma Robinson, Graham Brack, Hannah Lynn, Heather Martin, Holly Martin, Ian Sainsbury, Imogen Clark, James Gilbert, Jane Corry, Jean Gill, JJ Marsh, Judith O’Reilly, Kelly Clayton, Kim Nash, Leah Mercer, Liz Fenwick, Louise Beech, Lousie Jensen, Louise Mumford, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Marcia Woolf, Mark Stay, Marcie Steele, Natasha Bache, Nick Jackson, Nick Quantrill, Nicky Black, Patricia Gibney, Rachel Sargeant, Rob Parker, Rob Scragg, SE Lynes, Shelley Day, Casey Kelleher, Sophie Hannah, Victoria Connelly, Victoria Cooke, Will Dean.

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 always find favourites tricky, as I’ve been fortunate to experience many wonderful things. I’ll always have a soft spot for Aix-en-Provence in France, where I spent two seemingly blissful years as a very young child, and more than once I’ve dreamed of going to live in Sevilla, in Andalusia. I love Hawaii’s Waimea Bay, especially if I can stay again at the house on the point and watch pods of dolphins at play from my garden. But right now I’d love just to go home to Perth, and sit on Cottesloe Beach listening to the rainbow lorikeets as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean, and fall asleep to the sound of the waves, then maybe drive 250 miles north up the coast to Geraldton to visit the place where I was born. It could be a round trip, come to think of it: Oahu to West Australia via a stopover in New Zealand … 

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

As a young teenager I was a member of the West Australian Junior Ballet Company. But then I gave up ballet for music and spent a year in Paris taking lessons with two famous Latin American guitarists, the Brazilian Turibio Santos and the Uruguayan Óscar Cáceres. I had a guitar made for me by legendary Paris luthier Daniel Friederich. I still have it today – a true collectors’ item.

Wow, that sounds like a fascinating period of your life. 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’?

Right now my big recommendation is The Sound Mirror, by Heidi James, the exquisitely interwoven tale of the wounded Tamara and her two grandmothers, one a first-generation immigrant from India and the other of Italian descent. It’s a long time since I read a book that blew me away from the opening page, the opening sentence, even. This story is both instructive and deeply moving, accommodating not just one but three distinctive voices, each of equal authenticity. It’s a true tour de force and a reading experience of almost violent intensity. After that you’ll probably want to read her previous one, So the Doves, also published by Bluemoose Books, which is an equally gripping read and was featured as a Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month.

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Tamara is going to kill her mother but she isn’t the villain. Tamara just has to finish what began before her, and put an end to the damage encoded in her blood.

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?

Hey, the conversation has been so enjoyable, and I’ve been nibbling on these delicious canapés from the menu I had planned for my 2020 launch party at the Groucho Club, so I think a hangover is the least of my worries. 

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

I think you’ve set the tone, so there will be books, and chat about them, and music. A bit of sunshine if I’m lucky. Maybe I’ll walk across London Fields to All Saints in Haggerston to hear my son play the organ on Sunday morning; perhaps the younger one will cook lunch or dinner. Is Endeavour still showing on television? 

Haether, I have had an absolute blast, you are a fascinating drinking companion and I only wish we could have done this for real. Thank you so much for joining me tonight.

Heather’s biography of Lee Child, The Reacher Guy, is out now in all formats, including paperback, and you can buy a copy here.

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Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the bestselling Jack Reacher novels. With millions of devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is lauded by critics and revered by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.

The Reacher Guy is a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing.

Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation.

Heather Martin is a lapsed guitarist, a linguist and literary critic, and the authorised biographer of legendary thriller writer Lee Child. She writes regularly for CrimeReads and her short story ‘Goodbye, Wendy’ will appear in Everyday Kindness edited by L. J. Ross and released on November 13 by Dark Skies Publishing. She lives in London and tweets @drheathermartin. 

The Reacher Guy was published in 2020 by Little, Brown UK and Pegasus Books (US) to critical acclaim from The Times, The Telegraph, The Irish Times and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is due out in paperback on October 21. Kenilworth Books have pristine first-edition hardbacks with double-signed bespoke book prints; Blackwell Books have the paperback with double-signed bookplates. Ian Rankin writes: ‘Here is a biography as gripping as one of Lee Child’s own bestsellers. Heather Martin digs deep to uncover nugget after nugget. Trust me, this is gold.’ 

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Desert Island Books with… Mai Taylor

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Today’s strandee is a fellow blogger with impeccable taste in books, so I am very excited to see which five of the very many excellent books she has read that she has chosen to accompany her for eternity on a desert island. Over to you, Mai Taylor.

Book One – The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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Some race to win. Others race to survive. It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I read this book every November to tie in with when the Scorpio Races take place on the island of Thisby, so it is an absolute “must-have” to be stranded with. There is just something about the wildness of the landscape, and of the capaill uisce that I find utterly captivating. I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing, and if I could, I would take all of her books with me, but I am limiting myself to just one by any particular author, so it has to be this one. Somehow, she creates a community that is both nurturing and claustrophobic – one that I long to be a part of, but at the same time know that I would want to escape if I lived there. The carnival atmosphere that envelopes the island in the build up to the races really gets under my skin, and I think this would help my own island stay more bearable.

Book Two – The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

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It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.

The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.

But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own…

The Toymakers was one of the first books I ever featured on my blog, all the way back in February 2018, and to this day, I have never forgotten the way it made me feel. It was just pure, simple magic in book form. I said in my review that it left me with an overriding sense that even in the depths of despair and devastation, there is still magic to be found, and I stand by that sentiment three years later. I still find it hard to put into words all the emotions that The Toymakers made me feel. It is just one of those books that once you have read it, you are never quite the same again, and I could happily live within its pages forever.

Book Three – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

Caraval is a book I think I could read a hundred times and still discover a new detail each time. There is just much going on. I think Caraval is my favourite book of Stephanie Garber’s trilogy, partly because Scarlett is my favourite Dragna sister, partly because of the wonder of it all. There was something magical about uncovering the mysteries of Caraval and the enigmatic Legend for the first time, and that feeling has stayed with me ever since

Book Four – Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

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Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert.

It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty.

I have selected Les Mis because it is a book I have been meaning to read for years, but have just never got round to getting beyond the first chapter of. I figure if I can’t finish it when I am stranded on a desert island, then I never will. This selection was a close run thing, because I very nearly selected The Court of Miracles, Kester Grant’s reimagining of Victor Hugo’s original work. I devoured The Court of Miracles when it first came out, and it seemed like the obvious choice until I watched an author panel at VoyagerCon with Kester Grant, and the passion with which she spoke about the original, and in particular Marius Pontmercy, reignited my desire to read it myself.

Book Five – Polo by Jilly Cooper

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In Jilly Cooper’s third Rutshire chronicle we meet Ricky France-Lynch, who is moody, macho, and magnificent. He had a large crumbling estate, a nine-goal polo handicap, and a beautiful wife who was fair game for anyone with a cheque book. He also had the adoration of fourteen-year-old Perdita MacLeod. Perdita couldn’t wait to leave her dreary school and become a polo player. The polo set were ritzy, wild, and gloriously promiscuous. Perdita thought she’d get along with them very well.

But before she had time to grow up, Ricky’s life exploded into tragedy, and Perdita turned into a brat who loved only her horses – and Ricky France-Lynch.

Ricky’s obsession to win back his wife, and Perdita’s to win both Ricky and a place as a top class polo player, take the reader on a wildly exciting journey – to the estancias of Argentina, to Palm Beach and Deauville, and on to the royal polo fields of England and the glamorous pitches of California where the most heroic battle of all is destined to be fought – a match that is about far more than just the winning of a huge silver cup…

My final choice is a little different from my usual book choices, with YA and fantasy being my “go-to” genres 95% of the time. However, I figure if I am going to be on a desert island for the foreseeable future, I am going to need something a bit lighter that really is just pure escapism. Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles have been a guilty pleasure of mine since I was a teenager and my friends and I used to sneakily read them in our lunch hour at school, giggling over the naughty bits. Polo was the first one that I read, and has always remained the one I loved most, I think mainly because we had the most glorious polo ponies stabled at the riding school I rode from, and the lifestyle always seemed so decadent and extravagant. While Rupert Campbell-Black seems to have become the star of the Rutshire Chronicles, it was always Bas Baddingham and the Heavenly Twins who captured my attention, and I will be more than happy to have them on my island with me.

My luxury item

I think it would have to be an endless supply of cross-stitch projects, ones that would normally take far too long to finish if I wasn’t stranded on a desert island. I love sewing, and I think I would quickly go crazy if I didn’t have a craft project of some description to get stuck into between books. I love the Wrendale artwork, so perhaps one of the cross-stitch kits you can get of those, or I have seen some amazing Alice in Wonderland kits.

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About the Blogger

Mai Taylor is a book blogger from rural Hampshire. Although she mainly focuses on reviewing YA and fantasy books, she can’t resist the occasional psychological thriller or any book with even the smallest sprinkling of magic.

Mai is working on the first draft of a series of YA fantasy books centred around British and Celtic folklore, so when she is not curled up with a book, she can usually be found down a research rabbit hole looking for weird and wonderful tales to include in the series.

When not reading or writing, Mai spends most of her time crafting – from cross-stitch to patchwork, if it involves fabric or thread, then she has probably tried it. Mai also loves exploring cities across Europe and spending time in her favourite place in the world, Moraira, on Spain’s Costa Blanca.

You can find Mai’s excellent book blog at Mai’s Musings.

Connect further with Mai:

Twitter: @maitaylor01

Instagram: @maitaylor01

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Promo Post: Kiss & Tell – An Amaryllis Media Anthology

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I’m happy to be bringing you news today of a new limited edition anthology of new adult college romance stories which is coming September 2022 and is currently  available to pre-order for the bargain price of only 99p!

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ᴡʜᴀᴛ ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ɢᴏ ᴡʀᴏɴɢ ᴡʜᴇɴ ᴛʜᴇ ɢᴏᴏᴅ ɢɪʀʟ ɢᴇᴛꜱ ꜱᴛᴜᴄᴋ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴀᴅ ʙᴏʏ? ᴀꜰᴛᴇʀ ᴀʟʟ, ɪᴛ’ꜱ ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ᴄʜᴇᴍɪꜱᴛʀʏ…
 
This limited edition collection takes readers on a whirlwind through new adult college romances where the good girl is stuck with the bad boy and she’s not happy about it, until their chemistry together makes her question everything she thought she knew about him.
 
This collection will include stories by the authors listed below:
☆ Mandy Melanson & Colleen Key ☆ H.M Shander ☆ C.A King ☆ Sofia Aves ☆ Lizzi Stone ☆ Kari Shuey ☆ Kira Cunningham ☆ Amy Stephens ☆ Sienna Grant ☆ Ainsley Jaymes ☆ Corinne M Knight ☆ Lynn Stevens ☆ Sarah Peis ☆ Sunny Abernathy ☆ TB Mann ☆ Rachel A. Smith ☆ Krista Ames ☆ Danielle Jacks ☆ C.N. Marie & Lizzie James ☆ Samantha Baca ☆ Zepphora ☆ Maci Dillon ☆ Lissa Lynn Thomas ☆ Adina D. Grey ☆ Jennifer Sucevic ☆ LJC Fynn & Hope Sherrill ☆ Leanne Davis ☆ Kaye Kennedy ☆ Lexi Noir ☆ Rhylie Matthews ☆ Helena Novak ☆ Kevin Berry ☆ Kira Cunningham
 
If this sounds like your cup of tea, make sure you pre-order it now. You can do so by following this link.
 
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Blog Blitz: The Secrets of Hawthorn Place by Jenni Keer #Extract

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I am delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for the delightful new book by author, Jenni Keer, The Secrets of Hawthorn Place. I haven’t yet managed to read the book, but I will be reviewing it in a few weeks time. For now, I have an appetite-whetting extract to share with you. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to the author for allowing me to share this extract with you today.

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Two houses, hundreds of miles apart…yet connected always.

When life throws Molly Butterfield a curveball, she decides to spend some time with her recently widowed granddad, Wally, at Hawthorn Place, his quirky Victorian house on the Dorset coast.

But cosseted Molly struggles to look after herself, never mind her grieving granddad, until the accidental discovery of an identical Art and Crafts house on the Norfolk coast offers her an unexpected purpose, as well as revealing a bewildering mystery.

Discovering that both Hawthorn Place and Acacia House were designed by architect Percy Gladwell, Molly uncovers the secret of a love which linked them, so powerful it defied reason.

What follows is a summer which will change Molly for ever…

Now, over to Jenni to introduce her extract.

Thank you so much for visiting Julie’s blog today. Here is an extract from The Secrets of Hawthorn Place. In the contemporary story, Molly has just arrived in Dorset to stay with her grieving grandfather, and we get a feel for his unusual house through her eyes. Walter isn’t coping with the death of his wife and spoilt Molly is in for a shock as she struggles to take care of him. Little does she know, this is the start of a summer that will change everything, especially when she stumbles across an unbelievable secret in the very heart of the house.

I stood at the top of the steep stone steps and looked down into a dip of tree-shielded land. From the road you’d never guess there was a house nestled at the bottom. It reminded me of childish efforts to stop someone copying my work at school by covering the page – as if the trees were huge hands shielding it from prying eyes. In fact, the closest you could get a car was the main road above, where Brian’s ostentatious Audi was now parked ahead of Granddad’s ancient Fiat. 

We clambered down the steps and my breath caught in my throat as I looked over to Hawthorn Place. With one foot on the bottom step, and the other on the ancient herringbone brick path that curled around the house, I felt as if I was standing over the meridian line in Greenwich. It was a point where I was in two places at once – two different worlds. I could never understand why flint and brick had been used for the house, when the surrounding landscape was awash with scars of pale stone, exposed through the green of the fields and hills. Portland was only a few miles away, famous for its quarries, and the obvious choice of building material. The property was odd not only in its construction, but also its location. It simply didn’t belong here, even though I wasn’t sure where it did belong.

‘I could murder a cup of tea,’ I announced, as I tumbled into the hallway and threw my arms about my dear old Granddad. He looked slightly startled by my exuberance but I’m embarrassingly tactile. Probably the Italian in me.

I abandoned my shoes and hooked my rucksack over the quirky crenellated post at the bottom of the main oak staircase. Identical posts were dotted up the stairs, and always reminded me of tiny wooden castles in the air – all part of the charm and mystery of the house.

‘I’ll put the kettle on, love,’ Granddad said.

‘Molly is capable of doing that. You’re not to run around after her, Dad.’

It wasn’t said unkindly, but I still glared at him. 

‘I’ll make it, Granddad. Sorry. You don’t have to wait on me.’

‘Nonsense, I bet you two are gasping.’ He toddled off to the kitchen, as Brian parked my suitcase at the foot of the stairs and, neither of us commenting on the muddy trail over the cluttered floor, we followed behind… 

I hope readers are curious about the quirky house, and are also pulled to the historical thread, where we follow the Arts and Crafts architect, Percy Gladwell, and discover why Hawthorn Place is so special to him. Thanks so much for letting me share this extract.

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I’m sure, like me, you now can’t wait to read this book and, if so, you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to check out some of the other blogs participating in the blitz, as detailed on the poster below:

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About the Author

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Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing commercial women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere, with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.

Jenni is also the author of The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker and The Unexpected Life of Maisie Meadows.

Connect with Jenni:

Facebook: Jenni Keer

Twitter: @JenniKeer

Instagram: @JenniKeer

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jane Thomas

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It’s a lovely, autumn day up here in Yorkshire and I think we might be able to fit in one last evening of drinks outside if we put on a cosy jumper. I’m delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks tonight by author… Jane Thomas.

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

I think we’ll start with a cocktail – perhaps a grasshopper – and then move onto wine. White, every time… I could happily spend a while discussing exactly which one we should choose but let’s stick with a Pinot Grigio for now! 

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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?

With the magic of imagination, I’ll whisk us away to a bar tucked away on a hillside on Lombok in Indonesia. There are a series of terraces, each draped with hammocks and piles of beanbags, and it’s the perfect place to watch the sun go down over the sea. 

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’s a very tough call…! I think I’ll have to drag Mary Astell out of her grave: I wrote my Master’s thesis on eighteenth century women poets, and she’s one of them. Regarded as the ‘first English feminist’, I’d love to get her thoughts on what we’ve done to the world today. In fact, let’s put her contemporary, Alexander Pope, alongside her. Incredible satirist but, from what I’ve read, someone who needs taking down a peg or two. I reckon it would be fun to set Astell on him… 

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?

Right now, I’m working on a pretty interesting project linked to an environmental disaster in Canada. I was approached by a lady who is personally involved in what happened and am creating a children’s book to accompany the museum she’s planning to open. In an ideal world, the book will reach far beyond the confines of the museum – it’s a story everyone needs to hear. 

And I’m working on the third book of my children’s series with my illustrator right now; fingers crossed we can get him out pre-Christmas, but if not he’ll appear at the start of the new year. I was a little distracted for a while, writing some pieces in a sort of Dahl-esque ‘Revolting Rhymes’ style, but I’m determined to keep focussed! 

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

I guess one of my proudest moments was receiving my first ‘fan mail’ for my children’s book series. An 8-year-old boy drew me an underwater picture to accompany the first book, and that is a great feeling – to know you’ve reached somebody in any way at all. The biggest challenges are all self-created: I don’t want anything to do with Amazon, and that is a fair percentage of the book market. It’s hard work without falling back on that, but it’s a decision I’ve made and will stick with. 

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 think the best thing any author can get is some recognition, and that comes when a person recommends you to someone else. I love the idea of people talking and the one stopping to say, ‘oh my! Have you read such and such by Jane Thomas?’ and the other eagerly leaping into a bookshop to pick up a copy. If that happened one day, it would be a huge sense of achievement. 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

So many things are planned for 2022… I want at least three books to come out, all of which are in completely different genres and will exist for different purposes, but they’re books that have been sitting inside me for years. I suppose that’s the one good thing to come out of the last 18 months, in my world at least: I started writing books that I wanted to write. It’s a good feeling. 

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’ve spent the best part of 20 years rattling around the world – every time I’m asked for a favourite place, I come up with a different answer. Since in my imagination we’re drinking at a bar on Lombok, I’ll keep us there for now. Specifically, down a goat track that I wandered along and found the perfect view: a peninsula snaking away from me, the sea the deepest blue to the one side and green to the other. I don’t think many people have ever stood there, and it’s a little parcel of magic. As for my bucket list… That has really piled up this past 18 months we haven’t been able to go anywhere! I think at the top, today at least, are the Andaman Islands. Anywhere that elephants go swimming in the sea is a place I want to go.

 

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

This is the hardest question by far. I guess for someone so seemingly practical and rational, I do have an unexpected tendency to defer to superstition sometimes. A single magpie can break a day… And I always travel with a four-leaf clover I found forever ago in my father’s garden. I couldn’t find it in my bag before heading for a flight from San Francisco and genuinely considered not getting on that plane. Some things aren’t worth risking, right?! (Spoiler: I found the clover and took the flight.) 

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 sure you’ve read The Great Gatsby so I won’t recommend that – although it’s my standard go to ‘my word, you must read this…’. Another I’ve been thinking about recently is The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony. It’s a heartbreaking, extraordinary tale. If any part of you likes elephants, it’s a must-read. 

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When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of ‘rogue’ elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival – dangerous and unpredictable, they would be killed if Anthony wouldn’t take them in.

As Anthony risked his life to create a bond with the troubled elephants and persuade them to stay on his reserve, he came to realize what a special family they were, from the wise matriarch Nana, who guided the herd, to her warrior sister Frankie, always ready to see off any threat, and their children who fought so hard to survive.

Yes, I love The Great Gatsby. 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?

As I get older, I’ve come to accept the inevitability of the hangover. The best cure, though, is always to sink into the sea and float it away… 

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

Anything that involves a beach, a palm tree, and easy access to a cocktail makes for a perfect weekend in my eyes! 

Sounds perfect! Thank you so much for joining me, I have really enjoyed our chat.

Jane is the author of the Jolly Ollie Octopus books, which you can buy here.

Born in the midst of a global pandemic, Ollie is a gentle reminder that kindness and friendship can be found in the darkest times.

Jane Thomas has spent the last 20 years living and working in tucked-away corners of the world, content in a dugout canoe on the Amazon, put-putting along on an essentially brake-free scooter in Laos, or sleeping under the stars in the Kalahari. It turns out a Master’s in Eighteenth Century Women’s Poetry from the University of Oxford doesn’t just lead to the darkened hallows of a library’s archive… 

She’s spent nearly two decades creating materials for teachers to use in the classroom, including projects with the Malaysian Ministry of Education, Nickelodeon, and the British Council. She may have helped Ollie a little with some of the Fun Stuff word games…

Jane lives (some of the year) in her book-lined cottage in rural France at an address that translates to ‘Hidden Place, End of the World’. Her current obsession – for at any time, one should always have a few decent obsessions – is a bright red camper van named Florence, freedom in a locked-down world.

You can find out more about Jane via her website, the Jolly Ollie website, Facebook and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas #BookReview

The Room in the Attic

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas today. 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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A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

Goodness, what did I just read? From the very opening chapters of this new book by Louise Douglas, my heart was pounding, I was holding my breath, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end, and I was absolutely glued to the page.

I started reading this book very late one night just after I had gone to bed, which was a mistake because the book creeped me out right from the off. As soon as you crawl between the pages, you know you are reading something that is going to keep you on the edge of your nerves, so it may not be recommended for readers of a very nervous disposition. Set in an old asylum which then became a strict boarding school in the midst of the brooding expanse of Dartmoor, there could not be a creepier setting for a story. When I was young, I was addicted to the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. The thirteenth (coincidence?) of these, Five Go To Mystery Moor, involved spooky goings on on a deserted moor and it scared the bejesus out of my as a kid, so any ghost story set on a moor is guaranteed to give me the wiggins. The author does an absolutely amazing job of bringing the very disturbing setting to vivid life, both in its incarnation as an asylum and a boarding school, a little too vividly for those with active imaginations perhaps!

The story line is divided between three timelines – modern day, 1993 when All Hallows was a boarding school, and the turn of the twentieth century when it was an asylum for those people deemed insane. The narrator in the first two timelines is Lewis Tyler, as a grown man and when he was a pupil at the school. Back in time, we are following the story of Emma Everdeen, a nurse at the asylum. The book switched between the stories with ease, never breaking the tension, and deftly entwining them to great effect. Each of the characters hooked me in, and I was truly feeling genuine fear for all of them by the end. The storytelling is so skilful that it is impossible not to become fully invested in the outcome for all involved.

The story is a clever and intriguing mix of thriller, mystery, ghost story, family drama and exploration of social issues affecting women in the early 1900s. There is something here to appeal to every type of reader, and I can’t imagine there are many people who would not enjoy it (other than those who really don’t enjoy being kept on the edge of their nerves throughout a book.) You can tell that the author did a lot of research into the historical aspects of the book, it is beautifully rich in detail, but this is only used to enhance and not detract from the story. I am honestly so impressed with the authors skill in balancing all the different aspects of this novel to deliver an engrossing, affecting and thrilling story. I think my heart has only just slowed back to its normal speed after finishing it.

I absolutely loved this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Perfect October reading, buy it immediately.

The Room in the Attic is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Award-winning author Louise Douglas was a recent guest on the blog, and you can read my fascinating interview with her here.

Make sure you check out some of the other reviews posted by the other marvellous bloggers taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Louise

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of 6 novels including The Love of my Life and Missing You – a RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country. Louise’s first book for Boldwood, The House by the Sea was published in March 2020.

Connect with Louise:

Facebook: Louise Douglas Author

Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3

Instagram: @louisedouglas3

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Natalie Normann

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Today’s interviewee is a previous guest of the blog and lovely author and I am really looking forward to hearing more about her journey in romance writing. It is the fabulous… Natalie Normann.

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

I have been a published author since 1995. Most of my books in Norwegian have been historical romance series, but I’ve also written thrillers and children’s horror stories. Last year I published two contemporary romance books with One More Chapter, A Very Hygge Holidays series. Right now I’m working on a new story, and I’m having a blast with it. Never thought I’d be writing in English, so that’s a major change in my journey. 

Why romance? 

I love romance! I’ve always written what I love to read myself, and romance is my favourite genre. Nothing beats a well written romance with a happy ending. 

What inspires your stories? 

Food for one thing, I love writing about food. Not much of a cook myself, but I do like to eat. And I’m really thrilled to be writing stories set in Norway. Everybody knows about Nordic Noir, where the landscape is always dark and gloomy, and then someone horribly gets killed. I’m happy to write Nordic Romance that shows the beauty of Norway. 

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

I have a long, long list of favourites. I love Jane Eyre, have done since the first time I read it. I love the blockbusters from when I grew up; writers like Colleen McCullough and Barbara Bradford Taylor. After joining the RNA, I have discovered so many new and amazing writers. Jan Baynham writes wonderful sagas, Christina Courtney’s viking stories are just wow, Sue McDonagh’s contemporary romances set in Wales are a true delight, and I’m always looking forward to a new book by Fiona Leitch – to name a few. 

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

Actually I’d recommend another Scandi. Pernille Hughes wrote the delightful Probably the Best Kiss in the World, set in Copenhagen, one of my favourite cities. I’m really looking forward to her next book. 

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Jen Attison likes her life Just So. But being fished out of a canal in Copenhagen by her knickers is definitely NOT on her to do list.

From cinnamon swirls to a spontaneous night of laughter and fireworks, Jen’s city break with the girls takes a turn for the unexpected because of her gorgeous, mystery rescuer.

Back home, Jen faces a choice. A surprise proposal from her boyfriend, ‘boring’ Robert has offered Jen the safety net she always thought she wanted. But with the memories of her Danish adventure proving hard to forget, maybe it’s time for Jen to stop listening to her head and start following her heart…

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

Oh, that’s a tough one. I’m honestly the least romantic person you can imagine. But a man who can cook and handle a boat, would do me just fine. I haven’t decided on his name yet …

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

The RNA is  such a special place. When I came to my first chapter meeting, I was living in Cardiff, and the brilliant writers in Cariad Chapter couldn’t have been more welcoming. And during the pandemic, I’ve been able to Zoom with them from Oslo, so I still feel I belong to the chapter. I miss the conference something awful, I’ve only been to two, so fingers crossed there will be one next year. I love the support I have experienced from so many lovely people. I’m impressed at what the RNA has done, and I hope it will continue like that. 

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

Read a lot of different books so you find what you like. There’s a lot of subgenres and one is not like the other. Then, when you start writing, don’t take the three first chapters too serious. They will change. Also, the good thing about writing, is that you always learn more. It’s never boring. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

A Very Hygge Holiday has two books, Summer Island and Christmas Island. The paperback for Christmas Island is out on October 14th. They are both set on a small, windy island on the Norwegian west coast. Summer Island tells the story of London Chef Jack who inherits a smallholding on the island, and has to find what what that means to him. In Christmas Island, Holly, Jack’s sister, needs to get away from her life, and decides that the island would do fine. She does not expect to be roped into celebrating Christmas the Norwegian way. 

We tend to take Christmas a tad too serious, I’m afraid. 

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In the bleak midwinter…
A really frosty wind is making Holly’s life absolutely miserable

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

You can buy copies of the books here and here.

About the Author

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Natalie Normann grew up in a small shipping town on the west-coast in Norway. She wanted to be a writer as soon as she realised that books were written by real people. Her debut novel was published in Norwegian in 1995. Since 2007 she has written Historical Romance in Norwegian and recently published her 66th book. Summer Island and Christmas Island are her first books in English.

Connect with Natalie:

Facebook: Natalie Normann

Twitter: @NatalieNormann1

Instagram: @natalienormann

TikTok: @natalieromancewriter

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Blog Tour: The Cosy Cottage in Ireland by Julie Caplin #BookReview

The Cosy Cottage In Ireland

Followers of the blog will know I am the hugest fan of Julie Caplin’s Romantic Escapes series, combining as they do my two great loves of romance and travel, so I could not wait to get my mitts on the latest title, The Cosy Cottage in Ireland. I was even more excited than usual as many of you will know my partner is Irish and Ireland is a place I love. So huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me a place on the tour and to the publisher and author for my digital copy of the book, which i have reviewed honest and impartially.

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Snuggle up in your favourite armchair and take a trip across the Irish sea for comfort food, cosy cottage nights and a heartwarming romance…

Talented lawyer Hannah Campbell is after a change in her workaholic Manchester life – so on an uncharacteristic whim she books herself a place at the world-renowned Killorgally Cookery School in Country Kerry. But on her first night in Ireland, sampling the delights of Dublin, Hannah can’t resist falling for the charms of handsome stranger Conor. It’s only when Hannah arrives at her postcard-pretty home at Killorgally for the next six weeks that she discovers what happens in Dublin doesn’t quite stay in Dublin …

Nestled amongst rolling green hills and breath-taking countryside, the cookery school throws Hannah and Conor together – for better or worse.

I’ve never thrown myself into a Julie Caplin book and not immediately been embraced by a cosy hug of a novel, and this book is no exception. In fact, I think this one might be my favourite yet (do I say this about every one of them? Probably!), although I was pre-disposed to like it because it centred around one of my favourite places in the world.

Starting off in Dublin and then heading west to Kerry, with a sojourn to the beautiful harbour town of Dingle, this novel takes you to some of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, and will make you feel absolutely like you are there. In fact, if you aren’t immediately whipping out the travel guides and planning your own trip to the Emerald Isle as soon as you’ve finished it, I will be mightily surprised.

Lawyer Hannah has pushed herself out of her comfort zone to take a cookery course at a famous school of cuisine in Ireland and, no sooner has she set foot on Irish soil, she begins to act very out of character, being bold and taking chances she never normally would. Well, travel can have that effect on us all, although my travels have never propelled me into the arms of anyone quite as scrumptious as Conor Byrne. (Again, I may be displaying some bias here, given my clear penchant for men with an Irish burr.) She comes to regret her hastiness later, but stories would be no fun if the participants behaved sensibly, now would they?

As with all of Julie’s travel novels, food plays a massive part in the story, and this one is no exception. Set in a cookery school and focusing on the connection between the ingredients, where they come from and the plate, it is a feast for all the senses, and feels topical for modern times. Foodies will revel in the descriptions of all the cooking processes, and I am sure many people will be familiar with the trials and tribulations of bread-making after the past 18 months, especially the travails of battling a sourdough starter. (If you follow Julie, you will know this is something she has been tackling herself, this is an author who believes in hands on research!)

The romance in this book is natural and spontaneous and passionate and seem to develop so believably on the page that I could not have accepted the two main characters not ending up together. The trials they face along the way were very understandable, they were not at all contrived and you could easily see how their misunderstandings could arise. They seemed to fit together like two puzzle pieces, and the chemistry between them flew off the page. Since the relationship is the heart of any novel calling itself romance, I can assure you that lovers of the genre will not be disappointed by this one.

My favourite part of the book was when Hannah takes a trip to Dingle and has an encounter with one of its famous residents. Dingle is my favourite place in Ireland, it is unique and beautiful and friendly and I absolutely adored it, can’t wait to go back. I had an encounter with that resident myself and the story took me back to one of my most magical memories.

This book is the perfect cosy romance to snuggle up with during this chilly autumn days. It will leave you happy, satisfied and with the warm glow of a Ready Brek kid (a reference that will only mean something to people of a certain age!) I’m looking forward to getting my paperback to add to my beloved collection of Romantic Escapes novels and am looking forward to seeing where this author will take me next. It is always a pleasure to take an armchair trip with her.

The Cosy Cottage in Ireland is out now as an ebook and will be released in paperback on 9 December. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out some other reviews of the book by following the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

Julie Caplin Bookshelf

Julie Caplin, formerly a PR director, swanned around Europe for many years taking top food and drink writers on press trips (junkets) sampling the gastronomic delights of various cities in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Copenhagen and Switzerland. It was a tough job but someone had to do it.

These trips have provided the inspiration and settings for her Romantic Escapes series which have been translated into fifteen different languages.

The first book in the seven strong series, The Little Café in Copenhagen, was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

Connect with Julie:

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

Facebook: Julie Caplin Author

Twitter: @JulieCaplin

Instagram: @juliecaplinauthor

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Friday Night Drinks with… S. M. Pope

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Tonight I am having Friday Night Drinks with the author of a book that I will be reviewing on the blog in a few weeks’ time and I am very much looking forward to getting to know her a little better. My guest tonight is author… S. M. Pope.

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

A nice, strong gin and tonic. Or a glass of champagne. Or both.

A woman after my own heart! 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?

Probably a cemetery, if you’re up for that.

That is a new one on Friday Night Drinks!. Could it be in New Orleans? They have some amazing cemeteries. 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?

Mary Shelley – she was so amazing. She spent her youth hanging around graveyards, rather like me, and learned to read at her mother’s grave. And then she wrote one of the best horror books of all time when she was only 18. 

Viggo Mortensen – he writes, he acts, he paints, he speaks multiple languages (including Spanish, which I speak). I’ve been to a couple of events of his and he’s fascinating to listen to and rather swoon-worthy!

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?

I’m currently researching my latest novel, which is set – at least in part – in the Arctic. I’m fascinated by polar expeditions of the Victorian era and in particular by the lives of those who were lost in the fatal Franklin expedition of 1845 to discover the Northwest Passage. No one knows truly what happened to them – why they died, why it went so terribly wrong. I first heard about the expedition several years back, when the Canadian government, helped by the Inuit, discovered the wrecks of Terror and Erebus. At the time, I jotted down an idea of a ghost story set on a shipwreck … and then forgot about it until I watched ‘The Terror’ on BBC2 earlier this year, which is based on that ill-fated expedition.

In my story, I’d like to look at the women behind the scenes, such as Jane Franklin – who I’d also rather like to take out with us for drinks. She was cool – an explorer herself, and an independent woman who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

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

My proudest moment was last week when I received author copies of my book The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth. I’ve always wanted to be a published novelist and have spent many years writing – with some success with my short stories. I wrote my novel originally as a novella for my MA in Children’s Literature six years ago and to see it being published this year feels unreal. My biggest challenge has been believing in myself. I am not very good at that. I still can’t quite believe I am going to be a published author.

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 think the biggest thing for me is for people to enjoy my books. I write because I love telling stories and if I can entertain other people that’s huge for me.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Having not done much or been many places because of Covid, anything and anywhere beyond my normal sphere of existing seems exciting! I am planning to visit the Caird Library at the Maritime Museum in London soon to look at some of their documents pertaining to the lost Franklin Expedition and to see the ‘Hairy Book’ (a book recounting a rescue mission’s experiences in the Arctic – the hair is apparently from seal fur). Hair seems to keep cropping up in my stories…

Hair, interesting! 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?

Oh, that’s hard! I’ve been to a lot of lovely places so picking one is terribly difficult. I think I am at my happiest walking by the sea, no matter what the weather, so I would say Saunton Sands, in North Devon, is my favourite place. I could walk all day there, and then return to the gorgeous Saunton Sands Hotel for a long soak in the tub. 

As for my bucket list, I want to go to the Arctic. I am happy to try anywhere there – but have a particular interest in the Canadian Arctic and the Svalbard archipelago. I used to only go to warm places on holiday (living in the UK means I crave the sun when I get my week off each year) but I’ve become enchanted with the Arctic because of my research.

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

I played bass guitar in a rock group called ‘Men Should Wear Mascara’.

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’?

Ouch, another tricky question! I think I will pick one I read recently, which had a lasting impression on me. It’s called A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter and it’s a woman’s account of spending a year in Spitsbergen with her husband, who was a researcher and trapper. When she first arrives, she is horrified by how basic everything is and the remote location. The book follows her thoughts – her struggles, her fears, and then her acceptance of and love for this land. Her writing is astoundingly beautiful – very poetic. I recommend this to everyone not only as a book that’s fascinating but a work of art in itself.

polar night

In 1934, the Austrian painter Christiane Ritter travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen to spend a year with her husband, an explorer and researcher. They are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies… But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic’s harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

This rediscovered classic memoir tells the incredible tale of a woman defying society’s expectations to find freedom and peace in the adventure of a lifetime.

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?

Eat something stodgy and fatty to soak up the alcohol – both as a hangover preventative and a cure. Plus lots of Coca-Cola original, not the nasty sugar-free stuff. I’ve rarely had a hangover though as I am such a lightweight that I fall asleep before I drink too much. I’ve also been known to get hyper on Coca-Cola, rather embarrassingly.

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

A nice walk by the sea (of course), and perhaps some painting. Over Lockdown I started online art lessons and have become fond of watercolours. I can lose myself for hours trying to paint and I find it very relaxing and therapeutic.

Or a massage – I love a good massage!

Thank you so much for your company, it has been a fun and very enlightening evening. I wish you all the best with your debut and look forward to reviewing it soon.

S. M. Pope’s debut novel, The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth, is out now and you can buy a copy here. Watch out for my review of the book coming around Halloween!

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A psychological horror that will grip you from the first page, and haunt you long after you’ve finished the last.

Nobody believes Lindy when she says she doesn’t pull her hair out on purpose. Nobody believes Lindy when she says she hears voices in the night. Nobody believes Lindy when she says her dead ancestors are haunting her dreams. Nobody believes Lindy …”

S. M. Pope is a writer, editor, teacher and librarian based in Oxford, though she’s also lived in Canada (where she was born) and Spain. The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth is her debut novel but she has had supernatural / horror short stories published before with Otranto House (Tales of the Supernatural), and one story, ‘La Tricoteuse’, won best ‘tale’ as part of a touring theatre production of A Tale of Two Cities. A more normal (ie not scary) story of hers was shortlisted by Trapeze Books and the single-parent-charity Gingerbread as part of their campaign to find a writer and story to represent single families. She enjoys spending time with her family, singing to her cats (should I admit that?), and laughing.

You can connect further with Sam via her Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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