Blog Tour: Blue Running by Lori Ann Stephens

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Fourteen-year-old Bluebonnet Andrews is on the run across the Republic of Texas. An accident with a gun killed her best friend but everyone in the town of Blessing thinks it was murder. Even her father – the town’s drunken deputy – believes she did it. Now, she has no choice but to run. In Texas, murder is punishable by death.

There’s no one to help her. Her father is incapable and her mother left the state on the last flight to America before the secession. Blue doesn’t know where she is but she’s determined to track her down. First she has to get across the lawless Republic and over the wall that keeps everyone in.

On the road she meets Jet, a pregnant young woman of Latin American heritage. Jet is secretive about her past but she’s just as determined as Blue to get out of Texas before she’s caught and arrested. Together, the two form an unlikely kinship as they make their way past marauding motorcycle gangs, the ever watchful Texas Rangers, and armed strangers intent on abducting them – or worse. When Blue and Jet finally reach the wall, will they be able to cross the border, or will they be shot down in cold blood like the thousands who have gone before them?

Some things are worth dying for.

I am delighted to be one of the blogs opening the tour for the first UK-published title by author, Lori Ann Stephens. Blue Running is a book for both adults and young adults, addressing issues of feminism, nationalism, women’s rights, racial injustice, immigration and gun ownership. My thanks to Midas PR for inviting me to take part and to the author and publisher for providing me with a copy of the book for the purposes of review. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This is a really compelling and engaging book with a fascinating premise. Set in a slightly dystopian future, the state of Texas has ceded from the United States and now operates as an autonomous Republic, separated from the rest of America by a wall, no one is allowed in or out. The wall is guarded, not only by official Border Guards but also by trigger-happy vigilantes eager to bag illegal immigrants or emigrants. And in this Texas, everyone is required to carry a gun by law. The Republic is very right wing and very religious, and rights are suitably restricted, especially for women. The scariest thing about this book is how entirely plausible the story is.

The protagonist, Blue, comes from a family riven by the cession so, when she suddenly and unfairly finds herself on the wrong side of the law, she feels like she has no option but to go on the run. Over the course of her flight, she is forced to question everything she has been brought up to believe, and learns to stand on her own two feet and discover her own version of right and wrong.

Blue is such a fantastic character to carry this book. At the beginning she is a little naive in the ways of the wider world, but also old beyond her years because of what she has had to deal with due to her absent mother and alcoholic father. She is an endearing mix of toughness and vulnerability and this makes her a person who quickly gets under your skin and makes you want the best for her. The unfairness of the situation she finds herself in, combined with the danger of the outside world that she is thrust into will have you on the edge of your seat throughout and willing her on to get to safety. You will be shouting at her who to trust and who to avoid, wanting to avenge the wrongs done to her and protect the people she cares for. This book is really affecting, and I raced though it to find out what happened.

Blue desperately wants things to be fair, to be able to trust and believe in the people and the ideals that she has been raised to respect, but the world is corrupt and those in charge are the worst of all. Things are not as black and white as she has always thought, and she is struggling to navigate this new world whilst rapidly maturing herself. This is a book of self-discovery, which also explores such important and topical issues of feminism, human rights, gun control, immigration and social injustice. There is so much going on, it will really make you think whilst keeping you entertained from beginning to end. This is a book that will appeal to adults and young adults, and would actually provide a great kicking off point for discussions on some of these topics with teenagers who are just starting to explore these ideas.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the writing, characterisation and the plotting are all excellent and it is a really great read. I highly recommend it, and look forward to seeing what comes next from this author.

Blue Running will be published on 2 December in ebook, audiobook and hardback formats and you can pre-order a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews:

About the Author

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Lori Ann Stephens is the award-winning author of novels for adults and children, including 2018’s Middle Grade novels NOVALEE AND THE SPIDER SECRET (Dragonfeather Books) and PIERRE FRANÇOIS: 5TH GRADE MISHAPS. SOME ACT OF VISION (ASD Press) was the 2013 YA novel winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, hosted by the Romance Writers of America, OK. She’s also the author of SONG OF THE ORANGE MOONS (Blooming Tree Press, Nov 2010) and several short stories, poems, and opera libretti. When she’s not writing or teaching writing, she reads, takes on DIY home remodeling adventures, and eats the best gourmet, home-cooked meals. She is usually not the cook. She lives in Texas with her family.

Connect with Lori:

Website: https://www.loriannstephens.com/

Facebook: Lori Ann Stephens Writes

Twitter: @lorifromtexas

Instagram: @jolietexas

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Friday Night Drinks with… Melissa Oliver

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We’ve arrived at the end of the month again already, can you believe it? And we are now only four weeks away from Christmas! I think it is time to start the Christmas celebrations and tonight I will be having my first festive Friday Night Drinks with Mills and Boon author… Melissa Oliver.

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

It’s getting close to the Christmas season, so I’m going to be indulgent and go for an Expresso Martini, or a Bailey’s White Russian. 

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Yes, it’s definitely cocktail season. 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’re going all out, Julie, so I’ll be taking you to the Connaught Bar in London, with it’s elegant Cubist wood-paneling, huge smoky mirrors and signature Martinis! We could pretend we’re in a James Bond film or something!

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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 would go with a couple who sizzled on the big screen together, oozed elegance but are sadly no longer with us- Peter O’ Toole and Audrey Hepburn- they would definitely keep us entertained with their stories and add a dash of glamour to the place.

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 have just completed my latest historical romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, which kicks off a new series set in Medieval London. I’m really excited about it as both the hero and heroine are quite different from any characters that I have written before and the backdrop of London is really exciting- there’s something quite familiar and accessible about it but obviously with it being set in the 13th century, quite different as well. 

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

Like many writers, my biggest challenge was finally getting published. It can be soul destroying getting those rejection emails but once you get that offer of a book deal, it more than makes up for it. And I’d say that my proudest moment was winning the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon Award in 2020 for my debut, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight (Notorious Knights book 1). It was definitely the cherry on top after being offered said book deal with Harlequin Mills and Boon. I remember walking around in a daze for a few days afterwards wondering if it really had happened or whether my active imagination had run riot! 

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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’m not going to deny that the lure of having a book adapted for film or tv wouldn’t be amazing and of course if that opportunity came my way, I’d grab it with both hands. In the meantime, I want to develop as a writer, continue to enjoy what I’m doing, write books that captivate and are really, really, really successful, reaching more readers all over the world. In other words, I would love for my books to become bestsellers. 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I really enjoyed writing my latest book, The Knight’s Convenient Alliance– (Notorious Knights book 4), because …

1) It’s a Medieval romance with plenty of intrigue, adventure, drama, set in King Henry III reign.   

2)The leads first meet in book 3 of the Notorious Knights series. 

3) They have both been marred by tragedy in the past. 

4) The hero is an Agent of the Crown.  

5) There’s lots of banter between the leads- Brida O’Conaill is far too serious and Tom Lovent can’t help but tease her. 

It was a lot of fun to write but having said that, this book marks the end of the Notorious Knights series, which also meant having to say goodbye to many characters from previous books- it was a little sad but I’m really happy where I ended it.  

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 Italy- it’s filled with so much history, culture, art & beauty, not to mention incredible food! My favourite places include, Rome, Tuscany, Venice and the Amalfi coast. 

I also love places of significant historical interest- Pompeii, The Acropolis, the Pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum and Persepolis have been some of the most amazing places I’ve been to and following in that vain, I would love to see the lost city of Petra in Jordan. The Red Rose city looks so romantic, so breathtakingly majestic, I really can’t wait to see it in person. One day…  

Jordan is also really high on my bucket list. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I used to make made-to-measure wedding dresses which was something I really enjoyed doing at the time. I particularly loved to find out the stories of how and where my clients met their fiancés. So yes, I’ve always been a romantic at heart!

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 love Georgette Heyer’s Regencies. They are so witty, so well-crafted with endearing characters, sparkling dialogue and amusing plot lines. She’s considered to be one of the first historical romance authors and her books have classic timeless quality which I return to again and again. If I had to pick one (which would definitely change depending on my mood, by the way) I would go with Sylvester or maybe Frederica but then there’s The Grand Sophy and not forgetting Cotillion

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Endowed with rank, wealth and elegance, Sylvester, Duke of Salford, is ready to find a bride.

His pursuit of a partner sets him on course to Phoebe Marlow, a young lady who is far more concerned with riding than sewing or beautiful clothes.

With Phoebe struggling to meet her family’s demands of gentility and poise, a potential match with Sylvester is exceedingly advantageous. So, it is very intriguing indeed when a visit from her potential suitor causes Phoebe to flee her home.

When the pair meet again and an unexpected adventure ensues, Sylvester comes to realise that there is much more to Phoebe than her reputation affords . . .

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I always know my limits so never drink to the point that I would have a hangover the following morning but one tip is to alternate your drinks with fruit juice or water and failing that, a full English breakfast with lots of tea does the trick.

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

Spa and afternoon tea with friends. Long walks with my husband, our daughters and cocker spaniel Mr Darcy, followed by a pub lunch with log fires. And finally then cuddled up on the sofa for a movie night with big buckets of pop-corn to share. 

Melissa, I have had the best time chatting to you this evening, thank you so much for joining me.

Melissa’s latest book for Mills and Book Historical is The Knight’s Convenient Alliance (Notorious Knights, Book 4) was published yesterday in the UK and Australia and is out in the USA on 30 November. You can buy a copy here.

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The only man who’s tempted her…

Now poses as her husband!

When an injured knight arrives on Brida O’Conaill’s doorstep, the village assumes he’s her long-lost husband. But her only previous connection to Sir Thomas Lovent was an intense shared moment at a tournament years ago. Brida maintains the pretence while she nurses him, yet once he’s back to full, virile health, she cannot reveal Thomas is not her husband – or that she’s unmarried! – when everyone is expecting them to act like man and wife…

Melissa Oliver is from south-west London where she writes historical romance novels. She lives with her lovely husband and daughters, who share her passion for decrepit, old castles, palaces and all things historical.

Melissa is the WINNER of The Romantic Novelist Association’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers 2020 for her debut, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight.

When she’s not writing she loves to travel for inspiration, paint, and visit museums & art galleries.

You can find out more about Melissa via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea by Cressida McLaughlin

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All Meredith Verren has ever wanted is to escape the holiday season without having to wear a Christmas jumper. Her new job at the cosy gift shop in a picturesque Cornish tourist spot is making it impossible for her to maintain her scrooge-like manner.

With their seasonal hampers on everyone’s wish list, Meredith must paste on a smile and fake some holiday cheer. Then she meets handsome new arrival, Finn, who wishes it could be Christmas every day and wants her to feel the same way too.

Can she embrace the holly and the ivy before the decorations are packed away for another year?

What could be more perfect for my first Christmas book of the season than the lastest book in one of my favourite series by one of my favourite authors? Nothing is the answer, which is why I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea by Cressida McLaughlin, which was published yesterday. Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publicity team at HarperCollins for providing me with a copy of the book for purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

This is the latest book in the Cornish Cream Tea series but the action moves in this book from Porthgolow to the nearby town of Port Karadow, where we meet a new character, Meredith, who is not a big fan of Christmas. This is a bit of a disadvantage when she works in a gift shop and is in charge of pushing and promoting products for the Christmas season. When her neighbour has her house decorated like the outside of the Rockefeller Centre and her best friend is planning the Christmas light display for the town. Christmas is everywhere, and there is no avoiding it, however much she might try.

There is nothing more delightful than a Christmas book set in Cornwall, and Cressida has milked the opportunities presented by this premise to the max. This book is bedecked with as much glitter, cosiness and festive cheer as you could possibly hope for, it is the knobbliest, fullest Christmas stocking of a book that you could possibly pick up and will get you perfectly in the mood for the Christmas season. There are lights, parades, carolling, parties and celebrations galore and you’ll wish you were spending Christmas at Port Karadow by the end of it.

On top of this, Meredith meets a man who charms, thrills and infuriates her all at the same time. Finn has come into Meredith’s life to teach her the real meaning of Christmas and show her that she can enjoy this time of year if she just starts to look at it differently. But Finn has issues of his own, can Meredith help him in return? I absolutely loved the way the relationship developed between Finn and Meredith. I was completely in love with both of them by the end of the book, to the point where I had a real lump in my throat and a tear in my eye at the denouement of the book.

This was only very loosely connected to the Cornish Cream Tea series, and for me this book had a different feel from the previous ones, but this isn’t a negative thing, it is nice to see Cressida taking the books in a fresh direction and I really enjoyed the new characters and setting introduced here. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes next since, in a recent interview, Cressida has confirmed that there are more stories to come in this series. Who wouldn’t want to pay more visits to the beautiful Cornish coast for more romantic encounters?

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and other great content:

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About the Author

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Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David. When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.

Connect with Cressida:

Website: https://www.cressidamclaughlin.com/

Facebook: Cressida McLaughlin Author

Twitter: @CressMcLaughlin

Instagram: @cressmclaughlin

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lesley Field

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I love my bi-weekly chats with romance authors on a subject close to my heart… the writing of romance novels! I can’t wait to hear what this week’s guest has to say on the subject, so I am delighted to welcome to the blog…. Lesley Field.

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

I write both contemporary and historical romance. My contemporary novels are set in Canada and my historical novels are set in and around the Regency period. I first started writing in 2012 when I saw a short story in a magazine and thought, “I could do that.” So I did. I wrote a contemporary novel, intended to be a short story, but it became more. Eventually it turned into a 90,000 work plus novel which later became the first book in my Saunders series, Saunders-Lies and Deception. However, that was not my first published novel. Having written contemporary I wondered if I could write historical as I’ve always loved reading historical books. Again, I sat at the computer and wrote, Dangerous Entrapment, which became the first book in my Duchess in Danger series. I was fortunate enough to get a publishing contract for that book from Canadian publishers. The book was published in 2015 and to my delight (and shock) was shortlisted for Historical Novel of the Year 2016 by The Romantic Novelists Association (RNA). I published a further 6 e-books through my Canadian publishers, 3 more in the Duchess in Danger series, and 3 books in my Saunders series, Saunders-Lies and Deception, (book 1) Saunders-Endings and Beginnings, (book 2) and finally, Saunders-Sisters and Lovers, (Book 3). All books were set in Banff, Canada. In the meantime I had obtained a publishing contract from a UK publishers for a further contemporary romance set in Canada, Betrayal. The rights to all 7 books have recently reverted back to me and I decided to take a big step away from publishers and become an independently published author. I now have all 7 books re-edited and re-published through Amazon KDP under the publishing name of “Wild Moose Publications,” which is in fact me. 

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Why romance?

I think because I’m a romantic at heart and I love a happy ever after. Not everyone gets that in life but they do in my books. Also I believe that we all need something to make us smile, to take us away from the everyday problems that life throws at us. There is enough violence in life and it’s lovely to sit and escape from it all, even if it’s only for a short while. Not, that there isn’t some danger in my books, or temporary heartache caused by misunderstandings, there is. But it’s the smile on a readers face when they reach the end of the book that’s my main goal.

Also there is sexual content in my books, which goes beyond the bedroom door. Some people like this, some don’t. So if a reader doesn’t like this my suggestion is, skip that bit. In my 2nd book in the Duchess in Danger series, Dangerous Deception, I pushed my boundaries as regards the sexual content. It was way out of my comfort zone and when I’d finished it I had to walk away from the laptop as I was actually shaking. There is always a reason for something like that, and in that particular book it had to be severe to justify the later action/belief of my heroine. I do accept that some people would be offended by some of the content, but those things happened in that era.

What inspires your stories?

I wish I knew. I never know where or when a storyline will suddenly pop into my head. My Saunders series was only intended to be one book, but book 2 came to me when my hubby and I were on a coach tour in America. There was a lot of scribbling in a notebook on that journey. Now I take a laptop with me when we travel. I always remember my mum telling me that I had a vivid imagination, so I guess that’s where the inspiration starts. Sometimes it could be something in a book that I‘m reading. Just a comment made about a person and I can start to weave a story around them, which could eventually turn into a book.

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

I have to say Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland as past authors, not forgetting the Brontes and Jane Austen. I certainly can’t forget Jane Austen as the 3rd Book in my Duchess in Danger series, Dangerous Desire, was awarded a Jane Austen Complimentary Award. For present day authors I have a leaning toward Bella Andre, for contemporary. I think she writes the most sensual loves scenes, I only wish I could do half as well. For historical, Sarah MacLean, Ella Quinn, Stephanie Laurens, and more recently Elizabeth St Michel. 

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

This is a really difficult question to answer as there are so many romantic books out there. I could say Bridgerton, which would be a no brainer. But I think I’ll suggest a contemporary novel, something from Bella Andre’s Sullivan series. I love this series and, as I previously said, I find her description of sex scenes sensual rather than sexual. I would choose, Can’t Help Falling in Love. As a bonus could I suggest a historical novel, set amid the American Civil war, Surrender to Honor, by Elizabeth St Michel. This is the second book in her Surrender series. The description of the events and the relationship between the main characters, where no quarter is asked and no quarter given, keeps you captivated until the last page.

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Gabe Sullivan risks his life every day as a firefighter in San Francisco. But after learning a brutal lesson about professional boundaries, he knows better than to risk his heart to his fire victims ever again. Especially the brave mother and daughter he saved from a deadly apartment fire…and can’t stop thinking about.

Megan Harris knows she owes the heroic firefighter everything for running into a burning building to save her and her seven-year-old daughter. Everything except her heart. Because after losing her navy pilot husband five years ago, she has vowed to never suffer through loving – and losing – a man with a dangerous job again.

Only, when Gabe and Megan meet again and uncontrollable flames of desire ignite between them, how can he possibly ignore her courage, determination, and beauty? And how can she deny not only his strong bond with her daughter…but the way his sweetly sensual kisses are challenging her to risk everything she’s been guarding for so long? If one – or both – of them aren’t careful, they just might end up falling in love.

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 think it would have to be Ethan Slade from my own novel, Betrayal. A hunky rancher/businessman. I describe him as, “a rancher who exudes testosterone enough to make your toes curl.” Time spent on his ranch on the outskirts of Calgary, romantic picnics and riding into the foothills of the Canadian Rockies with him would be wonderful. That would keep me occupied all weekend. I always fancied myself as a cowgirl, then again perhaps I am in a parallel universe.

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

I think the RNA is fantastic. I came through the New Writers Scheme which is an amazing opportunity for new writers. The organization is so helpful and I have gained friends, and an insight into writing and publishing that I would never have discovered. I also find the other members are most helpful if you have a problem and there does not appear to be any back biting or hostility amongst members, unless I’m walking about with my eyes and ears shut. I’m proud to be a member of this amazing organisation.

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

Never give up and keep reading. Read a much as you can, not only in your own genre, but push your boundaries and open your mind to what others are writing. Never take a rejection personally, and keep submitting, or look at the possibility of going independent. Although, I do think that to be published by a publisher will give a person an insight into editing and what is needed to promote their book. I have learned a lot from my editors and am carrying that into my independent publishing world.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel, which was published on 8th November 2021, was my first independently published novel. Apart from a first for independent publishing it was a first for the genre, as it’s a time travel novel, moving from 2009 back to the Regency period. It does contain sexual content, as do all of my novels as mentioned above. The title is Duchess Thro Time, and it tells the story of Kate who is celebrating her friend Charlotte’s (Charlie’s) birthday, at the country home of Charlie’s grandparents, Halford Park. Finding herself betrayed by her two best friends she flees to the top floor of the house. Finding a door she’s not seen before she follows the sound of music and finds herself back in 1811 and under the suspicious eye of the local spy master. What happens next takes her on a journey of discovery which I hope the reader will enjoy. I have to give credit here to my wonderful husband who has prepared the cover art work for both the e-book and print book. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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Kate Thornton loves Halford Park, the country estate of her best friend’s grandparents, the Duke and Duchess of Halford. A party celebrating (Charlotte’s) Charlie’s birthday, finds them both dressed in gowns from the Nineteenth century. As the party progresses Kate discovers she’s been betrayed by her two best friends. A confrontation and heated words send Kate fleeing to the top floor of the house and into an area she’s not seen before.Following the sound of music she finds herself among people dressed the same as her. Believing this to be Charlie’s idea of a joke she slips out into the garden. As she tries to obtain a service for her phone she is approached by Marcus Welford who escorts her back into the house. When there is a threat of danger he offers her protection. Discovering that Marcus Welford is the Sixth Duke of Halford, and Charlie’s several times removed grandfather is a shock. Unable to understand how she has travelled back to 1811 Kate is grateful to Marcus for keeping her safe, especially when she risks being accused of being a French spy. As they become close danger forces Marcus to extend his protection to marriage. A marriage of convenience soon turns to more.
Can this marriage work or must Marcus send her back to her own time?
And if he sends her back can either of them live without the other?

About the Author

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Lesley Field was born and grew up on Teesside, in the North East of England. She enjoyed riding and reading and later spent most of her working life pursuing personal injury claims on behalf of claimants. When retirement came she kicked off the restraints of the law and discovered her real self. What she discovered or re-discovered was writing something she’d dabbled in when she was in her teens. Although writing contemporary fiction set in Canada, she also writes historical fiction, set in London in and around the Regency period. Using her love of Canada and her enjoyment of horses she brings both to her books.

Lesley is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association coming in through their New Writers Scheme. Having now progressed to full membership she is also a member of ROMNA and a member of Promoting Yorkshire Authors. 

Happily living on the North Yorkshire coast with her husband she spends her days enjoying life, and writing.

Connect with Lesley:

Website: https://lesleyfield.com 

Facebook: Lesley Field

Twitter: @lesley_field2

Instagram: @lesley_field2

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Book Review: A Convenient Marriage by Jeevani Charika #BookReview

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It was the perfect marriage… until they fell in love.

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow their heart?

Will they choose love, or carry on living a lie?

This is a really engrossing and moving story about the many different kinds of love that exist outside of romantic love and how, despite ourselves, many of us make choices which are more about pleasing other people and deciding not to rock the boat, than being true to ourselves, but whichever path we take, pitfalls lie ahead.

Both Chaya and Gimhana are Sri Lankans living in the UK. They come from traditional families and are torn between loyalty to their parents back in Sri Lanka and alternative futures that they are building for themselves in the West. Both Chaya and Gimhana are hiding parts of themselves from their families and find they cannot be truly themselves until they meet each other. Because they are both keeping secrets, and being torn between loyalty and love, they find in each other the only other person who really understands them.

I felt very deeply for both Gimhana and Chaya and the necessity they felt in being what people expected of them, rather than just being themselves. To a lesser degree, this is something many of us can relate to because many of us are subject of family pressures and expectations. However, this is heightened when it comes to the demands of very strict traditional families and the society in which they live in Sri Lanka, which can be extremely judgmental.

Jeevani builds the image of the Sri Lankan family in great detail and extremely vividly and I completely understood where Chaya and Gimhana were coming from and why they were so torn. Their love and respect for their families forces them to deny the other loves that come into their lives, but it is impossible to maintain a facade indefinitely. I could feel the pain and the yearning coming from both of them, and it was incredibly affecting.

There are some beautiful characters and relationships in this book, as well as intimate portrayals of struggles with mental health and homosexuality in a society which is not accepting of this identity. Parts of the books were very painful to read, and the author really takes the reader under the characters’ skins and lets us live their experiences with them. The book had a slow beginning but it go more engrossing as it went along and by the end I could not put it down.

The book really moved me and made me think deeply about how much some of us take for granted and how little we know of the struggles other people face but how, if we look closely enough, we have enough shared experience to allow us to empathise with and support those who may seem different initially. In the end, all of these experiences are human experiences. A really fantastic love story with a difference. I highly recommend it.

A Convenient Marriage is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Jeevani Charika writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with a hint of British cynicism.  (In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Jeev-uh-nee.)

There’s a whole lot of other stuff she could tell you – but mainly: she’s a former scientist, an adult fan of Lego, an embarrassing mum, a part time geek (see ’embarrassing mum’) and a Very Short Person.

She also writes romantic comedy under the pen name Rhoda Baxter. So why the two names? Well… Jeevani writes about British-Sri Lankan main characters. Rhoda, not so much.

Connect with Jeevani:

Website: https://jeevanicharika.com/home/

Facebook: Jeevani Charika

Twitter: @RhodaBaxter

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Friday Night Drinks with… Annette Hannah

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Tonight’s guest on Friday Night Drinks is someone I have been lucky enough to actually drink with in person, an event which has ever embedded me in her mind as ‘the woman who fell off an office chair.. twice.’ Tonight, with my seat firmly positioned beneath my derriere, I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author… Annette Hannah.

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

Thank you so much for having me on your lovely blog. As it’s Friday night I think it has to be my favourite cocktail, a cosmopolitan, gloriously pink with a swirl of orange peel in it. Clink cheers.

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

Ooh I think one of the best nights in London I had was a Christmas cocktail night in Drake and Morgan. It was hosted by Sara-Jade Virtue and the Books and the City team over at Simon and Schuster. They had custom made cocktails and I remember a gin fizz one which was delicious So I think we would go there. Its handy for St Pancras station too.

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 would have to be Jackie Collins as she was my all-time favourite author. I met her a couple of weeks before she passed and what struck me was that she was so genuinely interested in her readers. She wished me luck with my writing too as I’d confided in her that I’d been dabbling. I think for the man it would be Adam Levine from Maroon 5 because I just love their songs and we could ask him to sing for us.

I’m very jealous of you meeting Jackie! Did you see the documentary about her recently, it was fascinating. 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 Poppy’s Christmas Wishes is my third published book but it was actually the first book I ever wrote. I’d been wanting to write forever and after a brief stint when my three children were tiny I realized I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. About six years ago I became part of a promotional team for my favourite author Milly Johnson, just by answering a call out on facebook. I was then invited to a blogger evening by Simon and Schuster and from then on I became a blogger. This helped me to find my voice and when authors started using my quotes in their books I actually couldn’t believe it. I made lots of blogging and writing friends and the lovely Vicki Bowles told me about the Romantic Novelists’ Association which I joined on their New Writers’ Scheme. Simon and Schuster hold a one-day submission event for non-agented writers every year, so I plucked up the courage to write the first three chapters of Poppy’s Christmas Wishes and submitted it. Then I panicked, what if they asked for the rest? This prompted me to finish the book in a month, and that was it my dream of writing a book had come true. It was rejected by S&S and I sent it out to a couple of other places but I realise now how naive I was then as it was a first draft and I hadn’t edited it at all. After writing my other books I decided to edit it and send it to through the New Writers’ Scheme for a second time and then my editor at Orion Dash offered me another two-book deal.

The idea for the book came about ten years ago when I was on a Christmas night out and my friends and I met a man who was playing a genie in his local pantomime. I thought it would be a perfect theme for a book and so along came Poppy’s Christmas Wishes. I would love to see it on telly as a cosy Christmas movie, snuggled up on the couch with my daughter with a hot chocolate in hand and snow falling outside the window.

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

My proudest moment has to be when the lovely and amazing Milly Johnson said she would provide a quote for my debut novel Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café

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I think the biggest challenge so far has to be trying to get your book published as I’d tried for a few years but I didn’t hang around waiting I just kept writing more books as after the first one it felt as though a tap had been turned on and my head is constantly filled with story ideas.

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

I would love to have a film or a telly deal, because I see my writing in my head as though it’s a film playing before me so I think it would be fascinating to actually sit and watch it with my family and friends.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m currently working on a book at the moment which is really exciting and quite different to the others. The whole story has formed in my head so I just need to get it down, I also have a dual timeline book that I wrote a few years ago which I think is my favourite out of all the books I’ve written. I’m hoping to edit that again soon and get it out there.

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 also love to travel, just before the dreaded lockdown my husband and I recreated a holiday we had years ago but this time with our children. We went to Australia and Singapore and I think Singapore has to be one of my favourite places ever, the Zoo is just wonderful. We all loved it. I also loved Venice and Monte Carlo and San Francisco. So many places. Santorini is a place I’d like to visit one day.

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

As well as being a blogger and an author I’m also Press Officer for the RNA and on the committee

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’?

Oooh that’s a hard one as I’ve read so many fantastic books in my life but there are two that have stayed with me from my teenage days, Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews and Chances by Jackie Collins. I don’t know if it’s because they featured young people like I was at the time but I think for Flowers in the Attic, the wickedness was so shocking in it and I fell in love with Christopher, I also fell in love with Gino actually from Chances so maybe that’s why they meant so much to me, they were my first book boyfriend crushes.

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The book that made Jackie Collins one of Britain’s favourite authors sweeps you from the sophisticated playgrounds of Europe to the glittering gambling palaces of Las Vegas. It plunges you into the reckless, dangerous world of the Santangelo crime family. It introduces you to Gino Santangelo, the street kid who makes it all the way to the top. And then it brings you Lucky – his sensual, stunningly beautiful, and passionate daughter; a woman who dares to win her father’s empire for herself; a woman unafraid of taking … CHANCES.

Flowers in the Attic is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, although not as creepy as My Sweet Audrina by the same author! 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 like to try and drink water between sips of alcoholic drinks and recently started drinking J20 apple and raspberry which is quite cocktail like. If I do have one which is very rare thankfully, then I like a glass of fresh orange with my daughter’s specialty of bacon done in the air fryer on a toasted bagel with avocado in it. It is so delicious and perfect for non-hangover days too.

I had bacon on a toasted bagel for lunch today, although I like mine with roasted cherry tomatoes. It’s even nicer if you spread the bagel with Boursin instead of butter! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

A little bit of shopping and a gorgeous afternoon tea in a posh hotel.

Sounds perfect! Annette, thanks for chatting to me this evening, I’ve had a blast and managed to stay on the chair! Good luck with the new book.

Annette’s new book, Poppy’s Christmas Wishes, is out as an ebook on 2 December and you can pre-order it here.

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What would you wish for if you were granted three wishes?

For the first time she can remember, Poppy is dreading Christmas. Unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend after moving across the country for him, there’s nothing cheery about the festive season this year.

Dragged to a Christmas ball by best friend Layla, Poppy meets gorgeous actor Gabe, who stars as a genie in a play. When he asks her what three wishes she would make, she realises it’s quite simple: love, a job she’s happy in and, just once in her life, to do something extraordinary.

Gabe and Poppy make a pact to help each other make their dreams come true. As they tick off their wishes, their friendship blossoms… But, as they discover, sometimes, what you want for Christmas isn’t necessarily what you need…

Annette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now lives near a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cocker spaniel. She writes Romantic comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown.

She worked in Marketing for many years as a qualified Marketeer which she loved as it tapped into her creative side.

As an avid reader, she began to review the books she read, became a book blogger and eventually plucked up the courage to fulfil her life long dream of writing a book.

For four years she was a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s new writers’ scheme, during which time she wrote a book a year

After signing a two book deal with Orion Dash in 2020 she graduated to full member of the organisation and is also their Press Officer.

She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places and spending time with her friends and family.

Connect further with Annette via her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

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Book Review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper #BookReview

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Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now, she is owned by a man she despises and lives as a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, her only value the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken. Sharp, resourceful and surrounded by women whose humour and dreams she shares, Amara comes to realise that everything in this city has its price. But how much will her freedom cost?

I had heard marvellous things about this book, but hadn’t really grasped what to expect before I picked it up. Whatever it was I thought I was going to read, it wasn’t this but, wow, what an incredible, accomplished and entertaining piece of work this is, I absolutely adored every page of it.

Set in the brothels of Pompeii, this book explores in colourful, vivid and violent detail the day to day realities of life in these establishments for the women forced to work and live there. The brutality of what they were subjected to on a daily basis, the degradations suffered, the indignities they had to go through to survive… but also the bravery, the friendship, the humour and the hope that kept them going, held them together and made those lives a little less bleak.

Elodie Harper endows these characters that are so distant in history from ourselves with a humanity to which we can all relate and makes them come to brilliant life. Every sense is awakened by her writing, until the reader is living and breathing life in Pompeii along with the characters. I was absolutely blown away with how vital her writing about the period is; if you didn’t know better, you might assume she had been there at the time.

I was mesmerised by this book. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. It was one of the most compelling novels I have picked up these year. It made me wince, it made me outraged, it moved me, it made me laugh, it made me cry and it gave me hope. This book is the first of a trilogy, with the new book due next year and, as soon as I had finished, I went out and bought a copy in hardback in anticipation of collecting the full set. I absolutely cannot wait for Amara’s story to continue and The Wolf Den is undoubtedly going to be one of my top books of the year.

The Wolf Den is available now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Elodie Harper is a journalist and prize winning short story writer. Her story ‘Wild Swimming’ won the 2016 Bazaar of Bad Dreams short story competition, run by The Guardian and Hodder & Stoughton and judged by Stephen King. She is currently a reporter and presenter at ITV News Anglia, and before that worked as a producer for Channel 4 News.

Connect with Elodie:

Website: https://www.elodieharper.com/

Twitter: @ElodieITV

Instagram: @elodielharper

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Book Review: Deadheading and Other Stories by Beth Gilstrap #BookReview

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Irrevocably tied to the Carolinas, these stories tell tales of the woebegone, their obsessions with decay, and the haunting ache of the region itself—the land of the dwindling pines, the isolation inherent in the mountains and foothills, and the loneliness of boomtowns. Predominantly working-class women challenge the status quo by rejecting any lingering expectations or romantic notions of Southern femininity. Small businesses are failing. Factories are closing. Money is tight. The threat of violence lingers for women and girls. Through their collective grief, heartache, and unsettling circumstances, many of these characters become feral and hell-bent on survival. Gilstrap’s prose teems with wildness and lyricism, showing the Southern gothic tradition of storytelling is alive and feverishly unwell in the twenty-first century.

I was provided with a digital copy of this book for the purposes of review by Lori Hettler of TNBBC Publicity, who has my grateful thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

A collection of short stories, some a mere page, some a little longer, all tied together by their setting in the Carolinas and all exploring the intricacies of life and womanhood. I was stunned by the depth and breadth of experience that the author has managed to weave into even the briefest of tales in this extraordinary collection.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, and I have never read anything quite like it before. On the surface, some might argue that these tales are about nothing in particular. They aren’t identifiable crime stories, or romances, or horrors, but a collection of related and yet unrelated tableaux of ordinary yet extraordinary lives. Tinged with anger, passion, despair, melancholy, love, fear, joy and tragedy, they span the range of human emotion that can infuse even the simplest of everyday endeavours. The writer makes every life a miracle and quest for meaning, illustrated by even the smallest and most innocuous of happenings. Nobody in this world is nobody.

This is a great book to dip in and out of when you only have a few minutes to spare, or is equally a book that could transport you away for hours as you lose track of time. Each story is engrossing and moving, provoking a range of emotions in the reader that can take time to be fully realised. These are stories that you carry with you long after you have finished them and, I am sure, will be even richer on a second reading. Something out of the mainstream to relish.

You can buy a copy of Deadheading and Other Stories here.

About the Author

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Beth Gilstrap is the author of Deadheading & Other Stories, Winner of the 2019 Red Hen Press Women’s Prose Prize due out October 5, 2021 and available for preorder now. She is also the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura (2016) from Hyacinth Girl Press. Born and raised in the Charlotte area, she recently relocated to Louisville where she lives and writes in an ornery old shotgun house. She also lives with C-PTSD and is quite vocal about ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. Bruce and Bonnie (pictured) are terrible editorial assistants.

Connect with Beth:

Website: https://bethgilstrap.com

Facebook: Beth Gilstrap

Twitter: @BettySueBlue

Instagram: @bettysueblue

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Blog Tour: A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack

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My turn on the blog tour today for A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack. I cannot tell you how much I have been looking forward to reading this book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher and author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Escape to the breath-taking beauty of Venice – The City of Love.

When pragmatic, sensible and resolutely single Deirdre York (Didi to her friends) is sent to Venice for work she is determined not to be taken in by the romantic clichés. Winter in the floating city may be breathtakingly beautiful, but she’s here with a clear purpose and will not let the magic of Venice distract her.

Piero Zanetti is the epitome of the handsome yet tortured artist. Heart-broken by the end of his love affair with a glamorous opera singer, he has lost his ability to work, and his inspiration has drained away, along with his zest for life.

But Didi needs Piero working – she has been tasked with commissioning him to do a glass centrepiece for a luxury department store Christmas display – some how Didi has to cheer Piero up or at least find him a new muse…

As Didi and Piero slowly become friends, and as Venice starts to melt Didi’s heart and gently nudge Piero out of the blues, something special begins to happen. Can Venice – the City of Love – work a Christmas miracle and help Didi and Piero to find their happiness at last…

My first festive read of the year!

Or so I thought, but the cover of the book and the blurb are a little bit deceptive in this regard, because this isn’t really a Christmas book in the traditional sense of being set at, or revolving entirely around, Christmas. It begins shortly before the festive season and briefly touches on Christmas, and the design of Christmas window display is the hook that unites the male and female protagonists, but Christmas is not the main theme. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book, but don’t go into this book thinking you are settling down for a Christmas read.

The book is set in Venice mainly in the winter months either side of Christmas and, for me, exploring Venice at this time of year was one of the big positives of the book. Venice is a place I have only visited and read about and seen in movies in the summer time, so to read the descriptions of how it is in winter, when the streets are not rammed with tourists and the city takes on a completely different mantle, was fascinating. Also, we are guided around the city by Piero, a native Venetian, and we get to see the city as Didi does, through the eyes of an English girl exploring with a local guide. Leonie really brings the city to life, and the book is filled with evocative detail that immediately transports you to Italy, Venice and all the romance it promises. This is a place I am hoping myself to revisit soon (I have been dropping more than enough hints to The Irishman about where I’d like to go for my 50th birthday this year) so having this sneak, better-be-a-preview-or-someone-will-be-in-trouble was a real pleasure.

The characters in this book were easy to warm to immediately. Piero does sterling work as the handsome-but-tortured Italian artist that you would be disappointed not to have as the romantic interest. However, I found Didi, unconventional and down-to-earth, a refreshing protagonist. She did not come across as the typical heroine and I found her all the more charming for it. Both of them have troubled family dynamics that are played out in the book and which draw them together, and I found their relationship completely believable and utterly charming. I was carried along by their growing closeness from beginning to end and was left with a warm glow by the end of the novel, as much as I could possibly wish for in such a novel.

A Match Made in Venice is the perfect book to snuggle up with in these autumn months when the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping. You will be transported to Venice, with all its romance and beauty, and be warmed by the developing romance between Didi and Piero amongst its shimmering lights. Totally delightful in every respect, just not a Christmas book.

A Match Made in Venice is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews and features:

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About the Author

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Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great international locations. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

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Friday Night Drinks with… Carolyn Mandache

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It’s Friday Night Drinks time again and this week I am joined by Author… Carolyn Mendache.

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Welcome to the blog, and thence you for joining me for a drink this week. First things first, what are you drinking?

Hi Julie, my Friday night tipple is a gin cocktail from Eden Mill. They do all different kinds, but I’m partial to the Gin and Rose Lemonade one.

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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?

Aside from my writing, my husband and I also run a business called time2dine, working closely with local restaurants, so I’d be taking you to one of the fantastic restaurants on offer in Glasgow. Chatting over great food in an attractive setting always seems a good option to me, and we’ve all missed out on this for so long it’s even more enjoyable now!

Great food is always a winner with me! 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?

This question I’m finding really tough! Ok, I’ll go with my gut instinct and say Michael McIntyre for the male, as he is one of the funniest people on the planet in my view and would be sure to entertain us. The female would be Sarah Rafferty in character as Donna from Suits, as she’s funny, smart, has terrific one-liners and wonderful dress sense.

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?

My current writing is a follow up to my debut novel, title still to be decided! To go back to the start, my inspiration for Behind the Curtain was to try and make people re-think Romania and attitudes towards immigrants. 

My husband was born in Romania, and the media is often very negative in portraying Eastern Europe, so I hope to try change that. The book is a fictional account of his life in Romania before meeting me and moving to Scotland. 

Our four children are another reason for writing the book, I want them to grow up to be proud of both their Scottish and Romanian roots. I found researching absolutely fascinating, there is only one year in age difference between Florin and I, but our childhood experiences were so different and I learned a lot about the country’s history, culture and customs. Florin’s childhood in a communist country was not an easy one, but it wasn’t unhappy either, so it was important to me to fully show this.

Now that I’ve caught the writing bug, I’m well underway with the next book which starts where Behind the Curtain finishes off, with Florin meeting me. This book is written from my own perspective, rather than Florin’s, and it is a lot of fun reminiscing about all of our experiences as a multi-cultural family, both in Scotland and Romania. My aim for my books is to encourage people to be more open-minded, not fall into the trap of believing stereotypes and to form opinions of people based on who they are, not where they are from.

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

My proudest moment is yet to occur, as I have been invited to my local Waterstones branch to sign my book once it arrives in stock! This really will be a dream come true moment for me as it’s great selling online, but to see my own physical copy of my book sitting signed in Waterstones will be something truly special.

My biggest challenge was to go for it, and actually publish Behind the Curtain. For quite a while I worried I did not have the right to publish a book based on someone else’s life, in a country I had only visited. In the end, my motivation was strong enough to help me overcome those worries, and I am proud of the book with very positive feedback so far. Another challenge was deciding how many Romanian phrases to include without putting off or confusing British readers, but I think I got the right balance.

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!

If I’m brave enough for the next book I’d love to do a pre-order campaign as pre-release sales would feel fantastic! Other than that, media coverage or being noticed and critiqued by an author I admire would also be of huge value.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

During lockdown, I joined an online creative writing group with Indie Authors World, who helped me publish my book. We produced a collaborative book of novellas, each one of us taking on a different writing prompt, and the book will be published soon. I really enjoyed this project, and tackled a romance story, something I normally would have shied away from. The book will be called Allsorts due to the variety of writing, and profits will go to Calum’s Legacy, a meningitis charity. 

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 would have to say Cocoa Beach, Florida. I have so many happy family memories from there as we’ve visited a few times. It’s next to the Kennedy space centre, and the excitement of our kids watching a real life rocket launch was pretty amazing. Dolphins jumping in the sea, and of course, a magical trip to Disney World, not to mention the fantastic outlet shopping. Perfect holiday destination all in all. It does rain quite a lot there in July, but it’s warm rain that’s over fast, not like the Glasgow downpours I’m used to!

The place I’ve always wanted to visit is Hawaii, I love the idea of enjoying a Luau, experiencing the food, music and culture. The scenery, colourful flowers, and general laid back feel it seems to have would be things I’d really enjoy. Definitely on my bucket list!

I absolutely love Florida! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I met my husband Florin, the main character in my novel, at a foam party in Spain! I’m guessing not many people can say that’s how they met their other half. 

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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’?

Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, but I’d have to buy you a copy as I wouldn’t part with my signed one! Picoult is one of my very favourite authors and I always enjoy her thought provoking books with topical themes and moral dilemmas. This particular book I received at a talk by the author herself at Kelvingrove art galleries in Glasgow. The spectacular setting, as well as her insights into how she tackled writing the book made for a very entertaining evening, and I loved meeting her. Tackling racism, the storyline centres around a black nurse accused of causing the death of a newborn baby, I won’t say any more, but it’s a powerful read and one that I would class as a “must read”.

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When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

I have copy of this, I must get round to reading it some day! 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?

With 4 kids it’s safe to say I avoid hangovers at all costs! A big glass of water at bedtime is a must and if I’m not feeling too great the next day, strong coffee and lots of fresh air always helps.

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

Well, a weekend for me has to have a lie in since it’s a break from the early morning school runs. Saturday afternoons I like to spend as a family, a walk around the Kelpies then coffee and cake is always a good option, followed by either dinner out, or someone else cooking for a change! Sundays I like to find some time to read, meet up with friends, watch some TV (currently bingewatching The Rookie) and catch up on washing and ironing…although you said perfect weekend, so in that case my magic wand would have taken care of that.

Sounds wonderful. may I borrow your washing up wand, please? Thank you for joining me, I’ve really enjoyed our chat.

Carolyn’s book, Behind The Curtain, is available now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

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Florin was born in Iasi, Romania. As a young boy, he lived through rationing and the harsh conditions of the Ceaucescu regime, but always with the love of family and friends to balance out the hardships and mask the struggles.

As he gets older, he tries to untangle his own beliefs from those forced upon him… was a Communist way of life a bad thing? Were the stories about the Roma people true? Was life in the west really as depraved as his country would have him believe? 

Aged 11, on Christmas Day, Florin witnessed the exalted Ceaucescus shot to death on TV, the true feelings of the Romanian people finally stripped bare. From that historic moment, he knew his life in Romania would be a changed one. 

This is a story of the strength of people in the face of dictatorship, how love can sustain people in even the worst of circumstances. Florin’s story and that of his family allow you to see behind the curtain.

Carolyn Mandache is an author and business owner living in Scotland. “Behind the Curtain” was inspired by her interest in Romania, where her husband Florin was born; a country she has come to think of as a second home. Carolyn’s aim with her book is to provide an insight into what life was like “behind the Iron curtain” not as historical fact, but as fiction. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of Strathclyde, and can speak Romanian at conversational level. The author enjoys travelling with her husband and children, with a particular soft spot for Spain…where she met Florin on holiday.
 
You can find out more about Carolyn and her work on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
 
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