Blog Tour: Fall by West Camel

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My final blog tour of 2022, where did that year go? And what a wonderful book to be rounding off the year, it’s Fall by West Camel. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a spot and to Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Twins Aaron and Clive have been estranged for forty years. Aaron still lives in the empty, crumbling tower block on the riverside in Deptford where they grew up. Clive is a successful property developer, determined to turn the tower into luxury flats.

But Aaron is blocking the plan and their petty squabble becomes something much greater when two ghosts from the past – twins Annette and Christine – appear in the tower. At once, the desolate estate becomes a stage on which the events of one scorching summer are relived – a summer that changed their lives forever.

Evocative, thought-provoking and exquisitely written, Fall is an unforgettable story of friendship and family – of perception, fear and prejudice, the events that punctuate our journeys into adulthood, and the indelible scars they leave…

I’ve had an absolutely horrible couple of weeks for various reasons and, as a result, have been subsisting on a literary diet of only Christmas books in an effort to cheer myself up and force a festive mood. Stepping outside of this groove and into the world of Fall was a jolt to the system, one which has left me profoundly moved, unsettled and with a lingering questioning about the story I have just read. I’ve left part of my soul in the world of Fall, and replaced it with a piece of the book.

There are so many ideas and issues explored in this book, that it’s hard to take in all in in the first reading, I know it is a book that needs to be returned to to squeeze all of the nuance out of it. However, the overriding theme that drew my focus and attention on the first reading was family. Familial relationships, how those bonds are forged, what makes them strong and what can break them. How much can you ever really know and understand another person, even one with whom you shared a womb, and how much do you trust them, when the bonds of trust are stretched to their limits?

The main characters in this book, twins Aaron and Clive, and their forceful mother, Zoe, are some of the most perfectly drawn characters I have read in a very long time, and it is the beauty and strength and believability of these characters that carried this book and makes it so compelling. The relationships just feel so truthful and honest. As the step-mother of a pair of twins who are currently of the age that Aaron and Clive are in 1976, when the catalytic event of the book takes place, I can see how honest the portrayal of the relationship between them is. Two people, whose lives have been completely entwined since birth, beginning to pull away and forge different paths, and then a dramatic turn of events forces a fracture. I totally bought in to the story and it slightly cracked my heart, because I can see how harmful the situation is. The actions of their mother were astounding to me, it was so obvious how damaging they could prove, and she immediately became a different, and more complex and interesting character in my eyes. The whole story left me with an aching heart and, what more can you ask from a novel, than it really makes you feel something?

West’s writing is beautiful and lyrical and illuminating. He brought not only the people but also the setting to vivid life. I have such a clear picture of the housing estate, the people that live there and the dynamic between all of the characters. This is a book that is living and breathing and vital, and reading it is an immersive and active activity, not a passive experience. I practically inhaled the novel in one sitting, not wanting to break the spell that the author wove around me, not wanting to extricate myself from the world into which he had drawn me so completely.

This is a dark, gritty and painful story of mistrust and abandonment, of broken relationships and painful experiences but, at the same time, I completely loved it. Because it was such an emotive reading experience, because it has left me with a lingering disquiet but a perverse desire to go back and draw more from the story. Because it profoundly affected me in so many different ways. A masterclass in how to write a novel. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Fall is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Do make sure you check out some of the other fabulous blogs that have taken part in the epic tour for this book, as detailed below:

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About the Author

West Camel

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editorial director at Orenda with editing The Riveter magazine and #RivetingReviews for the European Literature Network.

He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. His debut novel, Attend was published in 2018, and was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. His second novel, Fall will be published in December 2021.

Connect with West:

Website: https://www.westcamel.net

Twitter: @west_camel

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lynne Shelby

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The final ever Romancing The Romance Authors! It’s been great fun doing this feature over the past 18 months but it’s retiring now, ready for a new feature in January. Let’s send it off with a bang by talking romance with author… Lynne Shelby.

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

I write contemporary romance set in the world of theatre and film or in a foreign location that I have enjoyed visiting. I was first published in 2015, when my debut novel, French Kissing, won a national writing competition and since then I have had four more novels published. I am currently editing my sixth novel, Rome for the Summer, which will be published in 2022.

Why romance?

Before I wrote romance, I tried my hand at writing science fiction, fantasy, historical and mainstream stories, but about ten years ago, I ‘discovered’ romantic fiction and realised that with my stories all having a romantic relationship at their centre, romance is what I’d been writing all along without realising it. I enjoy writing (and reading) romance because, with it’s assurance of a happy-ever-after or happy-for-now ending (or even a hopefully-ever-after ending) it is a genre whose books leave the reader feeling positive about life and love, whatever tribulations the heroine and hero have to overcome along the way. 

What inspires your stories?

I find that almost anything can inspire a story. For example, a photograph or a painting or visiting a new place can spark an idea. My most recent novel, Love on Location, was inspired by a visit to Greece when I knew I simply had to write a book set in that beautiful country. I also get a lot of ideas for stories from overheard conversations on trains or buses, or even in the queue at the supermarket!

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

Jane Austen, Miranda Dickinson, Paige Toon, Kate Eberlen, Jojo Moyes

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

This is a very hard question to answer as there are so many fabulous romance novels to choose from, but I would have to say Pride and Prejudice as it sets the standard for every romance novel that came after it.

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

It has to be Mr Darcy! I’d hope to be invited to a ball at Pemberley where I would dance ‘til dawn.

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 being a member of the RNA is that events such as the Annual Conference have given me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful authors who write in the romance genre. RNA members are very generous with their advice, and if anyone has a question about writing there is usually someone in the organization who can answer it. Besides which, it’s great to meet other people who don’t look at you askance when you talk about the people in your head! I have learned so much about writing since being in the RNA and made some amazing writer friends.

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

Keep going, even when you find writing hard – it’s perseverance that turns a writer into a published author.

Tell us about your most recent novel. 

My most recent novel, Love On Location, is a contemporary romance set in the world of film-making, in London, Athens and on a fictional Greek island that bears more than a passing resemblance to Santorini.

When screenwriter Laurel Martin is asked to rewrite the script for a new timeslip movie set in ancient Greece, she expects the film’s historical advisor to be an elderly academic. But when she meets Professor Jason Harding, a young and unexpectedly handsome archaeologist with his own ideas about the script, she finds that the job isn’t going to be as simple as she first thought…

A screenwriter. An archaeologist. A film crew on location on an idyllic Greek island. Will movie magic lead to real life romance?

The book is available in ebook and paperback formats here.

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When screenwriter Laurel Martin is hired to rewrite the script for a new timeslip movie, she expects the historical advisor hired by the studio to be an elderly academic who won’t interfere too much with her writing. But when she meets Professor Jason Harding, a young and unexpectedly handsome archaeologist who has his own ideas about the script, she realises the job isn’t going to be as simple as she first thought.

As their work takes them from arguing over historical details in a cramped London office to discovering the hidden beauties of a Greek island, Laurel and Jason’s relationship starts to echo the romance of their script.

But with Laurel’s actor ex-boyfriend making trouble at home, and constant issues with the volatile director, will Laurel and Jason ever be able to write the happy ending for their own story?

About the Author

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Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction and romance. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city with her writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Connect with Lynne:

Website: https://www.lynneshelby.com

Blog:  https://www.lynneshelby.com/blog-1

Facebook: LynneShelbyWriter

Twitter: @LynneShelby5

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jennifer Fliss

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My last Friday Night Drinks of 2021 and it’s what is known as ‘Mad Friday’ here in the UK. Only one week to go until Christmas Eve and tonight I am sharing a festive drink with author… Jennifer Fliss.

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Jennifer, welcome to the blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking? 

Something fun, but non-alcoholic. But maybe a fancy coffee drink because we are going dancing after this, right? Gotta stay awake because I’m basically middle-aged now and staying awake is one of those skills that goes away with age, like being able to put your leg up straight in front of you in the shower to shave. We’ll hit up a club that plays 90s/00s hip hop. But for now, assuming we are not going out after this, a Shirley Temple or the house mocktail…which many places are doing now, and I’m grateful for that.

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?

It’s raining, okay? And we go to a dark wood-filled bookstore, maybe Mother Foucault’s in Portland here in the U.S. or somewhere in Edinburgh, and we drink coffee and eat Indian curry. And I know they wouldn’t allow eating & drinking in the store, but this is my fantasy, so…I make the rules. Maybe it’s Halloween. And there’s a reading of spooky stories. Remember, it’s raining.

That sounds perfect, I can picture it clearly. 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?

Michelle Obama and Edward Gorey. 

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 always working on several projects. First novel revisions. Second novel generating. I will always write. I love it so much. Also working on the preparations for getting my first book out into the world. I have a flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, coming out in December.

What I really would love is to be able to have my writing career be sustainable financially, which, these days: Ha! Ideally, I’d publish enough to be able to do all those supporting role jobs for writers: teach workshops, edit, etc. as well as make money off the books themselves. I’d never want to be famous; that sounds atrocious. But to be a known enough name so that people would pay me decent dollars to do what I love.

I also dream of my book being translated into different languages. Imagine a wall of framed covers with different designs and languages!

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

Someone teaching my work. When someone reaches out to me and says they’re teaching one of my essays or stories in their class, be it high school, college, or a workshop. What a gift that my writing is being taught! It’s such a gift when people tell me that my writing has made them feel less alone, in particular when it’s traumatic stuff. That’s why I started writing, so when my work is being shared in classrooms, especially to young people, I feel it’s my way of reaching them and saying: it will get better. Let me help.

My biggest challenge is revision in my novel. Writing longer form is not my natural literary state. And while it’s fun to generate the story, when I have to revise something that’s several hundred pages long, I feel mired down and terrified by the breadth of that work.

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!

In addition to having my work translated into many languages, I’d love to see a film adaptation. Or stage play. It just fascinates me how other eyes and minds see my writing. How they are interpreting it. I love when the literary and the visual meet, so this would be the ultimate take on that.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Writing novels is way harder for me, generally a flash fiction writer. But I am quite excited about both of my in-progress novels. I love their settings – honestly the thing I’m most a sucker for when I read. When they say: write what you want to read, THIS is that for me. I would love love to fall into these story lines. I just hope I can do a good enough job that others actually get to read them one day.

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?

Scotland. The old buildings, brick roads, twisty darkness, reading. Cozy tartan blanket. Those great accents. The castles intrigue me, but if I had to choose it would be to spend time in Edinburgh. Get an Airbnb and spend a month there. To write and read and wander the streets. Spend time in cafes. Watch everyone.

Yellowstone National Park was a bucket-list item I didn’t know I had. Initially I was intimidated by it being the U.S’s most visited National Park. But we went during the shoulder season and it wasn’t too crowded. The geothermal features are astounding. Not just geysers – I could not care less about Old Faithful – but the rainbow colored pools! Bubbling mud pots! Landscapes that look like Mars, if Mars was made of porcelain. I have never seen anything like it and chances are, most people haven’t, since there are more geothermal features there than anywhere on Earth. 

And the bison. I am newly obsessed by those dopey cute incredible large creatures. They were everywhere, including running down a hill towards our car, only to slow down and traipse across the road calmly, just feet (meters) from us. 

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

I hold grudges. But I also hold onto every single kindness, big and small. If someone apologizes and works to change, I’m open to that, but if not, I have a hard time forgetting about it and moving on like nothing happened.

And it’s not necessarily a secret because I share it often as my “random fact,” but I did the flying trapeze for years. I’d still like to get back into. 

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’?

This is a really hard question. I love love love reading and have forever. I used to have a book blog before I really started to do my own creative writing. I was going to say something by Yoko Ogawa, but then I just finished reading Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown and I’m blown away by it. It is a view a side of life being Asian American that we who aren’t gloss over, too readily, too easily. It should be required reading for everyone, frankly.

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Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: He’s merely Generic Asian man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but he is always relegated to a prop. Yet every day he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy – the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. At least that’s what he has been told, time and time again. Except by one person, his mother. Who says to him: Be more.

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?

Am I taking care of you? Because I haven’t been drinking. Ha! Maybe something to replenish your electrolytes, some Gatorade – the red kind because it’s not the most awful. Do you have that over there? I’m sure there’s some version of it.

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

Sleeping in is non-negotiable. So I wake up kind of late and then someone serves me eggs benedict with crunchy bacon and a really good mocha. Also a croissant. My daughter pops into bed for a little bit. We read together but separately. Maybe then I go for a run. In the rain. 

The next day, we go for a not-too-strenuous hike with a rewarding view of a turquoise alpine lake at the top. Yeah, maybe it’s raining for that too. And someone’s brought cookies. Someone has definitely baked fresh cookies. Is that you? Thanks for that!

In the most ideal world, I’m back in New York – where I’m from – and I wake up early for a bagel and mocha and then walk the streets for miles…in the rain. The rain breaks and I go down to the flying trapeze rig on the west side of the city and fly above the Hudson River (something I used to do regularly when I lived there.) 

Then I’m back home, it’s raining again (of course) and I order in dinner. I take a bath and eat dinner in the tub and read. Then into bed I go and watch bingeable mystery TV series for a few hours. Did you want all this detail?! Because there you go. From sun-up to sun-down and then some.

Jennifer, thank you so much for joining me, I have had a blast.

Jennifer Fliss’s flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, comes out from Okay Donkey Press on December 14th, 2021. It’s her debut book, but she’s also had over 200 essays and stories published out there in the world. You can buy a copy of her book in paperback and ebook formats here.

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Jennifer Fliss (she/her) is a Seattle-based writer with over 200 stories and essays that have appeared in F(r)iction, PANK, Hobart, The Rumpus, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. She was a Pen Parentis Fellow and recipient of a Grant for Artist Project award from Artist’s Trust. She has been nominated four times for The Pushcart Prize and her story, Hineni, was selected for inclusion in the Best Small Fictions 2019 anthology. Her flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball will be published in late 2021. She is an alumna of the Tin House Summer and Winter Writers’ Workshops.

Connect with Jennifer:

Website: https://www.jenniferflisscreative.com/

Twitter: @writesforlife

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Promo Post: Sustainable Reading with Awesome Books UK – Buy A Book, Give A Book

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As fellow biblioholics, I know a lot of my readers suffer from the same problem I do, what do you do when you simply have to cull your collection of beloved titles to make space in your home, but worry about what will become of the books you have so loved but no longer have room for? Throwing books away feels wrong on so many levels, not least because of the environmental impact. I am an avid recycler of books, via my Little Free Library which I run outside the house, or charity shops, or a local social enterprise that re-homes, resells or recycles them, and I am always interested to hear of other initiatives in this field.

This is why I jumped at the chance to talk to you today about another organisation working in this field and my thanks to Midas PR for approaching me with this opportunity.

Awesome Books are a circular economy retailer that champions sustainable bookselling, centred around reuse to ensure no book is thrown away or wasted. Used books are collected and either re-sold, donated or recycled and turned into something new. Since launching in 2004, they have saved an amazing 132 million books globally from landfill. That has to be an initiative worth supporting.

The circular model reduces the environmental impact of book production, as more than 80% of a book’s carbon footprint is taken up in its original paper-production and printing processes. By reusing books and rehoming second-hand copies we can all help to reduce the environmental impact of book production and make reading more accessible. I am sure, like me, none of us like the idea of our passion doing more harm to the planet than necessary.

As well as championing sustainability, Awesome Books are passionate about promoting literacy and run a ‘buy one, give one’ initiative across their whole website. For every book purchased, they donate one to someone in need. This year they have pledged 250,000 books to the National Literacy Trust and to date have donated over 1 million books to literacy projects around the world.

They sell both new and used books on their website, https://www.awesomebooks.com/, so you will be sure to be able to find whatever title you are looking for. They were kind enough to send me a sample title from their used book stock, and this is what I received. A paperback copy of Truly, Madly, Guilty by Leanne Moriarty in perfectly readable condition, a book I would be happy to add to my library and then pass on it turn.

As well as providing me with a sample book, Awesome Bookshave also been kind enough to give me a unique promo code to share with you, my lovely readers, which will give you 20% of used books purchased on the Awesome Books website between now and 31st December so, if you fancy buying some sustainable bookish Christmas gifts, or treating yourself, now is the time. Just use code BookProblem when you check out. (Make sure you read the terms and conditions below*)

Any small thing we can do to reduce our environmental impact on the planet and reduce waste has got to be positive and I think this is a great initiative so, next time you are looking for a particular book, or have some unwanted books that you need to re-home, make sure you check out Awesome BooksYou can find out much more information on their website, with further details about pricing, their sustainability plans and how much buying from them can actually help the environment. And don’t forget to use the discount code BookProblem between now and the end of the year to bag some real bargains. Happy Shopping!

*Terms and Conditions for 20% off Used Books at awesomebooks.com: 

Offer valid online only from 15 November until 23:59 Friday 31st December 2021 BST. To qualify for this offer, add eligible products to your basket and enter promotion code BookProblem, 20% discount will show in the basket on qualifying products. Only valid once per transaction. Offer valid on Used books. Offer subject to availability. No cash alternative. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other online promotion codes. Offer excludes delivery costs.

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Book Review: Ed & Lily by Sofia Due

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Ed & Lily have a problem. It’s the day before Christmas Eve and the relationship everyone believed was rock solid is in trouble. It’s not just the past getting in the way, it’s the present too.

They’ve got thirty-six hours before they fly to Iceland for a snowy Christmas break. Can they resolve their differences or will their plane leave London without them?

A story about love, loss and chasing your dreams.

I was provided with a digital copy of this book for the purposes of review by the author, for which she has my sincere thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

Not your typical Christmas romance, this is a book to pick up if you are looking for a festive read that it is a little bit different. Set at Christmas, but focusing on the reality of the strain that this time of year can put on relationships, it was a book that rang authentically true, rather than a cosy celebration of the season.

We meet Ed & Lily on the day before Christmas Eve when they are in different parts of the country, supposedly coming together to fly to Iceland to spend the holiday together. But all is clearly not well in their relationship and, over the course of the novel, through a series of flashbacks, we see how their relationship has developed and how they got to the uncomfortable place they currently find themselves.

I don’t think the blurb does the depth of this book justice. This is a really detailed exploration of how two people can love each other and seemingly be made to be together, but still drift apart through a combination of life events and miscommunication. All the way through, I was desperate for them to work things out because it was so clear that they should be together but they were driving themselves apart through many misunderstandings and a failure to talk to each other. It is so easy to see how it is happening and so frustrating, but so true, to view from outside.

This book really moved me. I thought all of the characters were beautifully written and the relationships truly authentic. I was carried along by the story, feeling their joy and their pain as they experienced it in the book. The story felt very fresh and unique. I particularly loved the ending, and was delighted to read a festive romance that followed a different trajectory from what you normally expect. A really pleasurable read from an exciting new voice in contemporary romantic fiction.

I highly recommend this to someone looking for something to entertain them out of the mainstream this Christmas.

You can buy a copy of Ed & Lily in ebook and paperback formats here.

About the Author

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Sofia Due lives in London with her family and cats. She works as a civil liberties and human rights lawyer and works with asylum seekers and refugees every day. Writing fiction is the best way of problem solving and putting right all the things you can’t change in real life. She was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize in 2017 and since joining the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers’ Scheme five years ago has been gradually learning the craft of telling a good story.

Connect with Sofia:

Website: https://www.sofiaduebooks.com

Twitter: @SofiaDue_words

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Rachel Brimble

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Welcome to the penultimate edition of Romancing The Romance Authors. This feature is retiring at the end of the year in favour of some exciting new developments on the blog, which I will be announcing in due course. In the meantime, let’s enjoy chatting with this episode’s guest author about writing romance… Rachel Brimble.

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

Right now, I am concentrating on writing historical romance set in the Victorian period. My last series was set in the Edwardian period. I’m fascinated with both periods so I think I’ll be staying within these two eras for the time being!

I am currently working on my 30th novel and have 27 books (contemporary and historical) published by various publishers – my next book/series proposal is currently under consideration so I’m hoping for some good news soon.

Why romance?

Because I love it! I love exploring relationships whether they be within family, friends or colleagues, but it the romantic relationships I enjoy writing the most. With so much doom and gloom in the world, there is nothing better than escaping into a love story – for both me and my readers!

What inspires your stories?

So many things, but my stories usually start with either an historical event or person who takes my interest. Alternatively, an historical building, house or village will spark my imagination. Once I find myself constantly thinking about one of these things, I know a story is brewing. I let it settle for a while and soon enough I know the general plot and then I have to create the right characters to tell the story.

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

Past – Jane Austen/Georgette Heyer          Present – Nora Roberts/Julia London/Julia Quinn

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

Ooh, this is so hard, but my latest obsession is the Bridgerton series – I loved the TV adaptation of book 1 but, as an author, I was desperate to read the books and praying I enjoyed them even more. All I can say is I am absolutely LOVING them… definitely more than the TV series! Highly recommended if you love you romance with plenty of fun and laughter!

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Escape to the ballrooms of Regency London with this beautifully designed boxset of the first four books in the worldwide bestselling Bridgerton series, the inspiration behind the Netflix phenomenon. In this glamorous, witty series, the Bridgertons reign over the Ton, watched (and gossiped about) by a mysterious columnist known only as Lady Whistledown . . .

The Duke & I
Simon Basset appears on the verge of proposing to the lovely Daphne Bridgerton. But secretly their affair is a ruse to escape marriage-minded society mothers . . . Or is it? Amidst the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule . . .

The Viscount Who Loved Me
Anthony Bridgerton needs a wife. As the oldest son, he knows it’s high time he settled down and ensured the continuation of the Bridgerton line. What a shame then, that he seems to have fallen in love with entirely the wrong woman . . .

An Offer From a Gentleman
One ball, one unknown woman and one magical night, changed everything for Benedict Bridgerton. Now, he has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, for he knows this is his only chance for a fairy tale love story . . .

Romancing Mr Bridgerton
Penelope Featherington has loved her best friend’s brother, Colin Bridgerton, ever since she was a girl. When she discovers his deepest secret she must decide: is it time to share her own?

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 love Anthony from book 2 in the Bridgerton series, The Viscount Who Loved Me – after losing his beloved father, he has inherited the title, riches and property but he is deeply affected and bereaved by his loss which makes him so very real. He is strong, handsome, cares for his mother and siblings and harbours a deep sense of duty. What’s not to like?

If I could have a day with him, I would want to go somewhere beautiful in the country, like the Cotswolds. Walk, talk, take tea and later a wonderfully intimate dinner with music and wine. After that, who knows…

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

My favourite thing is the friendships I’ve made over the years! I have gained so much support and mentorship since joining the RNA that I never feel alone in my writing endeavours which is so, so important. When I was starting out, I learned so much by attending the conferences and talking to published writers. Everything I learned would have taken me so much longer to carry out alone.

The RNA also offers the wonderful New Writers Scheme where an unpublished author can have their entire manuscript critiqued for a cost that is so much lower than a writer would pay for such a service elsewhere. It’s invaluable!

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

See above! First priority should be to join the RNA as you will have immediate access to published and unpublished writers who are on hand to answer questions via the FB page. You will also be able to join the New Writers Scheme.

Practically, the best advice I can give is to make sure you finish your novel, polish it, let it sit awhile and then revisit it. Ensure your story is the absolute best it can be, preferably having been looked at by trusted critique partners and/or a proofreader. Then make sure you submit it to agents/publishers! So many don’t take this terrifying step and if you don’t, nothing will ever change for you.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel is Trouble for the Leading Lady which is book 2 in my Victorian trilogy, The Ladies of Carson Street. Both this book and book 1, A Widow’s Vow, can be read stand-alone.

Trouble For the Leading Lady is Nancy’s story – Nancy is a good-time girl who dreams of one day being onstage. Deep inside, she knows her aspiration is never likely to come true when she lives and survives in the backstreet taverns and houses of Victorian Bath. Then she meets theatre manager, Francis Carlyle… and her dream turns into something else entirely as she and Francis join forces to help the children of Bath’s workhouse. You can buy a copy here.

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Bath, 1852.

As a girl, Nancy Bloom would go to Bath’s Theatre Royal, sit on the hard wooden benches and stare in awe at the actresses playing men as much as the women dressed in finery. She longed to be a part of it all and when a man promised her parents he could find a role for Nancy in the theatre, they believed him.

His lie and betrayal led to her ruin.

Francis Carlyle is a theatre manager, an ambitious man always looking for the next big thing to take the country by storm. A self-made man, Francis has finally shed the skin of his painful past and is now rich, successful and in need of a new female star. Never in a million years did he think he’d find her standing on a table in one of Bath’s bawdiest pubs.

Nancy vowed never to trust a man again. Francis will do anything to make her his star. As they engage in a battle of wits and wills, can either survive with their hearts intact?

The second in Rachel Brimble’s thrilling new Victorian saga series, Trouble for the Leading Lady will whisk you away to the riotous, thriving underbelly of Victorian Bath.

About the Author

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Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 25 published novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world. 

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click here: https://bit.ly/3zyH7dt

Connect with Rachel:

Website: https://rachelbrimble.com

Facebook: Rachel Brimble Author

Twitter: @RachelBrimble

Instagram: @rachelbrimbleauthor

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Book Review: The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo; Translated by Robert Ferguson

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Murder. Assassination. Revenge.

Discover the first short story collection from the King of Scandi Crime.

Meet a detective on the trail of a man suspected of murdering his twin; a hired assassin facing his greatest adversary; and two passengers meeting by chance on a plane, spelling romance or something far more sinister.

In his first ever collection of short stories, this master of crime delivers a gripping, edge-of-your seat read that you won’t be able to put down.

The first short story collection by Jo Nesbo and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this collection really blew me away with the range and depths of the ideas the author explores in these stories. He really mines the darkest and most base instincts of human kind here, and delves into some very dystopian ideas that are all the more disturbing for not being entirely incredible.

Normally I race through a book of short stories quite quickly, because they are consumed in easily digestible chunks – like grazing on snacks rather than consuming a three course meal. This book didn’t unfold that way for me. Firstly, many of the stories are not short, a couple are more like short novellas. Secondly, every one of them is dense and complex, in characterisation, theme and development so, for me, it was just impossible to race through them quickly. Each of them needed slow and careful reading to unpack and appreciate all the nuance contained within. This is a book which has to be read in a considered and thoughtful fashion. A pause after the end of each was necessary to fully absorb what the author have revealed in the story, and I even broke off halfway through and read something a little lighter to break up the experience because of the effect the book was having on me.

Because I found this book quite bleak in general in the issues it explores and the conclusions that are drawn in the stories. These are not tales of uplifting experiences and positive affirmations of human nature. They are all dark, even fatalistic, in tone and paint quite a negative view of humanity. They feel quite appropriate for the way things are developing at the moment, maybe even prophetic, so if you are looking for a book to cheer you up when the current news gets too heavy, this isn’t it. It is, however, brilliantly written, thought-provoking and a masterclass in how to write a complete and satisfying short story. I am more impressed than ever by Nesbo’s writing, and his fans will love it.

The Jealousy Man is available in all formats here.

About the Author

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Jo Nesbo is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers, with The Leopard, Phantom, Police, The Son and his latest Harry Hole novel, The Thirst, all topping the Sunday Times bestseller charts. He’s an international number one bestseller and his books are published in 50 languages, selling over 33 million copies around the world.

Before becoming a crime writer, Nesbo played football for Norway’s premier league team Molde, but his dream of playing professionally for Spurs was dashed when he tore ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years military service he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (‘Them There’). They topped the charts in Norway, but Nesbo continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night. When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat.

Connect with Jo:

Website: https://jonesbo.com

Facebook: Jo Nesbo

Instagram: @jonesbo_author

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jenni Keer

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It’s Chrissssssstmaaaaaaaaas, to channel Noddy Holder. Well, not quite, but it is definitely the beginning of the Christmas party season and I cannot think of anyone who I would rather kick off the festivities by having a Friday Night Drink with than tonight’s blog guest, author… Jenni Keer.

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Jenni, I am so excited to have you on the blog! First things first, what are you drinking?

My absolute pleasure, Julie. It’s been too long since I saw your smiley face and chatted to you about all things blogging. So, without further ado, shall I get a bottle in? I was going to suggest wine, but it’s been a long week. Let’s split a litre bottle of rhubarb gin? 

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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 would take you to the beautiful city of Norwich, full of history and charm, and littered with delightful places to eat and drink. I would suggest we cruised the city and tried a few out.

I have not been to Norwich for many a long year (since I visited the university, which I didn’t end up attending!) so I would enjoy that very much. 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’m torn between inviting people who really knew how to party (a night with the Bright Young Things of the Roaring Twenties would be a blast), and people I might learn things from, but I’m going to go with Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle so I can quiz them about their clever plots and great characterisation. Hopefully, they’ll loosen up after a few gins, and we can have a riotous evening. I predict some amusing headlines in the local papers the following morning.

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

I started writing when I was a stay at home mum to FOUR boys three and under – gulp. It’s also when I started reading a lot of romance novels and drinking substantially more wine! Reading and writing became an escape for me, and I quickly realised I wanted to take the writing seriously and put all my efforts into getting published. It took nine years to fulfill this dream but I was absolutely determined I would get there. Long term, I see being an author as my full-time career, and I want to get a substantial back list behind me. I am loving the journey and don’t ever want to do anything else.

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

My proudest moment so far was when my debut novel, The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker, was shortlisted for two awards, including the Katie Fforde Debut Novel. I am very fond of this book and it was great to see it recognised. 

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The hardest part has been during the pandemic when my first agent left the industry for personal reasons, (although I quickly secured the lovely Hannah Schofield from LBA Books). This coincided with a move away from rom coms to include historical threads, so there was an unanticipated hiatus in my writing and a gap of two years between published books. However, I used the pandemic to write more books and exciting things have been going on behind the scenes, but I can’t talk about them just yet… (I know, I’m such a tease!)

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 guess to have one of my novels made into a movie, even though the actors probably wouldn’t resemble the characters in my head, and bits of the story would inevitably be cut. But how fabulous would it be to have one of my novels out there in movie form? 

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

So many marvellous things are coming up; talks to W.I. groups, library panels, online events and a couple of author Christmas get-togethers. As writing is such a solitary occupation, I grab any opportunity to meet readers and other authors. But I think I’m actually most excited about my next book – which is now with my agent.

I can’t wait to see what is coming next! 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?

My favourite place to stay is a quaint little trullo (a white-washed traditional dry stone hut) in Puglia, Italy. I’ve been there a few times with friends and adore the Italian way of life; how family and food are everything. I don’t have anywhere in particular on my bucket list, but anywhere near the sea is always a winner for me – the hotter, the better.

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

I’m part of a disco formation dance team – which considering I have all the grace and poise of an elephant, is quite an achievement. I always say that what I lack in talent, I make up for in showmanship. To be fair, it’s pretty much how I’ve managed to wing adulthood in general. Smack on a smile and everyone thinks you are in control.

That might be the best fact I’ve had on here and, when we have our night out in Norfolk, I insist it include taking in one of your performances! I would absolutely love to see you doing formation disco dancing. 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’?

There are so many fantastic books out there that this is almost impossible, but Bridget Collins The Binding blew me away. I found it slow to get into but the concept was amazing, and the unexpected romance absolutely gave me all the feels.

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Emmett Farmer is a binder’s apprentice. His job is to hand-craft beautiful books and, within each, to capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory.

If you have something you want to forget, or a secret to hide, he can bind it – and you will never have to remember the pain it caused.

In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and secrets – are meticulously stored and recorded.

Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of the volumes has his name on it.

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

We certainly have – cheers! I’m very good at counting my drinks, always conscious I may have to drive the next day, but when I let myself go and perhaps have a few more shandies than I planned, I drink a big glass of water before bed, and just sleep it off. Bed is my favourite place in the world so it’s hardly a chore. 

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

I’d love to visit some museums and National Trust houses – which I’ve missed doing during the pandemic. I’ve always been fascinated by history, and studied it at university. But being in these places and surrounding myself with artefacts from the past always sends shivers up my spine. My writer brain will also be looking for further book inspiration. Perhaps followed by a lovely meal on the Saturday evening, and then a wind-whipped day out at the coast to finish. Norfolk and Suffolk have some breathtaking beaches.

Thanks so much for meeting up with me for virtual drinks. Can we squeeze in a quick one before we go? Y’know, one for the road, and all that!

Always got time for another one with you, lovely, can’t wait until we can do that in person again. Thank you for joining me this evening, I’ve had a fab time (although a little disappointed that knitted Poldark did not put in an appearance!)

Jenni’s latest book, The Secrets of Hawthorn Place, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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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 Arts 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 . . .

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 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.

Connect with Jenni:

Website: https://jennikeer.co.uk/

Facebook: Jenni Keer Author

Twitter: @jennikeer

Instagram:  @jennikeer

TikTok: @jennikeer

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Desert Island Children’s Books: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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My choice of children’s classic to take to my desert island in October was one beloved by many, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

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Alice in Wonderland is an 1865 novel by English author Lewis Carroll. It tells of a young girl named Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.

I’m so behind with these posts, but better late than never!

I actually listened to Alice in Wonderland on audiobook in October and I really enjoyed this way of consuming it, it reminded me of when I read the book to my daughters before they were old enough to read it for themselves, so it was a double jaunt down memory lane. Is there a generation that hasn’t fallen in love with the eccentric story of Alice who goes on a fantastical journey through a world down the rabbit hole?

Every time I go back to Alice, I rediscover parts of the story that I have forgotten, and characters that I have loved which don’t make it into the Disney film. Many people’s main memories of Alice are from the movie, but if you read the actual text, there are loads of fun details that didn’t make it into the film. My favourite is still Alice being stuck in the cottage when she has grown huge and hearing a conversation about ‘Little Bill’ coming down the chimney, who she then proceeds to kick into the air without actually knowing what kind of creature Little Bill is (he is a poor lizard, it turns out.)

This is a book that it is possible to enjoy as much, if not more, as an adult than a child, because you can appreciate the absurdity and the sly humour of the writing much better. I am always in awe of Lewis Carroll’s imagination when I read this book, he has created a world that has delighted children for more than 150 years and continues to remain delightful to this day. What an achievement, to write a book that is so timelessly enchanting that people are still reading and enjoying it more than a century later, and whose characters are instantly recognisable around the world.

This will remain one of my favourite books of all time as long as I can pick up a novel, and it is one I will return to often when I need reminding of the innocence and joys of childhood and all that is fanciful and ridiculous. It is a huge gift to be able to revisit and embrace that child-like wonder in a world that can feel darker and more cynical by the day.

You can buy a copy of Alice in Wonderland here.

About the Author

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Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children’s fiction, notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He was noted for his facility with word play, logic, and fantasy. The poems “Jabberwocky” and The Hunting of the Snark are classified in the genre of literary nonsense. He was also a mathematician, photographer, inventor, and Anglican deacon.

Carroll came from a family of high-church Anglicans, and developed a long relationship with Christ Church, Oxford, where he lived for most of his life as a scholar and teacher. Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, Henry Liddell, is widely identified as the original for Alice in Wonderland, though Carroll always denied this. Scholars are divided about whether his relationship with children included an erotic component.

In 1982, a memorial stone to Carroll was unveiled in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. There are Lewis Carroll societies in many parts of the world dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his works.

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Book Review: The Party Crasher by Sophie Kinsella #BookReview

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The Talbots are having one last party at their family home.
But Effie hasn’t been invited . . .

Effie’s still not over her parents splitting up a year ago. Her dad and his new girlfriend are posting their PDAs all over Instagram (complete with super-gross hashtags #viagraworks and #sexinyoursixties) and as if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re now selling the beloved family home. So when Effie receives a last-minute anti-invitation to their ‘house-cooling’ party, she decides to give it a miss.

Then she remembers her precious Russian dolls, safely tucked away up a chimney. She’ll have to go back for them – but not as a guest. She’ll just creep in, grab the dolls and make a swift exit. No one will know she was ever there.

But Effie can’t find the dolls. And as she secretly clambers around dusty attics, hides under tables and tries to avoid bumping into her ex-boyfriend (who she’s very much not over), she discovers unexpected truths about her family – and even about herself.

With time (and hiding places) running out, Effie starts to wonder if the only way to find out what’s really going on with her family is to simply crash the party . . .

You know you can rely on a Sophie Kinsella book for uplifting, humorous writing, and The Party Crashers is up there with the best of her work. Starting off with the enticing premise of the book – a young girl has to secretly crash a party at her own father’s house without being seen – I loved everything about this book from beginning to end.

This author has a genius for writing hapless characters that are charmingly madcap who you can’t help falling in love with and rooting for, and Effie is no exception. Who can blame her for not being enamoured of her father’s antics with his much-younger, gold-digging new girlfriend who has invaded the family home and begun to wipe out all traces of his previous family life? Anyone could sympathise, even if she does take things to the extreme. This is the real skill in Sophie’s writing, taking a believable premise but then pushing the envelope to wring every comedic nuance from the plot without losing the reader in the ludicrousness of the situation.

This book has many genuinely laugh out loud moments. I particularly loved the section when they are all sitting down to dinner in the dining room. This is a perfect example of a scene where actually you can’t understand how anyone could get themselves in the predicament Effie finds herself in, but Sophie’s writing is so charming that she carries you along in the mayhem.

As well as the comedic moments, the book does explore the issue of family dynamics and how, no matter how old we get, it is difficult to come to terms with divorce and learning that your parents and their relationship may not be the fairytale you always assumed it was. How we hide difficult truths from the people we love and, in some aspects, we never really grow up. I found the book very heartwarming as well as funny. I think it may be my favourite Sophie Kinsella novel to date. Fans should definitely not miss this one.

You can buy The Party Crasher in all formats here.

About the Author

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Sophie Kinsella is a writer and former financial journalist. She is the number one bestselling author of Can You Keep a Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, Wedding Night, My Not So Perfect Life, Surprise Me, the hugely popular Shopaholic novels and the Young Adult novel Finding Audrey. She lives in the UK with her husband and family. She is also the author of the children’s series Mummy Fairy and Me / Fairy Mom and Me, and several bestselling novels under the name of Madeleine Wickham.

Connect with Sophie:

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

Facebook: Sophie Kinsella

Twitter: @KinsellaSophie

Instagram: @sophiekinsellawriter

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