The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly #BookReview

51aZccsCITL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

In December 2018, after fifty years of belly-laughs, energy and outrage, Billy Connolly announced his retirement from live stand-up comedy. It had been an extraordinary career.

When he first started out in the late sixties, Billy played the banjo in the folk clubs of Scotland. Between songs, he would improvise a bit, telling anecdotes from the Clyde shipyard where he’d worked. In the process, he made all kinds of discoveries about what audiences found funny, from his own brilliant mimes to the power of speaking irreverently about politics or explicitly about sex. He began to understand the craft of great storytelling. Soon the songs became shorter and the monologues longer, and Billy quickly became recognised as one of the most exciting comedians of his generation.

Billy’s routines always felt spontaneous. He never wrote scripts, always creating his comedy freshly on stage in the presence of a live audience. A brilliant comic story might be subsequently discarded, adapted or embellished. A quick observation or short anecdote one night, could become a twenty-minute segment by the next night of a tour.

Billy always brought a beautiful sense of the absurd to his shows as he riffed on his family, hecklers, swimming in the North Sea or naked bungee jumping. But his comedy can be laced with anger too. He hates pretentiousness and calls out hypocrisy wherever he sees it. His insights about the human condition have shocked many people, while his unique talent and startling appearance on stage gave him license to say anything he damn well pleased about sex, politics or religion.

Billy got away with it because he has always had the popular touch. His comedy spans generations and different social tribes in a way that few others have ever managed.

Tall Tales and Wee Stories brings together the very best of Billy’s storytelling for the first time and includes his most famous routines including, The Last Supper, Jojoba Shampoo, Incontinence Pants and Shouting at Wildebeest. With an introduction and original illustrations by Billy throughout

The fourth category in the Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021 is ‘Read a book by an author you would like to meet.’ I could not choose between two authors for this challenge, so I decided to do one in paperback and one in audiobook format. The first book I have chosen is Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly. As an interesting aside, this was the last book I bought in an airport, on a trip to New York in February 2020. Remember the days of buying books in airports? I  wonder when they will come around again!

I’ve been a massive Billy Connolly fan for many years. I’ve got lots of DVDs featuring his standup and travelogues, and I was lucky enough to see him live twice. He never fails to make me laugh, even just on a chat show. So it was with great sadness I heard about his retirement, although entirely understandable in his circumstances.

I was looking forward to reading this book in which he has gathered many of his most famous stories for posterity. Billy never really told ‘jokes,’ they were always funny anecdotes and tales, often poking fun at himself or other absurdities he saw in every day life. He often talked about sex and bodily functions, and was very sweary and he makes no apology for that, so the book would not be for anyone who did not like this in his live shows because Billy is exactly the same in the book as when performing. If you did love his humour though, you will find many of your favourite stories within these pages.

The book is split in to chapters on different, loosely connected topics, but otherwise it is fairly randomly organised with just little anecdotes and longer ones interspersed with comments, thoughts and musings on his life and career. Some people won’t like it because it isn’t a particular linear format, but then Billy’s comedy was never like that. He would start on a topic and then wander off at a tangent when other things occurred to him before looping back round to the original story (or sometimes not!), so the book is a good reflection of his style and really brought him to life for me.

I could hear his voice telling these familiar, and some unfamiliar, stories very clearly. Parts of it made me laugh out loud and I had to keep stopping to read bits aloud to The Irishman who kept asking me what I was laughing at. It was a book that really cheered me up during this lockdown. However, it is not the same as watching Billy perform, and you realise how much his expressions and gestures and movements added to the comedy of his story-telling. The ‘Wildebeest’ example illustrates this best. It is many people’s favourite story of Billy’s, but it just isn’t as funny when you can’t see him doing the vacant expression of the wildebeest and the actions of the lions as they plan their attack.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this but it can’t replace Billy’s performances, and I for one will miss him terribly. I wish I could have met him in real life just once before Parkinson’s started to take effect. I’m sure it would have been great craic.

Tall Tales and Wee Stories is out now in all formats except audio and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

download

Sir William Connolly, CBE is a much-loved Scottish comedian, musician, presenter and actor. He is the recipient of a BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award and is regularly voted the nation’s favourite stand-up comedian. Billy was born and raised in Glasgow and now lives in America. He announced his retirement from live performance in December 2018.

A Little Book Problem banner

Friday Night Drinks with… Sandy Barker

friday-night-drinks

Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by the author of one of my favourite festive books of 2020, fellow RNA member… Sandy Barker.

PCLBhv9f_400x400

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

This is a little concoction my brother-in-law dubbed ‘The Sanderella’ with tequila, Aperol, grapefruit juice, fresh lime, bitters, and a spritz of sparkling water – delicious!

That sounds lovely, could you mix me one too, please? 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 spoiled for choice in Melbourne, but first we’d go for drinks at Eau de Vie, a fantastic speakeasy in the heart of the city, styled like one from the 30s, right down to the décor and how the staff are dressed. They have these incredibly innovative cocktails and the largest collection of by-the-glass whiskey in the city. Then we’d head to Movida, a Spanish restaurant where everything on the menu is share plates, and the food is sublime – including a bottle of Spain’s finest red! Then we’d head to the National Gallery of Victoria for a live musical performance, some art after dark, and some brilliant Aussie wine!

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?

Caitriona Balfe – she is one of my fave actors and seems like she’d be brilliant fun – and Henry Cavill – for his formidable mind 😉

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 am just putting the finishing touches on a stand-alone novel set in the world of reality television. It came about because last year, when we were in the midst of our very strict lockdown here in Melbourne, a colleague created a sweepstakes for the latest season of The Bachelor. For fun, I wrote sarky episode recaps for my colleagues. I mentioned them to an author friend and we started brainstorming a book idea. My main character is the woman who writes the recaps of The Stag for an online magazine and she may just get invited onto the show as a contestant… you will just have to wait and see!

That sounds fun! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest (and most surreal) moment was holding my first book, One Summer In Santorini, in my hands in June 2019. Second proudest was handing copies of my 4 book, The Christmas Swap, to my parents, who I dedicated it to.

My first book

The biggest challenge has been keeping up this cracking pace. Until recently, I worked full-time (now down to 4 days a week), and in 2019 and 2020 over 16 months, I had 4 books published. I have also written 2 more and have planned the next 2 after that. But this is what I love and, eventually, I plan to write full-time.

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 look forward to the day when I am a full-time author – hoping that will be sometime next year – and I would love to sell one or more of my books to a filmmaker. I see the stories filmically as I write, and I think any one of them would be great on screen.

What have planned that you are really excited about?

I am particularly excited about the stand-alone I am working on – I think readers will love it, she’s such a fun character to write. And I am also excited about the next books in The Holiday Romance series – 1 written and 1 planned. And I think there’s another Christmas book in the pipeline too.

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?

Fave place? Goodness, that is hard.

We lived in Bali for 2 months in 2018 and I loved it so much, I set the next book in the series there – I’d go back and live there in a heartbeat.

I also love Greece – that’s where my partner and I met and we went back to the Cyclades Islands for our ten year anniversary on another sailing trip.

New Zealand will always be a favourite destination – we’ve been 3 times and it is most likely that Aussies will be able to travel there sometime this year.

And I would LOVE to live in Tuscany – perhaps for a few months to mark my next milestone birthday.

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

I auditioned for Australian Survivor in 2001 and was selected as an alternate. If any of the 8 women on the show had stepped down, I would have been on it. But alas …

Wow, that would have been a cool thing to have done, I used to love watching that show. 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’?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is one of the best books I’ve ever read, if not the best book. It haunted me for months after I finished it.

51rlWf-pXtL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart.

Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld.

As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

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

I try to avoid a hangover by drinking water all through the night (which we’ve done – you’re welcome 😉) and taking a Vitamin B tablet before bed. If it’s been a particularly big night, I’ll have a banana or a glass of milk too.

If I fail in this endeavour, lots of tea the next day – tea, tea and more tea and some headache tablets. When I’m feeling marginally better, I’ll jump on my spin bike and sweat it out.

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

Reading, watching movies, drinking wine, calling family and friends – or even a day trip out to some wineries or to the coast for lunch.

Sandy’s is the author of three books in the Holiday Romance series, One Summer in Santorini, That Night in Paris and A Sunset in Sydney.

THR Series Order-1

Sandy’s latest book is The Christmas Swap, a Christmas romance set across three continents. You can read my review of the book here (hint: I loved it), and buy a copy here.

51oSkFJ769L

Will all three women have their Christmas wishes come true?

Christmas is coming and best friends ChloeJules, and Lucy are needing change… so swapping homes for the holidays could be the perfect present for all of them!

Australian Chloe spends her Christmas in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England. She is totally star-struck when she discovers who lives across the road.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend her Christmas on a beach with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away is just what she needed.

Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.

She lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins. This was followed by two more books in the series, with two to come! The Christmas Swap, Sandy’s fourth novel, was released in 2020 and celebrates her favourite time of year, and she is currently working on a stand-alone romcom set in the world of reality television.

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

A Little Book Problem banner

Book Review: Starstruck by Emma Bennet

41Av1zN0llL._SY346_

When newly divorced Kate finds school friend, now super famous rock star Joseph Wild, on her doorstep, her whole quiet, ordinary life is thrown into disarray.

Joseph has broken up with glamorous actress Genevieve Moore, and needs somewhere to retreat to until the paparazzi interest in his marriage calms down. Kate agrees to help him out and drawn to his simple, self-effacing charm, soon finds herself falling in love.

But can she cope with the problems a relationship with such a high profile celebrity brings? What happens when he jets back to his regular life of stardom in L.A.?

And how will Genevieve react when she finds out Joseph has moved on? She can’t possibly allow anything to sully her ever-so carefully crafted public image.

Falling in love with a rock star is tougher than you’d think…

My thanks to Emma Bennet for inviting me to review her novel Starstruck and providing me with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I thoroughly enjoyed this gentle and charming romance by Emma Bennet. It took me by surprise, actually, because it was very different to what I was expecting having read the blurb. I thought it would be big, glitzy and full of drama, given the pop star angle (plus I was coming to it straight from Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake, so I was kind of in that zone), but it snuck up on me with it’s down-to-earth plot and subtle charms. It was actually just what I needed as a breath between a lot of very dark and dramatic storytelling and I was hooked from very early on. I fairly raced through it and, by the end, I was totally in love with all of the characters and ready for them to get a happy ending.

Our main protagonist is Kate, a newly-divorced, single parent who has settled into a happy routine with her son, managing her holiday properties and maintaining a good relationship with her ex-husband. When she reads about the marriage break up of her old school friend, Joseph Wild, who has become a famous pop star, something makes her reach out the hand of friendship to him. However, she is unprepared for the feelings he will arouse in her, or the disruption he will bring to her quiet life.

Kate is a sympathetic and believable character that I identified with from the start. As a single parent myself, who has juggled a personal life with bringing up young children and trying to protect them, she might be the closest character I have come across to what I went through in real life and I really felt that Emma has captured the tumult of emotions and worries you go through in that scenario. It has been a while since I so strongly related to a protagonist in a novel and I felt everything she was feeling. Her relationship with her son, her mother and her ex-husband all rang true to me.

Joseph is a great romantic foil for Kate although, not having met any world-famous pop stars myself, I can’t say how realistic he is as a character. I suspect few of them are as self-effacing as Joseph, but I loved him anyway and anyone more brash and arrogant would not have attracted the quiet and gentle Kate. The development of their relationship is fabulous to read. The tension and conflict in the book is very personal and low-key, not huge dramatics and fireworks and, for me, that made it all the more authentic. Despite the fact the book involves a pop star and actress, the book reminds us that, in the end, they are just people with a lot of the same feelings, problems and cares as the rest of us, especially when it comes to relationships and family matters.

This book unexpectedly wormed its way under my skin, gave me great pleasure while I was reading it and left me with a warm afterglow. A really rewarding read. Plus, cool cover!

Starstruck is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

qhd2hg5k46ols29lvls5ndqddm._US230_

Emma grew up and lived in London, before falling in love and moving to Wales to marry her own hero. Emma now lives with her husband, for children, and many animals a few miles outside of a small Welsh market town. She can often be found in rivers attempting to control two overexcited chocolate labradors.

Six charming romances are currently available from the Amazon bestselling authoress:

Number 1 Australian kindle bestseller, ‘His Secret Daughter’, is the heart-rending story of Iris, a woman falling in love with the father of her child. The only problem is she never told him they had a daughter.

The beautiful landscape around her home gave Emma the inspiration for ‘The Green Hills of Home’, a tale of love and duty in which country girl Gwen struggles to save her family home and avoid her feelings for her handsome, suave new boss. Is he quite all he seems?

‘Snowed in for her Wedding Day’ is a novella picking up Gwen’s story as her wedding day approaches, but with terrible weather, and an absent groom, will she have the happy ending she so deserves?

‘Just Desserts’ is a novella about confused chef Leah, who’s falling for her handsome French co-worker Jean-Claude, but meant to be marrying to Dan in just a few weeks! Who will she choose?

‘Her Perfect Hero’ was released in July 2015 as ‘I Need a Hero’, it’s a lovely comic romantic read for anyone who’s ever searched for Mr Right (and failed to find him!). Despair of Bronte, a romance writer, incapable of spotting when the perfect man is right next door! Full of horses, country houses and dentists, just beware of the foul-tempered cat Mr Darcy!

New release, ‘Starstruck’, proves that falling in love with a rock star is harder than you’d think! When newly divorced Kate finds school friend, now super famous rock star Joseph Wild, on her doorstep, her whole quiet, ordinary life is thrown into disarray. Is the attraction between them enough to make up for all the hurdles they have to cross if they want to be together?

Emma likes (in no particular order): cake, books, Cary Grant films, prosecco, chocolate, guinea pigs, knitting, quilting and happily ever afters!

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://www.emma-bennet.co.uk/

Facebook: Emma Bennet

Twitter: @romanceemma

Instagram: @romanceemma

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Gordon Square by Tracy Martin-Summers #Spotlight

Gordon Square

It is my turn on the blog tour today for Gordon Square by Tracy Summers-Martin and I am happy to be shining the spotlight on the book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

Book Cover Final Front Cover

On a cold blustery November night, Detective Sergeant Mike Brugge and his partner Detective Constable Mel Bailey come across a girl, age unknown, in the parkland in Gordon Square. She was frail, malnourished, dirty and covered in excrement.

What had happened to this girl?Why was she covering down, shielding her eyes from the light, with a look of horror on her face? She appeared to be non-coherent, totally unengaged and would not speak to anyone. Nothing could penetrate the world where her soul had taken solace.

Mike and Mel set out to find out where she had come from and what had been per plight. Revealing hypnosis sessions allow them to glimpse some of her pain suffering.Follow their story deep into the horrors that unfold, causing chaos and turmoil among their own lives.

The detectives are about to discover a horrific, gut-wrenching story, that spanned over four decades. But will it end?

I’m shining the spotlight today on this thriller which has great reviews on Amazon and is described as a gripping crime novel with lots of twists and turns and relatable and likeable protagonists. The book is taking a tour, so make sure you follow some of the blogs listed below to read some reviews of the book for yourself.

Gordon Square Full Banner

If you would like to get hold of a copy of the book, you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Tracy Martin Book Tour

Tracy was born in Harrow Weald, Middlesex in 1964, growing up in a loving family home. She married her first husband in 1990, has two grown up children and a granddaughter.

She studied a variety of topics via module learning, embarking on City and Guilds and NVQ courses, ranging from a brief spell in hairdressing to administration and now works for a utility company in North West London.

Tracy has numerous hobbies consisting of landscape painting to landscape gardening and always likes to paint the scene, even if it’s changing the colour scheme, yet again, within her home.

Tracy has always enjoyed writing and used to write short stories for her own children’s amusement but it has only been in the last few years that she has taken this more seriously and has gone on to write her first debut crime detective Novel called Gordon Square.

Tracy Married her second husband in 2014 and now lives in Bedfordshire in a sleepy hamlet where she writes whenever she gets a spare moment.

Connect with Tracy:

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

A Little Book Problem banner

The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman; Narrated by Lesley Manville #BookReview

513jtOrbxVL

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ finds themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing 80, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

It’s book three of the 2021 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The challenge is to read a new book every fortnight that fits the prescribed category for that two-week period. The third category is ‘A book by someone who is famous for something else.’

I have chosen The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, who is obviously better known for being the co-host of Pointless as well as presenting other TV shows. This was one of the biggest books of 2020 and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it!

I am often a little wary of picking up a book that has had as much positive hype as this had, for fear of being disappointed, but I have to say that I was charmed and delighted by this book, which gave me everything I was expecting and so much more. It is a fun, cosy crime novel, as you would expect from the blurb, infused with the humour of four OAPs investigating a crime in their retirement village, but it is also an affectionate and authentic look at what it means to get older and the challenges and obstacles that brings.

Four friends in a retirement village set up an amateur sleuthing group to mull over cold cases, details of which have, rather naughtily, been squirrelled away by a retired female Detective Inspector, who is now in a coma after a stroke. The remaining members recruit a replacement, just in time to investigate a real crime that lands on their doorstep, when a local property developer turns up dead. They employ all kinds of tricks and wiles to infiltrate the official police investigation (highly improbably, but this isn’t meant to be realistic in this regard, it is all very tongue in cheek) and exhibit some real ingenuity in cracking the case. The joy and gusto with which they embrace the investigation are entertaining to read about. Richard has created four different, realistic and absolutely delightful characters to take us through the story. They are very unlikely friends, but gel brilliantly together and I adored each of them. Man-mad Joyce, fiery ‘Red Ron,’ the ex-Union agitator, cerebral and methodical Ibrahim and Elizabeth, queen bee with a mysterious past in … well, we never quite know what it is she did, but their are hints from which we can draw our own conclusions. Age has dulled none of their faculties and, add to this their age-earned no-longer-give-a-toss attitudes and they are a force that no one can withstand, certainly not the unfortunate police officers who are given their ‘help’ in the investigation.

However, aside from the fun and games of the investigation, the book gently explores what it means to get older and the challenges that brings. Loss of partners and friends, memory loss, neglect by children, the feeling of being a burden, loneliness, being misunderstood and treated like you have suddenly become ‘less’ than you were before, are all explored here with kindness and care. Richard does not belittle or mock his characters for their ageing bodies or minds, he acknowledges that, whatever age you are, we are all the same inside and deserve the same care and respect, and that these people still have a great deal to offer society and the people they come into contact with. He offers them dignity, agency and excitement and we enjoy going along with them for the ride. He has really captured their voices, and the things that they care about (an obsession with cake being one!) and I just really loved his portrayal of them all.

This book is warm, fun, humorous, kind, enchanting, intelligent and entertaining. It was exactly the tonic I needed at the time I read it (during the grim, cold, dark January lockdown days) and left me with a warm glow at the end. I cannot wait for the second book to come out this autumn. Lesley Manville is the perfect narrator for the audiobook, she really brought the characters to life, and the audio version also includes a 45-minute interview of Richard Osman by Marian Keyes at the end, which was a bonus delight. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a bit of a lift.

The Thursday Murder Club is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

UYh7CKC6_400x400

Richard Osman is a British television producer and presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first and, so far, best novel.

Connect with Richard:

Twitter: @richardosman

Instagram: misterosman

A Little Book Problem banner

Romancing The Romance Authors with… Mary B. Moore

romancing-the-romance-authors-1

Today I have another edition of Romancing The Romance Authors, where I chat all things romance and romance writing with an author in the genre and this week I am grilling Mary B. Moore.

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

I mainly write romantic suspense and romantic comedy books, but there have been some exceptions to the rule. April 5 will be my fifth anniversary since I published my first books, and I’m trying to remember how many books I’ve published?! I think it’s 27 or 28 now. There are so many more planned, too.

Why romance?

I grew up with romance books around me, whether it was the Sweet Valley Twins/High series’ or Mum’s Harlequin novels. There’s something soothing about reading them, even when the drama and tensions are high in them, and closing it after the last page and the characters having a happily ever after together. Being able to create my own characters, giving them their own books and worlds, is the most amazing feeling for me.

What inspires your stories?

A variety of things. I’m the daughter of retired diplomats, but I grew up in places like Damascus, Angola (during the civil war), Indonesia, Jamaica and Panama, so a lot of that does come into it. My family and friends also tend to inspire my characters (I swear I have zero sanity around me). Sometimes it can even be a news story that I’ve read. I come from an “eclectic” family who tends to have more laughter than tears, so I decided to approach serious subjects in my plots by adding humour to them. Life’s serious as it is, sometimes having something that makes you laugh or smile makes it a bit easier.

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

Oh, there are a lot of them. Sylvia Day is a big one. I still haven’t read book 5 in the Crossfire Series because I don’t want to accept it’s over. Kristen Ashley is another one. I have friends who are romance authors and their books are my go to books for when I need to unwind: CP Smith, Elena M. Reyes and C.M. Steele. I’m familiar with their styles and their plots are always what I need. Aurora Rose Reynolds, Kristen Ashley, K. Bromberg, Terri Anne Browning, Melody Anne… there’s so many.

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

Definitely the first book in Sylvia Day’s Crossfire Series, Bared To You. It’s impossible to put down and you’ll jump straight into the next book. It’s just so perfectly done. I swear no man will ever be able to live up to the awesomeness of Gideon Cross.

51-LvM3gioL

Our journey began in fire . . .

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness – beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white hot. I was drawn to him as I’d never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily . . .

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private wounds . . . and desires.

The bonds of his love transformed me, even as I prayed that the torment of our pasts didn’t tear us apart . . .

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’m sure it’ll be no surprise when I say Gideon Cross from the Crossfire Series. I’d probably take him to a beach in Indonesia and just enjoy being back there with him and showing him around. Maybe we could go to Port Royal in Jamaica? Either or, I’m not fussy. If I got to spend a weekend with Gideon, I’d let him choose where and just enjoy the heck out of it.

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

I love being a member. I love the diversity that I’ve come across in the organisation, including the DISCO chapter for disabled authors. With a huge percentage of authors and the market being in the USA, it’s been great to meet other British authors and have the support, advice and information from the organisation that we get.

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

Do it. It’s easy to get disheartened or to be scared, but your words are just as good as someone with fifty books under their name. Just do it! Obviously do it properly, but don’t be put off from letting your words out into the world.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel is called Eat Crow, and it’s Book 6 in my Cheap Thrills series. I’ve got three series that are based in Texas (I come from a large American family even though we’re Brits) and I have a huge amount of love for the state. Granted my family are from New Jersey, but I have fond memories of Texas and places like Gonzales County.

Anyway, the Cheap Thrills Series is predominantly about the police department that I started outlining in 2016, and the latest book is about a deputy called Logan and his childhood best friend called Bexley (Bexley Heath—it has a nice London link in it). He said something when they were younger that split the friendship up, but when she comes back for her grandad’s funeral, he’s the one who helps her through the loss.

I love second chance, small town romances, and the connection the two characters have has been fabulous to write.

Eat Crow will be released on Kindle on 26 February and you can pre-order it here.

EC ecover

Logan

I made a mistake seven years ago and opened my mouth, letting words fly out of it that I didn’t mean. I said something about the one person I never wanted to hurt and lost my best friend. Now she’s back and needs help her with her loss, and I’m going to be the best rock in the history of rocks and make it right between us again.

I’d do anything to get Bexley Heath back in my life, even if it means helping out with her dog, who hates me and loves to destroy everything around him.

Time doesn’t kill love. Neither does a giant Irish Wolfhound eating my favorite chair.

Bexley

I’d successfully avoided Logan Richards for seven years, but somehow losing my grandpa brought him back into my life. Perhaps Papa was right when he said in his last letter that it was time to get over it and just let it go. Life’s too short, and forgiveness is divine, right?

He’s my anchor when I need it and my tissues when I cry. But that doesn’t mean I can’t reward my dog for causing him grief and destroying some of his furniture, though, does it? To heck with it, good Doyle.

About the Author

IMG_3301

I’m a British author who grew up all over the world. My parents were diplomats, so we were posted to all of the corners of the earth and it was a blast. Some wouldn’t seem so awesome if you heard about them, but my parents always made it a fun experience and it moulded my brother and I into who we are today.

I live in Wiltshire in the west country of the UK. At random times of the day, I’ll hear a moo from the fields around me, or get a whiff of that…uhhh…’country air’, and I love it! I might not have grown up in the UK, but I’m a British girl to the bone (regardless of the suspicious whiffs coming in from the fields).

I’m a single mother with a son who is nearing his teenage phase. Maybe he’s reached it early? Who knows. But he’s awesome and has a personality and sense of humour that I can only attribute to my family. We’re slightly bonkers, we have a wicked sense of humour and we find the positives in every situation. I’m so proud to be his mum and to watch him grow and mature.

Writing was something that I’d always done. I had a teacher in the third grade who always set us the task of writing a story and making it into a book every weekend. After I left school, I kept this up and wrote as often as I could or just plotted out books. This evolved into me taking the plunge and publishing my first book in 2016 and I’ve been typing ever since.

I’m proud to be an Indie Author, and I absolutely love writing out my crazy Providence characters and the more complex ones in my other series’. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic comedy or something with more suspense – so long as it has a HEA I’ll do it!

Connect with Mary:

Website: https://www.marybmoorebooks.com/

Facebook: Mary B Moore

Twitter: @mary_bmoore

Instagram: @mooremaryb

Facebook Readers’ Group: 50 Shades of Neigh

Newsletter: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/5f76283ae3a4a1ac190b037f

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Deity by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview

Deity proof cover

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge. Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Why was he never officially charged? Are reports of a haunting really true?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive, spine-chilling thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we are willing to turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

I’ve been waiting impatiently for my turn on the blog tour for Deity by Matt Wesolowski, the fifth book in his fantastic Six Stories series. Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher, Orenda Books, for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

If you are a follower of the blog, you will be aware what a fan I am of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. His last book, Beast, was one of my Top Twelve Books of 2020, so I was really looking forward to reading this. The original format of these novels, a six episode podcast delving into a cold criminal case from half a dozen diverse perspectives, gleaned from people involved in the mystery, is fresh and exciting and makes for a very unique reading experience. In this book as well we are treated to snippets from the final interview with enigmatic pop god, Zach Crystal, before his mysterious death.

Pop God. I picked those words carefully because this is the main theme running through the book and the reason for the title. Our obsession with celebrity and the elevating of those with talent to a position where they become untouchable, so they are able to hide their true selves from the world. The way some people become so revered that no one is allowed to say a word against them and their fans will defend them to the last, whatever is revealed about their true nature. I’m sure we can all think of people this has applied to in recent times and how hard it has been to bring certain people to justice for crimes because of their huge power and influence. This has been a hot topic in recent years, and Matt mines it for effect very successfully here, weaving a disturbing and thought-provoking tale.

You can draw your own conclusions on what real-life happenings Matt has drawn from to write this book but there is one obvious parallel to me, and this book managed to raise and explore a lot of the questions I have asked myself in the past when these issues have been raised. Is it possible to separate a person’s art from their actions? How, as a society, are we complicit in deifying these people to such an extent that they can do no wrong? How do we allow money and power to shield people in a way that the man in the street is not shielded from scrutiny and question? How do people allow themselves to be so seduced by money and glamour that they will put their loved ones in a situation that they never would otherwise? As in his other books, Matt is exploring the ways in which our society is broken and corrupt and clearly pointing us at some unpalatable truths.

The book is addictive holding you in thrall from start to finish. Each new interviewee peels back another side to the case so you build the picture slowly, only to have it unpicked and rearranged in the next chapter. You can’t know the truth until the last pages, and even then you will find yourself left with questions and conundrums to mull over long after you close the back cover. The book isn’t a comfortable read, that solves a mystery with a neat little bow. It is dark and ragged and fragmented and sinister. It is probing and questioning and revealing and deeply uncomfortable. Matt’s writing explores the dark side of life, bringing the most terrifying childhood stories into stark and too-real adult life. Pick up this book and prepare to be disturbed and challenged and left unsettled. This is no fairytale.

This series just keeps getting better and better, the writer striding into each new episode with increased confidence and bravado. At least that is how it comes across, and the release of a Six Stories book has become one of the highlights of my reading year. If you haven’t discovered these books yet, now is a great time to start.

(Huge apologies to Matt, Karen and Anne for not getting this posted yesterday as promised.)

Deity is out now in ebook format and will be published in paperback on 18 February, and you can buy a copy here.

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

Deity BT Poster

About the Author

MattWesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies, such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013.

Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller. Changeling, the third book in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His fourth book, Beast, won the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Independent Voice Book of the Year award in 2020.

Connect with Matt:

Website: Beyond The North Waves

Facebook: Matt Wesolowski

Twitter: @ConcreteKraken

Instagram: @mattjwesolowski

random-thingstours-fb-header

Friday Night Drinks with… Caroline James

friday-night-drinks

It’s the start of half-term week here in the Book Problem household which means a break from homeschooling for myself and the offspring, so we are all in fiesta mood! It is also The Irishman’s birthday (I won’t reveal his age), so even more excuse for a celebratory beverage and I am delighted to be joined for a tipple tonight by author… Caroline James.

CAROLINE JAMES (PROMO SHOOT 26.06.2018)
CAROLINE JAMES (PROMO SHOOT 26.06.201

Welcome to the blog Caroline, you’ve found us in party mood here tonight so thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Good evening Julie, how great to be here. My tipple of choice is Boodles Mulberry gin with Fever Tree tonic, and a sprinkling of fresh raspberries and crushed ice.

Boodles gin and tonic

Sounds delicious, I will join you if I may. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I’d take you to pretty Kinsale, a fishing port, known as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland, to their annual food festival which takes place every October. We’d start in Acton’s hotel for a cocktail then join in with the craic and shenanigans at the many wonderful pubs in the town. During the evening we’d grab a bite to eat at Fishy Fishy – one of the gorgeous restaurants in the Kinsale Good Food Circle and end up listening to live music at The White House Hotel, in the heart of the town.

Kinsale in Southern Ireland

Fabulous, I absolutely love Ireland but haven’t managed to visit Kinsale yet. 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?

Without question it would be the eponymous celebrity chef, the late but great, Keith Floyd or Floydy as he was known. For many years I was a media agent representing many celebrity chefs and Floyd was much loved in the business. Floydy loved to drink and have fun and adored Kinsale so much that he made his home there for many years. We’d also invite Lady Gaga and slide into her flamboyant slip stream, indulging in conversation with the multitude of admirers who’d beg to join our party.

That would be some combo! 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 started writing nine years ago having decided that if I didn’t glue my rear to a chair and get typing, I would die wondering if I could ever have published a novel. Unable to find a publisher initially, I self-published my first book and was astonished when it went to number three in women’s fiction on Amazon. I have had several best-sellers on Amazon since then.

I’m currently writing my eighth book and my road to fulfilling my writing dream has been a roller coaster. Being both self-published and traditionally published I’ve learnt so much during these years and today I help run a business that mentors aspiring authors, www.thepublishhub.com  Writing gives me a purpose and sense of well-being to know that my books bringing pleasure to current and new readers.

Gluing my rear to the chair is an approach I definitely need to adopt! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I think writing about older protagonists has been my proudest moment as so many middle-aged and above readers tell me how much my books inspire and make them feel-good about themselves. The Best Boomerville Hotel is a retreat where mature guests get up to all sorts of capers and this is followed by Boomerville at Ballymegille where the mischief continues at a new venue in Southern Ireland. The challenge is to write more Boomerville books and keep them as fresh, funny and feel-good as the first.

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

To see a Netflix series of Boomerville at Ballymegille and have viewers fall in love with my characters and share some of the crazy experiences they get up to.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

It’s very difficult to plan anything in this current pandemic and priorities change. What mattered so much a year ago now seems unimportant and the only thing that matters to me is being with my precious family once again and having them close, healthy and happy.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I’ve been lucky in that I have travelled quite a bit in my life but there are always places that I dream of going to. India is on my bucket list, as is Nepal. I like to trek and have trekked in some exotic locations and Nepal is certainly on my hit list. Closer to home, as soon as we are able, my hubby and I will be pointing the car north and heading to Scotland to do the North Coast 500, which is a route of just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery in the far north of Scotland. I love the highlands of Scotland and can’t wait to do this.

The Irishman is quite keen to do the North Coast 500 too, and I will happily go along as I adore Scotland. I have just made the request to do a small detour to visit Plockton and the Kyle of Lochalsh so I can visit the home of Hamish MacBeth!

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

I love wild water swimming.

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

My feel-good book of 2020 was Saving Missy by Beth Morrey. I listened to this on audio and thought it totally absorbing and engaging and didn’t want it to end.

515h1CmAAzL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_

Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.

Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.

Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

I have a copy of this lurking on the 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?

Having grown up on the Cheshire/Staffordshire border, a staple in our diet were Staffordshire oatcakes and at the weekend, should my sisters and I have over indulged, a grilled oatcake with cheddar cheese was a fool-proof cure for any hangover. I still eat them whenever I can.

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

Walking. Getting the hiking boots on. Taking Fred, our westie, along too. Fresh air, open spaces, lovely views – what could be better?

Caroline, thank you so much for joining me tonight, it has been an absolute pleasure to chat to you.

Caroline’s latest book is Boomerville at Ballymegille and you can buy a copy here.

Boomerville at Ballymegille cover

Join Hattie and Jo as they head to Southern Ireland to open Boomerville Manor, a holiday retreat for guests of ‘a certain age’. There’s Irish craic and shenanigans aplenty for the colourful cast of characters as everyone gathers for the grand opening.

Meet Melissa, an ex-cabaret singer running from her abusive husband, and Bill, a bachelor bullied from beyond the grave by the ghostly voice of his mother. Along with local bobby Harry the Helmet, ageing aquatic team the Boomerville Babes, eccentric artist Lucinda Gray, and heartthrob Finbar Murphy, they gather in Ireland and the fun begins. But murder is in the air and there’s mischief afoot. Will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?

Set in the beautiful Irish countryside, Boomerville at Ballymegille is a heart-warming story of friendship, fears and new beginnings.

Best-selling author of women’s fiction, Caroline James has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that often features in her novels. She is based in the UK but has a great fondness for travel and escapes whenever she can. A public speaker, which includes talks and lectures on cruise ships world-wide, Caroline is also a consultant and food writer. She is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association, ARRA, the Society of Women’s Writer’s & Journalists and the Society of Authors and writes articles and short stories, contributing to many publications. Caroline also runs writing workshops. In her spare time Caroline can be found walking up a mountain with Fred her Westie, or sipping raspberry gin with her head in a book and hand in a box of chocolates.

Caroline is the author of Hattie Goes to Hollywood, Boomerville at Ballymegille, The Best Boomerville HotelCoffee Tea the Gypsy & MeCoffee Tea the Chef & MeCoffee Tea the Caribbean & Me, and Jungle Rock.

You can find out more about Caroline and her writing on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake #BookReview

410fs7E8p-L._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_

Ambition can be deadly

Broadcast to millions from its picturesque location off the coast of Jersey, Falcon Bay was once the world’s most popular soap opera. But with ratings at an all-time low, a new network owner, the malevolent Madeline Kane, arrives on the private island determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to the number 1 slot.

Director Farrah, leading lady Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who’ve been trying to hold the production together. But thanks to their handsome but corrupt boss, Jake Monroe, Farrah is losing episodes to male colleagues, seventy-year-old Catherine is terrified of losing the public’s adoration, and Amanda is battling her desire for a forbidden affair with a handsome new employee.

As Madeline’s pressure to revive the show intensifies, she unleashes a true battle of the sexes where the women will do anything to stay in the jobs they love and on the island they call home. Can they team up to bring down their rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge rip their friendships apart? As the story reaches its shocking climax, one thing is for certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive…

I’m thrilled to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for the fabulous new thriller by Melanie Blake, Ruthless Women. My thanks to Bei Guo at Midas PR for asking me to take part and to the publisher, Head of Zeus, for my advance copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

It’s been quite a while since I was glued to the pages of a book in quite the way I was to Ruthless Women. In fact, I can go back to the 1980s, when I was a teenager and my friends and I were passing around copies of Judith Krantz, Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran novels in the Sixth Form common room with the page corners turned down at the really juicy bits. (Do you remember THAT scene in Lace? We were agog!) Those books, filled with strong, glamorous and bitchy women, ruthless men and settings that were well beyond the experience of a Yorkshire teenager whose parents hated to fly, were a window onto an exciting and unbelievable world and, in Ruthless Women, Melanie Blake has taken the ‘bonkbuster’ and brought it right up to date.

The book is set in the world of a long-running TV soap opera. Falcon Bay was once the most popular soap in the world, but ratings have been slipping and, when the network is bought out by an American production company, the new owners are determined to reverse the slide, whatever it takes. The main women involved in the show, the ageing star, ambitious young director, talent booker and demoted producer, are hoping that having a woman in charge might alter the misogynistic atmosphere on the soap that keeps them from achieving their goals, but it turns out that the new alpha female might not be the ally they were hoping for.

This book pulls no punches in the storyline and is unashamedly outrageous. Sex, drugs, rows, double-crossing, secrets, lies, adultery – it’s all here in glorious technicolour and keeps the plot high octane from start to finish. The plot is way, way, way over the top, just like all of the fantastic blockbuster novels used to be, and this is what makes it such magnificent, escapist fun. If you really want to be transported from this terribly tedious, mundane lockdown world, this is the book to do it. You can lose yourself in a total fantasy world, although maybe some of this stuff actually happens, as the author works in this world and knows what goes on, and experience things that will never happen in real life to a middle-aged mum from Yorkshire. I loved it for the exact same reasons as I loved those bonkbuster novels I devoured in my teens.

What is really great about this book though, is that the women are centre stage and the men are in the supporting roles. The women are there for each other, female empowerment and female friendship, as well as rivalry, are driving the plot, and they don’t need the men to succeed. Despite some of the cat fighting and other shenanigans that goes on between the characters, female relationships and the power of women working together are what drives the plot of this book, and I adored that about it. The best of these types of books were always about strong, empowered women and this is why women love reading them, as beautifully described in this recent article.

I raced through the pages of Ruthless Women as fast as I could go, barely pausing for breath. Yes, the plot is OTT, yes all the women are impossibly beautiful, yes the men are rats. This is not real life as most of us know it, but that is the entire point. This is wonderful, escapist fun. There are shocks, bigger shocks, unbelievable shocks and just the most outrageous shocks that you could never see coming. This book keeps giving you more and more things that will leave you open-mouthed and delighted. This is the glorious resurrection of the bonkbuster, and I revelled in every minute of it. I had a brief Twitter exchange with the author yesterday, when she told me how much she had enjoyed writing the book and this shows clearly in the writing. Almost as much as I enjoyed reading it. With glee, would be the phrase I used. I loved it, loved it, loved it. I’ve immediately ordered The Thunder Girls to get another fix. Read it now.

Ruthless Women is out in hardback, audiobook and ebook formats on 18 February, and in paperback on 8 July. You can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the other blogs taking part in the first part of the tour:

Ets1D2WXcAE8a_L

About the Author

lm8ohs442ae3cig4uoo9db9e2v._US230_

Best-selling author Melanie Blake’s own real life Rags to Bitches story reads like the plot of an outrageous drama…

At fifteen years old Melanie Blake was told by her high school career advisors that her decision to do work experience at a local record shop was an ’embarrassment to the school and a clear example that she wouldn’t go far in life or her career’. They were wrong. By twenty-one she was working at the BBC’s iconic Top of the Pops show and by twenty-seven she had built a reputation as one of the UK’s leading music and entertainment managers, with her own agency and roster of award-winning artists who had sold more than 100 million records. During this time she also built up an acting agency from scratch which quickly became the most successful independent boutique agency in the UK where she manages clients from some of the biggest internationally syndicated shows in the world.

Her roster have won Baftas, Emmys and pretty much every best actress award going and Melanie is one of the most successful female agents in the world. In the UK alone – over 25 million people a week currently tune in to watch the very stars Melanie represents in their globally syndicated shows. In 2018 after two decades at the top of her game, Melanie decided to manage a smaller client list and concentrate on her other passion, writing – first as a columnist for a national newspaper, then as a playwright and now as a best-selling novelist.

Her first book The Thunder Girls became a Number 1 Best Seller in the summer of 2019 and the play she adapted from the novel broke box office records for a new work at the prestigious Lowry Theatre.

She still represents a high profile stable of some of the best known faces on British television but is also now enjoying success in her own right as a producer, author and playwright.

Ruthless Women is her second novel.

Connect with Melanie:

Website: https://www.melanieblakeonline.com/

Twitter: @MelanieBlakeUK

Instagram: @melanieblakeuk

A Little Book Problem banner

Desert Island Books with… Lizzie Lamb

desert-island-books

Today’s literary castaway, stranded on a deserted beach with only five books and one luxury item to keep her company, is author, Lizzie Lamb. Let’s see what she has chosen from all the books even written as the ones she would like to be stuck with indefinitely, shall we?

Book One – Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

41oWS3arLoL

Hero Wantage is desperate to change her fate.

When the dashing Lord Sherry proposes out of the blue, Hero is overjoyed – she’ll escape a life as a governess and, once they wed, he can finally claim his inheritance.

But as Hero attempts to social climb in glamorous London society, Sherry is concerned that her naivety will ruin them both and takes drastic action.

The chaos that follows will push friendships – and hearts – to breaking point.

Before Pride and Prejudice hit our screens, Georgette Heyer was my go-to author for Regency romances. I bought my copy of Friday’s Child for 3/6 (17p) back in 1965 and it was passed round the sixth form as we laughed at the antics of the characters and relived their adventures. The characters and historical background of ‘the ton’ and the slang which Heyer has down to a tee are what make the novel for me. Especially Ferdy who believes he is being stalked by a Greek because he’s told that one day he will ‘meet his ‘Nemesis’. Also, who could resist unsophisticated Hero Wantage who agrees to enter a marriage of convenience with Regency Buck Lord Sheringham whom she’s secretly loved all her life. And, as is the way with these things, she reforms him and don’t they say reformed rakes make the best husbands? I used to re-read this book when I was feeling down or recovering from the flu etc. so it’s practically falling apart. I could buy a new copy, but where’s the fun in that? I’ve never tired of it so I guess it belongs on my desert island with me. Through its pages I can dance a cotillion, ride in a curricle accompanied by my Tiger and become the toast of the Bath.

Quite simply – Bridgerton, without the sex.

Book Two – Emily by Jilly Cooper 

418IppCEQjL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_

If Emily hadn’t gone to Annie Richmond’s party, she would never have met the impossible irresistible Rory Balniel – never have married him and been carried off to the wild Scottish island of Irasa to live in his ancestral home along with his eccentric mother, Coco, and the dog, Walter Scott.

She’d never have met the wild and mysterious Marina, a wraith from Rory’s past, nor her brother, the disagreeable Finn Maclean; never have spent a night in a haunted highland castle, or been caught stealing roses in a see-through nightie…

Yes, it all started at Annie Richmond’s party.

As a writer of romantic comedy, how could I leave Jilly Cooper behind on the sinking ship? Just as I’d finished reading all the Georgette Heyers and ploughed my way through historical novels thick enough to be used as doorstops, I discovered Jilly. Emily was her first romance and, back in the day before Amazon was a blot on the horizon, word of it spread via my book-devouring besties. As a newlywed, impoverished probationary teacher trying to renovate a wreck of a house after of a long day at the chalk face I needed light relief. Jilly provided just that. She described a world of fashionable parties in Chelsea, wild Scottish islands, highland estates, hasty marriages to impossible, irresistible heroes, glamorous ex-girlfriends determined to break up Emily and her new husband Rory Balniel. There’s plenty of hilarious escapades and Jilly’s delicious puns to keep me  turning the pages. There’s even a serpent in Eden in the form of Finn Maclean who threatens to wreck Emily’s happiness. The icing on the cake? I met Jilly three years ago at an RNA party and she was everything I hoped she’d be. She kissed me, called me Darling Lizzie and thanked ME for buying her books and remaining a loyal fan over the years. She’s the ideal companion for a desert island but if I can’t take her, I’ll take Emily along instead.

Book Three – Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson

51k3WUqc94L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Our neighbours divide into the haves … and the have yachts.

Meet Mimi and Clare, two married women making the most of their Notting Hill postcode. New best friends, and close neighbours, that doesn’t stop them being rivals, in fact it compels it. Both are aspiring Notting Hill Mummies (Clare needs the baby, Mimi needs the six figure income) and, keeping up with all the area’s fads, fashions and fabulousness is a full-time job.

But the arrival of sexy billionaire Si in their exclusive communal garden strains loyalty to friends, family, spouse and feng-shui guru alike … and only one of them can win.

But who will that be? Clare or Mimi? Are they friends, or just…neighbours?

I adored the movie Notting Hill (1999) so when Rachel Johnson wrote Notting Hell I bought it straight away. It bridged the gap between one Jilly Cooper bonk buster and the next and, inadvertently, provided me with the inspiration for the opening scenes of my rom com – Tall, Dark and Kilted. The novel gave me an insight into the lives of those who shared upmarket communal gardens surrounded by three story houses in sugar almond colours. For that alone I’m taking it along with me to my desert island. In 2006, the year I took early retirement from teaching to concentrate on my writing, I bought a ticket which permitted me to enter the private Notting Hill gardens (including the one where the movie was filmed) and provided me with invaluable research material. There’s also a twist in the tail which I’ll pretend I don’t see coming. As for the novel, I’ve forgotten most of the shenanigans so it’ll be fun to reacquaint myself with Yummy Mummies, high achievers who shopped in Westbourne Road, midnight rendezvous in the bosky gardens, and the secrets the residents are hiding behind their shuttered windows. I’d love another chance to look round those gardens . . . maybe I will once I’ve been rescued from my desert island.

Book Four – Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford 

41aT308-+cL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

The Mitford family is one of the century’s most enigmatic, made notorious by Nancy’s novels, Diana’s marriage to Sir Oswald Mosley, Unity’s infatuation with Hitler, Debo’s marriage to a duke and Jessica’s passionate commitment to communism.

Hons and Rebels is an enchanting and deeply absorbing memoir of an isolated and eccentric upbringing which conceals beneath its witty, light-hearted surface much wisdom and depth of feeling.

I was first attracted to this novel because I’d read about the Mitford sisters: Nancy, Deborah, Diana, Unity, Pamela and Jessica and their brother Tom in a Sunday Times colour supplement and was intrigued to learn more about the eccentric family. Jessica’s sisters (Diana and Unity) and her parents supported Hitler, Diana and her husband Oswald Mosley were gaoled for their support of the fascist cause while Jessica married her cousin Esmond, fought in the Spanish Civil War, joined the communist party and went to live in America. But Hons and Rebels it isn’t a heavy political treatise, it tells the story of a vanished way of life and reads less like an autobiography and more like a family saga. When I read it on my desert island I’ll be whisked away from the South Seas (that’s where I choose to be shipwrecked) to the misty Cotswolds, an ancient manor house, quaint towns and villages and experience once again the feeling of standing on the threshold of time (1939) aware of what lay ahead, even if the Mitfords didn’t.

Book Five – The Flight of the Heron (Trilogy) by D.K. Broster

512269q0OlL

It is 1745, and the Jacobite rebellion is on the rise.

Ewen Cameron, a principled young Scottish Highlander, is destined and honoured to serve Bonnie Prince Charlie, the young Pretender, and to help the ‘rightful King’ ascend to the British throne.

Major Keith Windham is a career soldier with the English Army – seemingly the antithesis of Ewen. He is jaded, worldly and loyal to the Crown but, ultimately, an outsider.

Their fates are linked inextricably when a highland prophecy tells Ewen that the flight of a heron will predict five meetings with an Englishman who will cause him much harm but also render a great service.     

Ewen is sceptical, but the prophecy proves true when he meets Englishman Keith Windham – and a gripping tale of adventure, danger and true and lasting friendship is set into motion.

Both are men who are willing to die for their honour and their beliefs. Each is on an opposing side. But who will emerge the victor?

My last choice is a bit of a cheat because it’s part of a trilogy: The Flight of the Heron, The Gleam in the North and The Dark Mile. It is the haunting, romantic story of the men and women who, in 1745, joined Bonnie Prince Charlie after he raised his standard at Glenfinnan. A few years ago I visited Glenfinnan and looked towards the valley now spanned by the famous Harry Potter Bridge (aka the Glenfinnan viaduct) where  in 1745 Cameron of Locheil led five hundred clansmen through the valley, pipes playing and banners waving to pledge themselves to the Jacobite cause. In many way the book was a forerunner for Highlander, Braveheart and Outlander, but in my opinion it surpasses them all in depth and historical scope. It was also the first time I’d encountered Scots Gaelic and I learned some of the phrases by heart.  My copy has nine-hundred-and-fifty-five pages, so I won’t be stuck for reading material. There’s also a romance running through the trilogy, as does the unlikely friendship between Ewan Cameron and Major Wyndham, an officer in King George’s army. 

The books I’ve chosen show my love of history, comedy, romance and an interest in worlds/times other than my own. When I left teaching everyone thought I would write children’s books. Not so . . . However –  my latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling, published November 2020 features a headmistress who . . .Well, I’ll let the blurb do the talking for me.

My luxury item

download

 

Finally, I would take a machete with me to build shelter, fend off wild animals and make myself clothes out of large (!) flat leaves of plants I find growing in the jungle.

About Lizzie Lamb

Lizzie Lamb

After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided to pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed by Boot Camp Bride. She went on to publish Scotch on the Rocks, which achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon and her next novel, Girl in the Castle, reached #3 in the Amazon charts. Lizzie is a founder member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press, and has hosted author events at Aspinall, St Pancras and Waterstones, Kensington, talking about the research which underpins her novels. Lizzie romance Take Me, I’m Yours, set in Wisconsin, also achieved BEST SELLER status >travel>USA. Her latest novel – Harper’s Highland Fling – has been declared her ‘best one yet’ by readers and reviewers. In it, two warring guardians are forced to join forces and set off in hot pursuit of a runaway niece and son. She has further Scottish-themed romances planned and spends most of the summer touring the Scottish Highlands researching men in kilts. As for the years she spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste as she is building a reputation as a go-to speaker on indie publishing, and how to plan, write, and publish your debut novel.

Lizzie lives in Leicestershire (UK) with her husband, David.

She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch . . .

You can read an extract of Lizzie’s latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling here and the book is available in ebook and paperback format here.

3D image HHF

After a gruelling academic year, head teacher Harper MacDonald is looking forward to a summer holiday trekking in Nepal.

However, her plans are scuppered when wayward niece, Ariel, leaves a note announcing that she’s running away with a boy called Pen. The only clue to their whereabouts is a footnote: I’ll be in Scotland.

Cue a case of mistaken identity when Harper confronts the boy’s father – Rocco Penhaligon, and accuses him of cradle snatching her niece and ruining her future. At loggerheads, Harper and Rocco set off in hot pursuit of the teenagers, but the canny youngsters are always one step ahead. And, in a neat twist, it is the adults who end up in trouble, not the savvy teenagers.

Fasten your seatbelt for the road trip of your life! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Connect with Lizzie:

Website: https://lizzielamb.co.uk/

Facebook: Lizzie Lamb Writer

Twitter: @lizzie_lamb

Instagram: @lizzielambwriter

Pinterest: Lizzie Lamb

A Little Book Problem banner