#BlogTour Ask Me To Dance by Sylvia Colley #bookreview (@SylviaColley) @MuswellPress @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #AskMeToDance

Ask Me To Dance Cover

“Rose Gregory has suffered a devastating blow, a double bereavement from which months later she is still reeling. Sanctuary and rest are prescribed by her doctor. But when she arrives at her refuge, a dank and decaying Monastery, she finds it is not the haven promised. Despite the veneer of calm contemplation, the Monastery turns out to be a hotbed of intrigue and disharmony. Rose witnesses bullying and cruelty and ultimately in defence of the vulnerable turns to violence herself.

Sylvia Colley’s extraordinary understanding of a woman s struggle to deal with grief, the denial, the anger, the loneliness, is described without sentimentality. A beautifully written and moving story.”

Today I am delighted to be the first stop on the blog tour for Sylvia Colley’s beautiful new novel Ask Me To Dance. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

Where to start describing this extraordinary book? It is a book that is impossible to categorise and very different to anything I have read recently, neither of which are negatives. I was drawn into the book from the beginning, held throughout and left thinking about it long after I finished it.

The protagonist is Rose, a woman in the grip of a grief that has driven her to the edge of madness. We meet her as she arrives at a monastery where her doctor has sent her to rest and recuperate but it soon becomes apparent that this may not be the right place for her to do that. The monastery is down at heel, on the verge of closing and populated by only a small group of Brothers who are struggling with their own internal and rather petty tensions which in turn infect Rose and disrupt her state of mind further.

The author does a fantastic job of describing the crumbling monastery and its wild and neglected grounds, complete with a graveyard full of deceased Brothers, and it gives the whole book an air of despair and, for me, a slight creeping menace which was the perfect backdrop to the mental disintegration within Rose and the decay of the relationships between the remaining Brothers. Rose has gone there for peace and seclusion and possibly spiritual guidance, but it is clear than none of these things are on offer for her here where the Brothers draw her into their issues rather than helping her with hers.

We learn about the events leading to Rose’s breakdown gradually through the course of the book, at the same time as more information is fed to us slowly about the different Brothers and the tensions between us. This approach for me, resulted in a slow build of tension and oppression with minimal actual action until the final explosive events – a very clever reflection of how the tensions and despair and feeling of unfairness and futility have built up in Rose. The book is written mostly in the first person through Rose’s eyes, which let us get further into her mindset and feel what she is feeling and seeing. I was infected with it and the feelings have lingered in me long after I closed the book.

If I had a small criticism, it was that I was left unsure of the relevance of one of the characters introduced, whom I had thought would play a more vital role but it is a small niggle in an otherwise startling book.

This book is clever, thought-provoking, evocative, surprising, difficult, menacing and insidious. It defies the trend towards shoehorning books into a genre, instead leaping outside the box. It is not a comfortable read but it is a true and worthwhile one.

Ask Me To Dance is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to Anne Cater and the publisher for supplying my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Follow the rest of the tour and find out what other bloggers think of the novel:

Ask Me To Dance Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

syvia-master-image-large

Sylvia Colley was born in Romsey, Hampshire. She became a teacher and spent many years as Head of English at the Purcell School in North London.
She has published a book of poetry, It’s Not What I Wanted Though, and a novel, Lights on Dark Water. Her work has been read on BBC Radio 4. She lives in Pinner, Middlesex.

Follow Sylvia on social media:

Twitter: @SylviaColley

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

#BlogTour The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley #bookreview (@ZaraStoneley) @HarperCollinsUK @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam @rararesources #TheWeddingDate #bookbloggers

The Wedding Date

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Zara Stoneley’s new book The Wedding Date. a big thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

The Wedding Date high res

One ex.
One wedding.
One little white lie.

When Samantha Jenkins is asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding, she couldn’t be happier. There are just three problems…

1) Sam’s ex-boyfriend, Liam, will be the best man.
2) His new girlfriend is pregnant.
3) Sam might have told people she has a new man when she doesn’t (see points 1 and 2 above)

So, Sam does the only sensible thing available to her… and hires a professional to do the job.

Actor Jake Porter is perfect for the role: single, gorgeous and cheap! Sam is certain it’s the perfect solution: no strings, no heartbreak and hopefully no chance of being found out.

But spending a week in the Scottish Highlands with Jake is harder than she imagined. He is the perfect boyfriend, charming, sexy and the hottest thing in a kilt since Outlander! And his dog Harry is quite possibly the cutest things Sam has ever seen!

As the wedding draws closer, Jake plays his part to perfection and everyone believes he is madly in love with Sam. The problem is, Sam’s not sure if Jake is acting anymore…”

Before we start, is anyone else salivating over the delicious-looking cake on the cover of this book? Honestly, I can taste it. Congratulations to whoever designed the cover, it is definitely enticing!

This is the first book I have read by Zara Stoneley, although I have a copy of Summer with the Country Village Vet sat on my TBR. Now that I have read this book by Zara, I will be moving that one up the pile to read soon.

The main character in this book is travel agent, Sam. Recently dumped by boyfriend, Liam, Sam is presented with an invitation from her best friend, Jess, to join her elaborate wedding party in Scotland. To Sam’s dismay, not only will she have to deal with celebrating romance whilst facing her own heartbreak, her ex, Liam will be the best man and Sam will come face to face with the physical evidence of his infidelity in the form of his very-pregnant girlfriend. Unable to face the ordeal alone and deal with the pity on the faces of her family and friends, Sam decides to hire actor Jake to pose as her handsome and charming new boyfriend for the week. As you do.

It was very easy to relate to Sam. She is a warm and slightly hapless character and we can all put ourselves in her shoes, feeling the humiliation of being cheated on and dumped and then having to face her ex in public. The ordeal has sapped her of all her self-confidence and she is at a very low ebb when she concocts the slightly crazy plan of hiring a fake boyfriend to take to her best friend’s wedding. I doubt most people would go that far but I could appreciate the impulse and Zara’s humorous and entertaining writing made the plan seem a lot more plausible than it probably would be in real life.

Jake, the impoverished actor that Sam manages to bag as her fake date is almost too good to be true. Handsome, charming and kind, he is the kind of man that every woman wishes to have on her arm, but Sam struggles at times to work out how much of his behaviour is an act and how much is genuine, which becomes a problem when she finds herself falling for him, despite her best efforts to keep him at arms length. Jake is no cardboard cut-out romantic lead though, he has a complicated past of his own which stops him being as one-dimensional as is sometimes the case with romantic leads of this ilk.

This book is written in the first person from Sam’s point of view and I really enjoyed being in her head and seeing everything from her slightly-neurotic point of view. Her inner monologue was completely authentic – somewhat reminiscent of Bridget Jones – as she worries about her weight, wanting to look amazing when she first sees her ex, whether anyone will find out that she and Jake are faking it. She is so likeable, it really carries the story along and had us rooting for her and a positive outcome.

The story is filled with humour, which made it a really easy read. There are some scenes that will have you howling with laughter and wondering how anyone can get themselves into such scrapes. I loved the character of Sam’s mother, who just added to the cringe-factor of some of the scenes, and there was a nicely rounded cast of friends and family to fill out the story. I did feel like the character of Ruby, who was set up to be a bit of a villainess, was slightly wasted and could have been used to throw a bit more of a spanner in the works and I wondered if that was a plot point that was in the original draft but then tailed off. It felt like a bit of an unfinished thread. However, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. The mystery of Jake’s past also went in a different direction than the one I had imagined, but it has given me an idea for a story twist that I might use in the future since it didn’t turn out to be the solution I had imagined in this book, so that was a bonus from my reading. Thanks, Zara, for sparking my imagination!

This was a lovely, light and funny read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading romantic fiction. You won’t be disappointed. Now I’m off to track down that piece of chocolate cake.

The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley is out now on Kindle and you can buy a copy here.  The paperback version will be published on the 28th of June and you can pre-order it here.

Follow the blog tour and see what other readers are saying about The Wedding Date:

The Wedding Date Full Banner

Amazon/Goodreads

About the Author

ZaraStoneley authorpic

Born in a small village in Staffordshire, Zara Stoneley wanted to be James Herriot, a spy, or an author when she grew up. Writing novels means she can imagine she is all these things, and more!

Zara’s bestselling novels include ‘The Holiday Swap’, ‘Summer with the Country Village Vet’, ‘Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage’ and the popular Tippermere series – ‘Stable Mates’, ‘Country Affairs’ and ‘Country Rivals’.
She lives in a Cheshire village with her family, a naughty cockapoo, and a very bossy cat, and loves spending time in sunny Spain.

Connect with Zara:

Website: http://www.zarastoneley.com
Twitter: @ZaraStoneley
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZaraStoneley

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zarastoneley/ 

#BlogTour A Clean Sweep by Audrey Davis (@audbyname) @rararesources #ACleanSweep #retroreview #miniblitz #bookbloggers

Clean Sweep

Today I’m delighted to bring you my stop on the Mini Blitz Retro Review Blog Tour for Audrey Davis’ book A Clean Sweep. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

ACleanSweepcover

“A CLEAN SWEEP is a laugh-out-loud tale of love, lies and second chances.
Love comes around when you least expect it. Fifty-something widow Emily isn’t expecting romance. Nor is she expecting a hunky twenty-something chimney sweep on her doorstep.
Daughter Tabitha knows something isn’t quite right with her relationship, while her boss – Abba-loving Meryl – thinks she’s found the real deal. Are they both right, or pursuing Mr Wrong?
Emily’s sister, Celeste, has the perfect marriage … or does she? Can a fitness tracker lead her down the path to happiness or heartbreak?
Susan is single, overweight and resigned to a life of loneliness. There was the one who got away but you don’t get another try, do you?
Prepare for a rollercoaster ride of emotions in a book that will grab your heart, make you smile and wish you had a chimney to sweep.”

Chimney sweeps, are they even a thing any more? I’ve lived in this house for thirteen years and I’ve never had my chimney swept. I may have to remedy that situation now that I’ve read this book as it can obviously lead to interesting encounters!

This is the story of a group of women – ordinary women with ordinary lives – and the not-very-extraordinary things that happen to them. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? Well, do you know what, there is drama and passion and tension and heartbreak and joy in the not-very-extraordinary lives of these women and the genius of this book is making a funny, page-turning and heart-warming story out of the ordinary things that happen to ordinary people like you and I.

Emily is a middle-aged woman, widowed from a mundane marriage and just happy trundling along day to day, not expecting much until a chance encounter with hunky Joe who comes to sweep her chimney (not a euphemism to begin with but it soon turns into one, and this book is full of them!) turns her life on its head. There is an instant attraction, but is the substantial age gap a stumbling block to a proper relationship?

“He is a twenty-something hunk who wouldn’t look twice at someone old enough to be his mother. Cougars, wasn’t that what they were called these days? Except Emily felt she was about as predatory as an ancient feline who craved nothing more than a saucer of milk and a good ear scratch.”

Emily’s daughter Tabitha has problems of her own. Stuck in a job she doesn’t want and a relationship that could best be described as ‘tepid’, her life is not at all what she imagined. Does she have the courage to make drastic decisions to change it all? And what will she say when she finds out about her mum’s toy boy?

“One old crone – who really should only have been let out at Halloween – had spent almost half an hour slathering “try me” samples of organically produced hand creams on her wizened claws. Then complained that the smells were ‘quite obnoxious’. As she scuttled off back to her broomstick, Tabitha resisted shouting after her that six different fragrances mixed together didn’t necessarily make for olfactory heaven. Maybe eye of newt and tongue of bat would have been more up her street. Up yours, Endora.”

Tabitha’s boss, Meryl, is searching for love online and thinks she may finally have found it in charming suitor, Miroslaw. But can you really know someone you meet online?

Emily’s sister, Celeste, is married to the love of her life, Martin. But ghosts from Martin’s past are threatening to upset the stability of Celeste’s seemingly charmed life, and she only has herself to blame.

Lonely Susan is battling life’s problems solo. When faced with the biggest challenge of her life, she wonders if things would have been different if she hadn’t thrown away her one chance at love twenty years ago. But there is no point is wishing she had made a different decision now, is there?

This book is set in an ordinary town that could be anywhere, it is not relying on a picturesque or exotic location for colour. These are women that you know, that you meet in every day life, that could be you. The things that happen to them are the things that happen to all of us, every day, everywhere. There are no shocking twists or outlandish escapades. The drama is the small drama that happens to all of us all of the time. The kind of thing that isn’t going to make ripples for anyone else in the wider world, it isn’t going to make the front page of the paper but that can change an individual’s life forever in an instant. The author very cleverly makes us care about the characters in this book so much that these ordinary things become as important to us as they are to the individuals involved and you become very invested in a positive outcome very quickly. Honestly, I was so impressed by how she has managed to draw such a poignant story out of things that, on the face of it, seem fairly undramatic.

This book is carried along by the author’s warm and engaging voice and the strong vein of humour that runs through the book. I was laughing out loud one minute and then my heart was breaking for one of the characters the next. I completely bought in to everything that was happening and really wanted everything to turn out well for them all. I read this book in one sitting, and the time just flew by. It is utterly charming and I would highly recommend it. It is refreshing to see such a fantastic story made out of ordinary lives, featuring real people. I loved it.

A Clean Sweep is available now and you can buy a copy here.

Follow the blog tour and find out what other readers thought of this book

A Clean Sweep Full Banner

About the Author

2017-04-13 19.43.40

Audrey Davis survived secondary school on the West coast of Scotland. Rubbish at science but not too bad at English, she originally wanted to be an actress but was persuaded that journalism was a safer option. Probably wise. She studied at Napier College in Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland at that time to offer a journalism course.
Her first foray into the hard-nosed newspaper world was as a junior reporter in Dumfriesshire. Duties included interviewing farmers about the prize-winning heifers to reporting on family tragedies. She persuaded her editor to let her launch an entertainment column which meant meeting the odd celebrity – or just the downright odd. From there, she moved to the loftier rank of senior reporter back in her home patch. Slightly more money, less farm animals but a higher crime rate. As Taggart would say: ‘There’s been a murrrrder!’
After a stint in London on a video magazine – yes, she is that old – Audrey moved to Singapore with her fiancé. She tried valiantly to embrace the stinking heat, humidity and lack of jobs, although she did work briefly on a magazine which was banned by the government for ‘artistic’ use of naked men’s bottoms.
Next on her adventures was a land Down Under where her main focus was raising Cost Centre One (aka firstborn) and coming to terms with the imminent arrival of Number Two. Still, she loved the Aussie way of life – BBQs, beaches and bring your own booze to restaurants – so it came as a blow when OH announced a move back to the UK. Not a job between them, the climate a possible deal breaker and an Exorcist-style vomiting infant on the flight home didn’t bode well …
Always a survivor, Audrey sought out similar-minded friends (i.e. slightly bonkers), got the children into a good school and thought about taking up writing again. Sadly, thinking about it was as far as she got, unless you count shopping lists. Then, hubby drops another bombshell. Switzerland. As in – it’s packing time again. Off to the land of cheese, chocolate, scarily efficient trains and a couple of teeny, tiny issues. Like driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and speaking a foreign language (French). The former was conquered fairly quickly (we’ll skip over the wall demolition in week two), the latter remains an ongoing battle of the hopeful against the hopeless. At least she provides amusement for the local workforce.

It wasn’t until 2016 that Audrey rediscovered her writing mojo with an online Writing Fiction course. From there, her first novel – A Clean Sweep – was born, although it took a bit longer than nine months from conception. A short, darker prequel – A Clean Break – followed, and in November 2017 she published the first in a novella trilogy, The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part One. Part Two is published on 21 March 2018, with the conclusion following in May/June. After which she might have a wee lie down …

Connect with Audrey:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/audreydavisbooks

Twitter- https://twitter.com/audbyname

#BlogTour The Ghost of Glendale by Natalie Kleinman #bookreview (@NatKleinman) @rareresources

The Ghost of Glendale

At last! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Natalie Kleinman’s self-published Regency novel The Ghost of Glendale and I am very excited to talk to you about this book. Huge thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Let’s have a look at the details of the book.

Ghost-EBOOK-cvr TGoG (3 MB)

“At twenty-four years old, Phoebe Marcham is resigned to spinsterhood, unwilling to settle for anything less than the deep love her parents had shared. That is, until adventurer Duncan Armstrong rides into her home wood, larger than life and with laughter in his eyes and more charm in his little finger than anyone she’s ever met before.

Far from ridiculing her family ghost, Duncan resolves to help solve the mystery which has left Simon Marcham a spirit in torment for two hundred years.”

I have to admit, Regency romance novels are not a genre that I read. I have heard other people raving about Georgette Heyer and others of that ilk but have never been drawn to Regency as a genre. However, something about this book piqued my curiosity when I was offered the chance to read it and, now I have, I am wondering why it has taken me so long to discover it.

This is a rip-roaring tale of family feuds, restless spirits, rugged Scotsman and feisty heroines, wrapped up in the restrained and genteel conventions of Regency England which is an interesting juxtaposition. The heroine of this book, Phoebe Marcham, is forged in the best traditions of the tempestuous renegade, baulking against the confines that society placed on women at this time, in the vein of an Elizabeth Bennett or a Jo March. Considered to be an ‘elderly spinster’, unmarried in her late twenties, she is not unduly worried by her situation until the equally unconventional Duncan Armstrong storms into her life.

At the same time, an unsettled family spirit is demanding that Phoebe explore her family history and clear his blackened name so his soul can rest and she can bring a two hundred-year-old feud to an end. Along the way there are cousins to be married off, cantankerous aunts to mollify, nefarious suitors to weed out and the social whirl of Regency England to navigate. Never a dull moment.

This book was easy to read and tremendous fun. The author has done a wonderful job of reflecting the language and mores of the time period and developing some rounded and likeable characters, as well as keeping you hooked on the mystery of the family ghost. I am sure any of you picking up this book will be as carried along by the story as I was.

Thank you, Natalie, for introducing me to a whole new genre, I look forward to reading more of your work.

The Ghost of Glendale is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to follow the blog tour, you can find the details below.

The Ghost of Glendale Full Banner

About the Author

Natale Kleinman - Author Photo

Natalie is a published novelist and short story writer whose addiction to the books of Georgette Heyer and love of The Regency have been the inspiration for her latest book, The Ghost of Glendale. 

Working on the premise that you never stop learning, she goes to any and every writing event and workshop she can. In addition she attends The Write Place Creative Writing School in Hextable in Kent, one of the rewards for which is an abundant supply of cream cakes to celebrate the frequent successes of its students. 

Natalie is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. She lives with her husband in southeast London.

Follow Natalie on:

Blog: https://nataliekleinman.blogspot.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NatalieKleinmanAuthor/
Twitter: @NatKleinman