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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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

Connect with Cressida:

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

Facebook: Cressida McLaughlin Author

Twitter: @CressMcLaughlin

Instagram: @cressmclaughlin

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Friday Night Drinks with… Annette Hannah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m very jealous of you meeting Jackie! Did you see the documentary about her recently, it was fascinating. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flowers in the Attic is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, although not as creepy as My Sweet Audrina by the same author! So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I like to try and drink water between sips of alcoholic drinks and recently started drinking J20 apple and raspberry which is quite cocktail like. If I do have one which is very rare thankfully, then I like a glass of fresh orange with my daughter’s specialty of bacon done in the air fryer on a toasted bagel with avocado in it. It is so delicious and perfect for non-hangover days too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blog Tour: A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack

A Match Made In Venice

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first festive read of the year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

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Blog Tour: I’ll Be Home For Christmas by M W Arnold

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I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the release of book three in The Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club series by M W Arnold, I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Thanks to Mick and Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of the tour and to Mick for providing me with this great character interview for me to share with you today.

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A mysterious key left by her murdered sister, leads Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Betty Palmer on a journey of discovery and danger. Given up to an orphanage upon birth, the parents she’s long thought had no part in her life force themselves back in, purely out of greed and self-preservation.

Penny’s life is unexpectedly turned upside down by a potentially life-changing situation, which causes her wounded husband to question their marriage. No-one seems safe in this year of turmoil in the middle years of the war, as some relationships face breaking point whilst others become stronger.

Kidnap, crashes and dogfights, the girls of the Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery have never faced such dangers. To survive may not be enough as they must find the strength to rise above the most trying times yet of their lives.

Let’s go over now to one of the main characters in the novel, Betty Palmer, and have a chat to her, shall we?

So Betty, a little bird tells me you’re a colourful character. Would you care to comment?

That depends. Will everything I tell you in this interview be kept confidential? Specifically, from the police? Well, if that’s the best you can promise, I’ll just have to trust you. Yes, I suppose you could say I’ve dallied with my fair share of lively enterprises, but I’m really not sure how much I should tell you. I had an unusual childhood, something more akin to Oliver Twist, though a little more structured.

Now you really have my attention. You’ve got to elaborate.

Must I? Oh, very well. My twin sister and I were put into an orphanage because our parents only wanted a boy. You tend to grow up tough and quickly in those places and we quickly learned the only people we could totally trust and depend upon, were each other. Remember I mentioned Oliver Twist? We learned certain, skills as we grew older, which influenced what we did for a living once we were able to escape. That probably doesn’t sound as if were were…honest. Very true, but we did have our own code and only ever dealt with those who could afford to lose things or, who were evil. I know that sounds like some kind of thing you’d read in the legends of Robin Hood, but that’s where the similarities end; we didn’t give to the poor.

That’s quite a story. You mentioned a twin sister.

Yes, Eleanor. I’m very sad to tell you she was…murdered in January of 1942, so you’ll never be able to meet her. I know I didn’t go into details about what we did to make ends meet – sorry, but no promises are worth going to jail for – so I shall only say, she was a girl of undoubted skill in her chosen profession. Indeed, in certain circles, she was quite famous. You could even say that the corridors of power were lined with her pictures.

Perhaps we should move on. Are there any of your colleagues to which you are particularly drawn?

Really? You wish to put me on the spot. To be honest, after I lost my sister, I never expected to become close to anyone again. Certainly, I never intended to allow myself to. Then fate foisted three girls upon me to which I’ve grown inordinately fond, even though one is a Yank! They are all capable of causing me equal amounts of grief and joy so no, I don’t believe there is a single one of which I am fond over any other. I know that isn’t the answer you wanted but would it help if I also told you, I now believe I have the family I never believed I would ever get.

Do you remember where you were when this terrible war broke out? And what you were doing?

You really are determined to get me to say what I was doing, aren’t you? Well, sorry, I’m still going to keep that to myself, though I’m certain you have already made your own assumptions, those will have to do. Let me just say, I was busy valuing certain items my sister may have acquired in the course of her business. However, the very next day, I began to look into what I could do for my country. I didn’t think I was patriotic until I heard the wireless and then saw the headlines in the newspapers. I eventually joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Unfortunately, this was not a very good experience for me and I was very happy and also relieved when I found out about the formation of the Air Transport Auxiliary. I’ve found my freedom and true happiness amongst its members.

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I am sure this has whetted your appetite to find out more about Betty and her past and her experiences in the Air Transport Auxiliary. Well, I guess you had better buy a copy of I’ll Be Home For Christmas! You can find it here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for reviews of the book and other great content:

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About the Author

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Mick spent fifteen-odd years roaming around the world, courtesy of HM Queen Elizabeth II – gawd bless her – before becoming a civilian and realizing what working for a living really was.

He loves traveling, and the music of the Beach Boys, Queen, Muse, and Bon Jovi. Books play a large part in his life, not only writing, but also reading and reviewing, as well as supporting his many author friends.

He’s the proud keeper of two Romanian Were-Cats bent on world domination, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. I’ll be Home for Christmas will be his third novel with The Wild Rose Press.

Connect with Mick:

Facebook: M W Arnold Author

Twitter: @mick859

Instagram: @mick859

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5BTjvD9Jp–rLfjB9hcd9g

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Natalie Normann

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

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

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

Why romance? 

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

What inspires your stories? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your most recent novel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can buy copies of the books here and here.

About the Author

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

Connect with Natalie:

Facebook: Natalie Normann

Twitter: @NatalieNormann1

Instagram: @natalienormann

TikTok: @natalieromancewriter

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Blog Tour: The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas by Cressida McLaughlin #BookReview

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Hannah Swan is looking forward to Christmas for the first time in years. Her new job as an eco-consultant is taking her – and her geeky colleague, Noah – to the beautiful Cornish village of Porthgolow for the first time.

They are helping the Crystal Waters Hotel to ramp up its green credentials, though after a bumpy journey, Hannah can’t shake off the feeling that Porthgolow is strangely familiar. Never able to resist a mystery, her interest is piqued when the hotel’s staff and customers report odd noises and sightings, believing the hotel to be haunted.

When bad weather cuts off Porthgolow, Hannah and Noah are looking at a Cornish Christmas. It gives them plenty of time to work out what is really going on, but will their yuletide escape send shivers up their spines? Or will it be as warm and toasty as a glass of mulled wine?

I’m delighted to to taking part today in the blog tour for the latest book by one of my favourite authors, The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas by Cressida McLaughlin. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part and to the publisher, HarperCollins, for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

As a massive fan of Cressida’s books, and the Cornish Cream Tea series in particular, I was really excited to return to Porthgolow at Christmas and see what all my favourite characters were up to, and meet some new ones. The life of coastal towns in the winter when tourists are thin on the ground and the town is handed back to the locals is an entirely different proposition to the previous books which have been set during the busy months of the year, and I was fascinated to get a peep at what might, or might not, be going on.

The book is set largely in the spa hotel, where new character Hannah has come down from Edinburgh to stay for a week and help owner Daniel improve the hotel’s eco credentials. She is assisted by local freelancer, Noah, whom she has never met before, so both we and Hannah are getting to know him at the same time. Hannah was a character that I warmed to from the very beginning, which meant I felt invested in the book from the first page and I fairly flew through the story. This is the overriding genius of Cressida’s writing, she always manages to create believable characters that you care about and draw you into the story until you are fully involved and desperate to know what happens to them. I loved the way she managed to integrate them so seamlessly into the tight knit community she has already built in my head.

The Cornish setting is equally as beautiful and tempting in the winter – perhaps even more so – with empty beaches, cosy pubs and Christmas sparkle dangling from every spare twig. You can practically smell the pine coming off the page as she brings the setting to life. And the food, oh the food. The main character, Hannah, is a foodie, so there is ample opportunity to shoehorn in descriptions of delicious dishes and delicacies – in the hotel, the pub, the weekly food market and, of course, on the Cornish Cream Tea Bus itself. You will come away from the book either starving or feeling like you have eaten a twelve course meal, it’s a toss up.

There is plenty of action to keep the plot moving along with violent storms, a dramatic coastal rescue and a ghostly mystery running alongside the romance, so there are no slow patches in the story. Despite being 370 pages, the book raced past in no time and I was sad to get to the end, but satisfied with the conclusion. As with all Cress’s books, I was left with a warm, contented glow, underscored with a wistful longing for her next book. Not much more that a fan of romantic Christmas stories could wish for. Just remind me never to visit Portgolow in real life, it is the Cornish equivalent of the Hotel California. ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!’

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

Please do follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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

Connect with Cressy:

Website: https://cressidamclaughlin.com/

Facebook: Cressida McLaughlin Author

Twitter: @CressMcLaughlin

Instagram: @cressmclaughlin

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Book Review: The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker

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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.

The only thing better than one Christmas romance is three.

This week I am taking part in the One More Chapter Readalong for The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker and I’m delighted to be sharing my review with you today.. My thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I was just in the mood for an uplifting, festive read when I picked up this book, the news is quite depressing at the moment isn’t it, and what a perfect choice this is for anyone looking for something to warm their cockles and bring a sprinkling of Christmas cheer into their lives. It also addresses one of the burning questions of the age – is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

The book follows three friends who meet on holiday aged eleven and forge a bond that survives over the years, despite the fact they all live on different continents. Fast forward a couple of decades and all of the girls are at some kind of cusp in their lives with issues that need a shake up. Will swapping homes and Christmases for one year provide the catalysts they need to move to the next stage of their lives?

The premise of the book is charming and it works perfectly. Cue the opportunity for the author to transport us to three very different countries for three very different Christmases. In Oxford, Melbourne and Colorado, the three girls are taken in by their friend’s families and find out how the other half does Christmas. Warm beaches, snowy mountains and the English countryside provide the perfect backdrops against which the girls can explore unique Christmas traditions, and maybe make new friends, even of a romantic variety! The author does an absolutely fabulous job of drawing the different environments and transporting the reader there. This book is armchair travel at its most enticing and I felt like I had been transported to the locations in the novel. I defy anyone to come away from reading this book and not wish they could be snow-shoeing through a quiet, Colorado forest or doing a horseback tour of Australian wineries. My passport is itching just thinking about it, especially given my lack of travel this year.

For me, the most compelling thing about this book is the portrayal of the friendship between the three girls. Each of the characters was perfectly drawn and absolutely believable, and the dynamic between them realistic and charming to read. I have two very close groups of female friends who mean the world to me and are the first people I would turn to, in times of trouble and turmoil, but also in times of joy and success. I recognised immediately the workings of the friendship between these women, even went it was sent slightly off track, and it was such a joy to read. I so wanted everything to work out for them, shared their happiness and disappointment throughout and, by the end, I didn’t want to leave their company. I felt like they had become my friends, and I really want to know how things end up for them.

This is a really cheering read with the perfect flavour of Christmas to get you in the mood for the upcoming holiday. I would highly recommend it to all fans of romance looking for a bit of Yuletide cheer. And, as for that burning question at the beginning – is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Of course it is, and that is a hill I am prepared to die on.

The Christmas Swap is out now in ebook and paperback and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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I’m a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list. I love exploring new places, outdoor adventures, and eating and drinking like a local when I travel, and many of my travel adventures have found homes in my novels. I’m also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.

My first novel, a romantic comedy set in Greece and inspired by my real-life love story, was published in June 2019 by One More Chapter (HarperCollins). In 2020, two follow-ups in the Holiday Romance series hit the shelves: That Night in Paris and A Sunset in Sydney. My novel, The Christmas Swap, is a stand-alone inspired by some of my own Christmas adventures, and I am currently writing my 5th book (the 4th in the Holiday Romance series) and 6th book (a stand-alone), with plans for 7 and 8!

Connect with Sandy:

Website: https://sandybarker.com/

Facebook: Sandy Barker Author

Twitter: @sandybarker

Instagram: @sandybarkerauthor

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jessica Redland

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

It’s the end of another week and time to catch up with someone from the publishing world over a drink. This week I am chatting with author… Jessica Redland.

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Welcome to my virtual bar, Jessica. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you so much for hosting me! Tonight, I’m indulging in a lovely chilled glass of White Zinfandel. I very rarely drink but, if I do partake, this is my drink of choice … or a Pino Grigio.

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?

In a non-Covid world, we’d be on a night out in Scarborough and I’d probably take you on the Whitsborough Bay pub crawl. I set most of my books in a fictional seaside town which is predominantly modelled on Scarborough and I mention quite a few pubs and bars across the nine books set there. I’d take you round the real-life pubs which have influenced my fictional ones. We might have to restrict it to a small wine or a half in each, though, as it could be quite a big crawl… although it’s downhill which is a good thing!

That would be great. My grandparents had a flat in Scarborough and I have many happy memories of holidays there, right up until I was in my early twenties. 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?

If you’d just said one male, it would have been Chris Hemsworth but I’m not letting another female get in there 😉 I would therefore draw from the past and invite A A Milne and Beatrix Potter because I’d love them both to know how beloved and enduring their words and images have been. That would be quite a gift to give someone.

Good choices, they would be fascinating to talk to. 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?

It’s all about the Hedgehog Hollow series at the moment which started with Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow released in July this year. Hedgehog Hollow is a hedgehog rescue centre in the Yorkshire Wolds.

I’ve recently finished the final proofread on the second book – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollowwhich is available for pre-order and out on 7th January 2021. I’m currently doing my final read-through on book 3 – Life Begins at Hedgehog Hollow – as the deadline to submit to my editor is this week. It will be out on 4th May 2021.

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This was going to finish the series although it wasn’t going to be the end of Hedgehog Hollow as I have an idea for a prequel and a spin-off. However, as I got into the final quarter of writing book 3, a fourth one shouted at me and the as-yet-untitled book 4 in the Hedgehog Hollow series will probably be my January 2022 release.

I’ve also been editing the final couple of the books from my back catalogue. My publishers, Boldwood Books, have taken on all my books and, during 2020, six of them were re-released with a fresh edit, new title and new cover. The final two will be re-released in 2021.

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

Oh my goodness, so many proud moments. Although most people will understandably want to forget 2020 and will be relieved when it’s over, it has been the most incredible year for my writing career thanks to Boldwood Books and I’ll cherish that part of it forever. Some amazing achievements this year include:

  • #14 in the UK Kindle chart with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms
  • #3 in the Australia Kindle chart with Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
  • #32 in the USA Kindle chart with The Secret to Happiness
  • Bestseller tags on all ten of my books at the same time
  • Passing 1,000 reviews on Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes when my dream for this year was to hit 100 for one of my books
  • Having 3 x books in The Works
  • Being able to leave my day job to write full-time
  • Being offered a second 12-book publishing contract with Boldwood Books
  • Readers getting in touch thanking me for the heart-warming escapism that my books have given them during a busy year – so very humbling

This then links into my biggest challenge because it hasn’t always been like this. This time two years ago, I was so low about my writing that I seriously questioned whether to give it up. I’d originally secured a three-book publishing deal with my debut book but my publisher ceased trading and I got my rights back and became an indie author. With a demanding day job, I didn’t have the time for promotion and I struggled to make an impact on the charts. Those who discovered my books seemed to love them but not many people were discovering them and I was either going to need to continue to flounder and hope for a miracle or secure another publishing deal.

When I sought a publishing deal with my debut novel, rejections didn’t bother me too much but, eight books down the line when I tried again, they floored me. I seriously questioned my ability as a writer and whether I could continue pouring my heart and soul into creating novels nobody seemed to want. But someone did want them. Boldwood Books took me on and I found my writing home.

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

I would absolutely love to achieve a top 10 in the UK Kindle chart. If I’m completely honest, I’d love a #1 – who wouldn’t?! But, for now, a top 10 is my goal. I came so close with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms getting to #14. Whether I’ll ever get there is debatable but it’s good to have an ambitious goal.

And – because I’m being greedy and picking two – my other biggie is I would love my books to be made into films or a TV series. So many readers comment on this in reviews and I completely agree. They’d be amazing on screen!

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m really excited about the next books in the Hedgehog Hollow series coming out. Book 2 is on NetGalley at the moment and, although reviews are coming in quite slowly (I think lots of reviewers are reading Christmas books just now), most of the ones I’ve had are extremely positive. We won’t talk about the two that were a bit mean and made me cry!

I’ll be starting on my 2021 Christmas book after Christmas and I’m really looking forward to that because I actually started writing it 3.5 years ago to be my first ever Christmas novella released in 2017. When I’d written about 10k words, it became apparent to me that the story was bigger than a novella so I parked it. I can’t wait to return to it.

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

Right now, I’d happily travel absolutely anywhere! Don’t care where; just let me out of the house!!!! I’m sure most of us feel like that. Like so many, we had holidays cancelled this year and one of those was to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday.

I love travelling too and there are so many amazing places I’ve been and would love to re-visit, as well as places I’ve never been. We honeymooned in British Colombia in Canada and would love to go back and, twenty years ago, I went to New Zealand with a friend. I’d love to take my husband there and explore the parts my friend and I missed.

We went to Lapland last Christmas and it was one of the best holidays ever. It’s a dream to go back there again.

Top of my bucket list for places I’ve never been would be Iceland. It looks absolutely stunning.

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

Looking at me now, you’d never guess it, but I used to be pretty fit and liked to try out adventurous things in the great outdoors. By my late-twenties, I could tick off climbing, abseiling, gorge-walking, zorbing, sand-yachting, surfing, becoming a qualified scuba diver and doing a 43m bungy jump off a bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand.

The bungy jump was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It was over a river and I was asked if I wanted to touch the water or avoid it. I said touch it but that basically gave them permission to dunk me. I had a baggy T-shirt on and when I got dunked, it got drenched and, hanging upside down, the weight of the water pulled it over my head. So I was basically bouncing up and down on a rope, flashing my bra to the world! Attractive!

You are much braver than me, I can’t jump off things! 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’?

Anything I’ve written!

Is that not allowed? I’m going to go really recent and select one book in the past month that I’ve loved. It’s a Christmas read called Christmas with Cary by Sharon Booth and it is so warm and lovely and simply gorgeous. It is the third in a series but they are absolutely all standalone with no connecting characters; the series is simply the connection of being home for Christmas.

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You never forget your first love.

Molly’s spent every Christmas she can remember surrounded by her family. But this year is different. This year, Molly’s all alone in a strange town. She’s left her family behind, and she’s not sure where she can call home any longer.

All Molly has with her are a few clothes in a suitcase, and a collection of her old friend’s Cary Grant films. Except, there’s one more thing she’s brought along – the whole reason for her Christmas visit.

In her possession is a small, crumpled piece of paper, and on it is written the address of the love of her life. 

Molly and Cary have had many chances over the years, but somehow life kept getting in the way and they always ended up apart once more. Yet Molly has never forgotten the first man she gave her heart to, and now she has one last chance to win him back.

But will Cary welcome her home, or will he tell her what she dreads to hear – that they’ve had their chance, and it’s all too late. That’s if she can even find him…

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 never used to get hangovers. At university, I was the envy of my friends as I might feel a little spaced the following day if we’d had a big drinking session but I was never hungover.

I got my first one in my late twenties and it was horrific, as though every hangover I’d never had had joined together to give me the biggest one a human could endure without their head actually exploding.

My answer to avoiding one now is I don’t really drink. I never drink at home and even pre-Covid would often go months without a drink as either we weren’t going out or I chose to be the driver. My only cure suggestion if it happens is fairly standard: paracetamol and lots of water. Or a strawberry McDonald’s Thickshake (do they even call them that anymore?) Mmmm

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

Right now, I’d say anything to get out of this house!!!! I work from home and did so for five years before becoming a full-time author in June so my home has been my workplace for a long time. I love it … but I miss venturing out soooo much.

Locally, I’d suggest a walk along the seafront in Scarborough. I like North Bay best where the brightly-coloured beach huts are. We could play crazy golf, have an ice cream (even in winter!) and walk along the promenade and through Peasholm Park. If we were venturing further afield, I’m a fan of castles and stately homes. This time last year, I visited the Christmas displays at nearby Castle Howard. They had a masquerade theme and it was incredible. I’d maybe take you there.

I love Peasholm Park, although I am very sad that the Tree Walk is no more, it used to be my favourite thing, especially the flea circus! Jessica, it has been so lovely chatting, let’s try and do it in person some time soon!

Jessica has two Christmas releases set in Castle Street in Whitsborough Bay – a cobbled street full of independent shops and cafés. Carly’s Cupcakes and The Chocolate Pot are both next door to each other and the owners, Carly and Tara, are good friends.

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Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitsborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

You can buy Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes here.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely. 

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

You can buy a copy of Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe here.

Jessica Redland lives in Scarborough on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast – the inspiration behind the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay – with her husband, teenage daughter and sprocker spaniel, Ella.

She’s a stationery addict with a notepad obsession who loves chocolate (although it doesn’t love her), hedgehogs, 80s music, collectible teddy bears and lighthouses.

Her career has mainly been in HR as a trainer and recruiter but, in June 2020, she became a full-time author. She’s so very grateful to anyone who has bought or borrowed her books in whatever format, helping her fulfil a long-held dream of writing full-time. She still can’t believe she gets to spend every day chatting to her fictional friends and making stuff up.

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

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Emma Jackson

Romancing The Romance Authors

Today, I am delighted to welcome to the blog to discuss all things romance writing, one of my very good friends and fabulous author, Emma Jackson.

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

I write romantic comedies with (I hope) a touch of honesty and the bittersweet mixed in along the way to my characters’ happy-ever-after. My fourth book, One Kiss Before Christmas, has just released and I’m coming up to the one year anniversary of my debut novel, A Mistletoe Miracle, being published with Orion Dash! I’m not quite sure what the future holds at the moment, as I’m out of contract now – and it’s been one hell of a year! – but I do know I have many more romances to write and stories I want to share with readers.

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Why romance?

I became an official romance fan when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I was tired and I didn’t want anything that might unexpectedly upset me after having a bad experience with a Karin Slaughter book I’d been recommended. Great book but it gave me nightmares! So, I sought out stories with lots of emotion and guaranteed happy endings; where I could enjoy the thrill of falling in love again and again. All the different sub-genres of romance from historical to fantasy to contemporary, also mean there’s always something to suit my mood. I’ve always written stories, so it made sense for me to write what I enjoyed reading.

What inspires your stories?

It’s usually from one little ‘what if’ thought that comes to me. It could be from a place I’ve been or listening to a song or visiting a shop or reading a newspaper story. It then grows as more ideas come to me or characters become a little more solid. I’ve just started planning out and tentatively drafting another Christmas story, which weirdly came to me because of a comment another author (Isabella May) made about my debut in a review.

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

I love Tessa Dare and Mhairi McFarlane. They are auto-buys for me. They both write laugh out loud books but also cover some heavy themes with such skill.

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

This is so hard, but I think one of my favourite reads this year, Beach Read by Emily Henry, was fantastic. The hero and heroine are both writers of very different genres who challenge each other to try and write the other’s way. It’s very funny – extremely meta for romance readers and writers – but even if you aren’t a fan of romance already, I think it would do an amazing job of helping you understand why people love romance so much, and why it isn’t something fluffy or frivolous to try to have a bit of hope. It’s also very sexy and heartfelt. It works on so many levels!

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He doesn’t believe in happy endings.
She’s lost her faith that they exist.
But could they find one together?

January is a hopeless romantic who narrates her life like she’s the lead in a blockbuster movie.
Gus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale.

But January and Gus have more in common than you’d think:

They’re both broke.
They’ve got crippling writer’s block.
And they need to write bestsellers before summer ends.

The result? A bet to swap genres see who gets published first.
The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely…

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

Is it really terrible if I say one of my own heroes? I think I’d love to spend a weekend with Olivier from One Kiss Before Christmas because he’s so easy-going and fun, and also because he could take me to Paris to give me a tour around the museums and galleries, cook gorgeous food for me, and then we could snuggle up and watch old movies. Bliss.

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

The sense of community. I have found so many amazing friends since I joined and been given so much support. It’s transformed my knowledge of the industry because there is always someone willing to offer advice and it’s turned what can be a very lonely profession into one where I feel genuinely connected.

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

Keep going. Perseverance is as much one of the tools you need to keep in your arsenal as an ability to think up great hooks. From getting from ‘chapter one’ to ‘the end’, to sending out queries, it’s so important to find a way to keep yourself going that works for you.

Tell us about your latest book.

One Kiss Before Christmas is a gorgeously romantic festive read guaranteed to warm your heart this Christmas and you can buy it here! (I reviewed One Kiss Before Christmas on the blog a few weeks ago, and you can read my review here.)

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Could it be the start of her happy ever after?

Ashleigh could use a little Christmas magic. She’s still living in Brighton with her Nan – who could give the Grinch lessons in how to be miserable – her acting career has been reduced to playing one of Santa’s elves, and not even the prospect of a friend’s winter wedding can cheer her up…

That is until Olivier, the gorgeous French chef, reappears in her life. Or more accurately, next door.

When they were teenagers, Olivier would spend every Christmas with his mother, who just happens to be Ash’s neighbour and owner of the best chocolate shop in England.

If anyone can bring a little sparkle back to Ash’s life, it’s Olivier. All she needs is one kiss before Christmas…

About Emma Jackson

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Author of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. SUMMER IN THE CITY, was released in June, and her latest festive romance, ONE KISS BEFORE CHRISTMAS is now available.

Emma also writes historical and fantasy fiction as Emma S Jackson. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE was published by DarkStroke in February 2020.

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://esjackson.co.uk

Facebook: Emma Jackson Author

Twitter: @ESJackson1

Instagram: @emma_s_jackson

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Friday Night Drinks with… Natalie Normann

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

So, another Friday has rolled around and I have has a helluva week so I am very much looking forward to sharing a Friday Night Drink with tonight’s guest, author….. Natalie Normann

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

I really don’t drink much alcohol, and my favourite drink is Ice Lattes, or if I’m celebrating, I’ll have an Ice Mocha.

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It being Friday is as good a reason for celebration as any! 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?

Since my latest book is set at Christmas, I think you have to taste some proper Norwegian Christmas food. I’m from the west part of Norway, and we usually eat ‘stick meat’, smoked mutton ribs, on Christmas Eve. In Oslo they traditionally serve pork ribs, with crackling and all the trimmings – not brussel sprouts, though. Most restaurants will serve both. This is rich food, so we’d have Christmas beer, a bit darker and sweeter than regular beer, and also ‘akkevitt’, or aquavit, if you want to taste. We are very traditional about our Christmas food, and most people would protest if the restaurant got fancy with the recipes. Me included.

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

I once interviewed Martina Cole, and I think she would be fun to talk to again. And then there’s Keanu Reeves. I have a suspicion he can be funny.

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

I have been a historical writer for almost 12 years now, and now I’m also writing contemporary romance in English. I would like keep doing that and see what happens. I  have so much fun writing in English. I expected it to be so difficult, but mostly it has been interesting and challenging, and I like that. Writers need to challenge themselves, I think. It’s not a profession where you ever stop learning, and I love that. 

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

There’s been more than one proud moment, to be honest. The first book I published 25 years ago was a fantastic moment. Then again when I could finally be a full-time writer, writing a historical romance series in Norway – it was scary as hell. I signed a contract to write six books a year and I was completely overwhelmed, until I realised I had to take it one book at the time and just get on with it. And recently when I had the opportunity to write contemporary romance with One More Chapter. In English. I still have to pinch my arm about that. I recently found Summer Island in a bookshop in Oslo, and actually squealed.

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

My one big thing was to be published in English. Now that it has  happened, I would like to keep doing that. The next steps would be have one of my books made into a movie, have translations and a few bestseller flags wouldn’t be amiss. I’d enjoy that.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Well, I have several ideas that I’m working on, and that I’m thrilled with. I love the idea stage, when it’s all fresh and I keep getting scenes in my head. Right now, I have a deadline, and I can’t really write anything else, but I make notes and explore characters and settings, and have a great time doing that.

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

I love London. My dad was a sea captain, and he used to sail between London and Jamaica, and ever so often, we would go with him during the summer holidays. Back then, it would take two days to come from my hometown to London, and I loved every minute of it. London was vibrant and exciting, and I never wanted to go home. Still don’t.

On the top of my bucket list is New York. I have never been there, and I always wanted to go. Maybe next year, right?

I love New York. I’ve been four times now, it was the last place I managed to visit back in early February before the world changed. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m Norwegian and I can’t ski. I’m great at falling, but that’s about it. 

Wow! 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 one book that really surprised me this year, was Dead in Venice by Fiona Leitch. It’s a serial killer story, set in Venice, and it’s well written, pretty dark and also hilarious. Not many writers can pull that off. 

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Award-winning crime novelist Bella Tyson has it all: a successful career, devoted fans – and a bad case of writer’s block. So when a fan sends her a book of Venetian ghost stories and offers her the use of an apartment near Piazza San Marco, Bella jumps at the chance to get her Eat Pray Love on, consume her bodyweight in gelato and explore the atmospheric canals of Venice.

She meets Will, a mild-mannered, middle class Interpol agent working in the city, and is swept away by him. And when a series of gruesome murders occur he’s on the case – with Bella in tow.

Her writer’s block is well and truly cured, her new novel is under way, and she’s madly in love. But Bella realises that not everything in Venice is as it seems…

I’ve not read this one, I will add it to the list. 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?

Drink lots of water and go to bed to sleep it off. 

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

I have written two books set on an island on the west-coast of Norway, so not surprisingly I love islands. I now live in Oslo, and if this weekend is in the summer, we’d take a trip on the Oslo fjord. I don’t have a boat, but there are places in the fjord that you can travel to without your own boat. There are some lovely islands with great beaches only a short ferry trip away. Buy some shrimps on the harbour, find someone who sells strawberries, and bring some coffee or white wine. And also pastry. They have some amazing pastry in this city. The water is usually really, really cold, so swimming is up to you.

In the winter, the best thing to do, is to take a drive up the mountains, to Frognerseteren, an old ski lodge, now a restaurant. If we take the underground, we have to walk down a forest path to get there. Usually there’s snow up there, and you get a feel of the fairy tales we have. Trolls are a plenty up there.

The restaurant have a huge fireplace where the fire will be roaring, making everything smell of smoke,  and warm an cosy, and they serve delicious Norwegian comfort food. Their speciality is hot chocolate with whipped cream, made with real chocolate, and their famous apple cake. If you’re adventurous I recommend trying the buns with brown cheese.

Eplekake Frognerseteren

Summer Island and Christmas Island are set on a fictitious island, but heavily inspired by the islands I have been on when I grew up. It’s filled with memories of summers swimming in cold water – it was always cold –  eating ice cream, drinking soda and eating hot dogs. The smell of the sea and the weather always changing. It’s wild out there, and that’s why I love it. I’d rather be outside in a storm or walking the beach when it rains, than most other places. Mostly I like to stay with my laptop, of course.

Natalie’s new book, Christmas Island, is out on 30 November and you can buy a copy here.

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

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

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

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

Here is the fabulous trailer for the book

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

You can find out more about Natalie and her books via Facebook and Twitter.

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