Friday Night Drinks with….Veronica Henry @veronica_henry @orionbooks #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #ChristmasAtTheBeachHut

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It’s Friday again and tonight I am beyond excited to welcome to my blog for Friday Night Drinks, one of my favourite authors and someone I hope I can now call a friend, the lovely Veronica Henry. Veronica’s new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut was published yesterday and she has agreed to join me for a celebratory tipple.

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Veronica, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. Now, I know you mix a mean gin and tonic but what are you drinking this evening?

An Americano, which is Campari and Vermouth topped up with soda with lashings of ice and a twist of orange. Basically a slightly less ferocious Negroni!

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?

Oooh. How about the Canary Gin Bar in Bath? You can’t not have fun in there. I have a tale or two!

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I’ve got a feeling that The Irishman and I might have spent an evening in there once, although it’s a bit of a hazy memory! 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?

Lovely lovely lovely Anthony Bourdain. I could listen to him forever, and I would have loved to have met him. Maybe we could have Nigella along, as they were friends. I’m a big admirer of their writing, so it would be fun to chat and get up to no good.

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

I am writing my 20th novel, which is a bit scary!! I’ve written two books this year so I had to plunge straight in. No time for wafting about cogitating! But pressure focusses the mind rather, I find. Everything has clarified more quickly than usual.

Twenty novels! That’s an amazing achievement. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Recently, I was very proud to write an introduction to the re-issue of This Year it Will Be Different, by Maeve Binchy. She is a hero of mine, and to be asked was a huge honour. My biggest challenge was to keep writing after my father died, and still be uplifting. I just wanted to curl up in a ball but I couldn’t.

I love Maeve Binchy, her writing is such an inspiration to me. 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’d love to dramatise one of my books for TV, but I suspect there aren’t enough murderers or stalkers in my novels. 

Oooh, that would be great! Which would you pick? The Honeycote books would make a great serial for a Sunday evening, wouldn’t they? What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m really enjoying writing my current novel – there’s something about the dynamics between the characters that keeps driving it forward so it’s got real momentum, but it’s also set somewhere beautiful. I love description. It’s one of the reasons I found scriptwriting frustrating and turned to novels. Just one word can convey so much.  

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?

The best fun I’ve ever had is a weekend at Soho House Berlin. I seemed to cram in so much – literally and metaphorically! Food, history, culture and cocktails – it’s such a great city.

Bucket list wise, I’ve got my eye on Turin. Just a gut feeling. Or a cycling trip around the Piedmont. I am not by nature energetic but I feel the cycling might offset the gourmandising.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Hmmm. I’m going to have to go and have an intimate piercing just so I can answer this!

Ha, ha, neatly dodged! 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’?

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, going back to question 3! It’s shocking and exciting and inspiring and coruscating. It’s one of my all time favourite books.

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Interesting choice! I’ve not read that so I’ll have to add it to the increasing TBR. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Oh my, I could write a book.  Don’t drink on an empty stomach, don’t mix grape and grain, alternate with water, if the room starts spinning it’s too late . . . Basically, if you don’t want a hangover, don’t start drinking. Once you’ve tasted blood it’s all out the window. Cure wise: water before bed; Berocca and painkillers on rising, then egg sandwich, crisps and fat Coke. But time is the only real cure.

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

I do love an art gallery, especially if it has a cool shop to browse in afterwards. I find art really inspiring. I recently went to the Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence and just looking at all those paintings made me tingle. Artists take more risks than writers, I think, and sometimes that energy is really apparent. I can remember the first time I saw a Jackson Pollock and thought ‘Oh, I get it now.’ Sometimes I find reading books inhibiting or dispiriting, but never looking at paintings.

Veronica, thank you so much for coming and chatting to me this evening, it has been really lovely and I look forward to catching up with you in person soon.

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Veronica’s new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut is out now and you can buy a copy here or pick up a copy in any supermarket. It can be read as a standalone but you should really check out the other Beach Hut novels too. Watch out for a review of the book on the blog soon.

If you would like to connect further with Veronica, here are her social media links:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

Next week I will be having drinks with my great friend, fellow blogger, aspiring writer and partner-in-crime, Kate Baker.

Tempted by….Rachel’s Random Reads: Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel by Karen King @karen_king @bookouture @gilbster1000 #bookbloggers #bloggerlove #readingrecommendations #booklove #SnowyNights

“Snowy rooftops, mulled wine, and a hot single dad. Not the Christmas Saffy wished for… but maybe the one she needs?

Twenty-nine year old Saffron Baxter knew her holiday plans didn’t stand a chance the moment her sister called to say she was stuck abroad with no hope of being home before Christmas. Saffy would just have to abandon thoughts of wild festive parties in the city and head down to remote Cornwall.


Because every year her sister hosts a huge Christmas meal for all the single parents in her village. And Saffy knows it’d break her heart to let them down.


Arriving as snow starts to fall over the thatched cottages of the little harbour town of Port Breok, she meets Logan – the tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed, devoted single dad who lives next door, with his adorable daughter Chloe. At first she thinks he might help her make Christmas Day extra-memorable, but he just seems convinced she’ll never manage – that she’s just a party girl who doesn’t care about Christmas, or anyone’s feelings.


Maybe he’s right. After all – she doesn’t want to settle down, she’s only there for a few days… But she’s still determined to do her sister proud with gorgeous decorations, the most beautiful real tree – complete with extra twinkly lights, and delicious mince pies. To make it a Christmas everyone will remember, especially little Chloe. Even if, when the mistletoe comes down, she knows she’ll probably never see Logan again…”

I haven’t included a book on this feature so soon after the blog post that tempted me to buy it was published before but as soon as I read Rachel’s post on Friday, I had to immediately order Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel by Karen King. Aside from the cover, and the first line of the blurb which would probably have inspired me to buy this book on their own, Rachel’s glowing review led me to believe I would love the book as much as she did. Any book that can get the well-read Rachel Gilbey to forget where she is on a Tube journey must be good.

Rachel needs no introduction to anyone remotely connected to the book blogging world. As well as being a fabulous and prolific book blogger herself, winning many awards and being extremely highly thought of by all, she is also an amazing blog tour organiser who I have really enjoyed working with this year and hopefully long into the future. I should finally get to meet Rachel in the flesh on Wednesday at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Winter Party where she is up for another award and I am very much looking forward to that. Make sure you visit Rachel’s wonderful blog to see what she is reviewing today.

And if you would like to get your hands on your own copy of Karen’s lovely new Christmas book, hot of the press, you can order a copy here.

The Christmas Wish by Tilly Tennant #BookReview #BlogTour (@TillyTenWriter) @Bookouture #TheChristmasWish #NetGalley

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“Christmas is coming but it doesn’t feel that way for Esme. Jilted by her cheating fiancée Warren and mourning the death of her beloved grandmother she’s determined not to let life beat her and books a trip to Lapland, on a holiday that her grandmother had always dreamed of taking.

Beneath the indigo skies of Lapland, love is the last thing on Esme’s mind but she can’t ignore a spark with Zach, a broodingly handsome actor, also nursing a broken heart. But when Esme is bombarded by messages from Warren promising he’s changed and she discovers that Zach is hiding something-will her head be turned? And when a trip to the northern lights reveals the full extent Zach’s own secret past is there any hope that Esme will get the happy ending that her grandmother wished for her?”

It is my great pleasure today to be on the blog tour for The Christmas Wish by Tilly Tennant. My thanks to Noelle Holten at Bookouture for my place on the tour and my copy of the book via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Anyone who is a regular reader of Tilly’s books will know she is the go to author for beautifully written, uplifting, cosy romance and the charm of her writing is doubled in her Christmas books, so I was delighted to get my hands on this beauty to review. Just look at that cover – if it doesn’t get you in the festive mood, nothing will, you old Grinch!

We meet Esme as she arrives at her Grandma’s house with her tail between her legs, having split up with her fiancé, Warren (and what a horrible character he turns out to be!), knowing that she is the only person who can help her pick up the pieces of her shattered life. but then, tragedy strikes, and Esme finds herself running back to Warren. After all, better the devil you know. But then, Esme finds her Grandma has booked her on the trip of a lifetime to Lapland, and Esme is offered the chance to get away and figure out what she wants from life.

Everything about this book is charming, the characters (except Warren!), the settings – both Derbyshire where her Grandma lives and Lapland- and the heart-warming plot of taking a chance and breaking free to find happiness. I really warmed to Esme and her dilemma, but her grandma was my favourite character, which made the events earlier on in the book very poignant and moving, and I could feel Esme’s loss and confusion, so I understood her subsequent actions to a degree. Although, I have to say that I did get the point where I wanted to slap some sense into her and get her to open her eyes and be brave, but I think Tilly’s way of waking her up was probably a better story!

Once the story reached Lapland, I was in seventh heaven. Having been there myself, the book brought back all the wonderful memories of that trip I took, particularly the sense of otherworldliness there is in the place where there is a perpetual twilight and constant sparkling snow. Everything seems that bit more magical and special and you are a million miles away from real life. Tilly does an amazing job of bringing this place to live and imbuing the story with that winter wonderland magic, it is fabulous writing.

This book is an antidote to everything cynical and depressing and doom-laden that might be dragging you down in the modern world, so I would prescribe a healthy helping of this lovely book as an entirely legal, and side-effect free, mood-enhancer. Take as large a dose as required at any time of day.

The Christmas Wish is out now and you can buy your copy here.

Please check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour for this charming book:

A Christmas Wish - Blog Tour

About the Author

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Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset, the oldest of four children, but now lives in Staffordshire with a family of her own. After years of dismal and disastrous jobs, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing (she never could carry a bowl of soup without spilling a bit), she decided to indulge her passion for the written word by embarking on a degree in English and creative writing. She wrote a novel in 2007 during her first summer break at university and has not stopped writing since. She also works as a freelance fiction editor, and considers herself very lucky that this enables her to read many wonderful books before the rest of the world gets them.

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn was her debut novel; published in 2014 it was an Amazon bestseller in both the UK and Australia. In 2016 she signed to the hugely successful Bookouture and is currently working on her next Tilly Tennant novel. She also writes as Sharon Sant, where she explores the darker side of life, and Poppy Galbraith, where things get a little crazier.

Connect with Tilly:

Website: https://tillytennant.com

Facebook: Tilly Tennant

Twitter: @TillyTenWriter

Snowflakes Over Holly Cove by Lucy Coleman #BookReview #BlogTour (@LucyColemanAuth) @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @RaRaResources #SnowflakesOverHollyCove

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Another Christmassy blog tour for you today, this time for Snowflakes Over Holly Cove by Lucy Coleman. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the publisher and the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you check out the great giveaway further down the post too.

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“As the snowflakes start to fall, Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…

For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around…’

So, Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air and rugged stranger, Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart.

Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…

Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly beautiful Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands, where the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.”

This book was billed as for fans of Karen Swan and, since I love Karen’s books, I thought I would enjoy this, and I was not disappointed.

The setting of this book is beautifully brought to life by the author, and what a spectacular setting it is – the stunning Gower Peninsula in the winter time. Tia has been sent there for six weeks to write a feature for a magazine, and we find ourselves falling in love with the area over the course of the book, just as she does, and by the end of the book I was equally loathe to leave it as Tia.

This is a really beautiful novel, dealing with a lot of complex topics such as loss and grief. Tia is struggling with the recent loss of her mother and the assignment she is sent on seems an odd one, as having to spend time with couples celebrating Christmas together could prove tough for Tia as she finds herself alone, but it seems her boss may know what she is doing as opportunities for new starts and a new love present themselves.

The characterisations in the novel are beautiful and really drew me in to the plot. I fell in love with Tia and felt all her emotions through the book with her, so we were both on an emotional rollercoaster throughout. All the other people she meets in Holly Cove are also well-developed and sympathetic, so I quickly found myself invested in the story and eager to find out what was coming next. This is a really complex book that balances moments of humour with moments of sadness and pain to give the reader a full, emotional workout from the beginning to the end. It is definitely much more than a light, Christmas read.

I haven’t read anything by this author before but I really enjoyed her writing style and voice and she obviously has a great talent for plot and characterisation. I will be looking out for more from her in future, as this book gave me everything I could hope for in a book of this kind. It left me feeling warm and satisfied and desperate to visit the Welsh coast as soon as possible.

Snowflakes Over Holly Cove is available now and you can get a copy here.

Giveaway

Tour prize

To win a signed paperback of A Cottage in the Country and a rustic wooden heart decoration (Open Internationally), click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the dates below:

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About the Author

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From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus) and Harper Impulse (Harper Collins); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Website: http://linnbhalton.co.uk

Facebook: Linn B Halton Author

Twitter: @LucyColemanAuth and @linnbhalton

Christmas at the Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green #BookReview #BlogTour (@Rosie_Green1988) @RaRaResources #LittleDuckPondCafe

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I’m back in Sunnybrook today and it is Christmas! If you have been following the blog, you will remember our previous visits for Spring at the Little Duck Pond Cafe and Summer at the Little Duck Pond Cafe, so I’m eager to see what is going on there at the turn of the year. my thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly.

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“Fen has always hated being the centre of attention.

She loves her new job, working behind the scenes at the Little Duck Pond Cafe and baking the scrumptious cakes that have helped its reputation soar. But frankly, she’d rather scrub the public toilet floor with a toothbrush than have to come out and talk to the customers.

She’s always been happy to stay in the background as long as she has a good supply of books to escape into. That’s her kind of romance – the fictional sort where she can read about other people taking a chance on love, but she doesn’t have to risk her own heart.
But that was before Ethan Fox arrived in the village and turned her world upside down. Ethan is a leading light in the local amateur dramatics theatre company and Fen knows he’s way out of her league.

But when the popular village Christmas pantomime hits a crisis, Fen and Ethan find themselves thrown together. Can Fen overcome her shyness and find the courage to step on stage and save the day?”

I just adore the cover of this book – so cute!

As I had hoped, the star of this book is the final member of the friendly triumvirate, Fen. It seems appropriate that she has been a little over-looked until now as she is the shyest and quietest of the three girls. always holding herself back and living vicariously through her romance novels (who here can’t relate to that scenario?) But things are about to change because Fen is falling for a man, and she is going to have to embolden herself to get him.

This story is just as delightful as the other three, and I got into the story very quickly, largely as I was already familiar with the characters and ready to find out what was happening with them. The answer is, nothing great as far as Ellie and Jaz are concerned, but this is Fen’s story and I was really eager for good things to happen for her.

Fen’s story was the one of the three that I was most easily able to relate to because it was quite simple and that made it seem very real and plausible. There is nothing hugely dramatic about it, this is a story that happened daily to women everywhere and I could really sympathise with her throughout.

As with the previous books, there is a lot of humour to carry the book, this time with a healthy sprinkling of Christmas cheer to make it all more magical and I really enjoyed it. I was having a bit of a low day when I started reading this book and it really did a good job of picking me up and cheering me up. It is another lovely little story about real people and I can’t want to read the fourth in this ‘trilogy’ (Rosie is obviously a disciple of Douglas Adams!) But we have run out of girls, so who will the next book be about? I’m looking forward to finding out next month.

Christmas at the Little Duck Pond Cafe is out now and you can purchase your copy here. Rosie’s new book, Snowed in at the Little Duck Pond Cafe is out on 15 November.

To follow the rest of the tour, see the poster below:

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About the Author

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Rosie Green has been scribbling stories ever since she was little. Back then they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’. Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all, unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

​Rosie’s brand new series of novellas is centred on life in a village café. The first two stories in the series are: Spring at The Little Duck Pond Cafe and Summer at The Little Duck Pond Café.

Connect with Rosie:

Twitter: @Rosie_Green1988

Christmas on Lily Pond Lane by Emily Harvale #BookReview #BlogTour (@emilyharvale) @RaRaResources #RaRaResources #LilyPondLane #Christmas #Blogtober18

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It must be autumn because the Christmas books are here!

Given how much I loved the Lily Pond Lane series by Emily Harvale (see my recent reviews of Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four by following the links), I was delighted to hear that Emily had written a Christmas book set there and even more delighted that Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources invited me on to the tour, so thanks Rachel and thanks to Emily for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly.

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“Snow is falling in Little Pondale, lights are twinkling and the smell of pine trees and roasting chestnuts fills the air … 

But Mia Ward is in a bit of a jam. She’d planned to rent out Corner Cottage for Christmas but thanks to best friend, Ella Swann, it’s double-booked. Now Mia’s got to let one ‘party’ down, or find another cottage – fast.

Best friends and single mums, Cathy Cole and Christy Franks want their kids to have an old-fashioned Christmas. Ice-skating, carol singing, making decorations, and tobogganing are on their list of festive fun and Little Pondale is the perfect place. Especially as it has no mobile phone reception. That will make it harder for Cathy to be found.

City banker, Leo Hardman is wondering if renting a cottage for Christmas as an anniversary surprise for his parents, was such a good idea. Little Pondale may be where his parents met, but his mum doesn’t seem pleased to be back, and his brother, Hal isn’t happy that the village is so tiny and only has one pub. 

Meanwhile, Jenny Lake is settling in at her cousin’s bakery, having left her (broken) heart in Florence, but Christmas was never her favourite time of year. And Reverend Glen Fox has taken over at St Michael and All Angels. He’s glad it’s a temporary post because village life is not for him.

But luckily, for locals and visitors alike, there’s a sleigh-load of Christmas magic heading for Lily Pond Lane; enough to put a sparkle in everyone’s festive season. Although Christmas may not go quite as each of them has planned.”

So we’re back in Little Pondale just in time for Christmas and what a Christmas Mia is determined her first one with Jet will be. She is pulling out all the stops to make it magical for everyone, including the two families that have rented her cottages for the festive season, although that might be a harder job than it seems, as both are harbouring secrets that could mar the festive season. But Mia is nothing if not determined…

This book is so bursting with Christmassy bonhomie that it was a miracle I could shut the covers of my Kindle without it all oozing out of the sides. I half expected ‘Jingle Bells’ to start playing each time I opened the book, like one of those old-fashioned padded greeting cards that my dad used to give my mum when he was trying to be romantic. This is not a book to be read by those Scrooges amongst you, unless you want to pop out in hives in response to all the festive jollity.

I, on the other hand, can’t get enough of a Christmassy book. The more Santas, mistletoe, mince pies and carol singers you can shoehorn in, the better, so I was in hog’s heaven with this one. Plus, I absolutely adore Little Pondale and everyone in it, so I was happy to be back to see how they were celebrating, and not by halves is the answer. There are Dickensian carol singers, Christmas lights on every surface, a sleigh, ice skating and tobogganing, and that is only the half of it. Every perfect Christmas you ever imagined is captured here. All our favourite characters are back and still blissfully happy, so Emily has introduced some new ones bringing intriguing mysteries, whose stories we can unfold, and they are all as charming and intriguing as the originals, (except perhaps for one awful woman, but you’ll need to read it to find out who she is). These stories are really a minor distraction from the meat of the story, which is the celebration of Christmas. And I wish Christmas really was like this is my little village.

Of course, the book is complete fantasy, with Mia having an endless supply of money, farmers being able to take hours off every day to climb on roofs, magic trees and endless Christmas snow and love at first sight around every corner. But hey, who needs realism when you are having this much fun? That’s not why a reader picks up a book of this sort, and we’d be disappointed if it turned out any different.

I loved every hokey minute of this book. It’s like drinking a mug of hot chocolate in an oversized nightshirt and a Wee Willie Winkie hat on Christmas Eve. With knee length fluffy socks and a flake on top. And marshmallows. With a shot of Baileys. In front of a log fire. It is Christmassy perfection. It’s Yuletide with The Waltons set in a English seaside village. Read it immediately.

(NB: I realise there are references in this post which age me; I’ve decided I don’t care)

Christmas on Lily Pond Lane is out now and you can buy a copy here, in paperback or on Kindle.

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the dates on the poster below:

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About the Author

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Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now spends her days writing… and chatting on social media. Emily is a Member of the SoA, a PAN member of the RWA and a Pro Member of ALLi. She’s an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. Emily loves writing and her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.
Emily says, “I write about friendship, family and falling in love. I believe in happing endings.” When she isn’t writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both.

Connect with Emily:

Website: https://www.emilyharvale.com/

Facebook: Emily Harvale Writer

Twitter: @emilyharvale

Instagram: @emilyharvale

The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan #BookReview (@KarenSwan1) @panmacmillan

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Alex Hyde is the leaders’ leader. An executive coach par excellence, she’s the person the Great and the Good turn to when the pressure gets too much; she can change the way they think, how they operate, she can turn around the very fortunes of their companies.

Her waiting list is months’ long, but even she can’t turn down the unorthodox but highly lucrative crisis call that comes her way a few weeks before Christmas, regarding the troublesome – and troubled – head of an esteemed whisky company in Scotland: Lochlan Farquhar, CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, is a maverick, an enigma and a renegade, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees.

It should be business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, when she gets to the remote island of Islay, with the winter snows falling, Alex finds herself out of her comfort zone. For once, she’s not in control – Lochlan, though darkly charismatic, is unpredictable and destructive, her usual methods gaining no traction with him – and with Christmas and her deadline fast approaching, she must win his trust and find a way to close on this deal.

But as she pulls ever closer to him, boundaries become blurred, loyalties loosen and Alex finds herself faced with an impossible choice as she realizes nothing and no-one is as they first seemed.

This is the latest book by Karen Swan, and the second of her titles I have read, following The Rome Affair which I read last summer. Following the first book, I had high expectations for this novel and I was not remotely disappointed.

Firstly, Karen Swan’s books are hefty tomes. This one comes in at just under 500 pages but, despite its length, I was gripped from start to finish and there was not a superfluous word in the whole book. It starts out a few weeks before Christmas when business coach Alex is called to an emergency job to save the fortunes of a Scottish whisky distillery on the island of Islay. This puts Alex outside of her urban comfort zone, but this is only the start of her troubles. The CEO of the company does not want her there, making her job practically impossible, and internal tensions within the business add further complications. Alex is also tussling with personal issues of her own, and throw in an unprofessional attraction between Alex and her client and you have the basis of a book it is impossible to put down. On top of this, we have a thread of island history running through the book linking current events to the true story of the sinking of a US naval troopship off the coast of Islay during World War 2 which was a fascinating dimension and made me eager to read more about it outside of the novel.

There are so many reasons I loved this book. The setting was sublime – a remote Scottish island in the depths of winter – and the author brings it to life beautifully. The landscape, the history, the sense of community, the way the residents’ lives are inextricably linked with the success of the local industry and the responsibility that places on the shoulders of the management in a way it doesn’t in less close-knit communities. Karen Swan brings this vividly to life, I felt like I was there and could feel the warmth, and simultaneously the claustrophobia, of the situation. It was also a fabulous contrast to the background of the main character and how being catapulted into this alien environment helps to throw her off kilter and is partially responsible for the way events unfold.

The amount of detail that Karen goes in to regarding the setting, the history, the process of whisky distillery. Every aspect of the novel is perfect and it must have taken her months to research it all so carefully and precisely. At the same time, every bit of it she uses is essential to the story and she isn’t shoehorning anything in for the sake of it. This can be a difficult line to walk but she does it wonderfully.

The characters are a delightful array, from her local elderly hosts to the Lochlan’s friends and the staff and workers at the distillery. Alex and Lochlan were both complicated, spiky characters that made them interesting but not so awkward that you can’t warm to them. I cared enough about them to be wishing for a happy ending without being sure they were going to get it, you can’t really ask for more in a romance novel. At one point I started to get a little annoyed at the way the main character was acting, thinking she was taking her stance in refusing to get involved with Lochlan beyond what I thought was realistic but, a little further on, it became clear that I had misjudged the situation and there were more factors in play than had been revealed to that point and, when they came to light, her behaviour made perfect sense. It was cleverly done.

If I had a small niggle, it was that at the beginning I was a little confused about where Alex was based and thought she was American but this was the smallest of small quibbles and it may read differently if I went over it again. It did not detract one iota from my enjoyment of the book.

This is a gorgeous story, beautifully written, absorbing, enchanting, beautiful in scope and detail. I can’t wait to go through Karen Swan’s back catalogue.

The Christmas Secret is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and a puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her books include Christmas at Tiffany’s,Summer at Tiffany’s, The Perfect Present, Christmas in the Snow, Christmas on Primrose Hill and The Paris Secret.