Cover Reveal: All My Lies by Sophie Flynn

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It’s a red letter day today because I don’t normally take part in cover reveals. However, I am so excited about the upcoming publication of All My Lies, the debut novel by Sophie Flynn, that, when I was asked to take part in the cover reveal today, I could not possibly refuse!

All My Lies is Sophie’s debut novel and has been compared to books by Phoebe Morgan, Louise Jensen and K. L. Slater. Since these are some of my favourite authors, I am breathless with anticipation for this new addition to the genre. Let’s have a look at the blurb, shall we, before we see the cover?

Anna wants to escape.
She doesn’t know when her marriage to James began to feel like a trap or when he became so controlling. All she knows is that she needs to leave before it’s too late.

And she has a plan.
When Anna reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, Sam, she sees it as the answer to her problems. Finally, they’ll have a life together, like they’d always planned – the life she was meant to have.

But the lies are catching up with her . . .
On the morning of their escape, Sam goes missing. Anna knows he wouldn’t leave her, that something must have happened to him.
Her search for answers will force her to confront her past, something that she has been running from for a very long time . . .

See, sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? You’re excited too now, I can tell! So, to get you even more revved up, let’s finally see that cover.

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Ta dah!

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Perfect, isn’t it? I’m sure it will draw people in to picking the book up. If you’ve now been tempted by this book, it is out on 23 April and you can pre-order the book here.

You can read an interview with Sophie and find out more about the book over on The Glasshouse magazine website now. Follow the link from @glasshousegirls on Twitter.

About the Author

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Sophie is a Cotswolds based psychological thriller author with an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. Her debut novel ALL MY LIES will be published by Simon & Schuster on April 23, 2021. 

Alongside writing, Sophie is the Head of Marketing at Jericho Writers. After being awarded a place at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School on the TopWrite scheme for young writers in 2017, Sophie began writing short fiction. She has since had many stories published and placed in competitions with organisations such as Writing Magazine and The Cheltenham Literature Festival.

When not writing, Sophie can be mostly found on muddy walks with her husband and rescue dog or disappearing to Cornwall whenever possible.

She is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency.

Connect with Sophie:

Website: https://sophieflynn.com/

Twitter: @sophielflynn

Instagram: @sophieflynnauthor

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Blog Tour: The Winter Girls by Roger Stelljes #BookReview

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“Gazing out the cabin window at the raging blizzard, fear suddenly floods through her as she feels a stranger’s hand clamp across her mouth. No one can hear her stifled screams as she is dragged from the couch by the fire out into the snow.”

When seventeen-year-old Savannah Devenish vanishes from her family’s remote vacation cabin in Minnesota, FBI Agent Tori Hunter races along treacherous icy roads to be first on the scene. Savannah’s parents are frantic with worry for their beautiful, carefree girl. Haunted by memories of her own missing sister, Tori vows to do whatever it takes to reunite this family.

When the police uncover that Savannah’s father Jacob was having an affair, they suspect his involvement, but Tori is convinced his despair is genuine. Her close relationship with the chief detective means the team won’t listen, so Tori strikes off alone, persuading Savannah’s distraught best friends to share their secrets. It seems this ‘good girl’ was sneaking out to parties to meet up with a mysterious man…

Then another teenager is snatched from the street, snowy footprints and a discarded hot chocolate cup the last trace of her. The girls are the same age, strikingly pale and blonde. Is a twisted collector stealing them away? And what chance is there that they are being kept alive?

With a deadly snowstorm closing in, Tori battles the elements—and her own team—as she follows the trail to an abandoned cabin by a frozen lake. In the basement are bedrooms filled with clothes for teenage girls. Tori was too late to save her own missing sister twenty years ago, but can she find these girls before they disappear forever?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Winter Girls by Roger Stelljes, the second book in the Tori Hunter series. My thanks to Noelle Holten at Bookouture for inviting me to take part in the tour and for providing me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a new series to me and I have to say I have become addicted almost immediately to these characters and to Roger’s writing and I can’t wait to go back and read the first book. I was gripped by this book from start to finish, the tension just ramped up and up throughout the novel, it gives you everything you could possibly want from this type of crime thriller.

The book begins with a shocking opening as a young woman is snatched from her family’s weekend home under brutal circumstances.The investigation initially leads the detectives in one direction, but it is soon clear that certain facts have been hidden by the victim’s father, which leads to alternative threads of enquiry being opened up. The premise behind the plot is fresh and unique and not something I have seen explored in this type of book before, so my interest was piqued very early on and held me throughout the book and, as the tension grew, I became more and more desperate to find out what was going to happen, until the ending blew me away, The book is extremely well-plotted in this regard.

The story is told through a variety of voices which all bring a different perspective to the story. We have the victim, the perpetrators and Tori on the investigative team. The fact that we know early on who committed the crime could be fatal to the tension, but it isn’t here because it is the WHY less than the WHO that is driving the narrative, which again makes the book a little different and more interesting to anyone who reads this type of book regularly. The author does a great job of separating the voices of the different characters into distinct personalities.

This book also has a real sense of place, as we explore the frigid, snowbound landscape of northern Minnesota, its remote lakes and isolated places in the hunt for the missing girl. I could sense the vastness and loneliness of the place and the helplessness of anyone held far from civilisation against their will, what and impossible task the investigators have in trying to track people down in this huge expanse of nothingness in harsh weather conditions. It is a great skill to draw a place so vividly, and the author has it. The cover of the book portrays it brilliantly, I just love it, it was what initially drew me to the book.

The relationship between Tori and Braddock is one of the highlights of the book, and it is fascinating to see it develop. Tori’s ongoing issues, and the new life she is trying to build in northern Minnesota, recovering from the events of the first book. The whole situation feels very authentic, and illustrates the humanity of the people behind the investigation and the personal passions that drive them to do what they do. I think this is one of the main things that makes the book so compelling and makes me want to read more about these characters that I have grown so fond of via Roger’s writing.

If I had one small niggle, it would be that the first chapter of the book which recapped the back story of Tori and Braddock and how she ended up where she did felt a little disjointed and didn’t flow well. If I had been a different type of reader, more impatient, it might have put me off reading any further because it felt so clunky. However, it is well worth persevering past this small portion of the book, because it gets very good very quickly and settles down into a good and smooth flow that carries you through the narrative. If you encounter this same issue, please don’t let it stop you reading on through the book, it is well worth it.

A great crime thriller with interesting characters that I hope will be the start of a series that I can immerse myself in at regular intervals. Highly recommended.

The Winter Girls is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the tour and take a look at the other blogs taking part for alternative reviews and content:

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About the Author

Roger Stelljes

Roger Stelljes is the acclaimed New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of pulse-pounding murder mystery and suspense novels, including the Tori Hunter and McRyan Mystery Series. Roger’s crime thrillers are noted for their fast-paced, yet intricate plots filled with layered and complex characters.

Roger started his first novel in July 2002 while on vacation in Minnesota’s Brainerd Lakes area and has been writing ever since. His debut book, The St. Paul Conspiracy, was nominated in genre fiction for the Minnesota Book Awards along with finalists Brian Freeman and William Kent Krueger. With his follow-up, Deadly Stillwater, where Vince Flynn hailed Roger as a “powerful new thriller voice”, he won the Midwest Independent Book Publishers award for commercial fiction.

Born and raised in Minnesota, Roger still lives there with his family. In addition to his work as an author, Roger is a partner in his law firm. Roger is an avid sports enthusiast and enjoys spending time outdoors boating, attending hockey games, and honing his golf game.

Connect with Roger:

Website: https://www.rogerstelljes.com/

Facebook: Roger Stelljes

Twitter: @RogerStelljes

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Emma Bennet

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Today, in the latest in my series grilling romance authors on all things love and writing, I am chatting to author… Emma Bennet.

Welcome to the blog, Emma. Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I write sweet contemporary romances and have four full length novels and two novellas currently published. My next book is due to be released at the beginning of June 2021 by Spellbound books.

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Why romance?

I guess I just love following the twists and turns of a relationship coming together culminating in a satisfying Happy Ever After! It makes my heart happy.

What inspires your stories?

Things I hear, things I see, things I read… One of my books is based on the story a friend told me of how she and her husband got together. Sometimes I’ll be doing something as mundane as washing up the dishes after supper, and I’ll think ‘what if such and such happened…?’ and that will end up becoming a story.

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

I love some comedy in my reads so Sophie Kinsella is definitely one of my favourites. I also really enjoy Jenny Colgan and Paige Toon’s novels. Kiley Dunbar and Sharon Booth are very good, their books are made to be devoured!

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

I’d definitely want it to be one of mine, and I have a soft spot for Her Perfect Hero, mainly because it contains an evil cat called Mr Darcy, so I think I’d recommend that. 

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Romance writer Bronte Huntington is sure she’ll find her perfect hero someday… he’s just been held up for a while.

When she’s rescued by the debonair Sebastian Fairfax, heir to the Fenworth Estate, she thinks her dream has finally come true. Sebastian’s dashing, handsome and… well… a tiny bit boring and self-absorbed if Bronte were completely honest with herself.

Can’t she see there’s a much better prospect closer to home – her new neighbour, the rather ordinary, down-to-earth Ryan? He’s kind, funny and sweet, and they’ve plenty in common. But she’s adamant she’ll only settle for a fairytale romance.

Will Bronte open her eyes and heart to what’s staring her in the face? Her perfect hero.

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

I’d be a bit concerned about what had happened to my husband, but imagining he’s busy himself… I’d have to choose Joseph Wild, the rock star hero of my novel Starstruck. He’d take me on tour to somewhere terribly glamorous, possibly Milan, and I’d be backstage at his concert before we disappeared from all the paparazzi to a beautiful hotel.

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

The support from fellow authors is absolutely invaluable. If I ever have a writing query or concern, there’s always someone who’s happy to help!

The conferences are so helpful and a lot of fun. I was very nervous before attending, but everyone was lovely ad I came away with lots of new friends and my head full of writing plans and advice.

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

Join the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme if you are able to. You’ll make so many friends in the industry and get some honest feedback on your work. I didn’t know about the scheme when I was starting out, but I wish I had.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Starstruck is the story of newly divorced Kate who finds school friend, now super famous rock star Joseph Wild, on her doorstep. 
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was such fun to write, especially any scene containing the awful Genevieve! It is available in ebook and paperback here.

(You can read my recent review of Starstruck here.)

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Emma:

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

Facebook: Emma Bennet

Twitter: @romanceemma

Instagram: @romanceemma

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Blog Tour: Bound by Vanda Symon #BookReview

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The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

I have become a huge fan of Vanda Symon’s books over the past three years, so I am delighted to be one of the blogs launching the tour today for the latest book in the Sam Shephard series, Bound. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for giving me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

After following Sam through the preceding three books in the series and watching her as she has grown and matured in her life, both in and out of the police force, she has become a bit of a friend now and I am always keen to catch up with and see what she is up to. Well, in this latest instalment, things are kicking off on every front for her.

The book opens with a particularly brutal crime which seems to be firmly tied to some unsavoury underworld bigwigs. However, it all seems to have come together a bit too conveniently for Sam’s liking, and she has her doubts about the way the investigation is going. Knowing Sam as we do by now, she never opts for the easy route and can’t keep her doubts to herself, which sets her on a collision course with most of her colleagues, particularly her boss, DI Johns, with whom her relationship just gets worse and worse. The scenes between feisty, take-no-crap Sam and the cantankerous boss are some of my favourites in the book.

At least Paul always has her back, and their relationship seems to be going from strength to strength. I have to admit, through the author’s descriptions, I have slightly got the hots for Paul myself but things are getting more complicated for Sam in that area of her life too. Then, throw in her father’s illness, her fraught relationship with her mother, the decline in her old partner Smithy … poor Sam has anything but a quiet life in any quarter at the moment. Thank heavens for Maggie!

I thought this book was fabulously plotted from start to finish. The crime was brutal and baffling, and it was a joy to watch things unfold to reveal all, which did not end as I thought it might. Vanda’s writing is smarty and snappy, with short chapters that keep you reading and reading at pace, with no time to even take a breath, it is fairly relentless which keeps it exciting. The clues are there to the solution if you pay attention, but it is fiendish enough to keep you guessing, and there are plenty of surprises at the conclusion to reward the effort of reading to the end (which is no effort at all, to be fair) and leave you panting for the next book to see how certain aspects pan out.

Vanda is a really clever writer. Her plots are ingenious and gripping, her characters living and breathing and she creates a real sense of place, which will make you dying to hop a plane to New Zealand as soon as possible. Sam is a proper, imperfect, relatable, warm and admirable person to carry the story, you really care about what happens because of her. I only have one complaint. I now have to wait a whole year for another Sam Shephard book, which is tortuous. Write faster, Vanda, please. Faster, faster!

Bound is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 4 March, and you can buy a copy here.

The book is taking a month-long blog tour, so do make sure to follow along:

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About the Author

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Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and has also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Vanda:

Website: http://vandasymon.com/index.php

Facebook: Vanda Simon

Twitter: @vandasymon

Instagram: @vandasymon

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Blog Tour: Smoke Screen by Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst; Translated by Megan Turney #BookReview

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Oslo, New Year’s Eve. The annual firework celebration is rocked by an explosion and the city is put on terrorist alert.

Police officer Alexander Blix and blogger Emma Ramm are on the scene, and when a severely injured survivor is pulled from the icy harbour, she is identified as the mother of two-year-old Patricia Semplass, who was kidnapped on her way home from kindergarten ten years earlier … and never found.

Blix and Ramm join forces to investigate the unsolved case, as public interest heightens, the terror threat is raised, and it becomes clear that Patricia’s disappearance is not all that it seems…

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Smoke Screen by Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst, the second book in the Blix & Ramm series. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for asking me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I haven’t read the first book in the Blix & Ramm series (an oversight I intend to remedy soon, I have now downloaded it to my kindle for 99p!) but it did not impact my enjoyment of this book one bit. It was very easy to take stock of the relationship between the policeman and the journalist, and it was a fascinating and very effective dynamic in carrying the plot of the book.

It would be hard to think of a more dramatic opening to a novel that a bomb exploding in a crowded area just as people have gathered to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, and we are immediately set on the road of following a terrorism investigation. However, when one of the survivors is identified as the mother of a missing child, a spur of the investigation leads to the opening of a cold case from Blix’s past, and we are taken on a wild and unexpected ride.

I am always fascinated by how two authors with their own individual voices and ideas manage to knit a book together without the join showing, and this is a particularly fine example. The writing flows perfectly, aided no doubt by the excellent translation by Megan Turney, and is surprisingly light and easy to read for a Nordic Noir novel. However, I don’t want to imply that this detracts from the tension in the plot, it doesn’t one bit, just that the book is an absolute pleasure to read and easily accessible to all, despite being translated fiction. I inhaled this in one single sitting and was very sad when it was done, hence the immediate purchasing of the preceding book.

The alternating between the points of view of Blix and Ramm worked really well to unveil different aspects of the case. Both individuals are invested in its solution for different, personal reasons, and I loved getting to know them both through their thoughts and actions. The relationship between the two of them is complicated as well, both personally and professionally, and the exploration of this adds another dimension to the story. Despite being easy to read, the book is complex and multi-layered, no mean feat to achieve for one author, never mind two working together. Or maybe two minds added an extra dimension – an interesting thought to ponder!

The plot of the novel was satisfyingly convoluted, I had no idea how it was going to pan out until near the end, so it gave my grey matter the workout I am always looking for in a good crime novel. I also really enjoyed the glimpses into life in Oslo; Scandinavia is an area of Europe I have never visited but which inches ever higher on my list of must-gos when the current pandemic is over. The book gave me everything I could want in a great read for an idle weekend – scintillating characters, a fiendish plot, tension and excitement both practical and emotional, and a visit to unknown shores. Ticked all my boxes, great stuff.

Smoke Screen is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here. The first book in the series, Death Deservedis currently 99p on Kindle.

Please make sure you check out some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

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About the Authors

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling Norwegian authors of the William Wisting and Henning Juul series respectively. Jørn Lier Horst first rose to literary fame with his No. 1 internationally bestselling William Wisting series. A former investigator in the Norwegian police, Horst imbues all his works with an unparalleled realism and suspense. Thomas Enger is the journalist-turned-author behind the internationally acclaimed and bestselling Henning Juul series. Enger’s trademark has become a darkly gritty voice paired with key social messages and tight plotting. Besides writing fiction for both adults and young adults, Enger also works as a music composer. Death Deserved was Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger’s first co-written thriller. They are currently working on the third book in the Blix & Ramm series.

Connect with the authors:

Facebook: Jorn Lier Horst / Thomas Enger

Twitter: @LierHorst / @EngerThomas

Instagram: @lierhorst / @thomas_enger_books

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Blog Tour: Seven Days by Michelle Kidd #BookReview

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One killer. One city. One week.

July 2012 and a serial killer is terrorising the streets of London. With the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games in just seven days time, Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh and his team at the Metropolitan Police have one week to find him. With the killer’s motives unknown, and a mysterious clue being left at each scene, the case takes on a menacing and personal twist. Distracted by his own demons, will DI Jack MacIntosh solve the case before it is too late?

The clock is ticking.
Tick.
Tock.

It’s my turn on the blog tour today for Seven Days by Michelle Kidd and I want to thank Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

A brand new detective series to me, I have to say that DI Jack MacIntosh is a great addition to the crime canon. This book was a fabulous thriller, set against the backdrop of a tense and claustrophobic London, sweltering under searing heat and almost boiling over with tension as the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games approaches. Against this simmering pressure cooker, Jack and his team are up against the clock to track down a serial killer who seems to be picking off victims at random.

Jack MacIntosh is a very relatable protagonist to carry the book. He seems very down to earth and approachable to his team, allowing them all to contribute and have their own ideas, which he takes seriously. He is obviously well regarded by his superiors, and has a cool relationship with his brother and other people in his life. I felt very affectionate towards him by the end of the book and would like to find out where his story goes from here. The details in the book about his past made me want to go back and read the first book in the series. In fact, I wish I had read the first book before I read this, as there were a few aspects of the book which would have made more sense with some of the back story, I think. However, I did enjoy it very much as a standalone.

The crime itself was baffling and intriguing at the same time. There was no obvious rhyme or reason to the murders and I could appreciate exactly why the team got lured down the false trails that they did. I fell into the trap more than once of believing it was going in a different direction, so the plot held me enthralled until the end and I didn’t guess where it was going before it was revealed. If I had a gripe, I wish there had been more details revealed at the end about the motivations behind some aspects of the killer’s behaviour, but I guess the reader is meant to draw their own conclusions about what happened and why.

There thread of the book involving DS Carmichael was a bit confusing, I wasn’t quite sure why it needed to play out the way it did, or what was the significance of one scene involving his and Jack’s pasts. I guess that maybe the first book might reveal more and I look forward to going back and catching up with that one. I do think the books would work best if read in sequence.

I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, it is easy to read, captivating and flows easily. I liked her cheeky foreshadowing references to events that have happened since the book’s setting of 2012. I think she has a really great voice, and I will definitely read more of her writing, because there was nothing I didn’t enjoy about the book. I would just advise that you read the first Jack McIntosh book first. I’m off to download it to my Kindle right now.

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

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

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About the Author

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Michelle Kidd is a self-published author known for the Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh series of novels.

Michelle qualified as a lawyer in the early 1990s and spent the best part of ten years practising civil and criminal litigation.

But the dream to write books was never far from her mind and in 2008 she began writing the manuscript that would become the first DI Jack MacIntosh novel – The Phoenix Project. The book took eighteen months to write, but spent the next eight years gathering dust underneath the bed.

In 2018 Michelle self-published The Phoenix Project and had not looked back since. There are currently three DI Jack MacIntosh novels, with a fourth in progress.

Michelle works full time for the NHS and lives in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. She enjoys reading, wine and cats – not necessarily in that order.

Connect with Michelle:

Website: https://www.michellekiddauthor.com/

Facebook: Michelle Kidd

Twitter: @AuthorKidd

Instagram: @michellekiddauthor

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Desert Island Books with… Kate G. Smith

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Time to pack another poor, innocent victim off to my tropical islet for a period of enforced isolation (as if we hadn’t had enough of that already, at least it’s warm there!) armed only with five books and one luxury item. Today I am stranding author, Kate Galloway Smith.

Thank you so much, Julie, for having me on your Desert Island Books feature. It’s very tricky to narrow my choice down to five books, especially as I don’t know how long I’m going to be marooned for. I’m hoping it’s a tropical beach with clear sea so I can swim in between reading, I don’t do well in the cold, which is bizarre seeing as I’m of Scottish heritage!

Book One – A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

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Cathy and her brother, Rob, don’t know why they have been abandoned by their parents. Alone in their grandfather’s decaying country house, they roam the wild grounds freely with minds attuned to the rural wilderness. Lost in their own private world, they seek and find new lines to cross.

But as the First World War draws closer, crimes both big and small threaten the delicate refuge they have built. Cathy will do anything to protect their dark Eden from anyone, or anything, that threatens to destroy it.

I remember being given this by my Mum, as an older teen, and being completely captivated by Dunmore’s poetic writing. A Spell of Winter is hauntingly gothic, which I love in a book. It’s also quite dream-like which I think would work well whilst lying on a tropical beach, because it would draw me back to the freezing cold English winters.

Book Two – Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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A plane crashes on a desert island. The only survivors are a group of schoolboys. By day, they discover fantastic wildlife and dazzling beaches, learning to survive; at night, they are haunted by nightmares of a primitive beast.

Orphaned by society, it isn’t long before their innocent childhood games devolve into a savage, murderous hunt …

Perhaps a strange choice for a desert island read, given the content, but I absolutely love this book. I studied it at school for my GCSEs and remember reading it over and over again. It totally blew me away. It’s so full of energy and life, and I just love Ralph (I also loved Balthazar Getty who played Ralph in the film adaptation when I was a young teen!) It may also make me thankful that I’m stranded on my desert island alone!

Book Three – If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

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If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?

Laurie and Jamie have the perfect office romance
(They set the rules via email)

Everyone can see they’re head over heels
(They staged the photos)

This must be true love
(They’re faking it)

When Laurie is dumped by her partner of eighteen years, she’s blindsided. Not only does she feel humiliated, they still have to work together.

So when she gets stuck in the lift with handsome colleague Jamie, they hatch a plan to stage the perfect romance. Revenge will be sweet…

But this fauxmance is about to get complicated. You can’t break your heart in a fake relationship, can you?

Mhairi McFarlane is an author I discovered two years ago, and I have devoured everything she has written since. I have also recently been given an arc copy of her latest book, Last Night, and I can’t wait to start reading it. If I Never Met You is one of my favourites of McFarlane’s; Jaime is a gorgeous love interest and Laurie is so relatable, they’re wonderful together and I love the fake romance trope. I would use this book to escape the island into a funny, perfectly written romcom. 

Book Four – Riders by Jilly Cooper

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Brooding hero Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands even the most difficult horse or woman is charmed, is driven by his loathing of the dashing darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black.

Having pinched each other’s horses and drunk their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences at the Los Angeles Olympics . . .

As a lover of horses and loveable rogues, the Jilly Cooper series was, and still is, a firm favourite of mine. Rupert Campbell-Black is the perfect bad boy who I’m certain would keep me entertained on those long island nights. Riders is such a joy; it’s the perfect mix of funny, exhilarating, sexy, naughty, and swoon worthy. In fact, writing about it here makes me want to go and restart the series again for the umpteenth time, they’re so re-readable.

Book Five – Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

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‘There was something else out on the sea by the rocks – something dark that seemed to lurch out of the waves . . . What could it be?’

Julian, Dick and Anne are spending the holidays with their tomboy cousin George and her dog, Timothy. One day, George takes them to explore nearby Kirrin Island, with its rocky little coast and old ruined castle on the top. Over on the island, they make a thrilling discovery, which leads them deep into the dungeons of Kirrin Castle on a dangerous adventure. Who – and what – will they find there? 

Finally, another island, I’m sensing a theme! My love of reading started very young, and I have my parents to thank for that. I used to get through Enid Blyton books at a speed, and I was always a Famous Five fan, none of this Secret Seven nonsense! I used to want to be George but was always a real-life Anne. Reading the Famous Five books gave me a sense of adventure and made me think that anything was possible. We’d go on holidays to the Lakes and I’d adventure with my brother and cousins and pretend to be fighting thieves and smugglers with a make-believe dog our side. I think taking this on my desert island with me would reignite some of that adventurous spirit that I’d need to build a camp and explore the terrain. 

My luxury item

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I really feel like I should pick something sensible here, like a pen knife or a multi-tool, so I can build a shelter and forage confidently. But I think I’d actually take a notepad and pen (if they can count as one item?) because just imagine the stories that might come to mind in such a wonderful setting.

About Kate Galloway Smith

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Kate Galloway Smith is a writer, editor, and an HCPC registered Occupational Therapist.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Kate can be found writing romantic comedies in Norwich, where she lives with her daughter and their cat and an increasing number of house plants.

Kate’s debut book, You’ve Got Mail, was published on 8 February. It’s the story of Grace Wharton who receives an email dumping her from a relationship she’s not even in. Kate is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and You’ve Got Mail went through their New Writer’s Scheme. The association and the help they give writers has been life-changing for her. She has not only realised her dreams of being a published author, she has also made so many incredible friends. If you’re a writer of romance, she’d highly recommend checking them out.

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It’s been fun, but I think we should stop seeing each other. Thanks for a great laugh x

When Grace Wharton is dumped by email from a relationship she isn’t even in, she adds it to the list of ways her life hasn’t quite panned out: twenty-five, single, and working a dead-end job she doesn’t enjoy. She fires off an angry response to Mr Obnoxious – how dare he try to dump someone over email?! – knowing that telling off a random stranger online means she has reached an all-time low.

Everything changes when her boss asks her to go to a big sales conference to secure an important client. Her partner is Jack Lockett, company Casanova and Grace’s long-time crush. What’s more, he seems very interested… But Mr Obnoxious keeps sending her emails and Grace keeps replying. Only to make sure he doesn’t send any more heart-breaking emails, obviously.

Grace’s life has suddenly gone from stagnant to brimming with possibilities. But is it all too good to be true?

You can buy a copy of You’ve Got Mail here.

Connect with Kate:

Website: https://www.kategallowaysmith.com/

Facebook: Kate Galloway Smith

Twitter: @WritingItToday

Instagram: @writingittoday

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Blog tour: Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker #BookReview

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THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.

I’m delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker. My thanks to Sahina Bibi of Viper Books for inviting me to take part and for supplying me with a digital copy of the book for review purposes. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

It’s your worst nightmare as a parent, losing your child. Even them disappearing out of your sight for a second has your heart plummeting to your shoes and panic grabbing you by the throat. So imagine if they really were gone and you had no idea where or if you would ever see them again. This is the nightmare scenario explored in this book, and the author paints such a vivid picture that my heart was in my mouth from start to finish.

This story is told by three voices. Kim, the mother whose daughter is taken from under her nose whilst out shopping; Mummy, the woman who takes the child in desperation; and Tonya, the abducted girl. This is a very effective construction, as we get to see the story from all sides and it reveals a lot of intimate thoughts and consequences of the abduction that you might not have thought about. Because the reaction of neither woman in the aftermath of the kidnapping is exactly what you’d expect if you have ever given the matter any serious thought.

As well as exploring what motivates such actions by a woman, and what the parents of the missing child might be going through, the book explores the reactions of the world at large, and how we, as an amorphous group rather than individually, judge people on surface appearances without really knowing all the facts. Kim is the ‘wrong sort’ of mother, and she is judged harshly and cruelly as a result. She doesn’t play the sympathy game properly, and people troll and abuse her, despite the fact she is a victim. The pressure put on her family, how it affects her other children, her friendships and her relationships, is all explored with a keen eye and I’m not sure it’s Kim who comes off worst in my judgment by the end.

On the other hand, on the surface, Mummy is the complete opposite. She looks like the kind of woman you might place a child with if they needed a good home. But no one knows what goes on behind closed doors or in the mind of a person, and outward appearances can be deceptive. The book reminds us not to take things at face value and not to believe everything we see. Less than perfect people are capable of empathy, care and love, and the most respectable looking people can be battling with demons.

The book also explores the effect that childhood trauma can have on a psyche and the kind of people we turn into. Despite the fact of what Mummy did, the author tries to dredge up some sympathy for her when we hear about her past, although it is the thinnest of thin threads to hang on to. The author does manage to make clear the pain that not being able to have a child causes to a woman, and for that alone you have to feel for Mummy. But Kim’s pain is greater. Losing a child is like losing an essential part of yourself. But if you can understand the pain a woman feels when they lose a child, then you must also be able to feel the pain of a woman who can never have one to begin with, the two things are inseparable.

The author explores this issue with searing understanding and honesty, but not in the direction you might expect, and what she has produced as a result is a dark, twisted, terrifying but absorbing read that will keep you awake at night and leave you with thoughts and questions that might be painful to address. This is a confident and accomplished debut and is highly recommended for anyone who likes a thought-provoking, gripping but uncomfortable read.

Call Me Mummy will be released in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats on 25 February, and in paperback in September 2021 and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of the other wonderful blogs involved in the tour as detailed below for alternative reviews of the book:

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About the Author

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Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.
Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she’s not stolen a child – so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

Connect with Tina:

Website: http://www.tinabaker.co.uk/books

Twitter: @TinaBakerBooks

Instagram: @tinabakerbooks

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sandy Barker

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

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

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

That sounds lovely, could you mix me one too, please? If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first book

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

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

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

What have planned that you are really excited about?

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

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

Fave place? Goodness, that is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow, that would have been a cool thing to have done, I used to love watching that show. Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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Book Review: Starstruck by Emma Bennet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Emma:

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

Facebook: Emma Bennet

Twitter: @romanceemma

Instagram: @romanceemma

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