Blog Tour: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas #BookReview

The Room in the Attic

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas today. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

Goodness, what did I just read? From the very opening chapters of this new book by Louise Douglas, my heart was pounding, I was holding my breath, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end, and I was absolutely glued to the page.

I started reading this book very late one night just after I had gone to bed, which was a mistake because the book creeped me out right from the off. As soon as you crawl between the pages, you know you are reading something that is going to keep you on the edge of your nerves, so it may not be recommended for readers of a very nervous disposition. Set in an old asylum which then became a strict boarding school in the midst of the brooding expanse of Dartmoor, there could not be a creepier setting for a story. When I was young, I was addicted to the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. The thirteenth (coincidence?) of these, Five Go To Mystery Moor, involved spooky goings on on a deserted moor and it scared the bejesus out of my as a kid, so any ghost story set on a moor is guaranteed to give me the wiggins. The author does an absolutely amazing job of bringing the very disturbing setting to vivid life, both in its incarnation as an asylum and a boarding school, a little too vividly for those with active imaginations perhaps!

The story line is divided between three timelines – modern day, 1993 when All Hallows was a boarding school, and the turn of the twentieth century when it was an asylum for those people deemed insane. The narrator in the first two timelines is Lewis Tyler, as a grown man and when he was a pupil at the school. Back in time, we are following the story of Emma Everdeen, a nurse at the asylum. The book switched between the stories with ease, never breaking the tension, and deftly entwining them to great effect. Each of the characters hooked me in, and I was truly feeling genuine fear for all of them by the end. The storytelling is so skilful that it is impossible not to become fully invested in the outcome for all involved.

The story is a clever and intriguing mix of thriller, mystery, ghost story, family drama and exploration of social issues affecting women in the early 1900s. There is something here to appeal to every type of reader, and I can’t imagine there are many people who would not enjoy it (other than those who really don’t enjoy being kept on the edge of their nerves throughout a book.) You can tell that the author did a lot of research into the historical aspects of the book, it is beautifully rich in detail, but this is only used to enhance and not detract from the story. I am honestly so impressed with the authors skill in balancing all the different aspects of this novel to deliver an engrossing, affecting and thrilling story. I think my heart has only just slowed back to its normal speed after finishing it.

I absolutely loved this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Perfect October reading, buy it immediately.

The Room in the Attic is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Award-winning author Louise Douglas was a recent guest on the blog, and you can read my fascinating interview with her here.

Make sure you check out some of the other reviews posted by the other marvellous bloggers taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Louise

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of 6 novels including The Love of my Life and Missing You – a RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country. Louise’s first book for Boldwood, The House by the Sea was published in March 2020.

Connect with Louise:

Facebook: Louise Douglas Author

Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3

Instagram: @louisedouglas3

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Natalie Normann

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

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

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

Why romance? 

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

What inspires your stories? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your most recent novel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can buy copies of the books here and here.

About the Author

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

Connect with Natalie:

Facebook: Natalie Normann

Twitter: @NatalieNormann1

Instagram: @natalienormann

TikTok: @natalieromancewriter

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Blog Tour: The Cosy Cottage in Ireland by Julie Caplin #BookReview

The Cosy Cottage In Ireland

Followers of the blog will know I am the hugest fan of Julie Caplin’s Romantic Escapes series, combining as they do my two great loves of romance and travel, so I could not wait to get my mitts on the latest title, The Cosy Cottage in Ireland. I was even more excited than usual as many of you will know my partner is Irish and Ireland is a place I love. So huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me a place on the tour and to the publisher and author for my digital copy of the book, which i have reviewed honest and impartially.

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Snuggle up in your favourite armchair and take a trip across the Irish sea for comfort food, cosy cottage nights and a heartwarming romance…

Talented lawyer Hannah Campbell is after a change in her workaholic Manchester life – so on an uncharacteristic whim she books herself a place at the world-renowned Killorgally Cookery School in Country Kerry. But on her first night in Ireland, sampling the delights of Dublin, Hannah can’t resist falling for the charms of handsome stranger Conor. It’s only when Hannah arrives at her postcard-pretty home at Killorgally for the next six weeks that she discovers what happens in Dublin doesn’t quite stay in Dublin …

Nestled amongst rolling green hills and breath-taking countryside, the cookery school throws Hannah and Conor together – for better or worse.

I’ve never thrown myself into a Julie Caplin book and not immediately been embraced by a cosy hug of a novel, and this book is no exception. In fact, I think this one might be my favourite yet (do I say this about every one of them? Probably!), although I was pre-disposed to like it because it centred around one of my favourite places in the world.

Starting off in Dublin and then heading west to Kerry, with a sojourn to the beautiful harbour town of Dingle, this novel takes you to some of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, and will make you feel absolutely like you are there. In fact, if you aren’t immediately whipping out the travel guides and planning your own trip to the Emerald Isle as soon as you’ve finished it, I will be mightily surprised.

Lawyer Hannah has pushed herself out of her comfort zone to take a cookery course at a famous school of cuisine in Ireland and, no sooner has she set foot on Irish soil, she begins to act very out of character, being bold and taking chances she never normally would. Well, travel can have that effect on us all, although my travels have never propelled me into the arms of anyone quite as scrumptious as Conor Byrne. (Again, I may be displaying some bias here, given my clear penchant for men with an Irish burr.) She comes to regret her hastiness later, but stories would be no fun if the participants behaved sensibly, now would they?

As with all of Julie’s travel novels, food plays a massive part in the story, and this one is no exception. Set in a cookery school and focusing on the connection between the ingredients, where they come from and the plate, it is a feast for all the senses, and feels topical for modern times. Foodies will revel in the descriptions of all the cooking processes, and I am sure many people will be familiar with the trials and tribulations of bread-making after the past 18 months, especially the travails of battling a sourdough starter. (If you follow Julie, you will know this is something she has been tackling herself, this is an author who believes in hands on research!)

The romance in this book is natural and spontaneous and passionate and seem to develop so believably on the page that I could not have accepted the two main characters not ending up together. The trials they face along the way were very understandable, they were not at all contrived and you could easily see how their misunderstandings could arise. They seemed to fit together like two puzzle pieces, and the chemistry between them flew off the page. Since the relationship is the heart of any novel calling itself romance, I can assure you that lovers of the genre will not be disappointed by this one.

My favourite part of the book was when Hannah takes a trip to Dingle and has an encounter with one of its famous residents. Dingle is my favourite place in Ireland, it is unique and beautiful and friendly and I absolutely adored it, can’t wait to go back. I had an encounter with that resident myself and the story took me back to one of my most magical memories.

This book is the perfect cosy romance to snuggle up with during this chilly autumn days. It will leave you happy, satisfied and with the warm glow of a Ready Brek kid (a reference that will only mean something to people of a certain age!) I’m looking forward to getting my paperback to add to my beloved collection of Romantic Escapes novels and am looking forward to seeing where this author will take me next. It is always a pleasure to take an armchair trip with her.

The Cosy Cottage in Ireland is out now as an ebook and will be released in paperback on 9 December. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out some other reviews of the book by following the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

Julie Caplin Bookshelf

Julie Caplin, formerly a PR director, swanned around Europe for many years taking top food and drink writers on press trips (junkets) sampling the gastronomic delights of various cities in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Copenhagen and Switzerland. It was a tough job but someone had to do it.

These trips have provided the inspiration and settings for her Romantic Escapes series which have been translated into fifteen different languages.

The first book in the seven strong series, The Little Café in Copenhagen, was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

Connect with Julie:

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

Facebook: Julie Caplin Author

Twitter: @JulieCaplin

Instagram: @juliecaplinauthor

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Book Review: We Watch You by N. S. Ford #BookReview

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FOUR FRIENDS. THREE ENEMIES. TWO TRAGEDIES. ONE TERRIBLE TRUTH.

A small English town is rocked by the disappearance of a local woman, Tina. As the search continues, someone is targeting her former best friends for revenge. Lauren, Jess, Claire. They all hide secrets. Who knows what they did? Who’s watching them? The truth is stranger and far more sinister than they can ever imagine.

I was kindly provided with a digital copy of this book by the author for the purpose of review, for which she has my sincerest thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

A really interesting and unusual psychological thriller with a twist that I didn’t see coming, We Watch You by N. S. Ford kept me both reading and guessing right to the end of the book.

As this starts out, it may appear to be a fairly standard thriller concerned with the disappearance of a young woman, which unsettles and baffles her group of friends. As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that the friendship group were hiding some secrets that may be pertinent to the disappearance, and that the missing woman may not be the only one of the group who is at risk. There are lots of twists and turns that made it unclear whether any or all of the girls are actually being targeted by who, and the speculation kept me turning the pages.

The main character of Lauren is very interesting as a protagonist and the author has written her very well. You can’t help but sympathise with her predicament, and extend her some latitude in the decisions she has made that may have contributed to the tangle the girls are in.

The structure of the book oscillates between Lauren’s point of view, plus letters and blog entries which reveal insights into the minds of some of the other characters, plus brief chapters written in the first person by two other characters. This provided a clever way of revealing bits of the story Lauren isn’t privy to, and gave the books interesting changes of pace. The only complaint I might have was that the first person chapters written by the two other individuals were confusing to begin with because I had no idea who these two people were. By the end, it had become more obvious but early on I had to work hard to sort them out.

The ending of the book was totally unexpected and a really interesting spin on the genre. I am not 100% sure that I completely understood what the author was trying to do but I think a second read through would help me pull out all the strands from the story. Overall, however, I really enjoyed the book and found it a refreshing take on the genre.

We Watch You is out now in both ebook and digital formats and is available for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. You can buy a copy of We Watch You here.

About the Author

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N S Ford is a book fanatic, blogger and cat lover who lives in the UK with her family. She has a First Class degree in English. When not reading or blogging, she juggles her writing time with parenting, working in heritage and playing the piano.

Connect with N S Ford:

Blog: https://nsfordwriter.com/

Twitter: @nsfordwriter

Instagram: @nsfordwriter

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Desert Island Books with… N S Ford

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It’s cold, wet and windy here in South Yorkshire today, summer is definitely over, so I could quite fancy a sojourn on a warm, tropical island myself right now. Unfortunately, it is not me being whisked away to a deserted island with five books to read at leisure today, but author… N S Ford. Let’s see what she has chosen to take with her.

Book One – Villette by Charlotte Bronte

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Villette is the story of Lucy Snowe, who after an unspecified family disaster, travels from her native England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls’ school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance. 

Villette by Charlotte Brontë. Probably my favourite 19th century classic, Vilette is even superior to Jane Eyre, in my opinion. The book is narrated by Lucy Snowe, a school teacher who appears to be stoic and unromantic but who has a vivid inner life. There is romance, comedy, gothic horror, tragedy, all in one incredibly well-written novel. I’ve read it a few times – I’d be happy to read it many more times on the desert island! – and am always awed by Charlotte Brontë’s talent. She was 37 when Villette, her last novel, was published in 1853. Had she not died only 2 years later, who knows what more this brilliant writer could have achieved?

https://nsfordwriter.com/character-of-the-month-lucy-snowe/

Book Two – Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

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Since its publication in 1988, Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems has become essential reading on any poetry bookshelf. This new edition returns to Larkin’s own deliberate ordering of his poems, presenting, in their original sequence, his four published books: The North Ship, The Less Deceived, The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows. It also includes an appendix of poems that Larkin published in other places, from his juvenilia to his final years – some of which might have appeared in a late book, if he had lived.

Preserving everything that he published in his lifetime, this new Collected Poems returns the reader to the book Larkin might have intended: it is, for the first time, Larkin’s ‘own’ collected poems.

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin. I was first introduced to Larkin’s poetry at college, when I studied his collection High Windows and found that it really spoke to me. Some people dislike his poetry, as it can be depressing, but I prefer to read about real feelings, however uncomfortable they are. Larkin’s poems were published by Faber in a collected edition in 1988, with a 2nd edition in 2003. My absolute favourite poem is ‘Solar’ and indeed it’s about the sun, which will be very relevant to my desert island.

https://nsfordwriter.com/money-sex-death-and-sunshine/

Book Three – The Other Side of the Sky by Arthur C. Clarke

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The Other Side of the Sky presents a glimpse of our future: a future where reality is no longer contained in earthly dimensions, where man has learned to exist with the knowledge that he is not alone in the universe. These stories of other planets and galactic adventures show Arthur C Clarke at the peak of his powers: sometimes disturbing, always intriguing.

The Other Side of the Sky by Arthur C Clarke. I re-read this short story collection every few years and my old copy is falling apart! I ought to sellotape it together before taking it to the desert island. These 14 stories are wonderful examples of classic science fiction; funny, playful, sad, sinister, hopeful, suffused with lyrical wonder. They are amazingly prescient and were written well before the first human was launched into space. The most famous story in the collection is ‘The Nine Billion Names of God’. My highlights are ‘Out of the Sun’ and ‘The Star’. Again, we’re talking about the sun! And I should also have a clear view of the night sky from the desert island, perfect for pondering Arthur C Clarke’s themes.

https://nsfordwriter.com/the-other-side-of-the-sky-arthur-c-clarke/

Book Four – Little Women by Louise May Alcott

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Meg – the sweet-tempered one. Jo – the smart one. Beth – the shy one. Amy – the sassy one.

Together they’re the March sisters. Their father is away at war and times are difficult, but the bond between the sisters is strong.

Through sisterly squabbles, happy times and sad, their four lives follow different paths, and that discover the growing up is sometimes very hard to do. . .

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Strangely enough, I didn’t much like this book when I was younger  – perhaps I found it too moralistic – but I have grown to appreciate the wisdom in it. The characters feel like friends and they would keep me company on the island! I recently re-read the book, having treated myself to a new copy which included both volumes (the 2nd volume is sometimes called Good Wives – which wasn’t Alcott’s idea). As with The Beatles, everyone has to have a favourite March sister. I think Beth is underrated and she has a special place in my heart.

https://nsfordwriter.com/little-women-louisa-may-alcott/

Book Five – Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down by Nicey and Wifey

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Put a cup of tea in your hand, and what else can you do but sit down? This wonderful new book is a celebration of that most British of life’s cornerstones: taking a break, putting your feet up and having a breather. There is, however, a third element that any perfect sit down requires and it is this: biscuits. As Nicey so rightly points out, a cup of tea without a biscuit is a missed opportunity. Finding the right biscuit for the right occasion is as much an art as it is a science, and it is a task that Nicey has selflessly worked on for most of his tea drinking life.

From dunking to the Digestive, the Iced Gem to the Garibaldi, everything you’ll ever need to know about biscuits is in this book, and quite a lot more besides. Is the Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit? And have Wagon Wheels really got smaller since your childhood, or have you just got bigger? Unstintingly researched, Nicey and Wifey’s Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down does exactly what it says on the biscuit tin. So go on. Take a weight off, put the kettle on, and enjoy.

Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down by Nicey and Wifey. The go-to book when I need cheering up! I last read it in early 2020 when the first lockdown was imminent and things were looking scary. Based on a website, which is now quite old in internet terms, this is a funny, quirky book about three traditional British past-times – drinking tea, sitting down and eating biscuits. When I’m on the island, sitting down (but lacking the tea and biscuits) it will be nice to have a reminder of home and to laugh for the hundredth time at the author’s rant about pink wafers.

https://nsfordwriter.com/nice-cup-of-tea-and-a-sit-down-nicey-and-wifey/

My luxury item 

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Let’s ignore the practicalities of shipping an iron-framed 98-year-old upright piano to a desert island and of the humidity, sand, insects etc that will affect the piano once it’s there. Playing the piano is a great way to relax and enjoy music. I was taught up to Grade 5 but I didn’t maintain my skills, particularly once I’d left home and didn’t have anywhere to keep the instrument. However, I’ve had it in my home for a couple of years now and I try to practise almost every day, when time and family life allows. My favourite sheet music to play is Ludovico Einaudi, Depeche Mode and Radiohead.

https://nsfordwriter.com/sheet-music-review-radiohead-the-piano-songbook/

About the Author

N S Ford - portrait

N S Ford is a book fanatic, blogger and cat lover who lives in the UK with her family. She has a First Class degree in English. When not reading or blogging, she juggles her writing time with parenting, working in heritage and playing the piano.

N S Ford’s debut novel, We Watch You, is out now and you can buy a copy here. I will be reviewing the book on the blog tomorrow.

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FOUR FRIENDS. THREE ENEMIES. TWO TRAGEDIES. ONE TERRIBLE TRUTH.

A small English town is rocked by the disappearance of a local woman, Tina. As the search continues, someone is targeting her former best friends for revenge. Lauren, Jess, Claire. They all hide secrets. Who knows what they did? Who’s watching them? The truth is stranger and far more sinister than they can ever imagine.

A dark, twisty thriller which will grip you until the very last page.

Connect with N S Ford:

Blog: https://nsfordwriter.com/

Twitter: @nsfordwriter

Instagram: @nsfordwriter

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Desert Island Books with… Rosanna Ley

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I’m off to Spain for a few days today, so I am not as jealous as I usually am at the thought of today’s castaway sitting in the sunshine with all the time in the world to read, as I will be doing that myself. I did, however, fail to stuff the latest James Patterson hardback that I really wanted to read, Jailhouse Lawyerinto my luggage as it was far too big and heavy, much to my disappointment. My guest today, author Roasanna Ley, will not have that problem as there are no weight limits when you travel virtually. Let’s see what she has chosen.

Book One – A Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri

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A Poem For Every Day of the Year is a magnificent collection of 366 poems compiled by Allie Esiri, one to share on every day of the year. Reflecting the changing seasons and linking to events on key dates – funny for April Fool’s Day, festive for Christmas – these poems are thoughtful, inspiring, humbling, informative, quiet, loud, small, epic, peaceful, energetic, upbeat, motivating, and empowering!

If I were stranded on a desert island with only five books to read again and again, then I’m guessing I would be looking for something more than fiction. Enter A Poem for Every Day of the Year as complied by author and editor Allie Esiri. This is a wonderful collection and since there really is a poem for every day of the year, there will be something new to read (and maybe also learn by heart?) every day. By the end of the year (and I have just realised that this volume could function as a calendar too), I will have forgotten each poem so then I can simply start again… The collection reflects the changing seasons which will keep me grounded on the island (literally) and the links to certain events and dates will make me feel nostalgic – hopefully in a good way. A poem for every mood will satisfy all my conflicting emotions as I fight to survive and hopefully be empowering too. I love poetry and never make enough time to read it. Problem now solved…

Book Two – Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence

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Women in Love begins one blossoming spring day in England and ends with a terrible catastrophe in the snow of the Alps. Ursula and Gudrun are very different sisters who become entangled with two friends, Rupert and Gerald, who live in their hometown. The bonds between the couples quickly become intense and passionate, but whether this passion is creative or destructive is unclear. In this astonishing novel, widely considered to be D. H. Lawrence’s best work, he explores what it means to be human in an age of conflict and confusion.

I very rarely read a book a second time – even those I love – with the exception of the books I have studied academically. Out of all the books I have studied, I’ve found those of DH Lawrence the most rewarding. His writing first inspired me to write many years ago and certainly influenced my writing hugely in the early days and beyond. I love the way he writes about landscape (although the intensity and the detail is somewhat out of fashion these days). I can literally drown in his language! I never studied ‘Women in Love’ but I found it inspirational and crammed with earthy, sensual descriptions – of love and landscape. This book about the love affairs of two sisters was also Lawrence’s response to a cultural crisis: the ‘progress’ of the modern industrialised world which arguably led to the carnage of the First World War. It therefore definitely warrants a re-read over forty years later. I think I would find it hugely satisfying and I could wallow in Lawrence’s prose to my heart’s content.

Book Three – The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella

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It is 1895. Robert Wallis, would-be poet, bohemian and impoverished dandy, accepts a commission from coffee merchant Samuel Pinker to categorise the different tastes of coffee – and encounters Pinker’s free-thinking daughters, Philomenia, Ada and Emily. As romance blossoms with Emily, Robert realises that the Muse and marriage may not be incompatible after all.

Sent to Abyssinia to make his fortune in the coffee trade, he becomes obsessed with a negro slave girl, Fikre. He decides to use the money he has saved to buy her from her owner – a decision that will change not only his own life, but the lives of the three Pinker sisters . . .

I feel as if I will need a comedy to lift my spirits during dark days on this island, but I don’t read many comic writers, so… I decided to choose a book by one of my favourite authors, ‘The Various Flavours of Coffee’ by Anthony Capella which made me laugh and cry at the same time – an impressive achievement. I’d love to read it again and I have the feeling that I would discover so much more second time around as the author takes me on an exotic, delicious and historical journey filled with humour and poignancy. The story also contains lots of coffee, which has to be a good thing. Anthony Capella also writes brilliant psychological thrillers under the name of JP Delaney – is there no end to this author’s talents? Perhaps re-reading ‘The Various Flavours of Coffee’ will give me some valuable insight on how he does it…

Book Four – How To Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation by Bear Grylls

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Do you know how to…
Survive a bear attack?
Make fire from virtually nothing?
Fly a plane in an emergency?
Survive in the most extreme conditions?
Bear Grylls does.
There is barely a terrain he hasn’t conquered or an extreme environment he hasn’t experienced. From his time in 21 SAS, through to his extraordinary expeditions in the toughest corners of each of the seven continents, Bear has accumulated an astonishing wealth of survival knowledge.
Now, for the first time, he is putting all his expertise into one book. How To Stay Alive will teach you all of the essential skills you need to survive in the modern world.

I’m not a very practical person. I have trouble with my balance and my sense of direction and I’m terrified of spiders. Hence, I won’t be good on the island, apart from the fact that I quite enjoy spending time alone. So, my next choice is here to help me survive physically: ‘How to Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation’. It’s written by Bear Grylls of course, and if you were stranded on a desert island, why wouldn’t you want a book by Bear telling you how to survive? I haven’t read it yet since I haven’t had the need, but apparently it can help you survive a bear attack (hah – he should know), make fire from virtually nothing, fly a plane in an emergency and just generally survive in the most extreme conditions. Bear knows what he’s talking about since there is barely (geddit?) a terrain he hasn’t conquered or an extreme environment he hasn’t experienced. When it comes to survival knowledge, if Bear doesn’t have it, then it doesn’t exist. 

Book Five – Easy Learning Italian by Collins Dictionaries

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A handy 3-in-1 Italian study book: grammar, verbs and vocabulary in one volume, ideal for beginners who need a clear and easy-to-understand Italian reference and revision guide.

This book gives you the essential tools to help you progress quickly in your study of Italian. The grammar, verb and vocabulary sections have been designed for all those learning Italian at school, in an evening class, for work or for leisure.

With its clear, user-friendly grammar, all the most important Italian verbs shown in full, and an extensive vocabulary guide, this book gives you all the elements to start speaking and writing with confidence in Italian.

I’ve always meant to learn Italian. I love Italy and if I were to be born again and could choose my country of birth, I would be Italian, no contest. So here I am on a desert island with (presumably) no one to distract me. Why not learn the Italian language? There wouldn’t be anyone to laugh at my poor efforts and I could practice as much as I wanted. I feel as if I could become fluent if I really tried and had enough time, and what better guide to help me than ‘Easy Learning Italian Complete Grammar, Verbs and Vocabulary (3 books in 1): by Collins Dictionaries. Who knows – if my luck’s in, I might even get rescued by an Italian, and then I could at least communicate with the guy…

My luxury item

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You will have heard this before of course, but I need to write, I love to write and so a spiral notebook set with pen attached and everlasting ink (and paper) would be perfect. Or perhaps Bear Grylls knows how to make writing materials from a palm tree?? 

About the Author

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Rosanna Ley has written ten novels published by Quercus Books and translated into fourteen different languages around the world.

Rosanna has worked as a creative writing tutor for over 30 years. She has led courses for colleges and universities in England, and mentored and appraised the work of new writers. She now runs her own writing retreats and holidays in the UK and in stunning locations in Europe. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in creative writing for personal development in order to support this.

Rosanna loves reading, playing tennis and walking on the beach in West Dorset where she lives. Her favourite writing place is anywhere with a sea view.

Rosanna’s latest novel The Orange Grove was published by Quercus in June 2021. You can buy a copy here.

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Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city-job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood and opening Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her. 

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville Orange and Almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family? 

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. 

Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet. Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

Connect wit Rosanna:

Website: https://rosannaley.com/

Facebook: Rosanna Ley Novels

Twitter: @RosannaLey

Instagram: @rosannaleyauthor

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Blog Tour: Murder at the House on the Hill by Victoria Walters #BookReview

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It is my turn on the blog tour today for Murder at the House on the Hill by Victoria Walters and I want to thank Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me a slot on the tour, and to the author and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

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Once Upon A Crime…

Nancy Hunter and her grandmother Jane Hunter run the Dedley Endings Bookshop, selling crime, thriller and mystery books, in a small, quiet Cotswold village where nothing ever happens…

That is, until the wealthy and reclusive Roth family open up their mansion for the first time in twenty years, inviting the people of Dedley End to a lavish engagement party.

While everyone is thrilled to finally look around the mansion on the hill, the festivities are quickly cut short when beautiful Lucy, recently married to young Harry Roth, is found dead after being pushed over the first-floor balustrade.

But who among the guests could have been capable of her murder – and why?

Nancy and Jane decide to investigate – after all, not only do they own a crime themed bookshop, they were also both named after famous literary detectives – but soon wonder if they’ve taken on more than they can handle. Especially when it seems the killer has worked out that they’re hot on their heels…

Can they catch the murderer before the murderer catches up with them? Or will there be a deadly ending to this story?

I really love a cosy crime novel and the cover of this one drew me in straight away, I absolutely love it, it’s one I will be buying to grace my shelves and the marketing team have done a great job to reflect the book here. Kudos to the cover artist as well. The hook of the book also got me – a mystery-solving grandmother and granddaughter duo who own a crime book shop? Who wouldn’t want to read that?

I absolutely loved the dynamics in this book between Nancy and her grandmother, they make a great team. The author is fabulous at characterisation, and all of the players in this book are interesting in their own way. Nancy’s best friend, Jonathan, is also a fantastic character and his relationship with Nancy was one of my favourites.

The setting of the book in a quaint Cotswold village where nothing much happens is perfect and, Dedley End, what a great name that is. It just encapsulates this books completely, clever and funny, not taking itself too seriously at all.

This book was a really easy, quick read for me because the writing is clear and the plot so entertaining and pacy that I just rattled through it at speed. I did not work out the ending in advance and thoroughly enjoyed the journey of getting there. There was nothing about this book that was not a pleasure and I really look forward to reading more in the series. I really hop all the other covers are as good as this one. If so, I’ll be a paperback devotee!

Perfect as an autumn read now the days are getting shorter and chillier and fans of cosy crime will love it. Highly recommended.

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

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

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About the Author

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Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of the bestselling GLENDALE HALL series, which continues with its third book HOPEFUL HEARTS at GLENDALE HALL in September, as well as two other standalone novels – SUMMER at the KINDNESS CAFE, and THE SECOND LOVE of my LIFE. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for two RNA awards. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

Connect with Victoria:

Website: https://victoria-writes.com/

Facebook: Victoria Walters

Twitter: @Vicky_Walters

Instagram: @vickyjwalters

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lynda Stacey

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This week’s romancing writing guest is my neighbour, good friend and amazing author… Lynda Stacey.

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

Hi Julie, thanks for having me. The books that I write are suspense, however they always have an underlying romance. I like to mix the two, because in normal life, none of us can tell what will happen from one day to the next. So, to ensure that my heroine has a great story, along with a varied lifestyle… I throw everything at her, all at once.

Why romance? 

Because in life, we all love to be loved. I honestly believe that people are like pack animals, they want to be part of a group, a tribe, a couple. So romance is a lovely way to show my hero and heroines softer side, even though most of the time I like to give them truly kick ass attitude.

What inspires your stories?

I really have no idea. It’s normally a house, a hotel, a landscape. There’s always a place, or moment in time that I like to grab hold of. Once I have a location, then I tend to build the story around it.

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

I grew up devouring Enid Blyton. All of my age group did. I read every book repeatedly. 

As an adult, I love Lesley Pearce, Kate Morton and Nora Roberts, I’ve read almost everything they wrote and to be honest, one of my favourite ever quotes that a reader gave to my books was that I wrote like Nora Robert. It’s an accolade which I find both amazing and terrifying at the same time, because I’d love to be compared to her.

This was the quote:

‘Lynda Stacey is up there with Nora Roberts when it comes to writing jaw-dropping, nerve-twisting and addictive tales spiced with intrigue, passion and suspense.’

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

Oh wow, that’s like asking if I have a favourite child. If I were pushed, I’d probably say pretty much anything by Nora Roberts.

Maybe, Sanctuary. It had quite a few twists and turns that I really loved the island setting, along with a ‘will they, won’t they’ love affair that set my spine tingling, that was balanced with the underlying thriller, where you were never sure who was the killer.

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Successful photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway thought she’d escaped the house called Sanctuary long ago. She’d spent her loneliest years there after the sudden, shattering disappearance of her mother. But now someone is sending Jo strange, candid pictures, culminating in the most shocking portrait of all – a photo of her mother, naked, beautiful and dead.

Jo returns home to face her bitterly estranged family, only to find an unexpected chance for happiness in the form of architect Nathan Delaney. But while Jo and Nathan hope to lay the past to rest, a sinister presence is watching from the shadows. And Jo will soon learn there is no peace at Sanctuary . . .

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 have to say, ‘my hero at home’, my husband Haydn is my everyday romantic hero. We’ve been together for 30 years, and I’m not planning on swapping him anytime soon. So, my perfect romantic weekend with him would be on the Maldives, where we could lie in the sun, scuba dive and drink cosmopolitan’s while watching dolphins leap through the waves and take in the sunset as it slips into the sea.

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

The RNA is amazing. I love everything about it. From the day I joined, I became part of a tribe. I got to meet and listen to some of the most amazing authors, who freely gave their knowledge, time, and wisdom. The small nuggets of information that you pick up are priceless and I can honestly say that being a part of the RNA put me on the right path. Without them I doubt I’d have ever become a published author.

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

Listen and learn, and no matter how busy you are each day, take a moment to congratulate yourself for every word you write. It’s one more word that counts and a word closer to writing ‘The End’.

And remember, every word you write means something – even if only to yourself.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest book is called No Place Like Home. 

Sister’s Molly and Beth move to a remote, cliff top property that they inherit following their mother’s brutal murder. It’s a house that overlooks the beach, the sea, and the town of Filey and should be the most beautiful place on earth to live. But someone is out to kill them, and they have no intention of stopping. 

It’s a story of loss, of love and of family ties. A story that shows how extremely protective of her sister Molly is, but it also shows the way she struggles with the fact that she’s suddenly become an impromptu parent – to a very vocal teenager. 

Doing all she can to keep Beth safe, she realises that danger could literally be around every corner, she doesn’t know who to trust and, in the end, she finds herself living in a world where almost everyone around her could want her dead. 

Will Molly manage to survive, will she keep Beth safe? Or will life on the edge of a cliff suddenly become more dangerous than she’d thought?

It’s out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. (You can read my review of No Place Like Home here.)

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He knows where you are…

Sisters Molly and Beth Winters thought the remote clifftop house would be the perfect place to hide away after their mother’s brutal murder. They were wrong….

He wants revenge…

Because someone from the girls’ past has already found their safe house and he is watching and waiting in the shadows ready to make them pay.

He won’t stop until you’re dead…

Their new home should have been the place the sisters were safe.

But no place is safe forever.

About the Author

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Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire,

Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for almost 30 years.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

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Friday Night Drinks with… Isabella May

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Tonight’s guest is definitely someone who enjoys a good chat session over food and drink, as exhibited by her wonderful foodie-based romance novels. So I am delighted to be having Friday Night Drinks with author… Isabella May.

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

As it’s Friday night and we’ve only just left summer behind, I’ve plumped for a goblet of Aperol Spritz in the hope of hanging onto the sunshine for a little longer…

Cheers!

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

I’d teleport you to Spain and we’d go to an amazing cocktail bar in Estepona, just down the coast from where I live, to enjoy refreshing drinks and a beach view – with the rock of Gibraltar and Morocco putting in an appearance in the distance if it’s not too hazy.

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?

That would have to be Prince and Nigella.

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

It’s been quite a busy book year as I’ve released two novels in fairly quick succession. Bubblegum and Blazers was published in July, and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar (my first Christmas novel) was published a couple of days ago. I also have my 9th book on the go: The Custard Tart Cafe launches on April 1st 2022, and I’m busy adding to my word count for that.

I was always writing funny little stories as a small child, accompanying them with quirky drawings, but growing up, I never perceived that as a sign that I’d go on to become a romcom author; I mean lots of children were doing the same thing at that age – if only at school during lessons! 

In my late twenties, the storytelling bug began to bite at my heels again, and I invented a couple of children’s characters called Poodle and Noodle… and did nothing with them (in hindsight, they really weren’t all that innovative; I think I just got carried away after watching Toy Story at the cinema!). Then I had a few comedy script writing ideas which I sent off to TV production companies… only for them to be rejected. 

A few years after escaping a very bad relationship, I knew I had to use my experience to help other people, and so the seed for my debut novel, Oh! What a Pavlova, was planted. But I wanted to write the book differently. I wanted it to reflect the double life I was living whilst working in international publishing at the time. I felt this two-tone aspect of domestic violence was rarely portrayed and that more awareness of it was needed. I was one very down-trodden person behind closed doors, and a whole other version of myself (the true version of myself, at least most of the time) from the moment I stepped out of my front door. That’s how Kate Clothier’s character was born. Essentially, ‘Pavlova’ is a cross-genre title as it had so many elements to it: romance, comedy, food and travel writing, and magical realism. It is as dark as it is light.  

In other words, I took to breaking ‘the writing rules’ with book one like a duck to water… and I have never looked back. This has been as much a source of joy as it has disappointment. 

On the one hand, I have a true USP, and I have built up a distinctive brand by remaining true to myself and refusing to tick the boxes required by most publishers. On the other hand, I have faced crushing rejection. The latter has been really hard to accept at times. I know I write well because my loyal and growing readership, and their fantastic reviews, reflect that back to me. And yet… whenever I try to take my books to a wider audience via an agent or a large digi publisher, I am met with the same old perceived problem of a dichotomy:

‘You write really well but you are trying to do too much and we just aren’t sure how we’d market you.’

In July 2020, fed up with the gate keeping, I decided to walk away from subbing for good and take my destiny in my own hands. I genuinely haven’t looked back, although it is very much a marathon, not a sprint.

I have a solid brand and so many more titles lined up, and I am super-charged and inspired by all of the indie and self-published trailblazers who are shaking up the industry in all of their various genres. It honestly feels like anything is possible and I am just excited to see where the journey takes me and my books.

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

I like to celebrate the little wins so there isn’t one defining moment – with the exception of getting that first novel out there, of course. That said, I do think, particularly as an indie, knowing your books are genuinely being loved and devoured by bookworms who aren’t just family and friends, is a huge turning point! 

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 spent 15 years working in foreign rights, selling children’s books all over the world in 45 languages – from Norwegian to Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese Simplified to Afrikaans, Thai to Basque. It was a fascinating job and knowing all of the hard work that goes into the sale and production of foreign rights, it would be an absolute dream to see my own books translated into just one foreign language! Don’t get me wrong, the NYT bestseller list and hitting the UK Amazon Kindle number 1 spot would be lovely… but as a linguist, I would take so much more joy from seeing my books out there on sale for readers in other countries. I hope those authors who are in such a situation view their good fortune as more than a ‘cherry on the cake’. It’s a huge privilege to see your novel ‘travel’.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

I am very eager to become a fully-fledged indie author as of the end of this year. The rights for all 3 of my traditionally published books revert this year, with the final book of that trio, Costa del Churros (and a brand new and beautiful cover), returning to me at the very end of December. Then I plan to start the marketing of my Foodie Romance Journeys in earnest. Until then, things have been a little in limbo as it’s only really made sense to market organically. But once all of my books are in my hands as a self-published author, I plan to ramp the marketing up and treat this whole gig as a business.

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

I love to travel too! It’s been really disappointing to have to cancel so many trips over the past eighteen months, hasn’t it? 

My obsession with travel, and the perks of my former career, have taken me to some amazing places, but nowhere was been quite as chocolate box beautiful as New Zealand – particularly its south island. I also have a huge soft spot for Italy. All of it! It’s just everything you could ever want from a travel destination, and so much more. I could never tire of Italy.

I will need to save up for the place that is probably top of my future travel list (overlooking my burning desire to get back to the UK to see my family!), and that’s Melbourne, Australia. Since becoming an author, I have made a number of really good author friends in the city, and I really want to visit them and hang out at all of the trendy eateries they have on their doorstep! Coinciding it with the tennis would be amazing.

I love Italy too, I’m hoping I can get over there for my big 5-0 birthday trip as planned next year. (Well, I’m hoping it’s planned, maybe this will give my OH another nudge. I’ve been dropping hints since I planned EXACTLY what he wanted for his fiftieth three years ago!)

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

I speak four languages: English (well, sometimes that’s a little more Somerset, a little less Queen’s BBC… especially after all these cocktails!), French, German, and Spanish.

I understand written Italian and Portuguese too.

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

My favourite book (so far) this year has to be The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley. Rosanna is a very well-established author, but a new author to me. TOG is superbly written, emotional, sensual, life-affirming, thought-provoking, and full of the sights, sounds and smells of Seville. An absolute page-turner of a romance. One of those novels that will stay with me for a long time. I’d highly recommend it!

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Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood to open Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her.

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville orange and almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family?

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet.

Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

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 make sure I have a glass of water in-between each cocktail! If this hasn’t worked and I’m feeling ropey the next day, then there is always CAKE 😉

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

Seeing as we’re in Spain, we’d have a late breakfast of churros (books in hand), hit the beach (books still in hand!) and brave the sea for a quick dip, then take ourselves into Gibraltar for afternoon tea on the Sunborn Yacht and a spot of tax-free shopping, before driving back into Spain and inland to Ronda for dinner overlooking the glorious and ancient Puente Nuevo bridge which is built into the cliffs of a dramatic gorge.

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The next day we’d pop down to Malaga city for arty-farty sightseeing, Antonio Banderas spotting and tapas, finishing up with a champagne sunset cruise setting off from nearby Marbella. The perfect way to finish reading our books!

That sounds amazing, I’m jumping on a plane as soon as I can! Thank you so much for chatting with me this evening, I have had the best time.

Isabella’s latest book, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar, is her 8th novel and it was published on 21 September. You can buy a copy here.

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River and Alice miss Somerset. Christmas isn’t Christmas without family and friends, even when you live in quaint Cornwall.

 

When River’s Aunt Sheba dies unexpectedly, leaving him her ancient VW campervan, nostalgia nudges him and Alice back to Glastonbury – and the surrounding villages – to rediscover their roots whilst serving the most decadent hot chocolate and delectable gingerbread from their renovated ‘bar on wheels’.

 

A bar on wheels complete with a fold-up stage to host local talent competitions rivaling anything Simon Cowell could dream up, even if he’d gorged on a truckle of Cheddar cheese!

 

As the villagers sip their cocoa and ice their gingerbread houses amidst the festive backdrop of song, dance, and slightly more unconventional talents, River and Alice find themselves in an unexpected race against time:

 

Zara, their chocolate supplier is leaving Glastonbury on the twelfth day of Christmas, keen to put a string of disastrous relationships behind her to make a fresh start.

 

Bruno, their gregarious and gorgeous baking supplier is secretly smitten with Zara – ticking every box on her New Year’s wish list.

 

If only they can get them together for one experimental kiss under the mistletoe…

 

They’ve even enlisted their customers’ help in their mission to wrap this budding romance up in all the jingle bells and whistles. How hard can it be?

 

So, ho, ho VERY tricky, as it turns out…

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic, as well as a Pranic Healer.

After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!

All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her cross-genre novels, fused with a dollop of romcom, and a sprinkle of magical realism.

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

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Blog Tour: The Shanghai Wife by Emma Harcourt #BookReview

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I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Shanghai Wife by Emma Harcourt. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

shanghaiwife

Forbidden friendship, political conspiracy and incendiary passion draw Australian woman Annie Brand deep into the glamour and turmoil of 1920s Shanghai.

Leaving behind the loneliness and trauma of her past in country Australia, Annie Brand arrives to the political upheaval and glittering international society of Shanghai in the 1920s. Journeying up the Yangtze with her new husband, the ship’s captain, Annie revels in the sense of adventure but when her husband sends her back to Shanghai, her freedom is quickly curtailed.

Against her will, Annie finds herself living alone in the International Settlement, increasingly suffocated by the judgemental Club ladies and their exclusive social scene: one even more restrictive than that she came from. Sick of salacious gossip and foreign condescension, and desperate to shake off the restrictions of her position in the world, Annie is slowly drawn into the bustling life and otherness of the real Shanghai, and begins to see the world from the perspective of the local people, including the servants who work at her husband’s Club.

But this world is far more complex and dangerous than the curious Annie understands and, unknowingly, she becomes caught in a web of intrigue and conspiracy as well as a passionate forbidden love affair she could not have predicted: one with far–reaching consequences…

I was very eager to be on the tour for this book, as this is a time period and setting that I know very little about, and one of the great joys for me in reading is learning. I have to say, this book really opened my eyes to a fascinating time and place in history and am now keen to read more about it. You can’t ask much more from a book than inspiring curiosity in you whilst it entertains.

This book is an intriguing mix of history, social commentary and thriller, and I was drawn into the exquisitely drawn setting as soon as I started to read. The book opens with a young wife, Annie, as she travels up the Yangtze river with her new husband, a boat captain. The couple are still getting to know one another, and the scenes between them are sweet and tender. However, China in the 1920s is a place of political upheaval and danger, with rioting in the cities and banditry in the hills, and Alec, fearing that the journey is too dangerous for his wife and sends her back to the relative safety of the International Settlement in Shanghai.

Annie is an unusual character in the community, young and rebellious, having run away from home in Australia, she does not fit in easily with the constraining social rules of ex-pat society in China, and she displays an unseemly (in the eyes of the other women) interest in the local issues and grows too close to some of the Chinese community. She is very naive, and meddles in things she doesn’t really understand, whilst out of her husband’s immediate supervision, and ends up in a dangerous situation.

I found Annie’s story fascinating. From the perspective of a modern woman, I can sympathise with her feelings, and understand her frustrations, whilst recognising how inappropriate and unwise her actions are. You can see that the situation is not going to end well, and, boy, is this author cruel to her protagonist. This book is an emotional rollercoaster that the reader is propelled along with Annie by the power and beauty of the author’s writing. She has painted a rich and exotic world here, that you can practically touch through the pages and it feels very alive. I absolutely loved being caught up in the machinations of the ex-pat community in Shanghai at this time.

If I had any criticism of the book, it would be that the final segment unravelling the thriller aspect of the plot felt a little rushed, and I got slightly confused. I felt that the author had really luxuriated in the historical and romantic aspects of the plot earlier on, but was less invested in this aspect and just wanted it sorting out. It didn’t feel as richly developed as I would have liked, and it gave the book an uneven cadence in the final quarter. I also didn’t really understand what was the issue between Annie and her father, and this didn’t get resolved to my satisfaction.

These niggles aside, this book is a beautiful exploration of an experience in history that is ripe for story-telling and provides the reader with a feast for all of the senses. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would not hesitate to pick up another novel by this author. If you love historical fiction, you will want to give this a go.

The Shanghai Wife is out now in all formats and you can get a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

Shanghai Wife BT Poster

About the Author

Emma Harcourt Author Pic

Emma Harcourt has worked as a journalist for over 25 years, in Australia, the UK and Hong Kong. In 2011, she completed the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course and The Shanghai Wife was borne. Emma lives in Sydney with her two daughters. She is currently working on her second novel.

Connect with Emma:

Facebook: Emma Harcourt Author

Twitter: @emma_harcourt

Instagram: @emmaharcourtauthor

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