The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: The Little Shop on Floral Street by Jane Lacey-Crane #BookReview

51j61WWaKHL

In the wake of tragedy, two sisters have to piece their family back together…

Grace never thought she’d have to return home to Floral Street. Having spent most of her life building a successful career in London, she’s done everything she possibly can to avoid the flower stall that’s been in her family for generations. But when tragedy hits, she’s got no choice. It’s time to face the demons of the past and support her family.

Faith has returned home after years travelling the world. The baby of the family, she always struggled to find her place. She thought that her life would be different after a trip across the globe, but as she settles back into life in her childhood room she has to come to terms with the fact her life isn’t quite what she expected. And she has no way of getting out of the rut she finds herself in.

Faith and Grace have never seen eye-to-eye, always clashing, never forgiving. But they might just find a way to understand one another, to fight their way through their grief and come out stronger. By opening up, they’ll discover they aren’t so different at all. And family will always be there for you.

Category six of The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge was ‘Read a book by an author with the same name as your best friend.’ Now, this caused me a bit of a dilemma as I have a number of close friends and didn’t want to offend the others by naming any one of them ‘best.’ So I chose the name of my first best friend at senior school who moved to Cornwall after a year and who I haven’t seen since 1984! It also allowed me to tick a book off my NetGalley list, so it was win-win. The book I picked was The Little Shop on Floral Street by Jane Lacey-Crane.

I am ashamed that this book has been languishing on my TBR for so long, because I have loved Jane’s previous two books. This one was another great piece of women’s fiction, that spoke to me on a personal level, dealing as it does with the relationship between three sisters. As someone who is the eldest of four girls, and who counts her sisters as her closest friends as well as siblings, the dynamics of relationships between sisters is always something I am interested in seeing explored in a novel.

In this book, two of the sisters have remained close, despite the fact that the eldest left home at a young age after become largely estranged from their father. The youngest sister has been away travelling and her return to the family home marks a period of upheaval for them all, that culminates in a family tragedy that changes them all forever, and has the power to push them all apart or pull them back together.

In this novel, Jane has drawn a truly authentic and believable family dynamic that plays out honestly on the page. I felt that each of the characters, and their relationship to one another, were beautifully realised and explored and I could really relate to all of them. Despite my own closeness to my sisters, the tensions and rivalries between the three girls were very recognisable to me; with the best will in the world every family has difficulties and areas of friction, and the way each of the sisters interpreted events differently depending on their position and role within the family was all too familiar!

As the eldest, Grace was the one to whom I most related. I recognise that feeling of responsibility and having the weight of sorting out the family’s issues and taking on its burdens, whilst the younger sisters have a much more carefree existence. I am sure my sisters would argue that the younger girls have their own crosses to bear, and would recognise themselves more in Hope or Faith, which is the genius of Jane’s drawing of the characters!

The story centres around the family’s flower stall business, and its future in the wake of the tragedy and the shockwaves of its aftermath and, in this regard, it is a tight, small story that could be happening to any family up and down the country today and, in fact, in the wake of so many losses suffered by so many families in the last twelve months, many of the issues explored will be painful and relevant to a lot of people at the moment. In this regard, the book will speak to a lot of people and touch many of us with its message. This is a book that takes a step beyond a typical women’s fiction novel.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a novel with a big heart and a gentle exploration of issues that will have touched most of us in some way at some point in our lives. I would be surprised if there is anyone who can’t find some recognisable experience or emotion in its pages. Well worth reading.

The Little Shop on Floral Street is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

59tt1QT8_400x400

Jane has reached the age now where she no longer tells people her age! She’s old enough to legally be able to do everything and that’s all that matters. Secrets & Tea at Rosie Lee’s is Jane’s debut novel. Born and brought up in London’s East End, she now lives in Lincolnshire with her family. Thankfully she recently discovered the joys of mail order pie, mash & liquor, so she can relive her youth anytime she feels like it!

Although writing stories was something that Jane had always done, she never thought anyone would pay her to do it so she focused on learning to act instead, figuring that this was a much more reliable way to earn a living. Sadly, her career as an actress was shortlived, actually it was non-existent, so she turned her attention to another reliable line of work – Cable Television! This was where Jane managed to finally get paid (badly!) doing something she enjoyed – writing. She began with scripts for a series all about Serial Killers (imaginatively entitled ‘Serial Killers’) and then moved on to a series of history documentaries. This series never saw the light of day in the UK but Jane has been informed that it used be very popular with insomniacs staying in hotels in the Far East. This may or may not be true.

Jane’s latest book, The Little Shop on Floral Street, is out now and returns to the familiar East London streets where the author grew up.

Connect with Jane:

Facebook: Jane Lacey-Crane

Twitter: @JaneLaceyCrane

Instagram: @janelaceycrane

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Chasing The Italian Dream by Jo Thomas #BookReview

Chasing The Italian Dream Graphic 3

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for the latest book by one of my favourite authors, Chasing The Italian Dream by Jo Thomas. It’s also ebook publication day today, so happy publication day, Jo! My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

FINAL Chasing The Italian Dream Cover

A summer escape she’ll never forget . . .

Lucia has worked hard as a lawyer in Wales, aiming for a big promotion she hopes will shortly come her way. Finally taking a well-earned break at her grandparents’ house in southern Italy, the sunshine, lemon trees and her nonna’s mouth-watering cooking make her instantly feel at home.

But she’s shocked to learn that her grandfather is retiring from the beloved family pizzeria and will need to sell. Lucia can’t bear the thought of the place changing hands – especially when she discovers her not-quite-ex-husband Giacomo wants to take it over!

Then bad news from home forces Lucia to re-evaluate what she wants from life. Is this her chance to carry on the family tradition and finally follow her dreams?

Jo Thomas is queen of the travel novel, and this time she effectively whisked me from my armchair and straight to the heart of an Italian village near Naples where the air is fragrant with the scent of flowers, lemons…. and pizza! Workaholic Lucia is taking her annual holiday with her grandparents in Italy, while she waits to hear about a big promotion at her law firm back in Wales. However, she finds that her stable world in Italy is about to change when her Nonno retires from the family’s generations-old pizza restaurant, and passes it on to her estranged ex-husband of all people. Lucia begins to wonder is her future lies in law, and in Wales, at all.

Jo has created a wonderful mix of characters here. Lucia is a modern woman to whom we can all relate. Independent, feisty and not prepared to take no for an answer when she wants something, but at the same time generous and caring in the way she deals with other people. The relationship between Lucia and her grandparents is heart-warming and honest and I really loved watching it being explored on the page. The friendships she has in Italy, and the way the women all help each other out, is a fabulous dynamic to explore and I absolutely loved the theme of women’s lib playing out in a small, Italian pizzeria. I was cheering them on all the way!

At the same time, what is a holiday novel without a holiday romance, although in this story it is with a bit of a twist because Lucia and Giacomo have a long and tangled history, so they are not just getting to know each other. I found this a refreshing twist on the overseas romance novel, and enjoyed the way their past played into the story and caused the tension in the events unfolding on the page. There was definitely heat between the two of them coming off the page, and it wasn’t just from the hot Italian sun or the forno!

The star of the show, and the reason we all pick up a Jo Thomas novel, is, of course, the setting. It is a holiday in book form. Jo is the mistress of actually bringing her settings to life on the page so you are actually THERE as you read. Her books are a feast for every sense, with all of the sights, sounds, scents, textures, and particularly tastes, described in detail. You can feel the sun warming your shoulders, hear the waiter singing, feel the stone of the piazza under your flip flops, smell the earthy tomatoes and the zesty lemons, and taste the food.

Oh the food, the food, the food. Anyone who has read her books or follows Jo on Twitter will know how much she loves to describe food, and she does so in such a way that you can actually taste it. It instantly makes you want to eat whatever she is describing, and here it is one of my favourite cuisines… Italian. You can virtually enjoy the soft dough, the tangy tomato sauce, the melting mozzarella and the earthy basil. The gelato. The pasta, the vegetables. I’ve made myself hungry again just thinking about it, just as Jo did all the way through the book. If you love to read about food, you have to read this book.

The book was everything I wanted in a travel romance. I spent a day (which is all the time it took me to read this, I couldn’t put it down) in the sun-drenched Italian countryside with some lovely people eating pizza, drinking wine and enjoying the family drama. What more do you want? Can’t wait to get the paperback to slide on to my bookshelf next to Jo’s other books, ready for the next time I want to be whisked away to Italy.

Chasing The Italian Dream is out today in ebook format and will be published in paperback on 10 June. You can order your copy here.

Make sure to follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and other great content from my fellow bloggers:

FINAL - Chasing Italian Dream - BT Poster

About the Author

Jo Thomas Author pic

Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.

Connect with Jo:

Website: https://jothomasauthor.com/

Facebook: Jo Thomas Author

Twitter: @jo_thomas01

Instagram: jothomasauthor

random-thingstours-fb-header

Blog Tour: Staying Out for the Summer by Mandy Baggot #BookReview

Staying-out-for-summer

I am delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour today for Staying Out for the Summer by Mandy Baggot. Happy Publication Day, Mandy! My thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part and for providing me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

ARIA_Baggot_STAYING OUT FOR SUMMER

After a summer of staying in, it’s time to let your hair down and escape to Greece!

For Lucie Burrows, it’s time to embrace Greek life and put the past behind her! Having spent the summer of 2020 battling a global health crisis, Lucie Burrows is looking forward to a summer out of lockdown.

When best friend, Gavin, finds them the perfect Greek escape Lucie finally starts to think this summer might just go without a hitch.But after a landslide puts the village into a local lockdown, Lucie is thrown together with Michalis Andino, the super sexy village doctor. It’s not quite the holiday she had planned, but things could certainly be worse.

As Lucie relaxes into the Greek way of life, she begins to wonder whether this lockdown might just end in a new life, a new love…

Like me, you’ve probably been wondering how authors are going to deal with the pandemic crisis that has gripped the world for the last twelve months in their writing. I think there are going to be three ways of going about it. Firstly, people can set there books in some kind of world, either pre- or post-pandemic, where the crisis is not mentioned at all and life carries on as if it never happened, secondly it could be mentioned just in passing but largely ignored, or thirdly the author can deal with the issue head on and fully incorporate it into their writing. I have seem some discussion about what readers are going to be looking for in this regard, and I have seen mixed responses with some saying they are not ready to read about the pandemic in fiction yet because they turn to books to escape it, and some saying they would be happy to see books reflecting the reality of what we have been through. Horses for courses.

In her latest book, Mandy Baggot has firmly taken the third route and put a nurse and a doctor in the aftermath of the pandemic firmly at the heart of the story and has not shied away from exploring what these people have been put through over the past twelve months and how they are dealing with it. I think this is a very brave move, because there are people who are just not going to be ready for books that contain any reference to the difficulties the world has faced recently, especially those that are otherwise a light-hearted romance, but personally, I really enjoyed this book and felt that Mandy dealt with what could be a tricky subject with grace and compassion and honesty, whilst still retaining her trademark warmth and humour in a way that demonstrated great skill in her craft.

I love Mandy’s books for the escapism they provide, and this one is no different. Here she transports nurses Lucie and Gavin to the sun-drenched shores of Corfu, where they are taking a well-earned break from the stresses they have been under working in the NHS throughout 2020. But it is not that easy to relax whilst the after effects of the pandemic are still washing around the world. Doctor Michaelis has returned from the Greek mainland to his small home village in Corfu for similar reasons, not expecting to find romance with someone who really understands what he has been through, but fate always has other plans in romance novels!

Michaelis and Lucie are both great characters with lots of heart and some issues to work through, and they had fabulous chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them, as they got to know each other. I also absolutely adored Gavin and Michaelis’s sister, Nyx, who were larger than life and great fun to read. Mandy has also provided a fantastic cast of supporting characters, worthy of any greek tragedy or an instalment of the ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ franchise, and the whole book is a performance a maximum drama, whilst still exploring some difficult issues sympathetically. I think the author has struck a great balance here between humour and pathos.

We all need a bit of escapism at the moment, and many of us long for those warm beaches and blue seas. Unfortunately, the world has not moved on maybe as far as Mandy imagined when she was writing this book, and foreign travel is going to be merely a memory for a bit longer I fear. So, this kind of armchair travel might be our only option for a while, and I for one will take it as the alternative for now. I know some people may feel like they don’t want to read about a world that is currently only wishful thinking, but I welcome the change of scene, even if it is only imaginary.

I admire Mandy for writing about the world as it actually is, rather than how we might wish it could be. I know not everyone will agree but, if you are a fan of Mandy’s books and are looking for that armchair escape, without shying away from our new reality, this is the book for you. A light, romantic, honest novel with a bittersweet kick.

Staying Out for the Summer is out in ebook format today, and will be published in paperback on 10 June and you can get a copy here.

Make sure you check out some more reviews on the rest of the blog tour:

Staying out for Summer Blog Tour 1

Staying out for Summer Blog Tour 2

About the Author

Mandy Baggot

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Connect with Mandy:

Website: http://mandybaggot.com

Facebook: Mandy Baggot Author

Twitter: @mandybaggot

Instagram: @mandybaggot

A Little Book Problem banner

Romancing The Romance Authors with… Karen King

romancing-the-romance-authors-1

It is time to grill another romance writer about why they write what they write and what inspires their love-filled stories. Today, I am delighted to be chatting to author… Karen King.

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

I write heartwarming, feel-good romance novels set in gorgeous locations such as Cornwall and Spain. My heroines are usually feisty and independent and definitely not looking for a permanent relationship. I’ve had eight romance novels published, the first one Never Say Forever, was originally a pocket novel for People’s Friend but is now republished by Headline Accent. Since then I’ve had seven more romance novels published and have a contract with Headline Accent for three more. The first one, One Summer in Cornwall, will be published on 29th April, and is set in Port Medden, the little Cornish town where The Cornish Hotel by the Sea is set. I’ve really enjoyed writing about some of the favourite characters and bringing in new ones. I’ve also written two psychological thrillers for Bookouture, the first one, The Stranger in my Bed, was out in November and the second one will be out later this year.

Why romance?

I’ve been a published author for over thirty years and started out writing romance, photo stories for Jackie magazine, and short romance stories for magazines like Patches and Loving. Showing my age here! Then I moved onto writing for children’s magazines, and children’s books but I always wanted to write a romance novel so am delighted to have achieved that dream. I’m fascinated by how people get together, how they decide that someone is the right person for them. I enjoy writing about relationships, although we know that there is going to be a HEA with a romance I find it really interesting to write about the hero and heroine’s journey until they realise and finally admit that they love each other.

What inspires your stories?

It can be anything, an overheard conversation, someone I see in the street, a beautiful location.

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

There are so many, too many to choose a favourite. Margaret Mitchell, Catherine Cookson, Danielle Steele and Penny Vincenzi are old favourites of mine, current ones are Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Sue Moorcroft, Mandy Baggot and Heidi Swain.

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

I think Sophie Kinsella’s Remember Me? it’s funny, romantic and the characters are so credible.

41oJc6mjY0L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_

Lexi wakes up in a hospital bed after a car accident, thinking she’s twenty-five with crooked teeth and a disastrous love life. But, to her disbelief, she learns it’s actually three years later – she’s a super-toned twenty-eight-year-old, her teeth are straight, she’s the boss of her department – and she’s married to a good-looking millionaire!

She can’t believe her luck – especially when she sees her stunning new loft apartment. And she’ll definitely have a fantastic marriage once she gets to know her husband again. He’s drawn up a ‘marriage manual’, which should help.

But soon she realises her perfect life isn’t all it seems. All her old friends hate her. A rival is after her job. Then a dishevelled, sexy guy turns up… and lands a new bombshell.

What the **** happened to her? Will she ever remember? And what will happen if she does?

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 gosh, I can’t think of anyone. Sorry. Can I take my very own romantic hero, my hubby Dave, and send us both on a Caribbean cruise, stopping off for a few days in Barbados?

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

I love the RNA. It’s such a warm, friendly organisation, the support from the other authors is fantastic. I’m the blog coordinator and enjoy reading all the different blogs, there’s such a lot of information there. It can be a bit frantic at times trying to organise everything -especially in February and March when we have Romance Reading Month and the RNA Awards. The RNA team is fantastic though, and everyone pulls together.

The best thing I’ve gained from the RNA is a three-book contract with Accent Press, which led to a contract for three romance novels for Bookouture, and now another three for Headline Accent. I love to tell the story of how I arrived at my first RNA conference with a synopsis for a romance novel, the second conference with that novel sold and a contract for two more, and for my third conference the book was on sale in the lobby!

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

Stop faffing about and get writing! Your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, get it down and then you can edit it.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

One Summer in CornwalI will be published on 29th April. I’d wanted to go back to Port Medden for a long time, and give Marcus, the chef who only had a brief mention in The Cornish Hotel by the Sea, his own story so was delighted when Headline Accent said they would be interested in publishing it, and another two books. I often scroll Pinterest for inspiration for my characters and when I spotted a photo of a woman on a motorbike I had Hattie (my heroine) then I threw in a parrot that swears (inspired by a friend’s parrot) and an inheritance and there was my story.

ONE SUMMER IN CORNWALL final

When Hattie is made redundant and evicted from her flat in one horrible week, she needs time to rethink. Her Uncle Albert left her and her father each half of Fisherman’s Rest, his home in the Cornish town of Port Medden, so this seems the perfect place to escape to until she can figure things out.

As Hattie stays in the cottage, clearing it out, tidying it up and getting it ready to sell, she starts to find her feet in Port Medden and making a new home here begins to feel right. If only her dad didn’t need a quick sale and things weren’t complicated by her unwelcoming neighbour Marcus . . .

One Summer in Cornwall will be published in ebook and paperback formats on 29 April and you can pre-order it here.

About The Author

KK Head and Shoulders

Karen King is a multi-published author of both adult and children’s books. She has had eight romantic novels published, one psychological thriller with another one out later this year, 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, and several short stories for women’s magazines. Her romantic novel The Cornish Hotel by the Sea became an international bestseller, reaching the top one hundred in the Kindle charts in both the UK and Australia. Karen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. Karen now lives in Spain where she loves to spend her non-writing time exploring the quaint local towns with her husband, Dave, when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is.

Connect with Karen:

Website: http://www.karenking.net/

Facebook: Karen King Author

Twitter: @karen_king

Instagram: @karenkingauthor

A Little Book Problem banner

Guest Post: Unique Covers: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Isabella May

TWITTER Foodie Romance Journeys - 8 books

If you were watching social media over the past couple of weeks, you will have seen that author, Isabella May, released the covers for her two upcoming books, Bubblegum and Blazers and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar, which will be released in July and September respectively. I am always so impressed with the covers of Isabella’s books that, when I saw the latest two (which might be the best yet), I asked her to write a piece about their creation to share with you.

Unique Covers: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Isabella May

I was honoured to be asked to write a feature on the subject of covers for ‘A Little Book Problem’ blog recently. I’m often praised for my striking foodie and drinkie book covers, I even tongue and cheekily dub myself the ‘Queen of Covers’. A strong and instantly recognisable brand is something I am passionate about. I believe a cover should be as individual as the story inside the book.

When I signed up with Crooked Cat, the publisher of my first three romcom novels, I was encouraged (and this is incredibly rare among traditional publishers – more’s the pity, I think) to be an integral part of the cover selection process.

But that didn’t mean I had any idea what I was doing! Far from it. My very first attempt at a brief for CC was a terrible felt-tip pen sketch of Glastonbury tor (much of my debut, Oh! What a Pavlova is set in Glastonbury) with a woman seated at a table at the foot of the hill, awaiting a date as she eyes up a berry-topped pavlova. Unsurprisingly, my publisher sent me back to the drawing board with a sample of possible alternatives, and the link to some good quality stock image libraries.

The David Bailey seed was immediately planted and I began to get excited.

This is in no way to discount the utterly fabulous illustrated romance covers in our corner of the fiction world. There have been some gorgeously colourful, unique and exquisitely dreamy examples of those of late: Julie Caplin, Holly Martin, Zoe Folbigg, Emma Jackson, and Daisy James are some of my favourite romance authors who immediately spring to mind.

That said, why shouldn’t a photographic dessert-laden romcom book cover have similar appeal?  What about breaking the mould with a broken pavlova and some Jamie Oliver-style splattered strawberry jus? It would certainly befit the title, as well as the subject matter. Despite the love elements of the story, there is a domestic violence weave. And so it began… I turned myself into a photography scout, shortlisting contenders and sending them to my publisher, who worked some magic with the font and layout, and voilà: Oh! What a Pavlova’s mouthwatering, dramatic and intriguing cover was born.

51D2Nsi7efL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ML2_

My publisher asked me what I was working on next. As it happened, I’d started to pen a story called The Cocktail Bar, for which I’d already screenshot a vibrant bank of photographic possibilities. And so the theme continued as thoughts raced ahead to book 3 which I wanted to be set on the Costa del Sol, where I live: foodie focus churros!

This ‘art-directing’ involvement in my three first books was as much fun as the writing of them. But it was easy to get things hideously wrong: case in point being the first cover that almost got signed off for The Cocktail Bar, before a writer friend spotted the rather phallic-looking cherries on the stick in the cocktail glass… and their positioning right next to the beginning of the word ‘cocktail’. One of those dreaded once-you-see-it-you-can’t-unsee-it moments. I’m massively relieved that she did!

So there are many things to take into account. Backdrops shouldn’t be too busy (but then sometimes you see an image and you fall in love with it and you’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen – that’s definitely been the case for The Chocolate Box!), colour is key, food and drink need to look utterly snoggable, and at thumbnail size on Amazon, the text has to be legible. So, you know, it’s not quite as straightforward as diving headfirst into a stock library and taking your pick…

51U7ne0p0RL

Once I have downloaded the watermarked image and had a little play around with the font and positioning myself on the Canva website (and once I have set that cover next to my existing ones to see if they are on brand), I brave it and buy the high resolution image! As soon as that commitment has been made, I contact Sam, my designer with a brief. He is amazing, professional and very patient as there are often numerous tweaks to be made. The next step is uploading the pre-order to Amazon… and only then will I truly know if the cover is right – if that all-important thumbnail size version of my cover works for potential bookworm buyers.

Most of the time that’s a resounding YES. Sometimes though, it’s a case of quickly taking the image down before anyone has seen the disaster, and starting afresh with a plan B. That was the story with my Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar, although in hindsight it was worth the money, time, and tears of frustration. I did my cover reveal recently and this new one is getting some awesome comments. Roll on September the 21st.

Ultimately though, having complete creative control of your covers as an author is incredibly liberating and rewarding. There can be nothing worse for an author than spending years writing a book, only to have to stand behind a cover that will never float your boat. I don’t think the creativity ends with our words; a book is an entire product, Kindle or paperback. The cover is an extension of our art and the world we have poured our heart into.   

After book 3 with CC (and a change in direction for their list, which started to go darker), and after many heartbreaking rejections for book 4 et al via agents and publishers – common theme: ‘your writing is great but your stories are trying to do too much’ – I decided to take my destiny in my own hands and self-publish. A number of my author friends were hybrid or publishing independently and gave me so much support and encouragement. Meanwhile, I could see I had the beginnings of a true USP – in no small part thanks to having such different and perhaps daring covers in a romantic fiction world full of illustration.

Alas, there’s no sugarcoating such a bold and ‘rebellious’ choice; from a marketing point of view it makes everything 100 times harder! That’s when I momentarily berate myself and wish I could stop being so stubborn; a star-shaped peg trying to fit into a round hole is not the best recipe for selling books. Readers have to be able to find you.

The publishing world likes to pigeonhole. The publishing world often needs to pigeonhole – and Amazon, bargain books newsletters, Bookbub and its cousins are no exception there. Romance, in all its guises, tends to favour tried and tested illustration, or it tends to favour photographic shots of half-naked cowboys and muscly, oiled-up hunks… I mean when we think about the covers that are typical of genres, romance is rarely represented in photographic form. That’s for crime and psych thrillers, it’s for non-fiction and biography.

From that point of view, promoting my books is not always a picnic. My mutinous covers don’t follow The Rules. In other words, I make a rod for my own back by not conforming to a love heart strewn illustration whose promise of a HEA could set the sky alight, whose blurb doesn’t need to be scrutinised to double check that it is being advertised in the correct category.

Fortunately, I have always prided myself in quietly breaking the rules, even if it is much to my chagrin and I sell fewer books as a result of my obstinacy. I have also always been better at taking photos than drawing. My 43-year-old self is still rooted in the stick person phase.

So, I think perhaps this whole photographic cover business is – unwittingly – an extension of me and my goofy personality. In my defence though, sometimes there really is no substitute for The Real Deal and even if you show me the most arty-farty and indisputably talented drawing of a cupcake, I’m going to plump for the edible photo version every time!

********************

Thank you for that, Isabella, it is fascinating to hear about the process. I think the cover for Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar is my favourite yet and it definitely makes me want to pick up the book, so I guess that’s job done!

You can pre-order Isabella’s latest two book, Bubblegum and Blazers and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar, here and here.

About the Author

Isabella May chunky bangle pose_

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.
 
Connect with Isabella:
 
 
Facebook: Isabella May
 
 
 
A Little Book Problem banner
 

 

Friday Night Drinks with… Sandy Barker

friday-night-drinks

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.

PCLBhv9f_400x400

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.

51rlWf-pXtL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

THR Series Order-1

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.

51oSkFJ769L

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.

A Little Book Problem banner

Book Review: Starstruck by Emma Bennet

41Av1zN0llL._SY346_

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

qhd2hg5k46ols29lvls5ndqddm._US230_

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

A Little Book Problem banner

Desert Island Books with… Lizzie Lamb

desert-island-books

Today’s literary castaway, stranded on a deserted beach with only five books and one luxury item to keep her company, is author, Lizzie Lamb. Let’s see what she has chosen from all the books even written as the ones she would like to be stuck with indefinitely, shall we?

Book One – Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

41oWS3arLoL

Hero Wantage is desperate to change her fate.

When the dashing Lord Sherry proposes out of the blue, Hero is overjoyed – she’ll escape a life as a governess and, once they wed, he can finally claim his inheritance.

But as Hero attempts to social climb in glamorous London society, Sherry is concerned that her naivety will ruin them both and takes drastic action.

The chaos that follows will push friendships – and hearts – to breaking point.

Before Pride and Prejudice hit our screens, Georgette Heyer was my go-to author for Regency romances. I bought my copy of Friday’s Child for 3/6 (17p) back in 1965 and it was passed round the sixth form as we laughed at the antics of the characters and relived their adventures. The characters and historical background of ‘the ton’ and the slang which Heyer has down to a tee are what make the novel for me. Especially Ferdy who believes he is being stalked by a Greek because he’s told that one day he will ‘meet his ‘Nemesis’. Also, who could resist unsophisticated Hero Wantage who agrees to enter a marriage of convenience with Regency Buck Lord Sheringham whom she’s secretly loved all her life. And, as is the way with these things, she reforms him and don’t they say reformed rakes make the best husbands? I used to re-read this book when I was feeling down or recovering from the flu etc. so it’s practically falling apart. I could buy a new copy, but where’s the fun in that? I’ve never tired of it so I guess it belongs on my desert island with me. Through its pages I can dance a cotillion, ride in a curricle accompanied by my Tiger and become the toast of the Bath.

Quite simply – Bridgerton, without the sex.

Book Two – Emily by Jilly Cooper 

418IppCEQjL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_

If Emily hadn’t gone to Annie Richmond’s party, she would never have met the impossible irresistible Rory Balniel – never have married him and been carried off to the wild Scottish island of Irasa to live in his ancestral home along with his eccentric mother, Coco, and the dog, Walter Scott.

She’d never have met the wild and mysterious Marina, a wraith from Rory’s past, nor her brother, the disagreeable Finn Maclean; never have spent a night in a haunted highland castle, or been caught stealing roses in a see-through nightie…

Yes, it all started at Annie Richmond’s party.

As a writer of romantic comedy, how could I leave Jilly Cooper behind on the sinking ship? Just as I’d finished reading all the Georgette Heyers and ploughed my way through historical novels thick enough to be used as doorstops, I discovered Jilly. Emily was her first romance and, back in the day before Amazon was a blot on the horizon, word of it spread via my book-devouring besties. As a newlywed, impoverished probationary teacher trying to renovate a wreck of a house after of a long day at the chalk face I needed light relief. Jilly provided just that. She described a world of fashionable parties in Chelsea, wild Scottish islands, highland estates, hasty marriages to impossible, irresistible heroes, glamorous ex-girlfriends determined to break up Emily and her new husband Rory Balniel. There’s plenty of hilarious escapades and Jilly’s delicious puns to keep me  turning the pages. There’s even a serpent in Eden in the form of Finn Maclean who threatens to wreck Emily’s happiness. The icing on the cake? I met Jilly three years ago at an RNA party and she was everything I hoped she’d be. She kissed me, called me Darling Lizzie and thanked ME for buying her books and remaining a loyal fan over the years. She’s the ideal companion for a desert island but if I can’t take her, I’ll take Emily along instead.

Book Three – Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson

51k3WUqc94L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Our neighbours divide into the haves … and the have yachts.

Meet Mimi and Clare, two married women making the most of their Notting Hill postcode. New best friends, and close neighbours, that doesn’t stop them being rivals, in fact it compels it. Both are aspiring Notting Hill Mummies (Clare needs the baby, Mimi needs the six figure income) and, keeping up with all the area’s fads, fashions and fabulousness is a full-time job.

But the arrival of sexy billionaire Si in their exclusive communal garden strains loyalty to friends, family, spouse and feng-shui guru alike … and only one of them can win.

But who will that be? Clare or Mimi? Are they friends, or just…neighbours?

I adored the movie Notting Hill (1999) so when Rachel Johnson wrote Notting Hell I bought it straight away. It bridged the gap between one Jilly Cooper bonk buster and the next and, inadvertently, provided me with the inspiration for the opening scenes of my rom com – Tall, Dark and Kilted. The novel gave me an insight into the lives of those who shared upmarket communal gardens surrounded by three story houses in sugar almond colours. For that alone I’m taking it along with me to my desert island. In 2006, the year I took early retirement from teaching to concentrate on my writing, I bought a ticket which permitted me to enter the private Notting Hill gardens (including the one where the movie was filmed) and provided me with invaluable research material. There’s also a twist in the tail which I’ll pretend I don’t see coming. As for the novel, I’ve forgotten most of the shenanigans so it’ll be fun to reacquaint myself with Yummy Mummies, high achievers who shopped in Westbourne Road, midnight rendezvous in the bosky gardens, and the secrets the residents are hiding behind their shuttered windows. I’d love another chance to look round those gardens . . . maybe I will once I’ve been rescued from my desert island.

Book Four – Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford 

41aT308-+cL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

The Mitford family is one of the century’s most enigmatic, made notorious by Nancy’s novels, Diana’s marriage to Sir Oswald Mosley, Unity’s infatuation with Hitler, Debo’s marriage to a duke and Jessica’s passionate commitment to communism.

Hons and Rebels is an enchanting and deeply absorbing memoir of an isolated and eccentric upbringing which conceals beneath its witty, light-hearted surface much wisdom and depth of feeling.

I was first attracted to this novel because I’d read about the Mitford sisters: Nancy, Deborah, Diana, Unity, Pamela and Jessica and their brother Tom in a Sunday Times colour supplement and was intrigued to learn more about the eccentric family. Jessica’s sisters (Diana and Unity) and her parents supported Hitler, Diana and her husband Oswald Mosley were gaoled for their support of the fascist cause while Jessica married her cousin Esmond, fought in the Spanish Civil War, joined the communist party and went to live in America. But Hons and Rebels it isn’t a heavy political treatise, it tells the story of a vanished way of life and reads less like an autobiography and more like a family saga. When I read it on my desert island I’ll be whisked away from the South Seas (that’s where I choose to be shipwrecked) to the misty Cotswolds, an ancient manor house, quaint towns and villages and experience once again the feeling of standing on the threshold of time (1939) aware of what lay ahead, even if the Mitfords didn’t.

Book Five – The Flight of the Heron (Trilogy) by D.K. Broster

512269q0OlL

It is 1745, and the Jacobite rebellion is on the rise.

Ewen Cameron, a principled young Scottish Highlander, is destined and honoured to serve Bonnie Prince Charlie, the young Pretender, and to help the ‘rightful King’ ascend to the British throne.

Major Keith Windham is a career soldier with the English Army – seemingly the antithesis of Ewen. He is jaded, worldly and loyal to the Crown but, ultimately, an outsider.

Their fates are linked inextricably when a highland prophecy tells Ewen that the flight of a heron will predict five meetings with an Englishman who will cause him much harm but also render a great service.     

Ewen is sceptical, but the prophecy proves true when he meets Englishman Keith Windham – and a gripping tale of adventure, danger and true and lasting friendship is set into motion.

Both are men who are willing to die for their honour and their beliefs. Each is on an opposing side. But who will emerge the victor?

My last choice is a bit of a cheat because it’s part of a trilogy: The Flight of the Heron, The Gleam in the North and The Dark Mile. It is the haunting, romantic story of the men and women who, in 1745, joined Bonnie Prince Charlie after he raised his standard at Glenfinnan. A few years ago I visited Glenfinnan and looked towards the valley now spanned by the famous Harry Potter Bridge (aka the Glenfinnan viaduct) where  in 1745 Cameron of Locheil led five hundred clansmen through the valley, pipes playing and banners waving to pledge themselves to the Jacobite cause. In many way the book was a forerunner for Highlander, Braveheart and Outlander, but in my opinion it surpasses them all in depth and historical scope. It was also the first time I’d encountered Scots Gaelic and I learned some of the phrases by heart.  My copy has nine-hundred-and-fifty-five pages, so I won’t be stuck for reading material. There’s also a romance running through the trilogy, as does the unlikely friendship between Ewan Cameron and Major Wyndham, an officer in King George’s army. 

The books I’ve chosen show my love of history, comedy, romance and an interest in worlds/times other than my own. When I left teaching everyone thought I would write children’s books. Not so . . . However –  my latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling, published November 2020 features a headmistress who . . .Well, I’ll let the blurb do the talking for me.

My luxury item

download

 

Finally, I would take a machete with me to build shelter, fend off wild animals and make myself clothes out of large (!) flat leaves of plants I find growing in the jungle.

About Lizzie Lamb

Lizzie Lamb

After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided to pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed by Boot Camp Bride. She went on to publish Scotch on the Rocks, which achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon and her next novel, Girl in the Castle, reached #3 in the Amazon charts. Lizzie is a founder member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press, and has hosted author events at Aspinall, St Pancras and Waterstones, Kensington, talking about the research which underpins her novels. Lizzie romance Take Me, I’m Yours, set in Wisconsin, also achieved BEST SELLER status >travel>USA. Her latest novel – Harper’s Highland Fling – has been declared her ‘best one yet’ by readers and reviewers. In it, two warring guardians are forced to join forces and set off in hot pursuit of a runaway niece and son. She has further Scottish-themed romances planned and spends most of the summer touring the Scottish Highlands researching men in kilts. As for the years she spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste as she is building a reputation as a go-to speaker on indie publishing, and how to plan, write, and publish your debut novel.

Lizzie lives in Leicestershire (UK) with her husband, David.

She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch . . .

You can read an extract of Lizzie’s latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling here and the book is available in ebook and paperback format here.

3D image HHF

After a gruelling academic year, head teacher Harper MacDonald is looking forward to a summer holiday trekking in Nepal.

However, her plans are scuppered when wayward niece, Ariel, leaves a note announcing that she’s running away with a boy called Pen. The only clue to their whereabouts is a footnote: I’ll be in Scotland.

Cue a case of mistaken identity when Harper confronts the boy’s father – Rocco Penhaligon, and accuses him of cradle snatching her niece and ruining her future. At loggerheads, Harper and Rocco set off in hot pursuit of the teenagers, but the canny youngsters are always one step ahead. And, in a neat twist, it is the adults who end up in trouble, not the savvy teenagers.

Fasten your seatbelt for the road trip of your life! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Connect with Lizzie:

Website: https://lizzielamb.co.uk/

Facebook: Lizzie Lamb Writer

Twitter: @lizzie_lamb

Instagram: @lizzielambwriter

Pinterest: Lizzie Lamb

A Little Book Problem banner

 

Book Review: An Eligible Bachelor by Veronica Henry; Narrated by Jilly Bond

511toHAQ+HL

Upstairs, downstairs… it’s all going on at the manor.

When Guy wakes up with a terrible hang-over and a new fiancée, he tries not to panic. After all, Richenda is beautiful, famous, successful… What reason could he have for doubts?

As news of the engagement between the heir of Eversleigh Manor and the darling of prime-time television spreads through the village, Guy wonders if he’s made a rash decision. Especially when he meets Honor, a new employee of the Manor who has a habit of getting under his skin…

But Honor has her own troubles – a son who’s missing a father, and an ex-boyfriend who has made an unexpected reappearance…

Being a massive fan of Veronica’s books, I thought I had read them all but – joy! – I discovered one I had overlooked and, feeling a bit down in the early, grey days of January, with post-Christmas blues and another lockdown taking force, I knew listening to it would be the perfect pick me up as I did my new year clean up.  (Is that the longest sentence I’ve ever written? Possibly.)

This book takes us back to the Cotswold countryside, location of Veronica’s earliest books, to the village of Eversleigh, where the young, handsome heir to the local manor house wakes up with a hangover and a fiancee he doesn’t really remember proposing too. Meanwhile, Honor is juggling life as a single mum down the road, pulled between spending time with her young son and trying to put food on the table. Their lives could not be more different, so we know that the author is going to find some way of bringing them together, and I settled back to enjoy seeing how Veronica was going to do it.

If you are thinking that this sounds a little ‘Jilly Cooper’ you’d be correct, and in absolutely the best way possible. This book would be absolutely perfect for anyone who loves Jilly’s books (as I do) but hasn’t got the time to listen to one of the massive Rutshire novels on audio (I listened to Riders and Rivals during the first lockdown on audio and they are 28 hours 17 minutes and 27 hours 41 minutes long respectively! Great value for an Audible credit if you have any going spare). This has the same light-hearted, romantic vibe, whilst still tackling some issues that will resonate with listeners; single parenthood, unhappy childhoods, being torn between personal desire and family duty. Plus, chuck in some fabulous descriptions of beautiful Gloucestershire countryside and you are on to a winner as far as I am concerned.

The thing I particularly loved about this book was that Veronica gives us a love triangle that is a real dilemma because there is a lot to admire about both the women involved. I love reading books featuring strong women who know their own minds and don’t need a man to solve their problems, these are the type of characters I relate to, not wilting flowers with no self-determination. There was no obvious right or wrong answer for Guy in his romantic conundrum and I had huge amounts of sympathy and affection for both Honor and Richenda. For most of the book I could not decide who I wanted him to end up with and I was going to be sad for whichever one of them was left in the cold. Within the main characters, they were all likeable and worthy of happiness, there was no obvious villain (although this is not true of the minor characters. We always need some baddies to direct our ire at, don’t we?) This is not always the case in romance novels, very often it is too easy to guess what the ending to be, and I found this book very refreshing and appealing in this approach.

This book is the perfect piece of escapism, full of warmth and humour and plenty of tension to keep the reader enthralled. The narration was excellent and complemented the book perfectly, really bringing the story to life, and the whole experience of listening to this book was a delight. I don’t often listen to romance novels on audio, I prefer thrillers in that format because the narrative is usually more pacy which works better for audio, which takes much longer to listen to than it would take me to read the book in text format. However, there are some romance authors that buck this trend, and Veronica is one of them. This book made my mucking out chores a lot more pleasurable than they normally are in a cold, wet January and I can highly recommend it to anyone looking to lift their spirits in these trying times.

An Eligible Bachelor is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

timthumb

I’m Veronica – otherwise known as Ronnie – and I’m delighted you’ve found your way here!

People often ask me what kind of books I write and it’s a very difficult question to answer in one sentence. Primarily, I love to take my readers somewhere they might like to be, whether a gorgeous house in the countryside or on a seaside clifftop. There, my characters go through the trials and tribulation of everyday life, embroiled in situations and dilemmas we can all relate to. Love is at the heart of it, but all kinds of love, not just romantic: the love of friends and family, or a place, or a passion for what you enjoy (food, wine and books, in my case . . .)

I have a background in writing television drama (Heartbeat, Holby City) so that has been an influence – creating lots of characters whose lives impact on each other. Working on The Archers I was taught ‘Make ’em laugh; make ’em cry; but above all, make ’em wait’!

I hope my books are beautifully written, uplifting and a little bit escapist. I’d love to know what you think, so do leave a review.

A little bit about me: I live by the sea and head to the beach every day with my dog Zelda. I love cooking and discovering new restaurants on city breaks, with a bit of yoga to offset the calories – and I’ve just bought an e-bike. My biggest writing influences are HE Bates, Nancy Mitford, Jilly Cooper and any book that has a big rambling house and an eccentric family . . .

Connect with Veronica:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

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

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Coming Home To Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn #BookReview

Coming Home Brightwater Bay Cover

On paper, Merina Wilde has it all: a successful career writing the kind of romantic novels that make even the hardest hearts swoon, a perfect carousel of book launches and parties to keep her social life buzzing, and a childhood sweetheart who thinks she’s a goddess. But Merry has a secret: the magic has stopped flowing from her fingers. Try as she might, she can’t summon up the sparkle that makes her stories shine. And as her deadline whooshes by, her personal life falls apart too. Alex tells her he wants something other than the future she’d always imagined for them and Merry finds herself single for the first time since – well, ever.

Desperate to get her life back on track, Merry leaves London and escapes to the windswept Orkney Islands, locking herself away in a secluded clifftop cottage to try to heal her heart and rediscover her passion for writing. But can the beauty of the islands and the kindness of strangers help Merry to fool herself into believing in love again, if only long enough to finish her book? Or is it time for her to give up the career she’s always adored and find something new to set her soul alight?

Today, I am thrilled to be taking my turn on the blog tour for Coming Home To Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Simon and Schuster for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I’ll admit upfront that I am a massive fan of Holly Hepburn’s writing, I’ve read all of her previous books. Not sure whether that means I am pre-disposed to enjoy her books or have high expectations that are waiting to be dashed, either way, I loved this book just as much, if not more, than her previous novels.

Poor Merry. The opening scene of the book makes for agonising reading when you put yourself in her shoes, and meant I was firmly on her side from the very beginning, praying for things to work out for her. I was so glad she took the first, brave step to uproot herself from everything familiar and make the change that deep down she knows she needs to shake things loose. Because the main thing I love about this book is that, despite the fact this is a romance, Merry is someone who sorts out her own issues and doesn’t rely on a man or a relationship to do it for her. I really loved her as a character, she felt very relatable to me, which made it very easy for me to lose myself in her journey, both actual and emotional, in the pages of this book.

That’s not to say that men don’t play a part in the book, they obviously do. In fact, Merry has the choice of a Viking boatbuilder and a Clark-Kent-lookalike librarian to choose from, and I’m not sure which one I would pick if I were her. (Could I have one for weekdays and another for weekends perhaps?) And then of course, an old flame rears his ugly head for who knows what reason, so there is plenty of romantic tension to keep readers happy.

On top of all this, the book is alive with descriptions of the beautiful islands of Orkney and the close-knit community that Merry finds there. Holly brings all of the scenery and history and food of the islands to the pages of the book and allows us to discover them along with Merry, and fall in love with the place, just as she does. Like me, I am sure you will be wondering how soon you can jump on a tiny plane and fly off to explore them for yourselves (not soon enough is the answer.)

If you are looking for a wonderful piece of escapist reading, written with real warmth and charm and a keen eye for the detail that really brings a book to life, look no further, this is the book for you.

Coming Home to Brightwater Bay is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please be sure to check out the rest of the tour as detailed below:

Brightwater Bay BT Poster 2

About the Author

Holly Hepburn Author Pic

Holly Hepburn is the much-loved author of commercial women’s fiction. She lives near London with her grey tabby cat, Portia. They both have an unhealthy obsession with Marmite.

Connect with Holly:

Facebook: Holly Hepburn Books

Twitter: @HollyH_Author

Instagram: @hollyh_author

A Little Book Problem banner