Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow #BookReview #BlogTour (@ChristieJBarlow) @HarperImpulse @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #LoveHeartLane #NetGalley

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Taking my turn today on the blog tour for Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow, so if you’re in the mood for a cosy, feel good novel with a healthy dash of romance, settle down for this review. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Randon Resources for my place on the tour and to HarperImpulse for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Welcome to Love Heart Lane…

When Flick Simons returns to the small village of Heartcross she only expected to stay for a few days. The white-washed cottages of Love Heart Lane might be her home, but the place holds too many painful memories, and of one man in particular – Fergus Campbell.

When a winter storm sweeps in, the only bridge connecting the village to the main land is swept away! As the villagers pull together, Flick finds herself welcomed back by the friends she once left behind. And as the snow begins to melt, maybe there is a chance that Fergus’s heart will thaw too…

There are some occasions when writing a review for a blog tour can be really hard. It’s not those times when I really don’t like a book, because it is my policy not to post negative reviews on the blog. It’s not the times I really, really love a book because then I can wax lyrical for pages (as regular readers will be only too aware) about why you should read it immediately. The tough ones are the ones that fall in between, where you have to write a balanced review for a book about which you have mixed feelings. Finding that balance can be hard – between honesty and fairness to the author. Frankly, sometimes I’d like to duck out, because I blog for fun and writing these reviews sometimes isn’t fun. But I know how disappointing it is for blog tour organisers and authors to be let down, and it is a matter of personal importance to me to deliver on commitments that I have made and produce the reviews I have promised, so all I can do is give it my best shot.

But…I hate January. And I’ve got PMT. And my toilet is broken and taking ages to fix. I think my fridge is on the blink, even though it is only a year old. I’m waiting for the results of Little Miss Sunshine’s 11+ entrance exam. Mini Me has the fingers of her dominant strapped up after a netball injury and it looks like her vision may have worsened again. It’s cold. I hate driving on icy roads. I think one of my cats is becoming a bit incontinent. My WIP is currently in a difficult phase. I’m on a diet. I hate the gym. The finale of Game of Thrones is still three months away. Brexit. I’ve just done my tax return. A project I’m working on has hit a bumpy patch. I’m almost 47 and I’ve found a grey eyebrow hair. I’m doing Dry January.

What is the relevance of this litany of complaints, you ask? I thought you were trying to look on the bright side this year? All that ‘Be Happy’ guff from your New Year’s Resolutions? You are right, of course, and if I try, I can sit down and write a list of all the things in life that I am grateful for and that make me happy. My point is, sometimes we all have a bad day, or week, and that can affect our mood, what we enjoy reading and how we react to the things that we do read. I think that has happened to me this week because this is a book that has received rave reviews from all my fellow bloggers and would ordinarily be the kind of thing that would lift my heart at this time of year, but for some reason it just didn’t. Add to this the fact that this is the second romance book I have had problems loving this week and I feel the need to caveat this review with the idea that it might be me, rather than the book, that is the issue and you should bear that in mind and read all the reviews on the tour to get a balanced view.

(One kindly well-wisher has suggested that the problem may not be the books but resentment at the lack of romance in my own life. Are you listening, Irishman? Your position as my own, real life romantic hero is being brought into question. Better pull your finger out for Valentine’s Day!)

So, after all that, let’s get on to the review. There were parts of the book that I loved, and parts that were less successful for me, and I will try and explain why. Firstly, the general premise of this book and the setting are enchanting. Felicity fled the small town of Heartcross eight years previously under a cloud of heartbreak and has had little contact with its inhabitants since. However, circumstances force her back and she has to try and re-established the life and relationships she abandoned. So far, so fabulous. Heartcross is a picture-perfect Highland idyll and I fell in love with it immediately. Christie draws a very vivid picture of a charming village and peoples it with a cast of warm, real and delightful characters who form a close knit community that you can’t help wishing you could be a part of. Another blogger on the tour likened it to Brigadoon (one of my all time favourite musicals – Gene Kelly, mmmm) and I completely understand what she means, especially after the bridge falls. The plot driver of Felicity trying to rebuild the fractured friendships she left behind provides plenty of tension to keep the plot rolling along nicely from a personal angle, and then there are a number of practical problems thrown in for added impetus. All of this works perfectly. There is, of course, an emotional romantic relationship to be explored as well. Everything you could wish for seems to be present.

So why did it not quite work for me? Having given this a lot of careful thought, I had a couple of problems that prevented the book being a great read for me. Firstly, some parts of the plot were just two unlikely or problematic for me to buy in to. I know the author included them to move the story in a certain direction, but they were too much of a stretch for me to suspend my disbelief quite that far. This might not have been an issue normally – I’m often happy to swallow reality in favour of a romping read – but my overall current level of grumpiness comes with a large side order of pedantry that just made me annoyed at some of the more improbable or impractical aspects. You may fare better.

The second, and probably more damning problem was that there were fundamental things about the central character that I didn’t particularly like. At times she acted in a way that I perceived as monumentally selfish. She barged ahead with things she wanted to do, despite being asked repeatedly by more than one person not to behave that way, as if other people’s feelings were irrelevant, she absolutely knew best, and then seemed surprised when they were angry. Added to this, she was also a superwoman who saved the village pretty much single-handedly from every obstacle thrown at it. To be honest, it set my teeth on edge. Unfortunately, in this genre of novel, a failure to connect with the main character sounds the death knell of the book for me.

Christie’s writing is great, and on the surface this book works at every level. It certainly has wowed almost everyone else who has read and reviewed it. So, I will reiterate, I think the problem lies with me. I think it is just a case of wrong book, wrong time. This is one of the perils of blog tours. You commit to reading and reviewing a book, regardless of whether that book suits your mood or not, and are then faced with the stark choice of reneging on your promise to take part in the tour, which I hate to do because it is inconsiderate towards everyone else involved who has worked so hard to do their part, or writing a less than glowing review for a book that you may have enjoyed more at another time. It is a no win situation.

For this reason, I urge you to read the other reviews on the tour and use them to judge the suitability of this book for you, rather than the rather cross ramblings of a peri-menopausal woman having a bad week. Or better still, buy the book and read it and make your own judgments. Christie, I probably owe you a drink. I’m off to Google HRT and reliable plumbers and dig out the receipt for that dodgy fridge. And to choose something nice and murder-y for my next read that might better suit my current mood.

Love Heart Lane is out now as an ebook and will be available in paperback on 21 March and you can get your copy here.

To get a range of reviews and reactions to the book, please visit the other blogs on the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Christie Barlow is the author of A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother, The Misadventures of a Playground Mother, Kitty’s Countryside Dream, Lizzie’s Christmas Escape, Evie’s Year of Taking Chances, The Cosy Canal Boat Dream, A Home at Honeysuckle Farm and Love Heart Lane. Her writing career came as somewhat a surprise when she decided to write a book to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams. The book she wrote to prove a point is now a #1 bestseller in the UK, USA & Australia.

Christie is an ambassador for @ZuriProject raising money/awareness and engaging with impoverished people in Uganda through organisations to improve their well-being as well as Literary Editor for http://www.mamalifemagazine.co.uk bringing you all the latest news and reviews from the book world.

Connect with Christie:

Website: http://christiebarlow.com

Facebook: Christie J Barlow

Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow

The Manor on the Moors by Liz Taylorson #BlogTour #GuestPost (@taylorson_liz) @BooksManatee @Tr4cyF3nt0n #compulsivereaders #TheManorOnTheMoors

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Alice has landed her dream job, searching the Misterley Manor archives for tales of the elusive Gilbert Fox-Travers – life should be perfect, if only she could untangle her complicated love life…

Caroline is desperately trying to keep Misterley from falling down around her ears, and it’s a tough enough job without throwing a stroppy teenager, a difficult ex-husband and a cantankerous father into the mix.

When disaster strikes, Caroline and her family must pull together to save her beloved family home…Can Alice uncover the mystery of Gilbert Fox-Travers in time to save the Manor?

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Manor on the Moors by Liz Taylorson and  the author has dropped by to tell us a little about how she came to write this particular book. My thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for talking to me today.

The road to “The Manor on the Moors”

“For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a writer. I still remember the excitement of being given a new notebook as a young girl because all those blank pages meant that I could start writing a new story. My writing was very heavily influenced by what I had been reading. I read Daphne Du Maurier and wrote historical stories or I read “The Lord of the Rings” and wrote fantasy – but always at the heart of these fictions was a love story, usually featuring a thinly disguised version of me!

In my twenties I tried more seriously to write novels but I had a problem with finishing them. I’ve got about three unfinished romantic novels somewhere in a shoebox – and one of them might get unearthed and rewritten one day – but then real life intervened and instead of writing myself as the heroine of a romantic novel I actually fell in love, got married and had children, and then had no time for anything else. It was only when the children got older and less dependent on me that I found I had the time (and the energy) to write again. 

And this time I knew this was it. If I wanted to achieve my life-long dream to “be a writer” I had to do it now and do it properly. So, I set about writing another novel and this time I made sure I finished it, which felt like a major achievement. I also joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme so that I could get some help with what to do next. I submitted my manuscript, so lovingly and carefully created, for appraisal, and that’s when I had one of the hardest tests of my writing life to date. Because it isn’t enough just to finish – there’s a lot more to it than that, as my manuscript appraisal revealed. You can’t just write what you want, if you want commercial publication – you have to write what other people want to read, and I hadn’t done that. I had a lot of work still to do.

This is where the hard work began. I did courses, I read books, I took advice, I learnt more about the craft of writing. And finally I wrote a novel that was good enough to be published – the lovely people at Manatee Books liked my slightly awkward heroine as much as I did, and there I was with my first novel in my hand. Now, that was great. But as soon as the first novel was finished, I had to come up with another idea to follow it, and, as any published writer will tell you, that second novel is HARD. 

You feel that you have to write something BETTER than the first novel – and yet you’ve spent years perfecting and polishing novel one. It has to be similar to novel one – now is not the time to switch genre – but not too similar to be repetitive. “The Manor on the Moors” went through, I think, five complete rewrites as I tried to get it perfect! But with a second novel, there is more help. There’s an editor, for a start, to help you develop and polish the story, and by now I had writing friends to turn to with dilemmas that needed advice.

I feel like I’ve travelled a long way from those early days scribbling stories in notebooks and dreaming of being a writer.  However one thing remains constant – I’m still writing love stories (though these days the heroine is only very occasionally based on me …), and in the case of “The Manor on the Moors” there are three love stories for the price of one!”

Thank you, Liz, for sharing your writing story with me today. It is so nice to see someone having success ahead on the same path I am currently treading with my writing!

If you would like to get your own copy of The Manor on the Moors, you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to read some reviews of the book and other great content, make sure you follow the blog tour below:

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About the Author

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Liz has always surrounded herself with books.

As a child, she was always to be found with her head in one and she still has a bookcase full of her childhood favourites to this day. (As a thirteen-year-old she read The Lord of the Rings twelve times in a row, cover to cover!) All this reading led, unsurprisingly, to a degree in English Literature, (and another book-case full of books) and then a job as a cataloguer of early printed books for a major university library. This meant spending hours sitting in a beautiful, ancient building looking at antique leather-bound tomes – although as so many of them turned out to be rather boring volumes of sermons she wasn’t tempted to read them! She went on to train others to catalogue books and her earliest attempts at writing anything as an adult consisted of instructions on how to work out the correct form of an author’s name to use in a library catalogue.

Children (and then cats and chickens) interrupted her bibliographic career, and having given up library work Liz found herself doing more reading, and increasingly she found herself enjoying novels by writers like Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde, Milly Johnson and Lucy Diamond. Inspired by their example, she started writing fiction and hasn’t stopped since, joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s wonderful New Writers’ Scheme to try to learn how to write novels properly in 2015. She has also attempted writing some short stories, with one The Second Princess winning a competition in Writing Magazine which led her to think that maybe publication wasn’t a pipe dream after all.

Liz owes everything to her tolerant and long-suffering husband Ben and her tolerant and long-suffering children, but very little to the cats who are neither tolerant nor long-suffering and keep sitting on the computer keyboard and messing up her manuscript if she forgets to feed them on time.

When not reading or writing Liz is often to be found on stage (or behind it) with her local amateur dramatic society, drinking tea, or visiting one of the several North Yorkshire seaside villages which were the inspiration for the fictional Rawscar, the setting for her debut novel The Little Church by the Sea.

Connect with Liz:

Website: https://liztaylorson.wordpress.com

Twitter: @taylorson_liz

 

Chance Of A Lifetime by Kendra Smith #BlogTour #Extract (@KendraAuthor) @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #NetGalley #ChanceOfALifetime

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A new life down under? It’s not as perfect as you’d think.

Katie and Tom’s marriage is in trouble. As is their bank account. So, when Tom tells Katie that they need to talk, she knows it must be about one of two things, and neither are good. But when he blind-sides her saying that his boss is sending him to Australia – permanently – Katie realises it might just be what they need to save their marriage.

Trouble is, she doesn’t like the heat, can’t swim and hates spiders. Not to mention the bouts of homesickness – and Tom’s endless business trips. Katie is finding the hope of saving their marriage slowly slipping through her fingers. But Katie is determined to take the bull by the horns – and her Speedos by the strap – and tackles her new life.

When all is said and done which side of the globe will she decide to call home?

I’m pleased to be taking part in the blog tour today for Chance of a Lifetime by Kendra Smith, a feelgood romance with an exotic setting. My thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour and providing me with an extract from the book to share with you today.

Extract

Katie’s eyes roamed round the pantry as her mind processed its own inventory. Rice? Yes. Adulterer? That’s a bit harsh, your honour. Filter coffee? Half a packet. Unfaithful? You could call it that. French stick? Might have that for supper. Marriage vows? Need to review. Feeling sick about what you did? Definitely. Great sexual thrill. You bet.

‘Sweetie?’ Katie jumped. Her husband Tom was standing by the pantry door, peering at her.

‘You’re home early!’

‘We need to talk.’ He stared right at her. Oh God, not a ‘need to talk’ moment. Did he suspect? She didn’t actually do very much… She forced a cheery smile. But it soon slipped right off her face.

‘What’s wrong, Tom?’

‘Been repositioned.’ He looked about five-years-old. He was adorable. ‘Like I said might happen.’

‘Repositioned?’ The voice didn’t sound like hers. ‘Where?’

‘Australia,’ he said, as if in a dream. ‘Sydney.’ She stared at him, felt shivery, then walked past him and went upstairs and threw up in their brand-new Villeroy & Boch toilet. She’d never liked heat or spiders.

‘Why Australia?’ she asked quietly, downstairs again, staring into his intense grey eyes. Sitting white-faced in their farmhouse kitchen, clutching her paper napkin and looking round at their beautifully painted duck-egg blue walls, the black and white photos, the blown glass ornaments on the shelf from Italy, shining with a multi-coloured halo from the spotlight below, noticing the dust, the mundane things while the rest of her head was in a spin.

Like when my father died, she thought, all I could do was keep loading the dishwasher and watch baked beans slide off the plates – as if I could keep the stabbing pain away by worrying about how to clean the filter.

Tom paced up and down the wooden floors, his suede brogues making loud clipping noises.

‘Do you mean the E word…’ Her world was crashing around her. ‘Emigrate…’ Katie whispered, slightly hysterical by then, the napkin pink paper shreds. ‘We’ve just had all this done…’ Her voice trailed off, her hand gesturing to the granite work surfaces, the wooden floor, the gleaming glass extension that had robbed the garden of at least six metres. But in fact who cared what they’d had done to the kitchen? She wasn’t really terrified about leaving granite work surfaces; what she was terrified about was leaving her house, her home, England, Britain

‘K-A-T-I-E.’ Tom said her name in a very slow, deliberate way. ‘Martin has just offered me a job as head of New Asian Markets for Trent Financial – he says it’s exactly up my street, says my CV is perfect. He told me, Katie, that at forty-seven, I don’t have many options.’ He closed his eyes, leant his head back, clutched the grey granite work surface. Suddenly, his eyes snapped open again. He stared at her. ‘It’s a great salary and they’ll pay all our moving costs. It’s not emigration, it’s…’ he hesitated ‘…for a few years, a contract. An opportunity, that’s what it is.’ He smiled shakily at her. He’s trying to be his usual self, his alpha male, mused Katie. An opportunity for him maybe, but it might as well have been a job offer to Pluto; she felt like she couldn’t breathe.

‘But shouldn’t we—’

‘What? Wait for me to get another job? The country’s in a total recession.’ He folded his arms. ‘Bankers are getting fired everywhere, Katie, don’t you see?’ He sighed. ‘We are mortgaged up to the neck – especially with the bloody extra borrowing on the extension—’ She scraped her chair back, guiltily, remembering the cost.

‘You wanted it as much as me. Wanted to show off to all your clients…’ she whispered.

‘Katie, sweetheart – I’ve had a hell of a day,’ he said sweeping his fringe from his forehead and looking across at her. The look said don’t challenge me; don’t knock me when I’ve been kicked in the balls today and have managed to come up for air already. It said don’t try me when we are up to our necks in debt and I feel like I’m drowning.

She supposed that was the beauty of working for such a massive financial player as Trent Financial, and that was the beauty of having an ego the size of Tom’s – you could get redeployed anywhere. She remembered when she’d first met him; he was the Financial Director of the publishing house she was working for and several years older than her. She’d noticed him straight away. Tom with his long lashes, with his sandy-blond hair and schoolboy fringe, his oddly dark eyebrows, freckled nose and square jaw. He was rather like an older Prince Harry.

She’d been working there for two years, slowly inching her way up from Sales Assistant, (‘Can you photocopy this whole book before lunch? There’s a love’), to Senior Staff Writer. It hadn’t been easy, but she’d loved the work and loved the industry. Born with printer ink running through her veins, she used to say.

Tom had tested her one day. ‘Katie?’

‘Yes?’

‘Get that proof from the colour printer, will you?’ She’d ventured into the room where the huge colour printers hummed away. Coming out of the machine before her proof (‘How to meet Justin Timberlake this weekend!’) had been a pink and flesh-coloured ensemble of places where the sun don’t shine in the female anatomy. Her face had taken on a similar hue of magenta.

‘All right?’ Tom had smiled, taking the proof from her hand and looking her straight in the eye. (This was his little test she later found out to see who’d sink, who’d swim in this particular publishing house that also churned out a number of distasteful top-shelf titles as well as her teen magazine.)

‘Fine. Want a cappuccino?’ she’d asked.

He’d given her a quick look and said with a faint smile, ‘Thanks. Latte. No froth.’ That was the first time she’d seen that look on his face, one that was a mixture of mirth and mischief.

She had learnt her trade there. An editor who would not give up until everything was perfect; a ‘small team’ (that’s three full-timers and three and a half days’ worth of Claire, the anorexic office assistant) so you were forced to learn each other’s roles. She’d learnt how to cheat so it didn’t show.

‘Katie?’ Tom was looking at her. He put his huge hand over hers. ‘Are you all right?’

God, where had all those days gone, she wondered and then shook herself, tried to smile at him and squeezed his fingers. They should eat. Yes, remember the beans. Eat in a crisis. She watched Tom pour himself his second single malt. She walked past him towards the fridge, then suddenly had to grip the side of the counter as hot blood flooded over her chest and rose, like crawling spiders legs up her neck and face: Australia?

If you enjoyed this short extract from Chance of a Lifetime, you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to read some reviews of the books and see other interesting content, make sure you visit the rest of the stops on the tour:

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About the Author

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Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space but quickly made the leap to editorial and went on to work on several women’s magazines in both Sydney and London. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.

Connect with Kendra:

Website: http://kendrasmith.co.uk

Facebook: Kendra Smith Author

Twitter: @KendraAuthor

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker by Jenni Keer #BookReview #BlogTour (@JenniKeer) @AvonBooksUK @RaRaResources @RNATweets #Giveaway #RachelsRandomResources #NetGalley #TheHopesAndDreamsOfLucyBaker

the hopes and dreams of lucy baker

I am delighted that it is finally my turn on the blog tour for this debut novel by my fellow RNA member, the lovely Jenni Keer. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker and to Avon Books for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Make sure you read down to the end of the post for details of a fabulous giveaway.

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Meet Lucy, aged 25, and Brenda, aged 79. Neighbours and unlikely friends.

Lucy Baker is not your usual 25-year-old. She is more at home reading and knitting in her cluttered little flat than going out partying and socialising.

79-year-old Brenda is full of wise and wonderful advice, but when she’s diagnosed with dementia her life begins to change. Before her memories slip away for ever, Brenda is desperate to fulfil one last wish – to see Lucy happy.

Gifting Lucy the locket that helped Brenda find her own true love, she hopes to push her reticent neighbour in the right direction. But is Lucy Baker ready for the opportunities and heartbreaks of the real world? It’s about time she put her knitting needles aside and found out…

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker will be the most charming, heart-warming and feel-good novel you will read this year, perfect for fans of Ruth Hogan and Gail Honeyman.

2019 has got off to a stellar start with the quality of the books I have read so far, and I guess it is a streak that has to end some time… but not with this book because this is a novel which has maintained the very high standard of reads with which I’ve started the year. It is a book which has wrapped me in a cashmere blanket of happiness and given me a long, warm hug, leaving me feeling tingly, moved and with a big smile on my face and a small tear in my eye. Quite a feat.

The central story in this book is the unlikely friendship between Lucy and Brenda, which spans easily the decades that divide them age-wise. In most ways, age doesn’t matter because Lucy is mature and wise beyond her years and Brenda is young at heart, but in other ways the age difference is telling, because of the effect it is having on Brenda’s body and mind. Jenni displays the closeness between the two, but also this physical deterioration of the human body with such tenderness and pathos that the book can’t fail to grab hold of the stoniest of hearts and squeeze it until it feels something (a bit too much in my case, since I’m a big softy and blub at the slightest provocation).

I was totally in love with both Brenda and Lucy. They felt very real and alive to me and their friendship was completely believable and genuine and just a delight to behold. They both really care about the other and want what is best for them, and they bring out the best in each other. They really understand each other and have so much in common, despite the age difference, which is the basis for a true and enduring friendship and it is just gorgeous.

I really enjoyed watching Lucy come to life and blossom and expose more of her personality throughout the book. I felt like a proud parent watching her grow in confidence and stature across the pages. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and shake her, or warn her not to trust someone, that they were not what they seemed to be, and that it is the hallmark of a truly enthralling book, where the people are so real to you that you are completely engrossed in the story as if you are another character yourself involved in their lives. I was rooting for her all the way through, sharing her joys and triumphs and sadness and, when the book ended, I felt like I was leaving behind a good friend. Luckily, she will still be waiting there between the pages of the book next time I want to meet up with her.

The other story arc is a fairly simple boy meets girl, but is elevated beyond the mundane by the charm of the characters, a good dose of humour and a touch of magical realism. It is a winning recipe for a memorable story that you will be sorry ends and you will definitely want to return to. Added to this is the warmth and ease of Jenni’s writing, which I just loved. One of my favourite lines popped up early on in the book:

But the night-black cat had vanished completely into the cat-black night.’

This is one of those lines that, as a writer, you mentally high-five yourself for writing and I gave the author a little cheer of congratulation as I read. It is also one of those ‘kill your darlings’ lines that you are always told you should cut (although the premise that you should cut any line you think is great always baffles me – you should just leave yourself with all the lines you aren’t happy with? Odd idea!) and I am SO glad that Jenni’s editor didn’t make her cut this one! From here on, I knew I was going to enjoy every word and there were numerous other bits I highlighted to go back to.

What more do I need to say? I absolutely loved every word of this book and can’t wait to grab the paperback for my collection so I can come back to it next time I want a book that will just make me happy. Go and buy it and give yourself a treat.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is out now as an ebook and the paperback, which will be released on 21 March, is available for pre-order. You can get them both here.

Giveaway

the hopes and dreams giveaway prize

Please enter the giveaway to win The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker goodies (UK Only) by clicking the Rafflecopter link below. Prize contains – Thornton’s fudge, a Nu notebook, a Hopes and Dreams bookmark and a set of five “Scratbag” blank greetings cards designed by Jenni Keer.

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

To follow the rest of the tour for this book and get some comparable reviews, check the details of the other blogs taking part on the poster below:

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About the Author

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Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.

She is very tall and also carries around a knitted version of Poldark, so is easy to identify in a crowd!

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Connect with Jenni:

Website: https://jennikeer.co.uk

Facebook: Jenni Keer

Twitter: @JenniKeer

Instagram: @jennikeer

Summer In The Orchard by Fay Keenan #BookReview #BlogTour (@faykeenan) @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #NetGalley #SummerInTheOrchard

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Sophie Henderson loves her job at Carter’s Cider in the picturesque Somerset village of Little Somerby, but with summer dawning before yet another picking and pressing season, and her boss David showing no signs of wanting to hang up his cider jug, perhaps it is time to move on.

She’s all set to hand in her notice when Alex Fraser, an intern from Vancouver, comes to Little Somerby to learn everything he can about the cider business. With Sophie as his mentor, attraction between them starts to grow alongside the apples.

For Alex, however, being in Little Somerby is about more than cider, and as the summer grows warmer, and his relationship with Sophie blossoms, can he find the courage to tell her the truth before it’s too late?

I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for Summer In The Orchard by Fay Keenan, the third book in the Little Somerby series. My thanks to Victoria Joss at Aria Fiction for inviting me on to the tour and for my copy of the book via NetGalley. which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is the first book I have read by Fay Keenan and, although it is the third book set in Little Somerby and based around Carter’s Cider, it works completely as a standalone novel and I did not feel I was missing any detail from the first two books which would have helped me enjoy this book more.

This book is primarily the story of Sophie, a cider taster and blender at Carter’s Cider in the small village of Little Somerby and how her seemingly ordered life is disrupted by the arrival of a handsome stranger from Canada in the form of Alex Fraser. But is he all that he seems? The book is also told from Alex’s perspective, so the reader is privy to information about him that Sophie is not, and we can see how things are moving towards a collision course before the characters can, which adds a pleasing frisson of tension to the reading experience.

The characters of both Sophie and Alex are sympathetic enough to carry the story and make you care about what happens to them and I became deeply involved in the development of their relationship, to the point where I ended up with a lump in my throat and a pricking behind my eyes towards the end, which I was not expecting to be honest. I had anticipated a light and frothy book that would not move me with that level of emotion, so I was very pleasantly surprised. The supporting cast of characters are also extremely appealing (with one or two exceptions!), to the point where I know I definitely need to go back and get better acquainted with them via the first two books in the series.

I particularly enjoyed the setting of the novel. One of the very great pleasures for me of reading is to learn new things and, as I have never read a book set around cider production before, I really enjoyed reading more about it. Despite this being primarily a book of romantic fiction, the author has obviously done meticulous research into the background business against which the book is set and included just enough detail about it to make it interesting and informative without bogging the prose down with too much. I found it perfectly pitched and it added an additional layer of depth and interest to the story.

The book is set throughout the sunny, summer days of a Somerset apple growing and pressing season, and includes a county fair, al fresco parties and lazy evenings in country beer gardens. The scent of the apples and flowers leaches out of the pages and I could hear the lazy buzzing of bees and feel the fizz of the cider on my tongue; a delightful and sensual read.

All in all, this book turned out to be a wonderful surprise, combining a delicious reminder of a warm English summer, a moving love story, with hidden depths that I wasn’t expecting. A very rewarding investment of a few hours reading.

Summer in the Orchard is out now and you can get a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tours, please check the poster below:

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About the Author

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Fay Keenan was born in Surrey and raised in Hampshire, before finally settling back in the West Country. When Fay is not chasing her children around or writing, she teaches English at a local secondary school. She lives with her husband of fourteen years, two daughters, a cat, two chickens and a Weimaraner called Bertie in a village in Somerset, which may or may not have provided the inspiration for Little Somerby.

Connect with Fay:

Website: https://faykeenan.com

Facebook: Fay Keenan Author

Twitter: @faykeenan

A Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn #BookReview (@HollyH_Author) @TeamBATC @BookMinxSJV @simonschusterUK #CastleCourt

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Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.

They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb‘s cocktail bar on the third floor!

One of the greatest inventions of recent times for someone like me has been the advent of Netflix and other TV-on-demand streaming services, because I am impatient and I want to binge-watch any TV show I am really loving and not have to wait a whole week for the next episode.

I am the same with books. If I am really enjoying a story, I will stay up late reading and reading until I’ve finished it. For this reason, the recent phenomena of books that are released in separate parts every couple of months is torture for me, because I always want to know what happens next now, not in six weeks time. I’ve tried it, I really have, but it is just not a style of reading that is for me.

For this reason, I made myself wait until the latest book by Holly Hepburn, whose first three books have all been published in ebook format as four separate parts before being released as a full paperback, was out as a full version on which I could binge in one go. The wait was torture, because I love Holly’s books, but was it worth it? It really was because A Year at Castle Court is a book that is as sweet and delicious as the biscuits baked by its central characters.

This is the story of two friends, Cat and Sadie, who realise their childhood dream of opening a biscuit shop together in the secluded shopping enclave of Castle Court. As you would expect, the venture does not run completely smoothly and, as well as commercial challenges, Sadie and Cat were also wrestling with personal difficulties that impact everything, and romantic complications also add to the complexity of the story as it unfolds over the course of a year.

The characters of Cat and Sadie are extremely relatable and the dilemmas they face easily recognisable to modern women, so it is easy to immerse yourself and be carried along by the story. The combination of personal and professional problems gives a nice balance to the novel and Holly’s writing flows beautifully, so the reader finds themselves turning the pages without realising time is passing, which is how books of this type should be for the reader – effortless. The author has devised a cosy and appealing setting for the book in the shopping enclave of Castle Court and, as always, does a great job of bringing it to life and peopling it with interesting characters. The whole story is warm and satisfying; honestly, there is nothing not to love in this book.

If you are looking for a charming, easy but satisfying read to snuggle up with on a drab, winter’s day, you can’t go wrong with this book. Holly is returning to The Star and Sixpence for her next book, which I am really excited about so, in the words of Queen, hurry up and write it, Holly, because ‘I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now!;

A Year at Castle Court is available now and you can buy it here.

About the Author

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Holly Hepburn has wanted to write books for as long she can remember but she was too scared to try. One day she decided to be brave and dipped a toe into the bubble bath of romantic fiction with her first novella, Cupidity, and she’s never looked back. She often tries to be funny to be funny, except for when faced with traffic wardens and border control staff. Her favourite things are making people smile and Aidan Turner.

She’s tried many jobs over the years, from barmaid to market researcher and she even had a brief flirtation with modelling. These days she is mostly found writing.

She lives near London with her grey tabby cat, Portia. They both have an unhealthy obsession with Marmite.

Connect with Holly:

Facebook: Holly Hepburn Author

Twitter: @HollyH_Author

Instagram: @hollyh_author

A Greek Affair by Linn B. Halton #BookReview #BlogTour (@LinnBHalton) @HarperImpulse @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #Giveaway #NetGalley #AGreekAffair #bookblogger #feelgood

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Delighted to be taking part on the blog tour today for A Greek Affair  by Linn B. Halton, bringing a little summer sunshine to these chilly January days. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly.

Make sure you scroll down below the review to enter a great prize giveaway.

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More than just a holiday romance?

Her daughter, her job and divorcing her untrustworthy ex are Leah’s main priorities. She isn’t really bothered that her life might be missing a few things. But after winning a prestigious travel blogger award, she’s inundated with offers to review glamorous holiday destinations. Lying around drinking exotic cocktails and being paid for it! What could be better?

Perhaps a romantic trip to idyllic Greece to find the one man who might make Leah risk her heart again…

So, in these grey, dreary, post-Christmas days of January, when the glitter and sparkle of the Christmas decorations are a dim memory and we are waiting for the plop of the credit card bills on the mat, our thoughts inevitably turn with longing to the hot, sunny days and relaxed, scented evenings of our summer holidays. Or is that just me?

This is the first year for the last five when January holiday planning hasn’t meant organising and selling them to other people, so instead I am indulging my daydreams through reading and my first book set in in warmer climes has been A Greek Affair by Linn B. Halton, and it has been the perfect one to cheer up these early days of the new year which can often feel a little flat and depressing.

Linn is whisking us off, firstly on a cruise in the Med, and then to the ancient and imposing city of Athens with the heroine of her new book, Leah, a struggling single mother still dealing with the fallout of being abandoned by her husband and trying her best to make a good life for her daughter, Rosie. She is single-minded and focused on her goals until fate (or is it the Greek gods) throw not one, but two, handsome men in to her path!

This book was everything you would expect from a novel with travel as a central theme and I really enjoyed the blogger angle, which I am surprised has not featured in more recent books (maybe I’m just reading the wrong books) but actually, the book goes far beyond a superficial, holiday romance story.

As a single parent myself, this book tackles some real emotional truths about the hardships of that condition in an honest but sensitive way and I was totally in tune and sympathetic with what Leah was going through in this book. Trying to balance the needs of young children with the emotional demands of your own life is a very tricky path to navigate, and one which more and more women will be able to relate to in modern times, and Linn has dealt with it with a real depth of understanding and sensitivity which was a pleasure to read.

There is a lot to enjoy in this book. The characters are all wonderfully drawn – I particularly loved Leah’s parents and Harrison, and the exotic settings are brought to life in such a way to satisfy the pickiest armchair traveller. Beware though, her descriptions will give you a serious craving for Greek food! I am still thinking about the saganaki as I type this. However, the real standout aspect of this book for me is the personal struggle of Leah in balancing her own needs with that of her child and the honest portrayal of this dilemma raises this book above the level of simple beach read.

Highly recommended for those needing a little sunshine in their lives, coupled with an involving, emotional story.

A Greek Affair is out now in ebook format and in paperback on 9 March. Order your copy here.

Giveaway

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To enter a prize draw to win a bottle of rose wine and some chocolates, click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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

To read some more reviews of the book, make sure you check out the rest of the marvellous bloggers taking part in the tour as detailed on the poster below:

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About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: http://linnbhalton.co.uk

Facebook: Linn B Halton Author

Twitter: @LucyColemanAuth and @linnbhalton