Romancing The Romance Authors with… Frances Williams

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Delighted to welcome my latest guest to the blog to chat about writing romance and who is the perfect hero. This week’s guest is author… Frances Williams.

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

My books fall into the category of contemporary women’s commercial fiction and to date, I have three published novels and two novellas. I’m incredibly excited to share that my next book will be published in Summer 2022!. My novels are influenced by my African ancestry and the settings include both London and modern-day Ghana. 

Why romance?

Why not romance? I mean, who doesn’t love a happy ending? I think romantic fiction is an incredibly optimistic and positive genre of writing and one which suits my world view. I also find that romantic relationships are a fantastic and relatable vehicle for showing how women encounter challenges, face their personal demons, and grow as people. Typically with my heroines – both the main and often the secondary characters in the story – their romantic relationships become the tests that help them discover who they are, what they’re made of, and what – or who – they really want in life.

What inspires your stories?

Like so many writers, my ideas can appear quite randomly! The idea for one of my novellas came as I was coming out of the supermarket into the car park and saw a woman driving in, circling the parking bays, and then almost immediately driving out! I have had some brilliant plot ideas while I’m taking a walk or in the shower (which can be awkward when you’re desperate to write down the idea before you forget!). I’m also inspired by song lyrics or a bit of shameless eavesdropping. 

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

I have to say that for me romance comes in many flavours. For example, I love the African American author Terry McMillan for her insightful relationship-driven novels, Jilly Cooper and Penny Vincenzi for their huge casts and sweeping sagas, Lesley Lokko for her vivid international settings, Dorothy Koomson for her romance tinted thrillers, and Marian Keyes for her funny, family-driven love stories. Then there’s Jane Green, Jill Mansell, Milly Cooper… I could go on.

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

That’s a tough question but I would probably recommend Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan. Set in America, it follows the love lives of four single girlfriends and shines a painfully humorous spotlight on the challenges of having to kiss a lot of frogs before finding your prince. I also love that all four women at the centre of the story are women of colour. 

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When the men in their lives prove less than reliable, Savannah, Bernadine, Gloria, and Robin find new strength through a rare and enlightening friendship as they struggle to regain stability and an identity they don’t have to share with anyone. Because for the first time in a long time, their dreams are finally OFF hold….

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

Does the Duke of Hastings from the Bridgerton novels, as depicted on Netflix, count? Well, if I could transport him into the present day, visions of a dinner for two as the sun sets over a deserted beach come to mind…

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

What I love about the RNA is that it is first and foremost a community. As a writer of romantic fiction, you can feel a bit like the neglected stepchild in the hierarchy of publishing. Writing romantic fiction as a black woman can make you feel like the invisible neglected stepchild! But, in joining the RNA, I found a community that immediately felt welcoming and inclusive. I’m a member of a couple of the RNA groups and continue to learn so much from the other members who are incredibly generous with their advice and support. If you want to know more about independent publishing or tackling challenges with your plot, characterization – or any aspect of your craft as a writer – the RNA network is invaluable.

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

It’s probably a good idea to make sure you know the plot rules of the romance game and remember that while your hero/heroine will – and should – struggle, your goal as a writer is to help them reach their happy place. In doing so, be mindful to focus as much on your protagonist’s internal journey as on their external struggles. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

It’s called Imperfect Arrangements and was published in March 2020. It’s the story of three couples who struggle with their less than perfect romantic arrangements. Best friends Lyla, Maku and Theresa have a rock-solid friendship – it’s the other relationships in their lives that are causing them heartache. When ambitious Theresa moves with her husband to Accra, the cosmopolitan capital of Ghana, not only does it show up the cracks in her seemingly perfect relationship, but it also forces her friends look more closely at their lives and choices. Set in contemporary Ghana, it’s a story full of twists and turns, drama and humour. The novel also shows the perspectives of the men in the relationships, which was an interesting challenge! If you enjoy female-centred dramas, I hope you’ll give this a try. 

You can buy a copy of Imperfect Arrangements here.

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There are two sides to every story…

In the sun-soaked capital of Ghana, best friends Theresa, Maku and Lyla struggle with the arrangements that define their relationships. Ambitious, single-minded Theresa has gambled everything to move with her loving husband Tyler from London to cosmopolitan Accra. Feisty Maku is desperate for professional recognition – and her dream white wedding.  Churchgoing Lyla married Kwesi in haste, but while she battles her growing attraction to the mysterious Reuben, her husband has bitten off more than he can chew with his latest mistress.

Facing lies, betrayal, and shattered illusions, each couple must confront the truth of who they have become and the arrangements they have enabled. Against the backdrop of a shifting culture, each woman must decide what – and who – she is willing to sacrifice for the perfect marriage.

About the Author

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Frances is a British-Ghanaian author. Her debut novel, the romantic comedy From Pasta to Pigfoot which follows hapless PA Faye Bonsu in her search for love and identity, went straight to no. 23 of WH Smith Travel’s Top 100 Summer Reads.  It was followed by From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings. Frances is also the author of the novel Imperfect Arrangements and a novella series (Marula Heights Romances) which includes Sweet Mercy and River Wild. An entrepreneur, consultant and executive coach, Frances has led numerous international skills and business development projects, receiving a CBE from HM Queen Elizabeth II in the 2020 New Year Honours List for her services. Frances’s non-fiction books are Everyday Heroes: Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals and I Want to Work in Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent. 

Connect with Frances:

Website: www.francesmensahwilliams.com

Facebook: Frances Mensah Williams

Twitter: @FrancesMensahW

Instagram: @francesmensahw

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Book Review: Sleepless in Sicily by Emma Jackson #BookReview

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Under the starry Italian skies, anything can happen…

For most women, getting locked into a storeroom with movie star and undeniable heartthrob Rowan during a pre-production shoot in London would be the stuff of dreams. But for shy makeup artist Lila, it’s more like a nightmare. It doesn’t matter that Rowan is kind, easy to talk to and even more gorgeous up close. With her social anxiety, she can’t bear the idea of being embroiled in gossip and rumours about what exactly they were doing together.

More scandal is also not an option for outspoken Rowan, whose agency is threatening to drop him if he doesn’t toe the line. After the two make their escape, they promise to keep the incident a secret, and when they meet again on set in stunning Sicily, they pretend not to know each other. But between the blue skies and sizzling Italian heat, it becomes impossible to ignore the attraction simmering between them…

Lila and Rowan couldn’t be more different… but can they find a way to bring their worlds together?

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, for which they have my heartfelt thanks. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

The cover of this book leads you to believe that is going to be a certain kind of holiday romance that you have seen many times before, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I absolutely love holiday romance stories, I read them by the stack in the summer and have several waiting for my attention as we speak that I can’t wait to sink back into my deckchair and devour in place of actually going on an overseas trip this summer. However, this book doesn’t fall quite comfortably into that niche, it is something a bit different, but no the less fabulous for it.

When you read the blurb, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is going to develop along the standard lines, and it does contain all the bits of those holiday romances you love. A trip to the sun-drenched shores of Sicily, a glamorous film set location, hunky leading man sets shy, ingenue makeup artist’s heart a-fluttering. However, the book goes beyond this superficial love story to delve deeply into the motivations and personality traits of the leading characters in a way that is painfully observant and so realistic that, if you have any of these traits yourself, it will make your heart hurt in empathy. Or that is certainly what happened to me when I read it.

Whether she meant to or not, it is clear to the reader that the author has left a big part of herself on the pages of this novel. Noone can truly write such an authentic character as Lila if they haven’t had some personal experience of what she is suffering, whether themselves or through a loved one. The portrayal in this book of what it is like to live with social anxiety is the closest thing to reality that I have ever read. Although this is something that I experience to a much lesser extent than Lila, her thought processes are something I recognised all too readily, which meant I felt complete sympathy for her throughout the novel, really living the highs and lows with her, feeling the pain and pleasure. Being so immersed in a character’s story is a rare and precious experience and only happens when the author has felt the same thing as they write. I could feel the author living this book as she created it.

This is a fantastic book that takes the sun lounger novel to a different place. I’m not sure if I felt this just because I could relate so closely to the main character, but it has all the elements I look for in a summer read, as well as a profoundly relatable character in Lila. It left me feeling moved and seen in a way that in unusual in a genre many people deem superficial and fluffy, which just goes to prove that the people who look down on romance, probably don’t read many. True gems are out there if you look hard enough, and this is one.

If you are looking for something both entertaining and insightful to add to your holiday reading, here it is.

Sleepless in Sicily is out now in ebook format and you can buy a copy here. What are you waiting for, go, go, go.

About the Author

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Author of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Following her debut, SUMMER IN THE CITY and ONE KISS BEFORE CHRISTMAS were released in 2020 and her next contemporary romance SLEEPLESS IN SICILY is scheduled for 29th July 2021.

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://esjackson.co.uk

Facebook: Emma Jackson Author

Twitter: @ESJackson1

Instagram: @emma_s_jackson

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The 2021 Romantic Novel Award Winners Interviews… with Louise Douglas

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In this week’s instalment of my interviews with the winners of the 2021 Romantic Novel Awards, I am chatting with the winner of the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award, author Louise Douglas.

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Louise, congratulations on winning the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award in the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards 2021 with your novel The House By The Sea and thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me for the blog.

Thank you so much. I’m thrilled to be here.

The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award was a new category for the awards in 2020. I remember hearing the new category announced at the 2019 awards and it caused much excitement. How does it feel to be one of the first winners of the award, and to be following in the footsteps of such a titan of the industry?

It feels amazing, something that I shall treasure for the rest of my life. I’m still buzzing! It’s fantastic that the RNA is helping bring the work of wonderful Jackie Collins to new generations of readers and I couldn’t be more proud. #BeMoreJackie

How did you feel on the night when you heard your name announced? You seemed to be stunned that you had won. 

I was stunned! Before the announcement, I was in a virtual ‘green room’ with the other shortlisted authors and it was such a strong line-up; wonderful authors and fabulous books. I still can’t quite believe what happened.

I loved the fact that you thanked bloggers in your acceptance speech, and name-checked a few who obviously had an impact on you. What do you feel that bloggers can bring to the table for authors?

I’m so grateful to the blogging community and have made some treasured friends. Social media is a major part of most people’s lives now and the work bloggers do to champion books, and reading, is so important for us. It’s brilliant for an author when a blogger writes a fantastic review, or, like you’re doing here, makes a bridge between writers and readers. And, as a voracious reader, bloggers often help me decide which book to pick up next. 

Your winning novel, The House By The Sea, is set in an abandoned villa in Sicily. what inspired you to set a book in that particular location? What research did you do to make the setting so authentic?

We went to the south-eastern region of Sicily to explore the World Heritage baroque towns and cities of the Val di Noto made famous in the TV adaptations of the Montalbano novels. I fell head over heels in love with the region; it is one of my top three favourite places on earth and I would recommend it to everyone. It was during this holiday that we found the villa that was the inspiration for the house in the book.

The success of the novel clearly lies in the strong relationship between setting, characters and plot. Which came first for you when you first conceived this novel? Is that the way is usually works in your writing, that one aspect of the novel draws the rest of it together or is it different every time?

That’s an interesting question. I usually start with a location. If a plot idea comes first, I never use it until I find the right location. With the House by the Sea, I’d wanted to write about people who had been badly hurt by life, and Sicily, a beautiful, deeply interesting island that has itself endured much trauma and that has its dark side, was the perfect setting. 

Your award was in the category for a ‘romantic novel with thriller, mystery, crime or suspense elements.’ Which aspect of this are you drawn to most, the romance or the thriller, or do they always have to work together for you? Can you see yourself ever being pulled in the direction of purely one or the other?

I love writing romance but all my books have a Gothic element to them so I can’t imagine writing a love story without suspense or mystery of some kind. I have written mystery/suspense stories with no traditional romance – although there is always love in some guise. 

Much as we all like to celebrate past successes, our focus soon has to turn forwards and on to the next project. What do you have in the pipeline and what influence do you see winning this award having on your writing and future career?

The biggest boost that winning this award has given me, is to my confidence. It’s made a massive difference and because I wasn’t plagued with as many of the usual insecurities, I finished my next novel in record time. It’s being published in October, is called The Room in the Attic and is set in an old Victorian asylum now used as a boarding school. The main characters are an ageing nurse, the child in her care, and two 13-year-old school pupils. I don’t want to jinx the book but these characters are probably my favourites of all those I’ve ever written. Fingers crossed that other people like them too. 

Thank you so much for the interview and for inviting me onto your blog Julie, it’s lovely to be here and I really enjoyed answering the questions. 

Good luck to all the RNA 2022 entrants!

Louise, thank you so much for answering my questions today, I have loved hearing about your experiences.

The 2022 Romantic Novel Awards are now open for entry until 30 September 2021.

Louise’s award-winning book, The House By The Sea, can be purchased here in all formats. Watch out for my review of the book coming soon.

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The new chilling and captivating novel from the bestselling author of Richard & Judy pick The Secrets Between Us.

When Edie’s mother-in-law, Anna DeLuca, dies, she is relieved. Edie blames Anna for the accident that destroyed her family. So, when her will lures Edie to Sicily and the long-abandoned Villa della Madonna del Mare, she sees through Anna’s games.

Suspecting Anna is meddling from beyond the grave to try to reunite her and her ex-husband Joe, Edie is determined to leave Italy as soon as possible. But before she can, the villa starts to shed its mysterious secrets.

Who are the girls beside Anna in her childhood photos, and why has the face of one of them been scratched out? Why does someone, or something, want them to leave the past untouched? The villa is a place where old ghosts feel at home, but does their legacy need to be laid to rest before Edie and Joe can move on…

Bestselling author Louise Douglas returns with a captivating, chilling and unforgettable tale of betrayal, jealousy and the mysteries hidden in every family history.

About the Author

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of 6 novels including The Love of my Life and Missing You – a RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country.

Connect with Louise:

Facebook: Louise Douglas Author

Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3

Instagram: @louisedouglas3

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Desert Island Books with… Suzanne Snow

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Today’s castaway is fellow RNA member and romance author, Suzanne Snow. I’m intrigued to see which five books Suzanne has chosen to keep her from almost certain insanity on her desert island with only her own thoughts and one luxury item to aid her survival.

Book One – My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

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Escaping the ills of the British climate, the Durrell family – acne-ridden Margo, gun-toting Leslie, bookworm Lawrence and budding naturalist Gerry, along with their long-suffering mother and Roger the dog – take off for the island of Corfu.

But the Durrells find that, reluctantly, they must share their various villas with a menagerie of local fauna – among them scorpions, geckos, toads, bats and butterflies.

This was a book given to me as an adult and I adored it. I found it full of pathos, endless humour and sharp observation. The sense of place, of being alongside Gerry as he went on his island escapades and made friends with the characters who share his passion for nature, is a joy. Such a different way of life in a very different world, and it’s a book I can return to time and again.

Book Two – Rivals by Jilly Cooper

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Into the cutthroat world of Corinium television comes mega-star Declan O’Hara. Declan soon realises that the Managing Director, Lord Baddingham, has recruited him merely to help retain the franchise for Corinium. Baddingham has also enticed Cameron Cook, a gorgeous, domineering woman executive, to produce Declan’s programme. 

As a rival group emerges to pitch for the franchise, reputations ripen and decline, true love blossoms and burns, marriages are made and shattered and sex raises its head at almost every throw….

I enjoyed Riders, especially as a pony-mad girl who grew up with horses. Rivals is a book I’ve read several times and Jilly is brilliant at bringing the characters to life, often with just a line of dialogue or the barest of detail and making them leap off the page. I’m sure I’m not alone in appreciating Rupert Campbell Black meeting someone who sees the best in him and finally falling in love. It’s such a witty and clever book, and my favourite of Jilly’s novels.

Book Three –  Full Circle by Michael Palin

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In this account of the third of Michael Palin’s travel adventures for BBC Television, he journeys for almost a year, covering 50,000 miles and all of the 18 countries that border the Pacific Ocean, encompassing a wide diversity of landscape, culture and people. The Pacific Rim is one of the world’s most volatile areas, with economies that are expanding faster than anywhere else on earth – and here the earth itself is in a constant state of flux. Not for nothing is the Pacific coastline known as the “Ring of Fire” – volcanoes mark Palin’s journey like stepping stones, and he climbs one which has recently erupted and is still smoking.

He negotiates mountains and plunging gorges, crosses glaciers, dodges icebergs, follows great rivers such as the Yangtse and the Amazon, and confronts the notorious Cape Horn and the wild and windswept beaches of western Alaska. The people Palin meets include one of the few remaining survivors of a Siberian Gulag camp, head-hunters in Borneo, and Japanese monks. He eats maggots in Mexico, rustles camels in the Australian desert, lands a plane in Seattle, and sings with the Pacific Fleet choir in Vladivostock.

As someone who isn’t a natural traveller, I love watching programmes where others introduce me to locations I know I’ll never see. Michael visits so many countries on his Pacific exploration and I enjoy anything that takes me off the beaten track for a glimpse into a different world. From the wilds of Alaska to Japan, China, Vietnam (somewhere I would love to go), Australia, New Zealand, the Americas and all the characters and places in between, it’s a journey that precedes social media and all the better for it.

Book Four –  Persuasion by Jane Austen

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What does persuasion mean – a firm belief, or the action of persuading someone to think something else? Anne Elliot is one of Austen’s quietest heroines, but also one of the strongest and the most open to change. She lives at the time of the Napoleonic wars, a time of accident, adventure, the making of new fortunes and alliances.

A woman of no importance, she manoeuvres in her restricted circumstances as her long-time love Captain Wentworth did in the wars. Even though she is nearly thirty, well past the sell-by bloom of youth, Austen makes her win out for herself and for others like herself, in a regenerated society.

My favourite of Jane Austen’s books, partly because of the opportunity of a second chance at love for Anne and Wentworth after their engagement had fallen foul of other influences. Several years have passed and their circumstances have changed when they meet again, and a sense of hopelessness and resolve feels apparent in these early meetings. But Anne has retained her faithfulness and her feelings for Wentworth, and Austen gave him, for me, the most beautiful line in all her novels by way of expressing himself to Anne.

Book Five – Dark Fire by C J Sansom

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England, 1540: Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the king’s chief minister – and a new assignment . . .

The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother horribly murdered – the formula has disappeared.

Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client’s innocence. But very soon he discovers nothing is as it seems . . .

I’ve read Sansom’s Shardlake series and absolute adore it, but this novel is the one I would read again and again. Sansom cleverly uses Cromwell off the page to present a sense of fear, and this, along with the stifling heat, brilliantly invokes an atmosphere of menace. London is such a wonderful setting for historical crime and the city is a character of its own, particularly for a lawyer trying to go about his own business and who finds himself caught up in the intrigues of the Inns of Court and at the mercy of Cromwell, and the King, by association. 

My luxury item

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 I’d like to say my friend Lisa as she’s one of the most resourceful people I know but as I’m not allowed, I’m going to say a solar powered booklight to make sure I can always see to read.

About the Author

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Suzanne writes contemporary, romantic and uplifting fiction with a strong sense of setting and community connecting the lives of her characters. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she can usually be found in a garden or looking to the landscape around her for inspiration.  

Suzanne’s latest book, A Summer of Second Chances, is the third in the Thorndale series and is out now as an ebook and in paperback. You can buy a copy here.

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Sparks and tempers fly when Ben comes to stay in Daisy’s holiday cottage.

Daisy likes routine. She goes to work, makes dinner for her son, then loses herself for an hour or two in her sewing. She’s not looking for change, until Ben crashes – literally – into her life.

Ben is training for a triathlon, working himself to the limit in an attempt to forget a recent trauma. Daisy wants to help, but even as they draw closer with every week that passes, he pushes her away whenever things threaten to get serious.

Can Ben open himself up to love again? And with Daisy’s life in the Yorkshire Dales and Ben’s in New York, can they have a future together even if he does?

Connect with Suzanne:

Website: https://www.suzannesnowauthor.com

Facebook: Suzanne Snow Author

Twitter: @SnowProse

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jeevani Charika

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Tonight I am very excited to be joined on the blog for Friday Night Drinks by fellow RNA Member and hugely inspirational author… Jeevani Charika, who also writes as Rhoda Baxter.

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Welcome to the blog, Jeevani. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Can I have a hot chocolate? I don’t drink alcohol much (I know, shocking for a romance novelist!). I drink copious amounts of tea and would drink my own bodyweight in hot chocolate if I were allowed.

I drink more tea than anything else, to be honest. Yorkshire Tea for preference. 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?

Possibly an odd choice, but I’d take you to a place that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s downstairs in the Horse and Jockey pub in Oxford (which was turned into flats at the end of the 1990s). It’s a quirky space with lampshades made out of random objects (like cheesegraters!) and walls covered in posters and artwork from local artists. I used to go there for meetings and I loved discovering a new poster or a piece of art that I hadn’t spotted before. I think we’d have lots of fun there.

Back in time, that’s a first on this feature, I love it! 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?

I think my brain just exploded at the possibilities. I think I’d like to chat to people who made me laugh. So maybe Holly Walsh (I’ve just watched The Other One and Motherland) and Bill Bailey. 

Great choices. I love Motherland. 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’m writing a book about two people who are put in a team together for an online game competition. They don’t know each other’s secret identities. He’s in love with her in real life. She’s in love with him online. It started because I started watching Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir with my daughter a few years ago and got completely hooked. I wanted to write something with a similar love … quadrangle? Parallelogram? … you know what I mean. Where do I want it to go? Well, to ‘the end’ as fast as possible, please. I still haven’t worked out how to make the books write themselves, so I guess I have to do it the old fashioned way and put words down on paper. 

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

My favourite moment was when I read a review of A Convenient Marriage which said ‘I feel seen’. It made me so happy that I had a little cry.  My biggest challenge is being consistent with my marketing. I know I have to wave my arms about a bit if I’m to sell any books, but I don’t particularly like doing it and I often forget.

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 want my books to be turned into a film or a series that’s huge on Netflix so that people will buy lots of copies of my books and make me rich! It’s a fairly common dream, I’m guessing. 

I’d like to have so much money that I could seriously consider paying to have a commercial jumbo jet painted to look like a blue whale. I have no reason for wanting this apart from the fact that I like the idea of a whale flying around the world. I might ask the artist to add a bowl of petunias, too.

That might be the best ambition anyone has come up with yet and, as a massive Douglas Adams fan, I am on board with it! What have you planned that you are really excited about?

I’m quite excited about the book I’m writing. I’m also drafting a course on Point of View for writers. I like teaching creative writing. Most creative writing advice is basically saying the same thing but the way you say it can resonate differently with different people. I’ve read so many writing books and I’ve learned different bits of things from each one. 

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

I don’t have a bucket list. I tried it once but I kept changing my mind. I have a sort of mini list of goals instead. As for travel – my dad is an engineer (not retired) and he took jobs all over the world, so I’ve lived in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Yap (in Micronesia) as well as Yorkshire. I would really love to take my family to Yap. I’m sure it’s changed a lot now, but I have such happy memories from my time there, I’d love to go back and see it again.

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

I once banged my head on the top of a doorframe. This is not surprising for tall people, but I’m only four foot eight. We were on a tour of Canterbury Cathedral and had to go through a low door. The guide said ‘mind your head’ and, since I’ve never had to mind my head in my life, I ignored him. Someone said something and, distracted, I walked smack into the doorframe. I was knocked flat on my back and no one helped me up because they were all laughing so hard.

Ouch! 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’?

I’d give you Nation by Terry Pratchett. Partly because it ties in quite nicely with my nostalgia for Yap, but also because it’s a wonderful book. It’s not set in the Discworld, but on a tropical island. I have re-read it many, many times.

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Prepare for the world to be turned upside down . . .

For Mau, halfway between boy and man, it happens when a great wave destroys his entire village. For Daphne, it’s when the same wave crashes her ship into the island that was once Mau’s home. Everything they once had is now so far away, lost to distance and time.

But when Daphne stops trying to shoot Mau (she did apologise for it), and instead uses a salvaged invitation card to invite him to tea, they discover a new home can be theirs.

And then people start arriving on the island – some very good, some very bad. And it’s soon clear that Daphne and Mau must fight for their Nation.

Then a discovery is made that will change the entire world forever . . .

I love the Discworld books but I haven’t read this by Terry Pratchett, I will have to check it out. 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?

Does anyone have a failsafe plan to avoid a hangover apart from ‘drink less’? Thinking back to when I used to drink – I found spicy chicken wings were a brilliant hangover cure. Chilies and protein. Perfect.

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

At home, with a cup of tea, some dunkable biscuits and a good book! (I don’t often get this because the children are at home, but it would be the perfect way to spend the weekend).

Thanks for the fantastic chat, Jeevani, I have really enjoyed my evening.

Jeevani’s latest book is A Convenient Marriage, the story of a gay man and a straight woman who get married to escape pressure from their traditional Sri Lankan families. They have the perfect marriage, until they both fall in love with other people. A Convenient Marriage was shortlisted for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel award in 2020. You can buy a copy here.

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It was the perfect marriage… until they fell in love.

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding
for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow
their heart?

Will they choose love, or carry on living a lie?

Jeevani Charika writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with a hint of British cynicism.  (In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Jeev-uh-nee.)

There’s a whole lot of other stuff she could tell you – but mainly: she’s a former scientist, an adult fan of Lego, an embarrassing mum, a part time geek (see ’embarrassing mum’) and a Very Short Person.

She also writes romantic comedy under the pen name Rhoda Baxter. So why the two names? Well… Jeevani writes about British-Sri Lankan main characters. Rhoda, not so much.

You can find out more about Jeevani, and Rhoda, via her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Blog Tour: Dead Secret by Noelle Holten #BookReview

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Psycopaths can take root in the unlikeliest soil…

DC Maggie Jamieson crosses paths once again with Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood when a domestic violence survivor stumbles into her new refuge, unable to speak, desperate for help.

Then another case hits Maggie’s desk. A young man has been murdered, and a curious constellation of black dots has been inked onto his cheek.

That’s when DCI Hastings goes missing and Maggie uncovers a shocking connection that turns the case on its head.

Every family may hide secrets, but not every family buries them…

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the paperback release of Dead Secret, Book 4 in the maggie Jamieson thriller series by Noelle Holten. It is no secret that I LOVE this series ( you can read my previous reviews here, here and here.) My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books on the Bright Side Publicity for giving me a place on the tour, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Maggie Jamieson has become one of my favourite characters in detective fiction over recent years, so I was very keen to get back to finding out what was going on in her world. This time, one of their own is caught up in some trouble, just to ramp up the drama.

This book has two distinct storylines to follow. Firstly, Lucy has found an unidentifiable beaten woman at the gates of her as-yet-to-be-opened refuge and feels obliged to take her in. The woman is scared and reluctant to reveal her story; as a survivor herself Lucy sympathises and doesn’t pressure her, but is curious about what she has gone through. Then there is the body of the young man, killed in the woods by a blow to the head. Whilst the investigation into this is going on, it becomes apparent that Maggie’s DCI and his family are missing and may be in terrible danger. Is this enough chaos to keep you entertained?

It definitely was for me as, along with the police, I tried to follow the threads of the different investigations they were juggling. There seemed to be so many loose ends to follow and red herrings to eliminate, and the small team were pulled in all directions trying to follow the different leads, none of which made much sense to begin with. Quite how the author managed to plot all this out and keep it straight I have no idea, in my imagination the plot looks like an impossibly tangled ball of wool with just a few loose ends trailing out which, eventually and with great skill, Noelle manages to gently pull until it all unravels neatly and beautifully into a straight line. So clever.

I was honestly flummoxed through most of the book. I even had a suspicion about someone close to Maggie that has always been one of my favourite characters and now I feel quite guilty about that! Although I did guess one tiny aspect of the outcome, the big reveal I had no idea about and it came as a complete shock, which only happens in the best type of thriller.

Alongside the mystery, we delve further into Maggie’s complex love life and her own tussles with her relationship status and how she feels about it. The portrayal of Maggie as a confused and vulnerable person in her love life contrasts sharply with her confident, maverick work persona and lends her a depth that makes her a more likeable and relatable character. She is someone I become more and more fond of as the books progress, and it parts of what makes me so eager to come back to them each time a new one is released.

All in all, this is an entertaining thriller that makes for compulsive reading. If you are already a fan of the Maggie Jamieson thrillers, this new one will not disappoint. If not, what are you waiting for? Dive one now, you won’t regret it.

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

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour and visit some other fab blogs:

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About the Author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog. Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

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The 2021 Romantic Novel Award Winners Interviews with…. Carole Matthews

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Next in my series of interview with the winners of the Romantic Novel Awards 2021, I am delighted to welcome to the blog the winner of the Romantic Comedy Novel Award, Carole Matthews.

CAROLE MATTHEWS PHOTOGRAPHED BY CHARLIE HOPKINSON © 2010
CAROLE MATTHEWS PHOTOGRAPHED BY CHARLIE HOPKINSON © 2010

Carole, congratulations on winning the Romantic Comedy Novel Award in the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards 2021 with your novel Sunny Days and Sea Breezes and thank you very much for agreeing to appear on my blog during the entry period for the 2022 awards.

May I start by saying how much I loved the glimpse of the Queen behind you on the awards night, festooned with fairy lights! Is there a story behind her appearance on Zoom as you accepted the award? Does she live in your office permanently?

That’s so funny! We bought the cardboard cut-out of the Queen for a Diamond Jubilee picnic in 2012 and she’s been with us ever since. She does live in my office but comes to all my book events and has been borrowed to visit many schools in Costa Del Keynes! Sadly, she’s now held up with Selotape and good will. 

Having attended the awards in London previously, having to watch it via video was an odd experience, and it was clear that this was true for everyone involved, who all did a great job in difficult circumstances. What did winning the award in this very strange year mean to you?

The online experience was hilarious. We couldn’t hear a single word. I was on my main computer, my husband was on one iPad and my publishing team were propped up on another one on my desk. The delay was made a lot easier by the box of six pre-mixed cocktails that my publisher had sent, but the first I knew I had won was when Kev said ‘You’re on screen.’ Hence the slightly mad acceptance speech but all credit to the RNA for trying to put something on – it was just a shame the company organizing it let them down.  It’s a great award though and I’m really pleased to have finally won something after twenty-odd  years and countless nominations! 

I know I speak for many readers when I say that books are what have got us through these odd and lonely times, and I have read more over the last eighteen months than ever before. Light-hearted books, in particular, have been a haven of escapism at difficult times. How has it been for you during lockdown as a writer of romantic comedies? Has it been harder to find the humour, or have you found it has helped you through?

Thank you, that’s very kind. I haven’t written a thing for months. My concentration throughout lockdown was non-existent – both for reading and writing. Crochet and rubbish telly got me through! I realise how much I need to be out and about doing things to feed the soul and provide material for two books a year! I really admire people who have found their creative mojo during this time. It’s just not happened for me. 

You have had a career spanning an amazing twenty-four years so far, with hopefully many more to come. What is the secret to keeping a successful writing career going for so long? How do you keep your ideas and your writing so fresh?

Yes, I celebrate my twenty-fifth anniversary next May. I had no idea when I first had Let’s Meet on Platform 8 published that it would lead to such a career. I hit the ‘chicklit’ wave just as it was starting to happen which was very fortunate. I’ve written thirty-four books now and would love to say that it gets easier, but it really doesn’t. There are so many pressures on writers now and I’m old enough to remember the days when we just had to write books! I’m never short of ideas – in normal times, they are everywhere – only the time in which to write them. I think the secret to a long career is that readers know exactly what they’re going to get when they buy one of my books – something light-hearted, funny but with a bit of reality underpinning it. I’m blessed that so many of my readers have stayed with me since the start of my journey.

As an aspiring author myself, I am always fascinated by the careers and writing process of authors I admire. Did you set out deliberately to write romantic comedies or is that just how your voice appears on the page? Do you write what appeals to you as a reader or do you have a secret, darker side in your choice of reading matter?

I’ve tried a few other genres just for my own entertainment, but what I write now is my natural voice and what comes easiest. I do generally choose much darker material to read. If I read books similar to my own, I tend to analyse them as I go, but if I read a ghost story or thriller then I don’t really do that and simply enjoy the read. 

I am sure that winning this award will have drawn you a host of new readers, as well as delighting your existing fan base. What can your readers expect from you next?

I have a new paperback out in October, Christmas for Beginners. It’s a follow-on story from my book, Happiness for Beginners which was a real hit with my readers and has some fab characters and some very naughty alpacas. This was nominated for an RNA award last year. 

Also my Chocolate Lovers’ Club series will be re-launch in August with shiny, new jackets. They’re a firm favourite with my readers and have been my most popular books worldwide.

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Could you please tell us a little about your award-winning novel and what inspired the story?

I had a lot of fun writing Sunny Days & Sea Breezes. The idea came to me while we were staying on a houseboat in the Isle of Wight. It was such a beautiful setting that I felt inspired. We were staying on a very swanky boat and the one next door was rather more eclectic, shall we say – it was the perfect starting point for a story. 

It’s about Jodie Jackson who escapes her London life to spend some respite time at her brother’s houseboat. She falls in love with the island life and is also very taken with her neighbour, wood sculptor, Ned. But when her old life comes knocking, Jodie has to make the choice – does she stay or does she go?

Carole, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me, I have thoroughly enjoyed this interview and I am sure the readers will too.

Carole’s award-winning book, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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When does time out become the time of your life?

Jodie Jackson is all at sea, in every sense. On a ferry bound for the Isle of Wight, she’s leaving her London life, her career, and her husband behind. She’d like a chance to turn back the clocks, but she’ll settle for some peace and quiet on her brother Bill’s beautifully renovated houseboat, Sunny Days.

But from the moment Jodie steps aboard her new home, it’s clear she’ll struggle to keep herself to herself. If it isn’t Marilyn, who cleans for Bill and is under strict instructions to look after Jodie, then it’s Ned, the noisy sculptor on the next-door houseboat. Ned’s wood carving is hard on the ears, but it’s made up for by the fact that he’s rather easy on the eyes.

Bustled out of the boat by Marilyn and encouraged to explore with Ned, Jodie soon delights in her newfound freedom. But out of mind isn’t out of sight, and when her old life comes knocking Jodie is forced to face reality. Will she answer the call or choose a life filled with Sunny Days and Sea Breezes?

About the Author

Carole Matthews is an internationally bestselling author of 34 hugely successful romantic comedy novels. Her unique sense of humour has won her legions of fans and critical acclaim all over the world.

All of her novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers and Happiness for Beginners was number one on the Amazon chart. She has been given an award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association for her Outstanding Contribution to Romantic Fiction and her latest novel, Sunny Days & Sea Breezes won the RNA award for Romantic Comedy novel.

Previously very unlucky in love, she now lives happily ever after in Costa Del Keynes with her husband, Lovely Kev. She likes to drink champagne, eat chocolate and spends too much time on Facebook and Twitter.

Her next paperback, Christmas for Beginners, is out in October.

Connect with Carole:

Website: www.carolematthews.com

Facebook:  Carole Matthews Books

Twitter: @carolematthews

Instagram: Matthews.Carole

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Blog Tour: Under A Greek Moon by Carol Kirkwood #BookReview

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It’s my turn on the blog tour today for Under A Greek Moon by Carol Kirkwood and I want to thank Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Hollywood actress Shauna Jackson left the Greek island of Ithos twenty years ago and thought she would never return. Reeling from a scandal that has tarnished her success, she is drawn back to the beautiful olive groves and endless azure skies – and to the secrets she has tried hard to forget.

Looking down from his hilltop villa, enigmatic tycoon Demetrios Theodosis knows he can’t change the past, and looks to the future through his tempestuous daughter Ariana, but in trying to tame her free spirit, is he driving her further away?

Set against bleached white houses bounded by a sapphire sea, a yearning for the truth will compel them both to confront their shared past, and take them back to a distant summer that seemed to hold so much promise …

When I started reading this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The blurb makes it sound like a standard summer romance set on foreign shores. However, it starts out with a young girl being drawn into a glamorous world of money, fast cars and yachts where she is out of her depth and at the mercy of a playboy tycoon, so it initially read more like the start of a bonkbuster from the 1980s. In fact, the author even pays homage to Jackie Collins and Colleen McCullough early in the novel. Whichever of these genres the book was going to fall into was not going to be a problem for me, I love them both.

The story jumps around in time a little, between Shauna’s youth and the present day, so you need to pay attention to what is going on to keep up, but then the story is entertaining. Shauna is one of the luckiest people in the world, I have to say, with all the breaks she gets in her life. I wish just one of these things had ever happened to me, so be prepared to suspend your belief just a little. If you can do this, you will find a fun and intriguing story that will whisk you from Ireland to Monaco to Greece to LA, and from the student halls of Manchester to the Grimaldi palace. If you are looking for some pure escapism in you summer reading, this book will hit the spot.

Shauna is a sympathetic character to carry the story, and the author does a great job of getting the reader on side early in the book (despite her great dose of the luck of the Irish following her about). Demetrios is also a great character to play off against her. He is suitably ambiguous to begin with for the reader to wonder about his motives and worry about Shauna, but redeemable as we see things from his perspective as the book progresses. Carol also gives us some great minor characters to flesh out the story, Roxy and Nikos being my particular favourites.

I did enjoy this book, reading it over the course of only 24 hours. I loved the globe-trotting aspect particularly, and the glimpse into some of the sparkling worlds of monied Europe and Hollywood. However, I did feel that this book hadn’t quite decided what it wanted to be. Packaged as romance, but with bonkbuster undertones, I wish it had planted itself firmly in one camp or the other.

Under a Greek Moon is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats and will be published in paperback in November. You can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for this book and see the opinions of some other great bloggers:

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About the Author

Carol Kirkwood Author Pic

 Carol Kirkwood is one of the BBC’s most loved TV presenters, best known for presenting the weather. She lights up viewers’ homes every day, appearing on programmes such as BBC Breakfast, Strictly Come Dancing, Wimbledon Tennis Fortnight, and Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show.

She is hugely popular with fans and Carol frequently trends on Twitter. Beyond the television screen, she can often be found ensconced in a book, singing, dancing, and driving fast cars.

Connect with Carol:

Twitter: @carolkirkwood

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Publication Day Post: The Missing Pieces of Us by Eva Glyn #BookReview

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There are three versions of the past – hers, his, and the truth.

When Robin Vail walks back into widow Isobel O’Briain’s life decades after he abruptly left it, the dark days since her husband’s unexpected passing finally know light. Robin has fallen on hard times but Izzie and her teenage daughter Claire quickly remind him what it’s like to have family…and hope.

But Robin and Izzie are no longer those twenty-something lovers, and as they grow closer once more the missing pieces of their past weigh heavy. Now, to stop history repeating, Izzie and Robin must face facts and right wrongs…no matter how painful.

Today is publication day for The Missing Pieces of Us by Eva Glyn, so huge congratulations to Eva today. I previously reviewed this book when it was in a slightly different version, so I am reposting my review here today to celebrate publication of this book by One More Chapter.

(Please note, the review is of the original version of the book, I have not read the revised version, although I have been advised that the book remains substantially the same.)

I really did not know what to expect from this book, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be fantasy or magical realism, either of which I would have enjoyed, but it is neither. It is a surprising, powerful and emotional story of relationships, family, grief, loss and the way our minds react to trauma. I found the novel profoundly moving and was hooked from start to finish.

The author draws a trio of very strong and likeable characters in the novel, in Izzie and Robin, who tell the story in a dual narrative, and Izzie’s daughter, Claire, who is both an anchor and a catalyst in the tale. The story moves easily between Izzie and Robin’s recollection of events, and between current and historic happenings – it is incredibly well constructed. I thought the premise was fascinating and deftly explored, how reliable are our memories of events and how much does our psyche alter them to protect us from ordeals that we are not emotionally equipped to survive.

The Faerie Tree of the former title of this book is symbolic, and represents people’s hopes and dreams, a place where the protagonists come to reveal their innermost wishes, offload their concerns and voice their fears in the hope someone can hear them and help them process these desires. It then represents a place of blame and haunting, when those hopes and dreams are dashed and there is no one else to inculpate. It draws the focus of the family’s pain and becomes a way of them reaching out to it, and then each other, to share and understand and come together. I thought it was a really beautiful idea that was carried off without any mawkishness or sentimentality. The author explores the ideas of our connections to nature and spirituality through gratitude to the earth and its bounty, how this is important to some but misunderstood and ridiculed by others but, in the end, it is something that is likely to be fundamental to the survival of our species and our planet. Jane does this very cleverly and subtly, without any hint of preachiness, but I felt it through the narrative and it really resonated in present times.

The core of this story though, is love and relationships, how difficult they can be when people can’t make themselves understood by one another, or really understand themselves. In the end, success really comes down to openness, open-mindedness, trust and commitment. It feels to me a very true and very resonating story, and it left me warmed and thoughtful. It also contained some gorgeous pieces of description.

I really loved this book and I hope it finds its way to a large audience because it is a thoughtful, insightful and rewarding piece of work.

The book is out now as an ebook, and will be published in paperback in October, and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Eva Glyn writes emotional women’s fiction inspired by beautiful places and the stories they hide. She loves to travel, but finds inspiration can strike just as well at home or abroad.

She cut her teeth on just about every kind of writing (radio journalism, advertising copy, PR, and even freelance cricket reporting) before finally completing a full length novel in her forties. Four lengthy and completely unpublishable tomes later she found herself sitting on an enormous polystyrene book under the TV lights of the Alan Titchmarsh Show as a finalist in the People’s Novelist competition sponsored by Harper Collins. Although losing out to a far better writer, the positive feedback from the judges gave her the confidence to pursue her dreams.

Eva lives in Cornwall, although she considers herself Welsh, and has been lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for twenty-five years. She also writes as Jane Cable.

Connect with Eva/Jane:

Website: http://janecable.com

Facebook: Jane Cable

Twitter: @JaneCable

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Blog Tour: Grown Ups by Marie Aubert; Translated by Rosie Hedger #BookReview

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Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and starting to panic. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs, but forces these worries to the back of her mind as she sets off to the family cabin for her mother’s sixty-fifth birthday.

But family ties old and new begin to wear thin, out in the idyllic Norwegian countryside. Ida is fighting with her sister Marthe, flirting with Marthe’s husband and winning the favour of Marthe’s stepdaughter. Some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets tensions simmering even further, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, her whole family.

Exhilarating, funny and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups asks what kind of adult you are without a family of your own.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for Grown Ups by Marie Aubert. My thanks to Tara McEvoy of Pushkin Press for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, provided via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was such a melancholic book to read, I wasn’t expecting it at all. We are following the story of Ida, as she goes out to her family’s holiday cabin on the edge of a fjord to celebrate her mother’s birthday, along with her stepfather, her sister and her sister’s family. Ida’s life isn’t going to plan at all. She is forty, alone and contemplating freezing her eggs before time runs out.

Ida is quite a hard character to like, to be honest. She seems pathologically jealous of her sister, to the point where she is actively destructive. I understand where she is coming from. Her sister is hugely annoying – demanding and self-centred – and everyone seems to pander to her. At least this is how it looks to Ida, and she feels side-lined by the rest of the family. I have three sisters, and sometimes they can wind me up because we are all very different people, but I would never behave to them the way Ida does. She seems quite sly, which is hard to warm to.

In fact, most of the people in this story, and it is a small cast, are quite dysfunctional. The one person who isn’t, probably because he is so peripheral, Ida hates, probably because he observations on her behaviour are so acute and she doesn’t like having her faults mirrored back at her. In fact, I am sure the author meant Stein to act a little as Ida’s conscience, not that she takes much notice of him.

This is an excoriating treatise on family relationships, and how some people’s are so transactional. If you don’t behave a certain way, affection can be withheld. It is a diatribe against the expectations society has, with the family acting as a microcosm of society here, on women and how women feel when they can’t meet those expectations. How it undermines their own opinion of themselves. I didn’t get the impression that Ida liked herself very much, she certainly isn’t happy, but I also wasn’t convinced she wanted the things she was pursuing particularly for herself, but because that is what society expects her to do.

The book is beautifully written, with very detailed and well-developed characters who were very realistic on the page. Perhaps too realistic. I fully believed in the relationships that were playing out on the page, and they made me deeply sad. It is astounding to me that this book was written by someone young, as it has such a world-weary air. It is a sorry reflection of modern society that this is how it still makes women feel when they do not conform to an outdated stereotype.

This is a fantastically crafted novel, with some beautiful imagery, impressive characterisation and thought-provoking themes. It reminded me of how I felt after reading Sarah Moss’s exceptional Summerwater last year. Moved but profoundly sad. If you are looking for something meaningful to read, look no further.

Grown Ups is out now in paperback and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Marie Aubert made her debut in 2016 with the short story collection Can I Come Home With You, which sold more than 10,000 copies in Norway. Grown Ups is her first novel, and won the Young People’s Critics’ Prize (Norway’s equivalent to the Goncourt des lyceens) and was nominated for the Booksellers’ Prize. Rights have already been sold in ten other countries.

Connect with Marie:

Twitter: @marieau

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