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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Authors

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

Connect with the authors:

Facebook: Jorn Lier Horst / Thomas Enger

Twitter: @LierHorst / @EngerThomas

Instagram: @lierhorst / @thomas_enger_books

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Blog Tour: Seven Days by Michelle Kidd #BookReview

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One killer. One city. One week.

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

The clock is ticking.
Tick.
Tock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Michelle:

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

Facebook: Michelle Kidd

Twitter: @AuthorKidd

Instagram: @michellekiddauthor

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Desert Island Books with… Kate G. Smith

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

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

Book One – A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

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

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

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

Book Two – Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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

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

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

Book Three – If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Four – Riders by Jilly Cooper

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

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

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

Book Five – Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

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

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

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

My luxury item

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

About Kate Galloway Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Kate:

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

Facebook: Kate Galloway Smith

Twitter: @WritingItToday

Instagram: @writingittoday

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Blog tour: Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker #BookReview

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THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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

Connect with Tina:

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

Twitter: @TinaBakerBooks

Instagram: @tinabakerbooks

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sandy Barker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have planned that you are really excited about?

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

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

Fave place? Goodness, that is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Will all three women have their Christmas wishes come true?

Christmas is coming and best friends ChloeJules, and Lucy are needing change… so swapping homes for the holidays could be the perfect present for all of them!

Australian Chloe spends her Christmas in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England. She is totally star-struck when she discovers who lives across the road.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend her Christmas on a beach with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away is just what she needed.

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

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

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

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Book Review: Starstruck by Emma Bennet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Emma:

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

Facebook: Emma Bennet

Twitter: @romanceemma

Instagram: @romanceemma

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Blog Tour: Gordon Square by Tracy Martin-Summers #Spotlight

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It is my turn on the blog tour today for Gordon Square by Tracy Summers-Martin and I am happy to be shining the spotlight on the book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

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On a cold blustery November night, Detective Sergeant Mike Brugge and his partner Detective Constable Mel Bailey come across a girl, age unknown, in the parkland in Gordon Square. She was frail, malnourished, dirty and covered in excrement.

What had happened to this girl?Why was she covering down, shielding her eyes from the light, with a look of horror on her face? She appeared to be non-coherent, totally unengaged and would not speak to anyone. Nothing could penetrate the world where her soul had taken solace.

Mike and Mel set out to find out where she had come from and what had been per plight. Revealing hypnosis sessions allow them to glimpse some of her pain suffering.Follow their story deep into the horrors that unfold, causing chaos and turmoil among their own lives.

The detectives are about to discover a horrific, gut-wrenching story, that spanned over four decades. But will it end?

I’m shining the spotlight today on this thriller which has great reviews on Amazon and is described as a gripping crime novel with lots of twists and turns and relatable and likeable protagonists. The book is taking a tour, so make sure you follow some of the blogs listed below to read some reviews of the book for yourself.

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If you would like to get hold of a copy of the book, you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Tracy was born in Harrow Weald, Middlesex in 1964, growing up in a loving family home. She married her first husband in 1990, has two grown up children and a granddaughter.

She studied a variety of topics via module learning, embarking on City and Guilds and NVQ courses, ranging from a brief spell in hairdressing to administration and now works for a utility company in North West London.

Tracy has numerous hobbies consisting of landscape painting to landscape gardening and always likes to paint the scene, even if it’s changing the colour scheme, yet again, within her home.

Tracy has always enjoyed writing and used to write short stories for her own children’s amusement but it has only been in the last few years that she has taken this more seriously and has gone on to write her first debut crime detective Novel called Gordon Square.

Tracy Married her second husband in 2014 and now lives in Bedfordshire in a sleepy hamlet where she writes whenever she gets a spare moment.

Connect with Tracy:

Website: https://www.tracymartinsummers.co.uk/

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The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman; Narrated by Lesley Manville #BookReview

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In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ finds themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing 80, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

It’s book three of the 2021 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The challenge is to read a new book every fortnight that fits the prescribed category for that two-week period. The third category is ‘A book by someone who is famous for something else.’

I have chosen The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, who is obviously better known for being the co-host of Pointless as well as presenting other TV shows. This was one of the biggest books of 2020 and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it!

I am often a little wary of picking up a book that has had as much positive hype as this had, for fear of being disappointed, but I have to say that I was charmed and delighted by this book, which gave me everything I was expecting and so much more. It is a fun, cosy crime novel, as you would expect from the blurb, infused with the humour of four OAPs investigating a crime in their retirement village, but it is also an affectionate and authentic look at what it means to get older and the challenges and obstacles that brings.

Four friends in a retirement village set up an amateur sleuthing group to mull over cold cases, details of which have, rather naughtily, been squirrelled away by a retired female Detective Inspector, who is now in a coma after a stroke. The remaining members recruit a replacement, just in time to investigate a real crime that lands on their doorstep, when a local property developer turns up dead. They employ all kinds of tricks and wiles to infiltrate the official police investigation (highly improbably, but this isn’t meant to be realistic in this regard, it is all very tongue in cheek) and exhibit some real ingenuity in cracking the case. The joy and gusto with which they embrace the investigation are entertaining to read about. Richard has created four different, realistic and absolutely delightful characters to take us through the story. They are very unlikely friends, but gel brilliantly together and I adored each of them. Man-mad Joyce, fiery ‘Red Ron,’ the ex-Union agitator, cerebral and methodical Ibrahim and Elizabeth, queen bee with a mysterious past in … well, we never quite know what it is she did, but their are hints from which we can draw our own conclusions. Age has dulled none of their faculties and, add to this their age-earned no-longer-give-a-toss attitudes and they are a force that no one can withstand, certainly not the unfortunate police officers who are given their ‘help’ in the investigation.

However, aside from the fun and games of the investigation, the book gently explores what it means to get older and the challenges that brings. Loss of partners and friends, memory loss, neglect by children, the feeling of being a burden, loneliness, being misunderstood and treated like you have suddenly become ‘less’ than you were before, are all explored here with kindness and care. Richard does not belittle or mock his characters for their ageing bodies or minds, he acknowledges that, whatever age you are, we are all the same inside and deserve the same care and respect, and that these people still have a great deal to offer society and the people they come into contact with. He offers them dignity, agency and excitement and we enjoy going along with them for the ride. He has really captured their voices, and the things that they care about (an obsession with cake being one!) and I just really loved his portrayal of them all.

This book is warm, fun, humorous, kind, enchanting, intelligent and entertaining. It was exactly the tonic I needed at the time I read it (during the grim, cold, dark January lockdown days) and left me with a warm glow at the end. I cannot wait for the second book to come out this autumn. Lesley Manville is the perfect narrator for the audiobook, she really brought the characters to life, and the audio version also includes a 45-minute interview of Richard Osman by Marian Keyes at the end, which was a bonus delight. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a bit of a lift.

The Thursday Murder Club is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Richard Osman is a British television producer and presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first and, so far, best novel.

Connect with Richard:

Twitter: @richardosman

Instagram: misterosman

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Blog Tour: Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake #BookReview

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Ambition can be deadly

Broadcast to millions from its picturesque location off the coast of Jersey, Falcon Bay was once the world’s most popular soap opera. But with ratings at an all-time low, a new network owner, the malevolent Madeline Kane, arrives on the private island determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to the number 1 slot.

Director Farrah, leading lady Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who’ve been trying to hold the production together. But thanks to their handsome but corrupt boss, Jake Monroe, Farrah is losing episodes to male colleagues, seventy-year-old Catherine is terrified of losing the public’s adoration, and Amanda is battling her desire for a forbidden affair with a handsome new employee.

As Madeline’s pressure to revive the show intensifies, she unleashes a true battle of the sexes where the women will do anything to stay in the jobs they love and on the island they call home. Can they team up to bring down their rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge rip their friendships apart? As the story reaches its shocking climax, one thing is for certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive…

I’m thrilled to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for the fabulous new thriller by Melanie Blake, Ruthless Women. My thanks to Bei Guo at Midas PR for asking me to take part and to the publisher, Head of Zeus, for my advance copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

It’s been quite a while since I was glued to the pages of a book in quite the way I was to Ruthless Women. In fact, I can go back to the 1980s, when I was a teenager and my friends and I were passing around copies of Judith Krantz, Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran novels in the Sixth Form common room with the page corners turned down at the really juicy bits. (Do you remember THAT scene in Lace? We were agog!) Those books, filled with strong, glamorous and bitchy women, ruthless men and settings that were well beyond the experience of a Yorkshire teenager whose parents hated to fly, were a window onto an exciting and unbelievable world and, in Ruthless Women, Melanie Blake has taken the ‘bonkbuster’ and brought it right up to date.

The book is set in the world of a long-running TV soap opera. Falcon Bay was once the most popular soap in the world, but ratings have been slipping and, when the network is bought out by an American production company, the new owners are determined to reverse the slide, whatever it takes. The main women involved in the show, the ageing star, ambitious young director, talent booker and demoted producer, are hoping that having a woman in charge might alter the misogynistic atmosphere on the soap that keeps them from achieving their goals, but it turns out that the new alpha female might not be the ally they were hoping for.

This book pulls no punches in the storyline and is unashamedly outrageous. Sex, drugs, rows, double-crossing, secrets, lies, adultery – it’s all here in glorious technicolour and keeps the plot high octane from start to finish. The plot is way, way, way over the top, just like all of the fantastic blockbuster novels used to be, and this is what makes it such magnificent, escapist fun. If you really want to be transported from this terribly tedious, mundane lockdown world, this is the book to do it. You can lose yourself in a total fantasy world, although maybe some of this stuff actually happens, as the author works in this world and knows what goes on, and experience things that will never happen in real life to a middle-aged mum from Yorkshire. I loved it for the exact same reasons as I loved those bonkbuster novels I devoured in my teens.

What is really great about this book though, is that the women are centre stage and the men are in the supporting roles. The women are there for each other, female empowerment and female friendship, as well as rivalry, are driving the plot, and they don’t need the men to succeed. Despite some of the cat fighting and other shenanigans that goes on between the characters, female relationships and the power of women working together are what drives the plot of this book, and I adored that about it. The best of these types of books were always about strong, empowered women and this is why women love reading them, as beautifully described in this recent article.

I raced through the pages of Ruthless Women as fast as I could go, barely pausing for breath. Yes, the plot is OTT, yes all the women are impossibly beautiful, yes the men are rats. This is not real life as most of us know it, but that is the entire point. This is wonderful, escapist fun. There are shocks, bigger shocks, unbelievable shocks and just the most outrageous shocks that you could never see coming. This book keeps giving you more and more things that will leave you open-mouthed and delighted. This is the glorious resurrection of the bonkbuster, and I revelled in every minute of it. I had a brief Twitter exchange with the author yesterday, when she told me how much she had enjoyed writing the book and this shows clearly in the writing. Almost as much as I enjoyed reading it. With glee, would be the phrase I used. I loved it, loved it, loved it. I’ve immediately ordered The Thunder Girls to get another fix. Read it now.

Ruthless Women is out in hardback, audiobook and ebook formats on 18 February, and in paperback on 8 July. You can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

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Best-selling author Melanie Blake’s own real life Rags to Bitches story reads like the plot of an outrageous drama…

At fifteen years old Melanie Blake was told by her high school career advisors that her decision to do work experience at a local record shop was an ’embarrassment to the school and a clear example that she wouldn’t go far in life or her career’. They were wrong. By twenty-one she was working at the BBC’s iconic Top of the Pops show and by twenty-seven she had built a reputation as one of the UK’s leading music and entertainment managers, with her own agency and roster of award-winning artists who had sold more than 100 million records. During this time she also built up an acting agency from scratch which quickly became the most successful independent boutique agency in the UK where she manages clients from some of the biggest internationally syndicated shows in the world.

Her roster have won Baftas, Emmys and pretty much every best actress award going and Melanie is one of the most successful female agents in the world. In the UK alone – over 25 million people a week currently tune in to watch the very stars Melanie represents in their globally syndicated shows. In 2018 after two decades at the top of her game, Melanie decided to manage a smaller client list and concentrate on her other passion, writing – first as a columnist for a national newspaper, then as a playwright and now as a best-selling novelist.

Her first book The Thunder Girls became a Number 1 Best Seller in the summer of 2019 and the play she adapted from the novel broke box office records for a new work at the prestigious Lowry Theatre.

She still represents a high profile stable of some of the best known faces on British television but is also now enjoying success in her own right as a producer, author and playwright.

Ruthless Women is her second novel.

Connect with Melanie:

Website: https://www.melanieblakeonline.com/

Twitter: @MelanieBlakeUK

Instagram: @melanieblakeuk

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Desert Island Books with… Lizzie Lamb

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

Book One – Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

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Hero Wantage is desperate to change her fate.

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

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

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

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

Quite simply – Bridgerton, without the sex.

Book Two – Emily by Jilly Cooper 

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

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

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

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

Book Three – Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

Book Four – Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Lizzie Lamb

Lizzie Lamb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Lizzie:

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