Romancing The Romance Authors with… Anise Eden

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Today I am delighted to be joined on the blog for Romancing The Romance Authors by author, Anise Eden, who is chatting all things romance writing.

Welcome, Anise, tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Julie, thank you so much for having me! It’s an honour to be here.

I write edge-of-your-seat, deeply emotional suspense novels with romantic elements and laugh-out-loud moments. I enjoy writing series that follow one couple throughout, allowing their relationships to grow and develop over several books. Mental health themes often appear in my work, since I have experience as both a psychotherapist and a patient. I consider my job well done when people tell me they stayed up way too late reading my books, and then demand sequels! 

My first foray into writing was a paranormal romance trilogy, The Healing Edge Series, published by Diversion Books. Now, I am writing for Tangled Tree Publishing, with my fourth novel, Dead Sound, releasing on October 12. I’m working on the sequel, Dead Keen, as we speak.

Why romance?

When I wrote my debut novel, I didn’t know I was writing a romance. I’d only read one romance novel before in my life, back in college. I just wrote the book that was begging to come out, and then consulted some knowledgeable friends who told me I’d written a paranormal romance novel. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about the romance and suspense/thriller genres, so I have a much better handle on what I’m writing! Everyone’s creative process is different, though, and for me, I can’t write to a “formula,” so to speak. I have to simply write what’s in me to write, and find the appropriate label for it later, tweaking as necessary. I’d say the fact that all of my books so far have included romantic elements is a reflection of the fact that I am myself a hopeless romantic who is heavily focused on matters of the heart. 

What inspires your stories?

That varies wildly. My debut novel, All the Broken Places, started out as a mashup between exploring my own struggles with anxiety and wondering about the origins of paranormal abilities. Once the initial idea appears, the characters take over, and they can lead me anywhere. For example, my upcoming novel, Dead Sound, originated from a question that formed in my mind: how would an Old Testament-style prophet be greeted if they appeared in the 21st century? Before I knew it, I was writing a thriller. The creative process is truly a mystery.

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

I’m a relative newcomer to the genre, having just discovered it after I was told my first book was a romance novel. I thought, “If that’s what I’m writing, I should probably familiarize myself.” Now I’m completely hooked and in a process of discovery! The first romance series I devoured were by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse) and Kate Elliott (Spiritwalker). Favourite authors I’m currently reading are Rosanna Leo (whose entire back catalogue I’ve now read), Talia Hibbert, and Sariah Wilson. 

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

I’m not sure how the author would categorize her book, but I would recommend Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I love a book that is beautifully written and has a little bit of everything, and Outlander definitely fits that description. An epic love story, history, action, adventure, science fiction, medicine—and that’s just for starters. Plus, Gabaldon is an incredibly gifted artist with a poetic flair. Oh, and bonus: the TV series inspired by her books is pure catnip!

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What if your future lay in the past?

1946, and Claire Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank. It’s a second honeymoon, a chance to re-establish their loving marriage. But one afternoon, Claire walks through a circle of standing stones and vanishes into 1743, where the first person she meets is a British army officer – her husband’s six-times great-grandfather.

Unfortunately, Black Jack Randall is not the man his descendant is, and while trying to escape him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Scottish outlaws, and finds herself a Sassenach – an outlander – in danger from both Jacobites and Redcoats.

Marooned amid danger, passion and violence, her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.

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

Continuing on the Outlander theme, while this weekend wouldn’t be romantic (I mean, she’s SO taken!), I’d love to spend a couple of days with heroine Claire Fraser showing me around 18th century Paris. With her quick wit, fierce heart, and dry sense of humour, I think she’d be fabulous company. I also really want to meet Bouton, the dog that works at the hospital. And if her dressmaker could fit me in, all the better!

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

I relocated from the US to Ireland three years ago, and joining the RNA has been a fabulous opportunity to connect with writers and become part of the community in my new home. While in lockdown, I was able to join a video call with the Irish chapter, and it was delightful to meet with fellow area romance writers. I am eager to attend a chapter meeting in person when it becomes possible, and I look forward to the next RNA conference. There is nothing quite as much fun as “geeking out” with people who love to talk writing, publishing, and romance as much as I do!

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

I would share one of my favourite quotes by Rumi, which has been a guiding light for me in creative pursuits: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will never lead you astray.”

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My new thriller, Dead Sound, was so much fun to write! It draws a lot on things I know about personally, such as working in a hospital setting, life in Washington DC, and Irish leading men (my husband is from Cork). It also dives into some of the topics I most love to explore, from the worlds of medicine and mental health to the complex relationships between power and truth. You can pre-order a copy here.

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The tender scars on her abdomen throb as memories of the attack come rushing back, flooding her mind and sending her heart racing…

Psychotherapist Neve Keane knew that returning to work at the hospital after being stabbed by a patient would be difficult. But entering her unit only to be surrounded by a crowd of people claiming they need her help to stop the apocalypse—that’s more than she bargained for.

When the crowd’s leader turns out to be a mutual patient of Neve and her best friend, streetwise Irish doctor Cornelius O’Brien, they are both pulled into a Byzantine plot that transforms Capitol Hill General into a dangerous place where threats and betrayals lurk around every corner.

Then their mutual patient falls into a mysterious coma, and the clues he left behind lead Neve and Cornelius straight into Washington, DC’s ugly underbelly, a world of shadowy political forces with long arms and deadly intentions.

As they race to unravel the threads of a sinister conspiracy that leads from their hospital all the way to the White House, Neve and Cornelius realize they might be fighting to stop the end of the world, after all—provided they can survive the week with targets on their backs.

About the Author

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Author photo © OC Photography

Following the advice to “write what you know,” ANISE EDEN is the author of suspense novels with thriller, romance, and paranormal elements. Her qualifications include growing up in countryside where rattlesnakes and cougars jumped out of nowhere; living with family members who are a little bit psychic; and having her life saved on more than one occasion by her SEAL Team of guardian angels.
After college, Anise soaked up life in NYC, Washington DC, and points in between. She tried her hand at grooming horses, scooping ice cream, and designing billboards before returning to school to become a psychotherapist. Though she left that field after many rewarding years, Anise remains a passionate mental health advocate.
Continuing her real-life adventures, Anise is now exploring life in Ireland with her husband and their small, benevolent canine dictator. While her books have won multiple awards, Anise’s propensity for dropping glass objects while barefoot makes it highly likely that her next win will be a Darwin Award.
Dead Sound was the Winner of the 2019 IRWA Golden Opportunity Contest in Romantic Suspense.
Connect with Anise:
Facebook: Anise Eden
Twitter: @aniseeden
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Blog Tour: This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin #BookReview

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I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.

Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?

Funny and compassionate, this contemporary novel for adults explores issues of belonging, friendship and what it means to trust.

I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin. My thanks to Gail for asking me to take part in the tour and for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review. As always, I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This Much Huxley Knows is a very unusual but brilliantly crafted novel of observation on life, society and relationships, as seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy, which lends it refreshing honesty on the subject. Huxley experiences things without filter and, whilst he can’t always interpret everything he sees or hears, his bluntness in describing his experiences gives a brutal candour to events that enlightens and delights the adult reader that this book is aimed at.

Huxley is an awkward child, slightly out of kilter with his peers and starting to understand that he is not quite in sync with everyone around him, leading to a sense of loneliness and isolation that is quite heart-breaking to read. He longs to have a best friend, and his keen understanding that his closest friend might only be friends with him because their mums are close, is painful to read of. Whilst being noisy, disruptive and sometimes disobedient, Huxley has a good heart, and recognises his own feelings of isolation reflected in others – his neighbour Mrs Vartan, classmate Samira and neighbourhood outcast, Leonard. This sense of comradeship leads Huxley to reach out in friendship in ways that the adults surrounding him don’t understand and thus, causes alarm, but we wonder in the end who is most accurate in their assessment of others, the cynical adults or the open-minded and open- hearted little boy.

The author has done a quite astounding job of placing herself firmly in the shoes of this small child. Written in the first person entirely from Huxley’s perspective, I completely believed in Huxley’s voice throughout, and it felt totally authentic. The way he hears things but can’t quite interpret them, his natural curiosity, his obsession with crafting his trademark brand of ‘joke’ in every sentence and with Thomas the Tank Engine, were all immediately recognisable as the way children behave. The adults’ lack of awareness of how much Huxley is taking in and processing to begin with, and how he gradually makes them see him and take him seriously I recognised from my own parenting experience – children are like tiny sponges made up of big ears and nosiness – and Gail just brought the real experience of childhood to the page and used it to shine a light on human behaviour in a way that is frighteningly illuminating.

Huxley is a totally lovable character that I defy anyone not to adore by the end and the story is both painful and uplifting at the same time. Full of the genuine confusion, pain, joy and wonder of growing up, and an excoriating insight into the mistakes and follies of adults, this book is really unlike anything you have read before and I absolutely loved it. It has left me with a really warm glow and a feeling of satisfaction and I can’t recommend it highly enough for something quite out of the norm but hugely rewarding.

This Much Huxley Knows will be published in ebook and paperback formats on 8 July and you can preorder a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the upcoming stops on the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

1. Gail Aldwin H&S

Novelist, poet and scriptwriter, Gail Aldwin’s debut coming-of-age novel The String Games was a finalist in The People’s Book Prize and the DLF Writing Prize 2020. Following a stint as a university lecturer, Gail’s children’s picture book Pandemonium was published. Gail loves to appear at national and international literary and fringe festivals. Prior to Covid-19, she volunteered at Bidibidi in Uganda, the second largest refugee settlement in the world. When she’s not gallivanting around, Gail writes at her home overlooking water meadows in Dorset.

Connect with Gail:

Website: https://gailaldwin.com/

Facebook: Gail Aldwin

Twitter: @gailaldwin

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Blog Tour: A Racing Murder by Frances Evesham #BookReview

A Racing Murder

Delighted to be taking my turn on the tour today for A Racing Murder by Frances Evesham. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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A winning horse. A fierce rivalry. A sudden death. 

Belinda Sandford thrills to the cheers of the crowd as her beautiful grey racehorse, ‘Butterfly Charm’, thunders past the finishing post first at Wincanton Racecourse. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world.

But joy soon turns to despair as a stewards’ enquiry overturns the result and awards the race to her long-time rival, Alexandra Deacon.

When Alex is found dead in suspicious circumstances, a host of accusing eyes turn to Belinda and her distraught mother begs Adam Hennessy, her neighbour, retired police officer and publican, to help clear her daughter’s name.

As Adam, and local hotelier Imogen Bishop, dig deep into the murky and powerful undercurrents of the horse racing world, they lay bare the lives and loves of local jockeys, grooms, trainers and owners. 

They soon uncover a web of secrets hidden within the spectacular Somerset countryside as they strive to find the killer in time to prevent more murders.

I absolutely love a mystery set in the world of racing – Dick Francis is one of my all-time favourite authors – so I jumped at the chance to read and review this book, despite the fact that I had not read the first Ham Hill mystery book. The fact that I was new to the series did not matter at all, this book works perfectly well as a standalone, but it did make me want to go back and read A Village Murder, which is the first book.

The book is set in a quaint, rural village in Somerset, as you would expect for a cosy, murder mystery, with picturesque houses, a lovely hotel and snug pub… and all the usual bickering, rivalry and intrigue that seems to abound in such backwaters. I live in a small village in Yorkshire and we never have any murders, but the rest of the plot rings very true as to the goings on in a rural setting. They are always gossip central, and no one can ever keep anything quiet, so the idea that a group of locals could solve a murder through wagging tongues and their personal contacts I find entirely feasible!

I really love the gang of characters that the author has created here, especially Imogen and Adam and the friendship between them. They are very authentic, well-rounded and likeable characters, and I love the way Frances has included intrigue and tension in their personal lives, as well as the murder mystery, to push the plot along. In fact, it is the characterisation in particular that has made me want to go back and read the first book in the series and find out more of their back stories, although there is enough information contained in this book to enable the reader to enjoy this storyline without making that necessary.

The murder plot is gentle, not especially gory, but entertaining and diverting and kept me guessing throughout. I loved the peek inside the world of racing and thought Frances had captured that world very well compared to other books I have read written by people actually involved in it (as I said, I am a fan of the genre, and I come from a town where horse-racing is one of our biggest industries). Frances’s writing is very engaging and extremely easy to read, so the pages just slip by. This is a book you can easily devour in one indulgent afternoon without any strain, and you will probably want to as you race to find out whodunnit.

A great book for fans of M.C. Beaton, Betty Rowlands and other cosy mystery writers. Lovely setting, attractive characters and an enticing and gripping plot, what more can you ask for from a book? Thoroughly enjoyable.

A Racing Murder is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

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About the Author

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Frances Evesham is the bestelling author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea murder mysteries set in her home county of Somerset, and the Ham-Hill cosy crime series set in South Somerset.

Connect with Frances:

Facebook: Frances Evesham Writer

Twitter: @FrancesEvesham

Instagram: @francesevesham

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Blog Tour: Blue Hawaiian by Carla Luna #BookReview

Blue Hawaiian

Today is my turn on the blog tour for Blue Hawaiian by Carla Luna. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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The first rule of serving as the maid of honor at your perfect sister’s destination wedding?

No mistakes. The second rule? No drama.

For Jess Chavez, a week in Maui is hardly a dream vacation—not when her sister expects her to be the perfect maid of honor. Not only does Jess have to fake perfection, but she can’t let anyone know she’s unemployed and barely scraping by. Above all, she needs to steer clear of Connor Blackwood, the sexy groomsman who broke her heart five years ago.

A family wedding offers Connor the ideal opportunity to convince everyone he’s no longer an irresponsible playboy. If they see he’s changed, they might support his decision to leave the family winery and strike out on his own. With so much at stake, the last thing he needs is an alluring distraction like Jess.

When Jess and Connor end up together, exploring the island’s lush, tropical beauty, the sparks between them become impossible to ignore. Throwing caution to the wind, they decide to make their own rules.

Five days of passion. No strings. No tears. No promises.

What could possibly go wrong?

I don’t read a lot of romance focused on the American market. Their tastes in love stories tend to towards the saccharine, which doesn’t always appeal to the more cynical British sensibilities, and I normally prefer something a little more realistic (I know some people will argue that UK-focused romance books are also unrealistic, that’s a debate for a different post!). However, Blue Hawaiian, is a different type of book, and one I enjoyed much more than the sugar-sweet options.

The story is told from the perspectives of two protagonists, Jess and Connor, who have known each other since they were children. The couple have a chequered romantic history, so being thrown together at a tense family wedding was always going to be stressful, never mind that they are both the black sheep of their respective families who have the burden of trying to show they are being responsible to their relatives for different reasons.

So far, so great. We have troubled romantic history, a wedding, family tensions and the beautiful setting of Hawaii to satisfy the armchair traveller in me. Jess and Connor are both young and attractive, and the sexual tension between them crackles off the page, so all the elements for a great romance are there.

The author has done a fantastic job in this book of drawing some wonderful characters. I absolutely loved Jess, who is ballsy and strong and independent, yet still riddled with flaws and doubts and behaves imperfectly. Connor is sexy and flawed, but fundamentally a good person, and they are obviously meant to be together, so watching them bumble about getting it wrong is frustrating and entertaining in the way all great romances are. I identified strongly with Jess’s stressed, perfectionist older sister Gabi, absolutely adored Brody, and thought the family relationships were drawn very honestly. The book had plenty of action and tension throughout, so it kept rolling along at an entertaining pace, with no flaccid periods.

The book is quite raunchy in places, so don’t be expecting a sweet romance and people who don’y like steamy scenes will need to avoid those. I personally enjoyed it and thought like it was an honest portrayal of how young people feel and behave. The whole book was a refreshing change for me, because it is obviously not a romance written by a British writer, but was not the overly-cute American love story that you often find. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Fresh, sparky and sexy, a very entertaining read.

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

Make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Carla Luna writes contemporary romance with a dollop of humor and a pinch of spice. A former archaeologist, she still dreams of traveling to far-off places and channels that wanderlust into the settings of her stories. When she’s not writing, she works in a spice emporium where she gets paid to discuss food and share her favorite recipes. Her passions include Broadway musicals, baking, whimsical office supplies, and pop culture podcasts. Though she has roots in Los Angeles and Victoria, B.C., she currently resides in Wisconsin with her family and her spoiled Siberian cat.

Connect with Carla:

Website: https://www.carlalunabooks.com/

Facebook: Carla Luna Author

Twitter: @casacullen

Instagram: @carlalunacullen

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Blog Tour: The Love Island Bookshop by Kate Frost #BookReview

The Love Island Bookshop

I am delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour today for The Love Island Bookshop by Kate Frost. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for allowing me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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A dream job, two handsome men, one destructive act. Will Freya’s opportunity of a lifetime end in tears?

When Freya leaves her publishing job in London to be a barefoot bookseller in the Maldives, it’s the push she needs to move on from her sadness and reignite her passion for life.

While resort owner Zander is charming, it’s handsome dive instructor Aaron who befriends her when she needs it most. But all is not what it seems and there’s trouble brewing in paradise.

Taking a chance on happiness is harder than she imagined. Can Freya let go of her heartache and allow herself to fall in love again?

I am sure I am not the only book lover who saw the job advertisement for someone to run a book shop on a tropical island a few years ago and thought it was their dream job. I even thought seriously for a few moments about ditching my OH and the kids and applying anyway, then reality reasserted itself and I filed it away as a lovely daydream. Kate Frost took a different route and used it as inspiration for a book. A book through which I now get to live out my fantasy of running that bookshop in paradise.

Here we are whisked away to the Maldives, where Freya is the lucky person from thousands who has been hired by a handsome and wealthy resort owner to run a ‘barefoot bookshop’ at his luxurious couples-only hotel. It really is a dream come true, but Freya is also running away from problems in her life back home, and we all know how well that usually works! Of course, new friends, and attractive dive instructor, Aaron, may provide the distractions she needs.

Freya is very relatable as a character (aside from being the lucky one to get the job of a lifetime!) and I really felt for her and the pain she was in for various reasons. Of course, running away was never going to solve them, but it’s a glorious excuse to explore the idea of a bookshop in paradise, and her problems are very real nonetheless. The book was perhaps more serious in tone than I had been anticipating from the blurb and the cover, but this did not diminish my enjoyment of it.

The romance aspects play out quite quickly, and the book provides two very different, and enticing, love interests for Freya. There are surprising twists and turns along the way which kept me interested, and I didn’t see some of the events which happened coming. Again, there are some quite serious things that happen, that take this book out of the realm of the light and fluffy romcom. Having not read any of Kate’s previous Romantic Escape’s novels, I wasn’t aware of exactly where her books fell in the romance genre, I am sure her fans will know what to expect. For other readers, this book is a well-written romance novel, but not a romcom.

If I had a minor niggle, I probably would have liked more description of time spent in actually running the bookshop, as that concept was what attracted me to the book, but that would be a very minor niggle. What is done brilliantly is the descriptions of the resort in the Maldives, I had a really clear image of the whole island in my mind from what was written on the page and, if a trip to the Maldives doesn’t make it on to your bucket list after reading this, you are an odd fish!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Love Island Bookshop, to the extent that, as soon as I finished it, I downloaded The Baobab Beach Retreat to my Kindle. (If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, as I am, all of Kate’s Romantic Escapes books are currently included in your subscription.) I really enjoyed her plotting, her characterisation and her voice and am keen to read more.

A perfect read for anyone who wants to go armchair travelling this summer, in place of an actual overseas holiday (which looks like most of us at this stage!). Highly recommended.

The Love Island Bookshop is out now in paperback and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you visit the other marvellous blogs taking part in the tour for this book for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

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Kate Frost is the author of best-selling romantic escape novels (The Baobab Beach Retreat, A Starlit Summer, The Greek Heart and The Amsterdam Affair), character-driven women’s fiction (The Butterfly Storm series and Beneath the Apple Blossom), and Time Shifters, a time travel adventure trilogy for children. She has a MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, where she also taught lifewriting to creative writing undergraduates.

Kate lives in Bristol with her husband, young son, and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Frodo. As well as writing novels, she’s also the Director of Storytale Festival, a new city-wide children’s book festival that she co-founded in Bristol in 2019 with the ethos of making books accessible to all and encouraging children and teens to read, write and be creative. Kate feels incredibly lucky to spend her days writing and being immersed in books. 

Connect with Kate:

Website: http://kate-frost.co.uk/

Facebook: Kate Frost

Twitter: @katefrostauthor

Instagram: @katefrostauthor

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Friday Night Drinks with… Todd Wassel

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Friday has come round again, so it is time for another celebratory drink and chat with an interesting author. Tonight I am delighted to be sharing Friday Night Drinks with… Todd Wassel.

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

Coffee. It might be evening for you but it is Saturday morning for me!

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

To a cool little container bar on the banks of the Mekong in Vientiane, Laos. It is called LaoDi and it is run by a Japanese and Lao that have their own Rhum factory that they use to mix with Japanese liqueurs. 

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?

The Buddha and Janis Joplin. 

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?

Beside my 9-5 job trying to save the world and help people, I’m in the middle of writing a 3 book memoir series. I’m on book two now and I want it to lead to more happiness, doing what I love, and telling others about it. 

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

The first time someone commented on a blog piece I wrote, and I realized that I had something to say. My biggest challenge was believing that I had something to say and finishing my first book. 9 years of thinking about before I was finally able to get it out into the world. 

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’d love to earn a decent income from having adventures, writing about them, and having enough people read them that it just keeps going. 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

In a few years I plan to buy an old Japanese farmhouse and spend a few years moving it, and renovating it. 

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?

After 45 countries and 21 years living abroad that is a really difficult question! I’d say hiking into Machu Picchu was on my bucket list and deserves to be near the top. Bhutan is at the top of my current list. That and hiking the 100 highest peaks in Japan. 

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

I was born in San Diego California, while my Dad was going to Top Gun as a navy pilot. Yes, the place is real. From there we moved every three years of my life as I followed along. My day job was for a long time working in conflict and war zones with Non-profits. Despite all of that, I considered myself to be timid and not adventurous 😊

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’m actually a Fantasy nerd at heart. I’d say the Brandon Sanderson Stormlight series. A great new take on the genre. 

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Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilisation alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soil-less ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armour that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of more than ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of The Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths:

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before Destination.

And return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.

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?

Sleep as long as possible, and have a beer to even things out around 11 am. 

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

Spending the day rock climbing or hiking and then the evening on a porch with a BBQ, a beer and a view

Thank you for joining me this evening (or morning in your case), Todd, it has been a fascinating chat.

Todd Wassel is the author of Walking in Circles: Finding Happiness in Lost Japan and you can buy a copy here. The book is available for free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

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Far from the lights of Tokyo. A 1,200 year old pilgrimage. A life changed forever.

Guided by a wandering ascetic hiding from the Freemasons; naked Yakuza; a scam artist pilgrim; and a vengeful monk, Walking in Circles is a fun, inspirational travel memoir set in a Japan few outsiders ever get to see.

Award-winning writer Todd Wassel draws on over twenty years in Japan to retell his epic journey through the contradictions of a contemporary yet traditional Japan while trying to overcome the barriers to happiness modern life throws up.

Over half a decade after first landing in Japan Todd is lost, unable to go home, or move forward. Convinced there is more to life, he risks everything to return to the one place he found answers years before: the ancient Shikoku Henro pilgrimage. Walking the 750-mile henro path, sleeping outside each night, Todd is armed with only a Japanese map and the people he meets along the way.

Todd Wassel is an international development professional, author and traveler. He has worked across Asia and Europe for the past 20 years as an English teacher in Japan, a human rights advocate in Sri Lanka, a conflict management specialist in Timor-Leste and Kosovo, and has worked in and traveled to over 40 countries. He has worked for the United Nations, small local NGOs, for the US government, and is currently the Country Representative for the Asia Foundation in Laos. Todd won the People’s Choice Award in the Southeast Asia Travel Writing Competition and has been featured in Lonely Planet, the Diplomat and ABC Australia.

Todd has hiked into Machu Pichu, watched the sun rise from the top of Mount Fuji, dived the reefs of the Maldives, honeymooned in Bosnia and Herzegovina, danced for three days at weddings in India, hiked from Montenegro to Albania, through Kosovo and into Macedonia, and walked the 900-mile pilgrimage to the 88 temples of Shikoku Japan, twice (the topic of his new book). He likes adventures and strong coffee.

Fluent in Japanese, Todd has a B.A from Colgate University in Asian Studies and Comparative Religion as well as a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher school at Tufts University. Todd met his wife Kaoru during a security crisis on the tiny half island of Timor-Leste and they have been traveling the world together ever since.

They currently live with their two children, Kaito and Sana, in Laos along the banks of the Mekong.

Connect with Todd via his website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Book Review: The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance by Lucy Morris #BookReview

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A challenging wife

For a warrior Viking

When Thorstein Bergson rescues a beautiful woman from a storm-tossed long-ship he little expects to broker a powerful marriage alliance with her. This high-status ice queen is not the comfortable wife this warrior chief is seeking. But maybe the bitter-sweet pain in Gyda’s eyes hides another woman beneath? The one he tasted that first night when she’d kissed him with such pent-up longing…?

The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance is published today and is Lucy Morris’s debut novel for Harlequin Mills and Boon in their Historical line. Many thanks to Lucy for offering me a copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed it honestly and impartially as always.

I can’t recall ever reading a book featuring Vikings that wasn’t a children’s book or non-fiction. I have definitely never read a Viking romance before, but it is a genre I have been missing out on if Lucy’s debut is anything to go by.

Gyda is sailing to a new life in England, escaping a past that wasn’t happy for reasons that are gradually revealed through the book. her ship is wrecked off the coast near Viking chief Thorstein’s settlement, and he rescues her from the storm-tossed waters. Through a series of subsequent events, they end up being tied together in a marriage alliance, but can they forge a romance from marriage of mutual convenience?

This is the driving thrust of the novel but so much more is explored throughout the story. It’s about the powerlessness felt by women in these times, who were valued by men only for the status and alliances they could bring, and the children they could bear. About the way people make assumptions about people based on first impressions, and how they can remain fixed if we don’t take the time to dig below the surface and find out what makes people behave as they do. How misunderstandings so easily arise if people don’t talk. And what true love and passion look like.

Despite being set in a time that is so distant and alien, the author has created characters that are very relatable to the reader, and attractive to read about. Thorstein is a man who would make any woman’s knees weak, never mind Gyda, and Gyda seems like the perfect woman, beautiful and feisty. The chemistry coming off the page between them was palpable from the beginning, and I was sold on the relationship from chapter one.

Being from Yorkshire, and having visited the sites in York that celebrate its Viking history, I was also gripped by the way Lucy brought the world of Jorvik to life with all of the senses (especially the smells. Anyone who has visited the Jorvik Viking Centre will remember the smell!). There was so much to enjoy in this book, beyond the fiery romance, I absolutely loved it.

The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Lucy Morris lives in Essex, UK, with her husband, two young children and two cats. She has a massively sweet tooth and loves gin, bubbly and Irn-Bru. She’s a member of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association and is delighted to begin her publishing journey with Harlequin Historical in 2021 with her first release ‘The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance’.

She adores writing strong, passionate women and the brave, honourable men who fall in love with them. Weaving her fascination with the dark age of medieval Europe with her compulsion to give her characters a happily ever after. But only after they’ve had an adventure along the way.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://lucymorrisromance.com/

Facebook: Lucy Morris Author

Twitter: @LMorris_Author

Instagram: @lucymorris.author

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Extract: Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw #Extract

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Carole Gunn leads an unfulfilled life and knows it.  She’s married to someone who may, or may not, be in New York on business and, to make things worse, the family’s deaf cat has been run over by an electric car.

But something has been changing in Carole’s mind.  She’s decided to revisit places that hold special significance for her.  She wants to better understand herself, and whether the person she is now is simply an older version of the person she once was.

Instead, she’s taken on an unlikely journey to confront her past, present and future.

Today is publication day for Everyday Magic, the fifth book by author Charlie Laidlaw and, to celebrate publication, I am delighted to be able to share an extract from Chapter One with you to whet your appetite.

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When Carole was little, she found a magic clearing in the woods near her home.She had been exploring, surrounded by oak, birch, and hazel trees, picking her way carefully between bramble and nettle.There was birdsong, squirrels darting across branches, and patterns of sunlight on the woodland floor.She had been looking for bilberries, and her hands were full of the small black fruit.She stopped to sit on an outcrop of rock by a wide stream that, in winter, could quickly become a torrent of brown water.In summer, it was comforting; in winter, treacherous.She ate her bilberries, the stream cascading over a small waterfall; the sound of water in her ears.It was summer and the stream bubbled crystal clear.The woodland rose in folds from the stream, and she climbed steadily upwards.Here, the trees crammed in on her; it was darker.When she looked up, she could only see sunlight trapped on leaves far above.It was a part of the old woodland that she’d never been to before, but she pushed on; she had a feeling that she was on an adventure and might suddenly come across a gingerbread house or wizard’s cottage.

At the top of the hill she found herself in a small clearing.It was only a few yards across, framed with oak trees, and perfectly round.Sunlight from directly above made the clearing warm, and she stood at its centre, wondering if she was the first person to have ever discovered it.Each of the oak trees around the clearing seemed precisely set, each one a perfect distance from the next, and she walked around them, touching each one, wondering if someone had planted the oak trees, or if the clearing really was a magic place.She still believed in magic.Then she stood again at its centre, wondering at its symmetry and why a long-dead sorcerer might have planted the oak trees.Then, realising that the sorcerer might not be dead and that she had walked uninvited into his private domain, she hurried away, not sure whether to be frightened or excited.But it was a place she often went back to that summer, and on following summers, sometimes alone and sometimes with her little brother.They would sit in the centre of the woodland circle, eating bilberries, hoping to meet the sorcerer who had built the clearing.She wasn’t frightened of him anymore; the clearing was too peaceful to have been made by a bad wizard.It was their secret place, but mainly Carole’s, because she had found it.It was a comforting place: it was somewhere she would go if she was sad or angry about something, because the woodland circle and its shifting half-shadows offered calm and new perspectives.She could almost hear the trees speak to her, the wind in their branches making the leaves whisper, but so softly that she couldn’t understand.She would listen, eyes closed, the leaves rustling, but she never understood what they were saying.The circle of trees stood solid and immovable, dark and stoic, old and wise, each one the colour of stone.

If you found this short extract enticing and you would like to get your hands on a copy of the book, you can buy it direct from Ringwood Publishing’s website here.

About the Author

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Author Charlie Laidlaw lives in East Lothian, one of the main settings for Everyday Magic. He has four other published novels: Being Alert!, The Space Between Time, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and Love Potions and Other Calamities. Previously a journalist and defence intelligence analyst, Charlie now teaches Creative Writing in addition to his writing career.

Connect with Charlie:

Website: https://www.charlielaidlawauthor.com/

Facebook: Charlie Laidlaw

Twitter: @claidlawauthor

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Book Review: Lost Children by Willa Bergman #BookReview

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A celebrated painting, the Portrait of the Lost Child, has been missing for over a decade. Eloise Witcham is commissioned to find it, but if she does she will have to confront a past she thought long behind her and face up to the dark fears that still haunt her dreams.

A stylish, intelligent, contemporary thriller set in the secretive world of high end art.

I am delighted to be sharing my review today of Lost Children, the debut novel by Willa Bergman. My thanks to the author for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

When the author approached me about reviewing this book I agreed because I was intrigued by the premise of a thriller set in the world of art theft. It is not something I have come across before and I thought it would make an interesting basis for a story. I wasn’t wrong on this point, it was a really cleverly plotted story featuring the race to determine the whereabouts of a missing painting that jumps from the UK to New York and then back to France, but the reasons for each individual’s desire to track down the painting are clouded in mystery and not as straight forward as they first seem.

The main character is Eloise, a member of the private sales team at an auction house who is asked to track down the painting which was stolen fifteen years before. She finds herself promoted within the auction house and will a certain amount of autonomy which is useful for the hunt, as there are certain things about her past she is keen to keep quiet. However, it brings her into direct conflict with a rival art investigator who is determined to get to the painting before her. It is quite hard to talk any further about the plot without revealing spoilers but, suffice it to say, the book is full of action, intrigue and international travel and the plot moves along at a cracking pace, keeping the reader engaged throughout.

I have to say that the book requires some suspension of disbelief to enjoy. I’m not 100% convinced that Eloise would be able to do all she does without her employers raising a few eyebrows, and the ending gets very exciting. Still, no one reads these type of thrillers for absolute authenticity and it is a cracking good story. I really enjoyed the dip into a different world, high end art crime, and a female protagonist who doesn’t need a man to help her solve the problems.

Highly entertaining.

Lost Children is out now as an ebook and paperback, and is available to read for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. You can get your copy here.

About the Author

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Willa Bergman lives in London with her husband and two children. Lost Children is her first novel.

You can connect with Willa via Goodreads.

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Blog Tour: Summer at the Chateau by Jennifer Bohnet #BookReview

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It is my turn on the blog tour today for Summer at the Chateau by Jennifer Bohnet and I’m thrilled to be sharing my review. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Every end has a new beginning…

When Pixie Sampson’s husband tragically dies, she inherits the beautiful Château Quiltu in Brittany, Northern France.

But unbeknown to her, she also inherits a mysterious lodger, Justine Martin and her 4-year-old son Ferdie.

Heartbroken and with her adventurous Mum, Gwen, in tow, they travel to France to put the Château on the market but are soon drawn into a quest to seek the Château’s secrets.

Who is Justine? Why is she living at the Château? How did she know her husband?

Over the Summer months, the Château fills with family and laughter and secrets are discovered and old wounds begin to heal.

Sometimes you are just looking for a gentle read that doesn’t demand too much from you, but just transports you to a distant place for a relaxed, armchair holiday where you can take in the sights and sounds of a foreign land without any strain, and meander through a quiet family story without too much drama. If this is the case, you could do a lot worse than pick up this delightful book by Jennifer Bohnet, but watch out for the hidden riptides of surprise and emotion seething below the surface!

We start just after the tragic death of Pixie’s husband and the discovery that she is the full owner of a small chateau in France. With her feisty mother in tow, Pixie decides to travel to France and prepare the chateau for sale. Once she gets there, however, she discovers there is a lodger in situ and begins to wonder what secrets her laste husband may have been hiding from her.

The first half of this book is laid-back read, albeit tinged with tragedy as Pixie tries to come to terms with her husband’s death and the discovery of things he hadn’t told her. We travel to France, and the author beautifully brings the countryside of Brittany to life for the reader. One of the reasons I really love Jennifer Bohnet’s writing is that she always manages to perfectly evoke the sense of place of her book’s setting so that you can enjoy it with each of your senses, as if you are really there with the characters.

In the second half of the book, the pace quickens as more family members turn up in France to join Pixie and her mum, and the secrets are gradually revealed. The family relationships are at the heart of this book, and are what really appealed to me about the plot. I loved the relationship between Pixie and her mum, Gwen, and the fact that the story centres around two older protagonists is refreshing and appealing. The dynamics between all of the relatives are honest and realistic and, as someone who comes from a large, rowdy and ever-changing family myself, it felt very familiar. This is a story all about family, love and how we can hurt and heal one another together and I loved that about it.

The book deals with some very painful problems for this family, and I could sympathise with the characters being put through the wringer as facts come to light. Of course, this being the type of book it is, all gets resolved before the end in a very satisfying way, but this does not lessen the anguish of the characters before they get there. Don’t let the cover and the genre fool you, there is some real meat on the bones of this story, and it gives you plenty to chew over amongst the pretty French countryside and within the walls of the charming chateau. This is no bubblegum novel, it is a rewarding read that offers plenty of emotion to anyone who slips between its covers.

Highly recommended to fans of this genre, this is another hit from Jennifer Bohnet that I enjoyed a great deal.

Summer at the Chateau is out now in all formats, and you can buy your copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

Connect with Jennifer:

Facebook: Jennifer Bohnet

Twitter: @jenniewriter

Instagram: @jenniewriter

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