Twelve Days in May by Niamh Hargan

Twelve Days Graphic 1

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour today for Twelve Days in May by Niamh Hargan. Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my physical copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.


For Lizzy Munro, working at the Cannes Film Festival doesn’t just mean cafes, champagne and celebrities. It also means the reappearance of Ciaran Flynn, a man she hasn’t spoken to in 12 years. While Lizzie works for the Scottish Film Board, Ciaran is the man everyone is talking about: heartthrob of the moment and director of the hottest film of the year.

When his film hits a huge snag, Lizzy is the only person who can save it. And it’s a film that bears a striking resemblance to their relationship all those years ago…

But fairytale endings only happen in the movies. Is this one love story that’s just too good to be true?

There was nothing about the blurb for this book that didn’t appeal to me when I read it. Set in an exotic location that I’ve never read a book about before? (Check, never read a book set against the back drop of the Cannes Film Festival). Interesting dilemma? (Check, deciding the fate of a Hollywood film is a new one on me and sounds exciting). Appealing romantic lead? (Everyone knows I love an Irishman!). But did the book live up to my expectations?

Absolutely. I really enjoyed this book, I found everything about it enticing. Lizzie is a genuinely relatable and sympathetic character. To begin with, she is a little prickly and defensive when she comes face to face with a… well a face, from her past and it takes us a while to find out why. The history between Ciaran and Lizzie is gradually revealed through small flashbacks to their time in Bordeaux, interspersed with their interactions in the present at Cannes. We slowly realise why there is such tension between them and understand Lizzie’s attitude, just as it is being shifted in the present day as they get to know each other again. It is really nicely done. Watching Lizzie’s barriers being broken down as she spends more time with Ciaran and they address the past is a pleasure to read.

Similarly Ciaran works really well as the romantic foil. For starters, he is typically Irish without being too much of a cliche. There are reasons that Irishmen are seen as being an attractive proposition as a race, and I can attest that, in my experience, they are largely true. There is nothing so charming as a man from the Emerald Isle when he wants to be and Ciaran has this in spades. However, it’s clear that there are hidden depths and vulnerabilities behind his relaxed and confident facade and he becomes more and more interesting to the reader as the book progresses. The chemistry between he and Lizzie is also palpable on the page and it is easy to buy into it as a reader and enjoy the development of their relationship for a second time.

The setting is everything I hoped it would be. The author knows what she is talking about when it comes to Cannes and this comes through on the page and the setting really comes to life. I loved all the madness, hubbub and glamour of the festival and it made a fantastic back drop to the love story. I love reading about new experiences, so this really made the book something special for me. I’ll probably never go to Cannes for the festival myself, but at least I feel like I have been there vicariously now!

This book is a great addition to the romance canon and I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a fresh new voice in the genre. Looking forward to more from this author.

Twelve Days in May is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour:

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About the Author

Niamh Author Pic

Niamh Hargan was born and raised in Derry, Northern Ireland. An entertainment lawyer by profession, she first attended the Cannes Film Festival several years ago and found the experience to be both exactly like, and nothing at all like, what she had expected. When it became impossible to travel to Cannes in May 2020, she began to write about it instead.

Connect with Niamh:

Twitter: @EveWithAnN

Instagram: @niamh_hargan_author


Blog Tour: The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen; Translated by David Hackston

Rabbit Factor Graphic

Today I am thrilled to be taking my turn on the blog tour for the paperback release of The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen. Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review, although I had already purchased a physical copy. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.


What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Sometimes you come across a book and everything about it makes your heart sing. I know my fellow bookworms recognise that feeling, know that it is rare but, when it does occur, it’s joyous. My friends, The Rabbit Factor is one of those books.

This is the story of Henri, a very uptight man who likes everything in his life to be ordered and logical. He is an actuary, and he makes all of his life decisions (and I do mean ALL of them) based on logic and probability and he doesn’t like anything which disrupts this system or seems to him not to make sense when viewed from this perspective. This is itself makes reading about his life a ludicrous business, and I’d give you some examples from the book which made me laugh out loud but I don’t want to include any spoilers in this review. I’ll just say that this is one of those books that makes people look at you oddly on a train if you decide to read it in public.

So, the premise of this book is a classic ‘fish-out-of-water’ story. What happens when this man is accosted by a set of circumstances that don’t make any sense, can’t be dealt with on a purely logical basis, involve people who made illogical decisions or don’t behave in a predictable way and force him to think things and feel things that he has never had to think or feel before. This is what confronts Henri when his wild, reckless and unpredictable brother dies and leaves Henri his adventure park, responsibility for its employees and all the difficulties that go with it.

Seeing uptight Henri the loner actuary in charge of a children’s adventure park would in itself be hilarious enough for a story. However, this is also a crime caper, because the adventure park is in financial difficulty and his brother seems to have been caught up in some dodgy dealings which Henri has also inherited. How do you logically calculate your way out of criminal enterprise involving people who use violence instead of reason? Read this book to find out. However, this implausible story is not the biggest delight at the heart of this novel, it is merely the ingenious skeleton on which the flesh of this fantastic novel hangs.

There are two things which makes this book a standout for me. The first is the writing. Antti Tuomainen has the most delicious way with language, a gift for finding the hilarious in the mundane and a wicked turn of phrase that is music to the visual ear (if that is even a thing… you know what I mean anyway!) As I said before, this book is funny, laugh out loud so in parts, but it is also clever. Beyond this, he also knows how to write tenderly when tenderness is required, with tension when that is appropriate and with insight and consideration when this is needed to bring the plot to life. This book, as well as making me laugh, also really touched me in places, with a beautiful exploration of human nature, what speaks to our hearts, how relationships can change us, and how even the most cut-off and stringent of souls can be reached and touched by the right people. This book contains so many facets that there is something here for everyone – comedy, crime, love – the layers open up throughout like an unfurling flower to reveal its full beauty by the end.

The second, and most important aspect that brings this book alive are the characters. Everyone is individual, well-developed and integral to the plot. Even the one that doesn’t appear until right at the end, because there is a reason for this that adds to it. You can tell that no one is there for any reason other than they are essential, and every one has been given the same care and consideration in their development. Henri, of course, is the star and I could read a book featuring him every day of the week. For someone so alien to most of us, he is relatable and completely lovable and I am so glad to hear that this is the start of a series in which he will feature. Henri aside, I love everyone else. Laura, Kristian, Johanna, the security guard – the way they all interact and play their part. Even Henri’s old boss who he has written off proves to have a use in Henri’s life after all, they are all brilliantly interconnected in his awakening to a future he never knew existed, or that he had craved. It’s beautifully done, heart-warming and uplifting. The reason this book made me so happy.

I have always been a fan of Antti’s books but this may have just overtaken Palm Beach Finland as my favourite. I’ll have to go back and read the latter for comparison, which won’t be a hardship. While I’m here, just a word on the translation. If the name of the translator were not on the cover, you would never know this was a translated text, it is that seamless. This is no mean achievement and deserves recognition.

If you want a real treat, treat yourself to this, I promise you will close the back cover with a smile on your face and a warm, Ready Brek glow around your heart.

The Rabbit Factor is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please check out the rest of the fantastic blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews:

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About the Author


Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author Iin 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’. His latest thriller, Little Siberia, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

Connect with Antti:


Facebook: Antti Tuomainen Official

Twitter: @antti_tuomainen

Instagram: @anttituomainen


The 2022 Romantic Novel Award Winners’ Interviews with…. Bella Osborne


Today is my final post in my celebration of the 2022 Romantic Novel Awards and I am delighted to be joined by joint winner of the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy, author… Bella Osborne.

Author photo 2021

Bella, congratulations on your award for The Promise of Summer and thank you very much for agreeing to appear on my blog again!

What does winning this award mean for you and what do you think it was about this book that spoke to the judges?

I was over the moon to win! It is particularly special because it was chosen by readers.

It’s very hard to guess what they particularly liked about it as we don’t get any specific feedback. I would hope it was the feisty heroine and unconventional hero who appealed to them.

What is it that draws you to writing romantic comedy rather than any other genre?

It’s naturally how my writing comes out. Like everyone I’ve had ups and downs in my life but even at the darkest moments I’ve still managed to find some humour and I think that’s what gets you through. I have also written two uplifting book club reads where there was no romance but there was still a sprinkling of humour.

How important is membership of the RNA to you, what does it give you and what is your favourite thing about it?

The RNA is my tribe. I love that it is an incredibly supportive group and everyone gets a kick out of each other achieving things – they are a very special bunch of people. They also have a fabulous conference and the best parties!

How did you get in to writing and how long did it take you to get published? What advice do you have for aspiring writers just starting out on this path?

I’ve always written but it was a life coach that suggested that I try to see if I could complete a whole novel. I was lucky enough to meet my first editor at an RNA conference and from there I signed a two book deal. So the answer to how long did it take to get published depends on your starting point – either 45 years or eighteen months!

My advice to aspiring authors is to find other writers either locally or through bigger organisations like the RNA – their support is so valuable.

Where did the inspiration for this story come from and how do you go about developing a book from that first spark to the finished novel?

I wish I knew! These characters just appeared when I was finishing off another story.

I am a big planner so that’s my first stage. I spend time just thinking about my characters and getting to know them. I make character bios, work out their backstory and what their goals and issues are. Almost simultaneously the plot will be developing. Once I know the story has legs I will get out the brown paper and post it notes and start making a plan. Once I’m happy I’ve nailed all the key points that’s when I start a first draft. I do a few rounds of self edits before it goes to my agent. I do her suggested changes before I submit it to my editor. We then go through structural, line and copy edits. The final stage is a proof read after that the next time I see it it’s an actual book.

What do you think awards like this do for the image of books in your genre, and the image of romance novels as whole, which sometimes are unfairly dismissed? What are readers who would not normally pick up a romance novel missing out on?

Anything that can shed a spotlight on romantic fiction is a positive thing. It baffles me that a high percentage of popular music has themes of love, romance and relationships and that is embraced by everyone but when the same thing is written down the attitude towards it changes. 

If you’re not reading romance you are missing out on well written, thought provoking reads with engaging characters, that tackle some difficult subjects and dilemmas before giving you an uplifting ending. 

What is coming next from you and when can we expect to see it?

My next romantic comedy is A Wedding At Sandy Cove which is out on 21st July. 


Escape to Sandy Cove, where the scent of summer and the sound of wedding bells are in the air!

Ella makes brides’ dreams come true – there’s no dress she can’t make perfect with her sewing skills and some sparkle. But Ella’s own love life is no fairy tale. Recently dumped, surrounded by fussy brides and with the prospect of wearing a hideous brown bridesmaids dress to her friend’s wedding, Ella feels more alone than ever so agrees to go on a blind date.

A mix up on the night introduces her to Kit

Kit is definitely not the man she was supposed to meet, but he could end up changing her life in ways she never thought possible…

Bella, thanks for chatting to me today, it has been fascinating. Good luck with your new book.

Bella’s RONA short-listed novel, The Promise of Summer, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.


Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Bella Osborne has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. Since then she’s written a number of best-selling romantic comedies and book club reads. She’s been shortlisted four times for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. She lives in Warwickshire, UK with her husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. When not writing Bella is usually eating custard creams and planning holidays.

Connect with Bella:


Facebook: Bella Osborne

Twitter: @osborne_bella

Instagram: @bellaosborneauthor


RONA Awards 2022 Interview with… Lynne Shelby


Today I am thrilled to have a guest on the blog to talk about her recent inclusion on the shortlist for this year’s Romantic Novel Awards. Her book, Love on Locationwas nominated in the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy category. Please welcome, Lynne Shelby.

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Lynne, welcome to the blog and thank you for agreeing to talk to me today. What does being nominated for a RONA mean to you and what do you think is special about this particular book which led to it making the shortlist?

Being nominated for a RONA is one of the highlights of my writing career. To have my book shortlisted was thrilling, and I feel very honoured to be a finalist alongside so many wonderful books and authors. I was particularly pleased to have been nominated for the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy as I was fortunate enough to have attended one of the writing courses that Jane taught at Chez Castillon, and I found her advice on writing invaluable.

As to what is special about Love On Location which led to it making the shortlist – that’s a very interesting but difficult question to answer as I tend to get very fond of my books and find it hard to view them objectively! Readers of the book have told me that they very much enjoyed  reading about what goes into the filming of a movie on location, and the way the screenwriter heroine sees certain scenes in her life as if they were a movie – which leads to some humorous moments in the story!

Did you set out deliberately to write romantic comedies or is that just how your voice appears on the page? Do you write what you like to read or do you pull to the dark side when it comes to your own choice of reading?

 I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing fiction, but it was roughly ten years’ ago that I ‘discovered’ romantic novels, and realised that with a romantic relationship at the core of all my stories, that was what I most wanted to write. From then on, I focused on romantic plots, and my voice as it appears on the page arose naturally out of the situations that my characters found themselves in. 

I do write what I like to read, and romantic fiction is my favourite genre, but I also read novels from other genres such as science fiction, fantasy, psychological thrillers, literary and mainstream. Having always been interested in Greek mythology – like my archaeologist hero in Love On Location – I’ve particularly enjoyed some of the feminist retellings of Greek myths that have been published recently.

How difficult has it been to write humorously during the last few difficult years?

For me, when I’m writing, I’m completely within the world I create for my books, so the outside world’s problems during the last few difficult years haven’t changed the way I write. I also believe that writing or reading fiction, especially romantic fiction, can be uplifting during difficult times.

What inspired this particular story and did you manage to visit the location to research it or did you have to entirely imagine the location?

I was inspired to write Love On Location the first time I visited Athens, Santorini and Kefalonia one summer, and knew that I simply had to write a story set in beautiful Greece. Before I wrote the book I re-visited both Athens and the islands to research the location. In Athens, I re-visited places like the Acropolis that my screenwriter heroine and archaeologist hero visit in the book to make sure I remembered them accurately. While the island of Kyros – where the movie in the book is filmed – is fictional, I ‘borrowed’ much of its landscape from real Greek islands.

What do you believe that you have gained personally from being a member of the RNA and what is your favourite things about the organisation?

When I first joined the RNA, before I was published, I was a member of the New Writers’ Scheme and I will always be grateful for the feedback my readers gave me on the manuscripts I submitted to the scheme, which definitely helped me along the road to publication. I have found RNA members to be very generous with their knowledge and expertise – if anyone has a question about writing or publishing, there’s bound to be someone in the RNA who knows the answer. My favourite thing about the organization is that it has enabled me to connect with other romance writers at RNA events such as the conference and chapter meetings, and have the opportunity to talk about all things books and writing. It’s great to meet other folk who don’t look at you askance if you happen to mention the people in your head!

Do you have any advice for anyone (ie, me!) who is currently trying to write an appealing novel in this genre?

I would pass on the advice that was given to me, which is to write your first draft without editing – just get those words down on the page and you can edit at a later stage. 

What is coming up from you next in your writing? Do you have a new book coming out soon?

My next book, Rome For The Summer, is out on 23 June. In the book, my heroine, Kate, seizes the chance of a summer job in Rome – one of my favourite cities – where she strikes up a friendship with artist Jamie. Exploring Rome, Kate and Jamie start to piece together the surprising secrets of another girl who ran off to Rome two hundred years before…


Thank you so much for answering my nosey questions so brilliantly, and good luck with the new book.

Lynne’s RONA-shortlisted novel, Love on Location, is available in all formats here.

Love On Location Cover jpg

When Laurel Martin is hired to rewrite the script for a new timeslip blockbuster, she expects the historical advisor hired by the studio to be an elderly academic who won’t interfere too much with her writing. But when she meets Professor Jason Harding, a young and unexpectedly handsome archaeologist who has some ideas of his own about the script, she realises the job isn’t going to be as simple as she first thought.

As their work takes them from arguing over historical details in a cramped London office to discovering the hidden beauties of a Greek island, Laurel and Jason’s relationship starts to echo the romance of their script.

But with Laurel’s actor ex-boyfriend making trouble at home, and constant issues with the volatile director, will Laurel and Jason ever be able to write the happy ending for their own story?

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary romance/romantic comedy. Her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ now re-launched in ebook as ‘Meet Me In Paris,’ won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city, writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Connect with Lynne:



Facebook: LynneShelbyWriter

Twitter: @LynneShelby5

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter


RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Portia MacIntosh


I’m not sure how my liver is fairing after all this virtual drinking recently, how are you lot doing out there? Keeping up? We are pressing on regardless (although I may stay off the spirits tonight!) and I’m delighted to be joined by my next guest from the RONA 2022 nominees. This author’s novel, Life’s a Beach, was shortlisted in the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy category. It’s… Portia Macintosh.

Portia MacIntosh, Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy, Romantic Novel Awards 2022

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

Thanks for having me! I absolutely love a porn star martini. I love cocktails, and trying new ones, but passionfruit is one of my favourite flavours so, if I see a porn star martini on the menu, I can’t resist. The nicest cocktail I’ve ever had was a passionfruit meringue martini, which was similar to a porn star, but it had a foamy meringue top and it came with a little spoon. I must’ve had a thousand of them before my favourite bar retired them.


I love passionfruit too, so I’m partial to a pornstar martini. Estabulo also do the most delicious passionfruit maitai, if you ever find yourself in one of their restaurants! 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?

I’m from Leeds and, before I got married, moved to the country and settled down, I was a real social butterfly. I know exactly how to have the perfect night out in Leeds city centre. I know where to eat, where to go, and when to go there. I even know where all the different pro sports teams hang out, so if you fancy bumping into any rugby players…

I might take you up on that, as I’m a Yorkshire lass myself and worked in Leeds city centre for several years, I wonder if we have any favourite places in common? 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?

That’s a really good question. My favourite musician at the moment is an Australian singer called Alex Cameron who is just such a brilliantly talented and creative person. His girlfriend is actress Jemima Kirke and I think the two of them would be so much fun to have a drink with. They’re creative, fun, kind of weird. I can’t see how we wouldn’t have a good time hanging out with them. I bet people give such great answers to this question and I’m just like: this odd singer and his cool girlfriend.


We like odd and cool! 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?

Workwise, I’m currently working on my two Christmas novels to be released later this year, as well as working through the final stages of my summer release, The Meet Cute Method. I love my job, I find it hard not get carried away. I always have so many ideas buzzing around in my head – it’s so nice to have found a publisher who can keep up with me.


Do movie romances ever happen in real life…?

Frankie doesn’t believe in true love. As relationships expert at popular magazine Stylife, she has learnt that dating disasters are far more common than happy ever afters.

So when she is tasked to find out if meet cutes can work in real life she is up for the challenge – but whether it’s being a damsel in distress with a flat tyre, or spilling coffee over a stranger, she isn’t convinced this can really lead to love.

But little does Frankie know that the ultimate meet cute opportunity is just around the corner. As she is whisked off her feet (all in the name of her work project of course…) perhaps true love isn’t just for the movies after all…?

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

Honestly, it’s hard not to feel proud at every step of the way. I don’t feel like the odds were in my favour to have even one novel published, never mind more than twenty. So many little things make me proud, like seeing a new cover, or getting a great review. As far as the big things go, being shortlisted for an RNA Award for the second time means so much to me. I never expected it to happen once so twice is amazing.

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 think all authors would love to see one of their books adapted for the big screen. If one of my books is ever turned into a movie then that’s when I’ll know I’ve made it. I can’t think of anything cooler than seeing a live action remake of the people and the stories who only really exist in my head.

What have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m excited about my three books that are still to be published this year and I’ve just planned out next year’s books too. I just love writing stories and sharing them with people.

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

I love southern Italy. I don’t know if it’s obvious from my books, because I love to visit there on the pages, and everything that comes with it, but it’s where most of my family is from, so it’s special to me for a few reasons.

If I could go anywhere right now it would be Maui but the place at the top of my bucket list to visit has to be New York. I would love to live there, never mind visit.

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

A few people already know that I used to be a music journalist. I don’t think many people know that my early novels were based on my own experiences of things I did and saw while I was in that job though. Just like my main character in those books I used to just head off on tour with my band friends – not even for work, just for fun. I had a bit of an Almost Famous phase. These days it feels like a movie I watched – and I’d hate to do it now. It wasn’t that long ago but I don’t think I could hack it anymore. 

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 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath has to be my favourite novel of all time. I first read it when I was a teenager and so much of it spoke to me. I think everyone should read it.


I was supposed to be having the time of my life.

When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther’s life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into depression and eventually a suicide attempt, as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women’s aspirations seriously.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel is partially based on Plath’s own life and descent into mental illness, and has become a modern classic. The Bell Jar has been celebrated for its darkly funny and razor sharp portrait of 1950s society.

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?

Slow and steady. I’ve never been the kind of drinker who likes to get drunk. I always know my limits and take it easy. Drinking loads of water and having a good breakfast the next day will always serve you well – but something delicious, like pancakes. Greasy isn’t always good the morning after.

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

I love a lazy weekend these days. Walking the dog and shopping are always great but you really can’t beat an evening on the sofa – ideally with a pizza and a cocktail, in front of a movie marathon or a TV binge. 

Portia, it’s been great chatting with you, thanks for answering my ludicrous questions so brilliantly!

Portia’s RONA-shortlisted novel, Life’s a Beach, is out now, and you can buy a copy here.

Portia MacIntosh, Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy, Romantic Novel Awards 2022, Life's a Beach BOOK COVER

Sun, sea and inescapable exes…

Peach is excited to hear that her sister, Di, is getting married. Of course, she would have preferred her little sister to be engaged to someone she’s known longer than a week – and the fact that his name is Charles doesn’t bode well – but who is she to judge?! After all, her own love life is non-existent, and who doesn’t love a destination wedding?

Whisked away to the gorgeous Italian coast, Peach assumes her role as chief bridesmaid and, despite her reservations about the groom, she tries to ensure everything goes to plan.

But weddings are never straightforward affairs … throw in some unexpected guests (in the form of ex-boyfriends) and one night stands, and soon enough there is more drama than a reality TV show.

Can Peach keep the show on the road, or might she end up in a whirlwind romance of her own…?

Portia’s new book, The Meet Cute Method, will be published in ebook format on 4 May and you can pre-order it here. I will be taking part in the blog tour for the book, so watch out for this coming up soon on the blog.

Portia MacIntosh is the bestselling author of over 20 romantic comedy novels.

From disastrous dates to destination weddings, Portia’s romcoms are the perfect way to escape from day to day life, visiting sunny beaches in the summer and snowy villages at Christmas time. Whether it’s southern Italy or the Yorkshire coast, Portia’s stories are the holiday you’re craving, conveniently packed in between the pages.

Formerly a journalist, Portia has left the city, swapping the music biz for the moors, to live the (not so) quiet life with her husband and her dog in Yorkshire.

Connect with Portia:


Twitter: @PortiaMacIntosh

Instagram: @portiamacintoshauthor


Blog Tour: Yinka, where is your huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn


Yinka wants to find love. Her mum wants to find it for her.

She also has too many aunties who frequently pray for her delivery from singledom, a preference for chicken and chips over traditional Nigerian food, and a bum she’s sure is far too small as a result. Oh, and the fact that she’s a thirty-one-year-old South-Londoner who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage is a bit of an obstacle too…

When her cousin gets engaged, Yinka commences ‘Operation Find A Date for Rachel’s Wedding’. Armed with a totally flawless, incredibly specific plan, will Yinka find herself a huzband?

What if the thing she really needs to find is herself?

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for Yinka, where is your huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn. My thanks to Viking Books for inviting me to take part in the tour and for providing me with a paperback proof of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Or in this case, a young woman’s fancy. Although there isn’t much light about Yinka’s pursuit of a relationship in this fantastic debut novel by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn. Yinka is desperate to find a relationship, driven half to madness by the demands of her religious, Nigerian family that she find a huzband before she is left on the shelf forever. After all, at the age of 31, her singledom is becoming a real embarrassment to them all, to the point where they are driven to publicly praying to God to find her a partner.

But desperation is never a great basis for making decisions and Yinka ends up making some very unwise ones during her pursuit of love. Luckily, she is surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast of friends, workmates, sage ‘Aunties’ and sensible sisters to guide her back to the right path for her. Whether or not this eventually leads to marriage…well that remains to be seen.

I absolutely adored this book. It is a joyous, unputdownable romp through the trials and tribulations of being a young woman dating in the Nigerian community and I raced through it. It is by turns funny, informative, heart-breaking and uplifting but, by the end, you will feel like you have made a new best friend and will have had your faith in humanity restored. Not bad for a few hours between the pages of a book, I’m sure you’ll agree.

In Yinka, the author has created a character that is sympathetic and relatable, whilst at the same time allowing us to explore a culture that many of us will not be familiar with. I just loved Yinka from the very first page of the book, and truly felt for her all the way through. The pressure of expectation and conformity is something that most of us will be able to relate to, regardless of where we come from or how we were raised, and this is one of the main themes of the book. How easy is it to hold on to our true selves when other people, people we love and want to please, have expectations of us that don’t fit comfortably? How easy is it not to assume there is something wrong with us, that we need to change to find love, following rejection? These are issues that the book explores, against the back drop of the particular pressure put on young women within the Nigerian community, and of trying to uphold strict Christian values in our modern, liberal society.

As well as this, there are themes of family relationships, inter-generational tensions, the strains put on young women by social media and modern beauty expectations and, above all, the power of female friendship. There is so much going on in this story, so much to make you think, but it is all handled with humour, a light touch and real warmth and love. It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel, it is such an accomplished piece of writing, and a real joy to read.

Waterstones are releasing Yinka, where is your huzband? in a beautiful, special edition hardback with sprayed edges. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive and I suggest you pre-order your copy as soon as you can. This is going to be one of THE books of 2022 and worth every penny it will cost you to buy. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

Yinka, where is your huzband? will be published on 31 March in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats and you can pre-order your copy here.

Please do check out some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book as detailed below:

Yinka, Where is Your Huzband Tour 6 copy

About the Author


Lizzie Damilola Blackburn is a British-Nigerian writer, born in Peckham, who wants to tell the stories that she and her friends have longed for but never seen – romcoms ‘where Cinderella is Black and no-one bats an eyelid’. In 2019 she won the Literary Consultancy Pen Factor Writing Competition with the early draft of Yinka, Where is your Huzband?, which she had been writing alongside juggling her job at Carers UK. She has been at the receiving end of the question in the title of her novel many times, and now lives with her husband in Milton Keynes.

Connect with Lizzie:


Twitter: @DamilolaLizzie

Instagram: @lizziedamiblackburn


RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Bella Osborne


I’m delighted to welcome another of this year’s RONA Awards nominees to the blog tonight. This guest has been shortlisted for her novel, The Promise of Summer, in the category of the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy. It is author… Bella Osborne.

Author photo 2021

Bella, thank you so much for joining me for a chat this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thanks for inviting me! Us authors don’t get out much so when we do we get a little overexcited! So I will go for a mojito, 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?

How about Waterstones, Piccadilly? I thought I was being wound up the first time someone said to meet them in the bar at Waterstones because yeah right there’s a bar in a bookshop. But there really is! It’s the perfect combination – books and cocktails!

This sounds like a store I need to visit! 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?

Alan Rickman because he was just brilliant and I could listen to him talk all night – that voice ahhhh. And Sandi Toksvig because she seems so lovely, funny and very interesting so conversation wouldn’t dry up.

Such a gorgeous man, in every way. And this is Sandi’s second outing for drinks this week. 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?

While I’m waiting for feedback from my agent on a Christmas book I’ve written, I’ve started the first draft of what will be my summer 2023 rom com and I’m gearing up for the publication of The Girls on 14th April. It’s always a juggling act! I would, of course, love one of them to be my break-out novel and go flying up the charts – let’s keep everything crossed just in case.


Four old friends. Thrown back together after forty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a house and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they’re in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

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

I think my proudest moment was seeing my debut novel in Tesco’s. It really was quite surreal and even more so when a stranger took one off the shelf and put it in her basket. I had to have a stern work with myself to stop me following her round the store saying ‘that’s my book!’

My biggest challenge is always the point in the writing a novel where you go ‘What on earth was I thinking, this is worst book ever written.’ It always passes but it’s never fun and requires a large amount of biscuits to get past.

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 would love to have a cameo role in the film adaptation of one of my novels. How cool would it be, not only to have your book made into a film but, to also be immortalized in it? 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

At the time of writing I am very excited about The Promise of Summer being shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award. There’s an award’s ceremony in London on 7th March and I can’t wait to catch up with my writing friends, most of whom I’ve not seen for two years!

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?

Holidays are one of my most favourite things. I love Walt Disney World which is definitely my happy place but I think the Caribbean might top it as my favourite place – the laid back vibes, the perfect weather, picturesque beaches and the loveliest people. Top of my bucket list is the Maldives.

We seemingly have similar tastes. I am off to Florida this summer, first to Orlando for the theme parks, then to Key West, which is as close to the Caribbean as you can get without actually being there. They are two of my favourite places too. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m a huge Take That fan and have been from the very start.

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 Tent, The Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy. Many books claim to be ‘laugh out loud’ funny but I found that this one genuinely had me snorting with laughter as I read it.


For the 70s child, summer holidays didn’t mean the joy of CentreParcs or the sophistication of a Tuscan villa. They meant being crammed into a car with Grandma and heading to the coast. With just a tent for a home and a bucket for the necessities, we would set off on new adventures each year stoically resolving to enjoy ourselves.

For Emma Kennedy, and her mum and dad, disaster always came along for the ride no matter where they went. Whether it was being swept away by a force ten gale on the Welsh coast or suffering copious amounts of food poisoning on a brave trip to the south of France, family holidays always left them battered and bruised.

But they never gave up. Emma’s memoir, The Tent, The Bucket and Me, is a painfully funny reminder of just what it was like to spend your summer holidays cold, damp but with sand between your toes.

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?

Don’t drink more than three drinks and have lots of water before bed. I rarely get hangovers but a couple of paracetamols, lots more water and golden syrup on toast usually does the trick.

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

A morning walking with my family, an afternoon curled up watching a film with my daughter and an evening of wine and chatter with my friends.

Thank you so much for coming on the blog this evening, Bella, I’ve really enjoyed myself and I wish you great luck in the awards on Monday.

Bella’s RONA short-listed novel, The Promise of Summer, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.


Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Bella Osborne has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. Since then she’s written a number of best-selling romantic comedies and book club reads. She’s been shortlisted four times for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. She lives in Warwickshire, UK with her husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. When not writing Bella is usually eating custard creams and planning holidays.

Connect with Bella:


Facebook: Bella Osborne

Twitter: @osborne_bella

Instagram: @bellaosborneauthor


Blog Tour: Tinker Tailor Soldier Chef by Phil Brady


I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Tinker Tailor Soldier Chef by Philip Brady today. This is the second book in the Meal of Fortune series, but works perfectly well as a standalone read. My thanks to Heather Fitt for inviting me to take part and for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.



Someone’s going around killing celebrities and London’s police don’t have a clue.  With outrange mounting on social media, disgraced copper DI Mark Henwell, is thrown a chance to save his career or bury it trying

Things are finally on the up for MI5 officer, Anna Preston. But when an informant is murdered before he can pass on vital information on a terrorist plot, she has no way to find out more about the threatened attack. And no way of stopping it.

But could there possibly be a link between the murders and the terrorist plot? And what does Dermot Jack, Anna’s old flame and manager of a string of TV chefs and other lowbrow celebrities, have to do with it all?

As the police and MI5 investigations collide, Anna, Dermot and Henwell are thrown together and a tense love triangle emerges. But with a murderer on the loose and the terrorists about to strike, they really don’t have time for any of that

Do they?

A spoof spy novel wouldn’t usually be my first ‘go to’ genre choice but I quite liked the sound of this one and I’m very glad I took a chance on it, as it was a really fun read, despite being out of my comfort zone. It didn’t matter at all that I had not read the first book in the series as, although some of the characters seem to reappear in this novel, this was a standalone tale and any history between the characters that was necessary for inclusion to make the relationships make sense was included seamlessly and unobtrusively.

The book starts off with Anna Preston of MI5 investigating the murder of an informant, DI Henwell on the fringes of a police probe into a slew of deaths of minor celebrities. It’s really hard to see how the two things could possibly related, in fact the idea is patently absurd, but the book soon weaves the implausible cases together. In fact, it is the absurdity of the whole situation that makes the whole plot of the book such rip-roaring fun, so the best approach to enjoyment is to fully embrace the insanity.

There are so many mad characters in this book, my absolute favourite being Marcus Diesel, that you will be engrossed and carried along from the beginning. The book also contains a genuinely perplexing puzzle as to who is behind the plot, and I spent my whole time changing my mind as to who was the evil mastermind. The author takes immense trouble in littering the book with many red herrings and dead ends to fool the reader, not skimping on the complexity of the conundrum, despite the fact this is first and foremost a jolly jape of a book. I was extremely impressed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this jaunt through the ridiculous world of Anna Preston, Dermot Jack and the others and, as a pastiche of the very serious spy novel, it works brilliantly. If you are looking for something fresh, funny and a bit different to spice up and lighten up your reading diet, look no further, this book fits the bill perfectly


Tinker Tailor Soldier Chef is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the tour for more great reviews:

TTSC Blog Tour copy

About the Author

Phil Brady Photo (1)

Phil lives in west London with his wife two children and some animals, which also like to call the house home

He is somewhat obsessed and bemused with the public and media’s fixation with celebrities of every stripe. This forms the backdrop of his books, which also tend to feature spies, gangsters, hit men and TV chefs.

His first novel, The Meal of Fortune, was published in 2017, with a second edition following in 2021.  The follow up. Tinker Tailor Soldier Chef will be published in 2022. 

Phil’s main rule in life is never to let tomato ketchup touch any food that is green.  This may not have any deep meaning, nor may it be the soundest of principles to live by – but it’s better than many he’s come across down the years.  Best not to go there though.

Connect with Phil:

Facebook: Philip Brady Books

Twitter: @PhilipJBrady23


Desert Island Children’s Books: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


My choice of children’s classic to take to my desert island in October was one beloved by many, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.


Alice in Wonderland is an 1865 novel by English author Lewis Carroll. It tells of a young girl named Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.

I’m so behind with these posts, but better late than never!

I actually listened to Alice in Wonderland on audiobook in October and I really enjoyed this way of consuming it, it reminded me of when I read the book to my daughters before they were old enough to read it for themselves, so it was a double jaunt down memory lane. Is there a generation that hasn’t fallen in love with the eccentric story of Alice who goes on a fantastical journey through a world down the rabbit hole?

Every time I go back to Alice, I rediscover parts of the story that I have forgotten, and characters that I have loved which don’t make it into the Disney film. Many people’s main memories of Alice are from the movie, but if you read the actual text, there are loads of fun details that didn’t make it into the film. My favourite is still Alice being stuck in the cottage when she has grown huge and hearing a conversation about ‘Little Bill’ coming down the chimney, who she then proceeds to kick into the air without actually knowing what kind of creature Little Bill is (he is a poor lizard, it turns out.)

This is a book that it is possible to enjoy as much, if not more, as an adult than a child, because you can appreciate the absurdity and the sly humour of the writing much better. I am always in awe of Lewis Carroll’s imagination when I read this book, he has created a world that has delighted children for more than 150 years and continues to remain delightful to this day. What an achievement, to write a book that is so timelessly enchanting that people are still reading and enjoying it more than a century later, and whose characters are instantly recognisable around the world.

This will remain one of my favourite books of all time as long as I can pick up a novel, and it is one I will return to often when I need reminding of the innocence and joys of childhood and all that is fanciful and ridiculous. It is a huge gift to be able to revisit and embrace that child-like wonder in a world that can feel darker and more cynical by the day.

You can buy a copy of Alice in Wonderland here.

About the Author


Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children’s fiction, notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He was noted for his facility with word play, logic, and fantasy. The poems “Jabberwocky” and The Hunting of the Snark are classified in the genre of literary nonsense. He was also a mathematician, photographer, inventor, and Anglican deacon.

Carroll came from a family of high-church Anglicans, and developed a long relationship with Christ Church, Oxford, where he lived for most of his life as a scholar and teacher. Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, Henry Liddell, is widely identified as the original for Alice in Wonderland, though Carroll always denied this. Scholars are divided about whether his relationship with children included an erotic component.

In 1982, a memorial stone to Carroll was unveiled in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. There are Lewis Carroll societies in many parts of the world dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his works.


Book Review: The Party Crasher by Sophie Kinsella #BookReview


The Talbots are having one last party at their family home.
But Effie hasn’t been invited . . .

Effie’s still not over her parents splitting up a year ago. Her dad and his new girlfriend are posting their PDAs all over Instagram (complete with super-gross hashtags #viagraworks and #sexinyoursixties) and as if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re now selling the beloved family home. So when Effie receives a last-minute anti-invitation to their ‘house-cooling’ party, she decides to give it a miss.

Then she remembers her precious Russian dolls, safely tucked away up a chimney. She’ll have to go back for them – but not as a guest. She’ll just creep in, grab the dolls and make a swift exit. No one will know she was ever there.

But Effie can’t find the dolls. And as she secretly clambers around dusty attics, hides under tables and tries to avoid bumping into her ex-boyfriend (who she’s very much not over), she discovers unexpected truths about her family – and even about herself.

With time (and hiding places) running out, Effie starts to wonder if the only way to find out what’s really going on with her family is to simply crash the party . . .

You know you can rely on a Sophie Kinsella book for uplifting, humorous writing, and The Party Crashers is up there with the best of her work. Starting off with the enticing premise of the book – a young girl has to secretly crash a party at her own father’s house without being seen – I loved everything about this book from beginning to end.

This author has a genius for writing hapless characters that are charmingly madcap who you can’t help falling in love with and rooting for, and Effie is no exception. Who can blame her for not being enamoured of her father’s antics with his much-younger, gold-digging new girlfriend who has invaded the family home and begun to wipe out all traces of his previous family life? Anyone could sympathise, even if she does take things to the extreme. This is the real skill in Sophie’s writing, taking a believable premise but then pushing the envelope to wring every comedic nuance from the plot without losing the reader in the ludicrousness of the situation.

This book has many genuinely laugh out loud moments. I particularly loved the section when they are all sitting down to dinner in the dining room. This is a perfect example of a scene where actually you can’t understand how anyone could get themselves in the predicament Effie finds herself in, but Sophie’s writing is so charming that she carries you along in the mayhem.

As well as the comedic moments, the book does explore the issue of family dynamics and how, no matter how old we get, it is difficult to come to terms with divorce and learning that your parents and their relationship may not be the fairytale you always assumed it was. How we hide difficult truths from the people we love and, in some aspects, we never really grow up. I found the book very heartwarming as well as funny. I think it may be my favourite Sophie Kinsella novel to date. Fans should definitely not miss this one.

You can buy The Party Crasher in all formats here.

About the Author


Sophie Kinsella is a writer and former financial journalist. She is the number one bestselling author of Can You Keep a Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, Wedding Night, My Not So Perfect Life, Surprise Me, the hugely popular Shopaholic novels and the Young Adult novel Finding Audrey. She lives in the UK with her husband and family. She is also the author of the children’s series Mummy Fairy and Me / Fairy Mom and Me, and several bestselling novels under the name of Madeleine Wickham.

Connect with Sophie:


Facebook: Sophie Kinsella

Twitter: @KinsellaSophie

Instagram: @sophiekinsellawriter