Friday Night Drinks with… Jane Thomas

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It’s a lovely, autumn day up here in Yorkshire and I think we might be able to fit in one last evening of drinks outside if we put on a cosy jumper. I’m delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks tonight by author… Jane Thomas.

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

I think we’ll start with a cocktail – perhaps a grasshopper – and then move onto wine. White, every time… I could happily spend a while discussing exactly which one we should choose but let’s stick with a Pinot Grigio for now! 

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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?

With the magic of imagination, I’ll whisk us away to a bar tucked away on a hillside on Lombok in Indonesia. There are a series of terraces, each draped with hammocks and piles of beanbags, and it’s the perfect place to watch the sun go down over the sea. 

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 very tough call…! I think I’ll have to drag Mary Astell out of her grave: I wrote my Master’s thesis on eighteenth century women poets, and she’s one of them. Regarded as the ‘first English feminist’, I’d love to get her thoughts on what we’ve done to the world today. In fact, let’s put her contemporary, Alexander Pope, alongside her. Incredible satirist but, from what I’ve read, someone who needs taking down a peg or two. I reckon it would be fun to set Astell on him… 

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?

Right now, I’m working on a pretty interesting project linked to an environmental disaster in Canada. I was approached by a lady who is personally involved in what happened and am creating a children’s book to accompany the museum she’s planning to open. In an ideal world, the book will reach far beyond the confines of the museum – it’s a story everyone needs to hear. 

And I’m working on the third book of my children’s series with my illustrator right now; fingers crossed we can get him out pre-Christmas, but if not he’ll appear at the start of the new year. I was a little distracted for a while, writing some pieces in a sort of Dahl-esque ‘Revolting Rhymes’ style, but I’m determined to keep focussed! 

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

I guess one of my proudest moments was receiving my first ‘fan mail’ for my children’s book series. An 8-year-old boy drew me an underwater picture to accompany the first book, and that is a great feeling – to know you’ve reached somebody in any way at all. The biggest challenges are all self-created: I don’t want anything to do with Amazon, and that is a fair percentage of the book market. It’s hard work without falling back on that, but it’s a decision I’ve made and will stick with. 

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 the best thing any author can get is some recognition, and that comes when a person recommends you to someone else. I love the idea of people talking and the one stopping to say, ‘oh my! Have you read such and such by Jane Thomas?’ and the other eagerly leaping into a bookshop to pick up a copy. If that happened one day, it would be a huge sense of achievement. 

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

So many things are planned for 2022… I want at least three books to come out, all of which are in completely different genres and will exist for different purposes, but they’re books that have been sitting inside me for years. I suppose that’s the one good thing to come out of the last 18 months, in my world at least: I started writing books that I wanted to write. It’s a good feeling. 

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’ve spent the best part of 20 years rattling around the world – every time I’m asked for a favourite place, I come up with a different answer. Since in my imagination we’re drinking at a bar on Lombok, I’ll keep us there for now. Specifically, down a goat track that I wandered along and found the perfect view: a peninsula snaking away from me, the sea the deepest blue to the one side and green to the other. I don’t think many people have ever stood there, and it’s a little parcel of magic. As for my bucket list… That has really piled up this past 18 months we haven’t been able to go anywhere! I think at the top, today at least, are the Andaman Islands. Anywhere that elephants go swimming in the sea is a place I want to go.

 

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

This is the hardest question by far. I guess for someone so seemingly practical and rational, I do have an unexpected tendency to defer to superstition sometimes. A single magpie can break a day… And I always travel with a four-leaf clover I found forever ago in my father’s garden. I couldn’t find it in my bag before heading for a flight from San Francisco and genuinely considered not getting on that plane. Some things aren’t worth risking, right?! (Spoiler: I found the clover and took the flight.) 

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 sure you’ve read The Great Gatsby so I won’t recommend that – although it’s my standard go to ‘my word, you must read this…’. Another I’ve been thinking about recently is The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony. It’s a heartbreaking, extraordinary tale. If any part of you likes elephants, it’s a must-read. 

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When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of ‘rogue’ elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival – dangerous and unpredictable, they would be killed if Anthony wouldn’t take them in.

As Anthony risked his life to create a bond with the troubled elephants and persuade them to stay on his reserve, he came to realize what a special family they were, from the wise matriarch Nana, who guided the herd, to her warrior sister Frankie, always ready to see off any threat, and their children who fought so hard to survive.

Yes, I love The Great Gatsby. 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?

As I get older, I’ve come to accept the inevitability of the hangover. The best cure, though, is always to sink into the sea and float it away… 

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

Anything that involves a beach, a palm tree, and easy access to a cocktail makes for a perfect weekend in my eyes! 

Sounds perfect! Thank you so much for joining me, I have really enjoyed our chat.

Jane is the author of the Jolly Ollie Octopus books, which you can buy here.

Born in the midst of a global pandemic, Ollie is a gentle reminder that kindness and friendship can be found in the darkest times.

Jane Thomas has spent the last 20 years living and working in tucked-away corners of the world, content in a dugout canoe on the Amazon, put-putting along on an essentially brake-free scooter in Laos, or sleeping under the stars in the Kalahari. It turns out a Master’s in Eighteenth Century Women’s Poetry from the University of Oxford doesn’t just lead to the darkened hallows of a library’s archive… 

She’s spent nearly two decades creating materials for teachers to use in the classroom, including projects with the Malaysian Ministry of Education, Nickelodeon, and the British Council. She may have helped Ollie a little with some of the Fun Stuff word games…

Jane lives (some of the year) in her book-lined cottage in rural France at an address that translates to ‘Hidden Place, End of the World’. Her current obsession – for at any time, one should always have a few decent obsessions – is a bright red camper van named Florence, freedom in a locked-down world.

You can find out more about Jane via her website, the Jolly Ollie website, Facebook and Instagram.

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Natalie Normann

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Today’s interviewee is a previous guest of the blog and lovely author and I am really looking forward to hearing more about her journey in romance writing. It is the fabulous… Natalie Normann.

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

I have been a published author since 1995. Most of my books in Norwegian have been historical romance series, but I’ve also written thrillers and children’s horror stories. Last year I published two contemporary romance books with One More Chapter, A Very Hygge Holidays series. Right now I’m working on a new story, and I’m having a blast with it. Never thought I’d be writing in English, so that’s a major change in my journey. 

Why romance? 

I love romance! I’ve always written what I love to read myself, and romance is my favourite genre. Nothing beats a well written romance with a happy ending. 

What inspires your stories? 

Food for one thing, I love writing about food. Not much of a cook myself, but I do like to eat. And I’m really thrilled to be writing stories set in Norway. Everybody knows about Nordic Noir, where the landscape is always dark and gloomy, and then someone horribly gets killed. I’m happy to write Nordic Romance that shows the beauty of Norway. 

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

I have a long, long list of favourites. I love Jane Eyre, have done since the first time I read it. I love the blockbusters from when I grew up; writers like Colleen McCullough and Barbara Bradford Taylor. After joining the RNA, I have discovered so many new and amazing writers. Jan Baynham writes wonderful sagas, Christina Courtney’s viking stories are just wow, Sue McDonagh’s contemporary romances set in Wales are a true delight, and I’m always looking forward to a new book by Fiona Leitch – to name a few. 

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

Actually I’d recommend another Scandi. Pernille Hughes wrote the delightful Probably the Best Kiss in the World, set in Copenhagen, one of my favourite cities. I’m really looking forward to her next book. 

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Jen Attison likes her life Just So. But being fished out of a canal in Copenhagen by her knickers is definitely NOT on her to do list.

From cinnamon swirls to a spontaneous night of laughter and fireworks, Jen’s city break with the girls takes a turn for the unexpected because of her gorgeous, mystery rescuer.

Back home, Jen faces a choice. A surprise proposal from her boyfriend, ‘boring’ Robert has offered Jen the safety net she always thought she wanted. But with the memories of her Danish adventure proving hard to forget, maybe it’s time for Jen to stop listening to her head and start following her heart…

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

Oh, that’s a tough one. I’m honestly the least romantic person you can imagine. But a man who can cook and handle a boat, would do me just fine. I haven’t decided on his name yet …

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

The RNA is  such a special place. When I came to my first chapter meeting, I was living in Cardiff, and the brilliant writers in Cariad Chapter couldn’t have been more welcoming. And during the pandemic, I’ve been able to Zoom with them from Oslo, so I still feel I belong to the chapter. I miss the conference something awful, I’ve only been to two, so fingers crossed there will be one next year. I love the support I have experienced from so many lovely people. I’m impressed at what the RNA has done, and I hope it will continue like that. 

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

Read a lot of different books so you find what you like. There’s a lot of subgenres and one is not like the other. Then, when you start writing, don’t take the three first chapters too serious. They will change. Also, the good thing about writing, is that you always learn more. It’s never boring. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

A Very Hygge Holiday has two books, Summer Island and Christmas Island. The paperback for Christmas Island is out on October 14th. They are both set on a small, windy island on the Norwegian west coast. Summer Island tells the story of London Chef Jack who inherits a smallholding on the island, and has to find what what that means to him. In Christmas Island, Holly, Jack’s sister, needs to get away from her life, and decides that the island would do fine. She does not expect to be roped into celebrating Christmas the Norwegian way. 

We tend to take Christmas a tad too serious, I’m afraid. 

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In the bleak midwinter…
A really frosty wind is making Holly’s life absolutely miserable

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

You can buy copies of the books here and here.

About the Author

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Natalie Normann grew up in a small shipping town on the west-coast in Norway. She wanted to be a writer as soon as she realised that books were written by real people. Her debut novel was published in Norwegian in 1995. Since 2007 she has written Historical Romance in Norwegian and recently published her 66th book. Summer Island and Christmas Island are her first books in English.

Connect with Natalie:

Facebook: Natalie Normann

Twitter: @NatalieNormann1

Instagram: @natalienormann

TikTok: @natalieromancewriter

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Friday Night Drinks with… S. M. Pope

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Tonight I am having Friday Night Drinks with the author of a book that I will be reviewing on the blog in a few weeks’ time and I am very much looking forward to getting to know her a little better. My guest tonight is author… S. M. Pope.

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

A nice, strong gin and tonic. Or a glass of champagne. Or both.

A woman after my own heart! 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?

Probably a cemetery, if you’re up for that.

That is a new one on Friday Night Drinks!. Could it be in New Orleans? They have some amazing cemeteries. 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?

Mary Shelley – she was so amazing. She spent her youth hanging around graveyards, rather like me, and learned to read at her mother’s grave. And then she wrote one of the best horror books of all time when she was only 18. 

Viggo Mortensen – he writes, he acts, he paints, he speaks multiple languages (including Spanish, which I speak). I’ve been to a couple of events of his and he’s fascinating to listen to and rather swoon-worthy!

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

I’m currently researching my latest novel, which is set – at least in part – in the Arctic. I’m fascinated by polar expeditions of the Victorian era and in particular by the lives of those who were lost in the fatal Franklin expedition of 1845 to discover the Northwest Passage. No one knows truly what happened to them – why they died, why it went so terribly wrong. I first heard about the expedition several years back, when the Canadian government, helped by the Inuit, discovered the wrecks of Terror and Erebus. At the time, I jotted down an idea of a ghost story set on a shipwreck … and then forgot about it until I watched ‘The Terror’ on BBC2 earlier this year, which is based on that ill-fated expedition.

In my story, I’d like to look at the women behind the scenes, such as Jane Franklin – who I’d also rather like to take out with us for drinks. She was cool – an explorer herself, and an independent woman who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

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

My proudest moment was last week when I received author copies of my book The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth. I’ve always wanted to be a published novelist and have spent many years writing – with some success with my short stories. I wrote my novel originally as a novella for my MA in Children’s Literature six years ago and to see it being published this year feels unreal. My biggest challenge has been believing in myself. I am not very good at that. I still can’t quite believe I am going to be a published author.

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 the biggest thing for me is for people to enjoy my books. I write because I love telling stories and if I can entertain other people that’s huge for me.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Having not done much or been many places because of Covid, anything and anywhere beyond my normal sphere of existing seems exciting! I am planning to visit the Caird Library at the Maritime Museum in London soon to look at some of their documents pertaining to the lost Franklin Expedition and to see the ‘Hairy Book’ (a book recounting a rescue mission’s experiences in the Arctic – the hair is apparently from seal fur). Hair seems to keep cropping up in my stories…

Hair, interesting! 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?

Oh, that’s hard! I’ve been to a lot of lovely places so picking one is terribly difficult. I think I am at my happiest walking by the sea, no matter what the weather, so I would say Saunton Sands, in North Devon, is my favourite place. I could walk all day there, and then return to the gorgeous Saunton Sands Hotel for a long soak in the tub. 

As for my bucket list, I want to go to the Arctic. I am happy to try anywhere there – but have a particular interest in the Canadian Arctic and the Svalbard archipelago. I used to only go to warm places on holiday (living in the UK means I crave the sun when I get my week off each year) but I’ve become enchanted with the Arctic because of my research.

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

I played bass guitar in a rock group called ‘Men Should Wear Mascara’.

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’?

Ouch, another tricky question! I think I will pick one I read recently, which had a lasting impression on me. It’s called A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter and it’s a woman’s account of spending a year in Spitsbergen with her husband, who was a researcher and trapper. When she first arrives, she is horrified by how basic everything is and the remote location. The book follows her thoughts – her struggles, her fears, and then her acceptance of and love for this land. Her writing is astoundingly beautiful – very poetic. I recommend this to everyone not only as a book that’s fascinating but a work of art in itself.

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In 1934, the Austrian painter Christiane Ritter travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen to spend a year with her husband, an explorer and researcher. They are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies… But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic’s harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

This rediscovered classic memoir tells the incredible tale of a woman defying society’s expectations to find freedom and peace in the adventure of a lifetime.

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?

Eat something stodgy and fatty to soak up the alcohol – both as a hangover preventative and a cure. Plus lots of Coca-Cola original, not the nasty sugar-free stuff. I’ve rarely had a hangover though as I am such a lightweight that I fall asleep before I drink too much. I’ve also been known to get hyper on Coca-Cola, rather embarrassingly.

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

A nice walk by the sea (of course), and perhaps some painting. Over Lockdown I started online art lessons and have become fond of watercolours. I can lose myself for hours trying to paint and I find it very relaxing and therapeutic.

Or a massage – I love a good massage!

Thank you so much for your company, it has been a fun and very enlightening evening. I wish you all the best with your debut and look forward to reviewing it soon.

S. M. Pope’s debut novel, The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth, is out now and you can buy a copy here. Watch out for my review of the book coming around Halloween!

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A psychological horror that will grip you from the first page, and haunt you long after you’ve finished the last.

Nobody believes Lindy when she says she doesn’t pull her hair out on purpose. Nobody believes Lindy when she says she hears voices in the night. Nobody believes Lindy when she says her dead ancestors are haunting her dreams. Nobody believes Lindy …”

S. M. Pope is a writer, editor, teacher and librarian based in Oxford, though she’s also lived in Canada (where she was born) and Spain. The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth is her debut novel but she has had supernatural / horror short stories published before with Otranto House (Tales of the Supernatural), and one story, ‘La Tricoteuse’, won best ‘tale’ as part of a touring theatre production of A Tale of Two Cities. A more normal (ie not scary) story of hers was shortlisted by Trapeze Books and the single-parent-charity Gingerbread as part of their campaign to find a writer and story to represent single families. She enjoys spending time with her family, singing to her cats (should I admit that?), and laughing.

You can connect further with Sam via her Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Emma Jackson

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Oh how I wish I was kicking back and having Friday Night Drinks for real with this person (and the rest of the Bar Babes) because my guest tonight is one of my best writing buddies and fabulous author… Emma Jackson.

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

A vodka, lemon and lime. I’m not particularly sophisticated!

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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?

I’d love to go somewhere nice to eat, maybe Italian or Tapas. Not too posh, because I like the simple things in life, but quiet enough we can have a good chat, and then a bar where we could do some dancing.

I can organise ALL of those things if you come to Yorkshire! 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?

This is such a tough question but I think the Obama’s. They seem like they would have endlessly fascinating conversation and be so charming even when I act like an awkward idiot. 

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

I just started working on another Christmas romcom. I always think, how could I possibly come up with another Christmas idea, but the plot for this one dropped almost fully formed into my head at the beginning of this year, and I’m now just starting working on it. This is the first one I’ll be writing from scratch now I’m signed with my agent, so mainly, I just hope she likes it!

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

Oh wow, it might sound really vain to say I’ve had so many proud moments, but I have! It was such a long road to being published, and then the road continues with new milestones and I try to stop every now and again to look at what I’ve achieved and remember that this was my childhood dream. Most recently, I’ve been bowled away by how Sleepless in Sicily has touched some readers and made their experiences of social anxiety feel seen, as I put an extra special piece of my heart in that book. The flip side of that coin has brought the challenge of not taking the inevitable bad reviews personally.  

Bad reviews? Who would dare! Point me at them! 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 have a book signing one day. Even though I know I would be a nervous wreck, it’d be amazing to invite the friends and family who have supported me to come along and celebrate with them…and hopefully some readers too. 

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

As well as my romcoms, I write fantasy romance. Myself and a fellow writer, Jessica Haines, met when we both volunteered to run the RNA Fantasy chapter and we hit it off in such a wonderful way that we are now launching a podcast to talk about the books we love. We’re also holding an online festival all throughout October to celebrate the genre.

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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?

My favourite place is a toss up between Sicily and Scotland. They’re both so beautiful and full of history. I would love to go on a tour of Italy too, stop off in Rome and Florence especially.

I love Italy, let’s go on a road trip! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

A surprising fact might be that, despite being a writer, I don’t drink caffeine. So, no cliché there, although I do now have a cat…

I don’t drink coffee either. I also have a couple of cats though. 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 doubt I could recommend any books you haven’t already read, but, I adored Beach Read by Emily Henry and I think it’s the perfect book to showcase the appeal of romance novels.

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TWO WRITERS, ONE HOLIDAY. A ROMCOM WAITING TO HAPPEN…

January is a hopeless romantic who narrates her life like she’s the lead in a blockbuster movie.
Gus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale.

But January and Gus have more in common than you’d think:

They’re both broke.
They’ve got crippling writer’s block.
And they need to write bestsellers before summer ends.

The result? A bet to swap genres and see who gets published first.
The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely…

Ha, ha! I haven’t read this one yet, so well done! It is on my TBR though, and I absolutely loved You and Me on Vacation by the same author, which I read over the summer. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I always try to remember to drink a pint of water before I go to bed, and if I wake up with a hangover the next morning, it’s more water and a bacon and egg sandwich.

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

After I’ve recovered (which would include sitting around in my pjs reading, of course), a walk in the forest or a bike-ride with the kids, then a big roast dinner and a family film. 

Thank you for coming tonight, Emma, I’ve had a great time and I really want to see you in person soon!

Emma’s latest book is the gorgeous romance, Sleepless in Sicily, which you can buy in both paperback and ebook formats here. The ebook is currently only 99p, practically free! You can read my review of the book here.

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Under the starry Italian skies, anything can happen…

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

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

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

Author of the best selling romantic comedies A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and SLEEPLESS IN SICILY, Emma Jackson has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. 

You can find out news about Emma via her website, by signing up to her newsletter or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Twitter account for SFFRomCast is here.

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Desert Island Books with… Rosanna Ley

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I’m off to Spain for a few days today, so I am not as jealous as I usually am at the thought of today’s castaway sitting in the sunshine with all the time in the world to read, as I will be doing that myself. I did, however, fail to stuff the latest James Patterson hardback that I really wanted to read, Jailhouse Lawyerinto my luggage as it was far too big and heavy, much to my disappointment. My guest today, author Roasanna Ley, will not have that problem as there are no weight limits when you travel virtually. Let’s see what she has chosen.

Book One – A Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri

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A Poem For Every Day of the Year is a magnificent collection of 366 poems compiled by Allie Esiri, one to share on every day of the year. Reflecting the changing seasons and linking to events on key dates – funny for April Fool’s Day, festive for Christmas – these poems are thoughtful, inspiring, humbling, informative, quiet, loud, small, epic, peaceful, energetic, upbeat, motivating, and empowering!

If I were stranded on a desert island with only five books to read again and again, then I’m guessing I would be looking for something more than fiction. Enter A Poem for Every Day of the Year as complied by author and editor Allie Esiri. This is a wonderful collection and since there really is a poem for every day of the year, there will be something new to read (and maybe also learn by heart?) every day. By the end of the year (and I have just realised that this volume could function as a calendar too), I will have forgotten each poem so then I can simply start again… The collection reflects the changing seasons which will keep me grounded on the island (literally) and the links to certain events and dates will make me feel nostalgic – hopefully in a good way. A poem for every mood will satisfy all my conflicting emotions as I fight to survive and hopefully be empowering too. I love poetry and never make enough time to read it. Problem now solved…

Book Two – Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence

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Women in Love begins one blossoming spring day in England and ends with a terrible catastrophe in the snow of the Alps. Ursula and Gudrun are very different sisters who become entangled with two friends, Rupert and Gerald, who live in their hometown. The bonds between the couples quickly become intense and passionate, but whether this passion is creative or destructive is unclear. In this astonishing novel, widely considered to be D. H. Lawrence’s best work, he explores what it means to be human in an age of conflict and confusion.

I very rarely read a book a second time – even those I love – with the exception of the books I have studied academically. Out of all the books I have studied, I’ve found those of DH Lawrence the most rewarding. His writing first inspired me to write many years ago and certainly influenced my writing hugely in the early days and beyond. I love the way he writes about landscape (although the intensity and the detail is somewhat out of fashion these days). I can literally drown in his language! I never studied ‘Women in Love’ but I found it inspirational and crammed with earthy, sensual descriptions – of love and landscape. This book about the love affairs of two sisters was also Lawrence’s response to a cultural crisis: the ‘progress’ of the modern industrialised world which arguably led to the carnage of the First World War. It therefore definitely warrants a re-read over forty years later. I think I would find it hugely satisfying and I could wallow in Lawrence’s prose to my heart’s content.

Book Three – The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella

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It is 1895. Robert Wallis, would-be poet, bohemian and impoverished dandy, accepts a commission from coffee merchant Samuel Pinker to categorise the different tastes of coffee – and encounters Pinker’s free-thinking daughters, Philomenia, Ada and Emily. As romance blossoms with Emily, Robert realises that the Muse and marriage may not be incompatible after all.

Sent to Abyssinia to make his fortune in the coffee trade, he becomes obsessed with a negro slave girl, Fikre. He decides to use the money he has saved to buy her from her owner – a decision that will change not only his own life, but the lives of the three Pinker sisters . . .

I feel as if I will need a comedy to lift my spirits during dark days on this island, but I don’t read many comic writers, so… I decided to choose a book by one of my favourite authors, ‘The Various Flavours of Coffee’ by Anthony Capella which made me laugh and cry at the same time – an impressive achievement. I’d love to read it again and I have the feeling that I would discover so much more second time around as the author takes me on an exotic, delicious and historical journey filled with humour and poignancy. The story also contains lots of coffee, which has to be a good thing. Anthony Capella also writes brilliant psychological thrillers under the name of JP Delaney – is there no end to this author’s talents? Perhaps re-reading ‘The Various Flavours of Coffee’ will give me some valuable insight on how he does it…

Book Four – How To Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation by Bear Grylls

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Do you know how to…
Survive a bear attack?
Make fire from virtually nothing?
Fly a plane in an emergency?
Survive in the most extreme conditions?
Bear Grylls does.
There is barely a terrain he hasn’t conquered or an extreme environment he hasn’t experienced. From his time in 21 SAS, through to his extraordinary expeditions in the toughest corners of each of the seven continents, Bear has accumulated an astonishing wealth of survival knowledge.
Now, for the first time, he is putting all his expertise into one book. How To Stay Alive will teach you all of the essential skills you need to survive in the modern world.

I’m not a very practical person. I have trouble with my balance and my sense of direction and I’m terrified of spiders. Hence, I won’t be good on the island, apart from the fact that I quite enjoy spending time alone. So, my next choice is here to help me survive physically: ‘How to Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation’. It’s written by Bear Grylls of course, and if you were stranded on a desert island, why wouldn’t you want a book by Bear telling you how to survive? I haven’t read it yet since I haven’t had the need, but apparently it can help you survive a bear attack (hah – he should know), make fire from virtually nothing, fly a plane in an emergency and just generally survive in the most extreme conditions. Bear knows what he’s talking about since there is barely (geddit?) a terrain he hasn’t conquered or an extreme environment he hasn’t experienced. When it comes to survival knowledge, if Bear doesn’t have it, then it doesn’t exist. 

Book Five – Easy Learning Italian by Collins Dictionaries

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A handy 3-in-1 Italian study book: grammar, verbs and vocabulary in one volume, ideal for beginners who need a clear and easy-to-understand Italian reference and revision guide.

This book gives you the essential tools to help you progress quickly in your study of Italian. The grammar, verb and vocabulary sections have been designed for all those learning Italian at school, in an evening class, for work or for leisure.

With its clear, user-friendly grammar, all the most important Italian verbs shown in full, and an extensive vocabulary guide, this book gives you all the elements to start speaking and writing with confidence in Italian.

I’ve always meant to learn Italian. I love Italy and if I were to be born again and could choose my country of birth, I would be Italian, no contest. So here I am on a desert island with (presumably) no one to distract me. Why not learn the Italian language? There wouldn’t be anyone to laugh at my poor efforts and I could practice as much as I wanted. I feel as if I could become fluent if I really tried and had enough time, and what better guide to help me than ‘Easy Learning Italian Complete Grammar, Verbs and Vocabulary (3 books in 1): by Collins Dictionaries. Who knows – if my luck’s in, I might even get rescued by an Italian, and then I could at least communicate with the guy…

My luxury item

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You will have heard this before of course, but I need to write, I love to write and so a spiral notebook set with pen attached and everlasting ink (and paper) would be perfect. Or perhaps Bear Grylls knows how to make writing materials from a palm tree?? 

About the Author

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Rosanna Ley has written ten novels published by Quercus Books and translated into fourteen different languages around the world.

Rosanna has worked as a creative writing tutor for over 30 years. She has led courses for colleges and universities in England, and mentored and appraised the work of new writers. She now runs her own writing retreats and holidays in the UK and in stunning locations in Europe. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in creative writing for personal development in order to support this.

Rosanna loves reading, playing tennis and walking on the beach in West Dorset where she lives. Her favourite writing place is anywhere with a sea view.

Rosanna’s latest novel The Orange Grove was published by Quercus in June 2021. You can buy a copy here.

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Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city-job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood and opening Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her. 

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville Orange and Almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family? 

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. 

Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet. Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

Connect wit Rosanna:

Website: https://rosannaley.com/

Facebook: Rosanna Ley Novels

Twitter: @RosannaLey

Instagram: @rosannaleyauthor

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lynda Stacey

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This week’s romancing writing guest is my neighbour, good friend and amazing author… Lynda Stacey.

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

Hi Julie, thanks for having me. The books that I write are suspense, however they always have an underlying romance. I like to mix the two, because in normal life, none of us can tell what will happen from one day to the next. So, to ensure that my heroine has a great story, along with a varied lifestyle… I throw everything at her, all at once.

Why romance? 

Because in life, we all love to be loved. I honestly believe that people are like pack animals, they want to be part of a group, a tribe, a couple. So romance is a lovely way to show my hero and heroines softer side, even though most of the time I like to give them truly kick ass attitude.

What inspires your stories?

I really have no idea. It’s normally a house, a hotel, a landscape. There’s always a place, or moment in time that I like to grab hold of. Once I have a location, then I tend to build the story around it.

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

I grew up devouring Enid Blyton. All of my age group did. I read every book repeatedly. 

As an adult, I love Lesley Pearce, Kate Morton and Nora Roberts, I’ve read almost everything they wrote and to be honest, one of my favourite ever quotes that a reader gave to my books was that I wrote like Nora Robert. It’s an accolade which I find both amazing and terrifying at the same time, because I’d love to be compared to her.

This was the quote:

‘Lynda Stacey is up there with Nora Roberts when it comes to writing jaw-dropping, nerve-twisting and addictive tales spiced with intrigue, passion and suspense.’

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

Oh wow, that’s like asking if I have a favourite child. If I were pushed, I’d probably say pretty much anything by Nora Roberts.

Maybe, Sanctuary. It had quite a few twists and turns that I really loved the island setting, along with a ‘will they, won’t they’ love affair that set my spine tingling, that was balanced with the underlying thriller, where you were never sure who was the killer.

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Successful photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway thought she’d escaped the house called Sanctuary long ago. She’d spent her loneliest years there after the sudden, shattering disappearance of her mother. But now someone is sending Jo strange, candid pictures, culminating in the most shocking portrait of all – a photo of her mother, naked, beautiful and dead.

Jo returns home to face her bitterly estranged family, only to find an unexpected chance for happiness in the form of architect Nathan Delaney. But while Jo and Nathan hope to lay the past to rest, a sinister presence is watching from the shadows. And Jo will soon learn there is no peace at Sanctuary . . .

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

I’d have to say, ‘my hero at home’, my husband Haydn is my everyday romantic hero. We’ve been together for 30 years, and I’m not planning on swapping him anytime soon. So, my perfect romantic weekend with him would be on the Maldives, where we could lie in the sun, scuba dive and drink cosmopolitan’s while watching dolphins leap through the waves and take in the sunset as it slips into the sea.

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

The RNA is amazing. I love everything about it. From the day I joined, I became part of a tribe. I got to meet and listen to some of the most amazing authors, who freely gave their knowledge, time, and wisdom. The small nuggets of information that you pick up are priceless and I can honestly say that being a part of the RNA put me on the right path. Without them I doubt I’d have ever become a published author.

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

Listen and learn, and no matter how busy you are each day, take a moment to congratulate yourself for every word you write. It’s one more word that counts and a word closer to writing ‘The End’.

And remember, every word you write means something – even if only to yourself.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest book is called No Place Like Home. 

Sister’s Molly and Beth move to a remote, cliff top property that they inherit following their mother’s brutal murder. It’s a house that overlooks the beach, the sea, and the town of Filey and should be the most beautiful place on earth to live. But someone is out to kill them, and they have no intention of stopping. 

It’s a story of loss, of love and of family ties. A story that shows how extremely protective of her sister Molly is, but it also shows the way she struggles with the fact that she’s suddenly become an impromptu parent – to a very vocal teenager. 

Doing all she can to keep Beth safe, she realises that danger could literally be around every corner, she doesn’t know who to trust and, in the end, she finds herself living in a world where almost everyone around her could want her dead. 

Will Molly manage to survive, will she keep Beth safe? Or will life on the edge of a cliff suddenly become more dangerous than she’d thought?

It’s out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. (You can read my review of No Place Like Home here.)

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He knows where you are…

Sisters Molly and Beth Winters thought the remote clifftop house would be the perfect place to hide away after their mother’s brutal murder. They were wrong….

He wants revenge…

Because someone from the girls’ past has already found their safe house and he is watching and waiting in the shadows ready to make them pay.

He won’t stop until you’re dead…

Their new home should have been the place the sisters were safe.

But no place is safe forever.

About the Author

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Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire,

Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for almost 30 years.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

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Friday Night Drinks with… Isabella May

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Tonight’s guest is definitely someone who enjoys a good chat session over food and drink, as exhibited by her wonderful foodie-based romance novels. So I am delighted to be having Friday Night Drinks with author… Isabella May.

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

As it’s Friday night and we’ve only just left summer behind, I’ve plumped for a goblet of Aperol Spritz in the hope of hanging onto the sunshine for a little longer…

Cheers!

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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?

I’d teleport you to Spain and we’d go to an amazing cocktail bar in Estepona, just down the coast from where I live, to enjoy refreshing drinks and a beach view – with the rock of Gibraltar and Morocco putting in an appearance in the distance if it’s not too hazy.

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 would have to be Prince and Nigella.

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?

It’s been quite a busy book year as I’ve released two novels in fairly quick succession. Bubblegum and Blazers was published in July, and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar (my first Christmas novel) was published a couple of days ago. I also have my 9th book on the go: The Custard Tart Cafe launches on April 1st 2022, and I’m busy adding to my word count for that.

I was always writing funny little stories as a small child, accompanying them with quirky drawings, but growing up, I never perceived that as a sign that I’d go on to become a romcom author; I mean lots of children were doing the same thing at that age – if only at school during lessons! 

In my late twenties, the storytelling bug began to bite at my heels again, and I invented a couple of children’s characters called Poodle and Noodle… and did nothing with them (in hindsight, they really weren’t all that innovative; I think I just got carried away after watching Toy Story at the cinema!). Then I had a few comedy script writing ideas which I sent off to TV production companies… only for them to be rejected. 

A few years after escaping a very bad relationship, I knew I had to use my experience to help other people, and so the seed for my debut novel, Oh! What a Pavlova, was planted. But I wanted to write the book differently. I wanted it to reflect the double life I was living whilst working in international publishing at the time. I felt this two-tone aspect of domestic violence was rarely portrayed and that more awareness of it was needed. I was one very down-trodden person behind closed doors, and a whole other version of myself (the true version of myself, at least most of the time) from the moment I stepped out of my front door. That’s how Kate Clothier’s character was born. Essentially, ‘Pavlova’ is a cross-genre title as it had so many elements to it: romance, comedy, food and travel writing, and magical realism. It is as dark as it is light.  

In other words, I took to breaking ‘the writing rules’ with book one like a duck to water… and I have never looked back. This has been as much a source of joy as it has disappointment. 

On the one hand, I have a true USP, and I have built up a distinctive brand by remaining true to myself and refusing to tick the boxes required by most publishers. On the other hand, I have faced crushing rejection. The latter has been really hard to accept at times. I know I write well because my loyal and growing readership, and their fantastic reviews, reflect that back to me. And yet… whenever I try to take my books to a wider audience via an agent or a large digi publisher, I am met with the same old perceived problem of a dichotomy:

‘You write really well but you are trying to do too much and we just aren’t sure how we’d market you.’

In July 2020, fed up with the gate keeping, I decided to walk away from subbing for good and take my destiny in my own hands. I genuinely haven’t looked back, although it is very much a marathon, not a sprint.

I have a solid brand and so many more titles lined up, and I am super-charged and inspired by all of the indie and self-published trailblazers who are shaking up the industry in all of their various genres. It honestly feels like anything is possible and I am just excited to see where the journey takes me and my books.

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

I like to celebrate the little wins so there isn’t one defining moment – with the exception of getting that first novel out there, of course. That said, I do think, particularly as an indie, knowing your books are genuinely being loved and devoured by bookworms who aren’t just family and friends, is a huge turning point! 

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

I spent 15 years working in foreign rights, selling children’s books all over the world in 45 languages – from Norwegian to Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese Simplified to Afrikaans, Thai to Basque. It was a fascinating job and knowing all of the hard work that goes into the sale and production of foreign rights, it would be an absolute dream to see my own books translated into just one foreign language! Don’t get me wrong, the NYT bestseller list and hitting the UK Amazon Kindle number 1 spot would be lovely… but as a linguist, I would take so much more joy from seeing my books out there on sale for readers in other countries. I hope those authors who are in such a situation view their good fortune as more than a ‘cherry on the cake’. It’s a huge privilege to see your novel ‘travel’.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

I am very eager to become a fully-fledged indie author as of the end of this year. The rights for all 3 of my traditionally published books revert this year, with the final book of that trio, Costa del Churros (and a brand new and beautiful cover), returning to me at the very end of December. Then I plan to start the marketing of my Foodie Romance Journeys in earnest. Until then, things have been a little in limbo as it’s only really made sense to market organically. But once all of my books are in my hands as a self-published author, I plan to ramp the marketing up and treat this whole gig as a business.

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 to travel too! It’s been really disappointing to have to cancel so many trips over the past eighteen months, hasn’t it? 

My obsession with travel, and the perks of my former career, have taken me to some amazing places, but nowhere was been quite as chocolate box beautiful as New Zealand – particularly its south island. I also have a huge soft spot for Italy. All of it! It’s just everything you could ever want from a travel destination, and so much more. I could never tire of Italy.

I will need to save up for the place that is probably top of my future travel list (overlooking my burning desire to get back to the UK to see my family!), and that’s Melbourne, Australia. Since becoming an author, I have made a number of really good author friends in the city, and I really want to visit them and hang out at all of the trendy eateries they have on their doorstep! Coinciding it with the tennis would be amazing.

I love Italy too, I’m hoping I can get over there for my big 5-0 birthday trip as planned next year. (Well, I’m hoping it’s planned, maybe this will give my OH another nudge. I’ve been dropping hints since I planned EXACTLY what he wanted for his fiftieth three years ago!)

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

I speak four languages: English (well, sometimes that’s a little more Somerset, a little less Queen’s BBC… especially after all these cocktails!), French, German, and Spanish.

I understand written Italian and Portuguese too.

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’?

My favourite book (so far) this year has to be The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley. Rosanna is a very well-established author, but a new author to me. TOG is superbly written, emotional, sensual, life-affirming, thought-provoking, and full of the sights, sounds and smells of Seville. An absolute page-turner of a romance. One of those novels that will stay with me for a long time. I’d highly recommend it!

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Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood to open Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her.

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville orange and almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family?

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet.

Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

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

I try to make sure I have a glass of water in-between each cocktail! If this hasn’t worked and I’m feeling ropey the next day, then there is always CAKE 😉

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

Seeing as we’re in Spain, we’d have a late breakfast of churros (books in hand), hit the beach (books still in hand!) and brave the sea for a quick dip, then take ourselves into Gibraltar for afternoon tea on the Sunborn Yacht and a spot of tax-free shopping, before driving back into Spain and inland to Ronda for dinner overlooking the glorious and ancient Puente Nuevo bridge which is built into the cliffs of a dramatic gorge.

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The next day we’d pop down to Malaga city for arty-farty sightseeing, Antonio Banderas spotting and tapas, finishing up with a champagne sunset cruise setting off from nearby Marbella. The perfect way to finish reading our books!

That sounds amazing, I’m jumping on a plane as soon as I can! Thank you so much for chatting with me this evening, I have had the best time.

Isabella’s latest book, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar, is her 8th novel and it was published on 21 September. You can buy a copy here.

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River and Alice miss Somerset. Christmas isn’t Christmas without family and friends, even when you live in quaint Cornwall.

 

When River’s Aunt Sheba dies unexpectedly, leaving him her ancient VW campervan, nostalgia nudges him and Alice back to Glastonbury – and the surrounding villages – to rediscover their roots whilst serving the most decadent hot chocolate and delectable gingerbread from their renovated ‘bar on wheels’.

 

A bar on wheels complete with a fold-up stage to host local talent competitions rivaling anything Simon Cowell could dream up, even if he’d gorged on a truckle of Cheddar cheese!

 

As the villagers sip their cocoa and ice their gingerbread houses amidst the festive backdrop of song, dance, and slightly more unconventional talents, River and Alice find themselves in an unexpected race against time:

 

Zara, their chocolate supplier is leaving Glastonbury on the twelfth day of Christmas, keen to put a string of disastrous relationships behind her to make a fresh start.

 

Bruno, their gregarious and gorgeous baking supplier is secretly smitten with Zara – ticking every box on her New Year’s wish list.

 

If only they can get them together for one experimental kiss under the mistletoe…

 

They’ve even enlisted their customers’ help in their mission to wrap this budding romance up in all the jingle bells and whistles. How hard can it be?

 

So, ho, ho VERY tricky, as it turns out…

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic, as well as a Pranic Healer.

After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!

All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her cross-genre novels, fused with a dollop of romcom, and a sprinkle of magical realism.

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

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Desert Island Books with… Mick Arnold

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Today’s strandee will be better equipped to deal with isolation on my desert island than many, I think, as he has certain useful practical skills. However, he will still need intellectual and emotional stimulation, so let’s see what books he is taking with him to provide that. He is author… Mick Arnold.

Book One – The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

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This is a story of many different things.

Of a terrible war and an occupied land

Of the Balicki children who are determined to survive

Of a dangerous journey from war-torn Poland to Switzerland

Of a paper knife that gives them the courage to carry on when nearly all hope is lost.

The Silver Sword is the first adult novel I recall reading, and it’s stuck with me ever since. First published in 1956, this is the deceptively simple story of how a group of Polish children traipses across war-torn Europe in search of their father, picking up a troubled stray boy along the way. None older than 16, this is such a moving story which kept me guessing right until the end. For a novel seemingly aimed towards what would now be called the YA audience, this is such a powerful story full of the best and worst of humanity during the terrible conflict, which was World War 2.

Book Two – Guards! Guards! By Sir Terry Pratchett

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‘It was the usual Ankh-Morpork mob in times of crisis; half of them were here to complain, a quarter of them were here to watch the other half, and the remainder were here to rob, importune or sell hotdogs to the rest.’

Insurrection is in the air in the city of Ankh-Morpork. The Haves and Have-Nots are about to fall out all over again.

Captain Sam Vimes of the city’s ramshackle Night Watch is used to this. It’s enough to drive a man to drink. Well, to drink more. But this time, something is different – the Have-Nots have found the key to a dormant, lethal weapon that even they don’t fully understand, and they’re about to unleash a campaign of terror on the city.

Time for Captain Vimes to sober up.

I was already a huge fan of the work of Terry Pratchett by the time this novel came out. It didn’t need it, but I knew I had to read this novel as soon as read the tag – Captain Sam Vimes is searching for a dragon he believes could help him with his enquires. Who wouldn’t want to read on to find out what happens? Pratchett’s creation of the Discworld surpasses that of Tolkein’s Middle Earth – or at least it does in my opinion. To this day, if I need to cheer myself up, I’ll pick up a Discworld novel and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read Guards! Guards!; and I never get tired of it. Pratchett creates such vivid pictures of each and every character, no matter how minor they are to the plot, which means I always find something new each time I read the book.

Book Three – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

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‘Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board and we can take you anywhere you want to go.’

When the Knight Bus crashes through the darkness and screeches to a halt in front of him, it’s the start of another far from ordinary year at Hogwarts for Harry Potter. Sirius Black, escaped mass-murderer and follower of Lord Voldemort, is on the run – and they say he is coming after Harry. In his first ever Divination class, Professor Trelawney sees an omen of death in Harry’s tea leaves… But perhaps most terrifying of all are the Dementors patrolling the school grounds, with their soul-sucking kiss…

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. IMHO, the novel in the series which transformed it from purely a children’s series and into the worldwide phenomenon it became for all ages.  Barely giving you a chance to catch your breath, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a roller coaster of a story, full of mystery and suspense, and more action than you could shake a stick at. This is still one of my favourite reads when I need to relax my mind.

Book Four – Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

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Rumour has it Artemis Fowl is responsible for every major crime of the new century.

Just twelve years old and already he’s a criminal genius, plotting to restore his family’s fortune with a spot of corruption and kidnapping.

Kidnapping a fairy for ransom, to be precise.

Artemis Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous – and extremely high-tech – fairies. But he may have underestimated their powers. They will fight back. Is the boy about to trigger a cross-species war?

Let the misadventure begin.

I know it may seem that I’ve picked a lot of non-adult books, but just because a book is written with one audience in mind, doesn’t mean it can’t appeal to another. Think an evil twelve-year old James Bond, but with magic and fairies! This book takes you from Vietnam to the city of Haven inside the Earth, via Ireland.  Forget the awful Disney film, this is a rock ‘n’ roller of  book which will make you believe in fairies.

Book Five – The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

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On a snowy December evening, Sam Jermyn steps into the life of bespoke hat maker Ava. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good ones.

Times are tough for Ava – she’s struggling to make ends meet, her ex-boyfriend is a bully, and worst of all, it’s nearly Christmas.

So when Sam commissions Ava to make a hat for someone special, she makes a promise that will change her life. She just doesn’t know it yet…

I am a huge fan of Christmas romance and they don’t come any better than this novel. Sue Moorcroft is one of my favourite authors and this is one of her best. A story about someone who hates the Christmas period, this hits all the right spots. Laugh-out loud one minute, pass-me-the- tissues, the next. Forget watching The Sound of Music this coming yuletide, treat yourself to a copy of The Christmas Promise and learn why you should love Christmas.

My luxury item

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I’m going to be practical for my one item. For me, it’s essential, especially as it’s a desert island. I must have a good-sized hat. I burn in the sun easily, so I’d need something like a fedora to protect the back of my neck and the top of my head.

About the Author

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Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elizabeth II in the Royal Air Force before putting down roots and realizing how much he missed the travel. He’s replaced it somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and supporting fellow saga and romance authors in promoting their novels.

He’s the proud keeper of two cats bent on world domination, is mad on the music of the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. Wild Blue Yonder is the second novel in his Broken Wings series and he is very proud to be a part of the Vintage Rose Garden at The Wild Rose Press.

Mick’s latest book, Wild Blue Yonder, is available here.

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Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Doris Winter is accused of stealing a valuable item from a famous Hollywood movie star, now a Captain in the US Army Air Corps, after a dance at the air base in England where he’s stationed. Gathering her close friends together, she’s determined to clear her name.

Ruth’s POW son suffers a life-changing injury just as her own cottage takes damage in an air raid and Penny’s estranged little sister unexpectedly turns up, having run away from school. Together with the ongoing thefts of items of clothing and surprise personal revelations, these all threaten to hamper their investigation.

In spite of the worsening war situation, they must band together to rise above their troubles and prove love and friendship is worth fighting for.

Connect with Mick:

Facebook: M W Arnold Author

Twitter: @mick859

Instagram: @mick859

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sarah L Campbell

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Friday keeps coming around quicker and quicker, doesn’t it? Or is that just me? I have had a really packed week, so that could explain why it has flashed by I suppose. But hey, the weekend is here, yay! Time to relax and enjoy a drink and a chat with another bookish friend. Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author… Sarah L Campbell.

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Thank you for joining me tonight, Sarah and welcome to the blog. First things first, what are you drinking?

Pink Prosecco or a lovely cocktail like a passion fruit martini.  

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Yum, two of my favourites. Passionfruit is my go-to flavour in cocktails at the moment. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

We’d definitely have to have pre-dinner drinks at a cocktail bar, then on to an Italian restaurant, I love pasta. After that to a bar or small music venue to watch some live music. I like indie music, Jazz and folk etc. Also, 70’s and 80’s music… anything as long as it’s not dance! 

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Sounds like we are on the same wavelength for a perfect evening! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’d probably invite Stephen Fry for good conversation and witty banter and also Charlotte Bronte. I wrote my MA dissertation on her and I’d love to discuss themes in her books!

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?

At the moment, I’m writing the third novel in The Leaves of Change Café series. It will probably be the last book in the series and I wanted to tie up what’s been going on with the characters’ lives across the other books. 

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

The proudest moment since I started writing for me was actually pressing publish on my first book. It took a lot of courage and I thought a lot about it beforehand, but I’m glad that I did it.  

My biggest challenge has been getting people to read my books as an indie author. It’s certainly been a steep learning curve, but it has all been worth it for that moment when someone leaves a review saying they enjoyed your book. 

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

Oh well, I’d love for The Leaves of Change Café series to get made into a tv series or films. A girl can dream, right?

I’d like to write some mysteries, maybe that’s more achievable.  

Definitely achievable! What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

I’ve started a dual time story set in the first world war and the 1970’s. It’s completely different from what I’ve been writing. 

Sounds like your have diverse talents when it comes to writing! I guess that is one of the big advantages of being an indie author, no agent or publisher telling you that you have to stay in one niche! 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?

Norway was one of my favourite places, such beautiful, breathtaking scenery and lovely towns. I had this gorgeous pancake style cake with milk there – I can’t remember what it was called, but it was delicious. 

I’d love to do a tour of Italy, I’ve never been. 

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

I once raised money for Marie Curie by taking part in a swimathon. I had to train everyday but it was worth it in the end. I really should get back into my swimming. 

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I’ve just started open water swimming myself, it’s a great workout and exercise in mindfulness! 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’?

If you’re looking for a laugh out loud read, I recommend Escape to Honeysuckle Hall by Rebecca Raisin. 

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A fresh start brings a second chance at love…

When Orly’s boyfriend and business partner dumps her for a celebrity fling, she finds solace in tacos, tequila and tears. One terrible hangover later, she’s packed her bags and swapped her London apartment for the overgrown grounds of Honeysuckle Hall.

After years spent catering to others’ whims, Orly is going after what she wants: a simpler life, surrounded by nature. Her plan to set up countryside retreats for burned-out city-dwellers means she soon has the social life she’s been dreaming of – and gorgeous carpenter Leo is always around when she needs something fixed…

As Orly’s new life blossoms, so does her friendship with Leo, and she wonders if she’s finally found somewhere to put down roots – until she discovers a series of anonymous notes, warning her off. Was she wrong to trust Leo? Or is someone else trying to sabotage her future?

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?

A cup of tea before bed and a snack like chips to soak everything up. I think above everything, sleep is the way to go, failing that, coffee and a fry up. 

Oooh, chips (I’m on a diet, I dream of chips!) After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Out for lunch somewhere artsy, browsing quirky shops like vintage and antique places or chilling out with a good book on the beach, or with a picnic at an historic house. 

That sounds absolutely perfect, we should definitely hang out in real life! Thanks for joining me tonight, it has been great fun and best of luck with your upcoming projects.

Sarah’s latest book is A Proposal for the Leaves of Change Cafe and you can buy a copy here.

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Things are going well for Michael and Aurora in Green Leaf until his ex-girlfriend shows up and starts causing trouble between them. Aurora begins to suspect that there is something more between the two of them than organising a book launch.

She comes to a drastic decision about the future for her and her baby daughter Robin. A return to acting sounds promising for her but is it worth moving away from everyone for? Can Michael offer an explanation for his behaviour and stop her from leaving?

Meanwhile the lives of those around Aurora begin to fall apart. When her mum’s partner Colin becomes ill, her mum, Catherine makes a decision about her future. No-one, especially Aurora saw that coming…

There’s trouble when Darren leaves Rachel, just at a time that she needs him most. She’s going to need her best friend Aurora more than ever.

After completing a variety of roles including working in libraries, the theatre and even training to be a teacher, Sarah L Campbell settled on writing in her early thirties. She decided that self-publishing was the right route for her and set about writing her first ever story, a children’s book about a muddled fairy. Since then, she’s self-published 4 more children’s stories and a teenage novel. She has written two books so far in The Leaves of Change Café Series.

She lives in the northeast of England with her family and beloved cat Louie, a one-time stray now king of the castle. When she’s not at home trying to work with the cat on her knee, she loves meeting friends for a coffee and having a good old natter, or visiting somewhere new, like an historic house or museum.

You can connect with Sarah via her social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Nancy Peach

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Today’s guest on Romancing The Romance Authors is a debut author whose publication journey I have been following closely so I’m very interested to see her take on writing romance. Pleased to welcome to my blog for the first (but surely not the last) time… Nancy Peach.

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

I’m just beginning my publishing journey so haven’t really fixed on a type yet, but my debut Love Life is published with One More Chapter and probably sits in the rom-com category. Love Life has a Pride and Prejudice style plot, but it’s also set in a hospice, which I think gives it a different perspective. I suppose that if I have a style of writing it is to tackle hard topics with a light touch. I am a big fan of finding humour in dark places and was longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print prize last year for my novel Sandwich which deals with dementia. 

Why romance?

Because love and romance are at the heart of all universal stories – in a way I think it’s impossible to write books and not write about romance. All the greatest authors have known that the most direct route to a reader’s mind is via the heart and many of the fictional characters we hold dear are the ones who have been affected by a doomed romance or a grand passion. Every genre, whether it be crime, historical or dystopian science fiction, has romantic themes running through it and without a hint of a love interest a story loses depth and fails to engage a reader. 

All of the above, plus I like writing sex scenes.

What inspires your stories?

Daily life – I enjoy finding inspiration hidden in the mundane, whether that be at home or at work. Being a doctor means that I am fortunate enough to witness many elements of human behaviour and interaction. It is a great privilege to have this level of access to people’s lives and relationships and it’s one of the things I enjoy most about my job. I am obviously very careful never to break confidentiality and none of my patients’ details will ever make it directly to the page, but a lot of what forms the basis of my books comes from making general observations about the human stories I see unfolding in front of me every day. 

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

Generally, those who introduce an element of humour in their writing. Whether it be sharply satirical like Jane Austen or gently comical like Beth O’Leary, or full-blown hilarious like Helen Fielding, Marian Keyes, Mhairi McFarlane and Lucy Vine. 

Having said that, some of the most deeply affecting love stories I’ve read recently have not fallen into the comedy category – Delia Owens’ ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and Anthony Doerr’s ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ had me in absolute bits.

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

That is such a hard question to answer (frantically tries to narrow down enormous shortlist). I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect package than Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare as an example of a modern contemporary romance, but the gold standard for me will always be Pride and Prejudice. I can’t possibly say anything about this book that hasn’t already been said, but each line is a masterclass in wryly observed understatement, like a permanently raised eyebrow. Jane Austen is a genius.

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The pride of high-ranking Mr Darcy and the prejudice of middle-class Elizabeth Bennet conduct an absorbing dance through the rigid social hierarchies of early-nineteenth-century England, with the passion of the two unlikely lovers growing as their union seems ever more improbable.

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

I would jump into bed with Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy and likely never be seen again.

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(PSA: Anyone who ever chooses Mr Darcy as the answer to this question will invoke the gratuitous photo of Colin Firth in a wet shirt. you have been warned.)

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

The RNA was my first introduction to fellow writers. Before joining I had no idea about the publishing industry, no knowledge of writing technique and no concept of how to turn my idle scribblings into a real piece of work. I stumbled across the New Writer’s Scheme in 2019 when I had completed a very rough draft of what was to become Love Life and couldn’t believe that there was a way of having my manuscript critiqued by people working in the industry and for it to be included in my membership fee. More specifically, the RNA was an invaluable source of advice during that first year when I was hopelessly naïve about publishing deals. If I hadn’t had their support at that critical point in my writing journey, I think I would be in a very different place now.

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

Keep writing and make sure you are always doing it for fun. It’s easy to get bogged down with whether you’re going to get an agent, whether you’ll be published, and whether you’ll be able to give up the day job and pursue a career as a writer. This makes the whole thing feel terribly pressurised and the reality may be that an ultimate dream of being a professional writer is either unattainable or takes an extraordinarily long time to realise. So, whilst you are waiting for international fame and glory, my advice is to treat writing like a brilliant, gloriously fulfilling hobby. By saying this I am in no way intending to diminish the experience or the process, but I see writing as a release valve, its primary function is to do me good and to make me happy. If what I produce makes other people happy too then great, but I try not to lose sight of why I write – I do it because it love it, anything else is a bonus.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Love Life is a romantic comedy featuring a hospice doctor, Tess, who is having difficulty recovering from the shock of finding her boyfriend in bed with another man. Whilst at work she encounters Edward, a man who is in denial about his mother’s terminal illness and who, as a result, hates the hospice and all it stands for. Unsurprisingly Tess and Edward dislike each other in the beginning, despite having met before in entirely different circumstances, but as Edward’s mother becomes more unwell, they begin to discover common ground. The story also features a daytime television host battling it out with a Jane Austen character as dual narrators, an absent father, an over-protective mother, a problem with binge-eating, a blind date with an estate agent, a veterinary emergency, a brush with the General Medical Council and a fair bit of shagging. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Yorkshire lass in possession of a career, a house, and a cat, must be in want of a husb—
Oh get a grip!

Dr Tess Carter is no starry-eyed Jane Austen heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the proud and disagreeable son of one of her patients starts challenging her every decision.

Edward Russell might have a big job and a posh voice, but Tess is determined not to let him get to her, especially if she can get her inner monologue to stop with the endless self-sabotage. And Edward, it turns out, may be less of a prat than he first appears; he’s certainly handy in a crisis.

In the real world, where gentlemanlike manners and out-of-the-blue declarations of love are a story-book fantasy, it’s up to Tess to decide whose voice to listen to … and how to make her own heard.

About the Author

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Nancy is a writer of commercial women’s fiction, a mother of three and an owner of various ridiculous looking pets including a dog who unexpectedly grew to be the size of a small horse. She is also a practicing doctor working for both the NHS and a national cancer charity. Over the years her medical job has provided her with an insight into many aspects of human behaviour, across all walks of life, and she is endlessly fascinated by the people she meets. She has always loved to write and finds the process incredibly therapeutic as well as being a welcome diversion from some of the less glamourous aspects of her other roles. Being a medical doctor, her sense of humour is already quite dark; she prides herself on being able to find comedy in challenging scenarios and has found this to be an essential skill in both her domestic and working life. Love and laughter are the best of medicines and she tries to channel as much of them as possible into her blogs www.mumhasdementia.com  and www.nancy-peach.com as well as her books – casting a wry and discerning eye over the human condition and tackling heavyweight issues with a light comedic touch. 

Nancy’s work has been longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize and shortlisted for a Harper Collins / Gransnet competition. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and is represented by Tanera Simons at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Her debut novel Love Life is published by One More Chapter at Harper Collins.

Connect with Nancy:

Website: https://nancy-peach.com/

Facebook: Nancy Peach Writer

Twitter: @Mumhasdementia

Instagram: @nancy.peach

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