RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Louise Allen

RONAS

Today’s guest on my celebratory drinks tour of this year’s RONA nominees has been shortlisted in the Shorter Romantic Novel category for her novel, A Proposal to Risk Their Friendship, it is author… Louise Allen.

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

Thank you for asking. And let me say now, before the effects of a glass or three make me forget, thank you so much for inviting me along! I’d like Champagne, please, although I’ll probably regret it in the morning.

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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?

Assuming it’s a lovely starlit night, we’ll borrow a boat and go out to Blakeney Point, a sand spit off the Norfolk coast, and sit in the dunes listening to the seals and the sea.

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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?

Sir David Attenborough for charm, wisdom and the fact I’m sure he’d make sure we all got back safely however much we drank (and I think he’d like the seals) and Mary Shelley – we’d talk about her and her writing and political beliefs and not mention Byron and Shelley once.

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’ve made a start on another of my time travel/Regency romance/mysteries. I began the series this is linked to as a displacement activity from writing Regency romance and find it enormous fun – I enjoy my first person POV modern-day heroines. As I write into the mists and am a complete anti-plotter this is a bit of a challenge when writing mysteries, but at least I do know with this one Who Dunnit.

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

Proudest was possibly the time I got an email from a reader who told me she’d had such a draining  and emotionally shattering day at work – she cared for children with severe problems – that she was on the point of giving it up. She’d read one of my books cover to cover through the night and it had helped her feel calm and positive again. I love that connection with readers and the knowledge that I’ve created something that entertains, or touches or resonates with them. Biggest challenge? Oh, the halfway point with any book when I’m convinced that I’ll never work out what’s going on/what motivates any of my characters/what the devil I think I’m doing pretending I can write etc etc. That can last as far as the end of the first draft!

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’ve been writing for so long that, looking back, I’m not certain whether or not the first book was written with a quill pen. I think I’m at the point where all I wish for is to continue to enjoy my writing and to produce another book that readers enjoy.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Personally, an entire year packed with holidays that have been postponed over the past few years for one reason or another. On the writing front, the book that’s doing its best to write itself in my head: it has a hero who is seriously disturbing my sleep.

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?

Antarctica, without a doubt – utterly beautiful, awe-inspiring and really emotional. And so fragile. Top of my bucket list is Iceland and, fingers crossed, we’ll be there this year. 

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

I’m William Shakespeare’s fourth cousin eleven times removed.

Wow, what a fantastic thing to be able to say! 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’?

Just one? I looked wildly at my bookshelves and thought of finding a wheelbarrow, then I spotted M. R. James’s Collected Ghost Stories. Normally I avoid horror stories, but if you haven’t come across James, you’ll be blown away by his ability to conjure atmosphere with words. He’s a master of “show (or in his case, “hint”) don’t tell”.

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‘I was conscious of a most horrible smell of mould, and of a cold kind of face pressed against my own…’

Considered by many to be the most terrifying writer in English, M. R. James was an eminent scholar who spent his entire adult life in the academic surroundings of Eton and Cambridge. His classic supernatural tales draw on the terrors of the everyday, in which documents and objects unleash terrible forces, often in closed rooms and night-time settings where imagination runs riot. Lonely country houses, remote inns, ancient churches or the manuscript collections of great libraries provide settings for unbearable menace, from creatures seeking retribution and harm. These stories have lost none of their power to unsettle and disturb.

This edition presents all of James’s published ghost stories, including the unforgettable ‘Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’ and ‘Casting the Runes’, and an appendix of James’s writings on the ghost story. Darryl Jones’s introduction and notes provide a fascinating insight into James’s background and his mastery of the genre he made his own.

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 stagger down to the beach and breathe deeply – provided the wind doesn’t knock me over in my weakened condition. If we set out to sea, which is a mile down the road, the nearest land we’d come too is Siberia. That’s a cure for the thickest head.

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

Doing as little as possible, preferably with a book to hand. I quite fancy spending it up on the battlements of Kingswear Castle on the shores of  the Dart estuary. The views are fabulous, one can dip the flag to passing shipping and there’s the prospect of an excellent fish dinner in Dartmouth in the evening. It’s a Landmark Trust property if you fancy trying it.

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Louise’s RONA-shortlisted novel, A Proposal to Risk Their Friendship, is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Louise Allen, Shorter Romantic Novel Award, Romantic Novel Awards 2022, A Proposal to Risk Their Friendship BOOK COVER

An unconventional friendship

Could ruin their reputations…

Respecting each other’s desire for independence, Lord Henry Cary and writer Melissa Taverner enjoy an uncomplicated friendship. Henry finds her amusing, intelligent company, but she’s also an attractive woman and he’s alarmed to find lust sneaking in… Having always viewed marriage as a cold matter of convenience, Henry dare not risk their friendship with a proposal. Yet when their closeness sparks rumours, he might not have a choice!

Louise’s next book due out is The Earl’s Mysterious Lady, due in July. It’s a second chance at love story with a runaway bride and a brooding hero and you can pre-order it here.

Louise Allen is the author of over seventy novels, almost all set during the “long Regency”, as well as nine historical non-fiction books. She has been nominated several times for RNA Awards and has won the Shorter Romantic Novel category twice.

She lives on the North Norfolk coast with her husband, who understands the duties of a Romance Husband perfectly – from the production of well-timed G&Ts to knowing when not to ask “How is it going?”

When she isn’t writing she loves to travel, although the laptop usually goes along too and she once found herself wrestling with a Christmas novella on the deck of a boat going down the Brahmaputra River in decidedly un-Christmassy temperatures.

Connect with Louise:

Website: https://www.louiseallenregency.com/

Twitter: @LouiseRegency

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RONA Awards Celebration Drinks with… Jean Fullerton

RONAS

My next guest on the blog to chat about her recent nomination in the 2022 Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel Awards in the Shorter Romantic Novel category for her book, A Ration Book Christmas Broadcast, is Jean Fullerton.

Jean Fullerton, Shorter Romantic Novel, Romantic Novel Awards 2022 (copy)

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

Hi, Julie, it’s my pleasure and I’ll have a rum and coke please. Captain Morgan’s if the have it but Lambs if not. I’ve been drinking that since I was fifteen – yes, I know it was illegal even back in the 70s but nobody bothered about such details back then.

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

To the theatre in London. Les Misérables is my all-time favorite musical although I am a massive Gilbert & Sullivan fan so I might drag you along to that.  Drama-wise it would have to be something meaty, possibly Shakespeare, and I do like to see good actors like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen or Helen Mirren. One of the most memorable plays I’ve seen in recent years was the Lieutenant of Inishmore with Aiden Turner in the title role. Two hours of bliss for the obvious reason. I don’t suppose you’d mind if I got us two tickets in the stalls.    

I would love that. I saw Patrick Stewart play Claudius to David Tennant’s Hamlet at the RSC several years ago, which may be my favourite ever theatre outing. 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?

Sandy Toksvig as she is brilliant and would be great company and Eleanor of Aquitaine as I’m sure she’d have some insights into how to succeed in a man’s world.  

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 just 40,000 words into the first book in my next WW2 East London series. I can’t tell you too much at the moment as we’re still sorting out titles and themes, but it features the Carmichael family who move into the area in May 1940. The Carmichaels are very different from the Brogans but face the same wartime challenges.  

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

My proudest moment is always, after a year of writing editing and worrying, holding a new book in my hands. The most challenging, especially in the Ration Book Series, is doing justice to the hardship and sacrifices of the wartime generation.  

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 I share my ambition with many writers which is firstly to be a Sunday Times bestseller and secondly to have my Ration Book books made into a TV series. 

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

One thing I’m really excited about this year is the publication of my autobiography, A Child of the East End which is about my experiences growing up in East London in the 50s,60s and early 70s. I’m totally thrilled to have been able to pull it together as writing non-fiction is a totally different ball game from writing fiction. 

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Sorrow and joy in London’s oldest suburb. . .
Welcome to the East End.

Life in Cockney London was tough in the post-war years. The government’s broken promises had led to a chronic housing shortage, rampant crime and families living in squalor. But one thing prevailed: the unbeatable spirit of the East End, a tight-knit community who pulled through the dark times with humour and heart.

Drawing on both family history and her own memories of growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, as well as her working life as a district nurse and local police officer, Jean Fullerton vividly depicts this fascinating part of London – from tin baths, to jellied eels, to tigers in a Wapping warehouse.

A Child of the East End is an eye-opening, heartfelt and atmospheric portrait of life in the East End after the war, and is perfect for fans of My East End by Gilda O’Neill, Four Meals for Fourpence by Grace Foakes and Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth.

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 travel too and am lucky enough to be an enrichment speaker on cruise liners for the past twelve years so have been to fabulous places, like Greenland, Tahiti, India, the Labrador coast, Devil’s Island – think heat and Papillon – and through the Suez Canal but on my bucket list is Australia. However, of all those exotic places my favorite place on Earth is my hometown London, with all its historical and cultural treasure.    

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

Wow, I think that is the best secret I’ve heard on this feature! I was once accepted as a Bunny girl but declined to take up the offer as I only went to the interview as moral support for a friend. 

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 can think of dozens of books that I could mention but the one I always recommend is Katherine by Anya Seton. It was the first historical romance I read at about the same time I discovered rum and coke and it started me on this wonderful journey of discovery firstly as a reader and then as a writer.  

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Katherine comes to the court of Edward III at the age of fifteen. The naïve convent-educated orphan of a penniless knight is dazzled by the jousts and the entertainments of court.

Nevertheless, Katherine is beautiful, and she turns the head of the King’s favourite son, John of Gaunt. But he is married, and she is soon to be betrothed.

A few years later their paths cross again and this time their passion for each other cannot be denied or suppressed. Katherine becomes the prince’s mistress, and discovers an extraordinary world of power, pleasure and passion.

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?

Well, I’m going to put my nurse’s hat on here and say that a hangover is the brain becoming dehydrated by alcohol. My sovereign remedy to rehydrate your grey matter is a couple of bottles of an isotonic sports drink taken over a couple of hours, which will not only restore your fluids balance but replace the electrolytes- trace elements in the body.      

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

I know it’s corny but a perfect day for me when I’m not writing is spending time with my Hero@Home, three daughters and grandchildren. 

Not corny at all, it’s just as it should be. Thank you so much for chatting with me this evening, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. Good luck in the coming awards, I look forward to hearing the results on the night.

Jean’s shortlisted novel, A Ration Book Christmas Broadcast, is out now in ebook format and you can buy it here.

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Tune in to love…

December, 1944: Grace Meredith, the BBC Outside Broadcasting unit’s assistant, is in trouble. She needs to find a family to interview for what could be the last ‘Just Ordinary Folk’ Christmas programme before the end of the war, pronto. So when she remembers her old friend Francesca Brogan has married into a large and unconventional East End family, her sense of relief is palpable.

Thrust into the warm and bustling world of the Brogans – from Ida and Jeremiah, still sweethearts after 30 years of marriage, to their seven children, some married, one still in nappies, and to Queenie, Jeremiah’s tealeaf-reading, black-market afficionado mother – Grace feels she’s finally going to make her mark at work.

Then things take an unexpected twist when she meets Francesca’s brother, Giovanni Fabrino of the Royal Engineers. With the Christmas Eve deadline rapidly approaching, now would not be the best time to fall in love. But Gio keeps appearing, and their mutual attraction keeps growing. Can Grace and Gio’s Christmas wishes come true – both of them?

Born and bred in East London Jean was a District Nurse by trade, serving for five years as NHS manager with responsibility for six community clinics and 200+ staff and finished her twenty-five-year nursing career as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies in a London University.

She joined the NWS 2003 and became a full member in 2006 after winning the Harry Bowling Prize. She had published seventeen sagas over three series, all set in East London and has books with both Orion and Atlantic.

An experiences public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, Jean has been an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships for the past fifteen years.

Connect with Jean:

Website: http://jeanfullerton.com/

Facebook: Jean Fullerton

Twitter:  @JeanFullerton_

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RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Sarah Mallory

RONAS

I’m delighted to be launching my month-long celebration of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel Awards 2022 with a special edition of my Friday Night Drinks feature and by welcoming award nominee, Sarah Mallory, to the blog. Sarah has been short-listed in the Shorter Romantic Novel Award category for her book, Cinderella and the Scarred Viscount.

Sarah Mallory, Shorter Romantic Novel, Romantic Novel Awards 2022

Sarah, welcome back to the blog and congratulations on your nomination. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thanks for inviting me again! I thought I would celebrate tonight with a Kir Royale. For the fruit, you understand; the berry in the bottom of the glass! I might have to have more than one, though…

Yum. 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?

Well, if we were in a big town it would have to be posh frocks and heels for a swish restaurant, then maybe a cocktail bar. As I now live in the wilds of Scotland it would be more informal. Jumpers and jeans, maybe, and at the local pub: beamed ceilings, a long bar room with a log fire at each end and lots of tables where we can sit and natter.

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?

Ooh, that’s a hard one! I think Hugh Jackman would be good company: he makes great films and has a wicked sense of humour. And I love musicals so we could talk about that, if all else fails! As for a female…well I would love to have met P D James. I really enjoy her writing. When I am deep into writing a book I cannot read historicals, in case it confuses my own “voice”, so crime novels are a good way to relax. It would be great to discuss writerly matters with her and learn from her experience.

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?

After completing three books set in the Scottish Highlands (the final one, The Laird’s Runaway Wife, will be published later this year), I was keen to get back into Regency England. I had an idea for a lost heir story and I am deep into that now. I have set this one in Yorkshire and it should reach it’s happy ending, complete with snow, on Christmas Eve – at least, that’s where I want it to go, since you ask, but you know what characters are like, they develop a life of their own!

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

Proudest moment, to be honest, every time I finish another book I feel enormous pride in the achievement. Then seeing it on the shelves. Oh, and getting a good review, that always raises my spirits. And something that always makes me feel really good is when someone says my book has helped them through a bad patch of some kind, that it has given them a little escape from their problems. That always makes me feel that what I am doing is worthwhile.

But my proudest moment this year has to be reaching the finals of the Romantic Novelist Association’s Awards. When I learned that Cinderella and the Scarred Viscount was on the short list for the Shorter Romantic Novel this year I admit I did a little dance of joy! It’s a fairytale Regency that I wrote between books 2 and 3 of my Highland trilogy and I just love the characters: Carenza is such a kind, strong woman and Ross is a damaged hero who wants to protect her but he is struggling with his own demons. Together they overcome their problems and find love along the way (**contended sigh**)

Finalist Sarah Mallory 2022

Biggest challenge? Well, since my love-at-first-sight romance with Scotland there has been house selling, hunting and buying to deal with, plus the actual moving, and at the same time I was contracted to write two books a year. That was challenging, but nowhere near as bad as the pandemic. Lockdown might have given me plenty of WFH time, but there was the constant worry about everything and everyone. However, it became very clear that people wanted books, needed them to escape from life for a few hours, and that was a tremendous spur.

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 love creating my historical romances and I just want to continue writing (and publishing) them until the ideas run out. I have over 30 published with Mills & Boon at present and would love to make it to 50 with them. Who knows?

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

Next year I have a big birthday and wedding anniversary to celebrate and we are planning a road trip through Spain and Portugal: sun, sea, castles and the Peninsular War battlefields (naturally). It will take some planning, but that will be half the fun.

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

I don’t really have a bucket list, things just turn up. Like moving to the Scottish Highlands. In 2015 we hadn’t even considered the idea, then we did a tour of Scotland and fell in love. Who would have thought that by the end of 2018 we would be living by the sea in the far northwest? And we love it, even when the weather is at its most savage! I think Wester Ross is the most inspiring place I have ever lived (and Pennines, where I lived for nearly 30 years, was a close second, I can assure you!). It is very remote and wouldn’t be for everyone – almost 70 miles to the nearest big supermarket, but the views en route make it worthwhile!

It look so beautiful, I love Scotland. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I have been through 2 MRI scanners – voluntarily! It was a huge surprise to me that I could do it. I am a tad claustrophobic you see; small spaces and being held down send me into a panic, but last year I had the opportunity to take part in a health screening study that involved body and brain scanning. I told the staff I might not be able to do the MRI bit and they were lovely, no pressure to do it but they encouraged me to give it a go. I can’t say I enjoyed it but I managed not to press the panic button! Now I know that if I have a serious health problem and need to have a scan I should (should) be able to do it. Until now I really thought it would be a total no-go, however important, healthwise. Maybe by sharing that here, it might help someone else who is scared witless by the idea.

I’ve been through an MRI twice as well, although not voluntarily! 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’?

Only one? Oh dear, there are so many! I do have one must-read author though, Milly Johnson. I know it is past the festive season but I loved I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day – pure romance and Christmas magic (indulgence without calories!)

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It’s nearly Christmas and it’s snowing, hard. Deep in the Yorkshire Moors nestles a tiny hamlet, with a pub at its heart. As the snow falls, the inn will become an unexpected haven for six people forced to seek shelter there…
 
Mary has been trying to get her boss Jack to notice her for four years, but he can only see the efficient PA she is at work. Will being holed up with him finally give her the chance she has been waiting for?
 
Bridge and Luke were meeting for five minutes to set their divorce in motion. But will getting trapped with each other reignite too many fond memories – and love?
 
Charlie and Robin were on their way to a luxury hotel in Scotland for a very special Christmas. But will the inn give them everything they were hoping to find – and much more besides?

I listened to this on audio at Christmas and absolutely loved it! 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?

The only failsafe is not to drink too much alcohol! I try to have a sparkling water or two in between glasses of wine, but I have had enough hangovers to know that plenty of water and painkillers are the only way. And rest, of course, if you can manage that. Not always easy if you have a young family.

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

I shall need a lie-in after all those glasses of bubbly! So, brunch with family or friends, maybe, then perhaps a walk along the beach, if the weather is fine (we took a walk during a break in the storms recently – there’s a picture somewhere – and you can just see Skye on the horizon). Then it would be everyone back to ours to sit in front of a roaring fire and relax. Perfect.

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Sounds ideal! Sarah, thanks again for joining me and I wish you huge luck in the awards when the winners are announced on 7 March. I can’t be at the ceremony myself this year but I’ll be glued to Twitter to see as the winners are revealed!

Sarah’s shortlisted novel, Cinderella and the Scarred Viscount is published by Mills and Boon and is available now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

Cinderella and the Scarred Viscount UK

An imperfect proposal…

But a perfect match?

Major James Rossington, Viscount Austerfield, survived Waterloo, but can he survive the Season as London’s most eligible bachelor? Convinced his battle scars make him unlovable, and to escape Society’s matchmakers, Ross proposes a wedding in name only to shy, sensible Carenza Bettridge. Liberated from her cruel stepmother and bullying half-sisters, she blossoms into a confident, altogether desirable woman. He promised Carenza a convenient marriage, but inconveniently finds himself wanting more…

Sarah Mallory is an award-winning author who has published more than 30 historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon. She loves history, especially the Georgian and Regency. She won the prestigious RoNA Rose Award from the Romantic Novelists Association in 2012 and 2013. Sarah also writes romantic historical adventures as Melinda Hammond.

After living for many years high on the Yorkshire Pennines, Sarah moved to the Scottish Highlands in 2018 and now lives by the sea, enjoying a whole new adventure.

Connect with Sarah:

Website: http://www.sarahmallory.com/

Facebook: Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory

Twitter: @SarahMRomance

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Introducing The Romantic Novel Awards Interview Series

Awards

For fans of romantic novels and industry insiders, The Romantic Novel Awards are the highlight of the year, where the best writing in the genre is celebrated and rewarded. The entry period for the 2022 awards is now open, closing on 30 September 2021.

To celebrate the awards, and in anticipation of next year’s ceremony, I am delighted to be bringing you a series of interviews with the winners of The Romantic Novel Awards 2021, where we will be discussing their writing, their careers, their views on what makes for an award-winning romance novel, and what winning this award meant to them.

The interviews will be running weekly every Thursday, beginning Thursday, 8 July and going right through until the beginning of September. The interviewees are:

The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award Winner – Clare Pooley for The Authenticity ProjectBantam Press

The Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award – Kate Hardy for A Will, a Wish and a Wedding, Mills & Boon True Love

The Romantic Saga Award – Shirley Mann for Bobby’s War, Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK

The Romantic Comedy Novel Award – Carole Matthews for Sunny Days and Sea Breezes, Sphere, Little, Brown

The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award – Louise Douglas forThe House by the Sea, Boldwood Books

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award – Christina Courtenay for Echoes of the Runes, Headline Review

The Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award – Milly Johnson for My One True North, Simon & Schuster

The Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award – Catherine Tinley for Rags-to-Riches Wife, Mills & Boon Historical

The Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award – Julie Houston for Sing Me a Secret, Aria, Head of Zeus

I’m really excited to share these interviews with you, I know you will enjoy reading them as much I have enjoyed doing them, so I hope you will join me and my guests over the coming weeks in this celebration of romantic fiction.

For more information about the awards, please visit the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards page.

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Blog Tour: The Lynmouth Stories by Lucy V Hay #BookReview

FINAL The Lynmouth Stories Cover

Beautiful places hide dark secrets … 

Devon’s very own crime writer L.V Hay (The Other Twin, Do No Harm) brings forth three new short stories from her dark mind and poison pen:

– For kidnapped Meg and her young son Danny, In Plain Sight, the remote headland above Lynmouth is not a haven, but hell.

– A summer of fun for Catherine in Killing Me Softly becomes a winter of discontent … and death.

– In Hell And High Water, a last minute holiday for Naomi and baby Tommy  becomes a survival situation … But that’s before the village floods.

All taking place out of season when the majority of tourists have gone home, L.V Hay uses her local knowledge to bring forth dark and claustrophic noir she has come to be known for.

Did You Know …?

Known as England’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the Devon village of Lynmouth is famous for its Victorian cliff railway, fish n’ chips and of course, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.

Located on the doorstep of the dramatic Valley of The Rocks and the South West Cliff Path, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth have inspired many writers, including 19th Century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who honeymooned there in 1812.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Lynmouth Stories, a short story collection by Lucy V Hay. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a very brief book containing just three short stories but it packs a punch that greatly belies its length. Tightly woven with impressively realised characterisation in such a small word count, Lucy V Hay has produced here a masterclass in the art of the short story.

All three stories are set in the tiny, coastal village of Lynmouth, popular with tourists. However, we visit during the low season, when the village shuts down and empties out, giving it a deserted and melancholy air, which provides the perfect backdrop for this collection  of dark and brooding stories. Focusing on the kind of threats that lurk behind closed doors, they remind us that appearances can be deceptive and we never know what dangers are lurking unseen in the most ordinary of settings.

All three stories have female protagonists, who are all very different. Some strong and determined, some finding strength they never knew they had and some crumbling under pressure, the stories explore different reactions under stress and what women can do in protection of themselves and those they love. Probing the darkest aspects of the human psyche, the author manages to convey an awful lot about these women in a very compact word count so you can feel exactly what they are going through in that moment. I really enjoyed the fact that the focus here was entirely on the women and their experiences, with the men largely remaining nameless, shadowy figures whose feelings and motives exist only in relation to the women’s.

This book left me feeling very unsettled. The author has produced an oppressive atmosphere throughout the stories, asking the reader to put themselves in the far from comfortable shoes of the protagonists and walk a little way in them. The stories will shake you out of your complacency and ask you to think about what other women may be dealing with in places we don’t see, even in the cosy seaside towns that the rest of us visit on happy family holidays for reasons of pleasure. It’s easy to sail along, forgetting that our fellow women may be struggling and fighting against enemies we can’t envisage. Maybe we should be more alert for the signs that may be laying in plain sight. The stories are asking us to look and ask, to think about what we are actually seeing. 

A short, uncomfortable but enthralling read.

The Lynmouth Stories is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://linktr.ee/lucyvhayauthor

Facebook: Lucy V Hay Author

Twitter: @LucyVHayAuthor

Instagram: Lucy V Hay Author

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Blog Tour: In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton #BookReview

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This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more…

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is only a short novella, that took me a scant eighty minutes to read, but what a lot the author managed to pack in to the pages. Pretty much all of human life is here, as we explore the life of Ted and Rene over the course of half a century. From the dance halls of post-war Morecambe to the modern day, the book explores the nuts and bolts of the marriage of two ordinary people living in the confines of an isolated, seaside town.

The book does not run in a linear format, but dodges about through the relationship, between the perspectives of Ted and Rene and other important figures in their lives and the life of the town of Morecambe. Despite this, the book is not at all confusing, but works perfectly to illustrate the changing relationship and feelings that Ted and Rene have for one another over the course of fifty years.

This book is all about relationships, their complexities and mercurial nature, ever-changing over the course of a lifetime, as both internal and external factors but different pressures on them at different times. The feelings of the couple ebb and flow like the tides in Morecambe Bay, which provides the constant backdrop to their evolving lives, and the changing seasons and moods and fortunes of the town echoing the shifts in the moods of their marriage, the sadness coming from the fact that the times the two of them seem to be in synch are rare and fleeting.

The book felt so honest to me, so truly reflective of so many people’s lives, full of disappointment and compromise, with small moments of joy and shared triumph, but all the same looked back on through rose-tinted spectacles when it is over and viewed very differently by outsiders than those living within it. Right from the beginning, we see through the individual thoughts of Ted and Rene that they have not entered this marriage on the back of a grand passion, and this somewhat sets the tone. Their life is not filled with terrible disasters, but small sorrows, the like of which we all suffer, made sadder by their inability to address them from the same page. Overall, the feeling for me is one of melancholy, and I wonder how many people go through their lives in this way – probably many more than we realise.

This was a really beautiful story, told with understanding, tenderness and a deep empathy. I found the writing really moving, and I came away from the book feeling like I had read something profoundly truthful and illuminating. Triumphal.

The Sweep Of The Bay is out now and I can recommend highly enough that you buy it here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

Cath Barton. Author pic. Feb 2020

Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. She also writes short stories and flash fiction and, with her critical writing, is a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review. In the Sweep of the Bay is her second novella. 

Website: https://cathbarton.com/

Facebook: Cath Barton

Twitter: @CathBarton1

Publisher Website: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/cath-barton

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Blog Tour: Photographing Kate (A Moonshire Bay Small Town Romance Book 3) by Elle Sweet #BookReview

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After Kate’s husband of over twenty years is sentenced for embezzling and fraud, she loses everything and needs to start over. She decides to visit Moonshire Bay to regroup at the urging of her friend, Claire, who owns the diner there.

Knowing she needs a way to support herself, she rekindles her passion for photography and starts to think maybe staying in Moonshire Bay is her best chance at happiness.

Zach is the town attorney and a confirmed bachelor. After a scarring experience with love and almost marriage in his younger days, he vowed never to get any closer to a woman than a casual relationship. 

When Zach meets Kate, the wounded look that lingers behind her smile grabs him and he wants to know her better, but Kate was burned by her lawyer ex-husband. Even if she wanted a relationship it wouldn’t be with a member of that profession.

Zach tricks Kate in order to get to know her better. When she finds out, will she understand and forgive him or will it push her father away?

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Photographing Kate by Elle Sweet. This is the third book in the Moonshire Bay Small Town Romance Series. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for my place on the tour and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I don’t know about you but, during lockdown, I have found myself turning towards a lot of feel-good, comforting entertainment to keep my spirits up. I don’t think I’m alone, I have seen a lot of my friends reading gentle romance novels and watching heart-warming  Netflix shows such as Gilmore Girls and Virgin River. Well, if you find you are craving that kind of thing at the moment, this book is just right for you.

The main protagonist is Kate, a 50-year-old woman with grown up children whose husband has just got himself imprisoned for fraud and embezzlement. Finding herself impecunious and estranged from her life in New York as a result of his behaviour, Kate decides to visit her friend, Claire, in the small town of Moonshire Bay, with a view to taking some time to regroup and plan how to pick up the pieces of her life. Of course, her progress is thrown askew by an unanticipated romantic attraction.

This is only a short novel, and perhaps unsurprising in its subject matter, but it is really well written, with a delightful setting and pleasant characters. It is a really cosy way of whiling away a couple of hours when you are just looking for something sweet to divert you from the real world. I really enjoyed the fact that Kate is a little older as a main character. Being a woman of that age myself, it is nice to see us being portrayed as still capable of life, love and attraction, instead of over the hill and on the sidelines!

Moonshire Bay is the kind of place we all wished we lived, in a small, friendly community, where everyone knows everyone and there is always help when faced with trauma. A beachside setting as always a plus, even if it is on a lake rather than the sea. This is the third book in the Moonshire Bay series so, if you find you can’t get enough of it, there are plenty of other books for sate your appetite. It is the kind of cheery novel than can become a bit addictive.

Photographing Kate is out now as an ebook and you can get your copy here.

Do please check out the rest of the blogs taking part of the tour for other reviews and great content:

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About the Author

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Elle Sweet is the pen name of mystery author Laina Turner.

I started writing ten years ago, and it was always my intent and desire to write romance. However, in my first book, someone died. It just happened and turned the romance into a mystery.

Twenty-some books later, and I decided enough was enough. I was going to do what I’d initially set out to do at the start of my writing journey. Write a book where no one died (It’s not as easy as you think).

I can’t tell you how much fun I had writing Finding Rachel and the three others set in the small town of Moonshire Bay. Finding Rachel is out now and Ari’s Adventure will release in spring of 2020 with the third book set to follow in the early summer of 2020.

How did I come up with my pen name? Elle for the “L” in Laina and Sweet was my grandfather’s last name. I wanted something that had a story. I originally wanted to call myself LuluBell after a pet cow I once had, but the family shot that one down.

Born and raised in the midwest, I live in Indiana with my husband, three amazing children, and our dogs Duke and Macy.

Connect with Laina:

Website: https://www.lainaturner.com/books/?cat=romance

Facebook: Elle Sweet Author

Twitter: @laina_turner

Instagram: @lainaturner

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Blog Tour: A Cornish Summer Holiday: Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green #BookReview

A Cornish Summer Holiday at the Little Duck Pond Cafe

I am delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for the latest book in one of my favourite romance series, The Little Duck Pond Cafe. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part once again and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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The Little Duck Pond Cafe girls are looking forward to a well-earned break in the Cornish seaside town of Pengully Sands, where Sylvia’s sister, Aggie, owns a holiday home. With the glorious golden sands, sparkling azure sea and an ice-cream parlour only yards away, it seems like the perfect location to relax and watch the surfers riding the waves (and maybe even have a go themselves). But when they arrive, the girls find it’s not quite the seaside idyll they were expecting.

The house is less ‘holiday home’ and more ‘creepy, dilapidated haunted house.’ Gracie, who runs the ice-cream parlour, has problems of her own and the last thing she needs is a bunch of high-spirited girls arriving to disturb the peace and isolation she craves. And when a handsome stranger looks set to destroy her livelihood, it seems like the last straw.

Will Gracie get her happy ending – and maybe even make friends with the girls next-door? This wasn’t the relaxing break the Little Duck Pond Cafe girls were expecting, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be the holiday of a lifetime!

Regular readers of the blog will know that I have been a big fan of this series from the start. I loved the setting of the novels in Sunnybrook, centred around the little Duck Pond Cafe, so it was with some trepidation that I approached this new instalment set away from the familiar location and in the seaside town of Pengully Sands.

I need not have worried, Rosie handled the transition smoothly by having all our favourite familiar characters from the books travel en masse to, what was supposed to be, an idyllic holiday cottage on the Cornish coast. As one would expect, however, nothing is ever straight forward and the cottage is less, coastal idyll, more ghost-infested nightmare. Still, the Duck Pond Cafe girls are nothing if not inventive and they soon get stuck in to solving the problems, including the ones of their new friend in Pengully Sands, Gracie.

Gracie is a great new character in the series. Her story was so melancholic, I felt so sorry for her from the beginning which made me invest in the story and root for her from beginning to end. My concern for her soon overrode my misgivings about leaving my beloved Sunnybrook behind and made sure a little piece of my reading heart will always be in Pengully Sands, which bodes well for Rosie’s first, full length novel.

Part romance, part ghost story, all entertainment, this was a lovely, moving and engaging read from start to finish. I highly recommend it for anyone craving a virtual breath of sea air and a sweet diversion from reality for an hour or so. Previous fans of the series will love it, new readers will want to go back and catch up with the previous books. Thanks for another great story, Rosie, looking forward to seeing what you can do with more words!

A Cornish Summer Holiday: Little Duck Pond Cafe is out now and you can buy a copy here.

For more fantastic reviews, do please visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Rosie Green Author Pic

Rosie has been scribbling stories ever since she was little.

Back then, they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’.

Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all – unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

Her series of novellas is centred around life in a village cafe. The latest, ‘Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe’, is out now.

Rosie is currently writing a full-length book, ‘Lucy’s Great Cornish Escape’, which – in a fun twist – will feature favourite characters from the Little Duck Pond Café series.

Connect with Rosie:

Twitter: @Rosie_Green1988

Blog Tour: Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green #BookReview

Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe

I’m thrilled to be taking part today in the blog tour for the ninth book in this series, which I have been loving, Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Molly Hooper has a secret. It haunts her dreams and casts a dark shadow over life with her gorgeous three-year-old daughter, Eva.

Arriving in Sunnybrook has given her a glimpse of sunshine. The Little Duck Pond Cafe crew seem so welcoming and there’s even the chance of a new job. Baking delicious cakes has always taken Molly to a happy place, so the job – at the glorious Brambleberry Manor Cafe – might just be perfect for her. It would mean she and little Eva could finally put down some roots at last.

But is Sunnybrook the sanctuary Molly is searching for? Or will the past come back to haunt her, wherever she hides?

I have read all eight books in the series up to this point and I actually think this one might be my favourite. I’ll try and explain why, if I can articulate it into words, although some of it has more to do with feeling than anything else.

This book gives us the story of Molly, who has been a minor character introduced in the last couple of books but is now getting a full novella revolving entirely around her and part of the reason this book is one of my favourites so far is that she is a character that your heart cannot help but go out to. Molly has made a series of ill-advised decisions in her life that have led her to end up in an awful situation that she cannot find her way out of and she believes that she is all alone in dealing with it. Her struggles have made her cut herself off from other people and emotions, so she is solely focused on protecting her young daughter, Eva.

Of course, she has ended up in Sunnybrook, home of the most well-meaning busybodies that ever existed (in a good way), and the troops soon rally round in the usual way to try and help Molly out. The thing that makes this book stand out is Molly’s situation brings in to sharp relief a very real and terrifying situation that is a all too true for too many people in our society today. I doubt many of them are as lucky as Molly is in finding a supportive community to help them out and it makes me very sad.

The author’s writing is always warm and friendly and enticing, and Sunnybrook is a consistently enticing place to revisit and fans of the series will find everything they love about the series here, as well as new things to enjoy. For anyone who has not read the previous books, this works very well as a standalone, but you should definitely go back and catch up on what has gone before, because the whole series is a delight. Bring on book ten!

(I really hope that soon I will be able to buy all of the series in paperback format, I’d love to add them to my shelf to return to in years to come when I am in need of a mood boost.)

Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you check out the rest of the stops on the tour:

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About the Author

Rosie Green Author Pic

Rosie Green has been scribbling stories ever since she was little. Back then they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’. Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all, unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

​Rosie’s brand new series of novellas is centred on life in a village café. The first two stories in the series are: Spring at The Little Duck Pond Cafe and Summer at The Little Duck Pond Café.

Connect with Rosie:

Twitter: @Rosie_Green1988

A Winter Wedding at the Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green #BookReview #BlogTour (@Rosie_Green1988) #novella #LittleDuckPondCafe

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With Zak and Ellie’s wedding day approaching, there’s high excitement in the pretty village of Sunnybrook, especially among the Little Duck Pond Café crew. Ellie is over the moon with her romantic surprise wedding gift from Zak, and Madison is promising to organise a hen party to remember. Everyone has high hopes for a magical Christmas Eve wedding celebration at gorgeous Brambleberry Manor. (Even Maisie-Moo has a sparkling new outfit.)

But sometimes, even the best-laid plans can go wrong. And with the journey to the altar turning out to be rockier than expected, it’s going to take nothing short of a Christmas miracle to ensure a happy ending . . .

From the very early days of the blog, this is a series of novellas that I have been following and very much enjoying. I love the way the author has built on a set of three core characters, that we have come to know and love, and continued to tell us their stories, whilst at the same time, introducing new people to keep the series fresh and interesting.

In this eighth instalment of the series, we have reached the point where two of the characters from book one have finally reached their wedding day. Of course, in novels, the path of true love never runs smoothly and there are the inevitable hiccups on the way to the trip down the aisle and I really enjoyed following the last couple of weeks in the life of the couple leading up to their wedding. All my favourite characters put in an appearance, Maisie and Maisie-Moo are as cute as ever. There are some touching moments with Ellie and her mum, and Primrose gets to meet more of her extended family.

I also enjoyed catching up with what was going on with Fen and Jaz, and the newer character of Madison, who is a breath of fresh air in the series. A Christmas wedding is always a highlight of a book, and we also have the hen party and the festivities of the night before the wedding to enjoy. Bits of the book really made me laughs, and everything turns out for the best, as we’ve come to expect in Sunnybrook.

Am easy to read, heart-warming addition to the series and a lovely step along the road these characters are taking. I am looking forward to reviewing the newest story in the series soon, so make sure you check back because it is a goodie, one of my favourites so far.

A Winter Wedding at the Little Duck Pond Cafe is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Rosie Green Author Pic

Rosie Green has been scribbling stories ever since she was little. Back then they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’. Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all, unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

​Rosie’s brand new series of novellas is centred on life in a village café. The first two stories in the series are: Spring at The Little Duck Pond Cafe and Summer at The Little Duck Pond Café.

Connect with Rosie:

Twitter: @Rosie_Green1988