Romancing The Romance Authors with… Leonie Mack

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This week on Romancing The Romance Authors, I am delighted to be quizzing author, Leonie Mack, on writing romance and what romantic fiction means to her.

Welcome to the blog, Leonie. Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I write romantic comedies with big feelings and international locations. My second book, Italy Ever After came out on 11 May. My debut, My Christmas Number One was picked up by Boldwood Books in 2020 and released for Christmas 2020.

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Why romance?

The simple answer is: romance is what I most like to read. I love a story that focuses on a character’s internal journey to a place where they can commit to someone they love.

What inspires your stories?

All sorts of different sparks of inspiration go into each story. For Italy Ever After, for instance, the character of Nick Romano was inspired by a time I walked past a primary school and heard a violin ensemble rehearsing. I imagined the teacher and there was Nick. I wanted to write a real getaway, an escape from daily life, so I chose a place that had made a real impression on me and then I had Lake Garda. The rest of the story fell into place, when you have a teacher and a lake – perfect for a music camp.

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

I used to read every Nora Roberts book I could get my hands on and her writing style greatly influenced mine. I also lapped up the Bridgerton books (back in the 2000s, when they were only books!) and others by Julia Quinn. I love that romantic comedies are so popular at the moment and some of my favourites have been by Mia Sosa and Sally Thorne and I love Lucy Keeling’s romcoms set in Manchester.

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

Ooh, that’s a really difficult question for an author. I deal in complexity! But I’d probably recommend The Hating Game. It’s a very popular book, but I think that’s because everyone can enjoy it!

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Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome. 2) A person’s undoing. 3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman sit across from each other every day . . . and they hate each other.

Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. HATE. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight approach to his job and refusal to smile. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and desire to be liked.

Now they’re up for the same promotion and Lucy, usually a determined people-pleaser, has had enough: it’s time to take him down. But as the tension between Lucy and Joshua reaches its boiling point, it’s clear that the real battle has only just begun . . .

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

Ha! I’m personally not all that romantic in the traditional way. I think that’s why I like romcoms. You can make the relationship progress in all sorts of funny ways that are often misadventures that show love can win in the end. But right now, after the year we’ve had, I’d love to have a weekend in the mountains with my husband to just hike. But if we’re talking a romance hero, I’d say snowed in with a bad-boy rockstar (LOL).

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

Accessing the network at the RNA is so important, even though I only became a member in 2020 and haven’t managed to attend a conference, yet. There’s always someone who has experience of whatever you’re going through and we will always support each other’s books because we all love love stories.

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

Stick with it! The publishing industry has changed so much over the past ten years that if you just keep writing and submitting your work, you’re fairly likely to find someone who loves it eventually. It’s definitely slow and may take years of writing books that never see the light of day, but celebrate those books as part of the learning experience and you’ll get there eventually.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Divorced mum Lou accompanies her daughter Edie on a music camp by Lake Garda, determined to discover her own talents while Edie develops hers. In a series of misadventures, she finally gets to know Edie’s seriously hot but very reserved violin teacher, Nick Romano, and she learns she doesn’t need a special talent to be loved for who she is. Italy Ever After is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.

When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.

Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.

As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?

About the Author

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Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great locations and big feelings. She loves a happy ending and shares that love in every book she writes! Leonie is a journalism graduate, a language nut and loves to travel, particularly on foot, by bike and by train. After growing up in Australia and living most of her adult life in London, she now lives in Germany, among the vineyards on the Main river.

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

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Friday Night Drinks with… Celia Micklefield

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My last virtual drinks before we can all go inside again in real life (fingers crossed!), so let’s throw on our coats for the final time, maybe grab a blanket for extra warmth, wrap our chilly fingers round a mulled cider and welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks… Celia Micklefield.

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

Friday night, start of the weekend? Wine. I’ve kept up my weekend ritual even though since I started shielding last year the days have all been running together so that they all feel exactly the same. But the weekend wine is sacrosanct. Clive likes his vodka/tonic and before dinner we take our drinks to the garage where one end is dedicated to darts. We play five games usually (sometimes I win a few) then we go indoors and cook together. Through the cold winter months, (including this April which has been colder than December) my favourite red is Australian Jam Shed Shiraz. It has legs like a Rugby Union player, sticks to the side of the glass and makes you smack your lips. I wait for the special offers in Tesco and stock up. My favourite white is Viognier which is fresh, green and a bit peppery – great with grills and salads.

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?

Dear girl, I’m an old lady now. I don’t do nights out -out. I start falling asleep around half-past ten. However, just for you, I’d make an extra effort and we’d do a pub crawl through my Norfolk villages. You’ll meet the kinds of characters that’ll make you want to rush home and start writing about them. There’s no airs and graces. What you see is what you get. We’ve some tasty local beers and the pubs serve good food. Or, you might end up in the garage with us playing darts!

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Sounds great, I have no airs and graces myself! 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’ve found this question really difficult to answer. There are so many people to choose from. I’ve opted for the artist Frida Kahlo and Freddie Mercury. I’d love to hear them bounce ideas off one another.

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 this minute? I’m nursing a headache from my second vaccination and looking forward to actually going somewhere sometime soon. My latest novel, A Measured Man was published in March for Kindle and the paperback is out in May. I’m 20,000 words into my next book, The God of Putting Things Right.

Why do we start anything? It’s a good question. I think there’s always a need involved in the answer. We start preparing a meal because we’re hungry and need food, for example. Creative types have a hunger to keep on creating new works and meet new challenges, whether that’s through writing, painting, music etc.  We need to do it.

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

My proudest moment was selling that first short story to a women’s magazine.Three months had passed since I submitted The Fire Dragon and I’d given up hope. I also gave myself a little pat on the back when I was writing on my website about the Languedoc vineyards surrounding my then home and picked up winegrowers in California who were following my Wednesday Vine Report to compare.

 My biggest challenge has been overcoming the fallout from a disastrous relationship which left me homeless for a time. All my money was tied up in the house we’d bought together and he was in no hurry to pay me what he owed. It took nearly three years. Eventually, after I’d researched personality disorders, I wrote my memoir People Who Hurt to help others living in a similar dysfunctional relationship.

 Living with CRPS, a chronic, neurological pain condition continues to be a daily challenge.

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 like to be known as an author whose novels touch readers’ emotions whatever genre. My books don’t ‘fit’ strict genres. I write about ordinary people, sometimes in unusual circumstances, who have problems to overcome. Sometimes the story comes to me in the form of a mystery; at other times it may be more contemporary literary fiction or a historical saga. They are all different. I don’t write to a particular market. I write to answer that need I just mentioned. I’d love readers to say, “Oh, Celia Micklefield. You know you’re going to get deeply involved with her books!”

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What have you planned that you’re really excited about?

Hmm. That’s difficult. I haven’t anything planned. I’ve had my second Covid vaccination and should be able to venture out in a few more weeks. I have to be careful. I’d love to have a holiday but the situation isn’t good. Never mind, I have my work-in-progress to look forward to and I usually get a sense of excitement about my writing when it’s going well. On low pain days I work in the garden to help Clive. We grow fruit and vegetables and salads, tomatoes, peppers etc. in the greenhouse. Waiting for the first signs of growth is always exciting.

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 the smaller Greek islands – nothing to do but swim, read, eat, drink and sleep. My last holiday was in Paxos, a tiny island off Corfu. It doesn’t have its own airport so you have to take a ferry. I also love Ithaca which is another island reached by ferry boat. I don’t have a bucket list any more.

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

I’ve stopped colouring my hair. The next time I post a selfie I’ll be silver! I’m not sure I like it yet as the ends still have some of the old colour in and it looks nicotine stained, the way pub ceilings used to look years ago. Not pleasant.

That’s very brave. 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’?

You must read The Collected Dorothy Parker. Her acidic wit and poignant humour slices right through her poetry and prose. Writing during the New York Jazz age she tackles the glitter and the darkness of the times. She was described as a writer who could ‘combine heartbreak with a wisecrack’.

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Dorothy Parker was the most talked-about woman of her day, notorious as the hard-drinking bad girl with a talent for stinging repartee and endlessly quotable one-liners.

The decadent 1920s and 1930s in New York were a time of great experiment and daring for women. For the rich, life seemed a continual party, but the excesses took their emotional toll. I

n the bitingly witty poems and stories collected here, along with her articles and reviews, she brilliantly captures the spirit of the decadent Jazz Age in New York, exposing both the dazzle and the darkness. But beneath the sharp perceptions and acidic humour, much of her work poignantly expresses the deep vulnerability of a troubled, self-destructive woman who, in the words of philosopher Irwin Edman, was ‘a Sappho who could combine a heartbreak with a wisecrack’.

I will add this to the wishlist and hope I get some book tokens for my upcoming birthday! 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?

You’re safe with me. I haven’t had a hangover for years. Don’t mix the grain with the grape, don’t drink on an empty stomach and DO listen to that little voice telling you that’s enough. Failing those warnings you have no other choice but to prop yourself up next day in a winged armchair or the corner of the sofa where you can rest your head and do not move till you’ve been able to drink tea and eat dry toast without seeing it again!

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

I love walking in the countryside around my home. I’m close to the Norfolk Broads, surrounded by nature and wildlife. The weather would be its superb best and we’d fire up the barbecue, have another game of darts, gin and tonic before we eat and cognac afterwards.

Perfect, I would very much forward to this weekend if we had it planned. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me this evening, I have had a wonderful evening.

Celia’s latest book is A Measured Man. She’s calling it a romantic uncertainty. It’s a poignant comedy. Most readers so far have been over 45 and right up to over 65. She think there’s a dearth of novels featuring older main characters so she’s happy with that. You can buy a copy here.

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In his fifties, Norfolk bachelor, Aubrey Tennant is looking forward to early retirement but he’s still hoping to find his ideal woman. The trouble is, he has exacting requirements and firmly set preferences. He relies on rehearsed questions to extract from potential candidates what he needs to know. When he meets Lisa Miller on his annual trip to Torquay he believes he’s found The One. She’s sensible with money; she isn’t loud; her children are off her hands and she doesn’t cook anything with garlic. He puts all his well-rehearsed stock phrases into play and sets out to win her. He doesn’t know she’s already buried two husbands.

Also in her fifties, twice widowed Lisa is living in reduced circumstances since her second husband’s untimely and inconvenient demise. She’s attracted by Aubrey’s old-fashioned ways even though she’s made up her mind there’ll be no more men in her life. She’s curious about the Tennant family story especially when her friends Madge and Wally Sparrow know the Tennant name from long ago. Madge says, “In his fifties and never been married? What’s wrong with him?”

Lisa is about to find out.

Celia Micklefield has worked in an accountant’s office, a high street retail store, a textile mill and a shoe factory as well as short stints in a fish and chip shop, behind the bar in a pub and running a slimming club. As a mature student she studied for a degree in education and went into teaching at high school, became a partner in an import and wholesale business and ran a craft outlet at a country shopping experience. She returned to teaching where her last position was at a sixth form college.

Celia was born in West Yorkshire and has lived in Aberdeenshire and the south of France. She currently lives in Norfolk.

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

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

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

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Every end has a new beginning…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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

Connect with Jennifer:

Facebook: Jennifer Bohnet

Twitter: @jenniewriter

Instagram: @jenniewriter

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Blog Tour: The Lost Sister by Kathleen McGurl #BookReview

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I am delighted to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for The Lost Sister by Kathleen McGurl today with my review of the book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Three sisters. Three ships. One heartbreaking story.

1911. As Emma packs her trunk to join the ocean liner Olympic as a stewardess, she dreams of earning enough to provide a better life for both her sisters. With their photograph tucked away in her luggage, she promises to be back soon – hoping that sickly Lily will keep healthy, and wild Ruby will behave. But neither life at sea nor on land is predictable, and soon the three sisters’ lives are all changed irrevocably…

Now. When Harriet finds her late grandmother’s travelling trunk in the attic, she’s shocked to discover a photo of three sisters inside – her grandmother only ever mentioned one sister, who died tragically young. Who is the other sister, and what happened to her? Harriet’s questions lead her to the story of three sister ships, Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, and a shattering revelation about three sisters torn apart…

This is a dual timeline novel, telling the story of different generations of the same family in 1911 and the present day. Harriet has just lost her husband and, as she clears out her home in preparation for downsizing, she comes across a trunk that used to belong to her grandmother who worked on cruise ships at the turn of the century. As she goes through the trunk, Harriet finds a photo of her grandmother and her sisters, which leads her to start investigating her family history and uncovering some long buried secrets.

At the same time as looking at her family tree, Harriet is compelled to revaluate her current family relationships. Things are strained with her younger daughter after a terrible mistake years before, and she has lost touch with her brother. There are also concerns with her elder daughter and grandson. As we go through the story, it is clear to see parallels between the story of the three sisters at the turn of the century, and Harriet’s fractured family in the present and Harriet’s growing understanding of her family’s past can help heal wounds going forward.

This is a really beautiful and moving book to read. The author has created some sympathetic and engaging characters in both timelines and I was completely drawn into their lives and fates from the beginning of the book. The narrative switches from chapter to chapter between Harriet in the present day and Emma back in 1911, and it is done effortlessly and seamlessly, whilst still giving each of the women a very clear and distinct voice.

It is clear that Kathleen has done a lot of research for this book. She managed to bring life in 1911 to life and include a lot of small, authentic detail that made me feel like I was really living through those experiences along with Emma. I am a tiny bit obsessed with the story of the Titanic, so I loved reading about it here and Kathleen has done an amazing job of bringing the horror of its sinking to the fore from the perspective of someone who was there. I felt that she had captured what Emma would have been feeling brilliantly, it was really upsetting to read, which is wholly appropriate for the story. It immersed me completely in the era, which is exactly what I am looking for in a historical novel.

Similarly, in the modern day, what Harriet is going through is totally believable and made me very emotional. I shed a few tears as I was going through the book, all too able to relate to her feelings. This is a really great story of love, family and the ties that bind us together in life. It will make you want to gather round everyone you love and give them a massive hug (not until Monday, mind you!) and tell them exactly how you feel because life is short and precarious and family means everything.

A fantastic dual timeline novel with real heart, I highly recommend it.

The Lost Sister is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback in July and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of the other marvellous blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Kathleen McGurl lives in Christchurch, UK, with her husband. She has two sons who have both now left home. She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time. Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway. Since then she has published several novels with HQ and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines, and written three How To books for writers. After a long career in the IT industry she became a full time writer in 2019. When she’s not writing, she’s often out running, slowly.

Connect with Kathleen:

Website: https://kathleenmcgurl.com/

Facebook: Kathleen McGurl

Twitter: @KathMcGurl

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Blog Tour: All My Lies by Sophie Flynn #BookReview

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I am thrilled to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for All My Lies, the debut novel by Sophie Flynn. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things 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.

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Anna wants to escape.

She doesn’t know when her marriage to James began to feel like a trap or when he became so controlling. All she knows is that she needs to leave before it’s too late.

And she has a plan.

When Anna reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, Sam, she sees it as the answer to her problems. Finally, they’ll have a life together, like they’d always planned – the life she was meant to have.

But the lies are catching up with her . . .

On the morning of their escape, Sam goes missing. Anna knows he wouldn’t leave her, that something must have happened to him.

Her search for answers will force her to confront her past, something that she has been running from for a very long time . . .

Well, I’m not sure if this is the effect that Sophie Flynn was going for when she wrote the book but I was on edge all the way through this book. And I don’t mean on the edge of my seat, but on the edge of my nerves, every sinew strained with worry for Anna and what was going to happen to her before the book ended. This is good, books should make the reader uncomfortable sometimes.

Right from the beginning, the author has created a sense of peril for the main character that it is absolutely impossible to shake throughout, and every action the protagonist takes intensifies the feeling because she is making unwise decisions that ramp up the risk for herself. For most of the book I wanted to take her by the shoulders and give her a good shake, because she handles absolutely everything so badly that I couldn’t understand why she was so foolish, especially at the end. I’ve obviously never been in love with someone the way she was with Sam!

Sophie has also constructed a book here in which you have no idea who you can trust. Clearly, Anna doesn’t know throughout who is being honest and who is lying to her, and what about, but I also had extreme doubts about Anna herself and whether she was telling us, the reader, the truth or whether some of what she says is lies or fantasy. She has been dishonest in situations in both past and present, so having an unreliable narrator on top of all her suspicions about everyone else will have your brain twisted into a frenzy of doubt and confusion by the end of the novel, which only adds to the tension.

The book isn’t quite perfect, I did have a couple of niggles about it. There were parts where I found it a little unevenly paced. Rosie was an unbelievably accepting and forgiving character, I think I would have been much more annoyed with and questioning of Anna’s behaviour myself. In fact, I was, I found her quite spineless and a little too much of a willing and passive victim in the story until she does finally find some gumption. I am sure this is how the author intended her to be, its a huge plot driver that she is this way, but it did make it difficult for me to get behind her 100% personally because I just don’t relate to this type of character. These are the things that pulled the book down slightly from a five star read for me.

However, I do think these might be niggles that are very specific to me and what I like to read, so I would not allow them to put you off from the reading the book because, all in all, this is a gripping and different thriller with a huge amount to offer. I read it in only two (very busy) days, so it clearly held my interest for me to keep glued to it over that time frame and I was fully invested in knowing the outcome of who was lying and who was telling the truth. One thing I thought was really great about the book was how the author chose to end it – it wasn’t obvious and neat and I really loved that about it, it felt more authentic. Overall, this is a solid and rewarding psychological thriller with plenty of plot twists and misdirection, huge amounts of tension that will gnaw on your nerves and keep you gripped to the end and a satisfyingly believable ending. I would highly recommend it and look forward to seeing what comes next from this exciting debut author.

All My Lies is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to check out some other reviews on the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Sophie Flynn is a Cotswolds based psychological thriller author with an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. Alongside writing, Sophie is the Head of Marketing at Jericho Writers. After being awarded a place at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School on the TopWrite scheme for young writers in 2017, Sophie began writing short fiction. She has since had many stories published and placed in competitions with organisations such as Writing Magazine and The Cheltenham Literature Festival.

When not writing, Sophie can mostly be found on muddy walks with her husband and rescue dog or disappearing to Cornwall whenever possible. She is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency.

Connect with Sophie:

Website: https://sophieflynn.com/

Twitter: @sophielflynn

Instagram: @sophieflynnauthor

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lizzie Chantree

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Time for another heart to heart about all things romance with an author in the genre, and this week I am delighted to welcome back to the blog… Lizzie Chantree.

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

Hello everyone. I write contemporary women’s fiction about love, romance and feisty entrepreneurs with some pretty unusual businesses. I have eight books published so far and have two more ready to publish. I have both French and American publishers, but I also self-publish in between, so that my readers don’t have to wait too long for another story. I really enjoy both elements of publishing and I now run seminars, where I talk about networking and how authors can broaden their readership and keep isolation at bay.

Why romance?

I love romance! I grew up reading Mills and Boon books from the local library and I adore a mischievous heroine and a swoon-worthy lead man. Romance books are full of laughter and real life issues and they are a wonderful way to connect with readers. I have met so many amazing book lovers since I began writing. Romance stories give us time to step away from any worries for a while and jump into some fun and excitement.

What inspires your stories?

I can be inspired from anything from the way someone holds another person’s hand, to a look that might pass between them. One of my books, the little ice cream shop by the sea, was inspired by seeing an elderly lady who was visibly upset in a café and a young waitress who tried to help her. After the first woman had stopped crying and left the café, I asked the waitress if her friend was ok. The waitress said she’d never met her before and from that grew a story about the kindness of strangers. 

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

I have so many! Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Jackie Collins, Marian Keyes, Freya North, Lisa Jewell, Katie Fforde, Heidi Swain, Liz Fielding… I could think of so many more.

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

If I could only pick one, I’d always go back and read Pride and Prejudice, time and time again.

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Elizabeth Bennett has a keen mind, a sharp wit, and no desire to marry for convenience. When she meets Mr Darcy, her first impressions are far from favourable, and he shows little interest in her. Nor do their opinions improve with further acquaintance. There seems to be little hope of romance; indeed, it might be impossible unless they can confront the flaws in their own natures. Perhaps their first impressions were mistaken?

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 choose Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, as he’s gorgeous, but also because he has principles and is adventurous at the same time. He’s a bit of a contradiction, which makes him mysterious. I’d love to explore his estate and find out more about his family history. It would be fun to see him being more relaxed and enjoying himself, like he is at the end of the book. I’d be quite happy sitting on his front lawn and writing for a few hours, with him beside me!

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

I wish I had found the RNA sooner! It’s such a welcoming group to be part of and the support for new writers is second to none. If you are starting out, the RNA offer so much guidance, from courses to mentoring. For a more experienced writer, the RNA gives encouragement, room to learn and a feeling of being part of a huge and fun-filled team. 

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

I’d steer them towards the RNA for advice and guidance, then I’d tell them about networking and how to build up a readership through mutual support and the love of books. Author branding is also very important for customers to be able to see at a glance which genre you write in.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel is called Shh… It’s Our Secret. Shh… It’s Our Secret, is about a shy woman called Violet, who is trying to silence her inner critic and step out of the shadows.  Her best friends and sister support her, but she feels like they don’t see the real her, or understand that she has ambitions of her own and skills that could help them all escape from poverty.

To them, she is reliable, slightly dull and not very talented, but she is hiding a secret that could blow this theory sky high. Violet will have to eliminate old demons, learn to stand up for herself and show the world who she really is. The book is out now and you can buy it here in your preferred format.

Shh...Its our secret by Lizzie Chantree

Violet has a secret that could change the lives of everyone she knows and loves, especially the regulars at the run-down café bar where she works. After losing her parents at a young age, they are the closest thing she has to a family and she feels responsible for them.

Kai is a jaded music producer who has just moved outside of town. Seeking solitude from the stress of his job, he’s looking for seclusion. The only problem is he can’t seem to escape the band members and songwriters who keep showing up at his house.

When Kai wanders into the bar and Violet’s life, he accidentally discovers her closely guarded secret. Can Kai help her rediscover her self-confidence or should some secrets remain undiscovered?

About the Author

Lizzie Chantree. Author photo small

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

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Connect with Lizzie:

Website: https://lizziechantree.com/

Facebook: Lizzie Chantree Author

Twitter: @Lizzie_Chantree

Instagram: @lizzie_chantree

Pinterest: Lizzie Chantree

Goodreads: Lizzie Chantree

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Friday Night Drinks with… R. V. Biggs

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Doesn’t Friday come around quickly these days? I almost forgot my drinks date with my guest this week. Never mind, I made it to Friday Night Drinks with author… R. V. Biggs.

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

Thank you too. It is a real pleasure to be here. As the year is moving on towards, hopefully, summer temperatures, I think a large glass of white wine. Preferably a Pinot Grigio. I seem to have developed a taste for it over the last couple of years. I’m no wine buff but it’s refreshing, zesty and suits the evening sun, especially when combined with a meze.

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?

Thought a long time over this and finally settled north of the border in the seaside town of Ayr.

Along the sea front, a short distance from the beach lies the most unimpressive 1960’s style of construction—a rectangular, unimaginative building sitting on a carpark. But upstairs there is an award winning Indian restaurant serving the most delicious of meals. This of course would be reason enough to while away an evening, but the real icing on the cake is that it faces west towards the Isle of Arran and beyond, and the most spectacular of sunsets. If you’re lucky there’ll be no cloud, but if there is and the sun escapes just before it dips into the sea, the spectator is in for a real treat.

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?

My mom and dad. Notice I said mom not mum? West Midlands lad you see.

Yes, my mom and dad, because they’ve been gone so long, I don’t recall much about them anymore. But I would love to find out more about what life was like for them, from before the war and during the meagre years afterwards during the decade I was born. And of course, what their parents were like. I have no memory of my paternal grandparents at all. I think they’d both died before I was born. And though I was around ten by the time my mom’s parents left us, I never had a close relationship with them. I guess this is why, subconsciously I felt drawn toward writing novels with family as a central theme.

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?

Writing novels became a passion thirteen years ago, though a slow burn passion because it has taken me that long to publish three books. It all began with a dream. Sounds like a cliché but it was literally an out of the blue moment as I was on the edge of sleep one night and involving one line from a song. That was the ‘how’. The ‘why’ is harder to define because once that thought was in my head it was impossible to let it go. I never planned or had the inclination to write so I had no grand plan or ambition. It was simply for my own enjoyment and mostly that’s what it still is. However, I’m planning on retiring this year which means I’ll have more time to spend on many things not least my writing and maybe set my sights on an end game.

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

I think my proudest moment was reading reviews of my first two novels during a blog tour. As well as other reviewers, both books were read and reviewed at https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/ and were included in that reviewers top twenty books of 2019. Clearly both books reached inside the reviewer and moved them deeply and for me achieving this kind of response is icing on the cake – touching their heart.

As for challenge I doubt if I’m any different from any other Indie author. Marketing is a nightmare. It’s like trying to find a destination when you have little knowledge of how to get there.

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 this is a bit of a dream but TV dramatisation.  There are many tales that are scripted for the Silver Screen, but due to demands of the sponsors, funding or other constraints, are shortened or changed and not always for the better. Other stories on the other hand would work better as a TV series where over four, six or eight episodes the characters and plot can develop along with the subtleties that appear in written work but often don’t translate to the big screen.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I have to confess, a partially stolen idea.

Way back in 1979, Tony Banks, the keyboard player from Genesis, released a solo album titled A Curious Feeling. I only found out recently but apparently it was loosely based on a short story by American writer Daniel Keyes called Flowers for Algernon. Many of Tony Banks musical creations always had an air of mystery about them, which I love, and I’ve never stopped listening to this album because to me it conveys so much emotion – helped along by a stunning vocalist. I have my own interpretation of A Curious Feeling which for a long time I’ve wondered about turning into a novel, novella or short story. It depends how much of a plot I can make out of it. But the concept would fit nicely into my chosen genre which is psychological mystery with a touch of paranormal.

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 was never much of a traveller and didn’t venture out of the country until our children were older. My wife and I loved the film Shirley Valentine which meant of course our first foreign escape had to be Greece. As for favourite places it would be a toss-up between Corfu and Scotland. Wildly different destinations but each has something unique to offer.

Bucket list? Something involving the natural world. I think the northern lights would be wonderful to behold.

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

I met my wife via a lonely hearts column (way before social media) and went on to marry her taking on a ready-made family of four children and a crazy dog. For eight years before that I lived alone with my cat Smudge.

That’s a fantastic fact! 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 read slowly because I read in bed, and before my kindle hits me on the nose each night I’ve never advanced much from the previous night. This means I only get through a handful of books a year, but my most favourite recent read has to be Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It drew me in from page one and would not let me go. For a tale that touches every emotion it would be my number one.

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For years, rumours of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.

But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved.

When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

I loved this book, it was one of my top ten books of 2020. 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, a large glass of water before bed but failing that a very English fry up the morning after with added caffeine. Hard to imagine but boy does it work.

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

Well, that depends on where I am. At home it would be up early each day to walk the dog in the fresh, crisp, early sunshine when most people are still abed. Then quiet, undemanding days preferably eating each meal outside. The evenings would then involve a glass or two of wine maybe retreating indoors later with some escapist entertainment on TV.

If I were closer to the sea, beachcombing would factor heavily in the above.

Thanks you for joining me, Rob, it has been really good fun.

Rob’s latest book is Broken, book 3 in the Sara Macintyre series. You can buy a copy of the book here. Books One and Two are Song of the Robin and Reunion are available as part of the three book series here.

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Scarred by a tragic past, eleven year old Jamie Walker chooses not to speak.
Consumed with jealous rage, Jimmy Gillespie is driven to violence.
And John Macintyre awakens from a vivid nightmare convinced he is going to kill.
Living high upon the Scottish hills, John and Sarah Macintyre enjoy a serene life until a televised news bulletin sends them on a desperate search for a missing child.
After finding the child and returning him safely to his parents, the Macintyres are approached by the local press, attracting both unexpected and unwanted attention.
But the aftermath of the media coverage changes the course of their lives forever, and events are set in motion that are joyful, heart breaking – and terrifying.

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and eight grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favourite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health National Health Service trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for his first novel was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequels Reunion and Broken, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

You can discover more about Rob and his books via his website and Facebook.

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Blog Tour: The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan #BookReview

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Three women. Three different stages of life. United by one thing: the chance to start again.

When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, the only person she can turn to is her friend, Jo. Soon Jo has called in her daughter, Lucy, to help save Elizabeth from bankruptcy. Leaving her old life behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.

As life slowly begins to return to normal, these three women, thrown together by circumstance, become fast friends. But then Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.

In search of solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish Sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice that will bring the whole community together…

Today, I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan. Huge thanks to Vicky Joss of Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Sometimes you read a book that just makes you want to call all of your girlfriends, get together for a soul-baring evening of gossip, laughter, tears, big hugs all round, and sharing with them a book that has really moved you because it captures everything that is magical, wonderful and life-affirming about female friendship. There has been far too little of that over the past 18 months and it is one of the things I have missed the most throughout the pandemic restrictions. The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is one of those books. Faith Hogan has managed to distil the essence of all that is wonderful about female friendship within its pages.

There is a character in this book for everyone to relate to. Elizabeth, recently widowed, whose life has always looked polished and perfect to the residents of Ballycove, but who is struggling behind closed doors with secrets that blighted her marriage, and more than have come to light since her husband’s death. She is supported throughout, as she always has been, by her generous friend, Jo, but Jo is now bearing a huge burden of her own. Jo’s daughter, Lucy, has come to Ballycove to work out a new path in life after her divorce, but will she be able to find a happy ever after that works for both herself and her unhappy son, Niall? Then there is Dan, who has come to Ballycove searching for a ghost from his past and a new way forward. Somehow, these people find amongst themselves a community and a peace that will see them all through on their different journeys.

This book is soul-warmingly, heart-squeezingly wonderful from beginning to end. From the very start, the stories of each of these women moved me because they were so real and authentic. I absolutely believed every single thing they were going through and all of their responses. The issues that the author addresses in this book – which may not be easy ones for some people to read about because they are so relatable – are something that will have touched each and every one of us in some way or another over the course of our lives, whether directly or through someone we know and we will recognise some of the joy, fear, pain, anguish, love and happiness portrayed here. Faith has really got under the skins of these characters and portrayed what they are going through in a way that communicates every nuance to the reader, so the book carries you along on its tide.

The notion of the Midnight Swimming Club is what will attract a lot of readers to this book, and it plays out exactly the way you hope it would. I adored the scenes involving the women taking to the sea, the feelings the wild swimming evokes in them, the way they talk and share and heal in the water, I believed all of it and was slightly jealous of their experience, even though I know it is fictional. Being able to draw a reader so completely into a world in this way is the skill of a great writer, and the reason we read in the first place. These are the reasons I love Faith’s books.

This is a truly fantastic read for any fans of intelligent and believable women’s fiction. It really moved me, but also left me feeling hopeful and uplifted. If you are a fan of Calendar Girls or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, this book will give you the same warm feelings that you get from those movies, whilst still feeling that you have read something containing real emotional truth and an insight into the challenges women can overcome in their lives with support, love, friendship and hope. A gorgeous book.

The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 13 May, and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to visit some of the other fabulous blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

About the Author

Faith Hogan portrait for inside cover of her book

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women’s fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.

She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

Connect with Faith:

Website: https://faithhogan.com

Facebook: Faith Hogan Author

Twitter: @GerHogan

Instagram: @faithhoganauthor

Blog Tour: The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar #BookReview

A Borrow A Bookshop Holiday

I am always delighted to be on a blog tour for Kiley Dunbar, who has fast become one of my favourite romance authors over the past couple of years, so I’m thrilled to be reviewing her new book, The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday, today. Huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me a place on the tour, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

FINAL COVER AW Bookshop on the Beach

The Fully Booked Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop … for a fortnight.

Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café.

Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary).

Apply to: The Fully Booked Bookshop, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.

Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, so can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack.

Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday – running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks – is non-refundable.

Throwing caution to the winds, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart.

But there’s one problem – six foot tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…

As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from – and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.

Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…

Do you ever get the impression that an author has written their book just for you? That, as they have sat writing at their desk, they are thinking, ‘I wonder what Julie would like to read next? I know!’ and then they immediately start banging away on their laptop, summoning up the words for your perfect book. That’s how I feel when I read Kiley Dunbar’s books – it’s like she has been rummaging around in my brain, picking through all the things I like the most and then pulling out a bunch of stuff and piecing it together to make the perfect novel for me. This is definitely what has happened with The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday. Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

Well firstly, the main character is called Jude. That’s almost my name, she’s just cleverly tweaked a couple of letters to avoid any pesky libel problems, clearly. Kiley’s description of Jude – short, curvy, unconcerned with her appearance – makes me think she has been stalking Facebook pictures of me from the early nineties. She’s got my love of books down to a tee (I am absolutely a person who would take a bagful of their own favourite books to a holiday in a bookshop), and my ideal holiday would be running a bookshop by the sea. I would absolutely love to own a bookshop, it is my dream job, the minute I win the lottery I am going to open one. I have its name, logo, colour of the bags… everything already picked out for when it happens. I can’t think of anything I’d love more than having a practice run (sadly, I don’t have a man who shares the same passion to take with me.)

And whilst we are on the subject of men, let’s talk about Elliot for a minute. Earlier this year I did a Facebook Live with a couple of other bloggers for the RNA (an organisation to which Kiley belongs), during which I clearly described my ideal romantic hero as someone who sounds ALMOST EXACTLY LIKE ELLIOT, right down to the tattoos. Coincidence? I think not. She’s flung everything into this book to tailor it precisely to my tastes, the crafty minx.

Joking aside, whatever your tastes in romantic fiction and literary heroes, you’d be quite hard pushed not to enjoy this gorgeous book. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a summery romance. Relatable heroine? Check. Gorgeous location? Absolutely. I so want Clove Lore to be real and to pay it a visit immediately. It made me think a little bit of St. Ives, one of my favourite places to visit in the UK and the real life location that Kiley has used as a basis for the village is now firmly on my radar for my next visit to that part of the world. Great plot hook? Definitely, let’s refer back to the dream of running your own little bookshop for a couple of weeks, what book lover could resist? Fun and engaging supporting cast? There is a matchmaking ice cream seller, pub-owning double act, twin fishermen, supportive best friend and a cute dog, what more can you ask. And then there is the love interest, who is going to give any hot-blooded soul palpitations.

On top of this, Kiley just has such a warm and engaging writing style, that I always feel like her books are embracing me in a warm hug of love and happiness. She clearly loves her characters and is fully invested in their story and giving them the best outcome. On top of this, I can just tell that she is having a ball writing the story, and this shines through in the finished article. The best writing comes from passion, and Kiley’s passion for this book beams from every page to wash over the reader and include them in the joy. If you don’t come away from this book happy and with a big smile on your face, I’ll eat Aldous’ ratty old jumper.

The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 22 July (I already have my pre-order in!) and you can buy a copy here.

(This seems an opportune place to repeat the plea from my last review for one of Kiley’s books. Dear Hera, can you please bring out a paperback copy of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, it is the only one missing from my shelf!)

If you would like to read some other reviews, or find more great content relating to the book, please do visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Kiley Dunbar author portrait

Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places.

Kiley also works as a senior lecturer, teaching creative writing at the Manchester Writing School. One Winter’s Night is shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.

Connect with Kiley:

Website: http://www.kileydunbar.co.uk/

Facebook: Kiley Dunbar Author

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

Instagram: @kileydunbarromance

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Desert Island Children’s Books: Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

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Next up in my nostalgic romp through my favourite childhood books is one of three books that I used to take out repeatedly from Askern Library in my formative years. I had this book out on loan so often that I doubt any other child in the vicinity had chance to read it. The book is the marvellous Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers.

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When the Banks family advertise for a nanny, Mary Poppins and her talking umbrella appear out of the sky, ready to take the children on extraordinary adventures.

Mary Poppins is strict but fair, and soon Michael and Jane are whisked off to a funfair inside a pavement picture and on many more outings with their wonderful new nanny!

Needless to say, when at last ‘the wind changes’ and she flies away, the children are devastated. But the magic of Mary Poppins will stay with the Banks family forever.

I’m guessing many of you will only know Mary Poppins from the Disney movie and will not have read the original book by P. L. Travers. Whilst I do love the Disney version, Walt’s version of Mary Poppins is a lot more saccharine than the character originally written by Travers. Travers’ literary Mary Poppins is much sterner, much more acerbic and much more vain than the character portrayed by Julie Andrews on screen. One look from the paper version of Poppins and any child, or adult, would be quaking in their boots, and she was extremely quick to take offence. For some reason, this stronger, prickly, complicated character was much more appealing to me as a child, and now still as an adult, than the watered down version we see in the movie.

In addition, Disney appears to have picked out the less exciting escapades the children have than the other ones featured in the book, and taken poetic licence with them too. In the movie – and the blurb above – the children take a trip into a chalk picture and ride the carousel. In the movie, the horses then jump off the carousel and enter a horse race. In the book, only Mary Poppins and Bert jump into the picture, the horses stay firmly attached to the carousel and there are no penguins to be seen in this scene! When the children go to ‘Feed The Birds,’ they don’t bring down their father’s bank, and there is no dancing with sweeps across the London rooftops. I can understand why Disney picked the scenes he did to include, the story in the book is much less linear and does not really form a complete story arc for a movie, but for me, the encounter with Mrs Corry and her giant daughters, and the finale escapade in the nighttime zoo are much more interesting to read. I think my point is, if you think you know Mary Poppins from the movie, you don’t. The literary Mary Poppins is a horse of a different, and much more interesting, colour altogether.

What people also may not be aware of is that Mary Poppins is only the first book in a series. After her initial visit, Mary Poppins returns to the Banks household several times, always arriving by a different method, always taking the children on exciting adventures, before disappearing unexpectedly. I devoured all of the books in the series, and was fascinated by the way the author’s mind worked in coming up with the different stories. Want to take a romp through the constellations? Chat to statues? Find out what Noah’s descendants are up to now? All of these things are described by Travers in the subsequent Mary Poppins books and they are stories that have stayed with me through the years. Although I have not had time yet, I fully intend to revisit the remaining books in the series this year. If you want to know the real Mary Poppins and not the Disney version, you might like to pick them up too.

Mary Poppins is available in a number of different editions but you can buy this one here.

About the Author

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Pamela Lyndon Travers OBE (born Helen Lyndon Goff; 9 August 1899 – 23 April 1996) was an Australian-British writer who spent most of her career in England.[1] She is best known for the Mary Poppins series of children’s books, which feature the magical nanny Mary Poppins.

Goff was born in Maryborough, Queensland, and grew up in the Australian bush before being sent to boarding school in Sydney. Her writing was first published when she was a teenager, and she also worked briefly as a professional Shakespearean actress. Upon immigrating to England at the age of 25, she took the name “Pamela Lyndon Travers” and adopted the pen name “P. L. Travers” in 1933 while writing the first of eight Mary Poppins books.

Travers travelled to New York City during World War II while working for the British Ministry of Information. At that time, Walt Disney contacted her about selling to Walt Disney Productions the rights for a film adaptation of Mary Poppins. After years of contact, which included visits to Travers at her home in London, Walt Disney did obtain the rights and the Mary Poppins film premiered in 1964.

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