Desert Island Books with… Kate G. Smith

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Time to pack another poor, innocent victim off to my tropical islet for a period of enforced isolation (as if we hadn’t had enough of that already, at least it’s warm there!) armed only with five books and one luxury item. Today I am stranding author, Kate Galloway Smith.

Thank you so much, Julie, for having me on your Desert Island Books feature. It’s very tricky to narrow my choice down to five books, especially as I don’t know how long I’m going to be marooned for. I’m hoping it’s a tropical beach with clear sea so I can swim in between reading, I don’t do well in the cold, which is bizarre seeing as I’m of Scottish heritage!

Book One – A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

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Cathy and her brother, Rob, don’t know why they have been abandoned by their parents. Alone in their grandfather’s decaying country house, they roam the wild grounds freely with minds attuned to the rural wilderness. Lost in their own private world, they seek and find new lines to cross.

But as the First World War draws closer, crimes both big and small threaten the delicate refuge they have built. Cathy will do anything to protect their dark Eden from anyone, or anything, that threatens to destroy it.

I remember being given this by my Mum, as an older teen, and being completely captivated by Dunmore’s poetic writing. A Spell of Winter is hauntingly gothic, which I love in a book. It’s also quite dream-like which I think would work well whilst lying on a tropical beach, because it would draw me back to the freezing cold English winters.

Book Two – Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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A plane crashes on a desert island. The only survivors are a group of schoolboys. By day, they discover fantastic wildlife and dazzling beaches, learning to survive; at night, they are haunted by nightmares of a primitive beast.

Orphaned by society, it isn’t long before their innocent childhood games devolve into a savage, murderous hunt …

Perhaps a strange choice for a desert island read, given the content, but I absolutely love this book. I studied it at school for my GCSEs and remember reading it over and over again. It totally blew me away. It’s so full of energy and life, and I just love Ralph (I also loved Balthazar Getty who played Ralph in the film adaptation when I was a young teen!) It may also make me thankful that I’m stranded on my desert island alone!

Book Three – If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

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If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?

Laurie and Jamie have the perfect office romance
(They set the rules via email)

Everyone can see they’re head over heels
(They staged the photos)

This must be true love
(They’re faking it)

When Laurie is dumped by her partner of eighteen years, she’s blindsided. Not only does she feel humiliated, they still have to work together.

So when she gets stuck in the lift with handsome colleague Jamie, they hatch a plan to stage the perfect romance. Revenge will be sweet…

But this fauxmance is about to get complicated. You can’t break your heart in a fake relationship, can you?

Mhairi McFarlane is an author I discovered two years ago, and I have devoured everything she has written since. I have also recently been given an arc copy of her latest book, Last Night, and I can’t wait to start reading it. If I Never Met You is one of my favourites of McFarlane’s; Jaime is a gorgeous love interest and Laurie is so relatable, they’re wonderful together and I love the fake romance trope. I would use this book to escape the island into a funny, perfectly written romcom. 

Book Four – Riders by Jilly Cooper

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Brooding hero Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands even the most difficult horse or woman is charmed, is driven by his loathing of the dashing darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black.

Having pinched each other’s horses and drunk their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences at the Los Angeles Olympics . . .

As a lover of horses and loveable rogues, the Jilly Cooper series was, and still is, a firm favourite of mine. Rupert Campbell-Black is the perfect bad boy who I’m certain would keep me entertained on those long island nights. Riders is such a joy; it’s the perfect mix of funny, exhilarating, sexy, naughty, and swoon worthy. In fact, writing about it here makes me want to go and restart the series again for the umpteenth time, they’re so re-readable.

Book Five – Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

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‘There was something else out on the sea by the rocks – something dark that seemed to lurch out of the waves . . . What could it be?’

Julian, Dick and Anne are spending the holidays with their tomboy cousin George and her dog, Timothy. One day, George takes them to explore nearby Kirrin Island, with its rocky little coast and old ruined castle on the top. Over on the island, they make a thrilling discovery, which leads them deep into the dungeons of Kirrin Castle on a dangerous adventure. Who – and what – will they find there? 

Finally, another island, I’m sensing a theme! My love of reading started very young, and I have my parents to thank for that. I used to get through Enid Blyton books at a speed, and I was always a Famous Five fan, none of this Secret Seven nonsense! I used to want to be George but was always a real-life Anne. Reading the Famous Five books gave me a sense of adventure and made me think that anything was possible. We’d go on holidays to the Lakes and I’d adventure with my brother and cousins and pretend to be fighting thieves and smugglers with a make-believe dog our side. I think taking this on my desert island with me would reignite some of that adventurous spirit that I’d need to build a camp and explore the terrain. 

My luxury item

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I really feel like I should pick something sensible here, like a pen knife or a multi-tool, so I can build a shelter and forage confidently. But I think I’d actually take a notepad and pen (if they can count as one item?) because just imagine the stories that might come to mind in such a wonderful setting.

About Kate Galloway Smith

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Kate Galloway Smith is a writer, editor, and an HCPC registered Occupational Therapist.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Kate can be found writing romantic comedies in Norwich, where she lives with her daughter and their cat and an increasing number of house plants.

Kate’s debut book, You’ve Got Mail, was published on 8 February. It’s the story of Grace Wharton who receives an email dumping her from a relationship she’s not even in. Kate is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and You’ve Got Mail went through their New Writer’s Scheme. The association and the help they give writers has been life-changing for her. She has not only realised her dreams of being a published author, she has also made so many incredible friends. If you’re a writer of romance, she’d highly recommend checking them out.

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It’s been fun, but I think we should stop seeing each other. Thanks for a great laugh x

When Grace Wharton is dumped by email from a relationship she isn’t even in, she adds it to the list of ways her life hasn’t quite panned out: twenty-five, single, and working a dead-end job she doesn’t enjoy. She fires off an angry response to Mr Obnoxious – how dare he try to dump someone over email?! – knowing that telling off a random stranger online means she has reached an all-time low.

Everything changes when her boss asks her to go to a big sales conference to secure an important client. Her partner is Jack Lockett, company Casanova and Grace’s long-time crush. What’s more, he seems very interested… But Mr Obnoxious keeps sending her emails and Grace keeps replying. Only to make sure he doesn’t send any more heart-breaking emails, obviously.

Grace’s life has suddenly gone from stagnant to brimming with possibilities. But is it all too good to be true?

You can buy a copy of You’ve Got Mail here.

Connect with Kate:

Website: https://www.kategallowaysmith.com/

Facebook: Kate Galloway Smith

Twitter: @WritingItToday

Instagram: @writingittoday

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sandy Barker

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Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by the author of one of my favourite festive books of 2020, fellow RNA member… Sandy Barker.

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

This is a little concoction my brother-in-law dubbed ‘The Sanderella’ with tequila, Aperol, grapefruit juice, fresh lime, bitters, and a spritz of sparkling water – delicious!

That sounds lovely, could you mix me one too, please? If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

We’re spoiled for choice in Melbourne, but first we’d go for drinks at Eau de Vie, a fantastic speakeasy in the heart of the city, styled like one from the 30s, right down to the décor and how the staff are dressed. They have these incredibly innovative cocktails and the largest collection of by-the-glass whiskey in the city. Then we’d head to Movida, a Spanish restaurant where everything on the menu is share plates, and the food is sublime – including a bottle of Spain’s finest red! Then we’d head to the National Gallery of Victoria for a live musical performance, some art after dark, and some brilliant Aussie wine!

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?

Caitriona Balfe – she is one of my fave actors and seems like she’d be brilliant fun – and Henry Cavill – for his formidable mind 😉

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 am just putting the finishing touches on a stand-alone novel set in the world of reality television. It came about because last year, when we were in the midst of our very strict lockdown here in Melbourne, a colleague created a sweepstakes for the latest season of The Bachelor. For fun, I wrote sarky episode recaps for my colleagues. I mentioned them to an author friend and we started brainstorming a book idea. My main character is the woman who writes the recaps of The Stag for an online magazine and she may just get invited onto the show as a contestant… you will just have to wait and see!

That sounds fun! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest (and most surreal) moment was holding my first book, One Summer In Santorini, in my hands in June 2019. Second proudest was handing copies of my 4 book, The Christmas Swap, to my parents, who I dedicated it to.

My first book

The biggest challenge has been keeping up this cracking pace. Until recently, I worked full-time (now down to 4 days a week), and in 2019 and 2020 over 16 months, I had 4 books published. I have also written 2 more and have planned the next 2 after that. But this is what I love and, eventually, I plan to write full-time.

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 look forward to the day when I am a full-time author – hoping that will be sometime next year – and I would love to sell one or more of my books to a filmmaker. I see the stories filmically as I write, and I think any one of them would be great on screen.

What have planned that you are really excited about?

I am particularly excited about the stand-alone I am working on – I think readers will love it, she’s such a fun character to write. And I am also excited about the next books in The Holiday Romance series – 1 written and 1 planned. And I think there’s another Christmas book in the pipeline too.

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?

Fave place? Goodness, that is hard.

We lived in Bali for 2 months in 2018 and I loved it so much, I set the next book in the series there – I’d go back and live there in a heartbeat.

I also love Greece – that’s where my partner and I met and we went back to the Cyclades Islands for our ten year anniversary on another sailing trip.

New Zealand will always be a favourite destination – we’ve been 3 times and it is most likely that Aussies will be able to travel there sometime this year.

And I would LOVE to live in Tuscany – perhaps for a few months to mark my next milestone birthday.

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

I auditioned for Australian Survivor in 2001 and was selected as an alternate. If any of the 8 women on the show had stepped down, I would have been on it. But alas …

Wow, that would have been a cool thing to have done, I used to love watching that show. Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is one of the best books I’ve ever read, if not the best book. It haunted me for months after I finished it.

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Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart.

Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld.

As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

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

I try to avoid a hangover by drinking water all through the night (which we’ve done – you’re welcome 😉) and taking a Vitamin B tablet before bed. If it’s been a particularly big night, I’ll have a banana or a glass of milk too.

If I fail in this endeavour, lots of tea the next day – tea, tea and more tea and some headache tablets. When I’m feeling marginally better, I’ll jump on my spin bike and sweat it out.

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

Reading, watching movies, drinking wine, calling family and friends – or even a day trip out to some wineries or to the coast for lunch.

Sandy’s is the author of three books in the Holiday Romance series, One Summer in Santorini, That Night in Paris and A Sunset in Sydney.

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Sandy’s latest book is The Christmas Swap, a Christmas romance set across three continents. You can read my review of the book here (hint: I loved it), and buy a copy here.

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Will all three women have their Christmas wishes come true?

Christmas is coming and best friends ChloeJules, and Lucy are needing change… so swapping homes for the holidays could be the perfect present for all of them!

Australian Chloe spends her Christmas in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England. She is totally star-struck when she discovers who lives across the road.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend her Christmas on a beach with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away is just what she needed.

Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.

She lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins. This was followed by two more books in the series, with two to come! The Christmas Swap, Sandy’s fourth novel, was released in 2020 and celebrates her favourite time of year, and she is currently working on a stand-alone romcom set in the world of reality television.

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

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Book Review: Starstruck by Emma Bennet

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When newly divorced Kate finds school friend, now super famous rock star Joseph Wild, on her doorstep, her whole quiet, ordinary life is thrown into disarray.

Joseph has broken up with glamorous actress Genevieve Moore, and needs somewhere to retreat to until the paparazzi interest in his marriage calms down. Kate agrees to help him out and drawn to his simple, self-effacing charm, soon finds herself falling in love.

But can she cope with the problems a relationship with such a high profile celebrity brings? What happens when he jets back to his regular life of stardom in L.A.?

And how will Genevieve react when she finds out Joseph has moved on? She can’t possibly allow anything to sully her ever-so carefully crafted public image.

Falling in love with a rock star is tougher than you’d think…

My thanks to Emma Bennet for inviting me to review her novel Starstruck and providing me with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I thoroughly enjoyed this gentle and charming romance by Emma Bennet. It took me by surprise, actually, because it was very different to what I was expecting having read the blurb. I thought it would be big, glitzy and full of drama, given the pop star angle (plus I was coming to it straight from Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake, so I was kind of in that zone), but it snuck up on me with it’s down-to-earth plot and subtle charms. It was actually just what I needed as a breath between a lot of very dark and dramatic storytelling and I was hooked from very early on. I fairly raced through it and, by the end, I was totally in love with all of the characters and ready for them to get a happy ending.

Our main protagonist is Kate, a newly-divorced, single parent who has settled into a happy routine with her son, managing her holiday properties and maintaining a good relationship with her ex-husband. When she reads about the marriage break up of her old school friend, Joseph Wild, who has become a famous pop star, something makes her reach out the hand of friendship to him. However, she is unprepared for the feelings he will arouse in her, or the disruption he will bring to her quiet life.

Kate is a sympathetic and believable character that I identified with from the start. As a single parent myself, who has juggled a personal life with bringing up young children and trying to protect them, she might be the closest character I have come across to what I went through in real life and I really felt that Emma has captured the tumult of emotions and worries you go through in that scenario. It has been a while since I so strongly related to a protagonist in a novel and I felt everything she was feeling. Her relationship with her son, her mother and her ex-husband all rang true to me.

Joseph is a great romantic foil for Kate although, not having met any world-famous pop stars myself, I can’t say how realistic he is as a character. I suspect few of them are as self-effacing as Joseph, but I loved him anyway and anyone more brash and arrogant would not have attracted the quiet and gentle Kate. The development of their relationship is fabulous to read. The tension and conflict in the book is very personal and low-key, not huge dramatics and fireworks and, for me, that made it all the more authentic. Despite the fact the book involves a pop star and actress, the book reminds us that, in the end, they are just people with a lot of the same feelings, problems and cares as the rest of us, especially when it comes to relationships and family matters.

This book unexpectedly wormed its way under my skin, gave me great pleasure while I was reading it and left me with a warm afterglow. A really rewarding read. Plus, cool cover!

Starstruck is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Emma grew up and lived in London, before falling in love and moving to Wales to marry her own hero. Emma now lives with her husband, for children, and many animals a few miles outside of a small Welsh market town. She can often be found in rivers attempting to control two overexcited chocolate labradors.

Six charming romances are currently available from the Amazon bestselling authoress:

Number 1 Australian kindle bestseller, ‘His Secret Daughter’, is the heart-rending story of Iris, a woman falling in love with the father of her child. The only problem is she never told him they had a daughter.

The beautiful landscape around her home gave Emma the inspiration for ‘The Green Hills of Home’, a tale of love and duty in which country girl Gwen struggles to save her family home and avoid her feelings for her handsome, suave new boss. Is he quite all he seems?

‘Snowed in for her Wedding Day’ is a novella picking up Gwen’s story as her wedding day approaches, but with terrible weather, and an absent groom, will she have the happy ending she so deserves?

‘Just Desserts’ is a novella about confused chef Leah, who’s falling for her handsome French co-worker Jean-Claude, but meant to be marrying to Dan in just a few weeks! Who will she choose?

‘Her Perfect Hero’ was released in July 2015 as ‘I Need a Hero’, it’s a lovely comic romantic read for anyone who’s ever searched for Mr Right (and failed to find him!). Despair of Bronte, a romance writer, incapable of spotting when the perfect man is right next door! Full of horses, country houses and dentists, just beware of the foul-tempered cat Mr Darcy!

New release, ‘Starstruck’, proves that falling in love with a rock star is harder than you’d think! When newly divorced Kate finds school friend, now super famous rock star Joseph Wild, on her doorstep, her whole quiet, ordinary life is thrown into disarray. Is the attraction between them enough to make up for all the hurdles they have to cross if they want to be together?

Emma likes (in no particular order): cake, books, Cary Grant films, prosecco, chocolate, guinea pigs, knitting, quilting and happily ever afters!

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://www.emma-bennet.co.uk/

Facebook: Emma Bennet

Twitter: @romanceemma

Instagram: @romanceemma

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Mary B. Moore

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Today I have another edition of Romancing The Romance Authors, where I chat all things romance and romance writing with an author in the genre and this week I am grilling Mary B. Moore.

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

I mainly write romantic suspense and romantic comedy books, but there have been some exceptions to the rule. April 5 will be my fifth anniversary since I published my first books, and I’m trying to remember how many books I’ve published?! I think it’s 27 or 28 now. There are so many more planned, too.

Why romance?

I grew up with romance books around me, whether it was the Sweet Valley Twins/High series’ or Mum’s Harlequin novels. There’s something soothing about reading them, even when the drama and tensions are high in them, and closing it after the last page and the characters having a happily ever after together. Being able to create my own characters, giving them their own books and worlds, is the most amazing feeling for me.

What inspires your stories?

A variety of things. I’m the daughter of retired diplomats, but I grew up in places like Damascus, Angola (during the civil war), Indonesia, Jamaica and Panama, so a lot of that does come into it. My family and friends also tend to inspire my characters (I swear I have zero sanity around me). Sometimes it can even be a news story that I’ve read. I come from an “eclectic” family who tends to have more laughter than tears, so I decided to approach serious subjects in my plots by adding humour to them. Life’s serious as it is, sometimes having something that makes you laugh or smile makes it a bit easier.

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

Oh, there are a lot of them. Sylvia Day is a big one. I still haven’t read book 5 in the Crossfire Series because I don’t want to accept it’s over. Kristen Ashley is another one. I have friends who are romance authors and their books are my go to books for when I need to unwind: CP Smith, Elena M. Reyes and C.M. Steele. I’m familiar with their styles and their plots are always what I need. Aurora Rose Reynolds, Kristen Ashley, K. Bromberg, Terri Anne Browning, Melody Anne… there’s so many.

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

Definitely the first book in Sylvia Day’s Crossfire Series, Bared To You. It’s impossible to put down and you’ll jump straight into the next book. It’s just so perfectly done. I swear no man will ever be able to live up to the awesomeness of Gideon Cross.

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Our journey began in fire . . .

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness – beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white hot. I was drawn to him as I’d never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily . . .

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private wounds . . . and desires.

The bonds of his love transformed me, even as I prayed that the torment of our pasts didn’t tear us apart . . .

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’m sure it’ll be no surprise when I say Gideon Cross from the Crossfire Series. I’d probably take him to a beach in Indonesia and just enjoy being back there with him and showing him around. Maybe we could go to Port Royal in Jamaica? Either or, I’m not fussy. If I got to spend a weekend with Gideon, I’d let him choose where and just enjoy the heck out of it.

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

I love being a member. I love the diversity that I’ve come across in the organisation, including the DISCO chapter for disabled authors. With a huge percentage of authors and the market being in the USA, it’s been great to meet other British authors and have the support, advice and information from the organisation that we get.

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

Do it. It’s easy to get disheartened or to be scared, but your words are just as good as someone with fifty books under their name. Just do it! Obviously do it properly, but don’t be put off from letting your words out into the world.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel is called Eat Crow, and it’s Book 6 in my Cheap Thrills series. I’ve got three series that are based in Texas (I come from a large American family even though we’re Brits) and I have a huge amount of love for the state. Granted my family are from New Jersey, but I have fond memories of Texas and places like Gonzales County.

Anyway, the Cheap Thrills Series is predominantly about the police department that I started outlining in 2016, and the latest book is about a deputy called Logan and his childhood best friend called Bexley (Bexley Heath—it has a nice London link in it). He said something when they were younger that split the friendship up, but when she comes back for her grandad’s funeral, he’s the one who helps her through the loss.

I love second chance, small town romances, and the connection the two characters have has been fabulous to write.

Eat Crow will be released on Kindle on 26 February and you can pre-order it here.

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Logan

I made a mistake seven years ago and opened my mouth, letting words fly out of it that I didn’t mean. I said something about the one person I never wanted to hurt and lost my best friend. Now she’s back and needs help her with her loss, and I’m going to be the best rock in the history of rocks and make it right between us again.

I’d do anything to get Bexley Heath back in my life, even if it means helping out with her dog, who hates me and loves to destroy everything around him.

Time doesn’t kill love. Neither does a giant Irish Wolfhound eating my favorite chair.

Bexley

I’d successfully avoided Logan Richards for seven years, but somehow losing my grandpa brought him back into my life. Perhaps Papa was right when he said in his last letter that it was time to get over it and just let it go. Life’s too short, and forgiveness is divine, right?

He’s my anchor when I need it and my tissues when I cry. But that doesn’t mean I can’t reward my dog for causing him grief and destroying some of his furniture, though, does it? To heck with it, good Doyle.

About the Author

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I’m a British author who grew up all over the world. My parents were diplomats, so we were posted to all of the corners of the earth and it was a blast. Some wouldn’t seem so awesome if you heard about them, but my parents always made it a fun experience and it moulded my brother and I into who we are today.

I live in Wiltshire in the west country of the UK. At random times of the day, I’ll hear a moo from the fields around me, or get a whiff of that…uhhh…’country air’, and I love it! I might not have grown up in the UK, but I’m a British girl to the bone (regardless of the suspicious whiffs coming in from the fields).

I’m a single mother with a son who is nearing his teenage phase. Maybe he’s reached it early? Who knows. But he’s awesome and has a personality and sense of humour that I can only attribute to my family. We’re slightly bonkers, we have a wicked sense of humour and we find the positives in every situation. I’m so proud to be his mum and to watch him grow and mature.

Writing was something that I’d always done. I had a teacher in the third grade who always set us the task of writing a story and making it into a book every weekend. After I left school, I kept this up and wrote as often as I could or just plotted out books. This evolved into me taking the plunge and publishing my first book in 2016 and I’ve been typing ever since.

I’m proud to be an Indie Author, and I absolutely love writing out my crazy Providence characters and the more complex ones in my other series’. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic comedy or something with more suspense – so long as it has a HEA I’ll do it!

Connect with Mary:

Website: https://www.marybmoorebooks.com/

Facebook: Mary B Moore

Twitter: @mary_bmoore

Instagram: @mooremaryb

Facebook Readers’ Group: 50 Shades of Neigh

Newsletter: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/5f76283ae3a4a1ac190b037f

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Friday Night Drinks with… Caroline James

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It’s the start of half-term week here in the Book Problem household which means a break from homeschooling for myself and the offspring, so we are all in fiesta mood! It is also The Irishman’s birthday (I won’t reveal his age), so even more excuse for a celebratory beverage and I am delighted to be joined for a tipple tonight by author… Caroline James.

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Welcome to the blog Caroline, you’ve found us in party mood here tonight so thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Good evening Julie, how great to be here. My tipple of choice is Boodles Mulberry gin with Fever Tree tonic, and a sprinkling of fresh raspberries and crushed ice.

Boodles gin and tonic

Sounds delicious, I will join you if I may. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I’d take you to pretty Kinsale, a fishing port, known as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland, to their annual food festival which takes place every October. We’d start in Acton’s hotel for a cocktail then join in with the craic and shenanigans at the many wonderful pubs in the town. During the evening we’d grab a bite to eat at Fishy Fishy – one of the gorgeous restaurants in the Kinsale Good Food Circle and end up listening to live music at The White House Hotel, in the heart of the town.

Kinsale in Southern Ireland

Fabulous, I absolutely love Ireland but haven’t managed to visit Kinsale yet. 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?

Without question it would be the eponymous celebrity chef, the late but great, Keith Floyd or Floydy as he was known. For many years I was a media agent representing many celebrity chefs and Floyd was much loved in the business. Floydy loved to drink and have fun and adored Kinsale so much that he made his home there for many years. We’d also invite Lady Gaga and slide into her flamboyant slip stream, indulging in conversation with the multitude of admirers who’d beg to join our party.

That would be some combo! 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 started writing nine years ago having decided that if I didn’t glue my rear to a chair and get typing, I would die wondering if I could ever have published a novel. Unable to find a publisher initially, I self-published my first book and was astonished when it went to number three in women’s fiction on Amazon. I have had several best-sellers on Amazon since then.

I’m currently writing my eighth book and my road to fulfilling my writing dream has been a roller coaster. Being both self-published and traditionally published I’ve learnt so much during these years and today I help run a business that mentors aspiring authors, www.thepublishhub.com  Writing gives me a purpose and sense of well-being to know that my books bringing pleasure to current and new readers.

Gluing my rear to the chair is an approach I definitely need to adopt! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I think writing about older protagonists has been my proudest moment as so many middle-aged and above readers tell me how much my books inspire and make them feel-good about themselves. The Best Boomerville Hotel is a retreat where mature guests get up to all sorts of capers and this is followed by Boomerville at Ballymegille where the mischief continues at a new venue in Southern Ireland. The challenge is to write more Boomerville books and keep them as fresh, funny and feel-good as the first.

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!

To see a Netflix series of Boomerville at Ballymegille and have viewers fall in love with my characters and share some of the crazy experiences they get up to.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

It’s very difficult to plan anything in this current pandemic and priorities change. What mattered so much a year ago now seems unimportant and the only thing that matters to me is being with my precious family once again and having them close, healthy and happy.

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

I’ve been lucky in that I have travelled quite a bit in my life but there are always places that I dream of going to. India is on my bucket list, as is Nepal. I like to trek and have trekked in some exotic locations and Nepal is certainly on my hit list. Closer to home, as soon as we are able, my hubby and I will be pointing the car north and heading to Scotland to do the North Coast 500, which is a route of just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery in the far north of Scotland. I love the highlands of Scotland and can’t wait to do this.

The Irishman is quite keen to do the North Coast 500 too, and I will happily go along as I adore Scotland. I have just made the request to do a small detour to visit Plockton and the Kyle of Lochalsh so I can visit the home of Hamish MacBeth!

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

I love wild water swimming.

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

My feel-good book of 2020 was Saving Missy by Beth Morrey. I listened to this on audio and thought it totally absorbing and engaging and didn’t want it to end.

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Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.

Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.

Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

I have a copy of this lurking on the TBR! 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?

Having grown up on the Cheshire/Staffordshire border, a staple in our diet were Staffordshire oatcakes and at the weekend, should my sisters and I have over indulged, a grilled oatcake with cheddar cheese was a fool-proof cure for any hangover. I still eat them whenever I can.

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

Walking. Getting the hiking boots on. Taking Fred, our westie, along too. Fresh air, open spaces, lovely views – what could be better?

Caroline, thank you so much for joining me tonight, it has been an absolute pleasure to chat to you.

Caroline’s latest book is Boomerville at Ballymegille and you can buy a copy here.

Boomerville at Ballymegille cover

Join Hattie and Jo as they head to Southern Ireland to open Boomerville Manor, a holiday retreat for guests of ‘a certain age’. There’s Irish craic and shenanigans aplenty for the colourful cast of characters as everyone gathers for the grand opening.

Meet Melissa, an ex-cabaret singer running from her abusive husband, and Bill, a bachelor bullied from beyond the grave by the ghostly voice of his mother. Along with local bobby Harry the Helmet, ageing aquatic team the Boomerville Babes, eccentric artist Lucinda Gray, and heartthrob Finbar Murphy, they gather in Ireland and the fun begins. But murder is in the air and there’s mischief afoot. Will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?

Set in the beautiful Irish countryside, Boomerville at Ballymegille is a heart-warming story of friendship, fears and new beginnings.

Best-selling author of women’s fiction, Caroline James has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that often features in her novels. She is based in the UK but has a great fondness for travel and escapes whenever she can. A public speaker, which includes talks and lectures on cruise ships world-wide, Caroline is also a consultant and food writer. She is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association, ARRA, the Society of Women’s Writer’s & Journalists and the Society of Authors and writes articles and short stories, contributing to many publications. Caroline also runs writing workshops. In her spare time Caroline can be found walking up a mountain with Fred her Westie, or sipping raspberry gin with her head in a book and hand in a box of chocolates.

Caroline is the author of Hattie Goes to Hollywood, Boomerville at Ballymegille, The Best Boomerville HotelCoffee Tea the Gypsy & MeCoffee Tea the Chef & MeCoffee Tea the Caribbean & Me, and Jungle Rock.

You can find out more about Caroline and her writing on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Desert Island Books with… Lizzie Lamb

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Today’s literary castaway, stranded on a deserted beach with only five books and one luxury item to keep her company, is author, Lizzie Lamb. Let’s see what she has chosen from all the books even written as the ones she would like to be stuck with indefinitely, shall we?

Book One – Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

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Hero Wantage is desperate to change her fate.

When the dashing Lord Sherry proposes out of the blue, Hero is overjoyed – she’ll escape a life as a governess and, once they wed, he can finally claim his inheritance.

But as Hero attempts to social climb in glamorous London society, Sherry is concerned that her naivety will ruin them both and takes drastic action.

The chaos that follows will push friendships – and hearts – to breaking point.

Before Pride and Prejudice hit our screens, Georgette Heyer was my go-to author for Regency romances. I bought my copy of Friday’s Child for 3/6 (17p) back in 1965 and it was passed round the sixth form as we laughed at the antics of the characters and relived their adventures. The characters and historical background of ‘the ton’ and the slang which Heyer has down to a tee are what make the novel for me. Especially Ferdy who believes he is being stalked by a Greek because he’s told that one day he will ‘meet his ‘Nemesis’. Also, who could resist unsophisticated Hero Wantage who agrees to enter a marriage of convenience with Regency Buck Lord Sheringham whom she’s secretly loved all her life. And, as is the way with these things, she reforms him and don’t they say reformed rakes make the best husbands? I used to re-read this book when I was feeling down or recovering from the flu etc. so it’s practically falling apart. I could buy a new copy, but where’s the fun in that? I’ve never tired of it so I guess it belongs on my desert island with me. Through its pages I can dance a cotillion, ride in a curricle accompanied by my Tiger and become the toast of the Bath.

Quite simply – Bridgerton, without the sex.

Book Two – Emily by Jilly Cooper 

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If Emily hadn’t gone to Annie Richmond’s party, she would never have met the impossible irresistible Rory Balniel – never have married him and been carried off to the wild Scottish island of Irasa to live in his ancestral home along with his eccentric mother, Coco, and the dog, Walter Scott.

She’d never have met the wild and mysterious Marina, a wraith from Rory’s past, nor her brother, the disagreeable Finn Maclean; never have spent a night in a haunted highland castle, or been caught stealing roses in a see-through nightie…

Yes, it all started at Annie Richmond’s party.

As a writer of romantic comedy, how could I leave Jilly Cooper behind on the sinking ship? Just as I’d finished reading all the Georgette Heyers and ploughed my way through historical novels thick enough to be used as doorstops, I discovered Jilly. Emily was her first romance and, back in the day before Amazon was a blot on the horizon, word of it spread via my book-devouring besties. As a newlywed, impoverished probationary teacher trying to renovate a wreck of a house after of a long day at the chalk face I needed light relief. Jilly provided just that. She described a world of fashionable parties in Chelsea, wild Scottish islands, highland estates, hasty marriages to impossible, irresistible heroes, glamorous ex-girlfriends determined to break up Emily and her new husband Rory Balniel. There’s plenty of hilarious escapades and Jilly’s delicious puns to keep me  turning the pages. There’s even a serpent in Eden in the form of Finn Maclean who threatens to wreck Emily’s happiness. The icing on the cake? I met Jilly three years ago at an RNA party and she was everything I hoped she’d be. She kissed me, called me Darling Lizzie and thanked ME for buying her books and remaining a loyal fan over the years. She’s the ideal companion for a desert island but if I can’t take her, I’ll take Emily along instead.

Book Three – Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson

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Our neighbours divide into the haves … and the have yachts.

Meet Mimi and Clare, two married women making the most of their Notting Hill postcode. New best friends, and close neighbours, that doesn’t stop them being rivals, in fact it compels it. Both are aspiring Notting Hill Mummies (Clare needs the baby, Mimi needs the six figure income) and, keeping up with all the area’s fads, fashions and fabulousness is a full-time job.

But the arrival of sexy billionaire Si in their exclusive communal garden strains loyalty to friends, family, spouse and feng-shui guru alike … and only one of them can win.

But who will that be? Clare or Mimi? Are they friends, or just…neighbours?

I adored the movie Notting Hill (1999) so when Rachel Johnson wrote Notting Hell I bought it straight away. It bridged the gap between one Jilly Cooper bonk buster and the next and, inadvertently, provided me with the inspiration for the opening scenes of my rom com – Tall, Dark and Kilted. The novel gave me an insight into the lives of those who shared upmarket communal gardens surrounded by three story houses in sugar almond colours. For that alone I’m taking it along with me to my desert island. In 2006, the year I took early retirement from teaching to concentrate on my writing, I bought a ticket which permitted me to enter the private Notting Hill gardens (including the one where the movie was filmed) and provided me with invaluable research material. There’s also a twist in the tail which I’ll pretend I don’t see coming. As for the novel, I’ve forgotten most of the shenanigans so it’ll be fun to reacquaint myself with Yummy Mummies, high achievers who shopped in Westbourne Road, midnight rendezvous in the bosky gardens, and the secrets the residents are hiding behind their shuttered windows. I’d love another chance to look round those gardens . . . maybe I will once I’ve been rescued from my desert island.

Book Four – Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford 

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The Mitford family is one of the century’s most enigmatic, made notorious by Nancy’s novels, Diana’s marriage to Sir Oswald Mosley, Unity’s infatuation with Hitler, Debo’s marriage to a duke and Jessica’s passionate commitment to communism.

Hons and Rebels is an enchanting and deeply absorbing memoir of an isolated and eccentric upbringing which conceals beneath its witty, light-hearted surface much wisdom and depth of feeling.

I was first attracted to this novel because I’d read about the Mitford sisters: Nancy, Deborah, Diana, Unity, Pamela and Jessica and their brother Tom in a Sunday Times colour supplement and was intrigued to learn more about the eccentric family. Jessica’s sisters (Diana and Unity) and her parents supported Hitler, Diana and her husband Oswald Mosley were gaoled for their support of the fascist cause while Jessica married her cousin Esmond, fought in the Spanish Civil War, joined the communist party and went to live in America. But Hons and Rebels it isn’t a heavy political treatise, it tells the story of a vanished way of life and reads less like an autobiography and more like a family saga. When I read it on my desert island I’ll be whisked away from the South Seas (that’s where I choose to be shipwrecked) to the misty Cotswolds, an ancient manor house, quaint towns and villages and experience once again the feeling of standing on the threshold of time (1939) aware of what lay ahead, even if the Mitfords didn’t.

Book Five – The Flight of the Heron (Trilogy) by D.K. Broster

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It is 1745, and the Jacobite rebellion is on the rise.

Ewen Cameron, a principled young Scottish Highlander, is destined and honoured to serve Bonnie Prince Charlie, the young Pretender, and to help the ‘rightful King’ ascend to the British throne.

Major Keith Windham is a career soldier with the English Army – seemingly the antithesis of Ewen. He is jaded, worldly and loyal to the Crown but, ultimately, an outsider.

Their fates are linked inextricably when a highland prophecy tells Ewen that the flight of a heron will predict five meetings with an Englishman who will cause him much harm but also render a great service.     

Ewen is sceptical, but the prophecy proves true when he meets Englishman Keith Windham – and a gripping tale of adventure, danger and true and lasting friendship is set into motion.

Both are men who are willing to die for their honour and their beliefs. Each is on an opposing side. But who will emerge the victor?

My last choice is a bit of a cheat because it’s part of a trilogy: The Flight of the Heron, The Gleam in the North and The Dark Mile. It is the haunting, romantic story of the men and women who, in 1745, joined Bonnie Prince Charlie after he raised his standard at Glenfinnan. A few years ago I visited Glenfinnan and looked towards the valley now spanned by the famous Harry Potter Bridge (aka the Glenfinnan viaduct) where  in 1745 Cameron of Locheil led five hundred clansmen through the valley, pipes playing and banners waving to pledge themselves to the Jacobite cause. In many way the book was a forerunner for Highlander, Braveheart and Outlander, but in my opinion it surpasses them all in depth and historical scope. It was also the first time I’d encountered Scots Gaelic and I learned some of the phrases by heart.  My copy has nine-hundred-and-fifty-five pages, so I won’t be stuck for reading material. There’s also a romance running through the trilogy, as does the unlikely friendship between Ewan Cameron and Major Wyndham, an officer in King George’s army. 

The books I’ve chosen show my love of history, comedy, romance and an interest in worlds/times other than my own. When I left teaching everyone thought I would write children’s books. Not so . . . However –  my latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling, published November 2020 features a headmistress who . . .Well, I’ll let the blurb do the talking for me.

My luxury item

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Finally, I would take a machete with me to build shelter, fend off wild animals and make myself clothes out of large (!) flat leaves of plants I find growing in the jungle.

About Lizzie Lamb

Lizzie Lamb

After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided to pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed by Boot Camp Bride. She went on to publish Scotch on the Rocks, which achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon and her next novel, Girl in the Castle, reached #3 in the Amazon charts. Lizzie is a founder member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press, and has hosted author events at Aspinall, St Pancras and Waterstones, Kensington, talking about the research which underpins her novels. Lizzie romance Take Me, I’m Yours, set in Wisconsin, also achieved BEST SELLER status >travel>USA. Her latest novel – Harper’s Highland Fling – has been declared her ‘best one yet’ by readers and reviewers. In it, two warring guardians are forced to join forces and set off in hot pursuit of a runaway niece and son. She has further Scottish-themed romances planned and spends most of the summer touring the Scottish Highlands researching men in kilts. As for the years she spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste as she is building a reputation as a go-to speaker on indie publishing, and how to plan, write, and publish your debut novel.

Lizzie lives in Leicestershire (UK) with her husband, David.

She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch . . .

You can read an extract of Lizzie’s latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling here and the book is available in ebook and paperback format here.

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After a gruelling academic year, head teacher Harper MacDonald is looking forward to a summer holiday trekking in Nepal.

However, her plans are scuppered when wayward niece, Ariel, leaves a note announcing that she’s running away with a boy called Pen. The only clue to their whereabouts is a footnote: I’ll be in Scotland.

Cue a case of mistaken identity when Harper confronts the boy’s father – Rocco Penhaligon, and accuses him of cradle snatching her niece and ruining her future. At loggerheads, Harper and Rocco set off in hot pursuit of the teenagers, but the canny youngsters are always one step ahead. And, in a neat twist, it is the adults who end up in trouble, not the savvy teenagers.

Fasten your seatbelt for the road trip of your life! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Connect with Lizzie:

Website: https://lizzielamb.co.uk/

Facebook: Lizzie Lamb Writer

Twitter: @lizzie_lamb

Instagram: @lizzielambwriter

Pinterest: Lizzie Lamb

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Spotlight: Forty Paces East by Sheila M. Bearman

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The day is bright and shining as Daisy arrives in North Cyprus to research her book about the 1964 Cypriot war. Amidst the bustle of the picturesque Kyrenia Harbour, she is unexpectedly approached by a charismatic man and his handsome son who go on to offer the use of a writing retreat in the hills of Bellapais. Never one to turn down an adventure, she agrees willingly to the offer by the charismatic Osman Bilekler and his son Hasan.

As work on her book progresses, she meets ex-solder Namik in the local village and immediately forms a bond with him. However, even as they smile at each other,Daisy has no idea that the topic of her book and her current reality are about to collide.

For the Bileklers are hiding a dark secret and Namik’s family lie at the heart of it. Has she made a mistake becoming involved with Namik, and are their lives in danger?

The third in my spotlight series of new books recently published by Matador Books, we have Forty Paces East by Sheila M. Bearman. I love a book that takes me away to a foreign land, and if it can teach me a bit about history at the same time, all the better. This sounds like something I would enjoy reading.

Forty Paces East by Sheila M. Bearman is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Born in South London, Sheila M Bearman has always loved writing and has been a member of creative writing groups and had short stories published.
 
Now retired, she spent 6 weeks researching Forty Places East in Cyprus, falling in love with the country and the people along the way.
 
She lives in Uckfield, East Sussex.
 
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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Penny Hampson

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Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author Penny Hampson, to share her thoughts on writing romance with us.

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

Hi Julie, thank you so much for inviting me here.

I came to writing quite late in life, so I feel like I am just catching up. As a historian, I’m an avid reader of stories set in the past, so when it came to writing my own, they too had to have a historical setting. Because I’m a lover of all things Georgian and Regency, my historical stories are set in the early 1800s.

At the very beginning of my writing journey I joined the New Writers’s Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and this meant that I received invaluable feedback and advice on my work.

My three historical books are all self-published and they form my Gentlemen Series. A Gentleman’s Promise, my debut novel, is currently being re-edited and it will be re-released early in 2021. An Officer’s Vow and A Bachelor’s Pledge are the next books in the series, though each can be read as a standalone. There are also at least a couple more stories to come.

My first contemporary novel, The Unquiet Spirit, was published by Darkstroke earlier this year. Writing this was a bit of a departure for me, with it’s present-day setting and supernatural elements, but there is also a good helping of romance and a strong historical thread running through it. As you might guess, I’m rather obsessed with history!

Why romance?

I’ve always enjoyed reading romance novels, especially when life has been a bit stressful. I think they offer much needed escapism and comfort when times are tough. I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people tick and creating two characters who develop a relationship is an opportunity for me to explore and create believable characters.

What inspires your stories?

Lots of different things inspire my stories. For instance, The Unquiet Spirit was inspired by a house I saw for sale on the internet – I wondered what it would be like to live in a house like that. It became The Beeches in my story, a house that had some interesting and spooky secrets.

Another story that I’m currently working on was inspired by a British newspaper report of 1812 about a young French emigré who came to a bit of a sticky end. My young lady however, will have a much better outcome!

Locations also inspire me. I love Falmouth, Cornwall, in the South West of England, having spent several holidays there. It has a long and interesting history and I utilised some of that history in my  historical novel, A Bachelor’s Pledge. Falmouth also plays a large part in my contemporary romance story, The Unquiet Spirit.

Another favourite place of mine is Bath, which will be familiar to any lovers of Jane Austen. Bath too, has appeared in both my historical and contemporary stories. With its fabulous architecture and stunning setting it is truly an inspirational place.

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

Gosh, I’ve got lots of favourite authors. However, for stories set in the Regency period, my go-to author is Georgette Heyer. I’d also hesitate to call her a romance author, because her stories are much more than that. Having re-read many of them recently, I was surprised to discover that several that I’d thought of as romances are anything but. I’m thinking of titles such as A Civil Contract which is in fact a realistic portrayal of a marriage rather than a fairytale romance, or The Foundling, which is more like a coming-of-age story.

For present day romance authors, I enjoy reading Mary-Jo Putney, Mary Balogh, and the late Jo Beverley.

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

This is a very difficult question to answer! But given no choice, I’d recommend Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer, which tells the tale of the tempestuous Deborah Grantham and the man who is out to ruin her plans, Max Ravenscar. If you enjoy sparkling, witty dialogue, you will enjoy this book, the verbal sparring between this pair is some of Heyer’s best work. Packed with rich comedy, Heyer’s plot weaves its magic, and it is delightful to see how she brings two such unlikely personalities together. And of course she sets it in a world that is recognisably Regency, real facts about places, people, and events are inserted in an unobtrusive and natural way.

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Renowned gamester and the first to admit that he is entirely void of a romantic disposition, Max Ravenscar regards all eligible females with indifference and unconcern.

But when he meets the woman his young cousin Adrian is bent on marrying – the beautiful Deborah Grantham, mistress of her aunt’s gaming house – he finds that none of his experience in risk and gambling has prepared him for such a worthy opponent.

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

There are so many wonderful romantic heroes to choose from, it is difficult to make a choice. I think I’d prefer to spend the weekend with a group of my favourite heroes and heroines from the Regency period. It would be a weekend party at a rural stately home, with lots of walks in the countryside, sumptuous rooms, delicious food, and no washing-up! I might even persuade one of the gentlemen to teach me to ride a horse – something I’ve only ever done once. How nice it would be to go for a gallop and then come back to a blazing log fire. And a weekend like this would involve so many changes of clothes: morning dresses, walking dresses, riding habits, pelisses, spencers, and bonnets. For someone like me who lives in jeans, it would be quite a novelty, but I’d really enjoy putting on a fabulous evening dress for dinner.

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

Where do I start? It’s great feeling a part of the community of romance authors and sharing ideas and information. Before Covid, my local chapter met up for lunch once a month and I rarely left one without having learned something new or receiving encouragement – a real boost when you feel you’re getting nowhere with your writing. You can guarantee one thing, romance authors are a very supportive group.

The best thing about the RNA is the New Writers’ Scheme. This set me on my journey to becoming a published author. I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of becoming an author.

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

I’d advise them to join the RNA New Writers’ Scheme! It’s the best place to go to get honest feedback on your work from professionals who thoroughly understand the romance genre.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest book, A Bachelor’s Pledge, is an action-filled adventure set in England during the Napoleonic Wars. At its core is the growing romance between secret agent Phil Cullen and lady’s companion Sophia Turner. Both have their reasons for not wishing to see each other again, but circumstances and a ruthless French spy set their lives on a collision course.

A Bachelor’s Pledge is available as an ebook (free on Kindle Unlimited) and a paperback from Amazon here.

A Bachelor's Pledge

The woman who haunts his dreams

Secret agent Phil Cullen is upset when he discovers that the young woman he rescued from Mrs Newbodys establishment has absconded from his housekeepers care without a word. Thinking he has been deceived, he resolves to forget about her… something easier said than done.

The man she wants to forget

Sophia Turner is horrified when she is duped into entering a notorious house of ill-repute. Then a handsome stranger comes to her aid. Desperate that no one learns of this scandalous episode, Sophia flees to the one friend she knows she can trust. With luck, she will never see her mysterious rescuer again.

But fate has other plans…

Months later, Phil is on the trail of an elusive French agent and Sophia is a respectable lady’s companion when fate again intervenes, taking their lives on a collision course.

Traitors, spies, and shameful family secrets – will these bring Sophia and Phil together… or drive them apart?

About the Author

Penny Hampson

Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.

Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA and  three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a traditional Regency romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.

But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.

Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).

Connect with Penny:

Website: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/

Blog: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/blog/

Facebook: Penny Hampson Author

Twitter: @penny_hampson

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Book Review: A Favor for a Favor by Nat Chelloni

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“Forget favors given; remember those received.” – John Wooden

A time for love can’t be more deadly…

Julia Leonardi thought she put her past behind her. The widow of a mobster, all she wants is to steer clear of the criminal elements. Then she meets Domenico Bonacci…

Dom is handsome, charming, and intense. The world knows him as a prominent businessman, but Julia sees him as everything she fought to escape.

Once the scion of a powerful Mafia family Dom left the world of organized crime after his father’s death. And he swore he would never go back.

No matter how hard she tries, Julia can’t seem to ignore the powerful spark of attraction between them and her growing feelings for him. But when Dom’s shady past catches up with him, the two forbidden lovers find themselves trapped in a deadly game.

Will Dom renege on his vow and lose the woman he loves, or he will manage to break free of his past for once and for all?

This wouldn’t be the kind of book I would normally read, romantic suspense is not a genre I read much, but it is good to go out of your comfort zone every now and again and I do like to support debut authors, so I thought I would give it a try.

The main protagonist is Julia, the daughter of a Mafia boss who was married and widowed young due to a feud between underworld gangs and has since turned her back on that world, determined never to suffer that heartbreak again. However, when all your family are connected, it is hard to escape that world completely. Then she meets Dom, the son of a murdered don who also claims to have left that world, but Julia isn’t sure and is resisting her undeniable attraction to him.

The book starts off in dramatic form with their first meeting, and the initial impressions I formed of Dom weren’t great. In fact, if I hadn’t been mindful of the genre I was reading and determined to keep an open mind, I might have walked away quite early because he is everything I hate in a man and the thought of him being a love interest to anyone was off-putting. The author does include a trigger warning for this part, and I can see why it is needed, but I ploughed on and it turned out that first impressions can be deceptive. Dom did grow on me, although I’m not sure I ever got completely past his initial behaviour.

There are lots of great characters in this book, and lots of action. It was interesting to read a book set in an alien world, and see all the tensions and relationships that are involved, see how matters are negotiated and resolved. I could sympathise with Julia’s dilemma of being attracted to a man but resisting because she isn’t sure of his lifestyle, and I think this played out well. There is a lot of sexual heat in the book between the two main characters, which is well written and believable. If you enjoy this type of book, and this type of relationship, I think this book will work well for you.

The book has a few problems. Some of the pacing was a little uneven, and it did plough some of the same issues repeatedly, but overall I enjoyed it as a step outside my comfort zone. After my initial baulking at Dom, I was gripped by the story and wanted to know how it ended. I can’t tell you it has been the book that converted me to a romantic suspense groupie, but then I’m not sure that book exists, because it is just not my bag. However, it is a really excellent debut, I would not have known this was a first book if I hadn’t been told, and I’m sure fans of the genre would be delighted with it.

A Favor for a Favor is out now and you can buy it in paperbook or ebook here.

About the Author

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Nat Chelloni is a TV personality, a screenwriter, a film critic, an avid book reader across all genres, and now a published author of a debut novel A Favor For a Favor. Nat’s overactive imagination and a passion for storytelling have finally found an outlet.

Connect with Nat:

Facebook: Nat Chelloni

Twitter: @natchelloni

Instagram: @nat.chelloni

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Friday Night Drinks with… Kate Ryder

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It’s the final Friday of the month and January is almost over, thank goodness! Is it me or has this been a really long month? Anyway, that feels like something to celebrate, so I am delighted to be joined on the blog by tonight’s virtual drinking companion, author… Kate Ryder.

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Kate, glad you finally made it to my virtual bar! Thank you for joining me. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for inviting me to your Friday Night Drinks.  I have a penchant for gin, so I’ll have a glass of the curiously distilled, award-winning Wild Coast Gin from Curio Spirits; the small family business that creates craft spirits in their distillery on the Lizard peninsula, in Cornwall.  Made with Cornish spring water and quadruple-distilled with natural botanicals, including hand-foraged rock samphire from the Cornish cliffs, this tantalising spirit is smooth enough to drink neat, although I’ll have it with flavoured tonic water, please – possibly rhubarb or elderflower.

Sounds delicious. Gin is also my tipple of choice. I sadly failed at Dry January halfway through this year, which I only feel a tiny bit guilty about given current circumstances!  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?

Having spent the day giving you a guided tour around the dramatically beautiful coastline of North Cornwall – the location for my latest book, Beneath Cornish Skies – I’d take you to the boutique hotel, The Beach at Bude.  Overlooking Summerleaze Beach, which is featured in the novel, the hotel enjoys striking views from its terraces.  Its buzzing Beach Bar, designed with industrial chic in mind, has a chrome-topped bar and a number of orange leather chairs with metal backing.  I have to warn you, though, there are often live performances on Fridays, so we’d have to speak up or find a secluded corner.  And we’d definitely have to try out the bar’s selection of decadent cocktails.  I’ll start with their Cornish mojito, which includes cider, brandy, mint, lime and a shot of Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis de Dijon!

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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?

We’d be drinking with the late actor, Alan Rickman, who had me from his performance in ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’.  I’m sure he would have many a fascinating and interesting tale to tell.  From humble beginnings, despite becoming a household name as a successful, award-winning film and stage actor, he never seemed to lose his sense of perspective.  On my wish list is a copy of his collection of diary entries due to be published in 2022, which apparently give a fresh insight into his art and reveal the real Alan Rickman; funny, passionate and occasionally provocative.

The second person we’d be drinking with is the multi-award winning actress, Dame Helen Mirren.  I love that feisty woman.  Not only is she a hugely talented actress but also she doesn’t suffer fools and is not frightened of having strong opinions and speaking her mind.  She and Alan worked together on several occasions and, no doubt, they would provide us with an entertainingly lively and humorous evening.  Also, she was the inspiration for a character in my 2-part Romantic Suspense, Summer in a Cornish Cove, and its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff.  I think she’d be highly amused to learn that!

Great choices, I adore Alan Rickman. He played some of the best characters ever seen on screen, and always nailed those one-liners! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m currently wearing my marketing hat for Beneath Cornish Skies.  People assume that writing a novel is the difficult part, but marketing and self-promotion rank way up there!  To date, my novels published with Aria are available as eBooks and POD.  However, the company has committed to printing my latest book as a traditional paperback, which will be available from April in major bookshops, including Waterstones, W H Smith and Foyles.  I plan to encourage local, independent bookshops to climb on board and, so, come early spring – if Covid rules allow – I will travel the full length and breadth of Cornwall and pay them all a visit.

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

My proudest moment was when I first received a physical copy of my debut novel, The Forgotten Promise.  Becoming a novelist has been a long-held dream, and one that took a significant milestone birthday to stir me into action and do something about it, otherwise it ran the risk of remaining simply “a dream”.  My editor accepted this novel as the third in my four-book contract.  With further editorial development, the book was retitled Secrets of the Mist.  I’m proud to say that not only did it reach #49 on Amazon Kindle but also it achieved #1 bestseller in Time Travel Romance in the UK, Canada and Australia.

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My biggest challenge has been finding the time to write.  Until late 2019 I worked full-time and, what with other commitments, this meant I had to snatch any spare moment to write.  Often, I was at the computer for a couple of hours at 2am!  Deadlines always make me feel panicky… but I discovered that by taking a deep breath, keeping my nerve and maintaining focus, I am able to meet them.

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!

Several reviewers have stated my words conjure up vivid images and it’s as if they’re watching a film rather than reading a book.  Now, if my novels were discovered and turned into films… that would be really cool!

When I wrote my 2-part romantic suspense mini-series, I already knew which actor I would want in the lead role – Aidan Turner.  He was well-known to only a relatively few ardent fans at the time, but since then a well-received British historical drama television series, set on the windswept Cornish cliffs and based on Winston Graham’s recklessly heroic mine owner, Ross Poldark, has gained the tri-corn wearing star many more ardent supporters.

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

I’ve now fulfilled my contract with Aria and who knows what the future will bring!  I’ve always loved the unknown and its myriad of possibilities, and although a little scary it’s also exciting not knowing where my writing career will go.  I’m creative by nature and really enjoy the artistic control that comes with being an indie writer.  However, I realise the worth of having a publishing company behind you and the industry expertise that it brings to the table.  Hmmm… as they say, watch this space!

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?

During my late twenties I worked for a long-haul tour operator and I’ve been fortunate to have travelled to many exotic places.  However, I have a sister who lives in Australia and that country has a special place in my heart, and I’ve visited a handful of times.  She lives in Sydney, which I found vibrant and buzzing, filled with art galleries and museums, and, of course, the famous Opera House.  But, also, the wider country appeals to my love of the natural world and there are still many areas to discover on that continent.

On one visit we stayed on Brampton Island, which lies at the southern end of the world famous Whitsunday Passage.  Boasting a unique ecosystem and a diverse range of unexplored flora, fauna and birds, Brampton Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and considered a national park.  The island offered numerous nature walking tracks and a dozen world-renowned sun-drenched beaches with crystal clear blue waters covering coral reefs, home to an amazing array of marine life.  One memorable experience was, whilst snorkelling, a large and curious turtle kept us company for a good hour!  Since that visit, I understand the island has been sold and is currently closed; caught up in limbo and paperwork with talk of redevelopment to a 7-star world-class resort in the coming years.

So, Tasmania and New Zealand beckon…

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

I’ve flown on Concorde and the captain invited me to the cockpit!

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’?

Not knowing your preferred genre, that’s a tricky one.  Nevertheless, sticking with the mystical, slightly otherworldly theme that runs through Beneath Cornish Skies, I would recommend a writer that I’ve only recently discovered.  The front cover of Carol Lovekin’s Wild Spinning Girls captured my imagination with its potent imagery that so accurately depicts the novel.  It’s a gift of a story, wildly atmospheric and the incredible prose is poetry itself.  Carol has the gossamer touch, spinning words into magic, and I’m so looking forward to reading her other works.

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Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets off to Wales to the house her father has left her. But Heather, the young woman still in her teens whose home it was, keeps the house as a shrine to her late mother and is determined to scare Ida away. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time, and that any ghosts Ty’r Cwmwl harbours are of their own making. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.

I have a copy of this book waiting patiently on my TBR. So many bloggers raved about it on publication last year. 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’ll force myself to drink loads of water before going to bed, and again in the morning to rehydrate.  If that doesn’t clear my head, I’ll have a cup of herbal ginger tea and then spend time outdoors in nature with my gorgeous Arab horse to blow away any lingering cobwebs.

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Your horse is beautiful! Mine is a bit stockier and less pretty, but I love him anyway! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Walking the cliffs with my husband and exploring secluded coves, followed by a quiet evening in, sharing the stories I’d heard during my night out with you, Alan and Helen!

Thank you for joining me tonight, Kate, I’ve had a really great evening and I wish you great success with your current book and future projects.

Kate’s latest book, Beneath Cornish Skies is a heart-warming love story about taking a chance on a new beginning.  Published as an eBook on 7 January 2021, available here, the paperback is scheduled for publication on 1 April and is available for pre-order now.

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To an outsider, Cassandra Shaw‘s life looks perfect. She lives in a beautiful, luxurious house in the English countryside with a handsome, wealthy boyfriend who insists she needn’t do a day’s work in her life. But Cassie knows that something is not right. Her boyfriend has grown colder, treating her more like a housekeeper than a future wife. And her time feels empty and purposeless.

Cassandra has always been riddled with insecurities and self-doubt, but, just for once, she decides to take a chance on a new beginning. She answers an advert for a live-in nanny, horse trainer, cook and all-round ‘Superhuman’ for a family living in a rambling manor house on the rugged North Cornish coast. The work is hard and tiring, but Cassie has never felt so fulfilled.

As Cassie learns to connect with the natural beauty unfolding around her, Cornwall starts to offer up its secrets. Soon, Cassie starts wondering if she was drawn to this isolated part of the coast for a reason. Why was she guided to Foxcombe Manor? What are the flashes of light she sees in the valley? Is it her imagination or does someone brush past her? And who is the mysterious man living deep in the woods?

A beautiful romance with a hint of ghostliness, Beneath Cornish Skies is for anyone who has ever longed to start their lives again.

Kate Ryder is an Amazon Kindle international best seller who writes timeslip and romantic suspense with a ‘true to life’ narrative.  On leaving school she studied drama but soon discovered her preference for writing rather than performing.  Since then, she has worked in the publishing, tour operating and property industries, and has travelled widely.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors, in 2017 Kate signed a 4-book contract with Aria (digital imprint of award-winning independent publisher, Head of Zeus).

Summer in a Cornish Cove, a contemporary romantic suspense set on the Lizard Peninsula, saw her nominated for the RNA’s 2018 Joan Hessayon award, while its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff, reached the heady heights of #2 in Kindle Literary Sagas.

Secrets of the Mist, a mysterious timeslip romance, was not only rated in the #top 50 on Amazon UK Paid Kindle but also achieved #1 Kindle best-selling status in the UK, Canada and Australia.  In its original, self-published version as The Forgotten Promise, it was awarded the very first Chill with a Book “Book of the Month”.

Her fourth book with Aria, Beneath Cornish Skies, is set on the wildly rugged north Cornish coast and tells the story of one woman’s journey in finding her true self.

Originally from the South East of England, today Kate lives on the Cornish side of the beautiful Tamar Valley with her husband and a collection of animals.

You can find out more about Kate and her writing on her website, and via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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