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

Summer at the Chateau

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

The Lost Sister

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

Kathleen McGurl author photo

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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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.

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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

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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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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.

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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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Book Review: Rescued by Her Highland Soldier by Sarah Mallory #BookReview

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Her rugged Highlander

Is the gallant son of a laird!

Travelling alone through the treacherous Scottish Highlands, Madeleine d’Evremont is saved by rough-looking soldier, Grant Rathmore. Attraction flares between them as he escorts Madeline on her perilous escape to France, until she discovers he’s the heir of a respected Laird! Madeline knows she must let him go – surely the daughter of a humble adventurer could never be a suitable match for him now?

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier is the second book in the Lairds of Ardvarrick series by Sarah Mallory, published by Harlequin Mills and Boon in their Historical line. Many thanks to Sarah for offering me a copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed it honestly and impartially as always.

It’s been many a year since I picked up a Mills and Boon novel. Probably not since my Grandma stopped reading them in the 1990s, because it was hers I used to pinch and read as a teenager. I’m not sure why they aren’t a line I ever think of buying, I just never have. However, having read Rescued by Her Highland Soldier, I will definitely be looking for more.

I have a particular soft spot for books featuring Scottish history. When I was a child, we never went abroad on holiday, we always used to go to Scotland where my mum dragged me around every stately home and battlefield in the vicinity of where we were staying (I remember one particularly underwhelming trek to Flodden Field that my sisters and I still talk about to this day). A fascination with the subject was imbued in my bones from a young age and I have devoured books on the subject since, particularly on the Jacobite rebellion and the Highland Clearances. I defy anyone to visit Glencoe on a dark, misty day and not have a shiver travel down their spine. So I was very keen to see how Sarah Mallory had approached the subject.

I have to say, I was not remotely disappointed. The story of Madeleine, a young French woman trying to make her way to safety across the Highlands at a time of extreme peril for her countrymen, and being rescued by the chivalrous Grant Rathmore is not only romantic to its very core, it really brought home the impact that the putting down of the Jacobite Rebellion at Culloden had on people who were supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Sarah manages to imbue the book with the real sense of peril that all Jacobite supporters must have felt at the time, fearing discovery at any minute but still risking everything to help people they could see were in trouble.

The book truly transported me to the Scottish Highlands, a place I am very familiar with, and I was trekking across those treacherous hills with Madeleine and Grant, fully aware of the danger they were bringing to one another and trying to resist their growing attraction. The romantic tension was palpable on the page, and she really captured the language, manners and customs of the age – at least it certainly felt authentic to me.

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier kept me glued to the page from start to finish and I immediately wanted to pick up the first book in the Lairds of Ardvarrick series. Sarah has not only managed to turn me on to her writing, but has also encouraged me to return to Mills and Boon as a publisher, who are obviously putting out high quality, immersive and intriguing romance novels. What could you not love about that? I’m sorry I’ve been missing out all these years. No wonder they were recently voted Publisher of the Year 2020 in the RNA Industry Awards.

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier is out now as an ebook and in paperback and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Sarah Mallory Rona Rose 2012

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

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

Connect with Sarah:

Website: http://www.sarahmallory.com/

Facebook: Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory

Twitter: @SarahMRomance

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Helen Buckley

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Time to chat all things romance and the writing thereof with another RNA member, and this week I am delighted to be quizzing author… Helen Buckley.

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

I write thrilling, dramatic contemporary romances about people in the public eye. There are lots of twists and turns, shock revelations, slow-burn romance, and of course, happy ever afters! I currently have a three-book contract with ChocLit and my next novel is due out in July.

Why romance?

I daydream in romance, so I am simply writing down the stories that are in my head. I’m an old-fashioned romantic who loves nothing more than two characters who come together after lots of challenges.

What inspires your stories?

All sorts of things! Strictly on Ice, for example, was inspired by the TV show Dancing on Ice. As my current series involves people in the public eye, I get a lot of inspiration from popular culture and news stories.

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

I used to love reading Catherine Cookson when I was younger, but now I tend to read contemporary romances, by the likes of Lucy Keeling, Marie Laval, Jojo Moyes, Amanda Prowse, and Dani Atkins, for example.

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

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. That book broke me. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

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Will needed Lou as much as she needed him, but will her love be enough to save his life?

Lou Clark
 knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun teashop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

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

My husband is my real-life romantic hero and I’d choose him above anyone else. We’d go to Rome and eat mountains of gelato.

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

I’m a fairly new member but it’s a great way to meet fellow romance authors, find out what they are working on, and there are lots of learning opportunities too which I am looking forward to taking part in!

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

I would say read a lot of romance to help you understand the genre, and try to work on a series of books rather than just one – it’s more marketable.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

A former Olympic skating champion takes part in a new TV show to earn some cash, but she gets more than she bargained for when she’s partnered with a love-rat rugby player, and finds that her ex-boyfriend is on the judging panel! Strictly on Ice is a dramatic, romantic, thrilling read about the world of ice skating and reality TV. It’s available in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

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When falling in love comes with the risk of falling flat on your face …

Former Olympic skating champion Katie Saunders is well known for her ‘ice queen’ persona in the press. On the face of it, perhaps Katie should have forgiven her former skating partner and ex-boyfriend, Alex Michaelson, for the accident that shattered both her ankle and their Olympic dreams – but she just can’t seem to let it go.

When Katie reluctantly agrees to take part in a new TV skating show, it’s only because she’s desperate for cash. What she didn’t count on is the drama – not only is she partnered up with infamous love rat rugby player Jamie Welsh, but one of the judges is none other than Alex Michaelson himself.

As the show progresses, will Katie be shown the hard way, once again, that romance on the ice should remain strictly off-limits?

About the Author

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Ever since Helen was little she wanted to be a writer, to turn daydreams into books. She’s fascinated by fame, in love with Happy Ever Afters, and enthralled by slow-burn romances. She squeezes in time to write around looking after her two sons.

Sign up to her newsletter to receive a FREE download of her novella, The Wrong One, a sweet contemporary romance about being true to yourself. https://BookHip.com/RZSDFSW

Connect with Helen:

Website: www.buckleybooks.org

Facebook: Helen Buckley author

Twitter: @HelenCBuckley

Instagram: @helencatherinebuckley

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Blog Tour: Finding Home by Kate Field #BookReview

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I am delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for the new book by Kate Field, Finding Home, as Kate is one of my favourite authors. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources 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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She might not have much in this world, but it cost nothing to be kind… 

Meet Miranda Brown: you can call her Mim. She’s jobless, homeless and living in her car… but with a history like hers she knows she has a huge amount to be grateful for.

Meet Beatrice and William Howard: Bill and Bea to you. The heads of the Howard family and owners of Venhallow Hall, a sprawling seaside Devonshire estate… stranded in a layby five hours from home the night before their niece’s wedding.

When fate brings the trio together, Mim doesn’t think twice before offering to drive the affable older couple home. It’s not like she has anywhere else to be. But as the car pulls into the picturesque village of Littlemead, Mim has no idea how her life is about to change…

I loved the premise of this book as soon as I read the  blurb and I think I would have picked it up, even if I’d never heard of the author before. I’ve never made any bones about my immense love for the writing of Kate Field so, this coupled with the promise of the story meant I was really looking forward to reading it.

This is a story about how a chance encounter can change the course of your life entirely, about the kindness of strangers, how family can mean more than just those people you are related to by blood, and what it really means to find a home. When we meet the main character, Mim, she is about as down on her luck as it is possible to get. She has lost her home, her job and the only person in the world who cared about her and is sleeping in her car. When she meets Bill and Bea and agrees to do them a favour, she has no idea how completely it will change her life and how her kindness will be repaid a hundredfold.

When I first encountered Min, I thought she was an old lady – I think because of her name which is quite old-fashioned – but it soon becomes clear that she is only in her thirties but has had a very difficult life that has lead to her current circumstances. This has made her quite hard-shelled and suspicious in some ways, but we can see from the beginning a softer underside peeking out, which makes her a much more likeable and relatable character than she might have been otherwise. This is one of Kate’s specialities, and the reason I adore her writing, she is extremely skilled as creating complex, difficult characters who have interesting stories and redeeming features that mean you can’t help falling in love with them and wanting the best for them.

The Howard family are very different. They seem to lead gilded lives and have every advantage that anyone could wish for. What could they possibly have in common with Mim? More than she could expect in the end. The book explores the idea that we are all too quick to judge other people according to superficial information in this life and, if we only just give people a chance and put aside our preconceptions, we might be pleasantly surprised. Although Mim hates to be judged by her past herself, she is particularly prone to make snap judgements about people – a lesson she learns during the course of the novel.

The story here is beautifully crafted and realised. I loved everything about it. Aside from the characters, the setting in Devon is a tempting place to visit. The life that Mim begins to build is heartwarming and uplifting, and the people she meets are all gorgeous. I fell in love with all of it, and I know you will too. But the real genius here is the way that the author tugs at your heartstrings. I’ve yet to come away from one of this author’s novels without having shed a tear at some point, and this was no different. Here is an author who really understands human emotion and relationships and knows exactly how to mine and manipulate them to cause maximum reaction in her reader. I always come away from her books feeling like I’ve made new friends and fallen in love.

If I have one complaint about this book it is about the cover. It doesn’t do the book justice, relate to the story, or really communicate to me what the heart of the book is and is too generic. I would probably skim past this on a shelf and that would be a crying shame. The book deserves better and this publisher normally wows me with its covers, which is probably why I am disappointed. This is definitely one book you should not judge by its cover, it is absolutely wonderful.

Finding Home is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 8 July. You can buy a copy here.

Please check out some of the other blogs taking part in the blitz:

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About the Author

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Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

Connect with Kate:

Facebook: Kate Field

Twitter: @katehaswords

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Blog Tour: Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage by Samantha Tonge #BookReview

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A new start can come from the most unexpected places…

It’s been years since Lizzie Lockhart spoke to her parents. But she was safe in the knowledge she knew everything about them. Once upon a time, they were as close as could be. Until they weren’t.

After receiving the earth-shattering news of their passing, Lizzie decides it’s time to unearth some family secrets and find out just who her parents really were… starting with Streamside Cottage. A cottage Lizzie never knew existed, in a place she’s never heard of: the beautiful English village of Leafton.

Leaving behind London, and the tattoo parlour she called home, Lizzie finds herself moving to the countryside. Faced with a tight-lipped community, who have secrets of their own, Lizzie is at a loss for what to do, until her rather handsome neighbour, Ben, steps in to help.

As Lizzie finally begins to piece together the puzzle of her family history she realises she has to confront the truth of the past in order to face her future.

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the new book by Samantha Tonge, Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage. My thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part and providing me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Lots of books start off with a character being jolted out of their current life and into a new situation but few people have such a shocking and dramatic change as Lizzie does at the beginning of Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage. What could possibly persuade a London-based tattoo artist to move to a tiny cottage in a rural setting, and how on earth will she fit it when she does? Was there ever a more fish-out-of-water scenario to open a book?

Well, finding out how this can all possibly work out is the joy of this book, and Samantha does a fantastic job of unfurling a convincing story out of this implausible scenario and making it all make sense. There are family secrets lurking in the walls of Streamside Cottage and Lizzie is determined to weed them out and try and make sense of why she became estranged from her over-protective parents, and why some villagers in Leafdon are so reluctant to talk about the past of Streamside Cottage.

Wrapping up an intriguing mystery with an exploration of family dynamics and what it really means to love and lose another person, this book has so much to offer to a range of different readers. It also seemed early on that the story might have a touch of the paranormal about it, until it took a very different direction. The story jumps backwards and forwards to different points in Lizzie’s life, so you have to pay quite keen attention to the headings at the beginning of each chapter to check what point you are at at any given time or the story won’t make sense, and the time jumps are not linear, but if you do that, the story will flow quite easily. I did have an inkling fairly early on as to what part of the secret might be, but this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book as I was eager to find out if I was right – and the answer was – not 100%!

I loved the fact that Lizzie was a tattoo artist – not something you come across often as a profession in a novel – and Samantha has included a little fact at the beginning of each chapter about tattoos, which tied in with events in that chapter. I found myself googling some of the things she referred to, I was so interested. She had obviously done a lot of research, and it was something Lizzie is very passionate about in the book. After living for 10 years with someone who has a bit of a tattoo addiction and having watched him add to them, I understand how meaningful they can be, and how much thought goes in to them, and this really came across in the writing here.

The storyline of the book is quite complex and dark, and the writing doesn’t shy away from this. I actually found myself in tears close to the end, so this may not be the light and fluffy read people come to expect from this type of fiction. However, this is something that appeals to me, I like the fact that romance novels can address some very personal and intense topics in an accessible way and I think people often underestimate this about the genre. This novel offers the reader a lot to think about during the read, and proved very satisfying.

This is a meaty read from Samantha Tonge, and will be enjoyed by anyone who loves a romance novel that they can get their teeth into.

Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage is out now an an ebook and will be published in paperback in July, and you can buy a copy here.

Please visit some more bloggers taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and extracts:

Summer Secrets at Streamside Blog Tour 1

Summer Secrets at Streamside Blog Tour 2

About the Author

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Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely. When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award

Connect with Samantha:

Website: http://samanthatonge.co.uk/

Facebook: Samantha Tonge Author

Twitter: @SamTongeWriter

Instagram: @samanthatongeauthor

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Victoria Springfield

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The weeks are going by so fast now, aren’t they? I can’t believe it is time for another edition of Romancing The Romance Authors, the feature where I chat to an author of romance novels about what, why and how they write. But it is, and this week I am delighted to be talking to… Victoria Springfield.

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

I write contemporary women’s fiction immersed in the sights, sounds and flavours of Italy.  I started writing my first book in 2018 and was lucky enough to get a place on the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2019.  Later that year I met my agent, Camilla Shestopal at the RNA conference in Lancaster.  My debut novel, The Italian Holiday, has just been published by Orion under their digital-first brand, Dash.  A second book, set in a riding school in the Tuscan countryside, will be coming out in August this year.

Why romance?

Romance novels are often dismissed but love is one of the biggest influences on people’s emotions and actions.  Love can make one person curl up in a ball in a dark corner, another person to leap up and down on the sofa like Tom Cruise.  It can make people do crazy things, cause them to betray their friends and families or commit acts of self-sacrifice.  Love provides a writer with great material and I enjoy creating a happy ending.  I want people to put my books down with a big, contented sigh and the feeling that all is well in the world.

What inspires your stories?

I have been holidaying in Italy since I was a teenager thanks to my father who was a real Italophile.  The locations, the scenery, the history and of course, the wonderful food all inspire me.  Italy is such a diverse country – it was not united until the late 19th century – so the strong local identity of each location shapes my characters’ lives.  The story lines come from people I have met, conversations I have overheard and things I have read.  Once I start writing, the story itself inspires twists and turns as I go along.

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

My favourite authors such as Mary Wesley, Joanna Trollope and Anita Shreve mix romance with other elements. I have recently discovered Erin Hilderbrand who is fantastic at dissecting human relationships; her books are mainly set on Nantucket.  Rosanna Ley is great; I really enjoyed The Little Theatre by the Sea set in Sardinia, and I always enjoy Sue Moorcroft’s books.  I want to read more from Nadia Marks, her Among the Lemon Trees, a mixture of family secrets and wartime romance has an Italian element but mainly takes place on a small Aegean island.  For a complete change I am trying some historical romance; I am thoroughly enjoying The Spanish Girl by Jules Hayes.

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

I hope you have plenty of spare time because I am going to suggest Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy.  This is by far the biggest book on my shelf but well worth the read. The book opens with the wedding of the heroine Lata’s older sister.  Lata’s mother assures her that she will find a suitable boy for Lata to wed, but Lata has ideas of her own.  By the end of the book Lata has three different suitors to choose from and has to weigh up the merits of romantic love, personal happiness and family obligations.

Lata’s search for love plays out against a backdrop of infighting and tragedy as India prepares for its first election after gaining independence from the British Empire.  There is a lot to digest with the political shenanigans and a subplot involving a battle for the affections of the captivating courtesan, Saeeda Bai.  The recent BBC television series included many of the hundred-plus characters from the book but it could only scratch the surface – they should have made fifty episodes!

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A modern classic, this epic tale of families, romance and political intrigue, set in India, never loses its power to delight and enchant readers.

At its core, A Suitable Boy is a love story: the tale of Lata – and her mother’s – attempts to find her a suitable husband, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. At the same time, it is the story of India, newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis as a sixth of the world’s population faces its first great general election and the chance to map its own destiny.

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 was tempted to choose a handsome, brooding Italian but I am going to step back in time and choose Emma’s charming old-fashioned Mr. Knightley who would knock at my door and whisk me off in a horse-drawn carriage to Donwell Abbey.  After a tour of the grounds, we would enjoy dainty cakes washed down with copious amounts of tea from fine china cups in front of the roaring fire.  Later, I would descend the stairs dressed in a sweeping gown for the evening’s ball, where I would miraculously dance beautifully.  The next day a groom would appear with two striking horses.  I would try sidesaddle; Mr. Knightley would look particularly dashing in breeches and leather boots.  We would fall through a portal into the Italian countryside and trot through the same vineyards, meadows and woods as the characters in my forthcoming second novel before spending the night at the home of a handsome Italian count.  Spurred on by the count’s flirtation with me, Mr. Knightley would at last cast off his English reserve…

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

The RNA provides a wonderful sense of camaraderie; I am continually astonished by how helpful and friendly everyone is.  I have been missing the chapter meetings but now I am crossing paths with people on social media.  If I had not joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme I am not sure I would have got published.  The reader was able to pick out specific passages in my manuscript to show me where my writing could be more engaging and vivid.

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

Do what works for you and do not worry if someone else is writing 3,000 words a day.  Also, get away from the computer.  For me there is something about the rhythm of swimming or walking that untangles my plot problems.  I have been known to scribble things down whilst I am wrapped in a towel in the pool changing rooms.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

The Italian Holiday is an uplifting seaside romance which weaves together the stories of unlucky-in-love Bluebell and kind widow, Miriam who meet on a coach tour of the Amalfi Coast, with that of local girl, Michela, who is returning to Italy after a year working in London.  Whilst Bluebell and Miriam are making friends and exploring the region, Michela’s plan to work at her cousins’ restaurant in Positano is scuppered by a family crisis.  Instead, she lends a helping hand at her parents’ tiny café bar in the quaint town of Minori, surrounded by memories of her first love, Stefano.

The three women have to learn to embrace the changes in their lives and seize their chances of happiness.  The book explores love, friendship, family ties and – thanks to a mysterious poppy-print dress – how a change of clothes can change your life.

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Sun, sea and spaghetti…

Italy was Bluebell’s dream destination, but taking her granny’s place on the Loving and Knitting magazine competition holiday she’d won wasn’t quite what she’d had in mind. For one thing she didn’t knit and for the other…well being single probably discounted her from the love category too. But a free holiday is a free holiday and it’s the perfect escape from her lacklustre life.

Michela didn’t think she’d be returning home to Italy so soon, a new job at her cousin’s restaurant on the harbour of Positano was a dream gig, miles away from the grey London clouds. This time though, she vowed not to fall into old habits, Stefano was the past and now her future in her old hometown beckoned.

But under the Italian skies a whole host of possibilities await and maybe happy-ever-after is just a plane-ride away…

You can buy The Italian Holiday as an ebook here.

About The Author

Victoria Springfield

Victoria Springfield writes contemporary women’s fiction set mainly in Italy.  Her feel-good stories follow unforgettable characters of all ages as they find adventure, friendship and romance.  After many years in London, she now lives in Kent with her husband in a house by the river.  Victoria joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2019.  In 2020 she signed a two-book deal with Orion Dash.  The Italian Holiday set on The Amalfi Coast is out now.  A second book, set in a horse riding centre in Tuscany, will be published in August 2021.

Connect with Victoria:

Facebook: Victoria Springfield Author

Twitter: @VictoriaSwrites

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