#CoverReveal An Artisan Lovestyle by Kiltie Jackson @KiltieJackson @rararesources #FictionCafeWriters

An Artisan Lovestyle Cover Reveal

I love a cover reveal but this one is extra exciting because it is the cover of my good friend and fellow Fiction Cafe Writer, Kiltie Jackson’s, new book.

Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in revealing this cover. And here it is:

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I’ve heard a bit about the story behind Kiltie’s new book in our writing group and have been lucky enough to have a sneak peek of a few pages. Now I’ve seen the fabulous cover, I’m even more impatient  and to read the whole thing. To whet your appetite too, here is more detail on the book:

Are you ‘living’ your life or just living your life?

Elsa Clairmont was widowed barely five years after marrying her childhood sweetheart. She has struggled to come to terms with the loss and, six years later, has almost ceased to live herself. She does just enough to get by.

Danny Delaney is the ultimate ‘Mr Nice Guy’. He’s kind, caring and sweet. A talented artist in his teens, his abusive mother ruined his career in art and he turned his back on his exceptional gift. Now, he does just enough to get by.

On New Year’s Eve, both Danny and Elsa die in unrelated accidents.

Thanks to some poker playing shenanigans, Elsa’s husband Harry, and Danny’s old Art teacher, William, manage to orchestrate a deal with Death that allows Danny and Elsa to live for one more year on the condition they both agree to complete three tasks.

They have until the last chime of Big Ben on the 31st December to fulfil their quests.

If they succeed, they stay in the world of the living.

If they should fail however…

An Artisan Lovestyle’ is a story of personal growth and self-discovery as two people find themselves forced to make overdue changes in their lives, changes in other people’s lives, and all with the added challenge of finding true love before their time runs out.

Will they do it?

Can they do it?

After all, it’s a matter of Life or Death…

The book will be published on 28 June and is available for pre-order here.

I’m delighted that I will also be participating in the blog tour for this book. Pop back here on 10 July to hear my thoughts.

If having read the above you can’t wait until the end of June, I highly recommend reading Kiltie’s first book A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle while you wait, it was one of my favourite reads of 2017.

About the Author

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Kiltie grew up in Glasgow in Scotland. This is a very unique city with a very unique way of looking at life.

When she was old enough to do so, she moved to London and then, after several years of obtaining interesting experiences -which are finding their way into her writing – she moved up to the Midlands.

Kiltie currently lives in Staffordshire with five cats and one grumpy husband. Her little home is known as Moggy Towers, even though despite having plenty of moggies, there are no towers! The cats kindly allow her and Mr Mogs to share their house on the condition they keep paying the mortgage!

She loves reading, watching movies, and visiting old castles.
She really dislikes going to the gym!

Her biggest desire is that one day she can give up the day job
and write her stories for a living. Kiltie’s debut novel, ‘A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle’, was released in September 2017 and won a “Chill With A Book – Reader Award” in December 2017. She first began writing her debut novel eleven years before it was released but shelved it as she didn’t think it was very good.

In November 2016 when, having read more on a best-selling author who had begun her own career as a self-published author, she was inspired to revisit the unfinished manuscript and finally finish what she had started.

Since beginning to write again, the ideas have not stopped flowing. ‘An Artisan Lovestyle’ is the second book in the Lovestyle Series.

Work is due to begin on book three (not yet titled but also part of the Lovestyle Series) in the Summer of 2018.
She currently has a further ten plots and ideas stored in her file (it’s costing a fortune in USB drives as each story has its own memory stick!) and the ideas still keep on coming.

Kiltie now lives her life around the following three quotes:
“I love having weird dreams, they’re great fodder for book plots!”
“Why wait for your ship to come in when you can swim out to meet it?”
“Old enough to know better, young enough not to care!”

A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry #bookreview (@veronica_henry) @orionbooks #AFamilyRecipe #NetGalley

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What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .”

I’ve noticed a trend in the books I’m picking up recently towards central female characters that are, shall we say, not in the first flush of youth. I’m not sure if this is because more books are being written and published with older women as the focal point or that my tastes are changing and I am drawn more to novels featuring characters I can relate to as my age increases, possibly it is a combination of the two. Either way, I think it is a positive change and something to be celebrated.

I spent yesterday, my forty-sixth birthday, indulging myself in a my favourite pastime (reading, of course!) and the the book I chose was Veronica Henry’s latest novel A Family Recipe. The main character of this book is Laura, a forty-something woman who is faced with finding herself again after her children flying the nest and a shocking family revelation combine to knock her life off the track it had been trundling along for twenty years. As a woman with rapidly maturing children, relationship upheaval and a major career change behind me, there was a huge amount in this book to which I could personally relate and, as a result, I was drawn into Laura’s story immediately.

I suspect any woman of a similar age reading this is going to find herself able to sympathise with a least one aspect of Laura’s life and this is the skill in Veronica’s writing. Her stories, in this and her previous novels, are built on the personal experiences and domestic dramas of ordinary people and, as a result, her characters and their travails are easy for her readers to relate to. We recognise them and, consequently, care about them – an essential ingredient for a really successful novel.

There are actually two timelines running through this book, and two main characters. We have Laura in the modern day, – trying to find her feet during a rocky time in her life and falling back on the comfort of her family’s traditional recipes to ground her – and Jilly, one of Laura’s ancestors – living at the time of the Blitz in Bath and using the same recipes to comfort herself through the fear and grief of that terrible time.

Veronica weaves the two threads together beautifully to demonstrate the influence of our family on us and the importance of those ties of blood and love to hold us together in times of need. Veronica was inspired to write the novel by her own box of family recipes and the personal connection to the story is palpable in the pages. This novel feels so authentic, so full of passion and love, it is impossible not to get drawn in. I was totally enmeshed in the lives of the characters to the point of tearfulness on more than one occasion and I have been left with a feeling of warmth and tenderness at the end. I love Veronica’s work, and I think this might be my favourite yet.

The beauty of this book is helped along by setting it in the gorgeous city of Bath and Veronica manages to bring that gracious city to life with her deft descriptions. I know this is another aspect of the book that is very personal to the author and her love of the city shines throughout.

All in all, this is a perfectly crafted book, one to treasure and return to whenever you are looking for an uplifting story of family, friendship and food.

A Family Recipe is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Orion Publishing for my advance copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

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Veronica Henry has worked as a scriptwriter for THE ARCHERS, HEARTBEAT and HOLBY CITY amongst many others, before turning to fiction. She won the 2014 RNA NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD for A NIGHT ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Veronica lives with her family in a village in north Devon.

Connect with Veronica:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

#BlogTour The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley #bookreview (@ZaraStoneley) @HarperCollinsUK @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam @rararesources #TheWeddingDate #bookbloggers

The Wedding Date

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Zara Stoneley’s new book The Wedding Date. a big thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

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One ex.
One wedding.
One little white lie.

When Samantha Jenkins is asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding, she couldn’t be happier. There are just three problems…

1) Sam’s ex-boyfriend, Liam, will be the best man.
2) His new girlfriend is pregnant.
3) Sam might have told people she has a new man when she doesn’t (see points 1 and 2 above)

So, Sam does the only sensible thing available to her… and hires a professional to do the job.

Actor Jake Porter is perfect for the role: single, gorgeous and cheap! Sam is certain it’s the perfect solution: no strings, no heartbreak and hopefully no chance of being found out.

But spending a week in the Scottish Highlands with Jake is harder than she imagined. He is the perfect boyfriend, charming, sexy and the hottest thing in a kilt since Outlander! And his dog Harry is quite possibly the cutest things Sam has ever seen!

As the wedding draws closer, Jake plays his part to perfection and everyone believes he is madly in love with Sam. The problem is, Sam’s not sure if Jake is acting anymore…”

Before we start, is anyone else salivating over the delicious-looking cake on the cover of this book? Honestly, I can taste it. Congratulations to whoever designed the cover, it is definitely enticing!

This is the first book I have read by Zara Stoneley, although I have a copy of Summer with the Country Village Vet sat on my TBR. Now that I have read this book by Zara, I will be moving that one up the pile to read soon.

The main character in this book is travel agent, Sam. Recently dumped by boyfriend, Liam, Sam is presented with an invitation from her best friend, Jess, to join her elaborate wedding party in Scotland. To Sam’s dismay, not only will she have to deal with celebrating romance whilst facing her own heartbreak, her ex, Liam will be the best man and Sam will come face to face with the physical evidence of his infidelity in the form of his very-pregnant girlfriend. Unable to face the ordeal alone and deal with the pity on the faces of her family and friends, Sam decides to hire actor Jake to pose as her handsome and charming new boyfriend for the week. As you do.

It was very easy to relate to Sam. She is a warm and slightly hapless character and we can all put ourselves in her shoes, feeling the humiliation of being cheated on and dumped and then having to face her ex in public. The ordeal has sapped her of all her self-confidence and she is at a very low ebb when she concocts the slightly crazy plan of hiring a fake boyfriend to take to her best friend’s wedding. I doubt most people would go that far but I could appreciate the impulse and Zara’s humorous and entertaining writing made the plan seem a lot more plausible than it probably would be in real life.

Jake, the impoverished actor that Sam manages to bag as her fake date is almost too good to be true. Handsome, charming and kind, he is the kind of man that every woman wishes to have on her arm, but Sam struggles at times to work out how much of his behaviour is an act and how much is genuine, which becomes a problem when she finds herself falling for him, despite her best efforts to keep him at arms length. Jake is no cardboard cut-out romantic lead though, he has a complicated past of his own which stops him being as one-dimensional as is sometimes the case with romantic leads of this ilk.

This book is written in the first person from Sam’s point of view and I really enjoyed being in her head and seeing everything from her slightly-neurotic point of view. Her inner monologue was completely authentic – somewhat reminiscent of Bridget Jones – as she worries about her weight, wanting to look amazing when she first sees her ex, whether anyone will find out that she and Jake are faking it. She is so likeable, it really carries the story along and had us rooting for her and a positive outcome.

The story is filled with humour, which made it a really easy read. There are some scenes that will have you howling with laughter and wondering how anyone can get themselves into such scrapes. I loved the character of Sam’s mother, who just added to the cringe-factor of some of the scenes, and there was a nicely rounded cast of friends and family to fill out the story. I did feel like the character of Ruby, who was set up to be a bit of a villainess, was slightly wasted and could have been used to throw a bit more of a spanner in the works and I wondered if that was a plot point that was in the original draft but then tailed off. It felt like a bit of an unfinished thread. However, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. The mystery of Jake’s past also went in a different direction than the one I had imagined, but it has given me an idea for a story twist that I might use in the future since it didn’t turn out to be the solution I had imagined in this book, so that was a bonus from my reading. Thanks, Zara, for sparking my imagination!

This was a lovely, light and funny read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading romantic fiction. You won’t be disappointed. Now I’m off to track down that piece of chocolate cake.

The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley is out now on Kindle and you can buy a copy here.  The paperback version will be published on the 28th of June and you can pre-order it here.

Follow the blog tour and see what other readers are saying about The Wedding Date:

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About the Author

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Born in a small village in Staffordshire, Zara Stoneley wanted to be James Herriot, a spy, or an author when she grew up. Writing novels means she can imagine she is all these things, and more!

Zara’s bestselling novels include ‘The Holiday Swap’, ‘Summer with the Country Village Vet’, ‘Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage’ and the popular Tippermere series – ‘Stable Mates’, ‘Country Affairs’ and ‘Country Rivals’.
She lives in a Cheshire village with her family, a naughty cockapoo, and a very bossy cat, and loves spending time in sunny Spain.

Connect with Zara:

Website: http://www.zarastoneley.com
Twitter: @ZaraStoneley
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZaraStoneley

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zarastoneley/ 

The House of Birds and Butterflies: Twilight Song by Cressida McLaughlin #bookreview (@CressMcLaughlin) @HarperCollinsUK @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam #TheHouseofBirdsandButterflies #TwilightSong #NetGalley

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“Spring is blooming at Meadowsweet nature reserve. Although the sunshine is drawing in the visitors like never before, events co-ordinator Abby knows she’s treading on thin ice. She’s spending more and more time with village newcomer Jack, and she’ll need to make a real success of the springtime camping extravaganza at the reserve if she’s to keep her disgruntled boss off her back.

Abby hasn’t thrown too many questions at Jack about his shadowy past – she’s enjoying the budding romance, so why break the spell? But when the secrets start spilling out and a glamorous blonde presenter from the nature show, Wild Wonders, turns Jack’s head, Abby knows it’s time to face the music…”

Part three of Cressida’s new four part serial and things are finally moving on between Abby and Jack – hurrah! Abby’s feelings for Jack have grown stronger along with mine as a reader, very cleverly managed by the author, and I am happy that Abby had finally managed to put her reservations aside and admit to herself how she feels.

However, there are still a few spanners to be thrown in the path of true love, as you would expect. Abby’s boss at the nature reserve is not happy that Abby is becoming distracted from her work as event co-ordinator, just when the reserve needs her most. Abby’s sister still has reservations about Jack and is not backward about sharing them, and Jack’s nemesis has come out of the woodwork to stir the pot and imply that Abby still does not have the full story about Jack’s troubled past.

I really enjoyed the camping weekend event that was organised at the reserve, and the first signs of thawing in the frosty Penelope, but the reserve’s situation seems to be coming ever more precarious and a sinister figure is now stalking the reserve to press the point home. We are left wondering if the reserve can be saved, what will be the fate of Swallowtail House and why is Flick Hunter hanging around? Is is because of Jack?

As a contrast to her wellie-clad work at the reserve, Abby attends a glamorous literary function with Jack as he tries to redeem his reputation in the literary world. This seems to be working until Eddie pops up, trying to scupper his chances and he draws Abby into his scheme to re-blacken Jack’s name. I wonder if Abby is prepared to be pulled out of her safe little world in Meadowsweet and into the spotlight, and whether Eddie will succeed in arousing further doubts in her mind about Jack.

Cressida does a great job of balancing the romance and tension and suspense in this instalment of the series, it was my favourite one of the series so far. We are fully immersed in the charming village of Meadowsweet and the travails of the reserve that they are as important to the reader as to the characters. At the same time, I am rooting for the romance of Abby and Jack.

My only problem with this book is that it was way too short and left on the cliffhanger of Jack finally revealing all of the details of his turbulent past. Will it be something Abby can live with? Will her sister’s doubts be allayed? What is the fate of Meadowsweet Reserve and Swallowtail House? Will Abby be able to do enough to save them? I am also sure that there is more to come from Flick Hunter and the presence of Wild Wonders at the rival Reston reserve.

Watch this space, the denouement is thankfully only a week away!

The House of Birds and Butterflies: Twilight Song is out now and you can buy a copy here. All four parts of The House of Birds and Butterflies will be released as a single paperback on 9 August 2018 and you can pre-order a copy here.

Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for the copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Amazon/Goodreads

About the Author

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Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David.

Cressy’s favourite things – other than writing – include terrifying ghost stories, lava lamps and romantic heroes, though not necessarily at the same time. (Though perhaps a good starting point for a story . . ?)

When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful and romantic Norfolk coastline.

Connect with Cressida:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CressidaMcLaughlinAuthor/

Twitter: @CressMcLaughlin

Instagram: @cressmclaughlin

Website: https://cressidamclaughlin.com

Front Porch Lemonade by JudiLynn Taylor #bookreview #NetGalley #FrontPorchLemonade

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“On the front porch of one Victorian home in the small Southern town of Eubanks, six women gather to indulge themselves in some cutting up, cutting loose, and an unparalleled stream of blowing off steam.

While these friends cannot stop the events that at times attempt to knock them off their charted courses, they do find a way to embrace the changes in their lives—through each other’s support, laughter, and a healthy dose of Miss Abby’s lemonade. Hold the vodka?”

One of my favourite books, which I go back to repeatedly, is The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells and I am consistently drawn to any book that promises tales of warm, Southern life and female friendship. From the description, I thought this was going to be such a book, and the colourful jug of lemonade on the cover seduced me further but, having read it, I am afraid I have been left wanting.

This book centres around the friendship of six Southern women who gather frequently on the porch of their unofficial leader, Abigail Ashhurst, to drink her famous homemade lemonade (the recipe for this delight is in the front of the book and I am definitely going to give it a try soon) and put the world to rights. These women are strong and sassy and have each others backs through the onslaught of trials, tribulations and tragedies that befall them over the course of two years.

I say two years but the time frame is not clear as it is not a linear story but rather jumps around in time from one day to another and then weeks or months ahead and then back to a few days apart. It is often hard to tell exactly when in time we are in relation to the last chapter which made the read a little disorienting.

In addition, and to confuse things more, this is not a clear, linear plot but a series of vignettes and stories about each of the six women intermingled, so you are often trying to sort out which character is which, who their husbands/children/dogs/colleagues are and what they each do, as well as the relevance of the anecdote. It does not make for easy reading and I also found that the jumping around made it impossible for me to bond with any of the characters enough to particularly care about them. This became an issue when the author was trying to address some serious issues faced by a couple of the characters towards then end. I had no emotional investment in the characters which lessened the impact of these events. I think the author was trying to use these stories to reveal the character of the six women and the Southern way of life, but it really didn’t work for me at all.

There was some really good scene setting which gave us a feeling of what the town of Eubanks was like and an insight into the peculiarly Southern way of life but there wasn’t enough of this to satisfy me or make up for what the book lacked in other areas.

One of the main issues I had was the main character of Abby and trying to work out her character. I think the women are all supposed to be of a similar age – mid-40s – but a couple of them spoke and acted like teenagers and ‘Miss Abby’ came across as about 80. She was so uptight (she runs the local school of etiquette) with seemingly no private life and no sense of humour that she was totally impossible to relate to. I just did not connect with any of the characters at all which made this a tough read.

This isn’t a terrible book, I didn’t hate it. On finishing it I mainly felt a sense of relief and a certain dissatisfaction that I hadn’t gained anything from the reading experience.

Front Porch Lemonade is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and thewordverveinc for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Amazon/Goodreads

About the Author

JudiLynn Taylor is a Southern gal through and through . . . with an accent to prove it.
Her laugh is both unique and infectious, and she shares it generously, naturally drawn to the humor in life. When she is not spending time with her family and close friends—her greatest of joys—you may find her hiking along the Georgia trails, gardening in her yard or stirring up a batch of homemade chocolate truffles. Currently, JudiLynn lives in the North Georgia area with her husband Mike and their two Cocker Spaniels, Oskar Myer and Gracie Grace.

#BlogTour A Clean Sweep by Audrey Davis (@audbyname) @rararesources #ACleanSweep #retroreview #miniblitz #bookbloggers

Clean Sweep

Today I’m delighted to bring you my stop on the Mini Blitz Retro Review Blog Tour for Audrey Davis’ book A Clean Sweep. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

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“A CLEAN SWEEP is a laugh-out-loud tale of love, lies and second chances.
Love comes around when you least expect it. Fifty-something widow Emily isn’t expecting romance. Nor is she expecting a hunky twenty-something chimney sweep on her doorstep.
Daughter Tabitha knows something isn’t quite right with her relationship, while her boss – Abba-loving Meryl – thinks she’s found the real deal. Are they both right, or pursuing Mr Wrong?
Emily’s sister, Celeste, has the perfect marriage … or does she? Can a fitness tracker lead her down the path to happiness or heartbreak?
Susan is single, overweight and resigned to a life of loneliness. There was the one who got away but you don’t get another try, do you?
Prepare for a rollercoaster ride of emotions in a book that will grab your heart, make you smile and wish you had a chimney to sweep.”

Chimney sweeps, are they even a thing any more? I’ve lived in this house for thirteen years and I’ve never had my chimney swept. I may have to remedy that situation now that I’ve read this book as it can obviously lead to interesting encounters!

This is the story of a group of women – ordinary women with ordinary lives – and the not-very-extraordinary things that happen to them. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? Well, do you know what, there is drama and passion and tension and heartbreak and joy in the not-very-extraordinary lives of these women and the genius of this book is making a funny, page-turning and heart-warming story out of the ordinary things that happen to ordinary people like you and I.

Emily is a middle-aged woman, widowed from a mundane marriage and just happy trundling along day to day, not expecting much until a chance encounter with hunky Joe who comes to sweep her chimney (not a euphemism to begin with but it soon turns into one, and this book is full of them!) turns her life on its head. There is an instant attraction, but is the substantial age gap a stumbling block to a proper relationship?

“He is a twenty-something hunk who wouldn’t look twice at someone old enough to be his mother. Cougars, wasn’t that what they were called these days? Except Emily felt she was about as predatory as an ancient feline who craved nothing more than a saucer of milk and a good ear scratch.”

Emily’s daughter Tabitha has problems of her own. Stuck in a job she doesn’t want and a relationship that could best be described as ‘tepid’, her life is not at all what she imagined. Does she have the courage to make drastic decisions to change it all? And what will she say when she finds out about her mum’s toy boy?

“One old crone – who really should only have been let out at Halloween – had spent almost half an hour slathering “try me” samples of organically produced hand creams on her wizened claws. Then complained that the smells were ‘quite obnoxious’. As she scuttled off back to her broomstick, Tabitha resisted shouting after her that six different fragrances mixed together didn’t necessarily make for olfactory heaven. Maybe eye of newt and tongue of bat would have been more up her street. Up yours, Endora.”

Tabitha’s boss, Meryl, is searching for love online and thinks she may finally have found it in charming suitor, Miroslaw. But can you really know someone you meet online?

Emily’s sister, Celeste, is married to the love of her life, Martin. But ghosts from Martin’s past are threatening to upset the stability of Celeste’s seemingly charmed life, and she only has herself to blame.

Lonely Susan is battling life’s problems solo. When faced with the biggest challenge of her life, she wonders if things would have been different if she hadn’t thrown away her one chance at love twenty years ago. But there is no point is wishing she had made a different decision now, is there?

This book is set in an ordinary town that could be anywhere, it is not relying on a picturesque or exotic location for colour. These are women that you know, that you meet in every day life, that could be you. The things that happen to them are the things that happen to all of us, every day, everywhere. There are no shocking twists or outlandish escapades. The drama is the small drama that happens to all of us all of the time. The kind of thing that isn’t going to make ripples for anyone else in the wider world, it isn’t going to make the front page of the paper but that can change an individual’s life forever in an instant. The author very cleverly makes us care about the characters in this book so much that these ordinary things become as important to us as they are to the individuals involved and you become very invested in a positive outcome very quickly. Honestly, I was so impressed by how she has managed to draw such a poignant story out of things that, on the face of it, seem fairly undramatic.

This book is carried along by the author’s warm and engaging voice and the strong vein of humour that runs through the book. I was laughing out loud one minute and then my heart was breaking for one of the characters the next. I completely bought in to everything that was happening and really wanted everything to turn out well for them all. I read this book in one sitting, and the time just flew by. It is utterly charming and I would highly recommend it. It is refreshing to see such a fantastic story made out of ordinary lives, featuring real people. I loved it.

A Clean Sweep is available now and you can buy a copy here.

Follow the blog tour and find out what other readers thought of this book

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About the Author

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Audrey Davis survived secondary school on the West coast of Scotland. Rubbish at science but not too bad at English, she originally wanted to be an actress but was persuaded that journalism was a safer option. Probably wise. She studied at Napier College in Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland at that time to offer a journalism course.
Her first foray into the hard-nosed newspaper world was as a junior reporter in Dumfriesshire. Duties included interviewing farmers about the prize-winning heifers to reporting on family tragedies. She persuaded her editor to let her launch an entertainment column which meant meeting the odd celebrity – or just the downright odd. From there, she moved to the loftier rank of senior reporter back in her home patch. Slightly more money, less farm animals but a higher crime rate. As Taggart would say: ‘There’s been a murrrrder!’
After a stint in London on a video magazine – yes, she is that old – Audrey moved to Singapore with her fiancé. She tried valiantly to embrace the stinking heat, humidity and lack of jobs, although she did work briefly on a magazine which was banned by the government for ‘artistic’ use of naked men’s bottoms.
Next on her adventures was a land Down Under where her main focus was raising Cost Centre One (aka firstborn) and coming to terms with the imminent arrival of Number Two. Still, she loved the Aussie way of life – BBQs, beaches and bring your own booze to restaurants – so it came as a blow when OH announced a move back to the UK. Not a job between them, the climate a possible deal breaker and an Exorcist-style vomiting infant on the flight home didn’t bode well …
Always a survivor, Audrey sought out similar-minded friends (i.e. slightly bonkers), got the children into a good school and thought about taking up writing again. Sadly, thinking about it was as far as she got, unless you count shopping lists. Then, hubby drops another bombshell. Switzerland. As in – it’s packing time again. Off to the land of cheese, chocolate, scarily efficient trains and a couple of teeny, tiny issues. Like driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and speaking a foreign language (French). The former was conquered fairly quickly (we’ll skip over the wall demolition in week two), the latter remains an ongoing battle of the hopeful against the hopeless. At least she provides amusement for the local workforce.

It wasn’t until 2016 that Audrey rediscovered her writing mojo with an online Writing Fiction course. From there, her first novel – A Clean Sweep – was born, although it took a bit longer than nine months from conception. A short, darker prequel – A Clean Break – followed, and in November 2017 she published the first in a novella trilogy, The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part One. Part Two is published on 21 March 2018, with the conclusion following in May/June. After which she might have a wee lie down …

Connect with Audrey:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/audreydavisbooks

Twitter- https://twitter.com/audbyname

Secrets and Tea at Rosie Lee’s by Jane Lacey-Crane #bookreview @Aria_Fiction #SecretsAndTeaAtRosieLee’s #NetGalley

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“Welcome to Rosie Lee’s cafe in the heart of the East End – where there’s not an avocado, slice of sour dough or double-shot no-foam soy milk caramel latte on the menu!
Rosie-Lee’s owner Abby is a woman without a plan….and her beloved little cafe is business with a serious lack of customers. The Rosie Lee’s fry-up is legendary, but cooked breakfasts alone – however perfectly sizzled the bacon – aren’t going to pay the bills.  
Fast approaching forty and fighting a serious case of empty nest syndrome, Abby realises its not just her menu that needs a makeover. And when Jack Chance, her The One That got Away, saunters through the cafe doors and back into her life things definitely look set to change…

Abby has always believed a cup of strong builders tea makes everything better, but Jack’s reappearance is a complication even the trusty sausage sarnie can’t resolve….”

This has turned out to be a tough book to review, as I have mixed feelings about it. I’m still tussling with it a bit but, for better or worse, these are my thoughts.

There is a proliferation of books set in cafes at the moment and from the title, cover and blurb of this book you might be expecting it to follow certain conventions that have sprung up around these books, but you’d be wrong to do so. The cafe setting is completely incidental to the storyline, it really is not the focus or the driving force of the plot. I am not saying this as a positive or a negative – it depends entirely on why you have picked up the book.

This is a book about family and how complicated those relationships can be and how it affects every aspect of our lives. Abby’s family life growing up  can best be described as dysfunctional. Her father disappeared when she was in her teens, her relationship with her mother was always difficult and her best friend and first love, Jack, moved away just when she needed him most. Abby fell pregnant at 19 and ended up with a baby to raise alone. However, Abby has pulled herself up by her bootstraps, determined to give her daughter Lucy a more stable upbringing than the one she had, despite being a single parent. She has succeeded in doing this with the help of her brother, but Abby’s romantic life is non-existent, her relationship with her mother irreparable and her cafe in financial difficulty. The Jack walks back into her life and Abby’s life becomes even more complicated.

As Abby struggles with unresolved feelings for Jack and tries to find out why he left without a word all those years before, the secrets that Abby’s family have been keeping begin to unravel and she has to reassess everything she thought she understood about her past.

This is a book that has some real emotional depth and explores some complicated issues. I was pleasantly surprised at the places the plot took me. However, the problem I had was that, at the same time, the main character Abby displays some very contradictory superficial and immature behaviour that I found difficult to reconcile with the other aspects of her story. In addition, I was struggling to buy into Jack’s behaviour as a sympathetic romantic lead. I will try and expand on this in a way that will make sense without containing any spoilers.

Abby has managed to build a stable life for herself and her daughter from a young age without the support of either of her parents or a partner. Her daughter has turned out to be a wonderful young woman, so Abby has obviously dealt with her less-than-perfect situation in a way that has proved positive for her daughter despite huge obstacles. When all the family secrets start to come out of the woodwork, she manages to take them in her stride and deal with them fairly sensibly and rationally, which would lead you to conclude she has a certain level of emotional maturity.

At the same time her actions around Jack exhibit the opposite. She acts like a teenager, unable to make up her mind how she feels from one minute to the next, egging him on then pushing him away. This behaviour is repeated over and over to the point where it started to become irritating. She seems incapable of having an honest adult discussion with him about the past and how she feels. Her reasoning for not wanting to be with him mostly seemed to be that he was too rich and good looking for her. This was coupled with far too much focus on how physically attractive she found him every time he came near her – the point was laboured to the point of tedium – and I felt that this did Abby an injustice. I actually believe that she has more emotional depth and maturity than that. I could understand her insecurities about re-starting a relationship with an old flame given the changes the intervening years had wrought on her body. I could understand that she might not trust him not to abandon her again given his past form. These were motivations that were hinted at and would make more sense as valid reasons for avoiding getting involved to me but they were undermined by the rest of her thought processes which seemed inauthentic for a woman of her age and experience. I don’t know if the author was deliberately giving the impression that Abby’s romantic development was stunted as a result of her circumstances, maybe that is the generous assumption to make. I’m still undecided.

Jack’s motivations were even harder to fathom. He hasn’t seen Abby for 25 years but then, following a chance meeting, he is suddenly obsessed with her to the point of refusing to leave her alone, despite frequent requests by her that he do so. We are supposed to believe that he has been in love with her for the whole intervening period, but he has never made any efforts to contact her during that time, despite the fact that she is living in almost exactly the same place as she did the last time he saw her and would be very easy to track down. . I think his sudden relentless pursuit of her was supposed to be romantic and protective but he was so persistent in the face of rejection that it bordered on the edge of stalker-ish, especially given  the less than savoury behaviour of her ex. My feelings about him were ambiguous at best.

This book moves on at a cracking pace with plenty of events thrown in to push the story along. In fact, so much had happened by the time I was fifty per cent of the way through that I wondered what could possibly be left to carry the book on to the end but it did not let up. I really enjoyed the momentum of this book and the twists and turns of the plot, it definitely packed more punch that the gentle food-based story you might be expecting from its wrappings. I think it was a shame that some of the emotional developments didn’t match up to the rest of the story.

This is the author’s debut novel and it shows real promise, despite some of the issues I identified above. I think this is a book that will appeal differently to different readers and someone else picking up this book will read it in another way and not have some of the misgivings I had. I recommend that you read it and reach your own conclusions. It is a complex story that deserves attention and feedback and is more than the sum of its cover and title.

I apologise for the length and rambling nature of this review, I think it is an accurate reflection of my many and complicated thoughts about this book.

Secrets and Tea at Rosie Lee’s is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to Aria and NetGalley for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Goodreads/Amazon

About the Author

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Jane has reached the age now where she no longer tells people her age! She’s old enough to legally be able to do everything and that’s all that matters. ‘Secrets & Tea at Rosie Lee’s’ is Jane’s debut novel. Born and brought up in London’s East End, she now lives in Lincolnshire with her family. Thankfully she recently discovered the joys of mail order pie, mash & liquor, so she can relive her youth anytime she feels like it!

Although writing stories was something that Jane had always done, she never thought anyone would pay her to do it so she focussed on learning to act instead, figuring that this was a much more reliable way to earn a living. Sadly, her career as an actress was shortlived, actually it was non-existent, so she turned her attention to another reliable line of work – Cable Television! This was where Jane managed to finally get paid (badly!) doing something she enjoyed – writing. She began with scripts for a series all about Serial Killers (imaginatively entitled ‘Serial Killers’) and then moved on to a series of history documentaries. This series never saw the light of day in the UK but Jane has been informed that it used be very popular with insomniacs staying in hotels in the Far East. This may or may not be true.

She is currently working on her second contemporary novel for Aria Fiction.

Connect with Jane:

Twitter: @JaneLaceyCrane

#CoverReveal The Cottage on Lily Pond Lane – Part One: New Beginnings @emilyharvale @rararesources

Cottage on Lily Pond Lane Cover Reveal

I am SO excited today to be able to bring your the cover reveal for Part One of Emily Harvale’s fabulous new four-part serial set in the seaside village of Little Pondale. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in revealing this cover.

The book will be published on 10 May and is available for pre-order here. Before I let you have a sneak peek at the gorgeous cover, let’s share some details of the story behind it.

“Mia Ward is amazed to be told she has inherited her great-aunt Matilda’s thatched cottage in the tiny seaside village of Little Pondale – especially as Mia didn’t know she had a great-aunt Matilda.

She’s even more astonished to discover she’ll only inherit the place if she actually lives there for one year. Mia’s a city girl at heart, not to mention she’s afraid of water, so the fact the cottage backs on to a sandy beach, is not, in her opinion, a bonus.

But Mia’s struggling to pay her rent since being fired for inappropriate behaviour at the office party, and her boyfriend’s also dumped her. When her best friend, Ella and Ella’s brother, Garrick offer to help her move and settle in, Mia decides to see this as a new beginning. 

It may also be the start of an exciting adventure because now Mia wants to know just who, exactly, was great-aunt Matilda. And she’s determined to find out. But it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to make sure Mia doesn’t stay in Little Pondale….”

Doesn’t that sound intriguing? I’m particularly desperate to know what the ‘inappropriate behaviour’ was that was so bad Mia got fired! I’m going to be reviewing this as part of Emily’s blog tour on the 19th June, so make sure you check in on that date to see what I think of the book.

Now we’ve heard the story behind the cover, but what about the author behind the story?

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Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now spends her days writing… and chatting on social media. Emily is a Member of the SoA, a PAN member of the RWA and a Pro Member of ALLi. She’s an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. Emily loves writing and her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.
Emily says, “I write about friendship, family and falling in love. I believe in happing endings.” When she isn’t writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both.

If you would like to get to know Emily better, you can link up with her on social media via the following platforms:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emilyharvalewriter

Twitter: @emilyharvale

Instagram: emilyharvale

So, here is the cover in all its glory

Lily Pond Lane FOR RACHEL

Isn’t it gorgeous? Just perfect for spring, I want to jump right in like Mary Poppins! Looking forward to reading the book very much.

Available for pre-order now here for publication on 10th May.

The Runaway Wife by Dee MacDonald #bookreview (@DMacDonaldAuth) @bookouture #TheRunawayWife #NetGalley

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“One evening in early August, while mashing the potatoes for dinner, Connie McColl decides she’s had enough…

Connie McColl is tired of solving one family crisis after another – usually involving her unruly grandchildren – while her husband Roger spends all day at his beloved golf course. Surely it must be time for her to shake off her apron and start living again?

So Connie packs a bag, gets in her little green car and drives off…

On her journey from England to Scotland, Connie stops in on long-lost friends and makes all sorts of colourful new companions along the way. As Connie has the time of her life, sleeping under the stars and skinny dipping in the sea, she finally begins to rediscover herself. And she starts to wonder, will she ever be ready to return home? 

Or will this summer change her life forever?”

It was the front cover that initially drew me to request this book. Its cartoon-like illustration made me think I was going to get a light, humorous and uplifting read that wouldn’t be too taxing and it definitely lived up to those expectations, but it was oh so much more on top.

I fell in love with Connie immediately. Any woman who has run a family (and let’s face it, that’s most of us) for any length of time are going to recognise aspects of themselves in Connie. Completely taken for granted by her neglectful husband, Roger and three grown up children, she finally snaps and takes off in her battered old car heading for who knows where in search of respite and excitement – who hasn’t dreamed of doing that from time to time? (Go on, admit it, the thought has crossed your mind!) You have to admire Connie for having the guts to do it and we are rooting for her from the start.

With no plan in mind, Connie goes where the whim takes her and, by a series of fortuitous accidents plus as a result of her warm and approachable nature, she makes some great new friends along the way, has some mild adventures and generally enjoys herself. Seeing her discovering herself as a individual along her journey and watching her blossom is heart-warming and you can’t help but privately cheer her on.

Meanwhile, back at home, her self-absorbed husband and spoilt children start to realise how much Connie has done for them in the past and how lost they are without her. However, they are still more concerned about the inconvenience to themselves that how she must have been feeling and this just made me feel even happier that Connie had left the selfish bunch behind and was finally having some fun. Consequently, whatever naughtiness Connie gets up to on her trip (and there is some, she is a feisty woman), you can’t possibly blame her, given what she has put up with over the years!

The one aspect of this book I was not expecting, and where I totally under-estimated it, was the real depth and poignancy that the storyline took on towards the end. This novel deals with some really serious issues in a way that was very unexpected from the cover. I don’t want to include any spoilers in the review so I can’t really say too much but I can say that the author has managed to weave these into an otherwise humorous story very deftly and it did not feel at all unbalanced or off kilter. I was really surprised and impressed with the subtlety of how this was done and, in my opinion, it took the book to a level I was not expecting when I started it.

Connie, of course, finally returns home – a new woman and ready to confront the issues she has with her husband and family. I thought I knew where this was going but, just when I was complacently settled in for my predicted ending, the author blew me out of the water again with a twist I did not see coming at all.

This book is a delight. It is really refreshing to see a book with a main character over the age of 40 and I enjoyed every minute of it. Pick it up, I promise you it delivers more than you might expect.

The Runaway Wife is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Goodreads/Amazon

About the Author

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The Runaway Wife is Dee’s first (published) novel but in fact she wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep., and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

Connect with Dee:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDeeMacDonald/

Twitter: @DMacDonaldAuth

Forever at Conwenna Cove by Darcie Boleyn #bookreview (@DarcieBoleyn) @canelo_co #ForeverAtConwennaCove #NetGalley

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“Following heartbreak, Zoe Russell found a haven in Conwenna Cove. As the owner of the village diner and a volunteer for the local greyhound sanctuary, she’s happy with her peaceful life.

Local surfer Nate Bryson plans to leave Conwenna and see the world. He wants to shake off his reputation as a ladies man and start again somewhere new. Before departing, Nate decides to raise funds for the dog rescue home as a way of giving back to the community.

When Nate approaches Zoe to help with the charity event she sees there’s more to him than meets the eye. Nate can’t believe he’s failed to notice the kind and beautiful woman right before him. But can two such different people ever be together, especially if one of them is determined to leave?”

Today is publication day for this book so, Happy Publication Day, Darcie, look like I am just going to sneak my review in under the wire to celebrate this day with you!

I have only just finished reading this book and I am still basking in its lovely, warm, uplifting glow. Despite the fact that the tentative improvement in the weather seems to be over here for now, I’m feeling a summery optimism.

This book tells the story of vulnerable Zoe, rebuilding her life after being badly let down by people she trusted and determined not to let anyone hurt her that way again, and Nate, equally determined to live life to the full and not end up with any regrets at not chasing his dreams. Despite their reservations, Zoe and Nate are pulled together over the course of a summer in Conwenna Cove, and must decide if they will give in to their mutual attraction, or let their pasts and their fears keep them apart. The story is set in the chocolate box village of Conwenna Cove on the Cornish coast.

So far, so predictable, I hear you say, but you would be quite wrong. This book is very different from anything I have read recently and that is entirely down to the very clever writing and character development by Darcie. I’m not sure exactly how to convey what makes this book feel different, except to say that the author has a very light and sympathetic touch. I fell in love with the characters immediately, they are well-rounded and believable, complete with flaws and insecurities, but totally likeable. The plot is gripping – I was desperate to keep reading and know how it was going to end – but it was also very gentle without any of the twists and huge issues that often get shoehorned into modern novels just because that seems to be how it done. This is a very down-to-earth, every day, personal drama that could be played out in any household across the country on a daily basis, but done in a way that is extremely compelling and rich.

The setting is beautiful – I for one can’t get enough of books set by the coast – with just enough description to make it come to life but not so much that it drags. It is very well-balanced.

The novel is narrow, and I mean this in a very positive way. It doesn’t have a cast of thousands. It is focused and tight, homing in on the relationship between two people that really pulls out the intensity of those personal feelings we all recognise and can sympathise with. It is refreshing and made it stand out for me exactly for the gentle nature of the drama that might seem small to the outside world but is of vital importance to the central characters. It is totally authentic and, for that reason, very relatable to everyone.

I hadn’t realised that this was actually the third book that the author has set in Conwenna Cove when I began to read it and I have not read the previous two. However, although there was some mention of characters that were obviously central to the previous novels, this works perfectly as a standalone and not having read them did not detract from my enjoyment of this one bit. What it did do was make me want to read the previous two immediately, and I have now downloaded them to my Kindle. I really look forward to reading more by this author.

This is a wonderful book, as warm and sweet as a dairy ice-cream on a Cornish summer day but not at all sickly. Go on, treat yourself to this book, you deserve it.

Forever at Conwenna Cove is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to Canelo and NetGalley for the copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night.

Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away. She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate.

Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.