Summer’s One #MustReadBook 2021

I was thrilled to be invited by Carol at Reading Ladies blog to take part in her international blogger collaboration, Summer’s One #MustReadBook 2021. Here is the post – a fabulous collection of reading recommendations by an amazing collection of bloggers. Prepare to flex your wallet in your local bookstore!

Reading Ladies

July 9, 2021

Find Your One “Must Read” Book of Summer 2021!

One Great Summer Read (20 Bloggers Offer ) imOne Best Rec) Image: tight focus of a woman sitting beside water reading

Image Source: Canva

Are you pondering what book to choose for your vacation or staycation?

Are you in limbo trying to decide what ONE great book to read this summer?

Do you ever wish someone would just TELL you what book to read?

Are you looking for a list of trusted book review bloggers?

Do you spend more time thinking about which book to pack for your vacation than packing the clothes? (oh…just me?)

If you only have time to read ONE more book before summer’s end, what would you choose?

beach reads cartoon

This is the time of year when readers in my hemisphere are looking for “Beach Reads.” (If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, happy “winter reading!”) The term “Beach Read” is puzzling to me because I think any book you read at the beach or the pool is…

View original post 5,133 more words

#BloggerInTheSpotlight – Julie from A Little Book Problem – @book_problem

Today I am being grilled by Joanne over on Portobello Book Blog on all things reading and blogging. Why not come and join us?

Portobello Book Blog

I’m so happy to be sharing this post today as it’s been a long time since I had anyone take part in my Blogger Spotlight. If you are a book blogger and would like to take part, do get in touch. I’m delighted to be joined by Julie who blogs as A Little Book Problem. Do pop over and have a read of her fabulous reviews if you don’t already follow her.

Thanks for agreeing to take part in my Blogger in the Spotlight feature Julie. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?

Hello! I’m Julie, 48 years old, mum of two, former lawyer, aspiring writer and blogger. Not sure what else there is to know about me really! Apart from I am a proud Yorkshire woman and notable short-arse.

What books/authors did you enjoy as a child?

I was of the generation where Enid…

View original post 694 more words

Book Review: Saving The World by Paola Diana #BookReview


A passionate call for international gender equality by a leading entrepreneur; this smart, accessible and inspiring book makes the case for why all nations need more women at the top of politics and economics.

`The status of women is a global challenge; it touches every human being without exception. How is it possible that countries where women have achieved political, economic and social rights after exhausting struggles remain seemingly indifferent to the egregiousness of other nations where the status of women is still tragic? The time has come to help those left behind.’

My thanks to Bei Guo at Midas PR and the author for providing me with a copy of this book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed it honestly and impartially.

I have always been a feminist. The eldest of four girls, brought up by my parents to value education and believe that, if we worked hard, there was nothing we weren’t capable of achieving, I have always believed that women are capable of getting to wherever they want to go given unfettered opportunity. However, as soon as I became aware of the differences between boys and girls, it also became clear that unfettered opportunity was not on offer. As a child born in 1972, when I entered the world of work as a corporate lawyer there was still a huge imbalance in favour of men in this discipline. I was often the only female in a room full of clients and other lawyers, and sexism was rife on both sides of the table. And law was one of the better careers for sexual equality at the time.

Things have undoubtedly improved in the intervening thirty years for women in the workplace, and I am glad that the trajectory is in the right direction, because I am now the mother of two daughters and have three step-daughters. I, in turn, am now raising them to be feminists, to value and make the most of their education, to believe there is no opportunity that is not open to them if they strive for it, and to understand that their value lies not in how they look, or their relationship to any other person, but in their own characters and abilities. I want them to be self-sufficient in every respect, because self-sufficiency is what allows you to be free.

I have sadly heard from younger generations over the years that feminism is no longer necessary, that the battle has been won and equality has been achieved. In fact, feminism has become something of a dirty word in modern times. It saddens me because, whilst these women may believe it is true for them in their individual lives, it is far from true for all women worldwide. And feminism has never been an individual effort, it has always required women coming together and supporting and helping one another to achieve progress. We cannot stand on the shoulders of the women who carved the path for us with their blood, sweat and tears and declare the job done because we are satisfied with our particular circumstances, knowing that women the world over are still struggling and suffering. Even more importantly, it requires the understanding and support of the people who have the power, men.

These are the issues explored in this fascinating book by Paola Diana, who is setting out the case for why feminism is still relevant and necessary in modern society, why equality has not yet been achieved for women worldwide and why, most importantly, everyone should be striving for it, regardless of gender, because gender equality helps everyone. The countries that have the best track record for this across the globe are the most prosperous and happiest. The book gives details of all the ways in which women are still treated as second class around the world, from veiling and FGM to economic inequality and political under-representation in the western world. The way it is written is not dry and academic, it is easily accessible to all and I wish all would read it.

A lot of what Paola is saying here I agree with, but there are also some new points and a lot of things to think about. It made me reassess some of the decisions I have taken in the past and some of my current behaviours and given me ideas of what more I can do, for myself and on a larger scale, to try and further the cause. However, I do think parts of it need updating again because things are in constant flux. In particular, she seems to see the UK as a beacon of hope in this area, which maybe it is in relation to her native Italy but, as a woman growing up and living here, there is still so much to be done. The part where she discusses the effect that electing a misogynistic male to a position of power has on the discourse of feminism, as happened in the US with Trump, has sadly now happened here two, with a serial philanderer sitting as our PM and no women in positions of power in the UK cabinet obviously promoting feminism as a cause celebre. The UK is no female utopia, as has been shown as women have been disproportionately effected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

I enjoyed this book very much, and found it very thought-provoking. I read it in a single day, it is fascinating and very easy to digest. I wish there were more solutions available, but I agree that education is key. Education for women the world over to empower them, and education for men as to how equality between the sexes will help them too. Because, most of the male problems that I hear discussed in conversations about gender equality arise from that same inequality, from the unreasonable demands put on men, from toxic masculinity, from rigid and unnatural roles imposed on our genders for no reason other than outdated traditions. I think we need to change the narrative around this issue as a starting point. It has always been framed as a fight – battle of the sexes, gender war, fight for emancipation – the implication being that there are winners and losers and that giving power and equality to women takes something from men. This is not and should not be the case. We are human beings, all with something to offer, and we should all be working together for the happiness and benefit of all. Society would work so much better for everyone, on both a macro and micro scale, if we had this approach. We have to share this world, so let us share it and work together to improve it as a single, human race. This is the big takeaway from this book, and education of the next generations is key to achieving it. This book makes me want to do my bit, and I hope other people, male and female, will read it and feel the same.

Saving The World is out now and you can buy it in paperback here.

About the Author


A native of Italy, Paola achieved a BA in Political Science and an MA in Institutional Relations from the University of Bologna before probing into the world of Italian politics. Since the day that she embarked on a career directing the Think Tank in support of former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s political campaign, Paola has never been one to adhere to gender stereotypes – challenging the ideologies of male supremacists at every opportunity.

Connect with Paola:


Twitter: @paoladiana_

Instagram: @paoladiana_

A Little Book Problem banner

Desert Island Children’s Books: Little Women by Louise May Alcott

CHILDREN'SSo, here we go with the first entry in the countdown of the twelve childhood favourites that I would take with me if I were stranded on a desert island indefinitely and, for this first month, I have picked one of my favourite books of all time and the perfect novel to warm my heart in these grey, chilly days of January. It it Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.


Meg – the sweet-tempered one. Jo – the smart one. Beth – the shy one. Amy – the sassy one.

Together they’re the March sisters. Their father is away at war and times are difficult, but the bond between the sisters is strong.

Through sisterly squabbles, happy times and sad, their four lives follow different paths, and that discover the growing up is sometimes very hard to do. . .

Why do I love Little Women so much? I think it was the first book I ever read where I identified really strongly with one of the characters, combined with the historical aspect of learning how people lived in a different time and place (my love of historical novels endures to this day.)

Jo March was my first literary heroine and, to be honest, she still is one of them today. She is one of four sisters, as I am, tomboyish and obsessed with books, just as I was as a child. She was the first person I really saw reflected back at myself from the pages of a book, which made me fall in love with it, because being able to relate to characters is always key to making us love a book. We have to be able to sympathise and understand a character to really put ourselves in their place and live their life through the pages.

Aside from relating to Jo March, she actually inspired me in real life. She planted the idea in my head that writing a book and getting published was a possibility, no matter who you are, an idea that has endured to this day (although it still remains a dream at the moment.) There were parts of the book that I loved that actually spilled over into actuality. One of my favourite scenes is early on, when they put on a play on Christmas Day. After reading this, I decided we would do the same, and I press-ganged my sisters into my performance, with full costumes and scenery and a script I wrote from scratch, which we forced my parents to watch. Our first play was an adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin, but many more followed each year, getting more and more ambitious. We started performing annually at my parents’ Boxing Day party, and the performances expanded to include my cousins (of which I have a surfeit), rehearsals for a week before, music, complex plots, costuming and makeup, pantomime dames and male relatives co-opted as scenery handlers. We did A Christmas Carol, Cinderella and many others, with full scripts written by me, and these plays are still the stuff of family legend today.

Another favourite part, featuring The Pickwick Club, inspired me to start producing a weekly newspaper which I wrote myself from beginning to end, fully illustrated and pinned up on the kitchen wall for all the family to enjoy. I can’t think of another book I have read that has actually inspired me to take action in my real life the way that Little Women did, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that it partly shaped what I loved and who I became. There are few books that are that powerful.

Reading back over the book now, at the age of 48, it seems a lot more preachy than I remember from my childhood. I think this is largely because I am a lot more cynical than I was when I fell in love with this book as a child, whereas a lot of the deeper morals would have washed over me at that young age. But it also taught me a lot about some weighty issues, that were alien to me at that time. Illness, death, romance, anger, jealously, vanity, pride – all of these things are discussed and dissected in the book, and we learn from how they are dealt with between its pages. This is what great children’s literature does without the child even realising it.

My daughters have no interest in this book, to my dismay, it is too old-fashioned for their tastes now, although they may come to it as they get a little older, and I’m hoping to persuade them to watch the latest movie version of the story with me soon. When I read it now, I still want to be Jo March, scribbling away in her garret, wrapped in an old comforter, eating ‘russets,’ watched over by her pet rat, Scrabbles (maybe without the rat.) I don’t know if I will ever get my writing garret (Julie Cohen’s office is the closest thing I’ve seen to how I imagined it would be, and I am very jealous) but I will get my publishing dream one day, I’m determined. When I do, I’ll be tipping my hat to that fictional heroine who first inspired me so many years ago.

The cover shown is of the V&A Collector’s Edition of Little Women and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author


Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist, short story writer and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886). Raised in New England by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Alcott’s family suffered from financial difficulties, and while she worked to help support the family from an early age, she also sought an outlet in writing. She began to receive critical success for her writing in the 1860s. Early in her career, she sometimes used pen names such as A. M. Barnard, under which she wrote lurid short stories and sensation novels for adults that focused on passion and revenge.

Published in 1868, Little Women is set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts, and is loosely based on Alcott’s childhood experiences with her three sisters, Abigail May Alcott Nieriker, Elizabeth Sewall Alcott, and Anna Alcott Pratt. The novel was well-received at the time and is still popular today among both children and adults. It has been adapted many times to the stage, film, and television.

Alcott was an abolitionist and a feminist and remained unmarried throughout her life. All her life she was active in such reform movements as temperance and women’s suffrage. She died from a stroke, two days after her father died, in Boston on March 6, 1888.

Kindle Offer: Beneath Cornish Skies by Kate Ryder #KindleDeal

Cornish Escape Facebook 4

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

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

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

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

Kate Ryder is my guest on Friday Night Drinks this week but I thought I would give you all the heads up that her most recent book, Beneath Cornish Skies is currently on offer for 99p on Kindle until 28th February, so why not snap up a copy quickly before this bargain price disappears?

And make sure you come back on Friday to join Kate and I for our chat.

A Little Book Problem banner

Book Review: Silent Night by Nell Pattison


What happened while they were sleeping?

A school for the deaf takes an overnight trip to the snowy woods. Five teenagers go to sleep, but only four wake up. Leon is missing, and a teacher’s body is found in the forest…

Sign language interpreter Paige Northwood is brought in to help with interrogations. Everyone at the school has a motive for murder – but they all have an alibi.

As Paige becomes increasingly involved, she suspects there’s something sinister going on. With the clock ticking to find Leon, only one thing is certain: the killer is among them, and ready to strike again…

My thanks to the publisher for my advance digital copy of this book, received via NetGalley for the purpose of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This is my first book by this author. I did see a lot of posts about the first Paige Northwood book, Silent Housewhen it came out earlier in the year but I never got round to reading it. However, the fact I hadn’t read the first book did not detract at all from my enjoyment of this one, although it did make me want to go back and read it to plump out the back story that is reprised briefly in this book.

From the title and cover, you might expect this to be a Christmas book, but it isn’t at all. It is a thriller set in the enclosed world of a school for the deaf. A child goes missing on a school residential trip, and a body of a teacher is found. The protagonist, Paige, is an interpreter brought in to assist the police in solving the crime within the close knit deaf community.

I have never read a book set within this world before and I thought it was absolutely fascinating and illuminating, shedding light on issues that many of us probably give very little thought to in our day to day lives if it is not something we are affected by directly. This is where novels come into their own, educating us without seeming to, which hopefully might give us all some additional insight and compassion into daily struggles we might otherwise unaware of.

I thought the author created a raft of really interesting characters in the novel and an intriguing dynamic. Watching the inter-play between the adult and teenage characters was gripping. You would assume that the children would prove to be the less reliable narrators, but this is not necessarily the case. There are also some interesting issues explored in the book, including recovering from abusive relationships and online child safety. Plenty of meat to get your teeth into here.

The plot was extremely twisty, I had absolutely no idea who was behind the crimes until the very end. If I had any criticisms, it might be that the novel was a little unevenly paced, with a flurry of frenetic action right at the end. There were also some decisions made by Paige in the story that frustrated me, because there didn’t seem to be any consistent logic behind them, other than to serve the plot. One minute she was revealing stuff to someone that she shouldn’t, the next failing to tell someone something that she should. However, this is really me nit-picking. On the whole, I enjoyed the book and the positives far out-weighed any minor niggles I may have. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a gripping thriller and is looking for something with a little more depth than the norm.

Silent Night is out now as ebook, paperback and audiobook and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author


Nell Pattison is the author of a crime thriller series featuring British Sign Language interpreter Paige Northwood. Her debut novel, The Silent House, was a USA Today bestseller.

After studying English at university, Nell Pattison became a teacher and specialised in Deaf education. She has been teaching in the Deaf community for 13 years in both England and Scotland, working with students who use BSL. Nell began losing her hearing in her twenties, and now wears hearing aids. She lives in North Lincolnshire with her husband and son.

Connect with Nell:

Facebook: Nell Pattison Author

Twitter: @Writer_Nell

Instagram: @writernell

A Little Book Problem banner

Desert Island Books: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Desert Island Books

My personal Desert Island Book for September is Persuasion by Jane Austen, a book I know inside out and upside down as a result of studying it for my A Level English Literature exam.


Eight years ago, Anne Elliot fell in love with poor but ambitious naval officer, Captain Frederick Wentworth, a choice with which Anne’s family was dissatisfied. Lady Russell, friend and mentor to Anne, persuaded the younger woman to break off the match.

Now, on the verge of spinsterhood, Anne re-encounters Frederick Wentworth as he courts her spirited young neighbour, Louisa Musgrove. 

Persuasion is the last, fully-completed novel by Jane Austen, and it was not published until six months after her death. I think it is obvious from reading Persuasion and then comparing it to some of Austen’s earlier novels how much she had matured as a writer at this point and it makes me immensely sad to think of the wonders she could have produced had she only lived a little longer.

It is said that Austen became alarmed by the subject matter of this book, how young girls could be easily influenced by their friends and relations with regard to the decisions they made in their lives, particularly in relation to their love lives, by an experience she had herself in giving misguided advice to her niece on the matter of a suitor and the advisability of a long engagement.

Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, a young woman reaching that dangerous point of life where she becomes too old to be desirable as a bride and tips over to spinsterhood. Eight years previously, she had been deeply in love and had a chance at marriage, but her family and acquaintances had disapproved of the match and had persuaded her against it, a decision she now regrets. When the young man in question returns into Anne’s social orbit, she finds she still has strong feelings for him, but has to watch him court another girl.

Anne Elliot is a much more mature heroine than some we see in Jane Austen’s earlier books. She is more mindful and even-tempered than Lizzie Bennett, more sensible and less impulsive than Marianne Dashwood, but with a firmer and more decisive temperament than Fanny Price (who I have always found a little drippy for my tastes). Having given in previously to pleas from her nearest and dearest, she appears to have learnt from her mistake and become much firmer and more certain in her opinions, whilst retaining an obliging and sweet nature that cannot help but make her appealing to the other characters in the novel and the reader alike. Her pleasantness is thrown into sharp relief by the vain, selfish and snobby behaviour of her father and elder sister, and the whiny victimhood of her younger sister. The whole book sets her up as someone worthy of love and a second chance, and we cannot help but hope that Captain Wentworth’s heart is not entirely made of stone as far as Anne is concerned.

The action in the book moves from the family’s home of Kellynch Hall, to Mary’s home in a nearby village, to Lyme Regis and then on to Bath and provides an entertaining snapshot of the life of the landed gentry at the end of the eighteenth century. It throws light onto the ridiculous snobbery of people like Sir Walter Elliot, who have a title but no money, and who look down on people such as the naval officer he is forced to let his estate to, who has made money during his service to his country, but has no title. The reader is asked to judge who is the more noble and deserving of admiration and respect of these two men, and Sir Walter would be dismayed to find that the conclusion must not be drawn in his favour, despite his ‘good looks, and his entry in the books of the gentry.

Similarly, the reader is left to compare the worth of Anne’s two suitors, Captain Wentworth, formerly poor and undistinguished when he first proposed to Anne, and her cousin, Mr Elliot, heir to her father’s land and title, and a gentlemen of seemingly impeccable standing. I will not spoil the book for you by telling you how these two actually stack up in practice, but things are not always as they appear on the surface, an abiding theme in Austen’s work and a reminder to us all to really consider what traits and values have worth, and which are shallow and unworthy.

The main reason people love this book, and I have seen this mentioned many times so I know it is not just me, is The Letter. If there is no other reason to fall in love with the hero of this book (and there are plenty) The Letter will do it in an instant for any true romantic out there. Every woman dreams of receiving a letter like this one, it is possibly the most fabulous love letter ever sent in the history of novels and I will never get tired of sighing over it. If you think Darcy gives good letter, you need to read The Letter in Persuasion. It makes Captain Wentworth the most swoon-worthy romantic lead in classic literature for my tastes and he would be my choice for a companion on my ideal romantic weekend (The Irishman aside, of course!) We would go to Lyme Regis and walk in the sea air along the Cobb and he could read it aloud to me. Perfection.

So, Persuasion, the book that pulling it apart for an English exam did not ruin for me and my favourite Austen novel. I’d take it to my desert island just so I could read The Letter on a daily basis and imagine I was not alone, or that Captain Wentworth was going to sail by on his frigate and rescue me any moment. That should kill a few hours.

Persuasion is available in some beautiful collectors editions and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author


Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction set among the gentry have earned her a place as one of the most widely read and most beloved writers in English literature.

Jane Austen was born in Steventon rectory on 16th December 1775. Her family later moved to Bath and then to Chawton in Hampshire. She wrote from a young age and Pride and Prejudice was begun when she was twenty-two years old. It was originally called First Impressions. It was initially rejected by the published she submitted it too and eventually published in 1813 after much revision.

All four of her novels – Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815) published in her lifetime were published anonymously. Jane Austen died on 18th July 1817. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (both 1817) were published posthumously.

A Little Book Problem banner

Friday Night Drinks… with Elaine Roberts


Friday has come around slowly this week! I’ve been very distracted and restless due to the kids being back in school for the first time since March, so I’m really ready for a drink tonight and I am delighted that I have a fellow RNA member and author to keep me company. Welcome to the blog… Elaine Roberts.

Author Photo

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

Thank you for inviting me, I’ll have a Pimms please. It’s one of my favourite tipples; I love a drink that comes with nibbles.


Lovely, I’ll have one of those too. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I would opt for the theatre; I love a live show or concert and a good meal so it would have to involve food as well. Living relatively close to London and having an excellent local theatre there are always plenty of options.

That would be marvellous, I have really missed trips to the theatre during lockdown. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I do like a good laugh so I would invite Victoria Wood and Michael McIntyre. They both have had interesting lives. I was lucky enough to see them live and spent the whole evening laughing.

Victoria Wood is a popular choice, I’m very jealous that you saw her live, I absolutely loved her. I’ve seem Michael McIntyre, he is extremely funny. I think we all need a good laugh these days! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m currently planning and writing the third book in The West End Girls series. It can be complicated when you are writing a series because the books still need to stand-alone. The challenge is to add backstory without giving too much away. I keep changing my mind about which way the story is going so that involves a lot of brainstorming on my part. It takes time for my mind to formulate the story I want to write. This will potentially be the last book in The West End Girls series for my publisher, Aria, Head of Zeus. 

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

I have two proud moments. The first thing I ever had published was a short story, I was never interested in writing them but at the time I was attending The Write Place, which is a writing class, and was told to have a go. At the time I didn’t appreciate what a good learning curve it was to write to a word count. That story was the first time I had experienced someone wanting something I had written, I have to say I couldn’t believe it and was dancing around my front room when I got the email offering to purchase it. My second one is being offered my first three-book contract with Aria, Head of Zeus. I’m in the process of writing my second series for them, The West End Girls.


What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

I have written for as long as I can remember but only started taking it seriously about ten years ago, at that time I just wanted to write a novel and see it in the shops. I joined The Write Place and found out I had a lot to learn. To some extent I have exceeded that because I’m currently writing my sixth saga, the third in The West End Girls series, but I would still like to walk into shops and see my books on the shelves. Having said that I love being with my editor and publisher so I have no complaints.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

My first book, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, was born from a Victorian novel I wrote, which I love. Agents and publishers all said they liked it but at that time the period didn’t sell well. A friend gave me some good advice, which I took. It resulted in moving the family forward to the beginning of World War One. They are all related to my main character in The Foyles Bookshop Girls so I’m now thinking of giving it a good edit and maybe self publishing it. It’s exciting and a little bit scary as I’ve never done it before but I have nothing to lose by trying.

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

Being raised in the army I have travelled a lot in my life and spent many years living abroad but one of my lasting memories is going on the Queen Mary 2, with my late husband, to the Caribbean. We were on a local boat when we witnessed dolphins swimming alongside it. I got quite emotional seeing them in their natural habitat. 

I don’t really have a place I’d love to visit above others but what I have discovered is that there are so many beautiful places in Britain that I’ve yet to see. I feel that I haven’t really given my own country the attention it deserves so that’s my plan going forward.


It’s the right time to do it. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

My father was in the army and I was born in Cyprus. I’m British because I was born in a British Military Hospital, but as a child I stopped telling people where I was born because I used to get called all kinds of names. I suspect it would be labeled as racism these days but I didn’t know about such things back then. My late husband told everyone and I used to tell him off, but he taught me to be proud and not hide away.

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

Gosh, this is a difficult question. I have so many favourite authors, in different genres. I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson, there was something about it that touched me. Being a hopeless romantic I would also recommend P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Aherne, I cried buckets when I read that. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult is another one. I could just go on and on, I haven’t even mentioned any saga authors that I love to read. All of the books I have mentioned have been made into films or a television series, and while they have been enjoyable, they were nowhere near as good as the books.


‘All the stuff in the papers was lies.
We were never The Ice Cream Girls’

Serena and Poppy were teenagers when they were branded as the Ice Cream Girls.

When they were accused of murder, one of them was sent to prison while the other was set free.

Now, 20 years later, one of them is doing all she can to clear her name and the other is frantically trying to keep her secrets.

Which Ice Cream Girl is desperate enough to kill to get what she wants?

Fabulous books. I hated what they did to My Sister’s Keeper in the movie, the changes they made were a travesty! P.S. I Love You was better, largely due to the presence of Gerard Butler! (Gratuitous picture coming up, brace yourselves!)


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

When I drink I always get the munchies so eating is always in order at the end of the night, but also first thing in the morning to soak up all the alcohol. I also drink lots of water to keep away the pounding head in the morning.

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

To be lazy, maybe relax, have laughs and chats with my family or read a book with a glass of Pimms.

Perfect. thank you for chatting to me this evening, Elaine, it was just what I needed to wind down at the end of this week.

Elaine’s latest book, The West End Girls was published in June in ebook format, and you can buy a copy here.

West End Girls


Growing up on a farm in the country, Annie Cradwell has always dreamt of singing on stage. So when she hears her friend Joyce has a room to spare in London, she sets off with best friend Rose for an adventure beyond anything they could have imagined. 

In London, Annie and Rose stumble into jobs at the Lyceum Theatre. Being a dresser to capricious star Kitty Smythe wasn’t exactly what Annie had in mind. But then the musical director, Matthew Harris, offers her singing lessons. And Annie starts to wonder – could this be her chance? Or is it all too good to be true? 

With the threat of war in the air, everything is uncertain. Is there a place for hopes and dreams when so much is at stake? 

Annie, Rose and Joyce are three girls with very different dreams – but the same great friendship.

Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way again until she picked it up again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine is very proud of The Foyles Bookshop Girls saga trilogy, which her late husband encouraged her to write. She, and her extended family, live in and around Dartford, Kent and her home is always busy with children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.

You can find out more about Elaine and her books via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

A Little Book Problem banner

Romancing The Romance Authors… with Claire Huston

Romancing The Romance Authors

Today is the day! The first instalment in my new feature, Romancing The Romance Authors, where I interview an author of romantic fiction about what makes their love-filled heart tick, what influences their writing, and ask them to give me and other budding romance authors some tips on the genre.


I am delighted to welcome as my first guineapig guest, lovely romance author and friend of the blog, Claire Huston. Claire won my #underwatervampireerotica competition (it’s a long story) at this year’s RNA virtual conference to be awarded this dubious honour, so let’s hope it was worth it.

Now for those searing questions we all want the answers to!

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

I self-published my debut contemporary romance in April this year. I’ve finished my second book since, another contemporary romance, but I don’t know yet whether that one will be traditionally published or whether I’ll self-publish again. Watch this space!

Why romance?

I enjoy reading a range of different genres. But when it comes to writing, I think I’ve gravitated towards romance because if I’m going to spend months inhabiting a story I want it to have a happy resolution in which things turn out well for the deserving characters. Writing a romance is making a little island of happiness and fairness for readers who live in a world in which those things often struggle to prevail. It’s like spinning a joyful dream you can share with others. 

What inspires your stories?

All sorts of things. Books, movies, conversations with friends, random things overhead when out and about… It all marinates in the back of my mind and eventually ideas emerge out of the soup!

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

Sorry for the unoriginal answer, but I have to say Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. We read Jane Eyre at school when I was twelve, and I think it’s probably influenced me more than I’ll ever realise. 

In the present there are just too many brilliant romance authors to mention so I won’t start in case anyone feels I’ve left them out ☺

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

Persuasion by Jane Austen. It’s my favourite Austen and is often overlooked, partly because it hasn’t had as many lavish screen adaptations as her other works. It’s wonderful and particularly impressive when you consider she was already ill when she wrote it. It hints at how terrific her future books would have been had she not died so young.

Persuasion_Jane Austen_cover

At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune or rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel too and it may be making an appearance on the blog soon in some guise! Which romantic hero would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

This answer will make me sound weird, but… I think the best romances are so effective because readers don’t just fall for the hero, but rather come to love the idea of him and his other half as a couple. It’s the combination of two characters we root for. And so I don’t think I could go off for a romantic weekend with any of the heroes in my favourite books because I’d spend the whole time counselling them about their relationship with their fictional other half and telling them to get back to them! The meddling romance novelist in me couldn’t let it go!

In that sense, I’d probably have a better weekend at a spa with a romantic heroine. I could have a good gossip with Lizzy Bennett and find out how she’s managing Darcy and his ten thousand a year.

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

Getting to talk to other romance writers who are in the same boat as you. Writing can be a lonely and frustrating business. The RNA are a warm, helpful, friendly community and the advice and support of your fellow members when you’re struggling can stop you from wanting to chuck it all in and never pick up a pen again.

I must give a special mention to the Birmingham Chapter members who are the only ones I’ve ever been able to meet regularly in person. They’re a lovely, incredibly talented group and hopefully we’ll be able to see each other soon as I’ve missed our meet ups!

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

There’s no right way to write a book. You may hear prescriptive advice telling you what you must and mustn’t do, such as “You must write every day”. But when I hear definitive statements like that I always think, “What utter rubbish!” 

If you’re starting out it’s likely that you’re squeezing writing in around all the other pressing commitments in your life. So write however suits you and whenever you can. If it works for you and gets you to “the end”, go for it.

Tell us about your latest book.

My debut novel, Art and Soul, came out in April 2020. It’s available in ebook and paperback and free to download with Kindle Unlimited. You can buy it here.

Layout 1

An expert at solving other people’s problems, single mum Becky is hired to help artist Charlie get out of his creative slump. But when she starts falling for her client, will she be able to fix her own love life?

A heart-warming, uplifting romance served with a generous slice of cake.

About the author

Claire Huston author photo 2020

Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire with her husband and two children. Art and Soul is her first novel.

A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for all the cakes mentioned in Art and Soul at along with over 100 other recipes. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.

Connect with Claire:


Facebook: Claire Huston Author

Twitter: @ClaraVal

Instagram: @clairehuston_author

If you are a romance author and think you would enjoy answering this random assortment of questions about writing romance, please do get in touch and you can take part in a future instalment of Romancing The Romance Authors.

A Little Book Problem banner

Friday Night Drinks with… Vivien Brown


There has been a last minute change to my companion for tonight’s Friday Night Drinks and I am really grateful to my guest for stepping in and saving me from being stood up! So I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author…. Vivien Brown.

author Vivien Brown 2019

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

Sorry to disappoint but I don’t drink! I would love a nice ice-cold Diet Pepsi with a slice of lime though, thank you!

Teetotallers are always welcome, alcohol not necessary for a fun evening! If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Do you like horses? I really enjoy an evening at the races. Windsor is a lovely course. Out on the lawn in the sun, watching the jockeys fly in by helicopter and then mounting up, picking my favourites, having a little bet and collecting my winnings (if only!), taking lots of photos and enjoying a fish and chip supper. You can even arrive in style, via the Thames, if you feel like a boat trip, taking in a view of the castle, and surrounded by swans.


I love horses, and racing (how could I not, coming from Doncaster!) If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I would probably be horribly starstruck and too scared to talk, but it would have to be the absolute genius that was Victoria Wood, my comedy writing idol, and my all-time movie heart-throb, Kevin Costner (preferably dressed in his white naval uniform as in the film No Way Out). If he couldn’t make it over from America because of the pandemic I would happily take Aidan Turner in his place.

Oh, Victoria Wood is my idol too, I really miss her. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

The cover was officially revealed this week for my fourth novel, Be Careful What You Wish For, coming out in September. It is already doing very well in pre-sales, so I am hoping for great things. Meanwhile, I am halfway through writing the next one, a story combining themes of organ donation and finding a lost family after adoption, and bringing back some of the characters from earlier novels so readers can find out where they are now. I don’t yet have a contract for it so I just hope it gets published!

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

There is nothing quite like holding your first paperback in your hands. My first two full-length novels, written under a different name, were only e-books, so seeing Lily Alone as a print book was a landmark moment for me. The biggest challenge is always just keeping going, finishing a book after months of writing, staring at another blank page or screen and telling myself yes, I really can do it all again!


What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

What novelist doesn’t dream of a bestseller? By that I mean the full works – my book on all the bookshop shelves and in the window displays, winning awards, making the Sunday Times lists, and being made into a film starring Kevin Costner… Dream on!

Dreams are good, you never know! What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

Not everything is about my actual writing. At the moment I am most excited about meeting my first grandson, due to be born early in December. And the end of lockdown, so I can see all my writer friends and go to social events and conferences again. So many were cancelled, including a lunch at The House of Lords. I am being as optimistic as I can and planning ahead for lots of such events in 2021.

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

When I was younger I saw quite a lot of the world. I really loved Hong Kong (before the Chinese took it back), Singapore and Thailand, especially all the lovely temples, flowers and wildlife, including my favourite elephants. And, with my husband, I have enjoyed lots of European beach and city destinations, and explored the beautiful Barbados and Jamaica. We even managed to take in a horseracing meeting while on Barbados! More recently I have thoroughly enjoyed holidays nearer to home, taking my daughter Vicky and the grandchildren to Disneyland Paris, especially as you can get there so easily by train. No waiting around at airports or long flights to endure. Now we can’t easily travel, I would be just as happy in England, especially the beautiful rugged areas of the South West – visiting Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, forever now ‘Poldark country’ to me.

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

No great surprise to those who know me, but I went through five rounds of traumatic and expensive IVF before I could have a family, resulting in twin girls, and I am a bit of a cryptic crossword addict. Sorry, that’s two things!

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

The Swap by Fiona Mitchell. As a former IVF patient, its theme of two embryos being accidentally swapped at the clinic resonated with me. Two women finding out three years after giving birth that they have the ‘wrong’ baby. Would you keep the one you have raised or swap them back? 


Two women, two children. But whose is whose?

When two strangers, Tess and Annie, undergo IVF at an American clinic, their embryos are mixed up and each woman gives birth to the wrong child.

The women only discover the devastating error three years later. Tess wants to swap the children back; Annie doesn’t. As the pair wrangle, neither of them expect what unfolds.

That sounds fascinating, I will add it to the TBR. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

No alcohol for me, so hangovers don’t happen! 

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

Get up late on Sunday, have a long hot soak in a very bubbly bath with a good book, fruit and pastries for breakfast, read two newspapers and do the crosswords in them, a lovely roast for lunch, send my husband out to his bowls club so I can have more reading time before settling down with my cats Pixie and Dixie for an evening by the fire in my cosy pyjamas, watching several episodes of Poldark. 

Pixie and Dixie

Cute cats! Vivien, thank you very much for joining me at the last minute, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

Vivien’s latest book, Be Careful What You Wish For will be published on 26 September, and you can pre-order a copy here.

Be Careful What You Wish For cover

Two strangers. Two very different lives. A chance to escape…

Veteran stage actress Madi needs to escape from her lonely London life. The showbiz world is wearing thin. Estranged from her only son and still recovering from a traumatic breast cancer operation, she’s started to forget things and has the strongest sense she is being watched…

Prue feels suffocated by her claustrophobic village life, especially when she is humiliated in the most public way. Now Prue is desperate for anonymity whatever the cost.

A life swap seems the perfect escape for both women. But will changing places solve their problems? Or will happiness come at a dangerous price?

Originally trained in finance and banking, but more recently working with young children and their families in libraries and children’s centres, Vivien started her writing career, using her then name of Vivien Hampshire, with a 150-word paragraph that won the Mail on Sunday ‘Best Opening to a Novel’ competition in 1993, although the completed book was never published. Since then she has sold around 150 short stories to UK women’s magazines and 250 articles about working with children to professional nursery and childcare magazines, and has had two e-novels and a My Weekly pocket novel published as Vivien Hampshire, along with a non-fiction book on how to ‘crack’ cryptic crosswords. 

As Vivien Brown, she has had three women’s contemporary novels, Lily Alone, Five Unforgivable Things and No Sister of Mine published by One More Chapter, all with domestic drama/family relationship themes. Her fourth, Be Careful What You Wish For, comes out on 26 September 2020 in e-book, with the paperback to follow at Christmas. 

Vivien lives in Uxbridge, Middlesex with her husband and two cats. She has twin daughters, now grown-up, and two young granddaughters who keep her busy and entertained. When not writing she loves reading, watching TV quizzes, hospital and period dramas, and tackling and compiling tricky crosswords, many with personalised clues which clients commission as gifts. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a fellow of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ).

You can find out more about Vivien and her writing on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.