This month’s post is partly a follow on from last month’s where the topic was the age of the characters which you can read here. This time though I’m taking a bit of a wider view of contemporary romantic fiction.
Also last month I featured a novel from this genre – So Many ways of Loving by Christine Webber – where the leading characters were three women either in or approaching their sixties. And this month, once again, I feature another excellent novel where the central couple are no longer young.
And to round things of there are, of course, my favourite reads for this month – all of which are cracking good stories.
Variety is the spice
So, as I said in the intro, last month I was talking about the age of the main characters in contemporary romantic fiction. My point being that having an ‘older’ lead couple can lead to just as satisfying a read as you’d expect from novels where the pair are in their twenties. And in the end it’s not as if it’s that ages of the characters alone that are going to make for a romantic read – there’s their life stories to date, the places they live in or visit and then there’s the story.
My first novel Change of Life is set in East Lothian and Edinburgh and features a couple in their late forties while my trilogy of novels set on the Isle of Skye – Displacement, Settlement, Fulfilment – has a couple in their fifties at its heart. While in the novel I’m currently writing I’ve changed decades again and the main couple are in their thirties. And this latest book is set in the Scottish Borders. Why have I gone for a younger pair? Why have I chosen this location? Because that’s what the story demanded.
The story’s the thing
As both a reader and writer of romantic fiction I find it’s good to keep an open mind when approaching a story. I like reading and writing stories set in a variety of places and equally I like to read and write about different age groups at various stages in life. But much as the characters and the setting are important so too is the story. The novel can be set in the most beautiful, most challenging or most familiar or unfamiliar of places. The pair who are falling in love can be twenty-five or sixty-five, they can be the most beguiling, most handsome, most infuriating types. But it’s what happens to those characters in those places as the romance plays out that matters, that’s what will keep me hooked both as I write and as I read.
All of which would suggest that the age of the main characters is just one detail and not something that on its own should attract or repel us.
And now, I’ll step down from my soapbox and it’s over to you. What makes a story – romantic or otherwise – work for you. Is character age a deal breaker? Please do leave comments below.
The Life She Dreams by Maggie Christensen
Sadly, this is the last story of the wonderful Granite Springs series but the good news is it ends on a high.
The Life She Dreams is the story of Granite Springs bookshop owner, Liz, and the new editor of the local newspaper, Sam. And as with the other books in the series both Liz and Sam are in the more mature age range.
When they first meet she is still grieving for her late husband and he is looking for peace and quiet after the stresses of his previous job. Both have plenty emotional baggage and neither is looking to fall in love.
But fate has other plans.
This is another great read from this prolific author. The story has its fair share of conflict and doubt but it also has so many heart-warming moments too. The strength of friendships, family (by blood and not) and community also feature strongly. And, of course at its heart there is a slow-burning and wonderful romance.
Yes, safe to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely, satisfying and enchanting romantic story. It is available as a paperback and as an ebook. Here is the link to buying it online.
From the back cover:
Can the past ever really be left behind?
Liz Pender has lived alone since her dreams for the future were shattered by the death of her husband. She retreated to Granite Springs where her life now revolves around her bookshop, The Reading Corner, and her cat, Marmaduke.
Newly appointed editor of The Granite Springs Advertiser, Sam Walker, recently moved to the small country town to seek a quieter life.
When Liz’s bookshop comes under threat, Sam and Liz are brought together causing sparks to fly. But a summons for help from overseas threatens to ruin Sam’s country idyll and reignites the past for Liz.
Can Liz put the past behind her and face a future with Sam, or are her dreams destined to remain just that?
Another feel good second chance romance set in the small country town of Granite Springs where it’s never too late to fall in love.
Books of the Month for July – lots of variety and all of them fab stories …
Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cove by Marie Laval
From the back cover:
From the big city to a little yellow mobile library on the Isle of Skye … When Jenna Palmer agrees to the new position of mobile librarian on the tiny Arrandale peninsular of the Isle of Skye, she knows she’s signing up for difficult working conditions and mediocre wages. But Jenna needs to get away, and a little yellow mobile library called Buttercup could be her escape to happier dreams … However, whilst Jenna can get to grips with foggy island roads, local mermaid legends and even big purple monsters, she never expected to have to contend with a boss as grumpy as Daniel McGregor, or a young book lover as enthusiastic as his niece, Katrina. Arrandale might represent Jenna’s safe port in a storm, but could she and Buttercup also become a beacon of hope to Daniel, Katrina and the entire island community?
Summer of Hopes and Dreams by Sue McDonagh
From the back cover:
Can “Dozy Rosie” spice up her life and prove she’s not boring? Rosie Bunting has spent her life caring for others, often at the expense of her own hopes and dreams. But when she overhears somebody describing her as “boring”, she decides it’s time for a change. Little does she realise that the outdoor pursuits weekend brochure handed to her at the local Art Café will kick start a summer that will see her abseiling down a Welsh cliff face in “eye watering” leggings, rediscovering her artistic side and unexpectedly inheriting an old fire engine. It also involves meeting hunky outdoor instructor, Gareth Merwyn-Jones – although of course he’d never be interested in Dozy Rosie Bunting … would he? One thing’s for certain: Rosie’s path to achieving her hopes and dreams might not be smooth, but it’s definitely not boring.
Unbreak Your Heart by Katie Marsh
From the back cover:
Seven-year-old Jake’s heart is failing and he doesn’t want to leave his dad, Simon, alone. So he makes a decision: to find Simon someone to love before he goes.
Beth is determined to forget the past. But even when she leaves New York to start afresh in a Lake District village, she can’t shake the secrets that haunt her.
Single dad Simon still holds a candle for the woman who left him years ago. Every day is a struggle to earn a living while caring for his beloved son. He has no time for finding someone new.
But Jake is determined his plan will succeed – and what unfolds will change all three of them forever.
So another great month of reading. have you read and enjoyed any of the above? What has been your favourite book from your July reads? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Age should be no barrier to living and loving – in real life and in fiction
Regular readers of this blog will know that when it comes to both reading and writing my genre of choice is romantic fiction. It’s a wide-ranging genre and includes various sub genres such as romantic suspense, historical romance and contemporary romance – to name only some.
But for too long there was one aspect that was anything but wide-ranging and that’s the age of the main characters. Indeed up until relatively recently you’d be hard pushed to find romance novels where the central couple were over thirty. Now while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a novel about a couple in their twenties and there are many excellent such books – lots of which I’ve read and enjoyed – I’m guessing I’m not alone in wanting to read and write about older protagonists too – especially as I myself am an older reader and writer.
And I’m talking here particularly about contemporary romance because by definition it should reflect contemporary times – times in which attitudes and expectations have broadened and changed. So authors and publishers are missing a trick if they don’t reflect that.
Fortunately though there are signs of positive changes. Seasoned romance, second chance romance, mature romance, whatever you prefer to call it, is a genre that’s growing. Main characters can be anything from thirty years of age upwards. Characters in these stories have full and rounded lives which include falling/being in love and having sex – as well as negotiating often challenging career and life changes.
A Brilliant Example
One brilliant example of the above is one of my books of the month for June and it’s the latest novel from one of my favourite authors Christine Webber.
So Many Ways of Loving by Christine Webber
This is such a lovely hopeful read. It’s set in 2019 and the three main characters are all women either in or approaching their sixties and all are facing life-changing situations. There is also a fourth female character in her seventies who also features strongly later in the book. The story involves issues such as grief, body-image and ageing and yes, later life romance too. It’s a story of new friendships, new experiences, and new starts. It’s a story about possibilities regardless of age and stage in life. It’s touching, warm, humane and realistic. And its message is that life goes on in all its sometimes surprising, sometimes messy ways – but that as long as it does it is wonderful and it’s there to love, to be loved and to live. And that last sentence – caused a wry smile.
From the back cover:
So Many Ways of Loving is a novel in which, at first glance, nothing much happens – there’s no espionage, no high-speed car chases, murders, or haunted houses. But in a sense, everything happens – loss, death, grief, serious illness, but also birth, unexpected romance, fresh adventures and numerous possibilities. Three women in their 50s and 60s travel through the most momentous year of their lives, and as they do so, they are reminded of just how much we depend upon family, friends and pets.
You can buy So many Ways of Loving in bookshops and online here. It is available as a paperback and as an ebook.
You can connect online with Christine at the following places:
As well as the book above I have three other books of the month to recommend to you. All are contemporary romances and all have main characters who have all lived more than a little.
The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar
An unusual and heart-warming romance. I especially loved the ending and the fact that the grandmother character was no elderly cliché.
From the back cover:
The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop … for a fortnight.
Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café.
Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary).
Apply to: The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.
Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, so can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack.
Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday – running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks – is non-refundable.
Throwing caution to the winds, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart.
But there’s one problem – six foot tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…
As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from – and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.
Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…
The Getaway by Isabelle Broom
Set in Croatia which is beautifully described throughout the story – you really can imagine you’re there, this is a romantic, mysterious and moving tale of pain, hurt, loss and the power of love.
From the back cover:
Sometimes it takes losing everything to find the person you need . . .
Most people travel to Croatia for its endless sunshine, pebbly beaches and crystal clear sea.
Kate goes there to disappear.
She needs to escape from a life that has fallen apart in spectacular and public fashion, and no one on the beautiful island of Hvar knows who she is or what she’s running away from.
Until she meets another lonely soul.
Alex is different to any man Kate has ever known, yet the connection between them is undeniable. She soon begins to open up in ways she never has before – not even to herself. But Kate is not the only person in Hvar hiding secrets. And, as she is about to discover, it is always only a matter of time before the truth catches up with you . . .
A Summer of Second Chances by Suzanne Snow
Sparks do indeed fly between an, at first, unlikely couple in this thoroughly enjoyable romance.
From the back cover:
Sparks and tempers fly when Ben comes to stay in Daisy’s holiday cottage.
Daisylikes routine. She goes to work, makes dinner for her son, then loses herself for an hour or two in her sewing. She’s not looking for change, until Bencrashes – literally – into her life.
Ben is training for a triathlon, working himself to the limit in an attempt to forget a recent trauma. Daisy wants to help, but even as they draw closer with every week that passes, he pushes her away whenever things threaten to get serious.
Can Ben open himself up to love again? And with Daisy’s life in the Yorkshire Dales and Ben’s in New York, can they have a future together even if he does?
And that’s it for this month. If you’re a fan of romantic fiction, is character age something that attracts you to, or puts you off a book? Please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic and to recommend any examples you’ve enjoyed reading where the main characters are in, or beyond, their thirties.
I first started taking my writing seriously twenty years ago and, as I was at that time a working parent with a demanding job, it took me several of those years to have a manuscript that was remotely ready for publication. And as for getting published, that was when then the really hard work began.
But eventually after a decade of putting in the hours and, after many steep learning curves had been ascended, my first novel, Change of Life was published.
However, sitting at a desk writing thousands of words can be a lonely job. However, aside from the creative part of getting my story written down, I didn’t do it all alone. Far from it. I received a lot of help along the way – and a lot of that help came from fellow writers.
Help from Fellow Writers
There were the encouraging members of the writing groups I belonged too, there were the competition judges who gave detailed feedback on my entries, there were the tutors on the residential course I took at Moniack Mhor, and my fellow learners on the (sadly now no longer in existence) youwriteon.com website where so much positive and constructive feedback was mutually shared.
And nowadays I still have support available to me. Not least from the magnificent Alliance of Independent Authors ( https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/ ) started by author, Orna Ross, and run by and for authors and giving access to an incredible amount of useful – if not vital information – for writers of every sort. But as well as being a member of the Alliance, I also connect with lots of other authors via social media and receive so much support – both practical and moral via that route.
Paying it Forward – Help For Fellow Writers
So, given that I didn’t get to this point, where I have now published five novels and am hard at work on my sixth, on my own, I like to be able to offer help and support to those writers just starting out on their journey to publication.
And recently I have had two opportunities to do just that. The first one came about when a friend asked me if her husband could contact me for some advice about how to go about getting his memoir ready for publication and then how to take the next steps after that. I was happy to try to help – as even although I don’t write non-fiction myself, the rudimentary principles of fiction and non-fiction are basically the same. And, after a couple of long tutorial type phone conversations between the two of us, he told me my advice and shared experience had been really helpful to him.
Then not long after that I was contacted by the friend of a friend via email. This was another apprentice writer – she’d written a historical novel and was unsure what to do next – and she wondered if I could maybe point her in the right direction. So I put together a document of what I hope were helpful pieces of information and reflections on my own experience and emailed her back. She, too, said that the information I shared was helpful.
Besides those personal one-to-one scenarios, I also like to support fellow authors in a wider sense. So naturally I buy and read books. But not only that – I mention the best of them here on the blog in my Books of the Month posts or on social media sites. I read and share reviews. And I do that vital thing of posting my own reviews of books I’ve enjoyed on online bookshop websites.
And the really lovely thing is that other writers offer similar support to me if and when they enjoy things that I have written.
A Writing Community
So yes, it’s good to be part of a community, to have colleagues to share the joys and tribulations of the job with, and it’s good to give and receive support. I do love my job!
Books of the Month
And speaking of sharing the best of my fellow workers labours – below are my best reads for the month of May. There are three of them this month and all are contemporary romances.
Finding Love At Mermaid Terrace by Kate Forster
From the back cover:
Love comes when you least expect it…
Tressa Buckland likes her quiet life in Port Lowdy, with its cobbled streets and colourful terraced houses overlooking the sea. Her job at the local paper allows her to pursue her art in her free time, with no one but her tabby cat Ginger Pickles to mind her in Mermaid Terrace. But then the owner of the paper is called away on an emergency, and it’s up to Tressa to run the paper for six months. Her first task: find a new part-time journalist.
Dan Byrne is the angriest man in Ireland – or so the readers of his very successful column, ‘Dan takes on the world’, think. But after a story goes south and he loses his job in Dublin, Dan has no choice but to start afresh. When an opportunity comes up in sleepy Cornwall, Dan and his Golden Retriever Ritchie set off for a new adventure.
For Tressa, Dan’s arrival to Port Lowdy changes everything. Tressa tries not to look too deeply at her own life, but Dan sees a story to uncover in absolutely everyone – even her. The two of them couldn’t be more different… yet, if they can find a way to work together, they may just breathe new life and joy into this sleepy seaside village.
‘Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace’ is a heartwarming new village romance about the power of love and kindness, from the bestselling author of ‘Starting Over at Acorn Cottage’.
Italy Ever After by Leonie Mack
From the back cover:
TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.
When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.
Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.
As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?
Under the Italian Sun by Sue Moorcroft
From the back cover:
A sun-baked terrace. The rustle of vines. And the clink of wine glasses as the first cork of the evening is popped…
Welcome to Italy. A place that holds the answer to Zia-Lucia Costa Chalmers’ many questions. Not least, how she ended up with such a mouthful of a name.
When revelations close to home turn Zia’s world upside down, she realises the time has come to search out the Italian family she’s never known.
But as she looks for answers, she can’t help but notice Piero, the vineyard owner next door – a distraction who may prove difficult to ignore…
This summer, join Zia as she sets out to uncover her past. But can she find the future she’s always dreamed of along the way?
And that’s it for another month. As always feel free to share your thoughts and comments below – especially if your job – whether as a writer or something else – gives you a sense of community and a way of giving and receiving support within that community.
I was delighted to be invited by writer and blogger Marsha Ingrao to share one of my short stories as part of the story chat feature on her blog. Below is Marsha’s post where you can read my story. I hope you enjoy. And many thanks to Marsha.
“Stop it,” Evie begged. She looked at the pile of dirty dishes – her mother’s best china. Mother had insisted that everyone should come back to the house for tea, insisted on the good cups and saucers.
“Should have done them last night,” her mother repeated. “I said, didn’t I? But, oh no, too lazy for that––or too drunk.”
“Drunk?” Evie said. “You know I don’t drink.”
“Oh, really? I wasn’t cold in my grave yesterday and you were at it.”
“One whisky, Mother, at your wake – to warm me up. It…
As regular readers of the blog will know I’m currently writing a new novel – working title Happiness Cottage. I’m making progress but until recently it has been a bit slower than I would like.
Writing a book is always a complex process. Writing down the words is at times the easiest part. There’s the getting to know the characters, their ages, gender, appearance and personalities. There’s the plot to wrestle with – whether that’s planning it in detail beforehand or flying blind with a vague destination in mind. And then there’s the setting. Cue for much sighing from me.
I am a legend amongst my friends and family for getting lost in the real world. I have no sense of direction and I have to do many repeat journeys whether it’s round a building, a city, or in the countryside before I can visualise it in my memory. So I often find maps to be vital.
But, having said that, I’ve never had a problem with the setting of my previous novels. I knew from the start that my first novel Change of Life would be set in Edinburgh which is the city where I grew up, and in the East Lothian town of Gullane. The streets, the beach, and even the houses which feature in that book are real places, places I’ve lived in or visited often. They were places I knew well. Similarly, in my Skye series of three novels – although I changed some names, the places where my characters lived and worked were real. Again I’d lived in that township or in that cottage or I’d visited the actual place. No imagination was required. Even in my children’s fantasy novel, The Silver Locket, written by my alter-ego Anne McAlpine, the house in Edinburgh where young Caitlin lives is based on the real childhood house of a friend of mine. So, although I fictionalised certain aspects and I changed the name of certain places to ones I made up, keeping the background details in all these novels credible and consistent when describing surroundings, journeys from place to place and even the view from the kitchen window was pretty straightforward.
But this time around – not so much. For some crazy reason – don’t ask me why – I don’t know why – I decided early on that my new novel, a contemporary romance set in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland, would be set on a completely fictitious farm, near a made-up-by-me village, close to a town that only exists in my brain. Not only that, I wanted a fictional hill and a not-real river to be situated close by too. Yes, there would be some real places mentioned but they’d be in the minority.
Cue lots of scope for confusion, inconsistency and stress on the part of this author. On which side of the farm should the river flow? Where would the pretend river join up with the real world river Tweed? How long would it take to drive from town to farm? What route would the road take? Where on the farm were the buildings and where were the fields? And on and on …
Every time a character left their house – the house whose layout I wasn’t sure of – the story narrative was getting held up as I pondered how and where they’d move about. The setting seemed shrouded in fog. And the fog had to be forced to clear if me and the book were going to get anywhere.
Mapping it Out
It was time to get mapping. So armed with photos I’d taken of approximate locations, an Ordnance Survey map of the area to help me with distance and scale, a ruler, a pencil and lots of paper, I began to draw. I drew a map of the village, the town, and the farm. I created landscapes which included my river and hill. And I drew floorplans for several houses and workplaces.
And you know what? It was actually quite a lot of fun as well as hard work. But more than that the process alone, never mind having the resulting charts to refer to, has meant that the setting fog has lifted. Now if I could just nail the plot and finalise the hair colour of that character …
From the Reading Chair:
I’ve read lots of good books this month – romances, thrillers and poetry. And my picks for the best reads for April 2021 are two poetry collections and a contemporary romance.
The poetry books are both by Donna Ashworth. One is called To The Women and is described as ‘words to live by’, and the other is History Will Remember When the World Stopped and contains poems about living through the pandemic. I was blown away by both books. The poems are moving, comforting and inspirational and well worth a read. Donna shares many of her poems on Facebook where they are accompanied by beautiful illustrations done by various artists.
From the back cover:
To the Women –
Donna’s poems and essays for women are constantly flying around the internet bringing positivity and solidarity. This collection contains 48 favourite poems, plus beautiful quotes; truly something for everyone, to inspire, comfort and motivate. It makes the perfect gift from one woman to another.
From the back cover:
History Will Remember When the World Stopped –
A collection of beautiful poems and letters written throughout the lock-down by Donna Ashworth. Donna is followed daily by women all over the world, on her social media sites and blog. Her words are a source of comfort, inspiration and hope. Donna’s work has been published by Amnesty International and voiced by stars of stage and screen. This book is the perfect keepsake for an unprecedented time.
And the novel of the month is Finding Home, the latest book by Kate Field. It’s so good! I loved it and it was one of those stories that leaves you with a book hangover. I missed it and its characters so much when I finished it.
From the back cover:
She might not have much in this world, but it cost nothing to be kind…
Meet Miranda Brown: you can call her Mim. She’s jobless, homeless and living in her car… but with a history like hers she knows she has a huge amount to be grateful for.
Meet Beatrice and William Howard: Bill and Bea to you. The heads of the Howard family and owners of Venhallow Hall, a sprawling seaside Devonshire estate… stranded in a layby five hours from home the night before their niece’s wedding.
When fate brings the trio together, Mim doesn’t think twice before offering to drive the affable older couple home. It’s not like she has anywhere else to be. But as the car pulls into the picturesque village of Littlemead, Mim has no idea how her life is about to change…
An uplifting story of found family and true love perfect for fans of Fern Britton and Veronica Henry.
And that’s it for this month from me. As always, feel free to comment below. What have been your favourite April reads? And do you find maps useful whether in the real world or as a writer?
I’ll say up front the things concerning me in this month’s post are similar to the ones in my previous post(s). But the seeds of hope referred to before are now germinating and growing …
There’s no denying recent times have been tough. Even without the stress and anxiety caused by the presence of the pandemic, the world, as represented by the news media, has on occasion recently seemed rather hopeless and cruel. So finding ways and means to at least be hopeful – if not downright cheerful has been more important than ever.
Reasons to be Cheerful
In the UK we have just put our clocks forward by one hour. And in spite of a cold wind blowing and a scattering of snow on the high ground here in Scotland, there are signs of Spring all around.
In my garden daffodils dance in the wind, the swaying trees are in bud and the sparrows and blackbirds that live in the hedge are busy nest building.
And in terms of Covid pandemic – there are also positive signs. Infection rates are falling, the Scottish government has a plan in place for the gradual easing of the lockdown and on a more personal and very positive note, I’ve had my first dose of the Covid vaccine. So although I’m not exactly making plans – something that as an obsessive planner and list maker pre-pandemic I’ve had to go cold turkey on and learn to stop doing – I am tentatively looking forward.
Looking Forward List
And okay, I confess, I’ve got a tentative list of things I’m looking forward to – yes, I accept it’s got to be conditional, flexible and postponeable ( I know ‘postponeable’ is probably not a word, but it definitely should be after all we’ve been through). And I’m going to share my top 10 looking forward items with you:
Seeing and hugging my children and grandchildren
Seeing and hugging my sisters and friends
Going to a café for coffee and cake
Getting on a train and having a day in the city
Going to the hairdresser
Browsing in a bookshop
Browsing in any sort of shop, garden centre, etc
Going on holiday – even if it’s not far away
A day at the seaside
Going to my yoga class in the real world rather than online
Reasons to be Grateful
And, yes it may be a cliché – but as with all cliches it falls into that category because it’s actually true – counting your blessings is sometimes a good way of raising our spirits. So, yes there’s another list coming up 😊 Just some of the things I’m grateful for:
I live in a beautiful place where I can go for long safe walks
I’ve remained healthy
The nurses, doctors, carers and other essential workers who’ve gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic
The scientists who developed the Covid vaccines
Being able to keep in touch with loved ones via the internet
Thank goodness for books – reading them and writing them
Yes, throughout the last year books have been my refuge. I’ve read more than ever – loving the escape, the stimulation and the much needed entertaining diversion that books provide. And after a bad case of writer’s block brought on, I think, by the mental stress of lockdown, I at last seem to have got my writing mojo back.
At the desk making up stories
So, yes, it’s onwards with the new novel AND not only that onwards with the novella I’m also writing at the moment. As some of you know the novel is (I hope) the first in a new series set in the south of Scotland. It’s a contemporary romance (of course) and is set on a farm. The novella is based around two of the supporting characters from my Skye-set series and tells the story of Sophie (Rachel’s daughter) and how she meets and falls in love with Steven. More on both of these will follow in future posts.
On the sofa reading stories
And so to a round up of the books I’ve most enjoyed reading this month –
Books of the Month
First up is non-fiction and it has been more of a dip-into rather than a straight through read. I began reading it as some research for the novel – which includes a green/conservation theme – but I quickly got caught up in it for its own sake. This is a non-browbeating, realistic and informative look at what governments, businesses and individuals can do by way of a green action plan. And the subtitle – Common Sense Solutionsto our Climate and Nature Crises – is very apt.
Carbon Choices by Neil Kitching
From the back cover:
An easy to read guide to our climate crisis and what you can do about it. An international view from Scotland before the global climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow, November 2021.
Carbon Choices tells the most remarkable story on planet Earth. How one group of sociable animals came to emit 40 billion tonnes (40,000,000,000) of an invisible gas each year, changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans, and steadily destroying the environment and life support systems that we depend on. We have unwittingly driven the world into a climate and wildlife crisis by the endless extraction of raw materials and our excessive consumerism – primarily by wealthier people and countries.
Carbon Choices considers the psychology that drives us to buy more ‘stuff’ and whether this makes us happier. In plain language, it describes ten building blocks that provide us with a foundation to build sensible climate change solutions; and five common-sense principles to guide us in the decisions that we make.
By applying these principles to our daily lives – our diets, homes, travel, shopping and leisure – we can regenerate nature, improve our society, be healthier, happier and lead more fulfilled lives.
This popular science book concludes with a green action plan for government, business and individuals to make better Carbon Choices. The book will fill any gaps in your understanding of climate change and nature loss and lays out the solutions including a green action plan for government, businesses and individuals. It will motivate you to change your behaviour and maybe even inspire you to campaign to change the behaviour of businesses and government.
Next it’s a wonderful historical romance which is also a thriller complete with a Knights Templar quest –
The Angel of the Lost Treasure by a favourite author of mine, Marie Laval.
From the back cover:
An ancient secret hidden within a mother’s song …
When young widow, Marie-Ange Norton is invited to Beauregard in France by the mysterious Monsieur Malleval to collect an inheritance, she has no choice but to accept.
But when she embarks on the voyage with her fiery-tempered travelling companion Capitaine Hugo Saintclair, little does she know what waits for her across the sea in turbulent nineteenth-century France on the eve of Napoleon’s return from exile. When she arrives, she is taken aback by Malleval’s fascination with her family – seemingly inspired by his belief they are connected to a sacred relic he’s read about in coded manuscripts by the Knights Templar.
As it becomes clear that Malleval’s obsession has driven him to madness, Marie-Ange is horrified to realise she is more the man’s prisoner than his guest. Not only that, but Hugo is the only person who might be able to help her, and he could represent a different kind of danger …
And finally, it’s a contemporary romance with a really clever and original plot –
The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper
From the back cover:
Lost: Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin. Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes. If found, please return to Sophie Williams.
Sophie Williams has the perfect career and it’s all she needs to shut herself off from the rest of the world, and more importantly, the secrets of her past.
Samuel McLaughlin is an open book. He lives for the present and life for him is his big Irish family and his friends.
Against all expectation, Samuel breaks down the walls of Sophie’s ordered world and they spend the perfect week together, but when Sophie discovers the terrible truth, she is forced to leave.
But as Samuel begins searching for Sophie, a life-changing event alters how he sees life forever.
And with each passing week, Sophie seems further and further from his reach.
And that’s it for this month – thanks for reading – it’s been a long one.
As always feel free to comment below on any of the above. What are you looking forward to if you too are still living in lockdown? Or if restrictions have already eased in your part of the world, what have you appreciated getting back to doing? What keep you hopeful? Until next time – stay safe, stay sane and keep on, keeping on.
Here in Scotland, the days are lengthening, the ice and snow have at last disappeared, and the Covid vaccination programme is progressing well. And our government has a staged plan in place for the gradual easing of the protective lockdown. So, there’s a lot to be positive about – even if the full lifting of the lockdown is still some way off.
It’s been good to be able to get out for walks more easily as spring approaches and to see all the hopeful signs nature provides as this long hard winter comes to an end. It has also been good to see the return of Scotland’s youngest children to school and nursery.
So, yes, although a full return to normality with holidays away from home, eating out, and seeing friends and family remains a bit of a way off, there is hope.
Slow and steady does it as writing progresses
In the meantime, I plan to continue making the most of online/video contact with loved ones and to continue cutting myself some slack when it comes to my work as a writer. As I said in last month’s post I’m not being a slave to the daily word count but continue to measure my writing achievements by time spent at the desk – even if that time is short and I don’t write very much. One hundred words feels like as much of an achievement as 1000 did before the pandemic messed with my concentration and creative flow.
And pleasingly both the current novel and novella-in-progress are steadily growing and developing.
I’m also hopeful that my work rate will pick up even more now that the day care nurseries are due to re-open very soon and my grandma-day-care provision will no longer be required. Although I have to say it’s been a joy and a privilege to provide this essential care.
The continuing comfort and joy of reading
And as I also mentioned last month, reading has been such a comfort throughout these hard times – and it continues to be so. My intention in 2021 is to be a bit more adventurous in my reading and to read more widely – and maybe even reread some older classics and/or favourites. But I must admit the escapism provided by contemporary romance novels means that this remains my favourite genre.
However, my three books of the month for February come from three different genres and even the romantic fiction one isn’t entirely escapist as it is set during the Covid pandemic.
February’s Books of the Month
Love in Lockdown by Chloe James
From the back cover:
Do you believe in love before first sight?
Lockdown is putting Sophia’s life on pause – just as she planned to put herself out there and meet someone. When the first clap for the keyworkers rings out around her courtyard, she’s moved to tears for all kinds of reasons.
Jack is used to living life to the fullest. He’s going stir-crazy after just days isolating. Until the night he hears a woman crying from the balcony under his. He strikes up a conversation with the stranger and puts a smile on her face.
Soon their balcony meetings are the highlight of Jack and Sophia’s days. But even as they grow closer together, they’re always kept apart.
Can they fall in love during a lockdown?
A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin
From the back cover:
‘He’s gone…’ When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it’s not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days.
Rebus fears the worst – and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect.
He wasn’t the best father – the job always came first – but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective?
As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast – and a small town with big secrets – he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn’t want to find…
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
(this was a re-read of a much-loved old favourite of mine and a lot of what Woolf has to say about women in society still resonates today)
From the back cover:
An extended essay which was based on a series of lectures that Woolf delivered at two women’s colleges which are part of Cambridge University. The essay explores women both as writers and characters in fiction.
And that’s it for February. I hope you too are feeling positive. Please do feel free to share the titles of any good books you’ve read this month and/or what keeps you positive – in the comments section below. Stay safe and sane everyone.
Welcome back to the blog and to my first post of 2021 – and I’d like to start by wishing all my readers A Happy and Healthy New Year.
So new year, new plans. But if 2020 taught us anything it’s probably that plans are just that. They are dreams, aims and intentions we set for the future. But they do not come with any form of guarantee of fulfilment.
However, that doesn’t mean we should stop dreaming, hoping and planning. After all, we humans are nothing if not adaptable. The last year has certainly taught us that. It has also shown that we can be amazingly resilient, self-reliant and compassionate. So, let’s keep all of that in mind as we set off into our still rather uncertain futures.
And most of all let’s try and remember that that compassion we know we’re capable of is extended first and foremost to ourselves. It’s like the oxygen mask principle – you have to ensure your own wellbeing before you can help others or indeed yourself.
So when making plans cut your self some slack. If life gets in the way of renovating the house, taking that course, seeking that promotion, losing that weight, – em, writing that novel 😊 – DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP! Adapt the aims, change the timescale, reset the focus and set off again.
Now, full disclosure, all of the above advice is something I’m not very good at taking on board. If beating yourself up was an Olympic sport I’d have a gold medal in it. But my takeaway from all of the past year’s challenges is I need to let go of the tablet of stone approach and embrace the sheet of paper that can be torn up and thrown away. Do you like that metaphor by the way? Can you guess I’m a writer? 😊
Yes, there was slippage in my writing schedule last year. I did get my fifth novel out but as far as getting down to the next one, my concentration was pathetic for several months. In the end I had to allow myself to step away from it all for a bit and to go back when I was ready. And that’s what I’ve done.
And now I’ve found a new and much more productive way of approaching my work. I’ve set myself publication targets that are completely flexible, with lots of possible timeout built in, and I’m prepared to re-set them if necessary. Instead of a daily word count I’ve set aside a time target – anything from three hours to half an hour. If it goes on beyond the time set, great, but if not I’ll still have achieved something – even if it was only turning up. This doesn’t mean I do nothing else the rest of the time. I might be planning a chapter or taking care of the business side of writing and publishing, or indeed writing a blog post.
And you know what? It’s working. Not only am I cracking on with the novel, I’m also writing a novellla, and in time away from the desk I’m getting my daily walk (ice and snow permitting), keeping in virtual touch with friends and family , and doing some childcare looking after one of my grandchildren while her parents work.
So, so far so good for 2021.
Another element of the ‘new writing me’ is that I’ve decided to reduce my blogging frequency to once a month rather than once a week – in order to free up some time for my other projects. So from now on I’ll post on the last Monday of every month and the post will include my favourite reads of that month.
January’s Books of the Month
I’ve set an intention to read more widely this year, to get out of my romantic comfort zone more often and read more thrillers, crime novels and non-fiction. I’m also hoping to reread some old faithfuls.
I think I’ve got of to a good start and January has included a variety of reading genres. Here are my favourites for this month:
West Wind by Ian Rankin
It always starts with a small lie. That’s how you stop noticing the bigger ones.
After his friend suspects something strange going on at the launch facility where they both work – and then goes missing – Martin Hepton doesn’t believe the official line of “long-term sick leave”…
Refusing to stop asking questions, he leaves his old life behind, aware that someone is shadowing his every move.
The only hope he has is his ex-girlfriend Jill Watson – the only journalist who will believe his story.
But neither of them can believe the puzzle they’re piecing together – or just how shocking the secret is that everybody wants to stay hidden…
A gripping, page-turning suspense masterclass – available in print for the first time in nearly thirty years.
A Tomb With a View by Peter Ross
Enter a grave new world of fascination and delight as award-winning writer Peter Ross uncovers the stories and glories of graveyards. Who are London’s outcast dead and why is David Bowie their guardian angel? What is the remarkable truth about Phoebe Hessel, who disguised herself as a man to fight alongside her sweetheart, and went on to live in the reigns of five monarchs? Why is a Bristol cemetery the perfect wedding venue for goths?
All of these sorrowful mysteries – and many more – are answered in A Tomb With A View, a book for anyone who has ever wandered through a field of crooked headstones and wondered about the lives and deaths of those who lie beneath.
So push open the rusting gate, push back the ivy, and take a look inside…
Double Identity by Alison Morton
Deeply in love, a chic Parisian lifestyle before her. Now she’s facing prison for murder.
It’s three days since Mel des Pittones threw in her job as an intelligence analyst with the French special forces to marry financial trader Gérard Rohlbert. But her dream turns to nightmare when she wakes to find him dead in bed beside her.
Her horror deepens when she’s accused of his murder. Met Police detective Jeff McCracken wants to pin Gérard’s death on her. Mel must track down the real killer, even if that means being forced to work with the obnoxious McCracken.
But as she unpicks her fiancé’s past, she discovers his shocking secret life. To get to the truth, she has to go undercover—and finds almost everybody around her is hiding a second self.
Mel can trust nobody. Can she uncover the real killer before they stop her?
Baby I’m Yours by Carrie Elks
Two tiny lines will change everything…
Doctor James Tanner is gorgeous, successful and decisively single. He’s also a widower with a broken heart. So when he meets a beautiful woman on a fateful night out, their chemistry shocks him to the core.
Harper Hayes is irresistible. With her pink-tipped hair and tantalizing smile, she makes him forget all his pain.
One night together won’t hurt, will it? One night to get her out of his system. Then he’ll leave in the morning without a backward glance.
But actions have consequences, and this one will change both their lives forever. And when Harper sees those two little lines she knows exactly what that means. Now she just needs to find the man who left her alone in bed after their one night together.
What a shame she doesn’t even know his name…
And that’s it for January. What have been your favourite reads this month? How are you finding 2021 so far? Have you made any plans? If so what? Are you managing to stay motivated?
Please do share any comments/responses below.
Till next time, stay safe, stay sane and stay in touch.
Books are my thing – writing them and reading them but this year, more than any other, books have provided some much-needed solace and escapism.
Writing my own books
During the initial Covid lockdown and the various tweaked versions/restrictions that followed her in Scotland, I was so glad to have my writing. I did find my concentration was a bit compromised at first but since I got my mojo back it’s been so good to have an imaginary Covid-free world to escape to – a world where I’m in control.
It was a real morale booster when the final part of my Isle of Skye trilogy, Fulfilment,was published. It was lovely to have brought Jack and Rachel’s story to a satisfying conclusion – although I must admit I do miss them. And it’s also been lovely to have so much wonderful feedback from readers. Thank you all of you who messaged, emailed and posted reviews – it means a lot.
And now I have new characters to spend time with as I’ve begun writing the first novel in what I hope will become a new series – this time set in the Scottish Borders. The working title is Happiness Cottage and tells the romantic story of Scottish farmer, Aidan, and Australian conservationist, Lori.
14 Best Reads 2020
But enough about creating my own books 😊 What about the ones I’ve read this year? And which ones out of my Books of the Month featured throughout 2020 here on the blog I have picked as the absolute best?
I’ve read over 100 books since the beginning of the year. There were a few I didn’t finish – based on the ‘life’s too short to spend it doing something you don’t enjoy’ principle but they were a tiny minority. I’ve read some enjoyable non-fiction, some crime, and some thrillers but by far the largest category has been contemporary romance. It’s always my favourite genre – but again with all the difficulties, challenges and sadness that 2020 has wrought, the escapism and happy-ever-after of the romance genre has beckoned even more than usual.
So it shouldn’t surprise you to know that I’ve picked twelve contemporary romances as my favourite books for 2020 and I’ve also added the three specifically Christmas romances that I’ve recently enjoyed and are also amongst my best books read in the last twelve months.
The Top Books List –12 best books of 2020
So here they are – in the order that I read them. No reviews but I’d give them all 5 stars. All are available as ebooks and paperbacks – online and in book shops.
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?
Laurie and Jamie have the perfect office romance (They set the rules via email)
Everyone can see they’re head over heels (They staged the photos)
This must be true love (They’re faking it)
When Laurie is dumped by her partner of eighteen years, she’s blindsided. Not only does she feel humiliated, they still have to work together.
So when she gets stuck in the lift with handsome colleague Jamie, they hatch a plan to stage the perfect romance. Revenge will be sweet…
But this fauxmance is about to get complicated. You can’t break your heart in a fake relationship – can you?
A Dozen Second Chances by Kate Field
What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?
Seventeen years ago,Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.
Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again, and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.
With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…
The Life She Wants by Maggie Christensen
She’s a strait-laced, inhibited career woman. He’s an aging hippie who acts without thinking. What could they possibly have in common?
Fran Reilly has hidden a secret sorrow for the past thirty years. But turning fifty and losing her mother forces her to re-evaluate her future. Returning to her home in Granite Springs, she’s determined to make changes to her well-ordered life. However there are more changes in store than she could ever have imagined.
When Owen Larsen applies for the position as Head of the new School of Music and Drama at the university in Granite Springs, his only concern is to leave the rat race of Sydney and find a more peaceful existence in the country.
Owen is the exact opposite of everything in Fran’s well-ordered world and reminds her of a past she has been at pains to forget. And Owen’s country idyll isn’t proving to be as peaceful as he imagined.
Can these two opposites find common ground and is there a future for them in Granite Springs?
The Life She Wants is the third book in the Granite Springs series set in a small Australian country town
The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman
Sam Huxton doesn’t do one-night stands, especially not with men she’s just met! But the hot guy at the bar was hard to resist and one night is all they share – no names, no numbers, just some much needed fun…
Until the same guy walks into Sam’s life the next day as her new employee. Sam never mixes business with pleasure and makes it clear an office fling with Ryan is off-limits. But after-hours…one thing can lead to another. Can Sam trust her heart and her business with the new guy?
A Summer to Remember in Herring Bay by Angela Britnell
Essy Havers is good at finding things. Her company specialises in helping clients track down anything, from missing china pieces to rare vintage clothing. But now Essy has something more important to find: herself. Essy has always been curious about her mother’s secret past and her Cornish roots. So, when the opportunity arises, she hops on a plane in Tennessee and ends up in Herring Bay in Cornwall; the village where her mother grew up. But once there, she’s mystified by the reactions of the villagers when they realise who she is. Was Essy’s decision to visit Cornwall a mistake, or will it lead to a summer she’ll never forget?
One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom
Genie isn’t feeling very festive this December.
The frosty mornings and twinkling fairy lights only remind her it’s been a whole year since she lost her adoptive mother, who took her in as a baby and raised her as her own. She’s never felt more alone – until she discovers her birth mother’s identity. And where to find her – New Zealand, half the world away. Travelling there could be her one chance to meet the woman who gave her up . . . But will she find the answers she has been looking for? Or something she could never have expected?
Summer at the Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies
Take an endless stroll through wild meadows and breathe in the sweet aroma of flowers in full bloom. The first ever guest at the little cottage on the hill is looking for an escape, but her past is not far behind her…
Thirty-two-year-old ‘ice queen’ Isobel slams the cottage door and pulls the curtains shut. She has just six weeks to practise for a secret project that could save her career and no one must know she is here.
When Tom, the local thatcher with eyes as blue and deep as the ocean, hears the sound of her violin on the breeze he feels a tug at his heart-strings that reminds him of happier times. Who is this mysterious new lodger, and why does she look so familiar?
Desperate to find out more, Tom is devastated when Isobel refuses to enjoy everything the farm has to offer. He won’t give in, but just when it looks like Isobel is coming out of her shell, someone recognises her and the troubles from her past threaten to take away everything she has been working towards.
Will the lessons Isobel learned at the little cottage help her to stand up and face the music? Will Tom ever find a way to unlock the emotion she needs to move on?
Shadows on the Water by Jo Lambert
After the tragic death of her fiancé, Ava Warren is slowly rebuilding her life. She has a supportive family, great friends and a job she loves, managing holiday letting company Estuary Escapes in her home town of Kingswater. Another relationship is the last thing she wants or needs. Until one evening she meets Alex Penhaligon.
Alex has just returned home from California where he has been working for the past five years. A case of mistaken identity gets them off to a bad start. But discovering his error, Alex is anxious to make amends and soon persuades Ava that he’s not quite as arrogant as she thinks he is. As their friendship begins to turn into something much deeper, Ava wonders whether she can at last put the past behind her and make a new future with Alex.
But someone is watching. A man who not only thinks Ava should be his but also holds a long term grudge against Alex. And he’s determined to get his own way irrespective of the lengths he has to go to or who gets hurt in the process.
Set on the south coast of Cornwall, Shadows on the Water is a story of family ties, lost love and tangled loyalties.
The Saturday Morning Park Run by Jules Wake
Full of romance and humour, this is a book about fresh starts, friendship and the unexpected places we find happiness.
This is the story of two women. One old, one young. One looking for new adventures. One looking for a purpose. Both needing a friend.
And this is how, along with two little girls in need of a family, a gorgeous stranger, and a scruffy dog, they bring the whole community together every Saturday morning for love, laughter and a little bit of running…(well, power walking).
Some people come into your life when you need them the most.
The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain
Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her childhood dream of becoming a gardener ever since. When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start. But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .
Endless Skies by Jane Cable
If you want to move forward, you have to deal with the past…
After yet another disastrous love affair – this time with her married boss – Rachel Ward has been forced to leave her long-term position in Southampton for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University.
Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out.
But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…
She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney.
He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…
As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past.
Why is she unable to get into a healthy relationship? What’s stopping her from finding Mr Right?
And what are the echoes of the past trying to tell her…?
Harper’s Highland Fling by Lizzie Lamb
After a gruelling academic year, head teacher Harper MacDonald is looking forward to a summer holiday trekking in Nepal.
However, her plans are scuppered when wayward niece, Ariel, leaves a note announcing that she’s running away with a boy called Pen. The only clue to their whereabouts is a footnote: I’ll be in Scotland.
Cue a case of mistaken identity when Harper confronts the boy’s father – Rocco Penhaligon, and accuses him of cradle snatching her niece and ruining her future. At loggerheads, Harper and Rocco set off in hot pursuit of the teenagers, but the canny youngsters are always one step ahead. And, in a neat twist, it is the adults who end up in trouble, not the savvy teenagers.
Fasten your seatbelt for the road trip of your life! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!
And Three Top Christmas Novels
Christmas Wishes by Sue Moorcroft
Hannah and Nico are meant to be together.
But fate is keeping them apart…
As soon as Hannah bumps into her brother Rob’s best friend Nico in Stockholm, the two rekindle a fast friendship. But Hannah has a boyfriend – and Nico has two children to look after.
When Hannah loses her beloved shop in Stockholm, though, she is forced to move back to the little village of Middledip – only to find Nico has just moved in too. Under the same snowy sky, can the childhood friends make a romance work – or are there too many obstacles standing in their way?
A Little Christmas Hope by Kathryn Freeman
Newly promoted head teacher Anna Dalton needs a Christmas miracle – and fast! After years of sitting through excruciatingly dull Christmas productions, complete with crying children and sleeping parents, she’s determined Riddlescomb Primary School will put on a Nativity to remember.
Enter bad boy actor Dan Ramsey, recently axed from the lead role in a TV drama and in desperate need of cleaning up his image or he’ll never work again.
Dan can flash those heart-stopping dimples all he likes, Anna tells herself she isn’t going to fall for them. She knows why he’s decided to volunteer at the school, and it’s for the good of his bank balance…not his soul.
But as Anna and Dan are forced to work together for the sake of a truly magical Christmas for the children, sparks fly and they can’t help but wonder what will happen once the festive season is over…
Together by Christmas by Karen Swan
When Lee first came to Amsterdam, it was with a newborn baby and a secret. Five years later, her life is approaching normal: her career as a celebrity photographer is flourishing, her son Jasper is growing up, and they are enjoying the run-up to Christmas with their tight circle of close friends.
But all this changes one morning when Lee finds a book in the basket of her bicycle – and scrawled inside it, a desperate message. Who left it for her, and why? Lee feels compelled to help and tracks down the book’s author, Sam. With an instant, undeniable connection it seems they might have a shot at a real future together.
Until her past comes calling. As the snow falls and ice thickens on the city’s canals, the secret Lee has never told resurfaces. Suddenly everything she holds dear hangs in the balance. Christmas is a time for being together – but what if the truth means she ends up alone?
That’s all folks!
And that’s it – my favourite books for 2020 list is complete. Have you read/enjoyed any of them. What are your top reads for the year? Have you found that you’ve read more or less than usual this year? If so is that down to Covid/ As always please do feel free to comment below.
And that’s also it for 2020 here on the blog. Thanks to all of you who stop by here to read, comment and share your views. You make doing this so worthwhile and rewarding. I wish every one of you a happy festive season and a safe, sane and happy 2021. See you back here in January.
Today it’s the turn of romantic fiction writer Maggie Christensen to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.
Maggie’s latest book is A Granite Springs Christmas – this is the sixth book in the Granite Springs series – but it can easily be read as a standalone – and I recently read and very much enjoyed it. You can find out more about the book below. But first over to Maggie.
Maggie Christensen’s Writing Life in a Day
When Anne asked me to take part in this, I wished I could be like a famous Australian author I once heard speak. She told how she dresses, puts on full make up and works for four hours each morning, takes a lunch break, then works for another four hours. But that isn’t my day. I do write every day, but my days vary.
Since most of the time, I’m writing one book, editing another and marketing yet another, I tend to juggle my time between them. Do I get confused? Yes.
I always start the day by checking email and my ads. Then, after breakfast and an early morning walk with my husband, I get down to work. While this may be working on my current manuscript, it may also be writing a newsletter for my readers, sending out advance reader copies of my next release, or choosing images for my next cover on Shutterstock – I can get lost there for hours at a time.
If I have returned edits from my editor, I do that before beginning my day’s writing.
Once I sit down to writing for the day, I start by re-reading what I’ve written the day before to get back into the story and reconnect with my characters – despite them having been in my head all the time. Then I start to write. I aim to write 1000 words before taking a break when I enjoy a snack with a cup of tea and the opportunity to catch up on my reading.
My goal is to write 2000 words each day. Some days, if I have arranged to meet friends for coffee, it may be less, while others, if I’m on a roll, it may be more.
When I started to write, my goal was to publish two books each year. But after doing that for a few years, and I decided to become more productive and now aim to publish four books each year and actually plan ahead. I have already written the book which will be published in January and am I the midst of what will probably be the last in my current series and be published March or April. Then there will be a new series which will have at least two books released in 2021, one of which may be another Christmas story.
It may sound a lot of work, but I find it difficult to settle to anything when I don’t have a book on the go. I never stop thinking about my current work in progress and can get some good plot ideas when I’m ironing, driving, reading – or falling asleep!
My most recent book is book six in my Granite Springs series and my first Christmas story. Magda is a character who appears in the earlier books in my Granite Springs series – a feisty seventy-something widow who lives on an acreage with the three former racehorses she saved from the knacker’s yard, and two rescue greyhounds. A masseuse and a touch otherworldly, I decided Magda deserved her own happy ever after.
I love writing this series about older characters living in a fictional Australian country town where it’s never too late to fall in love and everyone deserves a second chance.
Anne: Wow, Maggie! I think we can let you off for not being perfectly made up and sticking to a rigid writing schedule 🙂 Your work ethic and productivity rate are awesome. And I know I’m not alone in loving your later life, second chance romances. Thank you so much for taking part in this feature.
And now as promised, here’s more about Maggie’s latest book:
From the back cover:
A RETURN TO GRANITE SPRINGS. A FAMILY CHRISTMAS. A TIME FOR LOVE AND JOY…OR IS IT?
A year after a devastating bushfire destroyed Magda Duncan’s home, she returns to Granite Springs determined to resume her life and organise a wonderful family Christmas. But the elation of her homecoming quickly turns to disappointment as she discovers not everyone is in tune with her plans.
George Turnbull was Magda’s late husband’s best friend. A bachelor, he has always carried a torch for Magda and remained close to her and her sons. When he finally musters the courage to reveal his true feelings, a life changing surprise from his past threatens to ruin any chance at happiness.
Emotions are high as Christmas Day approaches. Will this be the most wonderful Christmas ever? Or will the hopes and fears of the past come home to haunt them? A poignant story of a Christmas friends of Granite Springs will never forget.
You can connect with Maggie online at the links below: