It’s All about the Books: Works in Progress, Christmas Reads and Book of the Year 2021 #reading #writing #bookofthe year2021 @alison_morton @Heidi_Swain @Sue Moorcroft @KittyWilson23

photo by Andreea Radu

Quite a Year

Hello to all my blog followers. And thank you to you all for visiting, reading and commenting on yet another year of posts here. I do appreciate it.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again! Time to pause and reflect on 2021 and time to look ahead to a brand new year.

Thank Goodness for Books

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding that that the last twelve months have been a bit of a roller coaster – what with one thing and another. Yes pandemic, I’m looking at you. However, I’ve found lots to enjoy and be grateful for too. And along with time spent outdoors, and time with family and friends, it’s been books – reading them and writing them that have provided a lot of comfort and joy.

Writing

Temporarily Stalled

At the beginning of the year I was busy writing a novel but as spring arrived, I was finding it harder and harder to focus on it. Long story short (yes, I know, that’s hard for a writer to do 😊) Covid related anxiety and depression were causing a bit of brain fogging and concentration was proving difficult. But with the appropriate help I got better.

Writing Therapy Leads to New and Unexpected Novel

However, I still didn’t feel ready to get back to the novel. So instead I decided to have a go at some short stories. For the first one, I picked a couple of minor characters from my Skye series of novels – Sophie (daughter of Rachel, one of the main characters) and Steven. And I began to tell the story of how these two thirty-somethings they met and fell in love. But then, before I knew it, it had gone way beyond a short story and was fast becoming a novella, and then I found I had a whole novel on my hands. It’s now with my editor and I’m hoping for a February publishing date. Watch this space.

Readers Club Newsletter

Meanwhile I’m back writing short stories – and yes, they will remain short – and the plan for them is to give them away as a free collection to people who sign up to subscribe to my Readers’ Club newsletter. That’s another thing I’ve been working on – it’s been a steep learning curve – and it’s been something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. So again, watch this space.

The Other New Novel

Looking ahead to the new year, I’ll be getting back to writing the temporarily abandoned novel and I actually can’t wait. I’m more than ready to get back at it and I’m raring to go. It has the working title of Happiness Cottage and it’s the first of my planned brand new series of contemporary romances which will all be set in the Scottish Borders. Just as in my unexpected/unplanned novel above, the main characters are thirty-somethings – rather than my usual forty and fifty somethings. And you know what, I’ve rather enjoyed going a bit younger with my lead couple, but the series will also include romantic leads who are older too. I do like a bit of variety.

And yes, you guessed it – watch this space for updates on progress.

Reading

During 2021 I’ve read a lot of books. They have included some non-fiction, historical fiction, and crime fiction but, of course, it’s been mostly contemporary romance. No surprises there. There have been a few which I didn’t especially enjoy but I’ve loved the vast majority of the books that have come my way. So picking out my books of the month each month and now also choosing my book of the year has been really difficult. But I’ve applied myself and I’ve done it.

So what books are they?

Christmas Books of the Months November and December

As this will be my last post for this year I’m combining my November/December books of the month choices. All three are lovely Christmas romances.

Underneath the Christmas Tree by Heidi Swain

From the back cover:

Wynter’s Trees is the home of Christmas. For the people of Wynmouth it’s where they get their family Christmas tree, and where Christmas truly comes to life.

But for Liza Wynter, it’s a millstone around her neck. It was her father’s pride and joy but now he’s gone, she can’t have anything to do with it. Until her father’s business partner decides to retire and she must go back to handle the transition to his son Ned.

When Liza arrives, she discovers a much-loved business that’s flourishing under Ned’s stewardship. And she’s happy to stay and help for the Christmas season, but then she has other plans. But will the place where she grew up make her change her mind? And can it weave its Christmas cheer around her heart…?

Under the Mistletoe by Sue Moorcroft

From the back cover:

Christmas. A time for family, friends – and rekindling old flames…

When Laurel returns to the village of Middledip, she’s looking for a quiet life. Adjusting to her recent divorce, she’s ready to spend some time getting back on her feet amidst the glorious snow-dusted countryside.

Yet, life in Middledip is far from straightforward. Coming to the aid of her sister, Rea, as she navigates her own troubles, Laurel barely has a moment to think about where her own life is going.

However, time stands still when she sees her old flame, Grady Cassidy – and it’s soon as if they’ve never been apart. But through her happiness, Laurel remembers why she left the village all those years ago, as she recalls a dark night and Grady’s once-wayward brother, Mac…

Can Laurel learn to forgive and forget? Or will her chances of Christmas under the mistletoe with Grady remain a dream?

Every Day in December by Kitty Wilson

From the back cover:

Two people. One month to fall in love.

‘The perfect Christmas story, full of heart and hope’ Sandy Barker

Belle Wilde loves December. Yes, she’s just lost her job and Christmas is not a good time to find yourself ‘financially challenged’. And yes, her parents are still going on about the fact that she really should have it all together by now. But Belle believes that in December, magic can happen.

Rory Walters hates December. Whilst it looks like his life is together, he’s still reeling from a winter’s night five years ago when his life changed forever. Now back at home, he’s certain that this will be yet another Christmas to endure rather than enjoy.

But as midnight on December 31st draws closer, Belle and Rory’s time together is coming to an end. With a little help from a Christmas miracle could Belle find the one thing she really wants underneath the mistletoe?

Book of the Year 2021

Shock, horror it’s not a romance! It’s actually a crime thriller, and it is:

Double Identity by Alison Morton

From the back cover:

Deeply in love, a chic Parisian lifestyle before her. Now she’s facing prison for murder.
It’s three days since dual-national 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?

My thoughts:

This was a gripping, unputdownable read. The lead characters of Mel and Jeff are magnificent. The plot is expertly crafted. The settings and the details make it all feel so real. I especially loved the well-judged pacing and oh, feisty Mel, was amazing – her fight scenes just awesome. Be prepared to put everything else on hold when you start reading this – it will quickly have you gripped.

That’s All Folks!

So all that remains is to wish you all a peaceful and joyful festive season spent doing whatever is meaningful and fun for you. And a happy, healthy, and book-filled new year to you all.

As always, feel free to leave your comments below and/or to share your favourite reads of 2021.

And again, thank you for being here.

Four Favourite Reads for May #books #reading #amreading #lockdown

After the flurry of book launch activity over the last ten days – and thank you to everyone who supported Fulfilment‘s launch – it’s now back to some sort of normal at the writing desk and here on the blog too. I hope everyone is keeping safe and well and that you’re coping with whatever stage of Covid-19 lockdown you’re experiencing in your locality.

I have to say reading has certainly helped me to cope with the stresses the lockdown has produced here in Scotland. I know that some people have found they’ve been reading less during this time, finding their concentration compromised and /or not wanting to read in the way they did before. But for me reading has been a real blessing.

And as for what I’ve been reading during lockdown – well I’ve been looking for sheer escapism to a non-threatening, non-Covid world. I’ve avoided thrillers and crime novels and gone instead for  – yes, you guessed it – romances, and for books that make me smile and sigh happily – books that have provoked positive reflection, that have not only entertained, but have also uplifted.

So which novels have delivered some – or all – of the above to my reading door during May? There have been several and I’d like to share my top four.

 

First up is The Life She Finds, the latest in Maggie Christensen’s Granite Springs series of mature romances set in Australia. I was lucky enough to receive a pre-publication review copy of this novel which is out on the 9th of June and is available for pre-order here. It was great to be back in Granite Springs and not only to read about the main characters, Lyn and Ken, but also to catch up with characters from the previous novels in this lovely series. Lyn and Ken’s story – as they met again after more than forty years apart – was a poignant one of loss, of difficult family relationships and of missed opportunities. But, ultimately, it was a reassuring, hopeful and heartwarming tale.

When Lyn Hudson takes early retirement, her plan is to fulfil a lifelong dream to travel the world. But news of her father’s death forces her back to Granite Springs; the town she fled when she was eighteen. While she has fond memories of roaming the paddocks with her childhood friend, Ken, life on the land was definitely not for her.

Ken Thompson, cheated out of his inheritance in the family property after an argument with his father, has built up a successful business in Granite Springs as a realter and stock and station agent. When the son he intended to inherit his business returns to work on the family property, his plans for the future are shattered and family relations further strained.

Thrown together by circumstances, the pair discover the spark which they denied forty-five years earlier is still smouldering. But time has passed. They are different people.

Is it possible they’ll find common ground and start afresh, or will Lyn once again follow her dreams and abandon Granite Springs and their chance at happiness?

 

 

Let me Burn by Carrie Elks is a small town American romance and tells the story of Lucas and Ember. Lucas is a firefighter  and Ember is an elementary school teacher and theirs is a captivating, much sigh-inducing, and intense story. I should point out there are some fairly steamy sex scenes but it’s not yucky or overdone – but just be aware the lovemaking scenes don’t stop at the bedroom door. The couple are young but both have emotional  baggage and interesting, sometimes poignant backstories. You can buy it here.

Lucas Russell lives for his job. Forced to take extended leave following an accident, he returns to his small home town to stay at the beach cottage his grandparents left him. 

After a broken engagement, Ember isn’t ready for love right now. But she didn’t count on meeting a handsome firefighter with a dimpled smile. After Lucas saves her from one awkward situation too many, she finds him impossible to resist.

What starts as a fling develops into something much deeper. Until the day Ember’s ex-fiancé returns to town and threatens to destroy the connection that’s building between them.

One thing’s for sure. Somebody is going to get burned.

 

The third of my May favourites is The Switch by Beth O’Leary. This has some romance but there’s a whole lot more going on besides. It’s an original and clever story that’s told from the points of view of a grandmother, Eileen, and her (adult) granddaughter, Leena. The two of them switch places in order to give their lives a bit of a reboot. Eileen is looking for new experiences and some adventure and Leena needs some peace and quiet to get over recent trauma. So the grandmother goes to live in her granddaughter’s London flat and the younger woman moves into her grandmother’s country cottage – and the swap proves life-changing for them both. You can buy the book here.

Leena is too young to feel stuck.
Eileen is too old to start over.
Maybe it’s time for The Switch...

Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and L Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.

But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

 

And finally book number four is One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom. Again, as in The Switch, there is more going on her than the slow burning central romance. Main character Genie has a lot of issues – and yes, sometimes I wanted to shake her – but that was the point – she ‘s stuck in an emotional quagmire and she needs help to get out. And so along comes a wonderful, beguiling cast of characters who all play their part in freeing her from the burdens of her past and liberate her to move on. The setting of New Zealand was another plus for me – it was almost a character in its own right – and having read the book I’d so love to visit this amazing-sounding country. And the walk that Genie and the lovely, Kit, take at the end up Queenstown Hill to the Basket of Dreams sculpture with that inspirational quote – oh my – wow just wow! You can buy the book here.

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?

 

How about you? Are you finding you’re able to read during lockdown? If so what books have you particularly enjoyed? have you read ones that are new to you or have you been re-reading old favourites perhaps?