Big Things On My Mind: The Comfort of Work and the other ‘Small’ Things. Plus Books of the Month for October 2021 #writing #reading #savingtheplanet @MaggieChriste33 @4victoriawalker @JulieCaplin @Heidi_Swain

Big Universal Things On My Mind

There’s a lot of important, difficult and sometimes scary stuff going on at the moment and I’m sure I’m not alone in being a bit preoccupied by it all – and in feeling rather helpless.  

There’s the fragile state of humanity’s existence if we don’t get our act together and make big positive steps to ensure our planet’s future. The COP26 – the 26th UN Conference of the Parties – began yesterday in Glasgow and will run for the next two weeks. As a Scot, I’m proud that it’s being hosted here, but as a citizen of planet Earth I am of course invested in there being positive outcomes from this conference and am desperately hoping it doesn’t just produce yet more hot air that our poor struggling world has to process. As lot of people do, I try to do my bit to live sustainably, but laudable and vital as our individual efforts are, it’s going to take a concerted national and international effort to save our beautiful wee planet.

There are the continuing challenges of the Covid pandemic with cases here in the UK continuing to rise and our health service under pressure before winter has even arrived. And more than that there’s the desperate need for the richer countries – UK included – to ensure that the world’s poorer countries can vaccinate their populations. In the meantime I will continue to be careful, to wear my mask and to get my booster vaccination when it’s offered.

And then there’s the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Again, while I can contribute at a personal level by donating money to a humanitarian charity, it needs the will, effort and action of governments to help ease the situation for all who are suffering there.

The Comfort of Work and the Small Things

However, I am grateful to have other things going on – things that yes, are distractions from the big stuff but are also way more than just that. These are the things that despite everything provide solace, a sense of purpose and a big dollop of joy. They are the things rooted in love.

There’s the joy of time spent with family and friends – something I’ve been doing a fair bit of lately, there’s the solace of a good book – see below for more about that, and then there’s my work as a writer.

I LOVE my job. I love that I can create and get totally absorbed in my imaginary world, that I can create interesting characters that I want to spend time with and get to know the places they live, work and play in.

Currently I’m busy ruthlessly redrafting my latest novel in preparation for it going off to my editor. I know I’ll miss spending time with this latest set of characters but I’ve already begun a new book and I can’t wait to give it my undivided attention. So yes, it’s looking like I’ll have two new books out in the first part of 2022. And that definitely makes my heart sing.

The Solace of Reading

Books of the Month for October 2021

A Mother’s Story by Maggie Christensen

This is a slight cheat as this latest novel by one of my favourite authors isn’t published until tomorrow (2nd November 2021). I was lucky enough to get a pre-publication copy and I’ve already reviewed it over on Goodreads – here’s what I wrote:

A wonderful emotional read.
Wow! As a long-time fan of Maggie Christensen’s romance novels I thought I knew what to expect when reading A Mother’s Story. I was wrong. This isn’t a romance. It’s a family saga but boy, is it packed full of love, emotion and drama.
The first chapter had me hooked and it was hard to put the book down. Don’t read this at bedtime if you want to get sleep early.
The book begins in World War Two and spans the following decades. It ranges from Scotland to Australia, runs along two timelines and tells the story of three women.
It’s a powerful tale of family love – especially the love between mothers and daughters – and it’s beautifully told.
As for the ending – well, all I’m going to say is it’s perfectly judged.

From the back cover:

A lost child. A mother’s grief. A daughter’s journey.

In Scotland, in1941, as WW2 increases in ferocity, Rhona Begg goes against her parents’ wishes and enlists in the ATS—a decision that brings with it heart-breaking consequences. After the war, weighed down with regret and grief, Rhona receives news that has the power to change her life.

Across the ocean in Australia, Nell Duncan worries about her husband who is fighting in the Far East. When she receives the dreaded news that he is missing in action, her world collapses. The end of the war brings changes to Nell’s life, but her dream of bearing a child is no longer possible and she grieves for what might have been.

In 1971, when Joy Baker gives birth to her daughter, she begins the journey to discover her ancestry. What she finds shocks her to the core and propels her on a journey to the land of her birth.

Three women. Three mothers. Three astonishing stories.

From wartime Scotland to present day Australia. A Mother’s Story is an emotion-filled sweeping family saga.

Snug in Iceland by Victoria Walker

From the back cover:

Rachel Richards is stuck in a rut. Her boyfriend Adam barely notices her most of the time and her life in London isn’t as exciting as it should be. When the company she works for, Snug, asks her to oversee the opening of a new store in Iceland, she jumps at the chance for a change of scenery. Exploring Reykjavik with the help of Icelandic tour guide Jonas, Rachel discovers that life is out there waiting to be lived. As she falls in love with Iceland, she begins to see what is important to her and wonders whether the life she left behind is what she wants after all…

The Cosy Cottage in Ireland by Julie Caplin

From the back cover:

Snuggle up in your favourite armchair and take a trip across the Irish sea for comfort food, cosy cottage nights and a heartwarming romance…

Talented lawyer Hannah Campbell wants a change in her workaholic Manchester life – so she books herself a place at the world-renowned Killorgally Cookery School in County Kerry. But on her first night In Ireland, sampling the delights of Dublin, Hannah can’t resist falling for the charms of handsome stranger Conor. It’s only when Hannah arrives at her postcard-pretty home at Killorgally for the next six weeks that she discovers what happens in Dublin doesn’t quite stay in Dublin…

Nestled amongst rolling green hills and breathtaking countryside, the cookery school throws Hannah and Conor together again–for better or worse.

Top of the to-be-read pile

Unlike with the books I’ve already read and enjoyed, I don’t normally share what I’m about to read but this month – whether you like it or not – I’m doing just that.

Like many keen readers I have a fairly substantial pile of to-be-read books and sometimes it can be difficult deciding what to read next. But at this time of year I do narrow the field and get cracking on lots of lovely, snuggly and romantic Christmas reads.  And I’ll be starting my festive reading season off with the latest novel from another of my favourite authors.

It’s called Underneath the Christmas Tree and is 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…?

More Romantic Christmas Recommendations Next Time

Check back here at end of November/early December for more of my recommended yuletide reads.

What are your go to refuges when the problems of the world seem overwhelming?

Do you have pile of books waiting to be read? Do you like to read books that are linked to where we are in the year? What’s your favourite recent read? What do you plan to read next?

Please, do feel free to share in the comments below.

Lived Experience in Writing. Plus Books of the Month for September 2021 @indieauthoralli @Vicky_Walters @CamCavendish @TrishaNicholson #writing #reading #MondayMotivation

This month’s post contains something for writers and something for readers. Both parts though offer some much needed positivity in a world that at the moment seems a bit too full of the opposite. I hope it offers readers of the blog some reasons for optimism. Thank you for here and enjoy!

WRITING:

Keep learning and keep an open mind

Much as writing fiction is an imaginative process, when you write contemporary fiction, as I do, it has to be rooted in the real world and that can cause problems, doubts and questions for an author. My novels have included in their cast characters born and living in the Middle East, characters with disabilities, and characters whose lifestyles are often very different from my own. I always do my research but I do worry whether it’s been enough and that my understanding is accurate. So I was pleased to come across a most enlightening and reassuring article on one aspect of these sort of issues that fiction writers face.

 Inclusivity, Diversity and Lived Experience in Fiction Writing

As a writer of contemporary heterosexual romantic fiction I owe it tomy writers togive them a credible story set in the real word of the present day. There needs to be a woman and a man as the main characters, they have to fall in love and they need to overcome all obstacles to their finding happiness together and the story needs to take place in settings that support the telling. I also need to populate the setting and plot with a collection of supporting characters that reflect that setting Sounds simple. But it’s not.

After all, I want to keep writing books and I want to keep entertaining my loyal readers. However, although the above recipe of essential ingredients needs to be followed if I’m to maintain the trust of my readership, it would be pretty dull for me and them if I stuck to only writing what I know and to experiences I’ve actually had in my own life. Yes, of course I do use my own lived experience to inform and inspire my writing. But there’s only so much of it that’s gripping or even interesting to anyone apart from me.

So, I have to go beyond what I’ve experienced as a sixty-something white Scottish woman living in Scotland as a wife, mother, grandmother and teacher. I have to imagine other lives. But imagination is only sufficient up to a point. What I write imaginatively must have strong foundations. It must be realistic, fair and credible.

Therefore coming across an article which included a piece by writer Eliana West recently – on the Alliance of Independent Authors website – at selfpublishing.org – was both enlightening and reassuring. The article was called Racism and Writing but it mentioned and can be applied to writing about all sorts of diverse characters – such as those with disabilities – and included several resources for writers who want to write outside of their own direct lived experience but also to write inclusively, realistically and respectfully. Eliana’s website can be found at elianawest.com and she runs a Facebook group called Writers for Diversity.

Below are some sample quotes from the full article:

Instead of asking if you are the right person to write this story, ask yourself what your intention is with your writing and what impact you hope it will have.

As a writer Eliana West urges you to consider these intentions:

ELIANA WEST:

  • I am committed to creating characters that reflect the world I live in.
  • I will take the time to examine my own bias and do the research needed to write characters who are not stereotypes.
  • I will strive to use the appropriate language to describe my character’s identity.
  • I will recognize and be respectful of individual experience. I understand I cannot define an experience for an entire race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or community in my writing.

And to ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want to write this? What is your motivation?
  • What is your personal, emotional, psychological, ethical investment in writing it?
  • Can someone else tell this story better? Is it someone else’s story to tell?
  • What does your telling of the story do? Does it replicate prior violence, oppression or injustice? Does it provide new understanding or insight?
  • What is your power balance/imbalance as a writer to the subject matter?
  • Should you write/publish this at all? As with most ethical questions, the key is not can one, but should one?

READING:

Finding information, balance and comfort through reading

It can be hard at times to keep a positive take on the world around us – especially if we pay too much attention to some of the news headlines and certain areas of social media and not enough attention to keeping things in perspective.

So it’s good to find books that help to provide balance and/or comfort.

Two of my September books of the month both non-fiction are full of optimism around two of the ‘bad’ things we’re hearing a lot about at the moment. One is about the planting of a forest as an act of faith in the future and the other is a positive take on ageing populations and on contesting the taboos and misconceptions around this topic. And my third book of the month is a touching, romantic and absorbing novel and provided the perfect escape when I needed a break from the real world.

The Five Acre Forest by Trish Nicholson

From the back cover:

Planting a tree is an act of faith, an expression of hope.

The Five Acre Forest inspires that hope

In transit from the globe-trotting life of an aid worker, Trish Nicholson came upon an eroded dune beside a lake in New Zealand’s far north and felt a strange attachment. The following year, she abandoned her Celtic roots and returned to plant a thousand trees.

Twenty years on, the author shares the physical and emotional trials and triumphs of transforming the dune into a five acre forest, and describes the lives of its native trees, birds and insects, enchanting us with local legends and her nature photography along the way.

Woven into Nicholson’s personal narrative is the deep-time story of an extraordinary landscape of dunes, lakes, swamps and beaches formed from an ancient shared geological ancestry.


Extra Time by Camilla Cavendish

From the back cover:

From award-winning journalist, Camilla Cavendish, comes a profound analysis of one of the biggest challenges facing the human population today.

The world is undergoing a dramatic demographic shift. By 2020, for the first time in history, the number of people aged 65 and over will outnumber children aged five and under. But our systems are lagging woefully behind this new reality. In Extra Time, Camilla Cavendish embarks on a journey to understand how different countries are responding to these unprecedented challenges.

Travelling across the world in a carefully researched and deeply human investigation, Cavendish contests many of the taboos around ageing. Interviewing leading scientists about breakthroughs that could soon transform the quality and extent of life, she sparks a debate about how governments, businesses, doctors, the media and each one of us should handle the second half of life. She argues that if we take a more positive approach, we should be able to reap the benefits of a prolonged life. But that will mean changing our attitudes and
using technology, community, even anti-ageing pills, to bring about a revolution.

Always and Forever at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

From the back cover:

What if we’re all just searching for something?

Anna Stewart is lost. After barely surviving a car accident as a teenager, Anna is scared of settling. Flitting between jobs, boyfriends and homes whenever she gets bored, she has no idea what the future holds. Then her brother Brodie, minister of Glendale, suggests she moves to the beautiful Scottish village, lining up a housekeeper job for her at Glendale Hall.

Out of options, Anna agrees to take the job just for the summer. Once at the hall, her culinary skills impress everyone, and she agrees to give Hilltop Farm’s new manager, Cameron, cooking lessons. Sparks fly between Anna and the handsome Scot, but Cameron keeps pushing Anna away, and Anna definitely isn’t looking for love. But it’s wedding season at Glendale Hall, and Anna is about to discover that her new home has a way of working its magic on even the coldest of hearts.

Will she really be able to just walk away at the end of summer, or could Anna have finally found a place to belong?

It’s summertime so pack your bags and escape to beautiful Highlands village of Glendale with this gorgeously uplifting, romantic read. Fans of Milly Johnson, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin will love this charming romance.

Update on my own writing

Before I go, for anyone who’s interested in where my own aforementioned writing is at currently …

I have finished one novel and I’m busy redrafting and generally knocking the manuscript into shape before it goes off to my editor. And I’m halfway through writing another novel. More about both of these soon …

 And that’s just about it for this month.

Just a couple of questions for you? As a writer do you wrestle with diversity/inclusivity issues? As a reader, have you read anything inspiring, informative or just downright comforting this month?  As always feel free to share in the comments below.

First Draft Complete, A Quandary and Books of the Month – August 2021 #writing #reading #romanticfiction @KathrynFreeman1 @LauraBambrey Sam Binnie

New Book Dilemma

There’s currently a feeling of satisfaction here at the writing desk and yes, okay, a bit of pride and smugness mixed in there too. The reason? The reason being – a few days ago I finished the first draft of the novella I’ve been writing. Hurrah!

Of course it’s now the hard work really begins as I start the redrafting, followed by the second redraft, followed by – who knows how many more redrafts. And then it will go off to my editor.

However mixed in with the satisfaction and smugness there’s an element of uncertainty too.

And the reason for that is twofold.

Firstly, now that I’ve written Reconciliation (working title that I may or may not go with) I’m not sure it’s a novella. It’s a bit longer than that but does that make it a short novel or simply a novel? Opinions vary in Writer Land as to the match up between word count and categorising fiction by its length.

Secondly, and this uncertainty is partly related to the first one. Do I set up this latest book up as a free giveaway when folks sign up to my (coming soon, fingers crossed )newsletter – as was my original intention? Or since it’s likely to be more than a novella do I publish it as a normal for-sale book? And if I do the latter what do I offer as a thank you to my signer-uppers?

One solution would be to publish and sell the new book and to offer prospective subscribers a short story.

Some thinking required.

Your thoughts, Dear Reader

I’d be interested to know from any readers who sign up to author newsletters if the offer of a freebie influenced your decision to sign up and if so what sort of offering you prefer. Is a short story enough?

Books of the Month – No Dilemma

Fortunately it wasn’t hard to make a decision on what have been my favourite reads this month. All are contemporary romances – no surprises there. All are really enjoyable – and refreshingly different.

The Beach Reads Book Club by Kathryn Freeman

When Lottie Watt is unceremoniously booted out of her uptight book club for not following the rules, she decides to throw the rulebook out the window and start her own club – one where conversation, gin and cake take precedent over actually having read the book!

The Beach Reads Book Club soon finds a home for its meetings at Books by the Bay, a charming bookshop and café owned by gorgeous, brooding Matthew Steele, and as the book club picks heat up, so too does the attraction between Matt and Lottie.

If there’s anything Lottie has learned from the romances she’s been reading, it’s that the greatest loves are the ones hardest earned.

The Kindness Project by Sam Binnie

Step 1. Help the lonely baker start again

Step 2. Find the true calling of the village shop owner

Step 3. Call a truce on a decades-old feud

Step 4. Forgive me . . . ?

The locals of the Cornish village of Polperran are grieving the sudden loss of Bea Kimbrel, a cornerstone of their small community.

Now her reclusive, estranged daughter Alice has turned up, keen to tie up Bea’s affairs and move on.

But Alice receives a strange bequest from Bea – a collection of unfinished tasks to help out those in Polperran most in need.

As each little act brings her closer to understanding her mother, it also begins to offer Alice the courage to open her clamped-shut heart. Perhaps Bea’s project will finally unlock the powerful secrets both women have been keeping . . .

THE KINDNESS PROJECT will draw you deep into the lives of two compelling women who should never have missed their chance to say goodbye. It will break your heart – and piece it back together again..

The Beginners Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey

Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.
 
When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).
 
From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken. 

And that’s it for this month. Feel free to answer the question about the signup freebie and to share your favourite reads for this month. Stay safe and well everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Reading and Writing Romantic Fiction Part 2: the story’s the thing. Plus Books of the Month for July 2021 #reading #writing #romantic fiction @MarieLaval1 @SueMcDonaghLit @marshisms @MaggieChriste33

Photo from Pexels.com

What’s the story this month?

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.  

Featured Novel

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.

Reading and Writing Romantic Fiction: never too old to read it, write it, or to be the main character. Plus – Books of the Month for June 2021 #reading #writing #romanticfiction @1chriswebber @KileyDunbar @Isabelle_Broom @SnowProse

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:

Website and podcast links: here

Twitter: @1chriswebber

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

Books of the Month

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.

From the Writing Desk – Mapping Out a Story: Nailing the Setting #writing #fiction Plus #reading #booksofthemonth @katehaswords @Donna_ashworth

Finding My Writing Way

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.

Getting Lost

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.

An early attempt at the village layout

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?

Groundhog Month and Germinated Seeds of Hope #books of the month #writing #reading #books @MarieLaval1 @ItsEmmacooper @carbonchoicesuk

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 …

Tough Times

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
  • BOOKS

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 Solutions to 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.

Looking Forward in February #writing #reading #books of the month #crimefiction #romanticfiction #nonfiction

Small shoots of hope

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

ROMANCE

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?

CRIME

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…

NON FICTION

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.

Books of the Year 2020 #books #reading #writing #contemporaryfiction #fiction

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.

November 2020: Books of the Month #books #reading #romanticfiction @Jane Cable @SueMoorcroft @KathrynFreeman1

I have three best reads to share with you this month. Two of them are set at Christmas – and I must admit in a normal year I wouldn’t be mentioning the festive season before the first of December – but this has been a far from normal year and I’m heading into the comforts of Christmas early.

And don’t tell anybody – but I’m planning on putting up my Christmas tree this weekend! I know – me – who usually waits until a few days before the big day – and scoffs at the early embracers 😊

But reading remains something to be enjoyed all year round, and for me, never more so than this year. So here are my three recommendations from the 11 books I’ve read during the last 30 days. All 3 are contemporary romances.

Best November Reads

Endless Skies by Jane Cable

This was a fabulous book. It tells the moving love story of land developer, Jonathan, and archaeologist, Rachel. Both are damaged souls who are drawn together through their work. There’s a bit of a ghost story in the background too – which is lovely and so well done. And the supporting cast is full of excellently drawn characters.

From the back cover:

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…?

Christmas Wishes by Sue Moorcroft

Set in both England and Sweden, this is the lovely story of shopkeeper Hannah and single dad, Nico. The descriptions of a wintry Sweden are superb and really add to the telling of the story. And as for little Maria and her use of the name ‘mydad’ for Nico – I challenge you not to cry over that. A very romantic, snuggle up read.

From the back cover:

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

I loved this story and I miss it now I’ve got to the end – always a good sign. The story of headteacher Anna and out of work actor Dan is truly magical. There’s a great supporting cast – including the children. It was good to catch up with some of the characters from this author’s previous Christmas books but it won’t affect your enjoyment of this book if you haven’t read these earlier ones.

From the back cover:

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…

Here’s to more reading

And that’s it for this month’s reading. I can’t wait to get started on December’s books. I hope you are finding good reads to offer a bit of escapism and solace too. Feel free to share any that have stood out for you recently in the comments below. And happy reading to you all as we enter the final month of this very strange year.