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.

Books of the Month: October 2020 #reading #books #romanticfiction @MaggieChriste33 @Heidi_Swain

Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

As this most unsettling of years has gone on I’ve become more and more grateful for books – both writing and reading them.

When I’m writing I’m in my own (Covid free) imaginary world and I’m in control of what happens in that world.

And when I’m reading I can escape into someone else’s (Covid free) imagined world.

Now, I know there’s some debate in the writing and reading communities about whether authors of contemporary fiction ought to/want to/ don’t want to/ write fiction that includes ‘the virus’ in the story line and whether readers want/don’t want/ to read such books – but that is a discussion for another day.

Safe to say, for now, I want to steer clear of Covid in both my writing and my reading.

So here are my favourite 2 reads for the month of October and there was no need for sanitiser, social-distancing or masks while reading them 😊

Both are contemporary romances and both provided a wonderful escape

Books of the Month October 2020

First up is The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain

From the back cover:

Will love bloom this winter?
 
Freya Fuller is living her dream, working as a live-in gardener on a beautiful Suffolk estate. But when the owner dies, Freya finds herself forced out of her job and her home with nowhere to go. However, with luck on her side, she’s soon moving to Nightingale Square and helping to create a beautiful winter garden that will be open to the public in time for Christmas.
 
There’s a warm welcome from all in Nightingale Square, except from local artist Finn. No matter how hard the pair try, they just can’t get along, and working together to bring the winter garden to life quickly becomes a struggle for them both.
 
Will Freya and Finn be able to put their differences aside in time for Christmas? Or will the arrival of a face from Freya’s past send them all spiralling?

The Winter Garden is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. 

My thoughts:

Regular reads of the blog will most likely recognise this book and its author from last week’s post HERE where author Heidi shared her Life in a Day of an Author with us. And in that post I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed this book. As I said then, it’s a perfect autumn/winter read and I thoroughly enjoyed this satisfying and so romantic story. The main characters Freya and Finn are perfectly flawed and so likeable and I loved all the garden details too.

And my other book of the month is A Granite Springs Christmas by Maggie Christensen

From the back cover:

A return to Granite Springs. A family Christmas. A time for love and joy…or is it?

A year after a devastating bushfire destroyed Magda Duncan’s home, she returns to Granite Springs determined to resume her life and organise a wonderful family Christmas. But the elation of her homecoming quickly turns to disappointment as she discovers not everyone is in tune with her plans.

George Turnbull was Magda’s late husband’s best friend. A bachelor, he has always carried a torch for Magda and remained close to her and her sons. When he finally musters the courage to reveal his true feelings, a life changing surprise from his past threatens to ruin any chance at happiness.

Emotions are high as Christmas Day approaches. Will this be the most wonderful Christmas ever? Or will the hopes and fears of the past come home to haunt them?

A poignant story of a Christmas friends of Granite Springs will never forget.

If you enjoy heartwarming second chance romance in a rural setting with a Christmas flavour, you’ll love this book. 

My thoughts:

Okay, I have to admit I’m cheating slightly here as this book doesn’t come out until 28th October but I was given an advance copy by the author and so I got to read it early.

This is book number 6 in the Australian set Granite Springs series – I’ve read and enjoyed all the others – and this time it’s the lovely story of Magda and George. The pair, who have appeared earlier in the series, and who are in their 70s, have been friends for years but as the story unfolds it becomes clear now might be the time for them to take their relationship further and to become romantically involved.

Yes, this magical, heart-warming and hopeful story would have been fine with younger protagonists, but it’s especially lovely that they are that bit older.

This book is another warm and engaging read from this author. I loved it. And I loved the message that it’s never too late to fall in love.

And while it was good to catch up with characters from earlier stories, this book could easily be read as a standalone.

I heartly recommend it.

Over to you:

What are your favourite reads for October 2020?

Would you read/not read fiction that has Covid as one of its themes/storylines?

How do you feel about romantic stories where the couple are middle-aged or older?

Please feel free to comment on this post below.

Books of the Month: June – Top Three #reading #books #memoir #romanticfiction

Books of the Month: June – Top Three #reading #books #memoir #romanticfiction

Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

Despite a slight easing of the Covid-19 lockdown here in Scotland, I’m continuing to read more than usual. Books can be comforting, informative, joyful and, yes, a much needed escape. And my top three reads in June have, between them, provided all these things.

First up is Becoming by Michelle Obama. I listened to this autobiography as an audio book and it is awesome. What a life she has had and what a wonderful person she is. And all of the issues she has had to face – not least as a black woman – are, sadly, as pertinent as they ever were. But her sheer grace shines through.

Back Cover:

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Summer at the Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies is a contemporary romance and is the second book in the Little Cottage series. Having enjoyed the first book in this series I went straight on to this one and it was even better. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Tom and Isobel – it had everything – a perfect sigh-making romantic read.

Back Cover:

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. 

Up Close and Personal by Kathryn Freeman is a contemporary romance with a strong thriller element to it. It’s a witty, original and clever take on the protector/protected set up as in the The Bodyguard. Only this time it’s a female bodyguard protecting a male film star – a most refreshing twist – and the story of their forbidden but mutual attraction.

Back Cover:

Sizzling chemistry, a page-turning will they/won’t they romance and the hottest twist on one of your favourite movies…

British actor Zac Edwards is the latest heartthrob to hit the red carpets. Hot, talented and rich, he sends women wild…all except one.

Close protection officer Kat Parker hasn’t got time to play celebrity games.  She has one job: to protect Zac from the stalker that seems to be dogging his every move.

Zac might get her hot under her very starched collar, but Kat’s a professional – and sleeping with Zac is no way part of her remit…

And that’s it for June. Any recommended reads you’d like to share from the past month? Then please do so in the comments below.