Blog Blitz for Change of Life coming up #books #reading @LoveBooksGroup

I’m excited to let you know that my novel Change of Life – the first book that I published – and the one that changed my life by setting me off on my writing career – is going on a bit of a blog tour in two days’ time – on Wednesday 5th August. The tour has been organised by the lovely Kelly who runs Love Books Tours And you can see a list of where it’s going to pop up on the chart below. I’ve also posted an extract from the beginning of the book at the end of this post.

DateBlog NameHandle
5th AugGeraldine Gatsby@geraldinegatsby
Reading Through the Lookinglass@readingthroughthelookinglass
Vicky Book and Family@Vickybooksandfamily
The Book Reader@the.b00kreader
Ruthies Next Chapter@ruthies_next_chapter
Neville Louise@nevillelouise
Karen and her Books@karenandherbooks
Jazzy Book Reviews@PixyJazz
Tangents and Tissues@tangentsbb
Being Anne@Williams13Anne
Daisy Says@daisyhollands
B for Book Review@BookreviewB
Frost magazine@frost_magazine_westcountry
Portobello Book Blog@portybelle
Chicks Rogues and Scandals@ChicksandRogues
Love Books Group@Lovebooksgroup
Pen Possessed@ThinkStates
Donna’s Book Blog@dmmaguire391
Fabulous Book Fiend@fabbookfiend

I’d love it if you have a moment on Wednesday to pop in at any of the blogs and if you could share the posts – even better.

Change of Life is a standalone story and as with all my novels it’s contemporary romantic fiction.

And here’s what it’s about:

Be careful what you wish for…

Wife to heart surgeon and control freak, Tom, and mother to four adolescent children, Rosie feels taken for granted as she juggles family life and her work as a teacher. She longs for a change of life. When she almost hits a teenage boy with her car, her life explodes into uncharted territory. The boy is Robbie – and Rosie discovers he is part of a terrible secret that Tom has kept for seventeen years. Then when Rosie is diagnosed with breast cancer, she leaves home and begins the fight for her life. Meanwhile Tom, is forced to learn what it means to be a husband and father as he struggles to keep his family together and strives to get his wife back.

Change of Life is available for only 99p as an ebook and is free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member. You can buy it here. It’s also available as a paperback.

Thank you to Kelly at Love Books Tours and to all the wonderful book bloggers above.

Extract from Change of Life

Chapter One

Rosie

I didn’t see the boy until the moment of impact. He slammed into the side of the car as I reversed out of the driveway. I got a fright, thought I’d hurt someone, but I couldn’t have guessed that this was merely a foreshock to a much greater upheaval. Ten past one, lunch time, Tuesday 17th May. It was the moment when the past caught up and collided with the present.

I got out to check he wasn’t hurt. He glanced at me and turned to run. He was about Adam’s age, seventeen or so. There was something familiar about him. But I didn’t think I knew him. Ours was a small community and with four children of my own, I thought I knew most of the local young people, at least by sight.

“Wait, are you all right?” I caught his arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you.”

He didn’t appear to be injured. He was taller than me, with untidy, dark hair and very deep brown eyes. In one ear he wore a little silver skull. I recognised his tee shirt. Adam had one just like it. It had the words ‘Subliminal Messages’ written across it – the name of a Slipknot  album. As the boy pulled his arm back he seemed to hesitate.

“Do I know you?” I said. “Are you a friend of Adam’s?”

He looked me in the eyes for a moment. I stared back. Something passed between us; was it recognition? Then he bolted – obviously uninjured.

I didn’t have time to speculate about the boy. I’d only nipped home for lunch and a catch up with Ruby. I needed to get back.

I got the last space in the school car park. I was hurrying towards the main entrance when my mobile rang. I answered it as I went inside. It was the hospital. My stomach tightened.

“Hello, Mrs McAllister. This is Mr Campbell’s secretary. He’s asked me to set up an appointment for you to come and discuss your test results.” The voice was warm, friendly even. But I still had an awful feeling of dread.

“He could see you on Thursday at three.”

“Oh, yes, right, Thursday…” My mind whirred through Thursday’s schedule. I’d need to get off early. Kirsty, my head teacher and one of my closest friends, would have to cover my class. What would I tell her? I wondered if the doctor needed to see you if it was good news. He could tell you over the phone, surely. It must mean bad news…

“So is that all right then, Thursday at three, with Mr Campbell?”

“Sorry, yes. Is it bad news do you know? I mean, why else would he be bothering?”

“You mustn’t jump to conclusions, Mrs McAllister. He’d want to see you either way. Try not to worry and we’ll see you in a couple of days.”

As the call ended, the bell rang for the start of afternoon lessons. My life went on, even as its bedrock heaved and shifted beneath me.

Tom

It’s Sunday morning. Rosie only met him on Tuesday. Is it really only a few days ago? In less than a week my life has fallen apart – no that’s wrong – it fell apart in a moment – in the time it took a boy to speak a sentence. And now my wife is leaving and my heart is broken.

It’s the 22nd of May, but it feels more like November. I’m standing at the living-room window. It’s raining and the sea and sky are slate grey, the horizon obliterated. I feel leaden, unable to move or speak; it’s the paralysis of a nightmare. I want to beg her to stay, to admit she’s being silly and overreacting.

Rosie and our nineteen year old daughter, Sam, load bags and boxes into Rosie’s car. Toby is watching them, barking occasionally. I know I should go out to her and fight to make her change her mind but I’m exhausted, I’m drowning. I’m engulfed in the aftermath of more anger than I’ve ever felt towards her.

I hear the dull thud of the boot closing. It’s done. She’s ready to go. Our younger daughter, Jenny, sprints down the driveway, jacket held above her head, and says something to Rosie. Then Max dashes from the house and hands his mother a piece of paper. She looks at it and smiles and they hug each other. She puts the paper down on the driver’s seat and closes the door. They all come back in and head for the kitchen.

Jenny calls out, “Dad, Adam, coffee.”

A few moments later I hear Adam coming downstairs and going along to the kitchen. I know he’s not happy about his mother leaving, but at least he’s able to join the others for a coffee before she goes.

I make it to the sofa. I find that I want to cry. This terrifies me. I struggle not to lose my grip, not to howl and kick and scream. I’m Tom McAllister, consultant heart surgeon, professional, practical, in control. Or so I thought. I didn’t intend any of this to happen. I’m helpless, lost. I haven’t felt this vulnerable or alone since I was a child. I find I’m rocking, curled up, my head wrapped in my arms. I force myself to sit up, to keep breathing.

When I fail to appear in the kitchen, Jenny comes to get me.

“Come on Dad, come and have a coffee. I’ve made a carrot cake and it looks scrummy, even if I say so myself. Come and say cheerio to Mum.”

“I can’t. How can you be so cheerful?”

Jenny puts her hand on my arm, “Och, Dad, she just needs a bit of a break.” She hesitates and gives my arm a squeeze. “And she needs to get over how cross she is with you.”

“So she says, Jenny. So she says. But I can’t come and say goodbye as if she was simply going away for a few days holiday. I don’t understand how she can go.”

“If we all understand, why can’t you? Even Adam’s there to say goodbye. Come and wish her well, Dad, and tell her you’ll be here waiting for her. She needs you to say that.”

I stand up and hug Jenny. Seventeen and so grown up. The children are behaving better than me. I feel even more ashamed and desperate. “I can’t do it. I can’t give any of this my blessing.”

Jenny walks away. With her long blonde hair and slight frame, she looks and moves like her mother. At the door she turns and says, “It’s not your blessing she wants.”

Rosie

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Yet it feels like the right thing. This is about my survival and I know I can’t stay. It’s a wet Sunday morning in May. The weather gives the day a heavy, washed-out feeling and it mirrors my mood perfectly. I’m sitting at the kitchen table. My children are with me.

“So, I can come and see you in two weeks?” Max asks.

“Yes, like I said, I’ll have had a good rest by then and Grandma will bring you to Edinburgh for a visit.”

“I’ll miss you, Mum.” Max puts down his glass of milk and comes to hug me. I cling to him, glad that, at twelve years old, he doesn’t yet feel too old for such displays.

“I’ll miss you too. But two weeks will pass quickly and then, in the summer holidays, you can come and stay as much as you want.”

“That’s a great picture you did for Mum, Maxy.” Jenny rubs her wee brother’s back. “You could do more for her while she’s away – like a sort of picture diary of what you’re up to – use the sketch book Uncle Dan gave you for your birthday.”

“Mm yeah, I suppose.”

“You could start now – draw us all here at the table.”

Max considers then nods. “I’ll go and get my stuff.”

I smile my gratitude at Jenny.

Sam gets up from the table. “I need to go. My shift starts at twelve.”

I get up too. “Sam,” I say, holding my arms out towards her.

She shakes her head. “I still don’t get it, Mum. I’m trying to, but I don’t. I think if you just talked to Dad, you could sort it.”

I drop my arms. I can’t look at her. Then she’s over and holding me in a tight embrace. “Go if you have to, but come back soon,” she whispers. Then she’s gone.

I know I should go too. There’s no point prolonging this. I glance at Adam. He’s staring into his coffee mug. Max comes back with his sketch book and pencils.

“How can I do my picture if Sam’s gone?”

“I better get on my way.” I smile apologetically at him.

“You can still put Mum and Sam in the picture, Max,” says Jenny. “Even if they’re not here – you’re a good enough artist.”

Max nods and lays his things on the table.

I hug Jenny. “Thanks for the making the cake, it was a lovely thought.”

She smiles. “Come on, Adam, let’s see Mum off.” Jenny places a hand on her twin brother’s shoulder. He shrugs it off.

Max takes my hand. At first Adam doesn’t move. Then he gets up and stands, hands deep in the pockets of his jeans, shoulders hunched. He’s facing me, eyes downcast.

“Bye then, Adam. I meant what I said. I’m really sorry.” I will him to look at me. He shrugs and walks past me, head down. I hear him stomping up the stairs.

As I walk down the hall with Jenny and Max, I glance at the closed living room door. I wonder if Tom will say goodbye. I wonder if I should go in. I can’t face it. The shock and anger that I’ve felt for the last few days have hardly abated. Tom has betrayed me. His secret’s out.

As I get into the car I glance back at the house. The Victorian villa’s sandstone walls are darkened by the rain. It’s been my home for nearly twenty years. I love everything about it, its seaside situation in Gullane, one of East Lothian’s prettiest villages, its large, light rooms, its period quirks and the memories we’ve made there. I shall miss it almost as much as the people inside it. I see Tom at the living room window, watching. I think he’s about to wave or beckon me back. He turns away.

The appearance of Robbie in our lives has changed everything. And on top of that I now have a dreadful secret of my own.

Books of the Month July 2020 #reading #books @bethcmoran @emilyharvale @SueMcDonaghLit

I’ve not read quite as many books as I did during the first months of lockdown. This is partly to do with being busy once again with my writing and with attempting to keep the garden under control, but also because my social life has made tiny steps back into existence – however, I do have three good reads to share with you.

All of them are contemporary romances – all quite different from each other – and all of them are ideal relaxing summer reads.

And in no particular order they are:

A Day That Changed Everything by Beth Moran

Amy Piper is in need of a bit of luck. She’s lost her confidence, her mojo and her way.

But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…

What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.

The trick to changing your life, is to take it one day at a time. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, Amy is determined to make just one day special – for herself and for Joey. And who knows, today might be the day that changes everything…(This book was previously published as How Not to be a Loser).

Escape to the Art Café by Sue McDonagh

Heartbreak and cake at the Art Café …
It was meant to be the perfect romantic holiday. But then Flora Bexton’s boyfriend does the unthinkable, and she responds in the only logical way: she steals his motorbike and escapes for a holiday by herself on the Welsh coast.
Far from the lonely trip she imagined, Flora soon finds comfort at the friendly local Art Café where the legendary hot chocolate and cake help to ease her troubled mind. And when Aussie-Welsh lifeguard Jake Foley steps in just when Flora needs help the most, she realises that her ‘holiday’ feels more like home with every passing day …

Coming Home to Merriment Bay by Emily Harvale

This novel was originally a four-part, serial. This is all four parts and forms Book 1 in the Merriment Bay series. If you have read the four-part serial, you have read this book.

Cat Devon left Merriment Bay eighteen years ago with her baby daughter, Kyra. Now a letter from Cat’s estranged mum has brought them back.

Cat has tried to forget her heartbreaking past and forgive her mum, Mary and her gran, Viola. But nothing seems to have changed and Mary still insists on keeping secrets.

Sitting beside Viola’s hospital bed, isn’t exactly fun, so when Cat and Kyra stumble on a faded photo of an RAF pilot and a pile of unopened letters in a trunk in Viola’s room, they decide to find out who he is and what he meant to Viola.

Amias Wells, who owns Bay Water Sports but also flies a vintage Spitfire for the Merriment Bay WWII Museum, is the perfect man to ask. Except Cat and Amias haven’t spoken since the accident that killed his friend and left Cat scarred, eighteen years ago. Sparks fly when they meet again.

But Amias traces Bailey Mitchell, who lives thousands of miles away and is almost ninety-eight. Exchanging Christmas cards leads to revelations Cat had not expected. Then a surprise visitor means Cat’s Christmas takes a delightful turn. Now she’s facing choices she never thought she’d have to make.

When distressing events end more than one person’s dream, Cat realises what – and who – she wants. As Merriment Bay prepares to toast in the New Year, can Cat finally put the past where it belongs and find the love she deserves?

So, what’s everyone else been reading in July? Any recommendations? Please do share 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.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Genie isn’t feeling very festive this December.

The frosty mornings and twinkling fairy lights only remind her it’s been a whole year since she lost her adoptive mother, who took her in as a baby and raised her as her own.

She’s never felt more alone – until she discovers her birth mother’s identity.

And where to find her – New Zealand, half the world away.

Travelling there could be her one chance to meet the woman who gave her up . . .

But will she find the answers she has been looking for? Or something she could never have expected?

 

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

Writing and Reading news: It’s been quite a week #writing #reading #books

It has been quite a week in my writing life and with another big day coming up later this week on Friday, the excitement continues. Yes, it’s the crazy busy time around the launch of the new book.

But as well as being very busy with all things writing and publishing related, I’ve also been reading by way of relaxing.

So I thought I’d do a round up of all things bookish in today’s post.

Fulfilment – book 3 in the Rachel & Jack Skye Series launches

First of all thank you to everyone of you who has shared the news of the publication of Fulfilment via your social media channels, websites and by word of mouth. It all helps so much – especially at this time of no real life book launches.

And of course, thank you too, to everyone who has either bought the paperback or pre-ordered the ebook (here) which will be delivered to Kindles this Friday on the 15th May. I so appreciate it.

And, I have to say, it was quite an emotional moment to hold my proof copy of the book in my hands and then to put it on the shelf with its two preceding novels in the series.

Special offers on the first 2 books in the series

Book 1 in the series Displacement is free for your Kindle at the moment – but this is the last day so if you haven’t read any of the series so far – and you fancy doing so – now would be a good time to get started. Get it here 

Book 2 in the series Settlement is on a countdown deal at the moment in the US and will available to buy for $0.99 until Friday 15th May. And in the UK it will be available at a similarly reduced price from 12th May until the 19th. Get it here

So if you haven’t read them, what are you waiting for? 😊

I don’t just write books. I read them too

But as I said, I’ve been spending some time reading too. And so I thought I’d share my three favourite recent reads with you. All are – surprise, surprise – contemporary romances.

The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman

New Year, New Guy by Angela Britnell

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

All are first class, engaging, and heartwarming reads and are available as paperbacks and as ebooks and are definitely worth checking out.

So, as always, over to you – what have you read and enjoyed recently? And if you’re a writer what are you currently working on?

And remember, if you have read and enjoyed a book please do consider posting a review on Amazon. It doesn’t need to be long and involved – just a couple of e=sentences will do – but it really does help an author get some sales traction.

Reading in the Time of Covid: the lifeline offered by #reading #books – List 1

Books, Books, Books

I don’t know about you, but one of the main things that’s getting me through this time of social isolation is reading. Reading has always been one of my main leisure activities, but now it’s become more of a sanity saver, escape pod, and huge source of comfort.

Reads to escape into

So, as I said in a previous post, I’m suspending my Book of the Month post for the foreseeable, and instead I’m aiming to do an occasional round-up of books I’ve recently read and enjoyed, and that I think you might enjoy too. As you’ll see my main go-to genre remains contemporary romance – which with its themes of love, hope and happy-ever-after provides just what I need at the moment .

Recommendations – not reviews

As I want to include several books per post, the round-up won’t include reviews, but if a book’s included it will be because I consider it to be a good read and one that provides some much-needed escapism.

Six Good Ones

Contemporary Romance:

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman

The Life She Wants by Maggie Christensen

My One True North by Milly Johnson

Romantic Suspense:

Cold & Deadly by Toni Anderson

Psychological/historical/literary:

Hidden by Linda Gillard

Previously read and recommended authors

Other authors who I’ve not read so recently, but who are definitely worth checking out include:

for contemporary romance – Heidi Swain, Jo Lambert, Marie Laval, Kate Field, Kate Blackadder Emma Davies, Miranda Dickinson

for historical romance – Anne Stenhouse

for alternative history/romance/suspense – Alison Morton

for contemporary/ crime thriller/romance – JJ Marsh

Availability

All the books by the above authors are available as paperbacks and/or ebooks and can be purchased from online stores and from bookshops offering online/phone ordering and postal delivery.

Over to you

Are you finding some solace in reading at the moment? If so what book(s) would you recommend? What is your go-to genre and has it changed during this challenging time? Are you looking for comfort, escapism, thrills or challenges in the books you’re reading? Maybe you’re more into non-fiction? Do share your thoughts below.

February’s Book of the Month: Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace by Olga Wojtas @OlgaWojtas @SarabandBooks #books #reading #literaryfiction

I’ve read five books this month and there was one I didn’t finish (as life’s too short to waste time on something you’re not enjoying). As usual I stuck with either crime or romantic fiction for four of them, but I also read one book that was a bit different from my usual reading fare. It was a fantasy thriller novel with vampires and time travel. So, yes a bit out of my comfort zone.

However, I wasn’t actually being all that brave and ‘out there’ by including this novel in my February reading, as I’d read Olga Wojtas’s previous novel Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar and absolutely loved it. I reviewed it HERE.

And yes, I loved her latest one too. Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace is every bit as witty, funny, entertaining and captivating as its predecessor. The originality is refreshing and awesome and make the book quite unique.

Therefore even although I thoroughly enjoyed all five books that I did finish, it was fairly easy to decide on February’s book of the month just because of its sheer originality.

From the back cover:

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name.

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is personally selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for an important mission in fin-de-siècle France.

But Shona finds this mission very confusing. Why, for example, have so many people been torn to death by wild animals, what are Maman and the mayor up to, and is the reclusive aristocrat really suffering from toothache?

It’s a race against time to solve the mystery. It is also a very tall order but as Shona is wont to remind herself: Never underestimate a librarian!

 

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace is available as an ebook and as a paperback and is published by Saraband.

What book has impressed you most this month? Feel free to share in the comments below.

It Started with a Character: the magical process of writing #writing #reading #RomanceReaders

The Unexpected Seed of an Idea

I can’t quite believe I’ve typed the magic words ‘The End’ – not only on the manuscript of my latest novel but on the third and final part of a series of three.

My first novel, Change of Life, which recently celebrated its tenth birthday, was written as a standalone. I didn’t even consider writing a series. And the same was true when I started my second one, Displacement.

When I began my first book I had a fairly good idea of the story I wanted to tell, where it would be set, and who the cast list of characters would be. This was probably because I’d first written versions of parts of the novel as various short stories, never really believing I’d actually write a whole book someday.

But Displacement began as a tiny seed. I was in the process of writing my (so far) only children’s novel and wasn’t consciously thinking about a new book for adult readers. But my sub-conscious author brain didn’t give two hoots what I was trying to focus on when, out of the blue, it presented me with a character.

I was at my (then) home on the Scottish island of Skye and I was hanging out the washing in my garden and had paused to take in the breath-taking view over the loch to the mountains. Then this woman appeared in my head.

She wouldn’t go away. I just knew she had a story to tell. Gradually I interviewed, interrogated and thought about her. Slowly she took on a life of her own. Rachel had arrived.

Rachel a fifty-something, divorced mother. Rachel who lived and worked on Skye, combining running a croft (a Scottish form of smallholding or subsistence farming) with being a children’s writer and book illustrator. Rachel who was lost and lonely – until she met Jack.

And the rest is a big part of my fiction writing history.

One becomes Three

As I said, when I began to write Displacement it was only ever meant to be a single, standalone. But I’d no sooner finished it when I realised there was more to be said, more to tell about Rachel and Jack and the rest of the cast. So, Settlement came next.

Then yes, as I also mentioned, the need to write a third in this series took hold of me and Fulfilment will be published in March.

While each of the three books in the Skye series can be read as standalones, I would of course recommend reading all three in order.

However, I do believe it’s now time to let Rachel and Jack and their friends and families get on with their lives in peace. I already miss them terribly, but they’ve had quite enough of my meddling.

I can’t wait to see Fulfilment sitting on my bookshelf with its two siblings. That will give me my own sense of fulfilment – see what I did there? From a tiny acorn of an idea came not just one oak, but three. I know! I’m a writer! Allow me some poetic metaphors.

AND now, it’s very exciting to be contemplating a whole new fertile field and wondering what sort of seedlings might begin to grow …

Okay I’ll stop now – all metaphored out.

But please do watch this space for Fulfilment‘s release date. It’s coming soon 😊

(The buy links for all my books are in the sidebar of this post , or at the foot if you’re reading this on a phone).

And, as always, questions for you –

Writers – how and where do you get your inspiration and ideas?

Readers – do you prefer to read standalones or series? And if you like series, do you prefer the same lead characters in each installment – or do you like new leads for each book, but to catch up with previous stars as part of the follow on stories?

Responses are welcome in the comments below.

 

 

 

2020 Vision #writing #reading #healthyliving

Photo by Denise Karis on Unsplash

The Clear View of a Fresh New Year

Happy New Year! I think I’m still allowed to say that – the year is still young.

I enjoyed my break away from the writing desk over the festive season. Christmas was quiet and relaxed and was spent with family. Then, just a few days after Christmas, I got a slightly late – but definitely the best – gift when my granddaughter was born and I became a grandma for the third time. I also read several good books during my time off and made the most of the short hours of daylight by getting out for lots of good walks. And before long yet another year had ended and a new one had begun.

Diary Already Filling Up – Lots to Look Forward To

Real Life

In my personal life, as well as spending lots of time with my new granddaughter, I’ll also get to spend precious time with my other two grandchildren in the summer – when they and their parents come home to the UK for a visit all the way from Australia. As well as that there’s a springtime wedding to enjoy, and a birthday party to attend. There are also a couple of concerts to go to and a holiday planned. And it’s still only January! Along with all this enjoying myself – and in order that I can keep enjoying  life, I also intend to keep up the healthy lifestyle mentality – daily walks, yoga practice and healthy eating – definitely worth it and all enjoyable in their own way too – honestly 🙂

Imaginary Life

But for now, it’s back to work and I have to say it’s good to be back. And, just as in my personal life, I’ve got lots of good stuff to look forward to in my professional writing life too.

New Book Due Out Soon

First up, of course, it’s the new book. Fulfilment is the third and final part of my contemporary romance series set mainly on the Scottish island of Skye – as well as having some of the action on the Scottish mainland and in the Middle East – and, after a year spent writing and rewriting and then rewriting it some more, it’s currently with my editor. And while I await the editor’s feedback and, no doubt, suggestions for yet more rewriting, I’m in the process of agreeing on the book’s cover with the cover designer. As an author, it’s always exciting to see the final cover of one of my books for the first time, but unfortunately the cover also incorporates the blurb. Yes, that irresistible paragraph of prose on a book’s back cover that will lure readers into the story inside is what I’m currently working on. And condensing a 70,000 word story into a succinct and tempting 250 words is hard. But I’m getting there.

As well as getting the book ready for publication, I’m also planning its launch. This involves planning social media posts, asking book bloggers to read and review it, and inviting readers of my previous books to do the same.

Writer Talks

I’ve also been invited to do a couple of writer talks on my local area – something I always enjoy doing -so I’ll be preparing for these.

Starting Again

And then, once Fulfilment is out in the world, I’ll be getting down to writing my next book. I have several ideas to explore. It will definitely be another contemporary romance with fresh new characters and a different setting from my previous books. But that’s all I’m saying about it – for now.

More Reading

And, like most writers, I’m also a keen reader and I plan to keep reading my favourite authors as well as discovering some new ones. My to-be-read pile is already a teetering tower. And I’ll report back here from time to time on some of the ones I particularly enjoy.

So, over to you:

What are your plans for 2020? Do you have any writing or reading goals for the year ahead? As always, please do leave your comments below.

 

 

Best Reads of 2019: My top 25 – and the winner is … #reading #books

Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

My Top 25 Reads of 2019

Yes, it’s that time of year again. In common with many newspapers, magazines and book bloggers I’ve been looking back over the books I’ve read this year and trying to decide on my top 10, five-star reads. It quickly became my top 20 and in the end I forced myself to stop at 25! Otherwise we’d still be here this time next year. And most of the ones which didn’t make it were 4 or 4.5 star rated as opposed to 5.

I’ve read over 50 books this year and the best ones have kept me up reading way too late – always a good sign as to the enjoyment level – if not so good for being wide awake the following day.

My list is a personal one – there are few of the big literary names beloved by the newspaper reviewers. While many of these are media favourites are commendable and a couple do make it onto my list, they don’t really need further publicity from me. It’s also true that I’ve found most of these favourite books/authors via book bloggers and Facebook groups made up of readers who like similar books to me.

Several of the authors whose books are on this list took part in the Virtual Book Festival that I hosted here in July and August which without doubt was my personal blogging highlight of this year.

Not surprisingly for a writer of romances, the first 21 out of the 25 are in the romantic fiction genre, but the final four aren’t – 22 does have a compelling romantic element but this alternative history novel has so much more going on too, 23 and 24 are crime fiction and the last one is domestic noir.

So here it is – my top 25 books (in no particular order) of 2019:

Winter Beneath the Stars by Jo Thomas*

Brahminy Sunrise by Maggie Christensen *

The Summer of Chasing Dreams by Holly Martin

Summer at the Art Café by Sue McDonagh*

Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Crikey a Bodyguard by Kathryn Freeman*

Edie Browne’s Cottage by the Sea by Jane Linfoot

Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain

The Things I Know by Amanda Prowse

One Summer in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell

The Little Pink Taxi by Marie Laval*

A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft

All Summer with You by Beth Good

The Man I Fell in Love With by Kate Field

A Cornish Affair by Jo Lambert

The Beekeepers Cottage by Emma Davies

The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson

Tropic Storm by Stella Quinn

Autumn at Blaxland Falls by Eliza Bennets*

The Bistro at Watersmeet Bridge by Julie Stock

Pieces of You and Me by Rachel Burton

Inceptio by Alison Morton*

Time for the Dead by Lin Anderson

Wildfire by Ann Cleeves

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone

*indicates I’ve read other standalone or subsequent books in a series by this author in 2019 and can recommend them too.

Availability  

The books are all available on Amazon where you can find out more about them. Most are paperbacks as well as ebooks and can therefore also be purchased from bookshops and borrowed from libraries.

Why These 25 – in short

The romances all have depth, emotion aplenty and are deeply satisfying reads. Inceptio is the first in a fabulous, highly original series and has romantic, thriller and historical elements.  The two crime novels live up to Ann Cleeves and Lin Anderson’s usual amazing high standards. And Michael J Malone’s is ‘shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive’ to quote from the book’s back cover.

Number One

 

And if I absolutely had to pick just one as my single top read – Oh, so hard, but it would have to be Inceptio by Alison Morton for sheer originality and for it being the first in a stunning series. I reviewed it here  earlier this year if you want to know more.

Over to you

What have been some of your favourite reads this year and if you had to pick one – what would it be?

See You in 2020

This will be my final post for this year. I’ll be back in January with more news of my new novel Fulfilment due out early in 2020.

In the meantime thank you to everyone who has visited, read and commented on this year’s posts. I appreciate all your support of me as a writer here on the blog and as readers of my books. You rock! Happy festive season, to all of you who celebrate it. And a Good New Year when it comes. See you on the other side.