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.

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.

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, a Blog Tour, and a book festival appearance @LoveBooksGroup @Juleswake @Kathleen Jamie @PortyBookFest #reading #writing #romanticfiction #creativenonfiction

Two great reads to recommend in this post as well as a heads-up on part three of the blog tour for my own Skye series of novels, and news of my appearance at an upcoming book festival..

A mixed start to autumn

September has been a month of contrasts here in Scotland – some beautiful cool but sunny autumn days as well as some incredibly rainy and grey ones.

And as regards my social life it’s been a month of contrasts too.

I got to see friends I hadn’t seen since the start of the Covid lockdown, got out for a couple of lunches, had a couple of friends to the house, and had a lovely staycation week away in Argyll with family.

But then the Scottish government announced we’re back to partial lockdown and we can’t have friends or family to visit us at home or visit them in their homes.

However through all the ups and downs of the pandemic – one thing has remained constant. I continue to find much solace in reading.

And below I have my two of my favourite reads of the month to share with you.

September Books of the Month

First up is a beautiful non-fiction book of contemporary writing about the nature and landscape of Scotland. Antlers of Water is edited by Kathleen Jamie – a favourite writer of mine, and the contributing writers got me thinking even more than normal about our relationship as humans with the natural world.

From the backcover:

The first ever collection of contemporary Scottish writing on nature and landscape, Antlers of Water showcases the diversity and radicalism of new Scottish nature writing today.

Edited, curated and introduced by the award-winning Kathleen Jamie, and featuring prose, poetry and photography, this inspiring collection takes us from walking to wild swimming, from red deer to pigeons and wasps, from remote islands to back gardens.

With contributions from Amy Liptrot, Malachy Tallack, Chitra Ramaswamy, Jim Crumley, Amanda Thomson, Karine Polwart and many more, Antlers of Water urges us to renegotiate our relationship with the more-than-human world, in writing which is by turns celebratory, radical and political.

And second, is a contemporary romance – I know no surprises there – but what is surprising is I read this one in a day – something I’ve never done before. It was a wet Sunday, I wasn’t feeling energetic and the sofa beckoned. And wow! Just wow! The Saturday Morning Park Run by Jules Wake is a five out of five stars and is in line for my book of 2020.

From the back cover:

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).

Blog Tour for Fulfilment

As well as reading, I have of course spent much of the month writing. And after a couple of false starts I’m now underway with the first novel in my new series. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about the novels I already have out there. And I’m delighted that Fulfilment – the third and final part of my Rachel & Jack: Skye series is off on its blog tour this week – and as before the tour will include reviews and extracts.

This follows on from the recent tour weeks for the first two novels in the series – Displacement and Settlement. These proved very successful and got lots of interaction and sharing and I’m hopeful the same will be true for Fulfilment‘s trip out.

And I must say a huge thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group who organised the tours and to all the book bloggers who have taken part.

You can see below all the stops Fulfilment will be making on its tour – and as always I would appreciate it so much if you could visit, like and share some or any of them. Thank you.

Fulfilment Blog Tour September 2020

28th Sept            Review    Books ’n’ Banter            @AngiPlant        http://booknbanter.wordpress.com/

28th Sept            Review    Undiscovered Scotland              @UndisScot       https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk

29th Sept            Review     Vicky Book and Family               @Vickybooksandfamily                https://www.instagram.com/Vickybooksandfamily

30th Sept            Review    Book Loving Science Teacher   @book_loving_science_teacher                https://www.instagram.com/book_loving_science_teacher

1st Oct                Review     Portobello Book Blog  @portybelle       portobellobookblog.com

1st Oct                Review     The Book Reader         @the.b00kreader            https://www.instagram.com/the.b00kreader

2nd Oct              Review      Jessica Belmont           @jessicaxbelmont           Jessicabelmont.wordpress.com

3rd Oct               Review & Excerpt             Being Anne         @Williams13Anne           http://www.beinganne.com

3rd Oct               Review       Rajiv’s Reviews           @rajivsreviews https://www.rajivsreviews.com/

4th Oct               Review       Daisy Says     @daisyhollands       daisysays.co.uk

4th Oct               Excerpt       B for Book Review     @BookreviewB   https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

 

Portobello Book Festival

Oh, and before I go, just wanted to let you know that I’m delighted to be appearing at the Portobello Book Festival this Friday (2nd October) at 8pm. Portobello is a seaside area in the city of Edinburgh and has hosted its own live book festival for several years.

This year, of course, the festival is online and free to attend – so even if you can’t watch my session – where I will interviewed about my books – as it goes live on the 2nd – you can catch up any time online on YouTube later. You will be able to find my event by clicking on the link HERE any time after 8pm on the 2nd.

The festival runs from the 2nd to the 4th October 2020 and you see the full programme and timings HERE.

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.