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.

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.

January’s Recommended Read: The Life She Chooses by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #books #reading #romanticfiction

New Feature on the Blog

I’ve always included book reviews amongst my posts, but regular readers may have noticed I do fewer now than I used to. It’s not that I’m reading fewer books, it’s simply a matter of time management. This isn’t a book blog as such and I wouldn’t claim to be book blogger but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do some reviewing and sharing in amongst all the other writing related things I blog about. So I’ve decided to try posting a monthly recommended read (or reads) throughout 2020.

I’ll only share my best reads – those that score 95% plus on the Anne Scale of Good Reads 😊 in terms of plot, character, setting and all round reading satisfaction.

And I’ll post the reviews on the last Monday of each month.

So let’s get this new feature kicked off –

Anne’s January Recommended Read

The Life She Chooses by Maggie Christensen

From the back cover:

Two families. Two troubled pasts. Can they find a future together?

Following the loss of her husband and the devastating accusations surrounding his death, Kay Jackson has experienced the icy chill of alienation from the close-knit town of Granite Springs. Thrust into the position of personal assistant to a professor at the local university, Kay, who prefers to stay in the background away from the town gossips, is unsure how she will cope.

When Nick Kerr’s wife leaves him for a younger man, the professor is left nursing a broken heart while struggling to adapt to life as a single parent of two teens. Reeling from the indignity of his wife’s actions, Nick has no intention of putting himself in such a vulnerable position again.

However, as Kay and Nick’s professional relationship develops, they find themselves drawn to each other. As their friendship begins to morph into something more, Kay’s daughter arrives in town intent on controlling her mother’s life. The combined actions of Kay’s daughter and Nick’s children reinforces the many doubts the couple have on embarking on a new relationship.

Is there a future for Kay and Nick or will their families destroy any chance of happiness?

The Life She Chooses is the second book in the Granite Springs series set in a small Australian country town.

My Review:

This is another most enjoyable and satisfying second-chance romance from Maggie Christensen. It tells the story of Kay and Nick – and it’s wonderful (as in all this author’s books) to read about characters who, although they’re a bit older, still want to live life to the full – including being in involved a romantic relationship.

Kay is a character who featured in this author’s earlier novel The Life She Deserves and it’s great that she now gets her own story in this book. Kay is a widow, having lost her husband to suicide – and as if that wasn’t bad enough there was a bit of a scandal surrounding her late husband too. However, Kay is doing her best to recover from all the trauma and to get on with her life.

Nick is divorced, his wife having left him for a younger man.

And when the two of them meet it seems at first there could be a chance of a relationship and some future happiness for them both.

However, there are obstacles – obstacles which seem insurmountable – as both have family issues which could prevent them being together.

There’s a real sense of conflict for both Kay and Nick – with family duty on the one hand and, on the other, the desire to live the lives they want for themselves.

The Life She Chooses is an emotional, warm and eventful story – and a most romantic read.

The book is available as a paperback and as an ebook and you can buy it here.

 

The Life She Deserves by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #BookReview #amreading #romance

This latest book from Maggie Christensen is the first in the new Australian set, Granite Springs series. It’s a contemporary second-chance/ seasoned/ mature romance and it’s excellent.

Regular readers of this blog will know that this author is a favourite of mine. Her books are realistic but romantic. The main characters tend to have a fair bit of life experience behind them but they’re still looking to the future, not dwelling in the past, and they’re certainly not immune from falling in love. And the stories and their settings easily hook me in.

So I suspected I was going to enjoy The Life She Deserves – and I certainly did. Maybe even the best yet from this author.

It tells the story of divorcee Jo and widower Col. Being older or, ‘in their prime’ if you prefer, they both have baggage – and it’s baggage that gets in the way of their fledgling romance. Jo has to fight for the life she most definitely deserves.

All the characters are three-dimensional and believable – flaws and all. Change is hard for all of them and there is plenty internal and external emotional conflict driving the story on. And there are surprises along the way too.

Yes, this is another hit from this wonderful, talented and prolific author.

From the back of the book:

Growing up in the small Australian country town of Granite Springs, Jo and Col have been lifelong friends.

Following Jo’s divorce and the death of Col’s wife, the pair find comfort in their common grief. But as they tentatively explore their new relationship, they have little idea of the challenges that lie ahead.

What they haven’t bargained for is Jo’s interfering ex, along with their three children, all of whom have their own agendas.

Can Jo ride out the storm? Will she be granted the life she deserves?

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

 

The Life She Deserves is available in Paperback and ebook formats and you can get it here.

 

 

AND I can also reveal that the second book in the Granite Springs series The Life She Chooses is out on 9th December and you can pre-order it here.

Virtual Book Festival: Event 24 – interview with author Kate Field @katehaswords #VirtBoookFest #books #romanticfiction

Hello everyone and welcome to event number 24 in the Virtual book festival programme. Today we have an interview with author of contemporary romantic fiction, Kate Field.

And hello and welcome to you too, Kate. Let’s begin with why and how you became a writer?

 

The earliest memory I have of writing is from primary school, when I wrote a story about an octopus and his underwater friends. The teacher pinned it on the wall, even though it stretched for pages and pages. I was a shy girl, neither sporty nor musical, and for the first time it felt like there was something I might be good at.

 

I wrote terrible poetry in my teens and eventually started my first novel in my early twenties. I wrote on and off for almost twenty years as a hobby, and then had a ‘now or never’ moment when I turned forty. I plucked up the courage to start sending my writing out and entering competitions. I was a runner up in a competition organised by Woman magazine and Accent Press, and Accent published my first three books.

 

I didn’t ever dare call myself a writer during those early years. It wasn’t until I was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance and met other writers for the first time that I realised I was one of them. I had found my tribe!

Anne: Well done for going for it. Your courage in taking the leap certainly paid off.

 

What genre do you write in and why does that hold a particular appeal for you?

I write romantic fiction. It’s been my favourite genre ever since I read Pride and Prejudice as my GCSE set text and was swept up in the story in a way I’d never been before. It’s the genre where I can relate to the characters and situations and see parts of my own life reflected on the pages, and that adds extra appeal to the books. I also have more emotional connection to romantic fiction novels than any other, because I love a happy ending and I find it comforting to be able to pick up a book knowing that’s exactly what I’ll get.

I never actively thought about what sort of books to write. It was always going to be romance.

Anne: Yes, I like ‘the deal’ between romantic fiction authors and readers – as a reader you know you won’t be left hanging and that you’ll get a story you can relate to along the way.

 

 How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about them.

Four books have been published so far, with the fifth due out in February 2020.

The Magic of Ramblings was the first to be published. It’s about a desperate woman who runs away from her life and takes a job as a companion to an old lady who lives at Ramblings, a country house in Lancashire. It’s a story of friendship, of community spirit, and of starting again when all seems lost.

I went back to Ramblings in another book, The Winter That Made Us, as I couldn’t resist revisiting some favourite characters! It’s a standalone story about an unlikely couple who connect through music and the restoration of the Ramblings walled garden.

The Truth About You, Me and Us is also set in Lancashire. It’s about a community of craft people and tells the story of Helen, who made a controversial decision a few years ago and who faces a challenge when her past catches up with her.

My most recent book is The Man I Fell in Love With, and there’s more about that one below.

Anne: And all of them are such good stories.

 

 Tell us about a typical writing day?

I don’t have a typical writing day. I have a day job, so writing has to fit around that and family life. This means that I pick up my writing whenever I have chance, and write for as long as I can, without having a set plan for how many words I need to write. Some days even one paragraph is a good outcome!

Anne: Yes, I can see why you need to be flexible as regards your writing word count expectations. But every paragraph counts.

 

 Do you plot your novels in some detail before you actually start writing?

I don’t plot in detail. My sensible side tells me that I should and that it would save a lot of time, especially on those days when I reach the end of a scene and have no idea what is going to happen next. But when I try to plot ahead, it doesn’t seem to work for me. I need to write into the story and to get to know the characters and what they might do as I go along.

Having said that, I do fill out character questionnaires before I start, and spend some time thinking about the opening scene and a few other scenes or wisps of conversation that could happen along the way.

Anne: So a bit of planning but an open mind too.

 

 What comes first for you characters or plot?

You can probably guess from my answer to the last question that characters come first! I think that’s partly because I write romantic stories, and it’s essential that readers can relate to the characters and want to follow their journey over several hundred pages, even when they know that the book will finish with a happy ending. I also enjoy reading character-driven stories so it’s inevitable that I’m drawn to writing them too.

Anne: That makes perfect sense for the sort of stories you write. The characters are indeed memorable and it’s a pleasure to go with them through their story.

 

 Where do you get your ideas?

The simple answer to this is that they come at any time and from anywhere! The Magic of Ramblings was inspired by my love of Georgette Heyer books, and in particular those stories where an unassuming companion wins the heart of a dashing hero! The Winter That Made Us was inspired by an advert I saw on television featuring floating Chinese lanterns. I thought of a scene where I could use floating lanterns and the whole book was built around it. It’s still one of my favourite parts of the book. Other stories have been inspired by magazine articles, items in the news or – in the case of The Man I Fell in Love With – a piece of gossip at work!

Anne: That’s the magic of writing ( and Ramblings), isn’t it? Ideas come from all sorts of places and situations.

 

Have you got a favourite character out of the all the ones you’ve created? Tell us about them if you have – or is it too hard to pick just one?

It’s very hard to pick one, as I have favourites for different reasons. The book that’s coming out in February, A Dozen Second Chances, features a character called Phyllis, who is the heroine’s grandmother, and I loved writing her scenes. She’s funny and wise and thinks she can get away with saying and doing anything she likes because of her grand old age!

It’s tough to choose between my male leads, as I love them all, but I have a soft spot for Noah Thornton from The Winter That Made Us. He starts off as a prickly bear of a man, who rarely smiles or speaks after facing a tragic event in his past, and I loved watching him thaw as the story develops.

Anne: Ah, Noah. I’m still in love with him …

 

 Can you share some of the feedback/reviews you’ve had from your readers and/or any awards your books have received?

 The Magic of Ramblings won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, which was a complete surprise and a huge honour!

Anne: Congratulations!

I’m grateful to anyone who takes a time to leave a review. Here are a few:

‘This was the first time that I’ve been so engrossed in a book, that I’ve forgotten where I was. It is totally consuming and the writing is enchanting and natural. Exceptional depth to the characters and a beautiful story. Loved loved loved it. Not my usual type of book but it was my favourite read of the year by a mile.’ Amazon review, The Magic of Ramblings

‘I thought this story was utterly delightful and a perfect example of truly romantic women’s fiction.’ Linda’s Book Bag, The Truth About You, Me and Us

‘The whole book is beautifully written, with real warmth, a strong sense of place and of the people who live there. I found it quite captivating, heart-warming and so uplifting – one of those rare and lovely reads that you put down at the end with a smile, and just want to say out loud “I really enjoyed that”.’ Being Anne, The Winter That Made Us

‘Kate Field has made me believe in love again, not the teenage meet-cute kind of love, but the real, enduring, self-sacrificing love. The love that really, as adults, we all hope is truly real.’  The Glass House Girls Online Magazine, The Man I Fell in Love With

Anne: Wow!

 

There is an extract from your novel The Man I Fell in Love With below.  Tell us a bit more about this particular book and why you chose it for the extract.

This is my most recently published book, and for a long time this was my secret writing project. I loved the characters so much, especially Mary Black, that I was too scared to submit it as I knew that rejection would hurt! Mary has proved a more controversial figure than I expected. She supports her husband when he reveals that he is gay, and her reaction has divided opinion, with some readers seeing her as weak and others acknowledging her strength. I think she’s wonderful!

This is the blurb from Amazon:

Sometimes we find happiness where we least expect it…

After twenty years of contented marriage, no one is more surprised than Mary Black when her husband announces he’s leaving her… for another man.

For the sake of the children, Mary has no choice but to pick herself up and start again. She hosts family meals that include Leo and his new partner. She copes with the kids wanting to spend less time with her and more time with their ‘fun’ dads. But one thing she can’t quite ignore is Leo’s gorgeous brother, who has just come back to town…

After living a life of sliding doors and missed opportunities, can Mary finally put herself first and take a chance that could change everything?

A wonderfully uplifting novel full of wisdom, spirit and charm. This is a love story with a difference, perfect for fans of Jill Mansell and Heidi Swain

In this extract, Mary has invited Leo and his new partner to the family home for Christmas, and Leo’s brother Ethan challenges her over her behaviour:

After dinner, Ava pulled out the box of Trivial Pursuit for the traditional game of everyone trying to beat Leo. I ducked out this year, letting Clark take my place, and went to tidy the kitchen, finding simple pleasure in restoring order in the one area I could. Noise and laughter floated down the hall.

‘What are you doing?’

Ethan followed me into the kitchen and pushed the door shut.

‘Tidying up.’

‘I don’t mean in here.’I knew exactly what he meant, knew what he was going to say, and it was one of the reasons why I had spent the whole of Christmas Eve out shopping, so that there was no danger of this conversation taking place. I grabbed a pile of cutlery, and fed it into the dishwasher with as much rattling as I could manage.

Ethan touched my arm.

‘Mary.’ I ignored him. He grabbed the cutlery from me, threw it in the basket and slammed the dishwasher door closed. ‘What’s the matter with you?’

‘With me?’ That riled me. How was any of this my fault? ‘Nothing.’

‘That’s my point. Leo’s about to leave you, and you look about as bothered as if you’d run out of milk.’

‘Of course I’m bothered! I don’t want him to go. Would you prefer it if I stayed in bed and cried into my pillow? Or if I shouted abuse at him and cut up all his suits? Do you think that would help Jonas and Ava?’

‘It might help you. It might show Leo that you do actually care, and that he has something to stay for.’

‘Me being me isn’t enough to make him stay, is that what you’re saying? That I’ve driven him away? Thanks for that vote of confidence.’

‘That’s not what I meant . . .’

‘And what makes you qualified to give me advice on relationships, with your two failed marriages and string of ex-girlfriends?’

Perhaps I had gone a bit far with that one – his second wife had been unfaithful, according to Audrey – but what right did he have to stand in my kitchen, berating my indifference? I knew some people would find my reaction odd, but I thought Ethan knew me better.

‘I know exactly what you’re doing. You block out things that are difficult, pretend they’re not happening. It’s what you’ve always done.’

‘That’s not true!’

‘What is it then? Some grand sacrifice for Leo? You love him, but you’re letting him go? Listen to me, Mary. It’s not heroic or noble to do that. It’s the wrong choice. If you want something enough you should carry on fighting for it, even if you get knocked down a thousand times, and no matter the collateral damage. Don’t condemn yourself to a life of loneliness and regret.’

He gazed at me then, and it was as if he’d ripped open that confident jacket, and shown me someone entirely different underneath. I didn’t know what to say, and was spared having to say anything when Leo walked in. He looked from Ethan to me, and back to Ethan.

‘What are you saying to her?’ I had never heard Leo’s tone so sharp.

‘The truth.’ Leo’s head jerked back as if Ethan had struck him on the chin. ‘I told Mary that she needs to fight to keep you.’

‘Do you have a problem with Leo being gay?’ I asked. There had always been tension between these two, but this level of animosity was new.

‘Not in the slightest. I only have a problem with him deciding he’s gay now, years after marrying you.’

‘I haven’t made the decision. I met Clark, and I can’t ignore what I feel for him.’ Leo stared at Ethan. ‘You can’t help who you fall in love with. You should understand that.’

And Ethan, whom I had never before seen lost for words, simply shook his head at Leo and walked out.

If you want to read more you can buy the book at the link below:

eBook and paperback available here:

 

Kate: Thanks for inviting me to take part in your Virtual Book Festival, Anne!

Anne : Thank you so much for taking part.

 

About Kate:

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire,

where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

 

You can connect with Kate online at the links below:

Twitter @katehaswords

Facebook

Amazon page

Virtual Book Festival: Event 13 – Age Matters in Romantic Fiction #VirtBookFest #amwriting #amreading #romanticfiction

Books for Older Readers

Today’s event is a joint one. It’s a Virtual Book Festival event and it’s also part of a Blog Blitz which has been organised by author  Claire Baldry who set up and runs the popular Books for Older Readers (BFOR)  website and Facebook group.

Claire set up the group and the website as places to highlight books which had older/mature main characters and which would therefore most likely appeal to older/mature readers. In doing so she was responding to the fact that older/mature readers often seemed to be finding it difficult to find such books – even although she – and lots of other authors she knew of – wrote them.

The initiative has proved popular and successful in matching books to readers who describe themselves as no longer young and the group and website have lots of members/followers from both the reading and writing communities – including myself.

So I thought in today’s event I’d like to explore and share with you what the concept of books for older readers – both writing and reading them – means to me.

Age appropriate reading

The Publisher Definition

Publishing is an industry and like any industry it needs to make a profit to survive and so it goes where the money is and it targets its customers. Therefore authors of commercial fiction have to follow the rules and conventions of their genre. Two genres in particular are mainly defined by the age of their intended readership – and these are: children’s fiction and its age specific sub-divisions, and Young Adult fiction. But for most of the other genres it’s not age but content that defines them. It’s taken as read (pun sort of intended) that readers will be adults.

And for the most part that works. But sometimes age, and attitudes to ageing, does seem to be an issue – especially when it comes to romantic fiction – and most especially when it comes to female characters

My Author Perspective

When I first sought publication for my debut novel – Change of Life – in 2009, I got lots of nice, but encouraging, rejections. I was told there was no doubt I could write, I could tell a good story, the characters were well drawn.

BUT, they said, the fact that my two main characters were in their forties meant it wouldn’t work as romantic fiction. I was told I could possibly get away with having the male character in his forties but definitely not the female one. She would need to be under thirty-five for readers to find it realistic.

I disagreed. And I’m now the proud author of three successful, independently published (including that first one) contemporary romantic novels with main protagonists who are in their forties or fifties. It turns out there is a market for what are now sometimes classed as second-chance romances. And I should also point out my readership spans the ages – from people in their twenties to their nineties.

Having said that, I don’t want to rule out the possibility that I might in future write novels that have younger main characters, but what I am advocating is an open mind when it comes to age and main characters in romantic fiction.

My Reader Perspective

Unsurprisingly, one of the genres I most enjoy reading is contemporary romance.

And, even although I’m more of an autumn chicken than a spring one, I’m still quite happy to read books where the protagonists are young. This year alone I’ve read several superb romantic novels where the lead characters have been in their twenties and thirties. And there will be more about them and their writers later in the festival.

However, I also like to read books where the main characters are in their forties, fifties and beyond who continue to live full lives – and who are definitely not too old to fall in love, enjoy sex, and begin new long term relationships. And these can be harder to find.

And just as a wee side note, I must say it brings out the grumpy old woman in me when women – and it does mainly seem to be women – over forty are portrayed as past it, frumpy and baffled by technology.

Things Are Changing

However, things are changing. And, as is often the way in publishing nowadays, it is the indie publishers who have made a significant contribution to satisfying demand. Authors such as Maggie Christensen, Christine Webber, and the aforementioned, BFOR founder, Claire Baldry, all write successful and first-class romantic fiction with older protagonists. And the big traditional publishers are at last catching up 🙂

But I think there is still a way to go in raising the profile of books with older protagonists or ageing-related issues at their heart. And that’s where groups like BFOR come in.

I don’t believe ‘older’ readers only want to read about ‘older’ characters, just as I don’t want to restrict myself to only writing about them, but I do believe life after thirty-five can be as challenging, surprising and rewarding as it was before – if not more so. So the lives of characters in the older age groups can provide fertile ground for all sorts of fiction. And surely having the full spectrum of adulthood – especially perhaps female adulthood – represented in fiction makes sense. After all the biggest group of book buyers is women over 45.

Age is just a number and is only one factor in our personalities and interests. It shouldn’t be a barrier to inclusion or enjoyment when it comes to our reading. And I’m hopeful things will continue to change for the better in that regard.

So, I’ll get down off my soapbox now and hand over to you.

What do you think about ageism in fiction? Is it something you’ve noticed or care about? And would you read/enjoy a novel where the romance happens between older characters? And, as I said, groups like the BFOR one are good for helping readers find books they’d like to read – so, where do you find your next good book?

Please do leave your comments below.

And please do come back to the festival tomorrow when, also as part of the BFOR Blog Blitz, I’ll be sharing an extract from one of my novels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Single Woman by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #RomanticFiction #BookReview #amreading

Maggie Christensen Does It Again – Another Great Read

I’m very fortunate to have been given a pre-publication copy of A Single Woman, Maggie Christensen’s latest novel. It will be published on the 9th of May and will be available at all the usual online stores including Amazon and Kobo.

I always look forward to reading books by this author and this new novel more than lived up to my expectations.

It was good to catch up with Matt and Bel, characters from two of the author’s previous books – The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise. But this time the main characters were Matt’s widower son-in-law, Alasdair, and the single woman of the title, Isla.

You don’t have to have read the earlier books in order to enjoy this new one, but if you haven’t I’d recommend that you do just for the sheer enjoyment.

A Single Woman is a second-chance, midlife romance where the last thing either protagonist is looking for is to fall in love. It’s set mainly in the Scottish city of Glasgow, and it’s the thoughtful and touching story of the developing relationship between two rather damaged people.

Alasdair is lonely and sad as he struggles to parent his two teenage children while grieving the loss of his wife two years previously. Isla is independent, self-sufficient and lives for her work as head teacher of a high school for girls. And when the two of them meet, although they’re attracted to each other, both struggle with admitting they’re looking for anything more than friendship. For Alasdair there’s the guilt of being with someone new and for Isla there’s the fear of opening up about her past and making herself vulnerable.

I loved the slow-burn of this story. And I loved the flawed main characters with all their human frailties and vulnerabilities. I’m sure most readers will, like me, find themselves rooting for Isla and Alasdair and willing them to, for once, put themselves first and take a chance on each other.

Yes, this is another great read from Maggie Christensen.

From the Back Cover:

Isla Cameron. headmistress at an elite girl’s school in Glasgow, is determinedly single, adroitly avoiding all attempts at matchmaking by a close friend.

Widower Alasdair MacLeod is grieving for the wife he lost two years earlier, struggling as the single father of two teenagers, and frustrated by the well-meaning interference of his in-laws.

When a proposed school trip to France brings Isla and Alasdair together, they find a connection in the discovery that each is suffering the loss of a loved one, but neither is interested in forming a relationship,

As their friendship grows, Alasdair struggles with his increasing attraction to the elegant schoolmistress, while Isla harbours concerns about the complications a relationship with him would bring.

Can Alasdair overcome his natural reserve, and can Isla open her heart to love again?

***                                                                                                                                         

Readers of Christensen’s earlier books, The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise, will love reconnecting with Bel and Matt while enjoying Isla Cameron’s unique story.

 

 

 

In Honour Bound by Christine Webber @1chriswebber #BookReview #RomanticFiction #amreading

This is Christine Webber’s latest book and the third one of hers that I’ve reviewed. You can read my reviews of her earlier novels Who’d Have Thought It and It’s Who We Are here on the blog too. Just click on the book title to do so. I also interviewed Christine back in January this year and you can read that post here.

I very much enjoyed this author’s first two books, so it’s safe to say I thought knew what to expect with her new one. And yes, I did enjoy it. And yes, the writing and the storytelling were first class.

But the story content was quite different from its predecessors.

First of all, unlike Christine Webber’s first two books, In Honour Bound is not quite contemporary fiction. It’s set in the 1980s and this is when it was written and first published. This latest edition is a rewritten and revised version of the original.

The story is set in London and it tells of the intense and passionate love between TV reporter Helen and Egyptian, but London-based, heart-surgeon Sam. There are highs, lows, and several shocks along the way. And it’s an emotional and poignant read from start to finish.

I enjoyed being taken back to a time when I too – like the main character Helen –was in my thirties. I enjoyed the insights into how the live TV set up works and into what Helen’s working days involved.

But most of all, I loved being immersed in Helen and Sam’s story which is so beautifully told.

All in all a great read.

From the Back Cover:

Set in 1980’s London, Helen Bartlett, a popular TV news presenter and Sam Aziz, a glamorous middle-eastern cardiac surgeon, meet on a live programme. They dislike each other on sight, and the interview is a disaster. But that is not the end of their story because later that evening, they find themselves at the same dinner party. 
Over the weeks, hostility morphs into passion, and soon they fall desperately in love. 
Both are looking for the right partner with whom to settle down and produce a family. They seem made for each other; they delight in the joy that they have found, and plan to marry. But then, the differences in their cultural backgrounds start to manifest themselves. And a debt of honour that Sam cannot ignore returns to haunt him. 
Struggling with their torment, while she is so much in the public eye and he is performing life-saving surgery on a daily basis, places them under intolerable strain. 
Must they relinquish the most magical relationship either of them has ever known? Can they find a way out of their dilemmas? Or do they have to accept that no matter how modern we are, we cannot fly in the face of the traditions that served, and shaped us, for centuries?

In Honour Bound is available to buy here.

A Model Wife by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #Book Review #amreading

I was looking forward to reading this latest novel from one of my favourite authors. I wasn’t disappointed. A Model Wife is a compelling and involving read.

The story centres around Celia, who readers first met in Isobel’s Promise – one of Maggie Christensen’s earlier novels – and Johnno. At its heart there’s the slow-burning romance between Celia and Johnno. But this is intertwined with other stories of family and friendship, and with difficult issues such as Celia’s abusive husband and Johnno’s precarious and high pressure business life.

The storytelling is excellent. I was hooked from the start and really cared about what happened to Celia and to Johnno. I so wanted them to overcome their difficulties and to be happy and together that it was difficult to put the book down.

This was a first-class story of mid-life challenges and of second-chance romance.

From the Back Cover:

Former top model Celia Ramsay is determined to extricate herself from her bullying husband – a former football hero. Despite his despicable behaviour towards their daughters, Celia agrees to join her husband on the media campaign for his memoir in return for an advance on the divorce settlement. But what she hasn’t bargained for is the spate of sexual harassment allegations against her husband and the media fallout which threatens to affect her entire family, not to mention her own sanity.

Real estate developer Johnno Henderson has always been a commitment-phobe, preferring to have a string of young models on his arm. But, as he nears fifty, he’s beginning to long for something more permanent. On the brink of the biggest deal of his career, a chance meeting with a former top model stirs up feelings Johnno never thought he was capable of, if only his playboy reputation would stop following him around.

Can this unlikely couple make a future together?

Set in Sydney at the height of the same sex marriage debate and the #MeToo campaign

A Model Wife is a women’s fiction book featuring compelling real-life characters, fascinating plot twists and a strong mid-life heroine. If you like feel-good stories of second chances, you’ll love this new book from Maggie Christensen.

A Model Wife is available as a paperback and as an ebook.