I was introduced to tea by my grandma when I was around seven years old and I’ve been a tea Jenny ever since. It’s my go to drink at breakfast time and whenever some soothing timeout is required. I also like a mug of tea – and yes, I much prefer a mug to a cup – at my side when I’m writing and when I’m reading. And of course it has to made in a teapot – no teabag dunking.
Literally spilling the tea is, of course something I do my best to avoid. But I am going to be doing some literary spilling of the tea here – because the #spillingthetea challenge involves bloggers spilling, as in sharing, three books that for them best represent the letters T,E and A. So:
T has to be a book that TAUGHT you something
E is a book you didn’t want to END
A is an AUTHOR you can’t get enough of
And so, without further ado here are my TEA books
For the book that taught me something, and there are many, I’ve chosen On Writing by Stephen King. I read this more than ten years ago and it’s the book that made me believe I could be a writer. Although it’s a memoir – an excellent one – it’s also full of tips for aspiring writers. And I still dip into it to this day.
A book I didn’t want to end… That was a hard one to choose. There have been many over the years. So I decided to pick the most recent one and that is, An Autumn Hideaway by Margaret Amatt. It’s a contemporary romance set on the Scottish island of Mull and when it was one of those reads that where I was desperate to see how it all ended but also didn’t want to get to the end because I knew I was going to miss the main characters, Richard and Autumn so much.
And the author I can’t get enough of … as for the above categories it was a difficult choice. But from a list of six or so British, American and Australian authors, I chose Sue Moorcroft. She writes, entertaining, engaging and thought-provoking contemporary romances and the most recent one of her that I’ve read is A White Christmas on Winter Street.
Book of the Month
Still on the theme of books – regular readers of the blog will know that in each of my monthly posts, I like to share my most recent favourite read. And for March’s post that book is:
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow by Jessica Redland. This is a contemporary romance (I know, who’d have guessed?) and I loved it.
From the back cover:
Can love really be found when you stop looking for it…?
As Samantha Wishaw watches the love of her life marry another woman, she’s ready to give up hope of finding her happy ever after.
But when a chance encounter leads Sam to find friendship in Thomas – a lonely, grumpy elderly widower living at derelict Hedgehog Hollow – her life is about to change forever.
Glad to have a distraction from family feuds and match-making, Sam vows to fulfil Thomas and his wife, Gwendoline’s, dreams of restoring Hedgehog Hollow to its former glory, and to open a hedgehog rescue centre.
Throwing herself into the task at hand, little does Sam realise that the keys to love and happiness may also be found at Hedgehog Hollow, when she least expects it…
And that’s it for this month. You can consider yourself officially challenged to #spillthetea and share below the three books you’d choose.
Thank you for reading!
PS MY NEWSLETTER
And don’t forget, if you want a more intimate round up of my current writing such as updates on the work-in-progress, sneak peeks, early notification of publication dates, giveaways and lots more do sign up for my author newsletter. And when you do you’ll receive A FREE BOOK of FOUR of my romantic short stories as a thank you. Just click HERE and fill in your email address.
PPS MY LATEST BOOK
My latest novel is contemporary romance Baby Steps.
It’s available as an ebook and as a paperback and you can buy it HERE
To find out more about all of my books just go to the BOOKS page HERE on the website.
Yes, publication day is here and I’m so happy to announce that Baby Steps is out today.
You can get it online as a paperback or as an ebook HERE.
I really hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’d also love it if you could leave a short review HERE
Keep on reading to find out more about Baby Steps and to read Chapter One.
WHAT’S THE STORY ABOUT?
Estranged from her mother, cheated on by her ex and grieving the loss of her brother, emotionally distraught Sophie Campbell decides she needs to focus on her career as a researcher for a TV and radio broadcaster. What she doesn’t need is a man in her life. And as for marriage and children – definitely not.
Honourably discharged from the British army following life-changing injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan, Steven Jackson is rehabilitated and embracing life to the full. Working as the manager of a support centre for military veterans brings him a great sense of pride and achievement. But he wants more. He wants to meet the love of his life, and to one day be a husband and father.
When Sophie and Steven meet through work, there’s an undeniable chemistry between the two thirty-somethings. But will Steven’s open, caring and patient ways be enough to break down Sophie’s barriers and allow a relationship to develop between them?
Set in the Scottish city of Glasgow, Baby Steps is a contemporary romance which tells a story of love against the odds.
Baby Steps is a spin-off novel from Anne Stormont’s Skye Series of novels. Sophie is the daughter of Rachel one of the main characters in that series and features as a character in the supporting cast, as does Steven. However, Baby Steps can be read as a standalone.
Sophie Campbell groaned when the alarm on her phone beeped. It was a Monday morning in early October and she felt like she’d only just fallen asleep. It had been another bad night, lying awake, tossing and turning, desperate for the morning to come but dreading it too.
After a few minutes of listening to the rain pattering on the bedroom window of her Glasgow flat, she forced herself out of bed. At least work would provide a much-needed distraction. She grimaced at her reflection in the mirror as she made her way to the bathroom. Her hair was a tangled mess and her pale face and strained expression made her look older than her thirty-three years.
Once in the shower she let her tears fall. The pressure of her grief had been relentless – with her every day for the past year – but its intensity had been easing slightly. Recently she’d had days and even weeks when she didn’t cry. But now, with the first anniversary of her brother, Finlay’s, death having just passed, it was back and it was full-on.
As she dried her hair and got dressed she wondered again what had possessed her to take on this latest assignment when her boss, George Brodie, the head of documentary research at BBC Scotland, had offered it to her at short notice on Friday morning. It wasn’t even as if it was in her normal subject areas. She mainly worked on the research for nature and science based programmes. And although she did have a bit of experience on social and cultural ones, she felt she was far from an expert in those fields.
She couldn’t help smiling when she recalled how George’s pitch had gone. He was at his persuasive best.
Usually when she was summoned to his office, the conversation was brief and to the point. The summoning itself had been normal with George suddenly appearing at her workstation and simply saying, “My office.” The offer of coffee and a pastry when she arrived was the first sign that George was going all in.
“Just a coffee, please,” Sophie replied, intrigued as to why George was making such an effort.
“Just over ten years now, isn’t it?” George said after he’d served up their coffees and they were sitting facing each other across his desk. “Since you joined us here in Research.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“You’ve done well, worked hard, learned a lot and displayed a lot of skill. You’re a real asset to the unit.”
“Thank you. That’s––”
“You keen to move on, get promotion?”
“Well, yes, yes I think I am,” Sophie said now even more curious. “If the right post were to—”
“Senior researcher job at BBC’s Natural History Unit in Bristol, could be coming up in six months or so. Someone like you with your Natural Science degree and all your experience in helping put together outdoor and nature programmes as well as your wider general experience, you’d be ideal. Happy to recommend you for it if you’re interested.”
Of course she was interested. And George knew it, but all he said was, “No need to respond just now. You can think about it. Let me know.”
“Right,” Sophie said, certain this wasn’t the real reason she was there, but she was interested, nevertheless.
“Good. Now the reason I needed to see you today is I want you to leave what you’re working on at the moment and take over another more urgent project.”
Sophie was in the middle of researching a feature on the growing popularity of allotments in Scotland’s cities for a long-running gardening series. She didn’t want to abandon it and besides that she had a deadline to meet.
But before she could respond, George added, “Don’t worry about the allotment project. It’s well on its way. And your trainee co-worker is proving more than competent, largely thanks to your excellent training and support, so she can take over.” George smiled knowingly at her.
Oh, he was good at getting what he wanted, she’d give him that. Flattery, the possibility of promotion, she knew she was being manipulated but she was also intrigued as to what exactly he was asking of her. So Sophie smiled back at him, in what she hoped was also a knowing way, letting him know she knew what he was up to.
George gave an almost imperceptible nod before going on to say, “So, this favour I need,” he leaned his forearms on the desk, clasped his hands and leant towards her, “we recently commissioned a documentary television series. It’s going to be broadcast UK wide. Obviously all the preliminary research work at a general level has been done. But now, of course, it’s down to specifics.” George paused to take a sip of his coffee.
“Of course,” Sophie said, wishing he’d just get on with it.
“Each programme will tell the stories of injured British military veterans making the return to civilian life. The first programme in the series is to be about a Glasgow-based veterans charity called Revive and some of the people who use its services.
“Unfortunately your colleague, Liz Maitland, who was originally tasked with series research has been signed off on sick leave. She should hopefully be back to work on the subsequent episodes but we need someone to step in immediately to do the research for this first one.”
“Right,” said Sophie. “And that someone––”
“That someone needs to be you,” said George. “You have the experience, efficiency and sensitivity to do this. It’ll look good on your CV.”
“Okay,” Sophie said. But she wasn’t sure it was okay.
Her boss then went on to show some uncharacteristic empathy when he said, “I acknowledge that the military subject matter could be tough for you. I haven’t forgotten that your brother died on active service in Afghanistan, so although I would like you to accept the work, I won’t think any less of you if you decline.”
“I … I appreciate that,” Sophie said before swallowing hard and then clearing her throat. She hadn’t expected that. Blunt, insensitive George was definitely easier to handle than this kinder version.
Though, she didn’t have to wait for the former version to reappear as he got to his feet, indicating the meeting was over. “Take an hour to think it over,” he said, “and then let me know what you decide.”
In the end, Sophie didn’t need the hour. She was nothing if not professional. This was work. It was nothing to do with her personal life. Besides, as George had said, it would be a good one for her CV especially as the intention was to base and transmit the series across the whole of the UK.
She was also tempted by the Bristol job and so she asked to be informed of any developments on that front. Maybe a fresh start in a new city hundreds of miles away was just what she needed – both professionally and personally.
Her boss, of course, had been delighted to hand over the military veteran’s programme brief to her, along with the research carried out so far, and she spent the rest of Friday and much of the weekend getting up to speed. As she did so, she admitted to herself that it hadn’t been an entirely head over heart decision to take on this particular job. It had occurred to her that it might make her feel a bit closer to Finlay.
But on that Monday morning as she applied her makeup, she felt a niggle of doubt as to whether that would really be a good thing.
She couldn’t face breakfast and settled for a glass of water instead. After she’d rinsed out the glass she glanced around the open plan kitchen and living room. At least with Rick no longer living there the flat was tidy, though there was still a load of his stuff in the spare bedroom. She should really give him a deadline for collecting it all, tell him she’d bin the lot if he didn’t.
She’d kicked him out a couple of months earlier, having come home early from work and found him in their bed with a woman she not only knew, but had up until then liked. She’d been shocked, hurt and furious when she found out exactly what her lying, cheating boyfriend had been up to. The boyfriend who she’d financially supported when he couldn’t make a proper living as a musician, who’d lived with her rent free for two years, who’d said he loved her. The boyfriend who it turned out couldn’t cope with her being distracted by grief. The boyfriend who, as he put it, ‘needed to distract and comfort himself’ because ‘she’d been so wrapped up in herself over the last year and had nothing left to give him’. The boyfriend who’d been having a months-long affair with Lisa, the talented and pretty singer from his band.
It still hurt but at least she could now concede she was definitely better off without him.
In fact, she reminded herself, as she slipped on her jacket, she was better off without any man. After the way things had ended with Rick, someone she’d truly believed she’d loved and who she had thought loved her, she was unwilling to entrust her damaged heart to anyone else ever again.
She was obviously a hopeless judge of character. Indeed, she’d recently decided the whole love, marriage and having children thing wasn’t for her. These things would only leave her vulnerable to yet more heartbreak and she was so done with all of that. She only had to look at her parents to know this was the right choice for her. No, from now on, she’d be keeping any sexual interactions casual and for fun only.
After all, she also reminded herself, in every other way her life was as good as it could be. She had her flat, a job she loved and good and loyal female friends – friends who she knew would always be on her side.
She took in a deep breath, rolled her shoulders and straightened her back. She was independent and she was strong. She’d proved she could take what life threw at her – including her useless ex, her estrangement from her mother, and even the loss of her darling brother. She was proud that she was still standing in spite of it all.
‘I’ve got this,’ she said to herself as she walked out the door.
With the rain having stopped and the sky clearing, Sophie would have preferred to walk from her flat in Glasgow’s Kelvinside area to the city’s Hyndland district where the Revive charity had its premises. But she would need to go into the office after her interview with the charity’s manager so she took the car for what was only a five-minute drive.
Hyndland was a pleasant, mainly residential area of the city, but even so, for reasons of cost if nothing else, she’d been expecting a charitable organisation like Revive to be housed in a utilitarian concrete box perhaps surrounded by other similar buildings and a gravel car park. But the single-storey, stone-built structure with its pitched and slated roof was much more attractive than that – and the grass and flower beds which surrounded it, along with the tree-lined perimeter, said parkland rather than business park.
As Sophie left her car in the small car park at the side of the building and walked up to the entrance, she realised that her earlier reservations had gone and she was keen to find out more. This was what she did and no matter how tricky the subject matter, this was work. It wasn’t personal and it wasn’t about her.
She was about to press the buzzer at the front entrance when the door opened and she was confronted by one extremely good-looking guy. He looked like he was in his early thirties, around the same age as she was, and he was the epitome of tall, fair and handsome and oh my what a lovely smile he had. “Miss Campbell, I presume,” he said extending his hand.
If you not already done so, you can sign up HERE to subscribe to my newsletter where I chat about my writing, share sneak previews, ask for your opinions on covers etc and offer the occasional giveaway.
There’s a lot of important, difficult and sometimes scary stuff going on at the moment and I’m sure I’m not alone in being a bit preoccupied by it all – and in feeling rather helpless.
There’s the fragile state of humanity’s existence if we don’t get our act together and make big positive steps to ensure our planet’s future. The COP26 – the 26th UN Conference of the Parties – began yesterday in Glasgow and will run for the next two weeks. As a Scot, I’m proud that it’s being hosted here, but as a citizen of planet Earth I am of course invested in there being positive outcomes from this conference and am desperately hoping it doesn’t just produce yet more hot air that our poor struggling world has to process. As lot of people do, I try to do my bit to live sustainably, but laudable and vital as our individual efforts are, it’s going to take a concerted national and international effort to save our beautiful wee planet.
There are the continuing challenges of the Covid pandemic with cases here in the UK continuing to rise and our health service under pressure before winter has even arrived. And more than that there’s the desperate need for the richer countries – UK included – to ensure that the world’s poorer countries can vaccinate their populations. In the meantime I will continue to be careful, to wear my mask and to get my booster vaccination when it’s offered.
And then there’s the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Again, while I can contribute at a personal level by donating money to a humanitarian charity, it needs the will, effort and action of governments to help ease the situation for all who are suffering there.
The Comfort of Work and the Small Things
However, I am grateful to have other things going on – things that yes, are distractions from the big stuff but are also way more than just that. These are the things that despite everything provide solace, a sense of purpose and a big dollop of joy. They are the things rooted in love.
There’s the joy of time spent with family and friends – something I’ve been doing a fair bit of lately, there’s the solace of a good book – see below for more about that, and then there’s my work as a writer.
I LOVE my job. I love that I can create and get totally absorbed in my imaginary world, that I can create interesting characters that I want to spend time with and get to know the places they live, work and play in.
Currently I’m busy ruthlessly redrafting my latest novel in preparation for it going off to my editor. I know I’ll miss spending time with this latest set of characters but I’ve already begun a new book and I can’t wait to give it my undivided attention. So yes, it’s looking like I’ll have two new books out in the first part of 2022. And that definitely makes my heart sing.
The Solace of Reading
Books of the Month for October 2021
A Mother’s Story by Maggie Christensen
This is a slight cheat as this latest novel by one of my favourite authors isn’t published until tomorrow (2nd November 2021). I was lucky enough to get a pre-publication copy and I’ve already reviewed it over on Goodreads – here’s what I wrote:
A wonderful emotional read. Wow! As a long-time fan of Maggie Christensen’s romance novels I thought I knew what to expect when reading A Mother’s Story. I was wrong. This isn’t a romance. It’s a family saga but boy, is it packed full of love, emotion and drama. The first chapter had me hooked and it was hard to put the book down. Don’t read this at bedtime if you want to get sleep early. The book begins in World War Two and spans the following decades. It ranges from Scotland to Australia, runs along two timelines and tells the story of three women. It’s a powerful tale of family love – especially the love between mothers and daughters – and it’s beautifully told. As for the ending – well, all I’m going to say is it’s perfectly judged.
From the back cover:
A lost child. A mother’s grief. A daughter’s journey.
In Scotland, in1941, as WW2 increases in ferocity, Rhona Begg goes against her parents’ wishes and enlists in the ATS—a decision that brings with it heart-breaking consequences. After the war, weighed down with regret and grief, Rhona receives news that has the power to change her life.
Across the ocean in Australia, Nell Duncan worries about her husband who is fighting in the Far East. When she receives the dreaded news that he is missing in action, her world collapses. The end of the war brings changes to Nell’s life, but her dream of bearing a child is no longer possible and she grieves for what might have been.
In 1971, when Joy Baker gives birth to her daughter, she begins the journey to discover her ancestry. What she finds shocks her to the core and propels her on a journey to the land of her birth.
Three women. Three mothers. Three astonishing stories.
From wartime Scotland to present day Australia. A Mother’s Story is an emotion-filled sweeping family saga.
Snug in Iceland by Victoria Walker
From the back cover:
Rachel Richards is stuck in a rut. Her boyfriend Adam barely notices her most of the time and her life in London isn’t as exciting as it should be. When the company she works for, Snug, asks her to oversee the opening of a new store in Iceland, she jumps at the chance for a change of scenery. Exploring Reykjavik with the help of Icelandic tour guide Jonas, Rachel discovers that life is out there waiting to be lived. As she falls in love with Iceland, she begins to see what is important to her and wonders whether the life she left behind is what she wants after all…
The Cosy Cottage in Ireland by Julie Caplin
From the back cover:
Snuggle up in your favourite armchair and take a trip across the Irish sea for comfort food, cosy cottage nights and a heartwarming romance…
Talented lawyer Hannah Campbell wants a change in her workaholic Manchester life – so she books herself a place at the world-renowned Killorgally Cookery School in County Kerry. But on her first night In Ireland, sampling the delights of Dublin, Hannah can’t resist falling for the charms of handsome stranger Conor. It’s only when Hannah arrives at her postcard-pretty home at Killorgally for the next six weeks that she discovers what happens in Dublin doesn’t quite stay in Dublin…
Nestled amongst rolling green hills and breathtaking countryside, the cookery school throws Hannah and Conor together again–for better or worse.
Top of the to-be-read pile
Unlike with the books I’ve already read and enjoyed, I don’t normally share what I’m about to read but this month – whether you like it or not – I’m doing just that.
Like many keen readers I have a fairly substantial pile of to-be-read books and sometimes it can be difficult deciding what to read next. But at this time of year I do narrow the field and get cracking on lots of lovely, snuggly and romantic Christmas reads. And I’ll be starting my festive reading season off with the latest novel from another of my favourite authors.
It’s called Underneath the Christmas Tree and is by Heidi Swain
From the back cover:
Wynter’s Trees is the home of Christmas. For the people of Wynmouth it’s where they get their family Christmas tree, and where Christmas truly comes to life.
But for Liza Wynter, it’s a millstone around her neck. It was her father’s pride and joy but now he’s gone, she can’t have anything to do with it. Until her father’s business partner decides to retire and she must go back to handle the transition to his son Ned.
When Liza arrives, she discovers a much-loved business that’s flourishing under Ned’s stewardship. And she’s happy to stay and help for the Christmas season, but then she has other plans. But will the place where she grew up make her change her mind? And can it weave its Christmas cheer around her heart…?
More Romantic Christmas Recommendations Next Time
Check back here at end of November/early December for more of my recommended yuletide reads.
What are your go to refuges when the problems of the world seem overwhelming?
Do you have pile of books waiting to be read? Do you like to read books that are linked to where we are in the year? What’s your favourite recent read? What do you plan to read next?
Please, do feel free to share in the comments below.