Publication Day Is Here. My New Book Is Out Today! #contemporary romance #romance #books #reading

Sparks fly in this love against the odds romance

My New Book is Out Today!

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.

Baby Steps

(© 2022 Anne Stormont)

Chapter One

Sophie

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.

Want to read on? Grab your copy HERE

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Big Things On My Mind: The Comfort of Work and the other ‘Small’ Things. Plus Books of the Month for October 2021 #writing #reading #savingtheplanet @MaggieChriste33 @4victoriawalker @JulieCaplin @Heidi_Swain

Big Universal Things On My Mind

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.

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.