Guest post: Ireland as Inspiration for Summer at Castle Stone by Lynn Marie Hulsman

20 Aug

Today I’m welcoming the lovely Lynn Marie Hulsman back to One More Page to tell us about the location inspiration for her new novel, Summer At Castle Stone. Lynn Marie lives in New York with her family and her favorite thing to do is write Romantic Comedy. Welcome Lynn Marie!

Photo-Lynn-Marie-300x201Of all the experiences I’ve had in my life, travel ranks as one of the most important. It falls only below giving birth and becoming a mother, moving to New York City and making it my home for life, and publishing as a contracted author. When I’m not traveling, my favorite pass times are reading and writing. Being sucked into the “world” of a novel thrills me. I enjoy living vicariously through a book’s characters. What is it like to taste the cuisine of a place? What does a city sound like before dawn? How do the streets smell at high noon?

When I write fiction, I feel a thrill when I’m in a character’s skin, sensing what she is sensing. Now, as a novelist, it’s nearly impossible for me to visit somewhere without taking mental notes of what it’s like to navigate my days and nights in a place that’s unfamiliar to me.

When I co-wrote the cookbook The Irish Pantry for chef Noel McMeel, I was given the opportunity to travel to Ireland to do research, and to trail him in his kitchen and restaurants. From the moment I landed in Dublin, I felt a shift. Everything moved more slowly than in New York City, where I live. The stakes of little things, such as getting ahead in the customs queue or finding the best seat on the bus to the city center, seemed lower. For me, Ireland felt like the right place at the right time.

I’d been stressed, and feeling depleted. I had been buying into ideas that made me suffer, such as comparing the décor and size of my apartment to those of acquaintances whose spouses work on Wall Street, and worrying that if my kids didn’t get into the “right” middle school that they’d surely never get into the “right” high school, or university and were therefore doomed for life before reaching the age of 10. Without trying to sound like a drama queen, I realized on the spot that Ireland offered me the chance at a spiritual awakening.

During that trip, I stayed in and cooked with old and new friends, taking the time to really listen people as they talked instead of making to-do lists in my head. On the train trip north to Fermanagh, I looked out the windows at the countryside instead of burying my face in my phone. Instead of spending an hour doing my hair and makeup, and choosing an outfit, I used that hour to walk the lanes of the village with my friend’s big, slobbery Labrador retriever, observing the difference in the trees and shrubs to what I knew in New York, and my birthplace, Kentucky.

When I returned to New York from that trip, the sights, sounds, and smells of Ireland stayed with me. An idea for a new novel, which was to become Summer at Castle Stone, slowly took shape. I’d write down a note here about the smell of baking soda bread, and another there about the voices I heard at the early morning green market near Great Georges Street in the North end of Dublin. I could see, hear, taste, smell, and feel the world, but what was the story?

The answer lay in my bones, of course. The story’s roots were in food, cooking, restaurants. I’d traveled through the world. It Summer at Castle Stoneneeded only finishing touches from my imagination. But who would live there? A jaded girl, of course, exhausted and world-weary from shadow-boxing against opponents whose defeat didn’t matter. Boom! There was Tom O’Grady. Zip! There was Shayla Sheridan. They meandered around my mind picking up my memories of turf fires in 17th-century thatched-roof cottages, of colcannon and cod served with pints of stout that were meals unto themselves, of charming men with mischief in their eyes and flirty words that bordered on insulting but drew me in with their witty challenge, of the kind of damp, cold air that slowed my blood to a crawl, making rushing anywhere impossible, even if I’d been inclined to accomplish much.

I suppose it wasn’t strictly necessary to return to Ireland early this summer in order to gather more information for the final, polishing details of Summer at Castle Stone, but I’m glad I did it. Had I not, I wouldn’t have experienced County Wexford, my new favorite place in Ireland. Its combination of sophisticated arts community and unspoiled, rural village life left its mark on me. Visiting grand estates such as Wells House informed my book. So did spending time with locals ranging from George Lawlor, the Lord Mayor, Billy Roche, the celebrated playwright, Maria Nolan, who spearheaded the organization of the Wexford Literary Festival, to my dancing partner at Screen Village’s local pub – Freddie’s Bar – who was described as “a maverick, that fella” by a local Irish mammy.

The details of rugged, wild, beautiful, ancient, wise old Ireland burned into my brain won’t lose their sharp edges soon, I predict. The impact was too great. I predict I’ll write more books set on The Emerald Isle. But not without another visit or two first…

Thanks Lynn Marie!

Summer At Castle Stone is out now in ebook formats. Click the image below to find out more and please do check out the other stops on Lynn Marie’s blog tour!
Visit

 

Giveaway! Three copies of With a Friend Like You by Fanny Blake to be won!

19 Aug

In celebration of the release of Fanny Blake’s excellent new novel, With a Friend Like You, Fanny’s lovely publisher Orion has given me three copies to give away to lucky readers!

This is my favourite of Fanny’s novels yet and is warm, funny and thoughtful; getting right to the heart of complicated but wonderful female friendships!

friend like you large

To enter this giveaway just leave a ‘pick me’ comment in the box below and I’ll draw three winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Monday 25th August.

Good luck!

Guest post: Writing for a Women’s Magazine and Being a Published Author by Fanny Blake

19 Aug

Today I’m delighted to welcome Fanny Blake back to One More Page on the latest stop of her With A Friend Like You blog tour. Fanny loves reading and started her career as an Editor before moving on to write books of her own. She is the books editor of Women & Home magazine and has also been a judge for a number of literary awards including the Betty Trask Award, the Desmond Elliott Award, the Romantic novelists’ Association Award, the Costa First Novel Award and the Costa Short Story Award. With A Friend Like You is Fanny’s fourth novel and is out now. Welcome Fanny!

fannyblakeBeing the books editor of Woman and Home is my dream job. For more years than I care to count, I’ve been reading and recommending books on their monthly book pages. I’m lucky to work on a magazine with an editor who loves books and believes in the pleasure of reading. Almost every day, the postman turns up with anything between two and ten book proofs from publishers. I read as many as I can and choose which ones to feature, making sure there’s something to appeal to almost every taste. I used to commission a short story every month from established authors, too. However this year we rang the changes and now we’ve upped the book coverage from one to two pages and dropped the story. Instead I interview one author every month, getting a portrait of the person behind the bestseller.

 Before I was a writer, I was a publisher so my whole life has been spent reading for a living: reading quickly, at that. Although I didn’t originally plan to be a writer, I do believe that reading is a really important part of a writer’s life: reading and of course actually doing the writing. Talking about it is much easier!

I took a roundabout route to writing novels. After publishing, I became a journalist and then began writing books that tied in with TV series, as well as ghosting autobiographies. All of this taught me so much, not least that I could actually finish a book. But I also learned about structure and voice. The more I wrote, the more I began to have ideas for my own novels and the more I wanted to write them.

When it came to writing my first novel, What Women Want, I found that all my experience helped no end. That has continued to befriend like you the case right up to my latest With a Friend Like You. It may make me very critical of my own efforts, but at the same time everything has dovetailed wonderfully well. All the reading I do for Woman and Home makes me keep going and aspire to being a better writer with every novel I write.

With a Friend Like You (Orion) and The Secrets Women Keep (Orion) by Fanny Blake are both out now.

Find out more about Fanny and her books at: http://fannyblake.co.uk/

Please do check out the other stops on Fanny’s blog tour and look out for a chance to win a copy of With a Friend Like You later today here on One More Page!

Perfect reads for Wedding Season (and beyond!)

18 Aug

Weddings are everywhere in fiction this year! Here are ten books to see you through wedding season and beyond!
thirteen weddingsThirteen Weddings by Paige Toon (Out now!)
One of my favourite books of the year so far and covers a wonderful array of weddings through the eyes of wedding photographer, Bronte. You can read my full review here and read about Paige’s own wedding day here!
Sometimes you have to step out of the light to see clearly again…

Bronte never expected to see Alex after their one night together, but she never stopped thinking of him. So when she arrives at work one day to find that Alex is a new colleague, she is secretly thrilled. The only problem is that Alex is now engaged to Zara, the girl he was on a break from the night they met.

Determined to move on with life, Bronte becomes a part-time wedding photographer, alongside her day job. Surrounded by loving couples, warring couples, tearful bridesmaids, mischievous pageboys and interfering mothers-in-law, she tries to navigate her way through wedding after wedding while her heart is being torn apart. 

As Alex’s own wedding day draws ever nearer, Bronte and Alex’s chemistry becomes harder to ignore, and Bronte must decide whether to fight for the man she loves, or to let him go forever.
Two Weddings and a Baby by Scarlett Bailey (Out now!) two weddings and a baby
The first summer novel from lovely Scarlett Bailey – a lovely, funny, romantic summer read!

From reluctant bridesmaid, to accidental mother.

Tamsyn Thorne has not been back to her home town of Poldore for five long years.

But now her brother, Ruan, is about to get married and she has no excuses left.

Her plans to arrive in Cornwall looking chic and successful are dashed when a huge storm turns her from fashion goddess to a drowned rat. Worse, she ends up insulting the local hunky vicar – and then finds a tiny baby abandoned in his churchyard.

badbridesBad Brides by Rebecca Chance (Out now!)
Another fabulous read from Rebecca Chance – be warned, this one really sizzles!!
Good brides promise to obey. Bad brides wouldn’t dream of it…

Milly Gamble is an up-and-coming actress, and the perfect English flower child. At 23, she’s always been cast as the innocent heroine. But looks can deceive. Calculating and fiercely ambitious, Milly is determined to be the most famous star in England. And how better to achieve her goal than by dating Tarquin Ormond, lead singer of the biggest folk band of the moment? Tarquin is madly in love with Milly; Milly is only in love with herself. 

Brianna Jade is an all-American pageant girl. The daughter of Tamra Maloney, a stunning billionairess, Brianna is a sweet, pretty girl who is more than happy to go along with her mother’s ambitious plans for her. Now Tamra’s brought her to the UK and hooked her up with an Earl. He has a crumbling stately home and needs a rich wife to help restore it to its former glory. Tamra is as ambitious and determined as Brianna is sweet and innocent – is this more a case of mother-in-law-zilla than bridezilla?

Both Milly and Brianna’s upcoming weddings will be huge, lavish events that garner national press. But with the cover of the biggest magazine in the country to be won, things are about to get very dirty…

 

Lily Does LA by Nicola Doherty (e-book short story published on 25th September) LILY does LA
The second installment in Nicola Doherty’s fab new five-part Girls on Tour series. I really enjoyed the first story in the series and am looking forward to jetting of to LA with Lily!

Lily is an actress. At least, that’s what she tells people, even though she’s currently working in a call centre and her last big part was an ad for Sofa Warehouse. So when she’s invited to her cousin Alice’s wedding in LA, it’s a dream come true. Alice’s fiancé Sam is actually a Hollywood agent; how can Lily fail to get talent-spotted? There’s only one problem; not only is Lily banned from mentioning acting, parts or producers to Sam, she’s expected to spend the entire week doing wedding-related prep (read: chores) with Sam’s boring groomsman Jesse. But Lily firmly believes that rules were made to be broken …
after the weddingAfter the Wedding by Roisin Meaney (Out now!)
I’ve heard so many good things about Roisin’s books so am looking forward to reading this one soon.
It’s the beginning of May on the island of Roone and Nell Mulcahy, having called off her wedding to the handsome Tim Baker, has finally admitted her love for his brother James – a love everyone else on the island recognised long before she did. Now Nell is setting off for County Clare, to a church overlooking the sea, to say ‘I do’ to the Mr. Baker she was meant for all along.

But when James and Nell return to their home after the wedding, they find Roone rocked by the disappearance of a young girl holidaying on the island.

As the summer progresses, and Nell and James navigate the ups and downs of life as a married couple – along with Tim’s return to Roone – the search for the girl continues. And the island residents discover that everything can change in a single moment. But will happiness be restored before autumn comes?
The Wedding Speech by Isabelle Broom (Ebook short story released on 28th August)
 wedding-speech-9781471138980_lg
I’m looking forward to discovering a new author when this short story is released at the end of the month!
Ed waited until all the eyes in the room were on him before he began. He took a deep breath, inhaling as he did so the sweet scent from the lilies, which were arranged extravagantly in front of him. ‘Ladies and gents, I promise to try and keep this short and sweet…’

When Billy asked his best mate Ed to be his best man, Ed knew he would have to make a speech and he was dreading it. But he also knew how important it was to Billy – and to his soul mate and wife-to-be, Amelia. So Ed is determined to do them proud. But little does he know that it will be the most important speech he will ever make, and his toast – ‘To Billy and Amelia – together forever’ – will mean more than he ever thought.

A beautiful short story to remind you of the importance of love.
youre the one that I wantYou’re the one that I want by Giovanna Fletcher (Out now!)
A second huge romantic hit for Giovanna Fletcher and one of my favourite covers of the year so far!

Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob – the man she’s about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben – best man and the best friend any two people ever had.

And that’s the problem.

Because if it wasn’t Rob waiting for her at the altar, there’s a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he turned round and told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right?

Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it…

The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch (Out now!) WeddingBees_US_final_cover-330

I loved this sweet and magical book – full of Southern charm!

Sugar Wallace did not believe in love at first sight, but her bees did. . . .

Every spring Sugar Wallace coaxes her sleepy honeybee queen—presently the sixth in a long line of Queen Elizabeths—out of the hive and lets her crawl around a treasured old map. Wherever the queen stops is their next destination, and this year it’s New York City.

Sugar sets up her honeybees on the balcony of an East Village walk-up and then––as she’s done everywhere since leaving South Carolina––she gets to know her neighbors. She is, after all, a former debutante who believes that manners make the world a better place even if they seem currently lacking in the big city.

Plus, she has a knack for helping people. There’s Ruby with her scrapbook of wedding announcements; single mom Lola; reclusive chef Nate; and George, a courtly ex-doorman. They may not know what to make of her bees and her politeness, but they can’t deny the magic in her honey.

And then there’s Theo, a delightfully kind Scotsman who crosses Sugar’s path as soon as she gets into town and is quickly besotted. But love is not on the menu for Sugar. She likes the strong independent woman she’s become since leaving the South and there’s nothing a charmer like Theo can do to change her mind . . . only her bees can do that.

The Wedding Bees is a novel about finding sweetness where you least expect it and learning to love your way home.

honeymoon hotelThe Honeymoon Hotel by Hester Browne (Released on 11th September)
I’m a big fan of Hester’s books and can’t wait to read this new novel!
The Bonneville Hotel is the best-kept secret in Mayfair: its art deco suites and glittering ballrooms a former home-away-from-home for royalty and movie stars alike. Recent years haven’t been kind, but thanks to events manager Rosie, the Bonneville is reclaiming some of its old cachet as a chic retro-glam wedding venue.

While Rosie’s weddings are the ultimate in romance, Rosie herself isn’t; she’s focused on the details, not the dramas. But when the hotel owner appoints his eccentric son Joe to the Bonneville staff, Rosie finds herself up against an unprecedented challenge: a rival whose predilection for the unconventional could derail not only Rosie’s own career, but the most elaborate, high-profile wedding the Bonneville has ever seen.
From Notting Hill with Four Weddings … Actually by Ali McNamara (Published on 23rd October)four weddings
The third novel in Ali McNamara’s From Notting Hill series and one of my most anticipated books of the year. It’s not out for a while yet but I’m sure it will be worth the wait!

Movie addict Scarlett O’Brien is finally living the jet-setting life she’s dreamed of – but it all hangs by a shiny, golden thread.

Flying between London and New York, running two businesses, planning her wedding to handsome fiancé, Sean, with best friends Oscar and Maddie – life couldn’t be better.

But then Scarlett meets paparazzi darling, Gabriella Romero, and life suddenly becomes even more extravagant and glamorous. As she begins to experience the other side to being rich and famous, it’s not only Scarlett’s perfect wedding that’s put in jeopardy, but her whole world.

Guest post: Being a ‘Proper Novelist’ by Claire Sandy

6 Aug

I’m very excited that The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens tonight and doubly excited to have Claire Sandy as guest on One More Page to celebrate her new novel, What Would Mary Berry Do? The perfect read for fans of The Great British Bake Off, this is a story about family life, unfriendly rivalry and flat Victoria sponges! 

Claire Sandy lives in Surrey with a husband and a daughter and loves lots of things, such as baking, reading, writing, eating, chatting about matters of global importance with her nine year old, dressing up her dog and inventing new things to do with gin. She’s worked at many things – advertising, radio jingles, a wool shop – and thanks her lucky stars that writing What Would Mary Berry Do? involved every single item on her list of loved things. Welcome Claire!

9781447253495Writing for a living is what I’ve always wanted to do. I was derailed for years on end, and I don’t regret one moment of my wool shop manageress-ing, my radio producing, my voiceover agent-ing or even my wine bar waitressing, but it was nice to finally get paid to write.

I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as it looked. By now, we all know that about practically everything , right? And I knew it wouldn’t be plain sailing; many writers before me had waved their rejection letters like bunting. But one thing I didn’t suspect; how wonderful it would be.

Having a manuscript on the go is like having a lover. A secret lover, at that. You don’t want to talk about this lover because nobody would quite understand. You don’t want their paws all over his flesh. He’s yours and yours alone. You’re interested in every inch of him, every childhood memory, each ambition, which flavour Cornetto he prefers.

When you’re out and about you fantasise about getting back to him again, closing the door so it’s just the two of you. Time loses its meaning when you’re together. You lift your eyes and half a day has gone by.

OK, I’m stretching my metaphor here. But not that far. Nobody prepared me for how attached I would feel to my manuscript. Time spent either tinkering aimlessly, or speeding ahead, or reading it for the umpteenth time, or even staring at that shrub outside my window that I now know so well, is all precious.

Some writers claim that writing is therapeutic. None that I’ve met, I hasten to add. Any writers I meet are too busy trying to catch the waiter’s eye to ask for another bottle and lamenting the nearness of their deadline, to quack such touchy-feely stuff. We’re professionals. If we wrote to work out our demons I doubt anybody would want to read it. I mean, you’re busy folk; d’you really want to hear how my potty training affects my relationships? We don’t wait for the muse to bite (is that what muses do? Maybe they nudge or prod or bake cakes) because we have deadlines to meet and publishers to appease.

Oh, and lives to lead. I’m not sure who I thought would do the laundry and burn my daughter’s fishfingers when I became a Proper Novelist, but I didn’t think it would be me. Perhaps I could persuade the muse to do the washing up; she’s certainly been dragging her feet lately.

Thanks Claire!

What Would Mary Berry Do? is out now in paperback and ebook formats. 

*** This is a work of fiction, in no way endorsed by Mary Berry, and where neither Mary Berry herself nor her recipes feature. ***

Please do check out the other stops on Claire’s blog tour!

Blog banner What Would Mary Berry Do

 

 

Book review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

5 Aug

landlineGeorgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and he still loves her – but that almost seems besides the point now.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells him that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her – he is always a little upset with her – but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Confession time! Landline is the first book by Rainbow Rowell that I’ve read. Despite the fact that I have gorgeous editions of all of her books to date on my shelf, like so many other books since I’ve been book blogging, the ones I’ve bought myself have sat waiting patiently for me to read them. I plan to change that while I’m on my summer holidays though!

So, back to the point; Landline is the first Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read and I loved it. Rainbow’s writing is smart, funny and perceptive and right from the off I liked leading lady Georgie. One of the reasons I liked her most is that she’s far from perfect but she’s a really good representation of the constant juggling that goes with being a working Mum. I had so much empathy with her as she worried what her job was doing, not just to her relationship with her daughters but her husband too.

Set in the run up to Christmas, Georgie and her writing partner finally get the chance to pitch their show to a big network. The problem? They have to write 5 episodes in a week and Georgie is supposed to be leaving the next day to spend Christmas in snowy Omaha with her family and in-laws.  Georgie stays behind and as her world begins to fall apart a little she heads to her mum’s for some TLC. It’s there that she discovers she can talk to her husband in the past via her mum’s old landline phone!

I loved how Rainbow worked the ‘magic’ telephone line into the story so that I actually felt it was believable.  I love stories with a little bit of magic in them and with Landline I think Rainbow Rowell gets it just right. Landline reminded me a little of classic films like Big or 13 going on 30 :-)

As I read, I felt like Rainbow really ‘got it’ and it was refreshing to see a love story that was so real. Landline is perceptive and heartbreaking but also magical and uplifting. I thoguht the ending was brilliant and I could absolutely see this book as a film. Romantic, funny, sad and real, Landline left me with a warm glow and I can’t wait to read the rest of my Rainbow Rowell collection!

4/5

Landline is our now in Hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Rainbow and hr writing at: http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/

With thanks to Orion for providing a review copy of this novel.

Guest post: My Wedding Day by Paige Toon

2 Aug

I’m so excited to have Paige Toon as my guest on One More Page today! Paige has been one of my favourite authors for a long time now and her latest novel, Thirteen Weddings is a brilliant summer read. To celebrate Thirteen Weddings Paige has embarked on a thirteen stop wedding themed blog tour and today shares with us the details of her very own wedding day. Welcome Paige!

paige toon weddingI’ve always been a bit of an optimistic pessimist. I try to think the worst so I won’t be disappointed. I think the biggest mistake I made when I got married was to completely forget to adopt this philosophy. I had thought about my wedding day all my life. It’s supposed to be the Best Day of Your Life – but jeez, talk about putting the pressure on!

My husband and I were one of the first of our group of friends to tie the knot, so we didn’t have a lot of experience in how to do things. Looking back, I really wish we’d hired a wedding planner – although in reality, I’m a bit of a control freak and we also didn’t have a lot of money.

I was so tied to the organisation of our wedding that I found it hard to enjoy the day. I noticed every little thing that went wrong. Nobody else did, it was just me. In fact, lots of people said it was the nicest wedding they’d ever been to – including my husband, so I really wish I’d been able to step back and enjoy it more.

Aside from the amazing man I married (that goes without saying, surely!), my favourite bit about the day was wearing my dress. I didn’t have high hopes for finding a dress that I’d look good in – I never, ever wore white. So when I found it, it was a very happy moment indeed. (You can see a picture of it on shazsbookboudoir.blogspot.co.uk.)

I also loved the church we got married in: St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden. In fact, I used this church for Thirteen Wedding’s thirteenth wedding, and borrowed some facts for the book, like the sound of the buskers in the plaza behind the church. My best friend, Bridie, came over from Australia to be my Matron of Honour, and some of my closest family members did, too.

After the service, the congregation piled on to a couple of red London double decker buses and had a champagne tour of the Christmas lights while we went on to the reception venue – the Barbican Garden Rooms – to do the photographs.

As for the things that went wrong, there were plenty, but here are but a few…

During the service, I couldn’t get my words out because I started to cry, which was highly embarrassing! I felt like I didn’t have enough time to compose myself before it was my moment to speak again, so every time I spoke, I was laughing with embarrassment through my tears. I can’t tell you how many people asked me afterwards if I was laughing or crying – it was mortifying!

I wish, wish, wish we’d splashed out on proper wedding photographers like Lina Orsino (who helped with the research and also thirteen weddingsfeatures in Thirteen Weddings) and her partner Tom (linaandtom.com) because most of our shots had flash, so we looked very bright and the background looked very dark. The official photographs looked dreadful and my husband and I both wish we’d gone on the buses with everyone else instead. I never got a single shot of me with my brother, and that still upsets me, but we made up for it at his wedding, thankfully!

Two nights before the wedding, we finally put a playlist together for the DJ – it wasn’t a typical wedding list, but we put a lot of thought into it, from the chill-out music to start with, finally building up to some cooler, indie songs and ending with the cheese. But then the wedding DJ didn’t have any of our music, and the person who took it on instead, played the playlist in any order so we had the cheese played during dinner. Argh!

We went on our honeymoon very early the next morning, so didn’t have any time at all to dissect the day, or to see close friends and relatives who’d come from overseas. I think since then, people generally realise it’s good to have a break before going on their honeymoon, and this is the one thing I’d recommend for anyone reading this.

All in all, though, I can’t really complain. I’m still happily married to my hubbie eleven years later, and that’s the main thing.

Thanks Paige!

Thirteen Weddings is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Please do check out the other brilliant stops on Paige’s blog tour which includes deleted scenes, song and picture inspiration for Thirteen Weddings, a character interview with Bronte, how Thirteen Weddings links to Paige’s other books plus a competition to win your name in her next book! 

Read my reviews of Paige’s books

A note from Paige: Sign up to my book club, ‘The Hidden Paige’, at www.paigetoon.com for free short stories, competitions and the chance to find out more about me and my characters and what we’re all up to.

Follow me on Twitter @PaigeToonAuthor or visit me at www.Facebook.com/PaigeToonAuthor

Book review: The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow

1 Aug

poppy factory coverWith the end of the First World War, Rose is looking forward to welcoming home her beloved husband, Alfie, from the battlefields. But his return is not what Rose had expected. Traumatised by what he has seen, the Alfie who comes home is a different man to the one Rose married. As he struggles to cope with life in peacetime, Rose wrestles with temptation as the man she fell in love with seems lost forever.

Many years later, Jess returns from her final tour of Afghanistan. Haunted by nightmares from her time at the front, her longed-for homecoming is a disaster and she wonders if her life will ever be the same again. Can comfort come through her great-grandmother Rose’s diaries?

For Jess and Rose, the realities of war have terrible consequences. Can the Poppy Factory, set up to help injured soldiers, rescue them both from the heartache of war?

I was part of the cover reveal for this novel and having seen the beautiful and striking cover, was really looking forward to reading it. The Poppy Factory is the first of Liz Trenow’s books that I’ve read and I enjoyed her well researched and thought provoking story.

As I think the cover conveys well, The Poppy Factory is a story of love and loss and the impacts of war. It is a dual narrative novel that follows the fortunes of two women; Jess in the present and Rose whose story starts at the end of the First World War. In the present Jess has just returned from her final tour in Afghanistan.

I’ve read quite a few books in recent years dealing with World War One and it’s aftermath but none dealing with such a recent conflict as Afghanistan. Jess’s story definitely brought home the realities of war in our world to me and I found her experiences quite hard to read at times.

Trenow brings to light issues that are often brushed under the carpet such as post traumatic shock and the difficulties in adjusting from military to civilian life. The Poppy Factory is very sensitively written and Trenow cleverly uses the parallels between Jess’s return from Afghanistan and Rose’s husband Alfie’s  experiences following his return from France to make the reader think about what Jess going through in the present. There are clear similarities in their reactions including anger, denial and turning to alcohol to forget and Trenow illustrates the importance of  support and medical care in helping those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I found that the novel flowed more quickly once Jess discovered Rose’s diaries and I felt the historical aspect of the novel was believable and well researched. Although I had a lot of sympathy for Jess, it was Rose that I felt the stronger connection with, perhaps because her world and family came alive through her diary entries and the first person narrative seemed more personal.

I was fascinated to learn about The Poppy Factory; a charity that originated in 1922 to help disabled ex servicemen find work by making poppies for what has now become The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal. The charity is still going strong today and through this book Liz highlights the variety of the work undertaken and the importance of the charity to ex service men and women. You can find out more about The Poppy Factory and its work at: http://www.poppyfactory.org/

An engaging and thought-provoking novel.

4/5

The Poppy Factory is released in paperback and ebook formats on 28th August.

Find out more about Liz Trenow and her writing at: http://liztrenow.com/

Book review: You Had Me At Merlot by Lisa Dickenson

31 Jul

Merlot-covers-4x1-1024x395

Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they’re single, they’re not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren’t filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine – she likes her independent life, she loves her job, and she has no desire to walk down the aisle anytime soon. But Laurie wants love and she wants it now.

So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. You Had Me at Merlot Holidays promises crisp sunshine, fun and a chance to stir up some sizzling romance. Elle has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else’s idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?

A couple of weeks ago I featured part 1 of You Had Me At Merlot in my Serial Spotlight. Since then I’ve been happily working my way through parts 2, 3 and 4 and I’m delighted to be back on Lisa’s epic blog tour today with a full review of the book.

As you will have seen from my review of part 1, I loved this book from the start and I’m very pleased to say that the rest of the story lived up to expectations making this one of my favourite reads of the summer so far! Lisa’s writing is bright, bouncy and laugh out loud funny but she’s also not afraid to make a serious point and I thought the messages in this story were spot on. Lisa tackles, love, friendship, glass ceilings, independence and happiness in a fresh and honest way and although You Had Me At Merlot is a lighthearted rom-com on the surface, it’s a pretty inspirational read too!

I already thought best friends Elle and Laurie were fab but as I read on I discovered a new favourite character; Elle’s colleague Donna. I love it when characters take me by surprise and Donna did just that. Her story is very much focused on her life and job and I was shocked to find out the reason she’d chosen to go on a You Had Me At Merlot holiday. As the story progressed I found myself smiling at Donna’s revelations and I’d love to read what happens next to her (hint, hint Lisa!)

There were plenty of surprises from the other guests too and Lisa cleverly kept me guessing as to what would happen to them all next and where the romances would spring up. Despite her best efforts, Elle finds herself more than a little drawn to the owner’s handsome son Jaime. He starts off as a bit of a Mr Darcy figure but we soon get to see the softer side of him and as he whisks Elle off for a day in Florence in part two of the story, the scene is set for romance!

The descriptions of Italy and food in this book are just brilliant – it will make you want to pack your bags and run away to a sun-drenched vineyard. But it was Lisa’s cliffhanger endings that had me dying to read the next part of the story and I thoroughly enjoyed the surprises and twists to the tale.

Whether you are holidaying or not this summer, You Had Me At Merlot will provide the perfect escape and I can’t wait to read more from Lisa Dickenson.

5/5

Parts 1-3 of You Had Me At Merlot are out in ebook formats now.

Part 4 will be released on 4th August.

Find out more about Lisa and her books at: http://www.lisadickenson.com/

Books Beside the Seaside – summer reads 2014

29 Jul

There’s nothing better (in my opinion) than being by the sea! So to celebrate summer on One More Page I’ve put together a list of my favourite 2014 books set at the British Seaside. Grab a bucket and spade and join me at my (imaginary) beach hut for a holiday by the sea :-)

beach hut next doorThe Beach Hut Next Door by Veronica Henry

If there is one fictional place I would choose to spend my summer holidays it would be in one of the amazing beach huts in the gorgeous Devonshire town of Everdene! I’ve loved all of the stories that Veronica Henry has set there and hope there will be more to come!

Summer appeared from nowhere that year in Everdene . . . and for those lucky enough to own one of the beach huts, this was the summer of their dreams.

For Elodie, returning to Everdene means re-awakening the memories of one summer fifty years ago. A summer when everything changed.  

Vince and his brother are struggling to come to terms with the death of their father – but they have very different ways of coping.

And for Jenna, determined to put the past behind her, the opportunity to become ‘the ice cream girl’ once again might just turn her life around.

But this summer is not all sunshine and surf – as secrets unfold, and some lives are changed for ever . . .

Blue by Lisa Glassblue

Cornwall, surfing,  and summer romance – what more could you want?

Surfing is sixteen-year-old Iris’s world, and when the ultra-talented Zeke walks into her life, it soon becomes her passion.

Over one amazing summer, as she is drawn into his sphere, she experiences love, new friendships, but also loss, with an intensity she never dreamed of.

But is Zeke all he seems? What hides beneath his glamorous and mysterious past? When Iris decides to try for her own surfing success, just as her ex-boyfriend comes back into her life, she will test her talent, and her feelings for Zeke, to the limit…

unpredictable loveThe Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell

The cover of this book makes me smile every time I see it – it’s like a little ray of sunshine! Another lovely story from Jill.

In the idyllic seaside town of St Carys, Sophie is putting the past firmly behind her.

When Josh arrives in St Carys to run the family hotel, he can’t understand why Sophie has zero interest in letting any man into her life. He also can’t understand how he’s been duped into employing Sophie’s impulsive friend Tula, whose crush on him is decidedly unrequited.

St Carys has more than its fair share of characters, including the charming but utterly feckless surfer Riley Bryant, who has a massive crush on Tula. Riley’s aunt is superstar author Marguerite Marshall. And Marguerite has designs on Josh’s grandfather…who in turn still adores his glamorous ex-wife, Dot…

Just how many secrets can one seaside town keep?

Ice Creams at Carrington’s by Alexandra Brownice creams at carringtons

Mulberry-on-Sea is another fictional town I’d love to visit and not just for the seaside! This is the third book in Alexandra Brown’s Carrington’s series and is a fun, sunny delicious read!

Georgie Hart and Carrington’s Department Store have got the world at their feet. Since a reality TV series put them both on the map, life has been amazing! Carrington’s profits are in the pink, Georgie has carved herself a place in the nation’s heart and her romance with Tom, the store’s boss, has finally blossomed.

Now summertime has come to Mulberry-on -Sea and Georgie is in great demand. The town is holding a big summer festival and she and her mates from Carrington’s are planning on making sure that Mulberry puts on the show of its life!

But Georgie is about to get the offer of a lifetime – one that is just too good to turn down and something that will test her loyalties to their limits… Will Georgie be able to pull off it off once again, or has her luck finally run out?

seafront hotelSummer Evenings at the Seafront Hotel by Vanessa Greene

A lovely little short story set in Scarborough. This is just perfect for a quick holiday read and to fill the gap until Vanessa’s next full length novel, The Seafront Tea Rooms is published in September!

24-year-old Cally is a receptionist at the South Cliff, a beautiful hotel overlooking the South Bay. She once dreamed of becoming a midwife, but with funds in short supply and her father ill, Cally has abandoned her studies and is rapidly losing her sparkle. Then she meets Liliana, a chambermaid, and the two women strike up an easy friendship. Liliana’s stories of the hotel guests provide the light relief Cally desperately needs and soon they’re meeting every evening on the balcony of room 14 to feast on eclairs and discuss the latest comings and goings. When Cally catches the eye of charismatic chef Anton, they have even more to talk about on those summer evenings – but then Liliana learns something that could shatter Cally’s new-found joy . . .

The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan beach street

Another winner from Jenny Colgan; guaranteed to warm your heart as well as tempt your taste-buds!

Polly Waterford is recovering from a toxic relationship. Unable to afford their flat, she has to move miles away from everyone, to a sleepy little seaside resort in Cornwall, where she lives alone above an abandoned shop.

And so Polly takes out her frustrations on her favourite hobby: making bread. But what was previously a weekend diversion suddenly becomes far more important as she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, and each loaf becomes better and better. With nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, with local honey (courtesy of local bee keeper, Huckle), and with reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes and bakes . . . And people start to hear about it.

Sometimes, bread really is life . . . And Polly is about to reclaim hers.

in the summer timeIn The Summertime by Judy Astley

I love the premise for this novel and the fab summery cover!

It’s twenty years since Miranda, then sixteen, holidayed in Cornwall and her life changed forever. Now she’s back again – with her mother Clare and the ashes of her stepfather Jack, whose wish was to be scattered on the sea overlooked by their one-time holiday home.

 The picturesque cove seems just the same as ever, but the people are different – more smart incomers,fewer locals, more luxury yachts in the harbour. But Miranda and Clare both find some strangely familiar faces, and revisit the emotions they both thought had disappeared.

Escape for the Summer by Ruth SabertonEscape for the Summer

I love Ruth’s books and this sounds like a lot of fun!

Can Andi Evans find the strength to start again? 

Betrayed and broken-hearted, Andi’s redundancy is one shock too many. Suddenly single and in debt, a summer working in the pretty Cornish town of Rock seems the perfect solution.Determined never to trust again, will a chance meeting with a stranger change her mind? 

Andi’s sister, Angel, is determined to find a man who can keep her in style. Heading to Rock, summer playground of the rich and famous, seems an inspired idea until a misunderstanding threatens to end a romance that has started to mean more to her than she ever expected… 

Actress Gemma is no stranger to diets and disappointments. As the future of her career hangs in the balance, Gemma hopes a summer in Cornwall solves her problems. With a reality TV show being filmed in the seaside town surely she can avoid the pasty shops and win herself a role. 

Arriving in idyllic Cornwall, all three girls are hoping for a holiday to remember. But will this be for the right reasons? Or, as emotions run higher than the tide, will the summer escape turn their lives upside down? 

hh and bwHigh Heels and Bicycle Wheels by Jane Linfoot

I’m reading this at the moment and loving it! A great summer escape!

Meet Bryony: she’s a fun-loving, very single TV production assistant whose idea of sport is the Jimmy Choo sales scrum.

Meet Jackson: Cycling’s bad boy superstar. Injured and out of a certain race this summer, without his training, he’s looking for another distraction…

Bryony’s facing a triple whammy – her last single friend just named the day, her mother’s offering to have her eggs frozen, and the guy she’s loved from afar, forever, has just got hitched. So she’s more than happy to accept the offer of a totally out of character but seriously steamy one night of no-strings fun. Especially when the guy in question is so attractive he even looks good in Lycra!

Jackson’s on the lookout for a new career but if the opportunity to work on TV means a fortnight with the most uptight woman in the world, he’d rather not bother. He never goes in for seconds – and who in their right mind would head off in a campervan, with a woman who irons her knickers?

Add in a tandem (yes a tandem) and fast forward to double trouble for a summer neither of them will ever forget!