Guest post: From Appleby Farm to Paris! by Cathy Bramley

20 Aug

I’m very excited to welcome Cathy Bramley to One More Page today as part of her Appleby Farm blog tour. I’m a big fan of Cathy’s lovely books and am so pleased to have her stop by today. Cathy started out in the world of corporate marketing (working on projects such as testing the firing range of a SuperSoaker water gun and perfecting the weeing action of Tiny Tears dolls), before she set up her own marketing agency in 1995. Nowadays, Cathy lives in a Nottinghamshire village with her husband, two daughters, and a dog called Pearl. You can find out more about Ivy Lane, Appleby Farm, Wickham Hall  and more over on Cathy’s website: www.cathybramley.co.uk or follow Cathy on Twitter: @CathyBramley. Welcome Cathy!

cathyAuthorImage-300x300I chose to set Appleby Farm in the Lake District because it is one of my favourite places in the world and it was a joy to write about the scenery and the countryside and the wonderful slate and stone buildings. But there are two chapters set in one of my other favourite places. Here’s a snippet from chapter 14:

“Directly opposite was the Jardin des Tuileries with its wide paths, octagonal pond and smart outdoor cafés. In the distance, on the other side of the river Seine, the Eiffel Tower dominated the landscape. To the left I could just make out the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre…

I had to admit it was an incredible place to live.”

Paris is where Freya’s parents live and so in the first half of the book, she hops over for a visit. The view I’m describing here is what Freya can see from the window of her parents’ apartment. But in reality, it is the view from my hotel bedroom when my husband, Tony and I spent a romantic weekend there a few years ago. Until I came to write this article, I couldn’t even remember the name of the hotel (it’s the Saint James Albany) but the vista from that window was so vivid in my mind that I was able to use it years later for Freya.

There are hundreds of European cities I haven’t been to and I’m always saying that I’d love to go to Amsterdam, Prague, Berlin and Barcelona but I’m somehow always drawn to Paris. When Appleby Farm is published on 13th August, I’ll be there again with my family. It won’t be quite the romantic break we had before, but I’m looking forward to making new memories and who knows when they may surface in a book in the years to come!

Appleby Farm is out now as a complete paperback and ebook from Transworld:

Appleby Farm PB lolFreya Moorcroft has wild red hair, mischievous green eyes, a warm smile and a heart of gold. She’s been happy working at the café round the corner from Ivy Lane allotments and her romance with her new boyfriend is going well, she thinks, but a part of her still misses the beautiful rolling hills of her Cumbrian childhood home: Appleby Farm.

Then a phone call out of the blue and a desperate plea for help change everything…

The farm is in financial trouble, and it’s taking its toll on the aunt and uncle who raised Freya. Heading home to lend a hand, Freya quickly learns that things are worse than she first thought. As she summons up all her creativity and determination to turn things around, Freya is surprised as her own dreams for the future begin to take shape.

 

Book review: The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara

18 Aug

little flower shop by the seaThe blossom is out in the little Cornish harbour town of St Felix

But Poppy Carmichael’s spirits aren’t lifted by the pretty West Country spring. Inheriting her grandmother’s flower shop has forced her to return to Cornwall, a place that holds too many memories.

Poppy is determined to do her best for the sake of her adored grandmother, but she struggles with the responsibility of the more-shabby-than-chic shop. And with the added complication of Jake, the gruff but gorgeous local flower grower, Poppy is very tempted to run away…

The pretty little town has a few surprises in store for Poppy. With new friends to help her and romance blooming, it’s time for Poppy to open her heart to St Felix and to the special magic of a little flower shop by the sea!

By now I think most regular readers of this blog will know that I love books set by the sea and especially the British seaside. Combine my favourite type of setting with one of my favourite authors and surely it’s a recipe for a brilliant book? The answer is of course a resounding ‘Yes!’ As soon as I saw that Ali McNamara’s new novel would be a seaside set summer release I got very excited and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I think The Little Flower Shop By the Sea is Ali’s best book yet.

Why did I love this book so much? Firstly, the setting; the story takes place in the town of St Felix in Cornwall, a town that Ali has admitted is based on St Ives. I’ve visited St Ives for the last two years and love it there – it’s the place I’d choose to live if it wasn’t an epic commute to my job! Ali has taken the essence of Cornwall and St Ives and captured it in the book. I had no trouble imagining the streets, sights and sounds of St Felix and I could easily picture Poppy’s wonderful little flower shop tucked away by the sea.

The characters were my second reason for enjoying this book so much. I often find that I like the lead character in a story and a couple of the supporting cast but what surprised me most about this novel was how much I remembered about a lot of the individuals in it and how I looked forward not just to finding out what would happen to Poppy next but also to all of the other inhabitants and newcomers to St Felix. Although Poppy is pivotal, Ali has created a full and blossoming community in St Felix.  From a love interest with teenage children to Poppy’s new age new flatmate and an eccentric castle owner, the book is populated with a brilliant variety of characters of all ages.

Thirdly I enjoyed the twist that Poppy who has just inherited a flower shop actually hates flowers. The Little Flower Shop by the Sea has many moments that made me smile but also addresses grief, loss, anxiety and loneliness in a poignant yet truthful way. The writing is heartfelt and I suspect Ali put a lot of herself into this book. I found Poppy’s struggle to move forward from the events of her past very moving and believable.

And finally – I loved the magic and romance of this book. There have been many books focusing on a character moving to a new town to take on a business they’ve inherited in recent years but Ali has done a brilliant job of making the theme her own and adding a good spoonful of romance and magic to the mix. I thought the flower theme very well done and I liked the little touches such as flower chapter headings with their meanings and the anecdotes that are told about how the flowers bought from the shop over the years have affected the recipients.

If you enjoyed Lucy Diamond’s Beach Cafe you will love this book. I very much hope Ali revisits St Felix or some of it’s occupants in future novels.

5/5

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy via Netgalley.

Find out more about Ali and her writing at: http://www.alimcnamara.co.uk/

 

Extract and Giveaway! The Sisters by Claire Douglas

14 Aug

214B3702Today is the final stop on Claire Douglas’s blog tour for her debut novel, The Sisters and I’m delighted to be able to share an extract from the book with you.

Claire’s publisher, Harper Collins has also very generously given me five copies of the book to give away to lucky readers! The Sisters is an absolute treat to read and had me staying up way past my bedtime to keep turning the pages trying to work out who I could believe!

Claire has worked as a journalist for fifteen years writing features for women’s magazines and national newspapers, but she’s dreamed of being a novelist since the age of seven. She finally got her wish after winning the Marie Claire Debut Novel Award in 2013, with her first Novel, The Sisters. She lives in Bath with her husband and two children.  

Extract

I see her everywhere.

She’s in the window of the Italian restaurant on the corner of my street. She has a glass of wine in her hand, something sparkly like Prosecco, and her head is thrown back in laughter, her blonde bob cupping her heart-shaped face, her emerald eyes crinkling.

She’s trying to cross the road, chewing her bottom lip in concentration as she waits patiently for a pause in the traffic, her trusty brown satchel swinging from the crook of her arm.

She’s running for a bus in black sandals and skinny jeans, wire-framed glasses pushed back on to bedhead hair.

And each time I see her I begin to rush towards her, arm automatically rising to attract her attention. Because in that fraction of a second I forget everything. In that small sliver of time she’s still alive. And then the memory washes over me in a tsunami of emotion so I’m engulfed by it. The realization that it’s not her, that it can never be her.

Lucy is everywhere and she is nowhere. That’s the reality of it.

I will never see her again.

 

Today, a bustling Friday early evening, she’s standing outside Bath Spa train station handing out flyers.

I catch sight of her as I’m sipping my cappuccino in the café opposite, and even through the rain-spattered window the resemblance to Lucy makes me do a double take. The same petite frame swamped in a scarlet raincoat, pale shoulder-length hair and the too-large mouth that always gave the impression of jollity even when she was anything but happy. She’s holding a spotty umbrella to protect herself from another impromptu spring shower and her smile never fades, not even when she’s ignored by busy shoppers and hostile commuters, or when a passing bendy-bus sends a mini tidal wave in her direction, splashing her bare legs and her dainty leopard-print pumps.

My stomach tightens when a phalanx of businessmen in suits obscure my view for a few long seconds before they move, as one entity, into the train station. The relief is palpable when I see she hasn’t been washed away by the throng but is still standing in the exact same spot, proffering her leaflets to disinterested passers-by. She’s rummaging in an oversized velvet bag while trying to balance the handle of her umbrella in the nook of her arm and I can tell by the hint of weariness behind her cheery smile that it won’t be long before she calls it a day.

I can’t let her go. Gulping back the rest of my coffee and burning the roof of my mouth in the process, I’m out the door and into the rain while shouldering on my parka. I zip it up hurriedly, pull the hood over my hair to guard against the inevitable frizziness and cross the road. As I edge closer I can see there is only a slight resemblance to my sister. This woman’s hair is more auburn than blonde, her eyes a clear Acacia honey, her nose a small upturned ski-slope with a smattering of freckles. And she looks older too, maybe early thirties. But she’s as beautiful as Lucy.

‘Hello,’ she smiles, and I realize I’m standing right next to her and that I’m staring. But she doesn’t look perturbed. She must be used to people gawping at her. If anything, she looks relieved that someone has bothered to stop.

‘Hi,’ I manage as she hands me the leaflet, limp from the rain. I accept it and my eyes scan it quickly. I take in the bright print, the words ‘Bear Flat Artists’ and ‘Open Studio’ and raise my eyes at her questioningly.

‘I’m an artist,’ she explains. By the two red spots that appear at the apples of her cheeks I can tell she’s new to this, that she’s not qualified yet to be calling herself an artist and that she’s probably a mature student. She tells me she has a studio in her house and she’s opening it up to the public as part of the Bear Flat Artists weekend. ‘I make and sell jewellery, but there will be others showing their paintings, or photographs. If you’re interested in coming along then you’re most welcome.’

Now that I’m closer to her I can see she is wearing two different types of coloured earrings in her ears and I wonder if she’s done it on purpose, or if she absentmindedly put them on this morning without noticing that they don’t match. I admire that about her, Lucy would have too. Lucy was the type of person who didn’t care if her lipstick was a different shade from her top or her bag matched her shoes. If she saw something she liked she wore it regardless.

She notices me assessing her earlobes. ‘I made them myself,’ she says, fingering the left one, the yellow one, delicate and daisy-shaped, self-consciously. ‘I’m Beatrice, by the way.’

‘I’m Abi. Abi Cavendish.’ I wait for a reaction. It’s almost imperceptible but I’m sure I see a flash of recognition in her eyes at the mention of my name, which I know isn’t down to reading my by-line. Then I tell myself I’m being paranoid; it’s still something I’m working on with my psychologist, Janice. Even if Beatrice had read the newspaper reports or watched any of the news coverage about Lucy at the time, she wouldn’t necessarily remember, it was nearly eighteen months ago. Another story, another girl. I should know, I used to write about such things on a daily basis. Now I’m on the other side. I am the news.

Beatrice smiles and I try to push thoughts of my sister from my mind as I turn the leaflet over, pretending to consider such an event while the rain hammers on to Beatrice’s umbrella and on to the back of my coat with a rhythmic thud thud.

‘Sorry it’s so soggy. Not a good idea to be dishing out flyers in the rain, is it?’ She doesn’t wait for me to answer. ‘You don’t have to buy anything, you can come along and browse, bring some friends.’ Her voice is silky, as sunny as her smile. She has a hint of an accent that I can’t quite place. Somewhere up north, maybe Scottish.

I’ve never been very good at placing accents.

‘I’m fairly new to Bath so I don’t know many people.’ The words pop out of my mouth before I’ve even considered saying them.

‘Well, now you know me,’ she says kindly. ‘Come along, I can introduce you to some new people. They’re an interesting bunch.’

She leans closer to me in a conspiratorial whisper, ‘And if nothing else it’s a great way to have a nose at other people’s houses.’ She laughs.

Her laugh is high and tinkly. It’s exactly like Lucy’s and I’m sold.

———————————————————————

 Giveaway!

sisters coverOne lied. One died.

When one sister dies, the other must go to desperate lengths to survive

After a tragic accident, still haunted by her twin sister’s death, Abi is making a fresh start in Bath. But when she meets siblings Bea and Ben, she is quickly drawn into their privileged and unsettling circle.

When one sister lies, she must protect her secret at all costs

As Abi tries to keep up with the demands of her fickle friends, strange things start to happen – precious letters go missing and threatening messages are left in her room. Is this the work of the beautiful and capricious Bea? Or is Abi willing to go to any lengths to get attention?

When the truth outs, will either sister survive?

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

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Sunday 23rd August.

Good luck!

Author interview: Charity Norman

13 Aug

I’m very excited to welcome Charity Norman to One More Page today to talk about her new novel, The New Woman. Charity was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years’ travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. Her second novel After the Fall was selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club and earlier this year was one of the books featured in World Book Night . The New Woman is her fourth novel and was the BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick at the end of July. Welcome Charity!

charity normanYour latest novel, The New Woman has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?

It’s the story of Luke Livingstone, a middle-aged solicitor with a loving wife and adult children. He seems to have it all, but he’s been keeping a secret since he was a tiny child and it’s threatening to tear him and his family apart. The story’s about that secret: Luke’s gender dysphoria, and his decision to become the woman he knows he should have been.

I’d grown up knowing that some people struggle with their gender identity, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant until I began volunteering for a telephone crisis line. We had a number of transgender callers. I was inspired by their courage but also ashamed of my own ignorance, so I began to research. Then I became friends with an inspiring woman who transitioned late in life. She helped me to understand how it feels when your gender identity doesn’t match your body. By the time it came to deciding on my next book, I knew that it had to be about this.

How did you go about your research for the book and were you able to draw on personal experiences whilst writing?

I researched very widely. I read every book I could get my hands on – autobiographies and personal accounts of transgender people and their families. I read blogs, forums, articles and watched videos. I spoke to trans people, especially my friend who was enormous insight and was always ready to answer my questions, no matter how crass they were. My husband has an extended family member who is a transgender woman, so I’ve seen at first hand some of the reactions of a family. The crisis line experience was also useful in understanding some of the emotional complexity – though of course I could never reveal anything at all about individual callers.

 Which character in The New Woman did you find hardest to write and why?

Simon, Luke’s son. By the time I came to write the book I had real admiration for Luke-Lucia, so it was a challenge for me to get inside the head of Simon, with his terrible anger. But people do react like that – or worse. They really do. Simon was hurt and he felt threatened; and of course he had his own secret, long buried.

This is a very topical novel, particularly in view of Caitlyn Jenner hitting the headlines lately; what would you like readers to take away from reading The New Woman?

I know! I had no idea Caitlyn Jenner was going to do what she did! If readers have had a happy few hours getting to know the Livingstone family, that will be great. Even better if they come away wanting to cheer Lucia on – and Caitlyn Jenner – and all those others. Perhaps some of them will agree with Kate, Lucia’s daughter, when she says:

The world isn’t yin and yang, it isn’t black and white, and it certainly isn’t bloody Venus and Mars; it’s so much more fun than that.

 The novel has a different title in Australia and New Zealand why is this and how involved are you as an author in choosing the new womanthe titles for your novels?

I originally called it The New Woman. The Australian marketing department felt this might not be the best title to grab their readership – fair enough, they are the experts – so I agreed to change it and came up with the title The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone for the Australian/New Zealand version. It seems to be a popular name with readers over there.

 Your previous novel, After the Fall was one of the books given out at World Book Night in the UK earlier this year; how did it feel to be chosen for such a special event and what was the highlight of the day for you?

It felt like a fairy tale! World Book Night is a wonderful idea, and to be a part of it was a privilege. I was at home in Napier, New Zealand watching the Twitter storm and trying to join in. The best part was hearing from volunteers, and actually seeing their photos of the books in all sorts of places; and knowing that all those books were being set free, in a way. What a buzz!

 And finally … what can we expect next from Charity Norman?

I’ve loved writing this one. It’s a story about an English student who is backpacking in New Zealand when she accepts a lift from some very friendly people in a van. What she doesn’t realise is that they are members of a cult, and she’s their latest recruit. The research has been chilling but fascinating – you wouldn’t believe how many people there are in the world who think they’re Jesus Christ!

Find Charity on Facebook at facebook.com/charitynormanauthor and on Twitter as @charitynorman1

Book review: Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

13 Aug

image005After the death of her mother, Mary Yellan crosses the windswept Cornish moors to Jamaica Inn, the home of her Aunt Patience. There she finds Patience a changed woman, downtrodden by her domineering, vicious husband Joss Merlyn. The inn is a front for a lawless gang of criminals, and Mary is unwillingly dragged into their dangerous world of smuggling and murder. Before long she will be forced to cross her own moral line to save herself.

Despite reading a lot of books and enjoying classic literature,  up until recently I’d not read anything by Daphne Du Maurier so when lovely Clara from Little Brown Books contacted me to say that they were releasing new covers for three of Du Maurier’s classic works, I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour and give myself an excuse to read one of her books!

The new covers are lovely – really eye catching and I now plan to add them all to my collection. I was sent Jamaica Inn to review and I really enjoyed it. It appealed to me on a number of levels; as a fan of historical fiction I loved the plot set in the early 1800s; as a fan of Cornwall I enjoyed the descriptions and setting and as a fan of novels that err on the Gothic side I loved the dark suspense and mystery of the story.

Du Maurier’s heroine in Jamaica Inn is Mary Yellen who at the start of the novel has lived a hard yet contented life with her Mother on a farm in the village of Helston. Mary is bright and intelligent and recognises the lengths her Mother has gone to to provide a life for them both since her Father’s death but sadly, she loses her remaining parent and sets out to uphold her promise to her Mother to seek out her Aunt Patience and sanctuary with her only surviving family member. Mary’s strength and resilience shines through the book and I liked that she wasn’t afraid to stand up to for herself.

I loved the depth and beauty of Du Maurier’s descriptions of rain-lashed Cornish Moors and Mary’s tortuous journey towards Jamaica Inn; a stark contrast to the warm and bright village life of Mary’s memories. The tension begins to build from the opening pages and Du Maurier keeps raising it little by little until my heart was in my mouth wondering what would come next.

The Aunt Patience now living at Jamaica Inn and the figure that Mary remembers from a childhood visit could not be more different and it soon becomes clear that she has been changed dramatically by her bullying and overpowering husband Joss Merlyn. Joss really is a despicable character and I spent most of the novel hoping he would meet his end soon! The mystery of Joss’s clandestine activities and what is really happening late at night behind the doors of Jamaica Inn kept me turning the pages and I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story.

As Mary explores her new home with walks around the Moor she encounters two men who are destined to have a deep impact on her life. Du Maurier sets up the contrasts between light and dark beautifully with the wild and dangerous Jem Merlyn and Francis Daavey, the clergyman who rescues her when she is lost. Jem in particular will appeal to readers who like their male protagonists with a dangerous edge!

With shipwrecks, smuggling and danger, Jamaica Inn is a gripping Gothic romance and I look forward to reading more of Daphne Du Maurier’s works soon. Please do check out the other stops on the blog tour for review’s of Daphne’s other books.

4/5

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

You can find out more about Daphne Du Maurier and her writing at: http://www.dumaurier.org

Find out more about the real Jamaica Inn at: http://www.jamaicainn.co.uk/

Guest post: Female Friendships by Fanny Blake

11 Aug

I’m delighted to welcome Fanny Blake back to One More Page today on the latest stop of her With A Friend Like You blog tour with a beautiful post on how her female friendships have changed over the years. 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. Welcome Fanny!

fannyblakeSome of the most important people in my life have been my female friends, right from schooldays until now. As I look back, I can see how over the years the nature of those friendships changed.

Friendship at school meant copying each other’s hemlines and finding where we could buy the largest V-neck sweaters to wear on top. It meant walking out of the school gates together at the end of the day, and trailing through Nottingham arboretum towards the bus station. It meant crowding together on the back seat of the bus and comparing notes on the boys we fancied. It meant copying each other’s homework. It meant lying for each other.  It mean spending hours dancing in each other’s bedrooms to the Swinging Blue Jeans, the Beatles and the Stones, straightening our hair in front of the mirror, experimenting with make-up. It meant spending as long as possible on the phone to each other until a parent put their foot down about the phone bill.

When I got to university, I made new friends. We would sit up late into the night, fuelled by black coffee, debating all the great issues: sex, politics, hair, music, men, who had finished the milk, and how to spin out the grant for the term. Occasionally we might have to rescue one another from our excesses (no details!), swap lecture notes or move in and out of flats together. These were intense, demanding term-time relationships that I’d miss dreadfully during the holidays. Then after three years most of us went our separate ways. However a couple of those friends have continued to be lynchpins in my life. We know about each other’s pasts. We’ve met each other’s parents. We know exactly what makes each other tick, more than anyone else ever will.

Since then I’ve made good friends through my career in publishing whom I’ve learned from, discussed business with as well as having riotous good times, the longest lunches ever and the best of evenings out.

Then came marriage and children. Suddenly there was less time for friends. Or rather, the friends I saw most of were those at the school gate or in the interminable queue in the children’s shoe-shop or at the side of yet another football pitch.

But here we are with our children having left home. What of friendship now? There’s time to make new friends but perhaps more importantly to treasure those who have pulled through the years with me. We perhaps neglected one another a little in those early years of passion, marriage and childrearing but now that’s all over, we can enjoy our companionship, wisdom and humour. These are my life-long friends and I would trust them with my life or drop everything to go to their aid, should it be necessary.

Perhaps because it’s been so important to me, I enjoy writing about friendship between women of a certain age and how misunderstandings image001 (2)occur. I’ve never experienced anything like what happens to Megan or Beth in my novel, With a Friend Like You, but I was curious to see through them whether a broken friendship can be repaired. I suspect – and it certainly came out in the story – that it can’t ever be mended well enough for it to return to square one. That’s why we should all treasure and make the most of the friendships we have.

Thank you Fanny and here’s to all those special friends out there!

With a Friend Like You (Orion) is out on 13th August in paperback and ebook formats.

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

Please do check out the other stops on Fanny’s blog tour this week.

Guest post: Researching Historical Fiction by Pam Jenoff

8 Aug

I’m delighted to welcome author Pam Jenoff to One More Page today on the final stop of her blog tour for The Last Embrace. Pam is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl. She was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She has a bachelor degree in International Affairs from George Washington University and Masters in History from Jesus College, Cambridge. She has served as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department in Europe and as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army at The Pentagon. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children. Today Pam joins me to tell us about her experiences of researching historical fiction – welcome Pam!

image003 (1)I am no stranger to historical research.  I read history at Cambridge as a postgraduate, spending two years doing nothing but research is the dusty stacks at the Wren Library and the archives of the Public Records Office at Kew Gardens.  There are so many things I love about research:  the excitement of approaching an unknown time period, the detective work of sleuthing out an obscure but necessary historical detail.

That said, research for historical fiction presents unique challenges.  First, there is the question of how to research.  Writers take different approaches to this – one writer I know says she has to research for months ahead of time so that the research is “sewn into her skin” before she begins to write.  Others like myself do just enough ahead of time and then research as we go.

Do I travel to the places I’m writing about?  Whenever I can, yes.  But this isn’t always possible with small children and other constraints.  There are wonderful materials you can use:  I have a vast library system at my disposal and memoirs, correspondence and accounts of people who lived during a particular period are particularly useful.  Periodicals from the era, magazines and newspaper, are great, as are photographs.  And don’t underestimate the internet – Google earth can help with the geography.  The archives to a museum or institute that are fully online can make it as though I was actually there.  And of course one of the best sources of  historical information are people who lived during the era.  For example, when I wrote Kommandant’s Girl, I had been privileged to speak with many Holocaust survivors both in Poland where I worked as a diplomat and also in the States, about their experiences.  Closer to home, my own mother was a resource for the bits in Philadelphia and Atlantic City based on her memories from childhood in the 1940s.

But the task does not end with researching; are tough questions historical fiction writers face about how to balance the needs of history and image001 (1)fiction.  For example, how much historical detail is needed to give an authentic feel of the setting without slowing down the story?  You also have to make your historical timeline and narrative sync up.  Additionally, you have to think about not just an era, but exactly what folks are experiencing at that moment in time.  For example, in The Last Embrace when Addie goes to London, it was just after the Blitz and I had to make sure the story and moods conformed to what Londoners might be feeling at that time.

Finally, there’s the bit no one likes to talk about:  the mistakes.  In every book, no matter how much I research and proof and ask others to double check me, there are always mistakes.  In the Wikipedia age, readers love the gotcha and they love to call me out on it publicly.  That means we sweat the small stuff – I remember for an earlier book going around and around with my UK publisher on whether a bus in 1946 England would cost a two pence or five pence to ride and whether the bus would have had doors.

And that’s okay.  I’ve taken on this job and all that comes with it and the promise to create an authentic world that carries the story.  But I can no longer read another author’s historical fiction novel without thinking of the hard research and though decisions that went into it!

The Last Embrace is out now in paperback and ebbok fromats from Mira Books.

Find out more about Pam and her writing at: http://www.pamjenoff.com/

Book review: Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

7 Aug

 Efishbowlven a goldfish can dream of adventure…

From his enviable view from a balcony on the 27th floor of an apartment block, Ian the Goldfish has frequent – if fleeting – desires for a more exciting life. Until one day, a series of unfortunate events gives him an opportunity to escape…

Our story begins, however, with the human inhabitants of Ian’s building. There is the handsome student, his girlfriend, and his mistress; an agoraphobic sex worker, the invisible caretaker; the pregnant woman on bed rest; and the home-schooled boy, Herman, who thinks he can travel through time.

And as Ian tumbles perilously downwards, he will witness all their lives, loves, triumphs and disasters…

A truly original, philosophically joyful and charming novel with the unlikeliest of heroes. This is Tales of the City as seen by a goldfish.

I first heard about Ian the Goldfish and his adventures at an Ebury publishing blogger event earlier this year and I was immediately drawn to the eye-catching cover and intriguing premise of Bradley Somer’s debut UK novel. Subtitled, “What the goldfish saw as he fell from the 27th floor.”, this is the story of some of the residents  of the apartment building The Seville on Roxy as they are observed by Ian as he takes a dive from the 27th floor of the building.

With quirky chapter titles such as, “In Which Homeschooled Herman Finds the Consciousness That He Recently Misplaced” and “In Which The Villain Connor Radley Sees the Signs and They Are Everywhere” we are treated to short snapshots of the lives of the occupants of a number of the apartments in the block – a metaphorical human fishbowl.

As we dip into the lives of the residents of The Seville, Bradley builds a picture of the never-ending variety of life. The depth and breadth of the story is surprising, particularity as the action all takes place inside a single building in the space of thirty minutes. I love short stories and enjoyed how the fleeting views that Ian has build into a bigger picture and how the characters lives overlapped in surprising ways.

Bradley Somer has created a cast of fascinating characters for his soap opera including a woman who never leaves her apartment, a building janitor, a young homeschooled boy and a heavily pregnant woman on bedrest. I loved the variety of the characters and Claire who doesn’t leave her apartment was a particular favourite with me. Somer includes plenty of drama and explores the whole range of emotions through the building occupants as they deal with love and loss, birth, death, loneliness and passion.

This is a wonderfully packaged book inside and out and as you flick the pages of the hardback edition you can watch Ian make his descent. Before I started reading, I wondered how a novel could be told from a Goldfish’s perspective and what kind of story he would have to tell. I think Ian’s story is one of the best surprises of the book and I really hope we hear more from him in future.

Check out the book trailer below and do dip into Ian’s tale this summer if you’re looking for an original and entertaining novel that’s just a little bit different!

4/5

Fishbowl is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Find out more about Bradley Somer and his writing at: http://bradleysomer.com/ and please do check out the other stops on the Fishbowl Blog Tour!

 

Book extract: I Knew You Were Trouble by Paige Toon

4 Aug

Today I’m delighted to be the final stop on Paige Toon’s I Knew You Were Troube blog tour. Paige  is one of my favourite authors and has sold over a quarter of a million books to date and appeared on the Sunday Times bestseller list.

PAIGE TOONPaige grew up in Australia, America and England – thanks to her much-travelled Le Mans winner father, Vern Schuppan. For over eight years she worked at Heat Magazine as Reviews Editor. She now lives in Cambridge and is married with two children.

Paige loves to chat to her readers so do say hello at: http://www.paigetoon.com/, on Twitter @PaigeToonAuthor or on her Facebook page.

Paige’s lovely publisher is kindly letting me share an extract from I Knew You Were Trouble with you today! Click the link below to read the prologue to this fab new novel but be warned – it will leave you wanting more :-)

I Knew You Were Trouble PROLOGUE (PDF will open in a new window)

 

Trouble COVER

Life as the undercover daughter of a rock god was never going to be easy. How will Jessie adjust to her old boring life again after spending her summer living it up with her dad in LA? With tough decisions ahead (and not just choosing between two love interests), can she cope juggling her two very different lives? Jessie is back in the UK and has rekindled a spark with former crush, Tom, though is still preoccupied with thoughts of bad boy Jack from LA. When her father comes to visit and invites Jessie out to dinner, he assures her that she’s safe from the paparazzi, but sure enough her photo appears in the local paper the next day and it’s only a matter of time before the media are clamouring to find out the identity of Johnny’s long-lost daughter. Summer may be over, but Jessie’s story is just beginning…

Book review: Masquerade by Joanna Taylor

3 Aug

9780349407289 (1)1786: Regency London. Everyone is hiding something. But someone is hiding everything.

Lizzy Ward never meant to end up working the streets of Piccadilly. So when a mysterious noble pursues her, it seems her luck is changing. But though Lord Hays offers to grow Lizzy’s fortunes, his price is unexpected. She must masquerade in the sumptuous gowns and social mask of a true lady.

With the stakes so high, love is out of the question. But as Lizzy navigates the fashion and faux-pas of the London elite, she finds her tough facade failing her. Lord Hayes wants to show her that nobility is more than skin deep . . . and as the connection between them grows, it’s no longer certain who’s wearing the mask. As the street-girl and the lord collide, Regency London is poised for scandal . . .

Masquerade is the first novel by Joanna Taylor that I’ve read but I’m sure it won’t be the last! Combining the fabulous settings of Regency London with a plot inspired by one of my favourite films (Pretty Woman), Joanna takes us on a whirlwind romantic adventure that had me captivated. Although the story is clearly inspired by the film and follows the basic plot; the setting, scenes and characters are sufficiently different to keep the reader guessing as to what exactly will happen next and I loved how the romance between Lizzy and Lord Hays developed.

Leading lady Lizzy has fallen on hard times and finds herself working the streets of Piccadilly and barely earning enough to survive. A chance encounter with the wealthy and extremely eligible Lord Hays results in Lizzie being taken into his employment to be his companion for a week while he is in London on business. As Lizzie pretends to be a distant relative she causes quite a stir in polite society and I enjoyed the humour and wit that Joanna gave Lizzy.

As well as her wicked sense of humour and ready ability to rebuff a put down, Lizzie is portrayed as intelligent, caring and beautiful. Lord Hays (Edward) is initially detached and businesslike but Lizzie soon begins to draw him out and I thought Joanna did a great job of developing both characters with some lovely surprises along the way.

The novel is narrated by Lizzie so we get to experience her discovery of the wealthy society life in London first hand and I loved the descriptions of wonderful dresses, jewels and places. The descriptions of Regency London are vivid and I enjoyed the variety of scenes and events that Joanna worked into the book from an amazing Masquerade Ball to a romantic walk in Vauxhall Gardens and a riot at the Exchange, Masquerade has great pace and I found it a quick and entertaining read.

It’s not all plain sailing for Lizzie and Edward though and there are a number of thoroughly unlikable characters in the book who scheme to set the couple apart and put Lizzie back in her place. Taylor kept me guessing right to the end as to  how the story would play out and I thought the final scenes were perfect. Fans of historical romance and authors such as Julia Quinn and Eloisa James should definitely check this out!

4/5

Masquerade is published on 6th August in paperback and ebook formats by Piatkus.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.