Tag Archives: summer reads

Book review: Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby

6 Jun

pieces of happinessI’ve planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset . Why don’t you join me? Leave behind everything that didn’t work out!

When recently-widowed Kat writes to her four old school friends, inviting them to live with her on a cocoa plantation in the South Pacific, they swap icy pavements and TV dinners for a tropical breeze and an azure-blue ocean. Leaving behind loneliness, dead-end jobs and marriages that have gone sour, they settle into the Women’s House, surrounded by palms and cocoa trees; and locals with the puzzling habit of exploding into laughter for no discernible reason.

Each of the women has her issues to resolve, and secrets to keep. But together the friends find a new purpose, starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness. As they embrace a new culture that views ageing so differently from their own, will they learn to accept and forgive: to discover the value of friendship, and a better way to live?

Pieces of Happiness is a beautiful look at female friendships, growing older and the healing powers of chocolate and sisterhood. I love stories like this and Anne Ostby’s second novel to be published in English is a brilliant example of its kind and sensitively translated. The book has just been released in hardback format with the gorgeously summery cover seen here.

The novel opens with a series of letters from Kat in Fiji to four of her best friends from her schooldays. Now in their sixties, it’s clear that there has been a lot of water under the bridge for the group of friends and Kat’s letters immediately had me intrigued about both author and recipients. The story develops beautifully, moving between past and present to delve into the secrets and worries of Kat’s friends now and how their lives brought them to this point. I loved looking back and meeting Sina, Ingrid, Lisbeth and Maya both now and as their younger selves and finding out what happened to them, seeing how their relationships and friendships changed over the years.

There’s a wonderfully hopeful message about the ability of friendships to endure and grow with you and the book beautifully captures the ability of special female friendships to survive all manner of bad and good weather and still fundamentally stay rooted. Each woman has her own set of worries and issues to address and the individual story lines in the present added interest and covered so many issues that are relevant to us all; getting older, ill health, worries about children, making time for ourselves and living up to our hopes and dreams.

Glamorous Lisbeth  has been living the high life since marrying the catch of the town but as we scratch beneath the surface we see that her fairy-tale is not as happily ever after as it sounds. Maya makes the journey to Fiji with a secret illness to face. Ingrid has had enough of being the sensible one and wants to let her alter ego, the wonderful ‘Wildred’ out and single parent Sina, struggling with her wayward son is broke and not sure how to move forward. Kat has recently lost the love of her life. I was captivated by the drawing together of the group and how their ‘house of women’ developed through the story.

Ostby adds a further layer to the story with shory chapters in the form of prayers from the point of view of her housekeeper Ateca. These chapters were just wonderful and gave a whole new perspective to the story and the characters. I loved being able to see each woman from the viewpoint of an outsider and I thought this technique and the different cultural filter that Ateca sees everything through gave the excellent depth and allowed me as a reader to really get to know the characters.

The descriptions of scenery and Fijian life are luscious, colourful and atmospheric – they made me want to pack my bags and seek out adventure. Regular readers will know that I have a bit of an obsession with the sea and I absolutely loved the descriptions of it in this book.

Sina can hear it. With her face turned towards the sea she can hear Fiji welcoming her. A rush of sand against sand, a rhythm of water and moonlight and promises she can’t decode.”

I highly recommend Pieces of Happiness as a thoughtful and uplifting reading escape this summer whether you’re heading off on holiday or curling up in a nice cosy reading spot at home!

4/5

Pieces of Happiness is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats from Doubleday.

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

Book extract: Island of Secrets by Patricia Wilson

21 May

Today I’m very pleased to share an extract from Patricia Wilson’s new novel, Island of Secrets, with you. After running her own business for twenty years, Patricia took early retirement and moved to the Greek island of Crete. When she dug up a rusted machine gun in her garden, and the inhabitants of her remote mountain village came with local stories of tragedy and triumph, she knew she had to tell their account of what really happened in September 1943, which became Island of Secrets. Patricia now lives on the island of Rhodes where she is researching and writing her second novel.

Island of SecretsThe story started at dawn on the fourteenth of September, 1943 . . .’

All her life, London-born Angelika has been intrigued by her mother’s secret past. Now planning her wedding, she feels she must visit the remote Crete village her mother grew up in.

Angie’s estranged elderly grandmother, Maria, is dying. She welcomes Angie with open arms – it’s time to unburden herself, and tell the story she’ll otherwise take to her grave.

It’s the story of the Nazi occupation of Crete during the Second World War, of horror, of courage and of the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children. And it’s the story of bitter secrets that broke a family apart, and of three enchanting women who come together to heal wounds that have damaged two generations.

Extract 

The village of Amiras stilled, like a theatre waiting for the curtain to rise. Heat shimmered from the cobbled streets. In front of the kafenion, empty chairs stood in haphazard groups between square tables. Outside the closed supermarket, hessian olive sacks hung over boxes of potatoes and vegetables, protecting them from the fierce Mediterranean light.

A herd of long-haired goats shifted into the shadow of the hilltop chapel. For a few seconds, the dull clatter of their bells broke the peace and quiet of siesta time.

In the lower village, a blue door squeaked open and a wide hipped, middle-aged housewife hurried up the narrow streets. From the shade of a vermillion bougainvillea, a skinny white cat sniffed the air, narrowed its eyes and watched the woman.

Inside one cottage, an elderly couple sat as still and silent as the stone walls. A crucifix hung over a garish icon of Saint George. The martyr seemed distracted from his dragon slaying by an object in the livingroom. A chocolate box overflowed with photographs, letters and mementoes in the centre of a low round table.

The old woman, Maria, reached for a faded picture of Poppy cradling her baby. She studied the image and recalled Poppy’s last words, still fresh in her ears, although decades had passed.

Forget me, Mama. Forget I ever existed.

A shaft of sunlight streamed through the window illuminating Maria’s scarred hands – an ugly reminder of the fire. It took so much time for those wounds to heal.

Her wizened face hardened with a decision.

‘I will write to them, Vassili,’ she said to her husband sitting by the fireplace. ‘Voula can help me.’ She replaced the picture and closed the box. ‘God’s getting impatient, and I’m tired of it all.’ She crossed herself three times and prayer locked her arthritic fingers.

Vassili nodded as though he understood, but passing years had eroded his grief. He dropped his amber worry beads and hobbled to her side.

‘Don’t waste your thoughts on what’s dead and gone, old woman.’ He kissed her forehead.

Despite his words, scenes from the past returned and filled Maria’s head.

‘I can’t forget,’ she whispered, staring at ghosts that crowded into the whitewashed room.

Vassili followed her gaze, unable to see those who haunted her.

Recognising his confusion, Maria wished the spores of old age would moulder her mind too. Regrets were useless now. The time had come for forgiveness and, before she died, Maria hoped to touch the cheek of Poppy’s child.

‘Angelika has a right to know the truth, old man, she’s our granddaughter.’

‘Mama, Papa, your dinner’s here.’ Voula crashed through the doorway, the multi-coloured fly curtain whipping around her faded black dress. She gripped a casserole pot against her belly and grinned, her face a friendly gargoyle.

‘No need to shout, Voula, we’re not deaf,’ Maria said.

Vassili cupped a hand behind his ear. ‘Eh, what’s that? Ah, the food. No chance of any meat I suppose? I’ll be glad when Lent’s over. I can smell the lamb already.’ He shuffled to the kitchen table.

‘Only a few more days until Easter, Papa. I’ve made stuffed peppers. Will you have a glass of Demitri’s wine?’ Voula clattered the dishes and then helped Maria out of the armchair. ‘Anything else?’ she asked, pouring cloudy red krasí into tumblers before serving their meals.

Maria cut open a green pepper, hunched over her plate and sniffed the food.

Voula stopped bustling and watched Maria taste the rice stuffing flavoured with herbs, currants, and pine nuts. When she approved with a nod, Voula took a breath and smiled.

‘I want to write to Poppy and Angelika,’ Maria said flatly.

Voula’s eyes widened. She glanced around the table top and then at Vassili who guzzled his food. ‘Are you sure, Mama?’ She lowered her voice to a whisper. ‘What if it starts up again, the trouble, after all these years? Isn’t it better to forget? We can’t bring back the dead.’

‘No,’ Maria said, her face drawn and thin above the mound of colourful vegetables. ‘I’ve decided.’

***

The next day, Voula asked, ‘How do you want to start the letter, Mama?’ Her pencil poised over a child’s exercise book.

Maria grunted. ‘I’ve thought about it for hours. The beginning is the most difficult part. If it’s not perfect, they’ll screw it up and throw it away. We’ve got one chance at this, Voula. We should address the envelope to Angelika and put both letters in it. Otherwise, I fear her mother might tear it up unopened. Now, let’s see, how shall we begin?’

‘I know, what about: Dear Angelika?’

Maria rolled her eyes. She wondered if her daughter-in-law had lost more of her marbles in sixty-five years than Maria had in ninety. ‘Yes, very good, Voula,’ she snorted. ‘And then?’

Voula lifted and dropped her shoulders, which made her breasts quiver against her belly.

‘Write this then,’ Maria said. ‘I have wanted to send you a letter for a long time. I hoped to see you before I die, but I realise our meeting is unlikely.’

‘Mama!’

‘Oh, face the facts, Voula; I’m on my way out. Let’s get on with the letter before the Angel Gabriel replaces you as my personal assistant.’

Voula scratched her lip and nodded.

‘Now, write this, Voula: Angelika, please tell your mother I have never stopped loving her. Put your arms around her and kiss her from me. Poppy is in my heart. Say that I am sorry. Truly sorry. If I could have changed things, I would.’

‘Mama, how do we know Angelika reads Greek?’

‘We have to trust Poppy will have taught her. Anyway, we can ask Demitri to translate for us. What shall we write next? Perhaps something about Angelika’s father.’ Maria tilted her head to one side. ‘Yeorgo,’ she sighed. ‘Wasn’t he a beautiful man, Voula?’ Silent for a moment, Maria’s eyes glazed. ‘That’s another difficult part. I wonder if Angelika knows.’

Island of Secrets is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Patricia and her writing at: www.pmwilson.net

Book review: Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson

10 May

9780751565171Jess has decided it’s time to get out of her comfort zone and live a little. So when her best friend Bryony, a journalist on a gossip magazine, is sent to cover the Cannes Film Festival, Jess decides to seize the day and go along for the ride. Two weeks of sun, glamour and exclusive entry into celeb-filled parties is just the kind of adventure Jess needs.

Reality soon bites though when Jess and Bryony find they’re staying in a dingy hotel far away from all the action and Bryony’s expenses budget barely covers a glass of local wine. Undeterred, the two women are determined to live like the elite and enjoy one fancy night out to begin their holiday. So what if they have to tell a few white lies along the way? It’s just this once. No harm done . . . right?

Are you looking for a little escape? Well, I have the perfect escape right here for you – and you don’t even have to move to enjoy it! Lisa Dickenson’s sunny new novel, Catch Me If You Cannes has just been released in paperback format. The novel was originally released as a four part serial in ebook format and has now been packaged up with this fab summery cover, just in time for some holiday reading!

Last summer Lisa took us to Italy with You Had Me At Merlot and this year we’re heading to the South of France with Jess and Bryony for a fun and funny adventure at the Cannes Film Festival. With two fabulously funny leading ladies, a potential love interest (or two) and is buckets of quick wit and spur of the moment adventure this book is so much fun!

Lisa is great at creating characters that will make you laugh but also have more than just fun banter going on underneath and as I read this book and learned a little of each girl’s history, I took them both to my heart.  Jess runs a cafe in Cornwall and is taking the opportunity to escape some of the worries that have been preoccupying her lately by escaping for a holiday with her best friend.

Bryony is more than happy to have her friend along for the ride as she sets out to report on the film festival for the gossip mag that she works for whilst dreaming of the day that she’ll be taken seriously as a journalist. From horrible bosses, feeling stuck in a rut, dealing with failed romances and wondering what the future holds, Lisa hits on issues all readers will identify with whilst keeping the story light and making us laugh.

As the girls seize the chance to live a glamerous life of cocktails, parties and beautiful places and people for just a night or two they are forced to throw in a few little white lies. As the fibs build, Jess and Bryony find themselves caught in a number of tricky situations that I had no idea how the were going to get out of and kept me turning the pages as fast as I could.

The descriptions of Cannes and the surrounding areas made me wish I could go there and a visit to the playground of the rich and famous, Monaco also features. As a reader who loves travel and discovering new places, I really enjoyed the descriptions of beautiful new places. As Jess gets to know hunky love interest Leo, the exotic locations couldn’t provide a better backdrop and combined with a little mystery the story really sparkles and has some excellent twists.

Lisa certainly knows how to write a killer one-liner and Catch Me If You Cannes is full of them – I defy anyone to not smile while reading this book. I loved enjoying sunshine, smiles, glamour and romance with Jess and Bryony at the Cannes Film Festival and the ending of the book was the icing on the cake!

5/5

Catch Me If You Cannes is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

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

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

Book review: The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick

9 May

returning tideTwo sisters and one betrayal that will carry across generations . . .

In wartime Cornwall, 1943, a story between two sisters begins – the story of Adele and Amelia, and the heart-breaking betrayal that will divide them forever. Decades later, the effects of one reckless act still echo – but how long will it be until their past returns?

The Returning Tide is something a little bit new for Liz Fenwick; her first departure into historical fiction. The novel is a time slip set partly in the present and partly during World War Two. It’s also set across two continents with characters from England and America which adds an extra dimension to the puzzle of how past and present are connected.

Liz’s trademark Cornish and coastal settings are of course breathtakingly present and add beautifully to the poignancy of the story with the natural beauty of England’s coast contrasting sharply with the wartime events of the story. I love wartime historical fiction and I was fascinated by the story that Liz uncovers in The Returning Tide having never given much consideration to coastal defences during the war. The story is all the more striking for being partly based on the recollections of one of Liz Fenwick’s relatives.

In the present we meet Lara who journeys to Cornwall from Cape Cod following the death of her beloved grandfather to find out more about her English family connection and solve the mystery of his final word the name ‘Adele’. In Cornwall Peta is preparing for her wedding which will take place in the family home: Windward. As the preparations play out, her grandmother recalls an earlier wedding and the heartbreak it caused her. As she dwells on the events of the past we go back with her to relive them and I was completely swept up in this story which has romance, adventure and drama. Love, heartbreak and family mysteries woven into it. 

Liz has created a complex and varied plot that kept me guessing as to exactly what had happened between twins Adele and Amelia. Told partly in letters between the two, Liz writes with emotion and I felt like I really was reading history. I part read and part listened to the audio version of this book and it is as beautifully narrated in the audio version as it is written. I do hope Liz decides to write more historical fiction as these were my favourite parts of the book. As past and present come together there is both regret and hope in this bittersweet story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading as the actions of the past and the full truth were finally revealed.

4/5

The Returning Tide is out now in paperback, audio and ebook formats from Orion.

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

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

 

 

Author interview: Fiona Harper

7 May

I’m delighted to welcome Fiona Harper to One More Page today to talk about the inspiration for her latest novel, The Other Us. Fiona’s first book was published in 2006 and The Other Us is her twenty-fifth novel. She started her career writing heartfelt but humorous romances for Mills & Boon, but now writes romantic comedies and feel-good women’s fiction for Harper Collins, as part of their HQ imprint.

She is a previous winner of the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Scheme Award, has had five books shortlisted for an RNA Award and won the ‘Best Short Romance’ at the Festival of Romance three years’ running. Fiona lives in London with her husband and two teenage daughters. Welcome Fiona!

Fiona HarperWhat was your inspiration for writing The Other Us?

I first had the idea for this book more than a decade ago – a seedling of an idea about following one woman through different possible futures to see if the grass really was greener on the other side of the fence. It rumbled around in my head for all that time until finally I just had to write it! It was so long ago, I can’t remember exactly what sparked it, but maybe a moment of personal reflection when I was wondering what my life would be like if I’d made different choices.

This is your 25th book, does it become easier or harder to think of plots?

Funnily enough, I think it’s easier now than it used to be. I think I’ve trained myself not only to have my story radar switched on, searching for little interesting nuggets to store away for later use. (That makes me sound a bit like a story ‘squirrel’ and I suppose I am!) Also, I have learned to write these snippets of ideas down. I always think I’ll remember them, but I discovered that they can easily flit away and be forgotten – a bit like a dream that was clear just after waking but fades throughout the day.

How did the idea for this book develop?

Initially, I had decided to just watch Maggie, my main character, in three different lives with three different men and see how each turned out, but I felt that maybe three realities would get confusing, so I whittled it down to two. As I was developing it to show my editor, I decided it might be interesting to send forty-something Maggie back in time, and then I thought it would be a funny opening scene if, when that happened, she thought she’d died and gone to heaven. Somehow, from that I arrived at the idea of letting her be fully conscious of her hopping between the two lives, rather than just seeing how the two realities would have played out.

What have you learnt from writing 25 books?

I’ve learnt loads, but these are the top three important things:

  1. That I need to write even when I don’t feel like it, and that the first ten minutes of making myself sit in the chair and type will be like wading through porridge, but if I keep going suddenly the creative urge will kick in and the words will start to flow.
  2. That about 25% of the way through I will get stuck and that when I reach the halfway point I will think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written and that I should flush it down the toilet. However, I know now I hit these stumbling blocks in every single book and that I should ignore those thoughts and just keep writing.
  3. That each book is different and that I learn something new about writing with each one – wish I’d kept a note of exactly what, though, because sometimes that would come in really handy!

Thank you Fiona!

The Other Us is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

The Other UsIf you could turn back time, would you choose a different life?

Forty-something Maggie is struggling to come to terms with her only child flying the nest. Without her daughter in the house, she’s beginning to realise that her life, and her marriage to her husband Dan is more than a little stale.

When she sees a post on Facebook about a university reunion, her mind wanders back to Jude Hanson – a brief university fling. The same night that Dan proposed, Jude asked Maggie to run away with him. How different might her life have been if she had broken Dan’s heart and taken Jude up on his offer?

One morning, the fantasy turns into a reality and Maggie wakes up in 1992, aged twenty-one and given the chance to make all those decisions again. 

Is Maggie brave enough to choose the future she really wants, and if she is, will the grass be any greener on the other side of the fence?

Two men and two very different possible futures. But does Maggie only have one chance at happiness?

Find out more about Fiona and her writing at: http://www.fionaharper.com/home

Follow Fiona on Twitter @FiHarper_Author

Book review: The Hourglass by Tracy Rees

5 May

hourglass2014. Nora has always taken success for granted, until suddenly her life begins to fall apart. Troubled by anxiety and nightmares, she finds herself drawn to the sweeping beaches of Tenby, a place she’s only been once before. Together with a local girl she rents a beautiful townhouse and slowly begins to settle in to her new life. But Tenby hides a secret, and Nora will soon discover that this little town by the sea has the power to heal even the most painful memories.

1950. Chloe visits Tenby every summer. She stays with relatives, and spends the long, idyllic days on the beach. Every year is the same, until she meets a glamorous older boy and is instantly smitten. But on the night of their first date, Chloe comes to a realisation, the aftermath of which could haunt her forever.

The Hourglass is a moving novel about finding love even after it seems too late and the healing power of a magical place by the sea.

I read my first Tracy Rees book, Florence Gracelast year and absolutely loved it so I was very excited to be sent a copy of Tracy’s new novel, The Hourglass. Tracy’s two previous books have both been historical novels so The Hourglass is a little bit of a new direction as it’s set partly in the present (2014) and partly in the 1950s. I wondered how Tracy’s writing would move to the timeslip format and I have to say she’s aced it!

Tracy has a wonderful way of making you feel that you’re ‘there’ in her writing, whether ‘there’ is a desolate moor in the 1700s or a sunny beach in 1950s and I was completely swept up in her descriptions of Tenby in the 1950s and today. The Hourglass follows the stories of Chloe and Nora. Chloe is Welsh a teenager who visits her Auntie Susan in Tenby for three weeks every summer starting when she’s ten.

Rees perfectly captures the excitement of a summer seaside holiday from a bygone era and I loved following each summer Chloe as she grew up, went to the much coveted ‘Tenby Teens’ dances and spent long happy days exploring with her best friend Llew. Tracey evokes an era of Famous Five style adventures and I couldn’t get enough of these parts of the book.

In contrast, Nora as we meet her is very unhappy. She’s just about to turn 40 and is very successful at her job as an administrator for the history department of a big London University, has recently dumped her boyfriend and is suffering from severe anxiety attacks. Her free-spirited mother Jasmine thinks she’s having some sort of mid-life crisis and for the first time their close relationship begins to falter. Nora finds herself wishing for open beaches and space and finds herself drawn to Tenby, a place that she visited once as a child.

I could identify so much with Nora; for me, turning forty earlier in the year has made me evaluate where I am in life and where I’m going! My life is very different to Nora’s but I loved that Tracy captured that sense of a turning point in a book and coincidentally captured my own desire to live by the sea (which has been stronger than every this year) rather than to remain in London forever!

As regular readers will know, I love books set by the sea and especially the British seaside so the setting for this book ticked all the boxes for me and I enjoyed how Tracy captured the wonderful sense of calm that can come with being at the coast. As Nora begins her own adventure in Tenby, the story moves back and forth between her story and Chloe’s and links begin to emerge. The Hourglass is very cleverly written to drip feed clues to the linkages between the stories as the novel progresses and I was absolutely hooked!

As with all good books, on the one hand I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Chloe all those years ago and what would happen to Nora in the present but I also didn’t want the story to end! I said in my review of Florence Grace that the book had a philosophical air to it and was peppered with timeless and insightful advice and the same is true of The Hourglass.

The Hourglass has gone straight onto my list of favourite books of 2017 and I can’t wait for more from Tracy!

5/5

The Hourglass is out now in  paperback, ebook and audio formats from Quercus.

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

Book review: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

18 Apr

paper hearts cover

Christie Chapman is a single working mother who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn.

It can be tough just getting through the day but Christie has always found comfort in her love of crafting and any spare time she has is spent in her parents’ summerhouse working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed birthday cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking. 

All of a sudden Christie sees a different future for her and Finn – one full of hope and possibility, and if the handsome Max Alexander is to be believed, one full of love too. It’s all there for the taking.
And then, all of sudden, Christie’s world is turned upside down.

Christie knows that something has to give, but what will she choose? Will she give up her dreams and the chance of real love? What price will she pay for doing the right thing? Can Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I’ve read a number of Carole Matthews’ books over the years and they are always lovely, heartwarming reads but Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is, for me, Carole’s best book yet. It has all the characteristics that I love in a good story; realistic characters that I could root for, a leading lady that I could identify with, lovely family relationships, emotional ups and downs and of course, a little romance. Not to mention the crafting – I loved learning about paper craft from Christie’s story and crafting fans will definitely enjoy this book.

Christie endeared herself to me straight away and I liked her more the more I read. She’s a single mum to fifteen year old Finn and the pair have a very close bond which was a joy to read. I loved that Christie is around the same age as me and as she did the dreaded commute into London each day, there was a lot that I could identify with. Christie has a great sense of humour as she tries to keep on top of holding down a full time job at a city law firm and caring for Finn who has been having some health problems and I admired her determination. Carole has based the character on her real life friend ‘Christine’ and her love and admiration for her and her son shines through on the pages.

Christie’s support network is wonderful and she has a brilliant relationship with her parents who live nearby. It was so lovely to read a story with such a positive emphasis on family – I wanted to move in with Christie’s Mum and Dad as I read! As Christie gets the opportunity to take her craft hobby to the next level by working with an American company, her family and friends rally round to support her – her law firm boss Robyn is another brilliantly written character who got a big thumbs up from me.

But just as things begin to look up, there’s more bad news on the way and this book certainly played with my emotions – it was only too easy to put myself in Christie’s shoes and to think how I’d feel if one of my sons was in Finn’s situation. I was on the edge of my seat rooting for both Finn and Christie to have the happy ending they deserved.

In addition to the family drama, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses has a wonderful romantic thread to it too as Christie meets handsome American CEO Max and her fellow commuter Henry and they both show an interest in her. I loved Christie for staying true to herself as both men vied for her attention and Carole conjures up some seriously romantic ‘dates’ in very glamorous locations whilst keeping the reader guessing!

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is a fab and inspiring read about weathering the many ups and downs that life can throw at us – a lovely uplifting read that left me with a smile on my face.

5/5

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Sphere.

Check out Carole’s fab website for more information on her books and the background to this story: http://www.carolematthews.com/

Please do check out the other stops on the blog tour and stop by here again later today for the chance to win a copy of this lovely book!

Guest post: My out-of-the-box son, Giliam Johan by Elsa Winckler

30 Mar

Today I’m very excited to be the first host of Elsa Winckler’s blog tour for her new novel, The Whisperer. Elsa has been reading love stories for as long as she can remember and when she ‘met’ the classic authors like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James and The Brontë sisters during her Honours studies, she was hooked for life.

Elsa married her college boyfriend and soul mate and after forty-one years, three interesting and wonderful children and three beautiful grandchildren, he still makes her weak in the knees. They are fortunate to live in the picturesque little seaside village of Betty’s Bay, South Africa, with the ocean a block away and a beautiful mountain right behind them. The Whisperer is Elsa’s debut novel for HarperImpulse – welcome Elsa!

11050805_958380304240339_6859404579255618787_o (1)I have dedicated this story to our second son, Giliam Johan. He was the one who taught me to think outside the box.

Our oldest son was a text book baby. At the time I had a baby book I consulted whenever I had a problem with him and whatever advice I got, worked. So I thought, hey, I can do this again, let’s have another baby. So two years later, Johan arrived. And nothing in any of the many, many baby books that I read, helped. What worked for number one, simply didn’t work for him.

Johan was a curious, busy, creative little boy. In grade one he was chosen to play Spick, a naughty kid who lives on the moon. And when he walked on to that primary school stage, something magical happened. That was what he was suppose to do for the rest of his life, I knew.

As a teenager, he caused me many a sleepless night. And that curiosity I mentioned? Well, he was curious about just about everything. He challenged our ideas of how things were supposed to be and we had many, many stand-up fights.

He has a heart for the marginalized, for anyone who differs from the rest. He doesn’t see colour, size or position, he treats everyone the same. We finally came to accept he does things differently, because in Thoreau’s words, he hears a different drummer. And it took me a long while ‘to let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.’

And when I finally stopped trying to get him to fit into a box, I was able to learn from him. And one of the things knowing him taught me was that we cannot explain everything, some things just are. And talking about doing things differently, at the moment he teaches English in China. I would have liked for him to be closer, to get that big role he dreamt about when he was little, but he’s doing his own thing in his own way. Outside the box.

Not everyone will believe in Cilla’s intuition, in her ability to communicate with animals. Cameron struggled with it but when he opened himself up, when he finally listened to his instinct, he was able to let go of his fears.

So I hope you can let go of your ideas of how things are supposed to work, and enjoy Cilla and Camerons’ story!

The Whisperer is out now in ebook formats from HarperImpulse

Winckler_Whisperer_EbookLoving him could destroy her…
High school teacher Cilla Stevens has always been different, especially in how she connects with animals. When she calms a stray dog during an incident at school, she’s asked to help a nearby farm with a difficult horse.Cameron Rahl has had a very different relationship with animals since his mother died in a horse riding accident. But now he’s inherited his family’s farm, he’s determined to never let anyone affect him that way again.Until he meets Cilla. He tries to stay away from the gorgeous horse whisperer with the potential to tame him, but something keeps pulling him close. And as much as Cilla tells herself she can keep it casual, she knows they’re too connected to be ‘just a fling.’Will Cilla’s heart win out? Or will it take history repeating itself for Cameron to realise just how much he needs her?

Find out more about Elsa and her writing at: http://elsawinckler.com/

Exclusive cover reveal! Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson

18 Jan

I’m a HUGE fan of Lisa Dickenson’s laugh out loud rom-coms so I was VERY excited to be asked if I’d like to reveal the gorgeous new cover for the paperback release of Catch Me If You Cannes. Of course I said yes so here without further ado is the beautifully sunny new cover for this fabulous book which will be published by Sphere on 4th May!

Cannes

 

WARNING: reading Catch Me If You Cannes may result in embarrassing outbursts of belly-aching laughter on public transport. Romantic, funny and full of Cannes Film Festival magic, it’s perfect for fans of Giovanna Fletcher, Paige Toon and  Mhairi McFarlane.

Jess has decided it’s time to get out of her comfort zone and live a little. So when her best friend Bryony, a journalist on a gossip magazine, is sent to cover the Cannes Film Festival, Jess decides to seize the day and go along for the ride. Two weeks of sun, glamour and exclusive entry into celeb-filled parties is just the kind of adventure Jess needs.

Reality soon bites though when Jess and Bryony find they’re staying in a dingy hotel far away from all the action and Bryony’s expenses budget barely covers a glass of local wine. Undeterred, the two women are determined to live like the elite and enjoy one fancy night out to begin their holiday. So what if they have to tell a few white lies along the way? It’s just this once. No harm done . . . right?

Full of hilarious one-liners, sparkling blue seas and plenty of romantic moments, Catch Me If You Cannes is the story of two friends, a few white lies and one very sticky situation . . .

lisa dickensonLisa Dickenson is the pseudonym for Beyoncé. OK, FINE, THAT’S NOT TRUE.

Lisa lives by the Devon seaside, stuffing cream teas in the gobs of anyone who comes to visit, and writing stuff down that she hopes is funny.  Her first novel was the copyright-infringing Sweet Valley Twins: The Twins Holiday Horror, which she wrote in primary school and gave up on after five pages. Twenty-ish years later Lisa went on to be a *real author* and wrote the Novelicious Debut of the Year, The Twelve Dates of Christmas. In summer 2016 out popped You Had Me at Merlot, and in winter 2016 she released the fabulous Mistletoe on 34th Street. Catch Me if You Cannes will be her fourth book available in paperback.

Chat to Lisa (and tell her how much you love her new cover!) at:

www.lisadickenson.com
Twitter @LisaWritesStuff
Facebook /LisaWritesStuff
Instagram lisawritesstuff

Book review: Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

11 Jan

meet me at beachcomber bayLove is in the air in St Carys, but you’d never know it – the people of this seaside town are very good at keeping secrets…

The man Clemency loves belongs to someone else. She has to hide her true feelings – but when she ropes in an unsuspecting friend to help, wires start to get crossed.

For the first time in Ronan’s life his charm has failed him in winning over the woman he wants. Loving her from afar appears to be his only option.

Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right. And now a long-buried secret is slowly rising to the surface.

The truth has a funny way of revealing itself, and when it does St Carys will be a very different place indeed…

Meet me at Beachcomber Bay is my favourite of Jill Mansell’s novels to date. As regular readers will know, I do LOVE a seaside set novel and Beachcomber Bay gets top marks for a sunny seaside read with romance, heartwarming storylines and lovely characters. The only downside of reading a book like this as I sat on a crowded commuter train in rainy London is that it made me want to give it all up and move to the seaside even more than usual!

Clemency and Belle are stepsisters and are basically chalk and cheese. Clem is the type of character that I’d like to be friends with – the opening scenes with Clem at the airport gift shop and then on a plane home to England, show her personality very well and I couldn’t help but smile as I read. A brief but ultimately doomed connection with a handsome stranger leaves Clem feeling more than a little annoyed but I loved that in the first few chapters Jill clearly demonstrates that Clem does not suffer fools gladly!

The story then skips forward three years to find Clem living back in her hometown of St Carys in Cornwall. Now I’ve read many books in recent years set in Cornish seaside towns and I constantly marvel at the ability of authors to come up with something unique and new. But Jill Mansell has certainly done that and as I met Clem’s fellow estate agent Ronan, postwoman Kate and artist Marina, I couldn’t help fall in love with St Carys and its community. Jill’s characters are so believable and I was soon caught up in the different story lines involving them. When Bell flies (literally) into town, the tension moves up a notch as her rich new boyfriend looks for a place to live and sets off a life-changing turn of events for Clem and her friends.

As much as this is Clem and Belle’s story it’s also Ronan, Marina, Sam and Kate’s stories and for once in a novel I actually liked all of the leading characters – even Belle who took a little while to grow on me! Jill really shows her experience in crafting a story that will keep the reader guessing and I loved that the surprises just kept coming. No spoilers here but I will say that I could not have predicted the endings and I spent a large part of the book wondering if the characters that I wanted to end up together would actually do that!

Beachcomber Bay is just the sort of feelgood read that you need at this time of year to chase away the January blues. I’ve just one thing left to add – Jill,  please can we have a follow up?!

5/5

Meet me at Beachcomber Bay is released on 12th January in hardback, ebook and audio formats by Headline.

Find out more about Jill Mansell and her novels at: http://jillmansell.co.uk/