Book Review: New Beginnings at Wynter House by Emily Harvale

The New Year brings unexpected revelations at Wynter House.

Neva Grey’s Christmas brought several surprises. Now a shocking secret has life-changing consequences for the Wynters, as the New Year brings revelations … and relatives to Wynter House.

It also brings Hazel Smart and Amelia Goodbody. And it’s not just Adam and Rafe Wynter who are pleased Hazel and Amelia have come to stay. Olivia Wynter will enjoy bossing nurse Hazel around and she also makes it clear Amelia – who is handling the marketing for Rafe’s new business venture – is far more suited to be her grandson’s girlfriend than Neva will ever be.

Whilst Amelia is ensconced at Wynter House, Neva is busy with her new hair and beauty salon in Merriment Bay. Perhaps she should enlist her niece, Sasha’s help because just when she thought she had found the love of her life, old secrets, ghosts from the past, and new arrivals might shatter all her dreams.

At least she has her best friend, Jo Duncan to lean on. But newly single, Jo is determined to have some fun, both at Wynter House and in Merriment Bay. And so is Adam Wynter.

This is book two in the Wyntersleap series but it can be read as a standalone. The Wyntersleap series is interlinked with the Merriment Bay series and several characters appear in both series.

I have fast become a fan of Emily Harvale and was excited to be a part of the New Beginnings at Wynter House blog tour.

Neva Grey’s Christmas was eventful and romantic. She and Rafé Wynter are enjoying their first week as a new couple and are very much in love. Rafé and Adam are looking to launch a new business and not only is Neva opening a new hair salon with her best friend, Jo, her parents are also moving to Merriment Bay.

Unforeseen challenges are not far away though.

The new year sees the return of Amelia Goodbody back to Wynter House and a new face, Hazel Smart.

A shocking family secret will soon be revealed that will change everything.

The cover to this book is so beautiful. I have fallen so in love with Merriment Bay. The setting is one of my favourite things about this novel. I want to move there. I love how all the books are connected by setting and people.

New Beginnings at Wynter house is full of endearing characters. I love Neva and Rafé and I especially like them together. As a reader, I became quite protective of them quite quickly so, like Neva, Amelia’s arrival set me on edge.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Wrong Number

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s Prompt: Wrong Number….

You are at home, it’s the weekend and after a long week, you want to rest.

Your phone pings, indicating a message.

Absent-mindedly, you look at the message and you have to read it a couple of times in order to take it in.

‘You’ve not answered my question. The clock is ticking.’

You stare at your phone, not sure what to do.

Another message arrives…

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Book Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’ Leary

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

Tiffy and Leon share a flat and a bed. But they have never met.

When Tiffy finds herself in need of a flat, Leon’s ad seems too good to be true. When she moves in, she still hasn’t met Leon.

They begin a relationship through notes left in the flat but with ex boyfriends and demanding jobs, the rule book for flat sharing may not fully apply.

I found it fascinating that the two main characters don’t immediately meet. My husband and I went through a stage when we were on opposite shifts so didn’t see each other for a few days at a time but there was evidence of the other’s existence in the house. We would also leave notes too, mostly saying that the cats are lying and they have been fed but I related to Tiffy and Leon’s relationship because of this. The idea you can forge a relationship using post it notes is one of the things I found the most interesting about this book.

Tiffy is my hero. She’s not perfect. She doesn’t always do the right thing or make the right decisions but throughout, I loved her and hoped that, in the end, she would trust the people who loved her and most importantly, herself in making the best decisions for her and realising that she deserves more.

The supporting characters are terrific. Everyone needs friends like Gertie, Mo and Rachel. The one exception is Justin. He is up there in my hall of fame of villains and could give Uriah Heep a run for his money.

I personally loved the style of writing. There was a casualness to how it was set up that suited the characters. I would say that Tiffy is the extrovert but Leon is quieter and more cautious. This comes across well in the dialogue and style of writing.

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Book Review: The Liar’s Daughter by Claire Allan

No one deserves to be taken before their time. Do they?

Joe McKee – pillar of the Derry community – is dead. As arrangements are made for the traditional Irish wake, friends and family are left reeling at how cancer could have taken this much-loved man so soon.

But grief is the last thing that Joe’s daughter Ciara and step-daughter Heidi feel. For they knew the real Joe – the man who was supposed to protect them and did anything but.

As the mourners gather, the police do too, with doubt being cast over whether Joe’s death was due to natural causes. Because the lies that Joe told won’t be taken to the grave after all – and the truth gives his daughters the best possible motive for killing him…

Joe McKee is popular in his Derry community. He is also dead.

Arrangements are being made for his traditional funeral. He is being remembered as a nice man and the grief is felt strongly amongst friends and family.

For his daughter, Ciara and his step daughter, Heidi however, there is a whole different set of feelings. They both hold a secret that could pull the whole family apart.

Not long after Joe’s death, the police arrive. They don’t believe Joe’s terminal cancer killed him.

The horrible truth will emerge and the people with the strongest motive to kill him… are his daughters.

The Liar’s Daughter is told from the point of view of Joe, Heidi and Ciara. I found the structure of this novel compelling. I loved how it was told in both the present with flashback chapters to the past. It really gave the plot a chance to develop whilst keeping a terrific pace and a sense of suspense and building tension.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Point of View

Today’s exercise is changing POV for your character. 

I am quite excited about today’s exercise and I think it’s great to flip the WIP on its head.

Using your current work, pick a passage featuring your main character. If you’d rather pick a character from your favourite novel, please do.

Now, change the point of view. For example, if you’ve written in first person, re-write in third person and vice versa.

If you wanted, you could also re-write from a secondary character’s point of view.

How did you find it? Did it inspire you to add more to the story and to see another aspect?

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Book Review: Taking a Chance on Love by Erin Green

One question can change everything.

Meet Carmen, Polly and Dana – all happy and successful women, with very different views on relationships.

Carmen has made a life with Elliot for the past eight years. She’s ready for the next step but a proposal seems to be as far away as ever.

Polly is devoted to her family. But after her parents’ bitter divorce, she’s wary of marriage – even after sharing twenty years and one son with Fraser.

Single mother Dana longs for companionship, despite her dedication to raising her son Luke. Finding the right person to bring into their lives feels impossible – until a unique way to select a potential Mr Right comes along.

With 29th February fast approaching, will they each take the chance this Leap Year to take control of their fates?

The perfect feel-good book for a Leap-Year; albeit, with a twist.

This is the tale of three women, Carmen, Polly and Dana, all with different expectations on their relationships with their men.

We are taken on a roller-coaster of a ride with all having to endure unexpected complications along their journeys.

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NK Chats To… Helen Taylor

Hello Helen, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, Why Women Read Fiction and what inspired you to write it? 

I have always been fascinated by the fact that the main readers of novels and short stories are women.  Currently we buy (and also borrow) about 80% of all fiction.  Women are the vast majority of members of book clubs, attendees at literary festivals, visitors to libraries and bookshops, and organisers of days out to literary heritage sites like the Brontës’ Haworth Parsonage. Many years ago, I wrote a book about Gone With the Wind, and more recently a Daphne du Maurier Companion, and while researching both these, I was struck by how many women told me of their passion for both writers and their books, and how profoundly they had wrapped words, scenes, characters and settings into their hearts and their own life stories.

They had even called their daughters, dogs and cats after the protagonists (Scarlett, Rhett, Rebecca). So I set out to ask what it is about reading fiction that appeals to women – and I found it offers escape, a special space just for us (‘me-time’), and the opportunity to spread our wings intellectually and emotionally. It helps us through the night, and gives us insights into our relationships and families, as well as the world beyond. Jackie Kay suggests ‘our lives are mapped by books’.

 

Fiction is important to so many people (including me.) Which fictional novel has made the most impact on you and why?

At different stages of my life, particular books have resonated.  As a girl, I wanted to be like awkward, unconventional and ambitious Jo March in Little Women.  As a young student, George Eliot’s Middlemarch taught me about social and intellectual pretentiousness, and warned me never to marry an emotionally stunted man.

As a middle-aged and older woman, I’ve learned about worlds very different from my own through writers such as Ralph Ellison, Eudora Welty and Hilary Mantel. Toni Morrison’s Beloved about American slavery is the most devastating novel I’ve ever read, and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is very dear to my heart because set in a special place of mine, Louisiana.

 

What were the challenges you faced when writing When Women Read Fiction?

I decided to send out questionnaires to women about their reading, and to interview women writers too.  The enthusiasm with which over 400 women responded to my questions and the wonderful material they provided me with, were very humbling, and I had to try to do justice to it all.  Women love to tell you about what reading fiction means to them – ‘a lifeline,’ ‘my best friend,’ ‘the love of my life’ – and all the ways they have found it helped them in sorrow, joy, sickness and health.

Women writers are very aware of their responsibility to, and friendly relationship with women readers, though they gave me angry accounts of being ‘Little Womaned’, as Hilary Mantel put it – reviewed, paid and valued less than male fiction writers.

 

What’s your writing day like and what do you need around you? For example, coffee, tea, music, silence?

Alas, I’m not an early riser, but when I get going (after many cups of good English Breakfast tea) I like to write to music – Joni Mitchell, Kate Rusby, Mozart, Leonard Cohen)- but when I REALLY get going and the writing is flowing, I work in silence.  Those are the most productive and precious times.

 

What’s the first thing you do when starting a new project? What comes next?

I am a slow burn writer. I was commissioned to write a BFI book about the film of Gone With the Wind and I finished it in three months, but usually it takes me years to shape an idea and produce a book.

I had the germ of an idea for Why Women Read Fiction thirty years ago, but I worked on it seriously for about five years. I think it’s a better book for taking so much time.

 

How do you approach the editing process?

Editing is my favourite process of all.  I find research and first drafts time-consuming and difficult, but I love to edit.

Years of teaching students have given me considerable experience here, and I love to spot my own repetitions, clichés, weak phrases and poor arguments – then brutally cut and reshape.  It’s the most creative process.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

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NK Chats To… Nicola K Smith

Hello Nicola, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your debut novel, A Degree of Uncertainty and what inspired the story?

Thank you for inviting me to chat with Novel Kicks, Laura.

A Degree of Uncertainty explores how a Cornish community is being ripped apart by its growing university, with an influx of students upsetting the balance of things and challenging the way life has always been. Some residents — and business people — see it as progress and welcome the expansion. Others feel threatened by the change in dynamics.

Against this backdrop of small town politics, the story is very character driven, exploring love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal. The shifting community pits friends, neighbours and colleagues against each other and reopens old wounds…

 

Do you think character or plot is more important in a story?

I think that’s a little bit like asking which is more important, a bra or knickers… I agree that some books are weighted more in favour of one or the other, but for me, you need both. That doesn’t mean the plot has to be a rip-roaring rampage punctuated with multiple murders and endless twists, but the storyline needs to travel from A to B.

That said, I can really enjoy a book where a deeply plausible character goes on an emotional journey and, in essence, very little happens. But I don’t think the best plot in the world will stand up in the hands of characters in whom readers don’t believe or, worse, don’t care about.

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

One of the two key protagonists is Harry Manchester, a proud Cornishman and successful local businessman who vows to save his beloved community from being overrun by students and ruined by change. Harry is a keen music fan and ex-drummer and he often seeks solace in Queen music, letting the lyrics guide his mood and — in one instance — his actions. So it would have to be Queen’s Greatest Hits. (He also has an incident where his Bohemian Rhapsody ring tone goes off at an untimely moment, but that’s another story…)

 

What was the biggest challenge when writing your first book?

Starting a book is a challenge. I’d had the idea for a while and I began making notes and sketching out characters and plot, but actually writing those first words seemed like a terrifying leap!

I did a ‘Starting to write your novel’ course with the literary agency, Curtis Brown, which gave me the tools to plan and start the book. It also gave me a huge dose of confidence as I was chosen as ‘Most promising student’ on the course, and was rewarded with a one-to-one tutorial with one of the agents. That was a massive shove in the right direction, and the novel began…

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Where do you like to write? Do you prefer silence, do you need coffee?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: The Room

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt: The Room. 

Your character is guided into a room. There are four people already there, sat on two of the three sofas that line the walls.

Your character has never seen these people before…. or have they?

To begin with, no one talks to one another. When conversation begins, things are revealed.

Carry on the story…

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Book Review: Liar Liar by Mel Sherratt

Hello to Mel Sherratt and the blog tour for her latest novel, Liar Liar, released on eBook by Avon on 10th February. 

The truth can be a dangerous thing…

When a young boy falls from a balcony in a block of flats, DS Grace Allendale witnesses the shocking aftermath of the tragic event. But strangely, no one will admit to seeing anything – and the parents will only tell the police that it was an accident.
 
Determined to sort the truth from the lies, Grace is thrown into a case that takes her to the darkest corners of the criminal world – and strikes closer to home than she could have ever imagined…

 

Liar Liar is the third novel in the DS Grace Allendale series.

Grace witnesses the aftermath of a tragic event. A young boy has fallen from the balcony at a block of flats.

No one will admit they saw anything. The parents are saying it was an accident. The evidence says different.

Can Grace find the truth as she’s one again thrown into the darkest corners of the criminal underworld?

Welcome back Mel!

It was so good to be back with Grace. She has become one of my favourite fictional detectives. There is something real about her. I get the feeling that there is so much about her we still don’t know. She has many layers and I look forward to discovering more (please let there be more, Mel.)

This is the third book in the series but it can be read as a standalone. I do recommend the first two books though (Hush Hush and Tick Tock.) They are excellent.

This book deals with some heavy themes, including a crime against a child but it does it with compassion.

The tension builds incredibly well as breadcrumbs are left all the way through the plot to the unseen conclusion.

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Book Review: Make or Break at the Lighthouse B&B by Portia MacIntosh

Hello to Portia MacIntosh and the blog tour for her latest novel, Make or Break at the Lighthouse B&B which is due to be released on eBook by HQ Digital on 14th February. 

Thirty-one-year-old matchmaker Lola James had it all – until she broke her leg at a wedding and discovered that her so-called ‘best friend’ was suddenly too busy to call, her flat had far too many steps, and her boyfriend replaced her quicker than you can say ‘crutches’.

And so she’s back at her parents’ B&B, sleeping in the living room (she can’t get upstairs) and having her hair washed by her mum (she can’t get in the shower).

Freshly single and with a lot of time on her hands, Lola is only too pleased to run into gorgeous Dr Will, an old friend who has definitely improved with age… And then there’s Dean, a divorcé who’s convinced he’s better off alone – no matter how lonely he is.
 
Can Will help mend Lola’s broken heart as well as her leg? Can she help Dean find love? As a wise man once said, sometimes the one for you is right under your nose, all along…

Lola James has the perfect life. She’s a matchmaker for celebrities, has the handsome boyfriend and she’s about to be a bridesmaid to her very glamorous friend.

However, when she breaks her leg, her boyfriend suddenly has better things to do, her friend is angry at Lola for supposedly stealing her wedding thunder and her boss tells her that, with a cast, she is not the right image for the job.

Just like that, she finds herself back in Marran Bay, back in her childhood home – The Lighthouse B&B.

As she re-acquaints herself with childhood friends, she is trying to figure out what to do next. Could a new life and love be closer than she thinks?

I immediately warmed to Lola. She wasn’t like the characters around her at the beginning of the book.

I think we’ve all had moments where we are not sure what to do next and Lola is definitely having one of those moments. I could really empathise with that.

I want to go to Marran Bay. It sounds beautiful. I also love the idea of a B&B attached to a lighthouse. It reminded me of the Portland Bay lighthouse I used to visit as a child.

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Book Extract: When Adam Met Evie by Giulia Skye

A big welcome to Giulia Skye and the blog tour for her new novel, When Adam Met Evie. Giulia has shared an extract with us but first, here’s a little about the book… 

 

When former Olympic Swimmer, Michael Adams—now Canada’s hottest reality TV star— insults his fake showbiz wife on social media, he escapes the ensuing scandal and jumps on the first flight to Australia. Desperate to experience ordinary life again—if only for a few weeks—he becomes “Adam”, just another tourist traveling through the Outback. But with a reward out for his safe return and his fame’s nasty habit of catching up with him when he least expects, he needs a better disguise… and he’s just found it.

Sweet and scruffy British backpacker, Evie Blake, is taking a year out of her busy London life. Tired of lies and liars, she’s looking for adventure to heal her broken heart. So when the hot Canadian she meets at the campground offers to be her travel partner through Western Australia’s wild Kimberley region, she grabs the chance, unaware he’s got the world out looking for him.

He’s just a down-on-his-luck traveler, right?

 

If you want my opinion, it sounds amazing. 

OK, so do you have a cup of tea… biscuits… a comfy chair? Excellent. Keep reading and enjoy. 

 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Extract intro: When Adam first meets Evie

“Adam” is a Canadian celebrity-sportsman on the run from scandal, pretending to be an ordinary tourist on the Australian backpacker trail. Evie is a British backpacker working as a cleaner at the campground she’s been staying at. Adam has just arrived at the campground, very hot and very dirty after a few days on the road…

 

 

EXTRACT:

 

He grabbed his gel and towel, and stepped out of the truck. Man, this heat was intense. The air thick and heavy like soup. He wiped the towel over his sweat-slicked face, desperate for cold water on his skin. But when he reached the shower block, a sign stood in his way.

Closed for cleaning.

No frickin’ way.

“Hello?” he called, but when no reply came back, he stepped inside, thinking what the hell? He stripped and stood under the shower, turning the dial full blast toward the blue arrow. He’d be thirty seconds, sixty tops—just long enough to feel something cold on his skin and wash away the three-day grime. By the time the cleaning guy returned, he’d be cooled off, semi-dressed and out.

Only the water wasn’t cold and the cleaning guy not a guy at all.

Adam wiped soapy water from his eyes and focused on the figure standing before him. The cleaning guy was a young woman with huge brown eyes and sun-streaked hair scraped back into a tight knot on the top of her head, just like his favorite aunt Florence used to wear. Except Aunt Flo’s hair was gray and looked like wire, and she’d never before stood outside his shower gawping at his naked penis—unlike this bug-eyed stranger.

“The showers are closed,” the woman said to his bare butt as he whipped around. Her accent was flat and clipped—British—like royalty, though looking over his shoulder he saw nothing regal about her. She was dressed in dark green shorts and a dirty light-blue vest, damp with patches of sweat or water, or both. White earphones dangled around her neck. He turned off the shower.

“Didn’t you notice the bright yellow sign? The cleaning bucket? The distinct lack of shower curtain?”

Well, he’d ignored the sign and bucket, obviously, and throughout his career, he’d been in plenty of changing rooms at top sporting venues around the world all boasting a distinct lack of shower curtain. Okay, they were all a lot nicer than this dump, but he’d never been in a place like this before so how would he know?

“If you’d be so kind as to pass me my towel, I’ll get out of your way.”

She handed it to him, finally lifting her gaze to his face. Her eyes narrowed. He narrowed his own back, already picturing the headlines.

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Book Extract: In Too Deep by Elly Redding

Hello and welcome to Elly Redding and the blog tour for her novel, In Too Deep which was released by Silverwood Books on 3rd February. 

Set in the rolling countryside of Devon, ‘In Too Deep’ is the emotional story of a woman’s determination to win the trust of the man she’s adored since they were thrown together as children, by forcing him to confront the darkness of his long-lost past.

One little lie. A guilty secret. And the man she mustn’t love…

It’s been six years since Isy Forrester left home. In that time, she’s strived to forge a new life for herself in London, away from Jack Mancini, her father’s adopted son, and his devastating betrayal of everything she thought they had.

Only now her father’s in hospital, and the house that’s been in her family for generations is at risk. Forced to return to Devon, she finds Jack as infuriating and stubborn as ever, and just as irresistible. Soon she realises the bright lights of London can’t hold a candle to him.

But Jack has a past, one which he refuses to share with her. And until he can trust her with these deepest secrets, how can she risk her heart? How can she even begin to help him, when he won’t tell her what happened all those years ago – before her father brought him home to Hambledon Hall?

 

Elly has shared an extract from In Too Deep today. Enjoy! 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Jack is waiting for Isy to return from a brief stay in London to Hambledon Hall

‘You’re quiet tonight, my lad,’ Frank said, as Jack stared down at the iPhone in his hand. ‘And checking that constantly isn’t going to bring her back any sooner.’

Jack knew that. Of course, he knew that and part of him wished the damned thing hadn’t been invented. Only he was waiting for a text that hadn’t come. A WhatsApp message to tell him she’d left and was on her way home.

‘It’s almost seven o’clock,’ Frank said, checking his watch. ‘Why don’t you try to phone her and tell her to wait until tomorrow? Then you can go out with your mates, and I won’t have to worry about her driving back in the dark?’

‘I tried,’ he said, trying to shrug it off, as though it was of no consequence. ‘She didn’t pick up.’

‘You’ve got to stop doing this, you know,’ Frank said, leaning towards him. ‘You’ve got to let her go. You did it before. You can do it again.’

Jack wasn’t so sure. She’d been gone two days now and it seemed like forever. ‘I should have told her everything before she left for London the first time. We should have told her everything when you took me in.’

‘She was too young. She wouldn’t have understood.’

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: The Guest Book

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

 

Today’s prompt: The Guest Book.

As your spouse is away on business on the other side of the country, you decide to take a weekend away with a friend, staying at a lovely guest house on the coast. Being an hour away from home, it is still nice to have a change of scenery.

The owner of the guest house asks you to sign the guest book.

Whilst doing so, you scan the names on the page and spot that your spouse checked in… the day before.

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Audiobook Review: The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, you see your husband only one day a week. Thursday. But you don’t care, you love him that much. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself…

And then, one day it all changes.

You thought you were fine with this, with only having a fraction of a husband. But you can’t help yourself, you start to dig. Begin tracking them down, the other days… Who is Monday and why does she have bruises on her arms? Is she being abused? By who? Her husband? Your husband?

What else is he keeping from you?

And who is he, really?

I was delighted to be invited onto the Audio tour for The Wives, the new thriller by Tarryn Fisher.

Thursday only gets to see her husband one day a week. She’s never met her husband’s other wives but she loves her husband. That’s what she’s told herself.

However, Thursday can’t help it. She starts tracking down the other wives. Who is Monday and where did the bruises on her arm come from?

What is her husband keeping from her? Who is he?

Our main character is Thursday, so named because her husband has two other wives and Thursday is the day she gets to see her husband, Seth.

The wives are allowed no communications with each other. That’s the rule.

Curiosity however gets the better of Thursday and her quest to find out more about the other wives sends her down a dark path.

I was lucky enough to be provided with an audio book copy for review and it added an additional aspect to the tension that builds up really well within the novel. Lauren Fortgang narrates this book so well. On the one occasion where I wasn’t able to use the audiobook copy and switched to my kindle, I found myself not reading very far and going back to the audiobook when I could. Lauren and Tarryn’s writing are a great combination.

The atmosphere in this novel is very chilling. I couldn’t figure out where this book was going to go and when I begin, I really couldn’t predict the twists the story was going to take. The plot is unlike any other books I have read in this genre.

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