Book Review: A Convenient Marriage by Jeevani Charika

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding
for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow
their heart?

Will they choose love, or carry on living a lie?

 

Featuring a subject that is obviously close to the heart of the author, ‘A Convenient Marriage’ has, at its centre, two main themes; arranged marriages and a couple of LGBT characters.

Let’s get the wee bit about the story out of the way (for more details…buy the book!)

Getting married to satisfy the expectations of family and society, Gim and Chaya are two of the most satisfying, realistic characters I’ve come across for a good while. The way the author has drawn them and the culture they come from really touched me.

This is a novel where the power of culture and family are central to all that’s wrong with large parts of some societies and because of that, all down to this readers upbringing, I did find that a little hard to understand. However, in the end, this is a novel about friendship and all that should be important.

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NK Chats To… Laura Briggs

Hello Laura and welcome to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me a bit about your book, Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses?

Hi Laura, and thanks so much for inviting me to share with your readers! Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses is a cosy Christmas read and the third book in my romance series known as ‘A Little Hotel in Cornwall’. It continues the adventures of Maisie Clark, an aspiring author who follows her writing dreams across the Pond to a quaint Cornish hotel by the sea. Readers can expect a festive, feel-good read, as Maisie and the rest of the staff at the Penmarrow prepare to host an ice sculpting competition at the historic hotel.

 

Are you able to tell me a little about what you’re currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on the edits for Book Four in the series, The Cornish Secret of Summer’s Promise. It features a daring heist, an unexpected secret, and a romantic crossroads that Maisie never expected!

 

When you begin a novel, what do you focus on first?

Hmmmm. I think it varies from project to project, but I tend to focus first on the central plotline or event that kicks off the story. Then the characters tend to develop alongside the twists and turns in the plot that help to bring the whole story together.

 

Which songs would be on a playlist for Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses?

Christmas songs! I have everything from classic to modern on my holiday music playlists, so it could feature anything from Bing Crosby to Mariah Carey songs.

 

What is your idea of a perfect Christmas? 

Oooh, that’s a tough one! I think something peaceful but festive and cozy that involves sharing the joy of the season with others would be a good place to start!

 

How do you approach the editing process and what is the biggest mistake that new writers make do you think?

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NK Chats To… Eliza J. Scott

Hello Eliza. I am so happy to be chatting to you today. I am excited to be heading back to Lytell Stangdale with A Christmas Kiss. What is this one about and how does it fit in with the others in the Life on the Moors series?

Hi there Laura, thank you for taking part in the Publication Day Blog Tour for A Christmas Kiss; I’m very happy to be chatting to you, too! So, this book sees us getting better acquainted with Zander Gillespie, who briefly featured in The Secret – Violet’s Story.

After a last-minute change of plans with his girlfriend, he finds himself – and his adorable black Labrador Alf – driving through a snow storm to his holiday cottage in a very wintry Lytell Stangdale. There, in an unusual set of circumstances, he meets Livvie.

Thanks to her boyfriend, she’s also had a last-minute change of plans and has come to Lytell Stangdale to lick her wounds. It soon becomes apparent that fate may have had a hand in their situation and they find themselves fighting a powerful mutual attraction.

Over the course of their story, we get to see all of the usual characters once again – Kitty, Molly, Vi, Jimby, Ollie and Camm feature heavily; a Life on the Moors book wouldn’t be complete without them! Hopefully, A Christmas Kiss should slot in rather well.

 

What is your writing process like from idea to the final draft, where do you like to write and do you have any writing rituals?

I have notebooks allocated to all of my different story ideas, it makes them easy for me to locate if an idea suddenly pops into my head. When it eventually comes to writing that story, I’ll grab the relevant notebook, sit at my laptop and start to plot it properly.

After that, I’ll then work on developing the characters – I go into quite a lot of detail for this so I get a really clear idea of each one of them in my head.

Once this is done, I launch into the actual writing of the story. I’ve learnt that I’m not the sort of writer who can just get anything down on a page for the first draft; I have to do as clean a first draft as possible, then go back and do a little editing the following day.

Once I’ve got that first draft done, I print it off and read through, making lots of notes along the way. I then edit the first draft and repeat the process of reading through and editing several times before I send it off to my editor.

Once it’s returned, I get stuck into her edits, check through them, amend them, get them proof read, then convert the document to a mobi and send it to my Kindle for another read through. Phew! It involves an awful lot of reading!

As far as writing rituals are concerned, I don’t have any as such, though I do need a regular supply of Yorkshire tea and plenty of ginger biscuits to nibble on!

 

How has your process evolved since your first novel? Is there anything you know now that you wished you’d known then?

I’d say I’ve become much more organised in my writing process since my first novel, which makes it much more enjoyable for me. Though, I wish I’d known that everyone has their own system that works for them, and that there isn’t a right or a wrong way; it’s okay not to just get words down if that process doesn’t work for you. Of course, if I’m pushed for time, I will just list ideas, conversations etc. so when I go back to my manuscript, I can flesh it all out and get it to make sense.

 

How important is planning when writing a series like this and what challenges did you face?

For me it was very important to plan, particularly for the first three books, as I had to ensure that time-lines matched. I’d say the challenges for making sure everyone’s age was right leading from one story to the next.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

For me, I think a story needs to have a good plot, otherwise there’ll be nothing to keep the reader interested. Though well-rounded characters are important, too; I feel they can help move the story along – does that make sense? I hope so!

 

Which fictional character (other than any of yours) would you like to spend Christmas with?

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Book Review: Starlight Over Bluebell Castle by Sarah Bennett

Hello to Sarah Bennett and the blog tour for her latest novel, Starlight Over Bluebell Castle. 

Jessica Ridley’s life has just been turned upside-down – and not in a good way! So when blast-from-the-past Tristan Ludworth invites her to stay at Bluebell Castle and transform it into a winter wonderland, it’s the perfect distraction for Jess and her two young children…

Jess is used to planning even the most elaborate events in her sleep, but she certainly didn’t expect to be working so closely with Tristan at the castle – or that she could still find him quite  so handsome after all this time!

And with a little holiday magic in the air, it’s becoming harder and harder to resist his charms. Can Tristan convince Jess to give love one more chance, just in time for Christmas?

 

Jess is on the up and up with her job. She also has a huge crush on her colleague, Tristan. Then, when they are on the verge of taking things beyond flirting, Jess leaves and both their lives take different directions.

Years later and Tristan and Jess’s paths cross again. Tristan has left London and returned to Bluebell Castle to help run his family estate. When he finds out that Jess’s marriage has ended and she needs a job and sanctuary for herself and her two boys, he offers Jess a job.

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Book Review: Until We Meet Again by Rosemary Goodacre

I’m welcoming Rosemary Goodacre to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her novel, Until We Meet Again. 

Summer 1914: Shy young woman, Amy Fletcher, lives a quiet life in Sussex. An office worker, she lives at home, along with her parents and spirited younger brother, Bertie. But her life is transformed when she meets handsome young man, Edmond Derwent, son of one of the wealthiest families in the small town of Larchbury, and student at Cambridge University.

The couple are falling deeply in love when war breaks out and, eager to do his duty for England, Edmond signs up as an officer. The couple plan to be wed, eager to start a new life together – but their happiness is short-lived when Edmond is sent to Flanders to lead his men into battle. Amy trains as a VAD nurse and is soon sent to France, where she sees the true horror of war inflicted on the brave young men sent to fight.

Separated by war, Edmond and Amy share their feelings through emotional letters sent from the front line. But when Edmond is critically wounded at Ypres, their love faces the biggest test of all – can their love stay strong while the world around them is crumbling?

 

In Summer 1914, Amy Fletcher lives with her family in Sussex.

When she meets Edmond Derwent, her life is transformed forever when she falls in love with him.

The couple plan to marry but when war breaks out, Edmond is sent to Flanders after he signs up as an officer. He wants to do his duty to England.

Amy then trains as a VAD nurse and is also sent over to France where she sees the horror of war first hand.

Separated by WWI, can Amy and Edmond’s love survive?

This book mostly focuses on Amy with chapters from Edmond’s point of view also. This really helped to get an overall view of what it was like for the soldiers in WWI and the people left behind.

Immediately, I liked Amy. At the beginning of the book, she shows great integrity and loyalty to her friends and family and I loved that.

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Book Review: The Last Day of Winter by Shari Low

It’s a pleasure to be welcoming Shari Low back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her novel, The Last Day of Winter. 

One December wedding. One runaway bride. One winter’s day to bring everyone together again.

Today is the day Caro and Cammy are due to walk up the aisle. But Caro’s too caught up in the trauma of her past to contemplate their happy ever after.

Stacey’s decision to return from L.A. is fuelled by one thing – telling Cammy how she feels, before it’s too late.

Wedding planner, Josie, needs to sort the whole mess out, but she’s just been dealt some devastating news. Can she get through the day without spilling her secret?

On a chilly winter’s day, they have twenty-four hours to prove that love can lead the way to a brighter future…

 

The Last Day of Winter focuses on an ensemble of characters on a day just before Christmas. On the day Caro and Cammy are meant to go down the aisle, Caro’s past makes her doubt that this is her happy ever after.

The fate of the wedding is further put into question when Stacey returns to LA to tell Cammy how she feels about him.

Josie, the wedding planner needs to sort this out despite being given some devastating news.

Can love find its way within these 24 hours?

Shari, you made me cry again! I am not too proud to admit it either.

Oh, this novel.

First, the amazing characters. Each of them have their own, complicated feelings. All were developed well and nothing with any of them was black and white. Even where Caro is concerned, I felt enormous sympathy and empathy. This is a terrific ensemble of different personalities and they all fit together so well.

Plot wise, a lot is placed within the 24 hours in which it’s set but nothing feels rushed. The description of Glasgow sounds so incredible and it’s set at Christmas so it gave me all the early festive feels.

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A Moment With… Steve Exeter

Welcome to author, Steve Exeter. 

With October being Black History Month, I am pleased to be welcoming Steve to Novel Kicks. He is here to talk about his book, Severus: The Black Caesar who was the first African Emperor.

 

About the book: 

Severus follows the amazing true story of a rebellious boy who grew up in an African province and became the first Black Caesar of the Roman Empire, the head of a dynasty that would lead Rome through bloody civil wars and rapidly changing times.

As a young man, Severus hates the Romans and conspires to humiliate them. What begins as a childish prank unfurls into a bloodbath that sends Severus careening into his future.

Through a tragic love affair, dangerously close battles and threats both internal and external, Severus accrues power — and enemies — in his unlikely rise to become the most powerful man in the ancient world.

 

Without further ado, chatting about his book and the fascinating history behind it, it’s over to you, Steve. Welcome. 

 

I was encouraged and excited to see that notable historian Patrick Vernon included the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus on his list of 100 Great Black Britons and that he ended up ranking as highly as 25 in the final list.

Severus died in York in 211 BC and was arguably the first black man to set foot on British soil, but he came not as a slave, but as Emperor. Behind this still little-known fact there is the incredible tale of someone who grew from rebellious youth to the most powerful man in the ancient world.

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Book Review: The Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge

Samantha Tonge has dropped by today with the blog tour for her new novel, The Christmas Calendar Girls. 

Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.

Fern, and her best friends, call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).

As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.

In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.

Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?

 

Chesterwood Food Bank is under threat of close and Fern has come up with what she thinks is the perfect plan to save it. A living advent calendar. With the help of her best friends, Cara and Davina, she begins to put her idea into motion.

She is also getting closer to Kit who is the temporary caretaker at her daughter’s school and the only man to get close to her after the death of her husband, Adam.

However, Kit has a secret and it is holding him back.

One of Davina’s son’s is acting strangely and the other is deeply unhappy. Domestic goddess Cara is starting to forget things. Can the three of them pull together and make it a perfect Christmas by saving the food bank?

The Christmas Calendar Girls is everything I love in a Christmas novel.

The idea of a living advent calendar sounds brilliant and makes this Christmas lover want to see something like this for real. As the story progressed, I couldn’t help but feel more and more festive.

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Book Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby?

And where did they go?

Two entangled families.

A house with the darkest of secrets.

 

Libby has just inherited a house on one of the most exclusive streets in Chelsea. She is only focused on one thing once she gets into the house and this is to find out anything she can about the family she never knew. However, sinister secrets lurk in the rooms of this abandoned house and Libby isn’t sure she is going to like what she finds.

I have loved the direction Lisa Jewell has taken her novels and so I was eager to read this one. To be honest, this one had me from the blurb on the back of the book.

Told from the point of view of Libby and Lucy in the present and Henry decades before, it does tend to jump around a bit but they all have such a distinct voice that I had no issue keeping up with whose point of view I was reading from.

This book really appealed to my love of mystery and it is present all the way through. Just when I thought I had sussed something out, another plot twist would happen. It is written so well and had me obsessed right until the end.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Witchy AGM

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: Witch AGM. 

Your character is on their way to the annual witch meeting. The Witch AGM.

On the agenda, ‘Witches are not hags. Helping debunk the bad myths and stereotypes.’

What we can do to help our image. A practical workshop.

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Spotlight: Words & Kisses Subscription Box

Words & Kisses is a subscription service/online book club for people who like their books with happy endings.

I am a sucker for a happy ending. I am a proper romantic and I love subscription boxes so when I was approached by the lovely Amy at Words & Kisses about reviewing her book subscription box, she didn’t have to ask me twice.

My book arrived beautifully wrapped in pink tissue paper with a lovely note.

It was like Christmas had come early as I couldn’t help but tear the wrapping open to reveal the surprise inside.

I received The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai. One read of the description and it was clear the right choice had been made for me. It is a great way to discover novels you may not have read or picked up otherwise.

How it works is so simple. Visit wwww.wordsandkisses.com.

*Subscriptions are three months for £34.99, six months for £69.99 or a twelve month subscription for £139.00. Alternatively, you can pay a recurring monthly subscription of £11.99 if you want to try it out first. If you live in the UK, postage is included.

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Book Extract: The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me by Barbara Quinn

Hello to Barbara Quinn and the birthday blog tour for her novel. The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me

 

Coming home to catch her husband with his face between the long, silky legs of another woman is the last thing Sofia expects—and on today of all days. So, after scratching an expletive into his Porsche and setting the cheating bastard’s clothes on fire, she cranks up her beloved Bruce and flees, vowing never to look back.

Seeking solace in the peaceful beachside town of Bradley Beach, NJ, Sof is determined to start over. And, with the help of best friends, new acquaintances, a sexy neighbor, and the powerful songs of Springsteen, this may be the place where her wounds can heal. But, as if she hasn’t faced her share of life’s challenges, a final flurry of obstacles awaits.

In order to head courageously toward the future, Sofia must first let go of her past, find freedom, and mend her broken soul.

 

Barbara has shared an extract today. Enjoy.

 

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

 

Behind us a car’s radio blares “Born in the USA.” Curious, I turn and watch a black convertible pull into the driveway next door. The sandy-haired man in the driver’s seat sings at the top of his lungs and bangs his hands on the steering wheel. He alternates his drumming with a little air guitar. He does neither well.

Mr. Air Guitar gives off an aura of happiness and an appearance that says “I’m carefree” that annoys me. I dislike him, even if he’s a fellow Springsteen fan. He makes me think about the huge pack of trouble I’m trying to unload, the one named Jerome, the one who routinely porks his trainer. Still, nothing requires me to be friends with the neighbors.

Terri opens her door and climbs out. She waves at Mr. Air Guitar, but the man remains engrossed in his playing and fails to notice. He strums a muscled arm again to the blast of the radio, and my ears grow hot. The guy probably knows nothing about the meaning of the song he sings. The mantra “Born in the USA” isn’t a rallying cry for overzealous patriots no matter how many times they try to claim it.

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Book Review: The Men by Fanny Calder

City life in the 1990s. Anonymous, intense, paradoxical and sometimes lonely.

A young, haunted woman falls in love with a singer. She finds she has been consumed by the relationship and when it ends – as it inevitably does – she feels unable to quite rediscover herself. Cities can draw you into even darker places, and she embarks on a series of intense relationships with thirteen men of very different types, from a rough sleeper to a millionaire, and from a transvestite to a leading politician.

As she is propelled through a series of extraordinary adventures and wild parties she finds she begins to lose her own identity. Is there a way out?

 

The Men by Fanny Calder focuses on an anonymous woman. She’s our narrator.

As the book begins, she is in a relationship with a singer. This ends in heartbreak. We then look at the thirteen subsequent relationships she has including one with a homeless man, a Politician and a Millionaire.

This is not a book I would have picked off a shelf and this is why I love running the Novel Kicks blog. It means books like this don’t pass me by.

The narrator gives the reader little glimpses into her relationship history and it doesn’t hold back whatsoever.

The character does have happy moments in her quest for romantic love but she is also insanely honest with her observations about these men, the world around her and her lack of fulfilment with love and life. It’s one of the things I liked most about this novel as well as the conversational writing style.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Structure

I am currently preparing for National Novel Writing Month. October is known as Preptober.

This got me thinking about structure and I have come across many variants of a three-act structure.

Take an idea you have and plan the plot using the following as a guide.

 

Act One:

1. Introduce your character and their world.
2. An event that sets the story in motion.
3. Determine what happens next.

 

Act Two:

4. Determine the goal that isn’t going to come easily.
5. The game changer.
6. The decision.

 

Act Three:

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Book Review: Reach For A Star by Kathryn Freeman

A lovely big welcome back to Kathryn Freeman. She is here today with the blog tour for her latest novel, Reach For a Star. 

What if your dreams were so close you could reach out and touch them? 
How could anyone resist Michael Tennant, with his hypnotic blue eyes and voice like molten chocolate? Jessie Simmons certainly can’t. But Jessie’s a single mum who can’t sing to save her life – there’s no way she’ll ever cross paths with the star tenor. 

At least that’s what she thinks until she’s unexpectedly invited to take part in a new reality TV show. The premise? Professional singers teach hopeless amateurs how to sing. The surprise? Jessie’s partner is none other than Michael Tennant!

As she becomes better acquainted with the man behind the voice, will Jessie find out the hard way that you should never meet your idols? Or will she get more than she bargained for?

 

Jessie is a single mother of two, works as a pharmacist and knows she is a little tone-deaf (I can relate to that.) This doesn’t hold her back when she is watching the singing star, Michael Tennant on television and having a big crush on him.

When her sons put her forward for a singing competition, she is horrified but even more nervous when she is paired with Michael.

I have quickly got obsessed with Kathryn’s novels so I was so happy to be included in the blog tour for this novel.

I am not sure how Kathryn does it but I would like to know how she manages to get my hooked by the end of the first page every time.

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