NK Chats To: Sasha Wagstaff

Hi Sasha, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about Christmas in Chamonix and what inspired the novel?

Hi there! Thank you for putting these fabulous questions together for me. So, first things first – I absolutely loved writing Christmas in Chamonix. I have recently fallen in love with skiing (although I have really struggled with it – Lily’s fear of heights echoes my own!) and I have always adored Christmas. My parents have always been huge fans of Christmas and made it such a special time of year for myself and my brother, with lots of traditions and magical moments – which I now carry out with my own children.

So Chamonix was mostly inspired by my absolute love of Christmas. But it was also the opportunity to take readers into a beautifully Christmassy environment – with falling snow, gorgeous, festive decorations and the delicious food and drink involved. Add skiing into that – and I was in writing heaven! Skiing is such an exhilarating sport…it’s amazing if you master even a small part of it, let alone manage to ski down a steep mountain and not fall over!

 

How do you approach the planning of a novel and how has it evolved since your debut novel?

I approach the planning of a novel with military precision – and always have done. With lots of creativity thrown in, of course, but for me, it’s about being organised and disciplined. So I begin with the idea. I expand it with lots of notes (I use a different, A4 sized notebook with a lovely cover for each new novel) and begin writing character notes to flesh out my main players. I then write a synopsis which will be two pages or fifteen, depending on how much of the story flows out at that stage, but the main point is to get down the beginning, the middle and the end. After that, I write a full version of this, which is where I will structure scenes and make sure each section moves smoothly on to the next one. With some cliff hangers thrown in here and there. I find this process easier and more fun than I used to in the early days and it also makes writing the novel itself fairly straight forward as I have a strong structure as a guideline and I’m essentially then delving into the thoughts and feelings and emotions of my characters.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

Well, that’s a seriously good question! Ok. So even with a killer idea, if you don’t have the right personalities in place to play the story out, it’s going nowhere and it’s just a concept with no heart and soul. Equally, if you have fantastic lead players and strong secondary characters but no real idea of what the story is about or where it’s going, the reader won’t feel invested as there isn’t anything for them to connect with and relate to. For me, they are equally important. You need a killer idea and you need relatable characters your readers can fall in love with and care about.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

My favourite word….I’m loving these questions! I love the word ‘serendipitous’. Which means ‘occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way’. I just think it’s a really positive word and one which puts me in a strong headspace of believing that everything happens for a reason and that there is something to be grateful for everywhere you look.

 

Can you tell me about your typical writing day, where you like to write, do you need endless amounts of coffee and silence or do you prefer noise?

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Novel Kicks Book Club: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

Hello December. I am excited as this is my favourite time of the year.

The trees and lights are going up and the cold weather has certainly arrived so there is no better reason to curl up with a cup/glass of something and a book (I know I say this every month,) and I am hoping you’ll join me with reading this month’s book club.

I’ve chosen Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.

This book sounds like a lot of fun and has an interesting premise. As normal, I have posted a question to kick off the discussion. Hopefully see you in the comments.

 

About Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.

I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.

At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept. Curious, snarky Dash isn’t one to back down from a challenge – and the Book of Dares is the perfect distraction he’s been looking for.

As they send each other on a scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they’re falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be their biggest dare yet….

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NK Chats To… Emma Jackson

Hi Emma, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your new novel, A Mistletoe Miracle?

Beth, my heroine, has returned to her childhood home – the Hotel Everdene – after a bad breakup. Her confidence is badly shaken & she’s struggling to know what to do next in life. When her mother is stranded in a blizzard, Beth is left in charge of the fully booked hotel, feeling completely out of her depth. But one thing Beth isn’t, is a quitter and, with a bit of help from Nick, a gorgeous guest, she does her best to make sure Christmas doesn’t end in catastrophe!

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need coffee? Silence? Where do you like to work?

It varies through the week. On a Monday & Tuesday, when my 3yo is in nursery, I usually get back from the school & nursery run by 9.30. Then I run around tidying up the mess from breakfast, make a start in some housework & settle down to write at my desk at around 10.30-11.00. I have a fantastic pull down desk in my bedroom which my partner put in as a surprise for me when I was away at the RNA conference in July & I love it so much. I always have music playing, the house is so quiet without the kids in it, and I probably spend too much time creating special playlists for each project. The rest of the week when I have my 3yo home, writing takes place in the evenings on the sofa with my headphones on!

 

Emma’s writing space

What’s your route to publication been like?

It feels like it has been very long. I started writing my first novel over a decade ago & I did query it but in hindsight I had no clue what I was doing! Writing became sporadic over the last eight years as we started a family & I became a stay-at-home mum. Some people might think that gives you lots of time to write but I find it so hard to concentrate on writing with my kids around me.

Then I joined the RNA at the beginning of 2019 & really got serious about finishing my manuscript, sending it for the NWS critique & submitting it. Orion announced their new digital first imprint called Dash at the RNA Conference & I sent it along. Overall, I probably submitted A Mistletoe Miracle to twenty agents & publishers, and entered half a dozen competitions. So, lots of no’s but you only need one yes!

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

As I mentioned earlier I have an extensive playlist for this novel on Spotify (which I’m going to make available very soon). Also, Beth is a music tutor so music is very important to her & lots of songs feature in the story. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley, Come Away with Me by Norah Jones & Words Are Dead by Agnes Obel all play a significant part in her journey.

 

What’s your favourite word?

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A Moment With…. Lynne Shelby

We have entered the last week of National Novel Writing Month. As you get to the end and are contemplating the edits, author Lynne Shelby has some advice about that all important first sentence.

There are no hard and fast rules for writing that all-important first sentence of a novel, but I like to think of it as an invitation to a reader that will make them want to read on, a hint of what is too come without revealing too much.

An effective first sentence establishes an important aspect of the book. You could begin with a short statement of a fact that plunges the reader headlong into the story, or a line of dialogue that establishes the character of story’s narrator.

I think it’s best to avoid long, waffling description as this tends to put readers off, but a short, effective first sentence can set the style and mood of a novel, if it is comical, serious or even shocking!

What a writer is doing with a first sentence is showing the reader that something interesting is going on, encouraging them to take their first step into the world of the book.

Good luck to everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo.

 

About Lynne: 

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Book Review: It’s Not PMS, It’s You by Rich Amooi

Hello to Rich Amooi and the blog tour for his novel, It’s Not PMS, It’s You. Welcome, Rich. 

Ruth “Ruthless” Harper is on the verge of becoming managing partner at her all-male consulting firm and she won’t let anything stand in her way. That includes men, relationships, and that dreaded F word, FEELINGS—distractions she eliminated long ago.

After the worst day ever (a near-death experience and a public wedgie, for starters), Ruth realizes she doesn’t want to live and die alone. She puts together a business plan to find the perfect man and dives head first into the murky online dating pool. All she wants is a high-powered executive who understands how important her career is. If only it were that easy.

Problem is most men are intimidated by Ruth’s confidence and shocked by her bluntness. The exception being her landscape designer, Nick, whose cool demeanor and unsolicited dating advice are driving her nuts. He’s the antithesis of the business-oriented man Ruth envisions for herself, so why do all signs keep pointing back to him?

 

Ruth is a workaholic and has been too busy for love. She’s about to become a managing partner in her all-male consulting firm and she is not going to let anything stand in her way.

However, after experiencing the worst day which includes a near death experience and a public wedgie, she makes a plan to meet the perfect man. She doesn’t want to end up alone.

Nick, who Ruth has employed as a landscape gardener isn’t intimidated by her confidence or bluntness.

Can Ruth’s perfect man be closer than she thinks?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. From the first chapter however, I knew it was going to be a book I was going to love. I couldn’t put it down. I mean, the title alone is brilliant.

Ruth is a funny, real, relatable character who doesn’t apologise for who she is and knowing what she wants.

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NK Chats To… RE McLean

Say a big hello to RE McLean and the blog tour for her novel, Murder in the Multiverse. Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, Murder in the Multiverse and what inspired the story.

Thanks for having me here! Murder in the Multiverse is a geeky mystery, the kind of thing you’d enjoy if you like Jodi Taylor or Douglas Adams. It’s about Alex Strand, a physics postdoc who finds herself recruited to the top-secret Multiverse Investigations Unit. The MIU is based in the parking lot of San Francisco PD (in a Tardis-like VW campervan) and investigates crimes by visiting parallel worlds where the crime hasn’t happened – yet.

 

What’s the challenges of writing something like Murder in the Multiverse? Do you have an idea of where you want the series to go?

The main challenge is writing a book where the solution to the mystery always has some kind of link to quantum physics, while not being a quantum physicist myself. I’ve dealt with that by making the physics very silly – hard science this is not!

I have a ten-book outline for the series storyline. Each book will be focused on one specific crime, and take place in a new parallel universe. But the twin threads of Alex’s search for her mother across the multiverse and her growing relationship with Sarita, the mysterious materials scientist, will drive the series plot.

 

What’s your writing day like, where do you like to write and do you have any writing rituals?

I like to write in my local library, and I have a Spotify playlist to help me focus. And Schrödinger the quantum cat sits on my desk while I write!

 

If you could go and investigate anywhere, where would it be and why?

Definitely Silicon City, the parallel universe in Murder in the Multiverse. It’s got an augmented reality version of the internet and you can conjure up a plate of cookies just by thinking about it. And all the doors go swish-thunk, like in Star Trek.

 

Which songs would be on a playlist for this book?

Good question! I’ve been putting together a playlist for Alex and her team, which you can find on Spotify. Alex is into retro tech (and music) and can only get to sleep to the sound of the Cheeky Girls. Her partner, Sergeant Mike Long, prefers easy listening. Alex wants to pull her eardum out with a fish hook when he puts that on the radio.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

I normally start a book with a concept, then decide who’s going to have to live with the consequences of that concept, then write the plot around that. Normally the characters come first for me, but I think both character and plot are equally important (and interwoven).

 

Which other authors have inspired/influenced you the most?

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Book Review: The Perfect Widow by A.M. Castle

I’d like to welcome A.M. Castle to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her novel, The Perfect Widow.

Louise Bridges has the perfect life.

A loving husband, Patrick. Two adorable children. A comfortable home.

So when PC Becca Holt arrives to break the news that Patrick has been killed in an accident, she thinks Louise’s perfect world is about to collapse around her.

But Louise doesn’t react in the way Becca would expect her to on hearing of her husband’s death. And there are only three plates set out for dinner, as if Louise already knew Patrick wouldn’t be home that night…

The more Becca digs, the more secrets she uncovers in the Bridges’ marriage – and the more she wonders just how far Louise would go to get what she wants…

Is Louise a loving wife – or a cold-hearted killer?

 

Louise Bridges has the perfect life. She has the husband, two wonderful children, the house, the car and the lifestyle many would and do envy.

When the police arrive to tell Louise that her husband is dead, her veneer doesn’t falter.

Becca, who works for the police sees something strange in Louise’s behaviour. What starts as curiosity turns into obsession as she tries to prove whether Louise is just grieving or whether she murdered her own husband.

This isn’t a normal crime whodunnit. It’s unique in its set up and it’s unlike anything I have read, especially in this genre.

It’s told from a ‘then and now’ structure with a POV from both Louise and Becca. I liked this as it gave me an insight into each of their motivations and character.

Louise is a character I tried to empathise with but I found this hard to do. However, I don’t think I was meant to like her and I needed to question her motives and decisions. It was like she was set up to put the reader on edge and this added to the tension throughout the novel. I loved this aspect. Although I didn’t like her, I wanted to understand her and that made me want to keep reading and for this reason, I think she was very well-developed.

Becca is a character I found to be quite a sad and lonely woman; similar to Louise really. Becca sees work as a way to fill her life and escape her reality. Both in their own way are seeking validation.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson

Cornerstone Digital, 2018

Another month, another book club. 

I can’t quite believe we are already halfway through November. How is that possible?

As I am a little late introducing the new title for this month, I have picked a quick read story by one of my favourite authors; The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson. 

 

Here’s a little about the book: 

Tessa Dannall is excited and happy when her daughter, Nia, arrives at their family’s tropical beach resort to get married.

Tessa is also trying to forget the last time she went to a wedding on this beach and how that day changed her life for ever.

But as the big day draws near, Tessa realises she must face the deadly ghosts from her past – or they may ruin her daughter’s future… Continue reading

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Book Review: Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

I am pleased to be welcoming Ellen Berry and the blog tour for her new novel, Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane.

 

Last winter she had a plan.

Lucy fell in love with tumbledown Rosemary Cottage as a child. So thirty years on, when she loses her city job and discovers the cottage is for sale, it feels like fate. She’ll raise her children in Burley Bridge and transform the cottage into a B&B with her husband.

But a year can change everything . . .

Now Lucy is juggling two children and a B&B, but on her own. Christmas looks set to be their last on Rosemary Lane – until she meets James, a face from her past and someone who might offer a different kind of future . . .

Should Lucy leave the cottage behind? Or could this winter on Rosemary Lane be the start of something new?

 

I am not crying, I have something in my eye…. OK, I am crying.

It was hard not to reach for the tissues with the latest book by Ellen Berry.

It focuses on Lucy, who after losing her job in Manchester, makes the decision with her husband Ivan to move to the picturesque village of Burley Bridge. It is not all plain sailing for Lucy and her family and there are many ups and downs along the way. Lucy wonders whether Rosemary Cottage is her forever home after all?

It’s not hard to feel love and empathy for Lucy especially as things happen for her pretty early on in the novel.

James, like Lucy is dealing with issues that I think a lot of people would be able to relate to. He and Lucy have many layers to them. I liked them both a lot.

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Book Review: The Rector’s Daughter by Jean Fullerton

The Rector’s Daughter is the latest novel from Jean Fullerton and I am happy to be welcoming her blog tour to Novel Kicks today. 

Charlotte is the daughter of Reverend Percival Hatton. She’s been ok to follow the path set out for her. She’s happy to help the poorer people of the parish (much to her father’s annoyance.)

She also has an understanding with Captain Nicholas Paget who she is expected to marry.

Everything in Charlotte’s world changes when she meets Josiah Martyn.

Josiah is in the area to help build the first tunnel under the River Thames. He’s an ambitious, Cornish mining engineer and he is the complete opposite to Nicholas. He is not at all the man the Reverend wants for his daughter.

Josiah and Charlotte grow closer. Can they defy the odds against them and have their happy ever after?

 

The Rector’s Daughter is, I am ashamed to admit, the first novel I have read by Jean Fullerton.

Charlotte is a character I warmed to straight away. She is a good person, who, in and out of love, is having to fight against the expectation of her class and gender.

Josiah is such a likeable, honourable leading man and I like the idea of him and Charlotte together. Whether they do make it, I hope you find out for yourself by reading the novel.

The supporting characters are a mixture of wonderful and outright horrible. Some I wanted to throw in a cupboard and throw away the key. Haha.

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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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