Mick Arnold

Mick will be chatting about his experience as a male author in the romantic genre. Mick is a forty-something member of the Romantic Novelists Association, New Writers Scheme. He lives in Northamptonshire and is the proud keeper of a cat bent on world domination.When he’s not trying to write books, Mick has a deep-seated love of reading that he’s brought from his teens to the current day with no signs of waning. He’s also mad on the music of the Beach Boys and enjoys the theatre and humouring his Manchester United supporting wife. Mick can be followed on Twitter: @mick859

Book Review: The Little Teashop of Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley

Little TeashopHello and a big welcome to Trisha Ashley. Her new book, The Little Teashop of Lost and Found was released as an eBook on 9th March by Transworld Digital (with the paperback following in June and published by Black Swan.) 

Alice Rose is a foundling, discovered on the Yorkshire moors above Haworth as a baby. Adopted but then later rejected again by a horrid step-mother, Alice struggles to find a place where she belongs. Only baking – the scent of cinnamon and citrus and the feel of butter and flour between her fingers – brings a comforting sense of home.

So it seems natural that when she finally decides to return to Haworth, Alice turns to baking again, taking over a run-down little teashop and working to set up an afternoon tea emporium.

Luckily she soon makes friends, including a Grecian god-like neighbour, who help her both set up home and try to solve the mystery of who she is. There are one or two last twists in the dark fairytale of Alice’s life to come . . . but can she find her happily ever after?

I’ve been a devoted follower of Trisha for a number of years now and was honoured to be selected to receive an ARC of her forthcoming novel and so settled down to enjoy a leisurely plod through her offering…so much for good intentions.

Before long (around about page um…3) I found myself immersed in the interwoven worlds that Trisha is so expert at fabricating and had to force myself to slow down, breathe in fact, or else I was sure to finish the book in one fell-swoop. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, I’ve read many a book in one long session before, although I wanted and was determined to savour this one. I’ve never hated myself so much! This turned out to be the right decision though, as by only allowing myself to read a single chapter a day, I made certain to take in each word that was written. Not one was wasted, by the way.

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Mick’s Musings: Remembered How To Write

rp_Mick-Arnold1-224x30011.jpgAt last, I’ve picked up my metaphorical pen and started writing again. After a couple of months of reading some very good books, especially some nice proofs (thank you Rosie Marguessen), I decided that it was about time I picked up my writing hat again. This was helped by the results of an online Pitch Event in the USA that I attended back in February.

The results were as good as could be hoped for, a couple of agents after mixed bags of both my current books; including two who asked for the complete manuscript!

Can anyone guess the problem there? Though one is as finished as it can get, the one’s that wanted the complete m/s for wasn’t. Or rather it was but only up to the second draft. Very clever bod that I am. So, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks going through two more drafts until it’s at such a state I felt I could send it off. Fortunately, both agents in their replies state that it’s ok to say if I’m a first time author and seeing as I’m not published, I took that as an okay to say I was; so I did. What will happen from these, who can tell, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

These two weeks of hectic writing, reading, re-writing, re-reading (you get the picture) has also reminded me to send this latest off to the RNA’s NWS scheme. I didn’t last year, which is kind of a waste, but as I didn’t feel it was worth sending off a half-finished effort, I didn’t trouble the readers. However, the bug is BACK!!!! So that’s going to go off shortly, today if I get my finger out.

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Book Review: Paper Hearts & Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

Sphere, December 2016

Sphere, December 2016

Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It’s not an easy life but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting, and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking.

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

Christie knows that something has to give, but can she really give up her dreams and the chance of real love? Will Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.

 

Knowing this story is based on a real-life person (Christie Chapman – look her up and also read her review on Amazon.co.uk) added a slice of intrigue to my reading. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to know any of Christie’s actual story, but if it was as heart-rending and inspiring as PH&SK portrays, then all hats should be doffed to the lady and her son.

Our main characters are Christie and her son Finn and it’s through Christie’s eyes that we see her struggle to support her son, whilst bringing him up as a single parent, not made any easier by the constant worry caused by Finn’s mysterious headaches, which never go away and keep him off school. Her parents are a wonderful source of support and when Christie finds herself jetting off to the USA for a crafting course by an up and coming US-based company, this is thanks to her mother.

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Book Review: The Girl on the Beach by Morton S. Gray

the girl on the beach

Death By Choc Lit, January 2017

Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

 

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of reading some novels before their published date; my thanks to those who’ve been so generous to allow me to do so, you know who you are. Around two weeks ago, I was accorded the honour of being sent a copy of the author Morton S Gray’s debut novel ‘The Girl on the Beach’, published by Choclit.

I’ve read a few debuts over the years and obviously some are better than others. If you’re lucky, you’re left doing a passable goldfish impression with your mouth simply repeating, ‘OMG! OMG! OMG! Whilst some honestly leave you wondering how on earth they got published. This novel sits firmly, as in set-in-stone firmly, in the former category. I finished it last night and just sat there enjoying a special feeling…you know the one where you know, you just know that you’ve found a special author and you’re going to be ticking off the days on your calendar until their next release!

Those who read my reviews will know that I don’t tend to give much away about the plot, it spoils the twists and turns – and there are plenty here – that a good author will sprinkle around their work. Ms Gray’s story is as much ‘Suspense’ as ‘Romance’ and considering the subject matter, this is just as well. Because of this, I have to explain what I mean and tell you a little more of the story than I normally would. I prefer to concentrate on how the writer…um, writes.

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Book Review: Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey

Carina, November 2015

Carina, November 2015

A few weeks before Christmas and a sudden blanketing of snow has closed the roads and brought public transport grinding to a halt, stranding Izzy miles from home and in desperate need of rescuing.

That doesn’t mean she’s looking to bump into Rob and spend a cosy weekend holed up in his swanky flat watching London become a winter wonderland! Because Izzy and Rob have history…

Six months ago, they were standing in the vestry of a beautiful country church, while best man Rob delivered the news that every bride dreads on their big day.

But at the time of year when anything is possible, can Rob and Izzy let go of the past and let Christmas work its magic? Or will this be one holiday wish that Izzy lets walk right out of her life…

 

My first thought was – ‘…and this is a debut novel?’

That should say about all you’d need to know how much I loved this book.

Maxi has crafted and woven a beautiful tale where you’re rooting for the two protagonists to get together from the first time we meet them on the pages. Izzy was jilted at the altar and promptly broke the nose of the Best Man when he came to break the bad news – pretty good considering she’s on the petite-side and Rob’s a strapping rugby-playing fellow.

As life has it, Izzy makes wedding dresses for a living and it’s through her business, and the fact that fate conspires to bring the pair together all the time, that ‘something’ begins to grow between the two of them. Life being what it is though, it’s never going to be that simple and there are many misunderstandings and false starts before love finally finds a way.

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Book Review: A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham

cornish-christmasNestled in the Cornish village of Cloudsea, sits Sea Cottage – the perfect place for some Christmas magic …

At last Ivy is looking forward to Christmas. She and her husband Stuart have moved to their perfect little cottage by the sea – a haven alongside the rugged cliffs that look out to the Atlantic Ocean. She’s pregnant with their much-longed for first baby and for the first time, since the death of her beloved mother, Ivy feels like things are going to be alright.

But there is trouble ahead and suddenly she misses her mum more than ever. 

To give away a huge spoiler or not to give away a huge spoiler, that is the question.

And it is! There’s one thing I never do in my reviews and that’s to give the main points of a plot away and I’m tying my fingers in knots to stop them typing something yes, huge, about this story and a postcard…there, that’s the spoiler alert over with. If you want to know what I haven’t told you, there’s one good way – buy the book and read it!

All I shall say about the story is…Ivy and her husband Stuart have been trying and failing to get pregnant and finally make a break from London and move down to Cornwall. The change of scene and pace of life make all the difference, plus they get away from Stuart’s controlling mother, though Ivy feels a constant ache, she misses her deceased mother so much.

With the aid of new friends and finally re-acquainting herself with her mother’s old ones, Ivy struggles to accept that their dreams of a child may finally come true. Whilst Stuart makes a surprising success from producing condiments from his smallholding, his sister Smudge brings her own troubles to the fold.

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Mick’s Musings: Time Flies When You…

rp_Mick-Arnold1-224x30011.jpgTime flies when you’re having fun – and writing can be fun, though time flies in this case even if you’re not having fun. Of course, it can also behave as if you’ve got both feet stuck in quicksand.

This has actually got nothing to do with what I’m going to talk about today, it’s just something that’s been flitting around my mind for a while and I’m hoping that by laying it down on paper (so to speak) I’ll be able to get this wind-worm out of my head. Sorry if you’ve now got it.

Right, so what have I been up to since the last time I wrote?

For a start, there was the RNA Conference in Lancaster, probably the highlight of the writing year for me at the moment (at least until such a time as I get ‘that’ call) and as much fun as ever. My heartfelt, and belated, thanks to all who gave their time to present to everyone, word cannot be enough to express my thanks – quite ironic considering the purpose of the conference. Especially to Imogen Howsen for her ‘Speed Dating’ session. No, you did read correctly, though we didn’t come away with partners in that respect, but rather it was utilising the format to find Critique Buddies. I’ve come away with some terrific ladies – Lisa Hill, Elaina James, April Hardy, Sue Mackender, Samantha Bentall; Imogen has also foolishly looking at various attempts at my writing too and thanks out to Bernadette O’Dwyer as well for ‘being there’.

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Review: The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

Avon, December 2016

Avon, December 2016

I am now a Master Milliner…well, perhaps not, but I know a whole lot more about hat creation than I ever did before. They go on your head. Correct?

Here I am, fresh from having survived the new Sue Moorcroft novel, The Christmas Promise. Don’t get worried, by survived, I mean that Sue’s stories are always emotional roller-coasters, she’s that good.
Lucky enough to obtain an advance copy of this novel, I settled down to immerse myself, knowing that my attention would never be allowed to wander, no chance of skipping even a word here and I wasn’t disappointed.

All wrapped up in a snowy cover, don’t be fooled. Sue is a master of emotions and here, you’re going to be pulled left, right and centre before the conclusion; actually, afterwards too however, you’ll need to read the book for that little Easter egg.

Ava is to a degree, damaged emotionally, as are all good characters and we follow her in a journey of trust, who to trust, how much to trust them, learning to trust herself even. She dislikes Christmas due to her parents attitude to it when she was growing up and now finds herself caught up as the victim of Revenge Porn. Riding to her rescue is Sam. Ah, to have his qualities would be wonderful…I digress. Stumbling into each other, attraction is mutual but Sam is just as traumatised as Ava in his own way and so we watch them bond over his mother’s cancer struggle, Ava’s feelings of perceived guilt over those pictures, getting close but neither feeling able to make that final step that will enable them to become the couple we know they should be.

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Book Review: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

Little, Brown, 31st July 2016.

Little, Brown, 31st July 2016.

This is the review that I’ve titled ‘Harry Potter and the Underwhelmed Reviewer’

Hands up who amongst us have waited with baited breath for a new Harry Potter story? That’s pretty much every one of us. Now, hands up all those who think that this is that story…don’t be so hasty. Yes, this is Harry Potter, and at the same time, no it’s not.
I was so excited when I heard that they were releasing a script-book of the stage-play (I’ve tickets for this for May 2017) that I was determined to drop all my other reading as soon as it arrived. This I did and being a script, it didn’t take as long to read as one of the canon novels we’re used to. It didn’t help that I read it in two sittings, at least that’s no fault of the book itself.
To the bread and butter question; is it any good?

Not an easy thing to answer actually. After so long in between official releases, those of us fans who’ve taken to getting our fix from some of the excellent fan fiction out there were perhaps always going to be the most critical, I’m certainly one of those. I can only give this 3 stars as I think the problem the author(s) came up against was trying to please everyone and when you try and do that, you generally end up pleasing no-one. It’s not quite as bad as that seems, as I did enjoy it. I did come away dis-satisfied though.

Why? Because of the above. Now, I don’t go in for spoilers/telling about the story, if I can at all help it in my reviews, so I’ll do my best here. But some of the things that happen to drive the story along are so contrived, that I’d really like to know who came up with the story? Whose idea was it and who fleshed it out? Characters act out of well, character, to what we’ve come to know about them (except when not in the canon universe – nearest I’ll come to having to give a spoiler alert), things happen that (nothing to do with the capabilities of magic here) are obviously just devices to drive the story along and I found myself saying out loud, ‘Puleeese….’

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Book Review: You And Me Always by Jill Mansell

Headline Review, June 2016

Headline Review, June 2016

Lily’s always been surrounded by love.

Ever since her mother died, she’s been cared for by friends who are as close as any family. 

Coral, her mum’s best friend; Patsy, her old babysitter – and even Dan, Patsy’s incorrigible younger brother – have always been there for her. 

But when she chance comes to meet the man who was the love of her mother’s life, Lily knows she has to take it. Getting to know him could change everything, and not just for Lily…

I really didn’t think it would be possible for this sparkling author to top ‘Three Amazing Things About You’. If you haven’t read that one of Jill’s yet, then make that the next one you read after ‘You and Me, Always’, before the movie comes out! Well, maybe not, but someone really should turn it into one.

Sorry, I digress. ‘You and Me, Always’ is top-notch writing and un-put-down-able reading. If, like me, you see a blurb that mentions a movie star or someone fleeing something, that always starts an alarm bell ringing, but no need to worry here. Jill’s characters are always well thought out and the character of Eddie is nicely believable, things don’t even veer towards pie-in-the-sky world when the story deals directly with the world of celebrities.

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Mick’s Musings: RNA Conference 2016 is coming!

rp_Mick-Arnold1-224x30011.jpgIt’s rapidly approaching one of my favourite times of the year, and if Coke can have their own tune and felt of glittery trucks as it comes to theirs, then why can’t we RNA’ers have the same? Instead of trucks, why not a line of sparkly shoes dancing across a vista of wine bars, to the accompaniment of ‘These Boots Were Made for Walking? Devil in Your Shoes? Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes – that’s probably the best one and the one least likely to get me murdered in my sleep at the conference.

I hasten to add that this doesn’t apply to me – I just couldn’t find a pair to match my eyes!

Now I’ve completely alienated myself for the weekend…yes, it’s that time of year again. The Annual Romantic Novelist’s Association Conference is being held in Lancaster this weekend 9/10th July. A time to catch-up with people we probably haven’t seen since last year’s. Gossip will abound, congratulations will ensue to those who’ve secured a Publishing Deal and/or an Agent and those of us still endeavouring to get the same will bite our ‘stiff upper’ lips and come away all the more determined to be amongst this group by the next year.

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Book Review: Is This Love? by Sue Moorcroft

Is This Love by Sue MoorcroftHow many ways can one woman love?

When Tamara Rix’s sister Lyddie is involved in a hit-and-run accident that leaves her in need of constant care, Tamara resolves to remain in the village she grew up in. Tamara would do anything for her sister, even sacrifice a long-term relationship.

But when Lyddie’s teenage sweetheart Jed Cassius returns to Middledip, he brings news that shakes the Rix family to their core. Jed’s life is shrouded in mystery, particularly his job, but despite his strange background, Tamara can’t help being intrigued by him.

Can Tamara find a balance between her love for Lyddie and growing feelings for Jed, or will she discover that some kinds of love just don’t mix?

Where to start? Are there enough superlatives to describe this story? No. there you go, one of the shortest book reviews you’ll ever see.

Seriously? Yes, seriously, I finished this book about half an hour ago and have since being thinking, cogitating and generally mulling over how to put into words my thoughts on this story. I’ll do my best, though for those other fans of hers, I doubt if anything I’m going to say will come as a surprise.

Ms Moorcroft doesn’t pick easy subject matter, that much you already know if you’ve read any of her other books, for this, she should be congratulated. No picking the tried, tested, or easy route for her and perhaps other writers in the Contemporary Romance genre would do well to take a leaf from her book.

There are three central characters in ‘Is This Love?’ Two conventional, Tamara and Jed, around whom the conventional love story is centred and then there’s Tamara’s elder sister Lyddie. Lyddie is the glue that binds Tamara’s family together; Lyddie is a kind, generous thirty-something woman; Lyddie is a kind, generous, thirty-something brain-damaged woman. That got your notice.

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Mick’s Musings: Strange and exciting things are a happening!

rp_Mick-Arnold1-224x30011.jpgYou may recall my telling you about my ‘current WIP’ and a certain feline that was in the process of taking over the story? That’s still ongoing, but I haven’t actually added to the word count since the middle of January – naughty Mick. But, I have an excuse and it’s a good one, but not so good in that I’ve had to put a temporary halt to this story. So, please put on your ‘understanding-type’ hats.

In the middle of January, I was driving back from a hospital appointment, the radio was on and as I hadn’t dropped dead from the tests, it was turning out to be a pretty good day. Then IT happened again. There was an interview being broadcast and two lines embedded themselves in my mind. Ah! There’s a good idea for a short story, I thought. So, quickly pulling over, I entered the lines into my phone and set off back for home.

Upon arrival, I kissed the Lady Wife hello, snaffled a hug off her and then, upon doing the husbandly checks to see if there was anything I could do, booted up the laptop, brought up a fresh page in Word, and scribbled down the two lines. They were perfect for the opening hook (well, in my humble opinion anyway) and then, I started to hammer out what I envisioned as a short story of about 2,000 words…and typed…and typed…and…you get the picture.

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Mick’s Musings: Authors Meet Up

100_2844

(L-R) Georgia Hill, Mick Arnold, Linn B Halton and Tora Williams

I went to an author/blogger meet up in Birmingham recently and I’d like to start by thanking the wonderful Kim Nash for not only taking the trouble to arrange it, but also for being such a gracious host; thank you Kim.

To those of you whom I didn’t get around to meeting, I’m sorry and, if like me, you’re down to go to the next one in London, I hope to at least be able to say hello and maybe share bookish experiences with you. I’ll be the one in the corner, looking not unlike a startled rabbit (but with slightly less hair).

Swift hello’s to a few that I did manage to meet, starting with the lovely Sue Moorcroft (always great to catch up) and the other members of her Facebook Team Moorcroft whose names I can recall. Louise Styles, hi and very good to meet and talk to you; Mark West, Sue told me about a short story you wrote (think it was yourself?) about someone with a foot fetish, thanks for the nightmares; Kim Nash, thanks again and very nice to put a person to the face. Bookaholic Holly, Georgia Hill, Janice Preston, Linn B Halton and undoubtedly others whose names I can only apologise for forgetting. Just think of a goldfish with amnesia and that’s me with names.

This was my first meet up of this kind and there are already two others this year that I’ve accepted the kind invitations to go to. If you’ve never been to one of these and you find an invite drop into your Facebook account, then I can honestly say that (assuming you’re either an author or blogger, or for that matter a keen reader) you won’t be in the company of such a warm and welcoming group of people – ever!

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Mick’s Musings: Fun! Fun! Fun!

rp_Mick-Arnold1-224x30011.jpgDoesn’t time fly when you’re having fun…now I need to find the time to have that fun.

When I’m writing, after the first few hundred words, so long as it’s flowing, it is fun. Characters I’ve created/am in the process of creating, stand up and wave their little paws at me (I like cats, heck knows why half the time, but my latest WIP has a quite prominent feline who seems to be making a bid for freedom) for attention and sit down to share a metaphorical cup of tea with me. Then there’s the (mostly) welcome appearance of a new character that I hadn’t even considered when the idea for the story first came to mind, and even after I’d actually done some planning!

With this WIP, it looks very much like it’ll now be starting at chapter three. So, what does that mean for the Prologue and the first two chapters? Well, not really wanting to throw anything away, I do believe that quite a bit can be incorporated into forthcoming chapters and I also have to admit, it does start off the story a lot better. It’s straight into mini-crisis, always a good way to start.

Thank you Kate T for the suggestion.

As far as these new characters? It’s a welcome to Tippy’s Posse. Okay, so she’s currently called Poppy, but I have a few too many characters whose names begin with the letter ‘p’, but I still like ‘Poppy’ so it’s really a case of watch this space.

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