A big lovely welcome to author Andreas Pflüger and the blog tour for his latest novel In The Dark which was released by Head of Zeus on 2nd November.
She lost her sight, but she can still see the truth…
Jenny Aaron was once part of an elite police unit tracking Germany’s most dangerous criminals. She was the best. Until it all went wrong. A disastrous mission saw her abandon a wounded colleague and then lose her sight forever.
Now, five years later, she has learnt to navigate a darkened world. But she’s still haunted by her betrayal. Why did she run?
Then she receives a call from the unit. They need her back. A prison psychologist has been brutally murdered. And the killer will only speak to one person…
Thanks to Andreas and Head of Zeus, we have an extract from In The Dark. Enjoy.
‘How old was Dr Breuer?’
The murder victim’s colleague has been crying a lot. Her voice is hoarse, dull, empty. ‘Thirty-three. Her birthday was in December. She invited all her colleagues to go to the cinema.’
‘How long had she been working in the correctional facility?’
‘Three years. We knew each other from university. Then I started here, for a bit of security. Melly always wanted her own practice. But it didn’t work. She waitressed part-time, it wasn’t a life. When the job here came up I was on at her until she applied.’
Tears start to come, but get stuck in her throat.
‘Did she like the job?’by
Jane Austen meets Christmas in Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe which is the latest novel by Melissa de la Cruz.
Darcy Fitzwilliam simply doesn’t have time to fall in love. But this Christmas, a kiss under the mistletoe will change everything…
As partner at a major New York hedge fund, Darcy’s only serious relationship is with her work cellphone. The truth is, she’s too busy being successful and making money to have time for Christmas… let alone to allow romance into her life.
But this year Darcy is coming home to Pemberley, Ohio, for the holidays. There, she runs into her old neighbour and high-school foe Luke Bennet – the oldest of five wayward brothers. When Darcy’s enmity with Luke is re-opened, along with a hefty dollop of sexual chemistry… well, sparks are sure to fly. Can Darcy fall in love – or will her pride, and Luke’s prejudice against big-city girls, stand in their way?
Melissa and the blog tour for her new book join me today and to celebrate the release of Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, Melissa and Hodder & Stoughton have shared an extract. Enjoy.
A Taylor Swift cover of “Last Christmas,” originally recorded by Wham! in 1986, strummed from the stereo of the sleek, black town car, where Darcy was sitting in the backseat. Over the driver’s seat she could see Edward’s head bobbing up and down as they drove over the bumpy terrain, and it was somewhat of a comfort. Edward had worked for the Fitzwilliam family since Darcy was a small girl, and though she told herself over and over that she hadn’t missed anything about her hometown in the eight years since she’d fled, the truth was she had missed Edward.
Despite being only fifteen years older than she was, he had a grandfatherly twinkle in his blue eyes and an impressively sharp memory that she had always admired. He always remembered everything she told him. And she told him plenty, as he was the only person in her family she felt she could trust.
“She’s going to be okay,” Edward said from the front seat. “So you can wipe that worried look off your face, my dear.”
“Oh, I hope you’re right,” she said, chewing her bottom lip anxiously. “But you know how my mom is. She’ll never let people know if she’s suffering.”
“That’s true.” She watched his head bob up and down. “You know, you haven’t aged one bit,” he said, looking at her reflection in the rearview mirror.
“I know.” She tried to smile through her nerves. “You always told me if I kept scowling I’d have forehead wrinkles by twenty- five.”
“Now you’re twenty-nine and wrinkle free!” He chuckled. “What’s your secret, Miss Fitzwilliam?”
He never called her that. Darcy, Darce, the Darcinator, some- times Darce-Tastic, but never Miss Fitzwilliam—that was her mother’s name. Doing so now was a playful acknowledgment of the way she’d skyrocketed to a position of unfathomable power and status, in the time since he’d last seen her, that even her own blue-blooded family had never quite held. He was proud of her, she could tell, and she appreciated it. At least somebody from her old life was.
She swallowed hard, so unsure of how she’d be received in her family home. How should she act when she saw them all again? How did she used to act around them? Suddenly she couldn’t remember; suddenly she felt seized by anxiety, like this one interaction with her parents and brothers after eight years would make or break their relationship for the entire future.
From the outside, anyone would think that Darcy Fitzwilliam was doing unusually well on her own in New York City, and in many ways she was. But in her gut she knew something was horribly off, and when she’d got that middle-of-the-night phone call, she finally knew what was missing. Her glamorous Manhattan life was missing family, people to love and to be loved by. She’d hopped on the first flight home. Now, for the sake of at least making a good impression on Edward, she used all her energy to shake off the nervousness and said, “My secret? A lady never reveals her secrets, Mister Peterson.”
She turned then to face her refection. It was true: at twenty- nine and as partner at the second most successful hedge fund in NYC, she didn’t look a day over twenty-four. She was con – dent in her good looks and considered herself to be just as gor- geous as everybody told her she was. Her slender, heart-shaped face boasted elegantly chiseled cheekbones; a lightly freckled, ski-slope nose; big, stormy gray eyes shuttered by naturally long lashes; and a perfectly pouty set of pale pink lips. Now and then she started to think they were losing their youthful luster, and in those moments she’d briefly toy with the idea of getting them plumped. But the thought was always eeting, as she had far more important things on her mind. The real question for Darcy was not to plump or not to plump. No, it was something far less simple and far more troubling.by
The Note is the debut novel from journalist and editor, Zoe Folbigg. It was released digitally in September and is due to be released in paperback by Aira on 2nd November.
One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London, and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably that he is The One.
Every day they go through the same routine; he with his head in a book and her dreaming of their happily-ever-after. But eventually, Maya plucks up the courage to give Train Man a note asking him out for a drink.
And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it. Based on the true story that everyone is talking about, The Note is an uplifting, life-affirming reminder that taking a chance can change everything…
I’ve reviewed The Note below but first, thanks to Zoë and Aira, I have a pre paperback publication extract to share with you today. Enjoy!
Maya has done it. She has delivered three sentences and a friendly sign-off, and now it is out of her hands. She struggles to walk the incline of the seemingly uphill train carriage because her legs are shaking, her mouth is dry, and putting one foot in front of the other takes effort and focus her racing heart isn’t capable of at the moment.
Her legs buckle as Maya slumps into a seat on the other side of a grubby internal door. Which is just as well because she wanted to linger with the last straggles of bedraggled Train People disembarking reluctantly; to make herself invisible to all the commuters she just embarrassed herself in front of. So, Maya lies low with the sleepy people. The people who can’t stand their jobs. The people who are lost in someone else’s life, frantically turning or swiping pages to find out if the girl got the guy, the adventurer made it back to London or the heretic was burned at the stake.
Train Man isn’t a straggler. Every day Maya sees him stand up confidently at the same point on the track, somewhere between the football stadium and the tunnel, as the train snakes towards a new day and a new terminus. Equine legs, strong arms. He throws a grey backpack with two thin brown leather straps onto his back, stands in the doorway and, as the train comes to a stop and orange lights ding, he steps off with pace and purpose. Maya usually walks a healthy distance behind Train Man, tiny sparks flying from her heels, down the platform and through the barriers under the canopy of a reverse waterfall bubbling white and bright above them. The intimate huddle of a metal umbrella for thousands of people who don’t even look up. Train Man always walks straight through the station and Maya wonders what he’s listening to, trying to guess from his gait, not realising he was at four of the six gigs she went to in the past year. Every day she sees him turn right out of the station and walk swiftly, resolutely, into a mist of people down the road. Until she can’t keep up with his long stride, he in Converse, she in heels – or ballerina flats if she needs to be nimble and get to a meeting – and Maya tends to lose him around the big crossroads at the artery by the hospital. But not today. Today Train Man has long gone.
When Maya’s legs buckled and she fell into a dusty seat, she put distance between where Train Man had been sitting, where she had awkwardly stood over him, and into this sanctuary of a cringe-free carriage. Catching her breath, she waits for three minutes until she, Maya Flowers, is the last of the stragglers. Hot face. Thumping heart.
I did it!by
A big hello to author Greta Horwood and the blog tour for her novel, Sun, Sea & Sex which was released by Author House UK in August.
About Sun, Sea & Sex:
The book tells of the trials and tribulations of Zeeta, who has overcome many obstacles and survived different relationships. A loving marriage led to a horrendous one. Her second marriage was to a man with a depraved sexual appetite.
The sunny parts were when everything was going well. There were choppy seas between when things were not going right, not just in a relationship but in general life.
Also there were times when the sea was calm and all three women were coping well. The sex within relationships was, in the most part, good to excellent. In Zeeta’s second marriage, sex was a nightmare.
She endured and suffered.
Happy ever after on a Caribbean island. Zeeta survived with the help of two friends—one from her school days, Sheila, and the second one was Peggy, her boss and a very good friend. Their relationships and stories are part of this book.
Greta has very kindly shared an extract from Sun, Sea & Sex with us today. Here’s a brief introduction to the scene;
Zeeta was at college, a new life full of new experiences. A chance accident where Zeeta was pushed to the floor, by a revolving door, led to an unlikely friendship with an Arabian Prince, Armaan. He was to advise her about men and gave her a sex education without the actions. Her time with Armaan left her wanting more, but she did not know what more meant. Being kissed by Armaan led to more feelings of wanting more. It left Zeeta confused. He abruptly stopped his kissing, that led to more confusion, he was pushing her away. Zeeta could not understand, she loved him, but having no experience of love, she could only guess the feelings she had were love.
Armaan appears throughout the book, during other relationships. Meeting him at these other times, Zeeta knew she loved and wanted him.
(Warning: Adult content.)
Armaan was back. I can’t explain my feelings in seeing him. I was overwhelmed by them. Yes I missed him, but what I was feeling was more than that. We continued with our easy friendship and he said he was delighted to be back. He was now married and his wife was expecting their first child. He was a different person now, I think the worry of not having a wife was bothering him, but now he was married, life had suddenly became enjoyable. He said he enjoyed my company and although he was 14 years older than me, I was not empty headed like the gigglers. We continued our friendship and I often felt he was preparing me for the life I would eventually lead. He said my blue eyes and personality would attract many man, but I would know who was right for me. He said beware of false promises, men will say they love, but often it is a way to easy sex, so beware of false promises.
He said he had stones cast for my future and these foretold of a happy life with two children. He said choose a husband older than myself, he would be considerate. That happened my husband was older than me and he was considerate.
We had many of these talks, he was the perfect gentleman and I loved him. Well I thought these feelings I had for him were love, I had never felt like this. I had limited experience, but hoped the feelings I was having, were love, they were very pleasant.by
A huge massive hello to e. lockhart (Emily) who is joining me today. Her new novel, Genuine Fraud was released by Hot Key Books on 5th September.
About Genuine Fraud:
Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream,
superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.
Welcome to Novel Kicks. I am so excited to have you as our guest today. What is your typical writing day like?
Thanks for having me! I sit down to work around 8:30 in my home office. The cat sits with me. Then I fret and bleed and feel sick and feel impressed with myself and despair and have flashes of inspiration.
Your new book is called Genuine Fraud. What is the premise and what inspired it?
It’s about two young women who look enough alike to share a passport. It was inspired by various superhero origin stories, the Patricia Highsmith novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, Victorian orphan stories including Vanity Fair and Great Expectations, action hero movies and my desire to write a feminist antiheroine story. Its a story that’s in conversation with all of those. And it’s a tale told backwards.
What are the challenges of writing a young adult novel?
YA readers love their books passionately, and tolerate neither bulls—t nor boredom. That’s an exacting and super-responsive audience to have.
What elements do you feel are important?
I try to get the inside of my head onto the page in the shape of a story that will be entertaining and emotional to read. I try to offer my brain up to the reader.
How do you approach the editing process?
The editor pushes me to be my best self. She pushes really hard and I can’t say I enjoy it. I revise my books about twenty times. Maybe more.
What is your process like when starting a novel (from idea to final draft,) and has it changed since writing your first book?
With Genuine Fraud, because it is told backwards, I had to lay the plot out ahead of time. Then I wrote the book from the last chapter to the first — in reverse order to how people will experience it. But after that came the twenty revisions.by
Today, I’m so pleased to be a part of the blog tour for Dating Daisy by DaisyMae_224 which was released by Clink Street Publishing on 27th July 2017.
Here’s a little about Dating Daisy…
What do you do when you’re a newly divorced 52-year-old mother, keen for a second chance of romance? Why internet dating of course! Daisy Mae_224 embarks on the internet dating process with trepidation.
Having not been on the dating scene for nearly 30 years, and with fairly rudimentary computer skills, she finds herself embroiled in a series of haphazard and hilarious situations.
Daisy keeps a diary of her internet dating life and reveals detail by detail, the ups and downs of her midlife dating extravaganza. Soon after starting out, Daisy realises her true mission. With no past experience and no-one/nothing to guide her, she needs to produce – Internet Dating lessons.
Read on to find out about PLONKERS, muppets and MAWDs, and a whole host of amusing anecdotes, tips and ideas. Working by day as a Sexual Health doctor, the story as it unfolds contains accounts of Daisy’s clinical experiences with patients in the Sexual Health clinic.
She also reflects on her past life with Voldemort (the dreadful ex-husband). With advice and encouragement from Imogen, her 17 year old daughter, her surrogate parents known as the Amigos, with a big house and swanky swimming pool, her friend Pinkie and from Jeannie, her nonagenarian friend from the Nursing Home, Daisy resiliently persists in her quest to find a long term partner.
This is a heartfelt story that will ring bells with anyone who has ended a long-term relationship and now wants to find somebody new. It is humorously written, full of emails, poems, limericks, and even a recipe!
Daisy can’t resist her pages of advice on topics like “Kissing” and “Anti-Snoring.” It is a unique and highly amusing book, which will make you laugh out loud! So read on and see. Will Dating Daisy find her “prairie vole?” Or will the whole process end in disaster?
Thanks to DaisyMae_224 and Clink Street Publishing, I have extracts from Dating Daisy to share. These also include notes from the author. Enjoy!
Dating Daisy is a humorous novel about Daisy, who aged 52, and newly divorced, plucks up the courage to start internet dating. It is a fiction book but based on the authors’ experiences. In between the dating, she works as a doctor in the Sexual Health Clinic. The book follows the up’s and down’s of this period in her life, and reveals some unpredictable, escapades, that may just make you laugh out loud!
In this first extract, Daisy has bravely done all that was required. With trepidation, as she has not had to think about any sort of dating for three decades, let alone advertise herself on the internet, she has actually completed the profile, uploaded the photo., and then went to bed to sleep on it. The next morning, full of anticipation she logs on, expecting to find a row of possible suitors.
Not one wink, smile, email or anything else. I am deflated.
Oh, wait a minute, 37 men have viewed me and one has listed me as a favourite.
One! Out of 37! How can I be so unattractive!
Didn’t I say rhinoceros earlier? Time to think of ugly mammals. Hopefully not because I’m one of them!, but because I have to behave like one. The thicker the skin the better. Didn’t the elephant get his saggy baggy skin by scratching it in the Limpopo River? I need to scratch mine somewhere. It’s getting very itchy.
“What’s wrong with me,” my brain asks Daisy. “Am I so ugly no one wants to speak to me?”
“Now come on,” says the brain, “there are lots of reasons nothing has happened – yet. And it is early.
“You only loaded your profile less than 24 hours ago. It has to be checked by Trust HQ!
“And anyway, remember men are like ostriches, they see a beautiful woman, they stick their head in the sand. You, Daisy, need to lead the way.
“Think about the men on BritainonSunday.com. The Britain on Sunday readers of the UK have just risen early, downed a cooked breakfast and boarded the 6.48 to Clapham Junction. They are probably only now unfurling the daily newspaper, and may not even yet have reached the dating section.
“And how many will be actually online-now? In the rush hour? Don’t be ridiculous!
“And those who do like you, may be shy, they may be poleaxed, frozen with desire, helplessly in love with the tantalising image in the red dress, but uncertain how to make the first move.
“Daisy, you will just have to make the first move yourself. Now what did I say?
“Dazzling, beautiful, smart and alluring.
“Be brave! The world CAN be your oyster.”
I chose this extract because disappointments when internet dating are all too common. This is fairly early on this story, and Daisy is quite dismayed to see that the man who gets off the train, is a different person to the one she saw in his photograph on the internet.)
Anyhow, I was now driving to meet Henry, this talkative, charming, perfect soulmate who wanted to be my teddy bear, and today Dating Daisy had a date. Nothing was going to get in the way. Jeremy took my love and threw it away. Jeremy is history.
I arrived at the station. The train was due in 20 minutes but it seemed the longest 20 minutes in history. He had texted that he was in the front of the train. I waited in the waiting room as it was very cold that day. I popped in to the ladies to brush my hair and apply a bit more lipstick. What would he think of me, this 53-year-old, Dating Daisy? I was aware that I had my love poem, Finding True Love, folded in a an envelope in my hand bag.
Would I, oh would I, in my wildest dreams, be able to give this to Henry?
The train slowed, a whistle blew, the doors opened. A lot of people were moving about, getting on and off the train. I scanned the front of the train for a tall, balding man with a smiley face.
But what was this. A carriage door opened and a man was smiling and walking towards me. But it wasn’t, it couldn’t be, Henry? I guessed it must be as he was hugging me and grasping my hand. I looked over his left shoulder as he enveloped me on that station platform. I am 5ft8½, and he is shorter than me.
Second lie. He didn’t look anything like his photo. The picture I had seen must have been a picture of someone else.
This man had had seriously bad acne, and had a very scarred face. Deep craters peppered his rough complexion. In addition, his cheeks had caved in, rather like an old person who has taken out their false teeth. I knew he didn’t have any hair, so that was not a surprise, but he was very, very bald. And you know what else? He was wearing a purple and green striped shirt over a pair of tatty jeans, and what had I said? No Morris dancers!
Daisy continues to work at her day job in the Sexual Health Clinic. The book is interspersed with anecdotes and stories from the clinic.
A patient made me laugh today.
She said, “Can I ask you something doctor?”
“Of course,” I said.
“The thing is, I keep getting this pain in my vagina.”
“Ok. Pain in the vagina?”
“Yes, I get it whenever I use two vibrators at once. Have you heard of that before?”
I considered this.
“Well, have you tried only using one vibrator at a time?” I said.
“Now there’s an idea,” she replied.
People can be very strange!
Lilly Barlett’s new novel, The Big Dreams Beach Hotel is due to be released by Harper Impulse tomorrow. I am delighted to be able to share with you an extract from Lilly’s new book. First, here’s the blurb…
Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face at the hotel that’s full of dreams…
Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.
What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.
That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.
How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?
The Big Dreams Beach Hotel
New York is where I fell head over heels for a bloke named Chuck. I know: Chuck. But don’t judge him just because he sounds like he should be sipping ice-cream floats at the drive-in or starring in the homecoming football game. Rah rah, sis boom bah, yay, Chuck!
Believe me, I didn’t plan for a Chuck in my life. But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’ve got plans for your career and a future that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of being in love, and the next you’re floating around in full dozy-mare mode.
I won’t lie to you. When Chuck walked into our hotel reception one afternoon in late October, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was lust.
Be still, my fluttering nethers.
Talk about unprofessional. I could hardly focus on what he was saying. Something about organising Christmas parties.
‘To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing,’ he confided as he leaned against the reception desk. His face was uncomfortably close to mine, but by then I’d lived in New York for eighteen months. I was used to American space invaders. They’re not being rude, just friendly. And Chuck was definitely friendly.
‘I only started my job about a month ago,’ he told me. ‘It’s my first big assignment, so I really can’t fuck it up. Sorry, I mean mess it up.’ His blue (so dark blue) eyes bore into mine. ‘I’m hoping someone here can help me.’
It took all my willpower not to spring over the desk to his aid. Not that I’m at all athletic. I’d probably have torn my dress, climbed awkwardly over and landed face-first at his feet.
Keep him talking, I thought, so that I could keep staring. He looked quintessentially American, with his square jawline and big straight teeth and air of confidence, even though he’d just confessed to being hopeless at his new job. His brown hair wasn’t too long but also wasn’t too short, wavy and artfully messed up with gel, and his neatly trimmed stubble made me think of lazy Sunday mornings in bed.
See what I mean? Lust.
‘I noticed you on my way back from Starbucks,’ he said.
At first, I thought he meant he’d noticed me. That made me glance in the big mirror on the pillar behind him, where I could just see my reflection from where I was standing. At five-foot four, I was boob-height behind the desk in the gunmetal-grey fitted dress uniform all the front-desk staff had to wear. My wavy dark-red hair was as neat as it ever got. I flashed myself a reflected smile just to check my teeth. Of course, I couldn’t see any detail from where I stood. Only my big horsy mouth. Mum says giant teeth make my face interesting. I think I look a bit like one of the Muppets.
‘Do you have the space for a big party?’ he said. ‘For around four hundred people?’
He didn’t mean he’d noticed me; only the hotel. ‘We’ve got the Grand Ballroom and the whole top floor, which used to be the restaurant and bar. I think it’s even prettier than the ballroom, but it depends on your style and your budget and what you want to do with it.’
Based on his smile, you’d have thought I’d just told him we’d found a donor kidney for his operation. ‘I’ve been looking online, but there are too many choices,’ he said. ‘Plus, my company expects the world.’ He grimaced. ‘They didn’t like the hotel they used last year, or the year before that. I’m in over my head, to be honest. I think I need a guiding hand.’
I had just the hand he was looking for, and some ideas about where to guide it.
But instead of jumping up and down shouting ‘Pick Me, Pick Me!’, I put on my professional hat and gave him our events brochure and the team’s contact details. Because normal hotel receptionists don’t launch themselves into the arms of prospective clients.
When he reached over the desk to shake my hand, I had to resist the urge to bob a curtsy. ‘I’m Chuck Williamson. It was great to meet you, Rosie.’
He knew my name!
‘And thank you for being so nice. You might have saved my ass on this one. I’ll talk to your events people.’ He glanced again at my chest.
He didn’t know my name. He’d simply read my name badge.
No sooner had Chuck exited through the revolving door than my colleague, Digby, said, ‘My God, any more sparks and I’d have had to call the fire department.’
Digby was my best friend at the hotel and also a foreign transplant in Manhattan – where anyone without a 212 area code was foreign. Home for him was some little town in Kansas or Nebraska or somewhere with lots of tornadoes. Hearing Digby speak always made me think of The Wizard of Oz, but despite sounding like he was born on a combine harvester, Digby was clever. He did his degree at Cornell. That’s the Holy Grail for aspiring hotelies (as we’re known).
Digby didn’t let his pedigree go to his head, though, like I probably would have.
‘Just doing my job,’ I told him. But I knew I was blushing.
Our manager, Andi, swore under her breath. ‘That’s the last thing we need right now – some novice with another Christmas party to plan.’
‘That is our job,’ Digby pointed out.
‘Your job is to man the reception desk, Digby.’
‘Ya vol, Commandant.’ He saluted, before going to the other end of the desk.
‘But we do have room in the schedule, don’t we?’ I asked. Having just come off a rotation in the events department the month before, I knew they were looking for more business in that area. Our room occupancy hadn’t been all the company hoped for over the summer.
‘Plenty of room, no time,’ Andi snapped.
I’d love to tell you that I didn’t think any more about Chuck, that I was a cool twenty-five-year-old living her dream in New York. And it was my dream posting. I still couldn’t believe my luck. Well, luck and about a million hours earning my stripes in the hospitality industry. I’d already done stints in England and one in Sharm El Sheikh – though not in one of those fancy five-star resorts where people clean your sunglasses on the beach. It was a reasonable four-star one.
There’s a big misconception about hotelies that I should probably clear up. People assume that because we spend our days surrounded by luxury, we must live in the same glamour. The reality is 4a.m. wake-ups, meals eaten standing up, cheap living accommodation and, invariably, rain on our day off. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?
But I loved it. I loved that I was actually being paid to work in the industry where I did my degree. I loved the satisfied feeling I got every time a guest thanked me for solving a problem. And I loved that I could go anywhere in the world for work.
I especially loved that last part.
But back to Chuck, who’d been stuck in my head since the minute he’d walked through the hotel door.
I guess it was natural, given that I hadn’t had a boyfriend the whole time I’d been in the city. Flirting and a bit of snogging, yes, but nothing you could call a serious relationship.
There wasn’t any time, really, for a social life. That’s why hotelies hang out so much with each other. No one else has the same hours free. So, in the absence of other options, Digby and I were each other’s platonic date. He sounds like the perfect gay best friend, right? Only he wasn’t gay. He just had no interest in me. Nor I in him, which made him the ideal companion – hot enough in that freckle-faced farm-boy way to get into the nightclubs when we finished work at 1 or 2a.m., but not the type to go off shagging and leave me to find my way home on the subway alone.by
Hello everyone. Today, I am pleased to be welcoming Annie Lyons to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her new book, Choir on Hope Street which is due to be released on 6th April by HQ.
The best things in life happen when you least expect them
Nat’s husband has just said the six words no one wants to hear – ‘I don’t love you any more’.
Caroline’s estranged mother has to move into her house turning her perfectly ordered world upside down.
Living on the same street these two women couldn’t be more different. Until the beloved local community centre is threatened with closure. And when the only way to save it is to form a community choir – none of the Hope Street residents, least of all Nat and Caroline, expect the results…
Thanks to HQ and Annie, we have an extract to share with you today. Enjoy!
(Strong language warning.)
‘I don’t love you any more.’
That was it. Six words delivered so simply, as if he were reading the news.
‘Good evening and here is the news. The marriage of Natalie and Daniel Garfield, which lasted for fifteen years, is over. In a statement today, Mr Garfield said, “I don’t love you any more.” Mrs Garfield responded by punching him in the face and trashing the house.’
At least that’s what I wished I’d done later but at the time an odd sensation of calm descended. It was as if this wasn’t really happening to me. It was at best some kind of joke and at worst something that could be sorted.
This wasn’t in the plan. This kind of thing was never going to happen to us. Other people split up, their marriages disintegrating like a swiftly disappearing desert island, but that was never going to happen to us. We were rock-solid – a steady ship; Nat and Dan, Dan and Nat.
It had the ring of one of those American teen shows that Woody loved to watch on Nick Jr.; all jazz hands and sparkly teeth.
We were a great couple. Everyone said so. We were the kind of couple that others looked at with awe and secret envy.
Everybody loved Dan. He’s just one of those men who people like – old ladies, babies, men, women, children have all told me over the course of our marriage, what a really great guy he is.
I would go on nights out with my female friends as they ripped apart their partners and husbands, picking over their faults like vultures feasting on carrion. I would nod with sympathy but never really had anything to add. They would often turn their sleepy, drunken gaze to me, pat me on the shoulder and slur, ‘Course you’re lucky, Nat. You’ve got
Dan. He’s such a lovely guy.’
And he was. Possibly still is.
Dan was my husband, my soul mate. Of course he had his faults. The underpants on the floor and the toilet seat in the perpetual ‘up’ position were an irritation, but not exactly a major crime against domesticity. He was, is a good man – a good husband and father. He was my happyever- after.
Naturally, we had disagreements and wobbles. Who doesn’t? We didn’t spend as much time together on our own as we would like but that’s to be expected. We’re busy with work, Woody and life. Obviously it would be lovely to go on the odd date-night or even have sex but frankly, we were usually too knackered. I’d always thought that the shared bottle of wine o n Friday night with a movie was good enough. Clearly I have been labouring under a major misapprehension.
Initially, I went into full-on denial mode when he dropped the bombshell. I wondered later if my body had actually gone into shock in a bid to protect myself from the truth. Certainly at the time, my brain sent me a quick succession of messages to counter his statement: he didn’t mean it (he did), he’d been drinking (he hadn’t), he was tired (true) and angry (not true). It wasn’t until I’d picked over the remnants of that evening with various friends (my turn to be the vulture now) that I’d fully taken in the order of events.
It was a Tuesday evening. I hate Tuesdays. They make me feel restless and impatient. Monday is supposed to be the worst day but for me, it has always been Tuesday. I can deal with the post-weekend slump and Monday is usually my most productive day but by Tuesday, I am longing for the week to move ‘over the hump’ towards the downhill joy of Thursday. I often long for a glass of wine on Tuesday evenings but on this particular day I was disappointingly sober because I was having a so-called healthy week.
At least I was before he said it.
It was around 8.30 and we had just finished dinner.
Woody was reading in his room before lights-out and I had been about to go and tuck him in. I normally love this part of the day: the feeling that another episode of motherhood is successfully complete; no-one died. Everyone is safe.
If I had been paying attention, I would have noticed that Dan was particularly uncommunicative during dinner.
Again, it wasn’t until later that I recalled the details: his downward gaze and hands fidgeting with the cutlery, his water glass, the pepper mill.
I had been telling him about a problem with my latest book. I am a children’s picture-book writer and have enjoyed some success with my series of books about ‘Ned Bobbin –
the small boy with the big imagination’, as my publisher tags it. There have been six books so far and my editor wants another three but I was struggling with ideas and wondering whether to take him down the super-hero route.
When I recalled the conversation later, I realised that I had done all the talking; posing and answering my own questions with just the odd ‘mhmm’ or nod from Dan. That was the problem with being a writer – you spent too much time at home on your own with no-one to talk to.
I talk to myself all the time when I’m working. I read back what I’ve just written, talk to the radio or hold imaginary conversations with all manner of people, including Ned.
I read somewhere that adults have a certain number of words they need to say in a day and that the word quota for a woman is higher than a man’s. I believe this. It isn’t unusual, therefore, for me to unpack my day to Dan when he gets home. I thought he liked it. Maybe I was wrong about that too.
I had finished my dinner: an unimaginative stir-fry containing any vegetable-like items I’d found in the fridge on opening it at 7.30. Woody had eaten earlier. He was eight years old and always starving when he returned home from school so I tended to feed him straight away and then either Dan or I cooked our dinner later.
I stood up to clear the plates, reaching out for Dan’s.
He looked up at me and only then did I notice how pale he looked – his face, slightly pinched with age, but still handsome. He stared at me, unsmiling and I realised he was nervous.
‘What?’ I asked with an encouraging smile.
He swallowed and bit his lip. Then he said it.
At first I assumed he was joking.
‘Yeah right, and I’m having an affair with James McAvoy.’ I shook my head and made for the door.
A lovely big massive welcome to S.D Robertson and the blog tour for his new novel, If Ever I Fall which was released by Avon on 9th February 2017.
Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job is on the line, and now he’s going to lose his family too. All he’s ever wanted is to keep them together, but is everything beyond repair?
Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered. Nights are spent trying to hold terrible memories at bay, to escape the pain that threatens to engulf her.
Jack wakes up confused and alone. He doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or why he finds himself on a deserted clifftop, but will piecing together the past leave him a broken man?
In the face of real tragedy, can these three people find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through?
Stuart and Avon have kindly given me an extract from the novel to share with you today. I have also reviewed the book below. Enjoy.
Morning, Jack. You’re up bright and early.’
Miles is unloading a large bag of beans into the built-in coffee machine above the oven. I smile at him, say good morning and accept his offer of breakfast. But behind the facade I’m cracking up. How did I get here? I’ve no memory of waking, getting dressed and coming downstairs. And what happened yesterday? Or the day before? My memory’s all messed up: confused by shadows of half-remembered dreams.
The last thing I remember for sure is being in the car with Miles in the village and that weird incident in the hardware shop. Was it real or a dream?
I should tell Miles what’s going on. He is a doctor after all. But I’m not sure I trust him. I’m not convinced he’s ever taken me to the hospital. He says I’ve been there, but I’ve no memory of it.
There’s something off about all of this. What if he’s drugging me? Mind-altering substances could explain a lot. Maybe even what I saw – or thought I saw – in the shop. How has this not occurred to me before?
I wait until he’s finished with the coffee machine and then, as he looks at me, hold my hand to my stomach and wince.
‘Problem?’ he asks.
‘Stomach cramps. Think I’d better get to the toilet.’
‘Oh dear. Hope it’s not the crab we had last night.’
Crab? I’ve no memory of that. Shutting the kitchen door behind me, I head to the foot of the stairs. I wait there for a moment, to make sure he’s not coming after me. Then I slip out of the front door.
It’s cold outside this morning, another biting wind blowing in off the sea. Again, I don’t have my jacket with me, but there’s no time to find it now. I have to get out of here. As far away as possible. And it has to be now.by
Today I am pleased to be saying hello to author, Fiona Mordaunt and the blog tour for her novella, The Frog Theory which was released by Clink Street Publishing on 14th February 2017.
Tragedy and comedy in perfect proportion.
Kim and Flow are the best of friends, living on a council estate, making money selling drugs.
Just around the corner in a smarter part of Fulham is Clea, a well-heeled young woman coping with a violent home life at the hands of her twisted step-father.
The Principal runs a famous college for problem teens. Fostering guilty secrets which distance her from her own children, she resists the advances of a man she sees on the train every day.
When Kim and Clea meet by chance, Kim is smitten but worried about her. Using the anecdote of the frog theory – that it will jump straight out of boiling water and live, but stay in and die if heated slowly from cold – he wakes her up to the dangerous situation she’s in at home.
Serendipity and a cake-fuelled food fight that goes viral will bring Kim, Clea, Flow and The Principal together in weird and wonderful ways in this frenetic, laugh-out-loud story about love, conscience and lion-hearted nerve.
I have reviewed the book below but first, thanks to Fiona and Clink Street Publishing, I have an extract to share with you. Enjoy.
Kim was used to teachers and probation officers trying to make an effort, trying to understand him, gently coaxing; this was new. ‘What kind of fucking teacher are you? You don’t know anything!’ he accused. It had taken a lot for him to come there and try for once in his life. ‘Sitting behind there in your smart suit with your smart nails and your smart hair and, and…’ he searched for something else to say.
‘My smart shoes?’ she suggested with a raised eye-brow.
Kim shifted awkwardly.
‘I couldn’t see your shoes.’
From the waist down she was concealed by a large, low-skirted desk. Strewn across it were some letters showing her home address, he memorised it, might come in useful. ‘I’m sure they’re smart, though,’ he added politely as an afterthought, wishing to appear respectful after a less than perfect beginning.
‘Sit down and tell me your name,’ said the principal.
He did as he was told.by
A huge lovely welcome today to Helen Fields and the blog tour for her new novel, Perfect Remains (a DI Callanach thriller,) which was released by Avon on 26th January 2017.
On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.
In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness…
Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.
It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.
Helen and Avon have kindly shared an extract from Perfect Remains. Enjoy!
Jayne Magee was about as unlikely a target as anyone could imagine. There was no suggestion that Elaine Buxton was a regular at any church at all, so religion wasn’t the link. The pathologist hadn’t been able to estimate Elaine’s time of death, meaning they had no established pattern to follow, only the knowledge that she’d been missing sixteen days before her body was found. This time, the abductor might keep Jayne alive for weeks or she could be dead already. The killer had become a male in Callanach’s mind. There was no evidence, nothing solid, only years of past cases and what was screamingly obvious. Maybe it was more than one person, he considered, but Ava was right about looking at personality first. He couldn’t see such an obsessive character working well as a team player.
Callanach met with Jayne Magee’s assistant, Ann Burt, that afternoon. She dropped a dripping umbrella into Callanach’s bin then removed and folded her headscarf before sitting down.
Callanach instinctively tidied his desk as she settled in. Stick thin, shrill and at the far end of her sixties, he guessed, Ann Burt told it like it was. She reminded him of his grandmother, distant though those memories were.
‘So I’m talking to the detective inspector, am I?’ she began. ‘You’re the third person I’ve repeated myself to today. Would you like to tell me what’s going on?’by
OK, I admit it, I already have the Christmas songs playing and if I could get away with it, I would already have my tree up. I adore this time of year. I love the songs, the lights and any excuse to dig out the Christmas films whilst eating mince pies.
One of the things I love the most are the Christmas themed novels. I am very excited to say that Bella Osborne is with Novel Kicks today (welcome back, Bella,) with the blog tour for her latest Christmas themed novel, Christmas Cheer which is the second book in the Willow Cottage series.
Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a safe place for little Leo.
When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric!
A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.
Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…
Thanks to Bella and Avon, we have an extract from Christmas Cheer. Enjoy…
‘Carly!’ said Beth, her voice sharp.
Carly spun in Beth’s direction with an exaggerated movement. With slow blinks she looked at Beth until something registered.
‘Beth! This is … um … what was your name again?’ She swung precariously back towards Jack who stopped her falling on him with one hand whilst holding the pub table steady with the other.
‘I know who it is.’ Beth was trying to suppress the annoyance that was rapidly developing within her.
‘He’s lov-erly,’ cooed Carly whilst she stroked his arm in a deliberate action.
‘I’d like to know what he’s planning on doing with my drunk friend?’ Beth retorted. Jack let go of
Carly as if she were a lit firework.
As the accusation slowly registered, Carly looked hurt. ‘I’m not dunk!’ she protested as she slowly slid towards the floor.
Jack was looking blindly from one woman to the other as if he’d just been teleported there. ‘I was just …’
‘For someone that wasn’t looking for a relationship a few hours ago you’ve sure as hell come round to the idea quick!’ Beth stepped forward and grabbed Carly by one arm and hauled her into a standing position. ‘Come on! We’re leaving now.’
Carly wobbled on unsteady legs, grinned inanely at Jack and was towed away.by
Making It Up As I Go Along (Notes By A Small Woman) by Marian Keyes has its paperback release today (released by Penguin) and is available in most UK bookshops and online.
Welcome to the magnificent Making It Up as I Go Along – aka the World According to Marian Keyes™ – A bold and brilliant collection of Marian’s hilarious and often heartfelt observations on modern life, love and everything in between.
From a guide to breaking up with your hairdresser to entering the fifties-zone, the joys of her nail varnish museum to singing her way through insomnia, Marian will have you laughing with delight and gasping with recognition throughout – because at the end of the day, each and every one of us is clearly making it up as we go along.
I have reviewed the book below but first, thanks to Marian and Penguin, I am able to share an extract from Making It Up As I Go Along with you. Enjoy….
Writers I Love
May I tell you about what turned out to be one of the happiest days of my entire life? I may? Tanken yew! Well! You know Sali Hughes, the brilliant journalist who writes for the Guardian on a Saturday and the Pool on a Wednesday? And has her own website, salihughesbeauty.com, where she does great videos called ‘In the Bathroom’, where she visits the bathrooms of famous and/or interesting people and discusses their beauty products and skincare and whatnot? Well, I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time because while she really loves all things beauty, she’s entirely honest and reliable and informative. She knows everything.
We first came into contact when I twittered asking people what I should do about the little broken capillaries on my face and everyone told me to email Sali – and she emailed me back immediately, giving me a variety of options and telling me the upsides and downsides of each. And after that we stayed in touch, and even though we hadn’t met in real life I loved her already because she has great sweetness and gentleness coupled with razor-sharp intelligence.
Also, she gives airtime to all kinds of brands, they don’t have to be big names and expensive, so she’s in nobody’s pocket, so I know that what she writes in her columns is genuinely impartial. Also, she’s wonderful for giving exposure to new and emerging brands, which thrills me because I am a divil for ‘New and Exciting’.
And now she’s after writing a book, called Pretty Honest, and it is the ABSOLUTE BEAUTY BIBLE – it covers everything from the very basics, such as identifying your skin type, to how to manage your beauty when you’re going through something awful like cancer, and she demystifies the ‘anti-ageing’ industry, separating out cod science from things that do actually work. (As well as acknowledging that there’s nothing wrong with looking your age – basically she gives you every option.)
Every woman should have this book. Because beauty stuff is a passionate hobby of mine, I thought I knew a bit, but compared to Sali I know nothing and I’ve already consulted the book many times.
So anyway, there I am, living in Dublin and, you know, living a quiet life, seeing my mammy and the Redzers and the Praguers and going for walks with Himself and Posh Kate and Posh Malcolm – when Sali sends me this invitation to a lunch. A foncy lunch – being thrown for her by Bobbi Brown – yes! The make-up brand Bobbi Brown! And I was invited!
There were only twenty people invited and I was one of them – and when I saw the list of the other invitees, didn’t I nearly get sick! They were all writers or journalists that I hold in HUGE regard: India Knight, Jojo Moyes, Sam Baker, Polly Samson, Miranda Sawyer, Hadley Freeman, Lucy Mangan, Maria McErlane, Georgia Garrett, Julia Raeside, Jo Elvin, Camilla Long, Sophie Heawood, Bryony Gordon and Sarah Morgan. Also invited were three amazing women from the Estée Lauder group: Jay Squier, Cheryl Joannides and Anna Bartle.
My immediate impulse was that I couldn’t possibly go, that I didn’t belong, that I wouldn’t fit in, and then I thought, ‘Feck it! I want to go. I’m GOING!’
And this was huge for me because I’ve been mad in the head (MITH) for so long that I’ve had to keep my life very small and safe because it was all that I could cope with. But I realized I was ready to go into a daunting, intimidating situation and try to hold my own.
And off I went. And I really hope you don’t think I’m being a boasty-boaster, I just wanted to let you know that if you’ve suffered from the MITH-ness yourself and you think you’ll always feel terrible, it may not be the case for ever.
I ‘jetted’ in from Dublin – normally, when I travel by air, I simply fly, but because this was so glamorous I ‘jetted’ – and the lunch was upstairs in the private room in Balthazar and I had to scuttle past the welcoming committee to go to the Ladies to do last-minute checks on myself, only to discover that – horrors! – I’d somehow managed to leave Dublin without my comb!by
I am pleased to be welcoming Jane Lambert to the blog today and her tour for her novel, Learning to Fly.
Forty-year-old air stewardess Emily Forsyth has everything a woman could wish for: a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, a designer wardrobe and a dishy pilot of a husband-in-waiting to match. But when he leaves her to ‘find himself’ (forgetting to mention the bit about ‘… a younger girlfriend’), Emily’s perfect world comes crashing down. Catapulted into a mid-life crisis, she is forced to take stock and make some major changes. She ditches her job and enrols on a drama course in pursuit of her childhood dream, positive that, in no time at all, she’ll be posing in Prada on the red carpet and her ex will rue the day he dumped her. Wrong! Her chosen path proves to be an obstacle course littered with odd jobs and humiliating auditions; from performing Macbeth single-handedly at Scone Palace to chauffeuring the world’s top golfers at St Andrews – and getting hopelessly lost.
If she is to survive, she must learn to be happy with less, and develop a selective memory to cope with more than her fair share of humiliating auditions. She tells herself her big break is just around the corner. But is it too late to be chasing dreams?
Jane has very kindly shared an extract from the novel. Enjoy.
It is never too late to be what you might have been ̴ George Eliot
Reasons for and against giving up the glitzy, glamorous world of flying:
‘Cabin crew, ten minutes to landing. Ten minutes, please,’ comes the captain’s olive-oil-smooth voice over the intercom. This is it. No going back. I’m past the point of no return.
The galley curtain swishes open — it’s showtime!
I switch on my full-beam smile and enter upstage left, pushing my trolley for the very last time …
‘Anyheadsetsanyrubbishlandingcard? Anyheadsetsanyrubbishlandingcard? …’
Have I taken leave of my senses? The notion of an actress living in a garret, sacrificing everything for the sake of her art, seemed so romantic when I gaily handed in my notice three months ago, but now I’m not so sure …
Be positive! Just think, a couple of years from now, you could be sipping coffee with Phil and Holly on the This Morning sofa …
Yes, Phil, the rumours are true … I have been asked to appear on Strictly Come Dancing. God only knows how I’ll fit it around my filming commitments though.
Who are you kidding? A couple of years from now, the only place you’ll be appearing is the job centre, playing Woman On Income Support.
This follow-your-dreams stuff is all very well when you’re in your twenties, or thirties even, but I’m a forty-year-old woman with no rich husband (or any husband for that matter) to bail me out if it all goes pear-shaped. Just as everyone around me is having a loft extension or a late baby, I’m downsizing my whole lifestyle to enter a profession that boasts a ninety-two percent unemployment rate.
Why in God’s name, in this wobbly economic climate, am I putting myself through all this angst and upheaval, when I could be pushing my trolley until I’m sixty, then retire comfortably on an ample pension and one free flight a year?
Something happened, out of the blue, that catapulted me from my ordered, happy-go-lucky existence and forced me down a different road …
‘It’s not your fault. It’s me. I’m confused,’ Nigel had said.by
Because of You by Helene Fermont is released today by Fridhem Publishing.
Because of You spans 36 years in the life of Hannah Stein, a Swedish teenager who arrives in London, at the tail end of the disco era, for a gap year before embarking on a teaching career. The people she meets change the course of her life irrevocably and the novel charts her changing personal and professional fortunes over the next three decades. Because of You is about love, coming of age, friendship, bereavement, stillbirth and rape. Its themes include redemption, acceptance, fidelity and family. Because of You is a story that every woman can relate to.
Thanks to Hélene, Fridhem and Palamedes PR, we have an exclusive extract to share with you. Enjoy.
As soon as Easter and Passover were over, Hannah organised a meeting between her grandmother and friends. “I booked a table at Cosmo,” she told the girls. “Ella and Granny’s old friends Katja and Tanya will be joining us.” May was approaching and with it, sunny hot weather. The ladies made the effort to look their best.
Opting to wear a light blue dress, her hair in a soft shade of red perfectly matching her lips, Zipporah admired Tanya and Katja’s bright kaftans, the latter wearing a turban to conceal her loss of hair due to old age. Meanwhile, Hannah assisted dressing Ella, choosing a lavender dress with matching jacket. Rosie and Sanna also made the effort to dress up.
Seated at the large table in the buzzing restaurant overlooking the crowd around them, Rosie kept thinking everyone looked wonderful. “You look years younger than your actual age!” she blurted out, referring to each by surname.
“Please don’t! Unless you refer to us by first name, we’ll feel ancient,” Zipporah whispered in her ear.
It was difficult choosing from the extensive menu. “I’m postponing my diet,” said Sanna. This place’s worth it.”
Nodding her agreement, Katja replied, “You’re a girl close to my own heart. Women are wrong assuming being thin as a stick’s attractive – men prefer a fuller, feminine figure!” Her Russian accent matched that of her friends’. Beaming, Sanna wholeheartedly agreed.
“I’d never contemplate cutting down on my food, neither would Tanya,” Katja added, winking at the larger woman seated next to her.by