Book News

NK Chats To… Lola Jaye About Her New Novel, Orphan Sisters

Lola JayeOrphan Sisters is the new novel from the fabulous, Lola Jaye and I am excited to be a part of her blog tour to celebrate the paperback release. 

Their Nigerian parents have emigrated to England in search of a better life for their family. Nineteen Fifties London is a great adventure to the girls but not always welcoming. There are signs in windows of lodging houses warning: ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’.

When tragedy strikes and the girls lose their father, their mother is unable to cope. When she fails to recover from the surprise birth of another child all three girls are sent to an orphanage. Lana is determined to keep her sisters together but when baby Tina gets adopted, she must admit their family is about to be torn apart – perhaps for ever…

 

Hi Lola. It’s so lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your new novel is called Orphan Sisters. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired you to tell this story?

Orphan Sisters is a saga spanning thirty years but primarily set in 1960’s London where three little girls were supposed to be living the dream of their immigrant parents. However, they end up living a nightmare many migrants, even today, often face. I have always been so inspired by my parents, aunties, uncles and all those who came to the UK from the former colonies in the hopes of a better life. They faced racism, hardship and were basically told to ‘go back to where you came from!‘ constantly. Having not read much on migration when it came to Nigerians, I wanted to tell their story.

 

What’s your typical writing day like and do you have any rituals whilst writing (silence, coffee, a specific place to write etc.)

When I’m not being distracted by endless cat pictures on the Internet, I settle down with a glass of water by my side and just write. After a couple of hours I will break and make a smoothie, watch a TV program perhaps and then start writing again. My needs are subject to change though. For example, in the UK I generally sit at my desk in my living room with the television out of sight and in silence. But in Atlanta (where I lived for two and a half years until recently) I sat in a lovely little bubble tea shop and wrote whilst the hustle and bustle didn’t seem to disturb me at all!

 

What challenges did you face when writing a book in a historical setting?

I tended to get deeply involved with the research. There was so much I didn’t know about the history of race in the United Kingdom. Having lived in America, I’d become immersed in the American experience, but there’s so much to learn about regarding the UK. I found myself reading and over reading my research, having to remind myself that I actually had a book to write!

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Book Review: Broadcast by Liam Brown

Broadcast_High Res CoverI am delighted to be saying hi to Liam Brown today and kicking off the blog tour for his new novel, Broadcast which was released by Legend Press on 15th September 2017.

The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me – within a few months you’ll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show’s creator has for him.

Broadcast by Liam Brown follows David. He makes his living making videos and sharing every aspect of his life on the internet. When he is recruited to try a new technology that will take his videos to the next level, reluctantly he agrees.

Little does he know what he is letting himself in for and how much of himself he will reveal to the viewing public of the world.

The premise of this book interested me even before I started reading. It has been billed as a ‘Truman Show like nightmare for the You Tube generation,’ and that is a pretty accurate description.

This book explores the themes of the current social media obsession. The need to share aspects of our lives with strangers. When we meet him, David thinks he has the world at his feet. His videos make him a comfortable living and he seems to be happy sharing his life with the world.

Many of the characters in this book felt untrustworthy to me and like David, I didn’t know who was on his side. The doubt and confusion David feels comes across so well.

Like the internet, not a lot is as it seems. Broadcast also makes me think of the saying, ‘be careful what you wish for.’

Once he has signed himself up, it was intriguing to see how he copes with it and how much of his privacy he is really surrendering. This book, despite having finished it is one I just can’t get out of my head.

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Book Review: A Christmas Wish by Erin Green

Aria, August 2017

Aria, August 2017

Flora Phillips has an excuse for every disaster in her life; she was abandoned as a new-born on a doorstep one cold autumn night, wrapped in nothing but a towel. Her philosophy is simple: if your mother doesn’t want you – who will?

Now a thirty-year-old, without a boyfriend, a career or home she figures she might as well tackle the biggest question of them all – who is she? So, whilst everyone else enjoys their Christmas Eve traditions, Flora escapes the masses and drives to the village of Pooley to seek a specific doorstep. Her doorstep. But in Pooley she finds more than her life story.

She finds friends, laughter, and perhaps even a love to last a lifetime. Because once you know where you come from, it’s so much easier to know where you’re going.

For those that know me, you know that you won’t hear too much about the actual story from my reviews. If you want those, then there are plenty of other reviewers and other sites that will tell you all you need to know about the story. No, I believe in telling you my thoughts on the style of the writing etc.

I have made it a habit, a joy of life to follow debut authors from the Romantic Novelists Association and it was with great joy that I came across this young lady’s’ first release. Getting published is a very difficult thing to accomplish, believe me, I know, however when you come across a story of this quality you know that all the hard effort that the author has put in is worth it as we, the reader, get to enjoy the fruits of her labour.

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Book Review: I Heart Forever by Lindsey Kelk

I Heart ForeverHappy publication day Lindsey!

I am so happy and excited to be a part of the blog tour for her new novel, I Heart Forever which has been released today by HarperCollins. 

The day her husband Alex picks up a backpack and goes travelling, Angela Clark promises to stay out of trouble and keep both Louboutins on the ground.

So when her best friend’s boyfriend confides in her, it can’t hurt to help him pick out a ring at Tiffany’s surely?

And when her fashion magazine announces major changes, being terminally late and arguing with your boss isn’t that bad, is it?

Then suddenly there’s another big secret Angela’s got to keep – and the man she loves is still thousands of miles away. As the wedding of the year looms, and Manhattan switches on its Christmas lights, Angela is going to need her friends by her side as her old life looks set to change forever.

First, I want to take a moment to bask in the glory of this beautiful cover. It’s giving me the festive feels. One of my favourite covers of the year for sure.

I have long been a fan of the I Heart series so the idea that this could be the last one (a rumour I am hoping isn’t true,) makes me very sad. If this is the last we are seeing of Angela though, I personally was quite satisfied with the ending. That’s all you’re getting from me though in relation to the end of the novel. I don’t want to give too much away.

It’s been so great to catch up with Angela Clark. She’s like that old friend you don’t see for a while but when you do you’re immediately picking up the conversation where it left off. It was also excellent to see the supporting cast too- Jenny, Alex and Erin.

Angela is a flawed, funny, wonderful heroine to which many people will identify with. A character I’ve loved and will miss.

I Heart Forever sees Angela in New York (one of my favourite cities FYI,) working at Gloss Magazine and seeing Alex, her husband go off travelling for a while. Add to this a whole load of changes at work and Angela has a lot on her plate. She then has to keep a secret that is going to change her life. Angela certainly faces many challenges in this novel.

Lindsey’s writing seems so effortless and has such great humour that it was so easy for me to lose a day to this book, which I pretty much did. I couldn’t put it down. It’s the seventh book in the series so it is advantageous to have read the previous novels. However, you can read it prior to the others if you can’t wait as enough background information is given.

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NK Chats To… e. lockhart

E Lockhart copy 2A 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.

 

GENUINE FRAUD CoverWhat 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.

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Book Review: The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons

choironhopestreet

HQ, April 2017

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…
Nat’s husband has just told her that he doesn’t love her anymore. She is left alone in the family home with their son. Her life is an organised chaos and she is not sure what she is going to do next.

Caroline’s life is well-ordered until her estranged mother comes to visit and turns Caroline’s life upside down.

Nat and Caroline couldn’t be more different and under normal circumstances, their paths wouldn’t cross. These women are not the most compatible of friends. They are thrown together when the local community centre is threatened with closure.

The question is, can they put their differences aside for the greater good?

Nat and Caroline both have their own struggles and both are very quick to judge the other – something I’ve certainly been guilty of in the past.

This story is told from both the point of view of Nat and Caroline so you get a real insight into thoughts and emotions of these characters and the world in which they inhabit. I quickly became attached to them.

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#Blogival: Addicted To Death by Matthew Redford – Extract

Addicted to DeathIt’s my last stop as part of Clink Street Publishing’s #blogival event and I am pleased to be welcoming back Matthew Redford to Novel Kicks. 

About Addicted To Death… 

Following the murder of Benedict and Darcy Blacktail, two eggs savagely beaten to death outside their home by an unknown, fedora wearing assailant brandishing a large metal spoon, Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, carrot and the leading food detective in the police force, is called in to investigate.

When the only food sapiens minister in the Government, Professor Perry Partridge, is murdered at the Strawberry Strip Club, run by the young damson Victoria Plum, DI Wortel suspects that the two cases may somehow be linked.

As the Head of the Food Related Crime Division, DI Wortel is ably assisted by his human colleague Sergeant Dorothy Knox. But as their investigation begins, four celebrity chefs are sent death threats. It’s a recipe for disaster as the incarcerated evil genius MadCow McBeef is seeking parole; someone appears to have crumbled Mr Bramley’s apples; and there is an anti-GM food protestor on the prowl.

And why do Oranges and Lemons think they owe someone five farthings? DI Wortel and his team must find out who is seemingly addicted to death. It will take all efforts – human, fruit and vegetable – to figure this one out.

 

Thanks to Matthew and Clink Street Publishing, I’ve got an extract from his novel, Addicted to Death. Enjoy! 

 

Sour grapes

Wortel eventually prised Dorothy out the KGB offices after hearing more gossip about a tax evasion scam that included many famous celebrities including Gary Barley and Jimmy Carp. Wortel navigated the evening traffic, dropped Dorothy home, wished her a good evening and set off for home himself comforted by the thought of slumping onto his sofa and watching something completely pointless on the television.

The all too familiar sight of a rickshaw parked outside the house caused Wortel to sigh outwardly. Warren. Bang goes a quiet night. He braced himself and opened the front door. And was hit by an overwhelming smell of paint.

“Stella, I’m home. Why can I smell paint?”

“Hello Mr Wortel,” called out Warren. “Mind how you go, the walls in the living room might be a little sticky. I wouldn’t want you to get paint on your suit.”

Stella poked her head out from the kitchen. “I’ll pop the kettle on. I hope you picked up some more that breakfast cereal.”

“What for?” replied Wortel feeling a little confused. “We’ve got four boxes in the cupboard.”

“Down to one box. It’s hard to stop once you’ve had a bowl and Warren certainly worked up an appetite today. He’s worked really hard.”

“Well I’ll have to get some tomorrow now. So, why can I smell paint?”

“Oh bless Warren. I mentioned how I wanted to get some decorating done but you’re always so busy. So he ran me to the superstore, helped me pick up some paint and he set to and painted the room for us.”

With Wortel feeling his shoulders begin to tense he walked into the living room to find the walls decorated a delightful shade of lettuce green.

“Warren thought it was a lovely colour,” said Stella following Wortel into the living room.

Wortel naturally hated the colour out of spite for Warren, and yet as much as he begrudged admitting it, he’d made a bloody good job with the decoration.

As night time approached and Stella insisted that Warren must be far too tired to cycle home, Wortel found himself in the loft recovering the inflatable bed. After blowing up the bed, and putting it into Jack’s room for their new guest, Wortel fled to the bathroom before he heard once again how wonderful Warren had been during the day. God, he hated that rabbit.

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Book Extract: Dating Daisy by DaisyMae_224

eBook Daisy Mae - 9.6.17 - v6Today, 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.

First lie.

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!

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Extract: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel 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

Lilly Bartlett

Chapter 1

 

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.

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August’s Novel Kicks Book Club: The Other Side of You by Amanda Craig

Abacus, February 2017

Abacus, February 2017

It’s August (although the weather doesn’t always want to catch up,) and it’s time for a new book club title. 

I love books and I love chatting about them even more. For August, the book I have chosen for us is The Other Side of You by Amanda Craig. Who wants to join me? This book is based on Beauty and The Beast (an updated version.)

I have posted a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about this book club is that everyone is welcome to take part. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.

The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.

Will must run, or die. He’s seen a murder, and the gang on his estate are after him.

Hurt, hungry and afraid, he comes to an abandoned house in a different part of the city. Behind its high fences is a place of safety. Here, he can hide like a wounded beast. He can find food, and healing – and learn how to do more than survive.

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Book Review: The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

SummerofSerendipityI want to give a big, lovely welcome to Ali McNamara and the blog tour for her new novel, The Summer of Serendipity which has recently been released by Sphere. 

One summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there’s a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.

‘The Welcome House’ is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there’s always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.

While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she’s remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.
But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious ‘Welcome House’? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?

Serendipity Parker is a property seeker. Finding the perfect home for her client is her priority. When she finds herself in the small Irish town of Ballykiltara, she thinks her search is going to be easy. The Welcome House seems perfect. The problem is, no one knows who owns it.
As Ren begins to research the house and the myths and stories surrounding it, she wonders if she will ever find out who owns this house that seems to always be open to all who need it.

From the title alone, I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Serendipity is one of my favourite words and the title just conjured up the feeling of sun, adventure and romance (the cover lends itself to the romantic feeling of the novel.)

I’ve been a big fan of Ali Mcnamara since her first novel, Notting Hill with Love Actually. I also loved Breakfast at Darcy’s (if you’ve read that, Dermot and Darcy make a small reappearance.)

It was lovely to go back to Tara and the area I loved from that novel and to be honest, it all sounds so charming and picturesque, I am about ready to pack my bags and move there. I can tell that Ali has a real love with Ireland by the way she describes it. The prose is so rich.

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Book Review: Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

Sphere, June 2017

Sphere, June 2017

When twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it’s in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls – impossibly and illicitly – in love with her husband’s boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it’s thieves after ransom money, but she’s convinced there’s more to it. As she sets out to discover what’s happened to the sister she’s only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she’s ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what’s become of her.

Beneath the Burning Sky focuses on twenty-one year old Olivia. She has been forced into marriage to Alistair Sheldon and is moved from England to Egypt where she grew up as a child.

Alistair is not the loving husband. The only thing keeping her going is the chance to see her sister whom she’s not seen for years and Edward, who is a Captain in the army and is living with Alistair and Olivia.

When her sister Clara goes missing, Olivia is frantic trying to find out what happened to her. The men are not forthcoming with any details only telling her it is someone after ransom money and Olivia finds herself shut out of the search for Clara.

When this book begins, you are immediately pulled into the plot. Olivia is in a place she has not seen since she was a child and you really do feel her trepidation as she arrives in Egypt. The description of her surroundings is rich and compelling.

I really wanted to keep reading to find out what happens to these women. It’s set in the 1800’s where women in this setting were pretty much treated like property and something that should be content with being controlled.

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Book Review: Confetti at the Cornish Café by Phillipa Ashley

Confetti at the cornish

Maze, May 2017

Cal and Demi are preparing to launch their beloved Kilhallon Resort in Cornwall as a wedding venue. With the cliff-top setting and coastal views, it’s the perfect place for a magical ceremony.

But their first clients are no ordinary couple. The bride and groom are internationally famous celebrities Lily Craig and Ben Trevone. As secrets surface and truths are told, can Demi and Cal ensure that Kilhallon’s first wedding is a success? One thing’s for sure, this will be a Cornish celebration to remember . . .

It’s always a sad moment when you come to the end of a beloved series. Harry Potter, the original Star Wars Trilogy, and my latest – ‘Confetti at the Cornish Café’ is the third and final book in the ‘Cornish Café’ trilogy; unless Phillipa can be persuaded to keep them going? But would that be a good thing? All good things come to an end, is a very true saying and some things go on way past their sell-by-dates. This is not the case here.

I have enjoyed, to say the least, Ms Ashley’s tales of Demi and Cal and the third, unusual but certainly important character, Kilhallon (the estate in Cornwall where the story is mainly set). There are many books where the location is important, but few that earn the right to be counted as a character in their own right (Mandalay in Rebecca comes to mind). I want to visit Cornwall again now to try and search it out, but know that despite the beauty of the county, I’d be disappointed.

Ms Ashley has been extremely clever with her pacing of these novels as hints have been dropped about the cause of Cal’s behaviour, which were revealed in ‘Christmas at the Cornish Café’, but here we finally get to meet the little girl from his past that has so affected him, and the way it was written brought tears to the eyes of this reviewer. But what about Cal and Demi you ask? Do they finally get together?

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July’s Novel Kicks Book Club: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace

Vigaro, August 2001

July! Wow. Can you believe we’re halfway through 2017? It’s the beginning of the month which means a new title for our book club.

I love books and I love chatting about them even more. For July, I shall be reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood so who wants to join me? Based on a true story, this book is soon going to be a new Netflix series.

I have posted a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about this book club is that everyone is welcome to take part. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.

The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.

 

About Alias Grace.

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NK Chats to… Penny Parkes

Penny Parkes has joined me today to talk about her new book, Practice Makes Perfect (released by Simon & Schuster on 29th June 2017.) Thank you for joining me today and congratulations for your new book. Can you tell me a little about Practice Makes Perfect?51b9ZXV0PiL

Well, Practice Makes Perfect takes us to the fictional Cotswold market town of Larkford, where we sneak behind the scenes of the medical centre there – The Larkford Practice. There’s a whole new management structure in place. In fact, the four senior doctors are not only entwined professionally, but also personally: 4 partners, 2 couples. So, I’m sure you can imagine how the boundaries between personal and professional become ever more blurry.

On the surface it might seem like the perfect situation and the powers-that-be certainly think so, because they’ve nominated Larkford as a Model Practice. But, as is often the case, if you shine a spotlight on things, it does rather tend to emphasise the flaws…

And, as always in Larkford, we get to see the doctors as a crucial part of their community – in good times and in bad. For Dr Holly Graham, in particular, that relationship works in both directions, as resident celebrity Elsie Townsend makes it her mission to help Holly find balance and fulfilment.

I’m hoping it will be like visiting old friends for those returning to the series after Out Of Practice and also stand alone as a wonderfully rural escapade for those new to the Larkford Valley.

 

What’s your writing day and routine like? Any rituals? 

I have to be fairly flexible, to be honest, to fit around family life, but that doesn’t stop me having an ‘ideal day’ that I try to work towards.  I normally see the kids off to school and then have my breakfast – an excellent excuse to muck about on social media while I top up my caffeine levels. Then, The Ginger Ninja and I like to have a little stroll, and this mainly serves not only to wear her out, but also to give me time to think about what I want to write that day. I have found (to my cost) that I am much more efficient if I sit down to type with an idea of where I want the story to go… Even if my characters don’t always behave themselves accordingly once I get started!

 

What type of writer are you in terms of planning and editing? 

I’d have to say that I’m a little of both – I like to sketch out a loose framework and then just let the plotlines develop on their own with a first draft. Only then will I start looking at the balance of points of view and more specific character arcs etc. and of course that’s where my incredibly insightful and lovely Editor, Jo, comes in with some much needed objectivity!

 

Do you have any advice for anyone experiencing writer’s block? 

I think the only thing to be aware of is that, creatively, you can’t drink from an empty cup – if you’re exhausted or ill or hammering out the words simply to up the word count, I think it shows in the quality of those words. Half the time, the days when I’ve pushed through writing with the flu, for example, all those pages have ended up on the cutting room floor anyway! Sometimes better to step away – rest, recover, see a friend – and then suddenly a chance comment in the queue at the supermarket will set my enquiring mind off on a roll… Inspiration is everywhere really, except possibly staring at a blank screen!

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Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.

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