Laura

I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts. I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

Events: The Desiblitz Literature Festival

Nikesh Shukla

The UK’s leading British South Asian Literary Festival, organised by DESIblitz.com is due to begin on Saturday.

Running from 18th September until 1st October 2021, the Desiblitz Literature Festival aims to champion the work of the UK’s South Asian literary stars as well as raise awareness of the lack of diversity in the UK publishing industry.

Although the festival is designed to encourage young and aspiring British Asian writers, it’s open to all.

Based in Birmingham, the festival will be running a mix of in-person and digital events across the next couple of weeks. Live events will be taking place at The Rep Centre and B Music (formally Symphony Hall,) in the city centre.

As well as workshops, panel events and poetry readings, the festival will showcase 18 leading writers and thinkers of South Asian decent.

People appearing at the event include Imtiaz Dharker, Saima Mir, Serena Patel and Sarfraz Manzoor amongst others.

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NK Chats To… Anne Montgomery

Hello Anne, welcome to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me about your novel, The Castle and what inspired it? 

Why write a novel about rape? For me the reason was personal. While attending college, I was sexually assaulted. I became a statistic. Today, one out of every six women in the United States will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Like 80% of those victims, I never went to the police. Why? I believed they would have blamed me. I was on a date with a sweet-faced farm boy who played for my university’s football team. I’d had a few drinks. I willingly followed him into his dorm room. What did I expect would happen? So, I said nothing.

Years later, I became a teacher at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, a position I held for 20 years.  It was during this time I came to understand another sad statistic: Four out of five rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. I kept meeting young girls who’d been sexually assaulted, always by a family member or friend. Sadly, many of these teens were ostracized by their loved ones when they came forward, told they were lying, or that the assault was their fault.

This prompted me to investigate the behavior and psychology of rapists, the profile of a victim, and the ways sexual assault survivors can heal. The end result was the story of Maggie, a national park ranger who works at Montezuma Castle in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie is recovering from the gang rape she suffered in the Coast Guard. We follow her through her depression, anger, and ultimate healing.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? 

Until I retired from teaching, I only wrote during school breaks, so most of my books were produced during the summer. Now, I generally get some work done every morning and sometimes in the late afternoon, depending on what else I have going on.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel? 

I find the writing is the easy part. I like to tell stories, perhaps a hangover from my previous life as a reporter. The real challenges come when an author tries to convince others—agents, editors, publishers, reviewers, readers—to like their books.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why? 

I find Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt rather appealing. Not only is he pretty hot, but he’s a scuba diver. I am as well. I would love to tag along on some of his underwater adventures.

 

What elements make up a good story? 

The setting is especially important. I consider locale as another character. Most of my stories, for example, take place in Arizona in and around the Sonoran Desert, a magical area filled with rugged, wild terrain and plants and animals that live nowhere else. The land is both magnificently beautiful and horribly treacherous, if one is not careful. Of course, a good story rides on its characters, who must be engaging, interesting, and relatable.

 

Which authors do you admire? 

I don’t have any favorite authors. I read stories that look interesting, whether the author is a well-known for best-sellers or a first-time Indie author.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

Favorite word? I don’t know. I like lots of words, but mostly ones that sound funny when you say them, like absorb and nudibranch. (The latter are strange Seussical-like creatures who live in the sea. As I mentioned, I’m a scuba diver.)

 

Any other advice for aspiring writers? 

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NK Chats To: Mick Arnold

A lovely big welcome to Mick Arnold who is here with the blog tour for the second novel in the Broken Wings series. Hi Mick. It’s brilliant to have you back on Novel Kicks. In Wild Blue Yonder, we are back with the girls at the Air Transport Auxiliary. What can we expect from book two? 

Many thanks for having me back Laura. You must be a glutton for punishment!

Well, it’s about six months on from the events in ‘A Wing and a Prayer’ and as usual, fate isn’t being kind to some of the girls.

Exactly when their personal relationships seem to be trotting along nicely, an accusation of theft is laid at their door and though not a taxing mystery, it’s still an unwelcome distraction. There are bombing attacks to withstand from the Luftwaffe, POW husbands and sons to worry about, clothing is still going missing, and one of the girls is still suffering the after effects of being stabbed in books 1, ‘A Wing and a Prayer’. So, an awful lot going on for them to deal with.

 

How has your writing process changed between writing the first and second novel in the series?

Not a lot really. As I didn’t know if I’d be able to get a contract for the first one, I only had the barest of idea about a sequel, so when I was asked for it and after I’d recovered from the minor panic attack, I set to. I’m not a planner, so the process was the same as for the first book. Type away and see what comes to mind. Luckily, something did!

 

How long does it take you to write a book?

So long as I don’t allow myself to get too distracted – damn you YouTube! – I can write a 100K story in about 3 – 4 months. As I tend to edit each chapter as I go along, my first drafts are really somewhere between 2nd and 3rd’s in reality.

 

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

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Book Review: Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh

It’s always a good time for a road trip…

When 82-year-old Lil decides to book herself, her 65-year-old daughter, Cassie, and her friend Maggie on a bus trip across Europe, she hopes for a little adventure to counteract the monotony of life in sheltered accommodation.

Along with three members of the Salterley Tennis Club and the Jolly Weaver five-a side football team, whose ideas of a good time are rather different to Lil’s and strikingly at odds with each other’s, the merry band of travelers set out on their great adventure.

From moving moments on the beaches of Normandy, outrageous adventures in Amsterdam, to the beauty of Bruges and gastronomic delights of France, the holiday is just the tonic Lil, Maggie and Cassie needed. 

And as the time approaches for them to head home, Lil makes an unexpected discovery – even in her advancing years, men are like buses – there isn’t one for ages then two come along at once. Is Lil ready to share her golden years, and can the ladies embrace the fresh starts that the trip has given them. Or is it just too late to change… 

*****

When 82 year old Lil decides that she needs a holiday, she takes her daughter Cassie and her best friend Maggie along for the ride. Along with a variety of different people, they embark on a mini bus tour of Europe and soon discover that it’s never too late to live and love.

This book, to begin with, was a bit of a slow burner. As there are a few people going on the holiday, it meant that quite a few characters needed to be introduced early on. However, once they actually got going on the holiday, I couldn’t put the book down.

Told mainly from the point of view of Lil and Cassie, it covers their holiday across France, Belgium and Amsterdam with many hilarious, poignant and wonderful moments along the way.

It was interesting to see how all the different personalities interacted, especially as they were all travelling in quite close proximity and were a variety of ages.

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Book Review: Whisper Cottage by Anne Wyn Clark

How well do you know the woman next door?

When Stina and Jack move to an old rural cottage, they’re hoping for a fresh start. Their new home is run-down compared to their neighbour’s, but generous Mrs Barley quickly becomes a friend.

Until Stina sees a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden, and her happy new life begins to unravel. And when she hears strange noises in the night, she is forced to question if Mrs Barley is what she seems.

Why do the other villagers whisper about her? Why is she so eager to help the couple? And what is she hiding in her picture-perfect home?

*****

I love this kind of psychological thriller. One that gets under your skin.

Stina and Jack are soon to be parents and are excited to be escaping the trappings of the city for the rural village of Avoncote. They soon become friends with their elderly neighbour, Mrs Barley.

Then Stina sees a mysterious man in their neighbours garden, she begins to hear noises at night and finds out that other people in the village don’t trust Mrs Barley. Is their new friend what she seems?

From the beginning of this book, you’re drawn into something sinister and this feeling bubbles throughout the novel. The suspense is built up so well that I couldn’t really get a grip on how the story was going to play out.

The characters are well developed and I did find Mrs Barley unsettling. I also didn’t quite know what to make of Jack. Anne Wynn Clark does a good job at driving doubt into the reader, making them feel unsure of all the characters.

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Book Review: The Ticklemore Tavern by Liz Davis

Violet makes her own gin.

Logan Cassidy sells it in his pub, The Ticklemore Tavern.

It should have been a match made in heaven, especially since the pair of them fancy the socks off each other, and they are both young, free and single.

Except…

Logan’s mum, Marie, doesn’t think Violet is good enough for her son. No woman is, or ever will be.

And when she becomes ill, Logan is torn between looking after his mum or following his heart.

However, neither Logan, nor Marie, has taken the sheer force of nature that is Violet into account.

What Violet wants, Violet gets.

Usually…

But maybe not this time, eh?

*****

Violet makes her own gin and, along with her brother, owns the OriGINal Gin Distillery.

Logan agrees to sell the gin in his pub, The Ticklemore Tavern. Both Violet and Logan have an instant attraction to each other, both are single so they decide to see where the relationship goes.

However, Logan’s mother, Marie, believes that Violet’s intentions toward Logan aren’t good.

When Marie falls ill, Logan is torn between his mother and the woman he is quickly falling in love with.

It was so lovely to be back in Ticklemore and reunited with many familiar characters, especially Hattie.

Although The Ticklemore Tavern is the fourth book in the Ticklemore series, you don’t need to have read the first three to love this latest instalment. It can stand alone.

This book focuses on two main characters, Violet and Logan.

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Book Review: Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

”What is wrong with you?”

Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She”s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.

Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn”t mean she”s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?

Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.

Look what you started.

*****

Laura’s life has been troubled since she was in an accident as a teenager. She is seen as hot tempered, difficult, a loner and in some cases, dangerous.

Miriam witnesses Laura leaving the scene of a crime with blood on her clothes but experience has taught her that it’s easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is trying to come to terms with the death of her nephew. She trusts no-one.

I was such a big fan of The Girl on The Train and so I was excited to read the latest novel from Paula Hawkins.

The blurb for this book caught my attention immediately and from page one, you’re placed straight into the action. Paula Hawkins has a great way of pulling you into the lives of her characters until you look up and realise that it’s the middle of the night and you’ve read the book in one sitting.

Told from the point of view of Laura, Miriam, Carla, Irene and Theo, the narrative pulls the reader to and fro and this very much added to the suspense and overall tension of the plot.

Each character brought something interesting to the story. Laura’s backstory is tragic and you can understand why she struggles to be steady.

Miriam is a bit of an enigma and her backstory is revealed gradually through the book (and I believe could have been a novel in itself.)

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Book Review: Snowflakes over The Starfish Café by Jessica Redland

Two broken hearts.

Since she inherited The Starfish Café, Hollie has poured her heart into the business, striving to keep her mother’s traditions and warm-hearted spirit alive. But behind closed doors Hollie is searching for true happiness as she grieves the tragic loss of her family who were once the beating heart of the café…

An unexpected meeting.

Jake lives by two rules: don’t let anyone get close and don’t talk about what happened. Little does he know that a chance meeting at The Starfish Café, facilitated by a fluffy lost dog, is about to turn his world upside down…

The chance to love again.

Can Hollie and Jake break down the barriers that have been holding them back from finding love and happiness, before Christmas comes around? After all, with courage, nothing is impossible…

*****

Hollie puts her all into the Starfish Café, trying to keep her mother’s spirit alive as she grieves for her family.

Jake has never let anyone get close to him, especially since his tragic childhood left him without his parents.

A chance encounter involving a lost dog brings these two together. Can they overcome their own grief and find a new life?

It was initially the cover of this book that drew me toward it. It conjures romance and so I couldn’t wait to get started on the novel.

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Book Review: One Lucky Summer by Jenny Oliver

I’m so pleased to welcome Jenny Oliver to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new novel, One Lucky Summer. 

With an air of faded splendour, Willoughby Hall was an idyllic childhood home to Ruben de Lacy. Gazing at it now, decades later, the memories are flooding back, and not all of them are welcome…

In a tumbledown cottage in Willoughby’s grounds, Dolly and Olive King lived with their eccentric explorer father. One of the last things he did was to lay a treasure hunt before he died, but when events took an unexpected turn, Dolly and Olive left Willoughby for good, never to complete it.

But when Ruben uncovers a secret message, hidden for decades, he knows he needs Olive and Dolly’s help. Can the three of them solve the treasure hunt, and will piecing together the clues help them understand what happened to their families that summer, all those years ago?

*****

Olive and Dolly spent their childhood living in a cottage on the grounds of Willoughby Hall, the estate owned by the De Lacy family.

The girl’s father sets up a treasure hunt for them but tragedy means that the girls leave before completing it.

Years later, Ruben De Lacy is back at his family’s estate. By accident, he uncovers the first clue in that last treasure hunt.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Running From The Circus

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

Today’s prompt: Running From The Circus. 

The circus comes to town but instead of wanting to run to it, your character wants to run as far away from it as possible.

The circus and your character have history and when they met someone from their past, they can’t run.

Starting line – ‘well, I didn’t think I would see you again.’ 

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Book Extract & Review: Lips Like Strawberries by Michael Stephenson

I am pleased to be welcoming Michael Stephenson to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for his novel, Lips Like Strawberries.

Here’s a little about the novel…

For some, it’s the eyes. For others, the heart. But for Ara Lake, the thing that first made her fall in love… was the taste of his lips.

Ara Lake has always thought of herself as living a normal life. She works a regular job, lives in the city and, like any single 30-year-old, fantasizes about finding someone to spend her life with that isn’t her best friend Latre Simms. There’s only one problem. She hasn’t left her apartment since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Three years later, her agoraphobia hasn’t fully kept her walled off from the outside world. She can thank her abnormal abilities for that! Ara’s superpower allows her to sense the world through someone else’s senses for 12 hours. Everything changes when her powers introduce her to a man whose lips taste succulent, juicy, and sweet, like her favorite fruit.

Now, she must embark on a journey of love, strength, and self-discovery that she never expected and isn’t fully sure will end well. But she has to learn to trust her own senses and, in a post-coronavirus world, give herself over to love at first kiss as she ventures to find the one with Lips Like Strawberries!

A romantic comedy for the modern era, Lips Like Strawberries will make you laugh, cry and acknowledge the strength it takes just to fall in love. A perfect beach read to cure our collective lockdown blues, get a taste for love today!

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, Michael has shared an extract with us. Enjoy. 

 

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

 

“Oh, sorry about that,” Ara said, apologizing for the over-touch.

The woman smiled, then let her face droop back into its resting mug. There it was again: a sullen, sad, almost depressing look, as if she knew profound sorrow. Very distracting. Not only did Ara have these powers, she was also an empath. The pain of others magnetized her to try to do something good for them. But because she didn’t know what to do, she simply stopped and stared at the woman walking down the hall.

The elevator arrived and the woman got on, only then breaking Ara’s trance. “Wait,” Ara called. “You didn’t tell me your…” The doors closed. “… name.” Ara looked down at the metal barrier between her apartment and the hallway. Her affliction was so bad that she couldn’t even enter the hall, let alone go outside. If she wanted to know that woman’s name, chasing after her was out of the question. “Eh! Maybe I don’t need to know your name.” It was always nice to know whose senses she shared, but not necessary. She closed her door and went to the kitchen for dinnerware.

She counter-ed the food and said, “Alright, let’s see what I get tonight. What sense are you gonna share with me… delivery girl.” She closed her eyes and focused on her abilities. This was the only way she knew how to activate and deactivate her powers. Holding her eyes shut tight, she raised her hands and crossed her fingers for something good and…

She suddenly tasted the distinctive flavor of cinnamon. Smacking her jaws up and down, she worked her tongue from cheek to cheek, then lamented, “Taste? What? Oh, come on!” She started unpacking the food, turned to get herself a plate, shuffled across the kitchen to the utensils drawer and even grabbed a bottle of water off the top of the fridge, all while complaining. “Taste. That’s great. That’s lovely. I get the sense of taste from a girl that works in a Chinese restaurant, the very Chinese restaurant that I just ordered from. Gosh! I wonder if I’m going to be tasting any Chinese food at any point in the night? So stupid!”

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Minute I Saw You by Paige Toon

Well hello August. It’s nice to see you. 

Summer is here! With that, I wanted to pick a book for this month that feels summery and nothing screams summer like the cover and blurb for The Minute I Saw You by Paige Toon.

Anyone can join our book club whether you’ve read this already or yet to start. I’ve posted a question to get the discussion going. Looking forward to talking about this book with you.

 

About the novel..

Attraction is easy… Falling in love can be hard

When Hannah meets Sonny, she’s irresistibly drawn to him: he’s sexy and confident, but only in town on holiday. That’s fine with Hannah – she doesn’t do long-term relationships. And luckily for her, neither does Sonny. But before they can even so much as kiss, Sonny receives some shocking news and commits to making serious life changes – ones that can’t and won’t include romance.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Every Breath You Take

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

Today’s prompt: Every Breath You Take. 

It’s the middle of August. It’s summer and it’s the best time for romance.

What about forbidden romance?

The setting is a balmy summer evening. You’re near the beach and can see a beachside cafe.

Your first line is: ‘I watch as he throws his head back, laughing at something she has said. It should be me.’

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Book Review: The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood

HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO BE SOMEONE ELSE?

Vanessa has always found it easy to pretend to be somebody different, somebody better. When things get tough in her real life, all she has to do is throw on some nicer clothes, adopt a new accent and she can escape.

That’s how it started: looking round houses she couldn’t possibly afford. Harmless fun really. Until it wasn’t.

Because a man who lived in one of those houses is dead.

And everyone thinks Vanessa killed him…

*****

Vanessa likes pretending to be other people, even if it’s only to be able to view houses for sale that she could never afford.

Harmless fun, she reasons.

That is until the owner of one of these houses is dead and people thinks she killed him.

From page one, I knew that I was going to like this novel. There was something about the plot and the writing style that is very moreish. It just pulled me in until I was finished and realised I’d read it in one sitting.

Told from the point of view of the main character, Vanessa, it goes between ‘now’ where Vanessa is staying with her sister, is without a job and lacks confidence, to ‘then,’ where we see Vanessa as a successful person with the world at her feet. Through the book, we find out what happens between these two states and begin to understand Vanessa as a character.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Put Your Reader into The Story

One of the things I am struggling most with the draft of my first novel is putting the reader into my story. 

Put it this way, there’s currently many adjectives and a lot of telling, not showing.

The thing I have heard many writers say when giving writing advice is to try and put your reader into the scene.

For example, don’t just say I walked up the hall and was scared, but try something like my heart thumped as I crept up the hall, the banging getting louder the closer I got.

I know, not my finest work but hopefully you get my point.

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Book Review: Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham

My name is Alice. I’m a police officer.

I’m trying to solve a murder on a psychiatric ward.

But I’m also a patient…

They were meant to be safe on Fleet Ward: psychiatric patients monitored, treated, cared for. But now one of their number is found murdered, and the accusations begin to fly.

Was it one of his fellow patients? A member of staff? Or did someone come in from the outside?

DC Alice Armitage is methodical, tireless, and she’s quickly on the trail of the killer.

The only problem is, Alice is a patient too.

*****

Alice is a police officer.

She’s trying to solve a murder that’s occurred on Fleet Ward; a psychiatric ward where the patients are monitored.

None of them are being very forthcoming when it comes to giving Alice the information she’s after… probably because Alice is also a patient and was there the night the murder took place.

I am a fan of Mark Billingham’s books. I was immediately drawn into this novel. The premise intrigued me a lot. Yes, it is a slightly different direction to Mark Billingham’s other novels but I feel it’s a great one.

I did struggle with the mental health theme at times as there were certain elements I could relate to (I won’t bore you with the details.) I also found it a fascinating insight into the mind of a person who is sectioned in a mental health ward. I could picture the ward and the people, like I was there, seeing it all happen.

I think mental health can be quite a hard subject to get right in fiction but I feel Mark tackled it well with tact, respect and humour.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Your Repeated Horrible Day

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

 

Today’s prompt: Your repeated horrible day… 

You get home from the worst day of your life. You are so exhausted that you fall asleep in the same clothes.

When you wake up the next morning, things are feeling a little too familiar but you can’t quite put your finger on why.

As you gradually start your day, you realise that you’re reliving the horrible day you had the day before.

And the same the next day, and the next and the next. You’ve found yourself in a Groundhog Day.

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Book Review: The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne

Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
 
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Ruby has a plan and she can’t wait to put it into action.

On her train journey down to London to realise her dream, she meets Curtis who immediately rubs her up the wrong way.

She also meets Lewis. He is going down to London to propose to his girlfriend. The problem is, he ends up getting off the train with Ruby’s phone and without the ring.

Ruby and Curtis set out together to try and reunite the engagement ring with its owner, getting to know one another along the way.

Oh, I get so excited whenever Bella Osborne releases a new novel and it really is a pleasure to be part of the blog tour for her new book.

Being such a fan, the expectations for The Promise of Summer were high but it did not disappoint. I couldn’t put it down and read it in pretty much one sitting.

You are pulled straight into the action. I immediately wanted to know what was going on. Was Lewis going to get his ring back? Was Curtis as pompous as he seemed? Was Ruby going to see her dream happen and what was this dream?

I liked how this book was set up going between Ruby and Kim’s point of views. Both these women are different and yet they are dealing with similar things. The fear of being alone.

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Book Review: You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry

TWO FRIENDS
TEN SUMMER TRIPS
THEIR LAST CHANCE TO FALL IN LOVE

12 SUMMERS AGO: Poppy and Alex meet. They hate each other, and are pretty confident they’ll never speak again.

11 SUMMERS AGO: They’re forced to share a ride home from college and by the end of it a friendship is formed. And a pact: every year, one vacation together.

10 SUMMERS AGO: Alex discovers his fear of flying on the way to Vancouver.
Poppy holds his hand the whole way.

7 SUMMERS AGO: They get far too drunk and narrowly avoid getting matching tattoos in New Orleans.

2 SUMMERS AGO: It all goes wrong.

THIS SUMMER: Poppy asks Alex to join her on one last trip. A trip that will determine the rest of their lives.

You and Me on Vacation is a New York Times bestselling love story for fans of When Harry Met Sally and One Day. Get ready to travel the world, snort with laughter and – most of all – lose your heart to Poppy and Alex.

Poppy and Alex met at Art College and have been taking holidays together ever since. They just seem to click. Then Croatia happens and it may mean the end of their friendship. Can more more vacation bring them back together?

I had read Emily’s previous novel, Beach Read and loved it so I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for You and Me on Vacation and couldn’t wait to get started.

I loved Poppy and Alex immediately. They are lovely together so obviously, I wanted them to be a couple. If only they could get out of their own way.

The premise of the plot was great. It reminded me of a cross between One Day by David Nicholls and Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern (two books I loved.) It had a similar optimism and warmth to it.

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Book Extract: The Diary of a Nagging Wife by Donna Mensah

It’s my pleasure to be welcoming Donna Mensah to Novel Kicks today with the blog tour for her new novel, The Diary of a Nagging Wife. 

Here’s a little about the book:

A hilarious story of the ups and downs of a overtired and overworked mother, two needy children and an overbearing husband the perfect laugh-out-loud story

The diary of a nagging wife is a hilarious journey of the up’s and downs of the life of Annie a 39-year-old mother to a chatty toddler and a newborn, going from a high roller financial manager to being boggled down with two children is no easy picnic, throw in an overbearing obnoxious husband to the mix equals a disaster.

Written in the form of a diary, join Annie as she begins to wonder whether there is more to life than swollen breasts and picking up her husbands dirty laundry from of the floor. Can Annie truly figure out what she wants from her life?

 

Donna has very kindly shared an extract with us today. We both hope that you enjoy reading. 

 

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

 

As much as Annie loves being with the family, her idea of doing something nice as a family is more  like a nice picnic, or a quiet stroll in an forest. Not a 2 hour trek to Colchester with the kids screaming in the back seat only to arrive at a mud infested camping site.

‘Isabelle,’ I call out from the hallway. ‘It’s time to go come down please.’ Matthew had put Joshua in his car seat and I remembered to pack the camping gear, food plus fishing rods. We decided to head over to a country park this weekend.

Matthew is such an adventurer. Before me and the kids he would often be found hiking some trail across Europe, or climbing some skyscraper mountain, now he settles for the occasional golf and camping sites, which unfortunately we are obliged to attend. I’m not one for pitching up a tent and walking in mud, but Isabelle loves it; she has her dad’s love for adventure, so she’ll be more than happy to help her father string bait onto the fishing rod, while I’m trying my very best not to gag from the pungent smell of fish guts.

I strap Isabelle into her seat and we make our way out to Colchester, which means I have two hours to sit in the car listening to Isabelle repeat, ‘Are we there yet?’ every fifteen minutes, Joshua crying to get out of his car seat which he absolutely loathes plus Matthew ranting on about his new state of the art self-inflating sleeping bed.

‘I thought this was a self-inflating sleeping bed?’ I find myself saying to Matthew in anger as our state-of-the-art bed wasn’t self-inflating at all – in fact it was completely flat.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Backstory

Your characters and their development are a really important element in your story.

Pick one of your characters from either your current work in progress or for a story you’ve maybe only got an idea about.

Write 300-500 words detailing a big moment from their life before the beginning of your story. You can do this for more than one character.

Include as much detail as you can about this incident. How they felt, what they saw, where they were, who they were with.

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Events: Theakston Old Peculier Crime Festival 2021

Ian Rankin OBE

The largest and most prestigious celebration of crime fiction starts tomorrow.

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Festival 2021 is starting tomorrow (22nd July) and running until 25th July.

The Festival Programme Chair, Ian Rankin OBE will be in attendance. He, along with some of the other biggest authors in crime fiction will be discussing topics including the future of crime writing from the rise of cutting edge science to the demise of the Police Procedural.

Special guests include Richard Osman, Elly Griffiths, Mark Billingham and CL Taylor.

Events include The Pleasures and Pitfalls of the Short Story, Planners Vs Pantsters and a Late Night Quiz with Val McDermid and Mark Billingham.

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Book Review: Houses of Deception by Cynthia Hamilton

Three missing persons.
Two private investigators.
One chance to get it right.

The MDPI team agrees to join forces with former nemesis Russell Barnett to find Dylan Latham, the son of the man who lost his life while working to save Madeline’s.

The investigation turns into a hunt for two twenty-somethings who’ve disappeared without a trace, starting at the home of land rich Cat Kingman, an eccentric woman in her late-70s. Madeline and Mike soon find themselves wading through a shameful past for clues as they scramble to save two young lives.

A frantic early-morning phone call propels the detectives down a rabbit hole as a missing person case turns into a kidnapping for ransom.

Now juggling two cases, Madeline and Mike can’t afford to waste any time. But as they dive deeper into both investigations, red flags and gut feelings cause them to question whether the people they’re searching for are really innocent victims—or guilty parties responsible for orchestrating sinister plots.

As they navigate ransom drops, stolen art, and extortion schemes, the two cases prove to be more complicated than either investigator can imagine.

The secrets and lies they uncover will have you turning each page until the very end.

Husband and wife team, Madeline and Mike run a PI agency. They find themselves investigating two missing person cases on the same day and it’s a race against time.

On one case, they have to work with former nemesis, Russell, to help find his nephew, Dylan and his girlfriend, Paige. The other case goes from a missing person to a kidnapping for ransom.

Can Madeline, Mike and their team find these three people before it’s too late and find out what’s really going on?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: My Best Friends From TV

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

 

Today’s prompt: my best friends from the TV. 

Pick two of the main characters from the last TV show you watched. They are now your best friends.

Your setting is an ice-cream shop. There are ten tables, five of which are occupied (including the one you’re sat at.)

Then, out of nowhere, everything goes dark.

Continue the story.

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Upcoming Book Releases: July 2021

Hello everyone. Happy Friday.

As we get into the nicer weather (please weather fairies,) and the summer months, there is more of an opportunity to disappear with a good book.

There are some corkers due out this month and below are a small sample.

 

Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Treachery™ by Brian Freeman is due to be released by Head of Zeus on 27th July.

This is book thirteen for Jason Bourne. This might be a bit of an unpopular opinion but I didn’t mind the films at all. I have to admit to having not read any of the novels but, reading the synopsis for the newest outing, that will soon change. Do I need to read the previous novels before reading this one? Let me know in the comments below if you’ve read them. This does sound so good.

Three years ago, Bourne and his partner, Nova embarked on a mission to rescue a Russian double agent. They failed.

Now Nova is dead, Bourne is alone and is working in the shadows for Treadstone. He awaits his next assignment.

Then his handler brings him shocking news. The double agent is alive and Bourne will soon have to face his past.

 

The Rainbow by Carly Schabowski, published by Bookouture and due out on 28th July, is fiction based on a true story.

I always find this type of fiction so fascinating and this book sounds particularly intriguing. I also know, before even starting, that it is going to make me cry. Do you ever have that feeling, even before you begin a book that it is going to pull you through all the emotions?

Isla is in present day London and is gathering photos of her beloved 95 year-old Grandfather.

She grew up hearing about his stories fighting the Germans in WWII so when she finds a photo of him from that time, wearing a Nazi uniform, she doesn’t know what to think.

Is everything she thought about him a lie?

 

Also set in WWII, Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman is due to be released by Mira Books on 22nd July. The description of this book is so vivid and it’s focusing on a part of the war that I don’t know too much about. Even from reading the synopsis, I want to find out more.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Crossroads

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

 

Today’s prompt is Crossroads. 

Your character is walking along, minding their own business. The sun is bright and the area around them is busy.

When they reach a pedestrian crossing, they press the button and wait to cross. Suddenly, all the noise and people around them disappear. It’s quiet and still.

Ahead of them, the lights disappear and a dirt road appears. At the end is a sign post.

‘Go right to return to your life.’

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Book Review: The Lily Garden by Barbara Josselsohn

When Caroline left Lake Summers thirty years ago, she thought she’d never go back to the place where she lost her parents.

But when she finds out that the town’s lily garden lovingly built by her mother is going to be destroyed, she knows fate is calling. Dropping everything at her office in Chicago, she knows she is the only person who can save the garden.

Caroline and her daughter Lee are welcomed home by the warm smile of her mother’s best friend Maxine, and piles of pancakes at her cozy little restaurant in town. And Caroline soon learns that she isn’t the only person invested in saving her mother’s legacy, when she meets handsome historian Aaron. As she gets to know him, strolling along the sparkling lakeshore, she can’t imagine anywhere else she’d rather be.

But then Caroline learns a terrible secret about the day her mother died. And soon the real reason Aaron is in Lake Summers comes to light. Will the truth about the people she loves force her to give up a future with Aaron, and the beautiful town that has always been in her heart?

Caroline left Lake Summers thirty years ago after she lost both of her parents and has not been back.

When she gets a note informing her that her Mother’s beloved garden is due to be destroyed, she knows she finally has to return. She has to try and save the Lily Garden.

This was my introduction to Barbara Josselsohn’s novels. The premise intrigued me and I couldn’t wait to start reading.

It was pretty easy for me to feel warmth for Caroline. It was obvious to me from the beginning that she was in an environment to which she didn’t belong. There seemed to be a whimsical feel to her that didn’t fit with the corporate atmosphere. I knew there was more to her story than meets the eye.

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Book Review: A Case of Royal Blackmail by Sherlock Holmes

In A Case of Royal Blackmail, the 24-year-old Sherlock Holmes recounts how he untangled the web of blackmail and deceit surrounding the ‘complex romantic endeavours’ of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, those of Lillie Langtry and her various suitors and the morass of scandal surrounding the Prince’s court of 1879.

In between times he also reveals how he solved the cases of Vamberry the Wine Merchant, Ricoletti of the Club-foot and His Abominable Wife and Oscar Wilde’s Amethyst Tie-pin.

Eighteen months before Sherlock Holmes meets Dr Watson and the duo of Baker Street is formed, Holmes is a 24 year old finding his feet as a consulting detective.

He soon becomes engrossed in not only recovering a stolen family heirloom for Oscar Wilde but is also looking to a case involving Royalty. Someone is attempting to blackmail the Prince of Wales.

Many people could be involved including Lillie Langtry and her various suitors. It’s real scandal that could rock Queen Victoria’s court in 1879.

Can Sherlock bring his growing number of cases to a satisfying conclusion or has he taken on more than he bargained for?

I love a good detective story and so this immediately appealed to the puzzle solver in me and Sherlock Holmes is one of the greats.

I love that it was written by him – like a case summary. I also liked reference to all the other historical figures – Lillie Langtry and Oscar Wilde especially as both these people fascinate me. I have always loved it when fiction gets mixed with history. Oh to be a fly on the wall of the real events.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Rewriting the End

Welcome to the Novel Kicks Writing Room. 

Today, I wanted to look at the ending of novels.

Endings, in my opinion, are as important as beginnings. If it’s not a satisfying end, it could really annoy the reader and leave them feeling flat.

Pick an ending to a book you’ve previously read and rewrite it.

You could do this by using the original POV or, you could choose another character from the story. It’s your call.

The only rule is that it should be different to the original story.

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NK Chats To… Kasi Blake

Hi Kasi, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your novel, The Business Engagement and what inspired it?

I started off writing for Harlequin years ago. Then I moved on to YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal books. I love writing YA, but it was nice to write about adults for a change. The Business Engagement is Contemporary Romance, a story of two lawyers that can’t stand each other. When the story begins, they are both experiencing huge problems at work. Skylar decides a fake engagement would solve everything. I have always loved Marriage of Convenience stories. That’s what inspired me to do this book.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

Well, sometimes I get up before dawn to start writing. But when I get up late, I catch up on emails first. I do some marketing and whatever else that needs doing. I usually don’t really start to write until evening, and then I am usually up until midnight working on a book.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

It’s always difficult to get to know the characters well enough that you know how they’ll react in any given situation. There are just so many moving parts when it comes to writing and endless challenges.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

From this book, it would be Grandma Dot. She’s a pistol. From any of my books, it would be Nick Gallos/Tyler Beck from Bait: Van Helsing Academy because he is a gorgeous rock star with a bigger than life persona. He tours the world killing vampires.

 

From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like?

After I get the idea, I make a list of possible scenes. I have to check to make sure all the romance elements are there. Then I dive in. When the book is finished, I put it aside for a while and work on something else. After I’ve forgotten how the story goes, I read it as a reader would, but I pay special attention to what’s wrong. I rewrite. Then I send it out to my wonderful beta readers. They let me know all the problems they spy out, and I rewrite again. Eventually, it gets looked at by an editor. The book goes through several rounds of revisions and editing before it’s ready to go.

 

Which authors do you admire?

S.E. Hinton got me started writing back when I was in the 7th grade. Her books inspired me. I also love to read Cassandra Clare, JK Rowling, Stephen King, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Nora Roberts.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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NK Chats To… Simon Whaley

It’s my pleasure to help kick off the blog tour for Blooming Murder. Hello Simon, thank you for joining me today. 

Hi Laura. Many thanks for inviting me onto Novel Kicks to discuss my first novel. It’s lovely to be here.

Can you tell me about your novel, Blooming Murder and what inspired it?

Blooming Murder is set in the fictitious market town of Mortiforde, somewhere on the Welsh Borders, and tells the story of two towns fighting it out in the annual Borders in Blossom competition, to become the Borders Most Blossoming Market Town. For the fifteenth successive year, Mortiforde is up against their arch rivals Portley Ridge in this flower competition final.

My main character, Lord Mortiforde, (Aldermaston to friends and family), who is still finding his feet as the new 8th Marquess of Mortiforde, is tasked with helping Mortiforde win this year. Unfortunately for Aldermaston, Portley Ridge is determined to secure their fifteenth successive win, and have a few deadly tricks up their sleeve.

The inspiration came from an old news item I discovered on the BBC News website once, although I won’t say too much, because it might spoil the plot!

But I’m also inspired by my home county of Shropshire. When I moved here from the outskirts of London over 20 years ago, I was struck by the strong sense of community here. There’s a determination in the people who live here. When something needs doing, the community gets up and does it!

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

It doesn’t always happen, but I try to spend most of my mornings working on my bigger writing projects, such as the Marquess of Mortiforde Mystery series. Then, before lunch, I’ll go for a walk. Being hunched up over a keyboard all day isn’t good, and I’m fortunate to live amongst the beautiful scenery of the Welsh Borders.

My walking time is often some of my best creative time because walking is great for thinking. Charles Dickens sometimes walked twenty miles a day when he was writing. (I’m not sure how he found the time to write – I’d be too exhausted to write after walking that far!)

In the afternoons, I work on commissioned article features for magazines like The People’s Friend, BBC Countryfile, and Writing Magazine.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

I’m a discovery writer, rather than a detailed planner, so although I have a rough idea of how things will develop, it’s not until I sit down and start writing that I discover where the characters are going to take me. They don’t always take me where I expect them to, so there were times when I found myself getting stuck. And while walking is great for creatively resolving problems, I don’t always resolve my current dilemma on the first walk!

 

What songs would make up a playlist for your book?

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A Moment With… Angela Jackson

Best-selling author Angela Jackson, who has just launched her new book, The Darlings, reveals her top five tips on writing:

 

  1. YOU DEFINITELY DON’T NEED TO WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

You have an imagination, so use it! My second novel, The Darlings, is written mainly from the point of view of a thirty-something male comedian. I’m not in my thirties, I’m not a man, and I’d be stretching it to claim to be a comedian, but I did my research. One of our jobs as writers is to head down research rabbit holes to find out why people have affairs, sail around the world, change their religion, leave their partners, change careers, kill people. If you find yourself losing track of time as you research your subject area, it’s a good sign you’ll enjoy writing about the subject. If I’d have stuck to writing solely what I know about, I’d have submitted 70,000 words on the merits of a good cup of tea.

 

  1. BE YOURSELF

I once spent a whole academic year silencing my voice. After a buoyant start to an MSc in Creative Writing, once I was ‘put in my place’ by a particular tutor a couple of times, I sat in classes cowed and uncharacteristically silent. Even though I won a prestigious writing award during the same year, I didn’t trust myself to write another good sentence. I started to believe the ridiculous idea that commercial fiction, which is what I write, wasn’t good enough. If you find yourself thinking along these lines: STOP! You don’t need to be a ‘heavyweight’. You don’t need to produce a classic. I look at material I wrote during that wretched year, and it feels utterly forced and lifeless. That’s because I was trying to be someone else. I was trying to be a ‘serious’ writer. It didn’t work. You don’t need to write what you know, but you DO need to allow your own writing voice to emerge.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Christmas in July

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below if you’d like. 

Today’s prompt: Christmas in July.

Your character doesn’t like holidays and celebrations at all.

They particularly don’t like all this Christmas in July nonsense.

So, what happens if they fall and suddenly find themselves in a world where it is always Christmas?

First line ‘Gold, red and green lights, what is this?’ 

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Humans by Matt Haig

Wow, I know I say this a lot but how are we in a new month already? Not only that, we’re halfway through 2021. 

This month, I have picked a book that has been in my TBR pile for a long time. It sounds intriguing. I’ve picked The Humans by Matt Haig.

Our book club is open to all whether you’re in the middle of reading it, haven’t started yet or have already read it, I would love to discuss it with you in the comments below. The best thing about our book club is that you can talk about this book from the comfort of your sofa.

I’ve added a question below to get the discussion going. See you in the comments.

Click to buy the book on Amazon UK

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Book Review: The Darlings by Angela Jackson

When Mark Darling is fifteen years old, he is the golden boy, captain of the school football team, admired by all who know him. Until he kills his best friend in a freak accident.

He spends the next decade drifting between the therapy couch and dead-end pursuits. Then along comes Sadie. A mender by nature, she tries her best to fix him, and has enough energy to carry them both through the next few years.

One evening, Mark bumps into an old schoolfriend, Ruby. She saw the accident first hand. He is pulled towards her by a force stronger than logic: the universal need to reconcile one’s childhood wounds. This is his chance to, once again, feel the enveloping warmth of unconditional love. But can he leave behind the woman who rescued him from the pit of despair, the wife he loves? His unborn child?

This is a story about how childhood experience can profoundly impact how we behave as adults. It’s a story about betrayal, infidelity and how we often blinker ourselves to see a version of the truth that is more palatable to us.

Mark is haunted by the tragedy of killing his best friend when they were still at school. Even though he now has a wife who saved him from rock bottom and a baby on the way, the events of his schooldays still haunt him.

Enter Ruby. A girl from those days who was there. Who saw everything.

Mark is drawn to Ruby but can he stop himself before he crosses that line and loses everything in his life?

I’ve not read ‘The Emergence of Judy Taylor’ so I’m new to Angela Jackson’s novels.
The Darlings intrigued me from page one. Mark is a character you have both empathy and dislike for all at the same time. He struggles mentally with the fact that he accidentally killed his friend. He behaves in a way that isn’t great. As a reader, this really conflicted me and it was really interesting to see how much of the past can influence the future. I think everyone can relate to that aspect in some way.

As with Mark, I also struggled with Ruby. She goes into a relationship with Mark knowing his situation but she falls in love. I think she becomes a victim of that.
As I progressed through the book, I wondered whether these two could be redeemed.
Yes, what they do isn’t very nice but when you’re connected by something so tragic, it does create a bond especially if you’re still needing to get past these events. I found the way both the story and the characters split my opinion really interesting.

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Book Review: The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley

An unforgettable story of past love and family secrets, set in sunny Seville

Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood to open Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her.

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville orange and almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family?

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet. Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

Holly has made a decision. She is leaving her stressful job in Brighton and is moving back home to Dorset to pursue her dream of opening her own shop, Bitter Orange.

Knowing her mother has always loved Seville and has not visited since the 1980’s, Holly is a little confused when Ella doesn’t seem enthusiastic about the trip and she starts to ask questions when they go to source stock for the new shop. What awaits Holly in Seville? What is her mother hiding?

The Orange Grove was my introduction to Rosanna Ley and so, when I began The Orange Grove, I didn’t know what to expect but the cover alone was a good sign. It’s so pretty. I always love when books are set in Dorset. Growing up there, it holds a special place for me.

It didn’t take long for this story to draw me in. Rosanna’s descriptions of Seville felt so dreamy and vivid. I could imagine myself in that setting, surrounded by beautiful oranges trees. I could smell the orange blossoms. I could see myself in the hustle and bustle. I have never visited Seville but now I want to. It sounds stunning.

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Book Review: Two Metres From You by Heidi Stephens

Love might be closer than you think . . .

Gemma isn’t sure what upsets her more. The fact she just caught her boyfriend cheating, or that he did it on her brand-new Heal’s cushions.

All she knows is she needs to put as many miles between her and Fraser as humanly possible. So, when her best friend suggests a restorative few days in the West Country, it seems like the perfect solution.

That is, until the country enters a national lockdown that leaves her stranded. All she has for company is her dog, Mabel. And the mysterious (and handsome!) stranger living at the bottom of her garden . . .

When Gemma finds her boyfriend with another woman, she bolts to her friend’s cottage in the West Country. It’s only for a few days. It’s an opportunity to hide and figure out what she’s going to do next.

What Gemma isn’t counting on is the next door neighbour, Matthew and the announcement of a national lockdown due to COVID 19.

Heidi Stephen’s debut novel deals with life in lockdown perfectly. There are so many situations that we can all relate to in some way or another and this is done with such charm and humour.

Gemma is a delight (if not a slightly frustrating character at times.) However, she has a vulnerability to her that’s incredibly endearing. Due to how the story begins, you immediately feel empathy and solidarity with her and this helped draw me into the story, wanting to know what came next and whether she’d be OK.

Being in Crowthorpe, away from her life gives her a different perspective about what she wants and needs.

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Book Review: Not In My Name by Michael Coolwood

Private Eye meets Agatha Christie

What if the British people had been given a vote about invading Iraq in 2003. And the referendum split the nation with a 52% to 48% yes vote.

A young activist is beaten to death after an anti-war demonstration.

The police say her murder was random. It wasn’t. More activists will be murdered. The activists only trust each other.

Maybe that trust has already been betrayed. Witty, political and provocative, this New Adult mystery is based on real events, and keeps the reader guessing to the very end.

Not in My Name is set in an alternative 2003. A referendum on whether to intervene in Iraq has just got a 52% Yes, 48% no result.

Phoebe Green is part of a group that opposes the referendum result. They are seen as traitors and the enemy.
When one of their group is killed, Phoebe is determined to get to the bottom of it but it’s not long before the situation goes from bad to worse.

Immediately, this book caught my attention. It’s a very interesting look at how divided a country can be and how quickly we can turn on each other. It scared me and yet the characters fascinated me all at the same time.

It’s both a political and murder mystery which had me invested in the plot very early on.

All of the characters are hiding something and this did add to the intrigue. I really had trouble figuring out what was going to happen or how it was going to end. I didn’t see the end coming actually. I found that, at some point, I suspected everyone of having a hand in Cassie’s murder.

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Book Review: Always and Forever at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

What if we’re all just searching for something?

Anna Stewart is lost. After barely surviving a car accident as a teenager, Anna is scared of settling. Flitting between jobs, boyfriends and homes whenever she gets bored, she has no idea what the future holds. Then her brother Brodie, minister of Glendale, suggests she moves to the beautiful Scottish village, lining up a housekeeper job for her at Glendale Hall.

Out of options, Anna agrees to the move, knowing that she can always run away again. Once at the hall, her culinary skills impress everyone, and she agrees to give Hilltop Farm’s new manager, Cameron, cooking lessons. Sparks fly between Anna and the handsome Scot, but Cameron is looking for love – something that Anna definitely isn’t.

But it’s wedding season at Glendale Hall, and Anna is about to discover that her new home has a way of working its magic on even the coldest of hearts. Will she really be able to just walk away, or could Anna have finally found a place to belong?

It’s summertime in the beautiful Highlands village of Glendale – pack your bags and come on holiday with this gorgeously uplifting, romantic read. Fans of Milly Johnson, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin will love this charming romcom.

Anna never likes to stay in one place too long. She’s running from her family and a past she blames herself for.

When circumstances mean that she has to take a job for the summer in Glendale, she isn’t happy about being near her brother. However, as it’s only for a couple of months, she puts her head down and get on with things.

Can Glendale work its magic on Anna like it has for other village residents?

Always and Forever at Glendale Hall was my introduction to the series but this can be read as a standalone or first if, like me, you’ve not read the previous three novels.

I found Anna to be a relatable character. At the start, she seems so lost. She has a persona of strength but there is such a vulnerability to her because of an accident she had when she was thirteen.

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Book Review: The Bridesmaid by Nina Manning

‘Promise me? If you hear any secrets, never tell me. That would make you a most treasured friend. More than a friend really. You’re almost like a sister to me…’

Your best friend….

From the moment they met as children, Sasha knew that beautiful, wealthy, and confident Caitlin would always be her absolute best friend.  Sasha would do anything to make Caitlin happy.  

Even keep her darkest secrets…

The years have passed, but their friendship remains.  And when Caitlin announces she’s getting married there is only one choice for the role of bridesmaid.  

Sasha will make sure Caitlin’s wedding is as beautiful and perfect as she is.  Won’t she? 

Your worst nightmare?

But Sasha is growing tired of always being in Caitlin’s shadow  – always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  And as the big day approaches, cracks begin to appear between the two woman.  Secrets and lies swirl between the two friends like confetti. Both of them are hiding dark secrets, both of them are lying. 

Could the secrets that once bound these two friends, rip them apart for good?

 

When Caitlin announces that she’s getting married, Sasha is the choice of Bridesmaid. However, secrets that have been buried for years are just bubbling below the surface and Sasha doesn’t know how much longer she can keep things to herself.

When I read the blurb for this novel, it sounded right up my street and I couldn’t wait to get started. It is a slow burner to begin with. I think this sort of start adds to the tension and pulls you right in.

Caitlin and Sasha’s relationship was one I found both fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. They are a good example of how two people, who wouldn’t have chosen each other otherwise, are thrown together as friends simply because they were in the same place at the same time. Even though they are supposed to be friends, social status, class and background play huge parts, even when they reach adulthood.

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