Blog Tour

Book Extract: A Nose For Mischief by K.T. Lee

I’m saying a big hello to K.T. Lee. She is here with the blog tour for her latest novel, A Nose for Mischief, book one in the Riverbend K-9s series. 

When materials engineer Zoey Butler lands her dream job at Future State Energy, she believes her research in renewable energy will make headlines. Unfortunately for her, she’s right. Zoey is working on her latest experiment when FBI Special Agent Alexis Thompson and her K-9 partner, Waffle, raid Future State and arrest the head of the development for fraud. Zoey helps the FBI find answers in the aftermath, but she soon finds herself jobless and unemployable. Desperate and out of options, she reaches out to Alexis, the one person who knows Zoey was duped like everyone else.

Liam Graham is an FBI special agent and instructor at Riverbend K-9 Academy. When Alexis brings in a new recruit with an unusual background, Liam pairs her up with Tasha, a dog in need of a handler to stay in their competitive program. Zoey is thrilled to put her past behind her and give the mischievous rescue dog her own second chance. However, shortly after she arrives, the FBI realizes the Future State case is far from closed. And Zoey may be the key to solving it.

Zoey offers to go back to Future State to help the FBI end things once and for all. Only this time, she’ll have Liam and Tasha for backup. But, the problems at Future State are more explosive than any of them suspect.

 

K.T. Lee has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy.

 

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

 

When materials engineer Zoey Butler lands her dream job at Future State Energy, she believes her research in renewable energy will make headlines. Unfortunately for her, she’s right. Zoey is working on her latest experiment when FBI Special Agent Alexis Thompson and her K-9 partner, Waffle, raid Future State and arrest the head of the development for fraud. Zoey helps the FBI find answers in the aftermath, but she soon finds herself jobless and unemployable. Desperate and out of options, she reaches out to Alexis, the one person who knows Zoey was duped like everyone else.

Liam Graham is an FBI special agent and instructor at Riverbend K-9 Academy. When Alexis brings in a new recruit with an unusual background, Liam pairs her up with Tasha, a dog in need of a handler to stay in their competitive program. Zoey is thrilled to put her past behind her and give the mischievous rescue dog her own second chance. However, shortly after she arrives, the FBI realizes the Future State case is far from closed. And Zoey may be the key to solving it.

Zoey offers to go back to Future State to help the FBI end things once and for all. Only this time, she’ll have Liam and Tasha for backup. But, the problems at Future State are more explosive than any of them suspect.

 

This excerpt takes place as Zoey is struggling with her job search.

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Book Extract: Daughter of the Sea by Elisabeth J. Hobbes

I am very happy to be welcoming Elisabeth J. Hobbes to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new novel, Daughter of the Sea. 

On a windswept British coastline the tide deposits an unexpected gift…

It was the cry that she first noticed, the plaintive wail that called to her over the crash of winter waves. Wrapped only in a sealskin, the baby girl looks up at Effie and instantly captures her heart. She meant only to temporarily foster the young orphan but when news reaches Effie that her husband has been lost at sea, and months pass without anyone claiming the infant, she embraces her new family – her son Jack and her adopted daughter Morna.
 
Effie has always been an outcast in her village, the only granddaughter of a woman people whisper is a witch, so she’s used to a solitary existence. But when Midsummer arrives so too does a man claiming to be Morna’s father. There’s no denying Lachlan is the girl’s kin and so Effie is surprised when he asks her to continue looking after his daughter, mysteriously refusing to explain why. She agrees, but when he returns six months hence she pushes him for answers. And Lachlan tells a story she never anticipated … one of selkies, legend, and the power of the sea…

 

Elisabeth has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

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

 

Effie Cropton has been gathering seaweed on the beach at Allendale Head. While there she rescues a basket floating out to sea and discovers a baby girl. She returns to the village and, after a brief conversation with her friend Walter, goes to visit her grandmother and collect her son.

 

“Effie, is that you?” Alice called from inside the pantry. “Wrap the seaweeds in the damp dishcloth will you?”

Effie did as she was asked, keeping some back for herself. Alice used it for her poultices and ointments. Effie liked to paint it.

“Why are you wearing Walter Danby’s coat?” Alice asked, as she bustled into the kitchen. Her sharp eyes narrowed suspiciously as she looked at Effie. “Your husband is away and I didn’t think you the type to carry on with another man.”

“I’m not carrying on with Walter and you know it,” Effie said indignantly. “I’ve been faithful to John for our whole marriage.”

John Cropton was ten years older than his wife and had been a bachelor longer than many thought he should, given his looks. He was shy and particular in his ways, and it had surprised everyone in the village when he asked Effie to marry him. People were perhaps less surprised at why when Effie’s belly began to swell after too few months of wedded bliss for the numbers to add up.

Whether Effie had trapped John or John had trapped Effie into marriage was the subject of some debate among those who enjoyed speculating. Perhaps neither of them had intended to trap or be trapped, but the end result was the same. The man whom the village had believed would end his days a bachelor found a wife, and Effie had fallen from the middle to the working class.

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Book Review: The Newcomer by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

When her 29-year-old daughter Paulina goes missing on a sleepy pacific island, Judy Novak suspects the worst. Her fears are soon realised as Paulina’s body is discovered, murdered.

Every man on the island is a suspect, yet none are as maligned as Paulina herself, the captivating newcomer known for her hard drinking, disastrous relationships, and a habit for walking alone. But even death won’t stop Judy Novak from fighting for her daughter’s life.

*****

Judy Novak fears the worst when her 29-year-old daughter, Paulina, goes missing on a pacific island where strangers stand out.

When her daughter’s body is found, every man on the island becomes a suspect.

As the investigation begins, Paulina’s behaviour prior to her death comes under scrutiny; her heavy drinking, her disastrous relationships and a habit for walking alone.

Judy won’t stop fighting for her daughter though.

The premise for this novel intrigued me and so I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour for The Newcomer by Laura Elizabeth Woollett.

Wow is what I want to say about this book. I am not sure what I can say without giving too much away but I will give it a go.

From page one, this story draws you in and immediately I was hooked. It’s a crime novel, yes but there are so many more layers to it.

Let’s begin with Paulina. She’s such a complicated character. I felt sympathy, frustration, love and anger toward her. Sometimes, it was all of these feelings at once. She moves to this island in search of something. To begin with, I don’t think even she knows what this is. She’s dealing with so many internal demons and as a result, she acts out in the only way she knows how. Paulina is a perfect example of ‘don’t judge a book by a cover.’ She is hiding a lot under an extroverted/alcohol induced personality. Most of all though, she just wants love. Laura Elizabeth Woollett does such a great job of conveying how lost and broken Paulina is.

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Book Extract: A Not So Quiet Christmas by Suzie Tullett

Please help me welcome Suzie Tullett to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her festive novel, A Not So Quiet Christmas. 

A solo getaway at an English country cottage is a pleasant way to spend the holiday—but it takes two to really make things merry . . .

Antonia prefers a quiet Christmas. She’s happy to spend it on her own, watching Hallmark holiday movies in her pyjamas, eating what she wants, when she wants.

Antonia’s friend Jules, on the other hand, loves a big Christmas celebration and plans on travelling to the Yorkshire Dales for a festive break. But when Jules breaks her leg, she persuades Antonia to make the trip on her behalf. Arriving at the little cottage, Antonia meets the handsome property agent Oliver. But she can’t escape the weird locals—or avoid embarrassing situations like mistaking a cow for a burglar.

As Christmas approaches, the attraction between Oliver and Antonia grows. She could choose to return to the bustling city and spend it alone. Or she could choose love and have a not so quiet Christmas . . .

 

Suzie has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy! 

 

 

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

 

Letting agent, Oliver Chase, offers to show confirmed city girl, Antonia, the local sights. He fails to mention that she’ll be seeing everything in one hit. From the top of a mountain…

 

Chapter Nine

With my cheek squashed against the icy rockface, I clung to the mountainside like a limpet as if my life depended on it. I didn’t know who or what howled the loudest – me or the swirling winds that whipped around my already contorted face. As the gusts threatened to rip me from what little security I had, flying without wings was not how I’d imagined my final moments. “Tell Jules I’m sorry for ruining her Christmas,” I said while I still had the chance, voice raised and mid-wail.

“I’m the one who’s sorry, Antonia,” Oliver said, calling up from the ledge below. “If I’d have known your legs weren’t long enough…”

“I know, I know. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing!”

“Are you sure you can’t go any higher? There can’t be much more than a metre left.”

“If I could, don’t you think I’d be up by now?” Peeling my cheek off the rock, I carefully glanced about me. Double checking all the nearby indents and protruding rocks, it was no good. They were all out of my reach. I tilted my chin and looked down to see Oliver’s concerned expression and Frank’s head poking out of the man’s rucksack. As tears rolled down my face, I couldn’t believe Oliver had suggested I go first. The other way around and he could have shimmied up with Frank, then reached down and yanked me the rest of the way.

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NK Chats To… Eliza J. Scott

Hi Eliza, thank you for joining me today and for inviting me onto your blog tour for A Cozy Countryside Christmas. Can you tell me about your book and what inspired it? 

Well, without giving too much away, A Cosy Countryside Christmas centres around Ella Welford and Joss Campion. The couple were childhood best friends, until Joss left the village rather abruptly. When he returns, sparks fly but neither of them are keen to do anything about it. When they find themselves thrown together in an unexpected drama high on the snowy moor top… I’m afraid to say anything further would give too much away!

 

How long does it typically take you to write a book and what’s your process like? 

It can take between three to four months per book. As for my writing process, I tend to start by drafting character profiles, jotting down as many details as possible. Then I set out a rough draft of the outline of the story so when I start to actually write it, I have an idea of the journey I’d like my protagonists to take. Having said that, I tend to let them take the lead and see what challenges they face on the way to their happy ending. I’m a mix of plotter and pantser – plotty pantser or pants plotter; I’m not sure which is applicable!

 

Which fictional world would you like to visit and why? 

I loved The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe books when I was younger (actually, I still do), so I’d love to slip through the back of the wardrobe and visit Narnia. Can I be cheeky and name two? I’d love to have a wander around Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood too – and maybe have a quick scramble up the Faraway Tree.

 

Which songs would make up a playlist for your book? 

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Book Extract: A Winter Wedding at Mistletoe Gate Farm by Helen J Rolfe

I am delighted to be welcoming Helen J Rolfe to Novel Kicks today. She’s here with her latest novel, A Winter Wedding at Mistletoe Gate Farm which has been published today. 

It’s almost Christmas in Heritage Cove – the village tree is all lit-up, the bakery is full of festive treats, the tea rooms and waffle shack are welcoming locals inside out of the cold, and for some of the residents of the Cove, snow might not be the only thing they’re wishing for this year…

Tilly is overjoyed when an estranged relative comes to Heritage Cove wanting to make amends. But as she lets him in to her life and Tilly’s Bits ‘n’ Pieces – the shop she owns and loves – her friends aren’t so sure whether everything is quite as it seems.

Benjamin’s parents run Mistletoe Gate Farm, selling Christmas trees, wreaths and mistletoe. Benjamin has always thought his family was as firmly rooted in the ground as the rows of Norway Spruce and Fraser Firs. But when he finds a letter that rocks his world he realises he may not be able to do anything to prevent the changes coming their way.

Benjamin and Tilly have been falling for one another since the summer but will family complications put an abrupt stop to what is looking like a burgeoning romance?

With festive cheer weaving its way through the Cove as two local favourites plan their wedding, there’s more than one relationship that could receive a little Christmas magic…

 

Helen has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy as we head to Heritage Cove. 

This extract is taken from a scene at Mistletoe Gate Farm as Benjamin thinks about Tilly and begins to worry about what is going on at home with his own family…

 

 

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

 

He wandered over to the trees closest to where he was. These were the Nordmann firs in heights ranging from three to eleven feet. They were fatter at the bottom than some of the other varieties, with excellent needle retention. He reached out to touch the rounded needles of one and then another, and the one after that. Any of them could have a place in Tilly’s cottage – she’d be spoilt for choice. They’d all look spectacular with their dense foliage and deep, rich colour, and nothing beat that farm-fresh smell of citrusy pine that came with every tree. He wondered how she was getting on. She’d been flustered last night, unable to think straight when she’d got the call about the break-in at her parents’ house. She didn’t have the sturdiest of relationships with her mum and dad, by the sounds of it, and some people might have used that as a reason not to leap to attention in their hour of need, but not Tilly. She thought of others and put them first whenever she could. It was one of the things he loved and admired about her the most.

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Book Review: My Lucky Night by Olivia Spring

Romance Can Happen When You Least Expect It…

She hates Christmas. He’s about to change her mind…

Cassie isn’t a fan of Christmas. After a string of unlucky incidents during the festive season—including getting dumped—this year she decides to spend the day at home. Alone. No men. No complications.

But then her nightmare boss demands she track down this year’s most coveted Christmas gift—and the only person who can help is an annoyingly sexy Frenchman she’s just met.

Nicolas might look hot, but Cassie can tell he’s also arrogant, irritating and in love with himself. Exactly the kind of guy she hates. Plus, he’ll only help her find the gift if she helps him with something in return…

Could Cassie’s festive fortunes finally be about to change? Can she learn to love Christmas again? And will Cassie get lucky in more ways than one?

*****

Cassie isn’t a fan of Christmas. After a string of bad luck in previous years, she has decided that she’s spending the day at home, alone. No dinner, no tree. She’s simply ignoring Christmas.

When she literally bumps into a handsome French stranger, she dismisses him as rude. However, fate keeps pushing them together. She wonders if Christmas can be magic after all.

This is the second book in the ten-year crush series but can be read as a standalone. I didn’t feel like I was playing catch up at all.

Cassie is a wonderful character. She’s funny, flawed and real. She’s also had a lot happen to her so immediately, I wanted things to work out for her.

Nicolas is a lovely male lead. He’s a bit mysterious to start with and it was great to gradually learn more about him.

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A Moment With… Barry Kirwan

I am very pleased to be welcoming Barry Kirwan back to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for his latest novel, When The Children Return. This is the second book in the Children of the Eye series. 

Ten years have passed since the Axleth invaded Earth and a few hundred humans escaped aboard the ship Athena, piloted by the Artificial Intelligence who calls himself Ares. Now, the refugees approach Earth, determined to take back their home. But something has followed them from deep in space, and as war breaks out on Earth, humanity must decide who is the real enemy. 

 

I have reviewed the book below but first, Barry is here to share his writing process with us. Over to you, Barry.

 

My friends, family and colleagues all know I have a full-on day job, so the question they all ask, is when (the hell) I have time to write? I usually joke that I have a clone and a time machine, although I can’t quite recall which came first…

More seriously, I don’t sleep that much. You could call it insomnia, but I have no trouble falling asleep. It’s just that several times a week I wake up really early, like 3 or 4 in the morning. It’s actually a really great time to write, because nobody is emailing you, it’s dead quiet, and my mind is lucid, full of possibilities, whereas later in the day, frankly it’s knackered, and needs to veg out in front of Netflix or something. That early in the morning I’m writing in the kitchen, a cup of tea once an hour. If I have a good idea, I can’t type fast enough, and my tea goes cold…

Often I work in brasseries in the morning (e.g. from 7-9am), as I live just outside Paris, and the coffee is good, and the noise and bustle somehow stimulates my mind in a different way, maybe because I have to focus. I need to have the idea of the chapter, at least how it begins, and what’s at stake, before I can start. I never just start writing, hoping that somehow it will be good. It won’t be, not for me, it’ll be rubbish. So, I have to have the idea, a direction, and then I see where my fingers take me. I also need to have a sense of urgency, because I aim to write very pacey novels, and that is not just down to tricks; I have to feel that way when I’m writing.

I’m mean to my characters. A lot of crap happens to them. If they could meet me I person in the real, I don’t think I’d last long. But I do suffer with them, and can get quite emotional when I’m writing, which can be awkward when sitting in a busy brasserie, shedding a tear into my espresso macchiato. It’s rare I put tears on the page though, rather I leave it understated, and usually the reader gets it, and they feel it too when a character is having a really rough time, or gets killed off.

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Book Review: Honeybee Cottage by K.T. Dady

The last time Joey Walker watched Josh Reynolds leave Pepper Bay was three years ago.

She decided there and then that the next time he visited she would never in a million years, even if her life depended on it, sleep with him ever again. She was done with secretly being in love with him. She couldn’t keep falling into his arms every time he was around. Josh was never going to see her as anything more than a holiday fling, or a sure thing. She had made her decision and had happily stuck to it, but only because he wasn’t around. She soon realises just how hard keeping him at arm’s length actually is when he unexpectedly turns up just before Christmas.

Josh had always loved Joey, but he knew she never took him seriously. She had no reason to. Growing up, he only went to his grandmother’s family home in Pepper Bay for the summer. As an adult, he knew that the world viewed him as a playboy heir to his grandfather’s millions. This year, he was determined to prove just how reliable he could be. He was back, and on a secret mission to get Joey to fall in love with him, because she was all he had ever wanted.

*****

Joey hasn’t seen Josh since the last time he left Pepper Bay three years ago.

That’s when she decides that she’s no longer going to sleep with him ever again.

She’s also done being in love with him. She’s done with simply being his holiday fling whenever he decides to float into town.

Out of sight, out of mind makes this easier but her resolve is tested when Josh returns just before Christmas.

Josh loves Joey but she sees him as nothing more than a friend. She doesn’t take him seriously.

He’s determined to show how serious he is about her because she’s all he ever wanted.

Oh it’s December. I love Christmas settings in novels, especially at this time of year.

This is book two in the Pepper Bay series. When I pick up a series without reading the previous novels, in this case, Starlight Cottage, I always worry that I’m not going to know what’s going on. Not the case with this. It can be read as a standalone.

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Book Review: The Cold Killer by Ross Greenwood

It’s hard to live when you think you deserve to die…

When a tired old inmate is found dead in his cell, the prison is obligated to investigate and so DI Barton attends. The men he interviews have been convicted of some of the worst things a human being can do, but it appears likely that the death was due to natural causes.

When the house of the dead man is burgled and that crime is followed by a suspicious fire, Barton desperately needs to speak to his widow, but she’s nowhere to be found.

In the space of twenty-four hours, everyone he wants to talk to has vanished. Then he receives some post which makes him believe he could be the next to disappear.

Barton’s investigation goes full circle, through a series of brutal murders, back to the prison, and all signs are pointing to the fact that he’s made a terrible mistake.

There’s a violent killer on the loose, who wants everyone to learn that some people deserve to die.

*****

 

DI Barton has been called to the prison. An elderly inmate has been found dead in his cell. It looks like natural causes…or was it?

Soon, DI Barton and his team are in a race against the clock. DI Barton could be facing more danger than he realises especially as the person they are seeking believes that some people deserve to die.

This was my introduction to DI Barton and his team. The premise for this book intrigued me. It very much had a Line of Duty, gritty feel to it, so I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour for this novel.

The narrative is split between DI Barton and a man known throughout as ‘The Cold Killer.’ I liked how this was done, especially as I didn’t know the identity of the man but knew it must have been someone I had met. This added to the suspense and tension that built well as the story progressed. I had fun trying to piece it together.

It didn’t feel as though there were any slow parts in this book. The pace moves along really well.

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NK Chats To… Julie Stock

Hi Julie. It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Thank you for inviting me on your blog tour. Can you tell me about your novel, A Leap of Faith at the Vineyard in Alsace and what inspired it?

A Leap of Faith at the Vineyard in Alsace is the third and final book in my Domaine des Montagnes trilogy set on a vineyard in France. Each book has told the story of two characters and their search for their happy ending. This final book tells the story of Ellie and Henri. She’s afraid of commitment to one person and Henri longs to settle down.

Originally, the series was inspired by my love of all things French, and the fact that I had spent some time working for a mail-order wine merchant earlier in my career. So this seemed like a perfect setting for a romance series. I also wanted to choose a part of France that isn’t so well-known, but whose wines I knew quite a lot about. I then decided to devote each book to one pair of characters and tell a new story each time, while still allowing myself to update readers with what the other characters had been doing.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

As I’m a full-time author now, I try to be quite disciplined when I’m writing, making sure that I always do my words every day. I write about 10,000 words a week and try to keep my writing work to weekdays only. As an indie author, everything is down to me, of course, so I also make time for reading and some marketing work every day.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel? Was it always going to be part of a series?

The biggest challenge with this latest novel was the timeline because it takes place in the lead up to and beyond Christmas. At first I hardly mentioned Christmas because I didn’t want it to be a Christmas book as such, just for Christmas to feature in it. But after some feedback, I added more in about Christmas and had to get to grips with a calendar to make sure that each month had the right number of days!

It was always going to be a trilogy at least, although I have wondered about extending it to become a series, but I think it might be better to leave my characters as they are and just imagine them on the vineyard from time to time.

 

From idea to finished book, what’s your writing process like and how long does it typically take?

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Book Review: Sisters Behaving Badly by Maddie Please

Sisters Kitty and Jenny haven’t spoken since a very disappointing Carvery lunch. Kitty, sixty-two, thinks Jenny is turning grey. Jenny, sixty-six, thinks Kitty needs to grow up!

So when both sisters inherit a farmhouse in rural France, it gives them the perfect chance to heal the rift between them. Except the farmhouse is a wreck, the garden is terrorized by a flock of chickens, not to mention a donkey with a serious flatulence problem!

Kitty is determined to enjoy herself, especially when she meets gorgeous French builder, Leo. Ooh la – la! And Jenny finds the fully stocked wine cellar helps enormously with missing horrible husband Paul – hic!

And as the two sisters begin to repair their fragile friendship, they discover that being bad is actually very good for the soul.

*****

Kitty has not spoken to nor seen her older sister, Jenny in a while.

So, when they both inherit a farmhouse in rural France, they are given time to hopefully heal their relationship.

They may well just discover that being bad… isn’t bad.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Maddie Please. Having read the premise for this book, I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour.

I loved the setting for this story. I could see the house and surrounding area from the way it’s described. It sounds stunning. I imagined it like Colin Firth’s Garden in Love Actually.

I liked that these ladies were in their sixties and were still having fun. I think it makes them very relatable. As sisters, even as adults, both of them know exactly what buttons to press.

Kitty is very easy to love. She’s a fun character who wears her heart on her sleeve and takes things as they come, even if it means jumping into situations without thinking.

Jenny was a little harder to get to know and therefore, it took me longer to warm to her. She’s a little shy and reserved and therefore, it’s easy to think that she’s not going to be a likeable person when you first meet her.

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NK Chats To… Helen Buckley

I am delighted to be welcoming you to Novel Kicks today, Helen. Thank you for inviting me onto your blog tour. Can you tell me about your book, Strictly Christmas Spirit and what inspired it? 

Strictly Christmas Spirit is a heart-warming, festive romance about a bad boy Hollywood superstar sent to do community service at a homeless shelter. Blake immediately clashes with community centre manager Emily, who is a former dancer from TV show Strictly Dancing with Celebs. Blake doesn’t care about the centre, or Christmas for that matter, he just wants to get his community service over and done with. Will the people he meets at the centre, and Emily herself, change his heart? Strictly Christmas Spirit is book three in the Spotlight Series but can be read as a standalone story.

The book was actually inspired a lot by my real life work. I used to run a community centre in London, providing services for the homeless and marginalised in the community. I based a lot of the story on the experiences I had there (although I never had a Hollywood star come to do community service there!)

 

What’s your typical writing day like? 

Almost impossible at the moment as I have two very young children! If I can, I write between 5-6am and 7-8pm. I literally squeeze in time while my kids are asleep and it’s very hard.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel, especially when it’s part of a series? Did you know that it was always going to be a series? 

Strictly Christmas Spirit is the third book in my Spotlight Series. When I wrote the first book, Strictly on Ice, I had no idea it was going to be part of a series. It was only when I met a literary agent that he gave me the tip to write a series, and that’s where it all came!

The main challenge I have when writing is having to research information. I just want to write and let my imagination run wild but sometimes a little research is necessary!

 

What songs would make up a playlist for your book? 

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Book Extract: Christmas at Snowflake Lodge by CP Ward

I am very happy to be welcoming CP Ward back to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for his novel, Christmas at Snowflake Lodge. 

Plumber Jessica Lemond is determined not to follow in her parents footsteps by living off her famous grandfather’s fortune.

However, when the old timer himself elopes to Scotland with suspicions over the recent death of his much younger third wife hanging over his head and a private detective on his tail, it is left to Jessica to follow and clear up the mess. Happy to escape from her nightmarish lodger Doreen, she heads to the remote Snowflake Lodge with her young trainee Kirsten in tow.

However, Snowflake Lodge – with its oddball staff and very dodgy plumbing – is not how it appears in the brochure. Among the beautiful Scottish scenery, and with more hot chocolate and mince pies than she can possibly handle, can Jessica find something she didn’t even know she was looking for?

 

CP Ward has shared an extract from his novel with us today. Enjoy! 

 

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

With suspicions over the death of his ex-wife growing, Grandpa Lemond has fled to Scotland. However, his son is too busy with an upcoming cruise, so it is left to poor Jessica to track the old man down.

 

‘Jess, is that you?’ came Benjamin’s voice. ‘What happened? Are you in hospital or something? A car accident?’

‘My phone battery died. What’s up? Your message said to call you urgently. Have they found Grandpa yet?’

She could almost hear Dad umming on the other end of the line, wondering what to say. With Grandpa having gone on the run from police and been missing for two weeks now, both Jessica and her mum were convinced Mavis’s death had been murder. Doreen was certain old Ernest Lemond, a famous TV comedian from the nineteen-fifties, was set to kill again. Dad, however, wouldn’t hear of it. While Mavis had been a tyrant, a fitness freak with a penchant for spending her elderly husband’s money, Grandpa, in his advanced years, had held her in something like affection, even if the rest of the family despised her. And in any case, Mavis had outweighed him by twenty kilograms. There was no way he could have pushed her off that ladder.

‘No … the police haven’t found him.’

‘Okay. Is that good or bad?’

‘It depends on how you look at it. However, a postcard arrived yesterday.’

‘A postcard?’

‘Yes. From Scotland.’

Jessica lifted an eyebrow, her genetically inherited sense of humour unable to miss the opportunity for a bad joke. ‘Really?’ she said. ‘I didn’t know you and Scotland were such good friends.’

‘Jess … you’d put the old man into his grave with something as poor as that,’ Benjamin said, squeezing out a reluctant laugh. ‘From your grandfather in Scotland.’

‘What’s he doing there?’

‘Evading the police. And he told me he’s got a job over the Christmas season as the in-house comedian at a ski lodge.’

‘Do they have ski lodges in Scotland? I didn’t realise they had that much snow.’

‘Obviously his postcard didn’t contain much detail, but it seems they must do. Especially if they’re in a position to hire a professional comedian, even if he is ninety-two.’

‘Well, good luck to him.’

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Book Review: Horsing Around by Lexi Rees

Calling all pony fans!

This journal and activity book is bursting with pony-fuelled fun. Whether you’re preparing for your first lesson or out collecting rosettes every weekend, this book has everything you need.

✓ set your riding goals and track your progress

✓ record your best riding moments

✓ tackle the horsey games and puzzles

✓ test your equestrian knowledge

✓ giggle at the funniest horse jokes

✓ try the fun pony-themed arts and crafts

✓ save your precious pony memories

Can you complete all the challenges and become a riding superstar?

*****

I have become a big fan of Lexi Rees’s workbooks, journals, and fiction so I was delighted to be invited onto the one-day blog blitz for Horsing Around, a journal and activity book.

Horsing Around is packed with activities, trackers, to-do lists and planners relating to horses and ponies whether the child in your life is caring for one or just loves them.

With beautiful illustrations, it’s something I would have loved to have had as a child (even though I have never had access to a horse.)

It really gives the young horse lover in your life the chance to be creative especially as there are also colouring pages and ‘how-to’ for crafting projects.

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Book Extract: The Custard Corpses by M J Porter

The Custard Corpses, a delicious 1940s mystery.

Birmingham, England, 1943.

While the whine of the air raid sirens might no longer be rousing him from bed every night, a two-decade-old unsolved murder case will ensure that Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is about to suffer more sleepless nights.

Young Robert McFarlane’s body was found outside the local church hall on 30th September 1923. But, his cause of death was drowning, and he’d been missing for three days before his body was found. No one was ever arrested for the crime. No answers could ever be given to the grieving family. The unsolved case has haunted Mason ever since.

But, the chance discovery of another victim, with worrying parallels, sets Mason, and his constable, O’Rourke, on a journey that will take them back over twenty-five years, the chance to finally solve the case, while all around them the uncertainty of war continues, impossible to ignore.

 

M J Porter has kindly shared an extract from The Custard Corpses with us today so grab that tea and biscuit and enjoy! 

 

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

 

Chief Inspector Mason is about to meet the mother and father of the murdered boy whose case he thinks might be so similar to that of Robert McFarlane

Sam paused, watching the slow progress of the woman. She was so bent; it was almost as though her nose scraped the ground. He swallowed heavily, but perhaps this was too good an opportunity to miss. Especially as an upright man followed behind, his steps slow, but his eyes focused on Sam and Higham. It was evident he’d noticed their interest in the monument.

“Good day,” Sam took the initiative, startling the woman, if not the man.

“Who are you?” the man’s accent was rough, the sound like a stone being pulled over cobbles.

“My name’s Chief Inspector Mason, from Erdington Police Station.”

Two sets of tired eyes settled on him, and he knew whatever he said next might spark hope in them. Could he be so cruel when so much was as yet unknown?

Mrs McGovern puffed through her cheeks, and he noticed the fine hairs above her lip in an unwelcome flash of late sunlight. Her lip quivered, and in her hand,  she clutched yet more bright red flowers for the graveside.

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Book Extract: Partner Pursuit by Kathy Strobos

When a workaholic lawyer meets a fun-loving music marketing executive for opposites attract, friends-to-lovers adventures, which partnership will she choose?

Workaholic lawyer Audrey Willems is not going to take any chances with her bid to become a partner at her New York law firm—especially with only six months until the decision.

Until she bumps into Jake—her new neighbor. Jake is a fun-loving music marketing executive who might just be The One.

He’s funny, caring, supportive—and able to kill water bugs in the bathroom.

But Jake will never date a woman married to her job. His father was a workaholic lawyer who never had time for family.

And she’s just got the case of a lifetime—the one she needs to win to make partner.  Working 24/7 at the office may not even be enough hours to pull off a victory.

If only she had not met him now.

Audrey is determined to prove that she can juggle work and romance—even if managing court cases, candlelit dinners, and bike rides around Manhattan is a lot harder than it looks.  She keeps canceling dates for yet another case crisis.

But when making partner is like a game of musical chairs and the last seat is a business-class alone, which partnership will she choose?

 

Kathy has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

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

 

Excerpt: Pride & Prejudice

As they reached the green subway entrance in the traffic island in the middle of 72nd Street, Jake asked, “This is your subway, right? The daycare is over on West End Avenue a few blocks down, so we’ll make it in time.”

She nodded reluctantly.

“Say goodbye to Audrey,” he said to Luna.

Luna hugged her. Audrey loved those little arms holding onto her.

Then Luna said, “You should marry this one. Mommy says that if you marry, I might get cousins I can play with.”

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Book Review: Sleep Tight by C S Green

Even in your dreams you’re not safe…

The nightmare is only just beginning…

When DC Rose Gifford is called to investigate the death of a young woman suffocated in her bed, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the crime than meets the eye.

It looks like a straightforward crime scene – but the police can’t find the killer. Enter DS Moony – an eccentric older detective who runs UCIT, a secret department of the Met set up to solve supernatural crimes. Moony wants Rose to help her out – but Rose doesn’t believe in any of that.

Does she?

As the killer prepares to strike again, Rose must pick a side – before a second woman dies.

*****

DC Rose Gifford is called in to investigate the death of a young woman who has been suffocated in her bed.

As she works the case, she can’t help but feel that there’s more to this death than it appears.

Rose then meets DS Moony, an eccentric older detective who runs a secret department of the MET set up to solve supernatural crimes.

Moony wants Rose’s help but Rose doesn’t believe in ghosts… does she?

The killer is preparing to strike again. Rose must decide what she believes in before someone else dies.

Having read the premise for this novel, I was excited to be a part of the blog tour for Sleep Tight, book one in the Rose Gifford series.

Right from the beginning, this novel had me completely hooked.

The plot unfolds at a great pace as does the tension and suspense. It had me completely on edge, especially with the supernatural elements.

I was gripped all the way through as I tried to figure out what was going on and what Rose’s role in it would be.

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Book Review: I’ll Be Home For Christmas by M W Arnold

I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Book Three in the Broken Wings series. 

A mysterious key left by her murdered sister, leads Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Betty Palmer on a journey of discovery and danger. Given up to an orphanage upon birth, the parents she’s long thought had no part in her life force themselves back in, purely out of greed and self-preservation.

Penny’s life is unexpectedly turned upside down by a potentially life-changing situation, which causes her wounded husband to question their marriage. No-one seems safe in this year of turmoil in the middle years of the war, as some relationships face breaking point whilst others become stronger.

Kidnap, crashes and dogfights, the girls of the Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery have never faced such dangers. To survive may not be enough as they must find the strength to rise above the most trying times yet of their lives.

*****

The ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) Mystery Club is back in I’ll Be Home For Christmas, the third instalment of the Broken Wings series.

Betty finds a key belonging to her late sister and soon finds her estranged parents back in her life, much to her dismay.

Penny receives news that will change her life and before long, marriages, relationships and loyalties are tested.

The girls find themselves facing more danger than they’ve ever faced before.

Yay! The ladies of the ATA are back.

I’ve grown so fond of this group of characters. It really does feel like I am catching up with old friends. I want to be part of their gang.

That, and the fact that this book is set at Christmas meant I pretty much devoured this story as quickly as I could.

This can be read as a standalone, but I do recommend reading the previous two books in the series (A Wing and a Prayer and Wild Blue Yonder,) as it gives a better overall picture of what has happened prior to this book plus, well, they are brilliant. They have given me a real interest in learning about the ATA.

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Book Review: Under the Mistletoe by Sue Moorcroft

Christmas. A time for family, friends – and rekindling old flames…

When Laurel returns to the village of Middledip, she’s looking for a quiet life. Adjusting to her recent divorce, she’s ready to spend some time getting back on her feet amidst the glorious snow-dusted countryside.

Yet, life in Middledip is far from straightforward. Coming to the aid of her sister, Rea, as she navigates her own troubles, Laurel barely has a moment to think about where her own life is going.

However, time stands still when she sees her old flame, Grady Cassidy – and it’s soon as if they’ve never been apart. But through her happiness, Laurel remembers why she left the village all those years ago, as she recalls a dark night and Grady’s once-wayward brother, Mac…

Can Laurel learn to forgive and forget? Or will her chances of Christmas under the mistletoe with Grady remain a dream?

*****

Welcome to a Middledip Christmas!

As a fan of the author’s work for a good while now, I was delighted to find this year’s 2nd novel was set in her wonderful construction of Middledip. All the characters she’s populated this village with are back, and it feels like we’re back home.

This story contains all the usual humour we’ve come to expect from Ms Moorcroft, together with a healthy dish of mental and physical bullying to be conquered, as well as dealing with the issue of agoraphobia.

This is a beautifully written read which effortlessly switches between laugh out loud moments to those where you find tears streaming down your face without realising it.

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Book Review: The Girl She Was Before by Jess Kitching

Nat lives a picture-perfect life, but it wasn’t always this way. A victim of horrific bullying when she was a teenager, Nat will do anything to keep distance between the girl she was before and the woman she is now.

But when her best friend is murdered and people begin to point their finger at her, Nat’s new life quickly begins to unravel.

To Nat, it’s no surprise that the crime happened at the same time as the return of her biggest tormentor, Chrissy Summers. A woman with a violent streak who destroyed lives when she was younger and isn’t afraid to do it again.

Face to face with the past she so firmly keeps behind her, Nat’s sanity wavers as her determination to reveal Chrissy as the monster she knows her as rises to dangerous heights.

The question is, can Nat prove Chrissy is a killer, or will Chrissy get to Nat and her family before she has the chance?

You can’t outrun the past…

*****

Nat has a perfect life. As an online influencer, the perception of perfect is important.

However, her life wasn’t always like that, having been subjected to horrible bullying as a teenager.

She will do anything to keep her perfect life.

Then her best friend is murdered, and her nemesis returns to town.

When Nat is then accused of murder, her life begins to crumble in a big way.

Wow! That’s the first word that comes to mind. Wow!

From page one, this book doesn’t so much pull you into the action, it pushes you in with both hands.

Told from Nat’s point of view in the present, there are also ‘then’ flashback chapters involving an unnamed schoolgirl and the horrible bullying she’s subjected to by Chrissy Summers and her gang. When I say horrific, I mean totally horrific. When you read it, you’ll know what I mean.

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Book Review: Brooklyn Monroe Wants It All by Karen Booth

Brooklyn Monroe Wants It All

She can’t hit the snooze on her biological clock forever…

Love, career, kids—Brooklyn Monroe wants it all. Her beauty company? A triumph. Her love life? Total fail. At 42, that makes motherhood her top priority.

With no man in her life, she’s prepared to fly solo, but her plan is derailed when a mailing list mishap turns Brooklyn into a someone-get-me-pregnant internet meme. Making her PR nightmare go away entails a soul-baring interview on national TV. And the guy asking the questions? Her all-too sexy ex.

Talk show host Alec Trakas is the king of bad timing. Case in point, his heartbreaking romance with Brooklyn. Alec was all about commitment but Brooklyn was launching her start-up, and forever wasn’t in the cards.

Now a shot at his ultimate dream job depends on convincing Brooklyn to spill the secrets leading to her viral celebrity. It sets Alec’s star rising, but puts Brooklyn in a sea of flirty men.

Fate has thrown them back together. Sparks are flying. But is the timing finally right? Because having it all might not be worth the risk of losing each other again.

 

*****

 

Successful business… check.

Love Life… disaster.

At 42, Brooklyn Monroe knows that, if she wants to be a mother, that time is running out.

As she considers her options, an office joke gone wrong quickly makes her into a viral internet meme, where suddenly everyone knows her plans for motherhood.

Her ex, Alec knows that his career depends on whether he can get Brooklyn to agree to a TV interview about her new found fame. Is fate throwing them together again? Can Brooklyn really have it all?

Brooklyn Monroe Wants It All is the second book in the Never Too Late book series. However, you don’t have to have read Gray Hair Don’t Care to be able to read this one. It stands alone. Lela and Donovan do make an appearance in this though.

Brooklyn is a wonderful, strong, successful character. In fact, the book overall has empowering women and I loved that. These characters have worked hard and achieved success. You don’t feel that they need to be rescued by men.

It shines a spotlight on motherhood, especially for women in their forties and this was something I could immediately relate to.

Alec is a great male lead. He is written as a strong man but I feel that there was also a vulnerability to him. A conversation he has with another male character showcases this perfectly.

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Book Review: The Perfect Daughter by Alex Stone

The perfect daughter…

Jess Harper has spent her whole life trying to make her mum, Abigail happy and proud. And everything Jess does, from the clothes she wears, the job she has, the men she dates, are all approved by Abigail first.

The perfect boyfriend…

So when Jess announces that she has a new man in her life – plumber Adam – Abigail is less than impressed. ‘A plumber? Really, Jessica….’ Adam encourages Jess to break free from her mum’s manipulation, can’t she see what’s happening?

The perfect mother….

But Abigail is only doing these things to keep Jess safe, to protect her from getting hurt again…isn’t she?

Or the perfect liar?

Jess, caught in the middle, doesn’t know who to believe or trust. And then Adam vanishes without trace.

Now Jess is the police’s prime suspect and they want to know if Jess really is as perfect as she seems….

*****

Jess is always trying to be the dutiful daughter. She runs everything by her mother, Abigail first. That’s normal right?

Her mother knows best after all and Jess isn’t always trusting of her own judgement. Not if past experiences are anything to go by.

Plus, all Abigail wants to do is to protect her daughter.

So, when Jess meets Adam, Abigail is less than impressed.

Determined to prove her mother wrong about Adam, he practically moves in to her flat. They have a future.

However, when Adam disappears without a trace, Jess is the prime suspect.

From page one, this novel had me hooked. Told from Jess’s point of view, we enter the mind of someone who really doesn’t know who she is nor does she trust herself.

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Book Review: The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Haywood

‘I would caution you against delving into the past. The past is often best left exactly where it is.’

Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them.

Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult.

As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost.

An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.

*****

Emma had never been close to her mother.

After her mother’s death however, she finds something that may not only explain why her mother was always a little distant but also a secret that will change Emma’s life forever.

I found the premise of this novel immediately intriguing. I have always been fascinated by the relationship between mothers and daughters.

Told from the point of view of Betty, her Daughter, Margaret and Granddaughter, Emma, it gives the reader a real insight into three generations of women – their differences and parallels. The story also occasionally focuses on Emma’s stepfather, Jack and his input and influence over the women.

I also liked how the painting that featured in the novel was interpreted in many different ways. This really added an extra dimension to the story.

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Book Review: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

*****

It’s 1903. Fishermen find a boat containing an unconscious, badly beaten woman and a young girl. They are both taken to All Hallows, an asylum on Dartmoor.

As the woman remains in a coma, the young girl, Harriet is taken to an attic room and put into the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school for boys. Lewis is sent there after the death of his mother. He feels alone and isolated.

He then meets his new roommate, Isak. Their room is in the attic, located in the old part of the building.

The boys begin to learn more about each other and about the school’s past as an asylum.

It soon becomes clear that the past is restless and that many ghosts still linger.

From the moment I read the premise for this book, I knew it was going to be a book I would find intriguing.

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Book Review: A Christmas Wish on a Carousel by Lottie Cardew

Snuggle up under your favourite blanket and escape to the beautiful village of Pebblestow this winter, for one of the most heartwarming stories of the season…

When Cara Mia Shaw makes a desperate wish one night, while riding on a carousel at a Christmas market, little does she know her small, but safe world is about to spin off its axis.

Befriending a fascinating returnee to the village, an elderly woman called Perdita with a jaunty pink beret and the wisdom of a life well lived, might set Cara on a different, albeit harder, course, if she’s brave enough to listen. Art was always her passion, after all, even if fate seemed to have other ideas.

And then there’s the new man in her life, who her friends think is perfect for her because they set her up with decent, reliable Greg in the first place. Cara’s been hurt enough times to know the difference between a good man and a feckless one. Until Wilfred comes along – moody, sarcastic, and scattered – just to complicate matters and meddle with Cara’s resolve, to the horror of almost everyone around her. But is either man ultimately meant for her, anyway? And will she self-sabotage as usual, or gamble everything this time, including her heart?

It might take the highs and lows of friendship, the risk of a forbidden romance, and a Pomeranian called Loki – not to mention some much-needed Christmas magic – before Cara finally realises the wish she made that night on the carousel might just be about to come true.

 

*****

Cara makes a wish on a carousel at a local Christmas market. Soon after, her quiet life turns upside down.

Her friends set her up with Greg, who is a decent, reliable man. She also meets Wilf, the not so dependable brother of her ex-employer. Is one of them the one?

She also meets Perdita, an elderly resident who has come back to the village. Could she send Cara on a different course?

As I have said many times on this blog, one of the things I love most about this time of year is the arrival of novels with Christmas/festive settings. This one was wonderful, drew me in and was magical.

Cara is a bit of a lost soul, at least, that’s my impression. She’s also stuck and scared. I also got the same impression about Wilf and of course, the two connect. There is a mystery surrounding Wilf and I found it interesting to see how they both developed through the novel. I really wanted them to find happiness, even if it wasn’t with each other.

Perdita was also intriguing. I couldn’t quite work out how she fitted into the story but I wanted to know more about her. She’s fabulous.

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Book Review: The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Sherlock

After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever.

But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.

So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.

But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village.

Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?

As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.

*****

The Village Inn of Secret Dreams is the third book in the Riverside Lane series.

Belle Clarke sees the village of Cranbridge as her home. She wants to stay there forever, working at her Uncle’s inn, The Black Swan.

When the inn is threatened by closure, Belle may have to leave. Cue Pete Kennedy, her oldest friend.

He buys the inn and has plans but these are the opposite of Belle’s vision.

Can Pete and Belle put aside their differences and save not only the inn but help the village too.

It was so lovely to be back in Cranbridge. It was really like being back with old friends. The descriptions and setting of this village sounds so stunning, especially as it’s set during Autumn and Christmas (I am feeling so festive now.)

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Book Extract: The Landlord of Hummingbird House by Jane Harvey

I’m pleased to be welcoming Jane Harvey to Novel Kicks. She’s here with the blog tour for her latest, novel, The Landlord of Hummingbird House.

When April moves into Hummingbird House, she is intrigued by her mysterious landlord, Dai.

With a bruised heart and a distinct lack of furniture, she spends the summer getting to know the other occupants. As she smartens up her home and makes peace with her recent past, she befriends Paul, a solitary ex-chef, and Betty, an elderly lady who lives in the basement flat.

But Hummingbird House holds many secrets, and the relationships of the tenants are not as straightforward as they seem. April learns some shocking truths one eventful night, and realises that victims and villains can look the same.

The Landlord of Hummingbird House is a contemporary novel exploring unlikely friendships, unexpected love interests, and family relationships. Here, everyone is in need of a second chance – and appearances can be deceptive.

 

Jane has kindly shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

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

 

April (a 32-year-old Primary School teacher) has had to move to a new home following the break-up of her long-term relationship. Immediately before this scene, April and her sister are working away to improve her new rental home. As she works, April starts to dwell on how she renovated her last home, which leads to reflections on the end of the relationship. She has just described how she and Tom seemed to be drifting further apart, and how he was working long hours, following a promotion.

 

Eventually, he invited her to a black-tie do, for his work. April knew the date off by heart for weeks, building this one evening into something special, something that would help to salvage things. Take them back to how they were. They would have a wonderful time. They would laugh and eat and drink. Maybe dance.

She had no idea what to wear at first, and ended up having to get a new dress, and buying sparkly sandals when she couldn’t find heels that she could walk in. She had always had a problem with shoes. They both dressed up: physically pressed and booted; emotionally crumpled and tired. It was the first time they’d been out together in months.

When they were seated, April struggled to make conversation with his colleagues and acquaintances – her work stories revolved around little Jamie’s lost trousers after P.E rather than how the office intern had nearly lost them half a million. She felt like someone’s little sister. Like she’d been asked along by mistake, or out of pity, with her costume jewellery and too-tight Spanx.

It struck her that there was a time when they would have been accomplices at these events – saving each other from dire conversations with dribbling, drunken Non-Executive Directors, or giggling behind menus, thick as thieves. But Tom was off, working the room, and chatting amiably to everyone. It was expected, he said. He had to show his face.

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A Moment With… D.S. Lang

It’s lovely to be welcoming DS Lang to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her latest novel, A Lethal Arrogance, which is book 3 in the Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery series.

After returning home from her service as a United States Army Signal Corps operator in the Great War, Arabella Stewart’s goal, to save her family’s resort, seems within reach as the summer season progresses. She and her business partner, Mac MacLendon, look forward to re-establishing a successful championship golf tournament, once the signature event of the resort’s year. Problems arise when one of the contestants, an overbearing snob who has created problems at other competitions, clashes with more than one person. When he is found dead, the victim of a suspicious automobile crash, Bella once again helps Jax Hastings, the town constable and her childhood friend, investigate. As they pursue answers, Bella and Jax find several suspects who might have wanted to make the victim suffer for his lethal arrogance.

 

*****

Today, D.S. Lang tells us about the inspiration and research behind her book series. Over to you, D.S. Lang. 

My Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery series takes place shortly after the Great War (World War I). Bella, the main character, was a United States Army Signal Corps operator in France during the conflict. Originally, I planned for Bella to be a nurse. While doing research, I discovered that American nurses needed to be at least twenty-five years old. Since I wanted her to be younger when she volunteered, I searched for other roles available to young women and found that they were accepted into the Signal Corps.

The U.S. entered the war in April 1917. By the end of the year, General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, decided that women were needed to replace male operators, freeing those men for combat duty. About 10,000 ladies applied, and some 200 were chosen. The main requirement was fluency in both English and French. The training, primarily learning to operate complicated switchboards, took place before they sailed for France. The women proved to be highly competent, connecting six calls in the time it took male operators to handle one.

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Book Review: Jane’s Away by Clare Hawken

Roger Kurmudge is rather smug about his affluent life and happy marriage.

It’s just as well his wife, Jane, is totally in the dark about what he got up to in the past. But on his retirement day, Jane disappears. Roger’s about to panic. Will he have to sell some shares or – heaven forbid! – the house in Bordeaux to pay a ransom demand? Worse – has Jane discovered his guilty secret?

Then Jane’s emails start arriving. Take the dog to the vet. Look after grandson Alfie for the day. Do the washing, shopping and cooking. Host Christmas for the family. Roger doesn’t know why Jane’s gone but he’s sure he can manage her ‘women’s work’ without any trouble. Although it’s harder than it looks.

As the weeks go by and Jane stays away, Roger is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his life and himself. But even if Roger can change for the better, will Jane ever come back? Or has she, too, been keeping secrets of her own?

 

*****

Roger is quite pleased with his perfect life. He’s about to retire from a successful business, he has a nice home in Guildford and he has a beautiful and dutiful wife. He has good reason to be smug right? Especially as he’s managed to keep his secret all these years.

When Jane disappears on the day of his retirement and e-mails from her begin to appear, Roger must quickly learn to adapt but Jane’s job of running the house, walking the dog and looking after their grandson should be easy – or so he thinks.

Roger or ‘Woger’ at the start of this story is one of the most frustrating fictional characters I have ever met. He has this attitude that his family are happy purely based on the fact that he’s always provided for them financially and because of this, he feels that he is well liked and respected, both in his personal and professional life. I really wanted to give him a piece of my mind. Haha.

However, as the book progressed, I loved seeing how Roger adapted and began to realise what he had and what he’d taken for granted. There is a wonderful life lesson with this novel and it is tackled well.

The supporting characters are all well rounded and real. Alfie especially was adorable and I really liked Jamie.

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Book Review: The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen

London, 1885

Amelie Hampton is a hopeless romantic, which makes her the perfect columnist to answer lonely heart letters in The Marriage Gazette. When Amelie plays matchmaker with two anonymous lonely hearts, she also decides to secretly observe the couple’s blind date. To her surprise, the man who appears for the rendezvous is Harold Radcliffe–a grieving widower and a member of Amelie’s book club.

Police detective Michael Baker has been struggling ever since his best friend and brother-in-law died in the line of fire. Because he knows the dangers of his job, he has vowed never to marry and subject a wife and family to the uncertainty of his profession. But when he meets Miss Hampton, he is captured by her innocence, beauty, and her quick mind.

When a woman’s body is pulled from the river, Michael suspects the woman’s husband–Harold Radcliffe–of foul play. Amelie refuses to believe that Harold is capable of such violence but agrees to help, imagining it will be like one of her favorite mystery novels. Her social connections and clever observations prove an asset to the case, and Amelie is determined to prove Mr. Radcliffe’s innocence. But the more time Amelie and Michael spend together, the more they trust each other, and the more they realize they are a good team, maybe the perfect match.

They also realize that Mr. Radcliffe is hiding more than one secret, and when his attention turns toward Amelie, Michael knows he must put an end to this case before the woman he loves comes to harm.

*****

London 1885.

Amelie is a hopeless romantic. Detective Michael Baker has vowed never to marry.

When the body of a woman is pulled from the Thames, Michael and Amelie’s paths cross but can romance bloom in the middle of a murder investigation?

Romance and mystery… perfect!

Amelie is a lovely character with the matchmaking interest of Emma Woodhouse, the sweetness of Jane Bennett and the sass of Lizzie Bennett and I loved her. She’s a strong character but at the same time, and like a lot of us, she wants to fall in love and this makes her a little naive when it comes to her own love life. Love can blind you.

Michael is a wonderfully flawed hero. He’s dealing with grief and loss and without realising it, it’s made him lonely and I believe this makes him very relatable. He certainly doesn’t count on meeting Amelie.

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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: 28 Days by Sue Parritt

Melbourne, February 2100. Emma Cartwright has 28 days left to find work, otherwise she must report to the Productive Citizens Bureau and accept any vacancy, regardless of location, pay or conditions.

Her situation becomes even more grave when the Employment Positions Portal is disabled and the government refuses to extend her unemployment period. At 70, Emma could opt for voluntary euthanasia, but she has her student son Jack to support.

After a chance meeting with the eccentric Cal Ritchie, founder of the clandestine group Citizens’ Voice and supporter of those fleeing repressive laws to live in bush camps, Emma is determined to escape her life of compliance.

When her son Jack is suddenly arrested, Emma finds herself running out of time and options, and has to take drastic measures. But can she save her son?

*****

28 Days focuses on Emma and the looming end of her government approved unemployment period. Set in the opening days of the 22nd century, she lives in an Australia which has been ravaged by climate change and rising sea levels. This has put huge pressure on population and resources.

As such, everyone needs to be a productive citizen and maintain productive employment. If you’re unable to find employment after a year, you’re allocated a job and for 70 year old Emma, that period ends in 28 days. With an 19 year old son to think about, Emma is getting desperate.

Emma is a well rounded character who is very relatable. She reminded me of my own mother in the fact that she is stoic, resourceful and underestimated. It’s nice to read a novel centred around an active older person rather than a teenager which is something I find you often get in this genre. Emma has life experience that brings something very interesting to her character and predicament.

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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: 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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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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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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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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