Monday, 27 November 2017

Book review: The Place We Met by Isabelle Broom

I'm delighted to share with you my review for the latest novel from globetrotting author Isabelle Broom. I'm living vicariously through her books; one day I hope to visit the places she writes about!
So far she's taken us to Zakynthos in My Map of You, Prague in A Year and a Day and the Spanish village of Mojacar in Then. Now. Always; this time we go to Lake Como! 

The Place We Met is published on 30th November, and you can buy it here and at other booksellers.

Thank you to Netgalley and Michael Joseph at Penguin for the ARC.

The Blurb

Taggie is only a few months into her job as a tour guide in Lake Como. She's rushed off her feet, but distraction is what she needs to forget why she left England.

Lucy arrives at Lake Como with her perfect new boyfriend, Pete. Falling fast in love, she's sure that life is about to start for her, it feels so right with him.

But as New Year's Eve approaches and the women meet by chance, it becomes clear this isn't the perfect place of new beginnings. While Lucy is willing to do anything to keep hold of Pete, the past Taggie so desperately wanted to escape is catching up with her . . .

My Review

I really do think the Tourist Boards in the places featured in Isabelle's novels owe her big time. Again, her descriptions of the scenery make you just want to hop on a plane straightaway. Sights and sounds are depicted perfectly, immersing the reader into the surroundings of the story.

We have two protagonists in The Place We Met, Taggie and Lucy, two strangers whose stories entwine in the beautiful setting of the Italian lakes. They are two very different women; Taggie, determined not to let herself be hurt by anyone ever again, and Lucy, who is in the first flushes of romance with her boyfriend, Pete.

As ever, one of the book's strong points is the supporting cast; the elderly Elsie, a strong-willed lady with a rebellious streak; Taggie's friend and co-worker, Shelley; the hilarious couple Gladys and Will-yum, and of course our dark, brooding hero, Marco. Each character is written with such care and depth, we feel we know them instantly.

Heartbreak, jealousy, determination... it's all here, written with the author's usual humour and warmth, resulting in a story that is heartwarming, romantic and uplifting, tugging at the emotions.

Now where are we going next, Isabelle?

About the Author

Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts at the University of West London before starting a career first in local newspapers and then as a sub editor at heat magazine. Nowadays, when she’s not writing novels set in far-flung locations, Isabelle spends her time being the Book Reviews Editor at heat and walking her beloved dog across the Suffolk water meadows. 

Her novels My Map Of You, A Year And A Day & Then. Now. Always. (published by Penguin Michael Joseph) are out now. The fourth, The Place We Met, will arrive in November.

If you like pictures of dogs, chatter about books and very bad jokes, you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram @Isabelle_Broom or find her on Facebook under Isabelle Broom Author. To find out more about her books, visit her website

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Blog Tour: A Scentational Guest Post by Cassandra O'Leary

When asked what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe famously said 'Chanel No. 5'. Unfortunately my efforts to emulate the glamour puss have been thwarted by my children, who said I smelled like Granny. I hope they were referring to the fact my mum likes the same perfume as me, and that I don't smell like old ladies' wee! But the damage has been done - I ended up giving my mum the rest of my beloved bottle and had to seek out my own new favourite.

Today I'm welcoming Cassandra O'Leary, author of Heart Note, a Christmas Romcom Novella, to talk about her favourite perfumes. Buy the book here!

Discovering the Heart Note

Favourite Perfumes and Scents
Love is like a fine perfume… My interest in perfumes started many years ago when I worked as a ‘spritzer chick’ at a department store perfume counter. 

Perfume and scent are closely tied to our emotions and memories. I’m sure most people reading this can recall a specific scent associated with their childhood home, mother, or maybe grandmother. [HA! - SEE ABOVE - Vikbat].

As an example, some of the scents I remember from my childhood might not sound that good mixed together, but they remind me of the place and the time, being a kid. Maybe a cooking smell (apple cake with cinnamon), freshly mown grass, the woody scent of pencil shavings, a perfume (Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds), the washing detergent still permeating clothes when you get them out of a drawer (lavender). 

Perfumes are also made up of layers of ingredients, the top note, the middle note (or Heart Note) and base note. But they also interact with each person’s skin chemistry – one smells good on one person may completely change and smell horrible on someone else. 

You need to try a perfume on your skin and let it unfold over time to discover the true essence. Fascinating! 
My favourite perfumes
It’s hard to name only one or two perfumes that I love. For me, different scents evoke moods, seasons or remind me of a certain time in my life. When I started working on the perfume counter at a department store in my early twenties, I hadn’t worn much perfume apart from the cheapies from the discount stores. 

But we were promoting the launch of Calvin Klein’s new perfumes such as Eternity, Escape and Obsession. A whole new world of evocative and layered scents opened up, and they were addictive. I loved collecting the perfume samples and trying the different varieties. 

My favourite from this era was Eternity, and I still wear it sometimes today. It almost represents that time of my life now, when I was young and finding my place in the world. It’s a fresh floral, light and breezy. 

Eternity by Calvin Klein

Top Notes:
Heart Notes
Base notes

Scents of seduction
What’s a great scent to wear to feel sexy? Well, the answer can be as different as the people choosing the scent. Some will go for the heavier, spicier scents known as Orientals, with base notes of long-lasting ingredients. Opium or Shalimar come to mind. 

When I worked for Yves Saint Laurent perfumes for a while, I fell in love with the heavier, richer, evocative and spicy scent of Opium. I’d wear this perfume when I dressed up in a little black dress for a dinner date in winter, but never in summer. This fragrance is too heavy and rich for summer, when it might seem over the top. 

Something different
I love the fragrance, Dune by Christian Dior (and lots of other Dior perfumes). The following notes don’t quite describe the complexity of this perfume on the skin. It’s actually described as a floral oceanic scent and there’s a freshness to this scent that reminds me of summer at the beach. 

Dune by Christian Dior

Top Notes

Heart Notes

Base notes

For an excellent resource on perfumes and their ingredients, I recommend visiting the website – lots of people have reviewed their favourite perfumes and it has full lists of ingredients too. 

Thank you Cassandra!

I'm quite partial to Dior Addict, and Estee Lauder's Modern Muse. What's your favourite perfume? Let me know!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Blog Tour: A Rock 'n' Roll Lovestyle by Kiltie Jackson

Today I'm pleased to be on the blog tour for Kiltie Jackson's new book, A Rock 'n' Roll Lovestyle, which was published on 26th September 2017. Thank you to the author and to Rachel at Rachel's Random Resources for the advance reading copy. This review is my own honest and unbiased opinion.

The Blurb

So who exactly is Sukie McClaren?

A Christmas-loving Cat lover? A Sound of Music Fanatic? A Fiercely Independent Woman?

She is all of the above. And when she is sent to Salzburg for a business trip a few weeks before Christmas, she thinks all her dreams have come true. As she packs her suitcase, the only things on her mind are Christmas markets, lots of snow and finally seeing the Doh-Ray-Me steps. Becoming the new best friend of the world’s hottest rock-star doesn’t even get a look in.

Pete Wallace is a reclusive, reluctant, rock-star and the world’s Number One, best-selling, male solo artist. It’s been three years since his last tour and he’s now preparing to go back on the road again. A week in Salzburg, schmoozing with the music press, is one of his worst nightmares. 

He can’t wait for it to be over.

When Pete and Sukie meet, it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Lonely for too long, he begins to remember how it feels to be happy and, for the first time in six years, Christmas feels special again. 

Eduardo di Santo however, whose kid sister suffered life-changing injuries at a Pete Wallace concert, is all set on getting revenge. When Pete’s new tour is announced, he begins to make his plans. Plans that will culminate in Pete's demise.

Will Pete and Sukie’s new friendship die before it has a chance to flourish?

A Christmas tale full of love, laughter, friendship and revenge.

Purchase from Amazon UK

My Review

Being a Rock Chick at heart, I immediately leaped at the chance to bag myself a place on the blog tour for this book based on the title itself.

You can tell the author enjoyed writing this book - her enthusiam shows through on every page.

The main protagonist, Suki, is a strong, feisty woman with a very independent streak. She gets on the wrong side of another guest at the hotel she's staying at, with some interesting repercussions. I found her to be a quite cold character to start with, but her slow-burning friendship with Pete starts to melt her heart.

Pete is relaunching his career as a rock star after three years in hiding. He's drawn to Suki, whose no nonsense, plain talking nature is the perfect panacea to all the media people he has to suck up to. He is a real sweetie. He may be a rock star, but heroes are human too.

There's a couple of interesting sub-plots; one of them rather dramatic, but it adds interest to the story.

I found the book on the whole enjoyable, if a little slow and wordy in places, but the author is certainly good at describing the setting, Salzburg, making you feel as if you are there with them.

A good debut.

About the Author

Kiltie grew up in Scotland, Glasgow to be precise. A very unique city wit
h a very unique way of looking at life. When she was old enough to do so, she moved to London and then, after several years of obtaining interesting experiences -which are finding their way into her writing - she moved up to the Midlands.

She currently lives in Staffordshire with five cats and one husband. The cats kindly allow her and her husband to share their house on the condition they keeps paying the mortgage!

Her little home is known as Moggy Towers, even though despite having plenty of moggies, there are no towers!

She loves reading, watching movies, and visiting old castles. She really dislikes going to the gym!

Her biggest desire is that one day she can give up the day job and write her stories for a living.

Kiltie first began writing 'A Rock 'n' Roll Lovestyle' over ten years ago. The project was shelved on Chapter Seventeen as she felt the story wasn't flowing as she would like it to.

In her own words "The images in my head would not come out of my fingers!" Fast forward to November 2016 when, having finished reading Lizzie's Christmas Escape by Christie Barlow, she read more about the author and was inspired with how Christie herself came to be a best-selling author.

In that thunderbolt moment, Kiltie knew - with a deep certainty- that she needed to reacquaint herself with 'A Rock 'n' Roll Lovestyle' and begin writing again. She did this in January 2017 and found the words flowed faster than she could type them. Finally, the time was right for her to write her novel.

Her determination to finish what she had started all those years ago was absolute and the first draft was completed on Sunday 16th April 2017.

Since beginning to write again, the ideas have not stopped flowing. She has begun typing up her second book, 'Of All the Unlikely Places', and book three (not yet titled) has been worked out and is waiting in the wings for its turn in the spotlight.

She currently has a further ten plots and ideas stored in her file (it's costing a fortune in USB drives as each story has its own memory stick!) and the ideas still keep on coming.

She now lives her life around the following three quotes:

"I love having weird dreams, they're great fodder for book plots!"
"Why wait for your ship to come in when you can swim out to meet it?"
"Old enough to know better, young enough not to care!"

Friday, 17 November 2017

Book Review: Ours is the Winter by Laurie Ellingham

I'm delighted today to be taking part in the Publication Day Push for Laurie Ellingham's  novel Ours is the Winter. Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher, HQ Digital, for the advanced reading copy. This review is my honest, unbiased opinion.

The Blurb
Journeying across the Arctic, their pasts are about to catch up with them.

Erica, Molly and Noah are embarking on the challenge of a lifetime, driving Siberian huskies across the frozen wilderness of the Arctic. Cut off from the world and their loved ones and thrown together under gruelling conditions, it isn’t long before the cracks start to show.

Erica has it all. A loving husband, a successful career and the most adorable baby daughter. But Erica has been living a double life, and as she nears her fortieth birthday her lies threaten to come crashing down.

Molly was on her way to stardom. But when her brother died, so did her dreams of becoming an Olympic champion. Consumed by rage and grief, she has shut out everyone around her, but now she’s about to learn that comfort can come from the most unexpected places.

Noah has a darkness inside him and is hounded by nightmares from his past. Tortured, trapped and struggling to save his fractured relationship, he knows this journey is not going to help, but try telling his girlfriend that.

As their lives and lies become ever more entwined, it becomes clear that in the frozen wilds there is nowhere to hide.

My Review

Brrr! You'll want to snuggle down under a duvet or a fleecy blanket with a hot chocolate to read this. The setting for this emotional book is in the Arctic snows as we are taken on the journey of a lifetime, a challenging seven day trip sledding with huskies. Laurie has such a magical way of describing the surroundings that I could almost feel the snow stinging my nostrils with the cold.

It's a tale of endurance, as a group of people take on this challenge, taking themselves right out of their comfort zones. Three members of the group in particular find that they cannot escape the past, instead they have to confront it - in just about the coldest place on earth.

Noah's story made for uncomfortable reading. His girlfriend is one of the most annoying people I've ever met in a book - I'd have buried her in a snow drift. 

Half sisters Erica and Molly haven't spoken since their brother died. Their relationship is more complex than that of most siblings. Molly resents older sister Erica for ignoring her, but Erica has had her own problems to deal with. Molly certainly behaves like a much younger sister as Erica tries to reconnect with her. I found it hard to warm to either sister particularly, as they both seem too wrapped up in themselves to consider anybody else.

For me the stars of the book are the huskies. I love the descriptions of them, even if they do have particularly smelly breath. I just want to bury my face in their fur. I love the relationship between Erica and her lead husky.  

Ours is the Winter has great descriptions of the surroundings, but I would have preferred to be able to have connected more with the characters - they just weren't particularly likable.

You can buy Ours is the Winter here.

About the Author

Laurie Ellingham lives on the Suffolk/Essex border with her two children, husband, and cockerpoo Rodney. She has a First Class honours degree in Psychology and a background in Public relations, but her main love is writing and disappearing into the fictional world of her characters, preferably with a large coffee and a Twix (or two) to hand.

Follow Laurie Ellingham on..

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Book Review: Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher

Thank you to Netgalley and Michael Joseph for the ARC. Some Kind of Wonderful is published on 16 November 2017, and you can buy it here. This review is my honest and true opinion.

The Blurb
When the love of your life says you're not The One, who are you?

Lizzy and Ian have been a couple since the first week of university. Now, after celebrating a decade together, everyone thinks they're about to get engaged.

Instead, a romantic escape to Dubai leaves Lizzy with no ring, no fiancé and no future.

Lizzy is heartbroken - but through the tears, she sees an opportunity. This is her moment to discover what she's been missing while playing Ian's ideal 'better half'.

But how much has Ian changed her, and who should she be without him?

Determined to discover who she is at heart, Lizzy sets out to rediscover the girl she was before - and, in the meantime, have a little fun . . .

My Review
This is the first of Giovanna's books I have read. I've noticed her and her books a lot on social media, and everyone says how great her books are, so I thought I should find out for myself. Plus I love her husband (shh! don't tell her) - not in 'that' but cos he seems like such a lovely bloke and they seem to be the perfect couple. Plus I swear I bumped into him and he said hello to me at a Muse gig in Camden, though I was so excited that day it was only afterwards I realised it was him. Or maybe it wasn't.

Anyway this is supposed to be a book review, not a gushing-over-lovely-people fest. So here goes...

Readers, I loved it!

To begin with, our heroine is on holiday with her boyfriend of ten years. It's in her life plan to be married to him. She doesn't know anything else - and everyone around is expecting the same. The build up to the great moment that never is, is full of tension, even though you know what is going to happen. But I can't believe Ian let it get as far as it did - that was pretty cruel, weak and pathetic, and quite frankly she's better off without him.

Lizzy deals with the blow admirably - yes she's devastated, but it's time to re-evaluate her life. At first she flounders, like most of us would, but gradually she gets her confidence back. During her soul-searching she initially thinks she needs to find the 'old' Lizzy, but it's the New Lizzy that needs to emerge from this change.

The supporting cast is good; Lizzy's mum is supportive, her sister Michelle less so (and is quite a selfish, self-centered biatch, though for much of the book she is pregnant so I'm guessing the hormones are to blame). 

It's an easy and enjoyable read, and I'll be adding Giovanna's other books to my ever-growing To Be Read pile..

About the Author

Giovanna grew up in Essex with her Italian dad Mario, mum Kim, big sister Giorgina and little brother Mario, and spent most of her childhood talking to herself (it seems no one wanted to listen) or reading books.

At thirteen she left Essex behind to attend the full-time Sylvia Young Theatre School, where she met her husband Tom Fletcher. Following SYTS she completed an acting BA (hons) at Rose Bruford – since then she's been acting, chaperoning mini actors and dabbling in a spot of freelance journalism for heat, Bliss and Recognise magazines. She currently writes a weekly blog for Hello! Online and posts weekly vlogs on her YouTube channel. 

Giovanna is a firm believer in the power of magpies and positive energy. To see what makes Giovanna smile, view her blog at, or her Twitter page @mrsgifletcher.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Book Review: One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill by Mandy Baggot

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Ebury, for the advanced reading copy. This is an honest and unbiased review.

The Blurb

Imagine the perfect Christmas Kiss…

His strong arms around her waist, her hands on his face, the snow slowly starts to fall…

It’s enough to make Isla Winters cringe! While her sister can’t get enough of this – increasingly common – sight on the streets of London, Isla’s too busy trying to stop Hannah’s wheelchair from slipping on the ice, and making sure she’s not too late to her dream job at Breekers International. 

But everything changes with the arrival of Chase Bryan, fresh from the New York office. He’s eager to learn everything about Isla’s beloved Notting Hill, but as the nights get colder, will cosying up to him come at a price?

My Review

Mandy Baggot is definitely up there in my list of favourite authors. She melted this cynical reader's ice-cold heart with a previous Christmassy novel, One Wish in Manhatten, but this one is even better.

The characterisation is perfect. We have Isla, the main protagonist; single, feisty and desperately loyal to her sister, she's not on the look-out for romance. She's quite put-out when she is singled out to be the new CEO's 'go-to girl'. Who wouldn't be, when they have their own projects to manage? Isla is great; she's not afraid to speak her mind most of the time, and she is fiercely protective of the people and places she loves.

Isla's sister Hannah, is a beautiful character. She's not bitter about being in a wheelchair, but is trying to assert her independence, something quite hard to do with a bossy big sister around. But she is sweet, and young, and she is yet unsullied by her sister's cynicism over romance. The one thing she dreams of is sharing a Christmas Kiss with someone special - if they can see beyond the wheel chair.

Then Chase Bryan sweeps in, and turns Isla's world upside down. Painfully aware of her job and reputation being at risk, she struggles to balance her priorities, whilst trying to fight the growing attraction she is feeling to her new boss. Because that just wouldn't be right, would it? After all, he is The Boss, he has kids, and he lives in New York. But he is utterly gorgeous, and charming without any hint of smarm at all. He loves his kids, and he always wants to do The Right Thing. But that's not always easy, especially with a truculant teen and a wide-eyed younger daughter in tow.

Another, utterly brilliant character is Raj, the postman. I love the way Mandy has written his dialogue - it's very fresh and real, innit? He's fantastic!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and became immersed in the story. I've never been to Notting Hill, but I felt as though I myself was right there with them. The surroundings, the sights and smells are very evocative, and I even found myself pulling a blanket around me against the cold, cold snow in London.

I utterly loved this book, so you should buy yours here!

About the Author

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer represented by The Kate Nash Literary Agency. In 2017 she was signed by Ebury Publishing (Penguin Random House).

The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016.

Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1's Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor.

Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Visit Mandy’s website at, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Blog Tour: My Girlfriend's Perfect Ex-Boyfriend by Peter Jones

Today I'm delighted to be on the blog tour for Peter Jones's novel My Girlfriend's Perfect Ex-Boyfriend (no not that Peter Jones, although this one has been known to be physically attracted to a dragon or two).

You might be getting a sense of deja vu - that will be because I shared an extract a couple of weeks ago here. This post is for my review!

The Blurb

Adrian Turner, Mountaineer, Secret Agent, Fireman… Ade would dearly like to be any of these things, though he’d trade them all to win the heart of feisty Public Relations Executive, Paige.

Instead, he’s a disillusioned school teacher, on suspension, after an unfortunate incident with a heavy piece of computer equipment. And somebody’s foot. And Paige? Despite being his girlfriend for the past eighteen months, she still seems to have one foot out of the door and hasn’t quite committed to leaving a toothbrush in the bathroom.

Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s working with her ex-boyfriend, Sebastian. A man who in almost every way imaginable is better, taller, wealthier, hairier, and infinitely more successful than Ade.

Is Paige still in love with Sebastian? Why then did she suggest they get away for a few days? Some place romantic…

But when Adrian finds himself in Slovenia - with Sebastian in the room down the hall - he realises there’s serious possibility that he’s in danger of losing his job, his mind, and the woman he loves…

From best-selling author Peter Jones comes this hilarious romp about love, and the things people do to keep it from getting away.

Purchase from Amazon UK

My Review

This book just goes to show that men, far from being an alien species, are actually quite similar to women in many ways, including having feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and fear that we are constantly comparing our partners to previous partners.

This romcom, written by a man (gasp!), from a man's perspective (double gasp!), is both touching and hilarious in equal measures.

Amusingly, Adrian finds himself turning to a 15 year old pupil, of all people, for advice on his love life. Adrian's girlfriend, Paige, does seem like a bit of a cold fish, and I wonder if Adrian had 'settled' for her, with the kudos of her leaving Sebastian for him. Of course ever since that happened, Adrian has been petrified of her going back to Sebastian, especially as Sebastian can do everything and anything better than him. But that's Adrian's lack of self-confidence showing. In my opinion, Sebastian is a repulsive character and I think he and Paige are quite well-suited. I think Adrian is better than the pair of them put together, and deserves someone much nicer.

Poor old Adrian doesn't help himself though. His jealousy creeps into his life with the subtlety of a reality star. Paige is probably quite patient considering the amount of times Adrian brings up Sebastian.

The other character I loved is Nikita. Fabulous, flirty, and a great case of don't judge a book by its cover.

Peter Jones is also one of a growing number of authors who are making want to reach for my passport. Slovakia sounds beautiful!

My Girlfriend's Perfect Ex Boyfriend is an entertaining read, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

About the Author

Peter Jones started professional life as a particularly rubbish graphic designer, followed by a stint as a mediocre petrol pump attendant. After that he got embroiled in the murky world of credit card banking. Fun times.

​Nowadays, Peter spends his days writing, or talking about writing. He’s written three novels; a Rom-Com (Romantic Comedy), A Crim-Com (Crime Comedy), and a Rom-Com-Ding-Dong (a sort-of Romantic-ish Comedy, with attitude). He’s currently working on his fourth novel, which - if it’s a musical - he’ll no doubt describe as a Rom-Com-Sing-Song. (Spoiler: It isn’t).

He is also the author of three and a half popular self-help books on the subjects of happiness, staying slim and dating. If you’re overweight, lonely, or unhappy – he’s your guy.

Peter doesn’t own a large departmental store and probably isn’t the same guy you’ve seen on the TV show Dragons’ Den.

Follow Peter Jones:

Monday, 23 October 2017

Blog Tour: The Bitches of Suburbia by Jane Owen

Today I'm on the blog tour for Jane Owen's book, The Bitches of Surburbia.

The Blurb

Nothing much ever happened on Horseshoe Lane - why should it? It was, after all, just a normal suburban backwater with the usual cross section of growing families, ageing pensioners, the occasional singleton and a brace of curtain twitchers. The arrival of celebrity couple, Heavenly and Travis, however, changes all that. This glamorous pair bring about a summer of competitive party throwing and ambitious home improvement projects that will have disastrous and completely unforeseen consequences. 

Neighbours who’ve got by for years with just the occasional chat over a garden fence about the unseasonable amount of rain or the state of next door’s garden are slowly united by suspicion as a husband goes missing, a much loved cat turns up dead on a doorstep and Enid from Number Seven is found badly injured at the foot of the cliff. 

Could one person be responsible for all of this? Could that person be the strange and unlikeable Hilary Jones from Number Nine? There was only going to be one way to find out and it was going to involve a lot of whiskey….

In this her wonderful follow up to ‘The Rock Star Known as Horse’, Owen’s riveting new story finds a murky side to the suburbs, a side where petty jealousies and neighbourly rivalries can escalate out of all control with calamitous results, all intricately observed with her usual dark humour firmly to the fore. 

Purchase on Amazon:

My Review

I've read a couple of books about neighbours this year, so I was intrigued to read The Bitches of Suburbia.

Unfortunately most of the story is told in the blurb, not leaving much to surprise the reader.

When I started reading the book, I found myself a little put off by overly long sentences which took up half my Kindle page, and I found myself re-reading them to try to make sense of what was written. However, as I read on and got more involved with the story, I didn't notice this so much.

Horseshoe Lane; a secluded cul-de-sac of beautiful houses, fabulous cliff-top views over the sea - what a place to live! That is until we meet the neighbours...

What a nasty, petty bunch they are! They mainly keep themselves to themselves, until the arrival of glamorous couple Heavenly and Travis. After their house-warming party, the other residents decide that partying is the life, and the competition hots up to see who can be the best hostess.

Surprisingly, the character I sympathised - or pitied - most with was the 'strange and unlikeable' Hilary Jones. She's one of society's misfits, naive, gauche, and struggles with social niceties, and cannot understand why everyone else thinks they are above her. She thinks imitation is the best way to prove her worth.

Hilary reminds me a little of Eleanor Oliphant, my literary heroine of 2017. In Gail Honeyman's  book, I grew to love Eleanor's odd little ways, and there was a reason for her being as she was, and in the end her character was redeemed, with the help of her friends. Hilary, however, is not afforded the same kindness, and the events and treatment by her neighbours makes her even more disturbed.

This is written with a very dark humour, with a sense of schadenfreude and little hope of redemption for any of the characters. I felt a sense of unease the whole way through the book, and was left with a bitter taste when I finished reading it.

About the author

Jane's first novel, Camden Girls, was published by Penguin twenty years ago and quickly became an international cult bestseller published in many languages including Japanese, Spanish,German, Hebrew, Italian and Dutch. She'd already spent many years working in the film business working alongside stars such as Christophe Lambert, Andi McDowell, Daryl Hannah and James Remar before switching to the music business and working for bands such as The Who, Robert Plant, ZZTop and many more. Eventually, even that got boring and that's when she wrote Camden Girls. 

After publication, life became interrupted by an unfortunate traffic accident and Jane moved out of London to Sussex and slowly returned to writing. Her novels don't fit into any specific category and, frustrated by endless rejections along the lines of 'You write beautifully but we don't know how to sell this book' she started self publishing. Rave reviews gave her the confidence to keep going and believe in what she was writing.

She's still in Sussex, sharing her life with her musician partner, three horses and a dog and divides her day between writing and riding. 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Cover Reveal: Heart Note by Cassandra O'Leary

I'm happy to be able to share with you the cover reveal for a lovely new Christmassy novella by Cassandra O'Leary - Heart Note.

Da da-da daaaaaah...

Isn't she gorgeous? This festive read will be published on 6th November 

The Blurb

Love is like a fine perfume. The top note draws you in, an instant attraction, but the Heart Note is the true essence. Like true love. A great perfume should be a woman’s perfect match.

At least, that’s what Lily Lucas tells the perfume counter customers. Personally, Lily is tired of perfumes with a sickly sweet top note that make her dizzy. She definitely does not want to stick her nose in another scent with a base note of stinky old socks. 

After leaving her home in Sydney, Lily moves to Melbourne and a new job as a perfume counter manager in a major department store. One day she wants to own a Parisian-style perfumerie, but at the moment she’s spritzing perfume on unsuspecting customers and ringing up purchases until she falls off her high heels at the end of a long day. 

The high point of Lily’s work life is Christos Cyriakos, the ex-cop senior security guard, who happens to look like a Greek god. She’d happily stare at him all day, but keeps falling at his feet like a klutz. It’s kind of embarrassing. No other man has ever had this effect on her. He smells so good up close, she gets a little woozy. But in a good way.

Rumours about Christos swirl around the department store staff. There’s a scent of scandal. The reason he quit the police force wasn’t a happy one. But he’s the strong, silent type. A mystery box. Lily hopes she can get close enough to unwrap him. When he asks for her help, it seems like the perfect opportunity to get to know him better…if she can trust him.

It’s almost Christmas and the whole store is bedecked with decorations, and Lily has to gift wrap and sell eleventy billion gift sets assisted by a team of glamorous spritzer chicks. Meanwhile sneaky guys are trying to get into the store room at night and stock is going missing. It could be an inside job. Lily helps Christos setup a sting. They are a team, sort of. But why won’t he confide in her?

She’d like to be kissed by Christos (and more) preferably not while wearing the hideous red velvet onesie and reindeer antlers all the spritzer chicks are supposed to wear. But can they solve a crime, and get it together to go on an actual date before Christmas?

About the Author

**Winner of the We Heart New Talent contest, HarperCollins UK. Nominated for BEST NEW AUTHOR in the 2016 AusRom Today Reader's Choice Awards for excellence in Australian romance fiction.**

Cassandra O’Leary is a romance and women’s fiction author, communications specialist, avid reader, film and TV fangirl and admirer of pretty, shiny things. 

In 2015, Cassandra won the We Heart New Talent contest run by Avon Books/HarperCollins UK. Her debut romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, was published in July 2016. Cassandra was also a 2015 finalist in the Lone Star writing contest, Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America, and a 2014 finalist in the First Kiss contest, Romance Writers of Australia.

Cassandra is a mother of two gorgeous, high-energy mini ninjas and wife to a spunky superhero. Living in Melbourne, Australia, she’s also travelled the world. If you want to send her to Italy or Spain on any food or wine tasting ‘research’ trips, that would be splendiferous. You’ll find Cassandra online, drinking coffee and possibly buying shoes. Oh, yes. And writing.

Find Cassandra on Social Media:

Twitter – @cass_oleary

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Blog Tour: Christmas at the Gin Shack by Catherine Miller

Today I am delighted to be on tour with Catherine Miller with her new novel Christmas at the Gin Shack. This follows on from The Gin Shack on the Beach, published in June this year.

The Blurb
Welcome in the festive season with love, laughter and the perfect G&T in Christmas at the Gin Shack – the most uplifting holiday read of 2017!

Gingle bells, gingle bells, gingle all the way…

Olive Turner might have lived through eighty-four Christmases, but she’ll never get bored of her favourite time of year. And this one’s set to be extra-special. It’s the Gin Shack’s first Christmas – and there’s a gin-themed weekend and a cocktail competition on the cards!

But, beneath the dazzle of fairy lights and the delicious scent of mince-pies, Olive smells a rat. From trespassers in her beloved beach hut to a very unfunny joke played on her friends, it seems that someone is missing a dose of good cheer.

Olive knows she’s getting on a bit – but is she really imagining that someone in the little seaside town is out to steal Christmas? More importantly, can she create the perfect gin cocktail before Christmas Eve – in time to save the day?

Where to buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo

My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and HQ Digital for the chance to review the book, and to Rachel's Random Resources for signing me up to the tour.

Oh Olive, Olive, Olive. Please don't ever get old. I love the way you laugh in the face of adversity - and mobility scooters!

Yes, our intrepid octogenarian is back with a vengeance - and more fabulous gin recipes! This time she's getting ready for Christmas at the Gin Shack, including gin-themed weekends and a gin competition. But again there are obstacles; from the phantom bottom craft-itist (yes, you read that right), adversaries old and new, and old age itself.

It's heartwarming to see how the community of Westbrook Bay rallies around when there are problems. Also it is great to see how some characters from the first book have grown, proving that sometimes leopards can change their spots... or can they?

There are some wonderful laugh-out-loud moments, and Olive's unexpectedly colourful language makes me chuckle, but there are also some more serious moments, too. And nothing is more serious than gin! 

This works well as a standalone novel if you haven't read the first one, but why wouldn't you want to read it? It's shaping up to be a great series, and I sincerely hope we haven't seen the last of Olive.

About the Author

When Catherine Miller became a mum to twins, she decided her hands weren't full enough so wrote a novel with every spare moment she managed to find. By the time the twins were two, Catherine had a two-book deal with HQDigital UK. There is a possibility she has aged remarkably in that time. Her debut novel, Waiting For You, came out in March 2016. She is now the author of four books and hopes there will be many more now her twins have started school. Either that, or she’ll conduct more gin research on Olive’s behalf. 

Social Media Links – 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

The Blurb

'I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.'

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.

Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover - working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he'd never witnessed them first-hand. He can try to tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom must not do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.

My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Canongate Books for the ARC. How to Stop Time was published in July 2017, and I apologise for being so late with my review.

I have heard this book is being made into a film, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role. He's going to be brilliant as Tom Hazard.

When I read this, I saw David Tennant as Tom - well, to be more accurate, Tennant's Doctor Who. Without the timelordy stuff, like travelling backwards and forwards. Poor Tom can only go forwards, in real time, which must make his life a real drag over the past nine and a half centuries, and at the heart of it, is him never getting over the loss of his love.

The narrative is interspersed with the here and now, and flashes back to earlier times. This could make the story slow down, but it doesn't - the pace is timely and constant.

I love the time Tom spends as a teacher, telling the kids stories  - not from history books but from his own perspective. How amazing would it be to hear of Shakespeare first hand? The depth of writing, the life Haig brings to the pages immersed me into Tom's world. 
This is a beautiful story.

About the Author

Matt Haig is a British author for children and adults. His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, staying in the British top ten for 46 weeks. His children's book A Boy Called Christmas was a runaway hit and is translated in over 25 languages. It is being made into a film by Studio Canal and The Guardian called it an 'instant classic'. His novels for adults include the award-winning The Radleys and The Humans.

He won the TV Book Club 'book of the series', and has been shortlisted for a Specsavers National Book Award. The Humans was chosen as a World Book Night title. His children's novels have won the Smarties Gold Medal, the Blue Peter Book of the Year, been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and nominated for the Carnegie Medal three times. 

His books have received praise from Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, Jeanette Winterson, Joanne Harris, Patrick Ness, Ian Rankin and SJ Watson, among others. The Guardian summed up his writing as 'funny, clever and quite, quite lovely' by The Times and the New York Times called him 'a writer of great talent'.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Extract: My Girlfriend's Perfect Ex-Boyfriend by Peter Jones

Genre: Romantic Comedy 
Publication Date: 10th October 2017 

Adrian Turner, Mountaineer, Secret Agent, Fireman… Ade would dearly like to be any of these things, though he’d trade them all to win the heart of feisty Public Relations Executive, Paige. 

Instead, he’s a disillusioned school teacher, on suspension, after an unfortunate incident with a heavy piece of computer equipment. And somebody’s foot. And Paige? Despite being his girlfriend for the past eighteen months, she still seems to have one foot out of the door and hasn’t quite committed to leaving a toothbrush in the bathroom. 

​Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s working with her ex-boyfriend, Sebastian. A man who in almost every way imaginable is better, taller, wealthier, hairier, and infinitely more successful than Ade. 
Is Paige still in love with Sebastian? Why then did she suggest they get away for a few days? Some place romantic… 

But when Adrian finds himself in Slovenia - with Sebastian in the room down the hall - he realises there’s serious possibility that he’s in danger of losing his job, his mind, and the woman he loves… 

From best-selling author Peter Jones comes this hilarious romp about love, and the things people do to keep it from getting away. 

Purchase from Amazon UK. Here's a little extract to whet your appetite!

In this scene, Adrian Turner (burnt out, disillusioned computer science teacher… and our hero) has unintentionally found himself on a one-night stand…
I’d never had a one night stand before. Every woman I’d ever slept with – both of them – was in the confines of a ‘relationship’; by which I mean I met someone, asked them on a date, then we’d go on another date, and another, and eventually – when we’d reached a point where we (and everyone around us) could safely assume that we were ‘seeing each other’ – one of us would ask the other if they’d like to ‘stay the night’. After that the relationship would feel cemented somehow, more permanent, and sex would occur once a week, usually with such regularity that it pretty much took care of itself. In fact, eventually it would start to feel as if we didn’t even need to be there. Which probably explains why, in both relationships, I barely noticed when it eventually stopped happening.
I’ve often wondered whether that’s why those relationships fizzled out? Whether sex is a kind of ‘cement’ that glues people together, and without it we all just drift apart. Which is an elegant sounding theory but one that, on this particular night, was steadfastly refusing to apply to my current situation; I didn’t feel particularly ‘cemented’ to the woman I’d just had sex with, and I certainly didn’t feel like we were in any kind of relationship. In fact, if anything – standing there in the sparse ensuite bathroom of whoever’s bedsit apartment this was – I was pretty sure that usual ‘one-night-stand etiquette’ meant that I was supposed to be putting my clothes back on, thanking the lady in question for an entertaining evening, and then walking out of her life. But I didn’t want to.
I really, really didn’t want to.
“So, is this your apartment?” I said, stepping back into the bedroom and glancing at the small bedsit apartment in its semi-darkness. Aside from the kitchenette area it looked more like a hotel room, complete with off-the-shelf generic paintings and robust conservatively patterned furniture.
Paige was sat on the bed, still naked, her legs pulled up to her chest, one arm wrapped around them, the other resting on her knees as she chewed on a nail, and stared into the gloom. Her mobile phone on the sheets next to her chirped briefly, and for a moment it joined the moonlight coming in through the vertical blinds, and the light from the bathroom, as the only illumination in the room.
“What?” said Paige coming out of her trance. “No! Give me some credit. It’s the company’s flat. I have a key.”
“Right,” I said.
“You didn’t think to ask me that when we came in here?” she asked.
“Er, we were kind of busy. Doing other things?” I said. And then she smiled. She actually smiled. Not the crooked smile, but a warm, playful, sexy, knowing smile. And suddenly I was acutely aware that I was just stood there, naked – and oh how I wished I’d done something more with my monthly gym membership than carry a card in my wallet!
I switched off the bathroom light, perched on the edge of the bed, and as Paige went back to staring at nothing, I slowly reached across and lightly brushed her naked hip with my fingers.
“What are you doing!?” she barked, flinching and slapping my hand away in the same movement. “Don’t tickle me!”
“So… have you.. got.. a boyfriend?” I asked. Idly. Casually. Hoping – more than anything I’d ever hoped for in my life – that the answer wasn’t ‘yes’.
“Not any more,” she said eventually. “We broke up.”
“Oh,” I said. “Recently?”
Paige let out a single, humourless laugh.
“Yeah,” she said. “You could say that.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said,
“Don’t be. He was a jack-ass,” said Paige.
“Oh. Right.”
“Which I could kinda put up with whilst I thought it was all just temporary. You know what I mean?” she said, turning to face me.
“Er, well, not really,” I said.
“Sure you do,” said Paige, resuming her nail chewing. “Guy like that is always on the look out for something better. And it’s just a matter of time before he finds it. Or her. So you tell yourself, ‘this is just for today, because he might not be here tomorrow’. And you say the same thing the following day, and the day after that, and before you know it three years have flown by. And still, that’s just fine, because – you know – it’s temporary. It’s not like you were planning on spending the rest of your life with this jerk. Even if he is quite the cook. And has a nice house in the country.
“Then all of a sudden he mentions kids. And ‘wouldn’t it be great if the two of you started a family’, and you realise – it isn’t temporary! Least not for him.”
“Right,” I said. “That must have been… awkward?”
“Ha! You bet!”
“So what did… you… say?”
Paige shrugged. “I told him straight; I can’t have kids. Not without some sort of divine intervention. I might have child bearing hips but that’s all God gave me in the way of baby-making equipment. Things went kinda sour after that.” I opened my mouth to speak, then closed it again when I realised I didn’t have a clue what to say. Paige turned to face me again. “You know it’s at times like these that I really wish I smoked,” she said. “You smoke?”
I shook my head. “Sorry,” I said. Paige jumped off the bed, walked around it and into the bathroom, only to return a moment later with her handbag.
“Here,” she said, taking a small Tupperware container out of her bag and snapping off the lid, “have one of these.” I peered into the container at the deformed, cake-like things inside.
“What are they?” I asked taking one.
“Fritters,” said Paige.
“Banana fritters?” I asked, popping it whole into my mouth.
“God no! Can’t stand bananas! Disgusting, horrible things. These are corn fritters,” said Paige, sitting herself back on the bed. “I made them last night.”
“They’re really good,” I said.
“I know,” said Paige, taking a more ladylike bite out of one. “I like you, Adrian,” she said after a moment.
“Oh well – thanks,” I said, through a mouthful of food. “I like you too.”
“D’you wanna – you know – see me again?”
I swallowed.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes. Very much.”
And with that the one-night-stand wasn’t a one-night-stand. Sex had, once again, cemented me to another person. And I was in a relationship.
Or so it seemed. 

About the Author

Peter Jones started professional life as a particularly rubbish graphic designer, followed by a stint as a mediocre petrol pump attendant. After that he got embroiled in the murky world of credit card banking. Fun times. 

Nowadays, Peter spends his days writing, or talking about writing. He’s written three novels; a Rom-Com (Romantic Comedy), A Crim-Com (Crime Comedy), and a Rom-Com-Ding-Dong (a sort-of Romantic-ish Comedy, with attitude). He’s currently working on his fourth novel, which - if it’s a musical - he’ll no doubt describe as a Rom-Com-Sing-Song. (Spoiler: It isn’t). 

He is also the author of three and a half popular self-help books on the subjects of happiness, staying slim and dating. If you’re overweight, lonely, or unhappy – he’s your guy. 

Peter doesn’t own a large departmental store and probably isn’t the same guy you’ve seen on the TV show Dragons’ Den.

Follow Peter Jones