Author Interview with Lynda Renham

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to interview the lovely Lynda Renham recently. Lynda has got a new Christmas novella out, A Christmas Romance, written under the pseudonym Amy Perfect. So, I took the opportunity to ask about her writing routine but also what Christmas is like for her.

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Lynda Renham and I write romantic comedies. I recently released a Christmas novella titled ‘A Christmas Romance under the name of Amy Perfect. It’s full of romance and festive spirit. I loved writing it so much.

What is your writing routine?

Oh dear! Truthfully? I have my own writing room known as ‘The Beach Hut’ At 9 in the morning Bendy and I wander in. Bendy is my cat and constant companion during the day. It’s really quite disgraceful how we faff about. Bendy will spend a bit of time playing with the rug while I while away the time on Facebook. I may then move onto Twitter and Bendy will move onto the wicker trunk and have a good scratch. By now it is 11 and we are both in need of distraction. So he has treats and I have a mince pie with a mug of coffee. Then we go back and attempt some serious stuff. Bendy usually go to sleep and I attempt to write. Although, this is interspersed with trips to the fridge as I find food really helps with the writing process.  I’m a terrible procrastinator that I am amazed I’ve written nine books in less than five years.

What inspired you to write a Christmas book?

Oh, I have wanted to write a Christmas book for years. Every August I say I’m going to write one but I never seem to find the time. This year, however, I developed writer’s block while trying to write my new comedy romance. I stopped and had a go at a Christmas novella. This became ‘A Christmas Romance’ which I adored writing. It’s full of romance and Christmas spirit.

How do you get in the Christmas spirit early in order to write a festive book

We don’t put our Christmas tree up until Christmas Eve so I think I can safely say I’m not one of those people who gets into the spirit of Christmas early, aside of course, from eating mince pies and I start very early with those and  continue way past Christmas. But as I wanted to write a book full of Christmas spirit and merriment I had to play lots of Christmas songs which very quickly put me in the mood. In fact so much so that now it feels like Christmas has been and gone

What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?

I live in a small village so there are a lot of Christmas parties. I also love the feel of Christmas in the village. The lighting of the tree on the village green and the Christmas fete. My Christmas novel is very much based on my village. Christmas in a village is a very warm, cosy affair. I enjoy buying and giving presents. Although I tend to avoid the shops and do most of my shopping online, which is easier. I also love mince pies, have I told you that already, chestnuts and Christmas cards.

What is a Christmas like at your house? 

Busy, although this year my husband and I are spending Christmas Day together but the weeks before that I have my family coming. On Boxing Day my stepchildren come with their children and a few days after Boxing Day I have my husband’s family visit. There will be nine of us that day. I will cook and I enjoy it. Family gatherings are lovely and of course there will be no shortage of mince pies.

Do you have Christmas traditions?

Aside from eating mince pies? No, Not really. We take each year as it comes. Although the village has traditions like the tree lighting, carol services, and so on.

What are your favourite Christmas films, books and songs?

My favourite Carol is ‘Silent Night’ and I played it a lot while writing the Christmas novella. I love Michael Bublé’s Christmas songs. They really cheer me up and get me in the mood for Christmas.  I love ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Dickins. I don’t really have a favourite film.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading ‘Fools Gold’ By Zana Bell. I haven’t got very far but I’m enjoying it.

How can people connect with you on social media?

I have a Facebook author page and am on Twitter. Also I can be reached through my blog www.renham.co.uk

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1X4Er1p

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lyndarenham

Thank you very much, Lynda for answering my questions.

I will be reading and reviewing A Christmas Romance on my blog in a couple of weeks time so look out for that.

A Christmas Romance is out now and is available from Amazon.

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Lynda Renham is also the author of Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown

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Review: Christmas at Cranberry Cottage by Talli Roland

 

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I’m a huge Talli Roland fan, I’ve read all of her novels and novellas and loved them so when I spotted she had another Christmas novella out I couldn’t resist buying it immediately! I have to say that this is more of a short story than a novella – I read it in under ten minutes but it is still a lovely, festive read.

Jess is a high-flying photographer who is currently working in New York but is looking forward to getting back to her childhood home in the UK to spend Christmas with her Gran. A phone call from her Gran with news that Cranberry Cottage is going to be demolished as part of a new high-speed rail line causes to Jess drop everything to return home to try and save it.

I loved this story but I can’t help but wish it had been longer – I think it could have made a perfect novella or even full-length novel. There are glimpses of characters that I wanted to know more about. There is a love interest that held such potential and I enjoyed what there was of the chemistry between Tom and Jess but I would have loved to hear more about the past and to see how their story might have developed further. I adored Jess’ relationship with her Gran, I just wish we could have heard more about the two of them and this gorgeous cottage.

The cover of this short story is so festive and the combined with the description of the decorations inside the cottage just made me want to go there! The descriptions of the kitsch decorations that were years old and often falling apart reminded me so much of my Nan’s home and all of her wonderful Christmas ornaments.

This short story is absolutely worth buying and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a very quick, Christmassy read. I so badly want to rate it higher because I did enjoy it but I was left wanting so to know so much more. I rate this 3.5 out of 5.

Christmas at Cranberry Cottage is out now and is available as an ebook from Amazon.

Blog Tour|Review & Excerpt: What Happens at Christmas by T. A. Williams

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What Happens at Christmas_FINAL

Today I’m thrilled that it’s my stop on the What Happens at Christmas by T. A. Williams blog tour. I have my review of the book to share with you and also an excerpt from the book. There is also a giveaway as part of this tour to win a copy of one of T. A. Williams other books, What Happens in Cornwall!

Review header copy

What Happens at Christmas is a gorgeous, feel-good novel that has some real depth to it. Holly Brice has recently found out that her estranged father has died and that she has inherited his cottage in a quaint little village in Dartmoor. Holly makes a trip to the remote village to clear the cottage out to get it ready for selling and it ends up being a real trip down memory lane for her. Holly also discovers that not only has she inherited her father’s home but also his lovely one-year-old labrador, named Stirling.

Holly ends up on a real journey of discovery as she gets to know some of the locals in the village and also as she begins to clear her dad’s cottage out. She discovers that she may not have known the whole truth about her dad and starts to see him in a different light. I found some of the things Holly finds out about her dad incredibly moving. It was lovely to to see how Stirling was so in tune with Holly’s emotions and was always on hand to offer comfort.

Stirling was the star of this book for me, he was such an affectionate dog and so well-behaved that it’s impossible not to fall in love with him. He was a character in his own right and I really loved how an animal could be written into the story in such a big way.

Holly soon meets the desirable men in the village: Jack the handsome and lovely next-door neighbour, who is a bit mysterious; Justin, who is also a very attractive man but who has issues of his own to work though; and Howard who is lovely and just a little flirtatious in a harmless way.

I love that this book was set in the few days leading up to Christmas, it really did make me feel festive. Often with Christmas novels they are set in the months or year leading up to Christmas but there is something really lovely about a novel where the whole book is set in the immediate run up to Christmas.

This novel has everything you could possibly want in a Christmas story! It’s set at Christmas, it’s in a gorgeous location, it’s heart-breaking but more so it’s heart-warming, it has romance, it has crackly log fires, and it has snow!

I rate this book 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a heart-warming Christmas novel.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What Happens at Christmas is out now and available to buy from Amazon.

Release Date: October 22, 2015

Genres: Chick Lit

Publisher: Carina UK

Excerpt copy

She woke up at seven o’clock next morning with somebody trying to strangle her. A heavy weight was pinning her to the pillow, while a muscular arm pressed down upon her windpipe. She opened her eyes, but it was still pitch dark in the house. As the panic began to build, a long, warm tongue began to lick her cheek.

‘Oh, God, Stirling, stop that, will you. And your breath stinks. Get off this minute. Please, Stirling.’ With difficulty she managed to dislodge the dog from her throat and tip him over the edge of the bed onto the floor. He landed with a thud. Staying under the duvet, she shimmied across to the edge of the bed to check that he hadn’t hurt himself. She peered down into the dark. A large back nose appeared right in front of her and he would have licked her again if she hadn’t retreated. She lay there for another five minutes, conscious of the dog’s staring eyes, before accepting the inevitable. She pushed back the covers and climbed out of bed. Reaching for the matches, she lit the candle and looked down at the dog.

‘You’re a pain in the backside. You know that, don’t you?’ Delighted to hear her talking to him, he jumped to his feet and started wagging his tail. ‘God, it’s bloody cold.’ She pulled her jeans and jumper on over the top of her pyjamas and slipped on her warmest shoes; a gorgeous pair of Jimmy Choo ankle boots she had found in the Harvey Nicks sale last January, at less than half price. She took the candle and followed the now very excited dog downstairs into the kitchen. It was equally cold in there, so she put the candle down on the table and set about lighting the stove.

Once she had got a good fire going, she plucked up the courage to go to the loo. As she feared, the bathroom was freezing cold. She came back downstairs, went across to the window and looked out over the back garden. Dawn wouldn’t be for another hour, but it was not totally dark out there. The moon had disappeared, but there was still enough light from the stars for her to be able to distinguish shapes of bushes and trees in the garden. Closer to her, Greta the Porsche was sparkling with frost, the starlight reflecting in the host of ice crystals that covered all the horizontal surfaces. As Holly looked out, she ran her fingers across the inside of the glass. She wasn’t surprised to see them come away with a thin layer of ice on them. She went back over to the stove and packed another couple of logs into it.

‘I’d give my eye teeth for a cup of tea.’ She gazed wistfully at the electric kettle on the worktop, idly wondering to herself what eye teeth were. Stirling was standing beside his basket, unsure whether he should be gearing up for a walk or whether he would be told to go back to bed. Holly gave a little smile as she saw that he had somehow collected her father’s old jumper and brought it downstairs. A grey sleeve was hanging over the side of the basket. She stared at it for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and deciding she had better take the dog for a walk. He was delighted.


Blurb copy

For the perfect Christmas…

When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew. Arriving in the sleepy little Dartmoor village, she’s shocked to discover that she’s inherited the cosy little cottage she remembers so fondly, a whole load of money –and her father’s adorable dog, too!

Head to snow-covered Devon!

And as the first snowflakes begin to fall and Holly bumps into her gorgeous neighbour, Jack Nelson, life gets even more complicated! Men have always been off the cards for high-flying Holly, but there’s something about mysterious writer Jack that has her re-thinking her three-date rule…

A fabulous, feel-good festive read, perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Carole Matthews.


Author Bio copy

TAWilliams

Firstly, my name isn’t T A. It’s Trevor. I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of books are read by women. In my first book, “Dirty Minds” one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn’t possibly comment. Ask my wife…

I’ve written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I’m enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. Romantic comedies are what we all need from time to time. Life isn’t always very fair. It isn’t always a lot of fun, but when it is, we need to embrace it. If my books can put a smile on your face and maybe give your heartstrings a tug, then I know I’ve done my job.

I‘ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away in south west England. I love the place. That’s why you’ll find leafy lanes and thatched cottages in most of my books. Oh, yes, and a black Labrador.

I’ve been writing since I was 14 and that is half a century ago. However, underneath this bald, wrinkly exterior, there beats the heart of a youngster. My wife is convinced I will never grow up. I hope she’s right.

Social Networking Links

Website: http://www.tawilliamsbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrevorWilliamsBooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TAWilliamsBooks

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/GRTAWilliams

Amazon Author: http://www.amazon.com/T-A-Williams/e/B00FDVNVMA/


GIVEAWAY BANNER! copy

what happens in cornwall

As part of this blog tour the organiser Bliss Book Promotions are giving you the chance to win One ebook copy of What Happens in Cornwall by T. A. Williams

Please click the link below to be taken to the competition entry page:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c48fa52743/?

Good luck!

Review: The Boy at the Beach – Short Story (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

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This is the second short story in Katey Lovell’s new Meet Cute series. I loved the first one because I can’t resist books or stories about bookshops (my review for that one is here). This second book was irresistible to me because it’s about two people who meet online. I met my husband on twitter many years ago so stories about couples who met online always interest me.

This story is a little different from the first one in that the majority of the story is about the two characters getting to know each other online, but it always feels absolutely believable that Lauren was beginning to fall for this boy through emails. I could feel the butterflies that Lauren had in the build up to her meeting Toby; she had already developed feelings for him and so badly wants to feel the same way when he’s standing in front of her, to find out if the chemistry they’ve felt through emails is there in real life. For me, this story had more depth to it than the first one because there is naturally more back story with them communicating online from the start.

The actual meet up is gorgeous. I reckon a few years from now these two could well be happily married and planning their whole lives together!

The amount of detail Katey packs into these short stories is incredible, she is such a talented writer. I’m not the biggest fan of short stories but these stories have me hooked, I found myself completely absorbed in this one. They are so succinctly written, it feels like it surely must have been longer than it was because it’s such a complete story – it has everything you could want in a meet cute!

I was very pleasantly surprised at just how different this story is to the first one, I did wonder if a series of very short stories all with the same theme of a meet cute might seem a little formulaic but I could not have been more wrong. Katey’s writing style is recognisable but beyond that this story is completely different. I can’t wait for the next one now!

This story cannot fail to make you feel smiley; it’s impossible for it not to give you a mood boost too so it’s perfect for a coffee break when you might want a little escape to a different place for ten minutes. I highly recommend this story, it’s fabulous! I rate it 10 out of 10.

The Boy at the Beach is available now on Amazon. The third story in this series, The Boy at the Bakery is available for pre-order on Amazon and is due to be published on 12th November.

Here are my reviews of The Boy in the Bookshop and The Boy Under the Mistletoe, two of the other short stories in this fab series.

Review: The Boy in the Bookshop – A Short Story (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

The Boy in the Bookshop

The Boy in the Bookshop is the first in a new series of short stories. I don’t normally buy single short stories but I just couldn’t resist giving this one a try; I’m utterly powerless to resist a book or short story set in a book shop and I’m so glad I picked this up, it’s gorgeous!

This is a very short read and is absolutely perfect for a coffee break. Katey has packed so much into this story, it’s wonderful. The Beautiful Books bookshop sounds amazing and I really want to go there. Jade works in the book shop, and the cute boy is a customer; it’s very succinctly written with all the detail you need to fall in love with the characters and the story itself. You’re left with such a warm, fuzzy feeling by the end of the story!

This is such a fabulous meet cute, I love Katey’s writing style and I can’t wait to read more by her. In fact, I’ve just been to Amazon and bought the second one in the series, and pre-ordered the third! I’m hooked on these Meet Cute books!

I rate this 10 out of 10.

The Boy in the Bookshop is out now and available from Amazon.

Here are my reviews of The Boy at the Beach and The Boy Under the Mistletoe, two of the other short stories in this fab series.

Review: Merry Mistletoe by Emma Davies

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I loved this novella, it was just the kind of gentle and heart-warming book that I want to be reading at this time of year.

Freya Sherborne runs her family mistletoe business from her childhood home, but this year is her first Christmas running it alone after the death of her beloved father. The debts are mounting up and Freya knows she’s going to have to sell up very soon.

The novella is set out as a countdown to Christmas, starting 29 days before. I loved how it was set so close to Christmas and had the build-up, it meant it really was a proper festive read and that is my favourite kind of Christmas book!

I was intrigued by Amos Fry all through this novella, he’s a great character though. He was like a cross between Mary Poppins and Father Christmas and I loved how he seemed to be magically nudging things in the right direction for Freya to find happiness again.

I loved the symbolism of the white feathers that kept appearing throughout the novella, especially the one that appeared near the robin. This novella had a lot of symbols running through it, even the mistletoe itself and it was added an extra layer to the Christmas novel that I really appreciated. Christmas is forever changed when you lose a loved one but the symbols that are around can really offer comfort. I love how Freya and her father had bought a new tree ornament every year, and that Freya decided to continue with that after losing him. The tree ornament that she was helped to find for this year was so perfect, I wanted it to be from a real shop so that I could buy one!

This is the first book I’ve read by Emma Davies but it won’t be the last, it was wonderful. I’ve already bought Letting in Light and have it waiting for me on my TBR!

I rate this novella 9 out of 10.

I received this book from Lawsome Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Merry Mistletoe is out now and available from Amazon.

Christmas Q&A with Holly Martin

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Today on the blog I have a Q&A I did with the lovely Holly Martin about all things Christmas! I couldn’t resist asking her all about the festive season given that she has not one but TWO fabulous Christmas books (Christmas at Lilac Cottage, and Snowflakes on Silver Cove) out this year, both set in the wonderful White Cliff Bay. I love everything about Christmas so it was interesting to see what Holly had to say!

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What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?

I love everything about Christmas, the decorations, the music, films, the books. I love the smells and the hope of snow. I love buying presents and going to parties or dinner around a friend’s house. I love playing games and wearing Christmas jumpers. It really is my favourite time of year

What is a typical Christmas like at your house? 

Christmas Eve is round my friends, we play silly games and have a secret santa game, where we normally argue good naturedly over the rules, which we promise to write down every year and never do. Its also my goddaughters birthday so we try to keep that separate too. Its just me, Mom and Dad on Christmas Day. Dad normally cooks bacon sandwiches for breakfast then we open presents, have a full turkey lunch with all the trimmings and play games like Cluedo and Cranium and Jenga in the afternoon, whist gorging on after eights.  

Do you have Christmas traditions? 

We always play games on Christmas Day, never at any other time in the year so its nice that we do it then. We always give each other giant toblerones too and get crafty over how to disguise the distinctive triangular shaped box

What were the best and worst Christmas presents you ever got? Why were they the best and worst?

The best present was probably my nexus tablet, I do everything on it, my emails, facebook, twitter, searching the web, reading, listen to music. I take it everywhere with me as its small enough to fit in my handbag too. My worst present was probably a jigsaw puzzle, I’ve never been into them.

What are you asking Father Christmas for this year?

I am the worst person to buy presents for as I never know what i want and if I do want things during the year I just go and buy them myself. I guess that means I am happy with what I already have. New clothes are always great, i love sparkly shoes. 

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What is your favourite Christmas film, book and song?

I love The Holiday and Love Actually, My favourite Christmas book is probably 12 Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson, favourite Christmas song is anything by Michael Buble

How do you get in the Christmas spirit early in order to write your Christmas novels?

A huge love of the season helps, listening to music, looking at Christmas pictures

Is White Cliff Bay based on a real place? I ask as I really want to go there this Christmas!

Sadly not because I think I’d like to move there too.

Thanks so much Holly! 


Author Bio copy

Holly_Martin_author

Holly Martin

Holly emerged onto the Chick Lit scene by winning the Belinda Jones Travel Club short story competition – and has not looked back since.

Her adult fiction debut, The Guestbook, hit number 5 in the Amazon chart and she has now written three books with Bookouture: Fairytale Beginnings, Christmas at Lilac Cottage and Snowflakes at Silver Cove.

www.hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com


Blurb copy

Lilac Cottage

Christmas at Lilac Cottage

Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…

Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen.

When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded.

As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore …

While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of?

Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously heartwarming novel down.

Spend the perfect Christmas in White Cliff Bay this year.


snowflakes at silver cove

Snowflakes on Silver Cove

Come and spend a picture perfect romantic Christmas at White Cliff Bay

Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself…

Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance.

As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George.

But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas?
Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay.


Don’t forget to check out all of my previous posts from Bookouture Christmas week and enter all the giveaways! Here’s a link where you can find them, prizes include an ebook copy of Christmas at Lilac Cottage and of Snowflakes on Silver Cove!

Hope you’ve enjoyed what has been a really fabulous week!

BC BOOKS BANNER (MINE) copy

Review and INT Giveaway: Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

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Today, as part of BookoutureChristmas, I have a review of Holly Martin‘s second Christmas book of the season Snowflakes on Silver Cove.  Keep reading to the end of this post as I have another giveaway running today, this time you have the chance to win an ecopy of Snowflakes on Silver Cove!

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Snowflakes on Silver Cove is the second novel in Holly’s White Cliff Bay series. I read and reviewed the first book in this series, Christmas at Lilac Cottage a while ago and completely fell in love with the setting and the characters so the chance to go back there was irresistible! Snowflakes on Silver Cove is set in the same town and along the same time frame as the first book but it focuses on different characters (although you may spot some characters you recognise popping up along the way!).

Libby is a romance writer who never lives anywhere for longer then six months, George is her unlucky-in-love neighbour and they are the best of friends. So, when Libby suffers from a major case of writer’s block and needs romance in her life in order to be able to get into her characters’ heads, and George needs to build the confidence to ask their gorgeous new neighbour, Giselle, out on a date they decide they will date each other… but only for research purposes!

What follows is a series of dates that are Christmassy and full of romance but which then lead to misunderstandings galore between these two people who can’t quite admit what they’re beginning to feel for each other.

The way George and Libby’s relationship builds is brilliant, I loved every minute of it. At times I wanted to somehow climb into the book so I could yell at them both for missing what was staring them in the face, I so badly wanted them to get together. Libby and George are made for each other! It may take a good while for George and Libby to admit how they truly feel, but throughout the novel the love and care and adoration they each feel for the other just radiates off the page; it’s so beautiful to read and leaves you with such a warm, fuzzy feeling!

I loved that Libby and George had such a strong connection and how they could eventually laugh at everything that befell them every time they almost got together. I firmly believe that being able to laugh with your partner at everything life throws at you is the key to a long and happy relationship so I have high hopes for George and Libby!

Alongside this storyline, there is another budding romance between Libby’s other best friend Amy, and Seb. Poor Seb lost his wife five years earlier and since then he has honoured a promise he made to his mother-in-law, just after his wife died, that he will never fall in love ever again. Seb is ready to move on now though and is struggling to fight his intense attraction to feisty barmaid, Amy. The attraction is mutual but Amy wants a relationship that they can tell people about so they have to somehow win over Seb’s mother-in-law!

Amy is one of my favourite characters in this book, the things that happened to her were some of the funniest situations I’ve read in a novel in a really long time. I thought the purple hair dye storyline was funny but then came the costume she had to wear to raise money for a testicular cancer charity. Every single thing that happened to her while she was in that costume was utterly hilarious! I know I’m being a bit vague here but I really don’t want to spoil it for readers. Trust me though, it’s hysterical! I’m currently recovering from major surgery and almost did myself an injury from laughing so hard!

This is a very funny and highly entertaining novel that will have you laughing out loud from the very first page! It’s also full of Christmas romance and just so gorgeous – you will not be able to put this book down! I rated it 9 out of 10 and highly recommend it.

I received this book from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Snowflakes on Silver Cove is due to be published on 30th October and can be pre-ordered from Amazon now!


Blurb copy

Come and spend a picture perfect romantic Christmas at White Cliff Bay

Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself…

Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance.

As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George.

But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas?
Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay.

Snowflakes on Silver Cove is out on 30th October and can be pre-ordered from Amazon now!


Author Bio copy

Holly_Martin_author

Holly Martin

Holly emerged onto the Chick Lit scene by winning the Belinda Jones Travel Club short story competition – and has not looked back since.

Her adult fiction debut, The Guestbook, hit number 5 in the Amazon chart and she has now written three books with Bookouture: Fairytale Beginnings, Christmas at Lilac Cottage and Snowflakes at Silver Cove.

www.hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com


The Giveaway below is now over, please check this post to find out the winner:

Bookouture Christmas Winner Announcement!


XMAS BC GIVEAWAY copy

Bookouture have very kindly allowed me to run an international giveaway for one lucky winner to win an e-copy of this fabulous book. Please enter here and good luck! I am running giveaways for the four other books that I’ve featured on my blog over Bookouture Christmas week so please check those out as there is still time to enter!

Please click on this link to Rafflecopter to go enter my giveaway for Snowflakes on Silver Cove!

Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books! Click here to find handy links to all my previous Bookouture Christmas posts and giveaways!

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Review & INT Giveaway: Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale

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On my blog today, as part of Bookouture Christmas, I have a review of Jenny Hale‘s wonderful Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses. Keep reading to the end of this post as I have a giveaway of an ecopy of this book up for grabs!

Christmas wishes and mistletoe kisses

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is a wonderful Cinderella story about Abbey and Nick.

Abbey is a single mum to six year old Max; she works as a nurse to Caroline but dreams of having her own interior design business. After she re-decorates Caroline’s home she is offered the chance to re-decorate and furnish Caroline’s Grandson’s mansion.

Nick is Caroline’s Grandson. He lives alone in his mansion and has done ever since he and his wife divorced. He puts all his time and energy into running the family business that his father left to him.

Abbey and Nick get to know more about each other as Abbey is re-designs the interior of his house and she begins to get under his skin. He feels a need to look out for her and make sure that she is ok. After Nick meets Max he begins to form a bond with the boy despite saying that he never wants children of his own.

This novel has all the elements you could possibly want in a Christmas novel: It has romance, it has snow, it has a storyline that will tug at your heartstrings. I loved seeing how Abbey and Nick’s relationship developed, it was lovely how it wasn’t all one-sided. Nick lavished gifts on Abbey but actually what she gives him is so much more important. She teaches him about the value of making time to be with loved ones and about following his dreams. It’s a wonderful reminder of what Christmas is really about.

One of my favourite moments in the novel was when Nick took Abbey and Max to meet the real Santa, it just made me melt and reminded me of those wonderful visits that I was taken on as a child to see Santa. It gave me goosebumps when Santa’s feet appeared down the chimney and reminded of the magical set up at the place where my mum used to take me.

This is the first book I’ve read by Jenny Hale but I’m absolutely certain that it won’t be the last, I’m now very much looking forward to reading her other novels.

I rated this book 9 out of 10 and recommend it to everyone who loves a cute, romantic and magical novel to read at Christmas.

I received this book from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is out now and available from Amazon.


Blurb copy

An uplifting, beautiful story about never letting go of your dreams, the special magic of a family Christmas… and the rush of falling in love under the mistletoe.

Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble…

With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?


Author Bio copy

Jenny-Hale-Contemporary-Romance-author

Jenny Hale

When she graduated college, one of Jenny’s friends said “Look out for this one; she’s going to be an author one day”. Despite being an avid reader and a natural storyteller, it wasn’t until that very moment that the idea of writing novels occurred to her.

Sometimes our friends can see the things that we can’t. Whilst she didn’t start straight away, that comment sowed a seed and several years, two children and hundreds of thousands of words later, Jenny finished her first novel – Coming Home for Christmas – which became an instant bestseller.

www.itsjennyhale.com


XMAS BC GIVEAWAY copy

Bookouture have very kindly allowed me to run an international giveaway for one lucky winner to win an e-copy of this fabulous book. Please enter here and good luck! I will be running more giveaways throughout Bookouture Christmas week so please stop by each day for your chance to win!

Please click on this link to Rafflecopter to go enter my giveaway!

Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books!

BC BOOKS BANNER (MINE) copy

Review & Int Giveaway: One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

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Today I have a review of Mandy Baggot‘s fabulous One Wish in Manhattan as part of Bookouture Christmas! Don’t forget to read the whole post as there is a chance for you to win an e-copy of this book!

One Wish in Manhattan

I knew I was going to love this book from the very first page, it just drew me straight in and never let me go. It was completely and utterly wonderful!

Hayley and her daughter Angel go to New York, supposedly on holiday but Hayley really intends to try and find Angel’s father. They stay with Hayley’s brother Dean. On their first night in New York Hayley meets a very attractive stranger and life becomes a lot more fun, and a lot more complicated.

I loved Hayley and Angel’s relationship, the bond between them and the way they were with each other felt so realistic and lovely. They seemed like real people to me from the very beginning and I was quite sad when I finished the book and had to leave them behind. I miss them already!

I couldn’t help but see parallels between this book and one of my favourite classic Christmas books – A Christmas Carol. Oliver is a hard-nosed business man, he’s self-centred and doesn’t like form to form relationships with women. In his work environment he doesn’t know the name of many of his colleagues and it becomes apparent that a lot of his staff are quite wary around him. Clara, his assistant, is a great character, she’s strong-willed and says what she thinks to Oliver. She’s the Jacob Marley character, except she does make her feelings clear and isn’t fearful of her boss. Having said that, Clara’s home life could be considered a teeny bit like the Jacob’s.

Oliver’s father and brother have recently died and he believes that he is about to die of the same heart defect that kills them. Each time he has a collapse and the closer he gets to Hayley the more he begins to thaw. She is like the ghost of Christmas present, showing him what he could have if he just lets her into his life. HIs father and brother are ghosts of Christmas past, and his belief that he will die soon and alone is his potential future because it is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy if he doesn’t slow down a bit at work. Hayley and Angel show Oliver that life can be completely different if he just relaxes the tight reins a little bit. The way Oliver’s character develops throughout the novel is rather Scrooge-like!

This book is not a re-telling of A Christmas Carol but the parallels between the two books made my enjoyment factor even higher, and now this brand new book has won me over and will take its place beside an old favourite in Christmases to come, and what can be better than that for a book lover? All of this combined with One Wish in Manhattan being about Christmas in New York, which is one of those experiences that always seems magical and beautiful, make this book sheer perfection!

Christmas is a part of this novel from beginning to end and I adored that. I loved how, from the minute they arrived in New York Hayley and Angel kept stopping and saying how whatever they were doing was another reason why Christmas is better there. It kept the Christmas spirit all the way through!

I rated this book 10 out of 10 and highly recommend that this book makes your Christmas reads list this year!

One Wish in Manhattan is out now and available from Amazon.


Blurb copy

Christmas: it’s the most wonderful time of the year … to fall in love
The temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish … to start over.

With her daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for adventure. But there’s more to New York than twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has her own Christmas wish – to find her real dad.

While Hayley tries to fulfil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked.

Can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might come true – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever?

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they realise life isn’t just about filling the minutes … it’s about making every moment count.


Author Bio copy

Mandy-Baggot-author

Mandy Baggot 

Mandy Baggot is an award-winning author of romantic women’s fiction and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. A contributor to writing blogs and short story anthologies, she is also a regular speaker at literary festivals, events and women’s networking groups.

Mandy loves mashed potato, white wine, country music, Corfu and handbags. She has appeared on ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and auditioned for The X-Factor and lives in Wiltshire, UK with her husband, two children and cats Kravitz and Springsteen.

www.mandybaggot.com


XMAS BC GIVEAWAY copy

Bookouture have very kindly allowed me to run an international giveaway for one lucky winner to win an e-copy of this fabulous book. Please enter here and good luck! I will be running more giveaways throughout Bookouture Christmas week so please stop by each day for your chance to win!

Please click on this link to Rafflecopter to enter for your chance to win!

Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books!

BC BOOKS BANNER (MINE) copy

Bookouture Christmas Books Giveaway!

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XMAS BC GIVEAWAY copy

From today, until the 27th October, I’m taking part in Bookouture Christmas week. As part of the celebrations they have kindly given me one ebook copy of each of the five books below. Every day I’ll be sharing another giveaway for one of these books as part of my post. To make it easy to find the giveaways, I’ll also add a link each day to this post so you can check back here every day too.

snowflakes at silver cove

26th October – Today is I’m giving you the chance to enter to win an ebook copy of Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin courtesy of Bookouture. Click this RAFFLECOPTER LINK and it will take you to the Rafflecopter page where you can enter. Giveaway ending midnight 29 October! My review of the book and a synopsis are here if you want to know more about it.

Christmas wishes and mistletoe kisses

25th October – Today I am giving away an ebook copy of Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale courtesy of Bookouture. Click this RAFFLECOPTER LINK and it will take you to the Rafflecopter page where you can enter. Giveaway ending midnight 29 October! My review of the book and a synopsis are here if you want to know more about it.

Lilac Cottage

24 October – Today’s giveaway is your chance to win an ebook copy of Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin. My review of this book is here so please check it out if you want to know more about it. Click this RAFFLECOPTER LINK and it will take you to the Rafflecopter page where you can enter! Ending midnight 29 October!

One Wish in Manhattan

The giveaway for One Wish in Manhattan has now ended, thank you to everyone who entered. Congratulations to the winner, @Sarahhardy681!

You can still read my review of the fabulous One Wish in Manhattan here

bella's christmas bake off

The giveaway for Bella’s Christmas Bake Off has now ended, thank you to everyone who entered. Congratulations to the winner, @Bookboodle!

You can still read my Guest post from Sue Watson & extract from Bella’s Christmas Bake Off here)!


Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books!

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Guest Post, Extract & Int Giveaway: Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

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Today is the first day of Bookouture Christmas I am very lucky to have a guest post from none other than Sue Watson, whose fabulous new book, Bella’s Christmas Bake Off, is out today! As today is publication day it seemed a perfect chance for to Sue to share  how she celebrates this special day.

Over to you Sue…

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I wish I could tell you that on publication days I am drenched in champagne and Ryan Gosling takes me out and toasts me with champers to celebrate the release of my latest tome. Sadly that’s not the case because by the time publication day comes around I’m already writing the next book and busy at my desk… alone (which is why Ryan doesn’t take me to lunch…and it’s the ONLY reason).

When Bella’s Christmas Bake Off emerges golden and warm from the Bookouture oven on 22nd October I will probably celebrate with a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and get back to writing the next book. Once everyone’s home from school and work I do receive cards and pressies and as this will be my seventh novel we have developed some ‘publication Day’ traditions. My husband always gives me flowers and a bottle of my favourite fizzy pink stuff and my daughter gives me a box of ‘book day Maltesers,’ which are my favourite (but you have to eat them by the box, bags are for wimps).

On the evening of the release on 22nd October – by coincidence – I happen to be giving a talk at ‘Mim’s Book Club in Cannock, Staffordshire. If you don’t live too far away everyone is welcome, coffee and cake is available and it doesn’t cost anything to come along. I will be talking about my life as a BBC Producer, how I became a writer and I’ll also be signing copies of my books. Then and only then, will Ryan Gosling turn up and take me out for a champagne dinner to celebrate the release of Bella’s Christmas Bake Off!

Thank you so much Sue! And a VERY happy publication day to you once again!


bella's christmas bake off

And here is the very first chapter of Sue’s brand new book Bella’s Christmas Bake Off for you all to read now! Keep reading to the end as there is a wonderful International giveaway giving you the opportunity to win a copy of this very ebook!

Extract Banner copy

Chapter One

Naughty Custard and Severely Whipped Cream

I was icing the Christmas cake when he told me.

‘Amy…I have to talk to you,’ he said.

I lifted the palette knife to create a snowy effect on the soft, mallow frosting and stood back, then turned to him.

‘What?’ I was gazing at my beautiful frosty white cake. ‘Silent Night’ played on the iPod, and it was just three weeks before Christmas. I glanced up at Neil standing next to me, and the look in his eyes scared me so much I put down the palette knife.

‘What is it? Are you ill…has something happened?’

He nodded, slowly, his eyes still cold, like they belonged to someone else.

‘I was going to leave it until after Christmas to tell you, but I’ve…I can’t go on like this. Amy, I’m sorry but it feels like a charade to go through the whole Christmas thing and…I’ve met someone.’ He was standing in front of me now, making eye contact, ensuring the message was clear and there was no room for misunderstanding. My mind went blank. The pink tie I’d bought for him was loosened at his neck. He’d just come home from work.There were pork chops in the oven.

‘Is this a joke?’ There were no words for this. I’d sometimes imagined a scene where we parted, but it was usually the other way round and me telling him I was going. I wasn’t ready for this, now –ever.

‘Why?’

‘Because I can’t live a lie any longer, Amy,’ he said, his speech obviously well prepared, learned by heart. I could see by his set jaw and steady gaze he was damn well going to say every word without interruption from me.

‘You’ve been so busy with work, you’ve got your friends and your life and I feel like there’s no room for me…’ he started.

‘Oh no, Neil. You sleeping with someone else is not my fault, so don’t even try to pull that one,’ I snapped, moving swiftly from shock to anger, aware I was spitting in his face– not pretty…or festive.

‘I’m sorry, I’m not blaming you, but I just…I want to be with her. She loves me, she cares what happens to me, asks me about my day…I’m sorry, Amy…’ He stood there, ashen-faced.

‘So after twenty years you’re just walking out on your marriage because some other woman asks if you’ve had a nice day?’ I was becoming irrational, but who could blame me? ‘Perhaps I should have made more like an American waitress and said ‘have a nice day,’ when I ‘served’ you your evening meal.’

The panic was rising in my chest, I couldn’t deal with people leaving, the thought of being on my own scared me. Things hadn’t been great for a long time between us, but he didn’t have to go and throw it all away– not now, just weeks before Christmas. I glanced through the living room door at the Christmas tree, the lights twinkling, gifts from relatives and friends already underneath.This was a time for being together, for rekindling love and family, not abandoning it.

‘I don’t understand?’ I asked, trying to calm down and not to bare my teeth like a wild animal. I didn’t know how I felt about Neil, but I wasn’t ready for this and I didn’t want him storming off into the night and leaving me alone. I needed to keep everything on an even keel, especially myself.  ‘I know we’ve had our problems Neil, but all marriages have problems, we just have to work at them.’

‘That’s what I thought too, but…she’s special.’

‘Special? More “special” than the woman you married, who you’ve been with for over twenty years,’ I snapped, losing any chance of staying calm at this.

‘No…of course you’re special too, but we both want different things, Amy.’

‘Yeah, you want someone else.’

‘It’s not like that…I care about her.’

So this really was it? After several years of our relationship hanging by a thread, one of us had finally decided to do something to end it, but now it was finally here I felt sick. I was about to throw up, but swallowed hard to prevent it. Whatever I might think about him, I didn’t want my husband’s last moments with me to be infused with the sight and smell of me vomiting noisily in the kitchen.

‘Who is she?’ I heard myself croak.

‘Someone at work, she works in the Legal department…you don’t know her.’

‘Well I do now, don’t I?’I started. ‘Because it looks like this woman who I “don’t know”has been playing quite a big part in my life without me even realising …’

He just stood there with his head down like I was reprimanding him. He reminded me of one of the teenagers I taught at school who’d been found smoking or downloading porn on their iPhone.

‘Neil, the kids will be home from Uni in three weeks…and I made a cake…’ I gestured towards the snow-topped, perfectly iced confection like it would make a difference to his planned departure. Three minutes ago this beautiful fruit cake had, along with the Christmas Tree, been the centre and beginning of my pre-Christmas world. We both stared at the cake as though it held the answers and if we stared for long enough all the bad things would go away. But they didn’t, and when I looked back, the eyes staring out of my husband’s face were a stranger’s eyes.

‘When are you going?’ I asked, trying to bring myself round.

He shrugged, ‘Tomorrow…?’

I suddenly couldn’t bear another minute of this and as another wave of anger engulfed me, I called his bluff. ‘How about now? Go now,’ I said.

‘You think I should go now?’ He looked almost relieved, which hurt and angered me even more.

‘You can’t wait to leave, can you?’ I spat incredulously.

‘No, no… I don’t want to upset you…neither does Jayne; she’s so upset and feels terrible about everything.’

That did it.

‘Oh poor, poor Jayne is upset? Why didn’t you say? You must go to her, how selfish I am thinking only of me when she’s the one who’s devastated…I feel awful for keeping you.’

He made an awkward move towards me and I picked up the palette knife in a threatening manner like I’d seen crazy people do in crime dramas on TV. In that moment, with the panic rising in my chest, I felt just as mad as those wild murdering types, slashing around with a cleaver. It was just as well my weapon of choice was only a round-edged, blunt decorating tool and not a big, sharp chef’s knife,especially when I started waving it at himaggressively.

He edged back along the kitchen wall like the wimp he was, flinching as I punctuated my harmless but dramatic palette waving with swearing and ridiculous threats.I couldn’t stop and the more he cowered, the more I flailed my ‘weapon’ around while starting on a detailed personality assassination. As therapeutic as this was,I had to stop because I was reaching volcanic levels and could feel a panic attack coming on. I stood back, put down the knife and leaned against the kitchen unit to get my breath back. Just as I put my head in my hands and he thought I wasn’t looking, the little coward made a bid for freedom. He weaselled his way out of the kitchen and ran upstairs to pack his pyjamas and toothbrush, without even asking if I was okay.

‘I could have died,’ I yelled at him as I heard his tentative steps on the stair carpet before he put his head round the door like a rabbit in the headlights.

‘I’m going to go now, because I think you need to calm down and me being here might just make things worse,’ he said, like he was dealing with a petulant child.

Too late. I had a brown paper bag over my mouth (which I always kept at hand in the event of a panic attack) whilst continuing to ladle a thick layer of snowy frosting on the cake on auto-pilot like a woman possessed. In my state of shock all I heard was him mutter something about calling me ‘tomorrow’, and as he walked out of the front door I cracked, picked up the cake and blindly chased him down the hall. Halfway down the drive he turned back and I saw the fear in his eyes as he spotted my frosty confection coming straight for his head accompanied by my season’s greetings;  ‘Happy bloody Christmas’, I screechedalong with other non-festive expletives I would rather not repeat. He ducked of course, but as the cake frisbeed past him and across the street the whole thing was witnessed by Alfie Mathews, the son of my neighbour, who also happened to be a pupil of mine. There was frosty icing everywhere, a large cake sliding down the garden wall, me standing in the doorwayscreaming like the madwoman in the attic …and one of my pupils filming the whole spectacle on his mobile.

It was all very surreal and I was so distressed and disorientated I couldn’t face tackling the film-maker sojust staggered back indoors.

Once inside I slammed the door, sat down on a chair, and marvelled at how in less than thirty minutes my life had melted like snow in hot hands. Everything I thought I had, everything I’d thought I was,had gone in a whirlwind…along with the now smashed Christmas cake.

Eventually, I stirred and picked up the TV remote without moving from my seat in the kitchen, and turned on the TV.

‘Ooh you have to have squidgy ones,’ the voice purred from the screen on the wall. Neil had put it up there a couple of years ago because I liked to watch cookery shows in the kitchen, particularly Bella Bradley’s shows, and the ‘squidgy ones’ to which she was now referring were chocolate brownies, which as always looked perfect – but then she had no need to throw them at anyone did she? I stared at the screen numbly. It seemed as though as my life was collapsing, while Bella’s was going from strength to strength. Each year she and her lovely home seemed to be glossier, more expensive, her Christmas cakes more ornate, her tree taller. Bella’s eyes glittered from her fairy lit kitchen, colour matched in red and green with a hint of classy sparkle. The long dark hair, luscious red lips and happy marriage made her look at least ten years younger than she was and despite loving her show I couldn’t help but sometimes feel a twinge of resentment. I wished my life had been as glamorous and successful as Bella’s and felt the envy and regret even more keenly after what had just happened. I found vague comfort in watching Bella add mixed spice to a bowl, stirring vigorously, causing the reindeers on her tight red ski jumper to frolic across her full bosom. I wondered for the millionth time what it would be like to have Bella’s Christmas, her marriage – her life.

What made the contrast in our very different lives so painful was that Bella Bradley used to be my best friend. We’d once shared everything, from secrets to perfume to clothes, we’d been best friends from our first day at school and watching her now on screen I found it hard to reconcile this well-groomed, accomplished woman with the crazy, funny friend I used to love. When we were kids Bella was the one who took risks while I stood on the sidelines watching in awe, and sometimes horror, while she got herself into the most horrific scrapes. Throughout her school days she had been involved in smoking, playing truant, swearing and writing obscene words on the gym wall – yet still she seemed to charm her way out of it all. I didn’t have her charisma or her daring; I suppose that’s why Bella’s a TV star and I’m a maths teacher, I thought, absently watching her whisk up a batch of chocolate brownies with the kind of noises one would associate with an orgasm.

‘Ooh that’s very, very naughty,’ she was saying, her eyes looking into the camera, a tight close-up of just her tongue licking chocolate-covered fingers I assumed were her own. Mind you, from the sounds she was making one had to wonder if her delicious husband was somewhere off camera reaching into her red-lipsticked mouth. Who knew what was going on behind that soon to be batch of warm bad boys?

Just thinking about Bella’s husband reminded me of my own, or sudden lack of – making my stomach churn. I tried to shake the thought of Neil having sex with another woman from my head while pacing around the house, wondering what to do, asking myself so many questions. Had I known, or at least suspectedhe was having an affair? Had I become lazy and complacent, not necessarily wanting Neil around, but not brave enough to make any changes? There were times when I’d doubted if Neil and I would make ‘forever’, but they were just blips weren’t they? Didn’t everyone go through times when they wondered if they’d married the right person? You just got on with it, which is why I was so surprised to find myself suddenly single. I wandered into the living room and stared at the Christmas tree I’d put up the previous week. It had been decorated with hope and anticipation for the season ahead. I’d hung each bauble imagining the four of us sitting round a glistening turkey on Christmas day lit by the glow of that tree. But looking at it now, days later, I felt nothing–just sad and disappointed.

It was an ancient white tree, and even the sparkly white fairy now looked less like a sparkly young girl and more like Miss Haversham, the ageing bride whose groom had left her on her wedding day.

I couldn’t take it in, I looked at the sad fairy seeing myself reflected back – Neil had gone and my Christmas was over before it had begun. Then my eye caught the icy blue bauble we’d bought together on a trip to Paris one Christmas. Carefully plucking the bauble from the tree I held it, feeling the cool Christmas roundness in my palm. There was a raised hand-painted picture of a glittery, snow-covered Eiffel Tower, a lovely memory I hung every year and went straight back to the French Christmas market where we’d bought it. Holding the bauble, watching it sparkle,I was on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées,more than twenty years before, a cold wind was swinging the lights on the stall and heavy rain splashed our faces. Neil and I had been so young and in love back then we only saweach other in the twinkle of fairylights in the rain. It was bustling with noise, festive music played and the air was heady with Christmas as we held hands and chose our special souvenir of our first holiday together. I was eighteen. Looking into the bauble now, watching the glitter change from white to pink to blue as I twirled it I felt sad for what we’d lost. Then I remembered with a jolt how later on that evening we’d argued about something trivial and Neil stormed out of the hotel. He came back very late and quite drunk and I cried all night while he slept soundly next to me. We barely spoke to each other all the next day, despite it being Christmas Day, and my dreams of Christmas in Paris floated off down the Seine. Funny how I’d forgotten about that, perhaps Neil’s leaving had made me more cynical, more aware of what we were, and not what I’d wanted us to be? I should have known then we wouldn’t last; if a couple fall out in the city of love on Christmas Eve then cupid’s trying to tell them something. We were such different people, Neil and I, and in those early days I’d naively thought he would change, but he never did.

I thought of all the Christmas Eves since then that the kids and I had waited for him to come home.They always wanted to wait for Daddy, but he was usually ‘caught up at the office,’ and I was so busy making Christmas for them I didn’t have the time or the energy to worry where he was. I did everything without him, not just Christmas,  but days out, barbecues in the garden, even parents’ evenings – it was usually just me and the kids. I lived like a single mum, with Neil working away, late at the office or on a golf course somewhere (though there were times I queried his ‘night golf’ sessions, which went on way too late for my liking). Suddenly, it dawned on me, perhaps he wasn’t busy or golfing – perhaps he just didn’t want to come home to me? While I was imagining pitch black golf courses and heavy late night meetings he was ‘going home’ to Jayne from the legal department. As my thoughts drifted back over my marriage to Neil, I realised I had stripped the Christmas tree until it was bare and everything was packed away. All trace of Christmas gone.

I was now alone, I had no husband and all I could think was ‘How will I tell the kids?’ My only consolation was that the twins were now both away at their respective universities and though the break-up of their parents’ marriage would hurt, it wouldn’t impact on their lives as it might have when they were younger. Resentment rose in my chest and I was glad Neil wasn’t there with me because I had a whole block of kitchen knives and who knew what might have happened? Neil and I didn’t have an idyllic marriage, we didn’t ravish each other passionately every night of the week, life got in the way. Neil needed new friends, sparkly objects and flashing lights in his life – whereas I was happy with the status quo and a nice cup of tea.

I returned to the kitchen, my Christmas was over, but Bella was still on the TV creating a Christmas heaven in her home.

‘People laugh when I put bananas in my trifle,’ she was saying, making her eyes wide, her mouth forming a soft O. ‘But I implore you, if you do nothing else this Christmas –have a go with a big banana.’ This was breathed into the lens rather than actually spoken, and was pure cooking porn. ‘Whisky soaked, damp with alcohol, crushed nuts, a scattering of sour cranberries to cut through that icky-stickiness and snowy peaks of cool, white, severely whipped cream. Oooh,’ she was now dipping her finger in the cream, eyes closed, licking slowly, she was no doubt engaging more viewers than just the country’s amateur chefs. Every straight male and gay woman in the UK must have been transfixed by Bella’s culinary Christmas spectacle. I bit my lip, she was too much. Even Nigella would baulk at ‘severely whipped cream’ to describe a bloody trifle.

‘Bella’s Christmas Bake Off’ always started in early December and for years had prepared me and the rest of the country for the culinary season ahead. Bella basted beautiful, golden turkeys, cooked crispy roast potatoes, baked magnificent cakes and biscuits, causing power surges throughout the country as people turned on their ovens and baked. She would sprinkle lashings of glitter, special olive oils, the latest liqueurs and all in a sea of Christmas champagne bubbles.

Bella’s style was calm, seductive, and gorgeous. Her very presence on screen made you feel everything was going to be okay and Christmas was on its way. She didn’t just stop at delicious food either – her tables were pure art and her Christmas decorations always the prettiest, sparkliest, most beautiful. Bella Bradley had an enviable lifestyle and she kept viewers transfixed all year round, but her Christmases were always special. Her planning and eye for detail was meticulous, from colour-matched baubles to snowy landscapes of Christmas cupcakes and mince pies – and soggy bottoms were never on her menu.

So in an attempt to forget my own life and fill myself with something like Christmas cheer,I watched Bella now, as she poured the whipped cream on ‘naughty’ custard. Oh if it were only the custard in my life that was ‘naughty,’ I thought as sheadded edible pearls for decoration, fingering each one as she pushed them firmly into the cream. I sat in my little kitchen just waiting for the Christmas sparkle to land on me, the frisson of Christmas baking, the preparation, the anticipation that always came with the first ‘Bella’s Christmas Bake Off.’ But this year I just couldn’t get excited by her baking or her beautiful, twinkly home or her magnificent tree. She had everything – and I had nothing…which had always been the case, but now I didn’t even have a husband anymore.

Bella’s husband, Peter Bradley, or the Silver Fox, as Bella affectionately referred to him, was gorgeous. He was a foreign news correspondent who, when he wasn’t making ‘impromptu’ appearances in Bella’s busy kitchen during the show, could be seen on battlefronts across the globe. He’d wander into Bella’s kitchen all five o’clock shadow and war-weary as she iced her voluptuous buns or titivated her tarts. He always looked quite out of place in this domestic idyll after doing a piece to camera in a war-torn city, but he was obviously happy to support his wife’s career by just being there. Unlike my husband, he hadn’t left her alone at Christmas for another woman – he’d stayed by her side, happy to brush the flour from her décolletage and stick his finger in her buttercream.

‘The Silver Fox loves my plump, tasty breasts,’ she was now saying while tearing at tender white turkey flesh with a knowing look. Peter was there in all his war-torn glory, taking her proffered morsels with a twinkle in his pale blue eyes, a crinkly smile on his well worn features. He was so handsome, fit for his late forties, and no doubt, given his career, very strong, intelligent and brave. He was the perfect accessory to Bella, bringing just the right amount of rough masculine charm and good looks to her glossygirlishness. And as a delicious bonus, the Silver Fox wasn’t afraid to show his feminine side judging by the previous year’s Christmas special, when he’d flown in from Iraq to whisk cream in nothing but combats and a tight vest. I was transfixed – trust me, Christmas had come early!

Bella was now informing us that we had to rehearse for Christmas Eve. Rehearse? As if one Christmas stress-fest wasn’t enough? She was wearing silk pyjamas and a girly grinwhich, given my current state, seemed to me like she was bordering on smug.

‘So, imagine it’s Christmas Eve – the turkey has soaked in something fabulous, and so have I, and now I’ve put my jim jams on,’ she giggled, shaking her breasts for no apparent reason – she did that a lot.  I noted with envy how her chocolate brown eyes matched the chocolate brown silk of her pyjamas and considered my own nightwear, a pair of frail pyjamas, once pale pink now edging towards grey after too many washes. If I needed any proof that her life was completely different to mine – it was all there in those ancient pyjamas.

‘Me and the Silver Fox just love a pyjama party at Christmas,’ she twinkled, a little wink and a sip from the crystal flute.‘But then, don’t we all?’

‘Speak for yourself,’ I said, turning off the TV and finishing the last of a bottle of cava I’d found in the fridge. Oh yes, Bella Bradley had always been the lucky one, even when we were kids – but it didn’t stop me loving her – she was my best friend. Then, when we were eighteen I did something stupid which affected her life so profoundly she left the area where we lived and I hadn’t seen her since. I tried not to think how our friendship had been destroyed by what I’d done all those years ago. I still felt guilty about what had happened and longed for her forgiveness. Watching her on screen was the nearest I would ever get to her, and despite the odd twinge of envy I found it therapeutic to see her in a wonderful new life, knowing she was okay… even if I wasn’t.


Blurb copy

Two best friends. One big lie. The best bake off EVER.

Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.

But this year things are going to be different.

For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.

Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…

After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember…

A hilarious, heart-breaking and feel good read about best friends, baking and the magic of Christmas.

Bella’s Christmas Bake Off is out today and available from Amazon.


Author Bio copy

Sue-Watson-Author-pic-120px

Sue Watson

Sue Watson was a journalist on women’s magazines and national newspapers before leaving it all behind for a career in TV. As a producer with the BBC she worked on garden makeovers, kitchen takeovers and daytime sofas – all the time making copious notes so that one day she might escape to the country and turn it all into a book.

After much deliberation and copious consumption of cake, Sue eventually left her life in TV to write.  After a very successful debut novel, Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes, Sue signed with Bookouture and has gone on to write four fabulous books.

www.suewatsonbooks.com


XMAS BC GIVEAWAY copy

Bookouture have very kindly allowed me to run an international giveaway for one lucky winner to win an e-copy of this fabulous book. Please enter here and good luck! I will be running more giveaways throughout Bookouture Christmas week so please stop by each day for your chance to win!

Please click this RAFFLECOPTER LINK and it will take you to their page where you can enter my giveaway! Good luck!

Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books!

BC BOOKS BANNER (MINE) copy

Review: The Broken Hearts Book Club by Lynsey James

Broken Heart Book Club

I love books about book clubs so I couldn’t resist the chance to read The Broken Hearts Book Club!

Lucy grew up in the idyllic Luna Bay but something happened eight years ago which caused her to run away and she has never been back. She has managed to avoid all reasons to return but when her beloved Nana dies Lucy finally returns to her childhood home for the funeral. It is her intention to make this a quick visit but when her Nana’s Will is read and Lucy finds out she has been left her gorgeous Rose Cottage and her broken hearts book club, Lucy feels compelled to stick around for a while. After meeting the lovely, and very attractive new pub owner, Jake, Lucy suddenly finds even more reasons to stay in Luna Bay!

There is a mystery that runs through this book about why Lucy ran away all those years ago. Lucy refers to it many times but can never bring herself to tell anyone what she did. I’ll be honest there were a few times when I wanted to grab Lucy and just make her open up about it but it was true to her character that she was forever skirting around it – this is the girl who ran away for eight years rather than stay and face it after all. I felt sorry for her especially as some of the people in Luna Bay who were there eight years ago still made Lucy feel bad, even after so much time had passed.

Lucy is such a lovely character, her heart is in the right place and she just wants to make things right with those she’s done wrong by, and she wants to help make better the lives of the broken hearted in the book club. I love how she can’t always control her impulse to sing if she reads, or hears someone say a song lyric. I burst out laughing reading the very first page with the Joni Mitchell song incident! It’s the sort of thing that could happen to any of us and that’s what makes her so endearing.

I loved the setting of the book too; Luna Bay just felt like a real place and I’d really like to go there! I could picture the cottage, the pub, the cafe and the gorgeous sea front as I was reading.

I adored the book club! I love the idea of a book club for broken-hearted people especially the way it was for people who had suffered any kind of loss, all the members supported each other and no loss was made to feel less than any other. I enjoyed reading about the books they were reading too and hearing their thoughts on them. I’ve already read all of the book club reads apart from The Rosie Project and they’ve convinced me to give it a try!

The Broken Hearts Book Club is perfect for these colder, darker nights – it’s like a big warm comfort blanket in book form! It’s a feel-good read with a bit of depth to it. I rate this book 9 out of 10 and highly recommend it. This was the first book I’ve read by Lynsey James and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve already bought her debut novel Just the Way You Are and hope to read it very soon.

The Broken Hearts Book Club is published today and available on Amazon now!

I received this book from Carina UK via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Christmas at Lilac Cottage (White Cliff Bay book 1) by Holly Martin

Lilac Cottage

I have to admit that it felt a little strange to be contemplating reading a Christmas book in September, but I opened up this book and started reading and within the first page I was lost in the story. I ended up reading the whole book in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down!

Penny is an ice-sculptor; she loves her job, her gorgeous cottage and her lovely dog Bernard but she is lonely. She’s been hurt before so looking for love is not high on her agenda yet it is obvious she would love nothing more than to find her Mr Right. Henry and Daisy rent Penny’s annexe and after an amusing misunderstanding before Daisy arrives, they all hit it off brilliantly. The course of true love never did run smooth though, and it is very difficult for these three to form different relationships with each other leading to misunderstandings galore.

The chemistry between Henry and Penny just radiates off the page from the word go; it seems very apparent that these two simply have to get together. I can’t think of many other couples in contemporary fiction who were more suited to each other than these two!

I love the many characters in this book, they all know about Penny’s past heartache and just want her to fall in love again. The way they help her at times leads to very embarrassing but hilariously funny situations, like the time Penny went to buy a toothbrush. I actually laughed out loud at that bit!

The setting of this novel, White Cliff Bay, is described in such vivid detail that I could completely picture it and I really want to go there for a holiday. I’m so happy to discover that Holly has written a second Christmas book set in the same location and that is out very soon (30th October, I believe). I already cannot wait to be back in White Cliff Bay!

I highly recommend this book, it’s wonderful. It’s one of those books that you can curl up with on a cold day and just escape, and when you’ve finished reading you feel all content and warm and smiley.

I rated this book 10 out of 10.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, but I’m going to buy my own copy too as I want to be able to revisit White Cliff Bay again next Christmas!

Christmas at Lilac Cottage is out today and is available from Amazon

Review: A Proper Family Holiday by Chrissie Manby

Version 2

Four generations of the Benson family go on holiday to Lanzarote for a week – what could possibly go wrong? This is an often funny, sometimes poignant and constantly entertaining read.

I bought this novel around the time it was released a year ago and it’s sat on my TBR ever since but I don’t really know why as I love Chrissie Manby’s novels. I think I was subconsciously saving it for a time when I knew I’d need a guaranteed pick-me-up of a book, and it didn’t let me down.

This novel was unputdownable for me and was the wonderful pick-me-up that I’d hoped it would be. It was chick-lit with depth to it, and I adored it. I gave it 5 stars and also added it to my favourites shelf as I’m sure it’ll be one of the few books that I will re-read in the future.

On finishing this novel I was so tempted to immediately pick up the next in the series, A Proper Family Christmas, as I really want to know what happens next. But I love a good Christmas read so I’m going to try and hold off reading it for just a few more weeks! I’m happy to see that a third book in the series is already out though and I’ll be buying that soon.

A 10 star read!