#TheMotherofAllChristmases by @MillyJohnson #12daysofChristmas #BlogTour #Review @TeamBATC @ed_pr

On the 11th day of Christmas TWG gave to me; ‘The Mother of all Christmases’ courtesy of TeamBATC…..and EdPr. Can you tell I am excited? Today it’s my turn to host Milly Johnson as part of the blog tour! Many thanks to EdPr for the blog tour invite and review copy. Here is my review:

Eve Glace – co-owner of the theme park Winterworld – is having a baby and her due date is a perfectly timed 25th December. And she’s decided that she and her husband Jacques should renew their wedding vows with all the pomp that was missing the first time. But growing problems at Winterworld keep distracting them … 

Annie Pandoro and her husband Joe own a small Christmas cracker factory, and are well set up and happy together despite life never blessing them with a much-wanted child. But when Annie finds that the changes happening to her body aren’t typical of the menopause but pregnancy, her joy is uncontainable. 

Palma Collins has agreed to act as a surrogate, hoping the money will get her out of the gutter in which she finds herself. But when the couple she is helping split up, is she going to be left carrying a baby she never intended to keep?

Annie, Palma and Eve all meet at the ‘Christmas Pudding Club’, a new directive started by a forward-thinking young doctor to help mums-to-be mingle and share their pregnancy journeys. Will this group help each other to find love, contentment and peace as Christmas approaches?

What does TWG think?

Milly Johnson can do no wrong – I have no idea how she manages to produce storylines that manage to melt my ice cold heart, but she does and she does it good!!

‘The Christmas Pudding Club’ was genius!! What a clever, non invasive way for Christmas mums to come together without feeling as though they’re forced….like other mother and baby groups. Eve, Palma and Annie have a busy festive season ahead of them in more ways than one. Firstly, the ladies couldn’t be more different if they tried. Secondly, their road to motherhood wasn’t exactly without roadworks, and thirdly, they all have other things going on in their lives as well as their impending new addition.

Milly Johnson has captured each character beautifully, bringing their different personalities together as though it was the most natural thing in the world. Every time I read a novel by this author, I feel as though I’m coming home to my ‘safe place’ due to the cosy feeling I get each and every time. ‘The Mother of all Christmases’ was no different and, even though the storyline consisted of many laugh out loud, sarcastic moments, the overall storyline itself wasn’t without the hurdles of thought provoking situations.

Palma’s situation got right under my skin and I couldn’t help but empathise. I think I found myself being taken under Annie’s wing more than the others, whereas Eve was a tough nut to crack.

‘The Mother of all Christmases’ is such a lovely, heart warming read which opens many doors at once, allowing readers to escape into the wonderful world of Milly Johnson and her puddings. Brilliant!

Buy now!

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#12DaysofChristmas #BlogTour! #Review – Part time Working Mummy by Rachaele Hambleton (@PTWMummy) @TrapezeBooks @tr4cyf3nt0n

On the 11th day of Christmas TWG gave to me, a review of ‘Part Time Working Mummy’! I am so pleased to be involved in the #12DaysofChristmas blog tour – many thanks to Tracy Fenton for the tour invite, and thank you to Trapeze Books for the review copy. Here is my review:

Want to know the truth about what life is like as a mum and step-mum with a chaotic patchwork family?

This book is everything I’ve been through that’s made me who I am, plus the lessons I’ve learned from many mistakes. I hope that it will make you laugh as well as give you strength to keep going when times get tough. After all, we are all in this together…
Rachaele, aka Part-Time Working Mummy

Hundreds of thousands of fans flock to the PTWM page online and now, in this book, Rachaele shares her behind-the-scenes experiences with single parenthood, unexpected pregnancy, domestic violence, relationships, bullying and much more – spreading kindness amidst the crazinessalong the way!

What does TWG think?

Some of you may have already heard of ‘Part time Working Mummy’ AKA Rachael’s Hambleton, especially if you follow her life on Facebook and other social media. For those who aren’t aware, Rachaele is an avid supporter for mental health and domestic abuse charities, as well as being an extremely popular parent blogger and mum/wife/step-mum. Her honest approach to life as a parent has given her just under 500,000 followers on Facebook. How amazing is that?

Now, I’m sure that there are people out there who are probably wondering ‘what makes her so special?’. Not a negative thing to ask after all, we are inquisitive human beings. My answer to that is this: the fact that she owns her bad choices and realises that several of her decisions in the past have been monumental eff ups, whilst also being a domestic abuse warrior, mental health advocate, massive supporter of multiple charities linked to the above, a mum to three daughters and a step-mum to two boys, makes me think ‘okay, this lady has balls of steel and a story to tell which a lot of us could learn from’.

Hence her blog and now her book. When I fell pregnant, all I saw on social media was how perfect the mum life was, as though getting covered in baby shit wasn’t the norm…when it is. PTWM (Part time Working mummy) isn’t saying that being a mum can’t be perfect because it can be your own sense of perfect. However, what she is saying is that becoming a parent is something which needs to be approached with eyes open and no rose tinted glasses. As mums (and dads), we often feel like we can conquer the world one nappy at a time whilst also balancing a cup of tea on our arses as we do the downward dog yoga pose – when in reality we can’t. After all, who wants a burnt foof?

PTWM highlights the hurdles she jumped over, face planted into, and barely made as she became a mum for the first, second and third time, whilst also dealing with horrific domestic abuse and body issues. So yes, even though I laughed my backside off reading this book, a lot of PTWM’s experiences hit home because she doesn’t mollycoddle it or pretend it never happened. Instead she says it how it happened, admits her faults and tries to put several taboo situations in the spotlight to gain the awareness and support it so desperately needs.

I’m going to talk personally a second – I was a victim of domestic abuse, and for 10 years of my early life I was the child who witnessed the devastation of domestic abuse and alcoholism first hand. It really is something you think only happens to ‘other people’ when it happens to you, and being a child and hearing your mum screaming due to the abuse, and being the one to creep downstairs to wipe the tears from your mums eyes at the age of 6 – it stays with you. Okay, like PTWM says on more than one occasion in the book, people automatically wonder why the victim doesn’t leave and, even though it is far too easy for us to sit there and judge a situation we aren’t in ourselves as every situation is different, the reality is a tough pill to swallow.

PTWM, in my eyes, is exceptionally brave to be to open and honest about her past. I’m not saying that she should be ashamed of it because she shouldn’t, but again, like she said herself in her book, putting yourself out there is daunting because there will always be people who will be nasty heffers, even towards the most broken of people.

As well as talking about her past, PTWM explores the hurdles of becoming a patchwork family and just how stressful being a ‘step’ parent can be. Social media can make things look a lot easier than they seem, and I think it’s brilliant that PTWM has decided to share the lows along with the high by being realistic and certainly relatable.

I am in awe of just how much PTWM does for other people, whether they are a parent or not. I will admit that, at times, I did wonder how her experiences made her more clued up on things than other people, and that was wrong of me to think that because she doesn’t once say that she’s perfect in this book. She says that she is human and that she makes mistakes. She says that her life has been extremely difficult and that she was at breaking point, yet she also states how being a mum is the most rewarding thing she has ever done. So it’s not the case of PTWM trying to show that she’s ‘better than everyone else’ because it’s very clear that she still suffers with effects of her past. Instead it’s a case of being open and honest about heart wrenching situations, in the hope that one person may find the strength in her words to walk through the tunnel in their own lives. Nobody can really fault the PTWM for that now, can they?

PTWM – A Patchwork life, is an inspirational, raw and extremely poignant memoir that is guaranteed to make you react in multiple ways. I am in awe at Rachaele and everything she has come through, and I think the way she has put pen to paper by putting her story on the table, was incredible and extremely brave. When I grow up I’ve decided I want to be like PTWM ;).

Buy now!

About the author.

Rachaele Hambleton, aka Part-Time Working Mummy, is one of the most popular personalities in the parenting blogosphere. She is a full time mum to three daughters, step-mum to two boys and is recently married to her ‘bird-boy’ Josh. Her successful blog documents the highs and lows of life as a family of seven… with two dogs and two guinea pigs thrown in for good measure. As well as blogging and bringing up 5 tiny humans, Rachaele fights hard for awareness and funds for domestic abuse and other charities. 

facebook/PartTimeWorkingMummy
Instagram: @PTWMUMMY
Twitter: @PTWMUMMY

#BlogTour! #GuestPost from author of ‘The Other Miss Bates’, Allie Cresswell (@alliescribbler) @RaRaResources

Another RaRaResources blog tour for you all this afternoon, and another guest post! Many thanks to RaRaResources for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Allie Cresswell’s ‘The Other Miss Bates’. I have a guest post to share with you all for my stop on the tour. First, here is a bit more information on Allie’s book:

Jane Bates has left Highbury to become the companion of the invalid widow Mrs Sealy in Brighton. Life in the new, fashionable seaside resort is exciting indeed. A wide circle of interesting acquaintance and a rich tapestry of new experiences – balls at the Assembly rooms, carriage rides and promenades on the Steyne – make her new life all Jane had hoped for. 

While Jane’s sister Hetty can be a tiresome conversationalist she proves to be a surprisingly good correspondent and Jane is kept minutely up-to-date with developments in Highbury, particularly the tragic news from Donwell Abbey.

When handsome Lieutenant Weston returns to Brighton Jane expects their attachment to pick up where it left off in Highbury the previous Christmas, but the determined Miss Louisa Churchill, newly arrived with her brother and sister-in-law from Enscombe in Yorkshire, seems to have a different plan in mind.

Buy now!

Guest post.

I can think of no character in Jane Austen’s completed works who would qualify as what we understand today as being ‘disabled’. And yet it seemed to me that a book set in Brighton in the 1780s would be unrealistic if it did not include at least one character physically incapacitated in some way. 

Brighton was a town just beginning to be fashionable as a health resort due to the recent discovery of the healthful properties of sea water; the sea was used for bathing and for drinking – which must have been revolting. The fashionable folk of Georgian England began to use seaside towns as an alternative to spas like Bath and Cheltenham. The medical profession burgeoned to take advantage of the new obsession with health, and doctors  some of questionable qualifications – congregated at health resorts where patients were numerous.In Brighton, as elsewhere at this time, with the American war of Independence being fought as well as wars with Spain, France and Holland, it is inevitable that wounded soldiers would have been commonplace. Add to this that life in Georgian England was dangerous, even for the well-to-do. Carriage and horse-riding accidents were everyday occurrences, claiming many victims.

Having decided to set The Other Miss Bates in Brighton and because it was inspired by Jane Austen’s fourth novel, Emma,it was inevitable that illness should play an important part in it. Illness – real or imagined – is a frequent theme. Imagined illness – such as that suffered by Mary Musgrave in Persuasion, is used to imply weakness of character, a lack of fibre, selfishness or at least self-absorption, all characteristics to be mildly disapproved of. Actual illness occurs infrequently in Jane Austen’s books but always to great dramatic effect. (Think of Louisa Musgrave’s concussion in Persuasion, Tom Bertram’s illness in Mansfield Park and of Marianne Dashwood’s fever in Sense and Sensibility.) The plot of these books absolutely pivots on the life-threatening illnesses depicted in each, and, crucially, on the way the principal characters respond to it. The illnesses themselves are generally a physical result of some morally reprehensible behaviour, like Marianne’s unchecked ardour for Willoughby.That Jane Austen was interested in the narrative possibilities of illness and the influence of illness on character is illustrated by her final – unfinished – novel Sanditon, which is set in an imaginary seaside town and peopled by characters variously unwell or believing themselves to be so.

I felt justified, then, in tackling it, but wanted to explore a different aspect of the subject, so I invented two characters who are confined to wheelchairs. Mrs Sealy is a young and wealthy widow, rendered disabled  by a carriage accident. Captain Bates is a casualty of war whose initial injury was compounded by poor medical treatment to leave him an amputee.

Disabled people are not necessarily ‘ill’ although of course sometimes their disability is a consequence of illness or causes issues of ill health. I didn’t want my wheel-chair bound characters’ disability to be a tool of the plot; that would have been cynical and patronising. Their being in wheeled chairs affects their actions just as much as their behaviour, choices, attitudes and values. Like all Jane Austen’s characters they are weighed morally. Although both are ‘victims’, ie, were not born with a disability, they deal with their situations very differently. Mrs Sealy is without self-pity; she is always cheerful, dressed beautifully, attends balls and parties a-plenty and has herself carried from one place to another by an extremely handsome, well-muscled young footman by the name of Ironside. Her being a woman of her time – not her disability – makes her vulnerable to the terrible machinations of her step-son. 

Captain Bates on the other hand has allowed his life-affecting injury to rule his life. In an effort to compensate for the admittedly terrible time he had under the surgeon’s knife he treats himself constantly to food, drink, fine clothes and expensive trinkets. It is this self-indulgence – especially to food – which is the real cause of his incapacity; he has become too fat to move, even with a rudimentary prosthetic (wooden leg).

I think the way I have handled these characters is true to Jane Austen’s technique. They are not judged by who or what they are, their birth, wealth or cleverness but by how they behave. I agonised over them, though. I did not want them to be pitiful, nor villainous, nor ridiculous. Just because Jane Austen chose not to represent the disabled in her books did not seem a valid reason for me to omit them from mine although in all other aspects – plot, character, tone and language – I have attempted to reflect her style.

With trepidation, I invite you to read The Other Miss Batesand let me know how you think.

About the author.

Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.

She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.

She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.

She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters, two grandsons and two cockapoos but just one husband – Tim. They live in Cumbria, NW England. 

The Other Miss Bates is her eighth novel and the second in the Highbury series

Social Media Links 

www.allie-cresswell.com

https://www.facebook.com/alliescribbler/

@alliescribbler

#BlogTour! #GuestPost from author of #BoneLines; Stephanie Bretherton (@BrethertonWords) @unbounders @annecater

It’s my turn to host Stephanie Bretherton and ‘Bone Lines’ as part of the blog tour organised by Anne Cater (RandomThingsTours). Many thanks to Anne for inviting me to take part in the blog tour where I have a guest post from the author herself. But first, here is more information about ‘Bone Lines’ and how you can purchase it:

 A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluftwrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life.  A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters:  One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery. 

The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love. 

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

Buy now!

Guest post.

A life in the day of a character

 

How do fictional characters come to life? Readers may wonder whether they are pure invention or drawn from ‘biography’ (whether the writer’s own, or from observation, or research). I can speak only from my own perspective, but sometimes there are varying levels of both and sometimes it’s all imagination. My debut novel, Bone Lines, is a dual timeline featuring two very different – yet connected – women: a prehistoric ancestor and a modern-day doctor of genetics. 

 

One is young, vital, active, in danger, but with particular skills and gifts. She is a mother, hunter, shaman, survivor. The other is middle-aged, dedicated and ambitious, wrapped up in thoughts and memories, working through contemporary challenges. She is a scientist, thinker, lover, seeker. Both are independent and isolated but driven by a sense of purpose.

 

Mirror, mirror?

I am often asked how much my character, Dr Eloise Kluft,and I might have in common (and friends often try to identify any real events or people in her world) and while there are many crucial differences and inventions, there are certainparallels when it comes to age, location, passions and concerns. In order to make contemporary characters feel authentic or relatable a writer will often draw on the familiar. However, what intrigues me most is that no one asks whether the prehistoric character (‘Sarah’ – as her bones have been named) is based on me, when both women have emerged from the same source.

 

While Eloise has a few traits that are quite close to home (and her overthinking is certainly a shared flaw) in a strange way, I feel that Sarah may be drawn from an even deeper self – or perhaps a best self – as she arrived almost fully formed and began writing herself, and while I had to wonder what I might do in her situation, she also very much told me what she wanted to do – and how. Some aspects or actions are inspired by research, but only a few details, here and there. (There is also some ‘essence of Holly’ here too, my amazing Aussie niece, who is a park ranger in NSW – and the kind of kick-ass, earth-connected sister who could definitely be one of the ‘Children of Sarah.’) One quality Sarah has that I aspire to (and which many of us may yearn for today?) is her freedom and ability to live in the moment, deeply in tune with the natural landscape.

 

If you imagine it, they will come

It was after watching a documentary about the Toba supervolano in Indonesia 74,000 years ago that the seed was planted for the book. An image came into my mind of a young woman with a child walking away from the fallout of a natural disaster. Then it was the idea of finding a set of ancient remains in the present day – and what we might learn from them – that brought the contemporary narrative into focus. It may have been said by many other writers, but for me, once characters begin to form they have a powerfultendency to make to their own way.

 

Sometimes it can be a battle to channel them back towards your original concepts for the plot, and sometimes they change the plot as they develop. For example, certain lessons Eloise learns during her story had a significant effect on how she would react in a couple of crucial scenes toward the end. Research is also instrumental to the character/plot axis,however, and can help to rein in the self-determination of your creations with a sharp reality check. But also, this can inform particular details or idiosyncrasies in a character. One of the most vital tools in the writer’s workshop, however, is observation. We are such terrible gazers and eavesdroppers! But it’s all those little gestures, nuances, tones and phrases that can make even a minor character recognisable or memorable.

 

And the award for best supporting role…

Protagonists are one thing, but then there’s all the supporting characters, and while the primary purpose of some may be to move the plot along or to demonstrate a key theme, it helps ifthey’re not merely ciphers, but have some intriguing ‘dimensions’ to them, even if only glimpsed. I recently came across a great tip that said all supporting characters should be written as though they think the book is all about them. I like that. However, for the sake of narrative efficiency sometimes you have to combine characters, places and jobs in a way that might not reflect the real world.

 

While accessing a real-life point of view can give you important information and options, whether it changes your fictional characters fundamentally or not depends on your overall objectives for the book – and intended audience. A writer can never hope to please all those involved in a certain profession or activity, especially where dramatic licence may be needed. In every job, vocation or cultural tribe, there are unique individuals. My father was a policeman and while he would enjoy a good story for the story’s sake (as long as there was reasonable plausibility) there were very few fictional police characters that he felt he could relate to personally, apart from Morse.

 

Flaws in Focus

On the subject of real-life research, I had a fascinatingmeeting recently with the lablit society at the Royal Institution, who did me the great honour of choosing Bone Lines for their bookclub. The group included several practising scientists and one or two (very gently) let me know what they might have done differently with Eloise. The book club also kindly offered to act as a focus group for the next book in terms of making sure not only the science is right (which to my great relief seems to be the case with Bones Lines) but also the finer actualities of the life scientific.’ The most heart-warming reaction, however, was to hear how brave they thought it was to choose subjects and characters – so far (and yet so near?) from my own experience – and to bring them to life through something they recognised as ‘a book of ideas’ as much as a story about two curious, courageous – and flawed – women.

 

And that, perhaps, is one of the most important things with which a writer can grace a character – the kind of flaws we might find in ourselves and others – but which we (and others) can hopefully learn to forgive? There’s nothing like the possibility of redemption to give hope to our human story.

 

About the author

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

 

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

 

 

#BlogBlitz! #Review – Moonlight on the Thames by Lauren Westwood (@lwestwoodwriter) @aria_fiction @rararesources

I am delighted to be taking part in the one day blog blitz for Lauren Westwood and ‘Moonlight on the Thames’. Many thanks to RaRaResources for the blitz invite and the ARC. Here is my review:

Christmas is a joyous time, but not everyone is merry and bright. 

Nicola is a rising star at the top of the corporate ladder, but her personal life is a disaster. Her office affair has lost its allure, and the last thing she wants to think about is Christmas. A night of cancelled trains and festive Christmas carols at Waterloo Station is just about the last straw… 

Dmitri loves conducting his pop-up choir during the festive season, meeting people, and spreading joy and cheer around London. But he carries deep secrets from his past that robbed him of his dream to become a concert pianist. 

Can their hearts and souls be unlocked by music and moonlight and will they discover the healing power of love?

What does TWG think?

If there was such a thing as a ‘mic drop’ for books, then this would warrant it ten times over. What a powerful, powerful read this is.

If you are as career minded as Nicola, it wouldn’t be too difficult to find yourself wrapped up in clients as opposed to being wrapped up in, erm, presents. Once upon a tome, Nicola loved Christmas but then life happened and an unfortunate incident left her wishing the festive season away before it had even begun. Can you blame her? No you can’t, not once it becomes clear why she dislikes Christmas, however her outlook to begin with was incredibly narrow minded. I was going to say that her reactions were borderline offensive, but she genuinely didn’t realise that people’s lives weren’t as rosy as hers because, well, she was too involved in her own self made issues.

Dmitri is a flawed and highly complex man whose journey was a touching one to watch flourish. Just like Nicola, he has his own demons to fight and the scars to go with them and, whether it’s right or wrong, he had become bitter and uncertain.

Watching Nicola’s and Dmitri’s journeys come to life was both heartwarming and quite emotional. Lauren Westwood has created characters with such beautiful souls, I couldn’t help but fall head over heels in love with their story and everything it stood for. Westwood is such a stunning and magnetic storyteller, her words do more than just jump off the page, they ensure that the reader is looking at every inch of the bigger picture to highlight the importance of thinking of others. Especially at Christmas.

Yes, this book is festive, has glistening lights and carols by the bucket load, but ‘Moonlight on the Thames’ is more than the joys of Christmas; it’s about the sadness of Christmas, the festive reflections, the ability to trust again, seeing life through somebody else’s eyes. Making the moment count. You know? It’s about the things which cannot be bought, just taught and learnt.

‘Moonlight on the Thames’ blew me away and left my soul cosy by the fire. Lauren Westwood is a phenomenal author and this book definitely showcases her beautiful way with words – I adored it.

Buy now!

About the author.

 Lauren Westwood writes romantic women’s fiction, and is also an award-winning children’s writer. Originally from California, she now lives in England in a pernickety old house built in 1602, with her partner and three daughters. facebook: @Lwestwoodbooks; twitter: @lwestwoodwriter; web: http://www.laurenwestwoodwriter.com; instagram: @lwestwoodwriter; Goodreads: Lauren Westwood

Giveaway!

 Win 2 x Signed copies of Moonlight On The Thames (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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#BlogTour! #Review – Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe by Jessica Redland (@jessicaredland) @Rararesources

Apologies for the late post, but many thanks to RaRaResources for inviting me to take part in Jessica Redland’s blog tour and for the ARC. I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour with a review.

A few minutes of courage might change your life…

Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company.

Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’sthriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever.

When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that. 

Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure?

What does TWG think?

Can I just start by saying how divine this cover is?! I can just see myself walking down that street, looking in all of shop windows and being lured into the Chocolate Pot Cafe. Stunning cover. Kudos to the designer!

Tara hasn’t had it easy – Jessica Redland tells her characters emotive journey in a way which hit me right in the feels. I couldn’t help but be swept up in Tara’s life and the way tried to do right by her little café, regardless of how much stress it put her under.

I would suggest not reading this book when you’re hungry, as the story is full of tantalising descriptions of such yummy-ness. I actually wish the Chocolate Pot Cafe was a real place!!

Whilst I loved Jessica Redland’s beautiful story telling and delicate way of including minor details into the little but important moments, I couldn’t help but feel as though something was missing. Don’t get me wrong, I did really enjoy reading the book and Hercules the rabbit was just brilliant, I just felt that the overall storyline needed a bit more bite.

If you’re after a full blown Christmas story, then this book isn’t for you as Christmas isn’t the main theme in the book. However, if you’re after a book which ignites deep emotions within, has you feeling as snug as a bug in a rug whilst also wishing you had a pet rabbit named Hercules, this book has your name all over it.

An insightful, emotive, and tender story which will sweep your off your feet faster than Cinderella losing her shoe. An absolute pleasure to read.

Buy now from Amazon UK

Buy now from Amazon US

About the author.

Jessica had never considered writing as a career until a former manager kept telling her that her business reports read more like stories and she should write a book. She loved writing but had no plot ideas. Then something happened to her that prompted the premise for her debut novel, Searching for Steven. She put fingers to keyboard and soon realised she had a trilogy and a novella.

She lives on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast — the inspiration for the settings in her books — with her husband, daughter, cat, Sprocker Spaniel, and an ever-growing collection of collectible teddy bears. Although if the dog has her way, the collection will be reduced to a pile of stuffing and chewed limbs!

Her passion for North Yorkshire is shared by fellow-writer and great friend, Sharon Booth and, together, they are the Yorkshire Rose Writers.

Jessica tries to balance her time — often unsuccessfully — between being an HR tutor, trying to re-learn how to play the piano, studying towards a Masters in Creative Writing, and writing itself. Who needs sleep?

Social Media Links – 

Twitter:@JessicaRedland

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

Website and blog:www.jessicaredland.com

#BlogTour! #Review – I’m Glad I Found You This Christmas by C.P.Ward (@imgladifoundyo1) @rararesources

Another Christmas book for you all this evening, as I kick off the blog tour for it! I am so excited to be sharing my review of C.P.Ward’s ‘I’m Glad I Found You This Christmas’. Huge thanks to RaRaResources for the blog tour invite and ARC. Here is my review:



Maggie Coates is frustrated. Her longterm boyfriend, Dirk, recently moved to London to take a job she fears puts him out of her league. Despite the assurances of her best friend Renee, Maggie is convinced Dirk is slowly drifting away. All Maggie wants is to get married and settle down, but maybe Dirk has other ideas.

Convinced by Renee to make one last throw of the dice, Maggie books a romantic holiday for two in the quaint Scottish village of Hollydell. But will Dirk show up?

And if he doesn’t, what if there is a perfect man waiting for her among the Christmas magic of Hollydell’s snow-laden streets? What if Henry, the humble reindeer farmer with the kind smile, turns out to be the man of Maggie’s dreams?

What does TWG think?

If this doesn’t get you singing Christmas songs at the top of your voice, then I don’t know what will!! Why oh why is this C.P.Ward’s first and only Christmas book?!?! I am literally BEGGING for another one next year. Seriously.

Maggie’s boyfriend is an absolute CACTUS! As far as she is concerned, they’re still in a relationship, even though he always seems to find an excuse to not pick up the phone or make an effort to meet her. After multiple heart to hearts with her best friend, Renee, Maggie decides to whisk Mr Cactus away to Hollydell. I say ‘whisk’…he said he would follow her up there. But the thought was there nonetheless.

I did feel for Maggie as she clearly wanted to keep her relationship going despite the bright warning signs overhead – the poor thing couldn’t help but worry as she didn’t want to be let down. Who can blame her?

Wow….Hollydell. The only way I can describe it is – you know the Christmas movies on TV? You know the ones which are shown on a dedicated Christmas channel on Sky? Well, Hollydell reminded me of one of those movies where the magic was rife, the romance was beautifully done yet addictively cheesy, and the Christmas spirit was so over the top that you would have been a fool not to join in. I’m sure you know the ones I’m on about as they’re shown every single year, and every single year we all cosy up watching them, losing ourselves in the magic that is Christmas.

I felt like a big kid reading this book. There’s reindeer, snow, Christmas songs, festive feasts, snowmen, Christmas lights. Everything! I couldn’t get over how much detail the author put into his storyline, making the characters and Hollydell come alive in the blink of an eye. I adored how everyone came together whether they knew each other or not, helping them when things were tough or they had had a few too many mulled wines. You know, usual stuff.

I lost myself in this book and I would lose myself in it again in a heartbeat. Why C.P.Ward hasn’t written a Christmas book before now, I don’t know, but I really do hope that he continues to do them for adults….and maybe even children.

Never mind ‘I’m Glad I Found You This Christmas’, I’m Glad I Found this book this christmas!!! Such a beautiful, majestic, enchanting read which made me want to Rock Around the Christmas Tree on a not so Silent Night, singing Jingle Bells at the top of my voice. Hell, if Christmas was just like it was in this book, I would even go as far to say that ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. I adored this book!!

Purchase Links 

Buy from Amazon US

UK – Buy from Amazon UK

Author Bio

CP Ward is a writer from the UK who currently lives and works in Japan. This is his first Christmas book.

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Giveaway – Win 10 x e-copies for I’m Glad I Found You This Christmas (Open Internationally)

 

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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#BlogBlitz! #Review – The Last Lullaby by Carol Wyer (@carolewyer) @Bookouture

Third and final day of Carol Wyer’s blog blitz is upon us, and I am delighted to be one of the three bloggers closing the blitz. Huge thanks to Bookouture for the blitz invite and the ARC. Here is my review:

Charlotte’s baby is safe. But is she?

When the body of mother Charlotte Brannon is discovered by her husband Adam, in their bedroom, Detective Natalie Ward is first on the scene. The killer has left a chilling calling card: The word ‘Why?’ written on the wall in blood. 

As Natalie begins to delve deeper into the couple’s lives, she discovers that Adam has a dark past he’s been hiding and she’s sure that the Brannon’s teenage babysitter Inge has secrets of her own.

Then another mother is murdered on her doorstep in front of her young son, the word ‘why’ scrawled on the wall next to her. 

All the key suspects have alibis and with her own marriage hanging by a thread, Natalie is struggling to stay focused on cracking her toughest case yet.

When a young woman and her baby disappear, a member of Natalie’s own team is put in terrible danger. Can Natalie stop this twisted serial killer and save one of her own before more families are torn apart forever?

What does TWG think?

Oh my -insert expletive beginning with F here- goodness!!!!!! What a book! OMG! I finished reading Carol Wyer’s latest literary brilliance in the early hours of the morning, and can I just say that I am extremely glad that I do not read blurbs! I only read the blurb after I had read the book and the things which had my jaw dropping, were written in it. Not all of them mind. So, if you trust my judgement on books, read this novel without reading the blurb.

Anyway, that’s my insight on that and is in no way a reflection of my opinion on the book at all.

I do say this a lot where Wyer’s books are concerned, but ‘The Last Lullaby’ is by far her best book yet. The intensity of the storyline was impeccable, along with the calculated brilliance of each individual character. If I know that there is a possibility of children being part of a thriller storyline, I am always filled with dread until I know that they’re not in the firing line so to speak – ‘The Last Lullaby’ was no different. My heart was in mouth from the onset. That sounds like I didn’t care about the victims in the book even though I did, but it’s children….you know?

I couldn’t get over how cleverly written the storyline was from start to finish – it was as though the book kept on giving shocking moments with every new chapter. Just like most police procedurals/thrillers, there is usually a few characters with fingers being pointed at them from the start, and the same happened here. I tried to look at the bigger picture but I couldn’t help but lean towards one character already in the firing line. Everything just seemed….convincing, if you catch my drift. They certainly didn’t help themselves against Natalie award though, that’s for sure!

I won’t say who I thought was ‘the one’ due to spoilers, but let’s just say that Wyer had me utterly convinced I was bang on the money…..until the moment I wasn’t. Geeeeez – did I see that coming? Did I fudge!!!! There was a point in the book where my heart rate quickened and my mouth became dry. Would they reach the bastard in time? Time wasn’t on Natalie Ward and her teams side and my legs were wiggling, urging them to move their backsides! It’s easy for me to say that, obviously, I’m not a police officer who has to follow procedure!

‘The Last Lullaby’ was absolutely brilliant – an ice cold, cut throat, highly intense read which made me lose my own capability of thinking clearly. The characters were chilling yet perfectly crafted and, whilst it feels weird to say this, even the ‘whodunnit dude’ was outstanding! Their actions weren’t, obviously, but the way Wyer created their mindset and thought process was incredible. I can’t even begin to imagine the extent of the research that went into creating that character and the situation they found themselves in.

What an absolute belter of a read this is – could someone point me in the direction of Carol Wyer Anonymous please as I’m addicted!!

Buy now!

About the author.

Carol E. Wyer, who also writes as Carol Wyer, is an award-winning author and stand up comedian who writes feel-good comedies and gripping thrillers.
Her book, Grumpy Old Menopause won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction 2015.

The DI Robyn Carter series has earned her acclaim as a crime writer and the first book in the series, Little Girl Lost, shot to the #2 best-selling spot on Kindle #9 best-selling audiobook on Audible, and was also a USA Today top 150 best-seller.

Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ”Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’ featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and the Huffington Post.

#BlogTour! #Review – Christmas Miracles at the Little Log Cabin by Helen Rolfe (@helenjrolfe) @rararesources

Apologies for how late in the day this is, because of internet issues the most of November, I’ve only just been able to read this book and have literally just finished it. Many thanks to RaRaResources for the blog tour invite and ARC. Here is my review:

Do you believe in Christmas Miracles?

Holly is looking for a change and even though not everyone agrees with her career choices, she’s determined there’s more to this life than the long hours she works as an editor in New York City. What she doesn’t expect is to meet Mitch, a recluse who’s hiding more than she realises. 

Mitch does all he can to avoid human contact, spending his days in the little log cabin out in the woods behind Inglenook Falls where he owns a Christmas tree farm, so when Holly falls into his life, he’s not sure how to react. All he knows is that something needs to change if he ever wants to get his life back on track. 

Along with friends Cleo and Darcy, Holly is determined to bring joy back to Mitch’s life, but will he appreciate their interference? And when a business proposition throws everything up in the air, will it do more harm than good and ruin lives forever? 

Both Holly and Mitch must learn that on the surface people aren’t always what they seem…but if you dig a little deeper, they can take you by surprise.

What does TWG think?

My namesake is baaacckkk!! Not even joking – there’s a character called ‘Kaisha’ in this book and I LOVE it! This character appeared for the first time in a previous book in the series, so my excitement certainly piqued when I saw her make a comeback in this one.

I adore Helen Rolfe’s novels as they’re always so tenderly written and full of such warmth; ‘Christmas Miracles at the Little Log Cabin’ was no different, although I will have to admit that I did struggle with elements of the book.

Whilst the storyline was very poignant regarding first impressions, assumptions, and looking further than a persons exterior, for me there was a lot of information given without many decisions of where it should go. I enjoyed reading about Holly’s journey, especially where Mitch was concerned, but I did feel as though it was missing a bit of magic that usually comes along with this author’s style.

Don’t get me wrong at all, I thought that the message within the storyline itself, is one that a lot of people should take heed of sooner rather than later, and I loved seeing different characters popping up from previous books in the series. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the book because I did – I cannot fault Helen Rolfe on her huggable writing style and the way she brings communities together with minimal effort.

For me personally, I needed that extra spark that was all. However, ‘Christmas Miracles at the Little Log Cabin’ still is such a powerful and tender novel which highlights the true meaning of Christmas absolutely beautifully. It was such a joy to be wrapped up in Helen Rolfe’s magnetic words once again.

Buy now from Amazon UK

Buy now from Amazon US

About the author.

 Helen J Rolfe writes contemporary women’s fiction and enjoys weaving stories about family, friendship, secrets, and community. Characters often face challenges and must fight to overcome them, but above all, Helen’s stories always have a happy ending. 

Location is a big part of the adventure in Helen’s books and she enjoys setting stories in different cities and countries around the world. So far, locations have included Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Connecticut, Bath and the Cotswolds.

Social Media Links – 

https://www.facebook.com/helenjrolfewriter

https://twitter.com/HJRolfe

www.helenjrolfe.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/helen-j-rolfe

#BlogTour! #Review – Into the Night by Sarah Bailey (@sarahbailey1982) @corvusbooks @annecater

Today is the final day on the #IntoTheNight blog tour, and I am delighted to be able to close the tour alongside my blogging pal, @noveldeelights! Many thanks to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite, and many thanks to Corvus for the ARC. Here is my review:

Senior Detective Gemma Woodstock is a small-town policewoman working on the biggest homicide cases in Melbourne. When an up-and-coming movie star is stabbed to death while the cameras are rolling on his new blockbuster, Gemma, eager to prove herself, is assigned to the case.

 With the whole thing caught from multiple angles, how hard can it be to catch the crazed culprit? And who would want to hurt Australia’s adored boy-next-door? As Gemma uncovers the deadly underside of fame, her investigation turns into a dangerous game against those with money, power and everything to lose…

 

What does TWG think?

‘Into the Night’ is the second book in the series which follows senior detective, Gemma Woodstock. I haven’t yet read the first book, The Dark Lake, but I felt quite able to read this instalment on its own to an extent. I would recommend reading the first book so that events and timelines are a lot clearer. I wish I had done that, I must admit! My error though.

As a huge fan of Australia, the setting of this book definitely got me all excited! I haven’t even been to the country before either! Gemma Woodstock is a very interesting character to follow because she seems to hold her cards very close to her chest, which often meant I was second guessing her views and train of thought. Not a negative thing by any means. The fact she was interesting and unique, piqued my interest as well as heightening my paranoia ready for the events that would follow later on.

Sarah Bailey is a very atmospheric writer and, whilst the storyline didn’t blow me off my feet per se, I did enjoy the questionable circumstances and the way the author had me on edge due to the every growing intensity.

A new author for me, but one I will definitely be reading more of.

Buy now!