blog tour · book blogger · Book Review

#Tour! #Review of Secret & Fries at the #StarlightDiner – Helen Cox @Helenography @Avonbooksuk


Absolutely thrilled to be today’s stop on the blog tour for Helen Cox and her newest release; ‘Secrets & Fries at the Starlight Diner’! This book is the second book in the Starlight Diner series and was released by Avon Books UK on the 16th December 2016! I haven’t read the first book (yet), but luckily I didn’t need to read it first to make sense of the story. It does now mean that I will be buying it and reading it ASAP thanks to this book! Today I have an excerpt from the book as well as my review. Hope you enjoy!


What brings Bonnie Brooks to The Starlight Diner? And why is she on the run?

As the front-woman in a band, Bonnie is used to being in the spotlight, but now she must hide in the shadows.

Bonnie only has one person who she can turn to: her friend Esther Knight, who waitresses at the Fifties-themed diner. There, retro songs play on the jukebox as fries and sundaes are served to satisfied customers. But where has Esther gone?

Alone in New York City, Bonnie breaks down in front of arrogant news reporter, and diner regular, Jimmy Boyle. Jimmy offers to help her. Can she trust him?

When the kindly owner of the Starlight Diner offers Bonnie work, and she meets charming security officer Nick Moloney, she dares to hope that her luck has changed. Is there a blossoming romance on the cards? And can Bonnie rebuild her life with the help of her Starlight Diner friends?

What does TWG think?

I need to admit something! Before I began reading Helen’s new book, I assumed that it would be a candyfloss style read. I don’t read blurbs you see, so I try to guess the book by the cover. It is safe to say that my guess was way, WAY off with this one.

Bonnie is definitely a character to remember. She’s quirky, bolshy and isn’t afraid to ensure that she’s noticed. However, things aren’t as they seem and soon enough, Bonnie lands herself in a bit of hot water at the diner she just happened to ‘stumble’ across. Seeing as I assumed that the storyline would be more candyfloss than pancakes and syrup, I had no expectations of the storyline itself. When Bonnie appeared in the diner trying to find her friend, it didn’t take me long to work out that this book would have more sustenance than even pancakes and syrup!

Every chapter seemed to unearth yet another quizzical circumstance and leave me with unanswered questions. More characters appeared on the scene and took the book up another notch, whilst still leaving a lot of boxes unticked. I had no idea where the storyline was headed but I was super excited to find out!

As well as a FABULOUS book soundtrack that you may find yourself singing along to whilst you read, Helen has laced the entire book with on point humour and dry one liners. Absolutely brilliant.

Secrets and Fries was definitely a book that kept on giving and I was pretty disappointed when it ended. Every single character added to the ambience of the diner (and the storyline) in their own unique ways, making the unfolding storyline even more of a surprise.

I wouldn’t have minded if this book had a candyfloss feel to it (sweet, fluffy) don’t get me wrong, but I am rather pleased that I ended up wrong with my guess and that the Starlight Diner just kept on surprising me.

Full of songs to job your memory, food to tickle your tastebuds, humour to knock your funny bone and a superb, gripping storyline, what more could anyone want? I really do hope that we get to visit the Starlight Diner again, I am already having withdrawal symptoms! A must read by the fabulous Helen Cox.

Thank you Avon Books UK.

Secrets & Fries at the Starlight Diner is available to buy now in e-book from Amazon UK.
If my review hasn’t convinced you enough, here is an excerpt in case you need a smidge more convincing:

Excerpt of Secrets & Fries at the Starlight Diner by Helen Cox.

Even in my sleep I wasn’t safe from those vacant eyes, the colour of copper. Once again, they had stared at me out of the darkness, all the memories and hopes sieved out of them. Drained out of the bullet hole punched through his right temple.

I whimpered and my body slackened in Jimmy’s grasp. My heart was still hammering at the thought of what I’d just relived.

What I’d witnessed four nights ago.

Even now, the gunshot still echoed in my ears.

‘I’m so sorry,’ was all I could think of to say to Jimmy, who was crouching in front of me, his hands still resting on my arms.

‘For what?’ he shook his head.

‘Just, everything,’ I croaked. ‘For waking you up. For being a wreck. God…’ I put a hand over my mouth to hold in the disturbing truth loitering on the tip of my tongue.

‘I’ve seen worse.’ A soft smile displaced the hard lines on Jimmy’s face. I took in a deep breath, and then another, realising there was a hint of mandarin in the atmosphere and that it was coming from Jimmy. He’d showered off all of that musty cologne before going to bed. Now he just smelled fruity. And soapy.

‘You gonna tell me what’s goin’ on here?’ Jimmy stared at me.

I swallowed hard. But didn’t say anything. If I did, it could mean his life.

‘Nowhere to go. Nightmares. A makeover from the beauty school of Cyndi Lauper. You’re clearly in some kinda trouble. Don’t need to be good at reading people to see that.’ Jimmy scratched his head. ‘Maybe I can help… Who’s Frankie?’

I started and looked back into his brown eyes. Neat. I couldn’t even keep my trap shut while I was asleep. He moved from his crouching position and sat on the arm of the sofa I’d been sleeping on. It was upholstered in fabric the shade of chewy caramel, but wasn’t nearly as soft as it promised to be. Still, it was better than the sidewalk or a park bench, which is right where I’d be without Jimmy.

I sat up properly, but kept my feet covered with the yellow sheets and stared up again at the map of New York State hanging on his wall.

Perhaps confiding in Jimmy would make me feel better. He was a reporter. He probably had connections. But what if he told me to go to the cops about my situation? I’d already tried that back in Atlantic City, and had nearly died doing it. If I didn’t go to the police myself, maybe Jimmy would and I didn’t know for sure how far Frankie’s influence stretched. It could be limited to Atlantic City, but I doubted it. He’d been around long enough. I had to assume he had informants on this side of the Hudson.

Peeling my eyes away from Jimmy’s wall art, I looked over at him.

‘Don’t take this the wrong way or nothing, but I can’t tell you what’s going on.

There is somethin’, obviously, but I really can’t say what it is,’ I said, running my fingers through my hair and straightening out a knot I found in the back. Flattening it down as best I could.

‘You don’t trust me.’ Jimmy lowered his gaze down to the lime-green carpet, which seemed to line the floors of every room in the whole apartment, save the kitchen area behind the sofa where he’d had wood-effect lino fitted.

‘It’s not that. If I tell you, it could be dangerous. It’s better you don’t know.’

‘Maybe you oughta let me worry about myself,’ he said staring back at me.

can’t risk it,’ I shook my head and looked down at my fingernails. They were painted with black nail polish that was chipped to hell from strumming my guitar.

For once Jimmy didn’t have some wisecrack to make but I heard him sigh and could see him shaking his head out of the corner of my eye.

I had to get him off this subject quick.

‘You got a record player?’ I asked, tilting my head to one side. He paused, frowning at the question.

‘Yeah I got a record player, I’m not a caveman.’ He reached a hand down to Louie who’d been whining off and on and gave the short fur on his head a ruffle.

‘Mind if I play a record or two?’

Jimmy squinted his eyes just enough at the corners to let me know he was well aware I was trying to throw him off the scent. Then he looked at his watch, which I guess never left his wrist since he’d just jumped out of bed. ‘It’s three in the morning.’

‘Music always makes me feel better,’ I said, with a small pout to my lips. Something about the way I did it must’ve amused Jimmy because a smug smile came over his lips.

‘Alright,’ he replied.

Pushing aside the sheets, I stood in my purple plaid nightshirt and walked barefoot over to the corner with the lamp where I’d left my suitcase about three hours ago. Louie scampered over to join me and I gave him a quick pat whilst kneeling to open the clasp on my luggage. Lifting the lid, I pushed aside the sweater dresses and T-shirts I’d thrown in before bolting for Atlantic City bus station. Underneath my toothbrush and my notebook, where I wrote down all the song lyrics I never shared with anyone, was a small pile of 45s. A modest selection of the best records from the last three decades.

I felt the heat of Jimmy’s breath on my neck as he squatted down near me. He was looking over my right shoulder and goosebumps pushed up through my skin at the thought of him being that close. It’d been too long since I’d had a guy that close to me. For the last few years my major concern had been making enough money to pay rent. But showing my parents I could make it on my own had been harder than I’d thought it would be and as a result my love life had been sort of on the back-burner.

‘That’s what you choose to pack in an emergency? Records?’ said Jimmy, waving a hand at my suitcase.

‘Yeah, just the essentials,’ I said, turning in his direction and trying again to look at his face rather than his chest.

‘Any good ones?’

‘Only the best ones.’ I made a show of looking insulted.

‘Alright, let’s hear one.’

‘Hmm. This one.’ I passed him a record in an orange sleeve. He took it and held it close to his face to read in the dim light.

‘“Concrete & Clay” by Unit 4 + 2.’ He shook his head at me. ‘Never heard of it.’

‘Then you’ve never heard really great music.’ I smiled. ‘Play it.’

With a shrug, Jimmy walked over to a small nook near the TV I hadn’t spotted before. It was stacked up high with old, folded newspapers but once they were lifted away a small music centre appeared underneath, complete with a record deck on top. Jimmy blew the dust off it and set the record in place. I walked over to the window and drew back the orange curtains, gazing down to the empty Brooklyn street four storeys below. Tinged yellow by the streetlamps, from this angle the world outside was a jigsaw of fire escape ladders, blacked out windows and water hydrants.

There was nobody out there. Not that I could see, anyway.

The scratch of the record sounded out, followed by the metallic chime of a cymbal right before the sprightly rhythm kicked in. I turned back to face the room and leaned with my back against the wall, running my fingertips over the cheap woodchip. Closing my eyes, I let the music surround me and at the sound of Tommy Moeller’s rich, smooth voice, my shoulders loosened, the tension bleeding out of me.

As the first chorus played out, Jimmy said, ‘That is a good record.’

I opened my eyes. Jimmy stood a few paces away at the record player. Still shirtless, and apparently confident enough about his body not to think about it. Still, he looked, to me, somehow vulnerable in his part-unclothed state. So much softer than I’d first thought him in the diner, when he was making suggestive comments and ogling everything south of my chin.

book blogger · cover reveal · real life

#CoverReveal! Secret & Fries at the Starlight Diner by Helen Cox (@helenography) @HQDigitalUK

Author of the tantalizing ‘Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner, Helen Cox, returns with the next book in the series! -dances-. If you fancy spending New Year in NYC (via a book), you’re going to LOVE this. I have been asked to help reveal the STUNNING cover of Helen’s new book, so, without further ado I bring you……

Secrets & Fries at the Starlight Diner!!

What brings Bonnie Brooks to The Starlight Diner? And why is she on the run?

As the front-woman in a band, Bonnie is used to being in the spotlight, but now she must hide in the shadows.

Bonnie only has one person who she can turn to: her friend Esther Knight, who waitresses at the Fifties-themed diner. There, retro songs play on the jukebox as fries and sundaes are served to satisfied customers. But where has Esther gone?

Alone in New York City, Bonnie breaks down in front of arrogant news reporter, and diner regular, Jimmy Boyle. Jimmy offers to help her. Can she trust him?

When the kindly owner of the Starlight Diner offers Bonnie work, and she meets charming security officer Nick Moloney, she dares to hope that her luck has changed. Is there a blossoming romance on the cards? And can Bonnie rebuild her life with the help of her Starlight Diner friends?

Luckily you won’t have too long to wait to get back to Starlight Diner as it will be released on the 16th December! Nice little Christmas present to yourself eh! Secrets & Fries at the Starlight Diner is available to pre-order right now from Amazon UK

blog tour · book blogger · guest spotlight · Uncategorized

‘Mr Sandman, bring me a dream..’ Author Helen Cox got her dream as it’s PUBLICATION DAY! *Blog Tour*

You heard right, it’s publication day today for Helen Cox and her debut novel ‘Milkshakes & Heartbreak at the Starlight Diner’! TWG would like to say a HUGE congratulations to Helen as I know how hard she has been working to get to this moment!

I am honoured to be kicking off Helen’s blog tour today, so let’s get started shall we? I don’t know about you, but I fancy a milkshake, in a diner, with a classic jukebox. Where can I find that I wonder…..

diner 1

‘Esther Knight is sharp, sarcastic – and hiding something. She waitresses at The Starlight Diner: a retro eatery where Fifties tunes stream out of the jukebox long into the night, and the tastiest milkshakes in New York are served.
Nobody at the diner knows why Esther left London for America – or why she repeatedly resists the charms of their newest regular, actor Jack Faber.
Esther is desperate to start a new life in the land of the free, but despite the warm welcome from the close-knit diner crowd, something from her past is holding her back. Can she ever learn to love and live again?
Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner is a witty, romantic, New York-inspired novel.’

Well that was rather handy wasn’t it? 😉
 To get your own milkshake fix at the Starlight Diner, whenever you want, head over to Amazon UK, and your copy will be with you quicker than a shake of a tail feather!

Helen Cox has written a guest post especially for us here at TWG. I suppose I had better stop rambling and hand you over to the lady herself!

My Book Deal Moment by Helen Cox.

It was mid-December and after six solid months of receiving rejection emails on an almost daily basis, I’d resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to land either an agent or a publishing deal by the close of 2015.
Yes, I’d poured my heart into that first novel and, yes, I’d had the same bright-eyed hope that all aspiring authors have that somebody would recognise what I was trying to ‘do’ with the story, but nobody had. So, it was time to stop moaning about it on my Twitter feed, binge on festive treats and start novel two in January.

Or so I thought.

Whilst I was on the phone to our Mam one December evening however, a life-changing email popped up in my inbox.
‘Mam!’ I interrupted her mid-monologue about the arrangements for Christmas dinner. ‘I’ve just had an email through from HarperCollins. They’re saying… they’re saying they want to publish my novel.’
Though I said the words out loud, something about that sentence didn’t sound right to me. For a moment there was only silence from the other end of the line and then Mam asked: ‘Are you sure it’s not a scam email?’

‘What?’ I shook my head but checked for any scam-like signs before replying: ‘No, Mam. It’s real. It’s definitely from HarperCollins.’
‘I can’t believe it.’ said Mam.
‘Thanks.’ I replied in the flattest of all possible tones. ‘Oh my God, they’re talking about publishing a Starlight Diner series!’
‘Have you got enough in your brain for that?’ Mam asked.
‘Yes Mother,’ I replied. Grateful that even if I did become blindingly famous off the back of my first novel my straight-talking Yorkshire parents would make sure I was kept well and truly down to earth.

‘Hang on,’ said Mam. ‘Your Dad’s just come in from work. Tell ‘im.’
There was a scuffling sound whilst the phone was handed over.
‘Hello? Hello?’ Dad said at last, checking their shilly-shallying hadn’t disconnected the call, a trick they’d managed on more than one occasion.
‘Hi Dad, I’ve just had an email from the publishers, HarperCollins. They’re saying they want to publish my novel.’
‘Are HarperCollins big like?’ Came Dad’s response.
‘Yes,’ I replied, deflated and slipping into full stroppy teenager mode at the age of thirty-four. ‘They’re like, one of the biggest publishers out there.’
‘Oh, well I’m ignorant,’ Dad admitted. ‘But that’s good news. Well done.’ 

How did this oh-so-glamorous moment happen if I didn’t even have an agent? Well, in short, by getting my manuscript in front of people who worked in publishing and believed in my writing. I was lucky enough to know Gigi Woolstencroft who once worked at HarperCollins. She read my manuscript and recommended it to Helena Sheffield at the Avon Books imprint who in turn believed in it enough to share it with commissioning editor Natasha Harding.

I thought, at best, I’d get a polite ‘thanks but no thanks’ email with perhaps some hints as to why my work was being rejected. Instead, I later found out that Helena had been taking my novel around the office saying ‘you have to read this, you just have to.’

Though there was only about a six month wait between finishing my first draft and securing a publishing contract, my experience shouldn’t be looked upon as an over-night success story. Yes, six months after I moved to writing fiction I was fortunate enough to have an offer of publication but those six months were preceded by a decade of working all hours to establish myself as a writer. I wrote for advertising companies, websites, blogs and newspapers. I even established my own film magazine which I edited for five years. I self-published a couple of non-fiction volumes and had a non-fiction book published by The History Press. Much of this was achieved alongside a full-time teaching job.

On top of that, the rejection process was tough, as I believe it is for any writer. Six months of daily rejection emails is still a lot of rejection to deal with. I’d experienced less rejection at school discos, and I was a 14 year-old Star Wars enthusiast who liked her food a bit more than she should.

Still, I kept showing my work to people because I believed in it and, based on the experience I’ve had, I’d encourage other aspiring authors to do the same. Maybe in the short-term all you’ll get is some feedback on your work. But if you act on that feedback, if you keep honing what you’ve written and keep submitting to contests, publishers and agents the likelihood is at some point your story will wind up on the desk of the right person. Dozens of agents read my work before Gigi, Helena and Natasha and if a book deal can happen for me this way, it can happen to anyone else just the same.

Thank you for such a great post! If you’re an aspiring writer or author, then this post is definitely one to keep in your mind.

You can keep up to date with Helen and her ‘Starlight Diner’ series via: