BOOK REVIEW: Take a Chance on Me by Carol Wyer

Carol Wyer is the author of many romantic comedies including Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines, Life Swap and Surfing In Stilettos. Her latest novel, Take A Chance on Me , was released last Friday and is a fantastic read!

The novel was previously named The Woman Who Lost Her Mojo, so some readers may be familiar with the novel (I received a copy of the book on Netgalley under its former title). Personally, I love both the titles, and the cover is lovely too!

Charlie is nearing forty, and has been single for some time. Working at a hospital radio station has kept her happy and busy since the breakup of her marriage. Not only is Charlie divorced, but she also lost her daughter in an accident years before, resulting in Charlie finding it difficult to move on. And her situation is made worse when her ex-husband, who is still a close friend, announces some happy news of his own.

If he can move on, then surely Charlie can too?

Charlie confides in her best friend Mercedes. At a gathering at her house, tipsy Mercedes has an idea - to create 'carpe diem' lists. Charlie and Mercedes must write down a list of things they want to achieve before they die. However, there's a twist to the drunken pact - both ladies must swap the list and carry out each other's challenges.

Although very happy in life, wheelchair-bound Mercedes has a number of tasks that she's physically unable to do - so Charlie will be carrying them out for her. The first being belly dancing!

As Charlie works her way through her bucket list,  each task brings her closer to the possibility of a promising new life. Especially when there's some unexpected romance on the cards...

Take a Chance on Me is a beautiful, heartwarming story. It focuses on overcoming grief, and the heartache that can be caused when it's sometimes tough to move on. However, Charlie's challenges, her friends, and the carpe diem list provide some wonderful moments (and not to mention humour!) I don't want to spoil the story, so I won't mention more of the challenges here, but this book is also inspiring. After reading it, I wanted to a list of my own to complete.

If you are in search of a warm, uplifting and funny novel, Take a Chance on Me will not disappoint.

Rating: 5/5

BOOK NEWS: Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely

Next month sees the release of Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely which focuses on the relationship between a mother and daughter, trust, and online dangers. Saving Phoebe Murrow is Herta's debut novel.

Have you ever tried to be the perfect mother? Isabel, a DC lawyer, does everything she can to keep Phoebe from harm, but fails when the mysterious Shane appears on Facebook and flirts with her teenage daughter.

A story about the timeless struggle between mothers and their teen daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist. This heart-wrenching, harrowing debut novel for fans of Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty) and Reconstructing Amelia (Kimberly McCreight) will make you question what's needed to keep your children from harm. Phoebe's mother, Isabel, is precariously balancing her career and her family.

Hard-working and caring, worried but supportive, all Isabel wants, in a world of bullies and temptations, is to keep her daughter Phoebe safe. With her busy schedule, though, she fails to recognize another mother's mounting fury and the danger Phoebe faces by flirting with a mysterious boy on Facebook. A cyber-bullying episode aimed at Phoebe pushes her to the edge with horrific consequences. In her search for justice, Isabel, a DC lawyer, sets out to find the culprit behind this cruel incident.

Saving Phoebe Murrow, set amidst the complicated web of adolescent relationships, tells a story of miscommunication and malice, drugs and Facebook, prejudice and revenge.

BOOKISH TREATS: Jewellery for literature lovers

For those of you who like to show off their love for books in jewelery form (or if you're in search of a gift for someone who does!) then here's a selection of cute, bookish accessories.

Stack of Books Earrings (Etsy store Coryographies also sell some adorable themed bookcase necklaces).


Carol Wyer's new book Take a Chance on Me is released today, and it's a fantastic read! The novel focuses on Charlie who, after finding herself single and feeling low, embarks on a life to-do list with the help of her friends. Carol has stopped by for a Q&A about the novel, the inspiration behind it, and what she's up to next...

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Charlie’s lost her zest for life but a crazy ‘Carpe Diem’ list will transform it.

What inspired you to write Take A Chance On Me?
In my late teens I spent thirteen weeks in hospital thanks to spinal difficulties. Hospital radio was the only thing that kept me sane at the time as I was flat on my back, unable to move. That gave me the kernel of an idea for the setting of the book.

The story is one of loss, love, and friendship, and of course, about seizing the moment.

After major surgery on my spine and again in my twenties, I was told I would always have problems, especially as I aged. I made a conscious decision to live my life just as I wanted – I have quad biked up mountain paths, driven a 4X4 over glaciers in Iceland, learned to kick box, flown helicopters, scuba dived and dived with sharks, and much more and although my spine is degenerating badly now and I can’t move or walk very easily, I have the knowledge that I managed to do and enjoy many things in life. I wanted to share that message that no matter how bad life seems you can make it better.

Where do you do most of your writing?
Either in what I call my garret, which is a room in my house with no windows, only a skylight. That way I don’t get distracted by the view or what is happening outside. I chew through endless packets of sweets and type. However, I also write in the garden of a little gite—a pigeonier—part of a small working farm, in France. We go there every year. It is in the middle of nowhere and is where I plan and write my plots by hand in a notebook. Yes, I write it all out in pencil first!

What is your favourite book? 
Candide by Voltaire. I studied it at Uni and it is the reason I write humour today.

Which part of Take A Chance On Me did you enjoy writing the most?
That’s a difficult question as I enjoyed writing it all but the scenes where Charlie does her challenges were the most fun, especially as I had to do the challenges myself to get a feel of them. The bellydancing scene was a laugh to do and I love some of the dialogue with Mercedes. I really liked her character. She has some great lines.

Who is your favourite literary heroine? 
I am a fan of Janet Evanovich’s books so it has to be Stephanie Plum, a female bounty hunter who’s a spunky combination of Nancy Drew and Dirty Harry.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
You need tenacity, patience and good luck. Don’t be in a hurry to get your work published. It is understandable that once you type “the end” you will want to see your book in print but you have work to do before that happens. Make sure a professional edits it and get beta readers to offer you suggestions before you submit. It will take months to get responses from publishers or agents so use that time to build up a social media profile or write your next book…then cross your fingers. Don’t give up!

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
Following a compilation of short stories that look at the “darker” side of love, called Love Hurts, I am embarking on a series of thrillers for Bookouture. I absolutely love writing them even though I manage to scare myself with what I write! The first will be published next January.

Thanks, Carol!

You can find out more about Carol Wyer and her novels at her website, Twitter and Facebook. She is also a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association.

Take a Chance on Me by Carol Wyer

When Charlie’s husband leaves after ten years of marriage, her spirits hit an all-time low. She just isn’t sure how to pick herself up again. So, best friend Mercedes makes it her mission to put a spring back in Charlie’s step with the perfect bucket list. 

As Charlie takes a chance and bungee jumps and belly dances her way through an array of adventures, her love life also begins to look up and she’s soon enjoying a few dates as a newly single woman. She begins to realise that finding romance, might not be so hard, especially when you’ve got someone like journalist Jake who has an adorable little boy and is very easy on the eye. 

But is Jake too good to be true? As Charlie’s challenges on the bucket list get bigger, so do her questions about Jake. Should she continue to hold out for the fairy-tale? Or should she take a chance on Jake and hope for a happy ending? 

BOOK NEWS: Playing FTSE by Penelope Jacobs

There are some great novels heading our way in November, one being Playing FTSE by Penelope Jacobs, in which ambitious Melanie finds herself falling for a colleague. Penelope Jacobs has worked in finance since 1998, and Playing FTSE is her debut novel.

When Melanie Collins joins an investment bank as a young graduate, she quickly discovers that femininity is an invaluable asset. But it must not be abused. She witnesses other women falling victim to office affairs and is determined to be taken seriously. In an industry where abilities are rewarded handsomely, she rises rapidly through the ranks. But her increased profile attracts the attention of a senior colleague and she is ill equipped to handle his advances. Balancing a demanding job with a confusing personal life proves difficult and soon their relationship threatens to jeopardise her career. As events move beyond control, her glamorous world becomes tainted by betrayal and bitterness. Set against London's financial markets, 'Playing FTSE' explores the dynamic of ambition, friendship and love in the City. A woman can reach the top, but at what price?

BOOK NEWS: The Dress by Jane L Rosen

The Dress is the gorgeous new novel by Jane L Rosen, which is due for release on 17th November. In the novel, the lives of nine women are transformed by the dress of the season...

Legend has it that every season there is one dress.

The dress that can make your career.

The dress to ignite a spark with that special someone,

The dress to utterly transform your life.

For Natalie who has sworn off men since her ex dumped her; for Sally Ann, the model who wears the dress for the first time on the catwalk, for Sophie who is creating her perfect imaginary life on social media to thousands of followers – for them and for others, life is about to change.

 And all because of their brush with the dress of the season, the perfect little black number that everyone wants to get their hands on…

GUEST POST - S.C. Stephens on Writing Relationships

Furious Rush is the newly-released novel from New York Times bestselling author S.C. Stephens, who also wrote 2015 novel Thoughtful. When it comes to writing relationships, S.C. Stephens certainly knows how, and today she's joined us to share some tips!

Writing relationships: how to make readers invested

Readers connect with characters they understand. If you make the characters as real as possible, and give them understandable, sympathetic reasons for everything they do, then fans will connect with them and cheer them on. They'll become more than characters to readers, they'll become friends, and everyone loves to see their friends overcome obstacles and succeed.

That goes back to my point about my characters becoming real to me. I invest so much in creating them to resemble what could be real people with real problems. It means so much to me when readers tell me that they love them, that they feel like they know them or they see a piece of themselves in them. Or even better—that they once dated someone like Kellan or Hayden. As an author, the most satisfying feeling I have is when a reader relates to my characters. It’s what drives me to continue dreaming and writing.

FURIOUS RUSH by S.C. Stephens 

For Mackenzie Cox, racing motorcycles is in her blood. Born into a family legacy, she's determined to show the world that she has inherited her father's talent in this male-dominated sport. The last thing Kenzie needs is to be antagonised by her rival team's newest rider, Hayden Hayes. Hayden, exceedingly arrogant and outrageously attractive, immediately gets under Kenzie's skin and she can't help but be distracted.

As Kenzie and Hayden push each other on the track, the electric energy between them off the track shifts into an intense - and strictly forbidden - attraction. The only rule between their two ultra-competitive teams is zero contact. Kenzie needs a win, and she also needs to stay away from Hayden. Unfortunately for her though, one thing has become all too clear: she can't.

Fuelled by passion, driven by desire, Hayden and Mackenzie both want to win more than anything else. Except for, maybe, each other. But anger, jealousy and extreme competitiveness aren't their only obstacles...

BOOK REVIEW: Who We Were Before by Leah Mercer

Who We Were Before is the new novel by Leah Mercer (who also writes romantic comedies under the name Talli Roland). Who We Were Before focuses on the life of married couple Zoe and Edward Morgan, as they try to come to terms with a shared tragedy.

Zoe and Edward have grown apart since the death of their two-year-old son Milo. Once happy, the tragedy has pulled them from one another so forcefully that they may not be able to repair their marriage. As a gift, Zoe's parents have arranged a weekend in Paris for the both of them to enjoy, which neither is looking forward to.

On the way, the pair get separated, leaving Edward with the hotel tickets and Zoe without her phone and purse, having to wander Paris in search of her husband. As Zoe and Edward navigate their trip, they're also forced to navigate their relationship, and try to come to terms with what has happened to their once idyllic family life.

The novel focuses on both Zoe and Edward, the chapters switching between characters and their lives both in the present, and the years previously, giving an insight into their relationship from the beginning, the highs, lows, and the problems they faced both before and after Milo's death. As the book continues and the pair struggle to find each other in the Paris evening, we learn more about the couple's struggles and the events that brought them to that very point.

Despite their troubles, Zoe and Edward are both likeable characters; individually flawed yet loving and determined, once, to make their family work. However, as things in life don't always go to plan, their growing family is ripped apart in an instant, leaving them to cope with heartache and loss. Their troubles are understandable and I found myself rooting for both of them from the start of the book, hoping that things would eventually work out.

I won't spoil the book for you, but Who We Were Before is a beautiful novel; gripping, yet very emotional, focusing on grief, loss, and the possibility of saving what was once to be a happy ending.

Rating: 5/5

BOOK REVIEW: The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter by Kate Winter

Rosie Potter wakes up dead. Seems nonsensical, but Rosie's predicament is exactly that. Rosie wakes from what she thinks in a terrible hangover to find that she's no longer living - she's a ghost, hanging around in the afterlife, it seems. Just how she got there, and why she's still able to wander freely round her village, are mysteries that Rosie is determined to solve.

Rosie has her suspicions about what happened to her and who did it, but solving the case of her death is proving more difficult than she envisioned, especially when nobody can see her (which could be a good thing, given the PJs she's wearing). That is, until she finally finds someone who can see her - her brother's best friend. Who, it turns out, is much more lovely than she remembered in life. Could she be falling in love even after she's died?

I love fun chick-lit reads with a ghostly twist - Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor and Kitty French's Melody Bittersweet and the Girls' Ghostbusting Agency are among by favourites - which is what intrigued me about this novel. Granted, the premise does seem quite upsetting, and I was bracing myself for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster! And yes, it is emotional. After all, Rosie has to deal with the fact that she's leaving her friends, family and entire life behind, as well as trying to piece together the events which led to her death. Not only that, but she might just be falling for the only person in the world who can actually see her.

However, Rosie Potter is also a hilarious novel. It's impossible not to love Rosie, whose bright, bubbly personality draws you in from the beginning. It's a novel full of laughs, with Rosie's search for answers taking her all around her home village, uncovering many secrets. Her humour shines through despite her unfortunate predicament!

I had a feeling I would love this novel, but I wasn't prepared for how lovely a story this is. And the ending is perfect. Sad, but perfect.

The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter is a wonderful read; emotional, but also uplifting. Kate Winter's talent is evident in this novel and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in future.

Rating: 5/5

NEW RELEASES: The Girl I Was Before by Izzy Bayliss

The Girl I Was Before is the newly-released novel by Izzy Bayliss, in which Lily is faced with some big life changes when she catches her husband with another woman...

When Lily McDermott walks in to find Marc, her husband of just three months in bed with actress Nadia, life as she knows it is over. Lily thinks things can't get any worse when she sees photos of her husband and his new lover splashed across the glossy magazine pages, but when she loses her job too, she is at her lowest ebb and turns to baking to soothe her soul. 

Wounded and broken she has to try and pick herself up again with the help of her best friend Frankie and with her encouragement, Lily decides to turn her hobby into a business and sets up Baked With Love. However whatever Lily does, it seems disaster soon ensues and when handsome stranger Sam comes to her rescue, Lily isn't quite ready to turn her back on her marriage. 

Can Lily risk opening her heart again or is she destined to allow Marc to shadow her life forever? 


This week Lisa Marie Latino joins us for the weekly Q&A! Lisa is the author of new novel Ten Years Later, in which a young woman receives an invite to her ten-year high school reunion and is encouraged to make some life decisions. Ten Years Later is released on October 4th.

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Full of humor and surprising twists, Ten Years Later is the story of a daring young woman who decides to risk it all in pursuit of her dreams.

What inspired you to write Ten Years Later?
The year before my own ten year high school reunion, I was was hit with my own bouts of self-doubt.  However, as I opened up to others about my frustrations I realized that nearly everyone, no matter their age/sex/race/circumstance, was dealing with visions of what their life SHOULD be versus reality.  That theme really inspired me, and since I've always wanted to write a book anyway, I channeled that angst into TYL.  It was cool because as Carla was learning along the way, so was I, and I think everyone who reads it will learn something too!

Where do you do most of your writing?
When I journal, I can do it just about anywhere- my bedroom, office, even in the "Notes" section of my phone.  However, writing a book is an entirely different animal.  I had to close myself off from the world and immerse myself in my fictional world with no distractions-- very hard to do in today's world!  So what I did was tell everyone (family, friends, business associates) that I was going away on business (which wasn't entirely a lie!) and got a hotel room, like, around the corner from my house. For four or five days, all I would do literally do was write.  I did this five times over the course of a year and a half until the manuscript was done.

What is your favourite book?
There are way too many to name.  I love so much in the "chick lit" genre, but I also love autobiographies, especially in the sports world.

Which part of Ten Years Later did you enjoy writing the most?
I had the time of my life writing Ten Years Later, so I truly love every part.  My favorite "scene" has to be the New Year's Eve party.  Against a glitzy New York City backdrop, Carla was forced to confront a couple of her foes and, in the process, came into her own.  It was a major turning point for the character as well as the book.  It reads as a mini-movie and I smile every time I go back to read it.  

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
Carrie Bradshaw (but isn't she everyone's?) Charlize "Charlie" Edwards from A Total Waste of Makeup is a cool chick too.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
Just do it!  If you have an idea that you are crazy passionate about, carve out some time and put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, whatever your preference!)

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
Between the promotion of my debut novel, Ten Years Later, my production company and the online show we produce, Hip New Jersey, I am plenty busy.  After the dust settles down with TYL I definitely want to write another one but maybe in a "darker" voice.  Stay tuned!

Thanks, Lisa!

Ten Years Later by Lisa Marie Latino
When New Jersey-based sports radio producer Carla D'Agostino receives a save-the-date for her ten-year high school reunion, she is thrown into a tailspin. She is miserably single, living at home with her old-school Italian-American family, and miles away from her dream job as a sports talk radio host. She voices her discontent to her closest friends, the stunning Andrea, cheerful Katie, and playboy Dante, and they encourage Carla to stand up and fight for the life she wants. Inspired by their words, Carla sets her plans in motion. She enlists the help of a personal trainer, tapes a sports commentary demo with Dante for her unconventional WSPS boss Dan, and gets back into the dating game for the first time since her heart was broken by her first love. But the universe has different ideas for Carla than she has for herself, and she suffers setback after setback: Dan gives the afternoon host position to a Los Angeles import, and, worse yet, offers Dante a gig, which he accepts, much to Carla's hurt and dismay. More determined than ever, Carla continues to throw herself at life with gusto, and a series of surprises, both good and bad, lead her straight into the arms of a love that never really left. 

BOOK REVIEW: Catch 26 by Carol Prisant

What if you had the opportunity to live life all over again, just the way you wanted it? In Catch 26, the new novel by Carol Prisant, one woman is given the chance to have the life she dreamed of - that is, if she makes a deal with the devil.

Frannie Turner is a housewife in a loveless marriage. At sixty-six, she has become even more conscious of herself; her ageing body, her uninterested husband, and the fact that her dream of having children never came true. Having never worked or had a career, art lover Frannie is facing the reality that her life has become dull, and worse still, lonely.

When her friend recommends a brand new salon in town, Frannie shows up for her appointment, thinking a new hairdo will at least give her a little pleasure. As it happens, she gets more than she bargained for when she meets the beautiful - almost inhuman - stylist Randi. After Randi explains that she is an assistant to the devil and that she can grant Frannie whatever she desires, Frannie's understandably hesitant.  Beauty, youth, sex, immortality - it's Frannie's for the taking. Under one condition - that she signs away her soul.

Thinking she has nothing to lose, Frannie signs up, and soon she finds herself a new woman. Well, almost. She's still Frannie, but in the body of a model-perfect twenty-six year old. There is, however, one catch - she must either find true love or get pregnant within a year, or her soul is doomed to hell for eternity.

Still, it shouldn't be that hard, right? Heading to NYC under a new name, she intends to find her Mr Right in the city. After all, with such stunning new looks, finding a man should be simple. But Frannie's still new to this young, modern life, and it turns out that being a singleton in a big city is more of a challenge than she envisioned. When luck brings her money and a job, the rest - her devilish bet - is down to her. And she only has a year to complete her task. Plus, it turns out that doing a deal with the devil brings plenty of obstacles, too...

The premise of Catch 26 was interesting and one I simply had to read it. After all, don't we all wish for changes in our lives? Beauty, money, the chance to be younger again? But if you had the chance, would you bargain away your soul? At first, Frannie's agreement is understandable. A woman with no love in her life, her dreams lost over the years - well, there's not much to lose. But throughout the book, Frannie does begin to learn quite a few lessons about life as she embarks on the challenges set.

I loved Frannie from page one. She seemed quite naive on the surface at first, a woman who has spent a lot of her life being walked over, wasting her potential somewhat. But deep down there was a headstrong, exceptionally smart and sensible woman just waiting to get out. Which made her transition a whole lot more interesting when everything she wanted was there for the taking. Frannie maintained her sensibilities, which I admired. Also, Carol Prisant knows a LOT about art and antiques, being an antiques dealer and an author of non-fiction books on the subject, and it shows in this novel, in Frannie's passion and dedication for her new-found job in the art world.

Catch 26 is a wonderful novel. It's contemporary fiction with a dark twist, with elements of an old-fashioned fairytale. (And, of course, with a plot reminiscent of Faust). It's thought-provoking, comedic at times, and the ending is so beautifully tragic. It's a novel that really makes you think about life and makes you ask yourself, 'would I give it up in exchange for what I want?' Needless to say, I highly recommend Catch 26.

Rating: 5/5

BOOK REVIEW: Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

What if the worst thing you did went viral?

That's what made me pick up Viral, the new novel by Helen Fitzgerald. Not familiar with her previous books, which include The Exit and The Cry,  I decided to check this one out because of its highly interesting premise. And it has an opening line that's very attention-grabbing.

SPOILER ALERT - Before I go any further, I have to say that there MIGHT be a few spoilers in this review. I always try to avoid spoilers, however with any book I rate under 5 stars, it's only fair that I explain why. And in this case, it may involve a small spoiler or two.

Some may be familiar with 'Magaluf Girl' who, a year or so previously, was caught on camera partaking in a nightclub sex game. The video swiftly went viral, resulting in the girl being shamed and humiliated across the world. This real-life incident seems to be the inspiration behind the novel, in which a sensible, clever girl commits a lewd act on camera that she fears she may never escape from.

Su-Jin Oliphant-Brotheridge is the adopted daughter of musician Bernie and hardworking judge, Ruth. Su-Jin was adopted from Korea after Ruth's many miscarriages. However, months after bringing Su home, Ruth found herself pregnant with daughter Leah.

Despite being close as children, Su-Jin and Leah are now nothing alike. Now, at eighteen, quiet and competitive Su-Jin has her heart set on becoming a doctor and maybe even winning a Nobel Prize someday. Leah isn't so sensible, her interests lying with friends, booze and boys. When Ruth demands that Su goes to Magaluf as well to supervise her wayward sister, Leah isn't happy. When the holiday is almost over, Leah and her pals make it their mission to help overly-sensible Su lose her virginity.
Needless to say, it all goes wrong. The very next day, Su is all over the internet, doing something that she never dreamed she would ever do. With the knowledge that her life is pretty much over, Su goes on the run until she can figure out what to do next.

Meanwhile, with Leah back home, Ruth and Bernie try to piece together what happened and try to lcoate missing Su. Her daughter's lewd act is now so famous online that even she can't escape the taunts and embarrassed glances of her colleagues. Ruth vows to track down and get revenge on those she believed sexually assaulted her daughter.

This itself sounds like the beginning of an intriguing read, however it all began to get quite strange from that point on. As Su is away, planning to run until the video is forgotten, Ruth is becoming more obsessed, and crazy. Which is understandable, in a way. I felt that Ruth had spent a life of being hardworking, always sensible, and having to involuntarily let go of that sensibility does seem enough to tip a person over the edge, especially with the big incident that soon follows.

However, the events begin to get far-fetched and vastly unbelievable. The family travel to Magaluf, seem to find who they are looking for very quickly, Su is on a mission to find her birth mother, Leah becomes supportive and vows to look out for her sister. None of the events rang true, and I think it's because there's something missing in this novel.

I wanted to know more about the family - their closeness, why Leah had always behaved the way she did (it was simple to guess why, but Leah's character wasn't given much depth). Ruth's backstory was explained, but I wanted to know more about Su and Leah. After a while I grew to dislike Su.
As for the ending, I was expecting a gripping finale with well-deserved justice. As it happened, the ending of the novel seemed rushed and hastily pulled together by a huge coincidence, which left me feeling a bit cheated.

A viral video such as this can be catastrophic for a teenager - it could potentially ruin friendships, reputations, future careers and relationships, even lives. The very premise of this novel is a thoroughly interesting one, and though I can see how it might work - wanted to see it work - I feel that the concept could have been better explored.

Granted, Viral was hard to put down at first, and I felt unable to put it down until I reached the end. Helen is Fitzgerald is a very talented author and I'm definitely going to be reading more of her books. I just think that Viral wasn't as great as I had hoped it would be.

Rating: 3/5

UNCOVERED PICKS: Five more Christmas reads!

Given that it's September already, it means that we're heading ever closer to Christmas. And even though I'm not yet ready for shops full of tinsel and never-ending Christmas songs, I do love to hear about festive books that are heading our way! I posted about some last month, but here are five more to add to your winter TBR lists!

One Christmas In Paris by Mandy Baggot
Ava and her best friend Debs arrive in Paris just as the snow starts to fall. The Eiffel Tower glitters gold and the scent of spiced wine is all around, but all Ava can think about is Leo, her no-good, cheating ex.

Debs is on a mission to make Ava smile again, and as they tour the Christmas markets, watch lamplight glittering on the river Seine, and eat their body weight in pain-au-chocolat, Ava remembers there’s more to life than men ... Until they cross paths with handsome, mysterious photographer Julien with his French accent and hazelnut eyes that seem to see right inside her. 

Ava can’t ignore the intense chemistry between them, but her fingers have been burned before and she can’t forget it, especially when her ex, Leo, starts texting again. Can Ava really trust Julien – and what exactly is his secret? 

Will Ava go home with a broken heart, or will she find true love amongst the cobbled streets of Paris? 

Join Ava and Julien in the most romantic city in the world this Christmas, as they discover the importance of being true to themselves, and learn how to follow their hearts. 

A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham
At last Ivy is looking forward to Christmas. She and her husband Stuart have moved to their perfect little cottage by the sea - a haven alongside the rugged cliffs that look out to the Atlantic Ocean. She’s pregnant with their much-longed for first baby and for the first time, since the death of her beloved mother, Ivy feels like things are going to be alright. 

But there is trouble ahead. It soon emerges that Stuart has been keeping secrets from Ivy, and suddenly she misses her mum more than ever. 

When Ivy stumbles across a letter from her mother hidden in an old writing desk, secrets from the past come hurtling into the present. But could her mother’s words help Ivy in her time of need? Ivy is about to discover that the future is full of unexpected surprises and Christmas at Sea Cottage promises to be one to remember. 

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin
Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away. 

So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again. 

But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace. 

Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home? 

Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant
Snow is falling in Honeybourne and Spencer is bringing home his American fiancée Tori for a traditional English Christmas with all the trimmings. But when his hippie mum and dad meet her high-maintenance parents, sparks of the wrong sort start to fly. Then Spencer bumps into his first love Jasmine and unexpected feelings come flooding back. 

Millie is run off her feet with Christmas orders at the Little Village Bakery and new baby Oscar. Thank goodness her cousin Darcie is here to help her. Although she does seem to be rather flirty with Millie’s boyfriend Dylan. 

Will Darcie ever find true love of her own? And is marrying Tori a terrible mistake for Spencer if his heart is with someone else? 

Christmas at the Dog and Duck by Jill Steeples
Ellie Browne has left behind her high-flying job in London to return to the charming Buckinghamshire village of Little Leyton. Working shifts at The Dog and Duck and running her own doggy-day-care business, Ellie's looking for a much simpler way of life and a good old fashioned Christmas.

But Little Leyton’s landscape is changing; Johnny Tay, Ellie's ex, wants to pick up where they left off; sultry property developer Max Golding, has moved into the village and is ruffling feathers; and rumour has it that the pub, which holds a special place in Ellie's heart, might be sold. Suddenly, life’s looking a whole lot more complicated...

Can Ellie juggle her emotions and commitments in time to celebrate Christmas?

NEW RELEASES: The Secret Art of Forgiveness by Louisa George

Louisa George, author of Something Borrowed, is back with The Secret Art of Forgiveness which is available now. In the novel, Emily heads back to her home village after hearing her step-father is ill, and is faced with truths about her past.

Living in a big city, means you can escape your past…

Until Emily Forrester is called back to Little Duxbury, the chocolate-box English village where she grew up - though it was anything but idyllic for the tearaway teenager. Her estranged step-father, a former high-court judge, is unwell and her step-sisters need her help.

It’s just a week, Emily tells herself, but faced with the lies – and hard truths – that drove her to leave in the first place is difficult enough. Having to cope with a step-father (and the only parent she has left) who is so unlike the man she remembers pushes Emily’s emotions in ways she hasn’t been tested in years – since her mother’s death.

They say home is where the heart is – but by the end of the week, Emily isn’t entirely sure which home that is.


Cathy Bramley is a bestselling romantic comedy author who has brought us Ivy Lane, Wickham Hall and Unconditional Love. Her latest book, The Plumberry School of Comfort Food, is out now. Cathy joins us for today's Q&A to share more about her writing, inspiration, and tips.

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Verity regains her passion for life at the cookery school by learning to love again.

What inspired you to write The Plumberry School of Comfort Food?
A good friend of mine, Lucy, owns a cookery school called LucyCooks in the Lake District. It is a wonderful place to spend time, very good for the soul. I first went there ten years ago and when I became a writer, I knew it would be a great place to set a book.

Where do you do most of your writing?
I have an office in my house, where I and my dog Pearl spend most of our time. But when the family are at home and I need to concentrate, I go to the top of the garden to the treehouse and type amongst the damson trees.

What is your favourite book?
I don’t think I have a favourite book, but I've never read a book by Marian Keyes which I didn’t totally adore.

Which part of The Plumberry School of Comfort Food did you enjoy writing the most?
I write most of my novels in four parts, which are released individually digitally. I love writing like this because in my head each part is like an episode of a TV series. Usually a part has around ten chapters and the last two are always very exciting to write because I’m working up to a climax. I guess in The Plumberry School of Comfort Food I liked writing the section where the TV crew comes to Plumberry – that was great fun.

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
I’d probably say Marian Keyes’ Mammy Walsh. Elizabeth Bennet is a bit of a star, I also like Miss Marple and George from The Famous Five.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
Good writing is about practice, so don’t expect it to be brilliant first time, or even second time for that matter. Read good books and try and work out what is good about them. But most of all, write, write, write.

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
I’m always working on something! I've just finished my Christmas novella Comfort and Joy, out in October, I’m editing The Lemon Tree Café, part one will be out in March and I’ve just sent back the copy-edits for White Lies and Wishes, out in January (this one won’t be serialised). And my head is starting to form a new idea for the next one…

Thanks, Cathy!

You can find out more about Cathy on her website and Twitter.

The Plumberry School of Comfort Food by Cathy Bramley

Verity Bloom hasn't been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend lands her right back in the heart of the kitchen. The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks' time and needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up. And with new friendships bubbling and a sprinkling of romance in the mix, Verity finally begins to feel like she's home.

But when tragedy strikes at the very heart of the cookery school, can Verity find the magic ingredient for Plumberry while still writing her own recipe for happiness?

UNCOVERED PICKS: Five new novels for September!

September's here! As we slowly say goodbye to the summer, it's time for some cosy reads. Here are five new books that will be published this month.

The Woman Who Lost Her Mojo by Carol Wyer
A hilarious heart-warming read about friendship, taking chances and finding love, second time round. 

When Charlie’s husband leaves after ten years of marriage, her spirits hit an all-time low. She just isn’t sure how to pick herself up again. So, best friend Mercedes makes it her mission to put a spring back in Charlie’s step with the perfect bucket list. 

As Charlie bungee jumps and belly dances her way through an array of adventures, her love life also begins to look up and she’s soon enjoying a few dates as a newly single woman. She begins to realise that finding romance, might not be so hard, especially when you’ve got someone like journalist Jake who has an adorable little boy and is very easy on the eye. 

But is Jake too good to be true? As Charlie’s challenges on the bucket list get bigger, so do her questions about Jake. Should she continue to hold out for the fairy-tale? Or is it only in rom coms that dreams can come true? 

Recipe for Love by Katie Fforde
When Zoe Harper wins a coveted place in a televised cookery competition she's thrilled. It's a chance to cook her way to fame and fortune and the little delicatessen she's set her heart on. 

The first task has hardly begun when she finds herself with rather too much on her plate. Not only has she got to contend with the fiercely competitive and downright devious Cher, but she's fast developing an inconvenient crush on one of the judges - the truly delicious Gideon Irving. 

All too soon there's more than canapés, cupcakes and cordon bleu at stake. Will Zoe win the competition or is Gideon one temptation too far? And is Zoe really prepared to risk it all for love? 

Sunshine on a Rainy Day by Bryony Fraser
It’s Zoe and Jack’s first wedding anniversary party. They’ve got an announcement! They’re getting divorced.

Marriage isn’t for everyone – something that Zoe and Jack discovered only after they’d walked down the aisle. Bad timing, huh?

So now they’re stuck together in their once harmonious marital home, neither one of them willing to move out of their lovely house.

With Zoe’s three sisters always wanting a say, and Jack’s best friend trying his best to fix things between them, misunderstandings arise. Tempers flare. ‘Accidents’ happen…

Zoe and Jack are going to be lucky if they’re still alive when the twelve months are up. But maybe things aren’t quite as final as they seem?

Catch 26 by Carol Prisant
What if you could live your life all over again?

There’s just one catch…

Frannie Turner is a plain, middle-aged housewife married to Stanley, a self-absorbed retired dentist who hasn’t slept in her bed in years. No children to love and be loved by. No exciting career to look back on. Just loneliness and lost dreams. So when the mysterious new hairdresser in town offers her the chance to get everything she’s ever wanted, Frannie figures she has nothing to lose -except her soul. And surely, as a stunning twenty-six-year-old singleton in New York, finding true love within the stipulated year should be a piece of cake, not to mention a hell of a lot of fun!

But New York City is no place for the naïve, and Frannie will soon learn just how dangerous a deal with the devil can be…

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel
Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.

Ten years later, Ruby's single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago? Because there's nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past...