Friday, 28 April 2017

BOOK NEWS: Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota

Amanda Wakes Up is the debut novel from Alisyn Camerota, in which a young reporter lands a dream job at a cable news station which turns her life upside down. The novel is set for release in July.

When Amanda Gallo, fresh from the backwater of local TV, lands the job of her dreams at FAIR News—the coveted morning anchor slot—she’s finally made it: a six-figure salary, wardrobe allowance, plenty of on-air face time, and a chance to realize her dreams, not to mention buy herself lunch. Amanda Wakes Up takes off as Amanda feels for the first time that she can make her mom and her best friend proud and think about an actual future with her boyfriend, Charlie. But she finds her journalistic ideals shredded as she struggles to keep up with the issues in a ratings-crazed madhouse—battling for hair and makeup time, coping with her sexist (but scathingly handsome) coanchor, Rob, mixing up the headlines with pajama modeling on the street, and showing Benji Diggs, her media maestro boss, that she’s got what it takes.

As the news heats up in a hotly contested election season and a wild-card candidate, former Hollywood actor Victor Fluke, appears on the scene, Amanda’s pressure-cooker job gets hotter as her personal life unravels. Walking a knife’s edge between ambition and survival, and about to break the biggest story of her career, Amanda must decide what she’s willing to give up to get ahead—and what she needs to hold on to to save herself.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Miss Wrong and Mr Right by Robert Bryndza

First off, let me just state that I was unfamiliar with Robert Bryndza and his books until I came across Miss Wrong and Mr Right on Netgalley and its premise drew me in. I quickly discovered that Robert is a bestselling author of crime novels, predominantly the DCI Erika Foster series (The Girl in the Ice, The Night Stalker and Dark Water). Given that I’m a fan of crime thrillers I’ll surely be checking these out, but in the meantime, note that Robert writes rom-com too, and it is AWESOME.

In Miss Wrong and Mr Right, Natalie Love dumps her fiancé at the altar. Not only that, but she sets fire to her wedding dress too (following some sage advice from her beloved Gran). Now, years later, Natalie has left her small hometown, and is living a successful life in London, complete with a boyfriend who teaches yoga, and a job doing what she loves – running a theatre. Plus, there’s Natalie’s eccentric gran, who is glamorous, Hungarian and downright hilarious, always nearby to give any agony aunt a run for her money. Sometimes.

Natalie’s hard work at the theatre pays off when Hollywood heart-throb Ryan Harrison is booked to play Macbeth in a production she’s running. When it comes to her personal life, however, Natalie’s takes a hit when none other than Jamie – the man she ditched at the altar all those years ago – shows up. Jamie is working nearby promoting a new West End show. And, it seems, dating burlesque star Tuppence Halfpenny, the UK’s answer to Dita Von Teese.

Being Jamie’s business rival isn’t easy – not when the past has showed up so abruptly in front of her face. And when Ryan Harrison turns out to be much more than just a pretty Hollywood face, Natalie’s in a bit of trouble…

Miss Wrong and Mr Right is an absolutely fantastic read. Seriously, this book is all kinds of brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, I actively seek out funny books, but it’s rare that a novel has me genuinely laughing out loud. This one, however? Oh, it did. I found myself chuckling on numerous occasions, the biggest culprit for my outbursts being Gran. Natalie’s wonderfully eccentric gran provides so much humour, as well as warmth, that I couldn’t help but adore her.

Every character in this book is wonderfully written and fun (well, besides Benji, but read it and you’ll see why). And not only was this book brilliantly funny, it was also rather heartwarming and genuine. Oh, and with a bit of revenge thrown in for good measure.

By the time I reached the end of this novel, I didn’t want it to finish. I could have spent so much more time with Natalie and her outrageous group of friends and family. I sincerely hope that Robert Bryndza writes more romantic comedies, because Miss Wrong and Mr Right is so far one of the best books of the year.

Rating: 5/5

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

BLOG TOUR: Q&A with Beezy Marsh, author of Mr Make Believe

Beezy Marsh is the author of Mr Make Believe, a romantic comedy about a journalist turned stay-at-home mum. Mr Make Believe was released today, and as part of her blog tour, Beezy has stopped by to answer a few questions about her new book, and life as a writer...

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Daydreaming mum loses husband and career, writes blog, burns tea, meets movie star crush and...

What inspired you to write Mr Make Believe?
Well, I'm a mum-of-two who used to regularly write the front page for a national newspaper, a bit like my main character, Marnie Martin, and I know lots of mothers who are struggling to hold it all together at home; trying to have some kind of career while looking after the children and to strike a balance between it all. It can be isolating to be at home all day with the kids and I have always been a dreamer and asking around, I found lots of my mum friends had secret crushes on movie stars, which they used to keep themselves going when reality was tough. I picked up that theme and took it to an extreme, playing with the notion of what would happen if a mum whose life wasn't turning out the way she'd hoped got to meet her Mr Make Believe. The whole interplay between our real lives and our social media lives is endlessly fascinating to me so that was a big part of it too.

Where do you do most of your writing?
Sometimes I edit pages and write notes on the train if I have to go up to London from my home in Oxfordshire but most days I sit in a spare bedroom in my house and bash away at my keyboard. The letters have worn off it  - I must get a new one.

What is your favourite book?
I find it really hard to pick just one book! I love absolutely everything that Jilly Cooper has written. I would read her shopping list if she published it  - I bet even that would be brilliant. But if I were only allowed one book, I would probably take Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Everything about it is perfect, starting with that first sentence - "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." I immediately want to read on.

Which part of Mr Make Believe did you enjoy writing the most?
Well, I loved writing all of the book; it was like a roller coaster ride and I didn't want to get off. But the best bit for me was definitely when Marnie got to know her Mr Make Believe a little better...

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
Becky Sharp, Vanity Fair. What a woman!

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
Getting published is a long, hard road and rejection is a part of the process. Listen carefully to feedback and try to learn from it, especially if you are lucky enough to get criticism from people who actually work in the industry because they know the market. Keep believing in yourself.

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
Yes, I'd love to tell you about my next projects. I am editing a prequel to Mr Make Believe, called Ten Easy Steps To I Love You, which features Marnie Martin but tells the story of how her best mate Belle Devine, the showbiz journalist, gets to meet her Mr Right. I am still in love with all the characters in Marnie Martin's world, so there may be a sequel to Mr Make Believe before too long as well. With my non-fiction hat on, I have a historical memoir coming out with Pan Macmillan at the end of July, which covers the lives of three sisters from London during the 1930s. It's called Keeping My Sisters' Secrets and it's a really moving story about them overcoming poverty and adversity, finding love as the Second World War looms on the horizon.

Thanks, Beezy!

Mr Make Believe by Beezy Marsh

Marnie Martin’s formerly perfect life is not quite going to plan. 

Hard-hitting newspaper journalist turned stay-at-home mum and part-time failing food columnist, Marnie is wondering when her life went so wrong.

While her husband Matt’s career takes off, she’s left with the impossible task of pairing socks and locating Lego. His late nights at the office are turning into late nights who knows where else and they haven’t had a proper conversation in weeks, sex in months, or a full night’s sleep in years. 

On the brink of losing everything when a fantasy about movie star Maddox Wolfe leads to a missed deadline and a disastrous case of food poisoning, Marnie becomes Mrs Make Believe: anonymous blogger, secret spiller, and voice of imperfect mums everywhere. 

However, Marnie Martin could never have imagined that her movie star daydream would walk off the screen and into her reality, turning her already muddled world totally on its head.

Will Marnie find happiness in the arms of the (literal) man of her dreams? Or will she find that true love is just make believe?

BOOK NEWS: The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters

It's always great to hear about new chick-lit authors, and now HQ Digital has a new writer on the block! The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters by Jaimie Admans (author of Kismetology) will be released in June. So if you fancy an escape to France...

Where dreams come true…?

Wendy Clayton stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago. Instead, she has a ‘nice’ life. Nice job. Nice flat. Absolutely no men. Until her life is turned upside-down when her elderly neighbour, Eulalie, passes away and leaves her the Château of Happily Ever Afters!

But there’s a catch: she must share the sprawling French castle with Eulalie’s long-lost nephew, Julian. And no matter how gorgeous he is, or how easily she finds herself falling head over heels, Wendy needs to find a way to get rid of him…

Because surely happily ever afters don’t happen in real life?

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Stuck With You by Carla Burgess

What's can be more scary than being stuck in a lift? (Okay, okay. Many things. But still.) How about being stuck in a lift with the college crush you stalked adored?

This is exactly what happens to Elena in Stuck With You, the new novel from Carla Burgess (author of Marry Me Tomorrow). Can we just appreciate the prettiness of this cover for a moment?

The cover and premise are what attracted me to this novel. It seemed quite fun, even though I'm not normally one for overly-sweet romances. 'But,' you may ask, 'you blog about chick-lit. How can you not like romance?!' This is true, and I do enjoy romance in my reads - I just like more to a story than two people falling in love.

Which is probably why I didn't enjoy this novel quite as much as I'd expected.

Elena has fantasised over colleage heartthrob Daniel Moore for years. In fact, she constantly replays in her mind the moment of his prom-night kiss to this day, even though she's older and in a long-term relationship with boyfriend Alex.

However, things haven't been too good with Alex for some time, and this lack of passion is confirmed when Alex, quite horribly, dumps her. Forced to live with her parents again in her teenage room (which amusingly contains the 'Daniel Box' full of colleage mementoes...), Elena intends to embark on a new Alex-free life.

But things soon change when she gets trapped in a supermarket elevator...with none other than Daniel Moore.

The chance encounter leads to some interesting conversation and reminiscing (after the initial awkwardness) - after all, which girl didn't fancy the sexy, confident aspiring rock star Daniel? Soon they're meeting up, and on a journey that'll determine whether or not their lift experience was a crafty act of fate...

This was a sweet book. If you like boy-meets-girl, getting-to-know-you stories, then Stuck With You should be on your reading list. To me, however, it was just 'okay'. I think I just expected more from it, maybe more humour or events - something other than a predictable romance. I found myself skim-reading a lot of chapters, and only because I wanted to find out what happened at the end - mainly with Alex (who, I have to say, is horrible. Almost TOO horrible. I don't think I've ever wanted to punch a chick-lit character more than this guy). I wanted to know if he might get some sort of comeuppance, if just for the way he treated Elena. At first I felt that she could have stuck up for herself a bit more, but I know that sometimes it's best to just move on.

I liked Elena, and after her lack of luck at the beginning of the book, I wanted her to find happiness. I found her lift encounter with Daniel to be sweet and a bit funny (I think for some of us, bumping into your teenage crush would be horrifying!)

Stuck With You is a good read for romance fans. I wish I could say I enjoyed it more, but I just think it fell flat after a certain point, and there wasn't much to the story besides the two of them getting to know each other as they went about their day-to-day lives. That said, I don't think this was an issue with the book or the author (especially seeing as most readers have loved the novel, and it's gained some great reviews). I think it was just down to personal preference - I only took a chance on this obvious love story because it seemed more interesting than others. I know this may seem like an odd review, but I aim to be fair to both readers and authors in my reviews, and I truly feel that this was not a bad book, it just wasn't my kind of thing.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, 24 April 2017

UNCOVERED PICKS: Three New Thrillers

For the fans of psychological thrillers with some great twists, here's another selection of new and upcoming novels to look out for!

The Darkest Lies by Barbara Copperthwaite - released on 12th May
A mother desperate for the truth. A daughter hiding a terrible secret.

Melanie Oak appeared to have the perfect life. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Jacob, the couple live with their beautiful, loving, teenage daughter, Beth, in a pretty village.

Nothing can shake her happiness - until the day that Beth goes missing and is discovered beaten almost to the point of death, her broken body lying in a freezing creek on the marshes near their home.

Consumed with grief, Melanie is determined to find her daughter’s attacker. Someone in the village must have seen something. Why won’t they talk? 

As Melanie tries to piece together what happened to Beth, she discovers that her innocent teenager has been harbouring some dark secrets of her own. The truth may lie closer to home and put Melanie’s life in terrible danger…

When I Wake Up by Jessica Jarlvi - released on 1st June
'Why won't Mummy wake up?' 

When Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?

As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife's secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy. 

As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she's lying silent in a hospital bed...

Lie to Me by Jess Ryder - released 19th April
Three minutes. That’s all it takes for Meredith’s entire world to fall apart when she watches the videotape of her four-year-old self with Becca, the mother who abandoned her.

Meredith can’t believe what her eyes have seen. Yet what if her memory has locked away the painful reality of her childhood? Can there be any truth in the strange and dangerous story her mother forced her to tell on camera? 

The search for answers leads Meredith to Darkwater Pool, the scene of the murder of a young woman, Cara, over 30 years ago. What could possibly be the link between her mother and the victim?
To find the truth Meredith must search through a past that is not her own. The problem is, she’s not the only one looking…

Friday, 21 April 2017

UNCOVERED INTERVIEWS: Lilac Mills

Happy Friday all! Today, the lovely Lilac Mills is kicking off the weekend with an interview. Her new novel, Under the Cherry Tree, will be released next month and is a feel-good romance about dog groomer Jenni (and her loyal friend...)

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Under the Cherry Tree is a tale of love and hope, waggy tails, and cold noses.

What inspired you to write Under the Cherry Tree?
My gorgeous little Westie died last year, and I felt I wanted more than a grave to remember her by. This seemed such a fitting tribute, and many of the characteristics of Millie in the book came from my own little dog.

Where do you do most of your writing?
Anywhere I can! Whenever I've got a spare five minutes, no matter where I am, I'll write. I always carry a writing pad and a pen with me.

What is your favourite book?
Wuthering Heights - it's so dark and twisted, and a far cry from the chick lit I tend to read now. I read it when I was a teenager, and it's stuck with me ever since.

What part of Under the Cherry Tree did you enjoy writing the most?
Spoiler alert here! Millie's death scene. It actually made me cry when I was writing it, and each time I revisit it, I cry again.

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
Georgina from the Famous Five books. I first read a Famous Five story when I was 11 and I really wanted to be her. She was sassy, tomboyish and not a typical girl. She made me realise that females don't have to be stereotypical, as they were often portrayed in those days.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
First you've got to write and keep writing until you finish your manuscript, and that's easier said than done. It takes determination and perseverance to write a novel. So basically, what I'm saying is, don't give up. If you want it badly enough you'll find a way to complete it and get it out there.

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
I've started on a new novel (which I hope to be out by the end of the summer), called Elephant and Pinky Moon. It's about a young woman who is older than her years, and her grandmother, who most assuredly isn't!

Thanks, Lilac!

You can find out more about Lilac Mills by visiting her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Under the Cherry Tree by Lilac Mills

My dog didn't like men. Actually that was a lie – she didn't like the men I chose. The only ones who rocked her world had been my father (who was no longer with us), Ross (who was gay), and the butcher on the high street (for obvious reasons).” 

When Jenni Meadows has the opportunity to expand her dog-grooming business she takes it, and when a nice man appears on her horizon but fails to make any sparks fly, she decides she has enough on her plate with her business without adding a boyfriend into the mix.

Besides, Millie doesn’t like him and when her dog doesn’t like a man, Jenni knows all about it. So why does Millie take a very strange liking to the new vet, especially since he has a taciturn expression, wears a wedding ring, and wields a needle?

Under the Cherry Tree is a tale of love and hope, waggy tails, and cold noses.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

BOOK NEWS: The Man I Thought You Were by Leah Mercer

Leah Mercer, author of Who We Were Before (and who also writes romantic comedies under the name Talli Roland), returns with her next novel The Man I Thought You Were, in which Anna's husband is keeping some very deep secrets. The novel will be released in August.

One fine autumn evening, Anna returns from work and starts making dinner, eager to welcome home her husband, Mark. It’s just like any other day in their ten-year, Pinterest-perfect marriage—until he says he’s leaving her.

Discovering that the man she thought she knew better than anyone else is capable of abandoning it all sends Anna reeling. She believed the life they’d built together – and the bright future they’d imagined—counted for everything. How can he walk away?

The truth is Mark is battling secrets of his own—secrets Anna knows nothing about. A painful past and an uncertain future threaten to bring his life down around him—and he’ll do anything not to expose her to that.

But unravelling the past is lonelier than Mark could ever have imagined and, as the days turn to months, Anna worries the separation will break them forever. Can she bring him back from the brink of self-destruction before it’s too late, or will she discover that she never really knew him at all?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

I’ve been a fan of Carole Matthews since reading The Only Way is Up quite a few years ago. Carole’s novels are always nice to curl up with, and are usually full of relatable characters and sweet, believable romance. So when I received a copy of her latest novel, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, I was looking forward to reading right away.

Christie is a single, forty-something mum to teenager Finn. She spends most of her days working as a secretary in London, and enduring the daily commute to and from the capital every day. When she isn’t working, Christie turns her attentions to crafting, working on beautiful creations and whiling away her spare time in a world of pretty paper and handmade gifts. To do it professionally would be a dream come true, but for Christie, it seems worlds away.

That is, until her impressive crafting talent lands her an opportunity that’s impossible to turn down – working for an American craft company that wants to extend its top-selling range in the UK.

Christie agrees, and soon finds herself not only doing the job of her dreams (and with a house full of craft supplies!) but also heading out for a training event where she meets the company’s handsome and rather charming Max Alexander.

Max seems lovely, and just as interested in Christie. But just as she’s beginning to live her dream life, a heartbreaking revelation turns her world upside down. Soon she’s forced to make a choice, in order to put her family first.

A hint of love and success just isn’t enough to pull Christie away from her family. A dream can wait…can’t it?

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is a charming yet heartwarming story about realising dreams and the importance of family. One thing I enjoy about Carole’s novels is that even though they can be sweet and romantic, they also focus on genuine life issues and hardships, with characters so real and relatable that they soon feel like your close friends. Christie is no exception. She’s a hardworking, loving mum taking life as it comes, and when the opportunity of a lifetime arises, she grabs it. I found myself rooting for her throughout the book – and the lovely Finn, too -  and even when things do start to go wrong. Christie remains headstrong and determined. The romance in this novel is believable and does keep you guessing (I’m deliberately not mentioning much so as not to spoil it for you!) which is another aspect I liked a lot about this book.

Thank you again Carole, for another great read.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, 15 April 2017

BOOK NEWS: Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman

Here's a debut novel I'm super excited about! Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman is out in May. In it, two successful yet struggling best friends hatch a plot to scam the wealthy women of their book club...

Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy.

Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another.

Monday, 10 April 2017

UNCOVERED PICKS: Seven Spring Escapes!

Now that we've slipped into spring, what better way is there to enjoy a sunny weekend with a good book set in an idyllic location? With novels from Holly Martin, Sue Watson, Daisy James and more, there's plenty of choice. Here's a selection of seven newly-released and upcoming reads for you to escape with this season.


The Second Chance Tea Shop by Fay Keenan
Following the tragic death of her beloved husband, Anna Hemingway decides it's time for a fresh start. So Anna and her three-year-old daughter Ellie move to a picture-perfect cottage in the beautiful village of Little Somerby, and when she takes over the running of the village tea shop, Ellie and Anna start to find happiness again.

But things get complicated when Matthew Carter, the owner of the local cider farm, enters their lives. Throughout a whirlwind year of village fetes and ancient wassails, love, laughter, apple pie and new memories, life slowly blossoms again. But when tragedy strikes and history seems to be repeating itself, Anna must find the strength to hold onto the new life she has built.

This beautiful, life-affirming debut novel marks the beginning of the Little Somerby series, and promises to make you smile, cry, reach for a cream tea, and long for a life in the perfect English countryside.

There's Something About Cornwall by Daisy James
Life is far from picture perfect for food photographer, Emilie Roberts. Not only has her ex-boyfriend cheated on her, he’s also stolen her dream assignment to beautiful Venice! Instead, Emilie is heading to the wind-swept Cornish coast...

Emilie doesn’t think it can get any worse – until disaster strikes on the very first day! And there’s only one man to rescue this damsel in distress: extremely hunky surfing instructor, Matt Ashby.

Racing from shoot to shoot in a bright orange vintage camper van, Matt isn’t the conventional knight in shining armour – but can he make all of Emilie’s fairy tale dreams come true?

The Beachside Sweet Shop by Karen Clarke
When Marnie Appleton inherited a sweet shop from her grandfather she was determined to do his legacy proud. The shop has been a much-loved feature of the little seaside town of Shipley for years, but now Marnie needs to bring it up to date, and she’s recruited gorgeous new assistant Josh to help.

Marnie gets busy redecorating the shop and choosing delicious new sweets to stock, but things are never that simple: new neighbour Isobel, a fame-hungry blogger, is on a crusade against sugar, and she’ll go to any lengths to secure bad publicity for Marnie’s shop.

Marnie fights back with homemade sugar-free treats, but with her best friend Beth heavily pregnant, her grandmother Celia recovering from an operation, and her very recently ex-boyfriend Alex returning to Shipley with a new love, Marnie has a lot on her plate.

And then there’s Josh, with whom Marnie is struggling to keep her relationship strictly professional...Will both the sweet shop and love flourish?


Love in an English Garden by Victoria Connelly
The Jacobs family has lived at Orley Court for generations. But when Vanessa Jacobs’s husband dies and leaves the property to her, she finds costs spiralling out of control. In order to stay in their beloved home, she and her daughters will have to sell part of it off—a decision that drives a wedge between Vanessa and her live-in mother-in-law.

The new owners of the north wing are Laurence Sturridge and his father, Marcus. Laurence wants to escape the constant pressure of his corporate job in London, while Marcus longs to heal from the grief of losing his wife. Could the beauty of Orley Court offer them a fresh outlook on life?

As the two families embark on a challenging new chapter over the course of a glorious English summer, secrets are revealed and relationships tested. But as Orley Court begins to weave its magic over them, will it be love, above all, that brings the two families together?


Spring at Blueberry Bay by Holly Martin
Bella has always had a sunny outlook and caring nature, despite recently falling on hard times. When she finds a handsome homeless man on her doorstep, her kind heart tells her she must help him. So, she invites Isaac into her cottage and into her life in ways she could never have imagined…

But Isaac is not what he seems. He’s keeping a huge secret from Bella, yet he never expected to fall for this open, generous and charming woman.

Bella can’t ignore the chemistry between her and Isaac, but she’s had her trust badly broken in her past. Will she run when she learns the truth about Isaac, or will he be the one man who can help Bella believe in love again?


Curves, Kisses and Chocolate Ice Cream by Sue Watson
Dani's on a mission to get her life back on track by the end of the Summer. Running, rowing, aerobics and more, but perhaps all she needs are sweet treats and a second chance?

Twenty years ago, Dani fled Appledore with a broken-heart and a suitcase full of shattered dreams. Only now is she brave enough to put her past behind her and return for a summer selling homemade ice-cream and getting fit by doing sit-ups by the sea. 

But the new-look cafe is filled with old memories of Jude, her teenage sweetheart-turned-sour. She thinks of him every time she swirls warm sauce onto a "chocolate-bockaglory" and even with the help of Chris, her gorgeous personal trainer, the urge to break her diet is everywhere she turns. 

When Jude makes an appearance at the cafe on the eve of Dani's birthday party, history threatens to repeat itself. Is Dani strong enough to say no? And is the love she's been longing for much closer than she thinks?


A Wedding in Italy by Tilly Tennant
Sun, spaghetti and sparkling prosecco. When it comes to finding love, there’s no place like Rome… 

Kate is living the dream with her gorgeous boyfriend Alessandro in his native city, but the reality is sometimes a little less romantic than she’d hoped. Every day in her new home is a fight against leaking pipes, her cantankerous landlord and her less-than-perfect grasp of the Italian lingo. 

All around her there is talk of weddings, but when a secret from her past is thrust out into the open, Kate must fight to prove to Alessandro’s Mamma – and the rest of his formidable family – that she truly is Italian marriage material. 

With the women in Alessandro’s life on a mission to break them apart, the cracks begin to show and Kate starts to question if Alessandro really is the man of her dreams. Can love and the city of romance conquer all, or is that just a fairy-tale?

Thursday, 6 April 2017

BOOK REVIEW: My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

Having been a fan of Jane Fallon's novels for years (ever since Getting Rid of Matthew), I've excitedly awaited each new book. Jane's novels are the perfect combination of drama, intrigue and humour, and her latest offering, My Sweet Revenge, is no different.

When Paula discovers that her husband Robert is cheating on her with his co-worker, naturally she's heartbroken. Not only had they been married for years, but Paula had given up her dreams of acting when their daughter came along, taking a backstage role in life taking care of the family and working a regular job in a cake shop while Rob took the spotlight. Only to have it thrown back in her face.

Robert is one of the country's most beloved actors, on hit TV drama Farmer Giles. A heartthrob for the nation's ladies. And Paula's determined not to let him get away with his cheating ways.

But she's not going to leave him. Dumping him for cheating with his attractive co-star Saskia would provide the perfect escape route for Robert, and Paula doesn't want to make it easy for him. In fact, she wants to make it as difficult as possible.

So Paula hatches a plan to turn herself into the perfect wife. The first step? To get fit again. Her once-content life had led her to neglect her weight, but now she wants the excess fat gone. She turns to exercise, hiring a personal trainer to get her back into shape and restore her lost confidence. She also becomes more attentive, suddenly choosing to attend the TV parties and events she's always avoided - much to Robert's surprise (and horror). As Paula works on improving herself, she's also plotting ways to make Robert pay.

Starting with his career...

This is where I'm going to stop, because I feel that if I continue, I'll be spoiling some of the great twists and moments that prevail later in this novel. However, I will say that this is a fantastic book, and one that I found impossible to put down. Once I was into Paula's plan, there was no going back.

(Plus, I'm a big fan of revenge stories, and in My Sweet Revenge, it's served perfectly. Well, the title says it all!)

It has a wonderful plot, which made me think, at the start, 'this could so be a recipe for disaster...'. But it kept me hooked. Paula is a great character who I admired from the beginning. She isn't a typical 'wronged woman'; she goes about her plan in the best way possible. Not willing to be treated badly any longer, Paula is calm, witty, relatable, sensible, and determined, taking the needs of her family into account before she acts.

My Sweet Revenge is a great read - it's fast-paced, full of drama and some unexpected twists! It's probably my favourite of Jane Fallon's books so far.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Bluebell Bunting Society by Poppy Dolan

The Bluebell Bunting Society is the latest novel from Poppy Dolan, author of The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp and There's More to Life Than Cupcakes. And it's a perfect read for spring!

Connie is the caretaker of Bluebell Hall, an old building in the little village of Hazelhurst. Returning to her rural roots wasn't exactly Connie's plan, but after the death of her much-loved grandmother, taking the reins of Bluebell Hall, Gran's passion, was a must. Taking care of the Hall, a piece of Hazelhurst's history, is a job that's been handed down through the generations, making it a staple of village life for the residents, as well as the Bluebells (Hazelhursts's version of the Brownies!)

But it's in dire need of TLC. Not to mention the villagers have lost interest in the Hall, with its dodgy ceiling, mould, and general state of disrepair. When Connie's latest efforts fail to entice the yummy mummies of the village, it's time to go back to the drawing board. And fast.

When the loyal ladies of Bluebell Hall hear that property developers are intent on taking over the building, it's time to come up with a plan to try and save it. All they need to do is make Bluebell Hall a cherished village venue again. But it's easier said than done.

That is, until Connie comes up with a crafty idea...

The Bluebell Bunting Society is a sweet, charming story guaranteed to make you smile. I'll be completely honest - this is not the kind of book I'd usually opt for as on first glance, it seemed a bit too sugary sweet for my liking! But I decided to give it a try, and I'm glad I did, as it's a lovely novel, and one perfect to lift your spirits. It was nice to step away from the city tales and venture into Hazelhurst instead for some funny antics, a bit of romance, and best of all, some community spirit!

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Bluebell Bunting Society by Poppy Dolan - Extract!

The Bluebell Bunting Society is the brand new novel from Poppy Dolan. Set in a little village, the book focuses on Connie, caretaker of the village's Bluebell Hall. Connie and her friends find themselves up against property developers who are threatening to take over the Hall, which is not only a piece of Hazelhurst history, but also meant a lot to Connie's much-loved Gran.

As part of Poppy's blog tour, here's an extract of the lovely new book!

The Bluebell Bunting Society

A familiar face gives me a big shock as I’m waiting for the class to show up. ‘Susannah! You’re here!’

‘Of course I am, dear.’ She smooths her charcoal grey pencil skirt underneath her and sits on a plastic stacking chair. ‘I’ve brought my own sewing kit, to boot.’

‘But you said hells bells to it!’

She blinks coolly at me. ‘No, Constance. You asked me what Rosemarie would have said, and I told you. But I will support whatever you do to meet new people, and try new things.’

‘For the good of the Hall.’

‘Yes, that too. Besides, I remember your GCSEs, and that apron. I thought you might need some help.’

Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Susannah was a card-carrying old lady with all the handicraft skill that went with it – she’d be a whiz on Gran’s machines and could make sure I wasn’t using bias binding instead of elastic, as I had in my first abysmal attempt.

‘Well, I’m very happy to have you here. Can I get you tea while we wait for the others? I have five definites and I hope some drop-ins. More next week if it all goes to plan and Flip can help spread the word.’

As I’m boiling the kettle for two teas, I hear our PR guru clatter in lightly on heels, put down something with a clunk (I’m guessing her sewing machine) and launch into a conversation with Susannah about how she started sewing. She’s running through the courses she’s taken, from adult evening classes to an intensive week at the WI college, as I come back in with the drinks. I had no idea such a place existed but it sounds pretty cool. ‘My mum absolutely hated anything close to a domestic science!’ she hoots. ‘But in her defence, she was a radical. It just screamed oppression and stupefaction to her. To me, it just means half an hour of headspace and clothes that actually fit my breasts!’

Neither of us can now help but look at Flip’s impressive bosoms, clad in what must be a hand-knitted pea-green cardigan.

She’s thundering on, really enjoying her subject. I just get the impression Flip enjoys everything to the maximum, and I love that about a person. Gran used to say ‘some people are drains and some people are radiators. The drains just suck up everything good that comes their way and all they do is give back a bad feeling in return. But radiators make a place more comforting, they make people feel warm and welcome. Some people can’t help being drains but it doesn’t mean you have to fill your house with them.’

I tune back into Flip’s chatter. ‘But any skills women can teach women are a joy, and an essential part of how we shore up the generational relationships, stay strong as a community, share our strengths and cover our weaknesses. That’s why I was so keen to join the WI when I moved here. And when it comes to sewing, well, my daughter Melody and I might row about the Wi-Fi code – I reset every day at 10 p.m.,’ she nods conspiratorially, ‘but we can come together over making her a prom dress from scratch. And it’s much cheaper to boot!’ Cackle cackle.

‘There is something special about being in the company of women, almost sacred.’ Susannah nods.

And that’s just when Dominic arrives.

ABOUT POPPY DOLAN

Poppy Dolan lives in Berkshire with her husband. She's a near-obsessive baker and a keen crafter, so on a typical weekend can be found moving between the haberdashery and kitchenware floors of a department store, adding to her birthday wish list. She has written three novels: The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp, There's More to Life than Cupcakes and most recently The Bluebell Bunting Society. The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp made it into the Amazon top 100 bestseller chart, so clearly someone other than her mum must have read it. She's currently working on her fourth novel – it's about friends, siblings and crafty things – and drinking far too much tea.



Monday, 3 April 2017

UNCOVERED PICKS: Five April Releases

It's a new month! Spring is here, and the sun is out (at the moment, anyway!) There's nothing better than relaxing with a drink and a good book, so here's a selection of five new women's fiction releases for April.

A Life Without You by Shari Low
30 year old Dee Harper and her husband, Joe, are blissfully happy. Every day she makes her loyal parents Val & Don incredibly proud. Jen has been her best friend and 'adopted sister' since their days of teenage crushes, bad 90's make-up and huge hair. They are just like any other group of family and friends, living life, getting by with equal measures of love and laughter. Until one day everything changes. 

Dee is gone, killed by a reckless driver, leaving the people she loved to deal with their grief in different ways. A marriage is rocked as a parent becomes consumed with seeking justice. A husband struggles to accept the loss of his wife and their future. And a friend discovers that there were shocking secrets that went unshared. But all of them have to learn that the only way forward is to let go of the past.

The Woman Who Met Her Match by Fiona Gibson
What if your first love came back on the scene...30 years later?

After yet another disaster, Lorrie is calling time on online dating. She might be single in her forties, but she’s got a good job, wonderful children and she’s happy. This, Lorrie decides, is going to have to be enough.

That is, until she receives a very unexpected request from France. Antoine Rousseau, who had once turned a lonely French exchange trip into a summer of romance, wants to see her – after thirty years.
But Lorrie is a responsible woman. She can’t exactly run off to Nice with the man who broke her teenage heart...can she?

Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
This bookshop keeps many secrets...

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never show you.

Into her refuge - the York book emporium where she works - come a poet, a lover, a friend, and three mysterious deliveries, each of which stirs unsettling memories.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past and she can't hide any longer. She must decide who around her she can trust. Can she find the courage to right a heartbreaking wrong? And will she ever find the words to tell her own story?

It's time to turn the pages of her past...

Lost and Found by Danielle Ryan
Can true love prevail when the real and online world collide? Melissa Riva works in Milan as a university researcher. After buying an iPad at auction, she finds it contains files belonging to its previous owner. Fascinated by the beautiful photographs of romantic landscapes and views of the city, she starts her search for the previous owner. Locating him through Facebook, Melissa can't resist contacting him. Melissa and Riccardo begin chatting online. Both of them becoming increasingly dependent on this strange relationship, though acutely aware that it's only likely to remain a virtual one. But when real life bursts in on their digital world, they can't resist revealing their true feelings...

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter
COW [n.]
/kaʊ/
A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.

Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype.

Tara, Cam and Stella are strangers living their own lives as best they can – though when society’s screaming you should live life one way, it can be hard to like what you see in the mirror.

When an extraordinary event ties invisible bonds of friendship between them, one woman’s catastrophe becomes another’s inspiration, and a life lesson to all.

Sometimes it’s ok not to follow the herd.

The Cows is a powerful novel about three women – judging each other, but also themselves. In all the noise of modern life, they need to find their own voice.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

BLOG TOUR - Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings - REVIEW

Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings is the new novel from Wendy Holden. I have to admit, I wanted to read this the very moment I saw the title, and it made my day when this lovely novel came through the mail. I've read some of Wendy's previous books and enjoyed them, but Laura's adventures had me even more hooked.

Laura Lake has always wanted to be a reporter, following in the footsteps of her father. However, life hasn't gone as planned. Instead, Laura's living in Paris, taking care of her grandmother, blogging about holiday rentals and assisting barmy artists.

But when a chance encounter with magazine editor Carinthia lands her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work at a London glossy, Laura can hardly decline. After all, a job at one of the biggest magazines in the city can only lead to career greatness...right?

Sadly, things don't seem to go too well for Laura Lake; her London living plans fall through, her bag, phone and passport are stolen, and her internship is unpaid. But despite being broke, homeless and without even a phone, Laura is determined to make it work, sleeping in the fashion cupboard and earning favours from crazy yet kind-hearted celebrity Lulu, who she's sent to interview. The more she proves herself, the more chance she has of gaining that promised staff job...that is, until Laura's boarding-school nemesis turns up.

And just happens to be her boss.

Just as it seems her situation can't get any worse, Laura finds herself volunteering to get an insider scoop on some of the country's upcoming celebrity weddings. Exclusive, lavish and tremendously strange, these weddings would make the perfect exposé guaranteed to land Laura in Carinthia's good books. But getting them is a whole different matter. One with some downright hilarious results.

Soon Laura finds herself not only dealing with strange demands, Lulu and her female butler, her gran and her eccentric friends and of course, the matter of sneaking into exclusive star-studded events, but she also has to put up with a potential diamond thief, possible romance and a bullying boss who wants her fired. Oh, and some wildly hilarious shenanigans!

Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings is a slightly outrageous, wonderfully funny take on the world of glossy magazines. Wendy Holden was once a journalist on Tatler, and I like to think she might have had gathered some inspiration from her job!

Laura Lake is a wonderful character - determined, charismatic, still focused on her goal even when life doesn't seem to be doing her any favours. I absolutely adored her, and already can't wait for the next instalment (yes, this is the beginning of a series!). If you're a fan of The Devil Wears Prada then this book is very likely to appeal to you, however Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings is, in my opinion, ten times funnier, with a cast of fantastic, eccentric characters that help make the book so addictive.

Laura Lake and the Celebrity Meltdown will be out in Spring 2018.

Rating: 5/5


BLOG TOUR: Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings by Wendy Holden

Fans of Wendy Holden - author of many novels including Bad Heir Day, Honeymoon Suite and Gifted & Talented - will no doubt be delighted at the release of her new novel, Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings. In the book, which is the first of a series, wannabe journalist Laura is on an assignment for a glossy magazine, to go undercover at some of society's most elaborate weddings. It's an absolutely wonderful, hilarious read, and I can't recommend it enough! As part of her blog tour, we've got an excerpt from the novel as well as a review!

Read on for a chapter of Laura's adventures, and also for a chance to win a signed copy of Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings.

CHAPTER SIX

Laura walked through passport control with a spring in her step, swinging Mimi’s leather bag in excitement. She loved everything, instantly. The St Pancras station shopping hall heaving with people. The great soaring Victorian roof.

She pulled out her phone and called Caspar, smiling as she dialled. He was going to love the story about Harry Scott. But again there was no answer, which was unexpected. Laura checked the number, frowning. No, she had the right one. Where was he?

She took a deep breath. There was nothing to worry about. He might be at an audition or something; he needed the work. He would be in later. He knew she was coming.

But it was strange, even so. Might it be possible...? But no. Caspar was not a jewel thief on the run. It was out of the question that he had anything to do with the missing Bender bling. He would be at an audition, that was all. And later on he’d give her a wry account of it, and she would tell him off for not answering when she called. And then they would make up, which would be a lot of fun. She felt a frisson of lust. A lot of fun.

But that was all later. For now she would go to Society and check in with the HR department. She had investigated the location; the Tubes were either Oxford Circus or Bond Street. But it was only early afternoon and she had two hours before her appointment. Should she walk? Or take the bus? Yes – the famous, iconic, red London bus?

Outside, on the Euston Road, a stream of double-deckers was passing. Laura studied the timetable and caught the 73. She clambered upstairs; the seats at the front were empty. Perfect.

Off the bus chugged. Laura stared out at thronged pavements and choked crossings. It all seemed much busier than Paris. When, eventually, the bus reached Bond Street, she got out and walked down, examining the tableaux in the smart shop windows.

Mannequins in Bond Street were living the dream. In one display, top-hatted male and fascinatored female dummies were enjoying a champagne party. They stood about convivially on green fake grass studded with bright fake flowers. In the windows of an expensive lingerie store a group of mannequins in underwear were getting ready for a night out. One sat on the loo applying lipstick while another stood before the mirror. The third lay in the bath, one high-heeled mule swinging from the end of her foot.

It made Laura suddenly long for the banter and freedom of living in a flat full of girls. She had never shared a place with anyone but Mimi, and whenever she had made female friends at school, they had always been scared away by Clemency Makepeace. In the end she had given up trying. But hopefully London would bring opportunities to form new bonds. It might have to. She had just checked her mobile again and there was still nothing from Caspar.

Had he really robbed Mrs Bender? Was that why he’d gone AWOL? The jewellers’ shops had now begun: Cartier upon Bulgari upon Harry Winston upon Boucheron upon Van Cleef & Arpels. Pausing to look at pear-shaped emeralds, sapphires the size of Scrabble letters and diamonds strobing like disco lights, Laura could see how a penniless actor might be tempted. They were hypnotically beautiful, as well as worth a fortune.

Did Caspar have the ruthlessness that one associated with jewel thieves? Laura was beginning to wonder. She may have spent hours on end sitting just inches away from him and, yes, she had slept with him. But she didn’t really know him. She knew the funny, seductive, outrageous exterior, but had she ever glimpsed the inner man? How Caspar really felt about anything? Only when he’d been complaining about Orlando Chease. And he’d sounded pretty ruthless then. Positively murderous.

Passing Tiffany’s, she remembered her grandmother’s advice on acquiring a radiant complexion. ‘A stroll with the right man round Tiffany’s! The air there is excellent – very good for the skin.’

Laura smiled and felt better. She must focus on the fact that her professional future was as bright and brilliant as a jeweller’s window. Soon she was cheerfully entering an imposing garden square. Rising before her was a building of pale stone with letters cut above the entrance. ‘SOCIETY HOUSE’.

It was all she could do not to run towards the revolving silver door set in the large glass frontage. Beside it, mounted on the cream stone wall, was a highly polished brass plaque on which was engraved ‘The British Magazine Company’.

A pair of thin young blondes passed her as she entered. One wore a clear plastic cloak over a green neon tutu, the other a tweed boilersuit and pink jelly shoes. ‘Body chains with prehistoric teeth,’ she was saying. 

‘Vengeful ballet pumps with punky buckles,’ replied the other. 

Laura grinned. How wonderfully glossy! 

A woman with red glasses carrying an open MacBook swept past. She was barking into a phone. ‘The new interiors colours are Penis, Pigeon and Pout.’

Laura was delighted. She was going to absolutely love working here!

*

On the door was a sign reading ‘Suzanne Silver, Director of Human Resources’.

‘Laura Lake for you, Miss Silver,’ said the girl who had met Laura at the lift.

‘Thank you, Antigone...’

A plump, groomed blonde in a black dress looked up, unsmilingly, from a desk. On the desk were some enormously thick books, Who’s Who and Debrett’s among them, as well as a framed page from a newspaper, ‘London’s Most Powerful’, as well as a big red number 5 beside a photograph of Suzanne.

Laura realised she was in the presence of a media potentate.

‘I’ve got lots of features ideas,’ she began, reaching for her bag with her notebook in it.

‘Ideas?’ Suzanne looked startled.

‘For the magazine.’

Suzanne gave a dismissive chuckle. ‘I don’t need to know about that sort of thing. I do the background checks.’ Laura had previously filled in a form online, but that was incomplete anyway; her London address was yet to be added. Perhaps that was what Suzanne meant. But she had her passport, which she now put on the table.

Suzanne did not pick it up, however. She was consulting a huge red book with ‘Burke’s Peerage’ in gold on the spine. ‘Lake,’ she was murmuring to herself, flipping through the pages. ‘Hinton St Magna?’

‘Sorry?’

Suzanne looked up irritably. She had very hard blue eyes, Laura noticed. ‘Are you one of the Lakes of Hinton St Magna? A cadet branch of the Codde-Chitterling family?’

Laura sensed that Suzanne would quite like her to be. Ambition urged her to say yes. ‘I’m not sure,’ she hedged.

The personnel director had now turned to consult an enormous poster on the wall which was covered in coats of arms. ‘Mole rampant on a background of azure with gules and half suzerain. Motto: “I toil in the dark”?’

‘What?’

The hard blue eyes had swung back and were boring into Laura. ‘Isn’t that your heraldic achievement?’

Laura decided to err on the side of caution, as well as truth. She took a deep breath. ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve got absolutely no idea.’

The irritation went from Suzanne’s face, and she smiled.

‘Congratulations, you’ve passed the first test. ‘I always invite people to claim they’re related to bogus families. Just to see whether they’re truthful or not.’

Laura felt light-headed with relief at not having succumbed to temptation. ‘The last girl I had in here said she was one of the Prawn-Sandwiches.’ Suzanne was shaking her head and beaming fondly. ‘And I’ve had plenty of fun with Lew-Rolles and Jolly-Silleys in the past.’

Laura chuckled obediently.

Suzanne gave a happy sigh, then looked hard at Laura again. ‘So who are you related to, then?’

‘Er...’

The blue eyes froze. ‘We only want well-connected girls here.’

‘My father died when I was little. I’ve been living with my grandmother in Paris.’

‘Can you name some of your friends?’

Laura’s mind was blank. Thanks largely to Clemency Makepeace, she didn’t have many friends, as such. Apart from Ernest and Ginette. But a transvestite prostitute and an elderly bar owner were not what was being asked for here.

She sat silently, heart sinking, before the chill azure stare. Would her lack of grand contacts cost her the job?

It seemed not. Suzanne now leant forward with a conspiratorial smile. ‘Absolutely,’ she whispered. ‘The truly well connected never talk about the people they know. Quite right. Not at all the done thing. Just as long as you open your address book when Carinthia needs it, eh?’

Realising that, most unexpectedly, she seemed to have passed another of Suzanne’s tests, Laura nodded fervently. And she meant it. The minute Carinthia wanted to do a feature on Ernest, Laura would lay all his contact details at her feet.

‘Well, that’s it,’ Suzanne said brightly. ‘You can start tomorrow. Antigone will have an ID card ready, and your exes. £20 a week to cover travel. We don’t pay interns, as I expect Carinthia explained.’

Laura didn’t think Carinthia had, but decided it didn’t matter. It couldn’t matter. She would manage, and she had a roof over her head with Caspar. The main thing was, she was in!

Too excited to wait for the lift, she ran down the back stairs and almost danced across the lobby. The revolving door whizzed in her wake.

Outside, the sun beat down happily on the well-swept pavement. Laura felt for her mobile and called Caspar again. She was desperate to share her good news, as well as check in about the flat. But his end remained unanswered. Again, no answerphone clicked in.

Her joy faded. Worry clawed at her, as well as annoyance. This really was ridiculous. She was now definitely beginning to think he was a jewel thief on the run. Or had he simply forgotten all about her, gone off with the blonde from the train? She’d almost prefer him to be a jewel thief.

Well, she had to be practical. Wherever he was, whatever was going on, it left her homeless. She must find a hotel if she was not to sleep on the streets. She had enough in her account for a few days if necessary. Caspar was bound to have emerged by then.

And when he did, she would tell him what she thought of him.

The Euston Road seemed her best bet. It had three mainline stations on it; there would be cheap chain hotels offering a decent level of cleanliness and comfort. She set off towards the Tube.

It was horribly crowded; this was rush hour. At Euston she lost her way among the escalators and tunnels but eventually made it to the train station concourse. This too was heaving with people, shoving in the opposite direction and dragging after them suitcases whose wheels bashed her ankles and feet. Laura skipped out of their way as best she could. London was a battleground!

Spotting the logo of a bargain hotel chain, she hurried gratefully towards it. Saved!

In the purple, deskless foyer, a lank-haired woman in a trouser suit and corporate neckscarf stood behind a touch-screen console. A badge on her lapel read, ‘Kayleigh, Guest Welcome Operative’. She tapped the greasy screen. Yes, there was a room, and within Laura’s budget. ‘If you could just hand over your card,’ said Kayleigh in a nasal drone.

Laura reached for the purse in her bag. Strangely, the bag was not in her hand. She realised that she couldn’t remember the last time it had been. She glanced at the floor; had it fallen? It was not anywhere on the grey and purple carpet.

Panic closed in, but she forced herself to think rationally. Remember. Had she left it on the Tube? No, she’d had it at the exit, she had shoved her ticket in the zip front. She had had it on the concourse at Euston; she had put it down to put her coat back on. Was it then that someone had snatched it?

The hideous possibility clanged through her just as the nasal drone cut in. ‘Your card?’

Laura stared at Kayleigh. ‘My bag... I... someone’s taken it.’ Her mind reeled. Not only had her purse gone, her phone had too. She couldn’t even call Caspar now. His number was in its memory.

‘Someone’s taken your bag?’ The Visitor Welcome Operative sounded sceptical. She had clearly heard all this before.

Laura fought not to lose control. She spoke slowly, clearly.

‘Yes, it’s gone. And so I don’t have a card.’ God, and her passport had been in there as well. Her passport!

‘Can’t give you a room if you can’t pay for it.’

‘Yes, I see that, but it’s not my fault. Someone’s taken my bag.’

Kayleigh was tapping impassively into her console. ‘Reported it to the police, haveya?’

‘Well... no.’

‘Better do that then.’

Laura stumbled away. She was penniless, passportless and roofless, with the strange London night coming on. How on earth had this happened? Not long ago, she had felt on the edge of something big. But it was an abyss. A huge black nothing.

Oh God. What now?

Win free signed copies of Laura Lake And The Hipster Weddings by sharing your own hilarious wedding stories with me! I can't wait to read them! They might even inspire another novel! Please go to https://goo.gl/forms/xYaoaGCgxPpNR23g1  Thank you.  Love Wendy xx

Thursday, 23 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: Shipyard Girls at War by Nancy Revell

Following her novel The Shipyard Girls, Nancy Revell is back with the next installment in the saga about Polly, Dorothy, Hannah and the other young women working in a shipyard during World War Two. Nancy has stopped by as part of her blog tour for The Shipyard Girls at War, and has shared with us the bios of the main characters. Read on to find out more (and about two newly-introduced characters!)

Shipyard Girls at War by Nancy is published by Arrow, and out now.

MEET THE SHIPYARD GIRLS…

The Shipyard Girls – Polly, Rosie, Gloria, Dorothy, Hannah and Martha – start off as strangers, but end up forging an unbreakable bond of friendship in the most difficult times. 

The Shipyard Girls saga series is set in World War Two when many of the shipyard workers in Sunderland, County Durham have gone off to fight for King and country, and it has fallen to the womenfolk to step into the men's steel cap boots and get to work building ships.

Each of the women in the novel has their own story, their own reasons for choosing to work in the yards on the River Wear. They are all different and they all have their own personal struggles. As they learn to weld, their friendship grows, and we learn more about their lives, their loves - and their secrets.


POLLY is driven by her need to follow in the footsteps of her family’s shipbuilding heritage and to be a part of the war effort. Not long after she starts as a trainee welder, she falls for dock diver, Tommy Watts. She lives in the town’s east end with her widowed mother, Agnes, and her sister-in-law, Bel.

ROSIE is the welding instructor who leads a double life. By day she works in the shipyards, and by night she sells her body in an upmarket 'bordello' called Lily’s. Her parents died in a car accident when she was younger and since then, she has been desperately trying to earn enough money to keep her little sister, Charlotte, at an all-girl’s boarding school in Harrogate – and, moreover, out of the notoriously harsh and abusive children's home.

GLORIA is the mother hen of the squad. She signs up to escape her brutal husband, Vinnie, but finds she cannot run from her problems. Her two sons are in the Royal Navy and she lives in one of the newly-built council houses on the town’s Ford estate. Gloria purports to be working at the shipyards for purely financial reasons, but really it is to escape her cold and abusive marriage. Gloria enjoys her work at the yard and her verbal sparring with the group’s youngest welder, Dorothy, but she is troubled when she meets her old flame, yard manager Jack Crawford. There are obviously still feelings there. Will their love be resurrected? And will Gloria be able to break free from Vinnie?

DOROTHY lives for today and is the 'entertainer' of the group who loves nothing more than being the centre of attention and having fun. She left her job as a sales assistant in the town’s main department store to become a welder as she is obsessed with one of the riveters, Eddie. Dorothy gets her man but she has to learn the hard way that he is a no good womaniser. There is more to Dorothy than meets the eye, though, and it becomes apparent that underneath her ditzy, shiny exterior hides a more thoughtful and astute young woman.

HANNAH is the group’s ‘little bird’. She is just 19 and one of only a hundred or so Jewish immigrants living in the town. Her parents sent her to live with her Aunty Rina just before Hitler invaded Prague. She is small and fragile and struggles with the physical labour of welding. She comes from a well-educated Czech family, and like all the girls she too has her own reasons for working in the yard.

MARTHA is the squad’s gentle giant. To start with she rarely speaks, but gradually she starts to come out of her shell. She develops a fierce loyalty for the women who have accepted her for the person she is.

TOMMY is a deep-sea diver and has been brought up by his granddad, Arthur. The only love in his life has been the deep waters of the River Wear and the North Sea - until he meets Polly and falls hopelessly in love with her. But he is torn. He is desperate to go to war and use his skill to combat the Italian ‘frogmen’ who are putting limpet mines on Allied ships. He knows their love will be forever tainted by regret if he does not leave the shipyards for the war raging in the Atlantic Ocean.

JACK is married to Miriam Havelock, the daughter of one of the town’s richest families. She tricked him into marrying her twenty years previously when he was in love with Gloria. They have a daughter Helen. When Jack sees Gloria working in the yard it has far-reaching consequences.

LILY is the madam and owner of Lily’s bordello. She is a colourful character, with a heaving bosom and bird’s nest of orange hair. She loves all things French and tries to speak the language, but her cockney roots always prevail. Despite her eccentricities she is a successful business woman. She has a soft spot for her ‘favourite girl’ Rosie and worries when her Uncle Raymond turns up at the bordello. George is Lily’s friend/companion who is a decorated First World War veteran and spends most of his time at Lily’s.

HELEN is a raven-haired beauty - and knows it. Her father is Jack Crawford, the yard manager, and her mother is Miriam, who is from one of the town’s richest families. Helen works in the shipyard offices and uses her starlet-like looks to her full advantage. Most of her life she has succeeded in getting just what she wants. Now she wants dock diver Tommy, but realises he is falling for the new girl in the yard. She is a jealous and manipulative character, who will do anything to stop Polly from being with Tommy.

BEL is Polly’s sister-in-law and best friend. She is married to Teddy Elliot and lives with Agnes and Polly. She works as a bus conductress and has a two-year-old daughter called Lucille. When she was a child she was taken in by Agnes due to her own mother’s drinking and neglect. Bel is an entertainer and loves nothing more than regaling her adopted family with tales and gossip. All she has ever wanted in life is to have a close-knit family.

AGNES is Polly's mum who has turned her home into a day nursery to help look after a small army of local children whose mums have had to go out to work. Her twin sons, Teddy and Joe, are Desert Rats fighting in North Africa. She was vehemently against Polly’s decision to work in the yards, as it is a dangerous place to work as well as a target for Hitler’s bombs. Agnes is a widow (her husband Harry never came back from the First World War). She is a strong maternal character, who has had to bring up her three children single-handedly in one of the poorest areas of the town.

ARTHUR is Tommy’s grandfather, who used to also work as a dock diver when he was younger. Arthur brought up Tommy after his mother, (Arthur’s daughter), committed suicide when Tommy’s father was killed during the First World War. Arthur’s wife, Flo, died when Tommy was just a nipper. Arthur and Tommy live together in the Diver’s House on the south dock.

In ‘Shipyard Girls at War’ two new characters are introduced: Pearl – Bel’s no-good mother, who turns up on the door step out of the blue. And Joe, Polly’s brother, who has been medically discharged after being blasted with shrapnel while fighting out in North Africa.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Finding Secrets by Lauren Westwood

One of this month's most intriguing reads is Finding Secrets, the new novel by Lauren Westwood (author of Finding Home).

When Alex Hart left university, she didn't think she'd see herself as the manager of an Elizabethan country manor. Getting the job at Mallow Court wasn't part of the medieval history graduate's plan, but things worked out just nicely. Maybe too nicely - Alex has spent so much time in the grounds of the house, hosting weddings and giving tours that she's seemingly forgotten to have fun.

When a mysterious, attractive stranger turns up at Mallow Court, Alex is suddenly swept up by feelings and the realisation that maybe she's missing something in her life. However, things immediately change when she finds a beautiful and unique silver locket in the old coat belonging to Mrs Fairchild, the owner of Mallow Court.

Before she knows it, Alex finds herself in the middle of in a mystery - one that she has to get to the bottom of. A mystery that involves the London Blitz and the Russian Revolution, and a diary. Can Alex help Mrs Fairchild, and also find her own path to happiness along the way?

I haven't read Finding Home, so this was the first novel by Lauren Westwood I'd picked up. And I was so happy I did. Finding Secrets is the perfect mix of romance and mystery, with an intelligent, compelling heroine that I was rooting for since the beginning. Alex is relatable, smart and fun, and it's hard not to want her to find the answers - and the life - that she's been looking for.

Finding Secrets is a wonderful read with great characters, plenty of intrigue and a generous helping of romance!

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

UNCOVERED PICKS: Five March Releases

As we make our way into March, it's time for a peek at what's new in female fiction. This month sees new novels from Christie Barlow (author of Lizzie's Christmas Escape), Sophie Nicholls (The Dress) and Cathy Kelly (Between Sisters).

Finding Secrets by Lauren Westwood
Alex Hart loves her dream job as manager of Mallow Court, a historic Elizabethan house, even if her friends think she needs to get out more. But a discovery in the pocket of an old coat – a jewelled mechanical locket shaped like a bird – changes everything, and Alex discovers that things are not as they seem.

From an old diary, to a handsome barrister, a mysterious clockmaker, and the darkest hours of the London Blitz, Alex must follow the trail of the jewelled bird to uncover the truth about the things she holds dearest – and someone is determined not to let sleeping dogs lie!

Only by finding the secrets of the past can Alex find the keys to her future – and her heart.

The Difference Between You and Me by Celia Hayes
Trudy Watts has everything she's ever dreamed of: a job that she loves, a successful boyfriend and an ultra-modern apartment in one of the most fashionable parts of London. With a long-awaited promotion due to come her way and her wedding just around the corner, Trudy's life is just perfect...

That is until catastrophe strikes and her life is turned upside down. She's transferred to Turriff, a remote Scottish town to manage a small, struggling bank branch.

Her arrival is traumatic and she wishes she was anywhere but here... Until she sees him – Ethan, the charming pub landlord, who seems to enjoy nothing more than to tease her. And it's right there, in that pub, that her life will suddenly change...

Evie's Year of Taking Chances by Christie Barlow
Evie’s job has always been her safe haven. As a librarian in the little town of Becton she loses herself in books - after all it’s far easier to read about other people’s problems than set about solving her own.

Then, one birthday, everything is turned upside down. A mysterious parcel containing a beautiful book with a poignant inscription arrives for Evie. It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Evie and she’s inspired to try and find her real mother. 

Evie’s search leads her to meet handsome author Noah Jones. Charming and intelligent, Noah seems the perfect catch but what Evie doesn’t realise is that he is hiding something – a key to Evie’s past. 

As Evie gets closer to Noah and discovering her mother, she must take a giant leap of faith. Can she embrace the new and make this her year of taking chances? And if she does, will she get her heart broken? 

Miss Mary's Book of Dreams by Sophie Nicholls
In historic York, Ella seems to have the perfect life. She's a published author, her bookshop is thriving, she's married to the man of her dreams and they've started a family of their own. 

But Ella is struggling. Motherhood isn't quite everything she imagined it to be, and she's worried that there may be cracks in her marriage. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, despite endless blue skies and a stream of eager customers in her vintage dress shop, Ella's mother Fabia finds that life in San Diego is not enough for her. She misses York, and can sense that Ella needs her, so she flies home. 

And this is when they meet Bryony. With a complicated life and secrets of her own, Bryony may have some of the answers they're looking for. 

Can Ella and Fabia help her find her way, whilst also working out how to find their own happily ever after?

Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly
Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess's stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won't replace the one she's been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn't unnerved by anything - apart from facing the man who left her at the alter, and he's on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since - but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage...but will they find out before it's too late?

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