BOOK NEWS: The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

It's still a while to wait, but The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay, author of Lizzy & Jane and A Portrait of Emily Price, will be published in November.

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath.  While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by the other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them. 

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts. 


Joining me on the blog today is Ruth Kaufman, author of new novel My Life as an Extra. Ruth was inspired by her experiences as a film and TV extra, and she's already working on the sequel!

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Rebuilding her life after divorcing, Marla learns to feel special when she’s not the star.

What inspired you to write My Life as an Extra?
I've worked as an extra on more than 70 movies and TV shows filmed in Chicago, and thought that world would make an interesting backdrop because of the lengths people  often need to go to complete a film and the various personalities that inhabit it.

Where do you do most of your writing?
I usually write at my desk in my home office because I prefer the larger monitor and better ergonomics. But sometimes I take my laptop to a quiet coffee shop or a friend's place for a different atmosphere.

What is your favourite book?
That's a tough question because I have so many on my keeper shelf! I love Margaret George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers: A Novel.

Which part of My Life as an Extra did you enjoy writing the most?
I had so much fun writing a scene later in the book that takes place at Marla's day job. I'm a panster (meaning I don't plot first), so I kept laughing out loud as developments unfolded. And when a certain event took place, it was quite the "aha" moment. I don't want to give any spoilers....

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
I'd say whenever I'm reading a book I love, that heroine is my favorite.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
So many! The first would be to learn about and stay on top of changes in the market. The second is to be aware that nowadays one book isn't usually enough for those who want to sell, so it's helpful to have a career plan and know how fast you can write.

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
I'm finishing revisions on the sequel to MLE, My Life as a Star, in which Marla learns be careful what you wish for when her acting career and feelings for a hot, famous director skyrocket.

Thanks, Ruth!

You can find out more about Ruth Kaufman by visiting her website, blog, Facebook, or by following her on Twitter.

My Life as an Extra

Chicagoan Marla Goldberg must rebuild her life at forty-one after an unexpected divorce. While adjusting to singlehood, trying to improve conditions at the radio station where she's an account executive and fit in with her successful family, she dips her toes into the daunting dating pool. 

Marla yearns to fulfill her long-held dream of being a full-time, working actor, yet can't quite believe, "Leap and the net will appear." Being a movie and TV show extra teaches her meaningful lessons, but she must learn what for her is the hardest lesson of all: how to feel special and valued when you’re not the star. 

BOOK REVIEW: The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land by Isabella Davidson

The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land is the newly-released debut novel by Isabella Davidson, popular blogger at Notting Hill Yummy Mummy (check out her recent blog tour to find out more about Isabella!) I was pretty excited about this book as soon as I heard about it. A new city, rivalry, anonymous seemed like a promising debut!

When her husband lands a job opportunity that's hard to turn down, Sophie Bennett begins to prepare the family's big move from Toronto to London. Moving to a new city is hard enough, but heading to a new city halfway across the globe is even more difficult - especially when there's Sophie's four-year-old daughter Kaya's schooling to consider.

Luckily, Michael's contacts have landed them the services of a nursery consultant who manages to get Kaya a place at Cherry Blossoms, one of the most exclusive nurseries in Notting Hill. Sophie is sure that taking Kaya to her new school will provide the perfect opportunity to talk to the other mums and make new friends - but as it happens, she couldn't be more wrong.

The mums at Cherry Blossoms are not what Sophie expects; incredibly wealthy, beautiful (one is an actual supermodel) and just a bit judgmental, Sophie's first interactions with the 'Alpha Mums' doesn't exactly go down too well. Feeling self-conscious and out of her depth at the school gates of exclusivity she has not fully experienced before, Sophie vows to try again.

However, she soon becomes certain that she won't fit in with these high-maintenance mums who are always fighting for the top spot in the Alpha Mum roster. Rude, cliquey and fiercely competitive in everything they do, these 'yummy mummies' are desperate to outdo one another and take down anyone who gets in their way.

Lonely and homesick, Sophie takes out her frustration on a blog. Naming herself 'Beta Mum', she anonymously chronicles her day to day life at the school gates, noting some of the conversations and goings-on at some of the vast Cherry Blossoms events. Pretty soon Sophie is gaining followers from all around the world, who are stopping by to share their own amusing tales of school-run woes.

As the blog gains more attention - especially from one man who might just be married to one of the Alphas - Sophie becomes more content, making sure she documents her new life full of overachieving competitive mums for the world to read about. With her blog, people are finally listening to her, making her realise that she's not alone.

That is until one day, when she accidentally reveals the location of the London nursery, and it's only a matter of time before the Alpha's work out the mystery blogger's true identity...

I'm going to stop there in case I spoil any more, and I certainly don't want to do that because this book is downright brilliant. I was hooked from page one, and it didn't take me long to finish because I could hardly put it down. Isabella is funny, with sparkling wit, and her fun writing style shines through. I was rooting for Sophie since the very beginning of the novel.

I'm not a mum, and thus have never experienced the kind of behaviour Sophie has to endure at the nursery, however I have heard similar stories from others who have! It reminds me of high school, where classes were dominated by the typical cliques and bullies. Some people just never seem to grow up, often concealing their own problems and insecurities beneath a false layer of confidence, and I think Isabella has captured this brilliantly.

The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land is an absolutely wonderful, unputdownable debut.

Rating: 5/5

COMING SOON: Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

Every Secret Thing is the new novel from Rachel Crowther, author of The Things You DO for Love. The novel is due for release on 29th June and focuses on five friends who return to the Lake District and rediscover past events...

Can you ever bury the past? 

She'd recognised in him something of herself: that sense of not belonging, of secrets fiercely kept...
Five friends, newly graduated, travel together to the Lake District. Young and ambitious, they little imagine the events that will overtake them that fateful summer, tearing their fragile group apart.

Twenty years later, they return to the same spot, summoned by a mysterious bequest. It's not long before old friendships - and old romances - are re-kindled. But soon, too, rivalries begin to re-emerge and wounds are painfully reopened...

How long does it take for past sins to be forgiven? And can the things they destroy ever really be recovered?

BOOK REVIEW: Not Working by Lisa Owens

Not Working is the much anticipated debut novel from Lisa Owens. This book was on my radar for quite some time - plus, I was in love with its original cover art - so when it appeared on Netgalley I jumped at the chance to read it.

Twenty-something Claire might seem to possess the recipe for a good life; a London flat, a boyfriend who's a trainee brain surgeon, a mother who she spends time with, and a decent day job. However, Claire isn't thoroughly satisfied - she isn't doing a job she loves, and even though she doesn't have to worry too much financially with Luke's salary, she has suspicions that he may be cheating on her.

A bit fed up with a life that now seems to be heading nowhere, Claire decides to quit her tedious job and find one that's more meaningful - to truly find her calling. After all, she has enough savings to keep her going for enough time to find a job - which, sadly, is harder than she expected.

Claire soon realises that perhaps leaving a job before finding another was probably not the best of ideas, and soon her life, which at least used to have some semblance of normality, is taken over by an excessive job hunt. Claire needs to get her life back on track, and quickly.

Not Working seemed as though it would be a promising debut. I had expected it to be quirky, humorous, with the added relatablility of twenty-something life. Most of us have probably taken jobs 'for now' with the intent of landing our dream careers, or have spent considerable time glued to our computers, applying for various roles over and over again. That's part of what interested me about this novel  - we've all been there, that's life, that's reality sometimes. But sadly, it just didn't ring true.

Firstly, Claire is an extremely annoying character; she's self-centered and irresponsible, and if I'm being blunt, acts like a whiny, entitled, immature and shallow millennial waiting for everything to be automatically handed to her. (I am only a couple of years older than Claire, and yet with her actions, it seems as though she's a lot younger). I couldn't sympathise with her at all and she annoyed me so much that I really didn't want to finish the novel.

Secondly, the format of this book is quite annoying; it's not written in novel form, more like a diary, with every page or so having a different title, with a glimpse into Claire's relatively normal, day to day life. This became very tedious, VERY quickly, as the chapters didn't fully flow for me and it was hard to get into the story.

I'm disappointed, mainly because I had such high hopes for this book. That said, if Lisa Owens releases another novel I would certainly give it a go, but as for Not Working, I'm sad to say it wasn't for me.

Rating: 2/5

UNCOVERED PICKS: Sunny Summer Reads (part two!)

Seeing as the sun is blazing outside, it's the perfect time to take a look at some more summer novels (did you see part one?). It doesn't matter whether you're away on an exotic holiday or sunning it up in the garden, these books will whisk you away on a summer adventure!

Just for the Holidays by Sue Moorcroft
In theory, nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. That is, until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple, and a very unexpected pregnancy.

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the relaxing holiday Leah Beaumont was hoping for – but it’s the one she’s got. With her sister Michele’s family falling apart at the seams, it’s up to Leah to pick up the pieces and try to hold them all together.

But with a handsome helicopter pilot staying next door, Leah can’t help but think she might have a few distractions of her own to deal with...

The Gin Shack on the Beach by Catherine Miller
When octogenarian Olive Turner is persuaded by her son to move into a retirement home, she congratulates herself on finding the secret to an easy life: no washing up, cooking or cleaning. But Olive isn’t one for mindless bingo with her fellow residents, and before the first day is over she's already hatching a plan to escape back to her beloved beach hut and indulge in her secret passion for a very good gin & tonic.

Before long Olive’s secret is out and turning into something wonderful and new. Only a select few are invited, but word spreads quickly about the weekly meetings of The Gin Shack Club. Soon everybody on the beach wants to become a gin connoisseur and join Olive on her journey to never being forced to grow older than you feel.

The Summer of Second Chances by Maddie Please
It takes time to build your life. To get into a long-term (OK, a bit boring) relationship. To find a job (you don’t completely hate). Lottie might not be thrilled with the life she’s put together, but it’s the one she’s got.

So when in the course of one terrible evening, it all comes crashing down around her, Lottie has a choice: give herself over to grief at being broke, single and completely lacking in prospects.

Or, brick by brick, build herself a new life. And this time, with a little help from friends, a crumbling cottage in Devon and a handsome stranger, maybe she can make it the one she always wanted.

Sunshine After the Rain by Daisy James
Frazzled workaholic Evie Johnson has finally had enough! When she’s blamed for a publicity disaster at the art gallery she loves, she decides to flee the bright lights of London for the sun-drenched shores of Corfu and turn her life upside-down.

Under the shade of the olive trees, she picks up her dusty paintbrushes and begins to chase the dreams she had put aside for so long. But she never expected to bump into drop-dead-gorgeous Sam Bradbury – and certainly not whilst wrapped only in a towel!

A summer fling is the last thing Evie wanted but a few stolen kisses under the stars might just begin to change her mind…

The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara
One summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there's a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.

'The Welcome House' is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there's always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.

While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she's remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.

But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious 'Welcome House'? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?

The Sunshine and Biscotti Club by Jenny Oliver
The ovens are pre-heating, the Prosecco is chilling…and The Sunshine and Biscotti Club is nearly ready to open its doors.

But the guests have other things on their minds…

Libby: The Blogger
Life is Instagram-perfect for food blogger Libby…until she catches her husband cheating just weeks before her Italian cooking club’s grand opening.

Evie: The Mum
Eve’s marriage isn’t working, but she’s not dared admit it until now. A trip to Italy to help Libby open The Sunshine and Biscotti Club might be the perfect escape…

Jessica: In Love with her Best Friend
Jessica has thrown herself into her work to shut out the memory of the man who never loved her back. The same man who’s just turned up in Tuscany…

Welcome to Tuscany’s newest baking school – where your biscotti is served with a side of love, laughter and ice-cold limoncello!

BLOG TOUR: Q&A with Jill Steeples, author of Summer at the Dog and Duck

Jill Steeples joins us today as part of her blog tour for new novel, Summer at the Dog and Duck. The novel is available from Aria and focuses on Ellie Browne, landlady at the pub in idyllic Little Leyton. Want to know more about Jill and her novels? Then read on!

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Cider, sunshine, love and sizzling secrets. It’s all happening at The Dog & Duck this summer!

What inspired you to write Summer at the Dog & Duck?
It’s the second in the series of books base around a cosy fictional pub called The Dog and Duck set in the idyllic English village of Little Leyton. My family are from the East End of London and the local pub was always at the heart of the community.  I’d always been fascinated by the different characters who came together at the pub and wanted to tell some of their stories.

Where do you do most of your writing?
Curled up on my sofa, overlooking the garden, with my dog, Amber, at my side.

What is your favourite book?
This is always such a difficult question because there have been so many I’ve loved, but I always come back to The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien. It’s a beautifully written coming of age story set in rural Ireland.

Which part of  Summer at the Dog & Duck did you enjoy writing the most?
In this book, Max’s younger sister, Katie turns up in the village, full of angst and attitude.  I adored writing her scenes because although she’s clearly troubled, she’s gutsy, funny and has a huge heart.

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
Bridget Jones! Just hearing her name makes me smile.  She is so funny, down-to-earth and, for a whole generation of women, very relatable.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
Join a writing group where you can meet like-minded people.  Writing can be such a lonely business, especially when you’re starting out, that you need to find others who will encourage and support you during the bad times.  I joined a creative writing class and the people I met there gave me the confidence to take my writing seriously.  There are so many great online groups too and societies such as the Romantic Novelist’s Association, which I belong to.

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
I’m currently writing the third in the Dog and Duck series. It’s still early days, buts it’s always very exciting to return to the characters to see what they’re up to.  All I can say at the moment is that it’s going to be a very busy time for Ellie at The Dog and Duck.

Thanks, Jill!

To find out more about Jill Steeples, you can follow her on Twitter, via Facebook, or visit her website. Jill's previous novel, Winter at the Dog & Duck, is available now.

About Jill

Jill Steeples lives in a small market town in Bedfordshire with her husband and two children. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, baking cakes, eating them and drinking wine.

Summer at the Dog & Duck

The perfect summer read. Continuing the light hearted, uplifting dramas around the 'The Dog & Duck' pub and the life of its landlady Ellie Browne.

Ellie Browne  has found happiness running The Dog and Duck pub in the idyllic village of Little Leyton, and her blossoming romance with tall, handsome property developer,  Max Golding, is going swimmingly. With her new best friend,  Digby, the black Labrador at her side, life just couldn't be sweeter.  

But their peace is shattered when  Max's younger sister,  Katy, turns up unannounced with a whole heap of attitude. And  Max's loyalties are stretched further when his glamorous ex,  Sasha, re-appears with her own burgeoning secret.  

With the master of the manor preoccupied with the demands of his 'other women',  Ellie's forced to consider if she has any role to play in  Max's life or in the village of Little Leyton.  

Can Ellie get her life and relationship back on track in time for the summer charity ball at Braithwaite Manor?

UNCOVERED PICKS: Five June Releases

June's here, and with it comes new books! Here's a selection of this month's new releases, including novels from Lilly Bartlett and Rosie Nixon, and well-known beauty vlogger Louise Pentland.

The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett
Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realizes that getting back on track means traveling in a different direction.

She finds that new path in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm … and trouble. They'll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.

This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who's in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is canceling the cake orders, but it's when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realizes things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbors and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes
Pimm's, punting and ball gowns are de rigeur. Ursula Flowerbutton, a studious country girl, arrives for her first term anticipating nothing more sinister than days spent poring over history books - and, perhaps, an invitation to a ball. But when she discovers a ghastly crime, she is catapulted into a murder investigation.

Determined to unravel the case - and bag her first scoop for the famous student newspaper Cherwell - Ursula enlists the help of her fellow Fresher, the glamorous American Nancy Feingold. While navigating a whirl of black-tie parties and secret dining societies, the girls discover a surfeit of suspects. From broken-hearted boyfriends to snobby Sloanes, lovelorn librarians to dishy dons, none can be presumed innocent.

Clueless meets Agatha Christie in this wickedly funny tale of high society, low morals and a middle-class girl, the first book in Plum Sykes's irresistible new series.

Amber Green Takes Manhattan by Rosie Nixon
Novice stylist Amber Green is taking on the glittering celebrity world of Manhattan one fashion disaster and wardrobe malfunction at a time!

When her TV producer boyfriend Rob announces that he’s been offered a job in New York, filming with the infamous Angel Wear lingerie models, Amber knows its her perfect chance to take the New York fashion world by storm.

But Amber wasn’t counting on unruly toddler photo shoots, clandestine designer handbag scams and a Hollywood star who is determined to wear as little as possible on the red carpet. Until she meets a disgraced former designer who could turn her career around…or leave it all in tatters.

The Brazilian by Rosie Millard
Following a sensational scandal at one of London's most desired postcodes, Jane and Patrick decide to escape the gossip with a family holiday to Ibiza, their eight-year-old son George in tow.

Also on the island that week is a TV reality show involving an eccentric artist, a horny It Girl, a Brazilian footballer and a famous magician.

As hapless celebrities are picked off one by one, Jane is desperate to be on the programme, leaving childcare in the not so capable hands of a teenager.

One lesbian escapade and an explosive row over hair removal later, the contestants of Ibiza or Bust leave the island with more than sand in places they never knew existed...

Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland
Single mum Robin Wilde adores her six-year-old daughter and loves her job as a make up artist's assistant. She has a wonderful best friend and an auntie who is bonkers, yes, but loves her to the moon and back. 

But Robin has a secret. Behind the mask she carefully applies every day, things just feel ... grey. And lonely. She struggles to fit in with the school mum crew. Online dating is totally despair-inducing, and she worries every day about raising her little girl with self-confidence, courage and joy.

What Robin longs for is someone (over the age of six) to share with - someone who's always on her team. 

After 4 years (2 months, and 15 days!) of single-mum-dom, it's time for Robin Wilde to Change. Her. Life. 

Exciting new opportunities are about to come Robin's way ... Perhaps a man, perhaps the chance of a lifetime...

What will Robin do with the possibilities she creates for herself? And what potential will she unlock if she takes the leap?