BOOK NEWS: It Started With a Tweet by Anna Bell

Anna Bell recently revealed the cover of her new novel, and ISN'T IT LOVELY?! Anna is the author of romantic comedies including the Don't Tell series, The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart and The Good Girlfriend's Guide to Getting Even. It Started With a Tweet is out in December, and follows social media-obsessed Daisy who's about to face some life changes after a huge mistake at work...

Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. A marketing manager by day, she tweets her friends, instagrams every meal and arranges (frankly, appalling) dates on Tinder. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall...

Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy's problems - a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria, that she just happens to need help doing up. Soon, too, Daisy finds herself with two welcome distractions: sexy French exchange-help Alexis, and Jack, the brusque and rugged man-next-door, who keeps accidentally rescuing her.

But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village? And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone? 

NEW RELEASES: You, Me and Everything in Between by Helen J Rolfe

You, Me and Everything in Between is the new novel from Helen J Rolfe, author of Handle Me With Care and In a Manhattan Minute. Lydia's life is changed completely, leaving her wondering whether she should finally move on...

Can you ever rewrite the past?

Lydia and Theo face the unthinkable when a knock at the door changes everything. 

As Theo lies unconscious, Lydia begins to pick up the pieces, but not every part of the puzzle fits together as neatly as it did before. And when Lydia begins to move on, what happens when Theo wakes up and realises she didn’t wait for him?

Theo and Lydia have a history together, but do they still have a future? Or has too much happened to be able to forgive and forget? 

BOOK REVIEW: My Sister's Wedding by Vicky Pattison

When I was sent the ARC of My Sister's Wedding by Vicky Pattison, I wasn't sure what to expect - I'm not usually a fan of overly-romantic stories, which is what the cover makes it out to be (it's a little sugary for my tastes!). However, the blurb looked fun. Two very different sisters, one big wedding. I decided to give it a try. As it turned out, this book was brilliant.

First off, I have to say that I had no idea who Vicky Pattison was before reading this. I hardly watch TV, let alone reality TV, and I've never seen an episode of Geordie Shore in my life. On receiving this book I learned Vicky is a celebrity with two more novels available (All That Glitters and The Christmas Kiss) along with some non-fiction titles.

Lizzie and Becky Ashworth are sisters, but so very different. Becky is sensible, focused, and preparing to get married to her fiance, the lovely Daniel Balfour. Meanwhile, Lizzie is a bit more wild, unable to keep a job for very long, and lacking the security and drive that her sister has.

Becky and Daniel are truly in love, and the wedding is set to be a lavish affair, especially seeing as Daniel hails from the uber-rich Balfour family, a big difference from the Ashworths' working-class roots. Becky has always felt that the Balfours do not approve of their son's decision to marry her instead of a wealthy socialite, which is causing tensions to run high in preparation for the big day.

Meanwhile, Daniel's sister isn't happy with the marriage, especially seeing as her friend has eyes for Daniel, and so the pair come up with a plot to try and split up the happy couple for good.

As Becky is planning to move into the next chapter of her life, Lizzie feels as though she's lagging behind, that her sister won't need her anymore. But as it happens, the sisters might just need each other more than they think.

My Sister's Wedding was very funny and quite hard to put down. The book is narrated by both sisters during the wedding preparations, and it's hard not to like both of the girls; even Lizzie, who may come across as fiery and less sensible than her sister, but has a heart of gold - especially when it comes to family! There are some great characters too, along with some rivalry and revenge. Admittedly I did feel that this book was for a slightly younger audience (maybe late teens/early twenties), but it's a great story. It's light, funny and feel-good, and I really enjoyed it.

Rating: 5/5

NEW RELEASES: Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave

Sunshine is a vlogger who appears to have it all in life - that is, until her true identity is revealed. In Hello Sunshine, the newly-released novel by Laura Dave, author of The First Husband and Eight Hundred Grapes, Sunshine has to navigate life in the downfall of the identity she has built up online.

Sunshine Mackenzie truly is living the dream. A lifestyle guru for the modern age, Sunshine is beloved by millions of people who tune into her YouTube cooking show, and millions more scour her website for recipes, wisdom, and her enticing suggestions for how to curate a perfect life. She boasts a series of #1 New York Times bestselling cookbooks, a devoted architect husband, and a reputation for sincerity and kindness--Sunshine seems to have it all. But she's hiding who she really is. And when her secret is revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. What Sunshine does in the ashes of destruction will save her in more ways than she can imagine. 

In our modern world, where celebrity is a careful construct, Laura Dave's compelling, enticing novel explores the devastating effect of the secrets we keep in public...and in private. Hello, Sunshine is a fresh, provocative look at a woman teetering between a scrupulously assembled life and the redemptive power of revealing the truth.

BLOG TOUR: Half a Sixpence by Evie Grace

Half a Sixpence is the new book by Evie Grace. This historical novel, set in Kent in the 1800s, focuses on Catherine, a woman who is forced to keep her family together in a time of tragedy.

Catherine Rook takes her peaceful life for granted. Her days are spent at the village school and lending a hand on her family’s farm. Life is run by the seasons, and there’s little time for worry. 

But rural unrest begins sweeping through Kent, and when Pa Rook buys a threshing machine it brings turbulence and tragedy to Wanstall Farm. With the Rooks’ fortunes forever changed, Catherine must struggle to hold her family together. 

She turns to her childhood companion, Matty Carter, for comfort, and finds more than friendship in his loving arms. But Matty has his own family to protect, and almost as quickly as their love blossomed their future begins to unravel. 

With the threat of destitution nipping at her heels, Catherine must forge a way out of ruin...

As part of the Half a Sixpence blog tour, Evie Grace has shared with us a character profile. Read on to find out more about Catherine Rook!

Half a Sixpence will be released tomorrow.

Character Profile: Catherine Rook

Thank you very much for hosting today’s stop on my blog tour with Half a Sixpence, the first book in a new series, a Victorian family saga set in East Kent. Half a Sixpence is the story of Catherine Rook, a country girl born in Overshill, East Kent in 1817, and I’d love to tell you a little more about her.

I took inspiration for Catherine’s character and way of life from my family tree, anecdotes passed down from my grandparents and great grandparents, and my experiences of the countryside. I was born in Kent and one of my earliest memories is of picking cherries with my grandfather in an orchard near Selling. He was a farm manager, and Wanstall Farm, Catherine’s home in Half a Sixpence has echoes of the place where he worked.

Catherine lives with Ma and Pa Rook and her brother, John. Her older siblings have already left home. She enjoys feeding the hens, collecting their eggs and looking after the pigs, especially when they give birth to their piglets. Pa is a great believer in the value of education, sending her to the village school where she learns the three R’s with her best friend, Emily. She aspires to marry for love one day, in spite of Ma’s rather embarrassing conviction that she should marry up.  

Catherine’s life follows the seasons that come and go the same, year after year, punctuated by the regular sowing, harvesting and threshing of the corn, followed by rowdy harvest suppers and the hop picking. When Catherine needs new clothes, Pa Rook says she can have them ‘after ‘op-picking’, a saying that has been passed down through my family. My mum remembers her mother taking her, her brother and sister hop picking every summer to bring in desperately needed cash. My grandmother also went fruit-picking, taking a pram with a false bottom under which she hid apples to take home.

Catherine helps the Rooks’ maid in the kitchen, pickling and preserving the produce from the land, and learning to make the perfect pastry for plum pies. Living on the farm is hard, but in many ways Catherine leads an idyllic way of life that comes under threat when her father decides to invest in a threshing machine.

The fresh challenges facing the farm and her family serve to strengthen Catherine’s resourceful character, a recurring feature of my Victorian ancestors. One of my great-grandmothers had a reputation for being a particularly determined lady who brought up seven happy children in a tiny house on very little money with the help of her husband who grew and sold fresh vegetables from the garden to make ends meet. However, her background was tainted by rumours of illegitimacy, the consequences of which I have introduced into Half a Sixpence.

Catherine is resourceful, loyal and caring, and even at her lowest ebb, she finds the strength to carry on.

I hope you enjoy reading her story.

x Evie

BLOG TOUR: Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall - Q&A and Extract

This year has seen so many great debut novels - one being Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall. The book focuses on two best friends whose friendship is tested by the arrival of a newcomer to their small island.

Kate has stopped by for a Q&A on Skylarking, to tell about her new novel and the inspiration behind it.

Kate and Harriet are best friends growing up together on an isolated Australian cape. As the daughters of the lighthouse keepers, the two girls share everything, until a fisherman, McPhail, arrives in their small community.

When Kate witnesses the desire that flares between him and Harriet, she is torn by her feelings of envy and longing. An innocent moment in McPhail's hut then occurs that threatens to tear their peaceful community apart.

Inspired by a true story, Skylarking is a spellbinding tale of friendship and desire, memory and truth, which questions what it is to remember and how tempting it can be to forget.

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
A remote lighthouse. Best friends growing up. A fisherman. A gun…

What inspired you to write Skylarking?
While on a camping trip with my family and best friends, I stumbled upon an old grave. It belonged to a young woman who had lived at a nearby lighthouse in the 1880s and I was immediately captivated by the information that hinted at a bigger story, including her friendship with the daughter of the Head Lighthouse Keeper, and a terrible event that occurred at a fisherman’s hut nearby. I began to dig into the history of the lighthouse and eventually became obsessed with imagining the lives of these two best friends and what became of them.

Where do you do most of your writing?
I occupied a corner of the lounge room by surrounding it with bookshelves so I have a little nook with a sunny window and a desk amid towering piles of books. But, as I have two young children, I also write wherever I can – on the train, in the car outside dancing class, dictating notes on my phone while waiting at traffic lights!

What is your favourite book?
This question is like asking which of my children is my favourite! As a child, Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, as a student Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, as a writer The Writer’s Room: Conversations About Writing edited by Charlotte Wood.

Which part of Skylarking did you enjoy writing the most?
In the beginning I had no idea I was writing a novel, let alone that it would be published – so that was incredibly liberating. I avoided writing the climax of the novel for many, many months, and when I finally did, I sobbed all the way through. That part wasn’t enjoyable but it was certainly an experience I’ll never forget.

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
Again, so many! But Anne of Green Gables and Grace Marks from Margaret Attwood’s Alias Grace influenced me both in my life and writing.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
Keep reading widely and voraciously! And sit down and DO the writing. Your novel can sound wonderful in your mind but you’ve got to take the risk to actually put it down on paper. Be brave!

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
I’m in the middle of writing my second novel. It’s a more contemporary story and as part of the research I’m hitching a ride on a yacht from Darwin to Indonesia. I’m enjoying pushing myself to take new risks in this work!

Thanks, Kate!

You can find out more about Kate Mildenhall by visiting her website, Facebook, or by following her on Twitter.

BOOK REVIEW: Him Downstairs by Sherill Turner

What do you do when the ex you still have feelings for lives directly below you?

It's a tricky situation for Lucy Jenkins in Him Downstairs, the debut novel from actress Sherill Turner (check out her Q&A!). If you're a fan of hilarious British chick-lit then this is a perfect novel to add to your to-read list.

Life is going generally okay for thirty-something Lucy; okay, she's single, and she has to take on more than one job to be able to afford the mortgage on her much-loved flat. But with her fun and slightly wacky friends and family around her, Lucy is heading through life positively.

However, things change when the flat below hers becomes occupied by the handsome Tom; a fellow singleton who's moved in after separating from his wife. Tom and Lucy are great together, however it isn't long before the challenges arise, such as the acceptance of Tom's two young sons, and the pressure from his soon-to-be-ex wife.

When there seem to me more downsides than upsides to their relationship, Tom and Lucy call it off - leaving Lucy with the unfortunate realisation that she will have to get over a man who lives right below her. It's hard enough getting over a relationship, but when you can hear your ex all day (even going to the toilet)? Nothing can prepare you for that...

With the help of her friends, and along with some hilarious dating disasters and mishaps, Lucy must focus on getting the man from the downstairs flat out of her life.

Him Downstairs is a fantastic read, one which I struggled to put down as I found myself relating to Lucy so much, cheering her on throughout the novel. Sherill Turner is a very funny writer, and the book is hilarious all the way through; it's brilliantly witty British chick-lit, the kind that I'm personally always on the lookout for. I will say that at the beginning of this book, there was perhaps a bit too much rambling - HOWEVER, as I read on, I didn't mind this, and it actually made me enjoy it more. It felt as though Lucy had become a close friend, and that I'd been invited even further into her life and the story.

I'm going to applaud the author for bringing us a book that focuses on a real, genuine relationship. Yes, this is considered chick-lit, but if you're looking for a sugary-sweet romance, Him Downstairs probably isn't for you. I won't go into too much detail, but this story explores the (often harsh) realities and issues that come with thirty-something dating, especially when there are ex-partners and children involved. It's refreshing, as it's something that isn't usually explored in mainstream chick-lit, as there tends to be a heavy focus on the happily-ever-after. This book is about Lucy's journey, and what she learns from it.

Him Downstairs is a wonderful debut with plenty of humour, a relatable heroine and fab characters. I hope Sherill writes more novels in the future!

Rating: 5/5

BOOK NEWS: How Hard Can it Be? by Allison Pearson

I was planning on posting a Throwback Thursday today. This is kind of a throwback, but as it happens, I can share some book news at the same time!

Chick lit readers of the early 2000s may remember Kate Reddy, the woman who seemed to have it all in Allison Pearson's 2002 novel I Don't Know How She Does It. The novel was an international bestseller. Unfortunately I didn't read this book at the time - I didn't start reading the genre until around 2004. But I do recall that it was a popular title, one I should probably add to my TBR list now.

Kate returns in How Hard Can it Be?, the sequel to I Don't Know How She Does It. Now nearing fifty, Kate finds herself juggling life at work with being the mother of teenagers. The novel will be published in September.

Kate Reddy is counting down the days until she is fifty, but not in a good way. Fifty, in Kate’s mind, equals invisibility. And with hormones that have her in shackles, teenage children who need her there but won’t talk to her and ailing parents who aren’t coping, Kate is in the middle of a sandwich that she isn’t even allowed to eat because of the calories.

She’s back at work after a big break at home, because somebody has to bring home the bacon now that her husband Rich has dropped out of the rat race to master the art of mindfulness. But just as Kate is finding a few tricks to get by in her new workplace, her old client and flame Jack reappears – complicated doesn’t even begin to cover it.

How Hard Can It Be? is a coming of age story for turning fifty. It’s about so much more than a balancing act; it’s about finding out who you are and what you need to feel alive when you’ve got used to being your own last priority. And every page will leave you feeling that there’s a bit of Kate Reddy in all of us.

BOOK NEWS: The Dating Bender by Christina Julian

The Dating Bender is the upcoming debut novel by Christina Julian, in which divorcee Samantha decides up her 'good girl' life in favour of romantic (mis)adventures...

The Dating Bender will be released in August.

Here I am, on my knees in front of the Trevi Fountain, hoping like hell the legend is true. That the fountain gives you solace and love by a mere toss of a coin. 

Why am I here, exactly? Let’s see…

It started with my parents telling me to get married. Of course, being the good Catholic girl I am, I did.

Needless to say, that marriage nosedived, and my parents weren’t exactly happy about it.
Newly ditched and shamefully disowned, I decided to follow the advice of Babs, a tart-of-a-mentor, who offered me a job in Colorado. 

Her advice? Sex…and lots of it.

The temptation of freedom, to do whatever—whoever—I wanted was too damn strong for me to say no.

And that’s how it all started. The men, the sex, the journey…

The dating bender. Because everybody deserves a do-over.

BOOK REVIEW: My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

I'm not normally a big reader of YA fiction, but now and again I'll delve into it. Over the past few months however, I've come across some titles that have been hard to pass up. one of them being My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger, in which a teenager experiencing family issues heads to Hollywood and finds herself researching the girls of the notorious Manson family.

Ever since my younger years, hearing about Charles Manson and the killing spree of his 'family' in the 1960s, I've been intrigued by the girls that followed him, and often found myself interested in how the girls that followed Manson so adoringly allowed themselves to become killers. This is what attracted me to My Favourite Manson Girl - it made for a a VERY interesting plot.

Fifteen-year-old Anna, after some trouble at home in Atlanta, steals the credit card of her mom's new wife and heads to LA to visit her older sister Delia. Delia is a young actress, a star in the making (or so she would like people to believe), living a charmed life in glamorous Hollywood.

Anna's plan is to stay with Delia until her mom ceases being mad, and also until she can pay back the stolen cash for her plane ticket. When Delia's ex Roger, an eccentric film producer, offers to pay her to research the Manson girls for an upcoming movie, Anna can hardly turn it down.

As the weeks pass, Anna spends her summer reading and hanging out on set with the actors of Chips Ahoy! - a cheesy kids' sitcom of which Dex, Delia's new boyfriend, is one of the writers. There she meets Jeremy, star of the show alongside his brother Joshua, and they start to hit it off. However, as her life is going relatively well for a change, Delia's may be at risk - from a stalker who keeps appearing at the house, leaving notes. Delia is secretive about most things in her life, leading Anna to believe that the Hollywood dream she seems to live in may be far from reality.

Admittedly I have mixed feelings about this book. I'll start with the cons: first of all, pretty much all of the characters were awful (besides Dex and Lynette. Jeremy too, maybe). Don't get me wrong, this isn't necessarily a bad thing - this is Hollywood. The book explores the reality behind the glitz. I hardly expected every character to be lovely and sweet. However, Anna herself was incredibly selfish, often mean, generally unlikable. It was just hard to relate to her at all.

Secondly, the plot didn't really go anywhere. I guess I felt that, due to the Manson research Anna was carrying out (I really enjoyed these parts), that the Manson plot would inevitably lead somewhere. But it didn't. Nothing really happened in this book, even though the blurb seemed (to me, anyway) to hint at a bit of a mystery, and I felt a bit let down at the end. It wasn't too compelling either - I found it easy to put down and didn't feel excited about picking it back up again. I'm glad I finished it though.

As for the pros? Well, this book doesn't focus heavily on romance, which is something I really liked about it. It's refreshing in that way. There is no big love story here.

And it's unique. Like I mentioned before, I'm not a big YA reader. But this did stand out as a very different, very real novel. It's not a glam tale of Hollywood life; it focuses on the reality. I did like the idea that Hollywood isn't perfect, that you have to be careful who to trust. Just like the Manson girls; girls who were once normal, who had parents, who went to Homecoming and wanted to be pretty, to be loved. And eventually, they killed for it.

This seemed like a promising read, and there were elements I enjoyed, but in the end it was just 'okay'. However, that's just my verdict. This is one of those books that I'd strongly urge you to check out for yourself.

Rating: 3/5

UNCOVERED PICKS: Five July Releases

Is it that time already?! July's here, and with it comes some great new novels! Read on for this month's selection from the Austen-inspired book from Brigid Coady to new releases from Rebecca Chance and Melissa Pimentel.

If you're specifically looking for holiday-themed reads, check out part one and part two of this year's summer picks!

Persuading Austen by Brigid Coady
It is a truth universally acknowledged that working with an ex is a terrible idea…

Annie Elliot never expected her life to turn out this way: living with her dad, working as an accountant – surely the least glamorous job in Hollywood?! – and dodging her family’s constant bickering.

Landing a job as a producer on a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice seems like the piece of luck she’s been waiting for. Until the cast is announced, and Annie discovers that the actor playing Mr Darcy is Austen Wentworth: the man she’s spent nearly a decade trying to forget.

Not only is Austen her ex – but while Annie’s life has stalled, Austen is Hollywood’s hottest property…and has just been voted World’s Sexiest Man.

With nowhere to hide, there’s just one question. Now the one who got away has come back, should Annie stand by her pride? Or give into Austen’s powers of persuasion?

Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin--the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin--her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don't fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues. 

At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman's tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true. 

As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can't help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place? A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture.

Killer Affair by Rebecca Chance
Stunning, charismatic Lexy O’Brien is the reigning queen of British reality TV. Her life in front of the camera is planned and manipulated as successfully as any military assault.

But success breeds jealousy. When you’re on top, the only way is down and there’s always someone standing by to give you a shove...

Dowdy Caroline Evans, a part-time blogger and writer of erotic fiction, is brought in to chronicle Lexy’s life. Being taken under Lexy’s wing is a dream come true for Caroline. But sampling the star’s lifestyle is like tasting the most addictive of drugs, and it’s not long before she is craving what she can’t possibly have – or can she?

And as Caroline and Lexy’s lives and loves become increasingly entwined, it’s only a matter of time before the hidden rivalry becomes a powder keg waiting to explode...

Jenny Sparrow Knows the Future by Melissa Pimentel
Jenny Sparrow can tell you her future:

1. Meet soulmate at 25 
2. Move in with him
3. Marry him this year...

According to the plan Jenny made at thirteen, it's time for her to get married. But when her boyfriend proposes a break instead of a wedding, a girls' weekend in Vegas is the only solution...until she wakes up in a stranger's bed, and discovers that this is the year she gets married - to the wrong man.

Jenny wants a quick divorce and her old boyfriend back. But what if her accidental husband has other ideas?

So Happy It Hurts by Anneliese Mackintosh
'I want to be a good person. And I want to be happy. So happy it hurts. I need you to help me with that.’

Ottila McGregor is thirty years old and has decided it’s time to sort her life out. She’s going to quit drinking, stop cheating and finally find true happiness. Easy, right?

Of course not.

For a start, there’s Grace, her best friend, who believes self-improvement is for people in their forties. Next there’s Mina, her sister, who is mentally ill, and it might be Ottila’s fault. And then there’s Thales, the Greek guy who works in the hospital cafeteria. He's probably the best, most dangerous person Ottila’s ever met.

To make sense of it all, Ottila keeps a scrapbook of everything: emails, receipts, tickets, letters, her therapy transcripts, a boyfriend's note rescued from the bin... The result is an infectious one-off of a novel that makes you wince and laugh in equal measure, and which asks the question: what does it take to be so happy it hurts?

BLOG TOUR: The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett - REVIEW

The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square is the new novel from Lilly Bartlett, author of The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square and The Big Dreams Beach Hotel. Lilly is the pen-name of bestselling author Michele Gorman, whose books include Single in the City, The Curvy Girls Club and Weightless (which is one of my favourite novellas). Michele is a fabulous writer and so I feel honoured to be taking part in the blog tour!

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?

The Second Chance Cafe is the second in the Carlton Square series, following on from The Big Little Wedding. I actually haven't read the first book, however there were no issues in starting with the second. The book can be read as a standalone novel, though after reading Second Chance Cafe I'm going to be reading the first book immediately as I would love to read more about the cast of characters in Carlton Square!

Emma Billings is determined. Being a mother of two young twins, life is already demanding, but Emma insists on putting the degree, that she worked very hard for, to use. With the help of her in-laws, Emma has secured the lease on an old pub in Carlton Square, which she plans to turn into a cafe, and helping to at-risk youths in the community by taking them on as trainees.

After some rather unique (and hilarious) interviews, Emma finally hires two new teenage staff - the sweet yet overly-confident Joseph and the secretive and feisty Lou, who has already been in trouble with the law. Emma's intention is to provide the teens with work experience, and customers with a lovely cafe to have tea, coffee and cake.

With a host of helpful family and friends, getting the cafe ready for opening is going well. With its outside flowers courtesy of her mother-in-law, gorgeous cakes by local supplier Cleo, and the staff ready and raring to go, the Second Chance Cafe looks set for a successful venture. But when the grand opening pulls in no new customers, it appears that something's wrong.

Someone isn't happy with the new cafe on Carlton Square, and is out to destroy Emma's hard work. It's up to Emma, her loyal staff and her friends to try and save her beloved cafe from a competitor who will stop at nothing to put the new cafe out of business! Meanwhile, Emma is finding it hard dealing with the twins as well as the work that the cafe brings, and wants husband Daniel to take more responsibility. But broaching the subject can be harder than it seems...

The Second Chance Cafe on Carlton Square is an absolutely wonderful read. I read it in a day, as it's quite hard to put down. It has a host of wonderful and funny characters, including Daniel, Emma's friends (including fellow mums Emerald and Garnet and their hilarious sibling rivalry), and of course, Joseph and Lou. I especially loved Lou's story. Emma is a great heroine; ambitious, kind, caring, a hardworking wife and mother. She sticks up for herself, and for Lou. Basically, she's the kick-ass heroine that we all need.

Packed with Michele's usual humour and lovable characters, The Second Chance Cafe is a feel-good novel about not just focusing on family and romance, but also the importance of friendship and community.

Rating: 5/5

About Lilly Bartlett

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.

Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.

Blog Tour!

BLOG TOUR: Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft - REVIEW

Today is rather exciting as it's day one of the blog tour for Beneath a Burning Sky, the beautiful new historical romance novel from Jenny Ashcroft.

When twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it's in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls - impossibly and illicitly - in love with her husband's boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it's thieves after ransom money, but she's convinced there's more to it. As she sets out to discover what's happened to the sister she's only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she's ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what's become of her...

When I was told about this book, I was instantly drawn in by the cover. It's captivating. Just like the book itself, which is set in Egypt in the late 19th century.

After a troubled childhood, Olivia is twenty-two when she's forced into marriage, and has to leave her home in England and head to Egypt - a place she already knows having spent her childhood there with her now-deceased parents and the sister from whom she was separated. Having to endure the cruelty of her new husband, there is some positivity in returning to Alexandria; seeing her sister Clara again. And, unexpectedly, meeting and falling for a charming Captain.

However, things change when Olivia's sister disappears. Olivia is determined to find her, even to the point of putting her own life, and love, at risk.

Beneath a Burning Sky may be described as a historical romance, but it's much more than a that; it's full of intrigue and mystery that makes it such a great read. It has aspects of a thriller, with Olivia's determination to find out what's happened to her sister. This is Jenny Ashcroft's debut novel, and it is a wonderfully written book that's very hard to put down. I don't read a lot of historical novels, but found myself completely immersed in Beneath a Burning Sky. 

Rating: 5/5

Check out the other stops on the Beneath a Burning Sky blog tour!