Review – Letting in Light by Emma Davies

Welcome to our July book review. It’s my first time in the reviewing slot so I’ve had nearly a year to think about a book that I might like to review and what I’d say about it but I actually struggled to decide what to review. This is because I’ve been mainly reading books by The Write Romantics recently. It’s incredibly exciting reading the work of such a talented group of ladies but reviewing each other’s work wasn’t the aim of the book club so that rules out a lot of my reading matter. I’ve read several books by very well known and successful authors and I knew I wanted to review something by a debut or lesser-known writer so it ruled them out too. And I’ve read some books that I haven’t really enjoyed. I therefore found myself at the end of last month needing to announce my choice with no serious contenders. So I decided to take a punt.

Letting-In-Light-cover_upload-readyI’ve watched the progress of Letting in Light by Emma Davies with extreme interest. At the time of writing this post, it’s currently riding high at number 253 in the paid Kindle chart which is phenomenal. It’s got a whopping 43 reviews, 33 of which are 5-star. This indie novel has been on promotion this month which has moved it up the chart a little higher and gathered more reviews than when I selected it as my review but it was still doing really well at the end of last month and I wanted to find out for myself what had made it so successful (and hopefully learn a trick or two to emulate the success!)

One of Emma’s greatest strengths in her writing is clearly her sense of place. She beautifully describes the lodge at Rowan Hill where our heroine, Ellie, sets up home. I can so vividly picture her fighting to cope with an Aga for the first time and shivering at the discovery of real fires (and no firewood) instead of central heating that I could be stood by her side (also shivering). The land around Rowan Hill is beautifully described too although I don’t really have a feel for what the estate house itself looks like.

The story itself is intriguing. I loved the dramatic start where the hero, Will, finds Ellie’s car in a ditch following a car crash and comes to her aid. What a great way for two characters to meet. Whilst it’s not pivotal to the plot, I am curious as to why Ellie had crashed her car. She’d been deeply hurt by the one person she thought she could trust. Had she just found out the truth and driven too quickly to seek solace with her best friend? As I said, though, it’s not pivotal (just me being nosey).

Ellie is fragile as a result of the betrayal and Will is fragile too although it’s a long way into the book before we fully find out why. This is a good thing because Emma reveals enough for the reader to believe they understand Will and then she throws in quite an unexpected reveal which actually made me gasp as I really hadn’t seen it coming at all. The book then take a slightly different direction as the true extent of the truth from Will’s past comes to light. I’m being a bit cagey, aren’t I? I don’t want to give away any spoilers!

There’s great dialogue, Ellie is a strong and feisty character, and there’s a lovely sense of community spirit as the book progresses. Great settings and fabulous premise.

I read through a few reviews before I wrote this and there’s a really interesting one from an editor called ‘The TBR Pile’ (who I don’t personally know but who states that she’s an editor during her review). It’s a 5-star review because she (an assumption on my part – may be a he) says she loved the book (which is what 5 star means on Amazon) but she points out something that I noticed which did jolt me out of the story. In fact, she uses the word ‘jolt’ too. This is in relation to the point of view. The story starts with the discovery of Ellie’s car crash by Will and it’s told from Will’s POV. The next chapter – and roughly the next half of the book – is told from Ellie’s POV. Then we get a paragraph from Will’s. Then it’s back to Ellie. Then it chops and changes a little and we have an unexpected POV from a character called Ben who appears at the start and then doesn’t reappear until about two thirds of the way through. These changes – particularly Ben’s POV – took me by surprise and, as I said, jolted me out of the story. However, once I settled into it, I was back on track and back into the story, intrigued to know which twists and turns would come next.

Emma is actually a guest on our blog in a couple of weeks’ time and I can’t wait to hear all about the inspiration behind Letting in Light, what she has planned next, and, of course, the secrets behind such a successful debut. Congratulations, Emma, on your success and good luck with book two. We’ll follow your career (and your writing) with support and great interest.

Next month, Alys West will be reviewing The Property of a Gentleman by Catherine Gaskin.

Jessica xx

The blurb:

Rowan Hill. Come first out of curiosity, explore as a guest, return as a friend. 

When Ellie arrives at Rowan Hill all she wants is peace and quiet and a place to lick her wounds, but fate it would seem has other things in mind for her. 

Firstly there’s Will, who has a reputation for being a humourless grumpy loner; things would be perfect if everyone would just leave him and his estate alone. Is he just plain grumpy, or is it the big fat secret he’s keeping that makes him act the way he does? 

Then there’s Finn, who’s drop dead gorgeous, but who ran away from his past. He’s now planning a return home to Rowan Hill, and although he knows Will’s secret, he’s not about to tell Ellie. Is it loyalty to his brother that keeps him quiet, or perhaps it’s just that he has a few secrets of his own? 

The perfect solution for all of them is staring Ellie in the face, trouble is she’s been accused of meddling before. Her vision for Rowan Hill could be just what everyone needs, so should she follow her heart or her head? 

As Ellie puts her plans to save Rowan Hill into action, romance and friendships blossom, however the complications of the past are never far away, and a shocking revelation soon threatens their hopes for the future. Suddenly the beliefs they once held true become the biggest obstacle they have to overcome. Will Ellie find the courage to learn from the truth and finally let a little light into all their lives. 

After all, life, like art, is all about perception, and sometimes it just depends on your point of view…. 

A Sexy Saturday Spotlight with Siobhan Daiko!

We are delighted to welcome good friend of the Write Romantics, Siobhan Daiko back on the blog today, to tell us what has been Siobhan 3happening since the release of her first fantastic five-star novella in the Fragrant Courtesans series, which we’ve been thrilled to see hit some of the Amazon bestseller charts. Over to you, Siobhan.

It’s a real pleasure to be a guest of the Write Romantics this Saturday. Thanks for having me back again!

Teaser #5I’d like to introduce you to Veronica, a high-class sex worker in 16th Century Venice. Known as courtesans, these gifted ladies of the night were well-educated and highly sought-after. They were trained, usually by their mothers, not just to have sex but also to entertain their patrons by singing, playing music, dancing, and witty conversation. I came across them when I was researching my romantic historical novel Lady of Asolo. My fantastic editor, John Hudspith, suggested I play to my strengths which, for him, is the way I can convey gritty realism when writing sex scenes. So I decided to write a series about the most famous of these women, and Veronica is the first.

I watch him watching us, imagining how he would take me.

I send him the message with my eyes.

This is who I am.

I am Veronica Franco.

I am a COURTESAN.

I court the cultural elite for fame and fortune, giving my body to many.

And I’m good. So very good. After all, I was taught by my mother, and mother always knows best.

How else to please the future King of France than with the imaginative use of Murano glass? How else to fulfil the desires of all yet keep my sense of self-worth?

But when disaster strikes and my life begins to unravel, I’ll have to ask myself one question:

Is it too late to give my heart to just one man?

Set in Venice 16th Century.

Advisory: sensuously erotic. 18+

 

My novella is based on a true story. Veronica was married off young, as women were in those days, for financial reasons, but the union endedVeronica Courtesan Cover LARGE EBOOK badly. To support herself, she learnt the tricks of the trade from her mother, who’d also been a cortigiana in her youth. Veronica was a talented poet and writer – able to maintain a balance between her sense of self-worth and the need to win and keep the support of men. The fact that she loved to write made me feel an affinity with her. When I read her poems and letters, I was struck by the force of Veronica’s feisty, forward personality and decided she would make the perfect protagonist. She had a string of lovers, but there was one man, a fellow-poet, with whom she had the most amorous affair. His poems to her are published in her Terze Rime in the form of a poetic debate, and I enjoyed adapting them and using them as repartee between the two characters. Veronica was a talented seductress, able to create desire in her patrons under her own terms. I’m sure she loved each and every one of them in her own way, as evidenced by this quote from one of her poems:

So fragrant and delightful do I become, when I am in bed with someone who, I feel, adores and appreciates me, that the joy I bring exceeds all pleasure, so the ties of love, however close they seemed before, are knotted tighter still.

Veronica became the most sought-after courtesan in the city. Writing an erotic novella about a woman who practised ‘free love’ has been exciting. Veronica was promiscuous, yes, she had to be; how else to please the King of France but with the imaginative use of Murano glass? She was a self-promoter, but she also loved deeply and was loved in return. In the following excerpt, Veronica is entertaining two of her patrons, aiming to be invited to a literary salon. There she meets Domenico Venier, who becomes her editor. Even in the 16th Century, having an editor was vital to a writer.

***

Teaser #6“We make polite conversation throughout the meal, but, as soon as we progress to the portego for after-dinner drinks and entertainment, I get right to the point. ‘My lord, Signor Ludovico tells me you frequent a literary salon.’

‘That’s right. Domenico Venier’s. ’Tis the most important gathering place for intellectuals and writers in Venice.’

‘Are courtesans welcome there?’

‘I’ve noticed a few. Why?’

I’m seized by a sudden shyness. Will he think I’m being forward? Thankfully, Ludovico answers for me.

‘I’ve told you about Veronica’s abilities. Don’t tease the girl!’

The count laughs and drains his glass. I reach across to refill it, my gaze meeting his. ‘I write poetry. My greatest desire is to learn from others and improve my own work.’

‘Will you read me one of your poems?’

‘With pleasure.’ I go to my desk and return with the verse on which I’m now working.

Teaser 1If you are overcome by love for me,

Take me in far sweeter fashion

Than anything my quill can describe.

Your love can be the steadfast knot that pulls me towards you,

Joined to you more tightly than a nail in hard wood;

Your love can make you master of my life,

Show me the love I’ve asked for from you,

And you’ll then enjoy my sweetness to the full.

 

‘Very good!’ Andrew Tron rises from his chair and bows. ‘You have talent, Signora Veronica. I shall be delighted to introduce you to Venier. Pray tell me, in what far sweeter fashion can a man take you than your quill can describe?’

I laugh. ‘Ah, that’s something I have yet to discover – which is why my quill cannot describe it.’

***

It was a joy to bring Veronica to life on the page. I did have some issues when publishing to Amazon. My book cover, for the paperback, usedVeronica Cover Paperback PRINT2 (2)-page-001 (1) a famous old work of art, The Venus of Urbino, by Titian. I chose it as it’s supposed to be the painting of a 16th Century Venetian courtesan, even if she wasn’t Veronica Franco.

The cover was accepted by Create Space, but rejected by Kindle which doesn’t allow nudity in any form. A banner placed across her breasts just didn’t look right, so I commissioned a new cover for the e-book version from my wonderful designer JD Smith.

I’ve learnt a lot about publishing an erotic novella through my experiences with Veronica. My next book in the erotic courtesans series is “The Submission of Theodora”, based on another real character. Set in 6th Century Constantinople, it’s inspired by a courtesan who became involved with the most powerful man in the world: the Emperor’s nephew and heir apparent. So far, it’s coming along nicely and I expect to publish it in early November.

Thanks again, Write Romantics, I’ve loved sharing Veronica with you. Here are my social media links.

www.siobhandaiko.wordpress.com

www.fragrantpublishing.com

Facebook Page

Fragrant Courtesans Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Twitter

You Tube Book Trailer

Reach for the Stars by Helen Phifer

The past few weeks I’ve been thinking, actually I’ve been thinking a lot because I haven’t had time to write with various family emergencies and long hospital visits. In fact I have very itchy fingers, for me not being able to write is the equivalent of depriving myself of chocolate, I can’t live without it and I can’t live without writing. It’s the most amazing feeling being able to lose yourself in a completely different world as any other writer will tell you, I love the excitement that writing about police officer Annie Graham brings into my everyday life. Although I’m quite relieved that I don’t have to do battle with the serial killers, ghosts and monsters that she does. My amazing readers have been telling me how much book four, The Lake House has been scaring them when Annie finds herself face to face with the creature that dwells in the cellar. In fact I’m relieved that I don’t have a cellar because it gave me nightmares writing about it, but to hear such brilliant feedback is truly amazing and I don’t think I will ever get over the excitement of hearing someone tell me how much they enjoyed a story that I wrote.

Whilst I was doing all this thinking I came up with lists, then lists about my lists. What I realised is that I want to take my writing career as far as it can go and to do this I would have to start stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m quite shy and not to keen on putting myself out there in front of crowds of people but I was offered the opportunity this year to take part in a literary festival where I was to be interviewed in front of an audience. I have to say that I was dreading it but I knew that it was something I would enjoy once I got over my initial nerves, unfortunately because of my son becoming very poorly I wasn’t able to go but I’m hoping to take part next year. I also have big plans next year to attend as many networking author events as possible, again something I’m not too keen on but it’s on one of my lists therefore I will force myself to do it.  Which brings me back to today, well last week actually I got an email from my publishers Harlequin inviting me to attend a ball they were hosting at The Waldorf Astoria in New York. I read that email and sighed, as if I could ever go to a ball especially in New York. I had a list of reasons why I couldn’t, I’m too fat, I’m too shy, I haven’t got a passport was actually the biggie, I haven’t flown for over twenty years, I can’t leave my kids (Who are all adults now as much as I hate to admit it) So I printed off the email and pinned it to my fridge hoping it would inspire me to actually stop eating chocolate and follow my Slimming World plan. Fast forward two days later and my eldest daughter came to visit, she read the invite on the fridge and said ‘You have to go.’ Just like that, I laughed and told her maybe next year. She then made me list why I couldn’t go this year so I told her and she told me they were just excuses, I could get a passport in fact she phoned up and booked appointments for both me and my husband to go to Liverpool to get one three days later. She also told me that there was no point putting it off because I might not get another chance to go. She even talked her dad into going and after a lot of debating and worrying it was finally decided we would. So I’ve started working on my list, the one that said network with other authors and I have to say that I’m thrilled to be finally fulfilling a twenty year old dream of going to New York for my first networking event this year. So reach for the stars my friends because you just might touch them and if you get the chance to do something exciting then go for it because as I’ve learnt this year more than anything life is short so live it.

Helen xx

DIDN’T WE HAVE A LOVELY TIME?

The venue for the RNA (Romantic Novelist’s Association) conference this year was at the Queen Mary University in Mile End, London, which has the very pretty Regent’s canal running through it and a really unusual Grade 2 Heritage old Jewish cemetery right in the middle of the campus.

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It was worth a photograph although it’s not looking the best this time of year as they wait for the bluebells to die back before they tackle the weeds.

As usual, by the time I arrived, hot and clueless as to where I was supposed to be, I was perspiring nicely, my fringe stuck to my forehead. Luckily I spotted another fellow RNA member who I recognised simply because the suitcase she dragged behind her looked, as it should, to contain three parts wine to two parts clothes. Yep, she was one of us!

Peaked a bit too soon on the first night as the excitement of meeting old and new friends made me guzzle wine from a glass that was topped up far too many times. Pretty sure it was made for Thumbelina though, not someone like me, so I probably didn’t have half as much as I thought (yeah, right!)

It was just SO lovely to see everyone- not one miserable face amongst us, although there were a few more sweaty ones, as we were all simmering nicely by the end of the evening.

Sweltered the night away in the Thumbelina sized bed. (are you getting a bit of a theme going on here? These beds are not made for barge arse ladies like me; they are made for starving students, as thin as Sheldon Cooper.)

My face the next morning, gave the game away, big time, that I’d had fun the night before. It didn’t really recover if I’m honest, but it did improve as the weekend went on and I soaked up the wonderful optimism of my RNA writer friends in what is a very tough market to crack.

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I was spellbound by the very lovely Hazel Gaynor who talked about promoting ourselves, scribbled totally illegible notes as Hazel Cushion from Accent Press told us what she was looking for in a best seller, and repeated Julie Cohen’s mantra to CELEBRATE finishing a novel, and that REPETITION IS DEATH to a novel. Again: REPETITION IS DEATH! She also likes Post It notes, apparently. Who knew!

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Had a catch up with the two other ‘Write Romantics’ at the Conference, Rachael Thomas and Helen Rolfe, while the lovely John Jackson prepared Champagne Cocktails for us from a Mary Poppins like bag, complete with sugar cubes and Angostura Bitters. We then headed off for the Gala Dinner in the spectacular Octagon Library welcomed once again by Eileen Ramsey.

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Everyone looked lovely in their best frocks although my dress remained resolutely in my suitcase, as once again it appeared to have been made for Thumbelina. No idea how it ended up in my suitcase, but hope it enjoyed its trip out to London.

The Elizabeth Gouge prize was won by Rae Cowie, who I met briefly at the conference; she seems a thoroughly nice person and deserved winner.

On the way home I was really touched as two young men asked if I wanted help with my case on the underground; they didn’t know I could have lifted it with one finger now the wine was gone. It wasn’t until I looked in the mirror that I realised they probably thought I was an ancient old crone, living on borrowed time.

Had a wonderful, though exhausting time, and think I only made two Faux Pas the whole weekend, which is pretty good for me. Also have a vague memory that I smoked a cigarette, but pretty sure I dreamed that and if anyone mentions it -ever, I will plead amnesia, and as all writers say- put you in my next book as a baddie with pongy breath and embarrassing personal habits.

Jackie Ladbury

Don’t forget the oldies! by Lynne Pardoe

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Nine times out of ten when people mention classic women’s books they mean Jane Austen, or one of the Bronte sisters. It’s the same with art, there’s really only a few top of the top artists who ever get a mention in any sort of media, Picasso, Monet, Holbein.

But there’s so much more to the world than somebody else’s limited perception, to dive into the world of the lesser known mortal is like a foray into the wilderness, to enter a world that is completely unknown. I used to love hunting in secondhand bookshops but not long ago and thanks to my mother in law, I discovered a little treasure.

Thankfully I’m not the only one who has spotted the treasures of the out of print book. In 1998 a woman called Nicola Beauman began a little business printing a few out of print books every year from a basement in Clerkenwell.

I don’t think she could have predicted the success she has had. Named after the goddess of female creativity, Persephone books long since moved out of its basement beginnings into a beautiful little shop in Bloomsbury. All of their books are cloaked in grey, (not fifty shades, just one pale shade) but inside is each is a copy of some beautiful fabric and a matching bookmark.

The whole shop and website are a treat for the eyes and there’s even a beautiful free newsletter produced twice a year which is a delight in itself.

I guess all of us authors have to face that one day, we’ll be long gone and so will our books, but I only hope mine end up at Persephone, its a lovely way to be remembered!

Find out more about Persephone Books at http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk

Find out more about Lynne at http://www.lynnepardoe.com

Interview – Debbie Johnston – Brook Cottage Books

Today I’d like to welcome Debbie Johnston from Brook Cottage Books to the blog. Welcome Debbie!

debbie johnston

Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi, firstly thanks for having me! In the bookish world I am known as JB Johnston, but my real name is Debbie Johnston. I work full time for a local health trust and as a book blogger and book tour co-ordinator in my spare time.

When did you start BCB and why?

I started Brook Cottage Books on 1st December 2012. I had a personal blog on which I posted up the odd book review. Once I started writing reviews I began to get lots of requests from authors. It was then that I decided to start a dedicated book blog and the rest is history!

BCB-HeaderWhat’s your favourite part about BCB?

Oh my goodness! I love all of it so much! I love being a part of the book world and meeting lots of lovely authors. I find that authors and book bloggers are amongst some of the nicest people in the world. The kindness, devotion to what they do and the support is wonderful. I love that BCB gives authors the chance to showcase their work. It gives me such a buzz.

What’s your favourite genre to read and review?

Before starting BCB and indeed reviewing in general, I was very closed in terms of only having one genre as a favourite. I would never have considered reading romances or paranormal books and would have stuck strictly to crime / thrillers or horror. But, now I can honestly say that I am more open minded and by being open minded about what I read I enjoy them all and try new things!

How do you choose which books to review?

When I first started reviewing I would have accepted every book that was offered to me which was totally wrong as my tbr list grew to epic proportions and I know there are authors out there who have been waiting a long time for a review. Apologies guys. So now, I let authors know that I cannot say when I will get round to reading their book so in exchange for their book I offer a guest post / interview or promo post on the blog. I want to give something back. Because I run book tours, I have to prioritise books on the tours. I have a reading schedule that I try to keep to and try to include non-tour books and books from my own bookcase.

What do you do if you read a book you’re supposed to review but you really don’t like it?

I usually either try to contact the author to let them know that the book just wasn’t for me and offer a guest post instead. Or, I try to offer constructive criticism in my review. I would never write anything horrible. Reviewers need to remember that a book is an author’s baby. Be gentle!

Is there a particularly memorable guest you’ve had on your blog?

Oh goodness I have had so many wonderful guests on the blog! I love promoting Indie authors especially but I have had a few well-known people interviewed on the blog – Fern Britton, Josephine Cox and Barbara Taylor Bradford

What happens when an author enrols to do a blog tour with BCB?

When an author emails me about a tour they are sent a tour info sheet and a questionnaire to complete. Once I have all the relevant information then the author just has to sit back and let me get on with it. I organise a tour banner, tour page and sign up tour hosts. Then during each day of the tour I share all the host’s posts across social media. An author’s book gets maximum coverage! There is actually a lot of work involved in organising tours.

And finally, what’s next for BCB  Website: 

Brook Cottage Books and the book world has become my life! I would love to give up my day job make book work my full time career. I have so many ideas floating around my head. It would be lovely if someone somewhere noticed my work and offered me a job in the book world! Hopefully Brook Cottage Books will continue to flourish and I have lots of authors who are return customers so I must be doing something right! Brook Cottages will continue to support Indie authors and offer a range of free services as well as paid ones.

Thanks for visiting the blog, Debbie, it was fantastic to hear all about Brook Cottage Books!

www.brookcottagebooks.blogspot.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/BrookCottagebks 

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/brookcottages

Facebook: www.facebook.com/brookcottagebooks

Email: brookbooks@hotmai.co.uk

Helen J Rolfe 🙂

Wednesday Wondering … What We’re Reading Right Now

The Write Romantics are an incredibly busy bunch at the moment, with releases springing up all over the place, drafts being finished, books being edited and so on, so I decided to be easy on them this month and not set too taxing a Wednesday Wondering. This month, I’ve simply asked: What are you currently reading and what are you planning to read next?

Over to the Write Romantics. I’ve included links with each of the books if you fancy bobbing on over to Amazon for a sneaky purchase.

MemoryHelen R says…

I’m currently reading Rowan Coleman’s ‘The Memory Book‘. I’m only a few chapters in but it’s a brilliant concept and the characters are so powerful. Already the book is tugging at my emotions and I’m hooked.

Next up is Lynne Pardoe’s ‘Please Adopt Me‘ and after reading a sample chapter last week I’m really looking forward to this book.

lakeAlys says…

I often have a couple of books on the go at the same time but at the moment I’m up to four which is really a bit excessive. I’m reading our Lynne Pardoe’s ‘Please Adopt Me’, ‘The Lake of Dreams‘ by Kim Edwards which is a beautifully written story about a woman’s search for the truth about her family’s history, and ‘The Island‘ by Victoria Hislop which I’m finding slightly heavy going. I’m also reading ‘Geared Up‘ which is about how to write steampunk as I’m working on a steampunk novella at the moment. I really must get some of them finished as I’m struggling to remember what happens and if I’m not careful the plots will all start to blend into one and then I’ll be really confused!

AliceJo says…

I’ve just finished reading ‘Recipes for Melissa’ by Teresa Driscoll, which was published by Bookouture and I really enjoyed it. It tells the story, perhaps unsurprisingly, of a girl called Melissa whose long dead mother leaves her a recipe book on her twenty-fifth birthday, the recipes interspersed with advice about life and a few family secrets thrown in for good measure. Bookouture seem to be focusing on women’s fiction and romance with the kind of deeper themes I love reading about, thrown into the mix, so I’ll definitely be working my way through a few more of their titles.

At the moment, I’m reading ‘By My Side’ by Alice Peterson, published by Quercus. It’s another novel with deeper themes and perhaps tells a parallel version of the ‘Me Before You’ story, detailing the impact of a spinal injury, but with a much more positive twist and if you love a story involving a dog, then this is one for you!

Sharon says…

At the moment, I’m reading two books.

I’m halfway through Jo Bartlett’s People’s Friend pocket novel, ‘No Time for Second Best’ – which is fabulous, of course. Romance, beautiful setting, a sheep that would give Houdini a run for his money, and a donkey called Gerald. What’s not to love?

YorksI’m also reading ‘Never Marry a Politician’ by Sarah Waights, which I’m really enjoying. It’s about a woman who married an up and coming politician on the rebound. She’s made a decent life for herself and is a respectable “career wife and mother”, having put her journalistic ambitions on the back burner to support her husband. Now an election is imminent and it’s never been more important to present the image of a happy, loving marriage, especially as a journalist is coming to stay to get the inside scoop on the everyday life of this perfect little political family. Unfortunately, the journalist is the ex she loved and lost. Needless to say, there are complications!

When I’ve finished those, I’m moving on to our own Rachael Thomas’s debut novel, ‘A Deal Before the Altar’, and I’m also going to be reading ‘The Yorkshire Shepherdess’ by Amanda Owen, the lady who featured on the television programme The Dales. Amanda married a sheep farmer and lives in a remote farm in Swaledale with her husband and their ever-growing flock of children. I’m looking forward to reading her story. Alongside those two, I’m going to tackle a biography of Boris Johnson. Yes, really. There is method in my madness. Trust me… 🙂

Helen P says…

At the moment I’m reading ‘The Lost Child’ by Ann Troup. It’s brilliant and I’m enjoying it immensely.

I have a really tough choice for my next book because all of my lovely Write Romantics are publishing books so fast that I can’t keep up but I’ve decided to go with ‘Searching for Steven’ by the lovely Jessica Redland 😊

Deirdre says…

CustardI’m reading ‘Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts’ by Mary Gibson. I was drawn to this because it sold tremendously well for a debut novel and I wanted to see why, and I was intrigued by the title. Having spent 30 years in publishing, Mary took to novel writing in her retirement. She was born and brought up in Bermondsey, where the story is set, and drew on the lives of her grandparents for inspiration. ‘Custard Tarts’ was the name given to the girls who worked in the Pearce Duff custard and jelly factory at the beginning of the 20th century. The story centres round young Nellie Clark and her struggle to hold her family together after the death of her mother. The hardship and poverty among the families in the South London dockland area is described with truth and emotion, but also with humour, and there’s plenty of romance, too. I’m half way through, and World War I has just broken out, so clearly there’s more drama to come. It’s not difficult to see why ‘Custard Tarts’ is a best-seller. The easy style of the writing keeps the pages turning and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve just downloaded her next ‘factory girls’ book, ‘Jam and Roses’.

Because I’m reading this one on my Kindle, the next will be a paperback, as I don’t like to read solidly on the Kindle. Also I like to vary the kinds of books I read and try out different styles. If you’re writing yourself, I think it’s important to push the boundaries a bit and not read the same kinds of books all the time, otherwise you can never develop as a writer. I might read Ian McEwan’s ‘The Children Act’ next.  For me, his writing is about the best there is. The book I’m really waiting for is Isabel Ashdown’s latest, ‘Flight’. I love her books, but I’m hoping the Kindle price will have come down a bit before I get there 😉

EmmaAs for me, I’m currently reading ‘Letting in Light‘ by Emma Davies which is my book club choice for this month. I’m about a fifth of the way through so far so I can’t comment too much about the story. It had a great start with the heroine involved in a car crash and the hero coming to her aid. We then move forward in time and they encounter each other again, but there have been significant changes in both of their lives and I’m starting to discover what these are. Intriguing.

Next, I’m spoilt for choice. There are more Write Romantic books out and a few I still haven’t had an opportunity to read. I may read Lynne Pardoe’s next or I may read Rachael Thomas’s first novel, both of which have already been mentioned and linked. I’m also a bit spoilt for choice on my TBR pile which must have well over 100 physical books on it, never mind the ones on my Kindle. Yet I somehow keep adding to both piles! Oops!

What about you? What are you reading at the moment? You can click on ‘Comments’ at the end of the tags below to join in the conversation.

Jessica xx

Mega Monday – Handle Me with Care by Helen J Rolfe

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Last week saw the publication of my second book, Handle Me with Care, and it was every bit as exciting as the release of my debut novel, The Friendship Tree, back in February.

Handle Me with Care is a novel about second chances. With a tagline of ‘Her second love…his second chance’, it tells the story of Evan and Maddie, both of whom face significant challenges along the way. Maddie has been haunted by the death of her boyfriend in the 9/11 attacks and has resisted any serious relationship since. But when she meets Evan, she starts to believe in the one after the one. Evan is serially single but when he meets Maddie, he too feels a connection. But when he faces his own battle with testicular cancer, both Evan and Maddie must fight if they are to find their Happy Ever After.

Handle Me with Care

I loved writing this book. The research stage was quite lengthy given the content but it really helped me to develop my characters. I fell in love with them all and it was really hard to let them go when I’d finished!

Publication Day was tiring but fabulous. My husband took me out for lunch and a few glasses of Prosecco and as per tradition, I made a cake with an image of the book cover on top.

 

And now it’s on with the hard work of promoting Handle Me with Care and working on my next book which I hope to hmwccake2release in October this year. More details to come soon and they can be found on my Facebook page, my website or by following me on Twitter.

Helen J Rolfe x

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helenjrolfewriter

Website: www.helenjrolfe.com

Twitter: @hjrolfe

Handle Me with Care is available on Amazon:

Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/purfsem

Amazon : http://tinyurl.com/ot874fa

 

Valerie-Anne Baglietto on The Irresistible Lure of Fairy Tales

 My favourite book for a few years now has been Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. It was written for children, but works beautifully for adults as a page-turning love story. Or it does for me, anyhow. It’s the sort I enjoy most of all, where the couple go to great lengths for each other but can’t acknowledge why for most of the book, even to themselves. It alludes to the attraction rather than presenting it neatly tied up with a bow. I don’t mind a more direct approach, of course, and I read plenty of those, too. But anyway, I digress slightly.

Where else but in a fairy tale can you have a romance between a girl under a spell, who spends most of the book as a wizened old woman, and a vain, selfish young wizard whose main hobby seems to be breaking hearts? They are so outrageously incompatible on the surface, and yet we know that they’re made for each other.

Soulmates pop up regularly in fairy tales. The princess and the talking amphibian by the pond. The girl in cinder-coated rags, imagining herself whirling around a ballroom in the arms of a prince. The beautiful merchant’s daughter who sees beyond the abrasive manner and hideous exterior of a beast to the lonely, tortured soul beneath.

I wrote fairy tales as a child, but then stopped as an adult in an attempt, I suppose, to behave like a grown up. It was in the throes of Harry Potter fever that I started experimenting with them again, eventually blending subtle magical elements with the romances I also enjoyed writing. I grew up on a diet of fables and folk stories, just like my own young daughter. Currently, she’s unaware of how much she inspired the character of the stepdaughter Lexie in my latest book Four Sides to Every Storyblog vb1

Of course, we now know how much darker these old morality tales were originally. They’ve evolved over the decades for various reasons too convoluted to go into in this post. This development seems to have peeved some people, but I don’t see why we can’t have both. The whitewashed versions and the more sinister ones. The sweetness and light, to contrast with the gloom.

My readers want the innocence, the enchantment, and often tell me so! We need that kind of wholesomeness and hope in what seems an increasingly dark and sinister world. That doesn’t mean I don’t have heartbreak in my books, or more shady, reprehensible characters. Of course I do. How can you possibly have a fairy tale without some sort of villain? And I like my heroes flawed, but with a big heart. And stubble. They usually start out more like the frog or the beast than the smooth-talking, debonair prince.

blogvb2The stories I digested as a child weren’t as diluted or sanitised as the current ones offered to children. And my daughter still reads from the same treasured book of fairy tales that I devoured myself. It’s the source of countless discussions between us. Because there’s no marry-the-prince happy ending for the Little Mermaid in this anthology from the 1970s. No Disney makeover. Here is Andersen’s version, retold but not drastically altered, with its message of love and sacrifice.

We also have the stories of The Little Matchgirl and The Little Tin Soldier. They have poignant conclusions, not the unashamedly happy endings we’ve come to associate with fairy tales these days. Not all the stories in the anthology end on a high note, but they still influence me today. Possibly they’re another reason I became a writer in the first place. As a child – just like Lexie in Four Sides to Every Story – I wanted to rewrite the sad tales. I longed to give them a HEA. Yet now, looking back with adult eyes, I understand why the sadness is there, and why sacrifice is necessary and redemptive.

It probably won’t surprise you to know I love Disney Princess movies, will it? Especially the latest crop. Throughout my new book you’ll find conscious and unconscious little moments of homage to some of my favourite films and novels… Tangled… Enchanted… And the (non-Disney) Howl’s Moving Castle gets a look-in, as I realised after finishing my first draft that I’d used the names Sophie and Lily (characters in Howl’s). More deliberately, however, was the hobbling old woman with the stick. The use of Travers and Brand as the name of the nanny agency was no accident, either. Nothing to do with Howl’s Moving Castle, though. I’ll leave you to work it out – far more fun that way!

Then, of course, there’s Cinderella. That’s probably the fairy tale I reference most. After all, it’s the most famous one to feature a fairy godmother. But I didn’t want to write about the sort of older, theatrical fairy godmother we might visualise when we hear the term, so I put a new spin on a classic tale, and then set it in the quaint fictional village of Fools Castle, which seems to be a hit with readers. So much so, that I’ve decided to revisit it in my next book. I hadn’t intended to, but to be honest, I’m missing it too much not to go back; and all those familiar characters are scrambling about in my head trying to get themselves heard again. There’s so much more to be said, I’m discovering. Who knew? Not me. Not till now, anyway.

Because, apparently, true love isn’t the end of a story. It seems it’s just the very beginning. ‘Happily ever after’ left to our own imagination may be the conclusion of most fairy tales. It’s what we’ve come to expect. But what we’ve come to expect from a fairy tale has never stopped me before…

My favourite mode of transport. Naturally 😉

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You can read Sharon’s review of Valerie-Anne’s latest novel Four Sides to Every Story here

You can buy Four Sides to Every Story here

Author Bio:

By day, Valerie-Anne Baglietto writes modern, grown-up fairy tales. By night, she clears up after her husband and three children. Occasionally she sleeps. During her career, she has written rom-coms for Hodder & Stoughton and won the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Award (the little silver rose bowl was a nightmare to polish, but it did look very pretty on the Welsh dresser). Aside from writing and household management, she takes perverse delight in bossing around the other members of Novelistas Ink, a writers’ collective founded by the bestselling author Trisha Ashley. You can also find her hanging out in the usual places on social media:

Facebook – Valerie-Anne Baglietto Author

Twitter – @VABaglietto

Pinterest – Valerie-Anne Baglietto

Instagram – valerieannewrites

Website – www.valerie-annebaglietto.com

 

A Glimpse into the World of a Full-Time Author by Jessica Redland

Exactly one month ago today (a Monday morning), I went into work looking forward to one day in then the rest of the week off to celebrate the launch of my debut novel, Searching for Steven. My manager had been on holiday the previous week so we had a catch-up meeting arranged. Except we didn’t “catch up”. I was made redundant instead! Eek! I hadn’t seen it coming at all.

_MG_4314-2Talk about an extreme week: Lose job on Monday, launch book on Wednesday! By the time Sunday came round and my friends and family launch party was over, I was absolutely drained.

I reluctantly went back into work the following week. I’d hoped that my employer would grant me gardening leave when I was first told about the redundancy but it was refused. A week’s absence must have helped get things into perspective because, when I got back, I was asked to finish a few things off and then granted gardening leave for the rest of June. This resulted in me having two weeks off, ending yesterday. Today sees my return into full-time work as a Recruitment Consultant at a local employment agency. I’ve been extremely fortunate in being able to walk out of one job and straight into another. Phew.

_MG_4959The fortnight off outside of school holidays has given me a glimpse into another world: the world of a full-time author and it’s going to be very strange letting it go. I’ve been able to keep on top of the goings on in the worlds of Facebook and Twitter (well, almost). I’ve been able to spend time – quality time – working on the structural edits for book 2, Getting Over Gary. I’ve been able to tidy my office … although I somehow managed to trash it again. Oops. And I’ve been able to do a few things with my daughter that I’ve not normally been able to do like the school run, taking her to swimming lessons, attending the summer fete, and watching sports day for the first time ever (she’s 8 so I’m feeling a little guilty about this one).

On Monday I took a long lunch break and finished a book I’d been reading and I was able to post my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads almost immediately. I needed to nip into town one day, so I did, and I had a bit of prep to do for a Brownies meeting (I’m a Brown Owl) another day, so I did that too.

It’s been a wonderful glimpse into the world of being an author, yet it’s also shown be that, the more time I have to write, the less time (proportionately) I spend writing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly had a few days where I’ve really cracked on with it and put in a full day’s work, but I’ve also had a few days where social media, a little nap, and the temptation of DVDs have distracted me. But surely that’s one of the niceties about being a full-time author; working long hours when it’s deadline time and taking the foot of the pedal at other times? I like it. A lot.

11406714_884714794901155_6795003481857504518_oSo, from today, I’ll be back to the old routine of writing on an evening. One thing I’m looking forward to is having more time to read. I was a five-minute car journey away from my old job but I’m a ten-minute bus journey from this one. I know ten minutes doesn’t sound much but add in ten minutes waiting for the bus on the morning (I’m always paranoid I’ll miss it) and ten to twenty minutes waiting at the end of the day and I’ve suddenly got heading for an hour of reading in every weekday. Luxury. Knowing I only have two-three hours on an evening to write will probably force me to be much more structured with my time because it’s all I have and I’d only be causing myself problems if I wasted it.

I’m excited about the new role, but I will definitely miss the opportunity to write full-time on those days when the creative juices hit and my fingers are on fire because, let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen between 7.30-10.30 in the evening.

Do you write full-time or do you work full-time and squeeze writing in around it? Whichever you do, I’d love to hear from you as to how you get the balance right. Or perhaps you haven’t managed to get the balance yet and would like some tips. Just click on the comments next to the tags below.

Thanks

Jessica xx