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Quickie review: Murder in the Christmas Tree Lot by Judith Gonda

Blurb

Landscape architect Tory Benning returns in a holiday mystery tied up with a bow!

Still struggling with the death of her husband, Tory Benning is doing her best to get into the festive spirit of the holiday season, but when her landscaping company’s email is hacked and there’s a break-in at the office, it’s enough to make her see red. And then the unthinkable happens, when the owner of a specialty food truck is brutally slain at the company’s Christmas tree lot, and Tory finds herself mired in murder once again.

With a long list of suspects—including an untold number of revelers disguised in Santa suits, seasonal employees handling tree sales, and even a vengeful jilted suitor—the police investigation grinds along slowly and methodically. But as Tory begins piecing together clues on her own, she finds she’s the target of a menacing stalker who may be out to do more than just scare her. Refusing to be intimidated, Tory vows to nab the culprit, even if it means that catching a Christmas killer has become her lot in life . . .

 

My review

A thoroughly enjoyable festive cosy with a strong and likeable heroine. Unlike many amateur sleuths, who tend towards the ditzy, Tory is understated, calm and gracious.

The plot is clever and intriguing, with plenty of seasonal overtones. Setting is well constructed, and you get a very strong sense of community. People pull together here – apart from when they’re bumping each other off, of course! The author gets the balance just right – we get glimpses of enough people to show this is a small town but we don’t get swamped by a sea of names.

Throughout Tory is continuing to come to terms with the loss of her husband, and this adds an extra layer to the story.

There’s excitement, tension, friendship, loyalty and courage. A wonderful read.

 

Kindle book available at all Amazon stores.

Published by Beyond the Page Publishing.

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Excerpt from ‘Dead in Tune: A Christmas cosy mystery’ by Stephanie Dagg

Chapter 1

“That was fun,” smiled Martha, climbing into the passenger seat of the bright red BMW X4.

“Wasn’t it just,” agreed driver Lottie, starting the engine. “Not keen on the French carols, though.”

Martha shot her an astonished glance. “But, apart from ‘Nouvel Né’, which is absolutely lovely with that haunting tune, the only other carols we sang in French were ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’. And they’re just France’s versions of traditional British carols.”

“But that’s what I mean,” explained Lottie, reversing rapidly out of her tight slot, without looking, which made Martha cringe. “They’re simply not the same in a foreign language.”

“We can hardly expect the French contingent of our Worldwide Friendship Club to make all the concessions, now can we,” said Martha reasonably.

‘Worldwide Friendship Club’ was a bit of a misnomer. The vast majority of members were either British or French, with just a handful of other Europeans and one South African. But Martha supposed it didn’t hurt to be ambitious.

“As it is,” Martha continued, “six of the nine carols we’re singing are English.”

Lottie gave one of her characteristic snorts in response to Martha’s reasonable remark. Snorts were her vocal version of the French shrug in that they came with a practical endless variety of meanings. This latest one clearly implied ‘that’s six too many’.

Martha knew it was pointless trying to argue further when Lottie was being so very Lottie, so she sat back in her luxuriously soft seat and reflected on the last hour and a half. The Worldwide Friendship Club, under the capable if relentless leadership of chairperson Belinda Parsons, was organising a carol service in Boussiex for Friday in the modest but beautiful St Claire’s church. The Club had decided that a couple of rehearsals – today and Thursday – would be a good idea so that at least some of the French attendees at the service would be familiar with the English carols, and vice versa. Lottie had joined the WFC back in March, and had badgered Martha into doing likewise until she finally relented a week ago.

Martha wasn’t really a club sort of person, but Lottie seemed to enjoy herself at WFC functions so that was a good recommendation. However, Martha’s main motivation was mercenary. She was about to submit her demand for French nationality, given all the unnecessary uncertainty and mess that Brexit was creating, and membership of a society or two would look good on her application. For the same reason she’d also signed up to a handicrafts club in a nearby village and had started turning up to listen in at municipal council meetings. She had initially felt very guilty about doing so for such selfish reasons, but she had since soothed her conscience by assuring herself that her membership fees were doing the organisations involved good, and her mayor and councillors had been delighted to actually have an audience for once. Plus she was benefitting. She’d met some lovely people in the two associations, and was picking up a lot of fascinating village gossip from the council meetings.

She was roused from her musings by Lottie’s sudden outburst of, “But I really don’t see why we need to have a Scottish piper at the carol service.”

“I think it’ll be rather fun,” countered Martha.

“There’s nothing Christmassy about bagpipes,” snapped Lottie. “It’ll ruin the atmosphere.”

“But he’s only going to be playing outside, near the Christmas tree in the square, until the service starts,” Martha reminded Lottie of the arrangements. “And I dare say he’ll play carols.”

“He’s not even a member of the WFC,” protested Lottie. “And I thought the Scots were more about New Year anyway.”

Martha was of the opinion that people of any nation were surely allowed to indulge in more than one festive celebration, but she chose not to voice it for the time being.

“And they have that haggis festival in January as well,” Lottie ploughed on.

“You mean Burns Night,” Martha corrected her mildly.

“That’s the one, with that poem about mice and men and plans going googly, or whatever.”

“You’re muddling up ‘Address to a Haggis’ with ‘To a Mouse’. And it’s ‘schemes o’ Mice an’ men
gang aft agley’, not plans going googly,” Martha persisted patiently.

Lottie, of course, snorted. “Both versions are daft. And what sort of person writes poems about meat and vermin anyway?”

“Just the national poet of Scotland,” murmured Martha.

“You’re very knowledgeable about Scotland all of a sudden.” Lottie shot her an annoyed sideways glance.

“My grandmother was Scottish,” Martha informed her.

“Huh. So that’s why you like the bagpipes so much,” concluded Lottie. “Mind you, the French members didn’t seem that impressed. They seemed to be saying something quite rude about them. Sounded a bit like ‘unicorn mucus’.”

Martha sighed and wondered, as she frequently did, how her friend could have lived in France for so long but picked up so little of its vocabulary.

“They were saying ‘cornemuse’. That’s French for bagpipes.”

“That’s a silly name,” declared Lottie. “In English it says exactly what the thing is – a bag with some pipes stuck into it. It ought to be ‘sac… sac’ something in French.”

“It is. A ‘musette’ is a type of bag, and ‘corne’ is a musical horn, amongst other things.”

Lottie muttered something about know-it-alls. Martha smiled to herself.

“You’re on the committee,” Martha reminded her friend after a few moments. “Couldn’t you have voted against the idea?”

“I can never make it to the committee meetings. They’re on Saturdays,” explained Lottie, “so I can’t go because of work.”

Martha frowned. “But I thought you didn’t work on Saturdays.”

“Of course I don’t!” Lottie sounded appalled at the very idea. “But I’ve been slaving away from Monday to Friday so I’m not going to give up my precious weekend for silly meetings.”

There wasn’t an answer to that, only questions such as “Well, why did you put yourself up for the committee in the first place?” and “So why don’t you resign your position and let someone who can spare an hour or two one Saturday a month take your place?” Martha, however, knew better than to give voice to those. She made do with rolling her eyes and pulled the conversation back from such dangerous territory.

“You’re not the only anti-bagpiper, by the looks of things,” she mused. “Did you see old Matisse’s face when Belinda made her announcement about the Christmas bagpipes? A perfect balance of shock, horror and fury!” She chuckled at the memory.

Lottie laughed out loud. “He always looks like that! He strikes me as a sour, mean-spirited old git, but I may be warming to him a little now that we have a shared hatred of Scottish musical instruments.”

Lottie swerved to avoid a hedgehog that had suddenly launched itself at full trot into their path, meaning they rounded a blind bend on the wrong side of the road, but fortunately the road was deserted, other than themselves.

“Actually, the bagpipes might not be the worst thing about the carol service,” she confided, once she was driving on the correct side again.

“Oh come on, our singing wasn’t that bad!” protested Martha with a forced laugh, which she hoped would cover the sound of her heart thudding.

“I don’t mean our singing. That was really rather good, apart from Horace, the growler. And as you obviously heard, Matisse has an amazing voice. I do love a nice, deep bass. No, what I mean is that Belinda told me earlier that that she’s just booked a Spanish couple to do a flamenco dance the service. Really lovely young people, apparently, only been here a month or so and want to get involved in community things. But seriously, flamenco dancing? In a church?” Lottie couldn’t summon up a snort that could convey precisely how appalled she was, so she made do with dramatic and dismissive hand gestures, making the car swerve and Martha’s heartbeat temporarily soar again.

Belinda had made the decision unilaterally, something she did rather a lot, and something which other members of the WFC grumbled about when their chairperson wasn’t around. But Belinda was in charge, and had been for four years now, and frankly no one else wanted to take on the significant workload that went with the post. So they left her to rule the roost. Belinda’s husband, Horace, had held the equally unpopular position of treasurer for the same length of time.

“I love flamenco.” Martha actually wasn’t a particular fan but she couldn’t resist winding Lottie up, just a little bit. “It’s associated with religious festivals and rituals, so I dare say there’s a Christmassy version of it. And did you know that UNESCO recognises it as a cultural heritage?”

“Well, I do now,” snipped Lottie. “I suppose you’re also going to tell me that Dutch clog dancing is a UNESCO wotsit too so we should ask dour old Gerrit to do a number between ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. And while we’re at it, why don’t me and you do a quick Morris dance before the final blessing?”

Martha knew she should but she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. Lottie in full-on grump mode could be very funny.

“Bagsy be the one with the hobby horse,” she chuckled.

Lottie’s annoyed expression resisted for a moment then morphed into a smile. “No way, I’m having that. You can make do with bells on your knees and hankies to wave.”

“I’d rather have sticks than hankies,” said Martha.

“Tough,” riposted Lottie. “You could do too much damage in the church with them. You might behead one of the crumbly old statues or take out a stained glass window! It’s hankies or nothing.”

“Big hankies then,” bartered Martha.

Both women laughed.

“You know, I think I might actually suggest a Morris dancing session as an activity for next year,” said Lottie.

“It would be fun,” acknowledged Martha, “but it would confirm the French in their view that the English are crazy.”

“They already know we are,” smiled Lottie.

“Excuse me,” riposted Martha. “Philippe doesn’t think I’m crazy.”

Philippe, a senior officer in the local gendarmerie, was her French beau. A family friend for years, he’d always carried a candle for Martha but it was only recently, more than three years after she’d been widowed, that he’d plucked up the courage to act on his feelings. A series of brutal murders that had appeared to centre around Martha had brought the two firmly together in the summer.

“Of course he does,” teased Lottie, “but he still loves you. How’s he getting on in Norway? I still can’t believe you didn’t go on that ski-ing holiday with him.”

“Well, you should because I’ve given you my reasons enough times. One, he booked the holiday with a group of friends, all male, a year ago. Two,  it’s cross-country ski-ing, which is a well-known form of torture. The appeal of ski-ing downhill is obvious, but ski-ing on the flat has nothing going for it whatsover. Three, my leg isn’t up to any sort of ski-ing at all.” She’d been hit and injured by a car driven by the man behind the summer’s murders.

“You didn’t have to ski,” Lottie ploughed on. “Just gone for gentle strolls in the snow and sipped hot chocolate by the glowing fireside of your log cabin.”

“Yes,  I know I could. Philippe tried to persuade me to come along, which was sweet of him, but I didn’t want to intrude into a guys-only thing. He’d have felt obliged to spend time with me when he’d have much rather been snow-yomping with his mates, and I’d have ended up feeling guilty.”

“I wonder what this ‘feeling guilty’ thing is like,” remarked Lottie with a smile, but she was only half joking. It was a sentiment that featured only rarely on her emotional compass.

They turned into the drive that led down to Martha’s farm.

“Thanks for the lift, Lottie. I hope to get the Renault back before the Thursday rehearsal so I can get there under my own steam.” Martha’s ancient but usually ever-reliable car had decided not to start that morning. The garage had collected it for, allegedly, urgently dealing with, but Martha had had no further news of it since watching it disappear on the back of the breakdown truck. She knew better than to waste time and phone calls on chasing it up too soon. It would be ready when it was ready.

“Not a problem. Just shout if you’re still without wheels on Thursday.”

They pulled up outside the house, sending two of the half dozen farm cats skittering into the shadows, away from the rude and intrusive flood of brightness from the headlights.

“I won’t come in,” said Lottie, as Martha opened her mouth to invite her in for hot chocolate. “Got a bit of paperwork to finish up before tomorrow’s mammoth acte de vente.”

Lottie was never normally one to use a French word or term when there was an alternative in her mother tongue. However, there was no direct UK equivalent to the acte de vente, which was the final stage of the cumbersome but watertight house-selling process in France. All the parties concerned met at the Notaire’s office, where the lengthy contract was read through, word by word, and everyone got up in turn and initialled every page of the document. Even a straightforward one could go on for hours. But of course, things were rarely straightforward in France.

“How mammoth exactly?” probed Martha.

“Think herd of mammoths. No, more than that. Massive herd of humungous mammoths,” sighed Lottie.

“How come?” asked Martha.

“For a start, there are six vendors. Old Papa Champolivier was a widower so the property passed to his four sons and two daughters. They’d hardly spoken to each other for years, so naturally the bickering continued for a few more until they eventually agreed on selling price, solicitor and salesperson. Moi, obviously.” She flashed a proud smile. “One or other of them has rejected all the previous decent offers I got for them on the place, but I think finally common sense but most likely greed prevailed and they all accepted this latest one straight away. I hoped at least some of them might grant power of attorney to the notaire to sign the contract on their behalf, but no, they all wanted to come along in person. So, with me and the notaire, that brings tomorrow’s attendance up to eight.”

“Quite a crowd,” nodded Martha.

“Ah, but that’s not all. Whilst all the bickering about selling was going on, the place was let out to a pair of brothers for farming. So they’ll be there too, tomorrow, and their wives, to relinquish their rental rights.”

Martha nodded again. The same thing had happened when she and Mark had bought their farm, only in their case it was just the confirmed bachelor Monseiur Josset.

“And now enter the buyers. Four of them as well in the shape of two sets of Monsieur and Madame Dupont.”

“The men are brothers?” hazarded Martha.

“Correct. And, what’s more,” Lottie went on with a twinkle in her eye, “their wives are sisters.”

“Goodness!” gasped Martha. “That’s unusual, surely.”

“But what’s even more, the brothers and the sisters are both sets of identical twins.” Lottie beamed triumphantly at the bizarreness of her news. “You couldn’t make it up, could you!”

“Nope,” agreed Martha, impressed. “That’s definitely material for a gossip magazine.”

“So that’s sixteen of us all crammed into Maître Cognac’s stuffy office, and having to take turns to sign every page of the contract. Given how doddery half of them are likely to be, it’ll take ages. They’ll be diddling around with spectacles, having to take a rest halfway between their seat and the desk, then dropping the pen, then needing the loo between pages three and four and again between eleven and twelve… aargh! That’s why I need to get on with the paperwork I won’t have time to do tomorrow. Half the day will be spent at the office.” She groaned.

“Yes, but think of your fee,” Martha consoled her.

“True.” Lottie brightened. “I got a good price for the property. A very good one.”

Lottie always did. She really knew how to turn on the charm with the buyers and put the fear of God into the vendors so pretty much dictated terms to her own advantage.

“Well, I hope it goes as swiftly as possible for you tomorrow,” smiled Martha, patting Lottie’s arm and then, reluctantly, opening the door of the luxuriously warm car to brave the freezing elements outside. Her house would be warm enough, since she’d stoked up the fire before leaving it this evening, but there was a cold trudge and a chilly hallway to brave before she got there. “See you Thursday.”

“Ciao.” Lottie blew her a kiss, then did a high-speed three-point turn, showering the waving Martha with gravel and hoar frost, before flooring it back up the drive.

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Cover reveal: The Dream That Held Us by Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang

The Dream That Held Us

Another stunning Anglo-Indian love story from the author of The Last Vicereine, Penguin Random House 2017.

October 1985, Ash Misra leaves a blood-stained Delhi for Oxford University. Haunted by a terrible secret, he just wants to forget. Music and fresh violence bring him to fellow student and amateur violinist, Isabella Angus, but duty and the burden of history keep them apart. A quarter of a century later against the background of the global ­financial crisis, Sir Peter Roberts, former Master of Woodstock College, receives a letter from Ash for Isabella. They are no longer young but they had made a tryst with destiny; old terrors and suppressed desires return.

“Deeply imbued with a certain wistfulness and haunting sense of loss brought out by the end of a glorious summer… Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang’s latest novel is a sensitive and skilful exploration of love, longing, and whether life sometimes relents to give us second chances.” Osama Siddique – author of Snuffing Out the Moon

“This book carries a universal message about love and finding your way in the world. I loved it.” Angela Barton author of Arlette’s Story, Magnolia House and You’ve Got My Number

 

Pre-order Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dream-That-Held-Us/dp/1838150803

US  – https://www.amazon.com/Dream-That-Held-Us/dp/1838150803

 

Publication date – 21st January 2021

 

And here’s the cover…

 

Author bio

Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang is a British author whose work focuses on cultural and historical fault lines and has strong international themes.  Rhiannon was born and grew up in Yorkshire and has studied, lived and worked in Europe and Asia.  She read Oriental Studies (Chinese) at Oxford University and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese.  Rhiannon lives in a former farmhouse in rural England with her family.

Novels

The Woman Who Lost China, Open Books 2013

The Last Vicereine, Penguin Random House 2017

Short Story Anthology

Hong Kong Noir, Akashic Books 2019

 

Social media links

Twitter @rhiannonjtsang

Facebook Author page https://www.facebook.com/RhiannonJTauthor

LinkedIn Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang

You Tube –  Rhiannon Reviews. https://youtube.com/channel/UC3hPlIWofMRV1p1KVU5X94Q

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Cover reveal: Witholding the Key by T L Mahrt

Withholding the Key, Third and Final Book of With Emma Trilogy.

Will Emma unlock her heart and truly allow herself the happiness she deserves?

Emma Andrews finds herself and everyone she cares about within the walls of the penthouse. Only, this time, it was her who locked the door and threw away the key. Emma finds herself not only planning to take Jarret out for good, but trying to destroy his empire and all who are within it.

Jarret won’t know what hit him…

What Emma doesn’t expect is to see a face that before had only appeared in her dreams.

With Chance’s life holding on by a thread, Emma is pulled to him. Will he prove his love to her, allowing Emma to completely unlock her heart to him? Or, will the man that has taught her to accept her strength, be the man Emma finds her true-self in the bounds of his love…

There is one thing for certain, in order to take Jarret out, Emma will need to rely upon the bond formed from an unexpected friendship.

 

And here’s that cover…

Pre-order link – https://www.tlmahrt.com

Publication date – 31st January 2021

 

Author bio

L. Mahrt is a former business owner, where she utilized her education in cosmetology, barbering and massage therapy for several years. She was raised on and is currently living on a farm in Nebraska, where you can find her running barefoot in the country side with her loving husband and inspiring children and massive dogs.

After having her son, who was born with Cerebral Palsy and DYRK1A, she made the life altering decision to stay home to care for her two children and pursue her love for writing. She has a love for romance and poetry where, her overactive imagination, along with her adventures and up beat lifestyle drives her inspiration for her writing.

L. Mahrt has a thirst for knowledge, and is currently working on her Bachelor of Applied Science in Communication Studies degree.

 

Social media links

Social Media:

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/tlmahrt/

 

Twitter

https://mobile.twitter.com/tlmahrt

 

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/tlmahrt/

 

Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/tlmahrt

 

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19755994.T_L_Mahrt

 

Facebook readers Group

https://m.facebook.com/groups/527890547837793/?ref=share

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Christmas Reunion in Paris by Liz Fielding

Celebrity chef James Harrington never expected to find himself face-to-face with Chloe, his first love, again… Especially, with her working as a chambermaid at his luxury hotel! Their chemistry’s as strong as ever, but she’s hiding a secret. Can James convince Chloe that their love is worth taking a chance on – again?

Katie Fforde wrote, when honouring her with the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award in 2019 said – “Liz Fielding’s books, with their warmth, humour and emotion, have charmed millions of readers. She is a true star of the romantic fiction genre.”

 

My review

Second chances go hand in hand with Christmas, as it’s a time for new beginnings and a bit of magic.

In this story James and Chloe are initially star-crossed lovers, but then circumstances bring them back together in an unexpected way. Crazy coincidences are all grist for the mill in a romance. Both are likeable on the whole, although they have their moments. But who doesn’t.

The setting of Paris is well portrayed. It has a reputation as a romantic city so it’s fitting that our couple spend time there. Food, as you’d expect, gets mentioned quite a lot. Other themes that emerge are family interference, chasing dreams, and and unrealistic expectations.

There’s festiveness so it’s a nice book to read in the run-up to Christmas.

Enjoyable and entertaining.

 

Purchase Links

Amazon – https://mybook.to/ChristmasReunion

iBooks  – https://books.apple.com/gb/book/christmas-reunion-in-paris/id1508284570

Google   https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Liz_Fielding_Christmas_Reunion_In_Paris_Mills_Boon?id=DgPdDwAAQBAJ

Nook  – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-reunion-in-paris-liz-fielding/1136637305

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/christmas-reunion-in-paris-mills-boon-true-love-christmas-at-the-harrington-park-hotel-book-1

Mills and Boon – Harlequin –

https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335556462_christmas-reunion-in-paris.html

Mills and Boon Australia

https://store.millsandboon.com.au/products/christmas-reunion-in-paris?_ga=2.190695592.2088628603.1594193836-1074301285.1594045585

 

Author bio

Best selling author, Liz Fielding worked as a secretary in Africa, the Middle East and the UK before writing full time. Her award winning books are published worldwide in multiple languages and she has more than 15 million books in print.

 

Social media links

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/lizfieldingauthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/lizfielding

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/liz.fielding/

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Eternal Forever by Syl Waters

Fame, glory and… foul play!

Jessie was a shop worker dreaming of the big time, then YouTube found her. But staying in the limelight requires meticulous management: pop stars are made not born.

With awards night approaching, the pressure’s on for Tito, Jessie’s manager, to whip her into shape. Getting so close wasn’t in the contract, but then neither was him being murdered in Spain.

Alone and scared of the negative publicity, Jessie turns to Mack, her account manager at Eternal Forever, the UK’s first digital legacy management agency. But Mack’s got his own issues: the company’s fast running out of cash, his key developer’s on the turn and a blogger’s suicide looks suspicious.

With the assistance of J-Pop, Mack’s assistant and wannabe reality TV star, Jessie turns sleuth. But in a world where everybody’s watching, it’s hard to escape. Reputation is everything and some people will do anything to protect it.

 

My review

This book is very lively and modern. It’s very relevant in this age of the celeb, and I think it very aptly shows the darker side of this rather shallow obsession. Everyone wants to be famous not just during their lifetimes, but beyond. But if too many people are after the same thing, it’s going to get a bit tricky. It definitely doesn’t bring out the best in them!

The story cleverly intertwines a variety of characters and situations. There’s a slow build-up to a very surprising yet satisfying denouement.

The author has been ingenious in coming up with this plot and this particular set of dramatis personae and bringing them altogether. I think she had a whale of a time doing so! It’s quite a quirky book which just makes it all the more entertaining.

Highly recommended.

 

Purchase Links


https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08D6RNR18

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eternal-Forever-gripping-turner-rethink/dp/1916424554

 

Author bio

Most people know crazy cat ladies are a ‘thing’, but I’m a proud crazy guinea pig lady! I love fun in the sun and plenty of cocktails. My happy place is flip flops. I write stories to keep me company – my characters ensure I’m never lonely and always smiling (when I’m not tearing my hair out!)

 

Social Media Links –

www.sylwaters.com

twitter: @waters_syl

insta: @mrbob.guineapig

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/syl.waters.54

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Food For Thought by Sara Madderson: a tempting treat of a book!

Synopsis

Evelyn Macleod has spent a decade helping her husband, charismatic TV chef Seb Macleod, to become a household name. Now they’re riding high and enjoying the spoils of their success. When a tabloid forces Seb to come out as gay, Evelyn and her young son flee to a friend’s luxury resort in rural Kent. Sorrel Farm is the perfect place to hide out, decompress from her disciplined London lifestyle, and comfort-eat. The enforced break also throws into question everything that Evelyn has worked so hard for. Should she continue to chase the glittering heights of wealth and power in London? Or should she choose balance—and the chance to find love—in the beautiful English countryside?

 

 

My Review

This is a wonderfully enjoyable book – you might say delicious! And very moreish. You plan to just read a couple of chapters but can’t resist another one, and then another one… I devoured this book in one sitting. Quite possibly there were family dramas of my own going on around me but I was too absorbed in this book to notice!

Evelyn is a lovely character. She’s very conscientious and kind, maybe a tad too regimented with her journaling and other daily routines, hard-working and caring. The brand she and Seb have built up between them is all-important, but not never more important as their son. (He’s a total sweetie, by the way.) When Seb pulls open the oven door on the perfectly rising soufflé of their life to that point, and the rush of the cold air or reality makes it sink, she hangs in their. Shaken, obviously, by the initial shock, and boosted by a little bit of comfort eating, she quickly sets to with cracking eggs and whisking a new life into shape. But it’s not going to be a doddle – soufflés never are. The enjoyment for us lies in seeing how she meets the challenges that come her way and the decisions she makes. She has some fascinating friends too and they add great interest and sparkle to the story.

The book has a beautiful cover, and which matches a theme the author has established for her books. The only thing I’d change is the title: there are many, many books with the same title so I do hope this one won’t get lost in their midst. There’s a phrase in the book, Evelyn’s words, along the lines of ‘Life’s not a buffet’ which I personally felt would have been a much more distinctive choice of title.

All in all, a tempting treat of a book.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Madderson is an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother. She was born in Ireland and moved to the UK with her family when she was ten years old. She lives in London with her husband Chris, their two children, Paddy and Tilly, and their cocker spaniel Charlie.

Before turning to writing, Sara worked in finance for a decade and then ran her own fashion brand, Madderson London, for eight years. She earned her MPhil in Early Modern History from the University of Birmingham.

Given that she spent most of her childhood writing and designing clothes, she’s now seen both of her childhood career dreams come true! She’s enjoyed the adventure of publishing independently as much as she’s enjoyed the writing process itself. She’s now completely hooked on writing!

 

Twitter @saramadderson

 

Book details

  • ISBN-10 : 1916353037
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1916353039
  • Paperback : 266 pages

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Food-Thought-Husband-Going-Carbs/dp/1916353037/

 

 

 

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Return to Cornwall by Laura Briggs

The sequel novel to the best-selling UK series A WEDDING IN CORNWALL brings new surprises, romance, humor, and wedding bells, to readers who fell in love with the first stories.

Busy mother of two Julianne Rose has extended her talents beyond the manor house, opening her own event planning agency with the help of no-nonsense best friend Kitty. Balancing the chaos of daily life with their respective careers in their beloved Cornish village means Julianne can rarely snatch a romantic moment with handsome husband Matt. And just when it seems things couldn’t get any more chaotic, a sudden arrival at Cliffs House lands Julianne in the most unusual event of her career.

The reappearance of Percy or ‘the old earl’ after years of adventures abroad has temporarily shocked Lord William and Lady Amanda and set the entire village abuzz with gossip. Grizzled, spry, and delightfully eccentric, he’s returned with a most unusual set of traveling companions: an archaeological team digging in a spot whispered to have ties with the legendary Camelot. But it’s Percy’s ties with a certain charming woman among its team that has everyone taken by surprise, along with the news of their soon-to-be nuptials.

Tasked with planning the big day, Julianne and Kitty spring at this opportunity despite its rushed timeline and their own woes regarding the renovation of their future event space. But as the big day rolls closer for the earl and his bride-to-be – with cakes and wedding flowers competing with pottery shards and an ancient warrior chieftain’s grave for attention — are there still surprising revelations to come?

Adding to the excitement is the return of former Cliffs House maid Gemma, whose posh new life as a novelist may not be all it seems … and Dinah visits in a flurry of festive baking for a holiday competition on everyone’s favorite baking show. Kitty’s life is in a tizz regarding both family and secrets … and Julianne’s happy marriage is challenged by an unwelcome sexy-and-persistent suitor among the summer visitors.

Filled with old friends, new adventures, and heart-warming Cornish charm, RETURN TO CORNWALL is an all-new, full-length novel—the first one ever to feature the characters from the original series!

 

My review

This is a fabulous series – Wedding in Cornwall – that just keeps giving!

We catch up with Julianne and Matt. They are now busy juggling children and careers, and struggling bur mainly managing to get that work/life balance just right. Everything seems to be going well, but there’s a bit of disruption on the way. How will the family handle it?

Cornish village life provides a rich, slightly eccentric and warm background. There are some fabulous characters to meet and plenty of interesting things going on. The archaeological dig is fascinating with lots of attention to detail that makes it all very convincing.

I really enjoy how this author keeps both her characters and her readers on their toes. She lulls you into a false sense of security, then pulls the rug from under your feet, although with a twinkle in her eye. She’s teasing rather than tormenting us, but it does introduce some real tension and uncertainty, even though we’re sure Ms Briggs will work her magic and give us an ultimately satisfying and uplifting story.

All the interactions between characters are entertaining and cleverly written and it’s so very easy to be drawn into the world of this novel and feel sad to say goodbye when the last word is read.

Purchase Link – https://smarturl.it/returntocornwall

 

Author bio

Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.

Social Media Links –

Author Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1JjeMoI

Author Twitter: http://bit.ly/1ME9ivJ

 

Giveaway to Win an e-copy of Return to Cornwall by Laura Briggs (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494389/

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Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

What happens when love takes you to unexpected places?

Heather Douglas appears to have it all. But living on a farm in the Scottish Highlands with her partner, Rory Fraser, all while bringing up their adorable toddler, Harry, isn’t easy. As a former librarian, Heather is worried that she’ll never fully fit into life on Fraser Farm. And after the death of her beloved mum five years ago, Heather feels lost, as well as guilty for holding back accepting Rory’s marriage proposal because she can’t imagine her wedding without her mother.

So when ex-boyfriend, Stewart, appears in the village of Glendale, it’s a shock to the system. The man who broke her heart years ago now has big plans for the neighbouring farm and wants Heather to be part of the development. Knowing that she’s living a very different life to the one they had planned at university leaves Heather wondering if she has made the right choices since she and Stewart broke up. Especially when things start to go very wrong on the farm …

This Christmas, Heather will need to face her fears and let go of the past or risk losing everything. She will need love, faith, and a whole lot of hope!

Return to the beautiful Highlands village of Glendale with the latest book in the bestselling Glendale series – a lovely uplifting, romantic read.

 

My review

This is an enjoyable romance, and it’s nice to use that term when our main characters are a couple already in a steady relationship, with little Harry as proof to that! Perhaps it’s more of a journey novel though, since Heather has made both a physical and a mental journey in leaving her old life behind when she moved up to the Highlands. She still has a little further to go: I have to confess to finding her clinging to her view that she can’t get married because her mum isn’t there to see it just a teeny bit irritating. Fortunately her partner has the patience of a saint, and events are conspiring to force her to make some important decisions.

The portrayal of life on a farm is wonderful and very realistic. Living on a farm myself, I know all too well that evenings can find you utterly exhausted. But it’s a rewarding and interesting way of life, and that came over well in the story.

Christmas tends to bring things, good and bad, to a head and that’s the case here. Heather gets a reality check, which, imho, she sorely needs, and fortunately it brings out the best in her. The festive background is beautifully portrayed, and had me thinking wistfully of the Christmas decorations in the loft and starting to think about how soon I can get them out without appearing too batty!

This novel is an entertaining continuation of the Glendale series, and it’s interesting to see a different view of previous main characters. Heather and Rory are obviously developed the most, but other familiar faces evolve a little too.

All in all, festive and touching.

 

Purchase Links

Amazon https://amzn.to/2Y6P1dt

Apple https://apple.co/3emKwBn  

Kobo https://bit.ly/37AMc7D

Author Bio – Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of three novels, THE SECOND LOVE OF MY LIFE, SUMMER AT THE KINDNESS CAFÉ, and COMING HOME TO GLENDALE HALL. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for an RNA award. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

Find out more about Victoria by following on Instagram at @vickyjwalters, on Twitter at @Vicky_Walters or by visiting her blog at:https://victoria-writes.com/.

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Longhand by Andy Hamilton

Synopsis

The new novel from comedy legend Andy Hamilton, whose writing credits include Outnumbered and Drop the Dead Donkey

Longhand reimagines the life of immortal Greek hero Heracles, who is currently residing in contemporary Scotland with his girlfriend Bess

Written entirely in Andy’s own longhand, complete with crossings out and edits

Malcolm George Galbraith is a large, somewhat clumsy, Scotsman. He’s being forced to leave the woman he loves behind and needs to explain why.

So he leaves her a handwritten note on the kitchen table (well, more a 300-page letter than a note). In it, Malcolm decides to start from the beginning and tell the whole story of his long life, something he’s never dared do before.

Because Malcolm isn’t what he seems: he’s had other names and lived in other places. A lot of other places. As it gathers pace, Malcolm’s story combines tragedy, comedy, mystery, a touch of leprosy, several murders, a massacre, a ritual sacrifice, an insane tyrant, two great romances, a landslide, a fire, and a talking fish.

 

My review

I think ‘unexpected’ is the best word to sum up the novel because it’s delightfully different in every respect.

For example, most people don’t have husbands who are Greek immortals. To say that Bessie will be surprised when she reads this long explanatory letter is most definitely an understatement.

Not many authors handwrite their books anymore. However, Andy Hamilton does – and in very neat writing, it must be said. Is this just a gimmick? No. It emphasises that this is a letter, written in fits and starts rather than chapters, and the sometimes uneven spacing and the crossings out reflect the emotion of the writer at the time. It adds even more interest to what’s already a very interesting book. It also fits well with our rather old hero.

Also unexpected is the life story that unfolds. Some elements we know about from legend, but there’s plenty more to discover.

I really enjoyed the book. To be honest, I thought I would as I’ve long admired this multi-talented author’s wit and humour. Longhand, for me, has the most similarities to Mr Hamilton’s wonderful ‘Harry’s Game’ in that both feature immortal figures, including a particularly petulant and capricious major deity. Zeus really is terribly selfish and spiteful, with no regard for the consequences of his irresponsible, spoilt behaviour. He’d go far as a Cabinet Member these days…

There’s so much to relish in the book – a wonderful imagination, beautiful and bizarre imagery, cleverly crafted characters, sharp wit, ingenuity, the unexpected (that word again) and ultimately great entertainment value.

Definitely one to read, the old fashioned way!

 

About the author – although I’m sure you don’t need to be told!

Andy Hamilton is a comedy writer, performer and director. He regularly appears on the BBC TV panel shows Have I Got News for You and on Radio 4’s News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. His television writing credits include Outnumbered, Drop the Dead Donkey, Not the Nine O’Clock News, Trevor’s World of Sport, Ballot Monkeys, Power Monkeys and many others. He also cocreated the movie What We Did On Our Holiday. For twenty years he has played Satan in the Radio 4 comedy Old Harry’s Game, which he also writes.

 

The book is published by Unbound Press, hardback   £16.99