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One Week Til Christmas by Belinda Missen: festive and sparkly

Two people. One chance meeting. Seven days to Christmas.

Isobel Bennett is waiting for the number 11 bus when a man quite literally falls into her lap. Snow is falling, Christmas lights are twinkling, and a gorgeous man with dark brown hair has just slipped on ice and is now pressed against Isobel.

Isobel knows she’s not imagining the chemistry between them. But then his ride arrives and, embarrassed, he beats a hasty retreat, murmuring apologies – and Isobel realises only too late that she didn’t manage to catch his name…

When she runs into him again the next morning, she decides it’s fate.

It’s a second chance for Isobel and Tom – but there’s only one week until she’s leaving London for good. Seven days of enjoying all the festive delights the city has to offer: ice-skating at Somerset House, mulled wine on the Southbank, Christmas shopping at Liberty.

There’s magic in the air and mistletoe in the trees – but what will happen when the week is over?

 

My review

I could read Belinda Missen books until my eyes fell out!

I adore this author. Her books are always clever, uplifting, witty and enjoyable. One Week Til Christmas is no exception.

We have two fascinating lead characters in Tom and Isobel. There’s instant attraction after they literally bump into each other, and fortunately Fate brings them into each other’s company again in slightly less frantic circumstances. But then they discover that they might not be that perfect for each other after all since he’s a celeb, and they’re the sort of people Isobel dislikes, and she’s a journalist, the sort of person Tom hates.

But it’s Christmas in a week, and so there’s hope that festive magic may have time to work its charm and make this pair realise that you shouldn’t be too quick to judge someone. You mustn’t be afraid to seize the day and see what happens.

This is a beautifully festive and polished romcom, as sparkly as a glittery bauble on a Christmas tree.

 

Purchase Links:

https://www.amazon.com.au/One-Week-Christmas-Belinda-Missen-ebook/dp/B07VXLVLJW

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VXLVLJW

https://books.apple.com/us/book/one-week-til-christmas/id1475077464?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Belinda_Missen_One_Week_Til_Christmas?id=W4CmDwAAQBAJ

https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/one-week-til-christmas

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-week-til-christmas-belinda-missen/1132755266?ean=9780008296933

Author bio 

Author and sometimes foodie, Belinda is a ridiculous romantic who met her husband after being set up by a friend two states away.

Residing in country Victoria, surrounded by books, cat-fur, and half-eaten cake, Belinda divides her days between writing rom-coms, baking, and indulging her love of comic books.

Social Media Links –

www.belindamissen.com

facebook.com/BelindaMissen

twitter.com/belinda_missen

Instagram @belinda_missen

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The Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge: price drop to 99p today!

The Christmas Calendar Girls

This Christmas fall in love with the town of Chesterwood…

Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.

Fern, and her best friends, call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).

As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.

In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.

Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?

 

This is a story about kindness and letting go of the past. It’s about looking out for your neighbours and about making every day feel like Christmas.

 

Purchase Links –

Heart-warming, cosy and charming, get The Christmas Calendar Girls for just 99p for a limited period!

Google Play: https://bit.ly/2YBNoBH

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2SUjoPS

iBooks: https://apple.co/2YwUjfd

 

Author bio

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.
When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.
She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award.

Social Media Links

http://samanthatonge.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamTongeWriter
Instagram: @samanthatongeauthor 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SamanthaTongeAuthor

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Chapter 1 of my festive romcom ‘A Christmas Hamster’

It’s ironic. For years my sister claimed I’d ruined her life by being born. Eight years as an only child meant she’d rather got used to being the centre of attention and having her own room, so suddenly having to share her parents and space with me didn’t go down very well. In reality I didn’t pose any sort of threat to her as she was the bright, pretty, high-achieving one, but she stuck resolutely to her assertion until she left to go to university. For whatever reason, that resulted in a softening of her attitude towards me and we became very close.

And then she ruined my life.

Well, totally derailed it and turned it upside down, at the very least. Her momentary lapse of attention when she stepped in front of that bus, nose buried in her phone, had dramatic consequences. Not only were Mum, Dad and I devastated at the death of a wonderful human being and the untimely shattering of our little family, but I became the guardian of three-year-old Rowan.

The only slip-up, until that fatal one, that my sister ever made was a one-night stand with a fellow delegate at a banking conference in New York. Rowan was the charming outcome nine months later. I doted on him, and regularly house- and baby-sat during my university holidays so that my sister could jet off to this important meeting and that crucial seminar, and give the live-in nanny some time off.

Then, after completing my Master’s degree in Conservation of Fine Art, I landed my dream job as a junior conservator at a small but prestigious art museum in The Netherlands. I loved every minute of it. My fledgling career, however, came to a crashing halt at Zinnia’s death when I had to return to the UK to bring up Rowan. Zin’s will named me as guardian and trustee until Rowan turned eighteen. She’d never breathed a whisper of this to me, not that I’d have refused her request, of course. I’d never have expected I’d actually have to take up the reins. I’d just have been flattered at her considering me capable of bringing up her beloved son. Mum and Dad might have been a more obvious choice, but possibly Zinnia had detected a few warning signs of the early-onset dementia that was spitefully beginning to sink its claws into dear old Dad. Mum had her hands increasingly full coping with him.

So there I was, a full-time aunt-slash-mum. Initially I’d devoted myself entirely to the orphaned toddler. The interest from the trust that I was given access to was enough to support the pair of us, but only if we lived frugally and it certainly didn’t stretch to covering hired help too. But anyway, the nanny had handed her notice in the day after the funeral. I guessed she’d foreseen an abrupt end to the cushy conditions she’d enjoyed up to that point.

I’d begun fretting at being housebound, even in our pleasant home on the edge of a small, bustling market town. Not that I was, really, since Rowan and I were out and about as much as we could be, either on our trailer bike, or on foot with Goliath the Chihuahua in tow. (More about him presently.) And thank goodness for there being so many toddler groups in Westeringfield. I think I enjoyed those even more than Rowan and they helped me keep a grip on my sanity.

Zin had only recently bought the house. She’d lived in London for years but, country girl that she was at heart, never really enjoyed being cooped up in a flat, however elegant, with noise all day and all night long. I know I couldn’t have stood it if I’d have had to have lived there with little Rowan. So she’d decided to move out to the sticks and cope with a twice-weekly commute to the city. Her job and the internet allowed her to work from home the other three. She’d chosen Westeringfield as it was on a direct rail line to London, and was only ten miles from our family home in Much Dowdon. Not too far, but far enough.

When Rowan started school, I touted around for a part-time job locally. A bit of extra money would always come in handy, and besides, I needed to start putting some aside for the day when my nephew reached his majority and neither needed nor wanted me under his roof any longer. I landed a part-time position at Nailed It!, a hardware store, as you probably guessed. I’m convinced the manager must have thought I said, during my begging phone call to him, that I had experience in “painting conservatories” rather than “painting conservation” because he offered me a job on the spot.

I was at work now, daydreaming during a lull in activity in the paint and varnish department, to which I’d been assigned. I was glad of the temporary respite as I’d been stacking pots of paint most of the morning so far. The smaller ones are no problem, but a ten-litre pot is a hefty item, especially for someone on the small side, like me. I’ve honed a fine set of biceps during my two years of doing this job, but I still find lugging the large, glugging containers around a tiring business.

I became of aware of someone studying the colour cards displaying the bewildering array of hues my paint-mixing machine could allegedly produce. I’d been standing at my station, gazing out into the middle distance in the direction of the tiles and shower section and had not originally noticed this potential client sidle up to the display board behind me.

My sales training, all half an hour of it, cut in.

“Hi there!” I said in a cheery voice from where I stood. “Can I help at all?”

The man swung round to face me. He was average height and build, thankfully with hair longer than what seemed to be the obligatory scalp stubble for men these days, and an intelligent, kind, good-looking face. He pushed his glasses up his nose a couple of millimetres then returned my smile, revealing a matching pair of dimples just visible beneath his neatly trimmed beard.

“I hope so. What would be good for covering grey?” he asked.

“What shade of grey are we talking about?” I enquired, coming over to join him at the board. “Something like any of these?”

I indicated the colour card that carried seven sample shades of pale grey, each varying by only a few degrees in darkness.

“No,” he shook his head, “much darker than that. You don’t have anything close,” he added, scanning the display. He turned to me. “The grey I’m talking about is somewhere between elephant and gunmetal.”

“Seriously?” I was so surprised I couldn’t stop myself blurting that out. Who on earth would use something that grim to decorate a room with? Aware I’d probably insulted the guy, I quickly added, by way of damage limitation, “Goodness, how very… unusual.”

“How very ghastly, more like.” He pulled a face. “My girlfriend – ex-girlfriend – moved in, redecorated my flat to resemble a coalmine, sucked my soul dry, and then left to do the same to some other poor sap.”

It was funny what confidences customers would share with the harmless-looking paint department girl. I used to be a bit shocked, but by now I was well used to tales of marital or relationship woe, or other personal hardships being nobly but vociferously borne. I could run a lucrative side-line in blackmail should I ever feel inclined.

“Oh dear, I’m very sorry to hear that,” I sympathised.

I was. My own love-life, which had never been the stuff of romance novels, had taken a turn for the worst after I assumed the responsibility of bringing up a little human being. No, more than that: it had nose-dived, crashed and burned. The merest mention that I was guardian to my nephew sent men, interested until that point, scuttling away. I couldn’t quite get my head round it: I mean, divorcees and single mums with children seemed to form new relationships with ease. Now, I admit I’m no oil-painting, but neither do I cause horses to rear nor babies to cry. I’m told I have a nice smile and a cute, freckly nose. By myself, true, but I’m not being biased, honestly. I’m petite, have slightly wild, copper-coloured hair, dress fashionably (within reason and budget) and have an upbeat personality. I enjoying chatting, and since I take an interest in more than just celeb gossip I like to think I make for an informed and stimulating companion.

But, maybe I don’t.

“Only be sorry about the paint,” the man suddenly chuckled, his face brightening. “I’m well over her now.”

I brightened too. “So, the soul is fully rehydrated?” I enquired.

“Mainly by alcohol at first,” he admitted ruefully, “but these days by a nice cup of tea and restored contentment with the world.”

Ah, so he probably had a lovely, new girlfriend. Shame. I was finding him more attractive by the minute.

“Whatever colour you go for, you’d be best off applying a few layers of white undercoat first,” I advised. “And go for Lakepool paint as the mixing base for your topcoat, rather than our own brand. It’s more expensive but it’s much better quality. Despite its name, the company hasn’t nailed it as far as their paint is concerned.”

He smiled, repeating the charming dimple display.

“And are these,” he gestured at the sheets of colour cards, “accurate?”

I trotted out the official line. “Minor colour differences between the printed colour sample and your final selected paint product may result.”

“How minor exactly?” he probed.

“Barely noticeable… in some cases. In others, the differences are a tad more major,” I confessed.

He raised an eyebrow. “And what cases would those be?”

“All of the blues and pinks,” I admitted with a sigh. “And the greens and yellows. Oh yes, and the beiges.”

I saw a shadow of a smile as he digested this information.

“The secret is to choose the colour you like, but order it at least two shades lighter.” I didn’t add that I would then go two shades lighter still when I set up the machine. Both Maggie and Ahmed, the other part-timers in the paint section, did the same thing. We’d all asked many times for the machine to be recalibrated or, preferably, replaced as there was definitely something off in its settings, but nothing had been done as yet, and, we knew full well, most likely never would.

“So would I be fairly safe with this magnolia?” He indicated a pale, insipid version of the colour.

“Yes,” I confirmed. “You can’t go too far wrong with magnolia.”

I couldn’t help feeling rather disappointed. I’d hoped he might be a little more adventurous. He gave off a livelier vibe. But maybe he was thinking of his new girlfriend.

He stared at the square centimetre of insipidness for a moment then shook his head. “Nah, need more oomph.”

Thank goodness for that.

“And maybe a different colour for every room?” he mused. He then immediately answered his own question with, “Yes, why not.”

“Excellent,” I beamed. “How many rooms?”

“Kitchen, bathroom, lounge, bedroom, spare bedroom – five.”

“Any hallway?” I prompted, knowing that many people tended to overlook this essential part of the house.

“Oh yes, that too. Six.” He smiled gratefully.

Should I push home the total sale now and send him home staggering under a pile of paint pots? Or should I encourage him to return as often as possible? It would be nice to see him again, but darn, there was that girlfriend – probably. Almost certainly. But not absolutely definitely…

I came up with a cunning plan.

“So,” I suggested with a smile, “how about you take that undercoat for now to get busy with, and a selection of these colour cards to talk over with any co-habitees.” There, how subtle was that? “Now, what square meterage of wall are we talking about?”

Most clients never had a clue so it made for a very refreshing, impressive change when this particular one informed me, “A total of two hundred and twenty-six square metres. Plus the hall, which I’d say will need, oh, thirty square metres maybe? But,” he added, interrupting my mental arithmetic process which was cranking into action to work out how many litres of undercoat he’d need, “there’s no need for consultation over colours. I’m confident that Fionnuala will be more than happy with my choices.”

My heart sank. Fionnuala. An Irish girlfriend, all luscious red hair, green eyes, seductive, lilting accent and perfect skin from all that rain. I hated her. Then, realising that this handsome man was also rather arrogant in assuming his beloved from the Emerald Isle would approve whole-heartedly of his selections, my heart sank a little further. I’d had a couple of boyfriends who’d been way too full of themselves like that. Not a nice feature.

“You see,” he went on, those dimples still issuing a silent siren call to me, “now that she’s fourteen, which is approximately seventy-two in cat years, she sleeps a lot of the time. And besides, cats don’t see colours like we do. They perceive a much more muted version on the whole.”

My heart leapt back up to its proper place. No girlfriend but a cat. And he was a knowledgeable guy. I liked smart, animal-loving men. Especially when they had dimples.

“I didn’t know that,” I admitted. “Which is shameful, since I have a cat too.”

And also a dog, a guinea-pig, two rats, a rabbit, a budgie, a tortoise, four turtles and three goldfish, but I thought I’d hold on to that other information for now. I didn’t want to come over as a frustrated zookeeper.

The reason I had these creatures was because Dolores, who worked at the customer services desk where she exuded calming charm over irate customers, was a volunteer at the town’s animal shelter. She’d quickly assessed me as a soft touch when I began work at Nailed It! and thus I’d rapidly accumulated these formerly abandoned, and in some cases abused, animals. I frequently fostered kittens or puppies too for a week or so if space was running short at the shelter.

“Lovely animals, aren’t they. Very companionable,” he summarised.

That wasn’t the word I’d use for poor dear Fluffles. My one-eared, half-tailed cat had suffered horribly at someone’s hands and was still extremely nervous, even after two years with me. She lurked in corners most of the time, but every now and again my one-sided devotion was rewarded by a purring presence materialising on my lap. Whenever that rare event happened I hardly dared move, apart from to gently stroke her head. A cough or sudden movement on my part would send her skittering away in an instant. It might be one week or several before she got her confidence back.

Goliath, the Chihuahua, was missing an eye and any sort of beauty but was the most loving pet you could wish for, despite enduring total neglect for years. Lettie, the tortoise, had a misshapen shell as evidence of brutal treatment that had left it badly cracked, but all my other waifs and strays were intact physically, just discarded.

“I’m very fond of my cat,” I eventually answered evasively. “She’s a dear.”

“And so’s your blooming varnish,” muttered an old guy stomping past. He’d been browsing the shelves of varnish while we’d been chatting. I admired his wit but not his judgement: Nailed It!’s own-brand varnish was the cheapest on the market. Also the worst, but that was beside the point.

His crabby interruption broke our sharing moment and got me back into business mode. I returned to that mental arithmetic.

“You’ll need twenty-five litres of undercoat for two nice, thick layers. And will you take any topcoat today as well?”

“I’ll take everything,” he replied decisively.

“Everything?” I echoed, a little plaintively. That would mean he wouldn’t need to come back and that would be a shame.

He evidently, and probably fortunately, misinterpreted my disappointment as mild surprise. “Well, if I buy it all in, then I’ll have to get on with the job. There’s a danger my enthusiasm might run out otherwise. I’ll need brushes too, or are rollers better, in your professional opinion?”

“Professional, yes, but personal no,” I replied, with honesty and resignation. “Rollers give an even spread but they tend to splatter paint everywhere, especially on the painter. And you need paint trays and they’re a pain to clean afterwards. Painting takes longer with a brush but it’s more rewarding, I find, and muchless messy.”

“Hmm.” He graciously digested my not very helpful comments. “Thank you. I’ll go with brushes. But presumably not your own-brand ones?”

“You presume correctly,” I smiled.

And so did he.

I would have to keep the quips coming. If I wasn’t going to see him again, then I’d have to extract maximum dimplage from him here and now. Who I was kidding? It wasn’t just the dimples, it was all of him which was alluring: his looks, his gentle humour, his shy-but-confident air.

“So, what shall we—” I began, but was rudely interrupted by the loud thudding of a ten-litre pot of paint crashing onto the counter behind me.

I swung round to see a short, round, red-faced woman glaring at me. I correctly surmised that she was red-faced from lugging the paint all the way through the shop to my department as well as from anger. Behind her was a breathless Dolores, running an agitated hand over her cornrow plaits. She threw me an apologetic eye-roll.

“I tried to explain to this customer that we deal with problems at the reception desk,” she said out loud, “but she insisted on seeing you herself.”

Great. I plastered on a sickly, insincere smile. “Now what seems to be—”

“The problem is that I sent my husband in for a tin of duck egg blue and he comes home with this!” the woman shrieked and shoved the paint can towards me, rather more energetically than necessary. I only just caught it in time to stop it sailing off the edge of the counter and onto the floor. “I marked the colour I wanted on the card but you gave me the wrong one.”

She meant ‘you’ as in any one of the massed ranks of Nailed It!’s employees. I certainly hadn’t seen her before.

“Do you have your—”

“Receipt? Yes.” She slammed that on the counter too.

I reached over and picked it up. The paint purchase had been made at 4.51 pm last Friday. I frowned. That was Ahmed’s shift. He knew how to handle our temperamental paint-mixing machine. Then my frown lifted as I recalled that he’d told me, when we’d overlapped briefly at one o’clock, that he’d had to make an urgent dentist’s appointment for later that day due to a chunk of molar breaking off during supper the previous night and leaving him with raging toothache. Mr Lawson, the assistant manager, stepped in to fill the breach at times of absent staff. He had always refused to believe our claims that the paint machine was off-kilter. So if someone asked for shade A10239 then that’s what he programmed into the machine when what it needed was actually A10235.

I could see from a few splotches on the outside of the tin that it contained paint of a pleasant shade of pale turquoise. Until about a year ago, we’d used lids that incorporated a circle of see-through plastic in the middle so that clients could see what shade of paint they’d purchased. These lids were fractionally more expensive than the ordinary all-metal, opaque ones and it was this same Mr Lawson who’d deemed them unnecessary. He’d instituted a slough of similar cost-cutting practices that were either client- or staff-unfriendly across the shop. None of us failed to notice that this had taken place just before he got his latest company car, an even more upmarket BMW than the previous one, which was only a couple of years old.

The woman kept up a grumbling monologue that I switched off to as I located the department’s stout screw-driver that served to prise paint pots open. I worked my way around the lid, loosening its tight clasp, and finally eased it off to reveal a glistening small sea of a really quite exquisite colour. A lone paintbrush bristle sat on the surface as witness to the fact that a cursory blob of this renegade shade had been smeared on the wall to prove just how wrong it was.

“What a lovely colour!” came a voice.

I’d temporarily forgotten about Mr Dimples.

“It is rather nice, isn’t it?” I agreed, temporarily forgetting about Mrs Red-Face.

“Nice? It’s hideous! Have you ever seen duck’s eggs this colour?”

I hadn’t knowingly ever seen a duck’s egg at all. However, I didn’t get the time to admit this.

“I want my money back,” she went on.

“How much was the paint?” asked Mr Dimples.

“Sixty-four quid,” snapped Mrs Red-Face. “Daylight robbery.”

“I’ll buy it off you,” offered Mr Dimple.

I stared at him. “But what about a different colour for every room?” I reminded him.

“I have to handle the transaction through my till,” chimed in Dolores, who was still lurking.

“Nonsense,” said Mrs Red-Face, seeing Mr Dimples extracting his wallet. “I’m quite happy to let this nice young man buy my paint from me.”

Dolores and I looked at each other. She shrugged.

“Okay, just this once,” she conceded.

Dolores was normally a stickler for the rules. I could only imagine she’d had more shirty customers to deal with than usual today and so her trademark feisty robustness had been ground down to a shadow of its usual self.

“Great.” My handsome, cat-owning client had already laid three twenties on the counter and was delving in his jeans pocket – his snugly-fitting jeans pocket – for the balance in coins.

“Excellent,” beamed his new best friend.

“Would you like me to mix you ten litres of the correct shade?” I offered Mrs Red-Face, although I already knew what the answer would be.

Sure enough I got a haughty snort in response and something along the lines of “I’ll never set foot in this dump again,” although both Dolores and I knew she’d be back. Nailed It! was so very cheap compared with other hardware stores, and people generally were so very tight-fisted.

Stuffing the money into her handbag, Mrs Red-Face flounced off. Dolores trailed back to her desk and a growing queue of grieved and now even grumpier customers. I turned to my turquoise-loving client.

“Sorry for the rude interruption,” I smiled. “Now, I’d better get you that undercoat. And brushes. And you’ll need another twelve and a half litres of topcoat in total. The same shade or some different colours?”

“Actually,” he began. Oh no, that little incident had put him off buying any more of our tinted paints. “Actually, I’ll just take the undercoat and a brush or two. Thinking about it, it would be a bit much to buy it all now.”

He had a slightly devious look as he said that. Was he coming round to my way of thinking that it would be a shame if our paths were never to cross again?

“Yes, it would,” I said firmly, in reply to his voiced observation and my own silent one. “And each time you call in, you can give me progress reports and let me know what Fionnuala thinks of it all.”

“Maybe,” he hesitated, then seemed to pluck up courage, “maybe you could even come round and see the finished result?”

“Maybe I could.” My smile morphed into a cheesy grin.

He cheesed back at me.

We chatted some more as I bustled around, making the brush selection procedure last as long as possible since he did smell so beautifully of manly shower gel and deo. I felt more than a slight pang of disappointment when my most gorgeous client ever eventually staggered off with a ten-litre pot of paint in each hand and brushes tucked under one arm. I’d written a quick note for whoever was on checkout to not charge for the turquoise paint, and if they wanted more details to go to Dolores about it. I knew that whoever it was wouldn’t.

I hoped I’d see Fionnuala’s owner again. I really did.

Interlude

“I’m home!” he calls coming into the hallway, as if I haven’t already heard the car draw up, a door and then the boot open and slam shut, him crunching up the gravel drive and opening the front door. “Did you miss me?”

Not really, truth be told. Still, I do my thing and go and greet him, winding round his legs and liberally coating his jeans with long white and ginger hairs. He tickles my head. That really is rather nice. I can’t help purring.

Then I notice he’s grinning like an idiot. Uh-oh, I’ve seen that look before. He’s in love.

“I’m in love,” he announces.

Told you so.

I’d have thought the awful, evil Tamara was enough to put him off women for life. But evidently not. The man’s a fool.

I stalk off, tail ramrod straight in the air, to show my disapproval. But despite myself, I can’t help stopping and sniffing the two big container-things he brought in with him and dumped, loudly, on the floor.

“It’s paint,” he tells me. “I’m going to brighten this place up.”

Thank goodness. It’s like living in a cave in here.

“And then I shall ask the most beautiful girl in the world to come and admire it,” he calls after me.

Ugh.

I trot off to wipe that silly smile off his face by doing something nasty, and not necessarily in my litter tray.

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Fiona and the Whale by Hannah Lynn: quirky and wonderful!

Synopsis

With her personal life on the rocks, it’s going to take a whale sized miracle to keep her afloat.

Event planner Fiona Reeves did not have her husband’s sudden departure on her schedule. However, she’s certain that it’s only a hiccup and he’ll be back in no time, begging for forgiveness. Fortunately there’s a distraction of mammoth proportions swimming in the River Thames.

Absorbed by the story of Martha the sperm whale, Fiona attempts to carry on life as usual as she awaits her husband’s return. However, nothing can prepare her for the dramatic turn of events that throws her life into ever greater turmoil. The road ahead has many paths and for Fiona it’s time to sink or swim.

Fiona and the Whale is a poignant and often hilarious contemporary fiction novel. If you enjoy topical tales, second chances and a little bit of romance, you’ll love this new book from the Kindle Storyteller Award Winner, Hannah Lynn.

 

My review

This is a very enjoyable novel, dealing with common issues (empty-nest syndrome, marital break-up) but in a definitely unconventional way. The whale element isn’t so unusual either, as there’s just been a humpback whale in the Thames, sadly killed the other day in a collision with a boat.

Our heroine Fiona is thoroughly engaging. She’s flawed (for example, she seems more concerned about breaking up her dinner service than that her son needs plates to go to university with!) but kind, caring and genuine. Her concerns about the environment are timely and firmly but sensitively handles. It’s something we need to hear so as well as being an entertaining story there’s the added beneficial element of gently reminding us to think of our impact on the world around us rather more than we do.

The author has a lively, friendly style that grabs you at once and holds your attention all the way through the book. It’s fun, poignant, informative, quirky and wonderful.

 

Purchase Links

 

Hannah Lynn

Hannah Lynn is an award-winning novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments – a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015, she has since gone on to write The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist – which won the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the Gold Medal for Best Adult Fiction ebook at this year’s IPPY Awards – and the delightfully funny and poignant Peas and Carrots series.

While she freely moves between genres, her novels are recognisable for their character driven stories and wonderfully vivid description.

She is currently working on a YA Vampire series and a reimaging of a classic Greek myth.

Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

For up-to-date news and access to exclusive promotions follow her on

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

Twitter @HMLynnauthor

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13830772.Hannah_M_Lynn

Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/hannah-lynn

 

Books

Amazon.co.uk – Amendments

Amazon.com – Amendments

Amazon.co.uk – The Afterlife of Walter Augustus

Amazon.com – The Afterlife of Walter Augustus

Amazon.co.uk – Peas, Carrots and an Aston Martin

Amazon.com – Peas, Carrots and an Aston Martin

 

Whale Sized Giveaway (Open Internationally)

Prizes are

$25 Amazon Gift card

2 print copies of Fiona and the Whale

10 ebooks of Fiona

5 ebooks of The Afterlife of Water Augustus

5 ebooks, of Peas, Carrots and an Aston Martin.

 

Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5f8b9ad57/

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Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters: charming and atmospheric

Synopsis

No matter how far you go, home is where the heart is…

Beth Williams hasn’t been home for ten years. After falling pregnant at sixteen, she ran away from the imposing Scottish estate where she grew up rather than risk her family’s disapproval, working hard to build a life for herself and daughter Isabelle – but now she’s finally returning to Glendale Hall.

As Beth tries to mend her broken family ties, and fights to bring the community of Glendale back together, she realises that the story she has told herself for a decade might well be a very different one from the truth. Even though she ran from Glendale it has never left her heart. And, she soon realises, neither has Drew – Beth’s first love.

Will Beth be able to forgive her mother and grandmother (and herself) for what happened ten years ago? What will Drew say when he discovers the secret she’s been keeping from him for so long? Can a festive trail bring the village back together?

Will Christmas work its magic on Glendale – or will Beth be forced to run away from it all over again?

A charming, uplifting novel that will warm your heart – the perfect read to curl up with this autumn. Fans of Trisha Ashley, Debbie Johnson and Cathy Bramley will love this gorgeously romantic read.

 

My review

This is very Christmassy, festive novel, but it has a gritty edge. Teenage pregnancy is a bit of a prickly issue and it’s one that features in this story. Beth ran away at sixteen when expecting her baby and she stays away for ten years before returning with daughter Isabelle. Beth had her reasons and some of those aren’t easy to overcome. There’s challenge alongside the charm in the story.

Beth isn’t the only one who has altered during that time: her hometown has as well. Glendale is in a downward spiral, perhaps reflecting her grandmother’s serious illness. However, Beth isn’t running away again. She decides to tackle things and make life better.

As she tries to give Glendale a second chance, she herself gets one too. Her first love, Drew, appears on the scene.

Victoria Walters creates some wonderful characters for us to meet, and her clever plot has them interacting in fascinating ways.

The seasonal events, activities and settings in this story are very atmospheric, and also magical. This book is a great one to start your Christmas reading season with.

 

Purchase Links:


Author Bio –

Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. Her moving debut novel THE SECOND LOVE OF MY LIFE was chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for an RNA award. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star. Her heart-warming new novel SUMMER AT THE KINDNESS CAFE is available to download now.

As well as being an author, Victoria also works as a Waterstones bookseller and buys far too many books there. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry (named after Harry Potter). Victoria is not only obsessed with books but loves buying slogan tops, mugs and notebooks, and posting them all on Instagram.

You can discover more about Victoria – and find pictures of Harry the cat – by following her on Instagram at @vickyjwalters, on Twitter at @Vicky_Walters or by visiting her blog at:https://victoria-writes.com/.

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Escape to Giddywell Grange by Kim Nash: uplifting and enjoyable

Escape To Giddywell Grange

Maddy Young thought she had it all.

Swanky city apartment? – yep. Fancy car? sorted. High-flying career? – tick.

Even if she’s lost most of her friends because of spending all her time at work, and can’t remember when she last had fun, it’s worth it.

Until she’s suddenly made redundant. Now she’s 37, jobless, and after the breakup with the former love of her life, unhappily single.

Enter Maddy’s childhood friend, Beth, the owner of Growlers, the doggy daycare centre at Giddywell Grange, on a mission to make Maddy see there’s more to life than work.

Soon, Maddy is swapping spreadsheets for volunteer duty at the library, daily Starbucks for cups of tea with elderly neighbours, and her Prada handbag for doggy poo bags… And with Beth’s gorgeous brother, Alex, back from the States, Maddy starts to think that Giddywell Grange might just be her happy place.

But when her old life – and her old boyfriend – comes calling, will Maddy go back to the job she loved so much? Or will she discover that the key to happiness lies in making others happy?

An uplifting romantic comedy that will warm your heart – perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Milly Johnson and Katie Fforde.

 

My review

What can I say about this book except that it’s brilliant! It’s so readable, so funny, so moving, so uplifting, so clever and oh, so enjoyable!

Our heroine Maddy is a super character. She’s warm, genuine, imperfect and so perfectly human and we love her at once. It’s impossible not to be fully enchanted by her and to care about and be interested in everything she does. Her best friend Beth is a fabulous person too, and the ideal foil for Maddy. We see Maddy develop and subtly change and rediscover both happiness and fulfilment.

There’s a hint of romance, plenty of humour, lovable dogs, misunderstandings, amusing and awkward but fascinating incidents and lots to keep us thoroughly entertained.

Don’t miss it!

 

Purchase Links:


Author Bio

Kim Nash lives in Staffordshire with son Ollie and English Setter Roni, is PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture and is a book blogger at www.kimthebookworm.co.uk.

Kim won the Romantic Novelists Association’s Media Star of the Year in 2016, which she still can’t quite believe. She is now quite delighted to be a member of the RNA.

When she’s not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog, reading, standing on the sidelines of a football pitch cheering on Ollie and binge watching box sets on the TV. She’s also quite partial to a spa day and a gin and tonic (not at the same time!) Kim also runs a book club in Cannock, Staffs.

Amazing Grace was her debut novel with Hera Books and came out in April 2019.

Escape to Giddywell Grange is Kim’s second novel and will be published on September 18th 2019.

Connect with Kim on Social Media here:
Twitter: (@KimTheBookworm) https://twitter.com/KimTheBookworm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimTheBookWorm/
Instagram: @Kim_the_bookworm

 

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Christmas Child by Carol Rivers: moving and heart-warming

Christmas Child

The 2019 Victorian romance from the Sunday Times bestselling author.

A perfect Dickensian saga for Christmas.

Christmas Day, London 1880. Snow falls … a dying Irish girl clutching her new-born baby drags herself to the sanctuary of an East End orphanage and throws herself on the mercy of the Sisters of Clemency. The nuns raise little Ettie O’Reilly as their own, but the lives of the nuns and orphans are soon crushed by an unscrupulous bishop. The heart-breaking outcome turns Ettie’s life upside down and Christmas will never mean the same again.

Will Ettie ever find her friend Michael Wilson whose secret holds the key to their past? Will Ettie keep her innocence and survive the traumatic events that are about to erupt?

 

My review

What a moving, tear-jerking yet ultimately heart-warming tale to open your Christmas reading season.

We follow Ettie’s eventful childhood and early womanhood as she grows up an orphan, then has to make a living in a cruel world. The author creates the Victorian setting so vividly, and shows us the great divide between the haves and have-nots.

Ettie is a superb heroine. She’s a complex, strong yet gentle girl, and somewhat guilt-ridden. She has a lot of hardships heaped onto her from the very start, far more than any one person should. Yet she never loses hope and perseveres courageously. She’s a coper and makes the best of the circumstances that surround her at any time.

The story sweeps us along and we invest deeply in Ettie, wanting things to come right for her. We’re delighted when she has her chance at romance but, of course, that doesn’t quite go smoothly…

This is a beautiful, touching and seasonal tale.

Purchase Links


Author Bio

“Were there’s muck there’s money!” If my family had a royal crest I’m sure those are the words that would have been hewn into the stone above it.

Mum and Dad were both East Enders who were born on the famous or should I say the then infamous Isle of Dogs. They were costermongers selling fruit, veg and anything else that would stand still long enough!

Their family were immigrants who travelled to the UK from Ireland and France, while others emigrated to America.

As a child I would listen to the adults spinning their colourful stories, as my cousins and I drank pop under the table.

I know the seeds of all my stories come from those far off times that feel like only yesterday. So I would like to say a big heartfelt thank you to all my family and ancestors wherever you are now … UK, Ireland, France or America, as you’ve handed down to me the magic and love of story telling.

 

Carol xx

 

Social Media Links

http://www.carolrivers.com

 

https://www.facebook.com/carol.rivers1/

 

https://twitter.com/carol_rivers

 

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/carolriversagas/boards/

 

http://www.instagram.com/carol_rivers01

 

Giveaway to Win Five dedicated signed paperback novels by Carol Rivers (Open to UK Only)

One winner will win the following signed books

“Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm”

“Molly’s Christmas Orphans”

“A Wartime Christmas”

“A Sister’s Shame”

“Eve of the Isle”

*Terms and Conditions –UK 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/33c69494282/

 

 

Posted on

Flora Air by Janice Cairns: a total delight

Flora Air 

Flora Air is passionate about writing and she dreams of becoming an author, but she’s in a fog with her mundane day job. She meets a charismatic professor who nurtures her writing and suddenly her dreams seem possible. A touch of magic at the professor’s home adds old-fashioned charm and enchantment to Flora’s writing journey. When she realises she loves the married professor, her journey takes a wild turn. Can Flora actually succeed in becoming an author? What happens to the love Flora Air feels for the professor?

 

My review

This is a deceptively calm and measured novel. Flora appears to be a very self-contained, unflappable person living an unexciting but satisfying life. However, there’s a lot going on under the surface in both the novel and our heroine. The story develops in ways you don’t expect, and Flora’s hormones are playing havoc with her and her writing isn’t really getting anywhere. She’s resigned to never marrying, and it seems that she’s quietly giving up.

Enter the healing ghost, a clever, unusual yet fitting touch, and suddenly things become far from mundane.

Flora Air is a gentle, undemanding heroine whom we quickly get to know and admire. She’s a bit ‘airy’, as her name suggests, in that her head can be in the clouds, thanks to her author’s imagination. She’s charming and genuine.

I love how Janice Cairns writes. She has a thoughtful, engaging style. Think Anita Brookner, but with more zest. She marries a convincingly reality-based element with magic, and the two apparently incongruous components work like a charm together.

This book is a delight to read.

Purchase Links


Author Bio

 

Janice Cairns is the author of quality romantic fiction.  For more than thirty years she has lived in Edinburgh and her first three novels are set there.  She now lives in a historic market town not far from Edinburgh.  Most of her time is spent writing or thinking about writing.  She loves long country walks, reading good books and eating out in lovely restaurants.

 

Social Media links:

https://www.facebook.com/janice.cairns.58

 

Giveaway to Win 2 x PB copies of Flora Air (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK 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/33c69494280/

Posted on

Bedazzled Dreamer by Deborah King: wonderfully uplifting and beautifully written

Bedazzled Dreamer

She’s about to launch her dream business. The last thing she needs is a distracting housemate and his son…

Shelby is excited to open a shop with her best friend. But with Janna just-married and moved out, she worries their hopes of starting a boutique will never come true. And things get more complicated when her old distrust of men is put to the test by her handsome new roommate and his little boy…

With Oktoberfest decorations forgotten and replaced by Christmas cheer, she slowly allows Shane and the child a space in her heart. But she doesn’t trust her second chance at romance or the success of her boutique when surprising news threatens her newly minted courage.

Can Shelby find the strength to let her ambitions flourish, along with her new passion?

Bedazzled Dreamer is the second touching book in the Inspiration In Cologne women’s fiction series. If you like heartwarming stories, cozy small towns, and festive holiday experiences, then you’ll love Deborah King’s romantic women’s fiction tale.

 

My review

This is a wonderfully uplifting, beautifully-written second-chance romance with some added elements. It’s not just about starting over, but also following your dream and, however hard, moving on from difficult incidents in the past.

Our heroine Shelby is a sweet and genuine person. She’s determined and energetic, and we really care about her. Likewise Shane, a really decent bloke, and particularly the lovable little Nate. The interactions between these three are delightful.

There are unpleasant skeletons lurking in cupboards which make this book more than just an enjoyable, easy read. They don’t intrude but add a touch of edge and reality and that makes this is a convincing, clever contemporary romance. Definitely one to read!

 

Purchase Links


Author Bio –

Deborah King is a spirited woman who was inspired to pursue her dreams due to her mother’s death from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She has the unique ability to read people and tackle life’s hardships.

Deborah is a distinctive new voice in women’s fiction. After raising two children, working with a not-for-profit wildlife rescue organization, and reading too many books to count, she retired from her personal training and weight management business to follow her dream of writing.

Deborah is extremely grateful for having the opportunity to work with many different people sharing and teaching what inspires her, which you will catch glimpses of in her books.

She lives in Missouri with her supportive husband, two cats, who believe they’re dogs, her mini fitness store, and her eclectic collection of books.

For all the latest information, excerpts from her upcoming books, general fun, or to chat, join her at Facebook – Deborah King The Inside Scoop: Launch Team .

She loves to hear from her fans. To follow her social media links, reviews of women’s fiction books, blog, and to sign up for monthly updates, visit her at deborahkingbooks.com.

 

Social Media Links –

Facebook – DeborahKingAuthor

Facebook – Deborah King The Inside Scoop: Launch Team

Twitter – https://twitter.com/dkingnovels  

Pinterest – debbiekingstl

GoodReads – deborahking2018 (Profile Link)

Posted on

The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl: a total pleasure to read

Synopsis
As the last train leaves, will life ever be the same?

Dorset 1935: Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance. Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for her.

But soon the railway is forced to close and a terrible accident occurs within the station grounds, Ted finds his job and any hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…

Present day: Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset to stay with her dad, Ken.

When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that changed his life forever.

But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in the past…

My review
Dual timeline stories seem to be all the rage at the moment, and when they’re as skilfully handled and beautifully written as this one then I’m really glad that they are!
So much goes on in this story, both in the present and past. We have misunderstandings, secrets, love, errors and atonement. There’s tension, fulfilment, disappointments and joy. As a reader you run a rollercoaster of emotions along with the characters.

Every character we meet is rounded, interesting and very persuasively portrayed. Settings are sharply detailed and convincing. That of the 1930s is particularly appealing. It was a time of great hardships – physical, financial and social – but there was also an air of overriding simplicity. That’s not to say the modern part of the story is inferior, because it isn’t, but I got a warmer feeling from the earlier timeline events.
This book is a total pleasure to read and I highly recommend it.

 

Purchase links
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stationmasters-Daughter-gripping-heartbreaking-historical-ebook/dp/B07P556918/
US – https://www.amazon.com/Stationmasters-Daughter-gripping-heartbreaking-historical-ebook/dp/B07P556918/

Author bio
KATHLEEN MCGURL lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

Social media links
twitter @KathMcGurl
www.facebook.com/KathleenMcGurl/
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