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The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Cass Grafton and Ada Bright

When a time travelling Jane Austen gets stuck in modern-day Bath it’s up to avid Janeite Rose Wallace to save her… because she’s the only one who knows that Jane exists!

Rose Wallace’s world revolves around all things Austen, and with the annual festival in Bath – and the arrival of dishy archaeologist, Dr Aiden Trevellyan – just around the corner, all is well with the world…

But then a mysterious woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to the great author moves in upstairs, and things take a disastrous turn. Rose’s new neighbour is Jane Austen, whose time travel adventure has been sabotaged by a mischievous dog, trapping her in the twenty-first century.

Rose’s life is instantly changed – new home, new job, new friends – but she’s the only one who seems to have noticed! To right the world around her, she will have to do whatever it takes to help Jane get back home to write Rose’s beloved novels. Because a world without Mr Darcy? It’s not worth living in!

 

My review

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover but I totally disagree. One look at this book with its perky, bright and attractive design and its totally intriguing title and you know you’re going to enjoy every word.

As well as the time travel element, there’s mystery, history, romance and literary references in this very clever book. Jane Austen has got stuck in the future, and she copes with modern life with the straightforward, interested manner we’d expect from such a dauntless woman. Unless she can get back, her books won’t get written and our lives will all be the poorer for that. It’s untenable to think of there never being a Mr Darcy or Emma Watson!

As well as Jane, all the other principal characters are portrayed with great detail and enjoyment. They’re all fascinating and form delightful relationships. The setting in Bath with its festival is atmospheric and the plot is clever and cunning.

There isn’t a single thing not to enjoy in this imaginative, beautifully written novel.

 

Purchase Links

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Particular-Charm-Miss-Jane-Austen-ebook/dp/B07P6VPMFZ

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/Particular-Charm-Miss-Jane-Austen-ebook/dp/B07P6VPMFZ

Barnes & Noble (and Nook)

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-particular-charm-of-miss-jane-austen-ada-bright/1130732667?ean=9781788633697

Kobo

https://www.kobo.com/ch/en/ebook/the-particular-charm-of-miss-jane-austen-1

About the authors

Cass Grafton

A proud bookworm since childhood, Cass writes the sort of stories she loves to read – heart-warming, character driven and strong on location. Having moved around extensively and lived in three countries, she finds places inspiring and the setting of her novels often becomes as much a part of the story as her characters.

She has an over-active imagination, is prone to crying with happiness as much as she is at sadness, but when it comes to her writing she leans heavily towards the upbeat and insists on a happy ever after. As one of her favourite authors, Jane Austen, once wrote, ‘let other pens dwell on guilt and misery’.

Cass loves travelling, words, cats and wine, and enjoys them in any combination. She currently splits her time between Switzerland, where she lives with her husband, and England, where she lives with her characters.

 

Ada Bright

Ada has lived all her life in Southern California, which makes her intolerant to any weather above or below 72 degrees Fahrenheit. She grew up much more fond of reading than sports or socializing and still tends to ignore everyone she loves, all her responsibilities and basic life needs when she’s in the middle of a book.

She is luckily married to a handsome and funny man who doesn’t mind that the laundry never gets put away and she has three amazing children. Ada spent over a decade as a photographer before dedicating herself to writing, though she still believes that life should be documented well and often.

There is nothing she loves more than a good, subtle love story whether it be in real life, tv, movie, theatre or book form… well, except cake. She also really loves cake.

 

Social media links

Our Blog: www.tabbycow.com

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/missyadabright

https://www.facebook.com/cassie.grafton

 

Twitter:

@CassGrafton

@missyadabright

 

Instagram:

 

@cassgraftonauthor

@adacakes

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The Cottage in a Cornish Cove by Cass Grafton

The Cottage in a Cornish Cove

A heart-warming tale of discovering all you never wanted is exactly what you needed.

Orphaned as a baby and raised by indifferent relatives, much of Anna Redding’s happiness as a child came from the long summer holidays spent with an elderly family friend, Aunt Meg, in the quaint village of Polkerran.

With Aunt Meg’s passing, Anna is drawn back to the West Country, relocating to the Cornish cove where she was once so happy. Filled with memories, she hopes to perhaps open a B&B—and perhaps cross paths with Alex Tremayne again, a local boy she used to have a major crush on and who only had to walk past Anna to make her heart flutter.

Settling into her new life, and enjoying her work for the older, reclusive and—to be honest—often exasperating Oliver Seymour, Anna is delighted when Alex reappears in Polkerran and sweeps her off her feet.

The stars are finally aligned, but just as Anna thinks all she’s ever wished for is within reach, a shock discovery brings everything under threat, and she finds herself living a dream that isn’t hers.

Can Anna rescue the new life she has made for herself and, when the testing moment comes, who will be there to hold her hand?

The Cottage in a Cornish Cove is the first in an uplifting series of romances from Cass Grafton. Get to know the locals, wallow in the quaintness of Polkerran, and fall in love with romance all over again.

Pre-order Links:

UK –

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083H2Q5V9

 

Publication Date: 11th February

 

Cass Grafton – Bio

An avid bookworm since childhood, Cass Grafton writes the sort of stories she loves to read – heart-warming, character driven and strong on location. Having moved around extensively and lived in three countries, she finds places inspiring and the setting of her novels often becomes as much a part of the story as her characters.

She leans heavily towards the upbeat and insists on a happy ever after. As one of her favourite authors, Jane Austen, once wrote, ‘let other pens dwell on guilt and misery’.

Cass loves travelling, words, cats and wine but never in the same glass. She has two grown up children and currently splits her time between Switzerland, where she lives with her husband and imaginary cats, and England, where she lives with her characters.

 

Blogs

www.cassandragrafton.com

www.tabbycow.com

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/cassie.grafton

Twitter

@CassGrafton

Instagram
@cassgraftonauthor

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My Christmas Fake Fiancé by Linda West: wonderfully uplifting!

Synopsis

Snowflakes are falling on Kissing Bridge Mountain, and Devlin is going home at last. But he can’t go home without a fiancé, even if it has to be a fake one! When he meets small-town girl, Allie, who has a Christmas crisis of her own, they strike up a deal. Soon, the fickle snow flurries of fate send them down a destined road they never expected…

 

My review

This is a bubbly, festive, witty romance, which gives you lots to laugh and groan about on the way through!

The theme of needing to supply evidence of a stable relationship to critical slash despairing relatives at Christmas time is a popular one, but never becomes old, especially when in the hands of this author.

Allie and Devlin spar with each other to begin with, being, surely, far too different to ever be compatible. Allie is the sparkiest of the two lead characters, and she’s immensely likeable even if she leaves you breathless with her endless energy and activism. But that’s not to say Devlin is bland – far from it. He’s every bit as developed and fascinating as is Allie.

This is a short, sharp read that rivets your attention from start to finish. As well as the great characters, the setting and action really grip you.

Wonderfully uplifting!

Purchase Links



Author Bio

Linda West is the best selling author of the adorable and enchanting “Christmas Kisses and Cookies.” It is a delightful series of holiday romances based around the town of Kissing Bridge and the magical Landers sisters who are the reigning blue ribbon cookie queens thanks to their mothers’ ‘special’ recipe book.

Linda was the owner of Mayberry – a celebrity-filled restaurant in Malibu where many of her recipes enchanted the regulars such as Tom Hanks and Anthony Hopkins to name a few. Her recipes are sprinkled throughout her fiction books much to the delight of her fans.

Her newest venture is in the cosy mystery and humour genre. With – Death by Crockpot – the first in her newest series -Linda takes her favourite known characters from Kissing Bridge and throws them into some side-splitting funny adventures.

Social Media Links –

https://twitter.com/Morningmayan

http://www.morningmayan.com/

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Ten Things My Husband Hated by Pauline Wiles: lively and original

Synopsis

Maggie Moone is happily divorced.
And with her talent for fixing things, she’s perfectly content with her mundane life in the sleepy English village of Saffron Sweeting. That is, until one humiliating March evening when she learns everyone else assumes she’d love to mend her broken marriage.
Determined to prove them wrong, Maggie and her friends concoct a list of ten ways to assert her independence and live large. But her mission to move on leads to unexpected encounters, and Maggie soon finds herself mixing business with pleasure. Is the attractive young Irishman just another item on her list, or is he something more?
Before long, unresolved issues from her past begin to clash, and Maggie is forced to wonder if antagonising her ex-husband was such a stellar idea.
No sooner does she begin to understand what’s important to her, than she stands to lose everything that truly matters.
This is the fourth in the collection of Saffron Sweeting romantic comedies, which can be read in any order. If you like gentle British humour and deliciously resilient heroines, you’ll love Ten Things My Husband Hated.

 

My review
This is a lively romcom set in a counry-village England where life moves at a slower pace than in the big cities and the sense of community is very much stronger. Almost too strong, perhaps, and certainly for Maggie at the start of the novel where everyone is talking about her and making assumptions that aren’t correct. Or are they?

Our heroine Maggie Moone is getting over a divorce. Slowly. Her ex, Colin has moved on easily but Maggie less so. Her friends take things in hand. Maggie has to make a list of the ten things that would have driven her husband to apoplexy if she’d done them when she was still his wife, and work her way through them. The idea that this will empower her and show her that’s she’s heaps better off without him.

It has to be said Maggie is in a bit of a sorry state when we first meet her. She’s passive and full of self-pity. She really enters into the spirit of the thing and as her campaign continues she grows stronger and more self-reliant and confident. Almost too self-reliant confident in that she teeters on the edge of total self-indulgence – and she risks losing something that has started to become very important to her.

The back-up characters in this story are well rounded, quirky and interesting. They all interact in believable and entertaining ways. Finn, the quietest of them but the most charming, is engaging from the first time we meet him.
The setting to the novel is beautifully created and we wallow in the gentle, authentic atmosphere of quiet East Anglia.

The plot is very original and the story is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. It’s highly enjoyable and uplifting. A perfect read for any time of the year.

Purchase Link

Author bio
British by birth, Pauline is now a contented resident of California, although she admits to occasional yearnings for afternoon tea and historic homes.
Her debut novel, Saving Saffron Sweeting, reached the quarter final of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Three further books set in the same village are now available, along with a collection of short stories and Indie With Ease, a self-help guide for other self-published authors.
When not writing, Pauline can be found pondering how many miles she has to run to justify an extra piece of cake. She’s also fond of daydreaming about flying herself and a reader to London for tea.

Social media links
https://facebook.com/paulinewilesauthor

www.paulinewiles.com

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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/

Posted on

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/.

Posted on

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