Puzzle Girl by Rachael Featherstone

puzzle girlCassy is an ambitious modern woman. Her life seems perfect until her boyfriend decides to dump on her from a height. It throws her for a loop and makes her doubt she will ever find someone she can trust.

I enjoyed the idea of notes relayed via puzzles and a puzzle book. This kind of communication set-up between potential lovers isn’t a new idea, and to be honest that doesn’t matter because the notes are secondary to the doctor’s surgery, which takes the main stage in this entertaining story.

The funniest part of the book is the whole making up excuses to get into the surgery to make notes in this one scrabby little puzzle book. The author has doctor receptionists down to a tee, well the majority of them. It’s as if they go to a special school to learn to be obnoxious and condescending. Their complete control and power over the front desk often gives them delusions of grandeur, then again they do hold the key to the door.

Cassy becomes obsessed with finding what she believes to be the perfect man, the kind of man who loves solving puzzles just as much as she does. Perhaps Mr Right isn’t quite who she expects him to be.

Featherstone leads readers up the garden path and presents them with the obvious answer, then she does a sharp left turn and everything is up in the air again. The puzzle girl ends up trying to solve the mystery of the puzzle man. This story has exactly the right combination of humour, sass and heartache to be an entertaining read.

Buy Puzzle Girl at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @WriterRachael @AccentPress

The Cosy Canal Boat Dream by Christie Barlow

christie arlowwIt is difficult to ever imagine a world without the person you expect to spend the rest of your life with. There one minute and gone the next. Nell still hasn’t regained her feet after the sudden death of her husband, but takes solace in their floating home The Nollie.

She isn’t expecting to find another chance at love or to find something special to put all emotions and aspirations into. Her pet project is the restoration of an old movie theatre, which seems to hold more than a few secrets. More than she can even imagine.

The only downside is the fact she may have to let her best friend down when it comes to helping out in her local bakery. She has to choose whether to follow her own dreams or those of her friend.

It’s a tale of grief and the painful discovery that life can and does go on after the death of a loved one. New doors open, new people arrive and lot of new opportunities arise.

If you are looking for the kind of read that will help you relax and forget about your worries and your strife, then this will do the trick. Barlow brings the drama, there is no doubt about that, but she also delivers it with a huge portion of humour and love.

Buy The Cosy Canal Boat Dream at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @ChristieJBarlow @HarperImpulse @HarperCollinsUK

Visit christiebarlow.com

Blog-Tour: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett. I am delighted to introduce you to this fun summer read. Prepare to be captivated by the eccentric characters and feisty main character with quite a few trust issues. Read Chapter 1 right here, and of course to top off this brilliant post you can also read my review at the very bottom.

About the Author

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

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

To connect with Lilly Bartlett aka Michele Gorman go to:

www.michelegorman.co.uk

Blog: michelegormanwriter.blogspot.com

Instagram: @michelegormanuk

Twitter: Follow @MicheleGormanUK and @HarperImpulse

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MicheleGormanBooks

Buy The Big Dreams Beach Hotel

About the book

Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?

Extract from The Big Dreams Beach Hotel:

Chapter 1

New York is where I fell head over heels for a bloke named Chuck. I know: Chuck. But don’t judge him just because he sounds like he should be sipping ice-cream floats at the drive-in or starring in the homecoming football game. Rah rah, sis boom bah, yay, Chuck!

Believe me, I didn’t plan for a Chuck in my life. But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’ve got plans for your career and a future that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of being in love, and the next you’re floating around in full dozy-mare mode.

I won’t lie to you. When Chuck walked into our hotel reception one afternoon in late October, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was lust.

Be still, my fluttering nethers.

Talk about unprofessional. I could hardly focus on what he was saying. Something about organising Christmas parties.

‘To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing,’ he confided as he leaned against the reception desk. His face was uncomfortably close to mine, but by then I’d lived in New York for eighteen months. I was used to American space invaders. They’re not being rude, just friendly. And Chuck was definitely friendly.

‘I only started my job about a month ago,’ he told me. ‘It’s my first big assignment, so I really can’t fuck it up. Sorry, I mean mess it up.’ His blue (so dark blue) eyes bore into mine. ‘I’m hoping someone here can help me.’

It took all my willpower not to spring over the desk to his aid. Not that I’m at all athletic. I’d probably have torn my dress, climbed awkwardly over and landed face-first at his feet.

Keep him talking, I thought, so that I could keep staring. He looked quintessentially American, with his square jawline and big straight teeth and air of confidence, even though he’d just confessed to being hopeless at his new job. His brown hair wasn’t too long but also wasn’t too short, wavy and artfully messed up with gel, and his neatly trimmed stubble made me think of lazy Sunday mornings in bed.

See what I mean? Lust.

‘I noticed you on my way back from Starbucks,’ he said.

At first, I thought he meant he’d noticed me. That made me glance in the big mirror on the pillar behind him, where I could just see my reflection from where I was standing. At five-foot four, I was boob-height behind the desk in the gunmetal-grey fitted dress uniform all the front-desk staff had to wear. My wavy dark-red hair was as neat as it ever got. I flashed myself a reflected smile just to check my teeth. Of course, I couldn’t see any detail from where I stood. Only my big horsy mouth. Mum says giant teeth make my face interesting. I think I look a bit like one of the Muppets.

‘Do you have the space for a big party?’ he said. ‘For around four hundred people?’

He didn’t mean he’d noticed me; only the hotel. ‘We’ve got the Grand Ballroom and the whole top floor, which used to be the restaurant and bar. I think it’s even prettier than the ballroom, but it depends on your style and your budget and what you want to do with it.’

Based on his smile, you’d have thought I’d just told him we’d found a donor kidney for his operation. ‘I’ve been looking online, but there are too many choices,’ he said. ‘Plus, my company expects the world.’ He grimaced. ‘They didn’t like the hotel they used last year, or the year before that. I’m in over my head, to be honest. I think I need a guiding hand.’

I had just the hand he was looking for, and some ideas about where to guide it.

But instead of jumping up and down shouting ‘Pick Me, Pick Me!’, I put on my professional hat and gave him our events brochure and the team’s contact details. Because normal hotel receptionists don’t launch themselves into the arms of prospective clients.

When he reached over the desk to shake my hand, I had to resist the urge to bob a curtsy. ‘I’m Chuck Williamson. It was great to meet you, Rosie.’

He knew my name!

‘And thank you for being so nice. You might have saved my ass on this one. I’ll talk to your events people.’ He glanced again at my chest.

He didn’t know my name. He’d simply read my name badge.

No sooner had Chuck exited through the revolving door than my colleague, Digby, said, ‘My God, any more sparks and I’d have had to call the fire department.’

Digby was my best friend at the hotel and also a foreign transplant in Manhattan – where anyone without a 212 area code was foreign. Home for him was some little town in Kansas or Nebraska or somewhere with lots of tornadoes. Hearing Digby speak always made me think of The Wizard of Oz, but despite sounding like he was born on a combine harvester, Digby was clever. He did his degree at Cornell. That’s the Holy Grail for aspiring hotelies (as we’re known).

Digby didn’t let his pedigree go to his head, though, like I probably would have.

‘Just doing my job,’ I told him. But I knew I was blushing.

Our manager, Andi, swore under her breath. ‘That’s the last thing we need right now – some novice with another Christmas party to plan.’

‘That is our job,’ Digby pointed out.

‘Your job is to man the reception desk, Digby.’

Ya vol, Commandant.’ He saluted, before going to the other end of the desk.

‘But we do have room in the schedule, don’t we?’ I asked. Having just come off a rotation in the events department the month before, I knew they were looking for more business in that area. Our room occupancy hadn’t been all the company hoped for over the summer.

‘Plenty of room, no time,’ Andi snapped.

I’d love to tell you that I didn’t think any more about Chuck, that I was a cool twenty-five-year-old living her dream in New York. And it was my dream posting. I still couldn’t believe my luck. Well, luck and about a million hours earning my stripes in the hospitality industry. I’d already done stints in England and one in Sharm El Sheikh – though not in one of those fancy five-star resorts where people clean your sunglasses on the beach. It was a reasonable four-star one.

There’s a big misconception about hotelies that I should probably clear up. People assume that because we spend our days surrounded by luxury, we must live in the same glamour. The reality is 4a.m. wake-ups, meals eaten standing up, cheap living accommodation and, invariably, rain on our day off. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?

But I loved it. I loved that I was actually being paid to work in the industry where I did my degree. I loved the satisfied feeling I got every time a guest thanked me for solving a problem. And I loved that I could go anywhere in the world for work.

I especially loved that last part.

But back to Chuck, who’d been stuck in my head since the minute he’d walked through the hotel door.

I guess it was natural, given that I hadn’t had a boyfriend the whole time I’d been in the city. Flirting and a bit of snogging, yes, but nothing you could call a serious relationship.

There wasn’t any time, really, for a social life. That’s why hotelies hang out so much with each other. No one else has the same hours free. So, in the absence of other options, Digby and I were each other’s platonic date. He sounds like the perfect gay best friend, right? Only he wasn’t gay. He just had no interest in me. Nor I in him, which made him the ideal companion – hot enough in that freckle-faced farm-boy way to get into the nightclubs when we finished work at 1 or 2a.m., but not the type to go off shagging and leave me to find my way home on the subway alone.

‘I hope you’re happy,’ Andi said to me one morning a few days later. The thing about Andi is that she looks annoyed even when she’s not, so you’ve got to pay attention to her words rather than the severe expression on her narrow face. Nothing annoyed Andi like other people’s happiness.

But I had just taken my first morning sip of caramel latte. Who wouldn’t be happy?

‘You’ve got another assignment,’ she said. ‘That Christmas party. You’re on it.’

‘But I’m on reception.’ My heart was beating faster. She could only be talking about one Christmas party.

‘Yes, and you’re not going to get any extra time for the party, so don’t even think about it. I can’t spare anyone right now. You’ll have to juggle. He’s coming in at eleven to see the spaces and hopefully write a big fat cheque, but I want you back here as soon as you’re finished. Consider it an early lunch break.’

Even though my mind warned me to stop questioning, in case she changed her mind, I couldn’t resist. ‘Why isn’t Events handling it?’

‘They would have if he hadn’t asked for you especially. It’s just my luck that it’s a huge party. We can’t exactly say no.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Then wipe that stupid grin off your face and next time try not to be so frickin’ nice.’

‘I need to use the loo,’ I told her.

‘Pee on your own time,’ she said.

I didn’t really have to go, despite the industrial-size caramel latte. I just wanted to put on some make-up before Chuck arrived. Instead he’d see my green eyes unhighlighted by the mascara and flicky eyeliner that I rarely remembered to use. Pinching my cheeks did bring up a bit of colour behind my freckles, at least.

Every time the revolving doors swung round, I looked up to see if it was Chuck.

‘You’re going to get repetitive strain in your neck,’ Digby pointed out. ‘And you know our workmen’s comp sucks, so save yourself the injury. Besides, you look too eager when you stare at the door like that.’

‘I’m putting on a convivial welcome for our guests,’ I said. ‘Just like it says in the Employee’s Manual.’

He shook his head. ‘There’s no way that what you’re thinking is in the manual.’

The weather had turned cold, which was the perfect excuse for woolly tights and cosy knits or, if you were Chuck, a navy pea coat with the collar turned up that made him look like he’d been at sea. In a suit and dress shoes.

‘I’m so sorry I’m late,’ he said. ‘I hate wasting people’s time.’

‘It’s not a waste,’ I told him. ‘I’m just working.’ I caught Andi’s glare. ‘I mean, I’m on reception. I can show you the rooms any time you want.’

Anytime you want, Digby mimicked behind Chuck’s back. Luckily Andi didn’t catch him.

‘Thanks for agreeing to take on the party,’ he said as we shared the lift to the top floor. ‘Not that I gave your colleagues much of a choice. I told them I’d book the party if you were the one organising it. I hope you don’t mind. It’s just that you seemed … I don’t know, I got a good feeling about you.’

‘No, that’s fine,’ I said, willing my voice to sound calmer than I felt. Which meant anything short of stark raving mad. ‘Once you decide which room is most suitable, we can start talking about everything else.’

‘I knew you’d get it,’ he said.

The lift doors opened on the top floor into the wide entrance to the former restaurant. ‘As you can see, there’s still a lot of the original nineteen thirties decor,’ I said. ‘Especially these art deco wall sconces. I love them. Ooh, and look at that bar.’

I’d only been up there a few times, so I was as excited as Chuck as we ran around the room pointing out each interesting feature, from the geometrically mirrored pillars to the sexy-flapper-lady light fixtures.

‘I’m such a sucker for this old stuff,’ he said. ‘I grew up in a house full of antiques. Older than this, actually, in Chicago.’ Then he considered me. ‘You probably grew up in a castle from the middle ages or something, being English.’

‘That sounds draughty. No, my parents live in a nineteen fifties semi-detached with pebble-dash.’

‘I don’t know what any of that means except for the nineteen fifties, but it sounds exotic.’

‘Hardly. Let’s just say it looks nothing like this. Will this be big enough, though? You said up to four hundred. That might be a squeeze if we want to seat them all.’

‘My guest list has halved, actually,’ he said, shoving his hands into his coat pockets. ‘The company isn’t letting spouses and partners come. Isn’t that weird, to exclude them from a formal social event like that? It’s going to be black tie with dinner and dancing. They were always invited wherever I’ve worked before.’

The painful penny dropped with a clang. Of course he’d have the perfect girlfriend to bring along. A bloke that cute and nice wasn’t single.

‘Which company?’ I asked, covering my disappointment. ‘Your company now, I mean.’

‘Flable and Mead. The asset managers? Sorry, I should have said before.’

Of course I’d heard of them. They were only one of the biggest firms on Wall Street. No wonder Andi had to say yes when Chuck made his request. We were talking big money.

And big egos. ‘I’m not surprised that other halves aren’t invited,’ I told him. Surely he’d worked out why for himself. ‘They usually aren’t invited in the UK either. The Christmas do is your chance to get pissed and snog a colleague.’

Chuck laughed. ‘I’m really glad I’ve seen all those Hugh Grant movies so I know what you’re talking about. So maybe it’ll be everyone’s chance at Flable and Mead to snog a colleague too.’ When he smiled, a dimple appeared on his left side. Just the one. ‘And as you’re working with me to organise the party, I guess that makes you my colleague, right?’

Did he mean what I thought he meant? The cheeky sod. ‘Come on, I’ll show you the ballroom.’

But the ballroom had nowhere near the ambiance of the top floor, and I knew before Chuck said anything that it didn’t have the right feel. Whereas upstairs had character and charm, the ballroom had bling. I’d only known Chuck for a matter of hours, but already I knew he wasn’t the blingy type.

‘Definitely upstairs,’ he said. ‘So it’s done. We’ll book it. Now we just need to plan all the decorations, the food, the band, DJ. I guess the fee goes up depending on how much in-house stuff we use.’ He laughed. ‘I’m sorry, I really am in too deep here. I talked my way into my job. I have no idea how. My boss is a Northwestern alum like me and that must have swung it for me. Before I only worked organising conferences and a few parties at the local VFW hall. This is the big time.’

I knew exactly how he felt. When I first started at the hotel I had to pinch myself. There I was, about to live a life I’d only seen on telly. All I had to do was not muck things up. Digby had been on hand to show me the ropes when I needed it. So the least I could do for Chuck was to help him as much as I could.

That’s what I told myself. I was paying it forward.

‘We’ve got a range of decorations we can do,’ I told him, thinking about how much I was going to get to see him in the upcoming weeks. I could really stretch things out by showing him one tablecloth per visit. ‘And we work with a few good catering companies, who I’m sure can arrange anything from a sit-down meal to a buffet. One even does burger bars, if you want something more quirky.’

‘What I’ll want is for you to help me, Rosie. You will be able to do that, right?’

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Whatever you need. It’s a whopping great fee your company is paying. That buys a lot of hand-holding.’

‘I was hoping you’d say that,’ he said. ‘The second I came in and saw you, I knew this was the right choice. We’re going to be great together, Rosie.’

I was thinking the exact same thing.

Buy The Big Dreams Beach Hotel here

Review

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel has a brilliant cast of eccentric and very memorable characters. They are only topped by the American Floridean-like takeover of the Scarborough hotel, which is quintessentially English. Trying to bring two completely different cultures together becomes a bit of a liability for everyone involved. Flamingos don’t look good on the English coast, the North Sea is always freezing and a funny shade of beige-brown, and the majority of people would rather eat a good fry-up than a plate of pretty looking nouvelle cuisine.

Rosie is smack bang in the middle of the battle to save the hotel from the enthusiastic and often ruthless clutches of the new owners. She is torn between the loyalty she feels for her friends and the handsome mediator/fixer the owners have sent in to represent their interests.

Rosie has been dealt a harsh hand in life when it comes to trust. Her career, her friendships and her relationships have suffered, because of her poor judgement and naivety. The question is whether she can manage to put the past behind her, establish new relationships, and deal with her trust issues.

On a side-note, I’m with Chef by the way, when it comes to the chocolate sell-out issue. I haven’t bought or touched a Creme Egg since they changed the recipe either. Power to the people!

Bartlett manages to capture the oddities of the English, especially those living on the east coast in Scarborough. They don’t take kindly to change or to anyone trying to mess with their bingo. The charm of Scarborough is actually the nostalgic feeling of the past, so any attempt to disturb that feeling of a romantic seaside town would never go down well.

It is a story filled with many moments that should remind us of our humanity. The way we should care and look out for each other. Stand together in times of difficulty. This is especially the case in this story, because the characters are outsiders, lonely forgotten people and flamboyant eccentrics, which makes it even more important that we don’t let them fall through the cracks of society.

Lilly Bartlett writes captivating romcoms with a subtle underlying flair of sociocultural issues.

Buy The Big Dreams Beach Hotel at AmazonUk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

Holiday in the HamptonsThis is the fifth book in the From Manhattan with Love series. If you’ve been following the books, this one features Harriet and Fliss, the twins who run a successful dog-walking business in New York. The focus is on Fliss and her ex-hubby Seth.

This story is dialogue heavy in a sense that the main characters spend a lot of time really digging into their problems. It is less light fluffy candy floss and more of a toffee you have to chew. Morgan can write the perfect literary equivalent of a chocolate chip cookie or a create a tear inducing read, and yet she is also a dab hand at the more intricate relationship plots.

Holiday in the Hamptons is witty and amusing, but it is also about a couple who disassemble their relationship in an attempt to at least salvage a friendship. Sometimes you have to step outside and look in through your own living room window to try and get some objectivity.

Fliss and Seth have spent quite a long time apart since the disastrous and rather abrupt end of their marriage. Fliss spends a large amount of time trying to avoid any contact with Seth. Not because she hates him, but because she is scared of her real feelings. There are so many unresolved issues she has never laid to bed or not really come to terms with yet. Seth just reminds her of her own failings.

Seth is giving Fliss the space she needs, although he would rather be one half of a happy couple again. Which is probably the reason he goes along with her crazy and outlandish scheme to keep Seth at arms length. It is quite hilarious though.

Morgan is an expert at entertaining her readers, whilst delving into the complexities of love, romance and relationships. There is no such thing as a dull moment in any of her stories.

Buy Holiday in the Hamptons at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

You can connect with Sarah online at her website: www.sarahmorgan.com on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan or on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

Read The Christmas SistersMoonlight Over Manhattan(From Manhattan with Love#6)New York Actually (From Manhattan with Love #4)Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan With Love #3)Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love #2)Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #1)Christmas Ever AfterFirst Time in ForeverMaybe This Christmas, Sleighbells in the SnowSuddenly Last Summer or The Notting Hill Diaries, all by Sarah Morgan.

Follow @SarahMorgan_@HQStories and @HarperCollinsUK

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

The LightAt a glance this story might seem like a long expedition into the self-absorbed meanderings of the main character. It is however much more than that.

Everyone lives in their head. In fact to be more specific, there are at least three versions of every person.

The version we show to the world, the version of us we show to our family, partners and close friends, and then there is the version that lives inside us. The one that lives in our head, the one we have internal conversations with, the version of us who voices thoughts nobody ever hears.

The Light we Lost is Lucy’s internal voice and inner version of herself. It is essentially the written dialogue of hopes, fears and desires we never share with anyone else.

I think this is a story a lot of readers will be able to identify with. If you think back upon your life you might be able to recognise certain moments you could call crossroads. Days or decisions that took you in one direction when you could have chosen another one in the same moment.

It’s the same sentiment as some of us meeting what one would call the great love of our life, but ending up letting them go or choosing a path different to theirs. In Lucy’s case this person is Gabe. Santopolo describes it quite accurately when she writes something akin to some loves are like a hearth fire, warm and cosy, and others are like raging uncontrollable bushfires. One of them is consistent and reliable, and the other leaves you breathless and disorientated.

Lucy and Gabe have a relationship filled with What-If’s and it never being the right moment in time for the two of them. A pocket full of regrets and bag full of imaginary scenarios that could have been.

I really enjoyed this book, perhaps because it is simplistic, and yet poignant. It’s like entering a secret door in someone’s head, and having a front row seat to their inner thoughts and a lifetime of emotions.

Santopolo makes you feel as if you’re sitting on your couch drinking a glass of wine listening to a friend talk about their secret love. It’s an intimate moment, and yet at the same time it is a universal one, and so is this story.

Buy The Light We Lost at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @JillSantopolo

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

the cowsSometimes when a celebrity writes a book their image conjures up certain expectations, so I was ready for something pleasant, warm and funny.

Instead I was surprised, in a good way I might add, by how gritty, feisty, hardcore and brutally honest it was. When O’Porter says cows she really means cows.

The reader follows the lives of Tara, Stella and Cam. Tara is a successful documentary maker, who has to put up with a misogynistic boss. Stella is grieving the death of her sister and trying to establish her own identity. Cam is a feisty blogger, who ends up becoming a bit of an online celebrity after she tells the world that she doesn’t want to have children.

The lives of these three women become linked when one of them becomes a viral sensation when she is secretly filmed during a very private moment.

Leaving aside the plot and multiple story-lines for a moment, I do think the author has managed to create a sort of megaphone for women, and their opinions, in this book. Women often aren’t aware that other women are actually their worst enemy and at the spearhead of the fiercest vocal opposition.

You kind of expect men to try to undermine, control and belittle women. It is unfortunately part of as yet unbroken ancient societal habits. However when other women try to bring you down, it often feels like more of an affront. Surely other women should know exactly how you feel, think and all about the problems one encounters as a woman?

One of the topics Porter sheds a light on to make this point is women who choose not to have children. You wouldn’t believe the amount of criticism a by choice childless woman encounters in her lifetime. They are accused of not fulfilling their duties, not contributing to the world as they should. More power to them I say. I have plenty of friends for whom no children was and is a life choice. It has never even dawned on me to try and point the finger, convince them otherwise or chastise them. Regardless of with or without children I admire anyone who has a clear view of what is best for them, and has the guts to live the way they want to.

Women should learn to empower other women. To support other women instead of trying to break them down in an attempt to justify their own life choices or mistakes.

The second point the author makes is about the hypocritical way women are treated when it comes to sexuality, to be more specific, their sexual pleasure. They are shamed and ridiculed for having wants and needs. In this case no one points the finger at the voyeur or the person filming Tara secretly. In one foul swoop she is treated like a pariah, an unfit parent and a very loose woman. All because of one moment of intimate pleasure.

As I mentioned before I was pleasantly surprised by the in your face brutal honesty and to be quite frank our painful reality. O’Porter is definitely a voice to listen to in a crowd full of noisy voices.

Buy The Cows at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @hotpatooties or visit Dawnoporter.co.uk

The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons

choirThis is a story of support and friendship, and how the smallest of lights can become a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. The members of the group are as different as can be, and yet they all have at least one thing in common.

The Choir brings them all together, and although the main reason is to save the hall, they really enjoy being a group. It’s like a home away from home.

Two women strike up the unlikeliest of friendships, even if it is more of a tenuous one at first. Both of them are struggling to cope with problems in their private lives, whilst trying hard to maintain their composure and the outside façade.

Natalie finds her supposedly perfect life in sudden disarray when her husband suddenly decides to change the parameters of their relationship. Caroline is struggling to connect with her mother, with whom she has always had a strained relationship. Dementia is a cruel companion, an illness that takes no prisoners and leaves no family member unaffected.

Lyons knows exactly how to portray the reality of relationships, which is especially evident in the ‘thought bubbles’ of the characters. You can say one thing, but think an entirely different one. The relationship between the two women is like a tug-of-war of emotional support. They are both frightened to admit that they need someone in their corner.

As always it is a story readers can relate to. Nearly everyone tries to remain strong in difficult situations. Admitting that you need a friend or support can be tantamount to a sign of weakness for some. The truth is everyone needs help now and again. Maybe everyone needs a song too.

Buy The Choir on Hope Street at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @1AnnieLyons or @HQStories visit annielyons.com or connect with Annie on Facebbook

Read The Happiness ListLife or Something Like it or Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons.

New York Actually by Sarah Morgan

new-yorkLet me start off by saying that in my opinion Valentine, and especially his buddy Brutus, are the unexpected stars of this book. They are the cherry on top of another literary ice cream sundae by Sarah Morgan.

Molly makes her money by giving advice to others. An anonymous agony aunt with about as much experience at successful relationships and love, as a badger at sunbathing.

This is actually a pet peeve of mine. People with zero practical experience giving advice based on theoretical knowledge.

Of course Molly seems to be blissfully unaware of this contradiction or rather the fact her inexperience may be causing others pain and conflict. It’s easy to dole out advice and have an opinion on the lives of strangers, especially when they all remain anonymous. The problem is that the eager agony aunt only ever hears a one-sided conversation.

Daniel meets Molly under what we shall call contrived circumstances. He tries to attract the attention of a beautiful woman in the most extraordinary way. Hmm so the problem is that both of them have buckets full of secrets, which means interactions based on misconceptions and half-truths.

Once again Morgan manages to tug on the heartstrings with a strong and passionate story, and yet at the same time she makes sure the reader gets quite a few laughs.

Buy New York Actually at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

You can visit Sarah online at her website: www.sarahmorgan.com on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan or on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

Read The Christmas SistersMoonlight over Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #6)Holiday in the Hamptons (From Manhattan with Love #5)Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan With Love #3)Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love #2)Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #1)Christmas Ever AfterFirst Time in ForeverMaybe This Christmas, Sleighbells in the SnowSuddenly Last Summer or The Notting Hill Diaries, all by Sarah Morgan.

Follow @SarahMorgan_@HQStories and @HarperCollinsUK

Blog-Tour: The Cosy Christmas Teashop by Caroline Roberts

Today it is my pleasure to welcome Caroline Roberts and her book The Cosy Christmas Teashop to the blog. I hope you enjoy my review and the fantastic Q&A with Caroline, it gives a lot of insight into her book and the author herself.

About the Author

Caroline Roberts lives in the beautiful Northumberland countryside with her husband, and has two children. The sandy beaches, castles and rolling hills around her inspire her writing. She enjoys writing about relationships; stories of love, loss, friends and family – stories to make you laugh, smile and sometimes shed a tear or two.

A slice of cake, glass of bubbly, and a cup of tea, would make her day – preferably served with friends! She believes in striving for your dreams, which led her to a publishing deal with Harper Collins (yippee!) after many years of writing. The Cosy Christmas Teashop is her third novel.

If you’d like to find out more about Caroline, visit her on Twitter @_caroroberts, Facebook  www.facebook.com/CarolineRobertsAuthor and her blog carolinerobertswriter.blogspot.co.uk -she’d love to hear from you!

Follow @_caroroberts and @HarperImpulse and look out for #CosyTeashop on Twitter.

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know) I’ve just finished The Jacobite’s Daughter by Lorna Windham. It’s a fabulous historical romance set in 18th Century Scotland, with battles, love stories, intrigue, and I loved the beautiful Highland setting. It is the debut novel of a close friend in the Romantic Novelists’ Association. We have supported each other along the way to publication, so it’s wonderful to see her novel now available.

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? I haven’t seen a movie in a little while now. But one of my romantic favourites is The Notebook with Ryan Gosling. It’s such a beautiful love story, and I love how the story takes you from the beginning of their relationship right through to old age.

Are you more of a Game of Thrones or Outlander gal? (Combinations are possible) Ooh, I have to admit I don’t really follow either, though I have seen the odd Game of Thrones episode when my son’s back home – it looks pretty dramatic. My favourite tv programmes at the moment are Poldark, and The Fall.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? I’d really like to meet Emily Bronte. I loved Wuthering Heights when I first read it as a teenager. It is so passionate, and a touch wild, especially with brooding Heathcliff and that rural moorland setting. I’d love to know what Emily was like as a person and to chat to her about what it was like writing as a woman back in the Victorian age.

Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream éclairs totally count) You can’t beat a slice of homemade cake – rich chocolate, carrot, Victoria sponge with cream and strawberries, lemon drizzle. I like a bit of variety. With a good cup of tea – that’s just bliss and a cosy, pick-me-up. It’s excellent fuel for writing!

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop.

Your Teashop books really are the perfect excuse to just curl up in a corner and spent a few cosy hours nose deep in a book. 

The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop takes place a while after The Cosy Tea Shop in the Castle. Ellie wants to take her life and family to the next level. Unfortunately it isn’t plain sailing for Ellie and her husband.

Was it important to you to mix serious topics with the fun and loving scenario of Ellie’s life? Yes, as a writer I want to make readers smile and get lost in a fabulous new world, but I also want to write about the things that matter, that can affect us all, and show that life isn’t always plain sailing. And real love builds itself around that, it supports you. I think Ellie and Joe’s relationship has grown–up in this novel and it was great exploring their longer–term love; we see them having to cope with some difficult times. Watch out, you may need a hankie here and there, but there’s still lots of humour and sexiness too.

Is it your way of infusing the perfect happy life with a dash of reality? Yes, I think we have to be realistic. My books are a little rom-angst. Life’s like that, happy times, sad times, times to laugh, times to cry, and love and friendship can see you through all that. It’s a journey; after the difficult times you really appreciate the happy times.

One of the aspects of the book I really enjoyed is the way all the employees are like a big patchwork family. Proving that we don’t always have to be blood relatives to be a family. Is that the element you were aiming for? Absolutely, I live a long way from my family, having moved from Cornwall (where my parents still are) hundreds of miles away to Northumberland many years ago. The sense of community and friendship here is wonderful. I think that would be particularly strong in a close-knit community like the castle estate.

I also have to ask whether you have a secret plan to make readers get the munchies whilst reading? I know I definitely had this strange urge to eat cake throughout the book.  It wasn’t a secret plan – I just love food, and cakes and bakes are such a lovely treat, so that probably feeds through into my books!

Of course the last and probably the most important question has to be whether we will be reading more about Ellie and her scrumptious baked goods in the future? The next book is a poignant and beautiful love story set on the stunning Bamburgh Beach in Northumberland with a whole new host of characters. But I am planning to write more “Cosy” style books in the future, so I’m sure we’ll be meeting Ellie and Joe again soon.

Thank you for answering all of my questions, even the odd ones! You’re welcome! Thank you for having me here on your blog, Cheryl!


About the book

From sleigh bells to wedding bells . . .

After a rocky start, Ellie Hall baked her way into everyone’s hearts at Claverham Castle – even the miserly Lord Henry was won over – and the run-down teashop regained its old sparkle.

Now Ellie has upgraded cupcakes for fairytale masterpieces as the proud caterer for an ever-growing list of weddings at the castle. The teashop team love baking to the tune of happy ever afters, but can they pull together when a certain bridezilla pushes them all to boiling point?

Christmas is just around the corner, and a last minute booking threatens to snow the team under. Ellie and her hunky hubby Joe have their own Christmas dreams to chase, but they’re determined to pull through and give this special couple the winter wonderland wedding they deserve.

Will Christmas at the Cosy Teashop be a showstopper to remember?

Review

It’s been a while since The Cosy Teashop in the Castle, and Ellie and Joe have settled comfortably into married life. As far as Ellie is concerned it is time to add to their family and make their unit complete.

Not an easy feat when you’re as busy as Ellie and Joe. Now they are in the business of hosting weddings and dealing with highly emotional brides-to-be, so certain things have to take a back-seat for the time being.

One of the nicest elements of the book is the way all the employees are like one big happy family. From the reluctant unicorn right down to the poor staff run ragged by the occasional bridezilla. They all stick together no matter how difficult the situation or how obscure the request.

Roberts manages to create a happy atmosphere, a cuddle up in a corner cosy read, which she infuses with enough reality to make the story relatable. On top of that she has incorporated her love of all things cake into the book. You might find yourself needing a snack or feel your sweet-tooth calling, then again that might just have been me. I had cake on the brain after this read.

It is an emotional read, and yet at the same time it warms the heart and will make you smile now and again. Roberts is very adept at making the reader feel right at home within the story. The line between fiction and reality is so narrow that it is almost non-existent. Her characters are just like you and me.

Buy The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Today! Blog-Tour: Love Is.. by Haley Hill

Hey, it’s my turn on the Blog-Tour for Love Is by Haley Hill. It is a delightfully scornful and ironic look at divorce and relationships combined with the messy and eventful life of Ellie Rigby!

About the author

Haley Hill is a fresh new voice in romantic fiction who has previously found success in the self-publishing world. Prior to launching her fiction career, Haley launched and ran the Elect Club dating agency – and is an expert in all things dating! Haley lives in South London with her husband and twin daughters.

Connect with Haley at matchmakermusings.com  or follow @HaleyHillNow and @HQStories and look out for #LoveIs on Twitter.

Buy Love Is

About the book

Dating Agency doyenne Ellie Rigby always thought that helping people find love with the hard part. But now she’s all loved up with husband Nick and has hundreds of matchmaking successes under her belt, Ellie ought to know all there is to know about love.

As her struggles to get pregnant put strain on her marriage, and her matchmaking service starts losing clients, Ellie realises she has so much more to learn. So setting off on a global research trip, Ellie makes it her mission to find out what makes love last forever, and whether it’s enough to save her own romance.

Review

This is the continuation of Ellie Rigby’s story, which began in It’s got to be Perfect. In Love Is she is still pursuing the perfect life and trying to recreate the vision of her perfect dream. The house, husband, kids, career and the white picket fence. Unfortunately life is full of imperfections and unexpected twists.

Ellie and her husband Nick have been trying to get pregnant for quite a while and after another unsuccessful IVF trial they discover that the path to becoming parents has driven them apart. Suddenly Ellie is confronted with the hurtful reality that Nick doesn’t really want what she wants or at least not at the expense of their relationship. This sets her on the path for answers about marriage and divorce.

She wants to know why the statistical chances of couples divorcing are so high, and why are so many of her perfect matches heading down the same path. Ellie literally travels the world to meet alleged experts. A combination of wise gurus and pseudo scientists, to discover the truth or perhaps just her truth.

In the first book Hill gives the reader fun. laughter and rose-tinted glasses of love and new relationships. In this story we find an Ellie, who has gotten over the first butterflies, blushes and sweet moments of togetherness. The reality of marriage has crept up on both her and Nick.

This book is harsher, a little bit like shining a microscopic light on couples, relationships and divorce in general.The language is more graphic and the atmosphere is a wee bit more brassy. Hill has included some interesting parallels, statistics and facts on divorce.

Hill has an interesting writing voice. You can almost hear the smirks and the subtle sarcasm between the lines. Not a dreamer, but a realist with both feet firmly on the ground and she certainly isn’t afraid to write what she really thinks.

Hopefully we will see Ellie again in the middle of the next chapter of her life. I already know, but you will have to read Love Is to find out what comes next for her.

Buy Love Is at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read It’s Got To Be Perfect by Haley Hill (The beginning of Ellie Rigby’s story)