Friday 21 October 2016

Christmas under a Starlit Sky
Holly Martin

Guest Review 
Julie Williams

Julie Williams does love a Holly Martin book, so I am delighted to give you her review of Christmas under a Starlit Sky. What another gorgeous Christmassy cover this book has! 

Holly has treated us to another fantastic festive read. Two Christmas books this year in A Town Called Christmas series and after reading Christmas Under A Cranberry Sky I couldn’t wait for this one as I wanted, NO needed, to discover Neve and Oakley’s story.

Set on Juniper Island in Scotland, this idyllic winter wonderland place is perfect for love and romance to blossom. 

Christmas Under A Starlit Sky picks up where Christmas Under A Cranberry Sky finishes, although both can be read as standalones. 

If you want to be left full of Christmas spirit then this book is definitely for you. 

I love the chemistry and spark between Neve and Oakley and the difficulties in their turbulent relationship. 

Holly has the wonderful gift of creating warm, loveable and interesting characters, of which there are plenty in this book. 

The passion between not only Neve and Oakley but also Ivy and Adam is beautifully written. There are plenty of ups and downs in their stories but as it’s about families that’s to be expected.

Thanks you Netgalley for this review copy and for Julie for allowing me to guest review on her blog.

Thursday 20 October 2016

Carol Rivers

Happy publication day to Carol Rivers for A Promise Between Friends. It's no secret that I love a good family saga and as i'm currently reading this one, it's certainly living up to my expectations!

Carol has very kindly agreed to be my very first Q&A author on the blog and so I hope you enjoy reading all about Carol Rivers..... 

Hi and welcome Carol. 

Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.
Thank YOU, Julie. It’s lovely to be here today. I love your blog and often call by to read your posts. I was lucky enough to have my East End saga ‘Lizzie of Langley Street’ reviewed on Boon’s Bookcase!

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?
My family were evacuees from the East End during the Blitz. A bomb dropped on Mum’s house, blew the back door in to the front and Mum survived with Grandad, under the kitchen table. When Dad and my uncles were demobbed after the war our big cockney family of dockers, costermongers, seamstresses and crooks left the Isle of Dogs for new horizons. One of them was Margate, another Oxford and of course eventually Dorset, where I now live!

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
More an eves-dropper, really. The East End always runs through your blood. As a child, along with my cousins, we were privy to this chequered family’s secrets, as we sat under the table at parties - and listened. That’s how stories are born and then you link them up with your own life’s experience and emotions. And if you’ve a mind to, you write them down. I never run out of stories and they all have a personal element linked closely with my books.

What did you do as a job before becoming a writer?
You name it! Just anything to make a few bob. The job I enjoyed most was working as a dinner lady at my children’s school. Plenty of research here and character observations on parent day!

How do you carry out the research for your novels?
The research is generally historical. If I’m not sure of a fact, I’ll check it on Google, or interview someone who can tell me. But the plots, as I’ve said, are influenced by cockney culture and - emotions - absolutely vital - for a writer’s characters.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
Without a doubt, sitting down and starting to write is never easy. Life gets in the way! But my one fear is, if I don’t write in a day, will I ever write again? So when I’ve finally glued my pants to the chair and actually start keyboarding - well - when I’ve finished the scene - writing magically becomes easy!

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I have to admit I’d probably write anywhere. As you know, we’ve moved around, so I’ve written in gardens (fav), cupboards and cafes. At the moment I write in a lovely conservatory. It’s only small, but overlooks the trees. I can scoff my muffin, drink my coffee, talk to the birds and work all at the same time. My routines go pear-shaped when I try to stick to them. Mornings are far better, but they are for other people too. So just as long as I get to my compie at some point in the day or night, I’m happy.

When you're not writing, what do you like to read?
I always have a Lena Kennedy to hand - she’s the bees knees of London saga writing. Stella Rimmington takes my fancy, M. C. Beaton, (Agatha Raisin) for a good giggle and a decent crime thriller without gore. I love my Kindle. I save all my paperbacks. I like a daily or nightly dip of audio. There’s so much choice out there. Basically, I’ll give most books a go, often downloading a sample from Amazon first.

How important do you think social media is to authors in today's society?
Social media has taken over from what I knew as a chinwag. You know, when you hot gos about the little things in life! Nowadays, we just have to have a smart phone or compie to enjoy the conversation. Also, reaching more readers helps to garner books reviews with online stores like Amazon. (And thank you so much for your own brilliant review.) We all want to know what people think of the book we are about to buy and whether it’s value for money. Amazon helpfully facilitates the reader and writer. So I consider Amazon a big part of my social media too. It’s lovely to meet and interact with people who have the same things in common. A fine example is today - my paperback publication day. What could be better that hot gossiping with you on your fab blog, Julie?

Could you tell the readers a bit about your latest book?
Ah, Ruby! She’s young, pretty, ambitious, a true 1950’s East Ender, with a heathy appetite for fashion and smoothies. (Not milkshake!) She thinks she’s streetwise. In fact she’s so confident of herself that she’s prepared to sacrifice just about anything for a celebrity career. Sound familiar? Well, this was 1950 and not 2016. But Ruby has just the same problem as any young achiever today. Whether on stage, in music, or the movies, the seduction of the spotlight is irresistible. And Ruby heads straight for it. Oddly enough I’m now writing a wartime story for next year. But every so often Ruby tries to steal back to the limelight. And I have to be very firm and draw the curtain - until it’s her turn to appear on stage again in the sequel to my latest book ‘A Promise Between Friends’.

Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?
I suppose you could say a writer must get into the head (behind the eyes - for viewpoint) in each of his/her characters and when you do, that bond is sealed. A bond not unlike the one you share with your children. Lizzie Flowers is the formidable, no-nonsense heroine from my two series books, ‘Lizzie of Langley Street’ and ‘The Fight for Lizzie Flowers’. I get where she’s coming from. I think she’s got guts. And she also has vision. Unfortunately though, love holds her back. Doesn’t it with all of us at some point in our lives? This is the theme of the books and I’ve yet to write Lizzie number 3, when I hope to discover more about Lizzie and what makes her tick.

Is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?

No, I think that’s great, Julie. Some lovely questions and it’s been a pleasure. 

Thank you so much Carole, I loved reading these answers and I can't wait to finish reading A Promise Between Friends to discover what happens to Ruby! and also Lizzie is a brilliant character and one of my favourites. I can't wait to read more about her and her family. 
You are welcome to join me on Boon's Bookcase anytime.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Single by Christmas 
Rosa Temple
Blog Tour & Giveaway

Guest Review 
Julie Williams


I must say a huge thank you to Julie Williams for reviewing this book for me and for the author who let me jump on the Blog Tour at such short notice!! Life seems to have taken over a bit lately, so I seem to be leaving things to the last minute! Anyway, thank you to Julie and Rosa and enjoy the review. 


This is the second book I have been asked to read and review by this author and I am a happy to oblige.

Party girl Alex Marshall has been going out with her gorgeous boyfriend Charlie for 11 months, having met on New Years Eve. 

I like the way that their story is told from 1st December with a countdown to their first anniversary. 

To say that Alex leads a chaotic life is an understatement as she gets herself into all sorts of situations while poor Charlie is often the one who is let down. 

After a secret trip to Scotland to pursue a possible new job opportunity, Alex ends up hopelessly drunk yet again and finds herself caught in a web of lies to cover her tracks.

Misunderstandings plus a bit of stirring from Charlie’s friend Stevo, adds to disaster for Alex and Charlie and consequently their relationship is tested to the limit.

Warm, cosy and Christmassy, this is not, but it’s certainly not doom and gloom either as there is plenty of funny laugh out loud moments to be had.  

Single By Christmas can be enjoyed at any time of the year not just for Christmas. 

A four star rating from me. 


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Sunday 16 October 2016

The Christmas Promise
Sue Moorcroft
Blog Tour

I have an extract from another Christmas book for you on the blog today. I really need to get my act together and start on my seasonal books! This is another gorgeous cover. Enjoy....

For Ava Bliss, it’s going to be a Christmas to remember …
On a snowy December evening, Sam Jermyn steps into the life of bespoke hat maker Ava. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good ones.
Times are tough for Ava – she’s struggling to make ends meet, her ex-boyfriend is a bully, and worst of all, it’s nearly Christmas.
So when Sam commissions Ava to make a hat for someone special, she makes a promise that will change her life. She just doesn’t know it yet…
Curl up with this gorgeous, festive read – the perfect treat for fans of Katie FfordeCarole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.


Sam glanced curi­ously at Ava. ‘What don’t you like about Christmas?’
She shrugged. ‘Most things. Except, I agree that the parties can be good.’
A small frown quirked Sam’s brow. ‘What about when you were a child? Did you at least like it then?’
Ava was assailed with a rush of memories of putting up the Christmas trees at Gran’s house, a stately real one in the sitting room and a wonky little silver one in the kitchen. Ava had loved the kitchen tree best, twinkling multi-coloured lights at them as they baked mouth-watering mince pies and gingerbread Santas that smelled of Christmas. Ava’s heart clenched to remember Gran’s red apron with jolly robins on and her grey curls bobbing energetically as she rolled out pastry, laughing because she always managed to sprinkle flour over every surface in the room.
When it was all cleared up and the baking rested on cooling racks, present wrapping at the big kitchen table in a joyful muddle of paper, foil ribbon and sticky tape would take over, while carols played on Radio 4.
On Christmas morning, after present opening, they’d
make dinner together, lighting a fire in the dining room grate to make it a special occasion.
Sometimes one of her parents made it to Gran’s for Christmas dinner, Ava and Gran scheduling the meal to fit in with a shift if necessary. Or else it would be just Ava and Gran pulling crackers and wearing paper hats that were too big, munching succulent turkey and Yorkshire puddings with tiny sausages baked into them.
Ava shook her thoughts back to the present, realising that Sam was waiting for a reply. ‘Yes, when I was very young. But Gran was the one who made Christmas happen in my family and she died when I was thirteen.’ Gran had smilingly seen to the everyday care of Ava while her parents pursued their careers and her loss had left a gaping hole in Ava’s teenaged soul. She avoided Izz’s gaze, not wanting to see reflected there the painful knowledge that Gran had died at Christmas, making Ava feel like hurling the gaily lit Christmas trees to the floor and jumping on them.
‘That must have been hard.’ Sam’s gaze was sympathetic. ‘Didn’t your parents take over?’
‘Not exactly.’ It was no new thing to be regarded with curiosity for not enjoying what everyone else in the country looked forward to all year and Ava had a well-honed explanation. ‘Mum was a doctor, Dad a senior police officer. Mum patched up the drunks in A and E and Dad dealt with the drunks who ended up in the cells. They don’t really believe in Christmas and think it’s a phoney exercise in commercialism. They always volunteered to work so those who valued the season could have time off.’

Friday 14 October 2016

Happy Publication Day
Sue Watson
The Christmas Cake Cafe

I want to wish Sue Watson a very happy Publication Day and to celebrate, I have an extract for you. The Prologue, The Christmas Proposal. 

Heart-warming and hilarious, a story that will make you laugh, cry and bring a smile to your face.  Get ready for another deliciously amazing Christmas treat from Sue Watson….

As the Prosecco chills and Bing Crosby croons, Jen Barker just knows that her long-term boyfriend is about to propose.  But instead of a diamond ring nestled in her champagne flute, Jen finds cold flat rejection.  Her once perfect life and dreams of a husband and family seem even further from reach. 

A working holiday to the Swiss Alps with her younger sister Jody might not be the Christmas Jen had it mind, but it offers her the chance to recharge her batteries and recover from heartbreak.

When Jen meets handsome ski instructor Jon Zutter her hopes for a happy-ever-after seem within her grasp again. Jon is kind and gorgeous and as they bond over Sachetorte at the picturesque Cake Café, Jen thinks he might just be her perfect man. But a relationship with him comes with a catch – and there are some things even cake can’t fix. 

As the snow falls and Christmas approaches, could this be the place that restores Jen Barker’s faith in love? 


The Christmas Proposal
It was Christmas Eve, the champagne was cold and sparkly, the tree was twinkling, and Bing Crosby was tinkling across the restaurant, filling the air with festive warmth and glitter. It was also the eve of my fortieth birthday, so it was extra special, and I was feeling particularly emotional looking at Tim across the table. The time was right. At last. He looked gorgeous. Not only was the candlelight warming his face, softening his big brown eyes, it was also rekindling our love. Despite the sparkle of the season I had to admit we’d been a little lacklustre on the love front recently.
‘This is just what we need,’ I sighed. ‘I know things haven’t been easy for us – you’ve been working so hard I’ve hardly seen you – but I’m glad we made this time for each other, Tim.’
‘Yes, I wanted us to spend tonight together,’ he said. ‘It’s been ten years now, and I think it’s time we talked about the future.’
A frisson of excitement bubbled up in my chest – though it may have been the champagne.
‘Yes, ten wonderful years,’ I said, smiling, gazing into his eyes and thinking of the good times. It had taken a while, and there’d been doubts along the way. It hadn’t been a bed of roses, and Tim had a tendency to put work before our relationship, coming home and burying his head in the computer, and often forgetting our anniversaries because he was so busy. But here, by the glittering light of candles, it seemed Tim was finally ready to put us first. He knew Christmas was my favourite time of year, and I’d often talked of a wedding in December, so perhaps we could organise it in time for next year? It was my childhood dream to be a winter bride, dressed in icy white, crystals and fur. I’d imagined being delivered to my soul mate by horse and carriage, cutting through a white landscape of snowy mountains and shimmering fir trees. And it looked like that dream was just about to come true, so I sat back and waited for the confetti to fall.
Tim lifted the champagne bottle from the ice bucket, tutting slightly at the drips on the table. I wiped them away with my napkin then folded it again, pushing the creases with my fingers, desperately trying to make it smooth.
‘The waitress should have brought a cloth,’ he sighed. ‘I wasn’t sure about buying this fizz anyway... it’s an inferior brand.’ He scrutinised the label then screwed up his face in that way he often did.
I smiled indulgently. How like Tim to want everything about the ‘surprise proposal’ to be perfect. We were quite alike really – both wanted a nice home, clean, tidy with a perfectly manicured lawn and a kitchen stuffed with high-end white goods. My friend Storm said we were in a rut, but as I pointed out to her, one girl’s rut was another girl’s life of domestic bliss. We both knew where we were and what the other was doing at any given time, nothing wrong with that – and we were both in bed by 9.30 p.m. every night, asleep by 9.35 p.m. I was happy; I felt safe with Tim. He wasn’t what you’d call spontaneous, but if spontaneity meant he’d run off with the first good-looking woman he saw, then give me predictable. Given our routine and the fact I knew him inside out, the proposal wasn’t going to be a surprise because I’d seen all
the signs. There was mistletoe above the table, champagne in the ice bucket and deliberately vague references to it being time to ‘talk about our future’.
He’d also insisted I meet him at 6.30 p.m., which meant I had to miss taking part in the annual carol service at the hospital. My half-sister Jody was a nurse there, and I’d felt really torn about backing out – and Jody hadn’t helped with her emotional blackmail. ‘Don’t worry about the hospital charity, Jen. I mean if Tim wants an early dinner then sick patients will have to come second,’ she’d said sarcastically. For God’s sake, this was my Christmas proposal. It was everything I’d ever wanted and still she didn’t get it. I put Jody and her anger from my mind. It was my birthday tomorrow, and I was having a special Christmas Eve birthday dinner with my future husband. I looked round at the glittery lights, the mistletoe, the sparkling champagne and the man with twinkly blue eyes. I was a lucky girl.
As Tim lifted the bottle to pour our drinks, I discreetly checked the bottom of my glass flute to see if he’d popped the engagement ring in when I wasn’t looking. Tim wasn’t really a romantic – he always said grand gestures were just a desperate attempt for attention, or a cover-up for infidelity. I suppose that’s why he never bought me flowers and didn’t want to get engaged, until now. If I ever made vague suggestions about getting married (which I did, sometimes once a week) he’d always reject them quite strenuously: ‘Isn’t it enough that I come back to our shared home every evening?’ he’d say. But I knew if I waited long enough it would happen. And here we were, champagne on the table, Bing Crosby in the air – my moment had arrived.
‘So... to us,’ I said, raising my glass, looking into his eyes, offering him the moment. ‘And to love,’ I added, for good measure.
‘Whatever love is,’ he said in his best Prince Charles voice, which stung a little, but now wasn’t the time to compare our love to that of the doomed prince and princess, so I pushed forward.
‘I wonder what our future holds?’ I said, with a questioning but coquettish look, along with another rather blatant cue.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Oh.’ I put down my glass, still smiling. Was he teasing me? It wasn’t like Tim to tease – he was usually very serious.
‘I’ve been thinking a lot lately and tonight I want to share my thoughts with you,’ he started.
I shimmered with excitement and, taking another gulp, I waited as he took a sip of his champagne. Now would be good, I thought – this would be the perfect memory with the candles and the musical accompaniment. Bing was reaching a climax – a few more festive lyrics and he’d be gone, leaving only cutlery clatter and murmured conversations. The Christmas proposal had to have a backdrop of good Christmas music, and I was worried about what would be piped through next, because I didn’t want this moment drowned by a shrieking Mariah Carey wailing about what she wanted for Christmas. I felt like a film director, longing to shout ‘Action!’ so it would all fall into place here and now – everything perfect, even the timing. You had to grab these perfectly framed moments so you could hold on to them forever.
And then he spoke. ‘We’ve had ten good years together... and the thing is... tonight I wanted to say... thank you...’
‘You’re welcome.’
‘But... but I think we’ve reached the end of the road.’
And my Christmas world stood still. Baubles stopped sparkling, candles went out – and Bing Crosby left abruptly, taking his white Christmas with him.
This wasn’t in the script. Tim was now supposed to be on one knee placing the ring on my finger as the restaurant erupted around us in applause. My mouth was suddenly very dry, and I took a large gulp of champagne before asking, ‘What do you mean?’
‘I’m not happy.’
‘Happy? Not happy?’
‘No... I don’t want this life... with you.’
My throat closed up and I couldn’t speak, breathe or swallow – my whole world had crashed, taking my past and future with it. No sparkly ring in my glass, no flower-framed wedding photos of the two of us smiling, my bouquet thrown in the air, my life fused with his.
I looked into his cold eyes, a tiny cell in my body still hoping against hope this might be an elaborate joke. But Tim didn’t do jokes.
‘How long have you felt like this?’ I asked.
‘Years? YEARS?’
‘Yes... don’t shout, Jennifer.’ He looked over at the couple on the next table, giving them an embarrassed smile.
‘Oh I’m sorry, you’ve just thrown a bomb into my life, forgive me if I embarrass you by shouting,’ I snapped. ‘Tim, what the hell...?’
‘I’m sorry. I just haven’t felt... love... for you for a while now.’
This was a final stab to the heart. ‘But it’s Christmas... and it’s my birthday...’ I said, desperately searching for reasons for him not to do this, like it was illegal to dump someone at Christmas or on their birthday.
‘Why this... now?’ I asked, gesturing towards the champagne, the glittering candles, the perfect bloody setting for a perfect bloody proposal.
‘It’s your birthday. We always go out for your birthday. I wanted it to be pleasant...’
‘Pleasant? PLEASANT?’ I raised my voice again.
‘Ssshhh, you’re making a scene,’ he said, looking round furtively.
‘A scene? A SCENE? I yelled, aware I was simply repeating key words and saying them more loudly, but it was involuntary. ‘You dump me after ten years... my best years... We were on the cusp of marriage.’ He was shaking his head, but I wasn’t taking this on.
‘You’ve taken my youth, my fertile years – I wanted a baby, Tim.’
‘I’m sure you’ll meet someone...’ he started.
‘I WON’T. No one will want me. You’ve had the best years, the childbearing...’
‘Please stop shouting about fertility and childbearing in here.’ He was hissing, more concerned about how we looked to the rest of the diners than the fact my heart was splattered all over the table.
‘You’ve taken away my future, you bastard!’ I shouted this and in my rising fury picked up the bottle of champagne and hurled the rest of the contents at him. He yelped like a dog, and then the manager came over and asked if he could help.
‘Yes, kick him in the balls for me,’ I shouted, and grabbing my bag, I rushed out in a flurry of tears and heartbreak – just as Bing Crosby suggested we have ourselves a merry little Christmas.

About the Author

Sue Watson was a journalist on women’s magazines and national newspapers before leaving it all behind for a career in TV. As a producer with the BBC she worked on garden makeovers, kitchen takeovers and daytime sofas – all the time making copious notes so that one day she might escape to the country and turn it all into a book.
After much deliberation and copious consumption of cake, Sue eventually left her life in TV to write.  After a very successful debut novel, Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes Sue signed a three book deal with Bookouture.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Watercolours in the Rain
Jo Lambert

I read the first book in this story and I can't wait to read the next part! There is also a great giveaway as well...

What happens to the future when past and present collide?
JESS:  Six years ago Jess’s relationship with Talún Hansen was torn apart by one night of deception. He disappeared from Lynbrook village and she headed for university vowing never to let anyone break her heart again. Now a teacher, Jess returns from holiday to an unexpected phone call and life changing news which will eventually bring her back home once more.
TALUN: Six years on Talún Hawkeswood, as he is now known, is heir to his grandfather’s Norfolk farming empire. When he hears of trouble in the village due to Lynbrook Hall being put up for sale, going back is the last thing on his mind. But staying away is not an option either, not when someone he owes so much to is about to lose their home and their livelihood.
LILY: Splitting with her husband after her son Josh’s birth, Lily now works as part of an estate agency sales team.  She has always held onto her dream of finding a wealthy husband and a life of self-indulgence. When the sale of an important property brings her face to face with Talún once more, she realises despite the risks involved, the night they spent together six years ago may be the key to making those dreams come true.
As Jess, Talún and Lily return to Lynbrook and the truth about what happened that summer is gradually revealed, Talun finds himself in an impossible situation. Still in love with Jess he is tied into to a trade off with Lily: his name and the lifestyle she craves in exchange for his son. And when a child is involved there is only one choice he can make…

About the Author

Born and raised in rural Wiltshire, Jo Lambert grew up with a love of books and a vivid imagination. As a child she enjoyed creating her own adventure stories similar to Enid Blyton's Famous Five. Writing always stayed with her, but college, work and eventually marriage found it was kept very much in the background. However in 2009 she finally had her first novel - When Tomorrow Comes - published. Three other connected books - Love Lies and Promises, The Ghost of You and Me and Between Today and Yesterday followed. They became collectively known as the Little Court Series. 

In 2013 she decided to give up full time work to concentrate fully on her writing. Two other books have been written since - The Other Side of Morning which is the final book of the Little Court Series and Summer Moved On, a love story set in South Devon. Jo is about to publish, Watercolours in the Rain, and plans to begin work on her new book in early November 2016. She describes her writing style as drama driven romance.

Jo is married and lives in a village on the eastern edge of Bath with her husband, one small grey feline called Mollie and a green MGB GT.  She loves travel, red wine, rock music and has a passion for dark chocolate…

twitter: @jolambertwriter


1st Prize – dreamcatcher necklace (UK ONLY)


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Tuesday 11 October 2016


Paper Hearts & Summer Kisses
Carole Matthews

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was when I saw this cover pop up on social media yesterday! Anybody who knows me knows how much of a Carole Matthew's fan I am! I was so lucky to become a member of The Chocolate Lovers Club and helped to promote the Chocolate Lovers Christmas and Wedding books which were published last year. 

If I may be so bold Carole, I think (in my humble opinion) that this is quite possibly the best cover yet! In fact, I think they are just getting better and better!

This book is published in hardback on 15th December and in paperback in April 2017. So if you want to pre-order a copy of the book click here

There may not be a Christmas book this year from Carole, but I am certainly looking forward with baited breath for this one!!

Monday 10 October 2016

All She Ever Wished For
Claudia Carroll
Blog Tour

I just love the cover of this book and can't wait to put this on my Christmas reading pile for this year! 

One wet winter night, two women meet on a bridge. One is Tess Taylor, a personal trainer on the way to meet her boyfriend for date night. The other is Kate King, a celebrity married to a handsome billionaire who just happens to make her cry. In the cold dark evening, there is nothing to link them together but the bridge they shiver on. Little do they know they’ll both hold the key to each other’s future marriage…
All She Ever Wished For tells the story of what happens when your dream is about to come true. And what happens when that dream turns into a bit of a nightmare…

OK, I try my best to think calmly and rationally, gulping in one last mouthful of fresh air before snapping the bedroom window shut. So according to this letter a major problem has arisen, but I’m going to deal with it efficiently and with minimal stress. I’ll tell Bernard, of course, because he’s officially the most understanding man on the planet and if he can’t think of a way to get me out of this, then no one can. Then I’ll mention it to my nearest and dearest on a strict need-to-know basis only, because this is surmountable. After all, people manage to wangle their way out of situations like this all the time, don’t they?
Besides, it’s just not possible. True, there’s never a good time for an axe like this to fall, but the timing here really couldn’t be much worse. In one month’s time, Bernard and I are getting married; it’s as simple as that.  So trying my best to channel Kate Middleton, I trip downstairs with the letter clutched in my fist to somehow break the news to my wedding-planner-in-chief. Which would be Mum. I find her in the kitchen, walloping the hell out of the Magimix, busy making the icing for my wedding cake.
‘Where did you disappear off to? You’re supposed to be here helping your dad and me,’ she says crossly when she sees me coming into the kitchen. Bear in mind this is a woman who’s got about two hundred pounds of lamb cutlets in the deep freeze. You don’t mess with a woman with two hundred pounds of anything in the deep freeze.
‘Yeah, I know,’ I say in a wobbly voice I barely recognise as my own, ‘but the thing is, Mum, something a bit, well, unexpected has just come up—’
‘You’re as bad as that oaf out the back garden. Now grab an apron and start making yourself useful. You can drain the rum marinade off the sultanas and dump them into the mixture. Barring your father hasn’t already drunk the rum himself, that is. Which, to be honest with you, I wouldn’t put past him.’
‘Mum, you’re not listening to me—’ ‘Jesus, Tess, you’re worse than useless! What was the point in you taking time off work to help if all you’re going to do is stand there and let me do everything? May I remind you, madam, that getting married at home was all your bright idea?’ Then turning back to her Magimix, she mutters darkly, ‘getting married to Bernard in the first place was all your bright idea too, let’s not forget.’ Now normally that last sentence would automatically trigger The Conversation. The same bloody conversation I’ve been having with just about everyone ever since Bernard and I first got engaged. But under the circum­stances I let it slide and instead just shove the letter under Mum’s nose, then wait the approximate two-second delay while she processes it.
But there’s silence. A long, bowel-withering silence.
‘Well, this has to be a joke,’ she eventually says, all the blood suddenly draining from her face. ‘Maybe something Monica and Stella would do to get a rise out of you before the hen night?’
Monica and Stella are my two best pals and although they both love a good giggle as much as we all do, there’s no way in hell they’d ever contemplate doing something this cruel.
‘It’s not a joke. This isn’t the girls messing. Look at the headed notepaper. This is legit. Believe me, it’s about as legit as it gets.’
It says a lot about just how serious this is that Mum abandons her Magimix and slumps down wearily at the kitchen table, unable to say much else.
She doesn’t need to though.
The crumpled look on her face tells me everything I need to know

Friday 7 October 2016

One Christmas in Paris
Mandy Baggott


They say Paris is the City of Love, so bring your je ne sais quoi and don’t forget the mistletoe! 

Ava and her best friend Debs arrive in Paris just as the snow starts to fall. The Eiffel Tower glitters gold and the scent of spiced wine is all around, but all Ava can think about is Leo, her no-good, cheating ex. 

Debs is on a mission to make Ava smile again, and as they tour the Christmas markets, watch lamplight glittering on the river Seine, and eat their body weight inpain-au-chocolat, Ava remembers there’s more to life than men ... Until they cross paths with handsome, mysterious photographer Julien with his French accent and hazelnut eyes that seem to see right inside her. 

Ava can’t ignore the intense chemistry between them, but her fingers have been burned before and she can’t forget it, especially when her ex, Leo, starts texting again. Can Ava really trust Julien – and what exactly is his secret? 

Will Ava go home with a broken heart, or will she find true love amongst the cobbled streets of Paris? 

Join Ava and Julien in the most romantic city in the world this Christmas, as they discover the importance of being true to themselves, and learn how to follow their hearts. 

One Christmas in Paris is a gorgeous, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy – perfect for fans of Jane Costello, Miranda Dickinson and Lucy Diamond.


Up-Do Hair, Kensington, London

Leo:[EMAIL] I’m sorry. Can we talk?[END EMAIL]
Ava Devlin swiped the email hard to the left and watched it disappear from the screen of her iPhone. That’s what you did with messages from liars and fakes who had whispered one thing into your ear, as they wrapped their arms around you, and did the complete opposite when your back was turned. She swallowed back a bitter feeling. She had always worried that Leo – successful, rich, good-looking in a Joey Essex kind of way – was maybe a little bit out of her league.
‘Boss or boyfriend?’
The question came from Sissy, the hairdresser who was currently coating Ava’s head in foils and a paste that felt as if it was doing nuclear things to Ava’s scalp.
‘Neither,’ she answered, putting the phone on the counter under the mirror in front of her. A sigh left her. ‘Not any more.’ She needed to shake this off like Taylor Swift.
Giving her reflection a defiant look, she enlarged her green eyes, flared the nostrils of her button nose and set her lips into a deliberate pout she felt she had never quite been able to pull off. With her face positioned like she was a Z-list celeb doing a provocative selfie on Twitter, she knew she was done. With men. With love. With
everything. Her ears picked up the dulcet tones of Cliff Richard suggesting mistletoe and wine, floating from the salon sound system. Her eyes then moved from her reflection to the string of tinsel and fir cones that surrounded the mirror. This rinky-dink Christmas crap could do one as well. Coming right up was a nation getting obsessed with food they never ate in the other eleven months – dates, walnuts, an entire board of European cheeses – and a whole two weeks of alterations to the television schedule – less The Wright Stuff and more World’s Strongest Man. And now she was on her own with it.
‘Well,’ Sissy said, dabbing more goo on Ava’s head, ‘I always think Christmas is a good time to be young, free and single.’ She giggled, drawing Ava’s attention back to the effort Sissy was putting into her hair. ‘All those parties... people loosening up with goodwill and...’
‘Stella Artois?’ Ava offered.
‘You don’t drink that, do you?’ Sissy exclaimed as if Ava had announced she was partial to Polonium 210. ‘I had a boyfriend once who was allergic to that. If he had more than four it made him really ill.’
‘Sissy, that isn’t an allergy, that’s just getting drunk.’
‘On lager?’ Sissy quizzed. ‘Doesn’t it mix well with shots?’
Ava was caught between a laugh and a cry. She swallowed it down and focussed again on the mirror. Why was she here having these highlights put in? She’d booked the appointment when she’d had the work do to go to. Now, having caught Leo out with Cassandra, she wouldn’t need perfect roots to go with the perfect dress he’d bought her. She didn’t even like the dress. It was all red crushed velvet like something a magician’s assistant might wear. Like something her mother might wear. But Leo had said she looked beautiful and she remembered how that had made her feel at the time. All lies.
‘Stop,’ Ava stated abruptly, sitting forward in her seat.
‘Stop?’ Sissy clarified. ‘Stop what? Talking? Putting the colour on?’
‘All of it,’ Ava said. She put her fingers to the silver strips on her head and tugged.
‘What are you doing? Don’t touch them!’ Sissy said, as if one wrong move was going to detonate an explosive device.
‘I want them off... out...not in my hair!’ Ava gripped one foil between her fingers, pulling.
‘OK, OK, but not like that, you’ll pull your hair out.’
‘I want a new look.’ Ava scooped up her hair in her palms, pulling it away from her face and angling her head to check out the look. Nothing would make her jawline less angular or her lips thinner. She sighed. ‘Cut it off.’ She wanted it to come out strong, decisive, but her voice broke a little at the end and when she looked back at Sissy, she saw pity growing in her hairdresser’s eyes.
‘Well... I have to finish the tinting first.’ Sissy bit her lip.
Ava didn’t want pity. ‘Well, finish the tinting and then cut it off,’ she repeated.
‘Trim it, you mean,’ Sissy said, her eyes in the mirror, looking back at Ava.
Ava shook her remaining silver-wrapped hair, making it rustle. ‘No, Sissy, I don’t want it trimmed. I want it cut off.’ She pulled in a long, steady breath. ‘I’m thinking short... but definitely more Bowie in his heyday than Jedward.’
‘That short.’ Sissy was almost choking on the words.
‘You did say a change was good,’ Ava answered. ‘Change me.’ She sat back until she could feel the pleather at her back. ‘Make me completely unrecognisable even to my mother.’ She closed her eyes. ‘In fact, especially to my mother.’
With her eyes shut, she blocked out everything – Cliff Richard, the tinsel and fir cones, Leo. A different style was just what she needed. Something that was going to go with her new outlook on life. A haircut that was going to say, You can look, but if you set one eyelash into my personal space, suggesting joy to the world, you will be taken down. Nothing or nobody was going to touch her.
Ava’s phone let out a bleep and she opened one eye, squinting at the screen. Why didn’t Leo just give up? Why wasn’t he suctioned to Cassandra like he had been for God knows how long? She was betting Cassandra had never had to use Clearasil.
Sissy leant forward, regarding the phone screen. ‘It says it’s from Debs.’
Cheered considerably, Ava reached for the phone, picking it up and reading the message.

I know I said not to bring anything, but I totes forgot to get something Christmassy. Can you get something Christmassy? To eat... like those crisps that are meant to taste like turkey and stuffing or roasted nuts and cranberry. And bring red wine, not white, because I got three bottles of white today. And if you’ve completely forgotten all about coming to mine tonight for neighbourly nibbles before I leave for Paris then this is your reminder. Debs xx

Debs texted like she was writing a dissertation. There was no OMG, FFS or TMI with Ava’s best friend. And Ava had forgotten about the ‘neighbourly nibbles’. That was what having a break-up on your plate did to you – addled your brain and fried the important relationship circuits. Well, she was taking control now – elusive and aloof to anyone but her best friend – and the only frazzled motherboard was going to be the one with wires connected to men.
Ava looked into the mirror at Sissy. ‘After you’ve cut it, Sissy, I want you to make me blonder,’ she stated. ‘And not the honey kind.’ She smiled. ‘The Miley Cyrus meltdown kind.’

About the author:

Mandy Baggot is an award-winning author of romantic women’s fiction and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. In Feb 2016, her Bookouture novel, One Wish in Manhattan was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award. A contributor to writing blogs and short story anthologies, she is also a regular speaker at literary festivals, events and women’s networking groups.

Mandy loves mashed potato, white wine, country music, Corfu and handbags. She has appeared on ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and auditioned for The X-Factor and lives in Wiltshire, UK with her husband, two children and cats Kravitz and Springsteen.