Thursday 31 July 2014

Review ~ Where Love Lies by Julie Cohen.

Title: Where Love Lies.
Author: Julie Cohen.
Publisher: Transworld.
Genre: Women's Fiction.
Publication Date: July 31, 2014.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Lately, Felicity just can’t shake a shadow of uncertainty. Her husband Quinn is the kindest person she knows and loves her peculiarities more than Felicity feels she deserves. But suddenly it’s as if she doesn’t quite belong.

Then Felicity experiences something extraordinary: a scent of perfume in the air which evokes memories that have been settled within her for a long time, untouched and undisturbed. As it happens again and again, the memories of a man Felicity hasn’t seen for ten years also flutter to the surface. And so do the feelings of being deeply, exquisitely in love . . .

Overwhelmed and bewildered by her emotions, Felicity tries to resist sinking blissfully into the past. But what if something truly isn’t as it should be? What if her mind has been playing tricks on her heart?

Which would you trust?

Where Love Lies is the first Julie Cohen book I’ve ever read and what an incredible author I’ve been missing out on. This book was simply stunning – a fascinating, gripping plot pieced together cleverly and always heart-wrenching and beautiful to read.

Felicity is married to the seemingly perfect Quinn, who’s loving, devoted and faultlessly loyal to her. But doubts are there for Felicity, doubts which make her feel like her love for Quinn isn’t enough and even stronger than that is a scent, one which gives her the feeling of the deepest love, only not directed towards her husband but towards Ewan, a lover from her past. This was an extraordinary concept and I loved how Julie made me feel for all three of these characters – none of them are built up so the reader is forced to dislike them and it was made so easy to connect with them all and want the best for them.

I sympathised with Quinn because he tried so hard to make Felicity happy and his love was so genuine but this didn’t make me resent Ewan one bit. Ewan’s emotions and his past were written in an exquisite manner – in fact learning his story was one of my favourite parts of this book and I did have a lump in my throat reading bits of it. Felicity herself was such an interesting character and I found her easy to like. Seeing how out of control her feelings were and being left in suspense as to how things had got that way and how things were going to turn out – it was a really thought-provoking concept which gradually became more and more flawless to read.

The novel is written in three parts and we get the story from the perspective of all three main characters. Each part was more spectacular than the one before and although I found it difficult to stop reading this book from the first chapter, by the third part it was practically impossible. Julie’s descriptive writing of Felicity’s feelings and memories and the way she reacted was just a joy to read. The gorgeous, charming writing makes me believe that this is a special novel and one I’ll never read anything like again. It was one of the most captivating stories I’ve ever read and definitely one of my favourites. That I never quite knew where this book was going left me a little broken for each of the characters at individual points but I am still completely in love with this novel.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Author Interview ~ Pippa Croft.

To celebrate the promotional week for her Oxford Blue series, I'm pleased to be hosting a Q&A with the author Pippa Croft.

For one week only, until August 3, the first two books in the series are reduced! The First Time We Met is 99p here and The Second Time I Saw You can be picked up for £1.99 here.

Can you describe the Oxford Blue series in five words?

Sexy, escapist, sophisticated, sparky, emotional

And in more detail?

The series charts the tempestuous relationship of Alexander, a brooding English aristocrat and serving army officer and Lauren, a smart American studying art history at Oxford. Sparks fly from the very first time they meet, and the fireworks continue across their three terms as they discover that they can’t live with each other – or without! Alexander seems emotionally unattainable at first and Lauren recognises this but can’t help being drawn into his glamorous world.

What was your inspiration behind writing the Oxford Blue series?

Having been a student at Oxford, the experience has never left me. The books are completely fictional, but the intense and heady emotions of living in that environment have inspired some of the emotions. I think I always subconsciously wanted to set a book there. The characters and story are pure escapist fantasy and have been fabulous fun to write.

Already knowing that The First Time We Met wasn’t going to be a standalone, how nervous were you about your readers’ reviews and feedback?

I’m always a mix of nervous and excited when a book comes out, but both those emotions were amplified when the First Time was published. I actually got to see reader and reviewer reactions before the Second book was finalised. I think the second book has really dialled up the emotion and drama so it’s been fun to read readers’ speculations on how it all might end. I hope they’ll feel Third Time has satisfying conclusion that’s right for the characters.

The Second Time I Saw You’s dramatic ending left me massively anticipating Third Time Lucky – can you give us any insight into book three?

More drama, emotion and angst – but also a raising of the stakes for Alexander and Lauren because it’s crunch time for them. It’s the final term and they have to face up to what really matters to them, and life is never going to be simple...

I think the covers are perfect for the Oxford Blue series – how happy are you with them?

Thank you! I love them too. In fact, I had to act all cool when I saw them in the Penguin office when really, I wanted to cry, they were so elegant and subtly sensual. I can’t wait to see them in paperback.

Alexander’s character has changed quite a bit from when we were first introduced to him – which side of Alexander do you enjoy writing the most?

I love writing the scenes – or even the odd line – where he lets his guard down, even when it’s fleeting or he hasn’t meant to do it. I can’t say anymore about what happens in Third Time or I’ll be revealing too much!

What will you miss most about Alexander and Lauren once the series is over?

Everything. Living in their drama filled, angsty, glamorous world for a year has been so exciting. I finished my copy edits a week ago and while I have another book bubbling away, and some more series ideas, I can’t bring myself to work on them seriously yet.


Senator's daughter Lauren Cusack is leaving Washington behind for the dreaming spires of Oxford University - and she's ready for a challenge. Now a fully-fledged Master's student, Lauren is determined to make the most of every single minute.

But then she meets Alexander Hunt, and everything changes.

A devastatingly handsome English aristocrat, Alexander is as brooding and enigmatic as they come. Lauren tries to resist his advances, but he has his sights clearly set on the young American, and what Alexander wants, he gets.

Caution soon gives way to mind-blowing passion and Lauren is drawn into Alexander's privileged world of glamour and status. But all that glitters is not gold - for Alexander is a man with a dark past, and desire may not be enough to conquer all else . . .

It's the beginning of a new term at Wyckham College, Oxford, and a fresh start for Lauren Cusack. Her fingers were badly burnt when a whirlwind romance with gorgeous English aristocrat, Alexander Hunt, became too hot to handle - and now she's determined to keep her distance.

Her resolve is shaken when Alexander appears on her doorstep - he's been completely torn apart by some devastating news. Lauren knows that she should stay away, but their chemistry is undeniable and she soon finds herself back in Alexander's arms.

Can Lauren handle the drama that comes with Alexander Hunt? Or will she have to sacrifice the most exhilarating passion she's ever known . . .

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Giveaway ~ The Fixed Trilogy by Laurelin Paige.

Today I'm bringing you the chance to win an ebook copy of Laurelin Paige's highly rated The Fixed Trilogy! The giveaway is open internationally. Good luck! :)

Fixed on You (Book 1): Stalking and restraining orders are a thing of Alayna Wither's past. With her MBA newly in hand, she has her future figured out--move up at the nightclub she works at and stay away from any guy who might trigger her obsessive love disorder. A perfect plan. But what Alayna didn't figure on is Hudson Pierce, the new owner of the nightclub. He's smart, rich, and gorgeous--the kind of guy Alayna knows to stay away from if she wants to keep her past tendencies in check. Except, Hudson's fixed his sights on her. He wants her in his bed and makes no secret of it. Avoiding him isn't an option after he offers a business proposition she can't turn down and she's drawn further into his universe, unable to resist his gravitational pull. When she learns Hudson has a dark history of his own, she realizes too late that she's fallen for the worst man she could possibly get involved with. Or maybe their less than ideal pasts give them an opportunity to heal each other and finally find the love their lives have been missing.

Found in You (Book 2): Alayna Withers has only had one kind of relationship: the kind that makes her obsessive and stalker-crazy. Now that Hudson Pierce has let her into his heart, she's determined to break down the remaining walls between them so they can build a foundation that's based on more than just amazing sex. Except Hudson's not the only one with secrets.

With their pasts pulling them into a web of unfounded mistrust, Alayna turns to the one person who knows Hudson the best--Celia, the woman he almost married. Hoping for insight from someone who understands all sides of the story, Alayna forms a bond with Celia that goes too far--revealing things about Hudson that could end their love for good.

This is the first relationship where Alayna hasn't spiraled out of control. And she might lose Hudson anyway...

Forever with You (Book 3): Alayna Withers relationship with Hudson Pierce has tested both her and his ability to trust. They decide that the only way they can move forward together is with open doors and transparency. It won't be easy for the scarred lovers, but they're committed to each other more now than ever. Alayna, in particular, has grown through their trials, and has emerged more confident and faithful to the man she loves.

But while the pair is focused on the future, their past shows up again to threaten their fragile bond. Promises that were made are broken, and Alayna learns that Hudson still has very potent secrets--secrets that will tear them both apart. As much as she feels for him, her ability to forgive and forget is tested beyond her limits.

Even though she found the only man who could fix her, a forever with Hudson seems more and more out of reach.

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Sunday 27 July 2014

Review ~ By My Side by Wendy Lou Jones.

Title: By My Side.
Author: Wendy Lou Jones.
Publisher: HarperImpulse.
Genre: Contemporary Romance.
Release Date: June 5, 2014.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Betrayed by her boyfriend and best friend, Lena is left empty; trapped under a weight of guilt and loneliness. Then, at her lowest point and when she needs it most, a mysterious stranger comes into her life with a tale of friendship, family, and finding love in the most unexpected of places…

Katy Heath is definitely not thinking of love when she comes across consultant, Adam Elliot, berating some poor patient on the ward one day. In fact it is Dr Peter Florin who quickly has everyone’s hearts aflutter with his easy smiles and practised charm.

Yet Katy comes to realise that there’s more to Adam than his determination to push everyone away and it’s not long before she finds herself longing to reach out to touch the man within, healing the pain of his past.

As Lena is drawn into Katy’s story, she begins to learn – just as Katy does- that the course of true love never did run smooth.

If ever a cover perfectly epitomises its book, By My Side would be the one. The cover is absolutely stunning and the novel is too. Wendy Lou Jones’ gorgeous writing and the intriguing format the story is told in really did make this a special kind of novel.

I loved the concept of By My Side. At the beginning, we’re introduced to Lena, who after a failed suicide attempt is at a massive low point in her life. She meets a stranger who tells her the main story in the book – the story of Kate and Adam, and Lena begins to learn the impact this story could have on her own life. I was fascinated with Lena’s character from the start but would have liked the book to have been brought back to her a few more times throughout By My Side, just so her character could be a little more developed and so I didn’t find it so hard to let go of Kate and Adam’s story.

It was Kate and Adam who I completely fell for. Their journeys were dramatic, beautiful, chaotic and combined, a bit of a tearjerker. I never quite knew where Wendy was going to take them and I love that – the unexpected and the guessing really kept me eager to read more and just one more page was never actually one more page when I was reading. When we first met Adam, I pretty much had the same opinion that Kate had in that he was rude and a bit of a bully. I expected him to win me over but not as much as he did – his character really grew throughout and his past was unveiled faultlessly. Kate for me was always easy to like – she felt real in the typical speaks-without-thinking and second guesses every action kind of way. Other characters we meet like Sophie and Rich and Peter were all great to read too.

Powerful and emotional is how I would describe By My Side, added to the fact that I just did not want this story to end. I loved the ending but as I was approaching it, I had to slow down my reading because I wasn’t ready to let it go just yet! Every step in Kate and Adam’s story was striking and important and at times, I felt like I was reading with a lump in my throat. Combined with Lena’s involvement, towards the end this book was always going to be a little different and unlike so many other emotional romance novels, it was the perfect ending.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Saturday 26 July 2014

Review ~ The Marvellous Cakery by Laura Gavin.

Title: The Marvellous Cakery.
Author: Laura Gavin.
Genre: Chick Lit.
Release Date: July 9, 2014.
Source: Review copy.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Part modern fairytale, part kitsch romcom, The Marvellous Cakery tells the story of Ms. Cake, a baker and fairy godmother-wannabe who has a bad habit of spiking her customers' cake with magic.

Her assistant Lacey is the only one who knows about her secret ingredient, or the way she feels about Fred, the bookish cafe owner across the street. But the gossip mongers of small town Spinningham are about to get a treat. Because when Ms Cake's well-meaning meddling goes awry, the Marvellous Cakery and its owner start down a path of very sticky self-destruction.

Imagine a cake which, other than the pleasure of simply eating it yourself, also has a bit of magic to make your life that little bit better…. It definitely sounds too good to be true but worth a try! The Marvellous Cakery is a charming little story about Ms. Cake and her assistant Lacey, whose work at a seemingly innocent cake-shop quickly turns dramatic and out-of-hand.

The Marvellous Cakery is an extremely short story although I thought the sweet plot was perfectly fitting for the size of the novel. I do love short stories but I would have liked this one to draw me in instantly because it took me a little bit of time to care about the characters’ stories. Once I did get into the story, I couldn’t fault it. It had a lot of endearing qualities which made it cute, funny and a little quirky.

What I enjoyed the most was the mix of customers that came into the shop and the insight we got into each of their lives. Mr Warwick and Mrs Tremmel’s characters provided a lot of the humour in this story. Some of the twists and incidents involving them both were a little batty yet amusing, which was the same for all the characters in The Marvellous Cakery. They all had different, strong personalities and all was not always what it seemed with them.

The Marvellous Cakery is a quick read sure to put a smile on your face. Laura Gavin did a great job in few pages to develop characters, pack in a few twists and an ending which was completely suited to Ms Cake and the way her story had progressed. A little mad, but a very entertaining short story.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Friday 25 July 2014

Review ~ Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan.

Title: Flirty Dancing.
Author: Jenny McLachlan.
Publisher: Bloomsbury.
Genre: Young Adult.
Release Date: July 3, 2014.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

A warm, hilarious bestseller-to-be. Geek Girl meets Dirty Dancing meets Louise Rennison’s Tights, all rolled into an irresistible story of friendship, bullies and how to steal a heart on the dancefloor.

Bea Hogg is shy but fiery inside. When national dance competition Starwars comes to her school looking for talent, she wants to sign up. It's just a shame her best friend agreed to enter with school super-cow Pearl Harris. Bea will fight back! But when school hottie, Ollie Matthews, who also happens to be Pearl’s boyfriend, decides to enter the competition with Bea, she will have more than a fight on her hands.

This warm, nuanced, hilarious story about friendship, fortitude . . . and dancing is impossible not to fall in love with. Jenny’s voice is fresh and convincing, and she handles both darker and lighter elements of the story with equal panache.

I was drawn to Flirty Dancing by its quirky cover and its Louise Rennison-style comparison and the book itself was just as fun as I had been expecting. The main character, Bea, is on the surface very shy and afraid to be herself. At school, her childhood best friend turned bully makes her time very uncomfortable and sees Bea lacking in confidence. At home, however, Bea is full of life and can be just as mad as her crazy, loveable family.

From nursery, ‘The Ladybirds’ were four best friends; Bea, Kat, Betty and Pearl. Now at high-school, I found it really interesting just how different they all were from each other. I’m really pleased to see that each Ladybird will get their own story because their characters are all so unique. Kat in this story grated on me a little bit because I wanted her to be protective over her apparent friend, Bea, and not so ashamed of her at times but I think she also suffered from a bit of similar fear.

I’ve been the girl who was picked on, the one who never stood up for herself and so I knew the journey I wanted to see Bea go on. I loved seeing her character grow and when she took to dancing with Ollie, a whole new side was brought out in Bea and it was sweet and uplifting to see her change in attitude. She was very likeable, quite innocent and na├»ve at times but smart. She knew her own mind and what she wanted, even if she found that difficult to express.

Her relationship with her family was a joy to read. Her mentality and approach towards her family is one I see as relatable to a lot of the targeted readers of Flirty Dancing. At times, she may find her wacky nan, little sister Emma and the rest of her family as a little over-the-top and embarrassing but on the whole, you could tell how much love she had for them and how she wouldn’t have a bad word said about them.

I adored this plot and thought Flirty Dancing was a really cute, amusing read but I would have liked to see an added twist or two – not necessarily to change the outcome of the novel but maybe to make me at least question whether the plot was going to turn out pretty much exactly how I thought it would from the start. It was completely entertaining but just a little too predictable for me to be fully satisfied with it. Though it was light-hearted on the whole, Flirty Dancing touches on some more serious themes too and I thought the author clearly wrote in some important messages for young readers. I can’t wait to see what Jenny brings us with the other Ladybirds’ stories.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Thursday 24 July 2014

Author Interview ~ Liz Fenwick.

Today I'm welcoming the lovely Liz Fenwick to my blog, chatting about her latest book A Cornish Stranger. Liz is also kindly offering a signed copy of A Cornish Stranger in a giveaway, which you'll find at the end of this post.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your books.

I was born in Boston and moved to the UK in 1989 where I met my husband. He took me to Cornwall in June just after we met. That weekend began a love affair with the Duchy that hasn’t ended, but has awoken the sleeping writer in me who had been lost thanks to jobs, kids and moving around the world. Cornwall is at the heart of all my novels, which tell the stories of woman reaching points in the their lives when they need to confront who they are, what they need or what they are prepared to do. Oh and hopefully finding love along the way.

Your books so far all have a Cornish theme – why is Cornwall a big inspiration behind your books?

I think the answer has to be the landscape. There is just something about it that triggers my ‘muse’ or maybe Cornwall is my muse.

What can you tell us about your latest release, A Cornish Stranger?

It is a tale wrapped in secrets set on Frenchman’s Creek. Save a stranger from the sea, he’ll turn your enemy…is an old Cornish saying and is what sparked the story idea. Jaunty a reclusive 92 year old artist is coming to the end of her days and she is compelled to tell the truth to her granddaughter Gabrielle but only wants her read it after she is dead. Gabe has secrets of her own and is running away from the world. Here in this cabin above the mouth of Frenchman’s Creek all is going well with Gabe looking after her grandmother until Gabe saves a stranger in the midst of a storm and things begin to change.

Are the characters in A Cornish Stranger inspired by people you know, or purely fictional?

I think all my characters draw on people I know to some extent. As a writer I am a magpie storing bits of character, appearance and experience. In my head they mingle and come out as a totally unique person. Except in The Cornish House the character of Old Tom was drawn entirely from my brief experience chatting with my husband’s old headmaster.

But confession…I use actors I fancy as the physical models for my heroes….

The covers for The Cornish House, A Cornish Affair and A Cornish Stranger are all stunning – do you have a favourite?

That’s hard…a bit like choosing a favourite child! What I do love is that they are different from each other yet have the same feel and do say ‘Cornwall’. How’s that for avoiding an answer!

Describe your writing process…

Chaotic! As I mentioned above there is usually a spark that triggers the main story idea. In the case of A Cornish Stranger it was the old saying. I saw instant conflict in it and knew immediately where I wanted to set it. Saying that I need to know the setting very early in the process. In the past before I was published I would begin with a title, a setting, an idea of my main character and the ending I wanted. I would then write and rewrite until I came to the end. Now with deadline and a fabulous editor it’s different. I still start with a setting, a conflict, a rough idea of my character and the ending, but now I brainstorm with my editor who is brilliant at seeing plot holes before they are written. In the past I happily write my self into them and have to cut and dig my way out. Now writing a book a year I don’t have that luxury! (Not saying I don’t still do this a bit!!!).

Once the first draft is the done the hard work really begins because it’s only then that I really know my characters and themes. It’s a bit like a sculptor with a huge piece of marble. She can suddenly see the shape. It’s like that with the first draft. I can see what the story is truly meant to be and I dive in and carve out the book.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you tell us a bit about it?

I am working on another book set in Cornwall. This time set on the north side of Helford River. Two women who have never met but are connected by one man…husband/father…one ancestral house, a death, a will…

What have you found the most rewarding aspect of being an author? The most challenging?

The most rewarding is when my books really touch a reader. I have been honoured and humbled by this experience. The most challenging is the desire to keep improving and growing as a writer while under deadline!

How did your publication deal come about? Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?

I began writing fiction again in 2004 and signed with an agent and publisher in 2011. So my advice is that it doesn’t happen overnight, take time to learn – about writing and the business of publishing…and finally don’t expect to earn much money from it!

How important is reader feedback to you?

Vital. I read every review…the good and the bad. The bad stings, but sometimes there are key things to take from that if several reviews say the same thing. I love hearing from readers on social media. Many have become friends and have become a huge support network when I’m feeling that I can’t write the damn book!

Do you prefer print books or ebooks?

I prefer print but I read both. I travel so much that ebooks are essential. I just love the experience of a book in my hands and the smell, touch and weight of a paper book.

Who are some of your favourite authors to read at the moment? Any books to recommend?

I have only recently discovered Kate Atkinson and love her. Life After Life was superb. She breaks every writing rule and makes it works (total jealousy from the writer in me). My top books of last year were Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (I hesitated at the start because of the format…emails, texts… but it is brilliant) and Julie Cohen’s Dear Thing. I love Julie’s writing and was terrified with her move to more serious fiction she would have lost that humour and lightness of touch but no. Can’t wait for her new one…Where Love Lies. I just wish I had more time to read. My TBR pile is massive and I read slowly because as a dyslexic I read every word.

You have to leave your house now and salvage three books you’ve yet to read – which books would you take with you?

Half of the books in this house haven’t yet been read…it’s so hard. Instead I’ll say the ones I’m reading at the moment…Nancy Mitford’s Love in A Cold Climate, Mandy James’ Somewhere Beyond the Sea and Houses and Gardens of Cornwall by Helen McCabe.

Writer, expat expert, wife, mother of three, dreamer turned doer….

Liz was born in Massachusetts and after nine international moves now lives in Dubai with her husband and two mad cats. She made her first trip to Cornwall in 1989, bought her home there seven years later and, although she lives in Dubai, her heart is forever in Cornwall, creating new stories.

Her debut novel THE CORNISH HOUSE is published by Orion and is out now. It is also available in in German (Sterne Uber Cornwall), Dutch (Sterren Boven Cornwall) Portuguese (A Casa Dos Sonhos) and Norwegian. Soon to be coming out in Estonia and Turkish.

Her second book A CORNISH AFFAIR is out in paperback. The Dutch edition Een Affaire in Cornwall and the Portuguese edition Um Amor en Cornualha is out now and a German is being prepared.

A CORNISH STRANGER is out now from Orion and available from all good booksellers.


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