Friday, 31 October 2014

Cover reveal - Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley

Happy Friday!

If you follow my blog you may know how much I love the Ivy Farm series by Cathy Bramley. I've had a bit of a book hangover all week after finishing the final installment (it's fantastic, make sure you read it).

However, fantastic news! Cathy has announced a new series, Appleby Farm, which is a spinoff from Ivy Lane. The first installment is released on 5 February (my birthday yay). I am very excited to be able to reveal the covers and a bit about the series. I am sure you will agree that the covers are beautiful, and the books sound fantastic. I can't wait to get my hands on them!

Cathy kindly explained where the idea for Appleby Farm has come from:

After I finished writing Ivy Lane earlier this year, my editor asked me if I’d consider a spin-off series, taking one character from Ivy Lane and plunging them into a new setting and a new story with perhaps a few surprise visits from some old friends from Ivy Lane. I thought this was a great idea and immediately set to work creating Appleby Farm, which I’m hoping readers of Ivy Lane will fall in love with.

It’s set in the glorious Lake District, an area I adore, and follows the story of a young woman and her fight to save the farm which has been in her family for generations. It features lots of wonderful people including a very attractive farmer on neighbouring Willow Farm, Vintage tearooms, a trip to Paris and a wedding. Appleby Farm will be published by Transworld in four monthly parts between February and May 2015 and they are all available to pre-order now!

The covers themselves have been designed by Kate Forrester, the same illustrator who drew my Ivy Lane covers and I think she has conjured up the warm and friendly farm set in the beautiful Lake District perfectly.

Appleby Farm is an irresistibly charming novel following the adventures of Freya Moorcroft in love, friendship and a spot of farming.

Freya Moorcroft has wild red hair, mischievous green eyes, a warm smile and a heart of gold. She’s been happy working at the café round the corner from Ivy Lane allotments and her romance with her new boyfriend is going well, she thinks, but a part of her still misses the beautiful rolling hills of her Cumbrian childhood home: Appleby Farm.

Then a phone call out of the blue and a desperate plea for help change everything…

The farm is in financial trouble, and it’s taking its toll on the aunt and uncle who raised Freya. Heading home to lend a hand, Freya quickly learns that things are worse than she first thought. As she summons up all her creativity and determination to turn things around, Freya is surprised as her own dreams for the future begin to take shape.

Love makes the world go round, according to Freya. Not money. But will saving Appleby Farm and following her heart come at a price?

The link to part one on Amazon UK is

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe by Rebecca Raisin

Out now
Published by Carina
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

You are invited to the wedding of the year!

Snow is falling thick and fast outside the Gingerbread Café and inside, its owner Lily is planning the wedding of the year. Her wedding! She never dreamt it would happen, but this Christmas, she’ll be marrying the man of her dreams - in a Christmas-card-perfect ceremony!

The gingerbread is baking, the dress is fitted and the mistletoe’s in place – for once, everything’s going to plan. That is until her mother-in-law arrives... Suddenly, Lily’s famous cool is being tested like never before and her dream wedding is crumbling before her eyes.

In the blink of a fairylight, the Gingerbread Café has been thrown into chaos! Lily thought she had this wedding wrapped up, but with so much to do before she says ‘I do’, can Lily get to the church on time – and make this Christmas sparkle after all?

The Gingerbread Café series:

Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe

Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Cafe

(The Bookshop on the Corner)

Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café

My review:

How would I sum up Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe? Irresistible, delicious perfection! I cannot tell you just how much I loved this, and the other books in the Gingerbread Cafe series. They are simply magical and once I picked them up I was unable to put them back down again.

Part of me has been dreading reading this book, but purely because I know it is the final book in the series and I don't want it to end. Rebecca has written such great characters who don't feel like works of fiction, they feel like real people who are so kind, and funny, and quirky that I would love to be part of their friendship circle.

The books are set in a small town where everyone is one big community. There is the cafe, the hairdresser, the book store, and other small stores that make them one big family. I adore all the characters but Lily and Cee Cee who run the gingerbread cafe are my favourites.

Lily is the main character in the books and we have previously seen her transform into a wonderful lady who has left her past behind her, and found love with Damon. As this book starts we are ten days away from their wedding, and each chapter counts down day by day as the wedding approaches. I love the warmth of Lily's character. She is one of life's good eggs and I can't imagine any reader not wanting her to have a fairy tale ending.

I simply adore Cee Cee. She is one talented baker, but more than that, she is a confidante,  a loving and open person with a knack for seeing what happens to people. She has endured heartbreak in the past, but rather than being destroyed by it she seems to be even warmer and more loving from it. I love how she isn't only a employee of Lily's but is also like a mother figure for her.

I could almost single out all the other characters for various reasons too. Rebecca has an exceptional way of writing characters and settings that feel like a home from home. So down to earth and loving, warm and safe. I adore her writing and will be reading all her books from here on in.

We know that weddings can be tense affairs, with so much to do, and with families coming together often for the first time. This wedding is no exception. As the clock ticks down of course there is drama, both on the practical side, but also emotionally as we meet Damon's parents. His mother Olivia is a force to be reckoned with, and at times I wondered if Rebecca had modelled her on someone I know (I shall say no more!!).

I could gush about the book all day but I really don't want to give away any of the storyline. I lapped it up and would hate to have read any spoilers. I hope you as a reader enjoy it just as much as I have.

I have to admit that I pretty much sobbed my way through the last third of the book, and stayed up well past my bedtime totally engrossed, and needing to finish it before I could rest. There are some parts that tugged at my heart strings and had me crying my eyes out with sadness, but equally I was like a  voyuer who couldn't get enough of the love and affection in the book, which had me crying with happiness.

My Mum is Irish and grew up in a small village on the border of Cork and Kerry. We spent every summer there as kids and it is somewhere I still hanker after to this day. If I could move back there I would, in a heartbeat. It has a small close knit community, where everyone knows eachother, but more importantly, everyone looks after eachother. This is how this series feels for me, and probably part of the reason I am so sad to see it end.

If you love a good series with great characters who you feel part of, and uplifting tales, this is perfect. I would really recommend reading them in order, and particularly leaving this til the last of them.

Thank you to Carina who provided a copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Boy in the Cemetery by Sebastian Gregory

Publication date: 29 October
Published by Carina UK
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

This is the story of a girl who didn’t want to live…

Carrie Anne is desperately unhappy. Tangled in a web of abuse, she seeks solace in the cemetery that backs onto her garden. But something creeps between the gravestones. Carrie Anne is not alone…

…and a boy who cannot die.

The cemetery is home to a boy. He has guarded these forgotten bones since meeting a gruesome end two hundred years ago. Neither dead nor alive, he has been watching for a long time. And now, he finally has the visitor he’s been waiting for…

My review:

I love horror / creepy books, and with Halloween approaching it seemed the perfect time to  read The Boy in the Cemetery. Firstly I loved the cover which totally drew me in. It has an eerie look about it, but also reminded me a bit of a Tim Burton film. Then when I read the synopsis, I was ready to download and get started.

We are initially transported back in time to meet 'the boy' who lived in London many years ago. There is talk of the consumption which once it took hold inevitably led to your death. The boy lives a life of poverty and has to watch his Mum get ill and die from the consumption. His father, a crook, takes care of the boy and teaches him to rob graves in the local cemetery to try and earn money. His father is caught and attacked and also meets his death. Left to fend for himself the boy returns to the cemetery to try and get some stuff to make money. Whilst there he meets an untimely end at the hands of a gruesome man who is already dead.

From then on we meet Carrie Anne whose family are also dysfunctional. Her father is not a decent man, and her mother is a coward. Carrie Anne is very unhappy and we learn just how unhappy when she tries to take her own life. They move house to a new area to start over. This house backs on to the cemetery and Carrie Anne becomes fascinated.

We see Carrie Anne start at a new school and quickly becomes the victim of bullies. In her haste to escape she runs to seek solace in the cemetery, the bullies follow and attack her. However the boy comes to her rescue and they strike up a friendship.

Together Carrie Anne and the boy seek retribution for the things Carrie Anne has suffered during her life. This involves the police investigating the goings on, whilst Carrie Anne pretends not to remember in order to protect the boy. I don't want to tell you any more or I will give away the ending!!

I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. When I started reading I realised it isn't the usual form of horror I tend to read, as there was less gore and more of a developing storyline. However, as the book went on the gore began (which I love), but there was also a strong plot that added another dimension to my reading.

I really felt for Carrie Anne. She had suffered some horrible things in her life at the hands of her father and he always seemed to get away with it. When she started being bullied at the new school I hated it. I was actually pleased to see the boy look out for her, even if it does up the gore levels!!!

I also liked the way the character of the boy was written. I got a real sense for who he was at the start of the book and whilst he is dead and carries out some horrible attacks, I couldn't bring myself to dislike him or wish him ill.

From a horror perspective the last third of the book was when it all comes together. Some of the descriptions are pretty graphic, and I built up a strong image of being in the cemetery, or at the house when some of the action is taking place.

The author has written this book in a clever manner, combining a strong story with just enough action and death. The book just flowed with the characters and I definitely built up allegiances with the 'goodies' versus the 'baddies'. I really enjoyed the ending and can see another book featuring Carrie Anne following in the future.

A well written Halloween read with a strong storyline and some macabre scenes for lovers of death and gore.

Thank you to Carina for providing a copy in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The French for Christmas by Fiona Valpy

Out now
Published by Bookouture
Purchase from Amazon here

The Blurb:

A year to forget. The perfect escape. And a little Christmas magic…

Touching, uplifting, and filled with delicious French cooking, The French for Christmas is the perfect Christmas treat.

Evie used to LOVE Christmas, but this year she can’t wait for the tinsel and presents to be a distant memory.

When her best friends offer the use of their cottage in the beautiful French countryside, Evie jumps at the chance. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband, celebrity chef Will Brooke, plastered over the news with his latest ‘love interest’, leaving the country seems like the perfect plan.

Armed with her French grandmother’s tattered notebook of recipes, Evie is determined to ignore Christmas altogether and bake herself back to happiness.

And when Evie meets her next-door neighbour – the très gorgeous doctor Didier she finds a very willing taste-tester. But is it possible that he could be interested in more than just her Tarte Tatin?

With snow falling, a special Réveillon dinner and a little Christmas magic in the air, could Didier even be the one to thaw Evie’s heart? Or will a visit from the ghost of Christmas past change everything?

My Review:

I have to start by confessing that the reason I picked this book out was the gorgeous cover, and the word christmas in the title! I had no idea what the book was about and how touching I would find it. The book is beautifully written and within the first couple of chapters I was hooked. I know I am going to find it hard to do justice to this book in my review without giving the storyline away, so I will try my best as I don't want to give spoilers away and ruin it for readers.

The main character is Evie. We meet her in the lead up to Christmas, a time which is usually associated with joy and celebration. However, last Christmas Evie lost her daughter who was stillborn. We also learn that the strain has led to the breakdown of her marriage. As Evie's life is stuck in pain and grief her husband is launching a tv show, and has been snapped with another woman in magazines. Evie's sister is pregnant and Evie seems to worry about her as well as it triggering memories of her own experience.

Understandably Evie's world seems to have collapsed around her, and she just wants to get away from Christmas and all the bad memories. Her best friends come up with the idea of Evie using their french cottage, an idea which appeals to her. We follow her trip, via Paris, to a beautiful cottage in the middle of nowhere. It made me feel desperately sad that she is in a remote cottage, all on her own, suffering with this unimaginable grief. However, as she settles in we begin to meet some characters who may just give her hope....

We meet Didier who lives next door to the cottage. He is a Doctor who has also moved there in sad circumstances. He comes to Evie's rescue when she gets sick, and it starts a friendship and attraction between them. Didier also spends alot of time in his garage at all hours banging around which is all very mysterious. What he is up to does get revealed and it is wonderful. I think it played a big part in my love of Didier. A kind, loving, strong man who wants to do his bit to make a difference in a cruel world. We learn that he has spent time in Africa helping out as part of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders). It was a stark reminder of how lucky we are to have a great health system which is of a high standard and accessible to all.

We also meet another set of neighbours, an older couple who are very strong, self sufficient. They grow their own food, keep animals and are real down to earth wise folk. But behind this strength there is real sadness.

These three characters all become very important to Evie and the story. What brings them all together is food funny enough. Evie ran a restaurant when she was married and the couple grow all their own fruit, vegetables and meat. Evie is looking to reignite her love of cooking, and after she gets ill and befriends her neighbours their shared love of food leads to plans to share Christmas together. The talk of food in the book was delicious and I would definitely love to sit down to dinner with them!!

I felt a real affinity to Evie. I was genuinely moved when reading of her losing the baby, and then the breakdown of her marriage. I can't even begin to imagine how awful it must feel to lose a child and to have to carry on living afterwards. The book is so beautifully written that it allowed me as a reader to glimpse how Evie may have been feeling, but in a respectful, non voyeuristic way.

I know the book might sound a depressing read, and anything but festive, but it's not! Yes, the background is horrible, but to me, this was a book that gave hope, and showed that with love and support, in time, life is worth living. As Christmas approaches we see a shift in Evie and its almost as if she starts to blossom again.

One of the scenes I connected with most was one set in the local church. Evie went in and saw the children all singing on St Nicholas's day. This stirred memories in her and she remained in the church after the service. The priest sees she is upset and comes over to speak to her. When Evie explains her situation to him he provides really wise words which felt like the start of the healing process for her.

The way the author has portrayed the relationships Evie forges with Didier and the older couple was fabulous. Sharing their stories with Evie re-enforced the words of the priest and told how, even when you think things cant get worse you can survive, and learn to smile and build your life again. Towards the end of the book we see Evie start to make plans for the future, and not to be held back from going for her goals.

Whilst this book is a work of fiction the reality is that people experience loss every day. It is of course devastating and you naturally want to run away and hibernate to get through it. But we can help support eachother through those darkest days by being there and supporting them.

I also found it humbling to read and reflect on the work  Medecins Sans Frontieres does in such hard and poor conditions. It must be terrible for those who are ill, but also for the medical staff working out there in such terrible conditions.  I moan about the NHS but it has made me appreciate the healthcare I receive.

This is a wonderful book which explores not only loss and grief, but also forgiveness, love and compassion. The story left me feeling moved but also inspired and with the belief that with love, determination and courage you can achieve whatever you want.  I should add that it is not all seriousness, there are some fun and warm scenes that will have you smiling. By the time I finished I had a warm and fuzzy feeling of contentment and happiness.

Thank you to Bookouture who provided a this in return for an honest review.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Guest post by Liesel Schmidt - author of Coming Home to You

I am delighted that Liesel Schmidt, author of Coming Home to You has written a guest post about her experience of writing her debut novel. Thank you to Liesel for taking the time to write this. I often wonder what it is like to be on the other side as the person creating the characters and the storyline, This has really given me a feel for it. Perhaps one day I may be brave enough to have a go at writing something myself!

If you haven't already read her book I would highly recommend it. My review is here

Can You Feel It?

Liesel Schmidt

I’m going to be perfectly candid and admit that this whole experience has been quite surreal. I feel a but as if I might be using that word far too often these days, but I don’t know quite how else to describe it. It’s surreal to know that you’ve written a book––from start to finish––and that people are actually willing to read it. It’s surreal to know that it’s been published, that it’s out there for the whole world to see and experience. It’s surreal to realize that a goal and a dream have finally come to fruition. Maybe one of these days, I’ll have another word to pull out of my hat, but right now, this is all I have.

That, and honored, simply for the fact that I’m grateful that someone saw beauty in the story I told and that they took the risk and the time to put it out there. You reach a point in this whole process of book writing that one more letter or email from an agent couldn’t possibly be anything other than a rejection, a one-lined, canned assassination of your work. You dismiss them before they’ve even been opened, so accustomed to that rejection are you that you’ve grown past the point of allowing yourself to hope that this one might actually be THE ONE!

I think, for any author who truly connects with their work, that writing a book––even if it’s non-fiction––is extremely emotional, so this whole process is actually one that puts them in a vulnerable position. The characters you create are part of you, even if it’s only in some small way. I think they all represent different facets of your personality and your history. Their story is your story, reimagined and divided into these people who live only on the page. You have to be able to imagine them and breathe dimension and life into them, so as you write, you feel. It’s taxing, sometimes, the way that writing some of the characters effects your mood. If they hurt, you hurt. If they’re afraid or overwhelmed or joyous, you feel all of those things. You have to. There’s no other choice––because if you can’t feel it, your readers won’t be able to, either.

By the same token, for a character to be more real and relatable, you have to let them lead. If it doesn’t seem to happen naturally, the writing suffers and the characters seem too contrived. Real people and real life are unpredictable, so even when you’re the writer, I think it’s important to be surprised by some of the things your characters do. There must be a certain concept in place, yes––but it shouldn’t be so rigid that they never stray from the straight line of “the plan.” You have to let them inspire you and surprise you; you have to be interested in knowing them more––otherwise, your readers will never experience any of that, either.

I think it’s that true connection that makes a book successful. No one wants to read a story that feels flat and formulaic. No one wants to be able to predict, step-by-step, the outcome from the very first page to the last. Life isn’t like that, so neither should a book be like that.

These were all things I learned as I wrote Coming Home to You. I found myself lost in the lives of my characters, surprised and angered and excited at things as they unfolded. There were days of exhaustive grief as I wrote portions of it, days when I felt some unexplainable sense of hope. My emotions poured out through my fingers as I typed creating a world that seemed so real to me that, as I neared the end of the story, I began to miss.

I hope that the book is one that readers will love and embrace whole heartedly. That they will see bits of themselves in the characters and that they will realize the ultimate message of the story––that unimaginable gifts can come from grief, and that life is full of  purpose.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Damsel in Distress? By Kristina O'Grady

Happy Friday

I am pleased to have been asked to be part of the blog tour for Damsel in Distress? by Kristina O'Grady. I have read, and enjoyed the book and would like to share my review with you.

Out Now
Published by Carina UK
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

A chance meeting that could scandalise the ton!

19th century England. Harriet is running for her life, chased by three men on horseback through Hyde Park. Knocked unconscious, everything goes black…

Philip, Baron Eaglestone, has never seen such a beautiful damsel in distress. And he’s even more intrigued when she opens her eyes, and begins to speak. Because this irresistible woman can only remember her first name, and has no knowledge as to who was trying to kill her… or where she is!

As Philip cares for Harriet, their attraction burns… and neither can shake the feeling that their chance meeting was truly a moment out of time. But if her memory returns, Harriet will be faced with a question. Will she return home or could it be that family is where her heart is – with a Regency rake!

My Review:

Damsel in Distress? Is set in the 1800's and features Harriet and Phillip as the main characters. We meet them in the opening scene where Harriet is being chased and attacked by a group of men on horseback. Phillip is walking home and stumbles across the attack, ultimately saving Harriet's life. Phillip takes Harriet back to the family home to get her help. It transpires that she has lost her memory during the attack and, having no idea who she is or where she comes from.

There is an obvious strong attraction between them and during her recuperation we see that grow. However, given the era it isn't the done thing to have a single lady stay an eligible bachelors house, so the tongues are soon wagging both locally, and in the press, which also puts her in danger because the attackers are still searching for Harriet, or more that they believe she has something they desperately want.

The story is quite different to what I have read in the past, and when I saw it was set in the 19th century, and was about time travel I wasn't sure if it would be too far fetched, or dated, to appeal to me. However, I have been pleasantly surprised. Whilst the story is set in the backdrop of the 1800's, it isn't dated or stale. I liked imagining the house, and how the characters would have dressed and acted in those days. Whilst it was over a century later I felt a bit Downton Abbeyesque at times in thinking how they would have spoken and carried themselves. It took me a while to see how the time travel element was going to feature and it was done in a way that to me didn't seem too over the top.

I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Harriet and Phillip grow, and this formed the majority of the book. It was more of a love story if anything, particularly in the first half. I was willing them to make things happen. I can tell you that there are a couple of bedroom scenes during the story that had me cheering!

As the story progresses we get to know more about why Harriet was being chased, and what I liked is that the content of the package wasn't revealed too soon, which for me helped keep some mystery in the plot.

The book is well written and flowed really easily. I liked that chapters weren't too long but at the same time the pace was steady. It meant that I could pick it up if I had a few minutes to spare without worrying about having to put it down mid chapter. I liked the way the characters were bought to life, and the attraction was portrayed. The steamier parts were also descriptive enough to get the gist of what was taking place, but not so much that you couldn't recommend it to someone I.e. my Mum!!

A much more enjoyable book than I had anticipated it would be before starting it. I am really pleased that I had the chance to read it. I didn't realise that this was book two, and I will be happily looking out for book one too. I am not sure if further books are planned, but if so I wouldn't shy away from reading it.

Thank you to Carina for providing a copy in return for an honest review and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for this book.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Coming Home to You by Liesel Schmidt

Out now
Published by Carina UK
Purchase from Amazon here

The Blurb:

When one door closes…

Zoë and her fiancé Paul had everything ahead of them. So when Paul dies suddenly, Zoë doesn’t recognise the life she’s left with. Helping a friend by housesitting for a stranger is the last thing she wants to do – but she can’t deny that she needs time away from the memories which crowd her flat. So, collecting the keys, Zoë lets herself into her temporary home.…another one opens.

Surrounded by a stranger’s belongings – his toothbrush, his favourite records, the pictures on his walls – Zoë begins to build a picture of the flat’s owner, Neil, who is away in the military. Driven by a need to know more, Zoë begins writing to Neil and finds herself feeling an unlikely connection with him. But while some people are destined to share our lives forever, others are sent simply to help us on the way. And for Zoë, a new life is just beginning…

Proof that life can change in the most unexpected of ways, Coming Home to You is the superbly moving debut from Liesel Schmidt, perfect for fans of Cecilia Ahern and Jojo Moyes.

My Review:

Coming Home to You is a beautifully written debut novel which tells a story of love, loss and learning to live again. It was a book which drew me in immediately and kept me riveted all the way through. 

The main character is Zoe who we find out has lost her fiance Paul, who died suddenly, leaving Zoe totally bereft and lost in the world. She came across to me as someone, as you would expect, who has had her world turned upside down and is totally at a loss on how to carry on. 

Zoe's best friend Kate is working away from home, and as much as others tried to be there for her, as a reader I got the feeling that she was stuck in her grief, and needed something to happen to bring her out of the depths of it all. Zoe goes to her local coffee shop every day where she can be around strangers, and no one knows her story. The owner, Ray, becomes a key character in the book. He overhears a conversation between Zoe and Kate where Kate suggests that Zoe should move away from the apartment she shared with Paul, and try to escape the memories that it has. 

Ray has a friend called Neil that is in the armed forces and is currently positioned away for a few months. He suggests to Zoe that she housesit Neil's place for a while, until he comes home. Whilst living there Zoe starts to contact Neil and have chats via email, where she spills everything out to him. 

The move to Neil's house changes Zoe's life, and I am dying to tell you how, but I dont want to spoil all the twists and turns that I enjoyed! 

I thought I was quite the detective and that I had it all sussed out by a third of the way through the book. Infact I was probably a little bit smug about it. I was wrong!! There are twists in the plot that I never saw coming, and I loved that! It definitely had me muttering 'oh I didnt see that coming' a couple of times.

It is really a story of Zoe finding that life does go on, even when you think it will never happen, and you will never smile or be happy again. Her friends, particularly Ray play a key part in that, and I love books where there are strong friends supporting the main character so this appealed to me. 

I loved the way it was written, and wouldnt have imagined it was a debut novel if I hadn't read that it was. The characters are written with such warmth and I loved the way that Zoe was portrayed. Whilst it was obvious at her heartbreak I didnt feel that she came across as a pitiful person. She was in many ways quite an inspiration, and a strong, ballsy woman. I thought it helped to show that when you hit rock bottom dont give up. You can pick yourself back up and achieve your goals if you set your mind to it, with a little support along the way.

I love Ray. He is the type of friend I would love to have in my life. He was there for Zoe no matter what, and I felt always looked out for her in whatever way he could. There is one scene where Zoe has had a bit of a turn. Ray turns up unexpectedly to find her in a mess with vomit in her hair, and like a lost soul. Rather than judge her he just cleaned her up and took charge. I loved his empathy and unconditional love, particularly as he hadnt know her that long. He was definitely a little guardian angel and I hope I can be a friend like that if I am ever needed (ok, cleaning vomit may be a bit too much for me!!). He has his own story and I just love him.

As you will see from the blurb, once she is living in Neil's place, Zoe starts to wonder about Neil and who he is. She is living amongst his stuff and it feels quite intimate to do so. She starts writing to him via email and he starts to write back. I loved the email exchanges. They were at times quite amusing, but it helped me build a real empathy for, and get to know Zoe better. For example, her foray into dating is debated with herself in one of the emails. 

I am itching to reveal more about what happens, and some of the other characters, but to do so would be unfair in my opinion, as it would rob you of the beauty of the book. Just trust me, there are some gorgeous moments where we see what love and compassion is. The ending is magical for me. It had me up to the small hours of the night and I was totally engrossed. I had to find out what would happen. Whilst I found it really intense and moving I ended the book with a feeling of energy and calm, and felt quite inspired that life is for living. It was quite poignant for me at the moment, and I wonder if it could be quite a strong book for others struggling too. 

Liesel is an author who, for me, has conjured up a great balance between sadness and all the emotions that go along with loss and grief, but also hope, and inspiration that life can go on and you can battle through. I found it beautiful and laughed, cried and felt strong and ready to face the world by the end of it. 

The blurb is right in that it would appeal to fans of Cecilia Ahern, Jojo Moyes and I would add Rowan Coleman, Hannah Beckerman and Carmel Harrington to that list. 

Right, I am off to make the most of today!

Thank you to Carina UK who provided a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Blog Tour: Dead Gorgeous by Elizabeth Flynn

I am pleased to be part of the blog tour for Elizabeth Flynn's new book, Dead Gorgeous which is out now, published by Lion Hudson.

Dead Gorgeous is the second book by Elizabeth Flynn, featuring D.I. Costello. Below you can read the synopsis as well as an interview she gave to The CRA earlier this year about her first novel, Game, Set and Murder.

Out Now
Published by Lion Hudson
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

Kirsty Manners is young, beautiful and trying to make it as a model. As the in-house model for the Ivano King fashion house and girlfriend of Ian King, the man behind the label, she believes she is well on her way. But Kirsty is found dead in her flat one Sunday afternoon and D.I.Angela Costello is called to the scene. At first enquiries centre on the local gym where Kirsty, her dangerous ex-boyfriend, Darren Carpenter, and her jealous flatmate, Sandra Hodges, worked out. But things are more complicated. Ian King is considered to have lost his edge. Why then is he so buoyant about his latest collection for London Fashion Week? What about his new girlfriend, Eleanor Chandler, who openly admits to having a reason to wish Kirsty dead? Behind the gleaming smiles and flawless make-up of the glamorous fashion world, Angela’s enquiries uncover theft, drug-addiction, prostitution and imprisonment – and suddenly her own life could be in danger …

Game, Set and Murder by Elizabeth Flynn

The article below was first published on The Crime Readers Association website earlier this year. The link to the CRA website can be found by clicking here 

I’m still a newbie, a newly published author.   But that, obviously, doesn’t make me new to writing.   Like most of my species I’ve been scribbling away at one thing or another for years, sending stuff off to agents and publishers and building up a big enough pile of rejection slips to paper my walls.
It all changed last year when the publishing company, Lion Hudson, decided to introduce an imprint called Lion Fiction and I heard they were looking for new work.   The publication of my first novel is the result and the whole process has and continues to be totally thrilling.
Game, Set and Murder is a crime thriller set in Wimbledon against the background of the tournament.    Although I love tennis (it’s the only sport I follow) and I revel in the whole razzamatazz of that fortnight each summer my reason for setting the story there had nothing to do with tradition or ‘hallowed lawns’ and everything to do with, well, marketing, I suppose.
It’s what I personally call ‘the Dick Francis Principle.’   In his book, In the Frame the main character is a painter of horses and at one point he says something along the lines of: I can paint a picture of a chestnut horse on a patch of heath land, call it ‘Chestnut Horse on Heath land’ and sell it for £50.   Or I can paint the same picture, call it ‘Arkle on Newbury Downs’ and sell it for £500.
So when I found myself in possession of a very strong image of a murdered body lying dead on a tennis court I said to myself, now do I invent a tennis tournament in a little village somewhere or a suburb of London?   Oh, hang on  . . . suburb of London?   There’s already a tournament in just such a place, why bother to make one up?
So there you have it, what I hope will be the first of many novels featuring my protagonist, D. I. Angela Costello of the Metropolitan Police.   I’ve made Angela a tennis fan, like myself but she won’t be too distracted by the American Open to get stuck into her next case.   Dead Gorgeous, the second in the series, due out this October, is set in the fashion industry, leading up to London Fashion Week.   Again, why invent a fashion show when . . .?

Game, Set and Match is published by Lion Hudson and can be purchased from Amazon here

I wrote the above piece earlier this year.  Dead Gorgeous became available through any bookseller or to download on 17th October.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Cover Reveal: One Hundred Christmas Proposals by Holly Martin

Anyone who has read One Hundred Proposals will be as excited as I am to hear about the novella One Hundred Christmas Proposals which Holly Martin has written for us this year. I am so excited to be part of the cover reveal for this novella, and hope you agree that it is absolutely beautiful!

The eagerly anticipated follow-up to One Hundred Proposals.

If you thought Harry & Suzie’s life couldn't get anymore sweepingly romantic than Harry asking her to marry him at the end of One Hundred Proposals – think again!

It’s Christmas in a snow-kissed London, and have vowed to carry out one hundred proposals in December. No easy task at the best of times - made even more complicated by Harry & Suzie trying to plan their first Christmas and a visit from the dreaded in-laws. But one hundred deliciously Christmassy proposals later they find themselves asking if everything is still perfect in their own relationship….

Welcome back to the divinely warm world of One Hundred Proposals – with a sprinkling of pure, joyful, festive magic.

Have yourself a very merry Christmas indeed with Holly Martin’s Christmas novella.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Private L.A. By James Patterson & Mark Sullivan

Out now
Published by Cornerstone
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

Private Jack Morgan investigates the disappearance of the biggest superstar couple in Hollywood.

Thom and Jennifer Harlow are the perfect couple, with three perfect children. They maybe two of the biggest mega movie stars in the world, but they're also great parents, philanthropists and just all-around good people.

When they disappear without a word from their ranch, facts are hard to find. They live behind such a high wall of security and image control that even world-renowned Private Investigator Jack Morgan can't get to the truth. But as Jack keeps probing, secrets sprout thick and fast--and the world's golden couple may emerge as hiding behind a world of desperation and deception that the wildest reality show couldn't begin to unveil. Murder is only the opening scene.

My review:

I am a long time fan of James Patterson and love the various series's he writes. I get quite excited when a book of his is released and am straight to the library to get my hands on a copy.

Private L.A. is the seventh book in the Private series. For anyone unfamiliar with this series, it revolves around Private Investigator Jack Morgan who owns an investigation agency with offices around the world, where they are hired by many high profile clients. Previous books have included Berlin, London and Australia. This book, as the title implies is set in Los Angeles.

Private LA has multiple storylines going on. The main one is the apparent kidnapping of celebrity family the Harlows. The couple and their three children have gone missing and Jack Morgan and his team are called in to investigate.  There are the usual twists and turns...have they been kidnapped? Are they still alive? Who would want to take them? As always, I found myself trying to play detective myself and work out who did it and why. There is a large cast of suspects and motives which kept me pondering throughout.

The second storyline was around a group of terrorists called 'No Prisoners' who are holding the local authority to ransom. This, in my opinion had real potential to be a great storyline of threat and violence, and I might have lost it somewhere along the line, but it never really took off in the way I was expecting which was disappointing.

The other storyline is around Jack's brother who is on trial for murder and definitely involved with the wrong sort. As readers we see Jacks brother trying to involve Jack in the trial. There is definitely legs to keep this running for a while yet. It would feed my curiosity to know more about Jack and his past.

I have to be honest and say that this book didnt engross me in the way previous books have. I am an addict to the Alex Cross series and the Michael Bennett series, but the Private ones just don't seem to captivate me in quite the same way.

Don't get me wrong, it is a good read, and the short chapters are a great way to flit between scenes and the different storylines. But there is just a spark missing for me. It's almost as if there are too many plots going on, which dilutes them all for me.

I love the character of Jack Morgan who is a clever man with an edge to him. But my favourite character is in this book is Justine who works with Jack, and has also had a relationship of sorts with him in the past. I am kind of wanting to knock their heads together to sort themselves out. In this book Justine goes through some dark times and loses it a bit. She is a strong woman who carries everything inside herself and I wanted to read out to help her at certain points, or send Jack to wrap her up and look after her.

The next installment is out now titled Private India and I am hoping to get reading this in the next few weeks.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Chapter 3 reveal: Beneath the Moon and the Stars by Amelia Thorne

Happy publication day to Amelia Thorne who's debut novel Beneath the Moon and the Stars is published today. I have been very lucky to have been given the opportunity to preview the first three chapters of the book this week. Today I bring you chapter three of the book and hope you enjoy reading it. At the bottom will be details on how to purchase the book in its entirety.

Happy reading!

The blurb:

Home, sweet home…

Joy Cartier has been to some of the most beautiful places in the world – but none of them have ever felt like home. So moving into a tiny cottage in the idyllic village of Bramble Hill, walking distance from her childhood home, seems like the perfect plan.

That is, until she gets there. The surly inhabitants of Britain’s Friendliest Village are anything but welcoming. Even her neighbour, reclusive Hollywood star Finn Mackenzie, takes one look at her and walks in the other direction.
But when the village animosity steps up a gear, it is the infuriatingly brooding Finn who keeps coming to her rescue. Slowly Joy begins to realise that maybe a happy home isn’t about where you live, but who you’re with…

Now for a sneak peak of chapter three..........

Chapter Three
Finn was standing at the bottom of his garden, staring at the heather covered hills that swept up from his back fence. It was early morning and the sun, if it had bothered to come out at all, was currently hiding behind heavy rain clouds. He had never minded the rain. In fact he loved it, it was always so peaceful. The only noise he could hear was the soft thud of raindrops hitting his hood. That was until he heard a wailing behind him.
He turned quickly, wondering if someone had been hurt, and immediately saw Joy dancing around in her bedroom window, seemingly singing or rather shrieking her version of ‘It’s Raining Men’. She was wrapped only in a towel, a tangle of red wet hair hanging down her back. She spun around and as she did the towel fell away. His eyes drank her in. In a flash, his hands were caressing her pale, milky skin, feeling the fire of her hair between his fingers, pulling her warm body against his.
Unashamed, she carried on dancing. If it could be called that. Every part of her seemed to be wiggling as if she was attached to strings and controlled by a very drunk puppeteer. Her arms were punching up and down, her hips going side to side and her knees knocking together. But none of this detracted from the incredibly beautiful body. The innocent enthusiasm was incredibly endearing. After the night before, he expected her to be moping around, but it seemed nothing could keep Joy in a bad mood. He couldn’t help but smile at her.
The music obviously changed, because the next thing she was screaming along to ‘Lady Marmalade’ by All Saints. He didn’t need to be fluent in French to know the lyrics meant ‘Do you want to sleep with me tonight.’ Every teenage boy on his university trip to France made sure they knew those words if nothing else. The terrible dancing had changed too. It was still terrible but was now what could only be classed as provocative, as she ground her hips round in slow circles.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her. What an absolute creep he was. But no matter how much he despised himself, he could do nothing to stop it.
Suddenly anger flooded through him. She knew he was out here, that’s why she was dancing like this. How could she not see him? He was wearing a bright yellow hoodie; it’d be pretty hard to miss. She was either trying to turn him on, or she was just teasing him to wind him up.
Either option was not pleasing in his book.
He stormed back into the house, out onto the street and hammered on her front door.
It took a few moments for her to answer, when she did she was thankfully wrapped in a white robe. Her face was flushed with happiness, which immediately vanished as soon as she saw him.
‘Let’s get one thing straight, I don’t like you, and I certainly don’t fancy you. That little show you’ve just put on for my benefit only made you look ridiculous.’
Her mouth fell open, her face going a bright shade of red. She’d clearly had no idea he was out there. But he’d started now, so he was damned sure he was going to finish.
‘I suggest if you want to dance, badly may I just point out, that you put some bloody clothes on or draw the curtains. That way I won’t see something I really don’t want to see.’
With that he marched back to his house.
But she was hot on his heels.
‘You arrogant, conceited, jumped up little shit. I was not dancing for you. I didn’t even know you were there. And you know what, if I want to dance naked in the privacy of my own home, I will. I suggest if you are offended by my nudity, you look away, instead of perving on me like the disgusting creep that you are.’
She flounced away.
He caught her arm and span her round.
‘Hey!’ came Zach’s voice, protectively, though he was wise enough not to come any closer.
Finn stared down at Joy, his jaw clenched. Her eyes, currently filled with hatred, were an intense olive green, tiny freckles covered her nose and shoulders. Her lips…
He let her go, taking a step back before he closed the gap between them and kissed her. What was wrong with him? She infuriated him; he certainly didn’t like her in that way.
He flashed Zach an obligatory filthy look, looked back to Joy, at her wet hair dripping down her neck, at the swell of her breast that was peeping out the top of her robe, and then stormed back into his own house.
Joy watched him go, her heart pounding.
‘You ok?’ Zach stepped up to her a fraction too late.
She nodded, aware that her hands were shaking.
‘What was that about?’
‘Er…’ she tore her eyes away from Finn’s front door and looked at Zach instead. ‘Just Finn making it very clear he doesn’t like me.’
‘Oh that. Don’t take it personally, he doesn’t like anyone.’
She noticed Zach’s eyes travelling down her body, his pupils widening with lust. She looked down to see that her wet hair was making the robe damp and see-through. Folding her arms across her chest she moved back towards the house.
‘I’ll see you later.’
His face fell slightly as she closed the door.
How strange to be so desired and so hated within a matter of seconds. Her heart was still pounding furiously. In part it was down to anger at Finn’s arrogance and comments, but she knew mainly it was down to a wave of desire and need that had crashed over her when he had grabbed her and spun her around. If he had thrown her over his shoulder and carried her back to his cave right then, she would have only protested out of principle.
Suddenly a disgusting smell hit her nose. She looked around to find the source and saw a piece of paper, with what could only be dog poo on it. Scrawled across the paper in large angry capital letters was the word BITCH. It had clearly been posted through her letterbox that morning, but because she had opened the door, she had dislodged half the poo and it had mushed into the carpet and underneath the door.
Retribution for Mrs Kemblewick was swift indeed. She stomped into the kitchen to get a bowl of hot soapy water to clean up the mess and knew she would have to come up with a plan and quick.
Casey let himself through Finn’s back door and helped himself to a bottle of beer from the fridge before moving through to the front room. Finn was sprawled out on his sofa, reading a book and he looked at Casey over the top of it when he walked in.
‘Could have got one for me while you’re raiding my fridge,’ Finn said, marking his place in his book and throwing it onto the coffee table. He stood up and stretched, showing the toned muscles in his stomach for a brief second. If Casey didn’t know better, he’d think Finn was deliberately torturing him.
Casey sat down, picking up the book as Finn went to get a beer for himself.
‘Any good?’ he waved the book in the air as Finn returned.
‘I have no idea,’ Finn sighed.
Casey smiled. ‘Yeah, I thought you might say that. Are you doing ok?’
‘Not really.’
‘Joy’s incredibly beautiful.’
‘She’s not my type.’
‘Oh come on, are you saying that to convince me or yourself?’
Finn sat down. ‘Me, obviously. If I say it enough, I might start to believe it.’
Casey stroked the head of Billy, Finn’s straggly dog. His heart went out to Finn. For him to have his heart broken twice by the same woman must have been horrendous. Finn’s child would have been a year old now and Casey wondered how often Finn must think about that.
‘Admittedly Joy has red hair like Pippa but that’s where the similarities end. She’s lovely. You’d really like her if you gave her a chance.’
Finn stared at Casey as if he’d just suggested he should chop off his own head.
‘I can’t do a relationship again, I just can’t. Pippa hurt me spectacularly and I never want to be hurt like that again.’
‘Mate, I’m not suggesting you marry her or even jump into bed with her, I’m just saying be nice. Don’t treat her like scum just because she has the same hair colour as your ex-wife. She’s had a bit of a rough life…’ He hesitated in telling Finn about Joy’s parents, but there was a vulnerability in Joy that he wanted to protect. ‘Her parents were killed when she was a kid. I feel like she’s come here for a fresh start and now the villagers are all giving her grief over this stupid Mrs Kemblewick fiasco – which has nothing to do with her, by the way. Her landlord is Joe Carter, the man that kicked Mrs Kemblewick out, she just has a similar name.’
‘You’re kidding?’
‘No, she has no idea who Mrs Kemblewick is. Look, she needs a friend and if you can’t manage that, then at least be civil to her.’
Casey put the empty bottle of beer on the table. ‘I’m going next door to see if she’s ok after last night. Anything you want me to say to her?’
Finn shook his head as he stared at the floor. Casey smiled sympathetically at him. Finn had gone through a rough time too, but Casey was damned sure he wasn’t going to let Finn take his anger out on Joy just because he was still messed up over his own heartbreak.
Finn watched Casey go and groaned. Joy’s parents were dead. That made things so much worse. He had this innate need to protect, to comfort. That was how he had met Pippa. She had driven her car into a ditch at the side of the road and although she was unhurt, she was very shaken and tearful when he had pulled over to see if he could help. Her tears, her clinging to him as he held her, was what had done it. He had been lost, beyond redemption from that point on.
Now he wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms round Joy and hold her.
An orphan. She could only be about thirty and she had lost both parents. He would be distraught if he lost his, he couldn’t even begin to think what that would feel like. And she had moved here and the welcome party was well and truly out.
He would have to try to be civil to her from now on. He wouldn’t be friends with her, that would lead to trouble, but at least he could be polite.
There was a knock on her door as Joy was knee deep in tissue paper and pretty lilac notelets. The kitchen smelt delicious and Darcy had moved downstairs in the hope of scrounging some morsels. She should have taken poor Darcy for a walk ages ago, though she seemed happy to sleep on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor at the moment.
She hurried to the door; Casey was standing there, looking lovely and dishevelled.
‘Hi, how you feeling today?’
‘I’m good, come in, you can help me.’ She turned back down towards the kitchen and Casey followed her.
She watched him look at the chaos and mess across the breakfast table and then at her with amusement. She tried to look at it through his eyes; the desperation of a mad woman.
‘What are you doing?’
‘These are my friendship cakes. I’ve made one for each house in the village. I’m wrapping them in tissue paper and putting a note in with each one explaining who I am and inviting them all to a housewarming barbeque this Sunday. Here, read the note and tell me what you think.’
He picked up one of the lilac notelets and read it. It explained that she was Joy Cartier and was renting from Joe Carter, that though their names were similar she was not related to him or the previous owner. It said she was very sorry for what had happened to Mrs Kemblewick, but it really had nothing to do with her. It was brief, friendly but to the point, and had taken her hours to construct those few little lines.
‘It’s fine,’ Casey said. ‘But I don’t know if it will work. They seemed to be quite irate when I was in the village shop this morning. I tried to explain to them who you were, but they practically shooed me out of the shop, telling me it was village business and as such was none of mine.’
She stopped in the middle of wrapping up another cake in red tissue paper. ‘You don’t live here?’
‘No, I live in Ashton Woods, the next village.’
‘Oh.’ This bothered her more than it should. She thought that she had at least two friends in the village, now it was down to only one – and Zach was only friends with her because he wanted to sleep with her. ‘Well, it’s clear they’re never going to be my best friends but maybe I can persuade them not to push me in the pond again or post dog poo through my letterbox.’
‘What?’ Casey’s eyes widened as he picked up one of the cakes and artfully arranged the tissue paper around it in a way that she could never achieve.
‘Found it this morning, with a note telling me I’m a bitch.’
He shook his head. ‘Well then, you certainly can’t make it any worse. I’ll give you a hand.’
They worked diligently between them for a while until all the cakes were wrapped.
She sat down, her back aching a bit, and looked out the window at the rain that hadn’t stopped all morning. The hills looked dramatic, silhouetted against the grey sky.
‘It needs to stop raining by tonight, I really need to go out to work,’ she said, then wished she hadn’t as that was bound to lead to questions.
‘A lady of the night are you?’ Casey’s eyes gleamed with excitement. ‘A prostitute? A spy?’
‘Yes to both. Spying doesn’t pay well, so I supplement it with a bit of prostitution.’
‘I thought so. Oh that’s what I meant to ask you,’ she quickly changed the subject. ‘When Chloe was threatening me to keep away from Zach, she also said that I couldn’t have you because you were with one of her friends.’
Casey picked up a crumb of cake from the baking tray. ‘Umm… yes, Arielle.’
She waited for more details but clearly none were forthcoming. ‘You’re dating a girl?’
‘Yeah, well not really dating, sort of…’
There was another knock on the door, interrupting what Casey was clearly finding embarrassing to tell her. She presumed it was Finn or Zach and found herself straightening her hair as she moved to answer it, then cursed herself for doing it.
Opening the door, Joy came face to face with a spaghetti thin blonde, her hair scraped back in a very severe looking French roll. She was dressed in a very expensive, very short dress with matching jacket and her face had that look of someone who had sucked a lemon. She was pretty, Joy supposed, and would be even prettier without the excessive makeup and angry pursed lips. She was holding an umbrella over her that matched the colour of her dress suit exactly.
‘Is my fiancé in there with you?’
Joy felt like she’d just received a smack to the face with that news, but quickly collected herself. Clearly this woman had come to the wrong house.
‘Arielle, hi,’ came Casey’s voice behind her.
There was a silence as Joy processed this information and Arielle cast her beady eye over her.
‘This is Joy, she’s just moved in next to Zach,’ Casey said.
‘Evidently,’ said Arielle, icily.
‘Er…’ Casey fumbled for something to say. Gone was the happy, relaxed Casey – he had rapidly been replaced by someone who was clumsy, awkward and clearly petrified of his fiancé. ‘Joy is my cousin. Remember me telling you about Uncle Raymond, well this is his daughter.’
Arielle stared at Joy vacantly for a moment as well she might. Joy was feeling equally confused. Finally Arielle nodded and stretched out her hand for a delicate and formal handshake. ‘Of course, Cousin Joy, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. You’ll be coming to the wedding next week?’
‘Yes, we invited her ages ago, she RSVP’d straightaway. We were quite close growing up.’ Casey squeezed past Joy who seemed to be frozen in the hallway.
Arielle cast her eyes over her again. ‘Of course, well if I don’t see you before, we’ll see you then. Casey do come along, we must meet with Jules to discuss the flowers. Apparently I can’t change the roses to daffodils as they aren’t in season. You need to talk to her.’
Without waiting for an answer, Arielle marched down the path to a little red convertible that was gleaming on the street. Casey glanced at Joy as he followed.
‘I can explain, I promise,’ he said and hurried after Arielle.
‘I can’t wait,’ Joy shouted after him.
But whether he heard or not, she didn’t know because her voice was lost in the noise of the engine as the car roared up the road.
Joy delivered the cakes to each doorstep in the village, though she hadn’t quite been brave enough to knock on the doors. Then it was time to take Darcy for a walk.
She intended to trek along the hill range past Menton Hall. She had a job to do there that night, if the rain stopped, and she wanted to get an idea of the lay of the land.
That’s what she was telling herself, it wasn’t at all because the hills held sentimental attachment to her.
When one of Alex’s friends had mentioned that his cousin was doing up a place in the country with a view to renting, Joy had taken it as a sign that it was time to move on from the busy town of Milton Keynes. She had been a face in the crowd there and had no more than a nodding acquaintance with her neighbours of three months.
It was only as she had driven round to see the house that the village names started to sound familiar. She had rounded a corner and was suddenly met with the striking hills that bordered the cluster of villages, the same hills that she had trekked over every weekend with her dad, right up until the weekend before he died.
Even before she saw the house, she knew she was going to say yes. Maybe she could never go back home, but maybe walking these hills with Darcy, as she had done many years before with her dad, would be all she needed to feel at home.
Joy sighed as Darcy left her side and went galloping up to greet Finn’s straggly dog. Seemingly, in the dog world, you just had to shove your nose up the other dog’s bum and you were best friends for life. She wondered what Finn’s reaction to that would be if she tried it. She hung back a little, hoping Finn would try to avoid her, but he was obviously on his way home now, so their paths had to cross if she intended taking Darcy on the walk she had planned. Finn called his dog away from Darcy, but Billy, tongue hanging out, stupid grin in place, was very interested in her. He had that demented look about him when a dog smells a bitch in heat. Damn it. Darcy had been a bit listless the day before, but Joy had put it down to the move. Still they wouldn’t be here long enough for Billy to get lucky. Hopefully Finn would pass without a single word.
He drew closer. He always looked so cool, even today tramping over the rain sodden fields with his dog, he looked like he’d just stepped out of a clothes commercial. He was wearing a simple baseball cap and a waterproof hoodie, but he still looked sexy. And also, as he drew closer, she saw he was wearing a sneer just for her. Her heart sank. Well attack was sometimes the best form of defence.
She marched up to him. ‘Why is it you hate me so much? It can’t possibly be about the ice cream, that would be unbelievably petty. And as you don’t get involved with village matters it can’t be about Mrs Kemblewick either, which by the way had nothing to do with me. So it’s either like Casey said, you hate me because I have red hair, which would be very shallow and small minded or it’s just that you’re a bastard for no other reason than you like to make people’s lives a misery. So tell me, which is it?’
He glared at her but when there was clearly no answer forthcoming, she turned away from him. ‘I’ll take that as the latter then. Darcy, heel!’
She walked away from him, her hands clenched into fists in her pockets, and refused to look back.
Damn it. Finn watched her go, his hand on Billy’s collar, who seemed very keen to follow them. Just like his owner. She was right, he was a bastard. He felt beyond guilty for shouting at her that morning just for singing and dancing – and then as she walked towards him, he had been appalled by how turned on he was after seeing Joy dressed in her waxed jacket and cap. It was a waxed jacket and cap, how could it be sexy? The black dress she had worn the day before was sexy. Not a waxed jacket and a pair of battered walking boots. He was determined to be polite, regardless of these insane feelings for her slamming through him. He was going to say hello, that was as good a start as any but as his emotions clawed away inside him his face must have been a picture as he battled with a sudden fear of redheads, a fear of intimacy and a fear of what might happen if they got too close. And whatever she had seen in his face had not been good, going on the defence before he attacked her again.
So now not only did he have to be polite to a woman, a redhead none the less, but he was going to have to work on his facial expressions too. He practiced a smile, the feeling of his mouth turning upwards felt alien to him. He looked down at Billy with the rictus grin stuck on his face, Billy glanced up at him and whined with something akin to fear. Finn sighed and headed for home.
The sun finally decided to make an appearance late afternoon as Joy came back home from her walk.
Though would it ever be the place she could finally call home? She would give Bramble Hill a chance, just like all the other places she had tried over the years. Joe, her landlord, had said if she wanted to stay, permanently, he would sell the place to her, but he was quite happy to rent in the meantime. She could easily afford the asking price if she decided to buy it; her job paid her ridiculously well. But as with the other places, she rented first, in a “try before you buy” type way. So far, she’d not found anywhere that she had wanted to buy.
As she drew close to her house, she noticed a collection of flies and wasps around her front door. More dog poo? But then the wasps wouldn’t be interested in that.
She moved closer and realised, with a crashing wave of disappointment, that many, if not all, of her lovingly made friendship cakes had been deposited on her doorstep. Some had seemingly been stamped on and some had even been forcibly shoved through her letterbox. They either hadn’t bothered to read the notes once they spotted it was from her, or hadn’t believed the declaration that she’d had nothing to do with the ousting of Mrs Kemblewick. It did seem slightly implausible that she was Joy Cartier and her landlord was Joe Carter; she and Joe had laughed about it when they had first met. It was much more believable that she was lying about who she was.
She couldn’t even get through the front door, there were so many wasps. She had legal access to her back garden through Finn’s garden. There was a side gate that allowed her to walk through his garden and into hers. She hadn’t used it yet, though she had every right to do so. She thought that it would be the polite thing to do to check with Finn before she strolled across his land. But since the man was an arse, she certainly wasn’t going to extend that courtesy to him.
She opened his back gate, which legally had to be kept unlocked, and walked purposefully towards her own gate, biting her lip as she hoped she could get past unnoticed. She would just walk across his garden as if she had every right to do so, which of course she did. Five metres away, four, three… and if he had noticed her he hadn’t come out and yelled at her yet. Suddenly something in Finn’s downstairs window caught her eye, and despite her best intentions to be in and out in mere seconds, she couldn’t help but look.
There was Finn, stark naked, drying his wet hair with a towel.

If you enjoyed these chapters, you can buy your copy of Beneath the Moon and the Stars here