A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love by Linn B Halton

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Having recently met the author, I’m delighted to be supporting Brook Cottage Books in the launch celebrations of Linn B Halton’s book ‘A Little Bit of Sugar, A Lot of Love’ which was published by Choc Lit on 15th January 2016.

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You can read an extract below and you’ll find an international competition too at the bottom of this blog post to win an Amazon voucher and a cupcake themed swag bag. You can buy your copy of the ‘A Little Bit of Sugar, A Lot of Love’ on AMAZON UK and AMAZON US.

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A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love

Life isn’t all love and cupcakes …

Katie has had her fair share of bad luck, but when she finally realises her dream of opening a bakery it seems things can only get better.

But the reality of running a business hits Katie hard and whilst her partner, Steve, tries to help she begins to sense that the situation is driving them further apart. Could Katie be set to lose her relationship and her dream job?

Then, one winter’s day, a man walks into her shop – and, in the space of that moment, the course of Katie’s life is changed.

But nobody finds happiness in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it takes two Christmases, three birthdays and a whole lot of cake to get there …

Previously released as Sweet Occasions by the author. Revised and edited by Choc Lit December 2015.

Read an extract from this lovely book:

Grandma Grace peers at me with interest over the top of her glasses, taking the box from my hands and placing it on the side. She wraps her arms around as much of me as she can reach, being at least a foot shorter, and gives me a fierce hug.

‘Thank you, my dear, but the only present I wanted was to see you standing here in one piece. It’s such a long journey and the weather! That rain is relentless, so many places are flooded. To think of you at the side of the road worried me to death and I will admit to saying a few little prayers as one hour turned into two, then three …’

She raises her eyebrow sternly, but it’s a brief moment before those twinkly blue eyes are full of love and laughter again.

‘My boy is here and that’s all that counts.’

‘Grandma, I haven’t been a boy for many years,’ I retort, softly, as she releases me with a tender pat on my back. She might be in her twilight years but her spirit is strong and her mind as sharp as ever. We all thought she’d fade away when Pop died, but the truth is he’s the one who would have faded if she had gone first.

‘You will always be a boy to me. Now, tell me more about this guardian angel of yours.’

While the tea is brewing and the cake is sliced, I hang around the kitchen as I did when I was growing up. Grandma Grace was always easy to talk to; she seemed to understand even when the words wouldn’t come. Her instincts filled in the gaps at times when even I couldn’t make sense of what was going on inside my head. After this failed relationship I began to despair of ever finding someone special.

‘You can’t hurry love,’ she’d told me. ‘It takes time to find your soulmate and in the process you change and grow. That’s why young love often withers, as Pop would have said. Two people either change and grow together, or they grow apart. Love is about sustaining what comes after that first hormonal rush.’

‘But that wasn’t the case for the two of you,’ I remember pointing out.

‘There has to be an exception to every rule,’ she’d replied, with a wicked smile. ‘We were lucky. Fate was kind to us. But with hindsight, we were too young and naive to understand that until much later in life. Don’t fret, Adam, there’s a wonderful young woman out there for you when the time is right.’

Sadly, when I reached that point it too turned out to be yet another huge failure. This time the consequences had been more painful than I could ever have imagined. Kelly was everything I thought I wanted in a woman and, after adjusting to the shock of an unplanned pregnancy, she was a fantastic mother. With hindsight I can see now that parenthood came too early in our relationship, we hardly knew each other. Suddenly I was a family man and yet, surprisingly, the role seemed to come naturally to me. I loved Sunday mornings the best. When a little head would appear on the pillow next to me at some unearthly hour and a warm little hand would wind its way around my neck.

Lily Grace is my sanity, my raison d’être.

ABOUT LINN B. HALTON

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“I’m a hopeless romantic, self-confessed chocaholic, and lover of coffee. For me, life is about family, friends, and writing. Oh, and the occasional glass of White Grenache…”

An Amazon UK Top 100 best-selling author with A Cottage in the Country in November 2015, Linn’s novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award. Linn writes chick lit, women’s contemporary fiction and psychic romance for Choc Lit, Harper Impulse and Endeavour Press.

See more about Linn on her website/blog, on Amazon or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Contest Open Internationally – No Purchase Necessary

1st Prize – £25 Amazon Voucher

2nd Prize – Cupcake themed Swag Bag

To enter this wonderful competition, click here

For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

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I’m thrilled to be supporting the launch celebrations of For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser which is published by Doubleday in hardback on 28th January 2016. For the Most Beautiful is available to buy here in the UK and here in e-book in the US.

I’m even more delighted to welcome Emily Hauser to Linda’s Book Bag with a guest piece on  ‘The Relevance of Ancient Narratives Today’ written specially for the book launch. You can read Emily’s piece below where you’ll get a taste for the unique quality of her writing.

About For the Most Beautiful

Beautifully imagined and exquisitely written, For the Most Beautiful chronicles the defeat of Troy as you’ve never seen it before, through characters almost entirely disregarded in Homer’s Iliad. Among legends such as Achilles, Hector and Odysseus, walked the unsung heroines, famed for their beauty, yet wholly underestimated for their influence.

This is the story of the women of Troy.

All’s fair in love and war, when Briseis, princess of Pedasus, witnesses her husband slain in cold blood, and is enslaved by his killer in the Greek camp.

Krisayis, daughter of the High Priest of Troy, dreams for more than the life set out for her by her father. Captured by her enemies, she is given this opportunity, but must sacrifice everything to protect the city that she loves.

Subject to the whims of the Gods and the wrath of men, these two extraordinary women will bring a hero to his knees.

Praise for Emily Hauser 

‘Once in a while something comes along that’s so utterly right, so necessary for now,that you wonder why nobody thought of it before. Emily Hauser’s stunning debut novel For the Most Beautiful fits this space: a novel that re-imagines the oldest of territories in the freshest of ways.’

MANDA SCOTT, bestselling author of Boudica

‘It’s a feast for the senses, richly described and effortlessly easy to read. It brings to life an ancient world long gone, and in so doing reminds us of the traumas and costsof war, which are sadly still so much a part of our world today.’

– MICHAEL SCOTT, presenter of Rome’s Invisible City

In this her sparkling debut novel, classicist Emily Hauser offers a fresh take on the old but living legend spun so artfully in Homer’s Iliad. By exploring and exposing their feelings, motivations and thoughts she puts us into the shoes of two key female characters that the original epic poem left tantalisingly undeveloped … Ms Hauser not only tells a ripping good story but also causes us to reflect anew on the meanings of war, especially as that affects and afflicts women.’

 – PAUL CARTLEDGE, Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge

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 ‘The Relevance of Ancient Narratives Today’

A Guest Piece from Emily Hauser

Why retell ancient narratives? It’s a question I think about all the time, and one which drives my research as well as my writing. For me, when I was writing For the Most Beautiful, re-telling one of the most well-known epics of ancient Greece from a different perspective allowed me to give a new slant on age-old themes and questions that still very much resonate with us today. Central to the Iliad are – among others – the question of the purpose of war and the desire for immortality; the search for the gods, and what it’s worth dying for; sex, desire, and the conflict between love and duty; the compensation of glory and the tension between power and prowess; the values expressed within the family, the close bonds of friendship, and the longing for home. All of these are, of course, very relevant today, and form an important part of my re-interpretation of the epic.

But there is also a hidden concern within the Iliad, one which is evocatively hinted at but never fully expressed – the harrowing fates of women in war, and the costs which they, as well as the warriors, have to pay. Hector’s wife, Andromache, at one point in the Iliad addresses her husband with these highly expressive words: “But come, have pity, and stay here on the wall [of Troy]; do not make your son an orphan and your wife a widow.” This opening onto the experiences of the women of Troy, for me, leaves a gap, a fertile space for re-telling and re-visioning the past in a new light. Ancient narratives are so uniquely rich (and relevant), then, not only because of the way they speak to the timeless themes of human experience – but also because they are flexible enough to allow us to remould and reflect on these values, by re-shaping them into our own form, through our own concerns.

Thinking about the purposes and costs of war is, of course, a timeless theme in literature – from Homer’s Iliad to Virgil’s Aeneid, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms to Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong. And it is, it goes without saying, a central concern for our time as much as for any other. With the current conflict raging in Syria and the victims of war travelling thousands of miles to seek asylum in Europe, for example, it is hard, I think, not to draw parallels with another group of ancient legends that tells of the displacement of a nation after the ravages of war and their voyage by land and sea to a new home in Europe. The stories and legends surrounding the Trojan War tell not only of the siege and sack of the city of Troy, as we tend to think, but also of the suffering of Troy’s inhabitants after the city’s destruction: the enslavement of the women and the desperate escape of the few men – like Aeneas – who survived to escape as refugees across the sea. These tales are, then, extremely relevant to current events – and yet by being distanced from us, by being set in a different place and a different time, they provide us with a unique lens which allows us to think through the problems of war, suffering, and displacement.

It is that combination, then, of timeless themes, a unique flexibility of interpretation, and the peculiar combination of closeness and distance – which allows us to think through current issues in a more dispassionate, alternative setting – which I think ultimately makes ancient narratives so continually relevant today. And perhaps the Iliad, with its reflections on the costs of war, its transcendent vision of the human struggle, its portrayals of the lives, the passionate love-affairs and the devastating losses endured by men and women alike, and its depictions of the suffering of war victims and refugees, is the one which is able to speak to us now, most of all.

About Emily Hauser

 Emily

Born in Brighton and brought up in Suffolk, EMILY HAUSER studied Classics at Cambridge where she was taught by Mary Beard. She then went to Harvard as a Fulbright Scholar and now studies and teaches at Yale, where she is completing her PhD.

For the Most Beautiful – the first book in the Golden Apple trilogy – is her debut novel.

Follow the For The Most Beautiful celebrations with these other bloggers too:

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In a Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca MacKenzie

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My enormous thanks to Ella Bowman at Headline for a copy of In a Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca MacKenzie in return for an honest review. In a Land of Paper Gods is published in hardback and e-book by Tinder Press on 28th January 2016 and is available to purchase here in the UK and here in the US.

In A Land of Paper Gods

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Jiangxi Province, China, 1941

Atop the fabled mountain of Lushan, celebrated for its temples, capricious mists and plunging ravines, perches a boarding school for the children of British missionaries. As her parents pursue their calling to bring the gospel to China’s most remote provinces, ten-year-old Henrietta S. Robertson discovers that she has been singled out for a divine calling of her own.

Etta is quick to share the news with her dorm mates, and soon even Big Bum Eileen is enlisted in the Prophetess Club, which busies itself looking for signs of the Lord’s intent. (Hark.) As rumours of war grow more insistent, so the girls’ quest takes on a new urgency – and in such a mystical landscape, the prophetesses find that lines between make believe and reality, good and bad, become dangerously blurred. So Etta’s pilgrimage begins.

A story of a child far from home and caught between two cultures, In A Land of Paper Gods marries exuberant imagination with sharp pathos, and introduces Rebecca Mackenzie as a striking and original new voice.

My Review of In A Land of Paper Gods

Henrietta (Etta) S. Robertson is sent to Lushan, a private school for the children of missionaries in China. Here Etta will learn what it is that makes us who we are.

I’m astounded by In a Land of Paper Gods. I found that I didn’t really read the book as much as absorb it and experience it. Beautifully written, the descriptions are so evocative that I could picture each so clearly. Rebecca MacKenzie has a perfect eye for detail from a hair like a crack in a washbasin to the stench of rotting flesh. I was there in the settings, not merely reading about them.

Alongside the vivid nature of the descriptions and settings is a multi-layered text so that it is part allegory, part dream state, part diary, part history and part travelogue. In a Land of Paper Gods is also an emotional coming of age story that we live with Etta as she recounts her experiences. The pain of growing up is laid bare and there is an intensity of sadness that will remain with me for a long time. There are also deft touches of humour.

I don’t wish to spoil the plot, but, set against a true historical background, In a Land of Paper Gods brings the personal and individual side of world events into sharp and sometimes shocking focus.

Although this is a debut novel, for me there wasn’t a word out of place. I found the writing evocative and haunting so that it was almost hypnotic. I was surprised to find tears running down my face as I was so absorbed by the experience of reading. I loved it.

In a Land of Paper Gods is the kind of book that sings to your soul as Etta expands and grows as a character. I will be thinking about it for a very long time.

You can find out more about Rebecca MacKenzie and In a Land of Paper Gods on Rebecca’s web site.

Blood and Roses by Catherine Hokin

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I am delighted to be helping to launch ‘Blood and Roses’ by Catherine Hokin, published on 13 January 2016 from Yolk Publishing. It is also my pleasure to bring you a guest post from the author, Catherine Hokin. You can buy ‘Blood and Roses’ here in the UK and here in the US, and from all good bookshops.

About ‘Blood and Roses’

Blood and Rosesa novel of Margaret of Anjou and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses by Catherine Hokin.

1460

The English Crown – a bloodied, restless prize.

The one contender strong enough to hold it? A woman. Margaret of Anjou: a French Queen in a hostile country, born to rule but refused the right, shackled to a King lost in a shadow-land.

When a craving for power becomes a crusade, when two rival dynasties rip the country apart in their desire to rule it and thrones are the spoils of a battlefield, the stakes can only rise. And if the highest stake you have is your son?

You play it.

‘Blood and Roses’, a work of historical fiction, retells the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-82), wife of Henry VI and a key protagonist in the Wars of the Roses. This is a feminist revision of a woman frequently imagined only as the shadowy figure demonised by Shakespeare.Blood and Roses’ examines Margaret as a Queen unable to wield the power and authority she is capable of, as a wife trapped in marriage to a man born to be a saint and as a mother whose son meets a terrible fate she has set in motion.

The story opens in 1480 with Margaret as an unwilling exile in France and is structured as a reflection on the events of her life and the relationships that shaped it, primarily her son Edward, her husband Henry IV, Anne Neville and the Earl of Warwick.

The novel spans 1435 to 1480. The dynastic conflicts around the throne, known to a modern audience as the Wars of the Roses, are the main backdrop to the story including the battles which were some of the bloodiest ever fought.

​The main conflicts in the novel reflect both the issues of the age – the challenge of holding onto a crown in a kingdom riven by dynastic struggle in which loyalties shift like quicksand – and the personal price to be paid by being a woman outside her time. In trying to resolve her marriage and its desperate need for an heir, shape her son for a dangerous future and reconcile her ambition with her lack of power, does Margaret become the author of her own fate?

A key issue for historians has been the relationship between Margaret of Anjou and her husband Henry IV (who suffered from what has been described as narcolepsy, resulting in long periods of what are best described as coma) and the paternity of her son, born 8 years into what was a seemingly barren marriage. Blood and Roses offers a solution to the paternity question rooted in Margaret’s political acumen and her relationship with Jacquetta Woodville – a friendship which ended in a betrayal that has never been fully explored.

This is a novel about power: winning it, the sacrifices made for it and its value. It is also a novel about a woman out of her time, playing a game ultimately no one can control.

A Guest Post from Catherine Hokin

Until relatively recently I taught English to teenage boys – there’s probably a book in there but I shall leave that one for now – and, like much of teaching, the curriculum was heavily compartmentalised. One half-term it would be short stories, the next it would be non-fiction, then novels and so on. When I imagined myself as a writer (which I did and often, particularly when faced with a pile of year 9 stories to mark), I also thought in that compartmentalised way: I am going to be a novelist, short stories are what short story writers do. The reality, I am glad to say, has been quite a different tale.

The novel writing began first: ‘Blood and Roses’ was born out of a lifelong love of History and a particular fascination with the medieval period which I specialised in at University. It is a very rewarding process, from the research stage, when I am looking for the gaps into which I can weave my narrative, to the writing process itself where the length of a novel allows me to explore characters and dilemmas in great depth.

Conversely, it can also be a very frustrating experience. It is difficult to get feedback – I am not someone who wants to submit chapter by chapter to a writing group – and novels, at least the ones I seem to write, are very long. You can be 85,000 words down the line before you submit and realise it has all gone rather wrong! This is where short stories come in.

I started writing short stories about a year ago to give myself another outlet for writing when the novel, as all they do at some point, had me spinning in circles. What I hadn’t realised was how much I would learn about my craft when I had only limited words at my disposal. The beauty of short story writing is that there are lots of competitions and, for a very small fee, they give feedback – I have entered stories to get pointers on character development, setting and structural devices that, although the short stories all have contemporary timeframes, I then wanted to use in my novel. It has been a fast, invaluable and cheap learning curve I would recommend to any author.

There are challenges. I am wordy by nature, in short stories you have to strip everything back and one carefully picked word must stand for ten. And they can only be snapshots: the reader enters a short story very often in the middle of the action but still expects the writer to deliver a rounded character or two and a sense of some kind of resolution. In 3000 words if you are lucky but, more often, in 1500 – I haven’t dared flash fiction with its 500 word limit yet. So what do I love about them, apart from the feedback? The sense of achievement of something finished and whole; the way the format lets me play with structure and character in a way an historical novel can’t and, being really honest, the fact I’ve won competitions and just had my first paid commission. Nothing says writer like your name in print and a pay cheque!

Ultimately I suppose, my short stories and my novel (and my blog) are the same: I write about feisty, interesting women. More than that, they are all strands that have led to the best sentence I’ve ever heard – I went to collect some printing the other week and the assistant said, “it’s that author, come for her stuff.” I may have kissed him, let’s draw a veil…

About Catherine Hokin

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Catherine is a Glasgow-based author with a degree in History from Manchester University. After years of talking about it, she finally started writing seriously about 3 years ago, researching and writing her debut novel, ‘Blood and Roses’which will be published in January 2016 by Yolk Publishing.

About a year ago, Catherine also started writing short stories – she was recently 3rd prize winner in the 2015 West Sussex Writers Short Story Competition and a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition. She regularly blogs as Heroine Chic, casting a historical, and often hysterical, eye over women in history, popular culture and life in general.

Social media links:

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You can find out more about Catherine Hokin and her debut novel, ‘Blood and Roses’, with these other bloggers.

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River Road by Carol Goodman

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‘River Road’ by Carol Goodman appeared as surprise book post through my letterbox. It is published on 19th January 2016 by Titan Books and is available in ebook and paperback direct from the publisher or on Amazon UK and  Amazon US.

When Professor Nan Lewis hits what she thinks is a deer on the road on her way back from a faculty party in New York state, little does she expect a police officer at her door the following morning to tell her that one of her favourite students, Leia Dawson, has been killed in a hit and run accident and that Nan is the chief suspect. Worse still, Nan’s own daughter was previously killed in a road accident in the same place…

‘River Road’ is a cracking thriller. It kept me guessing all the way through so that I suspected every character at some point as being Leia’s murderer. There’s an intensity of writing that really enthralls. The descriptions, particularly of the landscapes are dramatic and visual, allowing the reader to picture the scene perfectly.

I also loved the literary references that pepper the text. They are never intrusive, but they lend an authenticity to Nan’s role and character. I’m sure the author’s own teaching background has assisted with this extra layer of credibility.

The first person delivery gives pace and immediacy so that it is impossible not to want to read on and the plot races along, twisting and turning so that I felt my pulse increasing with the events. There’s certainly never a dull moment in Nan’s life.

I found the cast of characters completely believable and I really enjoyed the romantic aspect that emerged as a counterpoint to the murderous and thriller genre elements. ‘River Road’ also impresses because Carol Goodman isn’t afraid to tackle themes that can blight many lives, from alcoholism and drug addiction to complete and utter grief so that as well as being a thoroughly entertaining story, this is a novel of depth and substance too.

‘River Road’ is well written, exciting and entertaining – everything a good book should be. Thriller readers will love it.

You can follow Carol Goodman on Twitter and via her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook

Waiting for You by Catherine Miller

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I’m delighted to be introducing a new book by Catherine Miller called ‘Waiting for You‘ which is published by Carina on 10th March 2016 and can be ordered here.

Today Catherine is holding a special Facebook Launch Event for ‘Waiting for You‘ where you can win prizes by visiting here. She also has a special message for readers at the bottom of this post.

About ‘Waiting for You’

Waiting for You is an emotional and gripping debut novel you won’t be able to put down…

You’d never guess that Fliss Chapron doesn’t have it all

All Fliss wants is to see two blue lines telling her she is pregnant with her much longed for second baby. But as the negative tests stack up, dreams of completing her perfect family feel more hopeless every day.

After years of disappointment, Fliss’s husband Ben is spending more time at the office than in their marital bed, and Fliss finds herself wondering who could be responsible for their inability to conceive another child. Yet, where do you lay the blame when it comes to having a child – and can anyone really be at fault…

As Ben becomes increasingly distant, Fliss begins to question whether her desire for a baby is just a sticking plaster to save her marriage. Because in the end, how well can you ever know another person…even the man you’re married to?

A message from Catherine:

Don’t Wait … To Back A Debut

We’re two strangers meeting in a bar for the first time: The Reader and The Writer. Well, probably not a bar. More likely a coffee shop, a cosy couch or if we’re really lucky a sun lounger by a pool. Where you take me is up to you. I’m happy to be read where you are most comfortable. Be it on the bus to work, outside the school gates or curled up in bed. Wherever it is, it’s a strange privilege to be with you. Then it’s my turn to take you on a journey to another life, another world. The one that until now only existed in my head. You are the person who will make it real. This is the friendship we start to weave and like the best kind of meetings with strangers, it’s my hope it lasts a lifetime.

Catherine x

Follow Catherine Miller on Twitter and her blog

The Teacher by Katerina Diamond Cover Reveal

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If you’ve been following Twitter you may have seen #DoYouDare. I’m delighted to be revealing the cover of the new book by Katerina Diamond, ‘The Teacher’. ‘The Teacher’ is published by Avon on 10th March 2016 and is available here to order.

The book:

You think you know who to trust?
You think you know the difference between good and evil?

You’re wrong …

This is The Teacher: a debut crime novel from Katerina Diamond (on Twitter as @TheVenomousPen). It will upturn everything you thought you knew. And you absolutely will not forget it.

A LESSON YOU WILL NEVER FORGET

The body of the head teacher of an exclusive Devon school is found hanging from the rafters in the assembly hall.

Hours earlier he’d received a package, and only he could understand the silent message it conveyed. It meant the end.

As Exeter suffers a rising count of gruesome deaths, troubled DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles must solve the case and make their city safe again.

But as they’re drawn into a network of corruption, lies and exploitation, every step brings them closer to grim secrets hidden at the heart of their community.

And once they learn what’s motivating this killer, will they truly want to stop him?

SMART. GRIPPING. GRUESOME.

This is a psychological crime thriller in a class of its own.

Warning: Most definitely *not* for the faint-hearted!