A Guest Post from Hattie Holden Edmonds, author of Cinema Lumiere

CINEMA LUMIERE _ Hattie Holden Edmonds

I’m delighted to be hosting a fascinating guest post from Hattie Holden Edmonds today as part of the celebrations of her novel Cinema LumiereCinema Lumiere is published by Red Door and is available in e-book and paperback on Amazon, Wordery and from Waterstones and all good bookshops.

Cinema Lumiere

CINEMA LUMIERE _ Hattie Holden Edmonds

Hannah Bailey has sealed her heart against love, she’s resigned herself to a dead-end job and her catastrophic thinking is out of control. In fact, she’s hard pushed to find a single reason for her existence until the day she stumbles across a tiny cinema with just one seat…

Cinema Lumière is a cinema with a difference. No ticket is required and once inside, each customer is shown a subtly edited film of their life. But how does its French owner Victor make such films and why is he so determined to coax Hannah into that single red velvet seat?

Peoples Book Prize

Hattie Holden Edmonds’ Cinema Lumiere is nominated in the fiction category of The Peoples Book Prize and you can vote for her here.

other poster thingy

The Great Cinema Screen in the Sky

A Guest Post by Hattie Holden Edmonds

My passion for unusual cinemas was sparked in my early twenties. I was on holiday in Barcelona and was invited to an outdoor screening of Julian Temple’s The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. The park where it was showing was slap bang next to the city zoo and the Sex Pistols soundtrack was boosted by quite a few of the residents; hysterical hyenas, shrieking monkeys, chattering parrots and something else, which we couldn’t quite identify but which sounded quite sinister.

Since then, I try to find the most unlikely places to watch a film wherever I go: in a medieval barn near Stroud (Pasolini’s Canterbury Tales); an 8-seater shack in Mexico (Maria Full of Grace); on The Village Butty moored by London’s Golborne Road (True Romance). So, given the premise of Cinema Lumiere, it seemed obvious to also set it in a quirky (fictional) picture house up near Kensal Green cemetery in West London.

The idea for the novel came from two sources – one of them a non-fiction book called Testimony of Light. It’s the true story of two elderly friends, one of whom dies but is able to somehow (big leap of faith needed here!) come back from ‘the other side’ and tell her close friend what happened to her after she died. The most intriguing bit for me was her account of being shown a film of her life, in which she re-experienced all the most important moments of her time on earth.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this notion of a life review after we die, so the fictional cinema in my novel has only one seat, due to the fact that only one person can enter it at a time. It’s run by Victor, an old French man who also makes the films screened there and who knows Hannah, the main character whose life is such a mess. Of course, the big question is – how is he able to gain access to people’s lives and create such personal footage? You don’t find out until the final page.

Before I started writing the book, I did a lot of research, which included speaking to nurses and doctors whose patients had undergone Near Death Experiences. Whether or not you believe in the afterlife, they made for fascinating interviews. Particularly because many of the patients reported seeing a film of their life – not just a flash before their eyes, but a full-on immersive movie, where they got to re-experience all the emotions they’d felt at the time.

Who knows if these accounts of life reviews are true? We’ll all have to wait until the curtains on this present existence close, but in the meantime it’s been a fascinating idea to play around with.

About Hattie Holden Edmonds

Hattie Holden Edmonds

Hattie Holden Edmonds has held down a variety of jobs including junior assistant on Separates in Clements department store, chief plugger-in of cables in a Berlin recording studio, hat-maker and a very clumsy waitress in an ice cream parlour. Apart from writing, she teaches meditation at a palliative care unit in Ladbroke Grove, and runs a part time and very rickety cinema from a fisherman’s shack in Whitstable. She loves a good swim, and dreams of being able to knock up a decent three course meal.

You can visit Hattie’s website, follow her on Twitter and find more with these other bloggers.

Cinema Lumiere

Max Gate by Damien Wilkins

Maxx Gate

My grateful thanks to Sophie Goodfellow at EDPR for a copy of Max Gate by Damien Wilkins in return for an honest review. Max Gate was published in e-book and paperback by Aardvark Bureau on 6th June 2016 and is available from Amazon, Aardvark, WH Smith and Waterstones.

Max Gate

Maxx Gate

The story of Thomas Hardy’s death told by his housemaid Nellie.
1928. As Thomas Hardy lies on his death bed at his Dorset home, Max Gate, a tug-of-war is taking place over his legacy … and the eventual fate of his mortal remains. What counts for more: the wishes of his family and dutiful second wife, Florence? the opinion of his literary friends? Hardy’s own express desires? or ‘the will of the nation’?

Narrated with wit and brutal honesty by housemaid Nellie Titterington, Max Gate is both an entertaining insight into the eccentricities of a writer’s life, and a raw, intriguing tale of torn loyalty, ownership and jealousy.

My Review of Max Gate

With Thomas Hardy near to death, the entire household at Max Gate is embroiled in a pivotal moment in literary history.

I found Max Gate a fascinating and sometimes uncomfortable read. I love Hardy’s writing and at times found the brilliantly researched honesty of the narrative troubling to my own memories of having read Hardy’s fiction. There were references to aspects of Hardy’s life and death with which I was fully familiar and new elements that had previously passed me by so that I feel I have a slightly clearer understanding of the man.

However, I’m not sure how much Max Gate is about Hardy, and how much about the history of the time the book is set, the social mores and the way in which we treat and feel ownership of celebrities. Hardy is as much part of the celebrity culture of 1928 as the Kardashians are in today’s society. There’s an interesting exploration of how the public feels it has a right to possess part of a celebrity – whether it is an autograph, a photograph or a quotation to put into a newspaper.

Similarly, I feel I know far more about Florence Hardy as a result of reading Max Gate than Hardy himself. Although the narrative is told by Nellie Titterington, I don’t feel I have a real picture of her. She is presented as an unreliable narrator and at times I felt the language used didn’t sit well with that of a housemaid, even though she is frequently reporting speech from those better educated and more erudite. There are some real contrasts of bawdy language and local dialect too so that I felt the narrative lost its identity at times, but there is a satisfyingly dark wit employed that I really appreciated. The text was also too fragmentary on occasion so that it felt frustrating to read and I couldn’t decide if this was a deliberate structure to convey life at Max Gate house or the nature of the character speaking. I did enjoy thoroughly the descriptions of the natural world and found them very Hardyesque.

I’m not sure what I think about Max Gate. It is thought provoking and interesting but also frustrating and inconsistent. I may need to read it again to form a complete view. Those who like me are fans of Hardy’s writing will find Max Gate a book to ponder.

An Interview with Paola Pica, author of Errors of Evaluation

eBook FINAL 26.4.16  Errors of Evaluation   9781911110323

I’m delighted to be part of the English launch celebrations of Errors of Evaluation by Paola Pica. Errors of Evaluation was published in paperback by Clink Street on 26th July 2016 and is available for purchase here and can be ordered from all good bookhops.

To mark the occasion of Errors of Evaluation being publisheed in English, I have an interview with Paola Pica below.

Errors of Evaluation

eBook FINAL 26.4.16  Errors of Evaluation   9781911110323

Francesca’s presence pervades the lives of those she meets. She leaves an indelible mark, the true nature of her personality revealed through other people’s encounters with her. Her boldness as a spoilt child. Her temporary (and just) suffering as the victim of a shrink – an ambiguous and even more unscrupulous person than her in grasping anything graspable. And the more than explicit revelation of her blind egocentrism, because of which she ignores the one person who has tried tirelessly to help her.

Three very different characters tell the same story about the enigmatic woman who has entered the lives, each one illuminating who Francesca really is, from their own point of view. Each character has made an error of evaluation which they realise has prejudiced their lives and their relationships. An omniscient narrator will have the final say.

This is the first version in English of Errors of Evaluation by the Italian writer Paola Pica.

An Interview with Paola Pica

Hi Paola . Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your novel Errors of Evaluation.   

Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

I work as a teacher and a translator (English-Italian-English), after having studied in Italy and England. As a parallel activity, I have always written. That is, I used to keep a diary when I was very young and started to write stories later on in my life; but without even trying to become “a writer”, because I’ve always known how difficult it is in Italy.  I work in Rome, where I lived for a long time and which I left some time ago, going back to Castelli Romani, where I found the quietness to write and live my small country life.  This area is on Rome outskirts and having to commute seems to me the right price to pay for a better life.

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I realized it only comparatively late, about ten years ago, after a serious accident because of which I was stuck home for more than three months. At that point I had plenty of time to spend trying to contact Publishers, which are the most difficult part of the process of writing.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

Another dream of mine has always been to be a painter and I used to feel drawing pads with my watercolor “efforts” when I was very young. With age, my self- criticism increased too, and I found out that I was better at words.

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

I simply stick to life and I consider myself very fortunate, because mine has never been a boring one.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

Inventing is the easiest thing for me to do. On the contrary, to use episodes or characters from real life without letting them be recognizable is very difficult to me, because the details stick to my mind like in photos and it wouldn’t be polite if people could recognize themselves in my stories.  I only did it, once and on purpose, with the shrink in Errors of Evaluation; but that was my attempt at  almost legally reporting his enormous guiltiness as a “professional”, which he was not.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I usually take notes wherever I am and whenever an idea or inspiration comes to my mind. As for an actual writing, I only can do it once I’m seated in front of my PC. Due to my job, I can’t have a writing routine yet.  Should writing become my primary activity, I would start a very strict one.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

Even if I read whatever I find interesting (it usually happens to me while I’m visiting bookshops), my favourite books are novels in which the authors dig deep inside human minds.

Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?

Many ideas also come to me from people I meet because of my job. In fact, at the moment I’m seriously thinking of writing on the international diplomatic world.

How does it feel when your writing is translated into another language?

At the moment only one book, Errors of Evaluation, has been translated into only one language, English, which I know well but not well enough for translating fiction myself. I’ve been strictly in contact with my translator Janice, whom I chose after sharing part of my life with her.  That’s why she can correctly interpret and not just translate what I write.

Why did you decide to explore prejudice in its various forms within Errors of Evaluation?

Prejudice is one of the main features of our Society, meaning “global” by “our” and not just Italian. English people should know about some great English writer who wrote about prejudice long before me; shouldn’t they?

You use multiple narrators in Errors of Evaluation. Does one have a viewpoint most aligned to your own and why did you decide to use this technique?

I decided to use this technique because I’ve always believed in multiple truths, according to multiple points of view, and also because I am convinced that people can affect other people’s lives in different ways even at almost the same time. In ERRORS, Elena’s point of view is probably the most aligned one to my own.

To what extent do you feel all human beings are egocentric like Francesca?

I don’t think of it at all. The world would have already destroyed itself long ago, should this have been the real situation.

Errors of Evaluation has a very decadent  cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

I don’t exactly know what you mean by “decadent” while dealing with the cover photo of my book, which I bought in London long ago and is one of my favourite in my collection. I find it simply beautiful and sensual without being pornographic, just as Francesca is a very classy and sensual girl.

(I agree – I meant opulent and sensual too)

If you could choose to be a character from Errors of Evaluation, who would you be and why?

I never feel as part of my novels, because they are usually completely made up. Having said what I have just stated about Elena’s point of view, I might feel like embodying her character, if asked.

If  Errors of Evaluation became a film, who would you like to play Francesca?  

If I’m being asked for the name of an actress I would have “the embarrassment in the choice”, as we Italians say; because there are so many good actresses of different nationalities nowadays. For sure, she should be and remind the audience of someone apparently detached and ice-cold but extremely attractive, as Grace Kelly was.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Errors of Evaluation should be their next read, what would you say?

“If you prefer strong and weak minds to an adventurous plot, this is your book”

Thank you so much, Paola, for your time in answering my questions.

About Paola Pica

Living just outside Rome, Italy, Paola Pica has studied and worked extensively in England and her homeland as a translator and interpreter. Today she works for various embassies in Rome, as well as focusing on her writing. She is the author of five novels and one short story collection.

You can find out more about Paola and Errors of Evaluation with these other bloggers:

Paola Pica_Banner

Spotlight on New England Dreams by Pia Fenton

New England Dreams Tour Banner

I’m very pleased to be supporting Brook Cottage books in bringing a spotlight on New England Dreams by Christina Courtenay writing as Pia Fenton. New England Dreams, a YA contemporary romance, was released on 25th July 2016 and is book 4 of the Northbrooke High Series although it can be read as a standalone. New England Dreams is available for purchase in e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

There’s a lovely competition at the bottom of this blog post too, to enter to win a signed copy of New England Dreams and a £20 Amazon voucher.

New England Dreams


When opposites attract, can dreams come true?

Staying in New England for a few months is just what Sienna Randall needs after all the family problems she’s been dealing with at home in London. Romance is the last thing she’s expecting, so it’s a total surprise when she ends up kissing a guy she meets on the flight.

Kyle Everett is Sienna’s complete opposite –  he’s clean-cut and preppy, she has piercings and pink dreads. But he can’t resist making out with her. He is, after all, Northbrooke High’s number one player. Except Sienna’s different from other girls. He’s definitely expecting to see her again – until they’re separated by irate airline officials before he can get her number.

Then fate throws them together once more, but when Sienna turns up in Kyle’s home room, neither admits to having met before. The chemistry between them is still there though – should they let it have free rein or should the attraction stay in their dreams?

Read an extract from New England Dreams

Kyle smiled and changed the subject. ‘You got any more piercings then? You know, hidden ones?’ He wiggled his eyebrows at her and it looked so stupid she couldn’t help but smile back.

‘None of your business,’ she told him.

‘Oh, so you do? Now I’m curious.’

‘I do not. And even if I did, I wouldn’t show you.’

‘Oh, yeah? Hmm. So tell me, how does it feel to kiss with snake bites?’ He was suddenly staring at her mouth intently and Sienna felt a shiver run through her. God, but he was hot. Seriously hot. And he was so close. She was very tempted to just reach over and grab him.

And why not? No one would ever know.

She shook herself mentally, but some devil made her smile again. She looked up at him from under her lashes, the way she’d seen other girls do when they were flirting. She’d never managed it because she was too shy, but for some reason, she had no trouble doing it now. ‘You tell me,’ she said, the challenge clear in her voice.

His eyes opened wide and he drew in a sharp breath. Then he grinned. ‘Okay, you’re on.’

The next thing she knew, he had bent his head slightly to the side and captured her mouth with his in a long, slow kiss that almost melted her bones. He ran his tongue over the snake bites, nipping at one playfully, then kissed her again, properly, deeply. When he stopped he brought up a hand to cup her cheek. ‘I like it,’ he whispered. ‘A lot.’

So did Sienna, but she didn’t get a chance to reply, because he started kissing her again and this time he didn’t stop. Which was just as well, since she didn’t want him to. In fact, she didn’t come to her senses until some air steward pulled Kyle off her and she realised with flaming cheeks they’d ended up lying across all four middle seats, making out thirty thousand feet up in the sky.

‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’ the crewman hissed, looking from one to the other.

Sienna wondered the same thing. She must have lost her mind.


About Pia Fenton

'Promote Me!' portrait

Pia Fenton (who also writes as Christina Courtenay) is a chocoholic and confirmed couch potato, allergic to exercise of any kind (except maybe swimming).  Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden so she was a bit of a mixed up kid. When she was a teenager, she moved with her family to Japan.  From there she had the opportunity to travel in the Far East and other parts of the world, which was great fun.  She also got to go to an American high school in Tokyo, together with kids of 138 other nationalities, and had the best time of her life!

Pia loves:  reading and writing (YA obviously, but also anything historical, time slip and paranormal), dogs, genealogy, listening to rock music and doing various craft projects very badly.  (It’s the trying that counts, right?)

Pia’s first YA novel New England Rocks (published by Choc Lit, Aug 2013) was short listed for The Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Award for Best Romantic Young Adult novel 2014.  She’s also won some awards for her adult historical books.

You can find Pia on Facebook, visit her website or the YA website Paisley Piranhas and follow her on Twitter.

Click here to enter to win a signed paperback copy of and a £20 Amazon voucher open internationally until 31st July.


Publication Day Guest Blog by Robin Mukherjee, author of Hillstation


Today, 28th July 2016, is publication day for Hillstation by Robin Mukherjee and I’m thrilled to be bringing what I think is a stunning guest post from the author about the nature of identity in celebration of Hillstation. Hillstation is published by Oldcastle Books and is available for purchase from the publisher, from Amazon and Waterstones.



Dreaming of escape from his remote village in the Himalayan foothills, Rabindra entreats the gods to send him an English bride. When a saucy English dance troupe arrives on the run from a Bombay crime boss, Rabindra believes that his prayers have been answered. Except that they have no interest in marrying anyone. As the village begins to unravel in the presence of these scandalous foreigners, surprising secrets emerge from the depths of its past.

A Question of Belonging

A Guest Post by Robin Mukherjee

I was standing on a street corner in a little town high up in the foothills of the Himalayas. Far below, on the teeming plains, was the family I’d retreated from in an attempt to salvage what was left of my English self. I had been overwhelmed by India, its people, noise, smells, the cousins, aunts, and uncles who had smothered me with their generosity and affection. But it was too late. The London boy who had spent his youth kicking around the suburbs, drinking in pubs, soaking up the rock scene, had been fatally re-wired. That little Indian bit of me, at first a cute piece of Eastern exotica, then a vaguely tolerated – and sometimes not so tolerated – ‘immigrant’, had exploded through the corpuscles of my identity rendering me neither one thing nor the other: neither English nor Asian. I had become acutely aware of that subtle apology for existing which the transient adopt out of politeness, without replacing its inherent incongruity with a sense of any other home. Just for a moment I didn’t belong anywhere.

Then I noticed a group of excited young men furtively hanging around a cigarette seller’s go-down, one of those ramshackle stalls that characterise Indian retail. On sale was a calendar to accompany the national tour of a quasi-erotic dance troupe currently working its way round the Asian subcontinent. And I thought it a pity. The lead dancer was a page three icon, at least in the West, and something of a household name. I’m not sure if she’s got an OBE now for services to titillation, it wouldn’t surprise me. Look, I’m no prude, but in that moment I wished she’d left these people alone, the rupees she was hungry for in their pockets, and their innocence intact. Or was I just fantasising a romanticised culture of temple statuary and neo-hippy spiritual values? Was I wishing impermeable and contained what was, inevitably, transient and porous?

As my senses scraped over the ragged edges of multiple identities, trying to sort out who I was and where I belonged, this question of belonging, or not, became the more urgent as it became less answerable. Did the dancers belong here? Did those young men, excited by the glimpse of a scandalous world, suddenly feel the suffocating confines of the tiny lives to which they belonged? But what was tiny, and what was great? And who belongs anywhere, or to what?

A friend of mine once suggested that my central literary preoccupation was the Outsider, not the Camus-styled, too-cool-for-school, Steppenwolf archetype, but the bumbling fool bowing when he should kneel and kneeling when he should bow, not quite getting the rules of a game to which he does not, nor can ever, ultimately belong. Into that preoccupation went the street corner, the go-down, the calendar, the excited young men, and the stranger wondering who he was and where he belonged. But it wasn’t quite the book yet. It needed one other moment, which came the following year.

I was in the Purcell Room, helping out with a presentation of Indian classical dance. On stage was a slip of a girl whirling and stamping, the sweat flying from her shoulders, hair swinging around her face, holding a packed hall utterly mesmerised. She finished, came off, went back to take a bow, stepped back into the wings, out of sight of the audience, and collapsed. As people rushed around her, she looked up from the floor, small and vulnerable, as if she’d just woken from a dream and didn’t know where she was. It struck me that out there she had become the goddess she was portraying, upheld by its power, moving to the rhythms and grace of something beyond herself. Which made me think about dance, and those dancers whose faces smiled with fake seduction from a tacky photo in a little Indian Hillstation. And I had my story.

We all have an identity defined by where and to what we belong. It helps us to navigate the world, to feel as if we’re someone. We polish and preen, protect and admire it for most of our lives. Sometimes, of course, we despise and resent it. We want it to be more. We push against its confines. But there is that in us beyond identity, the powers that, once in a while, we become dimly aware of, or summon out of necessity, or are abruptly startled to see in all their stark magnificence. Hillstation is centred on this dichotomy, just as much of Indian philosophy is concerned with its resolution. The central characters are locked in predefined identities, based on their social position, their role within the family, the expectations of others. Rabindra and Pol are two young men yearning for a taste of their free selves. Pol attempts to find it through philosophy, Rabindra through romance. Both are simply tweaking their identities according to a slightly less confining set of confines. Both are doomed to disappointment. Even the spiritual tradition which underpins the village has become stultified through habit, its ethos of liberation, ironically, just another means of limitation and control. Enter another group of shambling, confused souls, lost in a land they can’t understand. These two completely incompatible parties collide to provide the spark that lights the fire that burns through the hearts of everyone in the village. Liberation, when it comes, is nothing anyone could have anticipated. Which is exactly how it has to be.

When I left the little go-down with its nervous young men, I checked into the Hotel Nirvana, surely the worst accommodation experience of my life, and met the extraordinary Tibetan owner and her Buddhist cook. Then I walked out to the upper pastures where I sat down to reflect on my family in the city below, my London upbringing, and the culturally dishevelled identity that shifted uneasily between the two. It was a misty day, the land around me veiled with a silver sheen that threw the light in darting spears. Quite suddenly, the vapours lifted to reveal a glimpse of distant mountains, impossibly beautiful, shaming my self-preoccupations into silence. If you don’t belong anywhere, I thought, then you have the chance to belong everywhere. That’s what Rabindra learns when his mind is silenced, not by mountains, but in the eyes of a lover; no less beautiful or magnificent. The humour comes from his hapless search in all the wrong places for something which can only find him when he stops looking; just as all the rules he struggles to understand only make sense when he realises that they don’t. It sounds obvious when you think about it, but sometimes it takes a mountain, or a dancer, or a lover to show us the way.

About Robin Mukherjee


Robin Mukherjee was born in London to German-Indian parents. During the 1960s his family home became a meeting place for Indian dancers and musicians performing in the UK, from which he developed a life-long love of the Indian classical arts. Later, he worked for the Sanskritik Festival of Arts of India presenting dance and music at the South Bank, and on tour throughout the country. After forming a theatre company to produce his plays, he received his first commission from the BBC, and has subsequently written extensively for television and radio. His first feature film, set in India, won the Audience Prize at the London Film Festival. His most recent film, Lore, has won numerous awards world-wide. He was nominated for a BAFTA for his original series, Combat Kids, for CBBC. He lives in Winchester with his wife and son.

The Trouble with Henry and Zoe by Andy Jones

henry and zoe

My enormous thanks to Jamie Criswell at Simon and Schuster for an advanced reader copy of The Trouble with Henry and Zoe by Andy Jones in return for an honest review. The Trouble with Henry and Zoe is published by Simon and Schuster today, 28th July 2016, and is available in e-book and paperback from AmazonWaterstones, W H Smith and other online retailers like B&N.

The Trouble with Henry and Zoe

henry and zoe

Henry and Zoe have more in common than they realise. For a start, they both have pasts they’d rather leave behind.

After jilting his childhood sweetheart on the eve of their wedding, Henry makes a break for London. He has no friends, no job, no home, no plan.

Zoe has great friends, two jobs, a new house, and a big scary plan. After a traumatic, life-changing event, she plans to leave London and spend a year travelling. Alone.

If Henry and Zoe had met one year ago, things might have worked out differently. But that is not the way life works. They meet seven months after their worlds have been turned upside down. And four months before Zoe is due to climb on a plane…

My Review of The Trouble with Henry and Zoe

Henry has cold feet on the eve of his wedding to Alice. Zoe isn’t entirely sure Alex is the one she wants to spend the rest of her life with. When Henry and Zoe’s paths cross, life has taken a different route to the one they might have imagined.

I thought The Trouble with Henry and Zoe was just glorious. It is perfectly observed and so refreshing in style. I loved the way chapter headings reflected the chapter content – not least because they made me think. I didn’t always agree that the chapter heading was where I would have placed the emphasis of the narrative and this made for a really satisfying read as I mulled the importance given to particular phrases or words. I felt it lifted the quality of the reading experience for me from just a light read to one of real quality and depth.

I really enjoyed having a male perspective in what is essentially a romantic novel. The balance between Henry’s viewpoint and Zoe’s was perfect. I found their characters to be fully rounded and human and I thought they were both endearing. The supporting cast of characters is also brilliant and I use the word cast deliberately as I feel The Trouble with Henry and Zoe would make a terrific film, especially with the wonderfully naturalistic dialogue already in place. Indeed, there are clever references to film throughout the story.

The cyclical elements of the plot are very well crafted so that it feels as if the story is building on firm foundations that the reader can believe in completely. I found myself laughing and crying in equal measure and thought the emails peppered throughout the book were utterly heartbreaking although I can’t say more without spoiling the plot.

Once I’d finished reading The Trouble with Henry and Zoe I simply wanted to go back to the beginning and read it all again. It would make an ideal summer book.

You’ll find Andy Jones on Facebook and you can follow him on Twitter or visit his website.

Not Making Thing Up – A Guest Post from Kathryn Freeman, author of Search for the Truth.


As an aspiring novelist I love featuring posts from writers that help explain the writing process and so I’m delighted to welcome Kathryn Freeman to Linda’s Book Bag. Kathryn’s latest novel Search for the Truth is published by Choc Lit and is available in e-book and paperback from online retailers including Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Search for the Truth


Sometimes the truth hurts …

When journalist Tess Johnson takes a job at Helix pharmaceuticals, she has a very specific motive. Tess has reason to believe the company are knowingly producing a potentially harmful drug and, if her suspicions are confirmed, she will stop at nothing to make sure the truth comes out.

Jim Knight is the president of research and development at Helix and is a force to be reckoned with. After a disastrous office affair he’s determined that nothing else will distract him from his vision for the company. Failure is simply not an option.

As Tess and Jim start working together, both have their reasons for wanting to ignore the sexual chemistry that fires between them. But chemistry, like most things in the world of science, isn’t always easy to control.

Not making things up

A Guest Post from Kathryn Freeman

It’s a pleasure to be on your blog today – thank you so much for hosting me. I thought I’d talk a little about writing and research.

When I’m not writing romantic fiction I work as a self-employed medical writer. Prior to that I worked for several pharmaceutical companies. As part of my role, I’m required to do a lot of research – diseases, how they’re managed, new therapies, how they work. I love this part of my job, expanding my knowledge, and when I began to write romantic fiction it’s one thing I thought I’d miss. After all, it’s fiction, so I can make it up, surely?


It’s all very well me deciding who my protagonists are going to be, for example a defence barrister and a police detective (Too Charming) but how can I write about them clashing at work when I don’t actually know how the law works? It’s not just law I’ve had to research either. There’s been refugee camps, Harley-Davidsons, police procedures, treatment for hypothermia and cholera … and that was just for my first two books. The trouble with writing romance, I began to realise, is that my characters have to actually do something, aside from falling in love.

So when it came to writing my next book, I decided my characters were going to do something I knew a little about for a change.  Don’t worry, I don’t mean fiddling about on my computer, doing the school run or burning toast…no, I mean they were going to work in an environment I’ve worked in. Hence Search for the Truth is set in the pharmaceutical industry. It is all still very much fiction – I’m glad I’ve never worked for a company like Helix pharmaceuticals! –  and I still had to do some research (shoes, time zones and laboratory tests for cardiotoxicity to name but a few) but this time I had some idea what my hero and heroine did for a living.

Did it make writing the book any easier? Actually, no. Because it isn’t a book about life in the pharmaceutical industry, it’s a romance. Tessa might have joined Helix pharmaceuticals in a bid to find out whether their new cancer drug was the cause of her mother’s death, but the real story is what happens when she starts working for the magnetic, dynamic head of the research and development department, Jim Knight. That’s where the writing really starts, making the characters believable, their interactions stir the blood and tug at the emotions.  That writing doesn’t involve any research, because it’s written from the heart.

About Kathryn Freeman


Kathryn was born in Wallingford, England but has spent most of her life living in a village near Windsor. After studying pharmacy in Brighton she began her working life as a retail pharmacist. She quickly realised that trying to decipher doctor’s handwriting wasn’t for her and left to join the pharmaceutical industry where she spent twenty happy years working in medical communications. In 2011, backed by her family, she left the world of pharmaceutical science to begin life as a self-employed writer, juggling the two disciplines of medical writing and romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero…

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to bother buying a card again this year (yes, he does) the romance in her life is all in her head. Then again, her husband’s unstinting support of her career change goes to prove that love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes can come in many disguises.

 You can follow Kathryn on Facebook, on Twitter and visit her website.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Maddly Guilty

I have to thank Lovereading for my advanced reader copy of Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty in return for an honest reader panel review. Truly Madly Guilty is published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books on 28th July 2016 and is available from Amazon, Lovereading, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble, W H Smith and to order from all good bookshops.

Truly Madly Guilty

 Truly Maddly Guilty

Despite their differences, Erika and Clementine have been best friends since they were children. So when Erika needs help, Clementine should be the obvious person to turn to. Or so you’d think.

For Clementine, as a mother of a two desperately trying to practise for the audition of a lifetime, the last thing she needs is Erika asking for something, again.

But the barbecue should be the perfect way to forget their problems for a while. Especially when their hosts, Vid and Tiffany, are only too happy to distract them.

Which is how it all spirals out of control…

My Review of Truly Madly Guilty

Sam and Clementine join old friends Erika and Oliver at a barbeque with Vid and Tiffany after which none of their lives will ever be the same.

Before I begin this review I must point out that I have just read what for me was a stunning series of books that have touched me mind and soul so I feel that Truly Madly Guilty may have suffered in comparison.

Truly Madly Guilty is an accurate, damning and witty depiction of middle class lives. There are great touches of humour and an almost wicked accuracy in the relationships presented. However, I was expecting a gripping thriller and whether it was my expectations or the narrative itself, but Truly Madly Guilty didn’t ignite any emotional involvement within me.

Well written and intelligent, the writer’s craft in Truly Madly Guilty is obvious, and I appreciated the skill with which it is written. But somehow I felt as if I were reading with detachment. I didn’t warm to the characters and didn’t much care what happened to them until the final fifty pages or so of the novel when the truth behind the facades was finally revealed.

I found the overt references to the day of the barbeque became too frequent so that I was irritated rather than enjoying a build up of tension or enjoying an in joke between reader and author. Once the day had arrived then I felt more in tune with the rhythms of the narrative and enjoyed it more.

Don’t get me wrong. This is an incredibly well written book, deftly plotted with good development of character and a truly insightful understanding of what happens behind closed doors in marriages and families. It just wasn’t a book for me on this occasion.

About Liane Moriarty

You can find Liane on Facebook, or visit her website.

Strong Women by Michelle Moran, author of Mata Hari

Mata hari

I am delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Mata Hari by Michelle Moran. Mata Hari is published by Quercus on 28th July 2016 and is available for purchase from Amazon UK, Amazon US, W H Smith, Waterstones and directly from the publisher.

With such an interesting character at the heart of Mata Hari, I’m thrilled to be featuring a guest post from Michelle Moran today all about strong women.

Mata Hari

Mata hari

Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom . . . or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.

As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous exotic dancer.

From lush Indian temples and glamorous Parisian theatres to stark German barracks in war-torn Europe, Moran brings to vibrant life the famed world of Mata Hari: dancer, courtesan, and possibly, spy.

Strong Women

A Guest Post by Michelle Moran

Writing about strong women is something that comes naturally to me. My mother is a strong woman, as was her mother before her, and I like to think that I will pass on this characteristic to my daughter as well.

Yet I never anticipated writing historical fiction until I participated in my first archaeological dig. It was there that I first started thinking about the women of our past. I had always known that I wanted to be a writer, and suddenly it seemed that I had come across something that resonated with me–the lives of historical women.


It just so happened that after this trip I went to Berlin and visited the museum housing Nefertiti’s limestone bust. Face to face with one of the greatest beauties to have ever lived, I was captivated. She looked not just beautiful, but strong. Powerful. I wanted to know who she was. I began the research into her life and discovered as I went that she had indeed been a powerful woman–one who’d inspired strong emotions when she lived over three thousand years ago. Those emotions had been so strong that the men who ruled after her tried to erase her name from history.

I’m fascinated by women whose lives have been obscured by both jealous rulers and time. Resurrecting them through literature has become a passion of mine and I hope that my latest novel, Mata Hari, will help do exactly this for Margaretha Zelle, known to the world as Mata Hari.

About Michelle Moran

Michelle Moran’s experiences at archaeological sites around the world first inspired her to write historical fiction. She is the author of Nefertiti and its standalone sequel The Heretic Queen, as well as Cleopatra’s Daughter and The Second Empress. She lives in Texas.

You can find out more about Michelle Moran on her website , on Facebook and with these other bloggers:

Mata Hari Blog Tour Poster (2)

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

modern lovers

I’m indebted to Gaby Young at Penguin Random House for a copy of Modern Lovers by Emma Straub in return for an honest review. Modern Lovers was publisheed by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books on 28th June 2016 and is available for purchase from Amazon, Waterstones, W H Smith, Foyles and from Hive.

Modern Lovers

modern lovers

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy property, and start families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch – of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool – to their own teenage offspring.

Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her girl-next-door smile, rich-kid Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and beautiful Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same Brooklyn neighbourhood and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose can never be reclaimed.


My Review of Modern Lovers


Elizabeth and Andrew have a perfect teenage son, Harry. Married couple Zoe and Jane have a rather more wayward teenage daughter, Ruby. Life for all of them is about to become complex and confusing.

I really enjoyed this sharply observed study in what makes us human. Emma Straub knows exactly what each of her characters needs, hopes for and fears, whether they are a lesbian mother or a teenage virgin boy and she conveys that knowledge incisively but humanely so that the reader can’t fail to have sympathy for each of them. I have to confess that I found Andrew an idiot, but I’m sure he would not begrudge me that analysis if I were able to tell him so!

There were so many touches that made me smile as I understood completely the middle aged neuroses of those around 50 years old as they come to terms with the realisation they are no longer young. There’s real wit and humour too as all four adult characters face personal challenges. The past very definitely has a bearing on the present in the tangle of memory, shared experience and deceit so that any reader of a ‘certain age’ would find aspects that resonate in their own lives.

The narrative hinges over one summer as Jane and Zoe contemplate divorce and Elizabeth ‘helps’ the process. The plot plays second fiddle to brilliant characterisation with just a few events that have quite devastating results. Both teenagers, Harry and Ruby, reflect and echo the past mistakes their parents have made but prove themselves quite as mature as the adults.

It’s the character driven spats and arguments, the references to food, music and film and the naivety of the adults that make Modern Lovers such a fun read. Emma Straub explores fully the desire of us all to be loved, and I found Modern Lovers to be witty, brilliantly observed and entertaining with great insight into real life and real human beings. It’s no wonder Emma Straub is a best selling author in America – she will be here in the UK soon too.

About Emma Straub

emma straub

Emma Straub is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Vacationers, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and the short story collection Other People We Married. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,Vogue, Elle, and Conde Nast Traveller, and she is a contributing writer for Rookie. Straub’s work has been published in fifteen countries.

You can follow Emma Straub on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.