An Evening with #DestinationHQ

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Lat night, Monday 17th June 2019, I was invited by the lovely folk at Harper Collins to their HQ imprint event #DestinationHQ, showcasing their forthcoming fiction from Summer 2019 to Spring 2020 and my goodness what a collection it is. It’s no wonder HQ have been celebrating considerable success with so many recent awards as Publicity Director Sophie Calder described in her introduction to the evening.

Having cleared security where being referred to as ‘Madam’ by the security guard made me feel a little bit ancient until I looked around and realised I probably WAS the oldest person in the room, we were taken to the 17th floor of the News Building where fantastic views are afforded across London.

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The first table to greet us held most welcome cocktails and I confess I may have had one or three of those!

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A table of water cooling fans was very welcome too!

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However, more importantly was a table laden with some of the new and forthcoming releases from HQ. I confess that I collected some of these to take away at the end of the evening.

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HQ Debut Authors

Once Sophie had introduced the evening, Senior Press Officer Joe Thomas introduced the HQ debut authors and invited them to tell us about their books in one minute.

Firstly, Alyson Rudd told us about The First Time Lauren Pailing Died which will be published on 11th July 2019 and is available for pre-order here.

Lauren Pailing

Lauren Pailing is born in the sixties, and a child of the seventies. She is thirteen years old the first time she dies.

Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too.

But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.

And so it is that every ending is also a beginning. And so it is that, with each new beginning, Peter Stanning inches closer to finally being found…

Next Luan Goldie introduced her debut Nightingale Point which comes out on 25th July 2019 and is available for pre-order here.

Nightingale Point

On an ordinary Saturday morning in 1996, the residents of Nightingale Point wake up to their normal lives and worries.

Mary has a secret life that no one knows about, not even Malachi and Tristan, the brothers she vowed to look after.
Malachi had to grow up too quickly. Between looking after Tristan and nursing a broken heart, he feels older than his twenty-one years.
Tristan wishes Malachi would stop pining for Pamela. No wonder he’s falling in with the wrong crowd, without Malachi to keep him straight.
Elvis is trying hard to remember to the instructions his care worker gave him, but sometimes he gets confused and forgets things.
Pamela wants to run back to Malachi but her overprotective father has locked her in and there’s no way out.

It’s a day like any other, until something extraordinary happens. When the sun sets, Nightingale Point is irrevocably changed and somehow, through the darkness, the residents must find a way back to lightness, and back to each other.

Anita Frank (whom I was delighted to chat to during the evening over canapes and more cocktails) described The Lost Ones coming out on 31st October 2019 and available for pre-order here.

The Lost Ones

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

Sarah Hussain

 

We were then treated to Sairish Hussain’s explanation of The Family Tree which really intrigues me! It’s so new that I can’t even share the cover or pre-order links with you, but it sounds fantastic and will be out on 20th February 2020!

Louise Hare

 

 

 

Our penultimate debut author presentation came from Louise Hare who described This Lovely City coming on 12th March 2020, so again I can’t show you a blurb or cover yet!Helen Monks Takhar

 

Lastly, but by no means least in the debut author category, we heard all about Precious You by Helen Monks-Takhar which will be released on 30th April 2020. As soon as I have further details about pre-ordering I’ll be doing so as it sounds fabulous!

 

Although all the debut authors had confessed to feeling nervous they did such a brilliant job of introducing their books that I know I’ll be reading them all over the next year!

Uplifting Fiction

HQ’s publicity manager Lucy Richardson then stepped up to introduce the forthcoming uplifting fiction and again I was so impressed by the books about to come our way.

We began with Elaine Bedell telling us all About That Night coming out very soon on 11th July 2019 and available through the links here. I may just have sneaked a copy of this one!

About that Night

Sometimes it only takes one night to change everything…

Elizabeth Place might have been jilted on her wedding day one year ago, but at least she’s still got her brilliant job producing one of the biggest shows on TV!

But when larger-than-life TV host, Ricky Clough, dies live on air, her life is sent spinning out of control. And with foul play suspected, the spotlight is turned firmly on his colleagues – especially Hutch, the man desperate for Ricky’s job and whom Elizabeth is secretly dating.

As her world comes crashing down around her, Elizabeth realises that perhaps the only person she can really trust, is herself…

One of the books I’ve had my eye on since it’s hardback release in January is Seni Glaister‘s Mr Doubler Begins Again and so I was thrilled to pick up a copy and hear all about it. It is available through these links.

Mr Doubler

 

Baked, mashed, boiled or fried, Mr Doubler knows his potatoes. But the same can’t be said for people. Since he lost his wife, he’s been on his own at Mirth Farm – and that suits Doubler just fine. Crowds are for other people; the only company he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it ruins everything – and Mr Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way. But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

Sara Alexander then described The Last Concerto which will be released on 22nd August and is available for pre-order here. This was another I simply had to put in my bag!The Last Concerto

Famed for its natural beauty and rich history, Sardinia in 1968 is notorious, too, for the bandits who kidnap wealthy landowners for ransom.

Famed for its natural beauty and rich history, Sardinia in 1968 is notorious, too, for the bandits who kidnap wealthy landowners for ransom. Eleven-year-old Alba Fresu’s brother, and her father, Bruno, are abducted by criminals who mistake Bruno for a rich man. After a grueling journey through the countryside, the two are eventually released—but the experience leaves Alba shaken and unable to readjust to normal life, or to give voice to her inner turmoil.

Accompanying her mother to cleaning jobs, Alba visits the villa of an eccentric Signora and touches the keys of a piano for the first time. The instrument’s spell is immediate. During secret lessons, forbidden by her mother, Alba is at last able to express emotions too powerful for words alone. Ignoring her parents’ insistence that she work in the family’s car dealership and marry a local boy, Alba accepts a scholarship to the Rome conservatoire. There she immerses herself in a vibrant world of art and a passionate affair.

But her path will lead her to a crossroads, and Alba will have to decide how to reconcile her talent with her longing for love and family, and convey the music of her heart …

Sophia Money-Coutts was the next to present her ‘elevator pitch’ for What Happens Now? which is another 22nd August release available through these links and one I’ll be adding to my TBR.

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‘I was pregnant with the baby of a man I had met once.
What was one normally left with after a first date? A bad case of thrush?’

After eight years together, Lil Bailey thought she’d already found ‘the one’ – that is, until he dumped her for a blonde twenty-something colleague. So she does what any self-respecting singleton would do: swipes right, puts on her best bra and finds herself on a first date with a handsome mountaineer called Max. What’s the worst that can happen?

Well it’s pretty bad actually. First Max ghosts her and then, after weeing on a stick (but mostly her hands), a few weeks later Lil discovers she’s pregnant. She’s single, thirty-one and living in a thimble-sized flat in London, it’s hardly the happily-ever-after she was looking for.

Lil’s ready to do the baby-thing on her own – it can’t be that hard, right? But she should probably tell Max, if she can track him down. Surely he’s not that Max, the highly eligible, headline-grabbing son of Lord and Lady Rushbrooke, currently trekking up a mountain in South Asia? Oh, maybe he wasn’t ignoring Lil after all…

Miranda Dickenson (whom initially I didn’t recognise without a hat!) stepped up to tell us all about The Day We Meet Again which will be released on 5th September 2019 and is available for pre-order here.

The Day We Meet Again

Their love story started with goodbye…

The brand-new novel from The Sunday Times bestselling author, Miranda Dickinson.

‘We’ll meet again at St Pancras station, a year from today. If we’re meant to be together, we’ll both be there. If we’re not, it was never meant to be . . .’

Phoebe and Sam meet by chance at St Pancras station. Heading in opposite directions, both seeking their own adventures, meeting the love of their lives wasn’t part of the plan. So they make a promise: to meet again in the same place in twelve months’ time if they still want to be together.

But is life ever as simple as that?

This is a story of what-ifs and maybes – and how one decision can change your life forever…

Finally in this group of authors, Sarah Morgan introduced her new book A Wedding in December which will be available through these links on 31st October 2019. The final cover is still to come but I do have the blurb for you.

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In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding.

First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret about their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister Katie is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself. If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…

Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiance but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived – how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget.

Domestic Suspense

The final set of fantastic authors was introduced by Izzy Smith. This time we found out all about the new domestic suspense books coming our way.

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It was a bit of a fangirl moment for me as Adele Parks told us all about Lies Lies Lies which is out on 19th September 2019 and available for pre-order here. I didn’t manage to grab a copy of Lies Lies Lies so I know what I’ll be ordering …

Lies Lies Lies

 

Daisy and Simon’s marriage is great, isn’t it?

After years together, the arrival of longed-for daughter Millie sealed everything in place. A happy little family of three.

And so what if Simon drinks a bit too much sometimes – Daisy’s used to it, she knows he’s letting off steam. Until one night at a party things spiral horribly out of control. And that happy little family of three will never be the same again.

In Lies Lies Lies Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks explores the darkest corners of a relationship in freefall in a mesmerising tale of marriage and secrets.

The Move

The Move, described by author Felicity Everett sounds a cracker and will be out on 26th December 2019. You can pre-order a copy here.

Karen is driving through a strange landscape into a new life. Always a city girl, now she is on her way to an idyllic country cottage, refurbished for her with impeccable taste by her husband Nick. They’re making a fresh start.

But something is awry in the new house – it’s not just the fact that Karen and Nick are ill at ease in one another’s company – that their recent history is far from picture perfect, it’s the whole vibe. The landscape is breathtaking by day, eerie by night. If the countryside is supposed to be a place of peace, far away from curtain-twitchers, who is the person watching them from the hill? And who are their new neighbours?

With Karen only recently emerging from a dark place in her life, can she find the trust in her husband Nick to let go of events that have followed them to their new house?

Our penultimate author of the evening was the incredible B. A. Paris who introduced The Dilemma coming on 9th January 2020 and available for pre-order here. (The cover here is an international one and may well be different in the UK and I must confess I was somewhat in awe of being in the same room as B A Paris.)Dilemma

It’s Livia’s fortieth birthday and tonight she’s having a party, a party she’s been planning for a long time. The only person missing will be her daughter, Marnie.

But Livia has a secret, a secret she’s been keeping from Adam, her husband, until the party is over. Because how can she tell him that although she loves Marnie, she’s glad their daughter won’t be there to celebrate with her?

Adam is determined everything will be just right for Livia and the party is going to be perfect… until he learns something that will leave him facing an unbearable decision.

Our final author of the evening was H C Warner who closed the presentations in style with her account of She, coming out on 9th January 2020 and available for early pre-order here.

She

She’s everything he dreamed of.  Isn’t she?

Ben can’t believe his luck when the beautiful Bella walks into his life, just when he needs her most.

Still bruised and vulnerable since breaking-up with long-term girlfriend, Charlotte, he falls head over heels in love.

But Bella isn’t quite the ideal partner that Ben believes her to be. She quickly decides that everything is better when it is just the two of them – making it harder for friend and family to stay in touch. And then a sudden death triggers a chain of events that throws Ben headlong into a nightmare…

Secrets, lies, vengeance and betrayal are at the heart of this story about a family that is destroyed when their son brings home the perfect girl…

Once the formal presentations were over there was time to mingle, eat canapes, drink  and chat with fellow bloggers, publicists and authors. I had meant to dash away to another event, but time passed so quickly I didn’t have chance to do that and instead left #DestinationsHQ with my head buzzing with the absolutely brilliant sounding books I definitely need in my life as I dashed across London to get my train back to Lincolnshire. HQ definitely have something for every reader in their new catalogue so do check them out on Twitter @HQstories or sign up to their newsletter here.

The Things I Know by Amanda Prowse

The Things I know

I’m sure the wonderful Amanda Prowse features on Linda’s Book Bag more often than I do, but there’s a very good reason for that – I love her writing! Consequently, I broke my own NetGalley ban to access an ebook version of The Things I Know even though my sight makes them tricky to read. When a signed and dedicated hard copy arrived I simply had to get reading as soon as I could. My thanks to the team at ED Public Relations for sending me a copy of The Things I Know in return for an honest review.

The Things I Know was published by Lake Union on 13th June 2019 and is available for purchase here.

Here are a few links to other times Amanda Prowse has featured on the blog:

My review of The Coordinates of Loss is here.

My review of Anna is here.

My review of Another Love is here.

My review of My Husband’s Wife is here.

My review of The Food of Love is here.

My review of The Idea of You is here.

As well as meeting her in real life, I have also been privileged to interview Amanda here.

The Things I Know

The Things I know

From bestselling author Amanda Prowse comes a heartwarming tale of first impressions and lasting love.

Thomasina ‘Hitch’ Waycott loves living and working on the remote family farm and B&B. But she also wants more. To see the world. To own her own home. To fall madly in love.

But those are fairy tales, and if her life is a fairy tale, then she’s the ugly duckling. Her deformed lip, her crooked limbs and her weak heart have kept her from taking chances. But that’s about to change.

When Grayson Potts comes to stay, he’s unlike anyone Thomasina has ever met. He’s aloof, eccentric and exceptionally kind. He’s also totally unconcerned with the physical flaws that have always defined Thomasina.

The two form a bond that neither has had before. It’s possible that it could become something more, but Thomasina also wonders if it’s too good to be true. By putting her heart on the line, Thomasina may open herself to heartbreak. But she may also open herself to so much more.

My Review of The Things I know

Life is hard for Thomasina ‘Hitch’ Waycott as she farms with her over-protective parents.

Amanda Prowse is a truly remarkable writer. She delves into the very soul of humanity and lays it bare for her readers but she does so with such sensitivity and love that even a book like The Things I Know, which has the physically disabled Thomasina and the somewhat autistic Grayson Potts, never feels exploitative. Rather, the reader is shown just how much an individual can achieve in spite of perceived difficulties as long as they have their self-respect and some love and support. The Things I Know gives a powerful and effective message about how our flippant attitudes can harm others either intentionally or unwittingly and how bullies of any kind must not be tolerated. As usual when I read Amanda Prowse I found the occasional tear escaping because she manages to imbue every moment with emotion.

Indeed, the themes of The Things I Know are quite awe-inspiring and frequently touching. Love, identity, duty, responsibility, family, work, friendships and relationships permeate every aspect so that there is something here every reader can relate to. I loved the way in which Thomasina dropped her nickname Hitch in favour of her full name as she began to unhitch herself from the well meaning chains of family and responsibility. Thomasina may have physical disabilities and constraints, but she is a woman to be reckoned with. I felt she had become a real-life friend by the end of the book and The Things I Know celebrates difference wonderfully.

I’ve read several of Amanda Proswe’s books and feel that her quality of writing has achieved an even greater depth and resonance through the descriptions and dialogue in The Things I Know. Speech is so natural and her attention to detail brings each scene alive in the mind’s eye making for a very visual and auditory read. I loved this aspect because it placed me so close to Thomasina in every scene. I had been transported to the farm just as much as those guests staying for bed and breakfast. The plotting is perfect too so that I ended the book feeling uplifted, soothed and totally satisfied, not least because the things Thomasina knows which pepper the book are vivid, moving and frequently the hopes and fears so many of us experience in our own lives.

The things I know about The Things I Know are:

It’s a fabulous story

It is written with love, humanity and care

It is emotional and satisfying

I loved every word.

There’s a danger that a prolific and favourite author will become stale or repetitive. However, Amanda Prowse writes with such freshness, authenticity and skill in The Things I Know that I feel honoured to have read the book. I adored it and cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author who has published 28 novels and novellas sold in 22 countries and translated into 12 languages. She has sold millions of copies around the world.

Chart topping titles include What Have I Done?, Perfect Daughter, My Husband’s Wife and The Girl in the Corner.

A Mother’s Story won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the Year Award and Perfect Daughter that was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016. Amanda’s book The Food of Love went straight to No.1 in Literary Fiction when it was launched in the USA and she has been described by the Daily Mail as ‘The Queen of Drama’ for her ability to make the reader feel as if they were actually in the story.

You can follow Amanda Prowse on Twitter and visit her website here. You will also find her on Facebook.

All of Amanda Prowse’s wonderful writing is available here .

Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****! by Gill Sims

Why Mummy Doesn't

I so enjoyed other of Gill Sims’ books that, although I have banned myself from Netgalley,  I couldn’t resist accepting my lovely auto approval for Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****!. I’d like to thank Jasmine Gordon at Harper Collins very much indeed for sending it to me.

You can read my review of Gill Sims’ Why Mummy Drinks here, and of Why Mummy Swears here.

Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****! will be published by Harper Collins on 27th June 2019 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****!

Why Mummy Doesn't

Family begins with a capital eff.

I’m wondering how many more f*cking ‘phases’ I have to endure before my children become civilised and functioning members of society? It seems like people have been telling me ‘it’s just a phase!’ for the last fifteen bloody years. Not sleeping through the night is ‘just a phase.’ Potty training and the associated accidents ‘is just a phase’. The tantrums of the terrible twos are ‘just a phase’. The picky eating, the back chat, the obsessions. The toddler refusals to nap, the teenage inability to leave their beds before 1pm without a rocket being put up their arse. The endless singing of Frozen songs, the dabbing, the weeks where apparently making them wear pants was akin to child torture. All ‘just phases!’ When do the ‘phases’ end though? WHEN?

Mummy dreams of a quirky rural cottage with roses around the door and chatty chickens in the garden. Life, as ever, is not going quite as she planned. Paxo, Oxo and Bisto turn out to be highly rambunctious, rather than merely chatty, and the roses have jaggy thorns. Her precious moppets are now giant teenagers, and instead of wittering at her about who would win in a fight – a dragon badger or a ninja horse – they are Snapchatting the night away, stropping around the tiny cottage and communicating mainly in grunts – except when they are demanding Ellen provides taxi services in the small hours. And there is never, but never, any milk in the house. At least the one thing they can all agree on is that rescued Barry the Wolfdog may indeed be The Ugliest Dog in the World, but he is also the loveliest.

My Review of Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****!

Although I usually find Gill Sims’ writing hysterically funny, this time, in Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****! there were fewer belly laughs but a more sophisticated and mature contemplation of Ellen’s life and the hazards of bringing up two recalcitrant teenagers whilst estranged from her husband Simon. Consequently, the themes felt more poignant so that I was increasingly emotionally connected to the narrative rather than simply giggling along to Ellen’s ‘FML’ comments.

The portraits of ‘moppets’ Peter and Jane are incredibly well drawn as they begin to stretch their adolescent wings. I was reminded of many of the youngsters I’ve taught in the past because their attitudes felt so real. On a more personal level, Jane’s acerbic comments to her mother still frequently go through my own mind at times, although thankfully I’ve learnt to keep them silent! I’m sure many a mother has wondered just how their son can eat quite so much as does Peter… What works so well is the fine line between wanting to be a grown up yet still remaining a child that Gill Sims presents so astutely in Jane and Peter.

I have always been dubious about Simon and I was actually pleased that he and Ellen had parted company as the main plot device in Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****!

However, it was Ellen who still appealed to me the most and I found her predicament of dealing with single motherhood, (along with another couple of stressful life altering events that I can’t say too much about for fear of spoiling the read), actually quite moving at times so that I shed the occasional tear. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her more mature and contemplative persona and consequently she became a much more rounded and believable figure in my mind.

With the same effortless and conversational writing style, the plot of Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****! had greater depth than the other books in the series. I thought I’d guessed the resolution fairly early on, but Gill Sim kept me guessing with elements I really enjoyed and not everything worked out as I had imagined. There’s also less about extraneous characters and a more profound exploration of Ellen’s feelings and emotions so that I felt a greater affinity to the people this time.

With the same yearly plot structure, Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****! feels an artful and appropriate continuation of the other books and whilst Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A ****! may be less funny and light-hearted, it’s no less engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

About Gill Simms

Gill simms

Gill Sims is the author and illustrator of the hugely successful parenting blog and Facebook site ‘Peter and Jane’. She lives in Scotland with her husband, two children and a recalcitrant rescue Border Terrier, who rules the house. Gill’s interests include drinking wine, wasting time on social media, trying and failing to recapture her lost youth and looking for the dog when he decides to go on one of his regular jaunts.

You’ll find Gill on Twitter @whymummydrinks, and can visit Gill’s Peter and Jane Facebook page or read her blog.

A Summer Reunion by Fanny Blake

A Summer Reunion

Now, I’ve tried to stick to my blog tour sabbatical as much as possible this year, but when Alainna at Orion got in touch to see if I’d like to take part in Fanny Blake’s tour for A Summer Reunion all resolve flew out of the window. I’ve long loved Fanny Blake’s writing from way before I began blogging and having met the author last year (see here) when I had a complete fan-girl moment I am thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for this latest book: A Summer Reunion.

It’s far too long since I reviewed a Fanny Blake novel, the last being Our Summer Together in a post you can read here.

A Summer Reunion was published on 13th June 2019 by Orion and is available for purchase through these links.

A Summer Reunion

A Summer Reunion

One perfect villa, four old friends, and a holiday that will change everything…

Amy, Linda, Kate and Jane were best friends at school. Now, years later, they have grown apart. When Amy discovers her husband has been stealing from her successful interiors business, and with a milestone birthday looming, she decides it is the time to reach out to her old friends once again.

So, she decides to invite the other three to her beautiful villa in Mallorca for a reunion weekend. As the four friends gather, secrets are unearthed, old scores settled and new friendships forged. Will this holiday bring them together or tear them apart? And will each of them grasp their second chance for happiness…?

My Review of A Summer Reunion

Gathering old school friends for a Mallorcan reunion may not be plain sailing.

What a joy to return to Fanny Blake’s writing, not least when one of the characters has the same first name as me so that I felt instantly engaged (even if I wasn’t terribly sympathetic towards Linda to start with)! In A Summer Reunion, Fanny Blake demonstrates again just how perceptive she is about more mature women and their lives, hopes and dreams making A Summer Reunion such a satisfying read.

Although all four women, Amy, Jane, Kate and Linda, are equally well represented and defined, I thought it was inspired to contrast Amy’s narrative through the first person with the third person for the others because she is the initial catalyst for all the action. I also thought Dan’s presence added depth and balance to the women when the other male characters are mainly off scene.

Baldly, the plot sounds quite prosaic as four women spend a few days together and reminisce about the past but my goodness that doesn’t do justice to the events, themes and personalities that shimmer through the narrative. There are lies and deception, love and passion, menace and memory so that I never quite knew how the events from the past might be resolved. I thoroughly enjoyed the level of mystery and I really wanted Jane to have a terrible comeuppance, but you’ll need to read the book to see why I had that reaction and if it worked out as I’d hoped.

However, aside from the plot which I so enjoyed, it’s the glorious quality of Fanny Blake’s writing that is so appealing. The use of the senses to evoke Mallorca, the naturalistic dialogue that conveys friends chatting, the small details that bring a scene alive, all blend to make a smooth and pleasurable reading experience. Reading A Summer Reunion felt a little bit like a homecoming. I empathised with the characters. I could see traits of myself in their personalities. I wanted to be beside the pool with them in Amy’s villa and I had my own ideas about a certain artist, but I won’t spoil the plot by saying more…

A Summer Reunion is a smashing book. I loved the underlying message that, although our past may have shaped who we are in the present, it doesn’t have to define our future and I finished reading feeling uplifted and content. A Summer Reunion is the perfect holiday read. I can only hope there will be more about all four women in the future!

About Fanny Blake

fanny blake

Fanny Blake was a publisher for many years, editing both fiction and non-fiction before becoming a freelance journalist and writer. She has written various non-fiction titles, acted as ghost writer for a number of celebrities, and is also Books Editor of Woman & Home magazine. She has written seven novels, including House of Dreams and Our Summer Together.

You can follow Fanny on Twitter @FannyBlake1, find her on Facebook or visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Blog Tour A Summer Reunion

The Lemon Tree Hotel by Rosanna Ley

Lemon tree

I love Rosanna Ley’s books so when I was invited to be part of the paperback launch celebrations for her latest book, The Lemon Tree Hotel, I couldn’t resist. I’d like to thank Milly Reid at Quercus for asking me to participate. I’d first heard about The Lemon Tree Hotel when I was privileged to have afternoon tea with Rosanna Ley at the Covent Garden Hotel last year when Her Mother’s Secret was released. You can see what happened that afternoon in this blog post. and read my review of Her Mother’s Secret here. When I returned to the same venue to find out all about Quercus’ 2019 fiction I was delighted to come away with an early copy of the The Lemon Tree Hotel. I wrote about that fabulous event here.

Rosanna Ley’s Last Dance in Havana was one of my books of the year in 2016 and you can find out all about that here and read my review here.

It was also my huge pleasure to host Rosanna on Linda’s Book Bag when The Little Theatre By The Sea was released and she wrote a glorious guest piece about her travel and research in this post.

Published in paperback today, 13th June 2019, by Quercus, The Lemon Tree Hotel is available for purchase in all formats through the publisher links.

The Lemon Tree Hotel

Lemon tree

A story about love, family secrets, and a little piece of heaven . . .

In the beautiful village of Vernazza, the Mazzone family have transformed an old convent overlooking the glamorous Italian Riviera into the elegant Lemon Tree Hotel. For Chiara, her daughter Elene and her granddaughter Isabella, the running of their hotel is the driving force in their lives.

One day, two unexpected guests check in. The first, Dante, is a face from Chiara’s past, but what exactly happened between them all those years ago, Elene wonders. Meanwhile, Isabella is preoccupied with the second guest, a mysterious young man who seems to know a lot about the history of the old convent and the people who live there. Isabella is determined to find out his true intentions and discover the secret past of the Lemon Tree Hotel.

My Review of The Lemon Tree Hotel

The Lemon Tree Hotel has been in the family for years, but life may be about to change.

I am such a fan of Rosanna Ley’s books that I approached The Lemon Tree Hotel with some anxiety in case it didn’t quite match up to the fantastic writing I’ve come to expect, but I needn’t have worried; The Lemon Tree Hotel is absolutely wonderful. My only issue is that I’m not sure how to do it justice in my review.

Rosanna Ley’s meticulous prose evokes such an intense feeling of place, of people and of emotion that I didn’t feel as if I were reading a book so much as experiencing the events for myself. I found myself in the dilemma of not wanting the book to end but equally desperate to know what happened next. The plot is divine and positively sizzles with longing, self deception and family ties. Revolving predominantly around the mother Chiara, daughter Elena and granddaughter Isabella, there is a natural flow that interlocks their stories into a gorgeously satisfying narrative and there are some wonderful surprises along the way. I found the story completely compelling and transfixing and I loved the touches of Italian language and history that gave added depth and colour.

I so wanted each of the three women, even the prickly Elena, to have a happy outcome because I was made to care about them. Chiara in particular resonated with me, possibly as she is my age, and she almost broke my heart as she let the greatest love of her life slip by. And that is what is so emotional in The Lemon Tree Hotel. Rosanna Ley writes with a maturity of understanding of what it is to be a woman, to make personal sacrifices and to create a marriage and a business. There’s depth, warmth and all consuming storytelling that held me captivated so that I felt immersed in life at the Lemon Tree hotel. That isn’t to say that the men in the story are incidental. All of them from the vile Alonzo, through the enigmatic Ferdinand to the divine Dante add texture as they support or undermine the women in the story.

Equally enchanting a character is the Lemon Tree hotel itself. I wanted to be there every moment I was reading because I was fully transported to the Vernazza area by the author’s evocative use of the senses. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever read a book that has made me as hungry as the luscious descriptions of Elena’s food did here. The Lemon Tree Hotel is not just a story to entertain, but it is a travelogue, a cookery book and a beautifully written sensory experience. Rosanna Ley’s descriptive prose is just gorgeous.

The Lemon Tree Hotel has everything I want in a book and more. It touched me, it involved me emotionally and it entertained me so that I feel enriched by the experience of reading it. Far from not living up to my expectations of her writing, Rosanna Ley has managed to surpass them. I absolutely adored The Lemon Tree Hotel and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Rosanna Ley

author

Rosanna Ley is the bestselling author of novels including Return to Mandalay and The Villa, which sold over 310,000 copies. In February 2015 Return to Mandalay was shortlisted for the RNA Award for the Epic Romantic Novel. She has written numerous articles and short stories for magazines, and her novels have been published in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Lithuania, Turkey and the Czech Republic. The Villa is also published by Quercus in the US.

Rosanna has also worked as a creative writing tutor for over 20 years. She has led courses for colleges and universities in England, and runs her own writing retreats in the UK and abroad in Italy and Spain. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in Creative Writing for Personal Development in order to support this. She also runs a manuscript appraisal service to appraise and mentor the work of new writers.  She is married with children and lives in Dorset.

You’ll find out more about Rosanna Ley on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter @rosannaley. You can also visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Lemon tree BLog Blast - 13 June

Asylum by Marcus Low

asylum

My enormous thanks to Lucy Chamberlain at Legend Press for sending me a copy of Asylum by Marcus Low in return for an honest review.

Published by Legend Press on 15th April 2019, Asylum is available for purchase here.

Asylum

asylum

Barry James is detained in a quarantine facility in the blistering heat of the Great Karoo. Here he exists in two worlds: the unforgiving reality of his incarceration and the lyrical landscapes of his dreams. He has cut all ties with his previous life, his health is failing, and he has given up all hope. All he has to cling to are the meanderings of his restless mind, the daily round of pills and the journals he reluctantly keeps as testimony to a life once lived.

And then there’s an opportunity to escape.

My Review of Asylum

Barry James is in quarantine in a secure unit isolated from the rest of society.

Now, I usually eschew dystopian fiction because it’s not my preferred genre, but Asylum has persuaded me that I am missing a thought-provoking and somewhat disturbing area of fiction. I can’t say I enjoyed Asylum as that would be the wrong description, because I found it perturbing and unsettling, but I loved the vivid and disquieting quality of Marcus Low’s writing. Indeed, although this is a slim book, I think it would reward several readings to uncover its layers of meaning more fully. I found it fascinating.

There’s a bleak beauty and frequently lyrical quality in Asylum, particularly to the descriptions of Barry’s dreams. The landscape is vivid and stark which adds to the menacing aspect of the read. The frequent references to the white sheets and white pill Barry is given made me wonder if I were meant to think of him as an innocent because he is associated with a colour that frequently represents purity.

What is really interesting however, is that, although the reader is ostensibly reading Barry’s own writing in Asylum, he’s never fully knowable. This aspect forced me to consider the way in which society isolates and judges others, in this case those with an infection, and behaves toward them without fully considering an individual. I cared about Barry but I didn’t know if I could trust him.

I found myself almost voyeuristically engaged with the story. I felt uncomfortable reading what are presented as the journals of Barry James with some editorial marginalia so that it made me feel complicit in the treatment and incarceration of Barry and his fellow inmates. Asylum confronts the reader with realities and potential near futures that they may not wish to consider. There’s a devastating bleakness and ultimate futility underpinning the narrative that I found profoundly sad.

I finished Asylum feeling I had read a novel written with sensitivity and ingenuity. Asylum make me think. It forced me to look at the nature of identity, death and of society. It didn’t always make for comfortable reading but I am glad I have had the opportunity to immerse myself into its pages.

About Marcus Low

Marcus low

Marcus Low is a Cape Town-based writer and public health specialist. He completed an MA in creative writing at the University of Cape Town in 2009 – for which he wrote an early draft of Asylum. Marcus previously worked as Policy Director at the Treatment Action Campaign, an influencial South African civil society organisation that advocates for the rights and interests of people living with and affected by tuberculosis (TB) and HIV. He remains involved in public health policy both in South Africa and internationally. His novel Asylum was in part inspired by the incarceration of patients with drug-resistant forms of TB in South Africa circa 2008 – something he directly encountered in his work. He was born in Vryburg, South Africa in 1979.

You can follow Marcus on Twitter @MarcusLowX

From The Deepings to Downtown New York… Featuring Jane E James, Author of The Butcher’s daughter

The Butcher's Daughter

Although I was heavily involved in many of the events at the recent Deepings Literary Festival, one that I couldn’t attend was a free ‘read dating’ held in the library on the Saturday afternoon.

We were trying to showcase local authors, and luckily for us, best-selling author, Jane E James agreed to participate in this popular event. The event was well attended and coincided with the launch of Jane’s latest novel, The Butcher’s Daughter, which is currently climbing the US charts. As Jane’s publisher, Bloodhound Books was one of our generous sponsors for the festival, I thought it time to feature Jane on Linda’s Book Bag.

The Butcher’s Daughter

The Butcher's Daughter

Trust no one. Not even yourself.

When Natalie Powers returns home for the first time in thirteen years, she must convince everyone she has fully recovered from the mental illness which has seen her institutionalised for most of her young life.

But instead of being welcomed back, Natalie enters a baffling world of deception.She must fight her way through the lies in order to discover the truth about her mother’s sudden disappearance sixteen years earlier. To do this, Natalie must also try to remember hazy memories from the past that continue to haunt her.

In the village of Little Downey, everybody appears to harbour a mysterious secret, including her father, Frank, the village butcher, who refuses to discuss the circumstances surrounding Natalie’s mother’s disappearance. But who can Natalie trust if not her own father? Especially when it becomes clear her protector and confidante, Dr Moses, is not all he appears.

Meanwhile a spate of unexplained clifftop suicides has seen the seaside resort go into decline. Are the villagers somehow involved or is something more sinister at work?

Determined to find out what happened to her mother, Natalie must make sure her own frailty and self-doubt does not catapult her back to the mental institution before she can uncover the truth.

The Butcher’s Daughter is available for purchase on Amazon.

I’m delighted to be able to share some exciting news about The Butcher’s Daughter in today’s blog post that illustrates just how being local to the Deepings and taking part in the biennial festival might be a very good thing indeed. Here’s what Jane told me:

From The Deepings to Downtown New York…

At the time of writing The Butcher’s Daughter is sitting at number 22 in the Amazon US best seller chart for psychological fiction and ranked 5th in hot new releases, sitting next to S E Lynes and Sue Watson’s latest offerings. With Amazon selling close to 1.8 million books at any one time, Jane is rather chuffed with this achievement.

5 best seller

Part of this success has earned Jane an invitation to New York, to visit the aptly-named The Butcher’s Daughter, to talk about her book. Surprisingly, or perhaps because of the content of her book, Jane is a vegetarian. In the acknowledgement section of her book she describes how visiting slaughterhouses and butcher shops as research for her writing changed her mind set about eating meat.

BD

The Butcher’s Daughter was originally written by Jane as a screenplay and very nearly made it to the big screen. Having recently been in touch again with the same producer (making sure he has a copy of her book) she is hoping that may still happen!

In the meantime, Jane is keeping it real. As we speak, she is camping in Cornwall with her lovely hubby hoping that the rain will eventually stop.

(I hope so too Jane! Although I’m sure you could make some notes about the weather for your next book!)

About Jane E James

jane reading

Jane likes to create chilling reads that appeal to fans of psychological thrillers, mysteries and dark fiction. She loves to weave tense and haunting tales that stay in the reader’s mind. All her books are standalone novels.

Jane signed a two-book publishing deal with Bloodhound Books after her second novel, The Crying Boy (a compelling suspense thriller inspired by actual events) became an overnight best seller on Amazon, knocking both Stephen King and Dean Koontz off the top suspense spot.

When she isn’t writing (or reading) Jane enjoys living ‘the good life’ in the Cambridgeshire countryside with her ‘all-action-super-hero’ hubby. Rebecca, Carrie, The Woman in Black and Wuthering Heights are among some of Jane’s favourite reads.

To find out more, follow Jane on Twitter @jane_e_james, or visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.