Blog Tour: A Rebel at Pennington’s by Rachel Brimble

About the Author:


Rachel Brimble lives in Wiltshire with her husband of twenty years, two teenage daughters and her beloved chocolate Labrador, Tyler. Multi-published in the US, she is thrilled to have a new beginning writing for Aria in the UK. When Rachel isn’t writing, she enjoys reading across the genres, knitting and walking the English countryside with her family…often stopping off at a country pub for lunch and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Follow Rachel:

Twitter: @RachelBrimble

Facebook: @RachelBrimble

About the Book:

One woman’s journey to find herself and help secure the vote. Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridge and The Paradise.

1911 Bath. Banished from her ancestral home, passionate suffrage campaigner Esther Stanbury works as a window dresser in Pennington’s Department Store. She has hopes and dreams for women’s progression and will do anything to help secure the vote.

Owner of the prestigious Phoenix Hotel, Lawrence Culford has what most would view as a successful life. But Lawrence is harbouring shame, resentment and an anger that threatens his future happiness. When Esther and Lawrence meet, their mutual understanding of life’s challenges unites them and they are drawn to the possibility of a life of love that neither thought existed.

With the Coronation of King-Emperor George V looming, the atmosphere in Bath is building to fever pitch, as is the suffragists’ determination to secure the vote.

Will Esther’s rebellious nature lead her to ruin or can they overcome their pasts and look to build a future together?

My Review:

The second of the Pennington’s series is set in Bath in 1911. . Esther Stanbury, a window dresser at Pennington’s Department Store, has huge dreams for the a better deal for women in society and wants progression, peace and respect for them. She also wants rhem to have the power to vote.

Lawrence Culford has it all, but there’s deep-seated anger shame and resentment running through his veins and his happiness is at risk.

What will happen when they meet?
It’s all action in Bath with the upcoming King’s coronation and the Suffragette movement fighting to secure the vote.

A Rebel at Pennington’s is a real tense, will they won’t they kind of novel. I was wondering if Lawrence and Esther would work things out in spite of their different backgrounds and personalities but it was a joy seeing their friendship grow. At the same time, I was wondering if Esther would get what she wanted for herself as a woman and for all the women of the time. When I was at school, the Suffragette movement was one of my favourite periods of history and I myself am really into fighting for my own rights as an individual.

Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridge and The Paradise. I love any historical novel about love, life and huge department stores. I’ve been to Bath and the majestic nature of the city is ever-present here. I loved the descriptions of Pennington’s itself and the atmosphere of the shop. Esther’s contentment with her job as the head of the department of window dressing is evident as is her drive, courage and passion in fighting for societal change no matter what the cost. And there is a cost, an emotional one and the stakes are high.

Leaving home is not easy but her father’s opinions are too much. Rachel Brimble writes an engrossing novel that’s second in the series bur also a good standalone. I’d recommend reading the first book before this to get an idea of background. 4 stars
Thanks to Rachel Brimble and Aria for my ARC copy in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and a spot on the blog tour for this title. Great to be back at Pennington’s.
Where to Buy: 

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2slN4Jk

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2H5ot5W

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2AGws3x

iBooks: https://apple.co/2D1GDBm
Esther marched past the family towards Pennington’s open double doors. That told him. The way he’d looked at her! Almost as if she entertained him. Well, maybe next time, he’d think twice before declaring what was, or wasn’t, a suitable toy or pastime for his children. It was attitudes like his that held back progress; that scuppered the Cause’s efforts time and time again.Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Esther walked through Pennington’s doors and into the glittering, brightly lit atrium. The mammoth space burst with activity, customers strolling arm in arm around the glistening counters and dressed mannequins standing on platforms dotted throughout. Wide-brimmed hats and tailored suits provided a seemingly endless flow of colour. At Pennington’s, dancers and actors, gentry and businessmen shared the same space with middle-class housewives, labourers or nannies with prams. The sight of such equality never failed to brighten Esther’s most sombre mood.

When Elizabeth’s father, Edward Pennington, had finally seen sense and passed the store’s reins to his daughter, Elizabeth had quickly and decisively implemented changes that meant the demographic of Pennington’s shoppers instantly modernised from being shamefully elitist to encompassing people from every walk of life. The struggle Elizabeth had gone through to be valued and respected by her father had bordered on painful, but she’d succeeded in her endeavours, despite the odds stacked against her.

She’d utilised every ounce of her passion and drive to do all she could to help female workers labour towards an equal footing with men. To encourage and inspire belief in the department heads and their staff that the stark differences between men and women was a thing of the past at Pennington’s.

Working alongside her new husband, Joseph Carter, Elizabeth retained her maiden name for her professional life only. As her friend, Esther knew only too well how much Elizabeth relished being Mrs Carter. Not as a sign of inferiority or bondage to her husband but as a proud public acknowledgement to a man she loved and respected. Someone who had been far below her social standing when they’d met and fallen in love, but despite the obstacles, Elizabeth and Joseph had fought her father in order to spend their lives together. Her love for her husband was tangible whenever Esther was near them, whether in the workplace or socially. They were a formidable team, and one Esther felt honoured to work with.

Esther lifted her gaze to the sunlight that flowed through the glass dome, casting pink, blue and green in every direction, prismed by the huge chandeliers hung throughout the seemingly endless store. She smelt the soft scent of perfume mixed with the sweetness emanating from the numerous bouquets of flowers standing in vases on marble plinths and breathed deep, as love for her job and the people she worked with hastened her steps and demolished her temper.

Esther weaved through the throng towards the stairs leading to her department in the store’s basement. She was thankful Elizabeth had agreed she could start work a little later this morning. The ten-hour days she’d worked for the last month to get the toy window display finished as well as adding bits and pieces to the store’s plans for the upcoming Coronation had finally taken their toll and – added to the constant and growing demands of her aging aunt – Esther’s focus had woefully drifted. Something she’d never allowed to happen before and was determined to rectify. Her constant need to prove herself had become an obsession.

She inhaled. An obsession she feared she’d never satisfy.

Her father’s rejection of her and her ensuing need to feel worthy of her mother’s belief in her had meant Esther worked hard, often forgoing fun in a bid to succeed in her work for the Cause and here at Pennington’s.

Her desperate need to feel valued and wanted sometimes hung over her like a heavy cloud, and she had absolutely no idea what, or who, would make that change. All she knew, with the utmost certainty, was that she’d never give up until she’d succeeded.


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Blog Tour: Coming Home to Holly Close Farm by Julie Houston 

About the Author: 


Julie Houston is the author of THE ONE SAVING GRACE, GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME and LOOKING FOR LUCY, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle #1 bestseller. She is married, with two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.

 

Follow Julie:

 

Twitter: @juliehouston2

 

Facebook: @JulieHoustonauthor

 

About the Book:

Charlie Maddison loves being an architect in London, but when she finds out her boyfriend, Dominic, is actually married, she runs back to the beautiful countryside of Westenbury and her parents.

 

Charlie’s sister Daisy, a landscape gardener, is also back home in desperate need of company and some fun. Their great-grandmother, Madge – now in her early nineties – reveals she has a house, Holly Close Farm, mysteriously abandoned over sixty years ago, and persuades the girls to project manage its renovation.

 

As work gets underway, the sisters start uncovering their family’s history, and the dark secrets that are hidden at the Farm.

 

A heart-breaking tale of wartime romance, jealousy and betrayal slowly emerges, but with a moral at its end: true love can withstand any obstacle, and, before long, Charlie dares to believe in love again, too……

My Review: 

Charlie Maddison loves her work as an architect in London, but then something happens in her life that brings her happiness in life skidding to a halt. She and her boyfriend Dominic were living together and things were good. When she finds out he’s married, she gets on the train with her belongings and does not look back.

Her destination? Westenbury, the town of her childhood and the home of her parents. Charlie’s sister Daisy is overjoyed when she’s back together with her sister.

Things get interesting when their great-grandmother Madge lets on she has an abandoned house which is Holly Close Farm, the sisters take a look at the place and the renovations begin.

Coming Home to Holly Close Farm has family’s history, and dark secrets. There’s wartime romance, jealousy and betrayal. All this is expertly weaved in around a story of family relationships and being together again after being taken in different directions by life.

Julie Houston writes brilliantly and the relationships are realistic. The bond between sisters, as well as the interaction with the family. I really like Charlie and Daisy. There’s sisterly banter and humour in some places amongst the plot of the story too which lightens the mood a bit yet the story is very dramatic and the pace just made me want to continue. There are happy and sad times akin to real life and I felt for Charlie and Daisy and was happy to see them together. The sense of family is very strong throughout the novel and there’s mystery at the beginning which had me hooked. That was a very clever way of revealing what was to come for Charlie and what would push her away from London and back home.

The book is about taking chances, making sacrifices no matter how hard it hurts.

Thanks to Julie Houston and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review as well as my blog tour slot. 4 stars for this one because in some parts the pacing was slower than others, but overall a very good novel.

This is not the first book I have reviewed by Julie Houston, I really enjoyed A Village Affair too.

Buy links:

Amazon: http://amzn.eu/d/2Q4hjjW

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2SunhcY

iBooks: https://apple.co/2rmy9OL

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Ul2evq

Mum?’

‘Charlie? Hello, darling. Dad and I were just talking about you.’

‘Mum, can I come home for a bit?’

‘What, for the weekend you mean?’

‘A bit longer than that, possibly. Probably.’

‘Of course you can come home. You know that.’ Mum sounded surprised as well she might. I suddenly realised with a slight jolt that not only had I not been back to Yorkshire for a good six months, I’d not rung home for ages either. ‘Dad and I were only just saying we needed to have a trip down to London to see you. How’s Dominic? Is everything OK?’

‘I’ll tell you when I see you.’

‘So, when are you thinking of coming up then?’

‘Er, like now?’

‘Now? Today? This evening? Oh, right. Lovely. And is Dominic with you? Are you both up for the weekend?’

‘Oh, Mum.’

‘Charlie, what is it?’

‘Mum, can you pick me up? The train gets in at ten thirty.’ I paused. ‘And can you come in Dad’s car rather than yours? I’ve got rather a lot of stuff with me.’ I glanced at the bin bags perched in a neat row on the overhead luggage rack like a flock of particularly malevolent crows.

‘Right, darling. What time did you say? I was just about to watch that new drama with Cummerbund Benderbatch…’ She paused and I could almost hear her brain clicking into gear. ‘That’s not right, is it? Oh, you know who I mean. I’ll go and make sure your bed’s made up. Will you have eaten?’

I didn’t think I’d ever be able to eat again. I could certainly drink, though. I rang off and made my way down the carriages until I found the buffet bar and bought three little plastic bottles of wine.

I worked my way methodically down all three bottles, glaring at the man opposite so that he gets the message that conversation was definitely not on the menu. I tried Dominic’s number again and again, only to hear the three little beeps verifying no such number was in existence. Well, I could still email him. I couldn’t see him getting rid of that so easily: he’d need it for work.

You bastard, Dominic Abraham.
That was after the first bottle of wine…

You lying, cheating, tosser bastard.
Two down and I was on a roll.

And yes, Dominic, size does matter. It must be down to all the double exercise it’s been getting lately. Obviously wearing away.
That little drunken tirade accompanied the final plastic bottle.

I finally drained my glass and looked tipsily out of the window. We were heading towards Doncaster and, as we went through a tunnel, my reflection stared back at me. Is this what I’d come to? Several years in London doing a job I loved and had trained for and I was heading back home to Midhope, tail between my legs. Nearly thirty and back home to my mum and dad. No home, no job, no man but, instead, five black bin bags to show for seven years’ training as an architect. And then another three in London working for one architectural company before being interviewed by Dominic Abraham eleven months ago and landing the job in property development which I loved and which I was jolly good at.

As we pulled into Wakefield, I stood on my seat and started hauling down my bags.

‘Here, love, let me help you.’ The man opposite stood and pulled down the last two bags but the final and fullest bag split, its innards of unwashed bras, pants and work shirts, obviously scooped up from the laundry basket, spilling onto the floor, the seats below and, unfortunately, the balding heads of two elderly men nodding their way towards Leeds.

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Blog Tour: From Mum with Love by Louise Emma Clarke 

About the Book:

 

Full-time mum Jess has had enough, and her husband, Chris, has just the solution to vent her frustrations – a blog.

Jess loves her daughter more than anything, but sometimes she just wants a little bit of freedom – some time for herself. Queue a laptop, a glass of wine and the beginning of a life-changing journey.
Overnight Jess’s inbox is full of notifications and before long she is officially a ‘mummy blogger’ but this new life comes with its own set of rules and regulations. With Queen of the Bloggers, Tiggy, blanking her in public, people recognizing her on the street and her life decisions suddenly judged by strangers Jess’s idea of ‘me time’ is slowly becoming a full-time job.
Will Jess be able to find the right life/work balance? Or will she wish she’d never turned to a world online?

 

About the Author:

 

Louise’s blog, Mum of Boys and Mabel has over 100k followers. Having moved to Dubai with her family she’s now back in the UK and is enjoying writing. From Mum with Love is her debut novel.

Follow Louise:  

Facebook: @mumboysandmabel

Twitter: @mumofboysmabel

Last year, I did a cover reveal post for this book. Click HERE to read it  

Where to Buy: 

Amazon: mybook.to/FromMumWithLove

iBooks: https://apple.co/2RmloTu

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2sEFnOv

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2Fl7ta9

 

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Extract:

Bella was smiling up at her daddy, who was gazing adoringly back – but as Jessica paused, he turned his attention back to her. She wasn’t finished. ‘I tried to get her back to sleep, but she wasn’t having any of it, so while you sat on the train to London, probably flicking through a newspaper in peace and drinking a coffee you could actually get to the bottom of before it went cold, I was watching the Teletubbies on the living room rug, wearing a donkey puppet as a hat. And after doing that for what felt like an eternity, I looked at my watch and it had been fourteen minutes, Chris. FOURTEEN MINUTES. Can you imagine? No, you bloody can’t!’She took a deep breath before she continued. ‘So next on the day’s fun agenda was feeding her breakfast. A simple task, wouldn’t you think? Well no, it never bloody is! I offered her cereal first. She threw the whole bowl on the floor. I offered her banana next. She smeared it over the high chair, over her face, over her clothes, and as a crescendo, over my pyjamas too – which I only washed yesterday, so you can imagine my delight… I then decided that was enough mess for one day and I made her some dry toast. But, as you can probably guess by now, that wasn’t bloody right either – so I spent the rest of the morning veering between feeling outraged at how incredibly headstrong our child is and worried sick that she is deliberately starving herself. And let me tell you, Chris, asking Google didn’t alleviate any of those worries…’

‘OK, honey, I get the picture,’ he interrupted, as Bella started struggling in his arms to get down.

‘You get the picture? You get the picture? No, you don’t, Chris!’ she shouted. ‘Keep with me because there is more. There’s lots more!’

Chris leant down and placed Bella on the floor of her nursery. She immediately toddled towards Jessica and attached herself to her legs.

‘Moving onto her morning nap, where I tried unsuccessfully to get her to sleep for a grand total of fifty-three minutes,’ she continued, leaning down to scoop up Bella. ‘What were you doing at 9.35 a.m., Chris? Having a leisurely breakfast at your desk? Making a coffee in the kitchen and comparing fantasy football results with John? Well, I hope it was fun, because I was lying on a bed being repeatedly whipped around the face with a cuddly bunny rabbit!’

Chris’ mouth curled into a smile, which he tried to hide by leaning down to pick up Hello Kitty from the chair below him. ‘Ah, here’s Hello Kitty, Bella!’ he said. ‘We were looking for her last night, weren’t we? She was here all the time!’

Bella cooed and reached out to grab Hello Kitty, while Jessica exhaled deeply.

‘I’m sorry, Jess! I’m really sorry,’ Chris said, reaching down to stroke his daughter’s hair.

‘Are you?’ Jessica snapped back. ‘Are you really sorry?’

‘Yes, honey. Of course I am,’ he replied, smiling down at his daughter

‘You don’t bloody sound it,’ she said, feeling the rage bubble.

Chris looked up at her. ‘Let’s not do this now, Jess. Not in front of Bella. I’m exhausted.’

Jessica sighed loudly, plonked her child in her father’s arms, and stormed out the room.


 

Blog Tour: Summer on the Italian Lakes by Lucy Coleman

About the Author: 

 Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

 

Follow Lucy:

 

Twitter: @LucyColemanAuth

 

Facebook: @LinnBHaltonAuthor

 

About the Book:
The feel-good read of 2019, perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond and Karen SwanBestselling

 

Brianna Middleton has won the hearts of millions of readers with her sweeping – and steamy – love stories. But the girl behind the typewriter is struggling…. Not only does she have writer’s block, but she’s a world-famous romance author with zero romance in her own life.

 

So the opportunity to spend the summer teaching at a writer’s retreat in an idyllic villa on the shores of Lake Garda – owned by superstar author Arran Jamieson – could this be just the thing to fire up Brie’s writing – and romantic – mojo?

 

Brie’s sun-drenched Italian summer could be the beginning of this writer’s very own happy-ever-after…

 

Escape the January blues with this sun-drenched, heart-warming story from the bestselling author of Snowflakes Over Holly Cove. What readers are saying about Lucy Coleman…

Where to Buy:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2M9bQFF

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2RpOXDQ

iBooks: https://apple.co/2Md3soU

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Mba8DC

My Review: 

 
Brie is an author who is struggling after a breakup from Paul and right from the beginning, Lucy Coleman gets us inside Brie’s head, but not just with relationship-themed thoughts however. We see her plight as an author which, since I myself have drafted various books over the years, found incredibly interesting and I was absorbed by it. I love her character. She is so honest, sensitive, realistic but strong and likeable.

As someone who has their own writing process, I identified with the struggle to find a writing-life balance. Brie gives some useful life advice as she fights against her oen personal demons with the help of her great friend Mel, who I liked also as I found she was so supportive and enjoyed seeing how she helped Brie love herself again. Makeovers and clothes are my thing, so I was hooked and, as a person whose own weight has yoyoed over the years and who decided to make the right choices regarding food and exercise, I found myself cheering out loud as Brie started to focus less on Paul and more on her self care goals.

When her publisher/ agent suggests a writing retreat, Brie isn’t sure. She’s used to her “style of life” – writing for hours and lounging in her PJs in her cosy cottage. But, she’s convinced that if she made one change she can make another and so finds herself on a plane to Italy and staying at a beautiful villa on the shores of Lake Garda. It’s not just any villa, but the home of author Arran. Genres and lives merge here and it’s clear to see that that is a good place to start with the conversation when they first meet. As with all great books, I will leave this review up to the reader’s imagination and just say that I adored this book so much. I felt like, in Brie, Lucy Coleman really epitomised what it is like to seriously get down to it and write a book, whether it gets published or not.

The ins and outs of Brie’s writing process gave this book an edge that no other romance has. It is not slushy. It is not predictable. It is so realistic and in Brie, I saw myself. The passion for writing, the meticulous process and the relaxation in the pampering. The thrill of reinventing yourself. I felt like I was traveling with Brie in more ways than one, learning more about another’s writing proccess although she was a character in a book. To me, she and Arran were so real.

Summer on the Italian Lake is fun, realistic and relaxing. I have mever been on any writing retreat (except a virtual one in the form of NaNoWriMo) and I loved sharing in Brie and Arran’s life. Italy comes to life and I loved it when Brie and Arran were involved in organisung the retreat and even more when Brie helped out……

As a lot of this is about writing and the writing process, I am not sure it is a book for everyone who likes, and is expecting, a clear-cut romance. Because it’s not. I definitely feel it will appeal more to you if you are an author or dabbling in writing yourself.

Summer on the Italian Lake is the third book by Lucy Coleman that I have reviewed after A French Adventure and Snowflakes over  Holly Cove.

As with any book with a setting in Italy, the food and scenery are spectacular. There’s a whole host of different characters (both characters in this book as well as Brie’s romances and Arran’s history books) to add richness to the plot. As with all of Lucy Coleman’s novels, you will fall in love with this. I know I did.

Huge thanks to Lucy Coleman and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for this book. 5 stunning stars. I cannot wait to review more by Lucy Coleman.

To finish this post, here’s an extract from this wonderful book!

Just being around Paul was intoxicating at first because he was so attentive and it made me feel special. Until the paparazzi started snapping less than flattering photos, which seemed to prove I didn’t have one single good angle on me. Or a way of getting out of a car elegantly, even though by then I was a whole stone lighter. Slowly it began to erode my confidence whenever I was out and about with him.
Then, to my shame, the press started comparing me to Paul’s former girlfriends. They even congratulated him on the fact that the size of a woman’s thighs clearly didn’t bother him. I mean, how dare they? Amply proportioned was one of the terms used and that was only the start of the fat-shaming. But I wasn’t fat. I was a size twelve for goodness’ sake, and I’m never going to be stick thin. Nor do I want to be. But freedom of speech is a dangerous thing and it was impossible to stem the flow, or even correct the lies.
Worse was to come and that’s when I began reaching for the family size chocolate bars. For the first time in my life I regretted not writing under a pen name. As soon as Paul introduced me to someone and they heard the name Brianna Middleton, I swear their eyes would open wide in surprise.
‘Not the author?’ They’d query. Or, ‘Really?’ with that little lift in their voice implying I wasn’t what they were expecting at all.
If I thought that was bad, what happened next was a disaster. The name calling and trolling on Twitter sent me into panic mode. The whole world could see these very personal attacks and virtually all of them were about my appearance.
‘Have you seen the latest?’ I’d screeched down the phone at Mel one morning in a traumatised state.
‘No. But it’s only jealousy, Brie, anyway. They’re the ones who look pathetic and you shouldn’t take it to heart.’ Her empathy had been real, but her grasp of the situation was tenuous.
‘Okay – and I quote: “Seriously??? She needs a stylist… Poor Paul.” Then someone named CutieSue: “Another clinger-on. Book sales must be down lol!” Even the guys, MDR53 says: “Dude, what’s happening – is this a joke? Sizeable ass going on there.” And this! Pussykins1982: “Who do you think you are, lady? One burger too many in that dress.” There are whole threads, laughing and joking over the footage of me getting my coat caught in that revolving door! Someone has even posted a video clip of it on a continual loop set to music.’ I’d gasped, as my lungs ran out of air and I began to hyperventilate.
The clip made it look like I was simply too wide to get through the doorway because of the angle. The reality was that the hem of my coat jammed between the inner and outer revolving walls and the mechanism ground to a halt. With five paparazzi snapping away the other side of the glass, and my face getting redder by the moment as I tugged and tugged, it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Mel had been speechless and all she could do was to try and calm me down, saying eventually the haters would tire and I’d become old news.
I got it. Paul was a heartthrob; meltingly gorgeous and he only had to roll out of bed in the morning, grab a wrinkled T-shirt off the floor and he looked amazing. Even better when he forgot to shave, which he often did because he knew it made women’s jaws drop. It’s too easy for men, isn’t it?
Me? Well, I kept up my daily exercise regime to convince myself I was on the right track. But, once more, my cupboard was brimming over with the very things I knew I shouldn’t be eating.
I was also back and forth to the beauty salon waxing bits of me I hadn’t glanced at in a long while and wearing the weirdest nail combos going. Blingy bits aren’t really me and it was an utter nightmare typing, letting alone pulling up my leggings. But I felt the need to make myself better in some way to justify Paul’s attention. The irony was that he didn’t seem aware of the agonies I was going through. He seemed to like me the way I was, but I didn’t like me the way I was and neither did the haters, or the press.
I felt a little like Cinderella. The excitement of being a part of Paul’s life was rather like going to a big party you’ve been looking forward to for ages. As the night draws to a close, though, you simply want to crawl under the duvet and sleep for hours and hours. I ran out of steam. The negativity overwhelmed me and I stopped trying. In fact, I did the reverse. It wasn’t one slice of cake, it was the whole cake and it showed. Quickly I gained back the stone in weight that I’d lost and added another eight pounds to that. My daily jog was now a slow walk.

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Review: An Improbable Pairing by Gary Dickson

An Improbable Pairing [January 8, 2019] by historical romance novelist Gary Dickson chronicles the enduring themes of a young man’s coming of age and the rebellious love with a mismatched European high society Countess. Set in the golden years of 1960s Paris, Geneva, Gstaad, and Cannes, An Improbable Pairing provides an inside look into the worlds of haute couture, three-star gourmet restaurants, and lavish hotel suites—the domains of rank and privilege. But society’s privileged resist when an interloper threatens to upset their cozy structure.
In September of 1963, Scott Stoddard, an American graduate student, is traveling to Switzerland when he meets the Countess de Rovere, a French divorcee—he is smitten, and she is intrigued. What begins as a little coquetry soon becomes a serious love affair, much to the consternation of the Countess’s ex-husband and mother, not to mention the Countess’s friends of European high society. A meeting of equals poses problems enough, but what about one between two people who seem to have so many differences? And when a man of traditional attitudes couples with an independent and self-confident woman, something’s got to give. It won’t be the countess. As their liaison transcends an affair that cannot be dismissed, they all agree that something must be done.
An Improbable Pairing proves that love will prevail even when family and society are against the couple’s will. “Those of us fortunate enough to have been in love or to be in love remember or know the intensity and deliciousness of being infatuated with another person,” says Dickson. “Troubles and cares melt away and being with that person of our desire overtakes all reason. A kind of trance develops where we see no wrong, disregard any blemish, deny any fault. This is the feeling I hope to invoke with readers of An Improbable Pairing.”

About the Author:


Gary Dickson is an inveterate traveler and a Francophile, sans merci. Educated in the United States and Switzerland in history, literature, and the classics, Gary lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Susie. Follow him on Goodreads, Instagram and Facebook.

My Review:

I was sucked in by the beauty of the cover of this book and by the title and synopsis, although from those I was also worried that the story would be predictable.

There are some very good parts in this book. The attention to atmosphere and details that create atmosphere and also the description of the clothes and rooms seemed very lavish and I loved that. But the conversation was stilted.

I did like Millie and she seemed likeable. I was disappointed that Scott, so soon after having met Millie and during a moment where they seemed relaxed together despite having only just met in the opulent surroundings of a cruise ship during its transatlantic crossing, seemed so interested in the Countess. He seemed the kind of guy who saw and appreciated people for who they were, not what they had, yet he seemed to also be thinking a lot about the Countess.

I felt that part came on too quickly for me, it was a conflict for the end of the first chapter. Although we get a good idea of what each character is thinking and when, I would have appreciated more dithering feelings from Scott, more uncertainty, about his feelings and more depth as to how meeting the two women affected him so we could feel for him.

But I felt like he was shutting the possibility of getting to know Millie out and too drawn by the Countess.

Question: I had to wonder, would he have been so drawn to the Countess had she not been a Countess and wealthy? He seemed like a likable guy, I wasn’t sure at times. Another predictable thing was- what a coincidence that he’d end up where the women were? But then again, this was a lead-in to them seeing each other again.

The references to Titanic and similar were mentioned too early on in the book, I thought and did not really need to be mentioned, as anyone who has seen Titanic (and I have, and differrent versions at that) will see the similarities without being told.

I did find myself going “who will he end up with?” but I was secretly hoping it was Millie and not the Countess, as the whole cruise, lowly student falling for the older woman has been done before but what kept me interested was the quick succinct pace of the writing and the effectiveness of the adjectives and words used in conjuring up images and descriptions.

I would have preferred the parts in brackets to have been left out of brackets as some was important information that deepened the thought process Scott or whoever was thinking was having, yet I felt like I would have liked to have felt like I knew the characters more. So, in summary, great cover and descriptions but unengaging conversation and lack of emotions that made some parts seem to plod along.

Thanks to Gary Dickson and Smith Publicity for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. 3 stars.

 

An Improbable Pairing is now available on Amazon and other retailers.
Q&A with World Traveler and Novelist Gary Dickson
AUTHOR OF AN IMPROBABLE PAIRING

 

Question: What do you want readers to take away from Scott and Desirée’s connection and relationship in the story?

 

Gary Dickson: I want readers to understand and remember the architecture of the relationship between Scott and the Countess, Desirée. While built on the chemistry of attraction and love, it is buttressed by affection, intelligence and humor. To be in love is often chemistry, but to stay in love the relationship must be of such importance that the couple is willing to make the necessary modifications to their pre-conceived desires and attitudes in order for their love to survive and blossom.

 

Q: What makes An Improbable Pairing so different from other historical romance novels?

 

Dickson: Most historical fiction is heavy with obvious research piling on specifics sometimes not pertinent to the story. In the case of An Improbably Pairing, no research was necessary since the scenes and the culture of this period are so very familiar to me. As a result, the descriptions have the authenticity of first-hand experience rather than a ponderous factual approach. This story is light-hearted, fast-paced yet packed with accurate detail, as one reviewer remarked, “an almost cinematic description.”

 

Q: Do you have additional stories or books you are working on?

 

Dickson: Yes, many in the works! I have already written a sequel but with an espionage and thriller flavor called A Spy with Scruples, a continuation of the Scott and Desirée story. I also have an idea for a sequel to this novel, which is a continuation of the spy motif that takes place in Switzerland, New York, and Palm Beach, FL. I have also completed another novel, a melange of a fantasy, a mystery, and a romance within the speculative fiction genre. Additionally, I have written and will shortly publish a book of poetry, La Poesie De Bonne Bouffe/The Poetry of Good Eats. A series of 25 poems in French with English translations, celebrating French food specialties, a French and English recipe for each, and an acknowledgement page which details the places I’ve frequented and learned about these delicacies.

See this video about the book

 

 

 

Blog Tour: What Happens in France by Carol Wyer

Title: What Happens in France

 

Author Name: Carol Wyer

 

Previous Books (if applicable): TBC

 

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 

Release Date: 28th January 2019

 

Cover Image:

Book Blurb:

She stood and took her place in front of the camera… It was now or never”
Bryony Masters has been looking for her long-lost sister, Hannah, for years, but when their father has a stroke her search takes on new urgency. So when primetime game show, What Happens in France, puts a call-out for new contestants, Bryony spots the ultimate public platform to find her reality TV-obsessed sister, and finally reunite their family.

With the help of handsome teammate Lewis, it’s not long before she’s on a private jet heading for the stunning beauty of rural France. With a social media star dog, a high maintenance quiz host and a cast of truly unique characters, Bryony and Lewis have their work cut out for them to stay on the show and in the public eye.

Yet as the audience grows and the grand prize beckons they find that the search that brought them together may just fulfil more than one heart’s wish…

This heartwarming romantic comedy of friendship, family and laugh-out-loud adventures is perfect for fans of Kirsty Greenwood, Colleen Coleman and Marian Keyes.

My Review:

I was introduced by this book’s title so downloaded it straight away. The cover is very eye catching and I was hooked by the synopsis. However, as soon as I started it I realised that the book has very sad undercurrents, with Bryony’s father’s health being far from good because of a stroke. I have my own chronic health issues and live with disabilities so I immediately identified with the family.

I’m a very sensitive person and was very moved by the sadness that Bryony’s father’s stroke caused her and her mum. I just wanted to appear in the book and hug them. On top of that, Bryony’s sister Hannah has not been part of the family since she went missing at age 16, which was 30 years ago. I found Bryony’s attempts to search for her humbling and was touched by the blog entries she wrote. The tone in which they were written was as if she were talking to her sister face to face and were moving and at times frank and very true to life.

Hannah was a real fan of reality TV shows and Bryony sees the game show, What Happens in France, as an opportunity to find Hannah and finally reunite the family.

She and team mates Lewis jet off to rural France to participate. There, Bryony sees she is in for a real adventure. Will she and Lewis hit it off? Is love on the cards and will she find Hannah? Read this if you want to know. Bryony is courageous, strong driven and pours her heart into everything she does. There’s a real sense of the importance of family in this novel which I loved and it really begs the question: What would you do to reunite your family?

The book will make you feel, think, smile and cry. Such an amazing tale. The writing just flows so well too.

What happens in France was suspenseful, sweet and, far from being a slushy romance, I’d say it is “a romance with edge.” The plot has an excellent pace and so many layers. This was the perfect introduction to Carol Wyer’s books for me and I really want to discover more of her books. 5 stars.

Thanks to Carol Wyer and Canelo for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and my blog tour slot for this title.
Links to Book:
Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio:


As a child Carol Wyer was always moving, and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.

Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

Twitter: @carolewyer

CHAPTER ONE

THURSDAY, 6 JULY – AFTERNOON

 

Bryony drew up outside Melinda’s house. The gaily coloured yellow front door stood out boldly among the row of identical houses, all of which had brown doors. The door was much like Melinda herself. Melinda was a one-off and she didn’t much care if others thought her odd or different. It was one of the things Bryony loved about her. In Bryony’s opinion, her friend’s front door was far more inviting than the others in the street. Someone – no doubt Sean’s father – had planted clumps of marigolds in the garden. A grinning garden gnome in a ridiculous costume and bright red hat dangled his rod into the flowers. The wooden sign hanging from a nail on the front door read: ‘Forget the Dog. Beware of the Wife,’ adding to the impression that this was a house filled with fun and frivolity.

Bryony rang the doorbell and waited. The door opened wide and there stood Melinda, a huge smile on her round face as always. Her smooth chestnut bob clung to her head like a helmet but her large brown eyes sparkled with youthful enthusiasm.

‘Come in,’ she said, wiping her hands on a faded tea towel. ‘You’ve arrived at just the right time. I’ve finished putting the final touches on the casserole and it’s ready to go in the oven. We’d best go in the kitchen. Freddie’s off school. He had a temperature this morning so I let him stay at home. He’s been playing with his Lego again and there are bricks everywhere in the lounge. I daren’t clean in there. Sean had to fix the vacuum cleaner last time because I hoovered up several yellow bricks and they got stuck in the pipe. Anyway, I’ve finished my housewifely chores and am ready for a glass of wine. Make that a very large glass of wine. Care to join me?’

‘It’s only one o’clock,’ protested Bryony.

‘And? You haven’t got to go back to work, so why not?’

Bryony laughed. ‘Only a small one. I have to drive, remember.’

Melinda led the way into the kitchen, a friendly space that oozed warmth and contentment. The fridge was covered with plastic letters spelling ‘Freddie’, ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’. Several drawings had been added to the side of it: one of a large sun shining over a house, one of a large dinosaur and another of three stick figures holding hands. Plastic animals adorned the shelf above the sink and a piece of pottery showcasing the small handprint of a child took pride of place; next to it stood a photograph of a grinning boy with dark hair and chocolate-brown eyes who looked exactly like his mother.

Melinda swept away small pots of herbs into a cupboard and extracted two glasses from another, all the while moving plates and pans into the sink so they were out of view. Bryony sniffed the air. It smelt of warm dough and lemon essence. A rack of scones stood cooling next to a sponge cake. Melinda had indeed been busy.

The bright room was dominated by a huge dining table protected by a plastic, floral tablecloth. A chubby face peered out from under the table.

‘Hello, Briny.’

‘Hello, Freddie. What are you doing under the table?’

‘I’m not under the table. I’m in a boat. This is my sky,’ replied the boy, solemn-faced, pointing to the underside of the kitchen table. ‘It’s night-time. I’ve been travelling all day. I’m sailing to Zanzibar.’

Bryony lifted the cloth to get a closer look. Freddie was seated in a large cardboard box, his mother’s egg whisk in one hand and red spatula in the other, ‘paddling’ from one end of the table to the other. He wore a pirate’s hat made of newspaper and somebody had painted a black moustache under his nose.

‘Are you looking for treasure?’ asked Bryony.

The boy shook his head. ‘I’m looking for a new country to live in. Daddy says he’s fed up of this one,’ he said then set about rocking his body to make the box slide along the floor. Melinda shrugged her shoulders in a display of astonishment and passed a glass of wine to Bryony. Melinda took a sip and sighed with pleasure. Freddie crawled out from under the table and handed Bryony his whisk.

‘Mummy, I’m going to get my dinosaurs. They want to go to Zanzibar too,’ he shouted as he scurried off.

‘Zanzibar?’ Bryony said.

‘I’ve no idea where that came from. Maybe it was from one of his bedtime books. I expect it’s sunny there and the roads have no potholes. Sean spent an hour complaining about the state of the roads last night. He hit an extra-large pothole on his way home. I don’t think the van’s too damaged but Sean wasn’t happy. He went on about England being a third-world country and grumbled that we should all move to a better one. He wasn’t serious but obviously our little earwigging child decided he was.’ She slugged back the remainder of her wine. ‘I needed that. It’s been a long day. I envy these younger mums. It’s tough racing after a hyperactive five-year-old when you’re well into your thirties.’

‘You do a fantastic job. Freddie is a credit to you. He’s a well-balanced, healthy boy and that’s all down to your parenting skills. You’re always there for him and you spend loads of time with him. You’re a fantastic mother.’

Melinda blushed. ‘Being a mother wasn’t exactly what I planned but it is the best job ever,’ she admitted.

‘Who’d have thought the career-minded, hard-nosed Melinda Ashbrook would become a full-time mother, eh?’

‘Less of the hard-nosed, thank you. I loved being a crime scene investigator but I’m so lucky to be in a situation where I get to be a stay at home mum.’

Singing from the room next door indicated Freddie had now abandoned his plans to row to Zanzibar and was watching television.

Bryony regarded her friend, whose face had taken on the look of maternal pride that accompanied a child’s achievement. There was no doubt that Sean and Freddie had transformed her. Bryony recalled the first time Melinda had brought Sean back to their flat, eyes glittering with mischief but still nervous in his ill-fitting suit he’d worn to impress them both.

Sean had succeeded in exposing Melinda’s gentler side that hitherto had been well and truly concealed. Being the only daughter in a family of four boys, and the youngest sibling to boot, she had learnt to stand up for herself at an early age and give away nothing in the emotion department. Her brothers had signed up for the Armed Forces but Melinda had followed in their grandfather’s footsteps, studied forensic science, and become a crime scene investigator with the police force.

Bryony had all the time in the world for her friend. Without her, Bryony’s time at school would have been even more horrendous than it already was. Melinda had been her friend and protector on more than one occasion, and in return Bryony had offered her unwavering affection and friendship that would always stand the test of time.

Melinda pointed at the small television screen on the wall above the kitchen table. ‘Ooh! Turn it up, Bry. It’s Professor David Potts, the gorgeous host of Mate or Date? Now, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed. He could charm me with that Irish lilt of his alone. Makes me go weak at the knees thinking about it.’

‘Behave yourself, woman. You’re happily married to Sean. If anyone should be thinking about such nonsense, it’s me.’ She pointed the remote at the set. ‘You’re right though. Professor Potts is absolutely divine. Lovely accent, piercing blue eyes, charisma. I wouldn’t want to be on a dating show but I’d happily spend all night listening to him explain the Theory of Relativity or even the offside rule in football. He is one very sexy man.’

Bryony turned up the volume and both women watched Professor Potts talking about the importance of protecting elephants in the wild. Once it was over, Melinda turned off the set.

‘I’d definitely trade in Sean for that man. He makes my toes tingle.’

Bryony laughed again. ‘That’s never going to happen. You and Sean are soulmates. I can’t imagine you ever trading him in. You and he are great together.’

‘We are, although some days I feel like I need an adventure – a whole new sexual adventure. A girl can dream, can’t she?’

‘Get a grip, woman. You two should spend more time together, without Freddie. Remind yourselves of what it was that attracted you to each other. Freddie arrived so quickly after you got together you didn’t have many opportunities to enjoy life as a couple. Why not have a date night? I’ll babysit Freddie for you.’

‘You and your sensible suggestions. You’re right, of course. We ought to light candles, play soft music and rip each other’s clothes off with unbridled lust but to be honest we’re both a bit tired these days. My mind is willing but my flesh is wobbly and not up for it. Talking of babysitting Freddie – he’ll be staying over at my mum’s at the weekend. He loves Granny Brigitte. She cooks him pancakes and lets him eat jelly beans. So, do you fancy coming around for booze, crisps and a bit of a murder mystery game?’

Bryony shook her head. ‘Shouldn’t you and Sean be enjoying some time together? Alone.’

‘Nah, honestly we’re fine. I’m crazy about Sean. And we see enough of each other. If I needed time away with him, I’d take it. The grandparents are always willing to have Freddie. It’s me. I don’t like parting with Freddie or being away from him.’

Bryony felt a small pang of envy. Although she didn’t begrudge her friend any happiness, she would like to have experienced the same herself.

‘A murder mystery night will do us both good. Sean bought me the game for Christmas. It’ll give us the chance to open it at last. Go on. Remember the fun we had when we did them way back in Birmingham?’

‘Okay. Why not?’

Melinda beamed at her. ‘It’ll be a hoot. Maybe I’ll arrange it so I get to be the elegant lady of the manor who is looking for a bit of rough and passionate sex with the gardener. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Sean is the gardener,’ she added, shutting her eyes and tilting her head back, playing out her fantasy in her mind. ‘He could be one of those beefcake sorts – strong, silent, muscular. I’m liking this idea already.’

‘Is it a murder mystery night or a weird sexual fantasy version of events?’

Melinda ignored the comment and said, ‘We could all do with a fun night. I’ll phone around and arrange it. I’m sure I can rustle up a few guests at short notice. There’s the new chap, Lewis, who moved in a couple of months ago.’

Bryony’s mouth opened in surprise. ‘You’re trying to match me up with someone again, aren’t you?’

Melinda giggled. ‘Might be. And why not? You’re young – thirty-six is still classified as young – free and single. He appears to be on his own too. He’s renting number forty-one, the Shepherds’ place. I’ve waved hello but not spoken to him. Sean met him at the gym a couple of weeks ago. They both like running, so Sean’s enjoyed having someone to talk to while he jogs along on the treadmill. It makes the time go quicker. He says Lewis is a really good guy with a quirky sense of humour.’

‘That’s a good start. I bet he won’t like me though. The last guy I went out with said I surrounded myself with an invisible, impenetrable force and I frightened him.’

‘When you stop trying to do a million things at once, you might actually meet someone. You’re always too occupied to get involved.’

Bryony pursed her lips but gave up the idea of arguing. Her friend was right. She wondered if she didn’t deliberately keep herself occupied to avoid meeting men. She rubbed at her forehead, her fingers lightly grazing the scar there, hidden now by a fringe but still evident when her hair fell away from her face. ‘Okay. Count me in for the party. I could do with a laugh.’

‘Great! I’ll get onto it immediately.’

Blog Tour: The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War (The Foyles Girls #2) by Elaine Roberts

 About the Author: 


Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way until she picked up her dream again in 2010 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine and her patient husband, Dave, have five children who have flown the nest. Home is in Dartford, Kent and is always busy with their children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.

 

Follow Elaine:

Twitter: @RobertsElaine11

Facebook: @ElaineRobertsAuthor

 About the Book:

‘A delightful story of friendship, love and hope during the dark days of WW1. Elaine Roberts is a bright new star in the world of sagas’ Elaine Everest.

 

Swapping books for the bomb factory takes courage – and could be dangerous.
Working at the Foyles bookshop was Molly Cooper’s dream job. But with the country at war she’s determined to do her bit. So Molly gathers her courage, and sets off for the East End and her first day working at Silvertown munitions factory…
It’s hard manual labour, and Molly must face the trials and tribulations of being the ‘new girl’ at the munitions factory, as well as the relentless physical work.
The happy-ever-afters Molly read about in the pages of her beloved books have been lost to the war. And yet the munitions girls unite through their sense of duty and friendships that blossom in the most unlikely of settings…
Perfect for fans of Elaine Everest, Daisy Styles and Rosie Hendry.
Look out for the next in the Elaine Roberts’ heartwarming series The Foyles Girls series, Christmas at the Foyles Bookshop, coming soon!
Where to Buy:

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2ByDAPh

Amazon: http://amzn.eu/d/8kRkG9t

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2QHdcNt

iBooks: https://apple.co/2BBe8IK

My Review: 

Hooray! Elaine Roberts and the Foyles Bookshop Girls are back! I loved book #1 and was eager for this. Molly sees herself wondering about life outside her beloved Foyles Bookshop where she works with friends. England is at war and it is with a heavy heart but also courage that she starts work at the munitions factory in Silvertown in the East End of London. 
Molly hides the fact she’s changed jobs from her parents and cycles to work to come back shattered after hours of gruelling work in noisy conditions that are as far removed from the atmosphere of Foyles as you can get. Molly is a sensitive person and is in tears more than once over various things. She tries to make the best of life but at times I was thinking “go back to Foyles.” The book was heartbreaking in some parts and so well detailled throughout that I felt I was with Molly. 
Elaine Roberts has a gift at creating a convincing wartime London atmosphere and I was uneasy over the description of the munitions factory and routines. I was so glad Molly could still meet her friends and there were some very real, very understandable conflicts between them after Molly leaves. but they still make the effort to see each other. 
You’ll have to read the book to find out more but suffice it to say that this is an excellent second book in the series. I got into it quickly and it was wonderful to see the Foyles girls again. I’d love to review a copy of Christmas at Foyles and anything else Elaine Roberts writes. Another excellent book from one of my favourite historical fiction authors. 
Huge thanks to Elaine Roberts and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and a place on the blog tour for this title.

Click HERE to read my review of The Foyles Bookshop Girls, book #1 in the Foyles Girls series.
 
Elaine Roberts Q&A – Katherine’s Book Universe 

Where did the idea for the plot come from?

The central plot idea for The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War came from my research into World War One. It was while researching my first book, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, that I became aware of the explosion, which took place at the Silvertown munitions factory. As I researched it further, I found photographs showing the devastation, as well as podcasts from women who actually worked there at the time. These were so moving and eye-opening, that I decided to base my plot around it.

Who is your favourite character? Why?

I like them all for various reasons and they have very different personalities, but if I had to choose, I’d say Molly is my favourite. I think it’s because there’s a little bit of me in her. She can be a little bit cheeky at times and her sense of humour can get her into trouble. She also comes across as very confident, but really she’s hiding a host of insecurities that no one sees. She’s trying to find her place in society.

Who is your least favourite character? Why?

My least favourite in this book is Flo. She is a young girl who wanted the same wage and rights as the men of that time, but she didn’t know how to go about getting them. Consequently, she caused herself and others problems.

Which is your favourite scene in the book? Why?

That’s difficult. I have two very different scenes that I enjoyed writing and both of them hit an emotional response within me.

The first one is where Molly finds herself kissing her boss in Hyde Park. This goes against everything she believes to be right, yet she can’t help herself. Part of Molly’s personality is that she is always trying to do the right thing for other people, and not for herself. She is a complex character.

The second scene was the explosion at the munitions factory, which I found very emotional to write, and then read back. It brought home to me the danger that women of that time put themselves in.

What do you most like to do when you are not writing?

I enjoy relaxing with my family, five children and three grandchildren can keep you on your toes. I enjoy crosswords, word games, Suduko and reading. There’s nothing better than losing yourself in a good book, although I have to say I don’t read as much as I used to, but that’s because of my writing. I am also a great people watcher and I’m always creating stories in my head from my observations.

What’s the story behind why and how you became an author?

As a child, I was always reading books by Enid Blyton and C.S.Lewis, to name just two authors that captured my imagination. I grew up having a dream to write for a living, but I didn’t think it was open to everyday people like me. I did complete my first novel in my twenties and received a very nice, encouraging rejection. Life then got in the way until circumstances made me re-evaluate my life, and I picked up my dream again in 2010. I joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had my first short story published. I was thrilled when many more followed and I finally started to believe in myself.

 

I became a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Scheme, which gives you a critique every year on a manuscript. I also attended many of their conferences, workshops, seminars and wonderful parties. Meeting other writers gave me encouragement, finding that most face, or have faced similar problems, so were able to offer valuable advice and encouragement.
What is your favourite movie? Why?

Gosh, this is a difficult question. I have just spent an hour with my husband, discussing films we have seen, and I’m no nearer to narrowing it down to one. I’m not so keen on books being made into films, mainly because I tend to prefer the books, but there are always exceptions to that view. So I’ve come up with a shortlist of three, and even then I’m scared I’ve forgotten one.  

My first is The Chronicles of Narnia. This is pure escapism and brings back memories of me hiding under the bedcovers with a torch, reading the books.

My second is Back To The Future. It is cleverly written and when it was released, many moons ago, I was fascinated with how Marty MCFly saw himself when he went back in time.

My third is It’s A Wonderful Life. This is purely because of the message it gives. We all touch each other’s lives without even realising it.

Do you have a favourite book? 

I don’t have a favourite, because I read books from various genres. However, I do have books where the story line has stuck with me. P.S. I love You by Cecelia Ahern, The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult are just a few, but there are so many more.

How about some advice for me to reach my dream of publishing? 

I’m still in the infancy of my writing career, but I’d say believe in yourself and don’t give up, because even best selling authors have stories of numerous rejections. Take the time to learn your craft. I liken it to learning to play a piano at school – the fact that you can play doesn’t make you a concert pianist, just as learning to write doesn’t make you a good storyteller. I’d also advise joining organisations like The Romantic Novelists’ Association and The SWWJ, where published writers can critique your manuscripts. Don’t stop learning; I still attend workshops and seminars. I also believe we all need a little luck on our side.

Do you have any plans for another book? 

I am currently writing the third book in The Foyles Bookshop Girls Series, Christmas At The Foyles Bookshop, which will be Victoria’s story. This novel will take the girls to the end of 1917, so there will be scope to take the three girls to the end of the war in 1918 at least.

I keep a note of all possible ideas for future novels, but I daren’t give them too much thought until I have finished the one I’m writing.

Molly’s lips lifted as she remembered the nervous excitement of her first day working at Foyles. The large sign outside, declaring them to be the largest bookseller in London, shouted at the passers-by, inviting them in. It promised refunds of two thirds of the price, if the book was returned after being read. Once she had walked into the shop, it was like entering another world. The musty smell of the second hand books, stacked along the shelves, had seemed endless. She had been overwhelmed when she realised it spread over six floors and every nook and cranny had been crammed with books.

A lot had happened since that day. Molly crossed her arms, holding herself tight. She bit down on her lip in a bid to stop her chin from trembling. Would she ever love again? The shop doors thudded shut and bolts were drawn across, pulling Molly away from her brooding.

Mr Leadbetter stared at her hunched shoulders. ‘Your family must be very proud of you, taking on the challenges that this war has thrown at everyone. The men have an obvious bravery about them, but the women that have been left behind are doing an exceptional job picking up the pieces.’

Molly’s grip tightened around her waist. ‘Does that mean we might get the vote when this is all over?’

‘Who knows, Miss Cooper? Unfortunately, that’s not my decision to make.’ Mr Leadbetter arched his eyebrows. ‘Do you follow the political musings of our government?’

Molly glanced over her shoulder at her manager. ‘I must admit, I didn’t until the war started, but now I read the news every day.’ She looked back at the newspaper.

‘That’s good.’ Mr Leadbetter forced a smile. ‘It’s important to know what’s going on.’

‘I suppose, but the news is so gruesome all the time; so many deaths.’ Molly sighed. ‘Sometimes, I think I’d rather not know.’ She gave a little laugh. ‘Give me a good book any day.’

Mr Leadbetter clenched his lips tight for a second, fighting the urge to give her a fatherly hug. ‘Well, this is it. The time has come for you to say your goodbyes. I suspect everyone is waiting for you.’ He chuckled. ‘You’ve worked here for some time and everyone in Foyles will miss you.’

Molly took a deep breath and pasted on her best smile, before she swung round to face him. ‘I expect you’ll be happy to see the back of me, sir.’

‘On the contrary, there hasn’t been a day go by when you haven’t made me smile, even though you call me “old Leadbetter,” when you think I can’t hear you.’ His eyes sparkled and a smile lit up his normally stern features.

Her rising body temperature told Molly her face was turning a lovely shade of red. She lowered her head slightly. ‘Sorry, sir, it was rude of me, but I always thought you didn’t like me.’

‘Far from it, you have been like the daughter I never had.’ Mr Leadbetter coughed. ‘Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that; most inappropriate.’

Molly smiled at the elderly man standing in front of her. ‘On the contrary, there hasn’t been a day go by, when I haven’t felt I’ve been working with my father.’

Laughter burst from him. ‘I am sorry to see you leave us, but I do understand that young women like yourself are being put under pressure to do war work.’

Molly nodded. ‘My mother was thrilled when I started working here. She didn’t want me to go into domestic service.’ She sighed.

Mr Leadbetter frowned. ‘How does she feel about you going to the munitions’ factory? It’s not just hard work, it’s also dangerous.’

Molly lowered her lashes. Should she admit she hadn’t told her family yet? Would he think she was a bad person? She sucked in her breath and the words of her half-lie tripped over themselves to escape. ‘They’ll be fine, once they get used to the idea of it. They don’t like change very much.’

Mr Leadbetter nodded. ‘I don’t think many of us do.’

Molly looked up at him. His upright frame belied his age. She gave him a wry smile. ‘It does feel strange to know that, when I come in here again, it will be as a customer.’ She stroked the oak counter. ‘I’ve met some lovely people since I began working here, and I have a bedroom full of books that I can’t bear to part with.’ She looked around at the heaving shelves. ‘No more stacking books away. I shan’t miss the musty second hand ones, and dusting until it catches in the back of your throat, or fighting the daily temptation to buy books for the children that come into my section.’ She took a deep breath.

Mr Leadbetter’s eyes crinkled at the corners and a smile played on his lips as she spoke.

Molly glanced up at him. ‘You know, I always wanted to sit them down and read to them, help them to become book lovers.’

He frowned. ‘I’ve never heard you mention that before.’

She gave a little scathing sound. ‘I never thought anyone, least of all you, would be interested in anything I had to say.’

‘What, and yet you are quite outspoken.’ His eyes searched her face. ‘Rumour has it, you are not to be crossed, although having said that, you appear to be a very popular young lady.’

Molly laughed. ‘I don’t know about that, sir.’ She gave him a wide-eyed look. ‘It’s not about being popular, but about fitting in and being respected.’

Mr Leadbetter nodded. ‘It sounds like I have done you a disservice, Miss Cooper. However, I shall miss you, as indeed will your colleagues, but our loss is the munitions’ factory’s gain.’ He took a deep breath. ‘I wish you well there, but please be assured that all the time I am here, there will be a position for you.’

Molly nodded. She stood on the tips of her toes and kissed him on the cheek, taken aback by his deceptively soft skin. ‘I shall miss you too, and of course, everyone who works here.’

Thunderous applause and cheers filled the room. Molly spun round to a sea of faces beaming at her. Her friends of nearly twenty years, Alice Leybourne and Victoria Appleton, were at the front, clapping vigorously. Each were battling their demons and trying to survive. Molly fretted about her decision to leave Foyles and whether their friendship might suffer, but this was something she had to do. Their watery eyes told Molly much more than words could ever say. She blinked rapidly, in a bid to hold back the emotions that were in danger of engulfing her.

Alice stepped forward, no longer able to hold the tears in check, as they rolled down her cheeks. She sniffed and wiped her fingers across her damp face. ‘Well, Miss Molly Cooper, we have booked tables at Café Monico, for everyone to say their goodbyes and wish you well, so grab your things.’

Molly’s eyes glistened, but a ready smile came to her lips. ‘I don’t know, Alice, since you’ve had baby Arthur, you seem to shed tears at the drop of a hat. You and Victoria will probably see more of me than ever before.’

‘Yeah, well we won’t.’ A woman’s voice came from the back of the room.

Mr Leadbetter blinked quickly and cleared his throat. ‘I wouldn’t have thought that was possible. I mean, not working in the same place and all that.’

Molly glared up at him. He wasn’t helping the situation.

Alice stepped forward, sniffing into her handkerchief. ‘It won’t be the same as working with you.’ She sucked in her breath. Her lips formed a weak smile. ‘We won’t be able to have lunch together, or go out after we finish here.’

Mr Leadbetter gave the girls a smile. ‘Or be gossiping, when you should be working.’

Molly’s throat tightened.

‘That doesn’t sound like us.’ Victoria chuckled, attempting to follow Mr Leadbetter’s lead to lighten the moment.


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