Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky - Holly Martin

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky
by Holly Martin
About the book...
Step inside a beautiful winter wonderland where love, laughter and cosy nights by the fire will make this Christmas one to remember. 

Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season? 

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself. 

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith? 

Get swept away by this deliciously sweet and heartwarming tale, and spend an unforgettable Christmas on Juniper Island. 

About the author...
I studied media at university which led to a very glitzy career as a hotel receptionist followed by a even more glamorous two years working in a bank. The moment that one of my colleagues received the much coveted carriage clock for fifteen years service was the moment when I knew I had to escape. I quit my job and returned to university to train to be a teacher. Three years later, I emerged wide eyed and terrified that I now had responsibility for the development of thirty young minds. I taught for four years before History Off The Page came to my school to do a Tudor day. I now drive round the country in my little white van, dressing up as a Viking one day and an Egyptian High Priestess the next.

I love to write. The characters do exactly what I want them to do, most of the time. Sometimes they do seem to go off and do their own thing without my permission. It is complete escapism into a world where I have full control.

I've been writing for four years now, every spare second I have, I'm scribbling ideas in a notebook or typing a scene on my laptop. I have written three romantic fiction books. Changing Casanova and The Chainsaw Masquerade were recently shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award. My short story, One Hundred Proposals, won the Belinda Jones Travel Club short story competition and was published in the Sunlounger anthology.

My thoughts...

I received an ecopy of this book from Holly's publishers Bookouture in exchange for an honest review - something which I'm more than happy to give.

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky is book two in The Town Called Christmas Series and seamlessly picks up where book one, Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky ended.  This book sees the focus shift to Neve Whittaker - Gabe's sister and manager of the Stardust Lake Hotel and her estranged boyfriend, hunky actor Oakley Rey.

I literally couldn't wait to head back to Juniper Island and the idyllic Town Called Christmas - I have totally bought into the whole package and have spent fruitless hours scouring the internet for this dream location - it's perfect in every way.

In Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky Holly wove a story that wrapped itself around my heart and with Christmas Under a Starlit Sky she's just pulled the strings a little bit tighter - it has it all.  Misunderstandings, secrets, drama, surprises, love and romance - all in a setting to die for.  

Whilst the main focus is on Neve and Oakley and their relationship, which Neve ended because she didn't want to hold him back in his career as an actor we always get to catch up with Gabe, Pip and the the cutie-pie Wren as they are fast becoming a tight knit, little family.  There is also an insight into the softer side of Luke, Gabe and Neve's brother as love  quietly blossoms between him and Audrey.  We also see assistant manager Adam falling in love with Ivy, an artist living and working in A Town Called Christmas after he is part of the search party when she goes missing after a morning walk.

Book two is has slightly more drama than book one and love doesn't run quite as smoothly but Juniper Island has a way of sucking you in and blinding you to any flaws.  The characters all feel like people I'd really like and I was rooting all the way for each and everyone of them.  I quietly oohed and ahed and wished for happy endings and trust me Holly Martin delivers with bells on top - my only disappointment is I haven't been able to book a trip to Juniper Island and the Stardust Lake Hotel yet!  Send me a link please Holly :)

All in all a pair of beautiful books that more than deliver on both the Christmas and romance front.  Just what the doctor ordered - two beautiful books, both available from Amazon for only £1.99 / 99p each, much, much less than a cup of coffee and the warming effect will last much longer too!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Cupcakes & Confetti (The little Wedding Shop by The Sea - Book 1)- Jane Linfoot

Cupcakes & Confetti
The Little Wedding Shop by the Sea - Book 1
by Jane Linfoot

About the book...
The perfect romance to take on your summer hols! For fans of Milly Johnson, Jenny Oliver and Lucy Diamond.

Brides by the Sea, the cutest little wedding shop in all of Cornwall, has it all, including cake baker Poppy who lives upstairs. But wedding planning is not the piece of cake Poppy thought it would be, and when her best friend Cate’s wedding planner walks out, Poppy has to tie up the loose ends so her bestie can tie the knot.

Double-booked venues, ‘rustic’ locations and gorgeous but grumpy farmer Rafe have this wedding pro feeling like she could be Cate’s ‘something blue.’

Will the wedding, the shop and the cake all come crashing down on her? Or will Poppy pull it off to give Cate – and herself – the happy ever afters they deserve?

About the author...
I write happy fiction, with feisty heroines and lots of heart. 

Writing is cool, because I get to wear pretty shoes instead of wellies. I live in a mountain kingdom in Derbyshire, England, where my family and pets are kind enough to ignore the chaos – happily, we’re in walking distance of a supermarket.

I love hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage & most things french. When I’m not on facebook or twitter, and can’t find an excuse for shopping, I’ll be walking, or gardening. On days when I want to be really scared, I ride a tandem.

Author links:-
Twitter @janelinfoot
My thoughts...
This is the first book in the Cupcakes & Confetti series and what a delightful read it was.  It has it all happy bits, sad bits, hopeful bits, hopeless bits but most of all it'll make you smile and at times laugh out loud as the story unfolds. 

The main character Poppy, once a successful marketing guru, responsible for some of the best known food marketing campaigns is back in Devon mending a broken heart whilst baking cakes living and working above a wedding emporium owned by her straight talking, honest and organised, friend Jess.  Her heart having been broken by ex, Brett - an actor who led her to believe marriage was on the cards before suddenly and abruptly heading into the sunset with someone else.

Poppy is joined in the story by childhood best friends Immie and Cate and somehow finds herself applying for a job as a wedding co-ordinator at Daisy Hill Farm after the previous planner suddenly upped and left.  And all because she wants to save Cate's wedding which is booked there later in the year.

Interview day dawns and a nervous Poppy finds herself confronted by the grumpy, non-communicative, farm owner, Rafe.  He's grumpy, bad tempered and just wants someone to get them through the existing bookings, the plan then is to close the wedding business down - he hasn't read her CV but Immie who also works for him, managing and cleaning his holiday cottage lettings has recommended her so that's good enough for him.  

Jane Linfoot has created characters you'll adore - Poppy is low, dis-interested in her own life but loves her friends and is easily coaxed into doing things to help them out - her character has been sapped by the domineering Brett and she is definitely off romantic relations.  Being around all the loved up couples wasn't easy, reminding her of what she had lost. 

Daisy Hill farm owner Rafe is fierce and moody but clearly reliable, determined to see out his obligations with the pre-booked weddings and then wants nothing more to do with them - he's not very communicative and sparks fly when Poppy finds she has to share an office with him and madly for her, his chickens!  

Cate is marrying for the second time, has three children by her first husband a fourth with Liam her husband to be.  She wants everything to be perfect this time around and her wedding is fast turning into a circus - literally. She's so lovely though you can't help but smile as she adds more and more outlandish things to the wedding with no regard of the cost.

Immii is a bit dippy, free spirited and just lovely - she firmly has Poppy's back and knows this job is just what Poppy needs to pull herself out of the doldrums and remember how to live for herself not someone else.

Enter the gorgeous, blue eyed photographer Jules who quickly makes himself indispensable and all of a sudden Poppy finds herself on the receiving end of his attentions - something she definitely wasn't expecting or wants.

The chapters of this book are split into months and the year begins in February and quickly speeds to October as Poppy wings it, organising wedding after wedding that is hampered by chaos, mishaps and mistakes - all successfully hidden from the happy couples who just get to see and feel love and romance all around them.

This is a proper feel-good book.  Perfect for a lazy afternoon curled up on the sofa.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading and watching like a voyeur as the story unfolded, all the characters opening up and growing in confidence and stature.  Poppy and Rafe pushing each others buttons - both fiery and hot-headed then remorseful and calm.  The wedding couples some lovely, some not, unexpected births both human and animal and the chaos that ensues because of them.  Not everyone is what they seem though and when the chips are down it's surprising to see who steps up to the mark.  A gentle romantic, easy read with plenty of fizz - a book that's not all gooey but has depth without being too deep.  Jane gives just enough insight and background into characters to make you feel a connection and I most loved Jess's attitude to any problem - prosecco or gin - often both!  I for one cannot wait until book 2 - Sequins and Snowflakes.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Killing Game - J. S. Carol

The Killing Game
by James Carol
About the book...
Imagine you are having lunch at an exclusive restaurant, filled with Hollywood’s hottest stars.

And a masked gunman walks in and takes everyone hostage.

You must bargain for your life against a twisted individual who knows everything about you.

He also has a bomb set to detonate if his heart rate changes.

If he dies. You die.

You have four hours to stay alive.

What would you do?

A heart-stopping thriller with plenty of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat, for fans of Peter Swanson, Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay.

About the author...
James Carol is the #1 bestselling author of Broken Dolls, the first in a series of thrillers featuring former FBI profiler Jefferson Winter. The novel was released in the UK in January 2014 to rave reviews. To date the Winter books have been translated into eleven languages and sold more than a third of a million copies.

He also writes standalone thrillers under the pseudonym JS Carol. The first of these is The Killing Game, which is published by Bookouture in October 2016.

James lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two children.

The Killing Game by James Carol writing as JS Carol

So, how are you going to play this one?
First you switch off your cell phone, then you take a deep breath and count to ten. Knee-jerk reactions are not your style. You need time to process what you’ve just heard, a moment of quiet reflection before leaping into the hurricane. Once those ten seconds are up you’re going to make two lists, one for the pros, one for the cons. Then you’ll take everything you’ve learned and put it in one column or the other. Inevitably, you will end up with more cons than pros, otherwise you wouldn’t have got the call.
Your clients don’t live in the real world, which is just as well. That one simple fact is the reason you’ve got a convertible Maserati Spyder, a suite of offices up with the clouds, and a condo with views across the valley in one of LA’s more exclusive zip codes. These people believe their own hype. They think they’re gods, but they’re not. Deep down they have the same insecurities and flaws as the rest of us, and, like the rest of us, they screw up occasionally. The big difference is that when they screw up it makes the headlines. This is where you come in. Trying to stop those headlines is an exercise in futility, but you can angle them to your advantage. And that is the Art of Spin.
So, what do you know?
You know this particular client isn’t a regular A-lister, he’s in the A+ category. There’s rich, and there’s Learjet rich, and this client is most definitely Learjet rich. He’s got the leading man looks, the healthy, twinkling smile and a great body. He made his name playing the all-American good guy and has basically rehashed the same role in every movie he’s ever made. However, so long as he keeps packing out those movie theatres, this doesn’t cause the studio bosses a problem.
Mr A+’s whole reputation rests on him being seen as whiter than white. According to the media he doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t do drugs or screw around. He eats healthily, exercises regularly and does plenty for charity. He married his high school sweetheart and they have a couple of kids, a boy and a girl. You’ve seen the photos. How could you miss them? There’s the four of them with their perfect teeth, perfect skin and perfect smiles, living their perfect life. There’s even a cute little pooch at Mr A+’s feet to complete the picture. Mr A+ came from nothing and now he’s sitting right up there at the top of the mountain. This is the American Dream made real.
If something looks too good to be true, it is. That’s something you’ve seen time and again in this town. So it comes as no surprise that Mr A+ is currently languishing in a Beverley Hills police cell, nursing a hangover and wondering what the hell he’s doing there. As far as he’s concerned he hasn’t done anything wrong. As far as the law is concerned, he has. This time the law wins big. Being caught in a sleazy motel with a dead hooker and a large bag of cocaine definitely contravenes a law or two.
And you know one more thing. Rather than phone his lawyer, Mr A+ phoned you.
Your clients fall into two broad categories. First up are the quiet ones. They know they’ve royally screwed up and will do anything you say to make the problem go away. Then there are the clients who roar like lions. In the end they’ll do what you tell them, but it takes time and persuasion to help them see the light. Mr A+ is a lion, and then some. Before he can wind himself up into a righteous fury, you tell him to shut up and listen.
Home truth number one: things will get uglier before they get better. 
Home truth number two: he’ll lose contracts.
Home truth number three: for the foreseeable future his career will resemble a car wreck.
Judging by the silence on the other end of the line, you’ve got his attention. No mean feat when dealing with an A+. Now he’s listening, you lighten your tone and tell him to hang on in there because things will get better. So long as he plays the long game and doesn’t get suckered into short-term thinking, everything will work out fine. You repeat this a couple of times to make sure it sinks in.
Next, you tell him he has to follow your instructions to the letter. No ifs, no buts. You’re in the driving seat now. You’re calling the shots. Unless he does everything you say, he can kiss his precious career goodbye. The grunt coming from the earpiece indicates that he isn’t convinced. Not a problem. What he thinks is irrelevant.
You let the silence stretch to breaking point, then tell him you want a million dollars, the whole amount up front, the money transferred to your account immediately. His first reaction is to tell you to go to hell. You keep quiet and give him all the time he needs.
‘You’re really that good?’ he asks tentatively.
‘For your sake, you better hope I am.’
By the time you hang up he’s a believer.
Your first call is to the presenter of America’s highest-rating daytime chat show. Not her office, the woman herself. You promise a soul-baring confessional. You promise tears. You promise great TV and a ratings bonanza. She tells you she’d be delighted to do the interview.
Your second call is to the National Enquirer. Half a million dollars secures them exclusive rights to a fuzzy video still of Mr A+ using a plastic straw to administer cocaine to the hooker in an unusual and imaginative way. For your strategy to work, Mr A+ needs to be seen to have hit rock bottom. As with all great tabloid stories, the more spectacular the fall, the better.
Your third call is to a five-star rehab clinic.
Your fourth call is to your pet pap to give him an ETA for Mr A+’s arrival at the clinic. As usual, the split on any photos sold is seventy/thirty, the percentage in your favour.
Once the important calls are out of the way, only then do you call in the lawyers.
Your name is Jody ‘JJ’ Johnson

Buy Links:-

Friday, 14 October 2016

The Christmas Cake Cafe - Sue Watson

The Christmas Cake Cafe
by Sue Watson
About the book...
Heart-warming and hilarious, a story that will make you laugh, cry and bring a smile to your face.  Get ready for another deliciously amazing Christmas treat from Sue Watson…. 

As the Prosecco chills and Bing Crosby croons, Jen Barker just knows that her long-term boyfriend is about to propose.  But instead of a diamond ring nestled in her champagne flute, Jen finds cold flat rejection.  Her once perfect life and dreams of a husband and family seem even further from reach.  

A working holiday to the Swiss Alps with her younger sister Jody might not be the Christmas Jen had it mind, but it offers her the chance to recharge her batteries and recover from heartbreak. 

When Jen meets handsome ski instructor Jon Zutter her hopes for a happy-ever-after seem within her grasp again. Jon is kind and gorgeous and as they bond over Sachetorte at the picturesque Cake CafĂ©, Jen thinks he might just be her perfect man. But a relationship with him comes with a catch – and there are some things even cake can’t fix. 

As the snow falls and Christmas approaches, could this be the place that restores Jen Barker’s faith in love? 

About the author...
Sue Watson was a TV Producer with the BBC who combined motherhood and family life with a busy career. However, one day it dawned on Sue that Cosmo magazine may have been telling porkies about 'having it all,' and her life had become a slightly crazed juggling act. 

So after much soul searching (and comfort eating) Sue abandoned her TV career, bought a pink laptop and wrote a novel. 'Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes,' tells the story of Stella Weston, whose life is a constant struggle with a nasty boss at work, the weighing scales and being a mum, wife and daughter. 

Originally from Manchester, Sue now lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Worcestershire. When she's not toiling over her latest novel, Sue bakes (and eats) cake and enjoys very large tubs of Caramel Chew Chew ice cream all to herself while watching 'The Biggest Loser USA.' 

My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by Bookouture, Sue Watson's publishers in exchange for an honest review, something I'm more than happy to do.  Imagine, ten years into a relationship and you think your boyfriend is finally going to propose. It's Christmas eve, The setting is perfect, a romantic meal for two in a restaurant with champagne and christmas tunes on the music system. Jen, just knows Tim is going to propose and is waiting for the perfect moment in the evening.  When the big speech finally comes it's not to ask her hand in marriage and to declare everlasting love, it's to shatter her dreams and walk out of her life forever.

Oh me oh my what a beginning.  Jen was devastated beyond words, the ten best years of her life taken and tossed aside by Tim who quite frankly was a supercilious ass - it would be fair to say first impressions count and mine were quite strong and didn't change.

This book has it all - relationships, family, love, laughter, friendship and the biggest amount of humour and cake you can imagine - absolutely perfect.  Clearly no stone has been left unturned as Jen soul searches, looking for her happy ever after and gaining more than an insight into her own soul.  Sue has captured the characteristics of a relationship going through the motions perfectly.  Nothing Jen ever did was good enough and Tim was a mean spirited, small minded ejit - have I said yet how much I disliked him!?  Belittling and side lining Jen at every opportunity.  She just wanted someone of her own to care for and love, whilst Tim wanted to mould her into someone else - chipping away at her character and eroding her confidence.  A relationship based on familiarity and convenience not love and friendship.  When Jen was a child her parents divorced and she had to share her dad with his new wife and baby, something she resented and never quite came to terms with, so it's no wonder she clung onto a dead relationship for so long - it's only in adulthood and because of circumstances that Jen and Jody form a tentative bond each understanding the other a whole lot better.

Almost a year later Jody, persuades Jen to join her and a couple of friends working in Switzerland over the winter months. The story from hereon-in reads like a slalom skier going full pelt down a black run.  With Jen hurtling from one disaster to another.  Sue has a natural ability to write comedy that had me choking on my lunch whilst trying to hold in my guffaws at work - her books have the feel good factor about them that won't fail to lift even the lowest spirits.  They're fun, easy reads but each and every story is multi-faceted.  They're not just light humour but thought provoking and The Christmas Cake Cafe is my favourite so far.  In life some people lose sight of what is important and do things or stay in relationships out of habit more than desire and it's not until they are removed from the situation do they start to question their thoughts and actions.  Jen is no different, as her half sister and her friends drag her kicking and screaming into their madcap plans she suffers inner and outer turmoil and begins to question her own life, hopes and dreams and the relationships within it. 

As I turned the pages my smiles became wider as the humorous bits, become hilarious bits and then Sue throws a bit of love and romance  into the mix and we're off!  I laughed out loud so many times, putting my hand over my mouth as I mouthed oh no until my sides ached. It would be fair to say 'the girls' idea of a working holiday is different to that of mine but then, I like Jen am old ;D

I've grumbled so many times that there wasn't enough cake in the last couple of Sue's books - No more! This time I was spoilt.  I so want to go to Switzerland and taste all the delicious cakes.  Sue has an amazing ability to describe something in such detail it becomes a reality - I've always thought it decadent and wrong to order more than one cake and always struggle to choose - no more I'm going to order half a dozen and try them all. 

Huge thanks Sue for another perfect read that got under my skin, a little bit of soul searching and a lot of laughs. This was beautiful story about friendship, family and discovering what is important in life 
with a little bit of love and flirting thrown in for good measure - until the next time! 

I've said it before but I'll say it again.  Sue Watson's books keep getting better and better, with the bar raised a little more each time - if you haven't discovered this for yourself yet you are seriously missing out.  Head to Amazon and indulge yourself in this beautiful read - The Christmas Cake Cafe, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Comfort & Joy - Cathy Bramley

Comfort & Joy
by Cathy Bramley

About the book...
Curl up with this feel-good short story, full of romance, surprises and a sprinkling of Christmas magic…!
It’s been a busy year for Verity Bloom at the Plumberry School of Comfort Food, but Christmas Eve is finally here. With delicious treats all wrapped up and the ingredients packed away, Verity is looking forward to a relaxing few days with her new boyfriend.

Good food, family and friends – it’s a simple recipe for true comfort and joy, and all Verity’s friends in the village are full of excitement about the holidays too.

But the weather has other plans in store… Relentless rain leads to a power cut that spells disaster for many of Plumberry’s residents. It’s starting to look like this year’s celebrations could be a total washout.

With dreams of a perfect Christmas dashed, will the last of the festive cheer be swept away in the downpour? Or can the cookery school create a Christmas miracle for everyone Verity holds dear?

About the author...
Cathy is the author of the best-selling romantic comedies Ivy Lane, Appleby farm, Conditional Love, Wickham Hall and The Plumberry School Of Comfort Food. She lives in a small Nottinghamshire village with her family and Pearl, the Cockerpoo.

Her recent career as a full-time writer of light-hearted romantic fiction has come as somewhat of a lovely surprise after spending eighteen years running her own marketing agency. However, she has always been an avid reader, hiding her book under the duvet and reading by torchlight.

Cathy loves to hear from her readers. You can get in touch via her Facebook page or on Twitter.

My thoughts...
I received an email asking if I'd like to read Comfort and Joy ahead of it's publication day 13th October.  Hell yes, for two reasons - one it's written by Cathy Bramley an author I don't think I'll ever tire of reading and two it's a christmas book.  Yes, it's a short story which I find can sometimes leave me feeling short changed  - often short stories aren't long enough o give enough details and background but in this case the way has already been paved.  The starring cast are from the Plumberry School of Comfort Food.

The story begins on Christmas Eve and ends on Christmas Day - Plumberry is full of new romances, most made through the Cookery School and as we meet each couple on Christmas Eve the excitement is palpable.  They are all headed home, loaded down with food for Christmas day ready to enjoy their time away from work, each looking forward to spending their Christmas break with loved ones and family.

It may only be October but Cathy has got me drooling at the mouth wishing it was Christmas Eve already - I love everything about Christmas.  The preparation, the food, spending time with friends and family, the decorations and chilling with a glass of something white and fizzy in front of the fire.  This book sets the scene perfectly. 

Imagine everything good about christmas - friends, family, kindness, love, laughter and generosity. Add a touch of Christmas magic and you have Comfort and Joy - a perfect read that'll get you in the mood counting down the days until it really is Christmas.  I loved this book - a bite sized taster to get you in the mood.  Cathy Bramley knows how to pack it all in.  Just 120 pages that won't fail to touch your heart. What could have been a miserable Christmas for many is transformed when Verity and Tom give up their plans for a quiet first Christmas together in order to open up a haven to the community in the form of The Cookery School. 

There is drama aplenty, sadness and serious moments but these are counter balanced by many uplifting, happy moments that had me smiling and laughing out loud.  Imagine twenty plus ovens all cooking delicious christmas fare - the smell was divine.  You can smell through a kindle can't you?   I could literally taste my Christmas dinner whilst reading this book, it's a real drool worthy read. If I didn't love Verity before I definitely do know - if I could pick a new best friend it would be her - her generosity and kindness shines through, putting others before herself - her own happiness sparkling like a shiny star when she is helping others. If I could step into the pages of this book I would - I so want to live in Plumbery, a village that opens its arms to newcomers and when needed closes them tight to look after them - just perfect.

You can get your fix too for only 99p from Amazon.