Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Three Wedings and a Proposal - Sheila O’Flanaghan

About the book… 

At the first wedding, there's a shock

The second wedding is unexpected

By the third, Delphie thinks nothing could surprise her. But she's wrong . . .

Delphie is enjoying her brother's wedding. Her surprise last-minute Plus One has stunned her family - and it's also stopped any of them asking again why she's still single. But when she sees all the missed calls that evening, she knows it can't be good news. And she's right.

Delphie has been living her best life, loving her job, her friends, her no-strings relationships and her dream house by the sea. Now she has to question everything she believed about who she is and what she wants. Is her mum right - is it time to settle down? Or does she want to keep on trying to have it all?

Each wedding of a glorious summer brings a new surprise. And as everything Delphie thought she had is threatened, she has the chance to reshape her future . . .

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About the author… 

As you can see, a Dubliner all my life. My parents owned a grocery shop in the Iveagh Markets, in the Liberties area of the city and I guess city blood runs through my veins.

As a child I enjoyed reading and telling stories and everyone thought that I end up in a job which had something to do with books and literature. But though I applied for a job in the library all of the job offers I got were in commerce.

I turned down lots of them before my mother accepted one for me (I was on holiday at the time). It was in the Central Bank of Ireland and that’s how my career in financial services began.

I started out in administration and then moved jobs until finally I was working as a dealer in a commercial bank. Eventually I was promoted to Chief Dealer (the first female CD in the country). I traded lots of different things – foreign exchange, swaps, options, bonds…all of the kind of things you read about in the papers and that sound very technical and difficult. Of course once you’re doing it, it’s not half as technical as it sounds.

But I still loved reading and writing (which I did in my spare time) and I desperately wanted to write my own book. I guess I never quite got over the fact that I was never offered the library job! In my thirties I decided that it was now or never and I sat down, stuck Chapter 1 on a page, and started. I wrote the whole thing before sending it off.

I was offered a publishing deal (with no advance) by an Irish company but only if I wrote a different book! So back to the drawing board, I started again. It was another two years before it was published. It wasn’t until I’d written a few books and was offered a contract (this time with an advance!) from another publisher that I felt able to give up my trading job and write full time. So, even though it took a long time, I eventually realised my dream of being a full-time writer.

And now I also write a business column for the Irish Times.

When I’m writing a book I want to do three things:

* Tell a good story
* Make the reader feel like they know the characters
* Make each book better than the last

I don’t write for any particular audience but I suppose I must have people like me in mind – people who have busy lives and who like to escape into someone else’s for a while.

I love writing books. I hope you enjoy reading them

Contact Links: 

or follow on twitter @sheilaoflanagan

My thoughts…

I've always been a fan of chic lit / women’s fiction, using it as an antidote to my other favourite genre - psychological thrillers or for reading at times when there's too much going on in my life and I'm looking for a comfort read. Sheila O'Flanagan has always been included in what I call my 'comfort blanket' authors. I know whenever I pick up one of her novels I'm going to get a read that touches on real life issues, sucks you into family dynamics, will have me muttering out loud and then cheering from the sidelines in equal measures but, invariably turns out to have a happy ending. I love that Sheila writes - a real feel good book thats not all pink and fluffy - there’s some genuine family life, heartaches and twists thrown in, just like in real life.

Three Weddings and a Proposal centres on Delphie as she lives her best life, happy, single and where she wants to be - the opposite of where her entire family think she should be. The story begins as Delphie’s brother is due to get married and her family are pressuring her to name her plus one for the weekend - her usual male friends are all either married, moved away or not available, she’s thinking of going alone when she makes a chance reconnection with an ex- boyfriend Ed, on a flight home from a work meeting with her boss in Spain.  He’s the one that got away, but he was a good friend once.

The family are ecstatic to hear about her choice of plus one and welcome him back into the fold as if he’s never been away, as if he wasn’t the cause of Delhie’s heartache so many years before.  No matter how much she tells them he’s only a friend they see more.  A call during the wedding reception telling Delphie of the sudden death of her boss sees her go into free fall and her whole life pivot on its axis.

This book focuses on family dynamics, sibling rivalry along with honesty, trust and communication and taking chances. Delphie needs her friends and family more than ever, and when Conrad dies she’s unwittingly finds herself the central focus of a family that has never really understood her attachment to work and single life. The bantering and opinions of the family thrust upon her from all angles was so typical of any large family, each vying for airspace when what Delphie needed and wanted was quiet and space to think - she’d lost not just a good friend in her boss but her job and her life. I think Sheila's descriptions are particularly vivid. I could visualise each of the family as clearly as if she was describing people I knew and could see that Delphie just needed time to come to terms to her situation and assess her options - she’s a strong, bold character and no walkover but her edges are not all sharp and angular, she has a very caring side and is loyal to those around her to the end.

This story demonstrates how at certain times in our life, when we’re dealt a poor hand we have a choice. sink or swim, thinking with your head or heart is not enough, usually your gut instinct is the right one and that it’s ok to accept support and friendship whilst you pick yourself up but should then be given the space to make your own decisions. As in this book, time, quiet and space will usually allow for balanced decisions - none of us benefit from being told what to do. I felt an emotional attachment to Delphie and rooted for her throughout, her voice wasn’t loud enough to fight for her life choices at times, drowned out by the white noise around her but she is a strong character and I willed her to take back control which she does with panache. I particularly loved that the lead character wasn’t a damsel in distress type but was comfortable in herself and prepared to stand by her convictions.

An absolutely wonderful read, that is uplifting, heart warming and hopeful - Sheila O’Flanaghan never disappoints - the bar is raised a little higher with each new book and she sails across it every time.  The romance is heartfelt, the friendships strong and the family loyal to the last.

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The Secret Bridesmaid - Katy Birchall

About the book… 

The Secret Bridesmaid is a heart-warming and hilarious modern romantic comedy debut that celebrates the joys- and foibles- of weddings, the nuances of female friendship, and the redeeming power of love in its many, unexpected forms. This joyous gem of a book is perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Sophia Money-Coutts and Mhairi McFarlane.

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year…Sophie Breeze is a brilliant bridesmaid. So brilliant, in fact, that she’s made it her full-time job. As a professional bridesmaid, Sophie is secretly hired by brides to be their right-hand woman, ensuring their big day goes off without a hitch. From wrangling rowdy hen dos to navigating last minute portaloo cancellations, there’s no problem she’ can’t solve. So when she’s employed by an actual Marchioness to help plan the society wedding of the year, it should be a chance for Sophie to prove just how talented she is.

Of course, it’s not ideal that the bride, Cordelia, is rude, difficult and determined to make Sophie’s life a nightmare. It’s also a bit inconvenient when Sophie finds herself drawn to Cordelia’s posh older brother, who is absolutely off limits. And when a rival society wedding is announced, things get even more complicated…Can Sophie pull off the biggest challenge of her career, follow her heart and maintain her reputation – all while keeping her true identity hidden?

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About the author… 

Katy is the author of several young adult novels including The It Girl series, the Hotel Royale series and Morgan Charmley: Teen Witch. She is the co-author of the middle grade Lightning Girl series and Star Switch with Alesha Dixon, and the Find the Girl teen series with YouTube stars Lucy and Lydia Connell. Katy was proud to be the author of a retelling of Jane Austen's Emma for the Awesomely Austen series, a collection of Austen's novels retold for younger readers. She has also written a non-fiction book, How to be a Princess: Real-Life Fairy Tales for Modern Heroines.

Katy lives in London with her partner, Ben, and her rescue dog, Bono.

The Secret Bridesmaid is her adult fiction debut

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

The Secret Bridesmaid is an absolute dream of a book.  Sophie Breeze, is the perfect bridesmaid, she’s the brides best friend in every sense of the word - she’s better than the best wedding planner you can imagine, nothing is too much trouble and she’s the the sort of girl you’d want to have in your corner.

I absolutely lost myself in the magic of this book, the romance, the laughter and at times downright hilarity - it was the best tonic ever.  Nothing is too much trouble, nothing is ever impossible - Sophie is a professional bridesmaid, hand holding the bride and her bridal party throughout the lead up to the wedding and making the impossible, possible.

The story is told as she navigates multiple weddings, never dropping the smile - she has separate Whattsapp groups, one for each of the weddings and we as a reader join her in her wedding planning - she literally never misses a beat and takes the stress out of every wedding, reminding me of a cross between a juggler and a magician - and allowing us the reader to a fly on the wall access to her life via her emails and text messages. 

I’d so like to be her best friend and spend an evening in a wine bar with her listening to her tales of the highs and lows of being a professional bridesmaid.  The tears literally slid down my cheeks, I was crying laughing throughout as I read, especially as she accommodated some of the more obscure requests from brides - to - be, slotting into their wedding day seamlessly as if she’d been best friends forever, playing a cameo role in their special day.

I loved Sophie and was cheerleading her on when she was introduced to a particularly difficult bride, the demands were beyond belief and nobody would have blamed her for losing her stack and telling the bride where to get off. Nothing phased her but this particular bride and her family pushed her to the brink of despair - I alternated between being angry and or upset for her.   I loved her dad though, he quietly reminded her of her values and strengths, pushing her gently to step back and evaluate the situation. Giving her the space to take back control.

The Secret Bridesmaid is full of romance obviously, but throughout I was rooting for Sophie to find her own Prince Charming and happy ever after - always the bridesmaid, never the bride! You’ll have to read it to find out if she does. It’s a totally feel good read that melted my heart, made me smile and grin like an idiotic and belly laugh until I cried.  It’s the sort of book that when you pick it up, if you’re feeling a little bit low or the day is drab and grey it won’t be for long - it’ll lift your spirits and brighten your day. I totally recommend The Secret Bridesmaid, I think it’s a book that should be issued on prescription - it was the best lockdown tonic I’ve had 

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Monday, 10 May 2021

The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club - Faith Hogan

About the book… 

Three women. Three different stages of life. United by one thing: the chance to start again.

'Uplifting, emotional and brimming with warmth and humour' – Cathy Bramley

When Elizabeth's husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, the only person she can turn to is her friend, Jo. Soon Jo has called in her daughter, Lucy, to help save Elizabeth from bankruptcy. Leaving her old life behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.

As life slowly begins to return to normal, these three women, thrown together by circumstance, become fast friends. But then Jo's world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.

In search of solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish Sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice that will bring the whole community together.

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About the author… 

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. 

She writes grown up women's fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.She is currently working on her next novel. 

She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She's a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger -except of course when it is raining.

Contact Links: 

Website: www.faithhogan.com
Facebook: www.Facebook/FaithHogan.com
Twitter: @gerhogan

My thoughts…

The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club is such a beautiful read.  You’ll have your heart broken time and again as you’re introduced to the three ladies that the story centres around.

Elizabeth, lives in the big house, her place in society secure, respected as the doctors wife - that is until her world is rocked on its axis when her husband dies and she discovers a hidden secret that is set to leave her not only widowed but destitute and homeless. She needs to lean on best friend Jo who props her up and is the unbiased sounding board she needs. The friend, we’ve all got one, who pushes her outside of her comfort zone - Jo encourages Elizabeth to join her in her passion for swimming in the Irish Sea late at night.  The quiet and the darkness, a safe place to talk openly and share their secrets.

Jo’s daughter Lucy arrives from Dublin with her son Niall to visit her mother for some time out and a break from her life as a busy doctor in an A & E department whilst ex husband lives the high life with his new partner in Australia.

Then there’s Dan a writer who rents a cottage to write his next novel, but the location of the cottage has been chosen for a reason - he gets more than he bargains for when he discovers the cottage is already occupied.

The story ebbs and flows as the author peels back the layers of each of the characters laying bare their problems and secrets - my heart wept and tears rolled down my face as Jo and Dan’s stories in particular were told.  Lucy steps in to help Elizabeth, providing a sticking plaster on her problems, giving her the space to make her own decisions, to pave a path of her choosing.

The emotional connections, the strong bond of friendship, both long standing and short was beautiful to read as their lives entwined and they supported each other through a difficult time in each of their lives. Lucy uncovers a secret about her mother that sees her life free falling before she’s encouraged to join her mum Jo and Elizabeth swimming under the cover of darkness in the sea at Midnight - virtual hands are held, the sea washing away the tears as plans are made as members of the Ladies Midnight Swimming Club.

I highly recommend this book, it’s so difficult to put into words how uplifting and empowering reading this book was.   The characters and scenarios were real, the emotions raw and the words floated around me long after I finished reading.  No matter what’s going on in your life when you allow friends in, openly share your worries and fears and happiness too there’s always a solution to be found - not always a happy ending and I’m not sure I’m quite ready for swimming in the cold Irish Sea but Faith Hogan highlighted that openness, acceptance, trust and letting friendship in can be a better medicine than any prescribed drug!

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