Last Bite of the Cherry by Margaret Cullingford

Last Bite of the Cherry was the last of the debut books by the New Romantics 4 on my list and, having read the others, I suppose I was expecting something similar to the novels of Adrienne Vaughan, June Kearns and Lizzie Lamb. I loved all those books so I was looking forward to reading this one.

However, from the very first scene it was quite apparent that this was something different. This wasn’t going to be a straightforward romance. There were darker layers to this story. I was intrigued.
It’s the story of two women, born on the same day, and the men who love them. Put like that it sounds simple enough, but it isn’t. Monica and Rosaleen have stories to tell, ostensibly very different, but connected by shared experiences, grief, lust, guilt and love.
Monica is poised to take her final vows to become a nun, working as a counsellor and dealing with abused women and children at a refuge. Rosaleen is one of her clients, brought to her by her dear friend Father Malachy. Rosaleen is desperate to talk but afraid and hesitant to share, drowning in guilt and sorrow. As Monica listens, over the course of several sessions Rosaleen tells her story, and it invokes memories for Monica of her own life and lost loves.

Monica’s great love, complicated yet so simple. Will loves her, but there is another side to him and she finds it hard to trust him. Their agreement is a straightforward one. They will do what they have to do and come back to each other. Monica recalls her life with him, a life in which she was loved but struggled with jealousy and fear.
Rosaleen is also loved, but has done some things that have eaten her up with guilt and are destroying her chance of happiness. Her tale helps Monica to lay some ghosts of her own and open up to her own “counsellor”, the rather lovely Malachy. But he has his own secret, and is just waiting for the right moment to confess.
The story is told through flashbacks, skipping through time to important episodes in each of the women’s lives. It’s a sensual feast, bursting with beautifully descriptive prose and imagery. You can feel the sun on your back, taste the delicious foods they are eating, catch the scent of the flowers within the pages.
Last Bite of the Cherry is intelligently and thoughtfully written, taking its time to unfold, revealing the lives of Monica and Rosaleen in a gentle manner which draws the reader in and engages every emotion.
It’s hard to put down as you peel away the layers of these two women’s lives, seeing beneath the surface to the turmoil that has brought them to this moment, to their first meeting. They were deeply loved, but it didn’t protect them from pain.

Cherries have stones. But they also have the potential to grow into “the loveliest of trees”. Can Monica and Rosaleen learn the lessons of the past, forgive their own mistakes and allow themselves to be loved again? Two women – strangers born on the same day – may yet be the other’s means of salvation.
I absolutely adored this book and I’m only sorry it took me so long to get round to reading it. Magnificent. 5/5

Buy Last Bite of the Cherry here

Last Bite of the Cherry

Last Bite of the Cherry

A Group Hug

So there I was, happily minding my own business, engrossed in Doctor Who – having missed it on Saturday for the first time in years, I might add – drinking my tea and feeling generally contented with the world. Vaguely, I thought I may have heard Benedict Cumberbatch’s delightfully gorgeous voice coming from somewhere within my handbag but I was too busy watching Peter Capaldi to pay much attention. (Only Doctor Who can distract me from Sherlock. And vice versa. Odd isn’t it?) Anyway, DH in his wisdom, decided that he needed to do something – don’t ask me what. No really, don’t – so he put the television on pause while he went off to do it. Honestly, aren’t men rude? If I’d done that when he was watching one of his endlessly dreary programmes about fishing or, God forbid, a Liverpool or Hull City match, then I’d have been for it. But because he’s who he is and I’m who I am, I merely sipped my tea and stared at The Doctor, frozen in motion on my screen, and then remembered that I’d thought I’d heard my phone going off.

Yes, my phone. You see, Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t really live in my handbag. I have a message alert on my mobile which is Sherlock saying, in an extremely  sexy manner, “Because I took your pulse…” It’s to do with Irene Adler, “The Woman”, and if you’re a Sherlock fan you’ll get the reference and if you’re not you won’t care, so enough of that. Anyway, I took my phone out and checked to see if I had indeed had a text message. And I had. And I also had quite a few pings from messenger. The message was from my pal Julie, aka Jessica Redland, urging me to get on Facebook immediately because my presence was requested by The Write Romantics.

I had a bit of a wobble. I was pretty sure I hadn’t done anything wrong. And they’d approved my anthology story. Hadn’t they? Anyway, I went on Facebook and found a whole string of comments waiting for me. It was a bit like Mork and Mindy. You remember? Perhaps you don’t. Perhaps I’m the only one old enough to recall the late Robin Williams’ zany sitcom from the seventies, in which he played alien Mork who, at the end of each episode, would stand in the spotlight droning, “Earth calling Orson. Come in Orson.” Crikey, what on earth am I rambling on about now? Oh well, back to the story.

So anyway, I assured them that I was present and correct and they immediately issued me with an amazing invitation. Would I like to become the tenth Write Romantic? There was total silence. No one messaged anyone. When I finally came round and picked myself up from the floor, there was a sudden flurry of, ‘Is she still there?’ ‘Should we be worried?’ ‘Is this a bad sign?’

When I’d assured them that it wasn’t a bad sign, they needn’t worry and I was definitely still there but had been unconscious on the ground for a short while, the celebrations began. I couldn’t believe it. Me, a Write Romantic!

The thing is, I’ve thought for a long time that being part of a group such as this is the way to go. There are several around and I honestly think they’re an incredible source of support, reassurance, guidance and friendship. Writing, as I’ve said many times, can be lonely. It’s just you and your computer or notebook. You don’t really know if what you’re writing is any good, and even if you can find someone to assure you that you’re on the right track, what do you do then? It’s not easy to move on. You have to research agents, publishers, the market. You have to find someone willing to take a chance on your novel. If you’re going to indie publish you need to find a reliable editor, proof-reader, cover designer, formatter, or at least find someone who can show you how to do some or all of those things yourself. You need someone to cheer you up when you’ve been rejected, cheer you on when you’ve been signed up…basically you need some good mates who are willing to be honest, encouraging, informative and relentlessly optimistic when you’re just about ready to throw it all in, delete your blog and Facebook account, change your name to Mavis and slink away never to be heard of again.

I’ve come across a few such groups the last couple of years – The New Romantics 4, Novelistas Ink,  and The Romaniacs to name just three. It always struck me that they were very lucky to have each other. I never imagined that, one day, I’d be part of such a group.

The Write Romantics are a lovely bunch of ladies and they’ve made me so very welcome. I’m very excited about what will happen next. I’ve been thrilled to hear the good things that have been happening for them lately and I’m very optimistic that I’ll have my own exciting news to reveal before much longer. My writing journey so far has been challenging, interesting, and above all, fun. I’m so happy that the next part of it will be in the company of such a talented group of women.

Thank you, ladies, for inviting me into your world, and I hope I won’t let you down. xx

Now, where was I? Oh yes, The Doctor. Good grief, that’s a very unflattering position he’s been frozen in! Where’s that blooming remote?

Have a great week xx

Strike that! Reverse it!

I’ve decided that it’s utterly pointless to make plans. At least, when it comes to writing novels. Things never work out how you expect and sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to have a rough idea of the direction I’m heading. I am definitely not a pantser. I couldn’t just sit down at my desk, switch on my computer and start typing, hoping that divine inspiration will guide me to writing something that makes at least some kind of sense. I would panic at the very thought. I have to have an outline and, what I’ve discovered recently is that, I like to have a scene by scene plan. I like being able to make a list of the crucial scenes and tick them off as I complete them, which sounds a bit mechanical but really isn’t. I only write a couple of lines stating the main purpose of the scene and then let my imagination take over, but it’s comforting knowing that I have a planned route to follow, even if I may meander off course occasionally, stop to look at some things that weren’t on the map, maybe take a detour, make a loop, come back to the place I was supposed to be after exploring other options first. You get my drift.

That’s all fair enough, but what happens when you suddenly realise that the entire book you’re working on is the wrong one?

Let me explain. I’m writing a series of four novels, and I’m currently working on book three. I’ve had problems with this book from the start and had to have a very deep and meaningful chat with my two main characters to make any progress at all. Eventually, I figured I understood them a lot better and set to work. The scene plan was written, I was steaming through their story, things were looking good. And yet…

No matter how I tried, I couldn’t shift the feeling that something was wrong. It occurred to me that I was having trouble with another character. He’d been in my plan since day one. I mean, he was there in the brief outline I’d made for this novel way back in 2011 and so I couldn’t figure out why he suddenly didn’t seem to fit. It slowly dawned on me, after much muttering to myself as I wandered round the house scaring the dog, that, as I’d now written two complete novels which didn’t feature him, things had moved on without him. The part I’d thought he would play no longer worked. The character whose life he was supposed to mess around with had changed. He wasn’t needed.

It was quite a blow because he’s always been there at the back of my mind. I always felt that, “cometh the hour, cometh the man,” but it seems his hour has passed and he missed it. Oh well, on your bike sunshine. You’re fired. I realised that, despite my best efforts, things had changed so I cut him. Gosh I’m getting quite ruthless!

That left me with a dilemma. His role in book three was huge, so what to do now? It didn’t take me long to figure out the direction the novel should go. I had another major character waiting in the wings, ready to make a – well, sort of comeback – except that they’ve never actually physically appeared in the book before. But their arrival will really shake things up a bit and makes it a lot more exciting.

Only, well, that messed around with the whole timeline, and it wasn’t long before I was pacing up and down again, making frequent visits to the fridge and kettle, and talking to myself while my poor dog shrank away from me as if fearing for my sanity as I tried to decide what to do for the best. I decided there was no hope and thought I’d leave it for another day. I made a cup of tea (you can’t go wrong with a nice cuppa) and settled down to watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It’s one of my favourite films. I just love Gene Wilder and I’m always quoting his character. I slurped my tea and lost myself in the wonders of chocolate rivers, everlasting gobstoppers and tasty wallpaper.

And then it hit me! As Willy Wonka ordered, “Strike that! Reverse it,” I had an epiphany. Of course! Make book three book four and make book four book three and everything suddenly fell into place. The timeline corrected itself, it gave me extra time to build up a storyline that’s been going on in the background of the whole series, and it meant I had a whole new hero and heroine to work with. Brilliant.

So now I’m making notes, coming up with a scene by scene plan and am eager to start the first draft of what will – almost definitely – be the third Kearton Bay book. At least, that’s what’s happening today. No more planning, remember?

Whatever you’re planning, have a great week xx

The Bright Side of Life

So, where was I? Oh yes, moaning! Well, a lot’s happened since I spoke to you all last and some of it was even good. Actually, it was all good. I’ve had a lovely few weeks, and funnily enough most of it was because other people had good news which cheered me up tremendously.

It’s funny how good things happening to other people can make you feel better. It can lift you and make you feel more positive and hopeful that there are good things in the world. Not easy to believe sometimes when you turn on the news, I know, but it’s nice to look around at people you know and care about and see them smiling and excited. Quite cheers you up if you ask me.

So what’s been happening? Well, first of all, my seventh grandchild is on its way. I know! I’m far too young for all this but hey ho. Baby number seven is due in March and all looks well. I suppose the knock-on effect of having five children yourself is that they produce a positive tribe of offspring. I’m currently considering selling off the contents of my house to pay for Christmas. Except for the books of course. I will never sell those! As an aside, while we’re on the subject of babies, I’m very glad to hear that there’s a new royal baby on the way. Frankly, it was lovely to hear some good stuff on the news at last, since it’s usually so bleak and dismal it makes me want to go back to bed and curl up with the duvet over my head and stay there for the rest of my days. There are many people moaning about it, of course, but a baby’s always good news in my opinion, so good luck to them all.

I’ve also come out of hibernation and attended two social events during the last week! I know, get me! When I say social events, don’t get any grand ideas. I wasn’t at a royal garden party or a red carpet do or anything like that. However, I did drag myself away from the computer and go outside the house – and not to work! 🙂 On the last day of August I headed to York to meet up with my pals Alex and Julie. It was Alex’s birthday (twenty-one again) and she’d booked a table for us and for some of her other friends in a lovely little cafe. We had a lovely time sitting in the sunshine in the courtyard garden at the back of the cafe. We had lots of gossip to share and the food was delicious – even though my “cheese sandwich” when it arrived turned out to be so tall King Kong could have climbed to the top and fought off those aeroplanes. It was pretty hard to eat.

I said to Alex, ‘How the heck am I going to manage to eat this?’ and she replied, ‘I don’t think you can in polite company.’ She was quite right. I had to take it apart and ended up eating it with a knife and fork. Lovely. I’m a class act. Still, there was delicious cake afterwards and the sun shone and we all had a great time so it was all worth it, even if I did get in the car afterwards and discover I had watercress stuck in my teeth. I messaged Alex and Julie demanding to know why they hadn’t informed me and they both swore they hadn’t noticed. Hmm…we’ll let that one pass, ladies.

On Friday evening I went out for a meal for my mother’s birthday. This was a real event as several members of my family met up and went to a newly-opened international restaurant in the city centre. It was packed, and even though we’d booked the table we were hurried in and told we had exactly ninety minutes before we had to vacate the premises as they were booked solid. Charming. Great first impressions and all that. However, I have to say, the food was absolutely delicious and it was one of those all-you-can eat places where you get a plate and just keep going back for more. And more. And more. Since we’re all Yorkshire born and bred we like to get value for money, so back we went, until we could barely move from the table. My mother, who is far more restrained than the rest of us, sat there looking pretty disgusted with the lot of us as we lay back in our chairs groaning and unfastening waistbands but somehow still finding the energy to head back to the counter the minute dessert was mentioned. We finally left five minutes short of the ninety, practically crawling up the stairs into the street and looking alarmingly green while my mother trotted on ahead of us and tried to pretend she didn’t know us. Oh well, it was fun!

I’ve been cheered by people’s good news all week. As announced on Facebook, my dear friend Julie, aka Jessica Redland, has been offered a three book publishing deal. I’m thrilled to bits for her because she really wanted this, and she’s worked so hard to get it. Julie’s a lovely person and I can’t wait to read her first novel, Searching for Steven. Julie’s fellow Write Romantic, the lovely Jay Bartlett is also celebrating as her debut novel has been snapped up and will be published in ebook and print in the spring. It really couldn’t happen to two nicer people. I want autographs, girls!

The Write Romantics’ competition winner was announced. As you know, the ladies are putting together a charity anthology and have been running a competition for someone to name it. Liz Berry came up with Winter Tales and duly won a £20 Amazon voucher. Congratulations Liz! Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart will be available in print and for your Kindle in November.  I will finally be a published author! Yay!

And my own bit of good news? Book Three is finally flowing. I had a good long chat with my hero and heroine, as promised, and they shared their deepest darkest fears and desires with me. I had a bit of a rethink and then sat down to make a scene plan and what do you know? It worked. I’ve been happily writing away all week and am feeling happy and positive again. It may not seem much in the scheme of things but, believe me, it’s a weight off my mind. And after the amount I’ve eaten this week a weight off anything is good news, right?

Have a great week xx

 

Fab Friday announcement – we have a winner!

Thrilled to say that the anthology I’m a part of now has a name and even a tag-line! 🙂
My story will appear in this book and is called The Other Side of Christmas. I’ve read a couple of the other stories that are appearing and if they’re representative of the collection then you’re in for a treat! I do hope that you’ll buy a copy – either paperback or Kindle version. It’s for two very deserving causes, and just imagine snuggling up in a warm and cosy room, safe from the winter weather outside, and losing yourself in some lovely romances. Happy reading!

thewriteromantics

As regular readers of the blog will know, November will see the release date of The Write Romantics and Friends’ anthology in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.  If you haven’t already heard about this exciting project, you can read all about it on our anthology page.

winter3We’ve been running a competition to come up with a title for the anthology and we were delighted to receive over thirty entries.  There were some really creative names amongst the suggestions and they had us all thinking about cosying up in front of a roaring log fire – yes, even in August!

Our eventual winner was a title of elegant simplicity with a link to the literary king of them all, William Shakespeare.  After much deliberation, and a gentle debate over whether to include an apostrophe or not, we had our title and tagline:

Winter Tales

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