Tickled Pink by Christina Jones

Steeple Fritton is a quaint country village in the doldrums. The village pub, The Crooked Sixpence, is run by the less-than-charming landlord, Hogarth, who is hardly welcoming. There are empty shops and a bed and breakfast that is barely managing to break even.
Posy is in the doldrums, too. When the novel starts she has been dumped by her childhood sweetheart and, as their wedding day arrives, she decides to run away and make a new life for herself in Swindon. As you do. Luckily for Posy, a problem with her beloved motorbike and a chance encounter with a dog called Persephone sees her heading back to Steeple Fritton, determined to hold her head high and show everyone she’s not defeated.

Lola arrives in Steeple Fritton by pure chance. She’s had the worst run of bad luck and feels life can’t get much worse. To make things even more difficult, she ends up at the bed and breakfast place run by Posy’s parents, and it turns out that she and Posy are both nursing broken hearts but are from different sides of the fence, which initially leads to a great deal of tension and hostility.

Gradually, Posy and Lola decide to take matters into their own hands and turn not only their own lives around, but the fate of Steeple Fritton itself. When two gorgeous men arrive in the village hearts begin to heal and hopes begin to surface, but Flynn and Ellis have their own baggage, and there are tough decisions, sizzling passion, laughter and heartbreak ahead for all four of them.

I loved the warmth of this book. It had a real, cosy village feel to it, and there was a wonderful assortment of secondary characters with marvellous names like Tatty and Glad and The Pinks. I liked the fact that good things didn’t just start to happen for Posy and Lola – they made them happen. They took charge of their lives and, despite the blows that life had dealt them, they stopped moping pretty quickly and set about changing things. In the process of improving their own lot, they managed to improve the lot of the villagers and put Steeple Fritton well and truly on the map. Both Lola and Posy are very likeable characters – women you would want to be friends with – and Ellis and Flynn are, well, phwoar!

With a carnival, an old-fashioned fair and the Orient Express all thrown in for good measure, this really is one steamy romance in the nicest possible way. And it’s made me quite nostalgic for Adam Ant. Read it and bask in the eccentric warmth of Steeple Fritton and its delightful characters. 5/5

Buy Tickled Pink here51vTgRs6awL

Hocus Pocus ’14 by Various Authors

Hallowe’en’s coming and it’s the time of year when we all love to be scared. This collection of short stories is just the ticket if you fancy snuggling up by the fire, all alone in the house, feeling the hairs on the back of your neck stand up on end. A collection of creepy tales by some truly fabulous authors, this anthology is quite gripping. I read it in one night, flicking through the stories which all proved to be highly entertaining and easy to read.
Every story is a good one – no weak links in here. Some are quite short, some are more like novellas. Some have flashes of humour. Others are out and out spooky. I have read novels by Lynda Renham, Adrienne Vaughan and Lizzie Lamb before, but these shorts are nothing like their full-length books. All three demonstrated their ability to switch to short stories with apparent ease, and I was also introduced to some fabulous authors whose work I haven’t read before, and I will be much more eager to seek out their novels in the future.
A great showcase of talent, I am loathe to single out any one story for individual praise. The two novellas stick in the mind, possibly due to their length, but both were excellent. For sheer gross-out value you can’t beat The Last Leg by S A Edward – although avoid it if you’re about to have your supper.
Interspersed with the fictional tales are creepy real-life anecdotes which will make you wonder and maybe reach out to flick on the light switch…
Seriously, I enjoyed every one of these stories and at such a bargain price you simply can’t go wrong. Grab a copy and prepare to be spooked. Happy Hallowe’en!

Seed of Doubt by Adrienne Vaughan
Letter for Ray by Carolyn Mahony
Heaven Must be Missing an Angel by Jules Wake
The Last Leg by S A Edward
Lovespelled by Jane O’Reilly
Clarissa by Lynda Renham
Orange Blossom by Mary Jane Hallowell (short novella)
Jumping the Queue by Lizzie Lamb
Haunted House by Alison May
The Soul Stealer by Tina K. Burton
Green Man Rising by Litty Williams
Insubstantial Evidence by Tracy Burton
When Dreams Return by Debbie Flint (short novella)
Bonus Material -– true life spooky tales & poem

Buy it here

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You Gotta Have Friends…

I’ve never been the sort of person to want a lot of close friends. Acquaintances, yes. Workmates, yes. But true friends not so much. My husband, my kids, my brother and sister and their spouses are great friends and I love them to bits. But friends who aren’t family members are different. You have to work that little bit harder because, if you lose them, they won’t still be in your circle and they could be gone forever…

It’s a question of trust, I suppose.  I was the type of child who liked to have one or two very dear friends, who would be the centre of my world. I could confide in them, console them, laugh uncontrollably with them, unburden myself to them, moan to them, share gossip with them…basically, they were there for me and I was there for them. It was important that I could trust them, and once that trust was broken…well, it took a lot to go there again.

My first friend was Shirley. I met her on the first day of school and we were both incredibly shy. In fact, we were so shy I don’t think we’d ever have spoken to each other if our mothers hadn’t chummed up at the school gates and it turned out we lived in the same street. We entered the classroom that first day wearing the same dress. Our mothers had the same catalogue! 🙂 So we soon became firm friends, and I was truly heartbroken when she and her family moved to the next village, which may as well have been Outer Mongolia as she went to a different school. I never saw her again.

Then came Mandy. Mandy had red hair and green eyes and porcelain skin and absolutely fascinated me. I’d never seen such fabulous colouring and I wanted to be her best friend. And I was. Till another girl wanted to be her best friend, too. Rats. It’s funny how, at the age of eight, you simply cannot have two best best friends.  It was a power struggle and went on for over a year till I was completely drained. But then I got chummy with a girl called Katherine and left Mandy behind. Oddly enough, we were also very close to Janet and it never bothered us in the slightest that there were three of us. I suppose by nine we’d matured! Anyway, we were great friends and I adored them both. But then we left primary school and went to high school and lost touch as we were separated and drifted away into our different educational streams.

Carolyn was my next best friend. She was the opposite of me. Very sporty and athletic. She didn’t read much and I hated sports so I don’t know why we were such good friends, but we were. She had pet mice which I loved. My parents hated mice so when her mouse, Doris, had babies we came up with all sorts of elaborate charades to enable me to have one of them. We tried desperately to save up for a cage so that I could present it to my parents as a fait accompli. I  chose my mouse – a little black one – and called him Boris. But we never managed to get the cage and Carolyn’s parents got rid of the mice to a pet shop and that was that. We drifted apart. In fact, we had a major falling out, and I can’t for the life of me remember why, but we were never really friends again, which is sad.

By then, I was fourteen. In the year of 1978 a lot of things happened. Saturday Night Fever and Grease exploded onto the screens, the Bee Gees were playing on every radio, cassette player and record player in the country, and I chummed up with D. Now, if ever I had a best best friend it was D. We really, really connected. No one could make me laugh, infuriate me, make me think, stir my imagination and test my patience like she could. I suspect I did much the same for her. We would sit in her living room (a couple of times when we were supposed to be at school – sorry, Mum and D’s mum!) while her parents were at work and play Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush over and over again. Kate Bush was our heroine. She still is, actually. We’d ponder the meaning of life for hours, trying to work out what exactly was God? We explored different religions and spiritual paths, looked for hidden meanings in everything, discussed conspiracy theories, played our music and laughed. My God we laughed. No one could crack me up like D.

We stayed friends for a long time. In fact, she was godmother to my eldest daughter and we stayed very close until we were in our mid twenties. Then we drifted apart. I had a family and was a stay-at-home mum. She was single, working, at university, making lots of new friends and heading off on adventures such as backpacking around Ireland. It was all very different to my life. I missed her but I saw her occasionally. The last time I saw her she’d just become a mum herself. That child is now in her early twenties so you can see how long it’s been.

I don’t think I got close to anyone after that for a long time. I had friends, but not like her. It took a long time to get attached to someone else, but eventually I got closer to someone I’d known for years. In the end she was really dear to me and I think she probably knew more about me than my own husband. But things happened, we fell out (I think. I don’t remember it actually happening but it must have, I suppose?) Anyway, I haven’t seen her for around six or seven years. It makes me sad but I think it’s probably beyond repair, and I have no idea why. I would never have believed it because I honestly thought she was my best friend for life. You never can tell.

Facebook is a great invention in many ways. I had a great friend from America whom I met in the early eighties. He went back to the States and I never thought I’d hear from him again, but thanks to Facebook we’re back in touch and can message each other, share links and photos and updates and it’s brilliant to hear from him. And I got back in touch with D which was fabulous! It was nerve-wracking at first as so much had happened since we last met and I think we were both a bit nervous, but she still “gets” me, and sometimes I’ll smile when I read her posts or see a picture she’s put up because it resonates so much with me, and I’ll think, she’s still my friend, even though we haven’t seen each other for so long.  She’ll always be special to me. I hope that, one day, we’ll find the courage to actually meet up again. It would be lovely to have her back in my life properly.

And now I have a whole bunch of new friends – my writing pals. The Write Romantics are my first “gang”! 🙂 I’m lucky to live fairly close to two of them – Julie and Alex – and we meet up pretty regularly for tea and cake. I met them on Saturday. We went to a lovely little cafe in Beverley and had lunch and celebrated Julie’s book deal. We chatted about what we’d been up to since we last saw each other, caught up with our writing news and discussed our books and made plans for our anthology release. (It’s called Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart. Read about that here). It’s for two very good causes and will be launched in early November so it’s all quite exciting. I look forward to my catch-ups with Julie and Alex so much and I can’t wait to meet the other Write Romantics. I took the plunge and booked time off work for next July so that I can definitely attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference in London, so I’ll be hopefully meeting at least some of them. They already feel like dear friends and have made me so welcome. I’m also hoping to meet up with lovely friends I’ve met online through writing. I feel like my life has completely changed and I’m so lucky and so blessed to have so many wonderful people in it.

Never underestimate how important friends are. I have had some dear friends that slipped through the net and I feel sad about that. If you have a close friend, let them know how much they mean to you, and be thankful that they’re in your life. I know I’m thankful for mine.

Have a great week xx

The School Gate Survival Guide by Kerry Fisher

Maia Etxeleku is living on a run-down estate with her lazy partner, Colin, and her two children, Bronte and Harley. Maia supports her family by holding down several cleaning jobs, and as the story starts she is mourning the death of one of her clients, not just because she has lost one of her jobs, but because the old lady urged her to get an education and was interested in her as a person, taking the time to meet her children, teaching them and encouraging them to read. With a partner like Colin, who has no interest in finding a job, Maia can’t afford to apply for the Open University course that she desperately wants to take, and sees little chance of a better future for her children. When she discovers the old lady has left a sum of money for her in her will, to be used exclusively for school fees for Harley and Bronte, Maia wonders if she can afford to take the offer. After all, school fees are one thing, but what about the unifoms, the music lessons, the expensive school trips? But realising that this will be the best and possibly only chance the children get of a decent future, Maia takes the risk and enrols them at posh Stirling Hall School, a decision that will bring profound changes for her entire family, and for Maia most of all.
I absolutely loved this book. The characters were fantastically drawn. Maia is lovely, trying so hard to do the right thing for everyone and putting herself last at every turn, but somehow finding the strength to go against the wishes and advice of those around her who want her to stay in her box, be the person she’s always been. It takes courage to stand up to Colin, who is appalled at idea of sending his kids to private school, convinced it will give them delusions of grandeur. It would be easy to view Colin almost as a caricature as he’s so awful, but then the author cleverly gives him some redeeming qualities that just prevent this. He’s never going to be likeable, but the fact that he’s so devastated and afraid when something truly scary occurs makes the reader see that he’s not all bad. Just ninety-nine per cent!
Sandy, the neighbour, is truly appalling. I sussed her from the start and hated the way she kept undermining Maia, being unsupportive and sarcastic and turning against her because she wanted a better life for her children.
I loved Bronte and Harley. They were masterfully written. Bronte, all buttoned-up and angry, insecure and embarrassed, and Harley, who is just adorable. His determination to make the best of things and his loyalty to his mum was enough to reduce this reader to tears. I really, really wanted those children to have a better life and was praying things would turn out for them.
Mr Peters is a real hero. I could quite see the attraction there and found his determination to support Maia, and to help Bronte and Harley reach their capabilties wonderful, so it didn’t surprise me when he revealed his own secret.
Clover is another marvellous character. She’s the one who proves that having money doesn’t have to make you a bad person. Her total, unconditional acceptance of Maia and the way she champions and includes Bronte and Harley won me over immediately. I wanted Clover to be happy and I like the way her storyline unfolded.
Even the haughty Jen1 (great name!) is an interesting character, because she’s snobbish, vain and cruel, but the writer cleverly give us an insight into the reasons for this, the insecurities that lie behind the obnoxious behaviour. It doen’t make her any more likeable but it does make it easier to understand why she behaves the way she does.
Kerry is very good at creating characters that aren’t all black or white, which makes them much more realistic and interesting to read about.

This book is really easy to read and so funny, it’s difficult to put down. I zipped through it in a day and I really can’t wait to read what the author has in store for us next. Excellent! 5/5

Buy it here

The School Gate Survival Guide

The School Gate

Exciting Anthology News – Line Up Confirmed!

As the new member of the Write Romantics, I’d like to share the latest news about our charity anthology with you. Look out for more news in the next few weeks!


It’s the 1st October; the start of the final quarter of the year. Where’s the rest of the year gone? Absolutely no idea.

IMG_0671The Write Romantics are incredibly busy at the moment. As well as welcoming new member, Sharon, celebrating the launch of Rachael’s debut novel, and the Super September publishing-deal news for Harriet and me, we’re gearing up to the launch of our very own charity anthology, ‘Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart’. Even the sound of the title makes me want to curl up on a large armchair by a roaring fire and read, read, read. And eat chocolate. And probably drink wine too but let’s not go there!

Without further ado, we’re thrilled to confirm the final guest list and the running order of stories in our anthology. The Write Romantics have seen this already (hot out of the hat last night because that was…

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