Angel Takes Flight!

There Must Be An AngelIt’s here! It’s really here! There Must Be An Angel is now available to buy from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats. It seems like I’ve been planning this day forever, but I still can’t quite believe it’s actually arrived.

To celebrate, I’m having a Facebook party today between 1pm and 3pm. There’ll be chat, music, hunky guests, food and drink, plus some competitions with great prizes to be won, including signed copies of the book, some gorgeous gourmet marshmallows, kindly donated by Yorkshire company Art of Mallow, and some other bits and pieces, so come along and join in! You can find the party here. Bring your own hunky guest ‘cos I’m not sharing mine! 😉

I really hope you’ll be able to attend, but if you can’t, or if you’re reading this too late, don’t worry. Angel is available to buy here, and I’ll be doing more giveaways on here and on my Facebook page in the near future. In the meantime, thank you for your support in reading this blog, and a huge thank you to everyone who’s helped me along the way to this moment. It means more than I can ever say.

Have a great week xx

A-Z Challenge Theme Reveal

atoz-theme-reveal-2015So, as I may have mentioned previously, I took the plunge and signed up for the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Basically, this means that throughout the month of April (excluding Sundays) I have to write a different blog post each day, with the theme of each post beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. So April 1st would be about a subject beginning with A, April 2nd about a subject beginning with B…you get the drift.

Having decided to go for it – because I’m nothing if not completely insane – I then learnt there is another string to the A-Z bow. The great theme reveal. Or The Great Theme Reveal if you want to be a bit more dramatic. Participants in this choose an overriding theme for all twenty-six of their blog posts, rather than selecting random subjects each day.

At first I thought this was a step too far. But then, when I thought about it a bit more, I realised it could actually be a good thing. Having to focus your mind and concentrate on one theme would – possibly – be a useful thing. So I decided to go for it. The question was, what was my theme going to be?

There Must Be An Angel

There Must Be An Angel

Well, I then realised that the challenge was the perfect opportunity to tell you all a bit more about There Must Be An Angel. It’s my first book, and I’m very proud of it, and I am all too aware that a short blurb on the back of the book cover, or on Amazon, or here on my blog, doesn’t even begin to cover all the aspects of the story. There are lots of different elements to the plot, but there are also “behind the scenes” things going on, too. For instance, how much do you know about Beltane? Have you ever visited Robin Hoods Bay or Whitby? Have you ever tasted delicious gourmet marshmallows? What’s your favourite ancient monument or stately home? What do Jane Eyre and Jane Wenham-Jones have in common? And who exactly is Kearton Bay named after? These are just some of the issues I’ll be discussing over the course of the challenge, and by answering these questions and a whole lot more, I hope you’ll feel part of the Kearton Bay community and want to know more about what’s going 10462719_598312073619369_4215909891013464915_non there. I may even be giving away a free copy of There Must Be An Angel for you to discover for yourself!

Looking forward to seeing you here. April 1st. It’s a date!

Have a great week xx

Another Rebecca by Tracey Scott-Townsend

I remember reading Tracey’s previous novel, The Last Time We Saw Marion, and feeling that I’d somehow been taken over by the characters within the pages. It was an intensely emotional book, and I didn’t think I’d ever experience that strange feeling from another novel again, let alone one by the same author. Yet, reading Another Rebecca, the same thing happened to me again. I spent the entire morning totally gripped by the unfolding events, and when I had to put the book down to go to work, I felt disoriented, confused. It was as if real life was no longer real, so involved was I in the lives of these fictional characters, so skilfully created by the author.

Like Marion, Another Rebecca is told from the viewpoint of several characters. Firstly, we have Rebecca – a young girl, trapped in the role of carer to her mother. When the story opens, she is in the grip of a fever in hospital, and experiences something which changes the course of her life.

Bex is her mother. An alcoholic, Bex used to be Rebecca, but her “Great Grief” put an end to that. She stopped the clocks and became someone else – a walking corpse, physically alive but emotionally dead. Nothing and no one can alter the course she has set for herself. Bex waits for only one thing, and the hoofbeats are fast approaching…

And then there is Jack. The man who believed he could save Bex and bring Rebecca back to life. The man who finally realised that she could never be his, and the one who is now desperate to help his daughter before it’s too late. Because she hears the hoofbeats too, and it seems she is willing to sacrifice everything for what they signify.

This story held me in its spell from the very first page. What’s so clever about Tracey’s writing is that she describes unearthly events – fleeting glimpses of something the reader cannot see, whispers we cannot fully hear, a brush of something not quite real against our skin – yet at the same time, she pulls no punches in her earthy descriptions of the all-too-human protagonists. Bex’s physical disintegration is shown in depressing clarity, and Rebecca’s mental deterioration is unnerving to witness. These people are imperfect humans, and their flaws and failings are not skipped over but shown in all their sordid and frightening fullness. Yet the stark narrative of these issues is coloured in with beautiful, poetic imagery. The author paints a picture with words – a picture as striking and lovely and as haunting as the featured painting, There Is No Night by Jack Butler Yeats.

My heart ached for all three of the main characters, and for Sebastian and for Evelyn. The book is all about loss in one form or another – loss of love, loss of self, loss of life, loss of sanity. At times it’s hard to feel sympathy for Bex, when she behaves so selfishly and outrageously, dragging her daughter into her joyless existence. Yet, as was the case with Marion, it’s hard to judge her too harshly. The skill of the author lies in creating fully-rounded characters, who evoke compassion and love, even when behaving in the most appalling manner.

By the end of the book, I felt I had read something truly remarkable. I am so impressed with Another Rebecca, as I was with The Last Time I Saw Marion. I think Tracey Scott-Townsend’s writing is something really special, and I’m happy to recommend this book to anyone. I wait with eager anticipation for the next one. 5/5

 

Buy Another Rebecca heredownload (6)

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

sister-hood-awardMy thanks to lovely Linda Huber for nominating me for this award. I love the idea of a sisterhood. Women should support and nourish each other, and I think we mostly do. I think the popular idea is that women are natural rivals, keen to outdo each other and put each other down, but, speaking from personal experience, I find most women are all too keen to help their ‘sisters’ along the way. I, for one, am very grateful for that, and keen to repay the favour. Linda was one of the lovely authors who contributed a short story to the Write Romantics’ charity anthology, Winter Tales, so I already knew that she was one of those helpful and supportive women. She has also taken an interest in the forthcoming release of my debut novel, There Must Be An Angel, so she really is part of the sisterhood! I’m, therefore, very happy and honoured to take part in this blogging award tour, and answer her questions. Thanks, Linda.

Do you have a ‘sister’? I have a real sister, Tracey, who is two and a half years younger than me and loves to remind me of the fact. I don’t see her as often as I’d like, but I love her to bits and she is one person guaranteed to make me laugh, as well as being the person who really ‘gets’ me. She has known me all her life, after all, and still speaks to me! I think, sometimes, she thinks I’m a bit weird, but she seems willing to put up with that. I’m very proud of her for all she’s achieved and for the person she is, and there’s a bond there that no one else can share, because we grew up together and have so many shared memories and experiences. She is very special to me and I’m so glad I have her. I also have nine honorary ‘sisters’ – the Write Romantics, who listen to my woes and worries and insecurities, laugh at my odd sense of humour and boost my flagging confidence just when I need it. They are a fabulous bunch of ladies and I’m very blessed to be part of their sisterhood.

What’s your favourite memory of primary school? I have loads! I loved primary school. It was a really fabulous school with lovely staff, and I have nothing but happy memories of it. I remember the big old boiler, with the massive fireguard around it, in the centre of the prefab classroom. We used to drape wet coats etc on it in really bad weather, and huddle round it to get warm when we were reading. I remember the school plays which were always such fun. I remember the library and the thrill of discovering a stack of pony books to read. I remember assemblies every morning, singing hymns, bowing our heads to recite the Lord’s Prayer. I remember the last hour of the day when the teacher would read to us – books such as The Cat That Walked a Week by Meindert Dejong, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner. I remember the sweet shop by the school where we’d all crowd in and buy two ounces of sour apples or kop kops, or the bakery which sold off yesterday’s cream buns for a penny. I remember collecting conkers and fallen leaves for the autumn classroom display, having orange armbands sewn onto my coat sleeves, and walking to school in fog so thick that it was impossible to see a thing in front of you. I remember my friends, and Christmas, and the class postbox where we’d put our cards and presents to be handed out on the last day of term, and singing carols, and the Christmas party, and skipping in the playground, and glueing shiny coloured paper onto card, and playing with plasticine, and having my own peg in the cloakroom, and spelling tests, and sports day, and school reports. Impossible to choose a favourite!

download (4) Who would you invite to dinner, and why? Ooh, good question. Just one person? Really? Well, if it was any person in history I would probably choose Henry VIII because I want to know if he really was as mad as a box of frogs or just a horrible, cruel tyrant, or if there was a lot more to him than we know. I want to know what was going on in what appears to be an incredibly twisted mind. Why did he make those choices? Did he really believe in the decisions he made? Has he any redeeming qualities at all? On the other hand, if it was just one person alive today, I’d choose Jilly Cooper, because I love her books, and I think she’d be fun and I’d love to know what she’s writing next and what we can expect from Rupert Campbell Black.

And what would you cook for them? I wouldn’t. If it was Henry VIII I’d plonk a plate of salad in front of him, followed by fruit, because I think he had a meat overload and could do with a break. And, if it was Jilly Cooper, I like her far too much to inflict my cooking on her. Definitely time to call in outside catering!

Which fictional character would you like to be? Jill Crewe from Jill’s Gymkhana and the other Jill books by Ruby Ferguson. Or any girl in any pony book from that golden era really. They had such jolly, horsy lives, and the only thing they had to worry about was if they would win a rosette at the next gymkhana, or how to do a decent half pass, or if they would get new jodhpurs for Christmas. Happy days.download (5)

Can you remember your first glass of wine? Yes. It was at my aunt and uncle’s wedding. I was a bridesmaid so was allowed a glass for the toast, and I hated it. I still hate it. I just don’t like wine. I don’t like any alcohol really, unless it doesn’t taste much of alcohol.

What’s your favourite colour? Blue. Reminds me of the sea and a clear sky on a  hot summer’s day.

Tell us about your first teenage crush. Oh, this is embarrassing. Okay, it was on my English teacher at school. He was absolutely lovely and I adored him. He was really encouraging about my writing, and I idolised him. The whole school seemed to know I was mad about him. I even sent him a soppy poem. He was incredibly patient and kind, but I bet he breathed a sigh of relief when I left school!

Why do you blog? Initially, it was because I was told it was “the thing to do”, and that writers simply had to blog. I’m not so sure that’s true, actually, but I do enjoy having the blog now. It’s a great place to practice writing, share my news, connect with other bloggers and, hopefully, it will be a place where I can one day connect with readers of my novels.

What do you hope to achieve in 2015? Well, There Must Be An Angel is released in less than two weeks, and I’m hoping at least one person will read it and love it! I also have the second novel, A Kiss From a Rose coming out in September, and I want to have completed book three in the series by the end of the year, ready for publishing in 2016. Quite a lot to do, as you can imagine!

It now falls to me to nominate seven other female bloggers, so I choose Rachael Thomas, Jessica Redland, Alys West, Helen Phifer, Laura James, Julie Stock and Liz Berry. If you’ve already done it, my apologies, and you don’t have to take up the banner. It’s entirely up to you. 

My questions, should you accept the challenge, are as follows:

What is your earliest memory?

What was your favourite Christmas present?

Who would you like to go on a date with? (Excluding current partners/spouses)

Which film would you choose if you could only ever watch one again?

What are you most proud of?

Which woman in history do you most admire?

Which book do you wish you’d written?

What one thing do you think would surprise other people about you?

You’ve had an unexpected windfall of one thousand pounds. What would you spend it on?

Who is your secret crush?

Over to you! Have a great week xx

Secrets of the Heart by Adrienne Vaughan

This is the final book in the Heartfelt trilogy, and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, I think it was my favourite of the three, and that’s saying something. There’s something so irresistible about these books.
The warmth of Innishmahon, the cosy island off the west coast of Ireland, and its delightful inhabitants, draws you in and makes you long to stay. The characters are so beautifully drawn.
Marianne, practical, determined, compassionate, is the main character, and she is the doorway into this lovely place – a place where people go to escape. The residents of Innishmahon stand apart from the rest of the world, expecting no favours, and sorting out their own problems in their own way. No wonder, then, that even famous Hollywood movie stars, producers and agents cannot resist the delights of the island.
Ryan O’Gorman, the biggest superstar of them all, lost his heart to Innishmahon and to Marianne, but they had a lot to go through before they could be together. In this final episode, they still have battles to fight, including what could be the biggest one of all.
By the end of this book, secrets will be exposed, hearts broken and hearts healed. There are twists and turns galore and quite a few shocks and surprises. The action never flags.
As I came to the end of the story, I felt my own heart begin to grieve. It was as if I had just said goodbye to some dear friends. A really wonderful, heartwarming trilogy, and this is a fitting conclusion to the series. 5/5

You can buy Secrets of the Heart here.

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Honeycote by Veronica Henry

I don’t know why but I have avoided Veronica Henry’s books for years. I always thought they were quite heavy, serious books. I can’t imagine where I got that impression from but after deciding to give Honeycote a go I will definitely be reading her other books. I loved Honeycote. It grabbed me from the first couple of pages with a cast of compelling characters and a lovely Cotswold setting. There was real pathos in the book, along with humour and plot twists and brilliant characterization. Everything you can ask for in a novel to be exact. I loved the fact that the characters weren’t all good or bad, they were real people with flaws and faults and hopes and dreams and failures like all the rest of us. I started out hating Kay and ended up really caring about her and hoping that she would be ok. I think that’s the mark of a great story. I have bought the follow on books and will be working my way through them as soon as I can. It’s always lovely to discover a new author whose books you enjoy so much. Just wish I’d found Veronica Henry years ago! 5/5

This review was first published in 2011 and referred to the old paperback edition. It is now being reissued in both paperback and Kindle format and will be available in November 2015.

 

Pre-order Honeycote here

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My Seventies

Ooh, there was a real nostalgia fest on television the other night! For anyone who didn’t see it, ITV showed a fabulous programme called The Nation’s Favourite 70s Number One. slade_promo_470x394

My Fabrian friend, Sarah Lewis, is an eighties aficionado. She apparently lives and breathes the decade of shoulder pads and big hair. You can read more about her obsession here. But then, Sarah is obviously younger than me. During the eighties, instead of working out in fluorescent leg warmers, or strutting my stuff in a ra-ra skirt with half a can of hairspray keeping my Bananarama ‘do’ in place, I was up to my eyes in nappies, Cow & Gate, and Johnson’s baby powder.  Not for me the delights of the New Romantics. I didn’t have time to read up on Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet. Instead, I could be found flicking through the latest Mothercare catalogue. Not quite the same thing.

Marc_Bolan-T-Rex-20th_Century_Boy_The_Ultimate_Collection-BookletSo you see, for me, the real decade of delight has always been the seventies, and the programme on Thursday night reminded me of how fabulous it really was. As I wallowed in nostalgia, singing along to Cum on Feel the Noize by Slade,  feeling all emotional to I’m Not in Love by 10cc, and going all gooey at the glimpse of a fresh-faced Donny Osmond, romantic hero David Essex, and pretty-boy but super-cool Marc Bolan, I was right there, and oh boy, did I feel the pain of loss, knowing it was all gone forever.

As I soaked up the fabulous hits that were featured in the show, I was back in the moment when I first heard them. In my best friend’s front room, playing Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush, over and over again, marvelling at the amazing vocals and the glorious music.images (5)

In the garden, during the long, hot summer of 1976 that seemed to go on forever, listening to Don’t Go Breaking My Heart by Elton John and Kiki Dee, gulping down lemonade and wondering if the drought was ever going to end; dancing round the living room with my sister to Dancing Queen by Abba. Can anyone hear that song and not want to dance?

f33bcc7ea1fcdb9f4f33c6e0f2c6f4acIn my bedroom, with my Dansette record player and my pile of Jackie magazines, surrounded by posters of the Osmonds, or later, recording the American Top 40 on Radio One, with Paul Gambaccini, dancing and singing to Night Fever by The Bee Gees, gazing in adoration at my posters of John Travolta.

Experimenting with make-up. Wondering if I dared bleach my hair blonde. Wondering if I could ever, in a million years, be as cool and beautiful as Debbie Harry. Er, no – not even with plastic surgery! blondie_2_1342814793

I was seven when the seventies began. I barely knew what music was. I only really heard the songs of the fifties and sixties which my mum played over and over again. There was a lot of Jim Reeves and Elvis and Dusty Springfield. Pop music was something other people mentioned. I had a vague notion of The Beatles but I wasn’t really familiar with them. It was around 1972 when I suddenly took notice of an angelic sounding boy with big brown eyes and a dazzling smile. Donny Osmond had arrived, and from that moment on, my world changed. Suddenly I was watching Top of the Pops, listening to Radio One, buying Jackie and nagging my parents for my very own record player. I was captivated by glam rock. I loved the humour and good fun of bands like Sweet, Slade and Wizzard. The costumes and the hair, the over-the-top make-up, the obvious sense that they weren’t taking themselves too seriously. The music was fantastic. See My Baby Jive was so good I played it over and over again. My mum didn’t complain. She thought it was fantastic, too.

AbbaTheMovie_GBQBy the time nineteen-seventy-nine ended, I was seventeen, wore the latest fashions, had dyed my hair blonde, and had already met the man the man I would marry. I had moved on from the Osmonds (although I still have a soft spot for them) and left the days of glam rock behind. I had gone through the whole disco craze, revelling in the pulsating beats of hits like Donna Summer’s I Feel Love. I had queued at the cinema for ages to see Abba: The Movie, and then just a year or so later, Saturday Night Fever and Grease. I’d tried to figure out punk, but never quite succeeded. I’d decided Blondie were as New Wave as I wanted to go. Life was changing. The fun days of the glam rock stars was over. Life was getting serious again and so was music.

As Alice Cooper had put it, ‘School’s Out‘, and so it was. Not just for summer, but for good. Time to grow up. Be responsible. Pack my childhood away.

David-Essex-in-the-mid-1970sThe seventies, to me, is the decade when I went from being a little girl to a young adult. The songs of the seventies are the soundtrack of my life – or at least, the most carefree and fun-filled time of my life.  Hard not to feel a lump in my throat as I watched that programme, thinking how I’d give anything for just one day back in that bedroom, with my Dansette record player and my magazines and posters, my sister outside playing in the garden, my little brother annoying me as ever, my mum in the kitchen preparing the evening meal, and knowing my dad was on his way home from work – well and safe. Mum would shout that our tea was nearly ready, and we’d all grumble that we were busy and why did we have to eat at the table when we could be watching Scooby Doo on the television/listening to music/reading. She took no notice. Dad would come home, get washed, and we’d all sit together at the kitchen table, eating a simple meal and discussing our day. I wish I’d known how lucky I was, and I would give anything to have just one more of those perfect seventies’ days.

Ah well, back to reality and 2015. It was lovely to wallow in nostalgia for a while.

On the other hand, why do I have to come back just yet?  I’m off to buy the album!

Have a great week xx