Monday, November 20, 2017

Jacquelyn Middleton lives it up in London...plus a book giveaway

We're glad to have Jacquelyn Middleton back at CLC. She's here to talk about what she enjoys doing for a night on the town in London, in honor of her novels based there. London Belongs to Me came out in 2016, and its sequel, London, Can You Wait?, was released in late October. Thanks to SparkPoint Studio, we have FOUR copies of London, Can You Wait? to give away!

Jacquelyn Middleton is an award-winning freelance writer with articles published by several of the most popular magazines, newspapers, and websites in North America including USA Today, Canadian Living, Best Health, National Geographic Travel, Psychology Today, The Toronto Star, Reader's Digest, Chatelaine, Today's Parent, and Flare. She previously worked in television broadcasting, and lives in Toronto with her husband and Schipperke. She's addicted to Bookstagram, loves London far too much, and has a thing for red Vespas.

Visit Jacquelyn online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:

**Contains spoilers for London Belongs to Me**


Alex loves Mark. Mark loves Alex. But is love enough?


Since moving to London from the US, twenty-four-year-old Alex Sinclair seems to have it all: a coveted job writing for the theatre, supportive friends, and the man of her dreams--gorgeous Irish actor, Mark Keegan. But in the year since the acclaimed debut of her play, Alex and Mark's lives have been turned upside down.


Thanks to his role on a smash-hit British TV show, Mark is catapulted to stardom. Alex couldn't be happier until her boyfriend's popularity and insatiable drive to succeed means they're apart more than they're together. Forced to share Mark with showbiz heavy-hitters, intrusive press, and unrelenting fangirls, Alex's hopes for a stable and committed life with him start to fade. Her struggles with panic attacks, career uncertainty, and Mark's increasingly worrisome behaviour make her wonder: how much more can she bend before she breaks? (Courtesy of Amazon.)


A Night on the Town — London Edition

There’s something about visiting my favorite place on the planet that turns this early bird into a night owl. Perhaps it’s something to do with squeezing every ounce of enjoyment out of London, or maybe I feel most like my true self in the city by the Thames. Whatever the reason, you won’t find me tucked up in bed with a good book when I’m over the pond. Nope! For me, every night in London is show time—literally.


A night on the town London-style means theatre, specifically plays. No offense to musicals—I adore the sparkly joy of Kinky Boots so much I’ve seen it six times on two different continents—but just like Alex Sinclair in my debut novel London Belongs to Me and my latest release London, Can You Wait?, the play’s the thing. In London, lovers of all things dramatic are spoiled for choice—a report from 2014 stated that over 240 theatres called England’s capital home, but don’t feel overwhelmed. I can help! You see, I have a bit of a London problem. I visit London to the exclusion of anywhere else, flying over a few times each year, spending at least five nights (usually more) in town catching plays every single night (plus, a matinee or two for good measure during the day). That’s a lot of interval ice creams and curtain calls. As a result of my addiction, I’ve seen performances housed in found spaces, pubs, Victorian music halls, and modern monstrosities. My top picks? The historic Royal Court in posh Sloane Square, the relaxed Almeida in north London, and the esteemed National Theatre on the South Bank by the River Thames. These venues embrace new playwrights and offer a mix of traditional and edgy works, and their seating arrangements make the theatre going experience second to none. The National in particular is really special. It’s actually three theatres, not just one, and each has its own personality and vibe. Pick an actor and they’ve probably performed there: Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, Maggie Smith, and Hugh Jackman to name just a few.

The Court, the Almeida, and the National have all played huge roles in my books and continue to own my theatre-loving heart off the page. They say that art imitates life, right? Or is it vice versa? Hmm, maybe this Anglophile night owl has to visit again to answer that question. For book research, right? Always for research.

Thanks to Jacquelyn for her lovely post and to SparkPoint for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends November 26th at midnight EST.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review: The Woman at 72 Derry Lane

By Becky Gulc

‘On a leafy suburban street in Dublin, beautiful, poised Stella Greene lives with her successful husband, Matt. The perfect couple in every way, Stella appears to have it all. Next door, at number 72 however, lives Rea Brady. Gruff, bad-tempered and rarely seen besides the twitching of her net curtains, rumour has it she’s lost it all…including her marbles if you believe the neighbourhood gossip.

But appearances can be deceiving and when Stella and Rea’s worlds collide they realise they have much in common. Both are trapped in a prison of their own making.

Has help been next door without them realising it?

With the warmth and wit of Maeve Binchy and the secrets and twists of Liane Moriarty, this is the utterly original and compelling new novel from Irish Times bestseller Carmel Harrington.’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Oh my goodness. This is such an amazing book, I loved it. I think perhaps the synopsis didn’t prepare me for how I would be immediately captivated by this book. The first few pages weren’t what I expected and I was instantly hooked in a way which the rest of the world and worries disappear and you just want to hibernate until you reach the end.

There are three strands to this story, Stella (and the reality of her seemingly perfect marriage), Rea (who lives alone and suffers from agoraphobia) and Skye - the lovely daughter/sister that just wants to go on a long-awaited family holiday. Each narrative was as captivating as the next. Each one hit you in the face with surprises at different points and my emotions were all over the place, you will cry!

I can’t praise the writing enough. With two of the stories set in the present, and one in the past, there was also the added intrigue as a reader to see if the stories would come together in the end somehow, I certainly didn’t second-guess how this could be until well past the half way mark in the novel.

There are some very emotional and sometimes very hard to read elements of the book (domestic violence, mental health issues, human tragedy, grief), but there are also some very funny scenes, and it takes skill to get this balance right without downplaying the serious elements of the story. This is a book which, despite covering some hard issues, manages to ooze warmth and gives you faith in humanity.

I hadn’t heard of Carmel Harrington before reading this but I’ll definitely be reading her other work now.

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review. The Woman at 72 Derry Lane can be purchased here.

More by Carmel Harrington:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Spotlight: Three Last First Dates

Release Blitz || Three Last First Dates by Kate O’Keeffe


Congrats to Kate O’Keeffe! The third book in her Cozy Cottage Cafe series, THREE LAST FIRST DATES, is available now!


Release Blitz || Three Last First Dates by Kate O’KeeffeThree Last First Dates by Kate O'Keeffe

Series: Cozy Cottage Cafe #3

Published by Wild Lime Books on October 31, 2017

Genres: Romantic Comedy

Standalone:
While this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone or as part of the series. The protagonist is different from books one and two, although all lead female characters appear in each of the books.


  

When it comes to men, Marissa Jones is totally committed to not being committed. One major heartbreak is enough for her.

Against her better judgment, Marissa agrees to a pact with her friends to marry the next guy she dates. But she isn't going to take any chances. For her, it's a numbers game, and one last first date just isn't enough. So, she ups the ante--three first dates with three very different guys, all in one day.

But can any of these men live up to her high standards?

Despite a few bumps in the road, from the three, she chooses The One. That is until the motorcycle-riding ex she never got over turns up, changing everything.

In the end, do you choose love or does love choose you?

Escape to New Zealand in this fun, feel-good chick lit story.


Read the other books in the Cozy Cottage Cafe series
Book 1: One Last First Date https://books2read.com/koolfd
Book 2: Two Last First Dates https://books2read.com/kotlfd
Book 4: A Final Last First Date - coming early-2018


Kate O'Keeffe is a bestselling author of fun, feel-good romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he's a scruffy dog too. He's not: he's a cat.

She is a wife, a mother, and a chocolate expert. Seriously. She loves to read, to hang out with friends, and to hike up the big hill behind her house each day.

To date, she’s written the Amazon bestselling chick lit series, the Cozy Cottage Café, the Wellywood Romantic Comedy Series, a fun holiday novella, and co-authored One Way Ticket with fellow author, Melissa Baldwin. 



Blog Tour Organized By Karan & Co. Visit all the tour stops



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Go-to-Gay: It changes at every age!

Our Go-to-Gay, Keith Stewart, is here to talk about his nights on the town and how they've changed between his twenties and now. Most of us can probably relate to what he is talking about! Since he has a lot to say, we'll let him take it from here.

From the clubs to the couch

Nothing tells the world more about where you are in life than a night out. Night Outs vary from wild, wooly, raucous evenings to sophisticated, elegant soirees, and during our lifetimes, we likely experience each extreme and everything in between.

In my twenties, I lived in Daytona Beach, Florida. A Night Out during that period of my life started no earlier than 10:00 PM. I suppose on work nights—yes, I know, going out on a work night, God I miss those days—the evening would begin earlier with dinner after work. But absolutely anything that happened before 10:00 PM was strictly a preliminary affair. A warm up. A practice session. The night really began closer to 11:00 and wrapped up anywhere from 3:00 AM to dawn on the beach. A perfect Night Out included going to a club with loud dance music blaring, lots of drinks and whatever else I could find, dancing until I was wet with sweat, and a perfect outfit that had been meticulous planned to look not-so-perfect. To top it all off, I would wake up at 5:30 the next morning, grab my bag, head to the gym, working off the previous night’s indulgences and preparing myself for a long day of work.



In my mid-thirties, I moved to Lexington, Kentucky. I had settled down and was much more domestic than in those Florida days. I still had the urge to have big Night Outs, just not as often. The few times I tried to party hard like I had in Daytona, it took days to recover. Forget ever going out on a work night. WHO DOES THAT?! I started listening to my body telling me that I could no longer hang with the crowd that starts the evening at 10:00 PM, which was fine because I knew no one who did that anymore. A perfect Night Out during those years still included hitting a few clubs and, occasionally, dancing until sweaty. Instead of lots of drinks, however, dinner was always involved. And the clubs were ones that offered quieter spaces to have conversations away from the thumping dance floor, and I was usually on my way home by midnight, or 1:00 AM if I was having a great time.


My forties find me still living in Kentucky, but something dramatic has changed in my perception of a fun Night Out. For one, a Night Out must planned weeks in advance. All my friends who are in the same age bracket as I am are so busy. Calendars must be synced; sitters of children and dogs must be arranged. If an actual nightclub is involved, it must be one with a purpose, like a drag show or a cabaret. A nice dinner with great conversation MUST come first. And everything needs to be wrapped up so I can be in my bed by midnight.



To recap, my perfect Night Outs, by age:
• 20's: sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, start late, never stop, rinse and repeat
• 30's: special occasions, lots of people, see and be seen, dance a bit, don’t close down the club
• 40's: reservations for a nice dinner, catching up with friends, if feeling crazy see a show, home in bed by midnight

OH, one last perfect Night Out I have fallen in love with in my mid-forties: STAYING HOME. My word, I feel like this is a secret that you don’t learn until you are at least 45. Comfy clothes, a couch, some food, and a movie or Netflix? I can still party like a rock star in that scenario!



How about you? What is your ideal Night Out?

Keith Stewart is the author of Bernadette Peters Hates Me – True Tales of a Delusional Man. A native of Appalachia, he splits his time between his hometown of Hyden and nearby Lexington, Kentucky. His blog is www.astrongmanscupoftea.com. You can find him on Twitter at @Shiglyogly and Facebook at @AMSCOT (A Strong Man’s Cup of Tea). He is a regular contributor to HumorOutcasts.com and the GoodMenProject.com. He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Angela Correll's unique date night...plus a special giveaway

We're pleased to have Angela Correll at CLC today! Her latest novel, Granted, is publishing next week. To celebrate, she is giving away a Plainview Set of Four Basket from her store, Kentucky Soaps & Such. This includes a body cream, bar soap, hand soap, and sugar scrub from the store's flagship brand, a collection of organic goat milk bath products, Plainview Farm. 

Angela Correll is the author of the May Hollow Trilogy – which includes her previous novels, Grounded and Guarded (links are to reviews). With humor, mystery and romance, the small-town characters take readers on a journey of the heart from Kentucky farm country to Italy and back again.


Visit Angela online:

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis (may contain spoilers for Grounded and Guarded):
Former international flight attendant Annie Taylor is embracing her country roots and racing toward a future with her sustainable farmer fiancé, but wedding plans are complicated by her new job, a mysterious ex-boyfriend, and a narcissistic father.

Meanwhile, Annie’s old-fashioned grandma, Beulah, is facing a shake-up in the last place she ever thought she would—home. A crisis on May Hollow Road follows a friend’s betrayal, challenging Beulah’s forgiving nature. An unwelcome diet, a new houseguest, and a possible overseas trip will all stretch her spirit—if she lets it.

Granted takes readers from the comforts of the Kentucky countryside to old-world Tuscany with a cast of memorable characters. Granted follows Grounded and Guarded in the May Hollow Trilogy.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


In recent years, my husband and I had fallen into a date night rut. We were vigilant about guarding our time together on Fridays, but it usually meant dinner and a movie at home. On top of that, we live on a farm outside a small town, so our favorite restaurant is the one we own with our Chef partner. We love going there, but it can be hard to enjoy it for a date since we know most everyone who walks through the doors.

We talked about changing it up, doing something different, and getting out of our comfort zone. But the Fridays continued to roll around and each week stayed the same. We made dinner at home and relaxed into two mindless hours of movie time on the couch. It was comfortable and easy, but it was also boring.

Earlier this year, I noticed an advertisement for an Italian class in Lexington, nearly an hour from us. It was on Monday nights and ended at 7:30 p.m., just in time for dinner out. We talked about it and decided to sign up. We both rearranged our Mondays so we could leave in time to make the 5:30 p.m. start time.

We enjoyed the ride up, talking about our day and decompressing. Sometimes we went over our homework, quizzing each other on vocabulary words and parts of speech. We drove to the heart of downtown for class and enjoyed two stimulating hours, pushing our minds to wrap around a foreign language, the language of a place we love and visit as often as possible. We met interesting people from completely different walks of life, but all with a common love for Italy.

After class, we tried out several restaurants in Lexington, and enjoyed the new experiences. But as the weeks went on, we found ourselves coming back to Dudley’s on Short, a longtime culinary institution on the Lexington scene. It’s within walking distance of the Carnegie Center, where our classes were held, so it became our favorite date night to end the evening in the comfortable seating of a fine old restaurant, with the perfect lighting, delicious food and sweet conversation.

Dinner at Dudley’s turned into my favorite night on the town, and even now, with our classes over, I long for those Mondays when we pushed ourselves to learn and grow, and do something outside of our normal routine. Mondays weren’t easy and there were times we both dreaded the drive up as we were in the middle of busy days. Yet, each time we invested with each other on our night out, it paid rewards we are still reaping.

Thanks to Angela for visiting with us and sharing a gift basket with our readers!


How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends November 19th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review: The Happiness In Between

By Sara Steven

Sandra Hurst has left her husband. Again. After dropping out of college to marry Trent, divorcing him, then remarrying him, she’s shown up on her parents’ doorstep nursing her wounds. But her parents refuse to help this time—emotionally or financially.

Desperate to earn money and determined to start over, she accepts an offer from her aunt to house-sit at the old family home, Cub Creek, in ruggedly beautiful rural Virginia. But when Sandra arrives, she finds the house has grown shabby, her aunt’s dog is missing, and the garden is woefully overgrown. And she suspects her almost-ex-husband is on her trail.

As she begins to settle into the familiar homestead, powerful secrets and hurtful memories are unearthed. But Sandra discovers that to move on from the pain of her past, she must embrace the beauty of her future. Getting back to her roots—with a little help from her handsome new neighbor Colton and his son; her aunt’s devoted dog, Honey; and a lush garden on the brink of either failing or flourishing—may be just what Sandra needs. And this final chance could lead to regaining her self-respect, making peace with her family, discovering what she’s truly made of…and becoming the woman she was always meant to be. And along the way, she just might find a bit of happiness in each day. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

The relationship between Sandra and Trent was chilling, and here’s why; they interact with one another in a way that really speaks volumes on what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone who is a manipulator. Sandra never feels as though she’s on solid ground with Trent. She feels as though he’s messing with her head, but by outward appearances, it doesn’t seem that way, which makes her all the more confused. As a reader, I really felt that confusion and there were moments where even I had questioned the validity of her feelings. Is Trent such a bad guy, or is she making him out to be?

I questioned Sandra, because she questions herself. I got the impression that she’s been coddled a lot, has often let others dictate the kind of life she wants to live. So, when she makes the decision to leave Trent a second time, no one wants to support the decision because it’s not easily understood, and it’s coming from someone who doesn’t do anything on her own.

I liked the fact that Sandra is thrown into a situation where it’s sink or swim for her, like taking care of her aunt’s home, the dog, the yard, and really, herself. It was interesting to see the way she works hard at fighting against several years of not knowing her own worth, and while there are plenty of stumbles, there’s plenty of growth, too.

And speaking of growth, I really appreciated the character development and evolvement of Sandra, and the tension that often presents itself when she’s dealing with Trent. There were plenty of moments while reading The Happiness In Between that had been building up to something pretty catastrophic, almost like watching a scary movie where you see the main character walking upstairs to investigate a loud noise, and you know someone else is in the house, and you scream out loud, “Come on, don’t go up there!” Only in this case, there were false alarms that kept me guessing on whether anything really would happen, which was nice. It kept the suspense aspect strong.

Thanks to Grace Greene for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Grace Greene:

Friday, November 10, 2017

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Life with Boys by Tiffany O'Connor and Lyndee Brown from A Splendid Messy Life (won in a giveaway)
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende from Linda's Book Obsession
Nights at Seaside by/from Addison Cole

Jami:
Poison by Galt Niederhoffer from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt from TLC Book Tours (e-book via NetGalley)
Other People's Houses by Abbi Waxman from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer from Little Bird Publicity (e-book via NetGalley)
Risking It All by Nina Darnton from Lucinda Literary (e-book via NetGalley)
Sara:
Here's to Campfires and S'mores by/from Brooke Moss (e-book)

Tracey:
The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman from St. Martin's Press

Book Review: The Light We Lost

By Melissa Amster

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I was conflicted on how many stars to give this novel. It was extremely well-written and engaging. I listened to the audio version and I loved how Jill Santopolo’s voice fit her character so well. She made the story feel effortless to listen to and I just breezed through the seven hours. However, there were things that bothered me about the premise of the story, which I’ll discuss in the spoilers section. All I can tell you is that it’s very easy to get into this novel and stay focused the entire time. Lucy is a relatable character and since we both entered the adult world somewhat close in time, it brought back memories of what I was doing during certain years. I also feel an emotional connection to September 11th, even though I wasn’t anywhere near where the disaster was unfolding. (This is not a spoiler since it happens at the beginning of the novel.)

Jill’s descriptions of characters and settings made it seem like I was right in the middle of New York City with Lucy, following her through all her experiences. I had heard a lot of great buzz about this novel, but was hesitant to read it because it was being compared to One Day by David Nicholls. However, it is nothing like One Day and I'm glad I finally gave it a chance to prove that. It was well worth the listen! Even though this novel has the potential to earn five stars, the most I could give is 4.5, but you'll have to read it and come back so we can discuss what is in the spoilers below.

But first...casting!
Lucy: Odette Annable
Gabe: Jackson Rathbone
Darren: Jason Ritter
Kate: Beth Behrs

Now for the spoilers.....(be aware that there may be some in the comments section, as well).




Keep going.....






Spoilers:
I didn't really know what to expect from this novel, but the big wrench in the relationship between Lucy and Gabe was that Lucy got married to someone else. And I really liked her relationship with Darren. It felt similar to my own relationship and marriage. So it was easy for me to get annoyed with Lucy for staying emotionally attached to Gabe and for also looking for an excuse to cheat on Darren with him. I was not invested in the relationship between Lucy and Gabe once it had ended. She seemed to enjoy rubbing her new relationship in his face and took some secret joy in none of his relationships lasting as long as hers did.

So when we got to the tragic situation, I didn't cry at all. First of all, Gabe was brain-dead by the time Lucy got to see him and he technically had an advanced directive in his will, even though there was some glitch that put Lucy in charge of such a big decision. So I don't feel like she actually killed him. His career and being in the wrong place at the wrong time did that. I was mostly annoyed that her tryst with him caused her third pregnancy and that she was still so fixated on him after he died that she didn't even talk about her love for her actual husband in her letter to her yet-to-be-born son. It seemed like she was planning to go through the motions of marriage after that.

Maybe I'm riled up because Jill Santopolo is that good of a writer that she puts her main character in such a complex situation. There were times where I was annoyed with her husband over something he said or did (like how it was important for him to work, but Lucy should stay home after having kids) but even so, Gabe also put his career over Lucy's. Gabe was also way too dependent on Lucy for emotional support. He ended things with her to go overseas. It wasn't fair to Lucy or her marriage and children that Gabe kept showing up.

I'm glad to hear your thoughts on this if you've read it already. I'm just sharing from the perspective of someone happily married who has put their exes completely in their past (except for one, with whom it was a mutual decision to stay platonic friends).

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Katie Fforde novels

Today we are featuring three of Katie Fforde's novels. They are perfect for fans of Susan Mallery, Mary Kay Andrews, and Debbie Macomber.Thanks to Bookouture, we have 1 e-book of each novel to share!

A Secret Garden

Step inside this beautiful novel to discover friendships, secrets and romance…

When Philly starts a new job, working with Lorna in the gorgeous grounds of a beautiful manor house, it marks a turning point in both of their lives.

Philly has never been in love before and is constantly disappointing her mother with her unwillingness to settle down. But all that changes when she meets Lucien, a free spirit with an intriguing past…

Lorna is learning to embrace life on her own, until dashing Jack sweeps her off her feet in a whirlwind romance. But is this what Lorna really wants?

When the two women discover a secret garden in the manor house grounds, they are encouraged to restore its forgotten beauty in time for an unforgettable end of summer party. As they work together, secrets are revealed and relationships tested. Will they both find the happy endings they are looking for?

Set against a stunning backdrop, this utterly charming and romantic story is certain to make you smile. 


A French Affair

Escape to France for a summer of new beginnings, second chances and an unexpected romance …

Sisters Gina and Sally Makepiece couldn’t be more different. Sally is a stay at home mum to twins while Gina is a busy career woman with little time for anything else.

Their two lives are about to change when they discover their eccentric Aunt Rainey has left them her beloved stall in the French House – an antiques centre nestled in a sprawling stately building in the heart of the English countryside.

As Gina and Sally work together to transform the business, they find themselves growing closer than ever. Their biggest challenge is winning over the brooding but gorgeous owner, Matthew Ballinger.

But romance is in the air and a beautiful, sunshine filled trip to France changes everything for Gina and Matthew . . .

A French Affair is a charming romance novel about finding love when you least expect it. 

‘Deliciously witty and romantic.’ Marian Keyes


A Vintage Wedding

Celebrate a summer of friendship, a vintage wedding and a happy-ever-after ending ...

In a cosy country village, Beth, Lindy and Rachel are all looking for new beginnings.

A chance meeting one evening results in an instant friendship between the three women. And they decide to pool their talents and set up their dream business together.

Soon they are having the time of their lives organising stylish and affordable vintage weddings. The summer becomes busier than they could ever have imagined as they sew bunting, bake cakes and add extra sparkle to the special days they create.

But what none of them realise is that their own romances lie waiting, just around the corner ...

A Vintage Wedding is a gorgeous, uplifting romance novel about the magic of love, friendship and second chances. 

Published since 1995, Katie Fforde's romance novels are set in modern-day England. She is the founder of the "Katie Fforde Bursary" for writers who have yet to secure a publishing contract. Katie was elected the twenty-fifteenth Chairman (2009-2011) of the Romantic Novelists' Association. She is delighted to have been chosen as Chair of the Romantic Novelists' Association and says, "Catherine Jones was a wonderful chair and she's a very tough act to follow. However, I've been a member of the RNA for more years than I can actually remember and will have its very best interests at the core of everything I do."

Katie lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England with her husband, some of her three children and many pets. Recently her old hobbies of ironing and housework have given way to singing, Flamenco dancing and husky racing. She claims this keeps her fit. The writers she likes herself is also in the romantic genre, like Kate Saunders. (Bio and photo courtesy of Goodreads.)

Visit Katie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends November 14th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Book Review: Stray Magic

By Jami Deise

Most women I know don’t have unrealistic expectations for a partner. They want someone who’s loyal, who’ll love them unconditionally. Who’s happy to see them at the end of the day. Someone to share a bed with.

Many of them have given up on finding that relationship with a human, and are concentrating on their dogs instead. Yes, dogs require that you pick up their poop, but other than that drawback, they are the perfect partner.

Fido-friendly fiction writer Jackie Bouchard has expanded her repertoire with her latest novel, Stray Magic. While her previous books have all featured women and their hounds in situations ranging from comical to dramatic, Stray Magic is firmly in the fairy-tale genre. And while the dogs provide quite a bit of magic, they aren’t the only source.

Cara Snow, about to be an empty-nester when her daughter Winnie goes off the college, has ten months to find love before her ex-husband Todd’s Valentine’s Day wedding. But the only true love she has so far is with her Corgi, Llewellyn. When she wishes aloud that she could fall for a man as easy as she falls for the rescue dogs whose adoptions she facilitates, her fairy godfather appears. Vincent, a miniature guido from Jersey who’s just the right size to ride Llewellyn (apparently Corgis were specially bred to carry fae), is twenty-five years late, but he’s eager to help Cara find the right man. Too bad his spell is just a little clumsy. Now Cara is left wondering if every man who comes through the door of the pet boutique where she works is The One… and why the pooches are so much more attractive than the men.

Stray Magic is a cute, quick read—it came in at just under two hours on my Kindle. Cara is a bit of a pushover, but she’s easy to root for. And the dogs she falls in love with through the rescue events she coordinates are as well-described as any characters. The story moves naturally to its climax, which merges elements of Cinderella along with Cara’s personal character arc.

Even in a world of smart phones, Netflix, and Uber drivers, we still dream of magic and a fairy god… person to wave a wand and make our wishes come true. And if she brings a dog, that much the better.

Thanks to Jackie Bouchard for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Jackie Bouchard:


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Meredith Schorr's dream date...plus a book giveaway

Today we are celebrating the publication of Meredith Schorr's latest novel, The Boyfriend Swap (reviewed here). It's been described as The Holiday meets The Proposal.

A born-and-bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to. After trying her hand penning children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing romantic comedy and humorous women’s fiction. She secures much inspiration from her day job as a hardworking trademark paralegal and her still-single (but looking) status. Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan, an avid runner, and an unashamed television addict. To learn more, visit Meredith at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Meredith is here today to talk about her ideal night on the town. Since Melissa A is a huge fan of her novels, she is going to send one of Meredith's previous e-books to a lucky reader. They're all awesome, so it will be hard for anyone to choose!


Synopsis:
First meet Robyn Lane. She’s always dated struggling creative types, including her current squeeze (Perry, an actor). For this year’s Chrismukkah celebration, her parents would love her to bring someone stable, reliable, steadily employed. You know, with health insurance and a 401(k).

Now let’s meet Sidney Bellows. Her parents already plan her professional life (she’s an attorney at her father’s law firm). If she brings her current boyfriend (Will, an attorney) to the family Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have their wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.


Leave it to a mutual friend (and copious amounts of wine) to find a playful solution: Swap those boyfriends, fool the parents, and enjoy the holidays. It’s perfect! Robyn can show off a successful attorney boyfriend, and Sidney’s high-society family won’t ring those wedding bells when they meet a flaky actor beau.


The fun isn’t in the theory, it’s in the practice.


Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years. Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe.


Fool the parents? Enjoy the holidays? Swapping boyfriends never sounded so good or went so bad. Take time to read this one. It’s like Christmas in July. (Courtesy of Amazon.)


I’m thrilled to be a guest blogger at Chick Lit Central to celebrate the release of my holiday romantic comedy, The Boyfriend Swap!

Melissa asked me to describe a perfect night out. Ideally, I’d spend it with my boyfriend. The date would commence in late afternoon/early evening while it was still light outside. The weather would be perfect—sunny and brisk with low humidity. We’d start off doing something outdoors, like walking through Central Park or browsing shops in the West Village. When we got tired, we’d dip into a cozy café or bar and talk over a bottle of wine. Once we worked up an appetite, we’d head to a restaurant, particularly one conducive to sharing food and where the service isn’t rushed. We’d both put our phones away for the entirety of the meal and focus on each other. After dinner, we’d consider going out for live music, but we’d decide to head home and…well, you know.

Sounds divine, right?

Unfortunately, there are several reasons the above-described ideal night out can’t happen. First, I’m currently single. Where’s my boyfriend? No idea. Also, I’ve been put on a restricted diet for tummy issues and most ingredients in the best sharable “small plates” are currently prohibited. As far as wine, I’m allowed only a single glass at a time. Finally, I’m exhausted from releasing one novel, completing edits on another, and working a full-time day job as a paralegal. A perfect night “out” would actually be a quiet night “in.”

This Saturday, you’ll probably find me in front of the television and watching a Hallmark movie over take-out Chinese and a bottle of Tito’s. (Steamed shrimp/veggies with rice are allowed on my diet. So is vodka!)

Thanks to Meredith for visiting with us!

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends November 12th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Review: The Life She Was Given

By Melissa Amster

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time—and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

It's been a while since I've had a book hangover, but The Life She Was Given made me remember what that feels like. I had a bunch of different emotions wreaking havoc on me afterward and one of the biggest ones was sadness that it was over. While the subject matter of this novel was heavy and sometimes disturbing, I just couldn't put it down, but I also didn't want it to end.

Lilly and Julia were such kind and sympathetic characters, even after growing up with such a heartless and cruel mother. Some parts of the story made me think of a V.C. Andrews novel, such as living in the attic of a big house and having a mother who cared more about what the Bible said than about her own daughter's feelings. (I also remember a minor character in one of the books being sold to a circus.) Things were also difficult for Lilly at the circus, even though she did have some friends to help her out.

I do want to warn readers about the heavy and disturbing parts. It involves both child and animal abuse. I don't want to give away too much more, but those are definitely the core issues that take place throughout the novel. If you can handle Water for Elephants, you should be able to handle this one too. I could easily visualize a lot of what was happening and all the characters. Ellen's descriptions were simplistic enough to paint a picture without taking away from the action.

Despite all that, I just couldn't get enough of this novel. I read most of it in one sitting and just didn't want to put it down to get back to real life. Ellen Marie Wiseman tells a haunting and compelling story that will leave readers reeling for a long time to come. As this is only the second book of Ellen's that I've read, I definitely want to check out her others now.

Some casting ideas for Hollywood's consideration:
Lilly (teen/young adult): Michelle Bergh
Julia: Sierra McCormick
Cole: Cayden Boyd
Merrick: Chace Crawford
Fletcher: Alden Ehrenreich
Glory: Tuppence Middleton

Thanks to Kensington for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Ellen Marie Wiseman:

Friday, November 3, 2017

Book Review: The Art of Keeping Secrets

By Sara Steven

Little secrets grow up to be big lies…

They’ve been best friends since their sons started high school together, and Felicity, Emma and Neve share everything … or so they thought.

But Flick’s seemingly perfect marriage hides a shocking secret which, with one word, threatens to destroy her and her family’s happiness. Emma is in denial about a potential custody battle, her financial constraints, the exhaustion she can’t seem to shake off and the inappropriate feelings she has for her boss. And single mum Neve is harbouring a secret of her own; a secret that might forever damage her close-knit relationship with her son.

When the tight hold they have each kept on their secrets for years begins to slip, they must face the truth. Even if that truth has the power to hurt the ones they love, and each other.

Perhaps some secrets weren’t made to be kept. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’ve had friendships that have spanned a few decades of my life, and some of those friendships have included our children who started out as babies together, and are now going through that awkward tween phase. It’s amazing how much we end up having in common, because we’re all dealing with pretty similar experiences when it comes to having to raise a tween, and finding a balance between giving them as much love as we can possibly handle, and letting go so they’re able to learn and adapt to becoming an adult. It’s something I’m glad I can talk with my friends about, developing our own special support system.

But sometimes, it can be really hard to be honest with those closest to you, as witnessed by the close-knit circle of Felicity (Flick), Emma and Genevieve (Neve). We want to present a certain type of image or front, to make things look like they’re ok, to not show any weakness. We want to hide and protect what we perceive to be big flaws, or maybe we don’t want anyone to know about the drama that lurks under the surface.

And that’s where this close-knit circle finds itself. As much as they want to share what’s going on in their worlds, there’s fear of judgement, of losing wonderful friendships because of choices that were made, damage that has been done. There’s also the added pressure of feeling as though a mother has to always have it together, whether it’s self-imposed or brought on by others. it

I appreciated how Rachael Johns handled difficult subject matter, relevant issues that the three women are facing in their own lives and within their friendship. I was really surprised by Flick’s secret the most. I didn’t see it coming, but I’m glad it did. The way the women deal with everything is told from a very honest and candid perspective. It doesn’t always sit well, but it’s honest and it gave me the opportunity to see things from the other side of the coin. Life isn’t always about the happily ever after. Sometimes, it’s the new beginnings that might come from a fallout that can be the biggest learning experience of all.

Thanks to Kaye Publicity for the book in exchange for an honest review. The book can be purchased here.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Jami Deise, future pop star...plus a book giveaway

Most of you might know Jami Deise as one of our review associates. What you might not know is that she is also an author!

A baseball mom from 1999-2017, Jami Deise wrote her first novel, KEEPING SCORE, about crazy travel ball parents, in 2013. Her second novel, THE TIES THAT BLEED, is about a vampire assassin for the FBI, although she personally has little experience slaying vampires. Her latest book, HOUSE DIVIDED, which comes out November 8th, is based on her years in politics in Washington, D.C. Lucky for you, she has TWO e-book copies to give away!

Jami currently lives (and sells real estate) in St. Pete Beach, Florida, with her conservative husband Tom and their dog Lady. Their son is a White House intern during the fall 2017 semester. You can find out more about Jami at her blogFacebook, and Twitter. If you'd like to sign up for her newsletter, e-mail her at JDeise1002 at gmail dot com. Jami is here today to kick off our final theme of 2017...A Night on the Town!


Synopsis:
HOUSE DIVIDED is the story of working mom Erin Murphy, whose life seems just fine in October 2014. Although she works for Democrats while her husband Jack is a spokesman for Republicans, at home they’re in sync. Their jobs stay at the office. Their children -- 13-year-old animal-nut Jessica and 8-year-old Batman-obsessed Michael – come first. And her career is just as important as his. But on Election Day, everything changes. Suddenly, Erin is out of a job … and Jack is hired to be the new star of The Right Choice TV network! As Erin searches frantically for her next position, Jack begins to practice what he preaches… can their family survive?

We are celebrating A Night on the Town here at Chick Lit Central this month. Erin is not one for big nights out. In fact, when she’s invited to a party at the home of a rich Republican, she spends most of it alone in the basement watching Saturday Night Live. (It is a great basement, however. And she did load up on desserts beforehand.)

Jami (right) belts out tunes with her friend,
fellow author Megs Lashley
As for me, I also tend to be a homebody, but there’s one thing that can drag me out of the house—the promise of karaoke! If there’s a microphone and a stage, get me there. I like ABBA and Cher and just about anything that came out in the 1970s. In fact, I like karaoke so much, I bought my own machine, so now big nights out are also nights in.

My go-to karaoke songs:
"Mamma Mia," ABBA
"Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves," Cher
"Fernando," ABBA
"Half-Breed," Cher
"Take a Chance on Me," ABBA
"Waterloo," ABBA
"Fernando," ABBA
"Dancing Queen," ABBA
"Oops, I Did It Again," Britney Spears
"Total Eclipse of the Heart," Bonnie Tyler

Thanks to Jami for getting all these songs in our heads and for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends November 7th at midnight EST.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Review: The Week I Ruined My Life

By Jami Deise

I read Caroline Grace-Cassidy’s novel The Week I Ruined My Life the same week the allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced. As woman after woman—some much more famous than the movie mogul-- went public with horrific tales of harassment, assault, and even rape, I dug through Grace-Cassidy’s book thinking about all the forces that keep women quiet and apologetic. When even someone as powerful as Angelina Jolie lets Weinstein get away with his abuse, it’s clear that the cultural expectation for women is to put up and shut up.

This leads me to The Week I Ruined My Life, the sixth book by Irish writer and actress Caroline Grace-Cassidy. While the book was well-written, I found it painful to read because of how much the protagonist, Ali Devlin, beats herself up. She’s trapped in an emotionally abusive marriage, blaming herself for her husband Colin’s temper tantrums. Even the title tips off the reader about who’s responsible.

Irish denizens Ali and Colin were high school sweethearts who married young. He wanted a stay-at-home wife and mother, and she agreed. But now, years later with a pre-teen daughter and pre-school-aged son, Ali has found a job she loves in the world of art and social services. Colin, who runs an environmentally conscious greeting card company, refuses to lift a hand to help her with the children or the house. But he’s quick to criticize how she washes dishes and vacuums the floors. Colin is openly contemptuous, calling her a bitch in front of their children and prioritizing Manchester United games before the family. He’s just as cruel to Ali’s single best friend, Corina, who urges Ali to do whatever she can to make her husband happy.

But Ali is distracted by a co-worker, artist Owen, who knows all about Ali’s marital nightmare. Rather than helping Ali see how dangerous her situation is, Owen emphasizes their mutual attraction. When a business trip comes up, Ali may be forced to choose between her work life and family life.

Without giving away any spoilers, I will reveal that Ali seems to completely buy in to the belief that a wife is responsible for her husband’s anger and actions in a marriage. And there’s no one in the book who’ll tell her otherwise. It’s not so difficult to see a connection between Ali’s situation and the women who are told that abuse, harassment, and even rape are their fault because of what they were wearing or drinking or talking to. This attitude is so pervasive that even in a women’s fiction novel—a genre that is supposed to celebrate strong women—there is not a single character who labels Colin’s behavior for what it is; there is no one who sees Owen as the manipulator he is. And while I’ve never been to Ireland, as I read the novel, I wondered if this attitude toward women is even more prevalent in that notoriously Catholic country than it is in the United States.

This review is not meant to discourage anyone from reading the book. Rather, I found it educational. It’s an education for those of us who still might question why a woman keeps her mouth shut when dealing with a Harvey Weinstein. It’s an education for any woman who wonders why her friend blames herself when her husband cheats on her. It’s an education about a society that expects women to keep men in check and blames them when they don’t. In a way, The Week I Ruined My Life reminded me a bit of Randy Susan Meyers’s book Accidents of Marriage, both featuring wives who don’t take their husbands’ anger seriously enough. And while emotional abuse doesn’t always lead to physical abuse, the recent plethora of white male mass shooters in the U.S. all had one specific thing in common—a history of domestic violence.

Thanks to Trafalgar Square Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Caroline Grace-Cassidy: