Thursday, November 30, 2017

Janis Thomas' outdoor dining a book giveaway

We're so glad to have Janis Thomas back at CLC today. The last time she was here was in 2014 to talk about Say Never, which was one of Melissa A's favorite books that year. (She even gave us a shout-out in her Amazon bio for that!) This time around with What Remains True (publishing tomorrow), her writing has gone in a different direction from her past three romantic comedies. She even has TWO copies to share with some lucky readers!

Aside from her three critically-acclaimed humorous women's fiction novels and Murder in A-Minor, the first in her musical murder mystery series, Janis Thomas has written over fifty songs, and two children’s books which she wrote with her dad. When she isn’t writing or fulfilling her PTA duties, Janis likes to play tennis, sing with her sister, and throw lavish dinner parties with wild menus for friends and loved ones (hence the topic of her "night out" post). Janis lives in Southern California with her husband, their two beautiful children and two crazy dogs. Her next novel is All That's Left of Me, publishing in June, 2018.

Visit Janis online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

In this mesmerizing drama, one life-altering event catapults a family into turmoil, revealing secrets that may leave them fractured forever . . . or bind them together tighter than ever before.

From the outside, the Davenports look like any other family living a completely ordinary life—until that devastating day when five-year-old Jonah is killed, and the family is torn apart. As the fury of guilt engulfs them, the Davenports slowly start to unravel, one by one.

Losing her son forces Rachel to withdraw into a frayed, fuzzy reality. Her husband, Sam, tries to remain stoic, but he’s consumed by regret with the choices he’s made. Eden mourns her brother, while desperately fighting to regain a sense of normalcy. And Aunt Ruth, Rachel’s sister, works too hard to care for the family, even as her own personal issues haunt her.

Told from multiple points of view—including Jonah’s—the family struggles to cope with unthinkable loss. But as they face their own dark secrets about that terrible day, they have a choice: to be swallowed up in sadness forever, or begin the raw, arduous ascent back to living. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

A Night Out in the Yard

Thank you Chick Lit Central for inviting me to post!

I gave a lot of thought to ‘the perfect date’ and ‘a night out on the town.’ I’ve been lucky enough to have many of both. And I have to agree with (Go-to-Gay) Keith Stewart on this subject. The ideal changes as you age.

When I was in my 20’s, living in New York City, a night on the town was just that. Cabs and clubs, open mics and Irish pubs. Staggering home at three o’clock in the morning, sweat-soaked from shaking my groove-thing to Bugs Moran and the Trouble Boys, impossibly sober from dancing out all the alcohol.

In my 30’s, having moved back to So Cal with my hubby, a perfect night out was always spent with my mom and step dad, going to fabulous new restaurants and indulging in martinis and lively conversations with two of the smartest and most knowledgeable people I knew.

After having kids, the perfect date was all about securing a babysitter and stealing two hours or less of ‘adult time,’ eating quickly, drinking coffee, staring at our watches, and wondering if the house would still be standing when we got home.

Allow me to go a bit tangential—you’ll understand in a minute. My mom had an amazing house, but more amazing than the house itself was her backyard. Almost a square acre, it was a wonderland when I was a child. As I got older, the yard became party central. This special place hosted countless birthday parties, wedding showers, weddings (including mine), baby showers (including mine), dinner parties. Any huge life event took place in Mom’s backyard. When my mom passed, I lost not only my best friend, but a magical venue filled with all the energy of celebrations past.
My husband and I have a small backyard, but we decided to honor my mom by making it into a magical place all its own. We did our best to utilize the odd shape and limited square footage and created a space in which we could gather the people we love together and celebrate life, just like Mom did.

I should backtrack again and let you know that my husband is a former chef, or what he likes to call a ‘recovering chef.’ Although he doesn’t cook for a living anymore, he loves to keep his hand in the kitchen. We are both foodies, and knew it was Kismet when we recognized our mutual love of a good meal and entertaining.

A couple of years ago, we started something we call our Amuse Bouche. The direct translation is ‘mouth amuser,’ and in fine restaurants an amuse bouche is a complementary bite-sized portion of food meant to hint at the chef’s vision for the meal. Our Amuse Bouche is a lavish dinner party we host twice a year in our backyard.

We string lights on the house and hedge. If it’s cool, we open the awning and fire up the heaters. We decorate the table especially for the occasion (my sister is in charge of this, and she does it
beautifully every time). We light candles and lay out the linens and set the music to low so as not to interfere with conversation. Sometimes, we have a guest chef. Mostly, Alex is the chef and I am the sous chef (which means he gets to boss me around). The menus are always extravagant and outrageous—if you’re not gastronomically adventurous, you need not RSVP, and there is always a copious amount of wine and spirits.

But the best part about these evenings is not the spectacular food, nor the wine, nor even the yard we worked so hard to create. The best part is the people gathered at the table around us, laughing, talking, eating, drinking, connecting. Some of our guests are strangers to each other, but by the end of the night, all of us are old friends, bonded by the breaking of bread together.

I still love shaking my groove thing, albeit earlier in the evening, and I still love trying new restaurants. And Alex and I still love our date nights and our alone time. But as I age (I turned 50 this year!) I have come to cherish these events and the magic they represent. The magic of being with those I love and sharing a singular experience no one will ever forget.

So, although we only host them twice a year, our Amuse Bouche in our lovely backyard, is my ‘night out’ of choice.

Thanks to Janis for visiting with us and 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 December 5th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book Review: The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square

By Becky Gulc

Michelle Gorman (The Curvy Girls Club, Match Me If You Can, etc.) has written a series of ‘cosy romcom’ novels under the pen name of Lilly Bartlett, all with lovely engaging covers. I was fortunate enough to be sent her two novels in the ‘Carlton Square’ series, The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square and The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square. There was only room in my suitcase for one of these when I went on holiday, so I picked the one which appealed most, which was the second book, The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square. Here is the synopsis:

Emma’s new café will be perfect, with its gorgeous strings of vintage bunting, mouth-wateringly gooey cakes, comforting pots of tea and quirky customers who think of each other as friends.
It’s a long road to get there, but as her business fills with freelancing hipsters, stroppy teens, new mums and old neighbourhood residents, Emma realises that they’re not the only ones getting a second chance. She is too.

But when someone commits bloomicide on their window boxes, their milk starts disappearing and their cake orders are mysteriously cancelled, it becomes clear that someone is determined to close them down.

Will the café be their second chance after all? (Courtesy of Amazon UK.)

This was an enjoyable read. The writing flowed and was immediately engaging. I loved the whole premise of the café; it really was a second-chance café, giving trainee-ships to young people that may not get chances otherwise (Joe and Lou were great characters). It was uplifting, and I enjoyed experiencing the highs and lows of setting up the business with Emma, especially as a relatively new mum who is forever trying to get some sense of work-life balance. Whilst it’s Emma’s café, it very much feels like a community café, one that people quickly come to care about and respect. It’s certainly not straight-forward though for various reasons, from managing customers ranging from groups of mums to those wanting a quiet place to plug in and work through to the blatant sabotage going on. The characters are varied and there are the ones you will feel for and ones you just want to have a stern word with!

Whilst I’ve read plenty of second or third books in a series and not felt I was particularly missing anything key by not having read the previous novels, I do feel that I could have enjoyed this more if I had read the first book beforehand. This comes down to not connecting with Emma and Daniel as a couple. In this novel they are struggling a bit, managing small children whilst working hard and not really having time for one another. I’m afraid to say I didn’t warm to Daniel, he wasn’t a huge part of the novel, so this didn’t matter, but I’m sorry that he got on my nerves a bit (in part to do with how his accent was written out). Based on what I’ve read from reviews of the first novel, and what Emma herself has to say about Daniel, I’m sure if I read the first book I would have a different opinion.

A great writer and an engaging and thought-provoking story, but with hindsight I would start with the first book in the series.

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

More by Lilly Bartlett:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

D.D. Marx's wonderful a book giveaway

We're pleased to have D.D. Marx here to talk about her idea of a fun night (or weekend) out. Hers just happens to be "in." D.D. is the author of the Beyond Series: Beyond Believing (October 17th), Beyond Love (November 7th), and Beyond Forever (coming December 12th). There will be a fourth book coming in April, as well. The books were inspired by the untimely death of her best friend.

D.D. Marx is a contemporary romantic fiction writer and blogger, as well as a lover of all things social. She is a graduate of the University of Dayton, as well as the Second City program in Chicago, where she currently resides. A proud aunt and self-described hopeless romantic, Marx has always has a knack for humorous and engaging storytelling. Her pen name is a dedication to her beloved friend Dan, who continues to guide and inspire her in her daily life. Visit D.D. at her website and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

D.D. is generously sharing one set of the series in print and one set of e-books.


This is the time of the year where I reflect and remember how truly blessed I am in my life. One of the things I am most appreciative of is my TRIBE. The circle of women I am honored and grateful to call the sisters life has given me. We are of the age where we are starting to lose the great loves of our life – parents, friends and siblings. Nothing and no one can prepare you for these moments or describe the endless pain it will bring. It’s an individual battle that never goes away. The ache just fades with time.

Most of us are separated by distance and are spread out throughout the country. This doesn’t stop us. We understand the importance of maintaining our special bond, so we plan an annual girls weekend. We pick a new and fun destination, rent a house and look forward to it all year long. These gatherings have recently taken on a new and deeper meaning that replenishes the soul.

As a treat, we purchase “one of our favorite things” to share with each other to enjoy. Nothing elaborate, just thoughtful. We present these items to each other at our weekend ‘roundtable’. We sit around the dining room table or fireplace and we each share the best part and the hardest part of our lives, in that moment. Everyone is given a turn and can take as long as they need. In a world of hustle, bustle, texting and social media you only get to see snippets of each other’s lives so this exercise has been enlightening. Learning what is really going on with each other. The pendulum swings from the celebration of a job promotion to the challenges of struggling with child, marriage or an aging parent.

A couple years ago we went to Saugatuck, Michigan. It was a special place for our dear friend and her mom, who had recently passed. She invited us to participate in a beautiful ceremony where we each spread some of her mom ashes. It was a cold and overcast October day. We went down to the beach and said a quick prayer, then separated to have an individual moment. When we returned as a group the sun pierced through the clouds for a few brief seconds to let us know she had received our blessings and to say thank you for taking care of her dearest daughter Kellee.

So, spending a night holed up with my nearest and dearest being open, honest and raw is one of my favorite nights on the town.

Thanks to D.D. for visiting with us and for sharing her books 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 December 3rd at midnight EST.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book Review: Saving Grace

By Sara Steven

A novel of trust, friendship, love and betrayal. Grace returns home after years living abroad and the first face she sees throws her emotions into turmoil. How could she have forgotten Charlie, her very first love? The presence of the estranged Eddie, Charlie's twin brother, painfully reminds her of the tragic past they share but he seems as reluctant to talk about it as Grace does. Her mind is somewhat preoccupied with her new life, however...and her new boss, who leads her on a thrilling journey through the world of art. That is until the violent ex-lover she was trying to escape re-enters her life, bringing with him a dark underworld of treachery and heartache. This envelops everyone she cares for, drawing them into a complex web of mystery, menace and romance. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

Saving Grace is the perfect title for this graceful novel. There was an elegance to it, a gentle nuance while learning about Grace and her traumatic past. It really drew me into the plot and into the relationships she has with those who represent her present, and those who represent her past, particularly the violent ex-lover.

That was a story line I hadn’t seen coming, not at first. In the beginning, I thought Grace had meant to return home for other reasons, and I could feel the tension, could see the build-up. It was a subject worth delving into, particularly because Susanna O’Neill doesn’t hold back on what it’s like for Grace to go through this abusive relationship. The second guessing and wondering if there’s any way to survive an experience like that, honesty and all.

There is a lot of history here, within the characters. A lot of backstory that gave me the full picture on why Grace is the way she is, the moments she’s shared with her loved ones, and what ultimately drove her away into an even worse situation. As the synopsis states, she’s been brought into a dark underworld of treachery, a place she never thought she’d find herself in, not when she’s worked so hard to reinvent herself and start over.

At one moment, you wish she’d fall for one guy in particular, and then the moment changes, and you’re certain she should end up with someone else. A definite love triangle, and just when she starts to feel as though she knows exactly what (and who) she wants, the man in question throws a wrench in the entire situation, leaving everyone, the reader included, breathless.

I had a really hard time putting this one down. In fact, I’m fairly certain I finished the book in two days, it was that good. A must-read for those who love their romance tinged with mystery and adventure, and can appreciate the evolution of a woman who at one point in time, felt as though she had no other options and no way out.

Thanks to Susanna O'Neill for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Book Review: Poison

By Jami Deise

Ever since the 1944 movie Gaslight, female protagonists in suspense thrillers have wondered if they really knew the men they married. But lately, this trope has exploded. Even gritty Boston-based writer Dennis Lehane, best known for working-class men investigating disappearing and murdered children, jumped into this pool with Since We Fell.

Poison, by Galt Niederhoffer, combines this trope with another popular suspense thriller plot—the question of whether the protagonist is insane or whether everyone really is out to get her. Unfortunately, the combination of the two lessens the experience for both.

Cass Connor shares a baby with her second husband, Ryan, and has two children from her late husband. Cass and Ryan have a busy, but seemingly happy life, until Cass finds evidence that Ryan is cheating. Immediately, he turns into a monster, and Cass develops symptoms of poisoning. But when she tries to prove it, she learns that the only people who go to the hospital saying they’ve been poisoned are either victims of domestic violence or paranoid schizophrenics. And with Ryan seemingly picture perfect, everyone believes Cass is crazy.

The reason Gaslight and similar stories work is because the villain is so subtle, the protagonist and the audience can have genuine doubt about his actions. But there’s nothing subtle about Poison or Ryan at all. Instead of being drawn into the mystery, I questioned Cass’s actions and the actions of everyone around her. Why would everyone be so quick to judge a woman who never had any symptoms of mental illness before?

Niederhoffer uses a close third person point of view to tell Cass’s story, but his voice is omniscient and reminded me of Rod Sterling’s in The Twilight Zone. That choice may have been deliberate, but the narration in The Twilight Zone is only used to introduce the story. Niederhoffer uses this voice all the way through, and I found it distracting and off-putting. It was like watching the action through a telescope rather than observing it directly.

Nevertheless, I read it all the way through, mostly to see if my guess about the ending was correct. (It was… unfortunately.) Since Poison was named one of the top crime reads of November by Lit Hub and garnered positive reviews by Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, my opinion may be in the minority. But if you’re a fan of these types of plots, read it and see where you fall.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Galt Niederhoffer:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Left to Chance

Today, we're celebrating the publication of Amy Sue Nathan's latest novel, Left to Chance. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have THREE copies to give away!

Twelve-year-old Shayna— talented, persistent, and adorable—persuaded "Aunt Tee" to return to Chance, Ohio, to photograph her father’s wedding. Even though it's been six years since Shay's mother, Celia, died, Teddi can’t bear the thought of her best friend's husband marrying someone else. But Teddi’s bond with Shay is stronger than the hurt.

Teddi knows it’s time to face the consequences of her hasty retreat from family, friends, and, her old flame, but when she looks through her viewfinder, nothing in her small town looks the same. That’s when she truly sees the hurt she's caused and—maybe—how to fix it.

After someone accuses Teddi of forgetting Celia, Teddi finally admits why she ran away, and the guilt she’s carried with her. As she relinquishes the distance that kept her safe, Teddi discovers surprising truths about the people she left behind, and finally realizes what truly matters after loss.

Amy Sue Nathan is the author of Left to Chance, The Good Neighbor and The Glass Wives, all published by St. Martin’s Press. She is also the founder of The Women’s Fiction Writers blog, named a Best Website for Writers three years in a row by Writer’s Digest. Amy’s essays and articles have been widely published in print and online, including The Chicago Tribune, Writer’s Digest, Psychology Today, Kveller, YourTango and Huffington Post. She is a frequent speaker and workshop presenter, a member of Tall Poppy Writers, and a freelance book coach and editor. You can connect with Amy just about everywhere @AmySueNathan, and on her website.

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 27th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Jacquelyn Middleton lives it up in 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


**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

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
Book 2: Two Last First Dates
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 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 and the He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Angela Correll's unique date 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

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)
Here's to Campfires and S'mores by/from Brooke Moss (e-book)

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.....

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.