Thursday, December 13, 2018

Kim Gruenenfelder's Top Five of 2018...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Kim Gruenenfelder back at CLC to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, Hangovers & Hot Flashes. She's here to tell us what made her happy this past year and she has one copy of her book to share with a lucky reader.

Kim Gruenenfelder lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son, and continues to avoid anything even remotely resembling a real job. Her acclaimed debut novel, A Total Waste of Makeup, has been published in six languages and eight international editions to date. In addition to her other published novels, A Total Waste of Makeup, Misery Loves Cabernet, There’s Cake In My Future, Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink, and Love the Wine You’re With, she has written feature films, episodic teleplays and two stage plays.

Kim also created the word “eciah” (featured in Love the Wine You’re With), and is the founder and curator of the website eciah.com. Kim loves her fans and readers, who can contact her at her website, as well as follow her through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (Bio courtesy of Kim's website.)


Synopsis:
Michelle, Zoe and Alexis are friends who have one thing in common. They are all in their 40s and all wondering the same thing: “Now what?”

Zoe, the mother of 17 year-old twins about to abandon her for college, misses the romance of her twenties, and desperately wants just one more first kiss. Thinking outside the box, she convinces her husband Carlos to embark on an open marriage. Which leads to a new set of problems and questions: How does she pick a “non-skeevy” swinger’s club, do men of a certain age even want sex with no strings attached, and does ordering a glass of Syrah these days really signal to would be suitors that you just want to f*@# them in their car? Most importantly, will getting to be with someone else help or hurt her marriage? And if that someone else is an ex who effortlessly morphs into a fantasy man who says and does all the right things, how does Zoe choose between the life she has and the road not taken?

Michelle has made it her routine on her way home to stop one block from her house, park, stare into space, and dread the next few hours of her life. She’s tired of juggling her very full time job as a real estate agent with the full time job of parenting two kids (without much help). She and her husband Steve have not had sex in over a year. Michelle doesn’t have a road not taken, but she’s at a fork in that road. Does she take the easy path, and spend the rest of her life with a man she loves but no longer likes? Or go the hard route: Divorce. Living life with one income, single parenting, lonely Thanksgivings, and kids who may never forgive you. And how does a girl start dating again when all the rules have changed since she took herself off the market years ago?

Alexis is the self-made multi-millionaire we all aspire to be. She’s the creator of a slew of hit TV shows and the head of a wildly successful production company. She’s got the dream car, the stunning house on the beach in Malibu, the black AmEx. Everything is going exactly according to plan, and there’s a lot to be happy about. But she also has Connor, her on-again/off-again boyfriend of twelve years. Plus she’s going through early menopause, and now wonders how she forgot to have kids. Her life plan is suddenly thrown into further disarray when Connor shows up with a stray dog, which he leaves with her. Which is just the beginning, as that mangy mutt leads to a teenaged dog walker, a middle-aged widower, and her Sunday morning brunches possibly being replaced by church.So what do you do when nothing in your life is working the way you saw it in your head, and the unplanned life might make you happier?

Knowing their girlfriends will always have their backs, Michelle, Zoe and Alexis confront their new realities with honesty and humor, while trying to find happiness amidst hangovers and hot flashes.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Top Five Favorite Moments of 2018

1. Going to New York for a long weekend to see the 50th anniversary production of Boys in the Band.
 
I had seen the movie adaptation of the play with my mother as a kid, and it deeply changed the way I saw the world at that time. The cast included Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells and Matt Bomer, and was one of the most superbly acted plays I have ever seen. Which was certainly part of what made it a top five moment. But when I gave it some thought for this essay, I realized my top moment really came from the decision to go. I desperately wanted to go, and wanted my husband and son to see the play. But it was in New York, and we live in Los Angeles. And it seemed like a ridiculous waste of time and money to fly out for just three days. But then I realized, “Why is it a ridiculous waste of time and money? This is really important to me, and it’s an opportunity I will never get again.” And sometimes you have to follow what your heart tells you to do, and not your head. Not always, not every day, but occasionally. Because life is too short to always play it safe.

And then, if you’re really lucky, your son will walk out of the theater and say, “I want to direct that play when I get older. That was amazing.” And all will be happy in your world.

2. Watching my son play the lead in a Shakespeare play.

My son Alex played Bottom in his high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream earlier this year. And you would think, “Three hours of high-schoolers botching Shakespeare?” (Or at least that was what I thought before I saw it.) But his school specializes in the arts, and many of the kids have parents who are professional actors. They’re really good. More than a bunch of 16 and 17 year-olds have any right to be.

My exact favorite moment came not when Alex was on jumping stilts as ‘donkey Bottom’, although that’s a very funny and probably the most famous scene. But the moment that really hit me was when he popped his head out of the curtain as ‘actor Bottom’ performing for the Duke. And he commanded the room.

And if I had never been a parent, I would have never had that moment.

As anyone who is a parent knows, it can be hard, expensive, so so constant, and you’re frequently not sure if you’re doing it right. Plus, it doesn’t look anything like you thought it would. My first inkling of this was when we were trying to get pregnant, and I imagined having a little girl I could shop with, and dress in frilly pretty clothes. Instead, I got a boy. A really awesome boy, but one who, when I dragged him to the Bloomingdale's Home Store to shop for a wedding gift, spent the entire time glued to his phone. At some point, after giving him the pluses and minuses of buying a place setting of formal china vs. a collection of super soft towels, I muttered in exasperation, “Can you please give me your opinion?!” And he looked up from his phone to say pleasantly, “Oh. Whichever one will get us out of here the fastest.” Frilly clothes? He wears combat boots, black jeans, and a combination his father’s old concert T-shirts from 80s rock bands and current concert T shirts from Green Day, Queen and Metallica.

So, it didn’t look how I thought it would look. And what a gift. Because, man, I frequently watch that kid do stuff I could never do, and I am constantly in awe. My dream could have never included watching my son do Shakespeare (my favorite author of all time), but only because I didn’t dream big enough.

3. Seeing the galleys (which are the printed books sent ahead of time to give you one final chance to make corrections) of Hangovers and Hot Flashes for the first time.

Those of you who have read me know I write romantic comedy novels about women who are around thirty. And I have fun doing it, and am proud of my work. But Hangovers was a creative departure from my previous five books. The characters are all in their mid-forties, and they are dealing with totally different problems from characters in my other books. I still write about dating, and I’d like to think I’m still funny, but I was trying to do something a little more soul searching this time around.
When I first pitched the idea, several editors told me not to write the book. I heard, “Women in their forties don’t buy books.” And/or, “Women in their forties will buy a book about women in their twenties, but women in their twenties won’t buy a book about women in their forties.” I was warned spending a few years writing it was financial suicide.

Then one night I was talking to my agent, Kim Whalen, about what I really wanted to write next, and I told her all about the characters in my head and the challenges they would face, and she smiled and said, “Do it!” I then described the scene where Alexis talks about early menopause and she burst out laughing.

So I spent a few years writing something totally new. And the book might very well be financial suicide – it just came out December 11th, so I don’t know yet. But my #3 moment is similar to moment 1 in that I let my heart guide this one. And rarely has my heart made the wrong decision.

4. Writing a chapter about Charlie and Drew: two of my characters from A Total Waste of Makeup and Misery Loves Cabernet.

Okay – there’s kind a weird story behind this. So a writer friend of mine asks me about my mailing list, and I say, “I don’t have a mailing list.” and she has a hissy fit. It is quickly decided by a table of women writers that I need a mailing list. I ask how I should compile one. My friend Quinn suggests I put on all of my social media that I am compiling a list, and that anyone who agrees to go on the list can vote for 2 characters for me to write about, and I’ll write a free scene to show what they’re up to these days. Over 90% chose Drew and Charlie (which is interesting because they are from books that are over 10 years old, and Drew isn’t even a main character.)

Misery Loves Cabernet ended Thanksgiving night, so I started the chapter very early the next morning as Charlie opens the door to her boss Drew (a movie star) inexplicably dressed in a tuxedo. I had no idea why I wrote him like that, but had faith he would let me know within the hour why he was dressed that way. And he did.

Within a few hours, I had written Chapter One of what could be a third in the series. It turned out, I had missed these two, and I spent my evening after my writing day kind of floating on air. The next day, I cleaned the chapter up a little and sent it off.

And got fan mail! And several people asking if I was writing a third in the series. So I started writing more, and even wrote my ending to the book (just the last paragraph). Now – I have since been distracted with Hangovers and another little non fiction project, so I haven’t given it my full attention, but I’m kind of digging the idea of continuing with Charlie’s journey. And, after so many years of being the insecure writer wondering if anyone out there even really likes my work, reading that fan mail was absolutely my top moment #4.

(By the way, if you want to catch up with Drew and Charlie and get on my mailing list, I’m at kim@kimgruenenfelder.com.)

5. Tyra Banks saying to me, “You get it, because you’re skinny like me.”

Okay, I know, that’s a ridiculously shallow top five moment. But when a former “Sports Illustrated” cover model tells you that you look like her in any way, shape or form, that’s a topfive. It just is.
I’m kidding. Kind of. Tyra was actually in the middle of telling me a story and when she said that, I put up my index finger and said, “Hold that thought. I have to text my husband to tell him a Victoria’s Secret Angel just said I was skinny like her.” Then I typed, hit send, looked up at her and said, “Okay, go.” And she finished her story.

I directed her and her mother Carolyn earlier this year when they recorded Perfect is Boring, a light, empowering, nonfiction book I highly recommend for teen and tween girls. The first time Tyra walked into the studio she wore sweats and no makeup, and she was so ridiculously stunning that I thought a little jealously, “What? Did God give with both hands, both feet and an ear?” But then I started talking to her, and it was like we had been friends since college. She is one of the most supportive, loving, “girl power” women I have met in a long time. During lunches and breaks, we’d talk about parenting, dating, eating (we shared 4 desserts on our last day together, how much do I love this woman?) and modeling. Okay, I did not talk about modeling. I listened. But I learned how to take a selfie and that I should get my hair out of a ponytail more often. I guess I could say my top five moment was the reminder that successful women don’t need to compete with each other.

Nope. “Skinny like me”. Still Number Five. Just let me have this one.

Thanks to Kim for visiting with us 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 December 18th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: For Better and Worse

By Jami Deise

Have you ever been angry enough to want to kill someone? Have you ever wondered if you had what it takes to actually do it? How you would plan it out? Whether you’d be able to get away with it? I think most of us have at one point or another in our lives. (I really hope it’s not just me!)

For Better and Worse, author Margot Hunt’s follow-up to her psychological thriller Best Friends Forever (reviewed here), answers that question head-on.

Seventeen years ago, law students Will and Natalie talked abstractly about whether they could get away with murder. Now married with an eleven-year-old son, Charlie, Natalie is a hard-charging defense attorney obsessed with calendars and to-do lists, while Will sleepwalks through his job as an estate lawyer while having an affair with a married colleague. Then someone hurts Charlie, and the couple’s long-ago rhetorical conversation suddenly becomes a real one.

Hunt has a very direct writing style – she doesn’t waste time with a lot of poetic description or flowery language, which I appreciate. The book is told alternatively from Will and Natalie’s points of view, and seeing how the couple views each other and how that differs from their own internal picture of themselves was part of the fun of the book. It’s so well-plotted, I could easily see it as a movie.

While I didn’t like the ending, the epilogue was tantalizing, opening up more questions about the nature of killing. If someone plots out a murder – even if the victim deserves it – what does that say about the killer?

But the biggest dilemma of all seems to be that if you’re going to kill someone, make sure your partner in crime is up to snuff.

I look forward to reading more psychological thrillers from Hunt.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away! Visit the other stops on Margot's tour.

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 17th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Spotlight: Moonlight on the Thames


Worlds collide when two strangers meet at Waterloo station. It's a moment they'll never forget. Perfect for the fans of Milly Johnson.


Christmas is a joyous time, but not everyone is merry and bright.

Nicola is a rising star at the top of the corporate ladder, but her personal life is a disaster. Her office affair has lost its allure, and the last thing she wants to think about is Christmas. A night of cancelled trains and festive Christmas carols at Waterloo Station is just about the last straw...

Dmitri loves conducting his pop-up choir during the festive season, meeting people, and spreading joy and cheer around London. But he carries deep secrets from his past that robbed him of his dream to become a concert pianist.

Can their hearts and souls be unlocked by music and moonlight and will they discover the healing power of love?

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Kobo * Ibooks * GooglePlay



Lauren Westwood writes romantic women's fiction, and is also an award-winning children's writer. Originally from California, she now lives in England in a persnickety old house built in 1602, with her partner and three daughters.



Social Media Links:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Goodreads * Booktrail

Check out the playlist for Moonlight on the Thames (music plays a big part in the book).

Giveaway 
Win TWO Signed copies of Moonlight on the Thames (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within seven days, then Rachel's Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time we will delete the data. We are not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Book Review: One in a Million

By Sara Steven

Annie Higgins has given up on love: she’s too busy trying to get her tiny business off the ground. Infuriated by the advertising agency across the hall making fun of her job, Annie accepts their crazy challenge – to make a random stranger Instagram-famous in just thirty days.

And even when they choose Dr Samuel Page PhD, historian and hater of social media, as her target, Annie’s determined to win the bet – whether Sam likes it or not.

But getting to know Sam means getting to know more about herself. And before the thirty days are out, Annie has to make a decision about what’s really important… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Reminiscent of My Fair Lady and She’s All That, but in reverse, one of the biggest draws to One in a Million is the gradual transformation that happens for Sam, as well an Annie. At first, there’s the expectation of witnessing a geek to chic moment, that Sam will morph into a babelicious swan after spending many years of his life as an introverted ugly duckling. Yet, along for the ride are Annie’s own insecurities and baggage, giving her the opportunity to delve deeper into where’s she’s at in her own life and why she’s not as satisfied as she could be in her relationships.

I appreciated the dialogue between Annie and Sam, and the rest of the supporting characters. It felt natural, like meeting up with my own friends and having various conversations. Annie was sharp-witted and held her own against Sam, who wouldn’t let anything slide. He reminded me of the grumpy neighbor next door, who ultimately has a heart of gold, while Annie reminded me of the plucky heroine who refuses to give up, even when the world as she knows it begins to crumble around her. For all the fun of Million, there were serious undertones that paralleled it. The struggle to make it in an industry that hasn’t been very welcoming to her, not sure if she’ll be able to make rent at any given moment. Or, the fact that her last romantic relationship ended in disaster, feeding into a lot of her insecurities. The struggles are told in such a way that are felt, and recognized, without creating a heavy blanket of despair. It doesn’t deflect from the original goal of Annie winning a challenge, while Sam has his own ulterior motives on why he’d ever agree to the stipulations of the bet.

This was one of those reads where I found it hard to put it down, and stop reading. Mostly because of the chemistry, mostly because I wanted to find out what would happen to Annie and Sam, whether she’d win her bet, whether he’d become the man he eventually discovers he’s wanted to be all along. But the biggest reason would be the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The premise of Million is that there is so much more to a person than meets the eye, and while Annie and Sam discover that about each other and about themselves on a personal level, I was along for the discovery, too. A much-deserving five star read, right here.

Thanks to Harper360 for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Lindsey Kelk:

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Jacquelyn Middleton's Top Five of 2018...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Jacquelyn Middleton back at CLC to tell us her top five happy moments of 2018. Her latest novel, Until the Last Star Fades published last month. Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy to give away!

Jacquelyn Middleton is the award-winning author of LONDON BELONGS TO ME, LONDON, CAN YOU WAIT? and UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES.



LONDON BELONGS TO ME (a contemporary coming-of-age story) won an honorable mention in the mainstream/literary fiction category of the 25th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards, and LONDON, CAN YOU WAIT? (contemporary romance) captured the GOLD prize in the ROMANCE category of the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards. UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES, her latest novel, blurs the line between women's fiction and contemporary romance.

Jacquelyn is also a national 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 British husband, however, she spends much of her time in London, walking in the footsteps of her characters, hanging out with friends and family, going to plays, and soaking up the atmosphere in her favourite neighborhoods. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit Jacquelyn online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
In her senior year at NYU, Riley Hope appears to be on top of the world. With a loving mother who makes Lorelai Gilmore look like a parenting slacker, ride-or-die friends, and a long-time boyfriend destined for the National Hockey League, she puts on a smile for the world. But behind it, Riley’s drowning. Racked with fears for the future, she battles to stay afloat amid life in the shadows of a heartbreaking illness.

And then, Ben Fagan comes crashing into her life. Twenty-three-years-old, British, and alone in the Big Apple after a disastrous pilot season in LA, the struggling actor is looking for an escape: booze, mischief, sex—minimum commitment, maximum fun—anything to avoid returning across the pond.

As they form an unlikely bond, Riley keeps her reality from Ben so that he remains a happy refuge. But how long can she hold back the truth…and is Ben keeping his own secrets, too?
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)


Five Happy Things that Happened to Me in 2018

1. Visiting the Orkney Islands

Do you have a place you’ve always wanted to visit? For me, that’s Orkney, an archipelago of 70 islands off the northern coast of Scotland. Not only is Orkney home to 5,000-year-old Neolithic treasures: standing stone circles (eat your heart out, Outlander), burial tombs, and Skara Brae—a preserved Stone Age village dating back to 3,200 BC (yep, it’s older than Egypt’s pyramids), but it’s also my ancestral home. My great grandparents came to Canada from Orkney, and as a genealogy geek, visiting my Scottish/Norse homeland has topped my bucket list for years. And it exceeded my expectations. I visited the homes my ancestors built and lived in, gasped in awe at history you can actually reach out and touch, and shed a few tears at my family’s seaside graves. Truly life-changing, and I cannot wait to go back.

2. My second novel won an international gold medal

The notification sat in my spam folder for three weeks! It took a phone call and a voicemail message to alert me—London, Can You Wait?, my second contemporary novel, had won the gold medal for romance at the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Would I come to the award ceremony in New York City in late May? A celebration of books including mine? Do you really have to ask? It was an incredible experience accepting a gold medal, seeing my book cover up on the screen beside books by my peers, and celebrating in Times Square…I was (and still am) so grateful.

3. Until the Last Star Fades was published

All my books are a labour of love, but Until the Last Star Fades is really personal. It’s a slow-burn, friends to lovers story set in New York City about Riley Hope (a college senior struggling with depression), and Ben Fagan (a flirty Scottish actor afraid to go home). I didn’t attend NYU or fall in love with a failed Brit actor, but my novel’s parallel storyline about Riley’s loving relationship with her mom, Maggie, came from my heart. Maggie deals with heartbreaking health challenges that shadow Riley’s happiness and future. In writing their story arc, I pulled from my own experiences with my mom. I can’t lie. I cried while writing this story so many times, reliving emotions and events. They felt so raw all over again. This book also gave me the opportunity to write honestly about smiling depression, a mental health issue I deal with daily that few people understand.

4. I finally met my friend Kristin

Kristin and I became friends first on Instagram, sharing a love of books and all things British. Kristin’s a published author, too, and her novel The Legacy of Us is one of my favourites. She also runs Royally Broke, my go-to website for all things British royalty. A trip to New York City meant we could finally meet—and we had a blast! We wandered around the Strand bookstore (aka, the mothership), stuffed our faces at DŌ in Greenwich Village, and laughed our way through Kinky Boots on Broadway. I was so happy to see she’s just as funny and warm in person as she is online. I can’t wait to hang out again—she’s absolutely wonderful.

5. A Grey’s Anatomy star shared my book on social media

I did a crazy happy dance when I was told that Katherine Heigl, star of Grey’s Anatomy, Roswell, and Suits shared Until the Last Star Fades on her social media feed and her beautiful website, Heavenly Days. Her unboxing, her holding MY BOOK, saying its name…I was a giddy mess for the rest of the day! Things like this don’t happen to indie authors like me. Then, a few days later, Until the Last Star Fades appeared in The Hollywood Reporter magazine in their column about books that should be made into movies. I’m still smiling!

Thanks to Jacquelyn for chatting with us and BookSparks 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 December 11th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Book Review: Unreasonable Doubts

By Sara Steven

Jaded New York City Public Defender Liana Cohen would give anything to have one client in whom she can believe. Dozens of hardened criminals and repeat offenders have chipped away at her faith in both herself and the system. Her boyfriend Jakob’s high-powered law firm colleagues see her do-gooder job as a joke, which only adds to the increasing strain in their relationship.

Enter imprisoned felon Danny Shea, whose unforgivable crime would raise a moral conflict in an attorney at the height of her idealism―and that hasn't been Liana in quite a while. But Danny's astonishing blend of good looks, intelligence, and vulnerability intrigues Liana. Could he be the client she’s been longing for―the wrongly accused in need of a second chance? Is he innocent? As their attorney-client relationship transforms into something less than arm’s length, Liana is forced to confront fundamental questions of truth, faith, and love―and to decide who she wants to be. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I imagine it must be difficult to create a character like Danny Shea, a man accused of something so horrific, yet the makeup of who he is makes him likeable and in some ways, relatable. Gentin has created the perfect antagonist in Shea, leaving her readers feeling mixed emotions when it comes to the validity of who he is and whether he’s innocent or not.

For Liana, she’s experiencing the same insecurities. I felt the struggle she faces in wanting to find her purpose again, in the work she does and the people she represents. When Danny becomes her latest case, it’s too good to be true, lending into her doubts on whether he’s truly innocent or not. Thrown into the mix is her boyfriend Jakob, someone she used to view as her counterpart, only now his views are so vastly different from her own, holes shine through the veneer of their relationship.

Unreasonable Doubts is a cleverly written crime drama, blended in with mystery, intrigue and romance. While I’m not a usual fan of crime dramas, I was a huge fan of this one. I appreciate how knowledgeable Liana is in her job, letting us know every step of the way the legalities and the process that goes into being a public defender. I never felt lost or unsure of what was going on in the courtroom, or outside of it, where Liana’s feelings for Jakob and Danny are concerned. Should she continue forth with the life she’s been living, whether it makes her happy or not, or should she dive into the murky depths of new-found emotions that her new client brings out in her? It’s in the not knowing that really adds to the delightful romantic suspense of this novel.

Thanks to Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Teri Wilson's Top Five of 2018...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Teri Wilson to CLC today to kick off our Happiness theme for the month. We're asking everyone to tell us the top five things that made them happy in 2018. Teri should definitely be happy today because she is celebrating the publication of her latest novel, The Accidental Beauty Queen. Gallery Books has THREE copies for some lucky readers!

Teri Wilson is the author/creator of the Hallmark Channel Original Movies UNLEASHING MR. DARCY, MARRYING MR. DARCY, THE ART OF US and NORTHERN LIGHTS OF CHRISTMAS, based on her book SLEIGH BELL SWEETHEARTS. She is a double finalist for the prestigious RITA Award for excellence in romantic fiction for her novels THE PRINCESS PROBLEM and ROYALLY WED. She has a major weakness for cute animals, pretty dresses and Audrey Hepburn films, and she loves following the British royal family. Feel free to visit and connect with her at her website and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. (Bio courtesy of Teri's website.)


Synopsis:
Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.

She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.

Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Five good things that happened in 2018

1. My son is an English teacher in Seoul, South Korea, and in September, my husband and I went to visit him for a week. It was so much fun! Of course it was great to spend time Cameron, but it was also really fascinating to visit Korea. It’s a beautiful country and the people are very nice. My favorite part of the trip was dressing in traditional Korean clothes (called hanbok) and visiting the XXX Palace in Seoul.

2. I was lucky enough to be involved with the making of two Hallmark Channel Original Movies during 2018! In June, the movie Marrying Mr. Darcy was a sequel to the 2016 production of Unleashing Mr. Darcy, based on my book of the same name. And on December 15, Northern Lights of Christmas premieres on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. This movie is inspired by my book Sleigh Bell Sweethearts, about a pilot heroine who inherits a reindeer farm in Alaska shortly before Christmas. I was able to travel to Canada to be on set for both films, which was beyond exciting.

3. Last summer, two of my books (Royally Wed and The Princess Problem) were finalists for the Romance Writers of America RITA award for excellence in romantic fiction. I’d never been a finalist before, so it was really a career high for me.

4. I started a book club this year! Several of my friends and I get together at a local wine bar once a month to discuss the latest Reese Witherspoon book club pick. We’re all writers, so we always have a lot of opinions. It’s great fun, and it’s also forced me to read books outside of my normal reading routine.

5. As this year draws to a close, I’m completing my term as president of San Antonio Romance Authors. It’s been a really rewarding time of encouragement and being a cheerleader for other writers.

Thanks to Teri for visiting with us and to Gallery 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 December 9th at midnight EST.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop

The holidays are just around the corner, which means it's time for Chick Lit Chat HQ's annual Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop and this year it's bigger and better than ever! 63 bestselling and award-winning authors in the Chick Lit and Romantic Comedy genres are participating in this fun-filled event and each one is doing a fantastic giveaway. Books, author swag, gift cards, and other assorted holiday treats are all up for grabs.

But wait! There's much, much more. On the hop's Facebook group page, you can enter to win our Grand Prize—a large holiday gift box filled to the brim with a fabulous variety of holiday and winter-themed goodies (the darling, KitschNStyle gingerbread house apron, Snoozies! sherpa socks, Calvin Klein cashmere pom-pom beanie in petal pink, Too Faced sugar cookie eye shadow purse palette, Sally Snowflakes mug by Bella Pilar, Well Read Women: A Reader's Journal, and handmade chocolate soaps shown in the graphic below are just a few of the items included in the box!).





We'll also be handing out four Runner-Up Prizes. Each one is a pair of Fitz & Floyd holiday mugs that will be accompanied by a canister of Williams-Sonoma classic hot chocolate as well as a tin of The Republic of Tea's Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas Tea. So, you'll have delicious, warm beverages to keep you cozy all winter long!





The celebration runs from Monday, Dec. 3rd through Sunday, Dec. 9th, so head on over to the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop Facebook group for some lively conversation with both authors and readers, incredible prizes, and lots of holiday fun! You'll find each day's featured authors, along with the links to their pages/giveaways, in the pinned post at the top of the group. We look forward to seeing you there!

*The Grand Prize giveaway is open to US residents only. However, all of the individual author giveaways and the Runner-Up Prize giveaway are open internationally.





Friday, November 30, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Swimming for Sunlight by Allie Larkin from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
The Inbetween Days by Eva Woods from Graydon House (e-book via NetGalley)
How to Be Second Best by Jessica Dettman from HarperCollins AU (e-book via NetGalley)
Hangovers and Hot Flashes by/from Kim Gruenenfelder
I'm Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan from Lake Union
The Dream Peddler by Martine Fournier Watson from Viking
Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly from Ballantine (e-book via NetGalley)

Sara:
Just After Midnight by Catherine Ryan Hyde from Lake Union (e-book via Netgalley)

Jami:
The Suspect by Fiona Barton from Berkley (e-book via Netgalley)
Sophie Last Seen by Marlene Adelstein from Suzy Approved Book Tours (e-book)


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Book Review: Not Just for Christmas

By Becky Gulc

‘Charlie hates the holidays, and this year is shaping up to be her worst yuletide ever. Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her flat is out of bounds after a gas leak, and her mother has gone to spend Christmas in Melbourne with her fifth husband. Finding herself single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie hesitantly agrees to dust off her wellies and spend the festive season in Devon, looking after Cosy Canine Cottages, her cousin Jez's dog-care centre.

However, her plans for a quiet rural Christmas with only the four-legged friends for company are dashed as soon as she meets Malcolm the deaf Great Dane, Hugo, his gorgeous (but engaged) owner, and Cal, the undeniably attractive but unbearably haughty and patronising local vet...’ (Synopsis courtesy of Orion Publishing.)

I’m a dog-person. I’m a Christmas-person. I was sold by the cover and the synopsis for Not Just for Christmas, but would this novel live up to my early expectations? Absolutely! This is a novel which really delivers what it promises and it was a great book to read in the early build-up to Christmas.

Charlie is someone who dislikes more things about Christmas than she likes, someone who doesn’t care much for dogs. So the book lends itself to great comedy moments when she finds herself recuperating (at least in theory) at her cousin’s place in Devon who runs a kennel, only for her cousin to take a last minute Christmas break and leave Charlie in charge of things. But with only a couple of dogs to care for, surely it will be easy? And Charlie will surely get lots of alone time, just her and Audrey Hepburn over Christmas won’t she? Not quite.

This book was a lot of fun, very funny and I whizzed through it; pure reading pleasure. I felt like I was at the cottage too and pictured it vividly. I loved how Charlie throws herself into things full-throttle, caring for the dogs (even if she taps into new acquaintances for some tasks..she’s a sensible woman!); getting to know the locals; not saying no when she really should! All the characters were great, human and canine! There are quite a few dogs to get to know and I adored each of them, it would be impossible not to warm to these doggies.

Christmas felt natural in this novel. It was inviting, engaging and you feel love in the air and are urging something to come of it for Charlie as she’s such a likable and no-nonsense character. I truly adored this book and would love to read more featuring these characters, and more of Jez (Charlie’s cousin) as I could see potential for a follow-up there definitely. More please Natalie.

Thanks to Orion Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit all the stops on Natalie's tour.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Glynis Astie is an independent woman...plus a special giveaway

Today we welcome Glynis Astie back to CLC to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Girls' Night Out. The title may sound familiar because of a book that came out this summer. However, Glynis' version is not a thriller. It's more like the classic chick lit that inspired our blog to begin with. Glynis is here to help us close out Disney and Fairy Tale month and she has an e-book and a set of cocktail glasses to give away!



Glynis Astie never expected in her wildest dreams to be a writer. After thirteen years in the Human Resources Industry, she decided to stay at home with her two amazing sons. Ever in search of a project, she was inspired to write the story of how, in only six short months, she met and married her wonderfully romantic French husband, Sebastien. The end result became her first novel, French Twist.


As this was just the beginning of their epic love story, Glynis continued to chronicle their adventures in the sequel, French Toast, and the final installment in the series, French Fry. After she finished milking her life story for all it was worth, she decided to write straight-up fiction with Gamer Girl, which infused her beloved chick lit with a hint of fantasy. She then realized there were a few ounces left in her real-life French fairy tale, and added French Roast to the mix. She is currently considering writing a prequel to the series, and is therefore questioning her definition of “final installment.”

When Glynis is not writing, she is trying to keep the peace amongst the three men and two cats in her life, finding missing body parts (Lego pieces are small!), supervising a myriad of homework assignments and keeping a tenuous hold on her sanity by consuming whatever chocolate is in the vicinity. (Bio courtesy of Glynis' website.)

Visit Glynis online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest


Synopsis:
Jayne, Amanda and Holly have been through everything together. From triumph and heartache to panic and pure bliss, these girls have lived, learned and always had each other’s backs. With the arrival of adulthood, their daily gossip gatherings have dwindled to monthly margarita mixers, making girls’ night out absolutely integral to their survival. Problems with work, men and anything else under the sun now have to be broken down in a few inebriated hours.

Jayne is determined to become a respected news anchor or die trying. After enduring grueling schedules, humiliating assignments like the Great Herring Shortage of 2018 and her snobby mother’s continued insistence that life as a socialite is a much better option for a woman of her “age and abilities,” she is this close to reaching her goal. If only she weren’t so distracted by her insufferable new boss’ smoldering eyes…

Amanda thinks she has it all. She earns the big bucks, has an amazing fiancé and an attitude that just won’t quit. But when an unexpected event throws her life off course, she feels shaken to the red soles of her designer stilettos. Will her battle to regain her former equilibrium be too much for the girls and Countess Cherry Bomb, Amanda’s drag queen bestie, to handle?

Holly is lost. She’s tried every career from animal taming to human resources, but nothing seems to fit. After her latest round of bad decisions, she returns to her small hometown in Connecticut to try to figure out what to do next. If she could just stop pining over the boy next door—and keep her pushy friends out of her love life—she would have a real chance of getting her act together.

With a new year ahead of them, these girls are determined to conquer the world. Will they rise to the occasion or crumble in defeat? One thing’s for sure, their girls’ nights are going to be full of surprises!


When I first considered the question of which Disney character is most like me, I wondered if I would find a suitable answer because I am, quite frankly, a total dork. When I think of Disney characters, my mind immediately goes to the princesses—their beauty, their grace, their intelligence…you see where I’m going with this. But as I perused the pages of a friend’s princess book, the answer came to me. Merida!

Picture from Disney Wiki

Granted, I look NOTHING like her and I have no archery skills to speak of, but I felt an immediate kinship with her. Why, you ask? Well, Merida is impetuous, independent, wicked smart, passionate, Brave (hee!) and, let’s face it, pretty darn awkward. Many times my impetuous nature has gotten me into situations where my passion and bravery have needed to take over—with a small assist from their sidekicks, intelligence and humor. Did I make it through the situations unscathed? Yes. Did I come through without embarrassing myself? Absolutely not. But you can’t have everything! You know what they say—that which does not kill you (as in death by embarrassment) makes you stronger.

Also, Merida and I spent the early portions of our lives without companions, with our interests engaged elsewhere. I was a bit of a wallflower when I was younger, so I didn’t really start dating until after I had graduated college. By then I had a lot of catching up to do, which wasn’t helped by the aforementioned awkward personality. I did get some really good stories for my first book though! As the years went by, most of my girlfriends got married while I focused on my career. (It may have taken me a little while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.) I wasn’t thrilled to be alone, but it didn’t mean the end of my world either. I had things to do! And then, one day, this amazing Frenchman walked into my life. I knew immediately that I wanted to get to know him better, so I approached him and started a conversation which lasted the whole night. We had our first date the next day and five weeks later, I asked him to marry me! That crazy impetuous nature of mine struck again! I’m happy to report that sixteen years later, we are still happily married.

But wait, there’s more! I, like Merida, am very outgoing, rather stubborn and um, as my boys frequently tell me, LOUD. I often start conversations with strangers, stop to talk to anyone I know while we’re running around town, have very definite opinions on everything—which I readily share—and will always yell my head off when my sons are playing sports or, you know, performing in band concerts. I’m just so excited to see them having fun! What can I say? I’m spreading the joy.

While I’m thrilled to share many admirable qualities with Merida, there are a few things which have escaped my grasp. I really wish I had her athletic nature and her awesome curly red hair. I guess I’ll just have to make do with my two left feet and my shiny brown hair. Life goes on!

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 2nd at midnight EST.


Monday, November 26, 2018

Book Review: Go On, Girl

By Sara Steven

Executive, wife, and mother of an outgoing first-grader, Sydney Clayton crushes her day-to-day obligations at work but flounders in the cutthroat world of parental politics.

She manages to avoid the local drama until she’s faced with an ultimatum: join the Forest River PTA or risk her daughter becoming a social outcast. Sydney reluctantly becomes treasurer, and takes the recently vacated position of the president’s sidekick. If protecting the children’s freedom of speech, one best friend ban at a time, isn’t complicated enough, Sydney and her husband receive an unexpected offer for their house they don’t think they can refuse.

Embroiled in the deception and manipulation rife among the elementary school moms, Sydney struggles. Should she sell the home she worked so hard to build in a town where betrayal runs rampant? Or should she stay put to avoid the fallout from uprooting her child? As Sydney focuses on what is best for her daughter, and lets go of her judgments, she finds friendship can develop in very unexpected ways. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

While my personal experiences with the PTA involves the occasional after school sign-up or yearly volunteer work at the carnival, I have noticed the subtle nuances that come from the higher-ups on the Association’s social ladder. It’s well known that in order to feel as though you’re part of the scene, it’s a good idea to join the PTA ranks. In fact, I was once cornered by a friend of mine who insisted I join and told me that it was “for my own good”.

There are a lot of subtle and less-than-subtle nuances when it comes to Sydney’s experiences with her daughter’s PTA. A lot of reading between the lines where her participation is concerned. In joining, she’s giving her daughter a sort of immunity from becoming an outcast and not feeling as though she belongs. But in order to achieve that, Sydney has to become the lackey, doing anything and everything required of her, not to mention maintaining her full time job and her household. The politics of it all is nothing short of overwhelming.

Go On, Girl was a constant tipping of the scales, never really in favor of one decision over the other. Should Sydney continue with the PTA, no matter how much it disturbs her life? Or, should she say screw it, and walk away, knowing what that could potentially mean for her daughter? Thrown in are the glimpses of humanity from various women on the PTA, only further diverging the scales, so you never really know how to make the right decision. As is often seen in real life, the image people portray rarely matches up to what’s really going on beneath the surface, and there is plenty of mirage-like quality to the characters and the individuals who make this PTA what everyone thinks it is, even though none of us have a clue of what’s behind the veiled facade.

In my own life, I managed to sidestep my friend when someone else had garnered her attention, and whether I’d lost out on an opportunity deemed “for my own good”, I’ll never know for sure. There are a lot of dramatic antics that are several degrees above what I’ve experienced, that really add to the fun and chaos that makes Go On, Girl tick, from one veiled moment, to another.

Thanks to Hilary Grossman for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Hilary Grossman:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Go-to-Gay AND Chick Lit Cheerleader: A Disney-fied District


Thought you saw the last of Jen and Keith in October? Think again! They're back today to participate in our Disney and Fairy Tales theme. Their topic is current and very clever. We'll let them take it from here....


If We Could Elect the Heroes We Want

Jen: This month the election cycle dominated our lives, and now that it is over, Keith and I would like to add our two cents worth. Inevitably, some of your candidates won and some lost, but we are on the ticket here at CLC, and bringing you our wish list of DISNEY characters we’d love to see in office. I know many of you wish the election cycle was over...that was so silly of you because when you wish upon a star… (NOTE: Be prepared to break into random song throughout the entire read).

I named my pick for POTUS, Veep and thought I’d throw in a couple of other Washington D.C. jobs too. Keith picked out some prime characters for some other cabinet positions. If this goes well, Melissa might let me pick my dream Love Boat crew! And they’d all whistle while they worked. But I digress… If Keith and I were to fill every political position available, we’d be here all day like a hanging chad wishing for someone to put us out of our dangling misery. Why? Because we like you…and you have holiday things nipping at your heels to attend to so let’s get on with the show!

Picture from Disney Wiki
J: For President, I have to go with Mufasa from The Lion King. Friends, we’d hear James Earl Jones’ voice all the time. All. The. Time! I could listen to him command a room and make proclamations from the rising to the setting of the sun in my circle of life. That booming baritone. The powerful tenor and spot on diction. Just saying the name “Mufasa” should be enough to earn this character 100% of the popular vote. James Earl Jones was meant to voice the leader of the free world.


Picture from Disney Wiki
J: My pick for Vice President is none other than Genie. We need him to balance out Mufasa as President. The serious and the satirical. Can you imagine the Laurel and Hardy comedy routine? Genie makes things happen. He gets down to the business of decision making by simply following directions. Three wishes? You’ve got it! If you’re nodding off in one of Vice President Genie’s meetings or while attending one of his public appearances, then that’s your own fault! You’d have to be on your toes because you’d never know if John Wayne or Jack Nicholson were about to make a sudden impressionable appearance. Genie on the ticket in 2020!


Picture from Disney Wiki
J: As long as we’re pretending Disney characters are running the government, this next choice seems logical if not superior. Maximus, the glinty-eyed steed from Tangled is my pick to head the Department of Defense. This is the horse you want on your side in dark alleys! Maximus is all that and a bag of oats—he follows orders better than any four-legged creature I’ve ever owned and can track down a fugitive like Walker, Texas Ranger. My golden retrievers can’t find their own tennis balls in daylight, but this horse has mad skills. He also knows when it’s time to be reasonable, shake hooves, and play nice. Yes, he sucker-punched Flynn right in the kidney when Rapunzel wasn’t looking but you and I both know Flynn is not Mr. Innocent either. And this horse can sword fight! I mean, c’mon people! Mr. Ed could learn a thing or two about diplomacy and swashbuckling from this horse.


Picture from Disney Wiki
J: Secretary of Education. Maleficent. No kid would skip school ever. EVER!
K: But, NEVER accept an apple from her.

Picture from Disney Wiki
K: Attorney General. Woody. Come on. Who else would be 100% honest and after nothing but the truth all the time? Woody would never let us down, and would always fight for equality for all. Plus, he could start all his meetings by saying, “There is a new sheriff in town.”



Picture from Disney Wiki
K: Secretary of State. Ursula, the Sea Witch. Oh sure, she is a “villain,” but she is my all-time favorite villain, so she must be on the list. Plus, the Secretary of State negotiates lots of diplomatic deals, and Ursula negotiated for Ariel’s VOICE, people. She gave up her VOICE to the woman. Ursula has skills that need to be used with Russia and Iran.


Picture from Disney.com
K: Supreme Court Justice. Elsa. OK, a spot isn’t exactly open on the Court right now, but eventually one will be available. Who better than a young, independent woman to lead us in to the next decade?




What do you think? How did we do? Who else would you like to see working in Washington, instead of at Disney Studios?

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.

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.