Meeting Lydia – Linda MacDonald

Marianne is in her mid-forties, mother to a teenage daughter who is just off to university and up until this point, Marianne has been in a seemingly very happy marriage to Johnny.  However, underneath the surface are all sorts of issues that are impacting on Marianne’s life; the menopause, unresolved problems from her childhood, husband drinking, suspecting her husband is having an affair and their daughter leaving home.

Through Friends Reunited Marianne resurrects a tenuous childhood friendship and they begin to exchange emails.  These emails become a vehicle for Marianne to find comfort and empowerment, finally being able to confront the demons of her childhood and make her a stronger person.  In part this novel examines the implications of cyber friendships, reasons for forming friendships and how the written word can be interpreted and misinterpreted.  At times I found these emails quite deep with a lot of self-reflecting by Marianne but at the same time  they were a cathartic exercise for her as she was unable to express her true thoughts and feelings to her husband.  As the story unfolded, the background to Marianne’s unhappy times at school were gradually revealed and the reasons for her low self-esteem and self-doubt became more apparent.

The story spans approximately twelve months or so and over that time the reader can see a change in Marianne and how she wrestles the issues that have been haunting her.  It also shows how she deals with her doubts over her husband’s fidelity – as a psychology teacher she is able to understand her actions and reactions but is too close, the emotions too near the surface, for her to deal with them in the way she knows she should.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Marianne and Johnny, although like Marianne I didn’t understand Johnny’s actions until very near the end.  To sum up this book and to quote from it, Meeting Lydia “explores the themes of bullying and midlife crises – associated or otherwise.”  and I know Linda MacDonald warned me that this was not a romance story, I still managed to find some between Marianne and Johnny. :-)

You can follow Linda MacDonald on Twitter

Persuade Me – Juliet Archer

Persuade Me by Juliet Archer is a modern day version of  Jane Austin’s Persuassion and was kindly sent to me by publishers Choc Lit to review.

When she was eighteen Anna Elliott met the love of her life Rick Wentworth in France.  Unfortunately, events and people conspired against them and Rick went to live and work in Australia alone while Anna chose to stay in the UK to go to university.

After ten years apart, although their lives have moved on alone, they have never forgotten the time they shared and are unexpectedly thrown back together again.  Anna is now a University lecturer living in Bath and Rick is a successful celebrity marine biologist, who is back in the UK on a promotional book tour.  Do they really know how the other feels?  Will they rekindle their relationship?  Do they want to? Anna Elliott is a kind and caring person, but much put upon by her demanding and self-serving family.  At times I was quite frustrated by her inability to prevent herself being manipulated by those around her and drawn into unwelcome situations.

Rick Wentworth may well be an intelligent marine biologist studying the relationships of the male and female Sea Horses but he’s not quite so clued up when it came to working out his own love life.  For ten years he has been weighed down by feelings of rejection and meeting Anna again stirs up emotions he thought he had well and truly locked away.

Persuade Me is told mostly from the viewpoint of either Anna or Rick and, as such, there were times when I wanted to knock their heads together as both jumped to conclusions about the other, misunderstanding and misreading situations.

However, as the story moved on I was pleased to see a more determinded side of Anna emerge and a softer side of Rick come through, so much so that the letter he wrote towards the end brought a tear to my eye.  Beautiful sentiment.

Persuade Me tells the story of how this couple finally draw a line under what happened ten years earlier and start looking forwards, whether this be as a couple or as individuals.

I thoroughly enjoyed Persuade Me, definitely on my favourite list, although I felt it should have the title Persuade Me To Put It Down For a Moment or even Persuade Me Not To Stay Up Until 1 a.m. To Finish It!

Juliet Archer is also on Twitter

Three Days to Die – John Avery

Having read and reviewed mostly romance novels  here, I thought it was about time I had a look at something different.  I do usually like a good thriller/action book so I was looking forward to getting my teeth into Three Days to Die by John Avery, part of the Aaron Quinn thriller series.

The plot surrounds a 13 year old boy Aaron who after witnessing a murder is captured and held hostage by the criminal gang.  He spends the next three days being dragged further and further into their world of criminal activities.  At some point during his capture he almost becomes a validated member of the gang, shades of Stockholm syndrome come through and up to a point, the reader experiences this too. As the story unfolds, you gradually learn more about the gang and how they came to be part of it.  By the end I found  myself empathising with them to a point.  However, this is not the crux of the story, just an aside.

I found the book to be fast paced with lots of action and a plausible plot.   At several points I really had no idea what was going to happen next and I found myself feeling anxious for the characters, especially Aaron and his mother.  Without giving the ending away, I found it finished the novel off nicely with no loose ends.

I like the style the book was written in but it took me a couple of chapters to get used to the narrative switching viewpoints within the same scene.  However, once I was aware of this after a while it wasn’t a problem and didn’t distract me from the story line at all.  The chapters are short and pacy which encourages you to read on and there is plenty of tension throughout.

An enjoyable read which had several lines that made me laugh out loud, my favourite being Aaron speaking to his friend Willy about having to use guns … “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

John is also on Twitter and Facebook

If I could be anyone I would be…..

Sophia Lauren

Question : Why?

Answer : Why wouldn’t you want to?

Icon of sophistication, sex appeal, growing old gracefully and dignity



Author Talli Roland’s new novel Watching Willow Watts launches this week and she is holding an on-line party If I could be anyone I’d be….   click here for details to join in the fun









Discovery at Rosehill – Kathryn Brown

I originally started this blog in response to becoming an Associate Reader for Love A Happy Ending and having chosen my authors duly read and reviewed their books.  Kathryn Brown is an Associate Author and I hadn’t initially chosen to read her book because I wasn’t sure about the paranormal side of Discovery at Rosehill.  Anything like that and I usually run a mile, however, I got to know Kathryn and decided I should broaden my reading, so I offered to read her book.

Initially, I thought romance and mystery, yes they are my sort of book and the paranormal side I could perhaps live with.  It took me a couple of chapters to get into but I was gradually wooed and gently seduced by Kathryn’s writing which has a rhythm different to what I have read recently; creating atmosphere throughout whether it be describing beautiful scenery, feelings between characters or encounters with spirits.

The novel is based around medium Camilla who has been drawn to buy and renovate Rosehill, a rambling house on the edge of a rural village.  There Camilla meets the local vicar Marcus and although they have opposing beliefs, their feelings about one another certainly aren’t.  There is of course Ross, Camilla’s old flame from many years ago, brother of her best friend, who returns after many years away. Does he want to just stay friends with Camilla or does he want to rekindle their relationship?  More to the point, does Camilla?

Not only does Camilla have to deal with her love life but there is also a mystery at Rosehill which she find herself being drawn into by paranormal activity.  A mystery that she does not fully understand but has far reaching ramifications.

There is a twist to one part of the novel at the end which surprised me but fitted perfectly with the plot and again not until the end was I sure how things would turn out for Camilla with regards to the men in her life.

I especially enjoyed the romance of this story and the mystery element was good too.  With regards to the paranormal side of it, I have learnt quite a lot and was pleasantly surprised by my reaction to it.

The cover of the book is great and fits really well with the story line.  I loved Marcus and shall never be able to look at vicars in the same way again!

An Audience with an Author

An Audience with an Author welcomes Nicky Wells, author of Sophie’s Turn

Sophie’s Turn is your first published novel, did it take long to write?

 That’s an interesting question.  It took me a few weeks to plan… I’d say, between two and four depending on how you interpret planning versus writing.  Then I wrote the entire first draft in about three months.  Birth of baby number one was a bit of an immovable deadline, and I definitely wanted it all done before then!  Then of course there were a few re-writes which took maybe a week here and there.  So all in all, I think writing Sophie’s Turn probably took the best part of six months.  That said, because of my family circumstances (and another baby coming along), the novel had a long time to ‘mature’ (read:  linger on the shelf…) and I had the benefit of reading it ‘fresh’, almost as though I was a genuine reader, having not touched it for a few years at a time.  That helped:  but that’s also almost impossible to build into any writing plan.

 Do you have a set place & time to write?

 Sophie’s Turn was written in what is now the boys’ playroom.  My new writing space is a tiny little Ikea desk tucked into the corner of the dining room.  However, I have also taken to moving around the house with the laptop, so I will quite often type on the sofa in the lounge, at the dining room table proper (rather than the dinky desk) and, very occasionally, even in bed.  Before children, I was a bit of a night owl and would prefer working late in the afternoon and into the night.  Now, I don’t have that luxury and my writing time is strictly confined to school hours when the boys are out of my hair.

 You have a young family, where do you find the time and energy?

 I mentioned the time constraints above… finding the energy, that’s an interesting one.  I think of myself as a one-trick-pony (i.e. can only ever do one thing well at any one time) and I also think of myself as perennially worn out.  Yet somehow it all gets done!  I’ve discovered that for me, the most important thing is not to dwell on how busy or tired I am, but to make a plan, portion my work, and stick to it.  As long as I keep going, I’m fine… And, of course, I do consume way too much chocolate!

 Did you design your cover for Sophie’s Turn? Was it easy to come up with a design idea?

 Actually it was my husband who designed the cover!  Pretty much on the eve of publishing, Sophie’s Turn was still called ‘Full Circle’and I had set aside some time to take some artistic photos involving champagne flutes and strings of pearls.  Alas, what a disaster!  My husband is a very calm and steady person, bless him, and he sat me down and made me talk it all through.  I started scribbling away on a piece of paper, but I’m a lousy cartoonist and couldn’t make anything look right.  Eventually we came up with the idea of a choice, or turning point:  hence the sign post.  My artist-in-residence then took the time to draw the idea out meticulously (using the children’s gel tips!) and added grass and the little flower and the butterfly at my suggestion.  He cut it all out and made a collage onto pink paper.  Chick lit… it had to be pink, right?  Unfortunately the image didn’t really go with the title, so ‘Full Circle’ had to go!  Another hour of tearing my hair out, and the title ‘Sophie’s Turn’ was conceived.  (Good job, too…it’s a much better title, I think!)  Chief designer next created the writing and cut-and-collaged all of that as well.  I wouldn’t have the skill or the patience, but I was thrilled to see it all come to life in his hands.  I’m chuffed to bits with it!  So here’s to my husband:  Thank You!

Did Sophie’s Turn end up as you originally envisaged or did it change as you wrote?

 A little bit of both!  Owing to several iterations of planning, I had the story line very much clear in my head before I started typing.  However, these pesky characters developed a habit of taking wrong turns, inventing new events, or creating problems or diversions that I had not anticipated.  That was actually a very interesting process because at times I felt like I was reading the book while I was writing it.  From previous experience, I know that those are also the incidents that can totally derail the writing process and plot, so it was very useful to have a plan to rein things in again before they spun out of control.

Sophie’s Turn could have had more than one ending, I know I was surprised at the end, was it difficult to decide which way to take the story?

 Ah!  That’s a brilliant question.  Let me put it this way without giving too much away.  There were at least three possible, credible outcomes.  (I did make up a few more to start with but they were really too far-fetched).  I knew what I really wanted Sophie to do, and what would have wanted to have happened to me, had I been in her position.  However, I just couldn’t take the novel there.  I tried, briefly, but it was all very unsatisfactory.  So in the end it was down to Sophie to decide.  That scene in her hotel room in Paris when she sees herself at the crossroads… that was all real thought, that was me typing away furiously as I was assessing her options.  (And also another incident where the book took on a bit of a life of its own).  The outcome made us both happy (although I did shed a few tears).

Did you do any particular research for the rock group Tusk in Sophie’s Turn?

I’m afraid to admit that I didn’t.  But then I didn’t need to, I had years of teenage star-struckness to draw on, a vast repository of knowledge about several rock bands, experience of going to concerts, knowledge (from teenage and music magazines) of the touring process… Films like ABBA: The MovieThis is Spinal Tap and Rock Star also offered some helpful insights.  And I just may or may not have met the odd band here or there, once or twice.

Is Dan based on a particular rock star?

Dan is the amalgamation of many lead-singers.  Plus he incorporates some of the best (and worst) traits of people I know, have heard of, or read about.  He is a true bona fide made-up-but-hopefully-still-credible rock idol.  J

Sophie has to make some difficult decisions – did you find it easy to make the choices for her?

 Not always.  As I mentioned above, some of her choices were mine, and were choices I would make.  These were the easy ones.  Some other things she does and does not do gave me a real headache.  I don’t think I would have had the gumption to tell the man of I’m dreams I was a virgin (even though I wasn’t); I don’t think I would have had the courage to accompany Dan to the Royal (or his suite); and I think I would have been too blinded to make her choice.  But this was all nail-biting stuff for me…

Without giving too much away, what is your favourite scene in Sophie’s Turn?

I have a few, actually.  The prologue is one: the sense of absolute heady elation and disbelief, the out-of-body wonderment of ‘if this really happening?’  That makes me feel good every time.  Next, it makes me smile when Rachel and Sophie have their morning pow-wow in the coffee shop and Sophie shouts out about s.e.x rather too loudly.  And I’m still quite in love with the scene where Dan has to hide in a cupboard… And lastly, see the featured excerpt below!

Is Sophie anything like you or are you more like her best friend Rachel?

Sophie probably reflects my dreamy side, the one that yearns for a fairy tale ending.  But I can also be sarcastic and cutting, like Rachel; not something I’m immensely proud of but that can be very necessary.  Yet it is Rachel who sets Sophie straight on matters of true love and thunderbolt-and-lightning… again, that would be me.  So perhaps it’s fair to say that they distill, each in their own way, aspects of my own character.  If that’s not too scary a notion!

Will we be hearing from Sophie in the future?

Oh definitely!  The sequel is a work in progress.  I have just finished working on the plans for the story line and have to fine tune a few details.  Hopefully I can start to write some time in late September and then it’ll have to take as long as it takes.  I’d like to bring the sequel out within the year, but that depends obviously on how much time I can scrounge for writing, letting the novel rest, editing it… and all the back-end goings-on before you publish.

And yes, Dan will feature alongside Sophie again.  Rachel will have a much bigger, somewhat surprising and not always easy role to play, so watch out for a few surprises!

Author’s Book Shelf

What is your favourite book you have read?

Which one to pick?  I read so much and have so many favourites!  Catherine Alliott’s The Old-Girl Network was the first chick lit novel I ever read, and I remember laughing out loud.  That continues to be one of my favourites… The Eight by Katherine Neville is a fantastic book, and so is Ghostwritten by David Mitchell.

 What book would you like to read but haven’t yet?

 The collected works of Shakespeare.

What book should you have read but haven’t?

The collected works of Shakespeare.  I mean that!  I’ve only read Macbeth in school (in Germany).  How can I see my kids through school with any more knowledge of the Great Bard?  So, it’s on my TBR.

If you would like to read an excerpt from Sophie’s Turn please see previous post by using link at top of this page


Excerpt from Sophie’s Turn by Nicky Wells

Author Nicky Wells is my guest today at my page ‘An Audience with an Author’

below is an excerpt to tempt you to buy a fantastic debut novel

which I was delighted to review last month.

[Sophie is just about to meet Dan again for the first time since she was 19…]

Joe grinned.  “Want to come backstage?  The guys want to say hello!”

Oh joy!  Did I ever!

And so I came to have Tusk back in my life with no effort at all.  Joe led me across the ground floor, up two flights of stairs, round a corner and through a door, and we were backstage.  Well, backstage of sorts:  it wasn’t the fanciest of dressing areas, just a pretty bare room with a couch, a few chairs, a mirror and a large fridge-freezer.  I entered almost shyly, half-wondering what to say, half-wondering what I was doing there.  And wanting to jump up and down and wave my arms crazily.

“Heeeey!”  came the appreciative hello from Darren.  “Good to see you again!  How was New York?”

“Hey!”  I shouted back.  “New York was great, thanks.  Although the conference was a bit boring.  How was Chicago?”

“Ok,”  Darren grumbled.  “When we finally got there…”

Under cover of this opening blessedly provided by Darren, I had confidently walked into the room and found myself standing among my four teenage heroes.

“Want a beer?”  Mick offered.  “Or something stronger?”  He pulled open the fridge door to reveal an amazing array of chilled beers and liquors.

“Uh, a beer would be great!”  I said.  I hated beer, but I didn’t want to be uncool or make a fuss or something.  Everyone else was drinking beer.

Mick threw me a bottle which I just about managed to catch (I was really clumsy) and I seized upon it gratefully.  Then the guys went back to discussing the gig and how it had gone and how the crowd had reacted to Tusk’s own songs, and I let myself fade contentedly into the role of background observer, like always.  I needed to catch my breath and capture my cool.  Now that I was there, and they were there, and nobody seemed to have any intention of leaving any time soon, I could afford to try to relax and regroup a little.  Somehow I knew I had to make the most out of this occasion, to play it just right such that I could see them again.  And again.  And again.  Because that was what I wanted to do.  A little pet project for excitement in my life.  Extracurricular activity, if you wanted.  “Hobby:  groupie to Splat/Tusk.”  Or:  “Hobby:  Chief Tusk Admirer.”  A bit anoracky, perhaps, but it beat trainspotting or bird-watching.

Conversation was still going on when Dan threw me a casual, “what do you think, Sophie?”

Well, what did Sophie think?

“I thought you were… amazing.  Just like you used to be.  Except… you look different, of course.”  Nodding heads, delighted looks.  Stroking egos wasn’t difficult!

“But,”  I continued,  “Do you know what really got me?”  Shaking heads this time.

“Nobody seemed to recognise you.  I mean, you do look different but Dan’s voice you could make out anywhere and anyone with half a brain should realise!”

Dan laughed.  “That’s very sweet of you, but it’s not surprising that no one recognises us.  Not even the venue management realises what we are doing here.”  I must have looked at him blankly, because Mick chimed in and continued.

“We pick our venues quite carefully, looking for a young audience that probably wouldn’t have known us, or at least not seen us, first time round.  We want to know whether we go down well.”

“Yeah,”  Joe butted it.  “Call it…what do you call it?  Market research.”

“Market research?”  I repeated.

“Yup,”  Dan resumed.  “We’re thinking of re-grouping.  You know, our own little revival.  But we don’t want to make complete fools of ourselves.  So while the record company is thinking about it, we’ve launched a little undercover mission:  being our own tribute band.”

Wow.  Bloody brilliant.  “I think that’s bloody brilliant,”  I enthused.  “Weird.  But brilliant.  But… don’t you find it strange, doing your own thing without getting the credit, and on such a small scale?”

A small silence.  Had I put my foot in it already?

“Nooooo… this is fun!”  Joe declared.  “This is our practice but with all the fun of a live audience and a few squids on top.  Not that we need the money… but playing the small clubs is the best way to get back into things.”

“And,”  Mick threw in,  “we are getting quite a reputation.  The crowd here tonight had definitely heard of us before.  It gave me such a kick when they cheered at the ‘Tusk tribute’ part of the set.  We’re building a whole new reputation for our music!”

“Absolutely,”  Dan confirmed, with a peculiar nostalgic look.  “And…”  he made a sweeping movement around the room, taking in the lumpy couch and peeling paint,  “… this is kind of how we started out.  So this feels right, somehow.”

I nodded my understanding.  Yup, I could see how this might feel right.

“Well, I think you ought to be all systems go,”  I affirmed, taking another giant sip on my beer, then getting it all down the wrong way and spluttering all over the place.  I even had beer coming out of my nose:  what a great way to create an ineradicable impression.

“Easy, there, love,”  Mick crooned and patted me heftily on the back.  Eyes streaming, face hot and bothered, I couldn’t stop coughing and the guys collapsed in laughter.  Well, at least I had entertainment value.

“Cor,”  Dan declared eventually, taking off his shirt.  “I’m hot!”  He rubbed his chest vigorously, then grimaced.

“My nipple hurts.”  He looked round pitifully.  I was glad that I was still bright red in the face from my spluttering episode, otherwise no doubt I would have flushed and embarrassed myself right there and then, again.  Twenty-eight and still a prude, I admonished myself.

“No, it really does!”  he repeated.  “I had a stiff nipple all the way through and the strap of my guitar….”  He didn’t finish his sentence, but Mick and Darren winced sympathetically.

   Say something, I told myself, say something.  Something funny!  Do something!

“Err…”  I fumbled wildly in my handbag.  “Have some of this.  Helps me any time.”  I handed over a small jar of lip balm.

Dan took it sceptically.  “Yeah?  And what does this stuff do?”

I took it back off him.  “Well,”  I started,  “this is Vaseline.  Good for sore skin, chapped lips and all that.  What you do is…”  I opened the tub up and dipped my finger in it, scooping up a little gloop of cream.  “You take some of this and then you rub it in.”

And before I could stop myself, I found myself applying cream to Dan’s permanently erect nipple.  Wolf whistles and cat calls from the other guys, while Dan and I stared at each other in amazement.

I pulled my finger back like he was red-hot iron.  Red-hot was also what my ears were like, and I felt faintly weak with…. I didn’t know, shock?  Surprise?  Attraction?

“Err… and then you’re done,”  I added softly, so softly in fact that only Dan could hear it.

“Is that so?”  he asked gently, then rubbed the cream in a little bit more.  I felt like we were having sex without having sex.  “Uh, that’s good,”  he continued and I had to sit down before my knees gave way.

“Glad to be of help,”  I said weakly.  “In fact, keep the stuff.”  I proffered the jar.

“Oh, cut it out you two!”  Joe called out while Mick was making fake retching noises.  Dan gave them a dazzling smile.  “Now, now, wait in line guys…”  And then the whole interlude was over, having taken no more than twenty seconds.  To me, it felt like a lifetime.  I wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened there but somehow I knew that it wouldn’t be the kind of thing to share with Tim when I told him about the gig.  Tim!  Gosh, how different things would have been had he been here.