Excess All Areas – Mandy Baggot

It’s Freya’s birthday and she’s about to meet her long term boyfriend, Russell, for a celebratory lunch.  When Freya turns up she overhears her boyfriend commenting about her appearance in a way that sends her reeling, taking her totally by surprise and in true Freya style, she does a disappearing act.

Ending up on a Greek island where her best friend Emma lives, Freya thinks she can hide away from the pain and heartache she experienced in the UK.  However, she didn’t anticipate meeting up with Holloywood heart-throb Nicholas Kaden and she certainly didn’t expect to find herself becoming involved with him, despite her initial reservations about his motives.

Freya is fun and fiesty, full of witty comments. She is also extremely loyal to her friends and has deeply grounded principles which have in the past caused her a great deal of trouble.  Trouble that she has really doesn’t want anyone to know about.   Nicholas Kaden is very smooth and calm, has everything under control but he too has something in his past that he is hiding from the world.   Freya and Nicholas may on the surface seem like an unlikely couple but underneath they have more in common than they realise.  Are either of them able to face up to their past or will it cloud their lives forever?  Can they also deal with those around them, dear and not so dear, who are happy to destroy them for their own reasons?

There are twists and turns along the way, together with a few surprises. Excess All Areas is an enjoyable read and I found myself drawn into the novel with ease.

Mandy has also written the following novels which are all available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon, Waterstones & WH Smith


Click here to see the book trailer for Mandy’s novel Taking Charge due to be released in 2012

You can follow Mandy on Twitter and on her web site.

Secrets at City Hospital – Kate Allan

Dr Rachel Booth starts her new job as a Registrar in the Maternity department of City Hospital and is thrown in at the deep end with an emergency almost as soon as she arrives.   Not looking for love, having been let down in the past, she is totally surprised by her reaction to male midwife, Grant Mackenzie.  Not only is he super efficient but he is extremely attractive and from the outset it seems that the feeling is mutual.

However, Rachel finds Grant both confusing and secretive – what is he hiding and what is he hiding from?  Not only that, but she has to deal with her own conflicting feelings.  Should she risk her heart again?  Is Grant worth taking a chance for?

Being of I would guess, Novella length, there isn’t too much time to delve that deeply into the personal traits and backgrounds of the characters, however, there is more than enough to carry the story and draw the reader into the relationship between Rachel and Grant.

Secrets at City Hospital is a medical romance and with only ten chapters makes for a very easy and enjoyable read.

Kate is on Twitter and has her own website

Highland Storms – Christina Courtenay

Having recently read Trade Winds by Christina Courtney I was very much looking forward to reading its sequel Highland Storms, which was very kindly sent to me by the lovely ChocLit team.

Brice Kinross, son of the gorgeous Killian Kinross, takes up his seat in Scotland as Laird of Rosyth.  The estate is in a dire state and appears to be losing money each year, the local people are living in poorer and poorer conditions and there doesn’t seem to be a logical explanation for it.

Brice arrives with the intention of getting to the bottom of this and bringing the estate back to a profitable entity.  However as Brice delves deeper it becomes apparent that there is more to it than simply bad management, there has definitely been some underhand dealings.  But by who?  Who can Brice trust?

Unexpectedly Brice also finds himself involved in a tussle of the heart.  The beautiful housekeeper Marsaili is a tempting prospect to help him get over a lost love back in Sweden but it seems he is not the only one who has an eye for her.

What I love about Highland Storms is that it is more than one thing.  It’s a combination of romance, adventure and action.  I was really drawn into the plot surrounding the running of the Rosyth estate and the history that is layered so well throughout the book doesn’t interfere at all, only adding to the enjoyment.  The twists and turns kept me on my toes and I really enjoyed the romantic element that although was integral to driving the plot along, again wasn’t so overwhelming that it distracted you from the other aspects.  All three elements seemed to mould effortlessly together.

Highland Storms is definitely in my top three favourite reads this  year, it may even be number one!

Highland Storms is Christina’s third Choc Lit novel. Her debut, Trade Winds and prequel to Highland Storms, was short listed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Pure Passion Award of Best Historical Fiction 2011. The Scarlet Kimono was short listed for the Big Red Read and The Festival of Romance Readers Award for Best Historical Read 2011.

Christina is on Twitter and has her own webpage

Magnolia House – Pauline Barclay

I had heard some lovely comments about Magnolia House so was looking forward to reading it.

Jane Leonard has lived in Magnolia House for over fifty years and after tragedy hits her, not for the first time, she finds herself being forced to sell her beloved family home.  A rift has developed between Jane and her daughter-in-law which seems to be growing by the day. A rift borne out of heartbreak, words unspoken and assumptions, as is so often the case in families and which has been written with real sentiment.  The novel follows the relationship between Jane and her daughter-in-law and through the sensitive writing, I found myself willing these two women to try and resolve their differences.

The novel also follows the ripple effect the sale has on those further down the property chain, who themselves are having to make a new start for reasons outside of their control.  Their lives becoming inter-linked, friendships formed and bonds made.

Magnolia House is a gentle story told with real warmth and understanding of human nature, the good, the bad and the often misunderstood.  I found myself really drawn into the lives of the characters, Pauline certainly makes you feel that you know them so well, each with their own personality and traits.   A great deal of emotion flows through the book and you can’t help but empathise with each and every character as their story unfolds.

Pauline is on Twitter and has her own blog Scribbles

Pauline is part of the Indie author group Famous Five Plus

as well as being a Featured Author with Love A Happy Ending.

An Audience with an Author….. Mandy Baggot chats about the music behind Strings Attached

A very warm welcome to author of Strings Attached, Mandy Baggot!

The hero of Strings Attached is the gorgeous musician Quinn Blake and with a fab suggested playlist ranging from The Gypsy Kings to Billy Idol, I took the opportunity to ask Mandy some questions about Strings Attached and how the playlist related to the book.

Where did the idea come from for Strings Attached?

Wow! That’s a hard question! I can’t really answer it properly because it will give away secrets from the plot! I always start off with my characters and they often dictate what happens in the story – this novel will hopefully pull readers in lots of different directions. Strings Attached is still a story with lots of humour but it’s also full of emotion – all sorts of emotions – and I hope readers will find it a total reading experience. If I’ve written it right it should make them laugh out loud and cry – maybe even at the same time!

Is Quinn based on a particular musician?

No! Quinn is very much his own man! When I draw characters I will know how tall they are, their colouring and build but they always have blank faces! I know that sounds weird, but they are rarely associated with anyone and I never tend to describe them too heavily because I think the readers should be able to imagine those finer details themselves. Quinn has blue eyes though and a chiselled jaw and short brown hair and…well he’s very hot!

Did you already know which songs you wanted to associate with Strings Attached?

As Quinn is a musician I wanted him to have a ‘sound’ – I needed to know what type and style of music he played. His songs are strong and well written, leaning towards rock but with surprising classical influences. For me his music is ‘The Goo Goo Dolls’. Because of Quinn’s sound and George’s love of classic rock (AC/DC, Billy Idol, Guns ‘n’ Roses etc.) the music I listened to whilst writing was mostly rock based. Although Marisa (George’s 17 year old pop culture expert and catering assistant) loves a bit of The Black Eyed Peas and Beyoncé so there is some of that in there too!

Did the playlist change as the novel was written?

Yes, simply because the action in the novel moves to Spain. Whilst writing those sections it would have been wrong not to involve The Gipsy Kings, Santana, Enrique etc! Not forgetting the much loved Sisqo and his Thong Song! I want readers to feel that Spanish sun and the passion as it hots up.

Which is your favourite song from the playlist?

ARGH!! Are you going to make me choose one? I like them all! OK – choosing one – White Wedding by Billy Idol.

If you could embark on a love affair with a musician, who would it be?

That’s an easy one! I have had a long musical affair with Bryan Adams, starting when my Dad used to play me his music. I can’t remember how many times I have seen him play live and he is an amazing singer/songwriter/musician. In fact I am going to see him again in December at Bournemouth and Bryan, if you’re reading this, I think its high time you picked me from the audience to sing ‘When You’re Gone’ with you!! I could do a You Tube audition if you like!

Quinn played in Basingstoke, Manchester and Glasgow.  Have you ever visited these places or been to any concerts at these venues?

I’ve been toBasingstokebut not to The Anvil (the main concert venue there). TheBasingstokevenue in Strings Attached is called The Hexagon and is fictional. I set it inBasingstokesimply because I needed Quinn to play at a smaller venue on his tour to create the more informal setting for the after-show party where he meets George. I’m really ashamed to admit I’ve not been toManchesterorGlasgow! I must remedy this – perhaps Bryan Adams might invite me on his tour bus! No Mandy, now he thinks you’re a stalker style groupie!

You’ve had some fame on You Tube with your versions of Adele and Lady Gaga – were you nervous?  Could you play to sell out crowds like Quinn?

Believe me when you’ve auditioned in the Millennium Stadium for The X Factor and been on ITV1’s Who Dares Sings (with Denise Van Outen and Ben Shepherd), singing on You Tube is as easy as doing the weekly shop in Tesco! I don’t get nervous at all anymore, but that’s just because I’ve done karaoke and stage performances so much, its now like second nature. I have the same love for singing that I do for writing and I sing for a local vocal group, Raise the Roof. I find singing with a group really challenging because you can’t just go off and do your own thing like you might when you’re singing solo – you have to listen to each other and work as a team – sometimes Lady Baggot finds that quite hard!! As for the sell out crowds – if they want to listen to me I’ll sing for them!!

Which song do you think best sums up Strings Attached, which one Quinn and which one George and why? 

For Quinn it has to be ‘Light On’ by David Cook.  The lyrics are all about someone leaving and telling the person left behind to leave a light on so they don’t feel so alone.  I can imagine Quinn singing this for George.

For George it is Whitesnake’s ‘Is This Love?’.  This song has been important to George in the past and also, she s always questioning how she really feels about relationships and wants to be sure before she commits to anything new.  I can’t tell you any more – you’ll have to read the book!!

Thank you Mandy, I really enjoyed reading Strings Attached and wish you every success with it.

Mandy is on Twitter and has her own blog www.mandybaggot.webs.com

Sleeping with Paris – Juliette Sobanet

For Charlotte Summers her life is perfect, she’s engaged to Jeff and they are both about to embark on a new life in Paris where Charlotte will study French and then get herself a teaching job.  Her ideal world is destroyed when she pops in to Jeff’s office.  He’s out but his girlfriend from the on-line dating agency is most definitely in! 

Within two days Charlotte is very much single, in Paris, alone and determined not to get her heart broken again.  The only way to do this is to date like a man and through her blog she charts her exploits, lays down the rules of self-preservation and adopts the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ attitude to dating.  Her blog, however, is far more reaching than she first thought or even intended.  People are taking notice and acting on  her advice.  People who are close to her and who love her.  Charlotte may have originally meant and believed everything she posted but deep down she can never truly think or date like a man.  Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  Never the twain shall meet.

The wedding of a friend is where the past months catch up on Charlotte and it becomes a huge melting pot of emotions and realisations, posing life changing questions.  Does Charlotte still love her ex?  Is revenge worth it?  How does she really feel about the Half-Naked French Hottie?  How do her friends feel about her?  More importantly, how does she feel about herself?

Initially as I read Sleeping with Paris I thought it was just a fun romp round Paris for Charlotte, however, it turned out to be more than that.  It showed Charlotte finally understanding and facing the demons that have shaped her and taking control of her destiny, turning something very negative into something very positive.

Juliette Sobanet writes in a fluent and fun way, bringing in other characters with their own issues which are all dealt with in a light hearted way that keeps to the tone and genre of the book.

Juliette is on Twitter and Facebook and also has her own blog Juliette Sobanet

Strings Attached – Mandy Baggot

Tomboy George Fraser owns her own successful catering company Finger Foods which is running along nicely, as is her uncomplicated lifestyle, that is until she is offered the job of a lifetime – catering for the after show parties for Rock God Quinn Blake.  This is not only a turning point in her professional career but a massive turning point for her private life too.

The sensible, cultivated and pragmatic side of George tells her not to become involved with Quinn but her heart, the person she has suppressed for so long, is telling her she just can’t let him go and it seems that Quinn feels the same too.  The tussle of conscience about what they want to do and what they should do begins but with so many secrets involved on both sides can they ever find happiness?

Strings Attached moves at a good pace and although is told mostly from George’s point of view, we do get a look into the mind of Quinn too.  Getting two sides to the story is something I personally really enjoy.  The plot has been very well thought out with twists and turns and gradual revelations allowing the reader to get to know and understand the reasons behind the thoughts and actions of George and Quinn, not only how they relate to each other but how they relate to those around them.

The tension and chemistry between George and Quinn nearly frazzles the pages as you turn them but there are also moments of tenderness which really draw you in.  There is a good supporting cast of believable characters, each of them used purposefully with a point in the plot rather than being there just to make up the numbers.

I really enjoyed reading Strings Attached and personally think it is Mandy’s best book yet.  Mandy will be a visiting my blog next week, 11 November where I chat to her about the music behind the story.

Mandy is on Twitter and has her own blog spot www.mandybaggot.webs.com