Here in the Southern hemisphere, it has been a long- wet winter. We are just beginning to think about Spring. Instead of grey clouds, there is sunshine and the promise of the new season. The daffodils and grape hyacinths have brightened my garden and mood, as I relish the rare sunny days. Those long chilly evenings have been perfect for reading, with TV offering few distractions. I’ve also been dipping into some research for my next stories, but I can’t tell you about that just yet!
The proof copy of my novella A Scandalous Woman has been checked and returned ready for the Swain Cove Sexy Scandals launch on October 15th. Swain Cove is a fictional Cornish village where smuggling is the main occupation. Sexy Scandals is a warm-to-steamy collection of stories. For those who prefer their romance sweet, The Sweet Delights of Swain Cove will launch on 15th November. Save those dates and don’t forget to preorder your copy while it’s currently 99c but the price will increase once its launch day to $4.99
Miss Amelia’s Mistletoe Marquess by Jenni Fletcher. Secrets of a Victorian Household 2.
The virtuous Miss Fairclough…
…now faces ruin!
Part of Secrets of a Victorian Household. When Amelia Fairclough had sought refuge in a blizzard, a brooding stranger had given her warmth and shelter. She’d even tried to soothe him of his demons in return. But as she scurried home at dawn, she was spotted! Now he’s in the parlour, offering to do the honourable thing. Surely she’d be a fool to turn down the new Marquess of Falconmore!
My Review. An impetuous decision will alter Amelia Fairclough’s life. She’s unwittingly ensnared the Marquess, who is now offering to marry her. She’d be a fool to refuse, but the proper man who makes the offer can’t be the man she met last night. Cassius was someone she could talk to and even be herself with. Exploring their relationship and the pull between love and duty. I found it an entertaining read.
The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Volume 2) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
A story where the character gets exactly what they want doesn’t make for good reading. But add villainous clashes, lost advantages, power struggles, and menacing threats…well, now we have the makings of a page-turner. Conflict is the golden thread that binds plot to arc, providing the complications, setbacks, and derailments that make the character’s inner and outer journeys dynamic.
Inside Volume 2 of The Conflict Thesaurus, you’ll find:
• A myriad of conflict options in the form of power struggles, ego-related stressors, dangers and threats, advantage and control losses, and other miscellaneous challenges
• Information on how each scenario should hinder the character on the path to their goal so they’ll learn valuable life lessons and gain insight into what’s holding them back internally
• Instruction about using the multiple levels of conflict to add pressure through immediate, scene-level challenges and looming problems that take time to solve
• Guidance on keeping a story’s central conflict in the spotlight and utilizing subplots effectively so they work with—not against—the main plotline
• An exploration of the climax and how to make this pinnacle event highly satisfying for readers
• Ways to use conflict to deepen your story, facilitate epic adversarial showdowns, give your characters agency, and infuse every scene with tension
Meaningful conflict can be so much more than a series of roadblocks. Challenge your characters inside and out with over 100 tension-inducing scenarios in this second volume of The Conflict Thesaurus. And for more instruction on how to use this element to enhance your story (and an additional 100+ conflict scenarios), check out The Conflict Thesaurus, Volume 1.
My Review. I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of The Conflict Thesaurus Volume 2. It is impressive the amount of thought that has gone into exploring each scenario. In real life, we are conflict-averse, but it’s an absolute necessity in fiction. This book is a wonderful avenue for exploring sources of conflict for our characters. Character’s responses to conflict won’t all be the same either. It’s a book that I will use constantly, to give myself more insight into broadening and deepening conflict and thus improving my storytelling
The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs
Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.
Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.
England 1837. Eliza Acton is a poet who dreams of seeing her words in print. But when she takes her new manuscript to a publisher, she’s told that ‘poetry is not the business of a lady’. Instead, they want her to write a cookery book. England is awash with exciting new ingredients, from spices to exotic fruits. That’s what readers really want from women.
Eliza leaves the offices appalled. But when her father is forced to flee the country for bankruptcy, she has no choice but to consider the proposal. Never having cooked before in her life, she is determined to learn and to discover, if she can, the poetry in recipe writing. To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-crippled father and a mother with dementia.
Over the course of ten years, Eliza and Ann developed an unusual friendship – one that crossed social classes and divides – and, together, they broke the mould of traditional cookbooks and changed the course of cookery writing forever.
This book is about so much more than food, although of course food is the central theme. There is the accepted harsh poverty of the times and the casual cruelty and intolerance from all levels of society. The Reverend Thorpe and his wife are not above shaming the poor. They recommend seventeen-year-old Ann for a post with Eliza Acton. In Ann’s family, her father is a drunk and her mother grows more demented daily. Ann has dealt with grinding poverty and hunger and knows her duty and faith. In her new job, she experiences unexpected kindness. Gradually the two women explore how to cook. Unusually Ann is literate and remembers when her mother cooked. I found Ann’s faith in the authorities of the Asylum sad and touching. Imagine what an achievement it was for Eliza Acton, a gentlewoman who had not cooked before to not only in teaching herself to cook, but to cook superbly. She explored not the poetry that had previously captured her imagination, but the language of food and made it her own. Before her cookery book, recipes were imprecise and hard to follow. She cooked and refined her recipes until she was satisfied, that they were as good as she could make them Her book was still in print until the early twentieth century. Many modern cooks reference her recipes.
The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook: 175 Super Easy Recipes Made Just for You by Joanie Zisk.
175 single-serving recipes for every solo chef who just wants a satisfying and delicious home-cooked meal for themselves.
Cooking for one is harder than it seems and it can leave anyone wanting to make a healthy, tasty meal either throwing out extra helpings or watching expensive ingredients expire. But it’s possible to prepare single-serving recipes that are full of flavor, easy to make, and economical if you have the right guide.
The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook allows you to make a fresh, delicious, home-cooked meal for one without creating a week’s worth of leftovers or leaving an abundance of unused fresh ingredients that quickly go to waste. Each of the 175 single-serving recipes are quick and simple to make and save you both time and money. And while the ingredients are common, the results are anything but. In addition to flavorful meals, this cookbook includes clever ideas of how to reduce food waste and source single servings of fresh ingredients.
With The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook, cooking solo never needs to be boring (or overwhelming) again whether you live alone or are just looking for a filling and enjoyable meal for yourself
My Review We have always preferred different meals, so I am quite used to making two meals at the same time. Over time though my recipes got boring, and I wanted to see what else I could come up with. I borrowed the book from the library. I thought it was well set out and easy to follow if you had never cooked before. There were a few recipes that I have kept notes of and will try. As I read a cookbook, I can sense what a recipe will be like and find it quite relaxing reading.
The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston
A new series about a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical adventure, reminiscent of Outlander
New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to launch a new series guaranteed to enchant her audience even more.
Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.
It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she’s confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.
While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.
With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, The Little Shop of Found Things is poised to be a strong start to this new series.
There are some books you want to read at a gallop to find out what happens, but equally, you don’t want the book to end. For me, The Little Shop of Found Things was such a book. Initially, I was unaware it was part of a series. Book two is now on my must-read list. There is a lot of potential in this story, both with the items that will speak to Xanthe to reveal more of the story and with the possibility of two conflicting love interests.
The Work Wives by Rachael Johns
How well do you really know the people you work with?
For work wives Debra and Quinn, it’s a case of opposites attract. They are each other’s lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don’t inspire them.
Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.
Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she’d never meet him again.
But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.
The latest novel by bestselling, ABIA award-winning author Rachael Johns will make you laugh, cry and wonder what secrets your friends are keeping!
I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of The Work Wives from Net Galley. In keeping with their terms, I am unable to post a full review just yet. I will say though that I thoroughly enjoyed it. More to follow.
Full Review. Where would we be without our female friends? Deb and Quin are unalike and yet they share a treasured friendship. When we spend so much time at work it’s good to have allies. Friends who will tell us when we are out of line or being self-destructive. Deb challenges Quin to do something she doesn’t want to do. In response, Quinn issues a challenge of her own. This takes each woman out of her comfort zone. Deb’s teenage daughter Ramona is demanding more freedom. While Deb has reservations about how far she can let Ramona go. Each is searching for something, love, security, family and belonging. Secrets and lies have a way of being exposed. Can everyone have a happy ending? Rachael Johns has produced another pacy and pleasing page-turner.
A Buccaneer At Heart by Stephanie Laurens (The Adventurers Quartet 2)
Unexpected love—plus passion, intrigue, and danger—challenge our hero to embrace his true nature.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens continues THE ADVENTURERS QUARTET, a riveting blend of Regency-era high seas adventure, a mystery shrouded in the heat of tropical jungles, and the passionate romances of four couples and their unexpected journeys into love.
After a decade of captaining diplomatic voyages for Frobisher Shipping, alongside covert missions for the Crown, Captain Robert Frobisher decides that establishing a home—with hearth and wife—should be his next challenge. But an unexpected mission intervenes. Although Robert sees himself as a conservative businessman-cum-diplomat and this mission is far from his usual sphere, it nevertheless falls within the scope of his abilities. As matters are urgent, he agrees to depart for West Africa forthwith.
To Robert, his way forward is clear: Get to Freetown, determine the location of a slavers’ camp, return to London with the information, and then proceed to find himself a wife.
Already in Freetown, Miss Aileen Hopkins is set on finding her younger brother Will, a naval lieutenant who has mysteriously disappeared. Find Will and rescue him; determined and resolute, Aileen is not about to allow anyone to turn her from her path.
But all too quickly, that path grows dark and dangerous. And then Robert Frobisher appears and attempts to divert her in more ways than one.
Accustomed to managing diplomats and bureaucrats, Robert discovers that manipulating a twenty-seven-year-old spinster lies outside his area of expertise. Prodded by an insistent need to protect Aileen, he realizes that joining forces with her is the surest path to meeting all the challenges before him—completing his mission, keeping her safe, and securing the woman he wants as his wife.
But the villains strike and disrupt their careful plans—leaving Robert and Aileen no choice but to attempt a last throw of the dice to complete his mission and further her brother’s rescue.
Compelled to protect those weaker than themselves and bring retribution to a heartless enemy, they plunge into the jungle with only their talents and inner strengths to aid them—and with the courage of their hearts as their guide.
My Review. Once again, I chose a book based on its title. In that, I suspect I’m like many other readers. And once again it was part of a series. It was relatively easy to fill in the gaps and the chart of characters at the front of the book was helpful. In my opinion, the book was more of an adventure than a romance although the romance was quite steamy.
Potions Are for Pushovers by Tamara Berry
It may have been a ghost that led Eleanor Wilde to set up shop in a quaint English village. But now that she’s established herself as the town witch, Ellie’s contentedly casting spells on anyone desperate enough—or gullible enough—to request her mysterious potions…
Selling mystical elixirs and tantalizing tonics is a pretty good way for a fake medium to earn a living. Or at least it’s Ellie’s main source of income—until a villager turns up dead. The cause? Murder by poisoning. And though Ellie’s concoctions don’t include anything worthy of a skull and crossbones, suddenly she’s the prime suspect. Her only recourse is to find the culprit who did do away with Sarah Blackthorne. No one liked the mean old battle-axe. But did anyone hate her enough to kill her?
It’s enough of a mystery to make Ellie hang up her witch’s hat and take millionaire beau Nicholas Hartford up on his offer to keep her afloat. Except Ellie is not the kind of woman to lean on a man—least of all a man she adores but whose place in her life is uncertain. Besides, Ellie’s taken on two young witches-in-training—apprentices if you will—and both of them are convinced a werewolf is the murderer.
Just as Ellie’s wondering if there really is something otherworldly going on, animals suddenly begin to disappear—including her beloved cat, Beast. Now Ellie’s on the warpath to uncover the wicked truth about the people and the place she’s only just begun to call home.
My Review. I found this an entertaining read. There was enough doubt and suspicion to cloud the waters. This is nicely abetted by the two teenage would-be witches and sleuths. Luckily, Ellie doesn’t allow their imaginations to quite run riot, although her imaginings are beginning to worry her. She is also fearful for her cat Beast.
Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews( Somerset StoriesTwo)
A swashbuckling, second chance Regency romance, inspired by the author’s love of Georgette Heyer romances, and of Henry Fielding’s eighteenth century novel Tom Jones.
She couldn’t forget…
Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nick is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nick escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nick never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.
He wouldn’t forgive…
After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful—and entirely convinced he’s someone else.
As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain the other? Or with a little luck—and a lot of daring—will he find a way to have them both?
A rollicking good read! Margaret is a spirited character and even under the watchful eye of Fred Burton-Smythe, her spark hasn’t been extinguished. Fred is complacently entitled- he knows that Maggie has to marry him. Their fathers decreed it and now Maggie is alone. But Maggie doesn’t want to marry Fred, not now, not ever. She knows him too well. When she meets Viscount St Clare, there is something about him that tugs at her memory.
A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers.
A young woman in Belle Epoque France is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist.
In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother — a witch — botches a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly binds Juliet to the artist through time, damningher to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history.
Luke Varner, the worldly demon tasked with maintaining this badly crafted curse, has been helplessly in love with his charge, in all her reincarnations, since 19th century France. He’s in love with Nora, a silver screen starlet in 1930s Hollywood. He’s in love with Sandra, a struggling musician in 1970s Los Angeles. And he’s in love with Helen, a magazine exec in present-day DC who has the power to “suggest” others do her bidding.
In this life, Helen starts to recall the curse and her tragic previous lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle…
A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of Witches, Outlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Initially, I found the book a little slow to start, but then I got drawn into the story which was both enjoyable and believable. I raced through Juliet’s story and Nora’s finding their stories added depth and meaning to the tale. Sandra’s story dragged a little for me, although it was good to see her connection to Luke. It’s a huge feat of imagination but sadly, the ending fell flat for me.
The Viscount’s Veiled Lady(Whitby Weddings 3) by Jenni Fletcher
A lady hidden from society
A viscount with his own secrets…
When Frances Webster meets brooding Arthur Amberton on Whitby shores, he’s a different man from the dashing young gentleman she once carried a flame for. But life has changed her, too. After a tragic accident left her scarred physically and emotionally, she’s led a solitary life. She cherishes their new friendship, yet she can’t help but hope Arthur sees the beauty within her.
My Review. Two damaged people meet and connect. One is externally scarred, the other equally badly affected, but carrying internal scars. Frances believes her looks preclude her from life, love and happiness. Arthur Amberton believes he’s no longer fit for society or for the title he holds. Meeting each other by chance they form a friendship, but could it be something more?
Sarah’s Gift( Waterfront 2) by Anna Jacobs
At the age of ninety-five, Sarah Blakemere signs her final will and testament, pleased with how it will throw the cat among the family pigeons. She has left her luxurious home in Mandurah, Western Australia, to two female relatives in the UK, on the condition that they live in the house together for a year. After that they can sell and split the money, but if either of them doesn’t last the full year, the next person on the list will be invited to try for the inheritance.
Will the experience do as Sarah had hoped and shake Portia and Fleur out of their ruts? And when they find another surprise bequest from Sarah, what will they do with it? Life-changing decisions lie ahead …
Easy escapist reading. A pleasurable page-turner, in a modern-day Cinderella-like tale. Note: I hadn’t read book one and I was easily able to follow the story
The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife.
For centuries, the Tower of London has been home to a group of famous avian residents: the ravens. Each year they are seen by millions of visitors, and they have become as integral a part of the Tower as its ancient stones. But their role is even more important than that—legend has it that if the ravens should ever leave, the Tower will crumble into dust and great harm will befall the kingdom.
The responsibility for ensuring that such a disaster never comes to pass falls to one man: the Ravenmaster. The current holder of the position is Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife, and in this fascinating, entertaining and touching book he memorably describes the ravens’ formidable intelligence, their idiosyncrasies and their occasionally wicked sense of humour. The Ravenmaster is a compelling, inspiring and irreverent story that will delight and surprise anyone with an interest in British history or animal behaviour.
My Review. I was reading this book for research, but it is entertaining enough to read for pleasure. Christopher Skaife is a lively raconteur, with a way of informing and enlightening at the same time. Like all the Yeomen Warders he is ex-British Military. His attention to detail honed throughout his military career has allowed him to understand and bond with the ravens. There is no doubt of his affection for them although he is quite clear that they are not pets and he wants to retain their wild nature.
Looking forward to Spring.
I read thirteen books this month, more than I expected. Nine were a mixture of subjects, while four were Regency romances. The dismal weather and TV offerings helped increase my reading total.
I am fortunate to have a good local library, which I visit at least weekly. The changing book displays encourage my choices and allow me the opportunity to try books that I couldn’t afford to buy. They also provide me with surprise choices that I wouldn’t have picked for myself. It’s also possible to request books, which I frequently do.
Recently, I have been reading more Regency romance, but as my current work has now been submitted, I can return to more general reading. Cosy crime, mysteries, general fiction, and of course, romance.
While we in the Southern hemisphere are looking forward to Spring, for you in the Northern hemisphere it is Autumn. That too has its own pleasures, rustling through leaves, wearing cosy jumpers and eating warming soups. Cooking more, baked potatoes and roasting chestnuts. Looking forward to Christmas as the days get colder and the nights get longer.
Wherever you are happy reading!