Wednesday, 25 May 2016

I've got some explaining to do...


I'm aware it's been a fair old while since I posted on here and it's got to the point where I thought it was only right to update you on what's going on and why I've been absent. 

Firstly, 2016 started with a bit of a wobble for me. I'm not going to go into it too much, but lets just say that some big work and life changes didn't quite work out as I'd hoped and so my mood was drastically impacted. It still feels weird now to say that I was diagnosed with depression - I've never dealt with anything like it before and it always seemed like something that just wouldn't happen to me... but how wrong I was. I also felt guilty for how I was feeling - overall, life was pretty good for me and I felt that I shouldn't be feeling down - many people have it a lot worse and deal with it, so why couldn't I? As well as the guilt, I lost all enthusiasm for pretty much everything (yes, including reading!), couldn't concentrate, took to comfort eating and found myself bursting into tears a lot, for no apparent reason. 

It was a difficult few months but thanks to support from my amazing other half, family and close friends and attending counselling, my mood seems to have lifted and I'm feeling more positive. But this is where the exciting news I have to share comes in too! 

I realised that part of my problem was feeling a little lost in terms of work life. I'm 25 and had NO idea exactly what I wanted to do. I felt like I should have a plan, a goal or at least some sort of idea for my future... but I didn't. So when I reflected on what makes me unhappy in my current work, I realised it wasn't the job itself or working hard, but the office politics side of working for an existing company. Lots of personalities all crammed into one space, not having the freedom to do what you feel right, it all combined to make me feel the way I did. 

So this is where the idea began! After that revelation I knew I wanted to try something for myself - something that I have complete control over and will feel passionate about. The answer to that for me was easy - I've always loved baking and experimenting with recipes (I've been influenced a lot by my wonderful mum who is an amazing baker, as was my late Grandma). Being surrounded by all these talented women has always been inspiring to me and I knew that I wanted to create my own baking and catering business. 

Over the past few months, I've been busy researching all about the ins and outs of running a business, as well as learning about food businesses specifically. I've attended seminars and workshops, local events and talks, read books, spent A LOT of time online and done as much research as possible. Now, I'm about to start the business. As of next week, For the Love of Cake will be live, delivering tasty, homemade treats to people and businesses across Yorkshire. 

I know many of my readers aren't based in Yorkshire (or even the UK!) so I'm sorry that I won't be able to provide any goodies for you - I'm keeping things local while I find my feet - but I wanted to explain to you why I've been missing. I'm working full time while I start this venture (just to be safe and make sure I can pay my mortgage!) but who knows what will happen - all I know is that I now have a dream and a goal and something to pick me up when I'm feeling low. If any of you want to take a peek at the business, I'm on social media, and my website should be live next week (links below) and if you're based in Yorkshire and on the hunt for baking and catering for an event, party or meeting then please keep me in mind!

I guess I wanted to write this to let you know I back enjoying reading but I just don't have time at the moment to work full time, blog, start my business and live my life - something had to give and unfortunately, for now, that is this blog. I hope you understand and I hope that I'll be back book blogging at some point! 

I'll finish this note with some advice - just remember that your problems are your own, and you shouldn't compare yourself to others. If you are feeling low, it's important to talk to someone. Anyone. And, if you can, try and get to the root of your feelings. That way, you can try and do something about it. 

Twitter: @leedscatering 
Facebook: For the Love of Cake 
Instagram: @forthelove_ofcake
Snapchat: For the Love of Cake (lauraholds28)

Friday, 22 April 2016

Blog tour: One Moment at Sunrise by Karen Aldous

"Escape to the south of France with the irresistibly compelling new story from Karen Aldous – the only book you’ll need this summer!

Nothing will ever be the same again…

Evie Grant has spent two years hidden away in a quiet French village, longing to escape her beautiful villa with its blue-shuttered windows. Maybe this summer, the father of her child will keep his broken promises and return to whisk her away to another life. One way or another, Evie’s determined to stop feeling like his dirty little secret…

Yet when a mysterious stranger almost knocks Evie off her bicycle early one morning, her world begins to change in ways she never expected. Embarking on a painful journey of self-discovery, Evie begins to face her darkest fears and shatter her fragile dreams. But can she ever truly break free from her gilded cage and learn to love again?"

Okay so I have to admit, this is the first book I've read by Karen Aldous.... shocking I know! I've got her previous stories on my TBR pile, but for one reason or another haven't yet managed to pick one up. After reading One Moment at Sunrise I'll be reading them as soon as I can, as she is a fantastic storyteller that writes engaging and absorbing fiction that pulls you in from the first page. 

Evie lives a very controlled life in a small french village, where she is tucked away by her partner Seb. He keeps her as his secret, and she lives a very quiet and lonely life.  From the offset its clear that she's trapped and I willed for her to break free from Seb and make a life for herself and her daughter Charlotte. This element of the story did make me frustrated at times, as you just wanted her to stand up for herself and break away from Seb and his controlling nature. However, it's understandable why she's like that. She's been manipulated to believe that she isn't special and can't do anything without Seb, and you will for her to realise that. 

Tucked away with Evie is her young daughter, Charlotte. Her relationship with her daughter is one of my favourite elements of this story. Charlotte is such a cute character and it's obvious just how much she means to Evie. 

An accident on a bike sees Evie meeting Ben, a film director, who she strikes a friendship with following their run-in. Ben is a great character, warm and friendly and I loved seeing them become comfortable with one another and how he helps Evie to break out of her shell and grow in confidence. 

As for the location... Oh boy. Please can I head there right now? It's sounds absolutely amazing and so much better than drizzly old England. I loved that a secondary element of the story was finding out the history behind this quaint little place and Karen's wonderful descriptions make this place jump of the page and seem so realistic it's like you're actually there. 

Overall, One Moment at Sunrise is a lovely read. It's a gorgeous story with complex relationships, heartwarming discoveries and takes place is a gorgeous that captures you imagination from the offset. An absolute must read! 

Buy the book:

About Karen Aldous:

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine! Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and the USA would be her favourites. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in 'Karen's World'. She likes to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two!


This giveaway is for a £15 Amazon Voucher and a copy of the book as first prize and a copy of the book as second prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Blog tour: The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell

"Nine-year-old twins Abigail and Olivia vow never to be parted. But when Abigail goes missing from Blackwater Farm, DC Jennifer Knight must find her before it’s too late. 

Twin sister Olivia has been mute since Abigail’s disappearance. But when she whispers in Jennifer’s ear, Jennifer realises it is Abigail’s voice pleading to be found. 

A damp and decaying house set in acres of desolate scrubland, the farm is a place of secrets, old and new – and Jennifer must unravel them all in order to find the lost girl. But could Olivia’s bond with her twin hold the key to finding Abigail? And can Jennifer break through her silence in time to save her sister’s life?

My Review 

So you'll all know by now that I'm a HUGE fan of Caroline Mitchell. She writes addictive, gritty crime stories that have you on the edge of your seat. They also feature supernatural elements which, although not my usual choice in genre, work really well alongside the crime and mystery parts of these great stories. 

In The Silent Twin we are reunited with DC Jennifer Knight. She's now part of the Operation Moonlight - a secret section of the police that deal with cases which involve the supernatural. Her first case is high profile - a missing nine-year-old-twin.

From the very start I was hooked - the story is fast paced and most chapters end on such a cliffhanger you just can't wait to read the next page. The most interesting part of The Silent Twin was just how differently the family reacted to Abigail's disappearance. Jennifer Knight is assigned to be their family liaison officer, so as a reader we see first hand how they deal (or don't deal) with her sudden disappearance. Abigail's twin, Olivia, has been silent since she went missing, but Jennifer is able to communicate with Abigail through her, using her supernatural powers. Then there's the parents - Nick, who avoids Jennifer and seems to have a strange relationship with Olivia and the mum Joanne, who is far too cool, calm and collected considering her daughter is missing. 

It's hard to review this story without giving too much away, but the way that Caroline has structured it creates a gripping and massively entertaining crime story that will stay with me for some time. As usual, the balance of police investigation work and the supernatural is perfectly balanced - neither are overwhelming or boring and in fact are so realistic they draw you in further. 

This is the third book in the DC Jennifer Knight series and is absolutely brilliant. As I was writing this, I was trying to pick my favourite of the three to suggest, but I genuinely can't. They are all great and well worth a read. They can be read as stand alone stories, but I would definitely read all three if you can as they are brilliant! Caroline has released some exciting news this week about her upcoming novels and I cannot wait to read more from this super talented author. 

*A huge thank you to the publishers of The Silent Twin, Bookouture for an advance copy of the story in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: The Missing by C.L.Taylor

"When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire, blames herself. She's not the only one. There isn't a single member of Billy's family that doesn't feel guilty. But the Wilkinsons are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn't until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.
Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.
A mother's instinct is never wrong. Or is it?
Sometimes those closest to us are the ones with the most to hide…"

My Review 

So if you read my review of The Lie, you'll know I'm a big fan of C.L Taylor. She's the queen of gritty, suspense-filled thrillers, and The Missing is no different. 

The story centres around Claire, who are dealing with the aftermath of her son, Billy going missing. This is an intriguing and gripping topic for the story to focus on... you immediately want to know what happened, why Billy went missing and if he is dead or alive. 

The suspense is heightened at the start of each chapter, which focuses on a online chat between two anonymous people. It's not clear who they are (although I had my suspicions for one of the people from early on) but the way they talk has you hooked... it's obviously linked to Billy's disappearance and so it's another mechanism to try and get you to fit the pieces together. 

As you'd expect from the topic of this story, it's an emotional roller-coaster filled with ups and downs. You really feel for Claire, who is struggling to deal with the unanswered questions Billy's disappearance creates. She tries her best to keep her family together as one unit, but as everyone deals with the situation in different ways, she struggles to do so. C.L. Taylor has wonderfully crafted their emotions so you really feel their pain and will for them to get answers, even if it's not the answer they hoped for. I found this such an interesting plot and think that C.L Taylor executes it brilliantly - it's clear she did a lot of research to get it right. The emotions, the police procedures - its all expertly crafted and is so realistic it's easy to get lost in the story and so absorbed that you begin to forget it's fiction. 

I'll admit, I really wasn't sure how the story would end, but they way it does is so good. I obviously don't want to say too much and spoil anything, but you won't be disappointed. I don't think it's an obvious ending, I was surprised by it, but once you know what happened and who's involved you sit back and think 'ohhh, of course!'. 

As expected, The Missing is a brilliantly written, clever story filled with complex and intriguing characters that will hook you in from the very first page. An absolute must-read, but make sure you have plenty of time on your hands as you won't want to put it down!

*A big thank you to Avon, the publishers of The Missing for an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Blog Tour: The Wedding Date by Jennifer Joyce

"Will you…date me?
Delilah James, singleton and smoothie-addict, has six months to find a date for her oldest friend’s wedding. Oh, and to prove to her ex, best man Ben, that she has totally moved on since he dumped her out-of-the-blue nine months, eight days and seventeen hours ago…
So, with her two BFFs playing Cupid, Delilah launches herself into the high-tech, fast-paced and frankly terrifying world of dating. Luckily there’s the hot new guy at work, Adam Sinclair, to practice her flirting on – even if, as a colleague, he’s strictly off-limits!
Yet time’s running out and date after disastrous date forces Delilah to tell a little white lie – and invent a fake boyfriend! But will her secret crush on Adam ruin everything? Does she even care about Ben anymore? And is it too late to untangle her web of lies and take a real date to the wedding…?"

When I was asked to be a part of the Jennifer Joyce blog tour, I was thrilled. She is a witty, brilliant author and I was super excited to get my hands on a copy of her latest novel, The Wedding Date.

The Wedding Date lived up to expectation. It's an immersive, fun novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. The main character, Delilah, is leading a pretty stale life. Working in a boring admin job, living at home with her parents and still not over her break-up from the supposed love of her life, Ben, she's kind of coasting through life. When an old school friend invites Delilah to her wedding and announces Ben is going to be the best man and will be bringing his fiance with him, Deliah is on a mission to find someone to stand by her side during the wedding do.

The plot for The Wedding Date provides the funny and awkward situations you'd expect from it. We see a string of disastrous dates that had me cringing for Delilah and also get to see her come out of her shell a bit. Delilah is a relatable character, you fully understand how she's in the situation she's in and how she's really struggling with the idea of the man she loves not loving her back. Sometimes I did struggle with this aspect though - she's so determined to use her wedding date to make Ben jealous and ultimately win him back, which seems stupid when it's so clear he's just not into her anymore. I wanted her to be excited about the prospect of  a new romance, not using it to reconcile with her stupid ex. However, like I said.. that's a really relatable part of the story as so many people have thoughts and ideas like that when they go through a break-up. 

One of my favourite characters was Adam, the office hottie. He's funny and relaxed and brings normality to Delilah's otherwise crazy workplace. I loved seeing him and Delilah getting along - there's clear chemistry and I was willing for one of them to actually act on it.

The Wedding Date is an entertaining story that just makes you smile. It's addictive - you really want to see how things will turn out for Delilah and will her to do something that makes her happy. I enjoyed seeing her character develop and grow, Jennifer Joyce has a real talent at making loveable yet complex characters who you root for from the very beginning. This is a great easy-going read perfect to curl up with and relax. 

Author bio:

Jennifer Joyce is a writer of romantic comedies who lives in Manchester with her husband and their two daughters. Her latest novel, The Wedding Date is out now.

You can find out more about Jennifer and her books on:

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Blog tour: The Silent Girls by Ann Troup - book review

"Returning to Number 17, Coronation Square, Edie is shocked to find the place she remembers from childhood reeks of mould and decay. After her aunt Dolly’s death Edie must clear out the home on a street known for five vicious murders many years ago, but under the dirt and grime of years of neglect lurk dangerous truths.
For in this dark house there is misery, sin and dark secrets that can no longer stay hidden. The truth must come out.
Finding herself dragged back into the horrific murders of the past, Edie must find out what really happened all those years ago. But as Edie uncovers the history of the family she had all but forgotten, she begins to wonder if sometimes it isn’t best to leave them buried."

After reading The Lost Child, Ann Troup is well and truly on my radar. She has a great, descriptive writing style, able to build up tension and intrigue in a fast paced, well-thought through story. The Silent Girls does exactly that, it's a gripping story full of mystery. 

The story begins with a man being hung for the murder of five young girls. Fast-forward to present day and we are introduced to Edie, who is in the same town clearing out her deceased auntie's property. It's clear that the family has been fractured and distant of late and that she hasn't seen her auntie for some time. As she begins to clear the house, she finds things that begin to uncover  deep, dark secrets that cast a rather unforgiving light on Edie's family. 

I'll admit, I thought the story started off fairly slow, but after a few chapters the tension really ramps up, as does the intrigue. I was eager to find out what would happen next and this is a rollercoaster journey, full of twists and turns. There are many questions about the murders all those years ago, and if the right man was executed for the crimes. Just when you think you have an answer something else crops up to cast further questions on the events. Although towards the end I did actually guess the ending of the story, I still wasn't completely comfortable with my guess being correct right up until the very end- there's so many other twists throughout the story that I wasn't convinced I'd know exactly what was going on right until the last sentence. 

What stands out for me about Ann Troup's writing is her ability to create tension you could cut with a knife and mysterious situations that have you gripped from the offset. The description throughout The Silent Girls is meticulous and really builds up a picture in your mind of the characters, setting and events that make this such a thrilling, dark story. 

The Silent Girls is a fantastic, dark thriller jam-packed with tension and mystery. It's a great story to get lost in, and you'll want to race through it to find out what happens. Ann Troup is a master storyteller and someone who's books I enjoy immensely. I can't wait for more! 


*A big thank you to Jenny from Neverland blog tours for organising the blog tour, and Carina UK for providing a copy of The Silent Girls in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Blog Tour: How to Get Hitched in Ten Days by Samantha Tonge - book review

Meet Mikey, every girl’s best friend – he bakes the creamiest cheesecake, loves movie nights and is a great dance partner.
For Jasmine, Mikey is the perfect flatmate – he owns a 50s diner that turns out the best food around, gives the best bear hugs and amazing romance advice – after all they’re scoping out the same hot guys! So when her boyfriend proposes in the worst possible way, Jazz knows her best friend will be there to pick up the pieces with gourmet popcorn, Pinot sleepovers and a shoulder to lean on.
But Mikey isn’t about to let Jasmine give up on love, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to mend her broken heart – even if it means helping the one person who sees him as the enemy…
Because at the end of the day, all’s fair in the pursuit of true love… right?

When I found out Samantha Tonge was releasing a short story, I was thrilled. I fell for her writing style when I read Game of Scones (read my review here) and so was really looking forward to seeing what she'd do next. 

How to Get Hitched in Ten Days follows best friends Jasmine and Mikey. Jasmine is reeling after the terrible proposal from her long-term boyfriend Dave, and so Mikey starts to pick up the pieces. But, when he's asked by Dave for help to propose to her properly, they set aside their differences and embark on making a swoon-worthy proposal happen. 

I have to say this is where my only slight niggle with the story is, as Dave sounds like a brilliant boyfriend and, sure it's not wise or romantic to propose when you're very,very drunk but it's not like he's done anything terrible. Jasmine is offended by the proposal as it reminds her of her alcoholic, waste-of-space father which I kind of get, but I do think she should have cut him a bit of slack and remembered that she loves him. And why wouldn't she? He's fab and the character I warmed to most. 

Jasmine and Mikey's friendship is great - they're so close and comfortable around one another. Mikey is super-sensitive and a great listener, the perfect companion for Jasmine. It becomes clear that this could be Dave's problem - that her and Mikey are so close he feels like a spare part. Aside from the fact that Mikey is gay and so has no interest in Jasmine whatsoever. Their friendship was heart-warming and I really loved seeing the two of them interact and be so happy around each other. 

Seeing Dave and Mikey interact was also interesting and at times really funny. They clearly have their differences - Mikey thinks Dave has a problem with him being gay - so the mission to create a perfect proposal doesn't exactly run smoothly. This was my favourite part of the story, the two men getting to know each other better and understand why they don't get on. 

That leads me nicely on to explain why I really love Samantha Tonge stories. It's never just about romance with her. There's always an underlying, more serious issue going on. In Game of Scones it was about refugees and the crisis happening there, in How to Get Hitched in Ten Days it's about homophobia and Mikey still finding it hard to be himself around people. I found that really interesting as, in this day and age, I certainly forget that there are still people that find homosexuality a difficult thing to understand... it's an issue that's well identified and tackled by Samantha and really shows off her writing talent. 

How to Get Hitched in Ten Days is a brilliant short story that you should definitely read! It's heart-warming, funny and romantic- filled with great friendships, more complex relationships and topped off with Mikey's wonderful diner that I'd quite like to visit please, as it sounds delicious! A perfect story for Valentine's Day.... or any other day in fact! 


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Blog Tour: Review - A Home in Sunset Bay by Rebecca Pugh

Rebecca Pugh

Enough is enough! The always perfect Laurie Chapman had jumped in her car and raced as fast as she could from London heading to Sunset Bay and (she hopes!) the open arms of her estranged sister…
Mia Chapman loves running Dolly’s Diner in the picture-perfect coastal Cornish town of Sunset Bay. Now that her and Grandma Dolly’s dream is finally a reality Mia has never been prouder! Until Laurie suddenly turns up on her doorstep… How can she forgive the sister who walked away?
Once upon a time Mia and Laurie were best friends. Back together after so long, the time has come for the sisters to figure out what went so wrong all those years ago – and whether they can ever put it right!
An uplifting romantic comedy about sisters, friendship and the love of good food.

If you read my review of Rebecca Pugh's debut novel, Return to Bluebell Hill, you'll know I'm a big fan of hers. Rebecca is a fellow blogger over at Becca's books and someone I regard as an internet friend. I was blown away by her debut and so when her second novel, A Home in Sunset Bay landed on my kindle I couldn't wait to read it, knowing I'd be in for a treat.... and boy was I! 

A Home in Sunset Bay has a lovely premise and I really enjoyed the plot of this story. It follows Mia and Laurie Chapmen, sisters who lead very different and far apart lives. Mia is living out her dream running the amazing-sounding Dolly's Diner in an idyllic and small village, Sunset Bay. Meanwhile Laurie is living in London, struggling with a demanding job she doesn't enjoy. When she finds out her boyfriend has been cheating, she leaves behind London to reunite with her sister.

I loved watching their relationship unfold - the story delves into their past, and shows how close they were, but then how they drifted apart. Their relationship is fairly strained and complicated when Laurie first turns up in Sunset Bay and I was rooting for them to make up, as it's clear from the offset how much they both mean to one another. 

As individual characters, they are both great but I definitely had a soft spot for Mia. She truly believes in herself and is doing what makes her happy. It's so inspiring to read and, actually, really resinated with me on a personal level. I know this is a fiction novel, but it really makes you think about your own life - I couldn't help but look at Mia living her life to the full and doing exactly what she wants to do and be inspired by it. 

Which leads me nicely onto the centre of the story - Dolly's Diner. Oh my GOD I loved this as a setting for a story. It is amazing! First of all, there's the delicious, drool-enticing food which sounds amazing... I'll have a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milkshake please! Then there's the vintage-style layout... red leather booths and a jukebox. It sounds like the kind of place I want to visit and I can see why it captures Mia's - and Lauries' Hearts. 

Rebecca Pugh is a really talented author - her knack of producing fantastic descriptions without going overboard is second to none. She provides immense detail to really build up a picture in your mind, but without boring you to death. I loved her description of Dolly's Diner and Sunset Bay - it was like I'd been transported there. She really is one to watch and if you haven't read anything by her, I'd urge you to do so, quickly. She's absolutely brilliant and I'm so proud of her! 

A Home at Sunset Bay is a heart-warming, lovely story that has you racing through chapters to find out what happens. There's budding romance, a wonderful location as well as more complex and fractured relationships that you're eager to delve into. It's a realistic and engaging -  a story that will stay with me for a long time. 


Monday, 1 February 2016

Monthly Round-Up: January

So the first month of 2016 is behind us and, if I'm honest, I'm pretty glad. You may have noticed I haven't been posting on the blog as regularly as normal, but life has seemed to be getting in the way somewhat more than usual lately, causing a disruption to my blogging schedule. A new year brought a new job for me and it's taking some getting used to. I'm enjoying it, but on an evening I'm wiped out and the longer days mean I'm not reading as quickly as I was. I'm hoping now I'm settled and more into it I'll be back to normal soon - please bear with me! 

So, here's my bookish round-up for January. 

Books I've read:

What I've bought: 
A Kindle paperwhite! I absolutely love it. Up until now I'd been reading e-books on the kindle app on my phone... not ideal due to a small and bright screen. This purchase is a revelation and I am so happy with it. I'm going to be doing a post about it soon, so keep an eye out. 

Books I've bought: 
We are all made of stars, Rowan Coleman
The Secrets of Happiness, Lucy Diamond

Books  I've received:
Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel, Jane Costello 
The Perfect Gift, Emma Hannigan 

Netgalley Approvals: 
How To Get Hitched in Ten Days, Samantha Tonge 
My Map of You, Isabelle Broom 
The Silent Girls, Ann Troup

Book of the month: 

I always find this such a tough decision, but I love doing it as at the end of the year it means I can look back on some of my favourite reads. This month was full of amazing books that all helped me get through the January blues with a smile on my face. I absolutely loved You and Me, Always and The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me, but January's book of the month has to go to Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley. The story has stuck with me since reading and I keep daydreaming about the fabulous stately home setting of the story. An absolute corker of a novel that you MUST read if you haven't already! 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Book review: You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell

"On the morning of Lily's twenty-fifth birthday, it's time to open the very last letter written to her by her beloved mother, who died when she was eight.
Learning more about the first and only real love of her mum's life is a revelation. On the same day, Lily also meets Eddie Tessler, a man fleeing fame who just might have the ability to change her world in unimaginable ways. But her childhood friend Dan has his own reasons for not wanting Lily to get too carried away by Eddie's attentions.
Before long, secrets begin to emerge and Lily's friends and family become involved. In the beautiful Cotswold village of Stanton Langley, nothing will ever be the same again..."

Reading a Jill Mansell story is like a comforting hug. It's warm and reassuring, makes you happy and cheers you up if you need it. That's exactly how You and Me, Always made me feel when I read it earlier this month.

Picture the scene- Christmas is over. The decorations are down, mince pies are eaten, the back-to-work blues are setting in and everything's a bit... 'meh'. I wanted to read something I could get lost in and would life my spirits, and it didn't take very long to choose this book that was practically yelling to me from my kindle. 

The story follows Lily, who, on her 25th birthday opens the last letter from her mum, who passed away when she was younger. Before she died, Lily's mum wrote her a series of letters to open on her birthday, but this is the last one. In it, she talks about her first love (before Lily's absent father) which inspires Lily to try and find the man who meant so much to her mother. 

We also meet Lily's life-long friends Patsy and her brother Dan. I LOVED these two, I thought they were both brilliant in different ways. Patsy is brash and outgoing and I really enjoyed hearing about her string of disastrous dates. As well as that she's kind and caring and overall I think is a really great support to Lily. Her brother Dan is wonderful, he's a womaniser but is also funny and handsome, so you can see why! The three characters friendship is lovely to see... they'd do anything for each other and I thought this was the highlight of the story for me. 

Then there's Eddie Tessler, an actor who's seeking a bit of quiet time away from the spotlight. When he and Lily meet there's a spark, an instant fizz of attraction that has you intrigued from the offset. He's so different to Lily's small-town-girl life, which makes it so interesting to see how the two work out. I'm not going to spoil anything (what would be the fun in that!?) but I will say that although I'd guessed how this, and Lily's love-life, would turn out - I wasn't disappointed. 

Now, with Jill Mansell stories I come to expect a pretty, quaint location and You and Me, Always delivers on this front. The small village where Lily lives sounds beautiful and charming and captured my imagination from the offset. In such a small place though, everyone knows everyone and no secret is rarely left unturned. As the story progresses, you can see the tangled webs that have formed and discover some shocking secrets along the way. They're what make this story a bit grittier and absorbing - it adds a dynamic edge to a lovely romantic fiction story. 

Overall, You and Me, Always is a wonderful read. Packed with great characters, a pretty location, friendship, romance and secrets it's what you expect from a Jill Mansell novel and it certainly delivers. I think she just gets better and better each time and this is up there as one of my favourites. It's engaging, funny and emotional and picked me right up out of my January slump! Thanks, Jill! 

*A big thank you to the publishers of the book, Headline,  for an advance copy on Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Book review: Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley

"Holly Swift has just landed the job of her dreams: events co-ordinator at Wickham Hall, the beautiful manor home that sits proudly at the heart of the village where she grew up. Not only does she get to organise for a living and work in stunning surroundings, but it will also put a bit of distance between Holly and her problems at home.

As Holly falls in love with the busy world of Wickham Hall - from family weddings to summer festivals, firework displays and Christmas grottos - she also finds a place in her heart for her friendly (if unusual) colleagues.

But life isn’t as easily organised as an event at Wickham Hall (and even those have their complications…). Can Holly learn to let go and live in the moment? After all, that’s when the magic happens…"

For those of you that read my blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a HUGE fan of Cathy Bramley. I find it hard to believe that this time last year I hadn’t read anything by her, and yet now she’s up there as one of my favourite authors. Wickham Hall is her latest release, originally split into a four part serial like her other stories, and then released in a full paperback version earlier this month. When I heard the description for Wickham Hall, I was hooked. The story follows Holly as she lands her dream job - events organiser for the prestigious and beautiful Wickham Hall. 

First of all I need to talk about the setting for this fabulous story. Wickham Hall sounds bloody amazing! A proper stately manor home with gardens, a tea room and gift shop… it captured my heart as much as it did Holly’s. When I was younger I actually worked in a manor house in my local village and it certainly wasn’t as fun as working at Wickham Hall sounds - I’m jealous! I loved the community spirit the place has - everyone works well together and they become almost like a family which is lovely to see.

As usual, Cathy has created a heroine that you instantly warm to and hope everything works out for her. Holly is down-to-earth and relatable, a great trait for stories like this. When she gets the job at Wickham Hall - a place that has meant a lot to her and her mum for many years - I was thrilled for her, and that was after only reading for a few pages. Imagine what it’s like when you’ve got to know her through the whole story!

Although I really liked Holly, she does seem quite lonely at first. She lives at home with her Mum and has one best friend and no love interest. Now, I’m not in any way saying she has to have a love interest to not be lonely, but it’s clear her world is fairly small and closed - off. That’s what I loved about her working at Wickham Hall - seeing her make new friends, becoming part of a team and even finding a potential love interest.

That’s where Ben (or Benedict) comes into play. Oh, Ben. Straight away he peaked my interest and I warmed to him. He’s the son of Lord and Lady Fortescue, who own Wickham Hall,  and, with some reluctance from him, is next in line to inherit this amazing Hall. Sounds dreamy, right? Right. But the problem is he wants freedom - he’s a talented artist and wants to follow his passion, not be cooped up and taking orders from his Dad. For a ‘trial run’ he starts working alongside Holly in the events team. I loved watching the two of them interact and the chemistry is fizzing from the offset. Holly also tries to get him to see the opportunity he has ahead of him and how, actually, returning to Wickham Hall could be an amazing thing.

I loved getting an insight into her job as she settles into her role at Wickham Hall. The events organisation sounded so much fun and I loved her ideas. Fireworks night sounded beautiful and putting together a special calendar to sell in the gift shop really built up a picture of the place in my head and captured my imagination. Wickham Hall itself is the driving force of this story and one that thrilled me from the very beginning -I LOVED it.

Cathy also explores some different issues in this story, in a perfectly crafted way. From early on there are hints that all isn't well with Holly's mum, and as the story progresses its clear she's a hoarder. She can't let anything go and the small cottage is brimming with unecessary items. The way Cathy introduces this is seamless - it isn't spelt out to you as a reader, but hinted at... building up a picture. I thought this really showcased Cathy's amazing writing skills and also kept me interested as a reader. Her mum's issues also explain the organised and the need to be obsessively tidy from Holly - it's a way to counteract her mum's problem and almost done as a coping mechanism. A clever addition to the story and one that really showed the different layers of Holly's personality. 

Overall, this is another absolute corker from Cathy Bramley. She just gets better and better - creating beautiful locations, gripping and lovely storylines and fantastic characters that stick with you a long time after reading. Like in Ivy Lane and Appleby Farm, community spirit is a dominating feature of this story and I loved watching such a range of characters with different and vivid personalities work together. If you want a read that captures your imagination, warms your heart and leaves you with a smile on your face then look no further - Wickham Hall is what you need. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Cover reveal: The Dangerous Gift by Jane Hunt

Today on the blog I'm delighted to share the cover for Jane Hunt's next novel, The Dangerous Gift, published Feb 9th. 

Jane is the mum of one of my great Uni friends Megan, so I was really excited when she got in touch and asked me to share her latest cover on my blog as it's pretty swoon-worthy! 


After a tragic plane crash kills Jennie Taylor’s guardians, she returns to her childhood home—and her first love, Jared Stewart.
At just eighteen years old, Jennie had left the Unicorn Ranch in Texas to seek a life in the outside world. But she wasn’t just running toward independence. Heartbroken and confused, Jennie fled her home after Jared harshly rejected her on the eve of her birthday.
Now she must choose between making a new life on the ranch she has grown to love, or returning to her simple but empty life in England. The choice seems obvious at first, but nothing in life is simple…
Jared is forced to share control of his beloved ranch with the woman he wants but can't have.
When Jennie receives an anonymous note, she goes to Jared for support. But what she finds is more than she was prepared for, driving the two further apart than ever. When an old friend is murdered and suspicious accidents escalate, endangering Jennie’s safety, Jared becomes her reluctant protector.
Jennie knows Jared is hiding something, but does he really want her gone from the ranch? And if so, could he be the one behind the ominous threats?
Determined to prove Jared isn't involved, Jennie turns detective. Can she succeed in her courageous but reckless investigation…or is the truth a dangerous gift she won’t survive?


‘Writing has touched my life in every decade. At fifty, I took a risk and made writing my career, fulfilling a lifetime ambition.'

I enjoy writing blogs, book reviews and especially stories. Vivid imagery, atmospheric settings, strong females and sensual males are essential for my stories. Everyday life and ordinary people inspire me. How would someone react, if faced with something extraordinary? A thread of romance runs through my all my books, whether they be suspense, fantasy or historical.

I want to let my readers escape their lives for a while, experience new places, new people and most importantly, new emotional lows and highs My favorite parts of the writing process are; finding a person, event or place that makes me want to write a story about it and the writing itself; when your fingers cannot type fast enough, to transcribe your thoughts.

Family is very important to me. My two children are my greatest achievement to date.

I am an animal welfare supporter and regularly use social media to promote animal welfare issues.