Review: The Fixer-Upper by Phoebe MacLeod

The Fixer Upper

About the book, The Fixer-Upper The Fixer Upper cover

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Boldwood Books (February 3, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 288 pages

Finding a man is like buying a house: sometimes you have to look beyond the exterior to see the potential underneath.

As an estate agent, Alex’s job is to create happy-ever-afters. It’s just a shame she can’t work the same magic on her own life. Her long-term boyfriend Thomas still lives with his mother, and her hopes of them taking the next step are dashed when he announces he’s spending all his savings (savings she’d quite hoped he’d want to put towards their future home) on an ‘artist retreat’ in San Francisco.

With Thomas thousands of miles away, getting a little too friendly with his fellow artistes, Alex strikes up a friendship with her new neighbour, Callum. Taciturn, grumpy and nerdy, Callum couldn’t be more different to Alex’s bubbly personality…. So why is he the one she wakes up wanting to talk to?

As they get to know each other, Alex starts to wonder if the answer to all her problems might be closer to home than she thinks…

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About the author, Phoebe MacLeod PhoebeAvatar

Phoebe MacLeod is the author of several popular laugh-out-loud romantic comedies. She mainly sets her books in her home county of Kent and her first new title for Boldwood will be published in November 2022. They will also be republishing her existing titles from August this year.

Connect with Phoebe:

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

How refreshing it was to fall into the pages of The Fixer-Upper, Phoebe MacLeod’s latest romantic comedy, where friendship remains a pillar and shocking events don’t drive the plot. Rather, it’s a novel that lets us meet the main characters, sit with them a while, and watch them develop new and healthy relationships without any back-stabbing or scandal.

Alex and Emma are best friends who buy a flat together, and in typical rom-com fashion, fall for the boys next door – well, really across the hall. What follows is a sweet and often hilarious story about how confident real estate agent Alex and less confident Emma find themselves in a quest to find true – or at least lasting – love.

I enjoyed the tease of the title that persisted through the opening chapters, for the “fixer-upper” isn’t the flat that Emma and Alex buy. It’s their next door neighbor Callum, and even he doesn’t really need fixing so much as he needs a style consultant and a confidence booster.

Watching Alex process her changing feelings for her long-term boyfriend Thomas, especially after he moves to San Francisco for an artists’ retreat, is much like watching my own self in my twenties as I learned what I wanted, what I didn’t, and what wants were really needs, and it’s that universality that really makes this book shine. We’ve all had to re-examine our choices at one time or another. We’ve all had the focus of of our relationships change – at times the most important person is our best friend, while at other times it’s our partner. Those shifts are a normal part of our evolution into stable adults, and author MacLeod captures them brilliantly.

While I loved the Alex and Callum thread in this novel, and enjoyed the Emma and Mark thread, the character I felt was a bit underserved in this story was the other best friend, Michelle, who is a tower of support for Alex, especially when Emma’s focus changes.

If you’re looking for accidental sleuths, scandal, or mayhem, this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a relatable, feel-good romance with well-drawn characters who feel like the people you might meet in the local cafe, run to your nearest source of books, and get a copy of The Fixer-Upper. You won’t regret it.

Goes well with: coffee and anisette toast.


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Book Excerpt: Spanish House Secrets by Susan Gray

Spanish House Secrets

 

About the Book, Spanish House Secrets Spanish House Secrets Cover

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ UK Book Publishing (February 8, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 335 pages
  • Scroll down for an excerpt from this book!

In 2019 Grace’s memories from childhood are stirred by the sound of a melody. Her home in 1950’s England was a Spanish House. A house with secrets.

1920’s England…loveable, likeable Simon receives a letter on the eve of his twenty-first birthday. A letter that will change the course of his life.

Dainty, demure Olivia has so much to be thankful for: a doting husband, a beautiful house and a thriving business…but a nagging doubt. In the last years of the Roaring Twenties this doubt is compounded by the discovery of a discarded item.

Elise has known many harsh blows in her young life. Returning to her home in Madrid in 1922, she knows she must pick herself up and move on. Can she continue to live in this Spanish House? The arrival of a visitor creates a new dimension for her.

Spanish House Secrets is a story of love, life, loss, jealousy and forgiveness set in the twentieth century.

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About the Author, Susan Gray Spanish Sussan Gray

Susan Gray lives with her husband in northeast England. She has a son and daughter, both married, two granddaughters and a grand dog. After a career in primary teaching, she embraced retirement fulfilling her ambition to travel, attend Wimbledon and write a novel. She enjoys reading, walking, crafting, doing puzzles, catching up with friends over a coffee and being a gran. She has written several novels – Spanish House Secrets is the first to be published.

Connect with Susan:

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Read an Excerpt from Spanish House Secrets

Spanish House Secrets Excerpt

SIMON’S DOUBLE LIFE

Simon returns to his hometown in England, from his six weeks visit to Spain in 1922, where he has learned of his unexpected inheritance. His former sheltered life is now a thing of the past – but how much of his newly acquired wealth should he convey to his family?

 

Simon was never sure when his double-sided life began. He never set out to be secretive, but he just knew on that beautiful day in May, when he returned to Newcastle station, the Spanish side of his life must remain largely secret. Before taking the train to Loftam he needed to make some arrangements. So, he made his way to the premises of Hodgson, Smith and White where he had first learned of his legacy last autumn. The events of those months were mind blowing. His intention was to make an appointment with Mr Hodgson, but the lady behind the desk informed him Mr Hodgson was no longer with them, having retired due to ill health. His clients were being handled by another solicitor, new to the firm called Mr Adams. This information suited Simon, as he had found Mr Hodgson rather imposing. He made a future appointment with Mr Adams then took the train home to Loftam.

In the bubble that was Simon Guilder’s world, he expected a welcoming homecoming – a celebration meal and Serena jumping around eager to hear all his news. Instead, he entered an almost empty house – no father, no Serena, no cosy fire in the drawing room – only Mildred, in the kitchen finishing off the cold buffet for tonight’s evening meal.

“Oh, Mr Simon, it’s so good to see you, sit down – you seem to have been away for ages. I’ll get you a cuppa,” she said.

“Where is everybody?” Simon asked, grabbing a biscuit.

“Serena’s at the store, busy with her new venture, but I’ll not steal her thunder – she’ll be wanting to tell you all about it. Serena and Olivia have been in ecstasy – they’ve been like two busy bees – she only went home today.”

Simon stopped munching his biscuit and asked, “Olivia?” sounding very puzzled.

Mildred replied, “Oh, you must remember her, Mr Simon – she stayed over after the funeral with her grandmother. She lives in York.”

Olivia…Olivia… thought Simon, trying to sift through the many, many, people he’d met in recent weeks, and then there she was in his mind’s eye…an attractive young lady, someone he thought was worth a second meeting, something about her eyes intrigued him, as he recalled.

“Well, that’s me done. I’ll be off now,” Mildred called, retrieving her coat and hat from the hall. Mildred’s words pulled Simon back from his faraway thoughts.

“Your bed is newly made up and I opened the window to let some air in this morning. Cheerio. Mr Simon…it’s so good to have you home,” she called, walking out the back door.

Simon climbed the stairs to his room. The sun was still shining, and the garden was bursting with life, as he looked out of the window.

Everything was normal for Loftam…but in the six weeks since he had gone off to Spain, Simon knew life would never be normal for him again. This is where I take off ‘Spanish Simon’ and put on ‘English Simon’, he thought. Then he went to take a bath and change for dinner.

That was how Simon’s secret Spanish life started. He was never deceitful – just careful with the truth.


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Hang On To Your Bookshelf: a Guest Post from ElaineRobertson North, author of I’ve Been Waiting for You

I've Been Waiting for You

 

About the book, I’ve Been Waiting for You Ive Been EN_IBWFY_Front Cover Artwork FINAL

  • Publisher: Independently published (January 22, 2024)
  • Language: English
  • Paperback: 319 pages
  • Scroll down for a guest post from the author

Esther grew up with a violent criminal father and suffered the loss of her mother at just fourteen.

When her brother, Matt, turns up after another long unexplained absence he falls for Esther’s friend, Abi. Two months into their relationship, Abi is dead and Matt is missing.

Now Esther must do everything she can to find Matt but doing so means opening herself up to a past she has worked hard to escape.

Esther knows she has no choice and must act quickly.

Matt’s life could depend on it.

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About the author, Elaine Robertson North Ive Been Elaine Robertson North

Elaine spent twenty-five years working in marketing and communications in the media and entertainment industries. This included seven years marketing national newspapers, running the publicity campaign for three Red Nose Days and a number of years working in entertainment PR. She held senior communications roles at Capital Radio and UKTV, and latterly, she was the MD of a small marketing agency. It was all fast and furious and a fantastically rich source of material.

Having harboured a desire to write for many years, Elaine finally made this her focus once she’d hung up her corporate hat, publishing her first book, I Can’t Tell You Why in 2019. Her second book, Bring Me To Life, followed in 2022.

Today Elaine lives in North London with her husband and their two sons. When she’s not writing, she can be found looking harassed on the school run, on the side lines of her sons’ football matches, or singing her heart out with her local branch of Popchoir.

Connect with Elaine:

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Guest Post – Hang On To Your Bookshelf!

lesly-juarez-EW2cPMEp0mI-unsplashI’m so excited to bring you this guest post from Elaine Robertson North. All authors begin as readers, after all, and what to DO with all those books is a never-ending dilemma. After you read her thoughts on this very important subject, I’m certain that you’ll want to add her book, I’ve Been Waiting for You, to your bookshelf. I know I did!

I can’t imagine living in a home without a bookshelf, or more likely, shelves. Apart from an obvious love of books, my bookshelves tell a story of their own from my changing tastes in fiction to the poetry I love, and from my travel aspirations to the people who’s lives I’ve wanted to know more about. Without exception, all of them say something about me and my interests. I still have a small collection of my favourite children’s books too so those slices of wood that adorn my living room walls go way beyond a functional or decorative addition to the room; they hold a collection of memories, hopes and dreams, and so much more. In fact I can’t think of another collection of items in the home, other than perhaps photographs, where each one represents a physical link to a past moment in time.

I think the same goes for everyone who keeps and displays their books. The first time I visit someone’s house, I love a discreet browse of the bookshelves, knowing they will offer some immediate insight into that person’s personality and passions. There’s always at least one book that immediately becomes a talking point; a book you’ve read and loved, one you want to read but haven’t yet, something rare and beautiful that you’re almost afraid to even touch, and so it goes on.

These days, most of my reading is done on a Kindle so it’s a while since I’ve added a new book to a shelf which is starting to cause me concern. Is this the beginning of the end for my bookshelves? Will there come a point where they lose their poignancy and relevance? But it’s not just the way we read books that’s changing. Ebooks may be super popular, and audio books too, but paperbacks are still big business and are by no means out of style. In fact, I’m pretty sure sales of paperbacks still far outweigh those of ebooks. But one difference today is that we’re quite rightly encouraged to recycle whenever we can so lots of people I’ve spoken to no longer keep books they’ve read but instead pass them on to friends, or donate them to charity shops which is a great way to give a book a second lease of life and raise money for great causes at the same time. All very positive but once again, it does sadly mean less books for the shelf!

Recycling aside, there are of course other benefits to having a house filled with books. Lots of people find comfort in the presence of their old books. I read someone describing them like old friends which I particularly liked. And an extensive study found the mere presence of books in the home increases children’s academic success and also their vocabulary development which has to be reason enough to find room for a home library!

So if I promise to reread the books I keep every now and again so that they continue to serve a genuine purpose, I hope it’s still okay to hold on to them. I’m in no doubt that my living room would be completely soulless without them.


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Review: The Girls from Sandycove by Sian O’Gorman

The Girls From Sandycove

About the Book, The Girls of Sandycove

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Boldwood Books (January 23, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 328 pages

THE GIRLS FROM SANDYCOVE hi 4 boldwood.A mother and daughter adrift, a friend in need, and a village to call home…

When Kate O’Hare discovers she’s pregnant, she is determined to return to her hometown of Sandycove in Dublin.

On the other side of the Atlantic, her estranged mother, international superstar, Lola, is heartbroken following the loss of her soulmate, Paulie. On hearing Kate’s plan, Lola follows her, seeking a second chance at motherhood.

Kate discovers her best friend, Flora, is back in her childhood bedroom, her marriage and self-esteem in tatters following her husband’s public betrayal.

Flora now finds herself with no husband, home, or future, while her own mother Patsy is stepping out of her comfort zone into the world of interiors. Can Patsy’s new life reignite Flora’s talent and creativity?

And what of the O’Hare family secret which has the power to unlock a pathway to greater mutual understanding? And will music and the magic of Sandycove be enough to empower the women through such challenging times?

An emotive story of forgiveness, new beginnings and happy-ever-afters…

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the Author, Sian O’Gorman Sian O'G

Sian O’Gorman was born in Galway and now lives just along the coast from Dublin. She works as a radio producer alongside writing contemporary women’s fiction inspired by friend and family relationships.

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

This was my first “visit” to Sandycove, but it definitely won’t be my last.

In The Girls from Sandycove, author Sian O’Gorman has given us a story about mothers and daughters, exploring both the mother-daughter dynamic and exploring each role on its own. Her subject matter is universal, and her characters are relatable – who hasn’t run home to mom (at least figuratively) when their life has gone sour? Who hasn’t sometimes felt overshadowed by a particularly successful parent? (My own mother freely  admits that she prefers to always be the center of attention.)

So, this story of Flora and Patsy, Kate and Lola is written with realistic dialogue and mostly plausible situations. I liked that each mother-daughter pair had conflict but also drew strength from each other, and I loved that all of this was centered around Sandycove, a village “near Dublin.”

As someone who never really had a hometown, I’ve always been drawn to “hometown stories,” and this novel is no exception. There’s a special kind of magic in returning to the place where you grew up – nostalgic on one level, but a bit like a faded postcard on another – and O’Gorman has captured all of it, making Sandycove its own character.

If you like heartwarming family drama, strong female characters, and a story where people struggle but ultimately grow, read The Girls from Sandycove.

Goes well with: a sunny day, sandy feet, and sharing a bottle of prosecco with your mother, your daughter, or both.


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Book Review: Murder by Christmas by Lesley Cookman

Murder By Christmas

 

About the book, Murder by Christmas Murder-by-Christmas

  • Series: A Libby Sarjeant Murder Mystery (Book #25)
  • Publisher: ‎ Headline Accent (December 7, 2023)
  • Publication date: ‎ December 7, 2023
  • Language: ‎ English

Murder by Christmas

The twisting twenty-fifth instalment of Lesley Cookman’s much-loved Libby Sarjeant series

Libby Sarjeant is deep into rehearsals for the annual pantomime when a body is found in a doorway two weeks before Christmas – and Libby and her friend Fran are called into action once again, when their investigation leads them to a local brewery and the sale of many of its pubs.

With the help of a team of local publicans, can Libby and Fran unravel the case before it’s too late?

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Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the Author, Lesley Cookman Murder Tish's profile pic

Lesley started writing almost as soon as she could read, and filled many Woolworth’s exercise books with pony stories until she was old enough to go out with boys. Since she’s been grown up, following a varied career as a model, air stewardess and disc jockey, she’s written short fiction and features for a variety of magazines, achieved an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, taught writing for both Kent Adult Education and the WEA and edited the first Sexy Shorts collection of short stories, in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign. Lesley is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.

Lesley has also written pantomimes performed all over Britain, and published a book on how to do it!

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

I love a good mystery, and I especially love one set at Christmas time. The lights and trees always make such a great backdrop for committing crime. Murder by Christmas, the twenty-fifth book in Lesley Cookman’s Libby Sarjeant Murder Mystery series, is a good mystery with a holiday background. What’s not to love?

As someone new to this series, I immediately fell in love with Libby and Fran, the two women who must juggle Christmas festivities with the little thing of solving a murder. Having the crimefighters have to flit off and become pantomime fairies really made the pacing interesting in this novel, but it also added some touches of humor. I liked their relationship, and I liked the way they teased and snarked at each other, and with their friend Ian the policeman, the way good friends can, and do, even in the midst of serious work. I also liked the story involving local pub owners. Pubs are one of those quintessentially British institutions that really enhance the scene in a novel like this, and I was ready to pull up a chair and have a pint.

There are a ton of background characters, cameo characters, townspeople, and pub-goers in this novel, all grounding it with a real sense of place. It felt like some of this cast were familiar to the main characters, and likely recur throughout the series, but even without knowing their extended stories, I had no trouble following who was who.

If your idea of a perfect Christmas read involves horses doing tricks, performing in an annual production, and solving a murder, this book is perfect for your next fireside read. It has snappy dialogue, great pacing, and a plot that kept me guessing until the end.

I listened to the audio book as well as reading the text, and thoroughly enjoyed the narration by Patience Tomlinson. She really made this already-multidimensional story come alive.

Goes well with: mince pie and a piping hot cup of coffee laced with whisky.

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Review: The Library Girls of the East End by Patricia McBride

The Library Girls of the East End

About the book, The Library Girls of the East End The_Library_Girls_Of_The_East_End_e-book

  • Publisher: Boldwood Books (November 27, 2023)
  • Language: English
  • Paperback: 248 pages

1940, London

When Cordelia accepts the post of head librarian in Silver Town Library, her mother is more than a little disapproving. The East End has high levels of poverty and illiteracy, and her mother says it’s no place for a woman of her status.

But Cordelia is determined to make a difference in these times of strife, and along with her colleagues, Jane and Mavis, she begins to help the local community, making sure everyone knows what the library can offer them.

And maybe even a romance will blossom, giving Cordelia the strength to make it through the chaos and destruction that constantly threatens their livelihood.

Against a background of war, air raids and rationing, it becomes clear the library is more than a building filled with books – it is the beating heart of a community refusing to be torn apart.

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About the author, Patricia McBride IMG_6301

Patricia McBride is the author of the very popular Lily Baker historical saga series. She is now writing a new WW2 series for Boldwood, based in the East End of London during the Blitz, the first title of which, The Library Girls of the East End, will be published in November 2023.

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

As a child, libraries were my sanctuary, so I was excited to read The Library Girls of the East End, the first book in a new series by Patricia McBride. Set in the war-torn London of the 1940’s this novel is about three young women, Cordelia, Mavis, and Jane who all discover their best selves while working in the library.

Filled with romance, family drama, and the resilience of humanity this book is a lovely glimpse of a time that is getting further and further away from us with every breath. I loved that each of the three main characters had a distinct story and personality, and I applaud the author’s deftness at braiding them into a coherent whole. I appreciated that class differences were addressed, but never used as an excuse, and I was impressed that in addition to wonderful traits, every character also had a flaw they had to overcome.

Of course the library regulars – the Readers – were integral parts of the story. Whether it was the grumpy man who grumbled over the daily newspaper, or the children learning that books could take them beyond any walls, the community members provided the reason for Cordelia, Mavis, and Jane’s being employed at all, but also provided the tapestry against which the rest of the scenes were played. Without readers, after all, what good is a library?

In addition to reading the text of this novel, I also listened to the audiobook of this novel, which really made me pay attention to McBride’s flair for dialogue. Every character had a distinct way of speaking, which was reflected in print, but really sang in audio. Kudos to the narrator, Julie Maisey, whose pronunciation of the word “ate” specifically really made me feel immersed in the period of this book.

Overall, this is a satisfying read with three strong female characters at its heart.

Goes well with: mushroom risotto and a nice merlot.


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Review: Christmas at the Cabin by Rebecca Boxall

Christmas at the Cabin

About the book, Christmas at the Cabin Christmas at the Cabin Cover LARGE EBOOK

  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ November 24, 2023
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English

A festive, coming-of-age tale about an Oxbridge candidate and a young homeless man who find themselves in the bittersweet predicament of falling in love with exactly the right person at exactly the wrong time.

Well-to-do Jed never imagined he’d end up homeless, but family circumstances have made it his only option. Local vicar, Ben, tries to help him but there’s an element of self-punishment to the homelessness that makes Jed continue to put up with his situation – until disaster leads him to re-consider the vicar’s offer of a place to stay.

Hattie is on the cusp of adulthood, frantically trying to persuade her mum that she doesn’t want to attend an elite university, preferring the idea of pursuing her love of art and textiles. When she meets Jed, she badly wants to understand his circumstances and why, when she has everything at her fingertips, he doesn’t.

Hattie’s mum, Christine, has had a hard life and is desperate for more for her only child. When she meets Ben, the vicar who’s trying to help Jed, she finds an unlikely ally, and the two heartbroken souls find themselves drawn to each other. Until they find their relationship suddenly tested to the limit.

One thing’s for certain: none of these characters is looking forward to Christmas. It’s the worst time of year for each of them, for different reasons. But perhaps this year, the festive season could defy all expectations.

Rebecca Boxall is the award-nominated author of five bestselling novels – Christmas at the Vicarage, Home for Winter, Christmas on the Coast, The Christmas Forest and Christmas by the Lighthouse. She is also the author of Christmas at the Farmhouse and her popular short story, A Winter’s Day.

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About the author, Rebecca Boxall

Rebecca BoxallRebecca Boxall was born in East Sussex in 1977 and grew up in a bustling vicarage always filled with family, friends and parishioners. She now lives by the sea in Jersey with her family and Rodney the cat. She read English at the University of Warwick before she trained as a lawyer and more recently worked at a psychiatric unit.

She is the No. 1 bestselling author of Christmas at the Vicarage and Christmas on the Coast as well as the bestselling writer of Home for Winter, The Christmas Forest,  and Christmas by the Lighthouse, in respect of which she was nominated for the Romantic Novel Awards in 2020. She is also the author of Christmas at the Farmhouse and her popular short story, A Winter’s Day.

Connect with Rebecca:

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

Rebecca Boxall’s latest novel,  The Christmas Cabin is the kind of novel that balances an uplifting story with the gritty reality of contemporary life. Told in alternating first-person chapters from each of the four main characters, Hattie, Jed, Christine, and Ben, it a book that gives us four journeys of self-realization that intertwine to form a satisfying whole with just enough holiday warmth to leave the readers smiling.

Each of the main character is one melody in a literary medley that includes a coming-of-age story, a mother-daughter story, a second-chance story, and a second-chance romance, but none of those through-lines exists in a vacuum. Hattie’s relationship with her mother, Christine, influences her choices when she meets the homeless guitarist, Jed and his dog Lola. Ben the Vicar’s past relationships informs his behavior with Christine, whom he first encounters in a sidewalk accident, and later identifies as Hattie’s mother. Jed’s personal history affects his ability to accept help from Ben. And yet, in the near-perfect confluence of events in the days that lead up to Christmas these four people merge their disparate stories into a perfect holiday chorus.

What I loved about this novel was the fact that even though it’s very much a holiday tale, everything is grounded in emotional truth. Santa isn’t granting wishes; each character has to identify and achieve their own goal without magical help, but with the help of community and family, both biological and chosen.

Author Boxall has given us a perfectly paced plot, with vibrant characters. Especially deft is her use of dialogue. Hattie and Christine speak differently than Ben and Jed, even when those differences are subtle. Similarly, her descriptions are enough to let us imagine the scenes – the comfortable bedroom of teenaged Hattie, the crackling fire and cozy couches at the vicarage, and the bitter-cold streets of the Jersey streets. At the same time, though, because this is a Christmas story, the edges are softened a little, as if we’re seeing everything through a filtered lens..

Overall, this was a compelling read – I devoured it in one day – with vibrant characters who feel as dimensional as real people.

Goes well with chunky vegetable soup, crusty bread, and red wine.

Author Q & A: Snowdown at the Old Schoolhouse by Margaret Amatt

Snowdown at the Old Schoolhouse

 

About the book, Snowdown at the Old Schoolhouse

  • Publisher: Leannan Press (November 12, 2023)
  • Language: English
  • Paperback: 371 pages
  • Series: Glenbriar
  • Scroll down for Q & A

snowdown at the old schoolhouse CoverThey didn’t forecast this!

When charismatic and handsome weather presenter Marcus Bowman walks back into Willow Roxburgh’s life three weeks before Christmas, her quiet job as an admin worker at the Old Schoolhouse residential care centre in Glenbriar is shattered. He’s not only the man she used to crush on, he’s also the one who thwarted her TV forecasting dreams.

But she’s no longer the anonymous studio assistant; she’s secretly Scotland’s new favourite weather forecaster, Rocky Rainman.

With the Schoolhouse facing closure, Marcus is on an assignment to drum up festive support. However, he’s discovered the internet sensation Rocky Rainman lives somewhere nearby and is determined to expose him after Rocky’s recent damaging comments on social media. Seeing Willow, the girl he used to obsess over, shakes his priorities.

When a blizzard hits, Willow and Marcus are snowed in, and she discovers her perception of him wasn’t as accurate as her forecasts. Marcus isn’t convinced it’ll be a white Christmas, but he’s determined to win Willow’s heart. Can their new love weather storm if he discovers her secret? Because how can there be a future for Marcus Bowman and Rocky Rainman?

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About the author, Margaret Amatt Snowdown Margaret

Margaret is a Scottish author and chocolate lover who has been writing stories for over twenty years (possibly more if you count her primary school efforts). Her early works will never see the light of day and are locked in dusty vaults on some old floppy disks. But after all those years of practise, Margaret released her first novel A Winter Haven in 2021. This is the first of a ten-book series set on the gorgeous Scottish Isle of Mull. Margaret has also written six books in The Glenbriar Series with more planned for 2024. The stories are unashamedly romantic but with lots of drama and an eclectic mix of characters. Each book can be read as a standalone but followers of the series will enjoy catching up with the characters.

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Eight Questions with Margaret Amatt

Snowdown Q & A

Snowdown at the Old Schoolhouse is the sixth book in your Glenbriar series. I know it can be read as a stand-alone novel, but what key information would enhance the story for readers who haven’t read the preceding books in this series?

There are some recurring characters throughout the series. In this one, we meet Cha from “Two’s Company at the Forest Light Show” again and we are also properly introduced to Hayley the Glenbriar hairdresser. Hayley and her family will feature a lot more in future books. We also catch up with Malcolm and Brenda, who are some not-so-friendly locals and are up to more troublemaking in this story! Other than that, there’s no need to have read any of the previous books to enjoy this one. It’s just a case of feeling more familiar with the setting if you’ve read the previous ones.

The Old Schoolhouse in the title is a residential care facility. What inspired you to choose that as a setting?

I have a relative who works in a place like this. I was interested in some of the stories he told me about it and moreover the struggle to keep it going with all the budget cuts. The romantic in me wished I could come up with a happy ending for the place. I can’t do that in real life, but in a book, there are ways!

Rivalry-turns-romance is an interesting theme for a novel. What made you decide to give Willow and Marcus that history?

I think there’s an interesting dynamic in a relationship when the couple are rivals. In this case, Marcus doesn’t know who he’s up against, so it makes it even more intriguing as the story unravels.

For many readers, Glenbriar is as much a character as location. What do you love about small towns? What annoys you?

I love the familiarity of it and how I can drop in places and side characters, then revisit them fully in future books. It adds a sense of community and belonging. Both the Old Schoolhouse and Marcus Bowman have been ‘name dropped’ in previous books. One sharp-eyed reader messaged me and asked if Marcus was getting his own book! I honestly don’t know how she guessed that as it was literally a tiny scene where he’s on TV forecasting, but I think that’s part of the feel of the books. Even the most minor side characters feel important in the town.

The downside is that certain storylines just don’t work in small places and there’s also the danger of it becoming too claustrophobic and everyone knowing everyone’s business which doesn’t leave as much room for mystery.

The Glenbriar series involves intertwining characters. What’s your method for maintaining continuity? Have there been side characters who demanded their own stories?

Oh definitely! Like I said above, side characters often demand their own stories. The second book in the series ‘Just Friends at Thistle Lodge’ featured a side character from my other series, but her story didn’t fit into that series, so I saved it for Glenbriar!

I don’t usually have continuity issues as the stories are always standalones. Sometimes I have cross over events or books that start before the previous ones, then springboard into the present. I keep a timeline on a spreadsheet so I remember who did what when, but I try to make the books as individual as possible so there’s never any need to read previous ones unless readers want to (which of course I hope they do!).

Where do you write? Do you prefer the comfort of home or do you like to work in cafés? Do you need silence, or do you have music playing as you work?

I love working at home and I really need silence when I’m doing a first draft. This means I can only really do it when my son is at school and I’m not doing my day job. It definitely makes me focus and keep those writing hours sacred.

All writers started as readers. What books or authors are your greatest influences? What are you reading right now?

I enjoy a wide variety of books but in my genre, I think the biggest influencers were Pernille Hughes and Trisha Ashley. Currently I’m reading ‘Witch You Weren’t Here’ by Emma Jackson.

What’s next for you? Another Glenbriar novel, or an addition to another series, or something completely different?

I have at least three more novels planned for Glenbriar. These three are about the McBride family, a brother, sister and a cousin all with their own stories. As always, they will be interconnected but standalones.

I also have another project on the go but am not giving away the details just yet!

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Christmas Memories at Waterside Cottage, by K.T. Dady – Review

Christmas Memories Header

About the book, Christmas Memories at Waterside Cottage Waterside

  • Series: Pepper Bay (Book 10)
  • Publication date: November 1, 2023
  • Language: English
  • File size: 910 KB

Welcome to Pepper Bay, where you’ll find love, drama, and a happily ever after.

Snuggle down with this cosy, feel-good, comfort read that whisks you away to a beautiful bay on the Isle of Wight – Perfect for fans of Christie Barlow, Alison Sherlock, Rachael Lucas, and Holly Martin.

The Pepper Bay books are standalone stories that intertwine with recurring characters. Best enjoyed when read in order.

Christmas Memories at Waterside Cottage: Charlie and Grace have been together for four years, but when Grace wakes up in hospital after an accident, she doesn’t remember her husband at all. With Christmas just around the corner, and it being their favourite time of year, Charlie pulls out all the festive stops, hoping his wife will remember their relationship or at least fall in love with him all over again, because there is no way he can lose her.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, K.T. Dady KT Dady

Hello, I’m K.T. Dady. I’m the bestselling author of the Pepper Bay series. I’m also a chocolate lover, mum to a grown-up daughter, and a huge fan of a HEA. I was born and raised in the East End of London, and I’ve been happily writing stories since I was a little girl. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, baking cakes, or pottering around in my little garden in Essex, trying not to kill the flowers.

Connect with K.T.:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

Christmas Memories at Waterside Cottage is my first visit to Pepper Bay, but it definitely won’t be my last! While the title suggested a sweet, almost Hallmark-esque holiday tale, the book is actually a deep reflection of love and memory, and how each informs the other.

I really liked the character of Grace who wakes up from a three-week coma missing four years of memories. Author KT Dady did an amazing job of depicting her initial befuddlement, her ongoing confusing, and her journey back toward strength and confidence, giving her an excellent supporting cast in her Hot Doc husband Charlie, and her younger sister Molly, and the rest of their family and friends.

I really liked the way Dady kept this story grounded in emotional truth, and let the characters find their way organically, and I especially appreciated how graceful (no pun intended) and well-crafted the plot was – turning this novel into a sort of second-chance romance with a refreshingly original twist.

I don’t know how much the setting of Pepper Bay figures into the other books in this series, or if it’s merely a connecting point for all of Dady’s work, but the town felt real. As for the titular cottage – I’ll happily spend Christmas there any time I’m invited.

Overall, this is a holiday romance that manages to be warm and hopeful without any commercial schmaltz. Highly recommend.

Goes well with: Mulled wine and mince pie.


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The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic, by Breanne Randall – Book Blitz (Spotlight)

The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic

I’m so excited to be introducing Breanne Randall’s debut novel on Halloween! It’s the perfect read for a crisp, autumn evening. Pair it with sliced apples and sharp cheddar cheese.

About the book, The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic Cover

  • Publisher: Alcove Press (September 19, 2023)
  • Genre: Paranormal Romance
  • Length‎ 336 pages

For fans of Practical Magic and Gilmore Girls this charming debut novel and TikTok sensation is packed full of romance, charm and plenty of magic…

Revelare witches are cursed. As long as they use their magic, they are doomed to four heartbreaks.

So far, Sadie Revelare has experienced three – the devastating departure of her mother and the loss of her brother. And the most painful heartbreak of all: Jake McNealy, her first love. Ever since, Sadie has done everything she can to protect herself from more pain.

But now Sadie’s beloved grandmother is sick. And without her, Sadie isn’t sure she will have the strength to keep her family and her magic together.

As Sadie’s carefully structured life begins to unravel, Jake returns to town after a decade away. And in the face of a final heartbreak that could tear Sadie apart, she must decide once and for all: is love more important than magic?

The perfect read for anyone looking for a cozy and warm, witchy novel to curl up with this autumn.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Breanne Randall Breanne Randall author photo

Breanne Randall is a freelance writer by trade and an author by vocation. She graduated with honors with degrees in English Literature, Psychology, and Religious Studies, and her articles have been published in national magazines such as Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle et al. as well as regular contributions to sites such as Disney Family, SheKnows, Bustle, et al. A seasoned traveler, she imbues her stories with the magic and culture collected from the over forty countries she’s visited.

Breanne lives in the sleepy foothills of Northern California with her husband, two daughters, and a slew of farm animals. When she’s not writing, you can find her wandering the property searching for fairy portals or serving elaborate stuffed animal tea parties.

Connect with Breanne:

Instagram | X (Twitter)

 

The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic