Thursday, 22 June 2017

Blog Tour: Skin Deep by Laura Wilkinson

The Blurb
It’s what’s inside that counts…
Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.
Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything; Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.
Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within. 
Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what's on the outside counts for so much?
My Review

Appearance and acceptance are themes within this book, when we delve into the psyche of Diana. Classically beautiful, she hates that her looks earned her - or rather, her mother - money when she was entered into beauty pageants. She hated the feeling of being used.

Heartbreaking circumstances lead to Diana adopting four year old Cal, whose face initially terrifies her, rescuing him from a lifetime of being hidden away. She puts him on a pedestal, both literally and metaphorically, when Cal inspires her to produce provocative pieces of art, making her name.

There is no doubting Diana's love for Cal and she truly believes she is helping him, but there's a fine line, and Diana is danger of crossing it. Is she so different from her mother?

The writing is exceptional - the descriptions of student life in a seedy part of Manchester bring the setting alive. It's emotional without being over-dramatic, and is a gripping read. Seeing how the two main characters develop, along with their relationships both with each other and others around them is intriguing. It certainly reminds you that appearances can be deceptive, and how even though we know beauty is only skin deep, we still judge by appearance.

You can buy Skin Deep from Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith and other retailers now.

About the Author

Liverpool born, Laura is a taff at heart. She has published six novels for adults (two under a pseudonym) and numerous short stories, some of which have made the short lists of international competitions. Public Battles, Private Wars, was a Welsh Books Council Book of the month; Redemption Song was a Kindle top twenty. The Family Line is a family drama set in the near future, looking at identity and parenting. Her latest is Skin Deep. Alongside writing, Laura works as an editor & mentor for literary consultancies and runs workshops on aspects of craft. She’s spoken at festivals and events nationwide, including the Frome Festival, Gladfest, University of Kingston, The Women’s Library and Museum in Docklands. She lives in Brighton with her husband and sons.

Contact Laura: Twitter @ScorpioScribble Facebook: Laura Wilkinson Author Instagram: laura_wilkinsonwriter Pinterest: laura1765 Goodreads: Laura_ Wilkinson

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Blog Tour: The Accidental Honeymoon by Portia MacIntosh

Woohoo! I'm on the blog tour for Portia MacIntosh's new book, The Accident Honeymoon! Having loved Portia's previous books, including Truth or Date (see my review here), I just know I'm going to be snorting inelegantly with laughter again.

The Blurb:

What happens in Vegas…When Georgie discovers that her fiancé has been cheating on her, only a few days before her cousin’s wedding, her whole world explodes. Facing a romantic trip to Vegas alone, she decides to go out and have some fun…
…but Georgie never expected to wake up wed! And even worse, she can’t remember who to. So when gorgeous Jack reveals himself as her husband, she can’t believe her luck – he’ll act as the perfect wedding date!
Even if it is their very accidental honeymoon, surely the newlyweds can keep their emotions in check for just a few days more?
Don’t miss the laugh-out-loud romantic comedy from Portia MacIntosh, author of It’s Not You, It’s Them. Perfect for fans of Rosie Blake, Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk.


‘What have you got in here, a body?’ the hotel porter asks as he places my suitcase on the floor. 

‘Ha, ha, ha,’ I laugh politely, but the worried look on his face suggests he would actually like an explanation. 

‘I did a bit of last-minute holiday shopping on my way here,’ I tell him. Well, what I actually did was buy myself the best part of a whole new wardrobe. In an inexplicable moment of madness I bought everything I could get my hands on that was distinctly ‘not me’. I left home for my trip without the suitcase I’d already packed with my usual, demure, conservative clothing. Instead, I bought a new one and overstuffed it with short, low, brightly coloured, cheaply made alternatives. 

‘Good for you,’ he replies. ‘I thought maybe your fiancé was in there.’ 

‘Ha, ha, ha,’ I laugh again, this time a little more genuinely as I fantasise about John being stuffed in a suitcase. 

‘So, let me show you around the room.’ 

I glance around my corner suite at the Black Diamond Hotel. It’s still daylight, but even so, the view is amazing. The first thing I do is head towards the window to take it all in. 

‘First time in Vegas?’ the porter asks. 

I nod my head. 

‘I figured so when I heard your accent. Well, you’re in for a treat when it gets dark. This is one of our best rooms for admiring the view. This over here is your bathroom.’ 

The porter gestures towards a door. I pop my head inside. Both the floor and wall tiles are black, flecked with colourful sparkles that twinkle the second he flicks the light on. There’s a huge rainfall shower and an even bigger bath. Even the toilet is fancy with its silver mosaic finish, resembling a disco ball. 

‘It’s very nice,’ I tell him. 

‘And back in the bedroom, the mini bar and safe are down here.’ He gestures to a cupboard. ‘And the TV is inside this cabinet.’ 

‘Awesome,’ I reply, struggling to hide my indifference. 

‘And here is your bed, obviously. It’s a super king, with Egyptian cotton sheets. The rose petals were a request by your fiancé – you’re a very lucky lady.’ 

I smile as I reach for my purse to tip the porter. 

‘Thank you for all your help,’ I tell him, handing him some money. 

The porter takes it and thanks me, but he doesn’t leave the room. Instead, he hovers in the doorway. 

‘Is everything OK with your room, Miss… er…?’ he asks. 

‘Georgie,’ I reply. ‘And it’s great. Thank you.’ 

Still, the porter lingers. 

‘It’s just… you don’t seem very happy with it,’ he persists. 

‘Honestly, the room is perfect.’ 

He furrows his brow, unconvinced. 

‘Well, OK then.’ 

‘OK then,’ I echo. 

I force a smile, holding it only as long as it takes the porter to close the door behind him. Finally alone, I crouch down on the floor next to the inviting-looking bed and start picking up the pink and red rose petals that have been scattered around the room. I place the ones from the floor on top of the bed before scooping them all up together. I glance around for a wastepaper bin, but it turns out that’s the only thing this room doesn’t seem to have. There isn’t a bin in the fancy bathroom either. I just need these rose petals out of here. The sparkly toilet literally catches my eye, so I dump the petals inside and flush. I’m walking out of the bathroom when the sound of the toilet spluttering catches my ear. I glance back at it and realise I’ve blocked it, the water having risen all the way to the top. Brilliant, wonderful, marvellous. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse. 

I massage my temples for a moment, wracking my brains for a solution. I am a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man. Glancing into the toilet, full to the seat with water, completely out of my depth, I realise I might not need a man, but I definitely need a plumber, and it could well be a bloke. First, though, I need a drink. 

Seeing as I’ll be spending the entire evening in here alone, I may as well pillage the mini bar. I grab all of the tiny bottles of booze and line them up on the desk in front of me. 

I tap a finger on the bottles one at a time, trying to figure out which one to have first. I land on a miniature bottle of gin, remove the lid and toss the contents down the hatch. ‘Argh!’ I say out loud. I’m not usually one for drinking spirits neat. 

I cast an eye over the snacks in the mini bar, umming and aahing over whether to eat the honey-roasted nuts, the vegetables chips or one of the many bars of chocolate. I shrug my shoulders, grab them all and dump them down on the bed, but as I go back for the tiny bottles of booze, I notice something else in the mini bar. I take the can from the inside door and examine it. It’s some energy drink-looking thing called Ecstasy. I hate energy drinks, so I quickly return it, except, as I place it back down, I hear the contents rattle. What could it be? Not drugs, surely. This is a beautiful hotel, and they couldn’t guarantee their guests would keep quiet about such a thing. I cock my head with curiosity, taking the can back out. It’s black, with fancy red writing on it, and not a whole lot of other information. Curiouser and curiouser, I pop the top off and peep into the rabbit hole. Unable to make anything out, I pour the contents into my hand, only to cause them to spill out all over the desk. It all happens so quickly, but as the silver bullet inside bounces on the desk a couple of times, it activates the power and causes it to vibrate. The bullet pauses on the edge of the desk, but only for a second before the powerful vibrations send it flying off behind the furniture. As I take stock of the other items – a condom, a small tube of lubricant and a blindfold – I realise this is some sort of sex kit, and that the vibrator that came with it (no pun intended) is currently lodged behind this big, heavy desk, vibrating loudly against the wood. 

I move quickly, but it’s no use. I can’t reach it. Damn this stupid bodycon dress I bought today, that I can’t bloody move in. Thinking fast, I slip the dress off, allowing me my usual full range of body movements, and lean over the desk, reaching behind it to try and grab the offending vibrator. 

There’s a knock on the door. 

‘Just a sec,’ I call back. I can feel the vibrator with the tips of my fingers, but I just can’t get a hold of it. Just one big stretch and… oh God, my hand is stuck. My bangle is caught on the back of the desk. When I took off my clothes to try and reach, I never even thought about my tacky new accessories. 

Whoever is at my door knocks again. 

‘Coming,’ I snap loudly, in case they didn’t hear me the first time. 

If I can just wiggle my hand free and turn this thing off… 

‘Hello? Miss… Georgie?’ I hear the porter call as he opens the room door. 

‘Oh my God, what are you doing in here?’ I call back. 

‘You said “come in”,’ he replies. ‘I…’ 

He falls silent the second he lays eyes on me. 

‘I said “coming”,’ I say softly, attempting to bury my probably very red face in the desk. 

‘What’s… er…’ 

The porter is clearly lost for words. 

‘I’m stuck,’ I tell him simply. 

He rushes over and pulls the desk out from in front of the wall. I free my hand before snatching the vibrator, turning it off and quickly grabbing the bed sheets to save me any further embarrassment – as though that might be possible. 

‘“Come in”, “coming” – I guess it’s the accent,’ he says awkwardly. He glances around the room, taking stock of all the alcohol, junk food and sex aids scattered around. Having just seen me bent over the desk in my underwear, trying to retrieve a loudly buzzing vibrator, I can only imagine what he’s thinking. ‘Erm, anyway, I have some good news. I know you said everything with the room was fine. Anyway, I don’t know if that’s good old English manners or what, but I told the manager something wasn’t right and he asked me to give you this voucher for a fully comped three-course meal in our restaurant tonight, for you and your fiancé – and a bottle of champagne for now.’ 

He smiles widely and theatrically. 

‘Thank you so much,’ I reply, touched by his gesture. I tighten the bed sheets around my body – lest he see me in my underwear again – before taking the vouchers in one hand and the champagne in the other. I place them down on the desk before wrapping my arms around my body self-consciously. 

‘And here are some chips – on the house. We wish you and your fiancé the best of luck in our casino.’ 

I take the chips from him. As I glance down at the numbers, I realise I’m holding $1,000 worth of chips. 

‘Thank you.’ 

‘Are you having your champagne now, or are you waiting until your fiancé gets here?’ he asks. 

‘Oh, now,’ I reply, a little quicker and more keenly than I probably should have. 

‘Would you like me to pour it for you?’ he asks, although I can tell he wants to get out of this room just as much as I want him to. 

‘It’s fine, thank you. I can handle things from here,’ I reply. 

‘I’m sure you can,’ he replies – probably sarcastically. ‘Well, I promise not to bother you again in another ten minutes.’ Bloody hell, is that all it was?! ‘Is there anything else I can help you with?’ 

‘No, thank you,’ I reply. ‘Actually, yes, wait…’ I call after him. ‘I blocked my toilet.’ 

So there you go, readers! Go buy the book to read the rest of it - you know you want to!

Book Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Google Play | Goodreads

About the Author:

Portia MacIntosh has been 'making stuff up' for as long as she can remember - or so she says. Whether it was blaming her siblings for that broken vase when she was growing up, blagging her way backstage during her rock chick phase or, most recently, whatever justification she can fabricate to explain away those lunchtime cocktails, Portia just loves telling tales. After years working as a music journalist, Portia decided it was time to use her powers for good and started writing novels. Taking inspiration from her experiences on tour with bands, the real struggle of dating in your twenties and just trying to survive as an adult human female generally, Portia writes about what it's really like for women who don't find this life stuff as easy as it seems.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Monday, 12 June 2017

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The Blurb
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
 My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC of this utterly fabulous book. This is my honest review and I confirm I do not get paid for reviewing this or any other book.

Eleanor Oliphant is an extraordinary character. I absolutely loved her. I felt an immediate affinity as she prepares herself to meet a sexy rock star. There is no question that once he meets her, they will be together as a couple.

Of course to her, it is everyone else who is odd. Their reactions to her are as joyful to read as Eleanor's reactions to situations mundane to others. Her experience in the beauty salon had me in stitches. I love the way Eleanor makes us see how strange 'normal' people can behave. 

At first I presumed Eleanor had always been this quirky, but heartbreakingly it becomes evident that something happened in her childhood. But her blossoming friendship with Raymond has her emerging like a butterfly, even if she is reluctant to leave the safety of her cocoon. 

Raymond is a wonderful character, showing endless patience towards the woman everyone else just dismisses as weird. Slowly he shows Eleanor that not everything is black and white and that the world is a beautiful colourful place. It touched my heart in many ways.

I do love this book so much. It is such a warm, refreshing read - perfectly constructed. I highly recommend it!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is published by HarperCollins and can be bought here.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Blog Tour: The Gin Shack on the Beach by Catherine Miller

Being a fan of Catherine Miller's previous books, Waiting for You and All That is Left of Me, I was thrilled to be invited by Catherine herself to take part in the Blog Tour for her newest novel, The Gin Shack on the Beach. Her third novel was published by HQ Digital on 5th June 2017.

The Blurb
When octogenarian Olive Turner is persuaded by her son to move into a retirement home, she congratulates herself on finding the secret to an easy life: no washing up, cooking or cleaning. But Olive isn’t one for mindless bingo with her fellow residents, and before the first day is over she's already hatching a plan to escape back to her beloved beach hut and indulge in her secret passion for a very good gin & tonic.
Before long Olive’s secret is out and turning into something wonderful and new. Only a select few are invited, but word spreads quickly about the weekly meetings of The Gin Shack Club. Soon everybody on the beach wants to become a gin connoisseur and join Olive on her journey to never being forced to grow older than you feel.
A journey of friendship, defiance and a quest for the perfect G&T.
My Review

Ah, Gin & Tonic. That most refreshing of alcoholic drinks, with hidden depths and mysterious ingredients, each different make of gin having its own character. Just like this book!

I want to be like Olive when I grow up (if that ever happens!). This feisty eighty year old lets no one boss her around. She is fiercely independent, and likes her own space. After a fall, she agrees to go into a retirement home - not a care home - but is devastated when her son says he is selling her beloved beach hut. 

She soon finds new allies in her quest for the perfect gin in fellow residents Veronica and Randy, and the Three Amigos get up to some hilarious antics quite unexpected for people of a certain age. They certainly bemuse the local police. The theme of friendship and community is strong in the book, with Olive's beach hut neighbours rallying around her. 

There's mystery involving the despicable Matron, a woman full of her own self-importance. Can the Three Amigos bring an end to her regime?

There are poignant moments, such as between Olive and her son Richard, who appears not to care what his mother actually wants. The relationship is obviously strained, the reasons for which become evident later on.

It's a wonderful, heart-warming story showing that age should have no boundaries. 

I hope Catherine had as much fun researching her novel as I did reading it - I know I would have!


You can buy The Gin Shack on the Beach here. Alcoholic beverage optional.

About the Author

When Catherine Miller became a mum to twins, she decided her hands weren't full enough so wrote a novel with every spare moment she managed to find. By the time the twins were two, Catherine had a two-book deal with Carina UK. There is a possibility she has aged remarkably in that time. Her debut novel, Waiting For You, came out in March 2016, and her latest, All That is Left of Us, is out now.

Catherine was a NHS physiotherapist, but for health reasons (Uveitis and Sarcoidosis) she retired early from this career. As she loved her physiotherapy job, she decided if she couldn't do that she would pursue her writing dream. It took a few years and a couple of babies, but in 2015 she won the Katie Fforde bursary, was a finalist in the London Book Fair Write Stuff Competition and highly commended in Woman magazine's writing competition. Soon afterwards she signed with Carina. Soon after that, she collapsed in a heap and was eventually revived by chocolate.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Book Review: Obsession by Amanda Robson

One evening, a wife asks her husband a question: who else would you go for, if you could?
It is a simple question – a little game – that will destroy her life.
Carly and Rob are a perfect couple. They share happy lives with their children and their close friends Craig and Jenny. They’re lucky. But beneath the surface, no relationship is simple: can another woman’s husband and another man’s wife ever just be good friends?
Little by little, Carly’s question sends her life spiralling out of control, as she begins to doubt everything she thought was true. Who can she trust? The man she has promised to stick by forever, or the best friend she has known for years? And is Carly being entirely honest with either of them?
Obsession is a dark, twisting thriller about how quickly our lives can fall apart when we act on our desires.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Avon, for the ARC.

I read a lot of books - too many perhaps, when I should be writing my own. I've been lucky this year so far; most have been great, the occasional one was not, and then last night, one absolutely blew my socks off.

Obsession is compelling, horrifying, disturbing, gripping...

The story is told in turns by each of the four main characters, husband and wife Rob and Carly, and the other couple Jenni and Craig. Each of them is narrating the tale to one of the others, and it is thoroughly enthralling. 

I don't want to give any more of the plot away; because I think each reader should be as shocked as I was. Never before have I been so betrayed by characters in a book. They play with my emotions - at first I detested the seemingly brash, selfish Carly, but later found myself wavering between sympathy and revulsion, an unsettling mixture felt for each of the characters as they seek to disarm and deceive us. I simply did not know who to trust.

The story gets bigger and more terrifying, the characters becoming more and more awful and their actions even worse. Honestly, this book wrong-footed me so many times, I had to read it in almost one sitting (I had to stop at 2am then carried on again at 8am!).

I've heard it said that for a book to be successful, you have to fall in love with at least one of the characters. Well, Obsession smashes the mould.

Obsession is published on Kindle on 4th May and in paperback on 1st June by Avon and you can pre-order either from Amazon or other retailers.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Book Review: The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.
But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…
This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, Lake Union Publishing, and the author, Amanda Prowse for the review copy.

The desperation of one woman to have a baby is the overriding theme of this heartbreaking story. Lucy has the perfect life; a wonderful husband, Jonah, a cosy home, and a great career. The only thing missing is a baby.

Unfortunately Lucy seems to be unable to carry a baby to term; and we feel her sheer heartbreak when she miscarries. Miscarriages are fairly common, we are told, but the grief and despair felt by would-be parents can be all-consuming. The author writes with a great deal of sensitivity, with no mawkishness or huge drama, depicting Lucy as a strong, capable woman who has to suffer what so many women go through.

Her life is further complicated when Jonah's daughter. Camille, comes to stay with them. Lucy struggles to bond with the girl, who is so dismissive of her stepmother, but of course Jonah cannot see how cruel and rude his daughter is, alienating Lucy and making her feel even more useless in her ability to be a mother.

Her relationship with her own mother is a complicated one too, and their story shows how much families need to communicate.

The author has created a great character in Lucy; I just wanted to give her a hug! Jonah and Camille are both great in their supporting roles, the latter being wholly understandable as a stroppy teenager. It is undeniably an emotional read, but heartwarming too.

Motherhood can be so important to a woman, sometimes the very essence of being female, and when that is held back from you, it's hard not to feel inadequate. But there are other ways to realise your potential, even if it's not quite what you had mapped out.

You can buy The Idea of You from Amazon or other retailers.

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author who has published sixteen novels in dozens of languages. Her recent chart topping No.1 titles ‘What Have I Done?’, ‘Perfect Daughter’ and ‘My Husband’s Wife’ have sold millions of copies around the world.

Other novels by Amanda Prowse include ‘A Mother’s Story’ which won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the year Award and ‘Perfect Daughter’ that was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016. Amanda’s latest book ‘The Food of Love’ went straight to No.1 in Literary Fiction when it was launched in the USA and she has been described by the Daily Mail as ‘The Queen of Drama’ for her ability to make the reader feel as if they were actually in the story. 

Now published by Lake Union, Amanda Prowse is the most prolific writer of contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also score the highest online review approval ratings for several genres.

A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda Prowse is a regular panellist on the Channel 5 show ‘The Wright Stuff’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She makes countless guest appearances on BBC and independent Radio stations where she is well known for her insightful observations of human nature and her infectious observational humour. 

Become friends with Amanda on Facebook: AmandaProwseAuthor and follow her on Twitter: @MrsAmandaProwse or Instagram: MrsAmandaProwse. For more information on her books, lifestyle and inspirational advice see

Amanda's ambition is to create stories that keep people from turning the bedside lamp off at night, great characters that ensure you take every step with them and tales that fill your head so you can't possibly read another book until the memory fades...

Book Review: The Cows by Dawn O'Porter

COW [n.]
A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.
Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype.
Tara, Cam and Stella are strangers living their own lives as best they can – though when society’s screaming you should live life one way, it can be hard to like what you see in the mirror.
When an extraordinary event ties invisible bonds of friendship between them, one woman’s catastrophe becomes another’s inspiration, and a life lesson to all.
Sometimes it’s ok not to follow the herd.
The Cows is a powerful novel about three women – judging each other, but also themselves. In all the noise of modern life, they need to find their own voice.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, HarperCollins, for the ARC. All opinions are my own - I don't follow the herd.

The three women in this novel are very different to each other; Tara is a single mother, determined to balance caring for her child with carving an outstanding role within a male-dominated industry; Cam is a successful blogger, who finds herself vigorously defending a woman's right not to have a child; and Stella, who has always lived in the shadow of her twin and cannot escape it even after her death.

It's a sassy, sharply, written novel with predicaments every woman can probably identify with in some way or another. OK so most women wouldn't dream of doing what poor Tara is caught doing, but the repercussions should fill everyone with fear and dread that social media has such power in our lives.

Stella is grieving for her sister and mother, who died within months of each other from ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Stella needs a hysterectomy and mastectomy after discovering she has the same deviant genes. Her eggs, and therefore her chances of becoming a mother, are on borrowed time.

Cam is the opposite - she rejects the very idea of motherhood and relationships, but her views aren't popular with everyone.

These three women are brought together under the strangest of circumstances in a story which will have you laughing, crying, and raising your fist and yelling 'Hell Yes!' Or maybe that's just me...

The Cows was published on 6th April and can be bought from Amazon or other retailers.

Dawn O'Porter is a broadcaster, novelist and print journalist who lives in London with her husband Chris, cat Lilu and dog Potato. She has made thirteen documentaries about all sorts of things including polygamy, childbirth, geishas, body image, breast cancer and even the movie DIRTY DANCING.

Dawn has written for various UK newspapers and magazines including GRAZIA and STYLIST. Her first novel PAPER AEROPLANES was published by Hot Key Books in 2013. Although Dawn lives in London she spends a lot of time in LA and travels a lot. You may have seen her dragging two huge pink suitcases with broken wheels and a Siamese cat (Lilu) in a box through international airports. At some point she plans to get new suitcases - the cat, however, has a few years left in her yet. Follow Dawn at or on Twitter: @hotpatooties

Friday, 14 April 2017

Book Review: The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton

The Blurb
When your marriage falls apart, the last place you'd want your husband to move to is downstairs. Unfortunately for Sarah, up in the eaves at number 24, her ex-husband now lives one floor beneath her with his new wife. Their happiness floats up through the floorboards, taunting her.
A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?
The Spring brings a new couple to the house. Jane and Tom's zest for life revives the flagging spirits, and Sarah can't deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she'll never act on it ... but the air fizzes with potential.
The sunshine doesn't reach every corner of number 24, however. Elderly Mavis, tucked away in the basement, has kept the world at bay for decades. She's about to find out that she can't hide forever.
Juliet Ashton weaves a story of love, friendship and community that will move you to laughter and to tears. Think Cold Feet meets David Nicholls, with a dash of the joy of Jill Mansell added for good measure.
My Review

Thank you to the publishers, Books and the City at Simon & Schuster for the exciting exclusive extract and then to them and Netgalley for the ARC.

You see so many big properties, once so grand,  divided up into individual flats. I always think it's a shame; ripping the heart and character out of a home. But then it becomes home to more people, allowing room for more characters and their relationships to develop.

Number 24 is home to several inhabitants, including Sarah, and somewhat awkwardly, her ex husband and his new wife. The intricacies of such a relationship are explored, with Sarah desperate to win Leo back, and Leo himself doing nothing to dissuade her...

Then there's Mavis, a cantankerous old woman who lives in self-imposed poverty in the basement. When her sister dies, Sarah feels sorry for Mavis and decides no one can be that bad - apart from perhaps, Peck, the extremely foul-mouthed parrot.

Sarah is mourning the loss of her friend Smith, who Leo had ironically been so jealous of when he and Sarah were still married - until he left her for the glamorous Helena who had moved in. 

Suffering so much loss in her life, and having to prepare to move out of the flat she adores, Sarah's life is crumbling. She is a child psychologist, but has even lost her connection to children and is so full of self-doubt. She is intrigued by new neighbours, Jane and Tom, becoming friends with Jane but disturbingly attracted to Tom...

It's a lovely story of community, which sadly seems to be lacking in much of today's society, friendships, loyalty, love and self-worth. Some have too much, whilst others are severely lacking.

Juliet writes wonderfully comforting stories which wrap themselves around you like a hug. Even the sad or uncomfortable parts where people are suffering are a delight to read, because you know the story will pan out in the end, even if it's not necessarily in the way you expect - and this is Juliet's talent. Beautiful stories which draw you right in, with great characterisation.

Now when can I move in?

You can pre-order The Woman at Number 24 from Amazon or other retailers.

About the Author:

Juliet Ashton was born in Fulham and still lives in London. She writes under a variety of names, including her real name, Bernadette Strachan, and as Claire Sandy. She is married and has one daughter. Find out more at You can follow Juliet on Twitter @julietstories

Book Review: Then. Now. Always. by Isabelle Broom

The Blurb
Are you ready for an adventure?
Hannah Hodges certainly is. And so when she is offered the opportunity to spend a month filming a documentary in Almeria, a magical village hidden away on the south-east coast of Spain, she grabs it. Almeria was where she spent a large part of her youth; where she made so many of her memories, and her mistakes.
But now she is twenty-eight and this time it is going to be perfect. Because she is not only going with her best friend Tom but also with her gorgeous boss, Theo. And this unforgettable place with its snowy white buildings, mesmerizing sunsets and deep blue sea is the perfect location to make Theo finally fall under her spell.
But Hannah's past is everywhere she looks, Tom is acting strangely around her, and her awful (half) sister appears determined to ruin everything, again. Even from a thousand miles away . . .
Hannah has just a month in paradise to secure the happy future she knows is waiting for her. Will Almeria work its magic? And will that future look exactly as she always thought it would?
My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced reading copy. All opinions are my own.

Isabelle Broom's books should come with a warning on the front cover: ADVISORY: READING  THIS BOOK WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO BOOK A HOLIDAY RIGHT AWAY!

Ahh this book is so lovely. As ever, Isabelle immerses the reader in beautiful, warm and sunny surroundings, and reading this is the next best thing to being in the Spanish village of Mojacar. It's descriptive without bogging the story down with too much detail, but enough to evoke the sights, sounds and smells of the setting perfectly.

The characters are written equally well. I felt I was Hannah, and could see why she was so in love with Theo. 

The awkward relationship between Hannah and her half-sister Nancy is very poignant. Despite blaming Nancy for her father's indifference, Hannah still feels the responsibility of an older sister and feels she has to look out for Nancy - even though she annoys the hell out of her.

Then there's another fly in the ointment; the beautiful Claudette, whose flirty French accent and high maintenance winds Hannah up further. But then best friend Tom is always on hand to calm things down, but then he starts acting a bit weird too. 

Of course the main reason for them all being in Mojacar is to film a documentary which could make Hannah's career. She meets the wonderful Elaine, an artist who has adopted the Spanish village as her home. But there's more to her story than the artist's community which existed years ago.

Of course the inevitable happens in the end, but the journey there is not always straightforward, and it is a great fun read that had me pouring wistfully over travel websites.

Isabelle Broom has filled me with wunderlust yet again...

Now. Then. Always. is published on 20th April, and you can pre-order it from Amazon or other retailers. It's the next best thing to an actual holiday!

About the Author

Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts at the University of West London before starting a career first in local newspapers and then as a sub editor at heat magazine. Nowadays, when she’s not writing novels set in far-flung locations, Isabelle spends her time being the Book Reviews Editor at heat and walking her beloved dog round the parks of north London. 

Her novels My Map Of You and A Year And A Day (published by Penguin Michael Joseph) are out now. The third, Then. Now. Always. will arrive in April 2017.

If you like pictures of dogs, chatter about books and very bad jokes, you can follow her on Twitter @Isabelle_Broom or find her on Facebook under Isabelle Broom Author.

Blog Tour: The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett

Meet the new neighbours. Whose side are you on?
When Gav and Lou move into the house next door, Sara spends days plucking up courage to say hello. The neighbours are glamorous, chaotic and just a little eccentric. They make the rest of Sara’s street seem dull by comparison.
When the hand of friendship is extended, Sara is delighted and flattered. Incredibly, Gav and Lou seem to see something in Sara and Neil that they admire too. In no time at all, the two couples are soulmates, sharing suppers, bottles of red wine and childcare, laughing and trading stories and secrets late into the night in one another’s houses.
And the more time Sara spends with Gav and Lou, the more she longs to make changes in her own life. But those changes will come at a price. Soon Gav and Lou will be asking things they’ve no right to ask of their neighbours, with shattering consequences for all of them…
Have you met The People at Number 9? A dark and delicious novel about envy, longing and betrayal in the suburbs…
I'll be reviewing The People at Number 9 soon; in the meantime, I welcome the author, Felicity Everett, to the blog.

Guest Post: Where I find Inspiration - Felicity Everett

Inspiration is a slippery concept. I suppose if you look at my books, the answer to the question where does it come from, would seem to be my life. My first novel The Story of Us, is about five women, who meet at university in the 1980s, and about what becomes of them over the next two decades (I went to university in the 1980s, where I met some awe inspiring women, some of whom went on to great things, but not all…). My new novel, The People at Number 9 is about a couple who live a humdrum life in a London suburb, then meet some exciting new people who inspire them to make changes to their lives which they come to regret. I too lived a humdrum life in a London suburb. I also met some cool new people who made me see things differently. Fortunately I didn’t remake my life in their image, or come a cropper like the characters in my book, but the inspiration for the book was on my doorstep. The novel I am working on at the moment is a gothic psychodrama about a menopausal woman in a bad marriage who moves to the country and loses her mind. And yes, I am a woman of a certain age and I have just moved to the countryside. My marriage, I’ll have you know, is in very good shape! 

That’s what I mean by a slippery concept. I start off with something I know – a situation, a person. I tweak it a little, play a game of ‘what if?’ and it starts to get interesting. Before I know it, I’ve constructed a plot involving suicide and abusive celebrity marriage (The Story of Us); adultery (The People at Number 9) or marital gas-lighting (my new novel, as yet untitled). I’ve tried a few other scenarios – I was keen on the idea of a novel about a twenty-first century commune, but I couldn’t breathe life into it. I kept getting the characters mixed up – a sure sign that my heart wasn’t in it, so eventually I gave up. There’s no objective reason, really why that one should have flopped, and the gothic countryside idea should have grabbed me, as it has. All I know is, when the inspiration comes I don’t look it in the eye, I just crack on and write.

Thank you Felicity!

The People at Number 9 was published by HQ on 6th April, and you can meet them too by buying the book from Amazon and other retailers.  You can follow Felicity on Twitter @Ittymay

Friday, 31 March 2017

Book Review: This Love by Dani Atkins

The Blurb
Sophie stopped believing in happy endings a long time ago, but could this love change all of that?
Sophie Winter lives in a self-imposed cocoon - she's a single, 31-year-old translator who works from home in her one-bedroom flat. This isn’t really the life she dreamed of, but then Sophie stopped believing in dreams when she was a teenager and tragedy struck her family.
So, to be safe, she keeps everyone at arm’s length. Sophie understands she has a problem, but recognising it and knowing how to fix it are two entirely different things.

One night a serious fire breaks out in the flat below hers. Sophie is trapped in the burning building until a passer-by, Ben, sees her and rescues her.
Suddenly her cocoon is shattered - what will be the consequences of this second life-changing event?
My Review
Thank you to the publishers Simon & Schuster for the advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Oh, but that Dani Atkins knows how to tug at the old heart strings, even of a cynical middle-aged woman like me. She writes about heartbreaking situations with a sensitivity which goes deeper than typical Hollywood saccharine schmaltz. I start reading each of Dani's books with almost a sense of trepidation; I just know she's going to make me cry, and I'm going to enjoy doing so.

The story starts with a dramatic event, introducing the main character, Sophie, right in the midst of the flames. The way Dani describes Sophie's fear is very real, and I found myself holding my breath several times. I was drawn right into Sophie's story, feeling every bit of her grief and reluctance to let anyone get close to her.

Dani's characters are great. Ben, Sophie's random rescuer, is an angel (figuratively - not literally!). He is the perfect leading man; gentle, kind, and perfect for helping Sophie find salvation. The supporting cast is, as usual, excellent. We meet some beautifully written characters, who make us laugh and smile in equal measure, with their own back stories.

There is so much more to this story, but I don't want to spoil it for other readers. Just be prepared to be wrong-footed at every turn and to have your emotions toyed with by this fabulously tormenting author in her latest moving novel.

Never stop making me cry, Dani - you know I love it!

You can buy This Love here *

*Tissues Not Included

About the Author

Dani was born and brought up in Cockfosters - a small London suburb at the end of the Piccadilly Tube Line.

This served her well for commuting into the city, where from the age of 18 she worked in a succession of secretarial positions in companies as diverse as a BMW car dealership to the BBC. Dani spent her two hour commute avidly reading and dreamed that one day she would become an author herself. 

When her two children grew up and left home, Dani set about turning this dream into reality and devoted her time to writing. She now lives in a rural Hertfordshire cottage with her husband, a soppy border collie dog and a haughty Siamese cat.

Her first novels FRACTURED (called THEN AND ALWAYS in the US) and THE STORY OF US published in 2014. In January 2016, her third novel, OUR SONG was published. THIS LOVE was published in March 2017.

You can follow Dani on Twitter: @AtkinsDani and Facebook .

Monday, 27 March 2017

Book Review & Author Guest Post: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Today I welcome Alice Feeney onto my blog with a brilliant Guest Post about naming a character. But first, here's my review.

The Blurb:
My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.
Unnerving, twisted and utterly compelling, you won’t be able to put this new thriller down. Set to be the most talked about book in 2017, it’s perfect for fans of Behind Closed Doors, The Girl on the Train and The Widow.
My Review:

So, I saw this book on Netgalley, thought the premise was interesting; and started reading. Thank you Netgalley and publishers Harper Collins!

Oh. My. God. This book is quite brilliant, it really is. A psychological thriller that twists and turns and keeps you on your toes, and quite simply, I couldn't put it down.

The story is told from three different angles; Amber in a coma, flashbacks to the events leading up to her hospitalisation, and diary entries from her teenage years. I found these diary entries in particular to be very well written in the voice of a young teen, which contrasted nicely with the thoughts of the comatose adult Amber.

I was intrigued by the story behind Amber's accident, and I was kept guessing right up to the end. Her husband and sister are both regular, attentive visitors, but I never quite trusted either of them.

I loved the way the writer had Amber in a sort of locked-in state; she was able to hear and sense things going on around her, but no one knew as she was unable to communicate in any way. 

It's a really fast-paced story, full of intrigue. It's one of the best books I've read this year.

You can buy the book from Amazon, Waterstones and other retailers.

Author Guest Post - What’s in a name?

"I think about a story for a really long time before I’ll commit to writing it – my stories often spend months simmering away in the background before I begin, and that includes spending a lot of time with potential characters. 

I once heard someone say that they liked to audition their characters before they started to write a new novel, and that’s a really good way to describe it. You spend time with them, listen to their voice and have to decide whether it is a voice that is compelling enough for you to want to write it, and hopefully, later on, compelling enough for others to want to read. 

If I give a character a name, it means I’m really serious about writing them. There were several reasons that Amber was named Amber. Reynolds, her surname, came a few weeks later and felt completely right to me and so I started writing Sometimes I Lie.

I knew the beginning (those opening lines never changed from the very first draft), I knew a lot of the twists and I knew how I wanted the story to end. What I didn’t know, was what was going to happen in my personal life a little while later.

I had written about 20,000 words of the novel when we got the call to say that my niece had been born. It’s my first time being an Aunty, so I was thrilled and we rushed to the hospital. As I stood there, holding this perfect, beautiful child in my arms, with the whole family crammed into the hospital room, her parents announced that they were going to call her Amber. 

I hope that I smiled, but on the inside I felt awful. Amber, the main character in my novel is far from perfect and I immediately felt like I would have to change her name. But I couldn’t – she was already real for me. I then tried to change her behaviour in the book, but it didn’t work and, if anything, the things she did got worse. 

Other things changed during the writing process - new twists emerged and I came up with a new ending, but I could not change my protagonist’s name or who she was. It just wasn’t possible.

Writing is honestly the best job in the world and I feel so lucky to be able to do it full time now. Every day is a new journey. Some of the journey is so familiar to you by the time you come to write it, it’s like spending time with an old friend, other parts of the journey are a completely new adventure.

I do hope that if my niece reads Sometimes I Lie one day, she’ll forgive me for using the name Amber. Hopefully she’ll enjoy the book and they won’t have too much in common!"

Thank you Alice!

About the Author

Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 16 years at the BBC, where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Producer and One O’clock News Producer.

​Alice is a Faber Academy graduate from the class of 2016. She has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.

Sometimes I Lie is her debut thriller and is being published around the world in 2017.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Book Review: How Not to Fall in Love, Actually by Catherine Bennetto

The Blurb
A hilarious debut for all fans of Mhairi McFarlane and Lisa Owens. The perfect antidote for Valentine's Day! 
Life is 10% planning, 10% design and 80% totally winging it... 
Join Emma as she guides you through How Not to become accidentally knocked up at the age of 27, How Not to unceremoniously dump the father of your child, and then How Not to lose the job that (even though you hate it) is the only thing between you and being homeless...
Hilarious and heart-warming, How Not to Fall in Love, Actually will make you laugh, make you cry, and will reassure you that perhaps your life is not that bad, actually...
My Review

Thank you to the publishers Simon & Schuster for the review copy.

Emma's life isn't great. At the beginning, she has a job she hates but needs in order to support herself and her daydreamer boyfriend, Ned, who is full of wonderful ideas for the next best thing, but is actually pretty useless when it comes to working/housework/being a great boyfriend. Then she discovers she is pregnant, which is the catalyst for changing ...

She dumps Ned, walks out on her job and invites a random guy who turns up drunk on her doorstep to stay the night.

The book has a wonderful supporting cast. A self-obssessed mother, a sister doing charity work in faraway lands, one friend who eats men for breakfast and another who betrays Emma. Not to mention a psycho chaperone working on zombie-bra movies and the stranger who finds himself embroiled in Emma's chaotic world.

It's a genuinely funny book that had me spitting my tea out and laughing out loud. Emma is a hugely likeable character, and I was able to sympathise with her all the way through. None of the characters are annoying; even the 'villains' are so well written I relished their bad behaviour. 

It's a light-hearted read, despite the main character's predicament; any chance for self-pitying wallowing is blown out of the water by the crazy people and events going on around her.

It's a perfect rom-com and a highly enjoyable read. I think I have found a new author to love.

You can buy How Not to Fall in Love, Actually here.

The Author

Catherine Bennetto has worked as an Assistant Director in the film and television industry, working on shows such as The Bill, Coronation Street and Death in Paradise. She can generally be found travelling the world and spends her time reading healthy cookbooks (not necessarily cooking from them) or at the beach. How Not to Fall in Love, Actually is her first novel.

Follow Catherine on Twitter @cathbennetto.

Blog Tour and Review: Dangerous to Know by Anne Buist

Today the Blog Tour for Anne Buist's novel, Dangerous to Know, stops off at mine.

Thanks to Legend Press and Anne Buist for the advanced reading copy. All views are my own.

The Blurb 
Natalie King is back: back from a stay on the psych ward. Her reluctance to live a quiet life has contributed to a severe depressive episode, and now it’s time for a retreat to the country. A borrowed house on the Great Ocean Road; a low-key research job at a provincial university nearby.
But Natalie and trouble have a strange mutual fascination. Her charismatic new boss Frank is friendly, even attractive. But it turns out his pregnant wife is an old enemy of Natalie’s. And when Frank’s tragic personal history is revealed—then reprised in the most shocking way—Natalie finds herself drawn deep into a mystery. And even deeper into danger.
My Review

This is our second encounter with psychologist Natalie King (you can read my review of the first book in the series, Medea's Curse, here). 

Natalie has her bi-polar in hand (for now) after a stay on a psychiatric ward, but she treads a dangerous path when she ends up working for Frank Moreton. Frank is an enigmatic, attractive man, who has the somewhat unfortunate misfortune of losing pregnant wives. He and Natalie are both drawn to each other, but not in the usual way.

Jealousy weaves its way through the story, as wives, ex-lovers and members of an eccentric family all make their presence known. No one appears to be straightforward, everyone has their own hidden agenda, with the exception of the lovely Declan, Natalie's own therapist. I feel sorry for him, and it is obvious that Natalie respects him and wants to please him.

I found this second novel easier to read than the first as there were not as many technical details relating to the mental health profession - as promised by the author!

The plot twists and turns, as family secrets are revealed in this fast-paced thriller. It is a breathless ride along with Natalie as she is at risk of losing control of herself and the complicated situations in which she inevitably ends up embroiled. Natalie is one of the most interesting and complex characters I've ever met in a book, and I hope to be reading about more of her escapades.

About the Author:
Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and has over 25 years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry working on cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder.

She has published ten erotic romance- suspense novels under the pseudonym Simone Sinna. She is married to novelist Graeme Simsion and has two children.

Follow Anne on Twitter: @anneebuist

You can buy Dangerous to Know here (other retailers are available!).