One Christmas Star by Mandy Baggot / Blog Tour

Hi there! Today I am delighted to have Mandy Baggot stopping by with a guest post. Mandy is namaley back with her new release “One Christmas Star” that is receiving raving reviews – no wonder, as Ms Baggot is a real Queen of Christmas stories! Today however put your feet high and read about the power of hedgehogs! Yes!

 

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One Christmas Star –Mandy Baggot

The power of hedgehog

The main characters in my novel, One Christmas Starare schoolteacher, Emily Parker and troubled musician, Ray Stone, plus thirty-three ten-year olds at Stretton Park Primary School.BUT there are two little characters who havepushed their way into the limelight and have even scored a starring role on the front cover of the novel! Meet Olivia Coleman and Idris Elba –two of London’s declining hedgehog population.

Living in the countryside,I am really used to seeing hedgehogs all the time in my garden,soI never even considered that these cute little balls of spikes might be endangered. But, putting them into my book, a book set in and around Islington, London, I did some research about urban hedgehogs and was alarmed to realise how in decline they actually are.

Back in the 1950s there were over 30 million hedgehogs in London and now, scarily,there are thought to be less than 1 million. In fact,since the year 2000,the hedgehog population has declined by a third. This is huge! There are many, many reasons why this has happened, for example, less natural gardens (more decking and tidier grass spaces)and decline in their prey as we kill the beetles and slugsthat are their foodwith pesticides etc.But the London Wildlife Trust is doing their very best to tryto help.

In One Christmas Star, the children of Stretton Park add their sightings of the hedgehogs to an interactive map that helps plot where hedgehogs are livingin thecapital. This isso an accurate picture of activity can be established. This map isn’t something I’ve made up, it’s very real and it helps the London Wildlife Trust see theareas that need their help the most. You can find out more on their website and even download a booklet that tells you how YOU can help hedgehogswherever you live.

Here is the link:-https://www.wildlondon.org.uk/hedgehog-help

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Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman / Blog Tour

Hi there. Today I’m taking part in the blog tour celebrating the release of Lucy Coleman’s new novel, Christmas Under the Mistletoe. The book sounds fabulous and original and I am looking toward reading it, a bit closer to Christmas. Nevertheless, a short extract won’t do any harm, right, and so make yourself comfortable and enjoy!

 

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EXTRACT:

After another brief chat with George, I dig out my business card and we do an exchange. His bears the company name Proof Positive. Then it’s time to assemble my thoughts and get to work. George’s nose is in his book again and I leisurely glance through myhastily scribbled notes. I see that the first half of the page is covered with stray lines where my arm kept shooting across at an angle from a shove or a kick. Oh well, at least now I can write without threat of stabbing the pen into my own leg.

As the hours pass my eyes grow weary so I pack my notebook away and nestle back into my seat.

Unable to sleep, my thoughts wander. Cary Anderson is a very attractive man, I will freely admit that. Annoyingly, he has an inherently broody yet enigmatic appeal that, to me, is dashed the moment he begins speaking. It’s the tone he uses that comes across as arrogant and demanding.

With his short, curly brown hair and hazel eyes with a hint of green to them, he turns heads. He doesn’t tower over me at around five-foot-ten, some four inches taller than I am, but he carries himself with a sense of purpose. It makes him stand out in a crowd.

Or maybe it’s his passion for his work that gives him that air of absolute confidence; even though he’s probably only in his mid-thirties and young for a CEO. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Or people who won’t step up when it matters, and he is demanding, I can vouch for that fact. The other side to that, though, is that he makes things happen and expects those around him to do the same.

When his assistant at SPS –Solar Powered Solutions–initially made contact to arrange a meeting at their London office, the first thing I did was to look the company up online. They are one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of solar panels and remotely controlled wireless thermostatic controls. The SPS website was impressive and their mission statement grabbed my attention: profit from securing a cleaner future, today.

They have re-designed the whole heat exchange and absorption cooling system to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Apparently, it’s a game-changer as the installation consumes significantly less energy than anything else currently available. The resultant power savings mean that even a modest-sized home could expect a very good return, over and above the amount saved on their domestic usage, from day one

As with other systems currently on the market their combined installation can be controlled from a phone, iPad or PC. But they are offering a real option aimed at the mass market –the average man in the street who can now benefit significantly in the same way that the bigger users have in the past.

I will admit I was impressed and that was before I had the benefit of the many presentations Cary made at the Sydney Self-Build Exhibition.

He’s passionate about the need to reduce greenhouse gases and the damage it does to the planet, which is very commendable. If only he would climb down out of that tower of his occasionally, it would be easier to warm to him as a person. But maybe that’s the whole point. Keeping everyone at arms’ length is a clever way of remaining firmly in control and getting your own way.

I will be honest and admit I’m not looking forward to the eight-hour stopover at Doha Airport in Qatar. Cary and I will just be hanging around at the airport while we wait for the connection. That means making general conversation and, from what I’ve seen so far, that’s not something Cary’s inclined to do.

I find myself shaking my head at the thought.Settling back against the curve of the seat I feel too tired to sleep.

That wired feeling gives everything an edge and it’s hard to shut down. I figure that closing my eyes might help and while resting isn’t sleeping, it’s better than nothing.

 

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The Swap by Fiona Mitchell / Blog Tour

The Swap by Fiona Mitchell

 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 45180031._sy475_

Publishing Date: 19th September 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 304

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) 

Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

***The second novel from Fiona Mitchell, author of the stunning The Maid’s Room***

Two women. Two children. But whose is whose?

When two strangers, Tess and Annie, undergo IVF at an American clinic, their embryos are mixed up and each woman gives birth to the wrong child.

The women only discover the devastating error three years later. Tess wants to swap the children back; Annie doesn’t. As the pair wrangle, neither of them expect what unfolds.

my-review

 

In America, 3 years ago, Annie and Carl had IVF and became parents to a beautiful girl Willow. In the same place, at the same time, Tess and Matteo, who live in Surrey in England, underwent the same procedure and got Freddie. Freddie, however, doesn’t look like their other sons and has behavioural problems, and moreover, they opted for the gender selective IVF and were promised to have a girl. Tess has never bonded with her youngest, so when after an accident blood tests come back with the information that they couldn’t be Freddie’s biological parents, she’s not surprised. But what has happened? Whose child is Freddie? And can it be that Tess has daughter that she doesn’t know about?

I must admit it, I was waiting holding my breath to see how the story is going to end, what is going to happen. It was an unimaginable situation, I was all the time asking myself what I would do if something like this happened to me and I’ve never found an answer, this is why I was so intrigued to see which way did the author choose. The tension, the uncertainty were absolutely unbearable. That is, until one moment, a moment when something happened and one of the characters changed her mind, and I though, and? Is this it? For me, the story declined in this moment, lost it impact and yes, I felt disappointed. It’s a shame, because I was hoping for something different. I am not saying that I was expecting THE answer, because probably any answer would be the wrong one, I simply was hoping for something different after such thought – provoking, controversial story. I think i was waiting for a catastrophe to happen, for things to explode, for confrontations and decisions, and I think this is it what the story lacked.

 I was generally curious about this book. Being a mum myself I was interested in feelings and emotions of all involved – I wasn’t expecting drama, but real people with real emotions. However, it never moved above a certain level of emotions – and just imagine this whirlwind of feelings you will for sure go through after finding out that your IVF has worked only to discover three years later that you were given the wrong embryo and you’re raising – theoretically – a strange child. Right? Heart – break guaranteed. But the characters, Annie and Tess, weren’t easy to read and honestly they were a bit too emotionless about this whole situation, and it was really difficult to engage with them. They were both very different characters, Annie warm and inviting, Tess cold and unwelcoming but I couldn’t bond with any of them, not sure why.  And at one point I stopped feeling sympathy to these women. 

The writing style was lovingly adjusted to the story’s subject matter. It was delicate, subtle and never judging but clear and compassionate. The contrast and the differences between the families were sharply captured, making you think what would be better for the children. I was also all the time wondering how, actually, could it ever be possible to perhaps give up your child after bonding with them for years, because someone made a mistake? Yes, sometimes the narration felt too overdone, sometimes it was too descriptive or focusing on things that were irrelevant to me and the dialogues felt too artificial.

But it was not only a story about swapping embryos. It touched upon many other, heavy and difficult issues, such as gender selection IVF, child behaviour, grief, and altogether, it was impactful, challenging novel and the way the characters reacted, and how their reactions contrasted, added tons of dimension to it. It was intense and insightful and very well handled,  thought – provoking and not easy but different story that is going to make you think, to make your thoughts go overdrive.

 

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The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory / Blog Tour

The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory

 

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing 42931500

Publishing Date: 1st September 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 396

Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Berlin, 1989. As the wall between East and West falls, Miriam Winter cares for her dying father, Henryk. When he cries out for someone named Frieda – and Miriam discovers an Auschwitz tattoo hidden under his watch strap – Henryk’s secret history begins to unravel.

Searching for more clues of her father’s past, Miriam finds an inmate uniform from the Ravensbrück women’s camp concealed among her mother’s things. Within its seams are dozens of letters to Henryk written by Frieda. The letters reveal the disturbing truth about the ‘Rabbit Girls’, young women experimented on at the camp. And amid their tales of sacrifice and endurance, Miriam pieces together a love story that has been hidden away in Henryk’s heart for almost fifty years.

Inspired by these extraordinary women, Miriam strives to break through the walls she has built around herself. Because even in the darkest of times, hope can survive.

Rating:  four-stars

 

“The Rabbit Girls” introduces us to Henryk, on his deathbed, calling out an unknown name of a woman – Frieda. His daughter Miriam is intrigued, also finding an Auschwitz tattoo on her father’s wrist, and sets on finding the woman before Henryk dies. Enlisting the help of Eva, Miriam gets her to translate letters she finds in the dress hidden in her mother’s wardrobe, letters written in French and German. In the meantime, learning about the woman her father used to love once, Miriam is also trying to escape her abusive marriage to Axel, a controlling and violent man. Will Miriam be able to learn courage? 

I personally thought there is going to be more about the “Rabbit Girls” themselves, women that were experimented upon by doctors in the camps, although, on the other hand, perhaps it’s better that the story focused more on other things, as I rather wasn’t in a mood of such a sad, dramatic story. Actually, there was enough drama, tragedy and heart – breaking moments in this book to already make it poignant enough. Nevertheless, after reading the synopsis, you’re justified to expect more about this topic, and it’s only a tiny aspect of it.

 It was a very slow burner and it took me long to eventually settle into the book, and I personally think that what was holding it back was Miriam’s story. In my opinion, Frieda’s tale was the one that made the book and it’s sad that it was so much overshadowed by Miriam and her narratives. Miriam’s chapters focus mostly on her repetitive inquiry into the letters or her personal life, with all the problems, while Henryk’s are set in the past, telling us about his marital problems. It is a tale that feels like three different stories throughout three different time periods wrapped in one, but it’s not a bad thing. The chapters alternate between Miriam’s present life and her background, and Henryk’s past and here I found the changes in the narration and in the person (third and first) a bit confusing, but as I kept going it became easier and not so jarring. However, it eventually starts going, and then it’s simply impossible to put down. 

There are some of the things that doesn’t really ring true, and some of them happen very conveniently, but really, let’s just simply put our disbelief and scepticism away and enjoy the story with all its progressing mystery and dramaturgy. The end has tied everything neatly together and I liked the way it was done. 

“The Rabbit Girls” was a  story about love and about finding strength to fight for yourself. I only thing that perhaps the author should choose less things to write about, as then the story would be clearer and the characters stronger, but altogether, it was a heart – breaking, poignant novel about the abuse in the death camps at the end of the Second World War, a topic that I’ve often read about, also in memories, but each time it leaves me in pieces, and it was the same here. But it also deals with other topics, in the modern times, in Miriam’s marriage for example, and we can observe the menace of those different forms of abuse. Touching upon the caring for a dying father, the horrific tale of the camps and finally, Miriam’s abusive marriage, this beautiful story about hope that can change everything and redemption is truly worth recommending!

 

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If You Were Here by Alice Peterson / Blog Tour + Extract

Alice Peterson has let us wait two years for her new book but guys, the waiting was so worth it! She’s back with another cracker, heart – wrenching but also uplifting story that I loved from the beginning to the end. Thank you so much Alice for having me on the blog tour, it’s always such an honour! Today, next to my (a bit gushing, even if I say so myself) review, I also have an extract from the book – enjoy!

 

If You Were Here by Alice Peterson

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 44589427

Publishing Date: 22nd August 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 464

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘I can toast to my future, but the thundercloud over my head, the threat of a storm, will follow me like a shadow wherever I go. The truth is, I have a potential bomb in my bag, and who knows when or where it will go off’

When her daughter Beth dies suddenly, Peggy Andrews is left to pick up the pieces and take care of her granddaughter Flo. But sorting through Beth’s things reveals a secret never told: Beth was sick, with the same genetic condition that claimed her father’s life, and now Peggy must decide whether to keep the secret or risk destroying her granddaughter’s world.

Five years later, Flo is engaged and ready to pack up her life and move to New York with her high-flying fiancé. Peggy never told Flo what she discovered, but with Flo looking towards her future, Peggy realises it’s time to come clean and reveal that her granddaughter’s life might also be at risk.

As Flo struggles to decide her own path, she is faced with the same life-altering questions her mother asked herself years before: If a test could decide your future, would you take it?

An emotional, inspiring and uplifting novel about living life to the fullest, IF YOU WERE HERE will break your heart and put it back together. The brand new novel from the acclaimed author of A Song for Tomorrow, perfect for fans of Hannah Beckerman, Dani Atkins and Jill Mansell

Rating: five-stars

 

“If You Were Here”, another life – affirming story by Alice Peterson, introduces us to three generations of women. Peggy lost her husband to Huntington’s Disease, after years of caring for him and watching him deteriorate, both mentally and physically. Her daughter Beth, who we hear from through her diary entries after learning that she’s dead, following a road accident 5 years ago, was aware that her chances of inheriting the disease was fifty – fifty and who has done the test but kept it in secret, and who has been left in turmoil, not being able to decide if/when to tell about it her own daughter. And Flo, twenty seven years old, loving her life, setting to move to America following her new fiancé there. However, her life is shattered after discovering that her granddad and mother had Huntington’s Disease, and what consequences could this information have for her: she could also be a carrier and must decide whether to take the test telling her her fate. Flo is about to learn, not only about her family, but who her real friends are and, most importantly, about herself and her limits. 

Let me tell you right at the beginning – it was a beautiful, realistic story that had me hooked from the first page – I couldn’t put it down, to be honest, and was cursing life getting in the way, as I didn’t want to leave the characters’ world for a single second, and you’ll also not want to put the book away. 

The story is told from three perspectives, from Flo, her grandmother Peggy and through Beth’s diary entries, and I loved each of the voices, so strong and so distinctive. Alice Peterson’s heroines are always inspiring, and Flo is not an exception. It was heart – breaking to see the battle the two women, Peggy and Beth, had to endure, wanting to protect their beloved Flo, never finding the right time to tell her the truth, filled with mixed feelings and emotions. They were all so brave and strong, had their ups and downs, made wrong decisions and they simply felt so down to earth realistic, as well as the background characters. Each of them experiences the disease in another way but all of them are affected, and the author gives us a wide and deep glimpse into it. The feelings and emotions jump out of the pages, you laugh with the characters and you cry with them, I’ve kept everything crossed for them all and simply lived their lives together with them. Great part of this book focuses on heartbreak and guilt of not telling the truth, but you never judge the characters for it, you simply start to understand them and their choices, as the author gives them their own point of view. I loved how much the characters in this book supported each other – boy, you need such a group of friends and family in your life even when life doesn’t challenge you!

 It was again a book that made me think, and there were many moments when I found myself wondering, but especially one scene made me so pensive, when the first research study led to the possibility of real HD treatments in December 2017. Flo and Beth, sobbing on the phone with joy, their friends sharing the news – it actually gave me  goose bumps. For me it was such a normal day, I’ve probably haven’t even apprehended the news, and for people like our characters, and for real people all over the world, it is life changing information, giving hope. Here I am, sitting and enjoying my good health with exception of few bumps perhaps, not appreciating it enough, and here they are, crying from joy. I’ve been constantly asking myself what would I do if I were in the characters’ shoes, what decisions would I made, and I still am not sure. I was always thinking that I would like to know what future is going to bring me but now, after reading the book, I am really not certain. Actually, I am torn. Would I change the way I am if I knew I have some genetic disorder? Or would it make me back away from life? It really isn’t an easy decision to make!  

I totally loved the way the author has chosen to tell about all the pros and cons of being tested to find out if you have Huntington’s. She isn’t judging but she allows us a deep glance into all the possibilities, describing how many feelings and emotions are involved in it, how, in fact, hard and difficult decision it is. It so much depends on the person itself, while many live their lives without the need to know, there are others who simply must find out what fate has in store for them. Also, how much this decisions affects family and friends – written with so much understanding, gentleness and heart. 

The writing is, as always, beautiful but not too sentimental, and I loved it. It is also full of humour and the way the author balances it with the more poignant moments is absolutely perfect. It’s written with compassion and sensitivity, right from the heart and the amount of research that went into this book is clear, and I love the fact that Alice Peterson has again found a case to raise awareness of. She writes with such warmth and love, care and empathy and the novel, even though touching about serious issues, feels chatty and uplifting, even when she tells things how they really are, not sparing us any details about the facts and reality of HD.

“If You Were Here” was full of hope. It’s this kind of novel that make you look at the world differently again, start to appreciate all the little things again. The telling is so rich and vivid, oozing in feelings and emotions of courage, faith and strength, also showing the great importance of having the right network of people around you to help you get through the most difficult times. I loved every single moment of it and will be highly recommending right and left!

 

EXTRACT:

Prologue

Peggy

 

July 2012

 

I clutch the letter, my hand shaking.

Deep down I always knew. I was just waiting for Beth to tell me, gearing myself up to be strong for us both all over again.

There were times when I sensed she was distant and anxious. Often I wondered why my daughter hadn’t married since any man would have been lucky to have her by his side. Yet I allowed myself to believe her excuse that she simply hadn’t met the right person, that she wanted to focus on her art, her teaching career and being a mother to Flo.

I have skated around the subject for years, too much of a coward to ask the question I dreaded the answer to. I locked my fears in a box and threw away the key, instead forcing myself to believe she’d escape the odds.

Looking back over the pas few years, I was beginning to notice signs, small things, like Beth forgetting our regular weekly call. Once, she locked herself out of the house and had to drive over to get my spare set of keys. I was determined to put it down to her being scatterbrained. Yet there was this persistent voice inside my head.

She could have it.

A voice I chose to ignore.

I look down at the letter once more.

It would kill me.

I wish now with all my heart that I could take back those selfish words. All I wanted was to protect Beth – and myself – from further pain.

I wipe the tears from my eyes.

Right now, I’d give anything to be able to hold my daughter one last time and tell her how sorry I am for letting her down. And what I wouldn’t give to be able to ask her the questions I need answering now like never before.

Did she ever intend for her daughter Flo to see this letter? Maybe, in the end, Beth agreed that none of us should know our future, that we’re better off letting fate take its course.

I can’t tell my granddaughter.

She is far too fragile, not only to discover that this has been kept a secret from her, but to understand the impact it could have on her own life. She is grieving for her mother and it’s taking every ounce of her strength just to get through each day. Showing her this letter would only rake up the past and make Flo fear her future. Yet the decision to keep on hiding the truth doesn’t rest easy either.

I tear a small corner of the letter, tempted to rip it into shreds and pretend I’d never seen it.

I wish in so many ways I hadn’t.

If I show Flo the letter it could break her heart. But if I don’t . . .

What a fool I have been to think that the past never catches up with you.

1

Flo

 

Five years later

 

As I walk down Fifth Avenue, to the mystery place where I’m meeting Theo tonight, I think back on the past week, wishing  Ididn’t have to pack my bags and return to London tomorrow, back to my job and familiar oldroutine.

My boyfriend Theo has been based in New York  for  sixmonths.

‘Long distance relationships can work, Flo, if we see it as an opportunity,’ he’d said, when he broke the news that he was needed over here for a year, possibly more.

And he was right. There is something magnetic about this city. It buzzes with energy, like a party that never stops.The first time I flew over to see Theo, we visited all the major sights and did all the things you’re supposed to, like taking a trip to the top of the empire State Building and hopping on a ferry over to Staten Island. Now I’m happy to do my own thing, whiling away the hours with my sketch- pad in Central Park, or finding hidden gems off the beaten track, like the original piece of the Berlin Wall I discovered in a small plaza at MadisonAvenue.

Each time I visit – mainly for long weekends – Theo takes me to a new exhibition or restaurant that has justopened.

Nothing stays the same here. Nothing stands still.

And everything is so tall. Theo works in just one of the thousand dazzling skyscrapers that grace the Manhattan skyline.

I dodge out of the way of a group of tourists taking pic- tures of the empire State Building. Another thing I love about this place is it keeps me fit. There’s no point hailing a cab and spending a fortune sitting in traffic. Everyone here walks for miles.

As I continue down one of the most famous and elegant streets in the world, I think of Granny, hoping she’s all right.  It’s the anniversary of Mum’s death today and it’s the first time we’ve spent it apart. When I called her earlier this evening, she told me she was fine and that she’d laid some flowers on Mum and Granddad’s gravestone and would later light a candle.

I promised to light one too.

In many ways Mum’s death feels a lifetime ago, but in others as if it were only yesterday. What tormented me most is the fact I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. My last conversation with her was over the phone, while I was at the airport in Venice about to board a plane. I was blissfully happy in a steady relationship and I’d just been offered a job designing sets for a small theatre company in Copenhagen. The only problem was my scatty old mum.

‘What now?’ I’d snapped, annoyed at having to repeat the conversation we’d literally just had about what time my plane landed and whether I’d be home in time for supper.

I never saw her again.

I didn’t even tell her I loved her.

That’s what I miss most: picking up the phone to talk to her; hearing her voice.

Her death had seemed so avoidable.One moment she was alive, but the next . ..

‘It was an accident,’ Granny had stressed. ‘A tragic accident that makes no sense.’

Losing Mum will be the hardest thing I’ll ever go through. At one point I didn’t even want to live, oblivion seemed preferable. Idon’t know what I’d have done without Granny picking me up and piecing me back together again, especially when her grief must have been just asraw.

I can’t tell you when I began to feel less broken. I don’t recall a turning point. All I know is that food began to taste of something again. Slowly I noticed the sunlight streaming through my bedroom window. I heard the birds sing. My steps began to feel lighter.

And then along came Theo.

We met eighteen months ago in the business lounge at Gatwick airport, when I was heading out on a work trip to southern Spain. I was busy stocking up on all the food and glossy magazines the business lounge had to offer, when I sensed someone watching me. Discreetly, I turned to see an older, fair-haired man drinking a cup of coffee, a flicker of amusement in his eyes. Everything about him spelt success, from his designer suit to his leather briefcase and expensive watch. I returned to my seat, thinking he must have been looking at someone else, or recalling a funny joke he’d just been told.

But then he approached my table.

‘Theodore Holmes,’ he said, sitting down opposite me,as if it were the most natural thing in the world to introduce oneself to a stranger. Before I could say a word, he continued, ‘I don’t know your name yet, but what I do know is I’m going to spend the rest of my life withyou.’

It’s not often I’m lost for words. I felt out of my depth, and as if he could read my mind he leaned closer towards me and said quietly ,‘Listen,I’m sorry to come on so strong. You don’t have to agree to spend the rest of your life with me just yet, but how aboutdinner?’

He handed me his business card. We parted with a hand- shake, almost as if we were in a boardroom.

‘Deal,’ I was tempted to say.

For the next few days, I imagined our perfect first date with flowers and champagne, the conversation flowing freely, the evening ending with a romantic goodnight kiss. When I returned home, however, I began to lose my nerve, that little voice of doubt creeping in.

After Mum died, I broke up with my long-term boyfriend and I hadn’t been in a serious relationship since. Ifelt out of practice.

As if he’s really going to be interested in you, Flo. It meant nothing. He probably says the same thing t oevery woman he meets and he won’t even remember you.

But despite that voice in my head, I couldn’t throw away his business card.

James – my flat-mate and best friend’s brother – looked him up online with me one evening afterwork.

‘Good-looking,’ he said when we saw a picture of Theo smiling broadly into the camera, ‘but knows it.  Mind you, I’d be smiling like that too if I had his teeth and his bankaccount.’

James is a vet, which, according to him is ‘not a job you do for the money’.

He urged me to give Theo a call. ‘What’s the worst that can happen? It’s one night, and if he’s a knob, move on.’

I smiled. James always had a way with words. Anyway, I took his advice and called.

Theo picked up instantly, and when I said my name, asking nervously if it was a good time for him to talk, he replied, ‘I’ve been waiting for days. ever since I first set eyes on you.’

I was still hesitant to go on a date. I wasn’t sure I trusted his smooth talk, but I listened to James again, who told meI hadnothing to lose except one evening of takeaway, Netflix, and James’s charming company.

On our first date, Theo booked a table at a restaurant on the 32nd floor of the Shard, and over dinner I discovered he left school without any qualifications, but through hard work and self-belief he was now CeO of a company called ASPIre, one of the biggest global marketing agencies in the world.I tried to ignore that little voice again that wondered why he’d want to go out with someone like me, a mere travel agent, when surely he could have the pick of anyone in thisrestaurant.

When Theo asked me for a second and a third date, that voice stillwouldn’t go away. I kept expecting something to go wrong; I was waiting for the fall. Yet my fear has been pointless, and after eighteen months together that little voice has almost disappeared.

Almost.

I rummage in my handbag to retrieve the note Theo left on my pillow this morning, with the exact address of where I’m supposed to meet him.

‘It’sasurprise,’he’dinsisted.He’sawareit’sMum’sanniversary today and wanted to do something to honour it, so I suggested we do something fun: drink cocktails, go to a nightclub and dance until the early hours of themorning.

‘Mum loved dancing,’ I said. ‘She used to dance in the kitchen and sing in the shower.’

I told  him I wanted to remember all the happy times we’d shared and celebrate her life tonight, because for the first time in five years I haven’t only been thinking about Mum today. This morning, when I woke up in Theo’s apartment and read his note, I realized that time does slowly heal, and that right now, despite everything, I am truly happy.

As I arrive I see no sign of a restaurant or bar. I glance at my watch. It’s past seven o’clock.

Theo’s late. He’s never late.

For a split second I feel uneasy. I wish I knew why he was being so secretive. He knows how much I hate surprises. But my worries vanish the moment I see him across the street, and soon I’m in his arms, welcoming his kiss.

‘Are you ready?’ he asks.

‘Ready for what? Where are we —’

‘Trust me,’ he says, a smile spreading across his face as he holds his hand out towards mine. I know more than most how happiness can be taken away from us as quickly as it was found. But I know,too,that it’s time for me to let go of my past and trust in my future once and for all. It’s what Mum would have wanted.

I take his hand.

Maybe I’m allowed to be this happy without a catch afterall.

 

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Love, Unscripted byOwen Nicholls / Blog Tour

Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls

 

Publisher: Headline Review 44590494._sy475_

Publishing Date: 22nd August 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 4384

Genre: Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 06.02.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Owen Nicholls’ Love, Unscripted is an uplifting love story, following film projectionist Nick as he tries to understand the difference between love on the silver screen and love in real life. Perfect for fans of David Nicholls, Nick Hornby and Laura Barnett.

For film projectionist Nick, love should mirror what he sees on the big screen. And when he falls for Ellie on the eve of the 2008 presidential election, it finally does.

For four blissful years, Nick loved Ellie as much as he loved his job splicing film reels together in the local cinema. Life seemed… picture-perfect.

But now it’s 2012, Ellie has moved out and Nick’s trying to figure out where it all went wrong.

With Ellie gone and his life far from the happy ending he imagined, Nick wonders if their romance could ever again be as perfect as the night they met.

Can love really be as it is in the movies?

my-review

 

Nick loves movies. He’s a film projectionist in a London cinema and he also loves his job that is just at the cusp of becoming unavailable to him because of the upcoming digital projection changes. When he meets Ellie at a party for the 2008 presidential election in the USA, Nick is sure that he finally found the One, love like in the movies. But is life like that? Following a narrative, always having a happy end?
Fast forward four years and Nick faces a redundancy, his family life is falling apart and Ellie moved out, leaving him trying to figure out why, and where, did the script go wrong.

It was a light – hearted story with characters that were full of flaws, which only made me like them better. It’s always nice to see that I’m not the only one in the world making wrong decisions and regretting being stubborn but not giving up, even though I know I’m in the wrong – hello Nick (waving here). Honestly, if things didn’t go according to him and his plans, he immediately backed down into his shell, offended. But there was also this second side to him, he was self – doubting and vulnerable, and actually a third side as well, when he was eventually able to see his ways and tried better. So really, not many characters were able to make me feel so frustrated about them and also keep everything crossed for them, willing them to succeed, like Nick. And he went through so much of personal growth in this story, and it’s always my favourite part of the novels.

The writing style was easy and chatty and the pace was only right, though personally I liked the chapters set in present better than those in the past. Sure, they introduced us to Nick and Ellie and their relationship, and there wouldn’t be a story without them but still, not sure why but the present was for me much more interesting than the past. It is also (the writing) full of the best kind of humour, the one hidden between the lines that I like so much.

So really, “Love, Unscripted” was a real, realistic and raw glance at love, love that is anything like in the movies, all smooth sailing and happy ends, but is full of ups and downs and this is what makes it so exciting. It was full of references to films that even I, the one that doesn’t go to the cinema (well, only if it is a movie for children, *eye – rolling*), have heard about or even – yes! – seen them, and music that made me smile in recognition. So really, I am not sure why this book didn’t work for me as I hoped it’s going to be – either you connect with the story or not and we didn’t click this time. And the end made me feel a bit confused. Nevertheless, I think you are going to adore this romantic, humorous and true to life debut, with a lot of deep meaning.

 

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Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane / Blog Tour

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

 

Publisher: Michael Joseph 44004179._sy475_

Publishing Date: 8th August 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

How much can a family forgive?

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, two rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne—sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Francis and Lena’s daughter, Kate, and Brian and Anne’s son, Peter. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while tested by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.

Rating:  four-stars

 

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope got to know each other through the New York City police academy and worked as partners later. Later, they move into neighbouring houses in the small town of Gillam and start their own families, Francis with Anna and Brian with Lena. While Gleesons have three daughters, the Stanhopes have only one son. There is only six months difference between Kate and Peter, and they immediately bond with each other, becoming true friends. A few years later however, and a tragedy occurs, changing the lives of everyone in both families and the Stanfords having to move away. Fast forward some years, Kate and Peter, now adults, are still trying to come to terms with what has happened, navigating through the years filled with pain and unfairness, nevertheless throwing themselves into what future brings. But the memories hunt them, and past becomes a millstone round their necks.

This book was for me a slow burner. It took me a long time to finally, eventually fully get into it (well, it spans over 40 years and revolves around only two families), to get what the author wanted to tell us, to cotton on what the story is about – my bad, I admit, but then the story was unputdownable, taking an unexpected twist when something really tragic happens, shaping the lives of the characters, and not necessary in a positive way. It’s a novel that will leave you mentally drained and thinking about it all the time, even after you’ve finished reading it.

Each of the characters has its own, distinctive voice and the author lets them speak. They’re full of faults, they make mistakes, they’re not always likeable but they feel real and often I felt a pang of sympathy for them, even if I haven’t supported all their choices. They were through so many trials and tribulations that it was impossible not to fell for them, especially for Kate and Peter, although – and I loved how it made me feeling – one moment you’ll be feeling like you are betraying the other side by liking the other characters.

 It was a heart – wrenching  and mentally draining family – drama, for me very character driven. The author has done a brilliant job in describing her characters, though what blew me really away was how great her understanding of human nature is and how deep and realistic she writes about characters’ interactions. This story is full to brims with feelings and emotions, even if they’re not mentioned on every single page, but they’re there, dealt with care and sensitivity. And it’s in both, the characters and the plot, that there is tons of soul – baring honesty and reality, I couldn’t imagine the characters to behave differently. The author has an incredible way with words, and is a great storyteller. The relationships that she paints are true to life, even if masterfully crafted, her observations are spot on and she doesn’t shy away from writing about burning and difficult issues.

“Ask Again, Yes” is a complex, disturbing book with the feeling of something wrong going to happen at any moment, and you simply want to keep reading, can’t leave this fictional world. It deals not only with family bonds, but addiction, mental illness and the repercussions when it’s not treated.  However, deep inside this sadness and darkness, there is light and heart and hope, and it explores life and love and everyday life in a unique way. Unique, thought – provoking and clever – recommended!

 

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