Guest Post by Angus Donald

Hi guys! Today is the say when the new historical fiction series novel Blood’s Game by thebloods-game-by-angus-donald bestselling author, Angus Donald, is published.  What makes this novel particularly interesting is that Angus Donald is a distant relative of the protagonist, Col. Thomas Blood who famously stole the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London in 1671 – brilliant, no? I am incredibly looking towards reading the book but in the meantime I have a guest post from the author!

 

The court of Charles II: mistresses, mischief and merry-making

By Angus Donald
I’ve always enjoyed a little debauchery – I don’t get to indulge so much these days, now that I’m middle-aged and married with two young kids, but I’ve done more than my fair share of wild partying over the years. And I must admit that it was partly this deplorable character failing that drew me to write about the Restoration period and the “Merry Monarch” Charles II – it sounded like a hell of a lot of fun!

My new novel Blood’s Game, a tale about the attempt by Colonel Thomas Blood to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, opens in 1670, ten years after Charles was restored to his thrones in the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. Once back in power after a long penniless exile, the King was determined to have a really good time. He travelled back to London from the Kentish coast in a glittering procession, dressed in a silver tunic, his path strewn with fragrant herbs by beautiful maidens, the public fountains in the capital all running with wine. He continued this display of largesse throughout his reign; he spent money he didn’t have on fabulous masked balls, parties and banquets for his friends, he bought rare jewels and thoroughbred race horses, he gave extravagant gifts and grants of lands to his many mistresses and their offspring – by 1670 he owned eleven royal yachts and was about to buy another for his unhappy Portuguese wife Catherine.

His ministers tried to rein in his spending but, even though he received more than a million pounds a year from Parliament, his expenditure always far outstripped his income. But, as Charles says in Blood’s Game: “A certain carelessness with his finances befits a monarch. I refuse to scrimp and snivel like some damned pauper.”

The King was deliberate about this policy of having fun: the Three Kingdoms had just come out of a long dark period when the bloody civil wars were followed by the Puritan rule of the Commonwealth and Oliver Cromwell. During the austere interregnum period, most sports were banned, drunkenness and even swearing was punished with a fine, non-religious expressions of Christmas were stopped, many inns were closed, as were all the theatres, women caught working on Sundays were put in the stocks, bright clothes were banned and make-up was scrubbed off girls’ faces by soldiers who caught them wearing it, right there and then. Armed men humiliating women in the streets in the name of religious purity does not only happen in other parts of the world. We had our own approximation of the Taliban once.

So, when Charles returned to the throne, he wanted to show his subjects that it was now perfectly all right for people to enjoy themselves. Hip hip hooray! The theatres were reopened, and there was a resurgence of bawdy, satirical plays. Public drunkenness, particularly among the aristocracy, was so commonplace as to be almost a badge of rank. Pranks and japes abounded – a pair of well-born young men, friends of the King and members of the notorious Merry Gang, scandalised London by appearing on a balcony and pretending to sodomise each other. Poets and playwrights could openly criticise the King, his court, his morals and his mistresses. And did so enthusiastically. The drunken poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, leader of the Merry Gang, wrote of the King in one satire: “Restless he rolls from whore to whore/ A merry monarch, scandalous and poor”

Because Charles took his sexual pleasures seriously, too. He had many lovers as a young bachelor, including his nanny Mrs Wyndham, who took his virginity when he was fifteen. And after he married Catherine of Braganza, in 1662, he had at least seven mistresses, and possible as many as thirteen, who bore him a dozen children.

The role of mistress was semi-official – a whore or courtesan, or woman with whom the King had a casual encounter, would not counted among their number – and a man who kept one was obliged to pay for her food, drink, accommodation and servants, as well as making her generous presents from time to time, perhaps when he paid them a visit. Many of the mistresses and their illegitimate children, whose paternity the King acknowledged, received earldoms and dukedoms from the King – and many of British aristocrats alive today trace their ancestry back to Charles II.

Two of the the most famous of Charles’s mistresses – the formidable beauty Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, and the famous actress Nell Gywn – make appearances in Blood’s Game. In the period when the book is set, Barbara was about thirty and was being replaced in the royal affections by the feisty and outrageous Nell, who was ten years younger. Gwyn was an actress, and before that an “orange-seller” in the theatres, a profession which some historians take as a euphemism for prostitute. Perhaps because of her lowly origins and dubious trade, she was never ennobled by her royal lover, although her two children were.

Barbara, on the other hand, came from the noble Villiers family. She gave Charles five children and, as a long-time and fecund mistress, she wielded more power at court than childless Catherine. In fact, she was known as the Uncrowned Queen and she used her position ruthlessly to enrich herself and her friends. She persuaded the King to grant her lavish titles and lands and properties – she was given  Nonsuch Palace, built by Henry VIII, and the title Baroness Nonsuch, and promptly dismantled the palace and sold off the building materials to pay her gambling debts. She “borrowed” tens of thousands of pounds from the Privy Purse, and when this was discovered, the debt was immediately forgiven by her indulgent lover Charles.

When Charles’s interest in her began to wane, she was not above finding other gentlemen friends to amuse her. She became the lover of Jack Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough, when he was a handsome and penniless young officer at court. She bore Churchill a daughter and tried, unsuccessfully, to claim she was the King’s.

Charles was not exactly delighted that his long-time lover, a woman he had given so much to, had taken a younger man to her bed – Barbara had given Churchill a gift of £5,000, money she had received from the King, which infuriated Charles – but he was perfectly gentlemanly about the situation. He was, after all, beginning his relationship with Nell Gwyn at the time. There is a (probably apocryphal) tale, which I have included in Blood’s Game, that a servant was paid £100 by the Duke of Buckingham to inform His Grace when Churchill and Villiers would next be enjoying a lovers’ tryst. The mischief-making Duke then persuaded the King to visit Barbara at the same time. The story goes that when the King arrived unexpectedly, the naked Churchill had to hide in a cupboard, and was discovered there by the Merry Monarch.

Apparently, the King saw the funny side, and forgave his love rival. He said: “You are a rascal, sir, but I forgive you because you do it to get your [daily] bread.”

A stinging insult – basically calling Churchill a man-whore – then forgiveness. And never losing your sense of humour. That’s pure class in my book. And the lusty King even hung around to pleasure his old mistress after young Churchill had gone.

How could writing about a monarch like that, and chronicling his court of drunken, debauched and promiscuous hangers-on, not be the most tremendous fun?

I hope you find reading Blood’s Game just as enjoyable.

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Another Woman’s Husband by Gill Paul / #BlogTour + Guest Post

Having read – or rather, having devoured – Gill Paul’s “No Place for a Lady” two years ago – this author has jumped to the top of my favourite authors’ list. Not everybody can write good historical fiction but Gill Paul can, that’s certain! I’ll be honest with you – I haven’t read synopsis for “Another Woman’s Husband” because I knew that whatever the author writes is going to be a cracker – so I didn’t know it features real people, like Diana Spencer or Wallis Simpson, so it was a surprise for me, but not a bad one. I am so sure that all of us knows where they’ve been when the news about Diana’s dead came across, right?

Today I am thrilled to welcome Gill Paul to the blog – she has written a brilliant guest post for my stop on her blog tour! Enjoy!

What would Diana be doing now?

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In the moving tribute Diana: Our Mother, shown on ITV, Prince William said he thought Diana would have been a very naughty grandma, the type who popped in at bathtime, got the kids all wound up with lots of bubble bath everywhere, then left the parents to calm them for bed. This sounds like a good guess for the woman who used to sneak forbidden sweets to her boys at prep school, hidden inside their socks, and it set me thinking about what else Diana would be doing had she lived.

Her love life would have remained complicated, for sure. The carnage of her upbringing, with a bitter divorce between her parents in which her mother lost custody of the kids, clearly left scars she was still trying to deal with. Lots of people make a mistake in their first marriage, especially when they marry young – and Diana had just turned twenty when the carriage rolled up to St Paul’s and she stepped out onto the world stage – but her relationship choices after her marriage broke down were not particularly clever. There were at least a couple of married men, a few more who sold their stories to the media, and a practising Muslim whose family were never going to approve. Her last boyfriend, Dodi, was a renowned playboy who unceremoniously dumped the American model he’d been dating when he began his affair with Diana, which didn’t make me warm to him at the time. But, having said that, I made disastrous relationship choices myself in the 1990s and only settled down in the 21st century, so perhaps Diana would have done the same (we were similar ages).

There’s no question she would have gone on to make a real difference through her charitable and campaigning work. I’m sure she would have continued to choose difficult, unfashionable issues, as she did with AIDS. I can see her helping ebola orphans in Africa, turning up at refugee camps in Sicily and the Greek Islands and Calais, and she would probably have been at Grenfell Tower long before the politicians. Perhaps she would have been a UN ambassador, visiting war zones, as Angelina Jolie does today. Like Jolie, Diana had the ear of top politicians and knew how to use her influence. It was in no small part due to her campaigning that a month after her death the Land Mine Ban Treaty was signed in Oslo, and ratified by 122 states. You get the sense that even Putin would have been putty in her hands.

I wonder how Diana would have got on with her daughter-in-law, Catherine? There would have been an element of competition for William’s attention, as with all mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships, but I’m sure they would have bonded over shopping trips and playing with grandkids. And I think that as the years went on, Diana would have become good friends with her boys’ grandmother, the Queen. Elizabeth II is a canny monarch and she must have appreciated that despite all the tantrums, Diana was the best thing that ever happened to the House of Windsor.

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Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear / #BlogTour #GuestPost

Hi guys! Are you all having a great Saturday?

So all you lovely folks out there. Today I have a new blog tour for you – Caz Frear’s debut novel, “Sweet LittleLies”, was published on 29th June by Zaffre. This book has won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition – I have read some books that have won this competition already and they were all brilliant, so it’s already a great recommendation, no? Sadly, I haven’t managed to read this novel in time for my blog tour stop but I am already half into it and believe me, guys – it’s Special. It’s Something. And today I am thrilled to have a guest post from Caz on fascination with prologues – enjoy!

516zotzxaml-_sx323_bo1204203200_Prologues – what’s the fascination?  Should you or shouldn’t you?

Wikipedia states, a prologue is an opening to a story that establishes the context and gives background details, along with other miscellaneous information.’

Mmmm, I beg to differ, Wikipedia.  In fact, I’d argue that sums everything a prologue shouldn’t be.  More of that later.

But first, here’s a thing:  I’m not even sure if my novel, Sweet Little Lies has a prologue.  I certainly haven’t called it ‘The Prologue’ and it’s just become known as ‘That Bit at The Start’.  If truth be told, I was scared of writing the ‘P’ word as it’s such a divisive term in the literary world.  Some people can’t stand them.  They say they’re lazy, or indulgent – literary shorthand for “not important.”   However, surely the point of a good prologue is that there’s ‘something’ contained within it that’s so damn bloody important that it can’t just be covered casually, in passing, within the main narrative?

But then, as with everything in life, there are good prologues and bad prologues.

Rumour has it that some people skip prologues altogether – all I can say here is that I’m yet to meet one.  Then there’s also the slightly skewed myth that publishers and agents HATE prologues.  That they’re a fast-track to an auto-reject.  While, admittedly, I do know of a few book-folk who definitely aren’t wild about them, who think they’re overused etc, the very presence of the word PROLOGUE usually isn’t enough to make an agent or publisher banish you to literary purgatory forever, not if your writing shines and your characters sing.

They’ll just make you get rid of it in the edit, that’s all.

It’s sometimes remarked that prologues, especially within the crime genre, really took off with the rise of the e-book – the idea being that, with fiction at our fingertips, available at knock-down prices, the reader demands instant gratification in the first few pages or they simply cut their losses and move on.  While I don’t doubt there’s some truth in this, I think it does the poor prologue a slight disservice.  It plays up to it’s ‘cheap gimmick’ reputation and forgets that if done well, the prologue is an incredibly strong plot device.  After all, they’ve been knocking around since the days of Chaucer and Shakespeare certainly didn’t shy away from including one.  Also, by way of anecdote, I know of one very successful author who experienced a whole round of rejections when her non-prologued debut first went out on submission, but after a teeny bit of plot surgery and the addition of a killer prologue (literally), the book went to auction in the second round.  Pure coincidence – possibly.  But she firmly believes the prologue had a lot to do with it.

So, more knowledgeable folk than me have given their views on what makes a good or bad prologue, but hey, it’s 2017 and everyone’s got an opinion, so for what it’s worth, here’s mine…

A prologue should

  • Grab the reader by the throat. It shouldn’t be thoughtful, meandering or abstract.  Of course, that doesn’t mean there has to be a car chase or an explosion (although feel free) but it should contain some sort of action and pose an immediate question.  Who is she running from?  Why is the door locked?
  • Be relatively short. There’s no hard and fast rules on word-count, but more than a few pages and it either needs sharpening or scrapping (and calling ‘Chapter 1’)
  • Be set outside the main story. A different narrator, a different timeframe, a different continent, whatever.  Again, if it’s part of the main story, it’s probably not a prologue, it’s Chapter 1.

A prologue can…

  • Be the very last thing you write – in fact, there’s a case for saying it should be.
  • Exist without the word ‘Prologue’ written at the top. Prologues can come in the form of a diary entry/a newspaper cutting/a court transcript…
  • Be taken from a scene that comes much later in the book – the reader (usually) won’t mind the repetition as it now holds new meaning.
  • Allow you to use a very different tone, tense, narrator (not all prologues are narrated by the main protagonist.

A prologue shouldn’t

  • Be an info-dump. This is the last thing it should be and it’s my only ‘shouldn’t’.  Ultimately, a prologue is all about intrigue – the info and the history can come later (although seeded in gradually – an info-dump isn’t a great at any point!)

 

 

*DISCLAIMER  J

There are glorious, best-selling exceptions to all these rules – stream-of-consciousness prologues, fifteen page prologues, prologues that read like text-books until you reach the end and it all makes sense.   But remember they’re the exception, not the norm, and while brass-necked originality is what we think everyone craves, there’s something to be said for sticking to the norm – .to giving the reader what they expect.

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Practice Makes Perfect by Penny Parkes / #BlogTour + #GuestPost

Hi guys, a new day, a new blog tour – and I have plenty of them coming your way in the next days. Plenty! But today I am absolutely thrilled as Penny Parkes’s blog tour stops by on the blog. I am sure you have heard about Penny and her lovely books – Practice Makes Perfect is actually my first read by this author but she’s just won a new devoted fan in yours truly. Next to my review, I also have a guest post from Penny – enjoy!


Practice Makes Perfect by Penny Parkes



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Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 29th June 2017

Series: The Larkford Series #2

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 576

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

This surgery is full of scandal and secrets!

The Practice at Larkford has suddenly been thrust under the spotlight – and its nomination as a ‘NHS Model Surgery’ is causing the team major headaches.

Dr Holly Graham should be basking in the glow of her new romance with fellow doctor, Taffy – but she is worried that the team is prioritising plaudits over patients, and her favourite resident, the irreverent and entertaining Elsie, is facing a difficult diagnosis. Add to that the chaos of family life and the strain is starting to show.

Dr Dishy Dan Carter’s obsession with work is masking unhappiness elsewhere – he can’t persuade girlfriend Julia to settle down. It’s only as Julia’s mother comes to stay that he realizes what she has been hiding for so long.

Alice Walker joins the team like a breath of fresh air and her assistance dog Coco quickly wins everyone round – which is just as well, because Coco and Alice will soon need some help of their own.

Can they pull together and become the Dream Team that the NHS obviously thinks they are?

Rating: four-stars


Practice Makes Perfect is Penny Parkes’s second book, and also second in the Larkford series about a medical practice in a small town. I haven’t read the previous book, I admit, so of course I was this little bit afraid if I can read it as a stand – alone or if I thought I missed too much. However, after finishing this book I can assure that you can read it as a stand alone. There were, in fact, so many cameos and throwbacks and recollections that right now I have a feeling as if I had read “Out of Practice”! I, of course, have heard many, many lovely things about Penny’s books so there is no need to say that I started reading this one with great expectations, right? It was actually one of my most anticipated reads this summer and I couldn’t wait to start reading it.

Even without reading the first book I didn’t have any problems to get into the story and had a feeling that I already know the characters – four doctors, their lives and their work at the busy practice in Larkford. Holly seems to be coming to terms with her divorce and she’s settled in her new life with her two twin boys and Taffy, who’s also working as a doctor at the practice. Dan and Julia are the other couple and other two doctors and their lives are little bit more complicated and relationship is not so straightforward and easy, and honestly, I was asking myself more than once if they are really destined to be together. The practice has just been nominated to become a model for NHS, which means more money and more patients but also more responsibility and more scrutiny. There is also the TV team recording their program in the practice with Julia being its star – a lot of things happening at once, don’t you think?

Now guys, I think there is “something” in books about doctors, well, about doctors generally, let’s think about George Clooney in “ER”, I think that we all picture the male bookish characters as Doctor Ross, no? I personally like such books and the Penny Parkes has proved that she really knows what she’s writing about, with all the talks, the medical terms, the treatments – and this is actually my only “but”, guys. The book is rather on the long side, with more than 500 pages, and for me it could be much shorter, as I personally could miss on at least half of the medical stuff. I think it would make the story quicker and gave it a feeling of it being quick – paced, because there were moments that it dragged too much for me, and it made me feel desperate because I wanted the story to go on, for something to happen.
But other than that, it was great. The characters were just brilliant! They were believable, they all had their own stories and background, they had life – experience. Holly and Taffy’s new relationship, balancing work, demanding and very active twins, dog, etc and I adored to see the couple both at work and at home, as you could really see that they are made to measure and it was so visible that Taffy loves Holly and her family above all.
Also the background characters were incredibly well described, and I think it’s not going to be a surprise when I say that Coco, the new doctor Alice’s companion and assistance dog, has absolutely stolen my heart. The characters’ stories mixed effortlessly and run seamlessly alongside one another.

Practice Makes Perfect was light – hearted and warm and I’ve finished reading it with a big smile on my face. I adored the writing style and characters. It was full to the brims with drama, troubles and twists and turns on the way and it was so easy to forget about everything when reading it. It was gentle and it dealt with some important issues and some taboos in great, comfortable ways. It was romantic, it was down – to – earth and realistic, with some laugh out loud moments, as well as some poignant ones and I really enjoyed this book – it really had it all that I’m looking for in a good, engaging story. Highly recommended!

GUEST POST

 Tools of The Trade


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The Accidental Honeymoon by Portia MacIntosh / Blog Tour + Guest Post

Hello, hello, and happy Thursday – we have holidays today so really, it couldn’t be better. Well, it could, as our barbecue has just gone kaput and the time I thought I am going to spend with my feet put up high, I’ve just spent in the kitchen. Oh well. Typical.

Today I am a part of a new blog tour and I have a review of The Accidental Honeymoon by Portia MacIntosh – guys, believe me, if you need a bit of cheering up than go and grab yourself a copy. This story is so light – hearted, funny and easy to follow, it was just what the doctor ordered for me at the moment, as June is full of not so nice news and events here. There is also a guest post from Portia – a perfect way to spend your afternoon, no?

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The Accidental Honeymoon by Portia MacIntosh

34472959Publisher: HQ Digital

Publishing Date: 16th June 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 384

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

Buy the Book:Kindle

 

Synopsis:

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.

Rating: five-stars

I’ve read The Accidental Honeymoon just at the right moment – when I needed something light – hearted and uplifting, and I know that if you’re in need of those ingredients, Portia MacIntosh is your person in charge. I know that whatever she writes it’s my kind of read and really, I don’t need a lot of coaxing to request her books.

I bought this story as it was written. Probably some of the reviewers will stress that the accidental drunk wedding and then meeting on a plane are this tad unrealistic, but sometimes you just need this little bit of magic showing that impossible is nothing, and so I enjoyed the whole story, from the start to the finish. It was so easy to get over the slightly unrealistic beginning as it was written in such convincing way – Portia MacIntosh really knows how to pull it off.

As usually with Portia MacIntosh, her characters were brilliantly outlined. Georgie was great, however she also came across a little as a doormat, especially when it comes to being with John and the way she allowed her cousin and aunt to boss her around and decide. When Fliss told her to leave her wedding I wanted to shake – but Georgie, not Fliss. Also, her makeover confused me a little – which was Georgie’s true face? The totally Stepford Wife that she had when being with John or the totally opposite, almost slutty appearance – because judging on the descriptions of hair extensions and one number smaller tight dresses it looked like this, and so it was like Georgie has hidden her real face from us. However, she was so warm and lovely and she had her heart on her sleeve, and she had one of the best one – liners and I really, truly fell for her and warmed to her actually from the very beginning. She was very accident – prone and she’ll stay in my memory as the one who often meant well, with the things turning out wrong in the end.
And Jack, mmmm, I think I won’t be disappointed if I accidentally married Jack myself, guys. The tricks he knew, and nonono, I mean the cards and casino tricks, not the other ones, honestly I beg you, what were you thinking about…? Absolutely loved how laid – back he was and how he treated Georgie and that he was always honest with his plans – doesn’t happen often with guys that they are so honest, right? Also, and oh my god, I laughed so much, it was so nice to see how devoted he was to his newly found aunt (I really thought I will NEVER use this word in my review but here it is – it was just LOL).

The Accidental Honeymoon was an easy, quick and entertaining read, just what I expected from this author. It was lovely, it was charming, it had a great dose of humour and swear words and it just felt so natural and genuine. Nothing was pushed there, or too forced, one thing resulted from the other and I also quickly found myself rooting for the characters. Altogether, it was a read that made me smile and even laugh out loud. I totally enjoyed how Portia MacIntosh took the well established idea of the drunken wedding in Vegas and turned it into something else. There were enough turns in this light – hearted story, there were characters to die for or to slap. It was great to see how Georgie was with her family, the great relationship with her older brother and the way they treated the younger one. So really, give me Portia MacIntosh book any time, you can be sure that will lighten your mood and make you look little differently at the word. I love her stories and I can’t have enough of them, and I highly recommend The Accidental Honeymoon to you!

GUEST POST:

I’m not sure whether or not I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was younger. When I think about it, I was always making things up. I’d tell…let’s not call them lies, let’s call them tall tales. So if an ornament were to get smashed while I was playing with my friends, I’d come up with a story that got everyone in the least trouble possible. If a neighbour overheard me swear and told my parents, well, they were obviously mistaken, because I was obviously saying ‘stick’ or ‘duck’ or ‘plastered’ – all the hot topics 10-year-olds talk about. As a teen, I’d tell little white lies so that my parents didn’t worry about me – well, nothing appeases the worries of an overprotective dad like telling him that your boyfriend is your gay best friend. I’d find ways to get out of PE, excuses for not doing my homework, kind ways to decline the advances of boys in my year that I didn’t like… And funnily enough, I don’t think any of my teachers would have guessed that I’d be a writer when I ‘grew up’. I don’t imagine they had high hopes for me, because what might have seemed like a kid who just didn’t want to do PE was obviously a storyteller in the making. Being one of those kids who left school and never looked back, I don’t imagine any of my teachers know what became of me career wise. It’s probably for the best though…because I feel like this blog post is a pretty clear admission of a whole lot of guilt.

Invisible Women by Sarah Long – Blog Tour + Guest Post

Hi guys, hope you are all doing great. Today I have a great guest post for you from the author of “Invisible Women”, Sarah Long. The book sounds totally like my cup of tea and I am looking forward for it being published in paperback in autumn – right now you can treat yourself to an ebook. She’s writing about Facebook addiction – rings a bell, no? Put your feet high and enjoy!

 

Blog by Sarah Long

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 Facebook Addiction

It makes you unhappy. You are forced to compare your ordinary existence with far more glamorous lives. You‘ve been to the supermarket and put some chops in the oven, while everyone else is on a tropical island or a ski slope, pouting at the camera to convey just how fab a time they are having.

And yet most of us are addicted. We pick up our phones the moment we wake up to check what our Friends have been up to. Marvelling at the person who posted his opinions on Brexit at four in the morning. Four in the morning!! The bragging of the proud grandmother, the international business jetsetter, the manic gardener. All of them shameless show-offs, even though we were taught as children not to blow our own trumpet.

There’s another purpose to Facebook, aside from keeping up with family and friends. Sorry, that’s Friends with a capital F. It’s a buffet against loneliness. You can dip into other people’s lives the way you might have leant over the garden gate in a former age to have a good old nose around.

In my novel INVISIBLE WOMEN, my heroine Tessa is feeling the emptiness now her youngest child has gone away to university. Or ‘uni’ as she has trained herself to call it, not wanting to appear old-fashioned. Every day, she stalks her daughter on Facebook, examining her photos, scrutinising all the boys and wondering which one she may be ‘seeing’ and which one she may have ‘friend zoned.’ She worries that Lola’s looking a little the worse for wear, you do hear terrible stories about Freshers’ Week, and teenagers overdoing the drink and falling into the river.

But it’s not her daughter she should be worried about. Social media is a notoriously convenient tool for stoking up old fires. You never really ‘move on’ from your past any more. Not when your teenage boyfriend can track you down so easily, even though you are now both in your fifties and one of you is married.  When Tessa receives a message from John, her world is turned upside down. Her Facebook addiction brings unexpected consequences in the form of a hot, illicit romance. Or maybe that is what she was looking for all along. If you’re bored with your husband and living life at one remove, as an online  spectator, why wouldn’t you embrace the chance for something as real and insistent as your former admirer who’s come all the way from America to claim you for his own?

 INVISIBLE WOMEN by Sarah Long is published by Bonnier Zaffre

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The Reading Group: April by Della Parker + Guest Post

Hi guys. Today I am finally reviewing the fifth part of  “The Reading Group” series by Della Parker and as a special treat I have a guest post from the author on one of the inspirations behind the series. It’s brilliant, so make sure to read it!

The Reading Group by Della Parker

 

32919832Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 30th March  2017

Series: The Reading Group #5 (read my review of #1,2 and 3 here)

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 93

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

‘Brims with laughs, love, family and friendship. You will love this heartwarming read!’ Trisha Ashley. Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Holly Martin.

Serena, the ambitious young Headmistress of Poppins Private School, has just begun reading Jane Eyre alongside her friends in the Reading Group. She would never admit it out loud, but she’s half hoping that reality might once again echo fiction. Will she perhaps meet her own Mr Rochester?

That doesn’t stop her from being slightly alarmed when her secretary arranges an appointment with one Mr Winchester, the handsome father of a troubled pupil in the midst of a messy divorce. But when the line between work and pleasure begins to blur, and troubles in her own family come to a head, Serena is left wondering if being a romantic heroine is all it’s cracked up to be…

Meet the Reading Group: five women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together every month to share their love of reading. No topic is off-limits: books, family, love and loss . . . and don’t forget the glass of red!

Rating: 4/5

“The Reading Group: April” is probably my favourite part of the series right now. I enjoyed it immensely and I think that with every part the characters feel much more developed, complex and the story is this little better than the previous one. In April it is Serena’s story and she’s chosen “Jane Eyre” for the Reading Group, so you can immediately ask – is she going to find her Mr Rochester?

Serena was close to my heart as we both are teachers and I could see that she’s maybe not over – passionate about her job but that she really likes it and that she has heart for her students and her job. I immediately liked her, she was strong – minded but also vulnerable and the way she coped with her life after her husband’s death was just so uplifting, giving hope that it really can be better sometime.

This lovely short story squeezes between the pages many, many issues. It is about family dynamics and feeling unappreciated and under – valued by your own family, it’s about mental health and children being made victims of parents’ misunderstandings. It’s about finding what you want to do with your life and finding peace with grief. Again, I truly liked how the author took elements of “Jane Eyre” and adapted for “Reading Group”. There were moments that the story dragged on a bit and there were moments that some of the events felt too rushed but altogether this novella had the right pace and the right amount of events happening. Altogether, it was a lovely, light quick read that don’t forget about the importance of friendship. Recommended!

GUEST POST:

One of the Inspirations behind the Reading Group

 By Della Parker

I really enjoy writing about friendship.  It’s a theme that runs through many of my books.  In the Reading Group series the focus is on female friendship. I have some amazing female friends. Some of them have been in my life for over forty years and some are newer, but they are all very important to me.  Although I don’t ever transport real people lock, stock and barrel into fiction I do use elements of them and I do write about the issues that affect them.

            Serena, the Main Character of April is a lady who struggles because she doesn’t fit into her family – she has always felt that she is not quite good enough.  I have one or two friends who feel like this – in fact it’s surprisingly common.

            And of course if your family aren’t supportive it makes friendship massively important.

            The Reading Group is about a group of friends who meet to discuss a classic novel each month and discover that – spookily – one of their lives mirrors the plot.

            In April they are reading Jane Eyre and Serena, who’s headmistress of Poppins Private School, is half hoping that reality will echo fiction, as it has before, and she will meet her own Mr Rochester.

This doesn’t stop her from being slightly alarmed when her secretary arranges an appointment with Mr Winchester, the father of a troubled pupil.

It would appear that Mr Winchester has an ex wife who is also rather troubled (or possibly completely deranged!). To add to the drama there is turbulence (as there usually is) in Serena’s own family too. Serena begins to wonder if being a romantic heroine is all it’s cracked up to be…