Review

Review Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

lost girls

Blurb

Two girls go missing. Only one will return.
The couple that offers the highest amount will see their daughter again. The losing couple will not. Make no mistake. One child will die.

When nine-year-old best friends Charlie and Amy disappear, two families are plunged into a living nightmare. A text message confirms the unthinkable; that the girls are the victims of a terrifying kidnapping.

And when a second text message pits the two families against each other for the life of their children, the clock starts ticking for D.I. Kim Stoneand the squad.

Seemingly outwitted at every turn, as they uncover a trail of bodies, Stone realises that these ruthless killers might be the most deadly she has ever faced. And that their chances of bringing the girls home alive, are getting smaller by the hour…

Untangling a dark web of secrets from the families’ past might hold the key to solving this case. But can Kim stay alive long enough to do so? Or will someone’s child pay the ultimate price?

My Thoughts 

Thank you to the amazing Team at Bookouture for letting me review this from Net Gallery

WOW WOW WOW – you think Angela Marsons books couldn’t get any better, well think again this book was on a whole new level of greatness. This has been my favorite book so far. The plot was just amazing and so many twists and turns I didn’t move away from the edge of my seat.

I felt in this book I got to know Kim as a character far more, she is certainly without doubt the star of this novel, but I also loved getting to know her team members  more in this book you get to know a few things in this book about some of the team which make you understand why they are working there with Kim.

I am pretty certain I have heard Angela is working on Novel number 4 Yipppeeee

Scary but addictive

5 of 5 stars

Review

Review Love you better by Natalie K Martin

Natalie Martin

Blurb 

After a soul-destroying breakup with her ex, Smith, Effie Abbott has met the man of her dreams. She’s had the whirlwind romance and the fairy-tale wedding to the charming and suave Oliver Barton-Cole, and life seems firmly back on track.

Things were never simple between Smith and Effie, so when he forces his way back into her life, Effie knows he’s a complication she doesn’t want or need. After all, she has Oliver, a man who loves her better than Smith ever did.

But when cracks in her marriage begin to emerge and Oliver shows flashes of a darker side, Effie has to question just how well she really knows her husband, and whether Smith is back to derail her seemingly perfect marriage or save her from it.

My Thoughts

I was sent this book from the publisher for an honest review

I absolutely loved this story as it covered the very serious subject of domestic violence and also the quest for one woman to find out who she is and what she really wants from her life.

I warmed to Effie the protagonist straight away and found myself rooting for her the whole way through the Novel and wanted to be with her and support her through everything she faced (so much so I read this book in one sitting). This book  also really highlights the fact that you really don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and your should be mindful of this on a daily basis when dealing with people.

This Novel I think really has something for everyone and really should be on your tbr list.

5 of 5 stars

Review

**Review*** Shopaholic to the rescue by Sophie Kinsella

shopaholic to the stars

Blurb

Becky Bloomwood and a hilarious cast of beloved family and friends (plus one enemy!) set off in a van to find her missing father, last heard from in Las Vegas.
Becky’s father Graham and her best friend’s husband, Tarquin, have disappeared from Los Angeles saying simply they have “something to take care of.”

But Tarquin’s wife Suze who is Becky’s best friend, and Becky’s mother Jane, are convinced the two men are hiding something and are in danger—their imaginations run wild. They must track them down!

Hijinks ensue as husband Luke drives Becky, daughter Minnie, Jane, Suze and other favorite Kinsella characters across country from LA to Las Vegas in search of the missing men.

Becky feels deeply guilty about ignoring her father while he was in LA, in addition Becky feels her enemy Alicia is threatening her friendship with Suze

My Thoughts 

At the risk of sounding unpopular I did not enjoy this book as much as the other 7 books  in the series.  I think the storyline wasn’t as great as the other books have been, I think for me its getting a bit predictable but….

Saying all of the above I do still have plenty of positives for this book. It was good to see the old Becky back not the one from Shopaholic from the Stars.

I loved the character development this story had everyone (apart from Becky) are growing up and lives are developing.  I also some what enjoyed the story Kinsella took us on all though as I said above it wasn’t the best storyline and predictable but in away that is what it makes it a comforting read a bit like comfort food if that makes sense. In parts it did give me laugh out loud moments (Becky moments) just like the other books have done.  I would still defiantly read the next in the series (if there is one) to see where Becky takes us next. Another mad adventure to the shops I am sure

4 of 5 Stars

Review

Review Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe and Kisses #bookouturexmas

#BC banner jen hale

Blurb

Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble…

With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?

My Thoughts 

Thank you Bookouture for approving me for a copy of this title on NetGalley.

I discovered Jenny Hale last Christmas and so glad I did! I have absolutely loved the Books I have read so far.

This book was warm and full of Christmas spirit and I found myself many times curled up on the sofa with a mug of chocolate reading this book . I admit I did find the book slow to get into but once I got to know all the characters  and the story started unfolding I soon settled in for the ride Jenny took us on. The main character Abbey  Fuller I just wanted to be her friend as she was such a wonderful person.

This book is defiantly well worth putting on your Christmas TBR to get you in the mood for this special time of the year

4 of 5 Stars

Review

#bookouturexmas q and a with Mandy Baggot

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Mandy-Baggot-author

Hi Mandy– Thank you for taking part in this q and a for #bookouturexmas Would you like to start by introducing yourself to my readers..?

Hi everyone! I’m Mandy, a romantic fiction author residing in Wiltshire in the UK with my husband, two daughters, two cats and two guinea pigs. I’ve currently written eleven books and am plotting out my twelve and thirteenth as we speak!

One Wish in Manhattan tell us a bit about this?

One Wish in Manhattan is a romantic, feel-good novel, set in New York at the run up to Christmas. It’s about single mum, Hayley and her intelligent nine year old daughter, Angel, heading to the Big Apple in search of Angel’s father. Will they find him? What else will happen? How does a billionaire come into it? You’ll have to read it to find out.

How did you go about doing the research for this book?

I spent quite a lot of time watching You Tube videos of New York street scenes. I wanted to capture the essence of New York and give my book an authentic flavour. I haven’t actually visited New York but my dad lives in America so I was able to use some of my experiences from trips there too. I also spoke to my friends who had been to the Big Apple and used some of their information.

Who are your favorite Authors?  And what genre of books do you enjoy reading? If you have time.

I love to read contemporary romance and crime thrillers. I don’t really have a favourite author as I read so many different ones. But as far as romance is concerned I like to read Sophie Kinsella and Debbie Macomber and crime thrillers from Angela Marsons, a fellow Bookouture author.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The best thing is getting to do your passion as a job! It’s what everyone dreams of, getting paid to do what you love doing most. It is a dream come true and it also means I can work from home and have that flexibility when it comes to my daughters.

Do you have a favourite writing place?

I have a new writing room. We made our spare room into my office a few months ago and it’s my favourite place to write. I have a view over our garden and the fields beyond and it’s a calm place no one else is allowed in! With two children and a messy husband it’s the only room I can keep neat and tidy!

So I have read that you have auditioned for the x factor? When was this? What was it like? and has it put you off watching the x factor

I did! It was in 2008 and I went to the Cardiff Millennium Stadium to audition with 9,999 other people. It was a long day. We got there at 8.30am and I didn’t get my audition until 5.30pm but I got through. We then had to stay overnight and wear the same clothes to audition again the next day. I didn’t get through that stage so never got to meet the judges. I don’t watch the X Factor any more. It does give you a behind the scenes glance into what makes shows like that and the whole experience did put me off a bit! Would I do it again? NO! I sing for fun now. I like to do karaoke and I sang at a friend’s charity fundraiser a few months ago. I have no ambition to be the next Adele.

And finally – have you started writing your next book? Any clues as to what it maybe about?  I am sure my readers would love to know

I have started two books… yes I never like to do things the easy way. Both of them are summer reads. Which one will be next? I’m not sure yet!

Thank you for taking the time to answer these

Mandy-Baggot-author

Mandy Baggot

Mandy Baggot is an award-winning author of romantic women’s fiction and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. A contributor to writing blogs and short story anthologies, she is also a regular speaker at literary festivals, events and women’s networking groups.

Mandy loves mashed potato, white wine, country music, Corfu and handbags. She has appeared on ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and auditioned for The X-Factor and lives in Wiltshire

Review

#bookouturexmas Q & A with Jenny Hale

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Today on #Bookouture I have Jenny Hale Talking about Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses, Later on this week  I will also be posting my review of this book

Hi Jenny  – Thank you for taking part in this q and a for #bookouturexmas Would you like to start by introducing yourself to my readers..?

Hello everyone! I’m Jenny Hale, author of five novels, my most recent being Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses!

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses tell us a bit about this?

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is about single mother Abbey Fuller. She loves her family more than anything, but she’s had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold to raise her son Max. As a favor for a friend, she takes an interior design job where she meets Nick Sinclair. He needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble…  And so begins a little Christmas magic!

What is the best thing about being a writer?

There isn’t one best thing. I love every single thing about being an author—from the minute I type “Chapter One” on the first page to the last time I send in edits. I couldn’t pick one thing.

Do you have a favourite writing place?

I tend to write on my back deck but mostly because it is there that I can find two things: a table and silence. With two small children, it’s tough to find either for very long. I’m usually found kicking soccer balls, running to sporting events, and playing with my kids.

You must have a very busy life with working full time, 2 children, a husband, and writing. What do you do to relax?  Writing is how I relax! (or reading) My favorite times are when the house is completely silent and I’m all by myself. The minute that happens (which is rare), I literally run for my computer.

And finally – have you started writing your next book? Any clues as to what it maybe about?  I am sure my readers would love to know.

It’s definitely at the beach—a summer book. I’m throwing around ideas at the moment. One idea has to do with a giant inn right on the water and sailboats…

Thank you for taking the time to answer these.

You’re welcome! Thank you for having me, Natalie!

Jenny-Hale-Contemporary-Romance-author

Jenny Hale

When she graduated college, one of Jenny’s friends said “Look out for this one; she’s going to be an author one day”. Despite being an avid reader and a natural storyteller, it wasn’t until that very moment that the idea of writing novels occurred to her.

Sometimes our friends can see the things that we can’t. Whilst she didn’t start straight away, that comment sowed a seed and several years, two children and hundreds of thousands of words later, Jenny finished her first novel – Coming Home for Christmas – which became an instant bestseller.

www.itsjennyhale.com

Review

#Bookouturexmas Q and A with Sue Watson

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So as part of bookouturexmas I was lucky enough to have a chat to the Lovely Sue Watson

Hi Sue  – Thank you for taking part in this q and a for #bookouturexmas Would you like to start by introducing yourself to my readers..?

Bella’s Christmas Bake off can you tell us a bit about it?

Hi and thank you so much for having me. My Christmas book is about Amy Lane, whose husband walks out on her just before Christmas.  Amy is so upset she begins to dread Christmas – her favourite time of the year. This is made worse by the constant on screen presence of TV kitchen goddess Bella Bradley, darling of the nation and Amy’s old friend.  Amy is constantly being faced with Bella’s perfect life and luxurious, glittering Christmas in her beautiful Cotswolds home. But is everything as it seems? When Amy gets the chance to visit Bella in her new world there is trouble ahead and the atmosphere is pretty chilly – which has nothing to do with the snow falling. This is a very Christmassy story about baking, friendship, marriage – and living a lie – a big fat one actually! Oh and there’s a rather fabulous fluffy cat ‘actress’ who stars in Bella’s show and whose TV name is ‘Pussy Galore,’ but in reality he’s a Tom cat called Keith.

How did you go about doing the research for this book?

I used to be a TV Producer with the BBC and have worked on many cookery shows over the years and always wanted to write about a celebrity chef. The combination of Christmas baking and TV diva was too irresistible, so I wrote about what I know and didn’t research so much as just remember and imagine. Though I did try to dress my cat Harry up as a festive Pussy Galore to see what would happen… I still have the scratches!

Who are your favorite Authors?  And what genre of books do you enjoy reading? If you have time.

I don’t read much chick-lit because I would be constantly thinking ‘why didn’t I write that?’ My choice of reading is always much darker – I love psychological thrillers, my favourite writers are Gillian Flynn and Tamar Cohen, both brilliant at plot and atmosphere and I love Tamar Cohen’s subtle dark humour and her take on life and people.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Not having to leave the house on a cold morning when everyone else has to. I particularly relish the calm that descends when everyone has gone to work and school and I’m home alone with the cats and a nice cup of coffee.

Do you have a favourite writing place?

Yes my desk is in the kitchen so I can be near to the fridge in case of emergencies (it’s where I keep chocolate). I also like my spot because it overlooks the garden and it’s close to the kettle.

I would love to know a bit about your career before writing I understand you were a Journalist and then a TV Producer. What made you decide to leave this all for a career in writing?

While I was working in TV I loved it. Making a TV programme is surprisingly similar to writing a book because you’re always telling a story… and it has to be interesting enough to keep the viewer/reader engaged.  I was with the BBC for about 12 years and during that time found myself sitting in edit suites making notes, devising plots and jotting down ideas. I would also spend a great deal of time listening to people’s comments and again I would make notes – and when I decided to leave to write I already  had the bones of my first novel, Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes.

And finally – have you started writing your next book? Any clues as to what it maybe about?  I am sure my readers would love to know.

I have a few ideas in my head, but at the moment they are just percolating like coffee… which reminds me, I haven’t had a cup for at least five minutes! ;)Thank you for taking the time to answer these

Sue Watson

Sue-Watson-Author-pic-120px

Sue Watson was a journalist on women’s magazines and national newspapers before leaving it all behind for a career in TV. As a producer with the BBC she worked on garden makeovers, kitchen takeovers and daytime sofas – all the time making copious notes so that one day she might escape to the country and turn it all into a book.

After much deliberation and copious consumption of cake, Sue eventually left her life in TV to write.  After a very successful debut novel, Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes, Sue signed with Bookouture and has gone on to write four fabulous books.

www.suewatsonbooks.com

Review

#Bookouturexmas Bella’s Christmas bake off

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Today as part of the #bookouturexmas I have an extract from Bella’ Christmas Bake off by the very talented Sue Watson

Later on today I will have a post up from a q & a I had with Sue a few days ago

Bellas-Christmas-Bake-Off-Kindle

Chapter One

Naughty Custard and Severely Whipped Cream

I was icing the Christmas cake when he told me.

‘Amy…I have to talk to you,’ he said.

I lifted the palette knife to create a snowy effect on the soft, mallow frosting and stood back, then turned to him.

‘What?’ I was gazing at my beautiful frosty white cake. ‘Silent Night’ played on the iPod, and it was just three weeks before Christmas. I glanced up at Neil standing next to me, and the look in his eyes scared me so much I put down the palette knife.

‘What is it? Are you ill…has something happened?’

He nodded, slowly, his eyes still cold, like they belonged to someone else.

‘I was going to leave it until after Christmas to tell you, but I’ve…I can’t go on like this. Amy, I’m sorry but it feels like a charade to go through the whole Christmas thing and…I’ve met someone.’ He was standing in front of me now, making eye contact, ensuring the message was clear and there was no room for misunderstanding. My mind went blank. The pink tie I’d bought for him was loosened at his neck. He’d just come home from work.There were pork chops in the oven.

‘Is this a joke?’ There were no words for this. I’d sometimes imagined a scene where we parted, but it was usually the other way round and me telling him I was going. I wasn’t ready for this, now –ever.

‘Why?’

‘Because I can’t live a lie any longer, Amy,’ he said, his speech obviously well prepared, learned by heart. I could see by his set jaw and steady gaze he was damn well going to say every word without interruption from me.

‘You’ve been so busy with work, you’ve got your friends and your life and I feel like there’s no room for me…’ he started.

‘Oh no, Neil. You sleeping with someone else is not my fault, so don’t even try to pull that one,’ I snapped, moving swiftly from shock to anger, aware I was spitting in his face– not pretty…or festive.

‘I’m sorry, I’m not blaming you, but I just…I want to be with her. She loves me, she cares what happens to me, asks me about my day…I’m sorry, Amy…’ He stood there, ashen-faced.

‘So after twenty years you’re just walking out on your marriage because some other woman asks if you’ve had a nice day?’ I was becoming irrational, but who could blame me? ‘Perhaps I should have made more like an American waitress and said ‘have a nice day,’ when I ‘served’ you your evening meal.’

The panic was rising in my chest, I couldn’t deal with people leaving, the thought of being on my own scared me. Things hadn’t been great for a long time between us, but he didn’t have to go and throw it all away– not now, just weeks before Christmas. I glanced through the living room door at the Christmas tree, the lights twinkling, gifts from relatives and friends already underneath.This was a time for being together, for rekindling love and family, not abandoning it.

‘I don’t understand?’ I asked, trying to calm down and not to bare my teeth like a wild animal. I didn’t know how I felt about Neil, but I wasn’t ready for this and I didn’t want him storming off into the night and leaving me alone. I needed to keep everything on an even keel, especially myself.  ‘I know we’ve had our problems Neil, but all marriages have problems, we just have to work at them.’

‘That’s what I thought too, but…she’s special.’

‘Special? More “special” than the woman you married, who you’ve been with for over twenty years,’ I snapped, losing any chance of staying calm at this.

‘No…of course you’re special too, but we both want different things, Amy.’

‘Yeah, you want someone else.’

‘It’s not like that…I care about her.’

So this really was it? After several years of our relationship hanging by a thread, one of us had finally decided to do something to end it, but now it was finally here I felt sick. I was about to throw up, but swallowed hard to prevent it. Whatever I might think about him, I didn’t want my husband’s last moments with me to be infused with the sight and smell of me vomiting noisily in the kitchen.

‘Who is she?’ I heard myself croak.

‘Someone at work, she works in the Legal department…you don’t know her.’

‘Well I do now, don’t I?’I started. ‘Because it looks like this woman who I “don’t know”has been playing quite a big part in my life without me even realising …’

He just stood there with his head down like I was reprimanding him. He reminded me of one of the teenagers I taught at school who’d been found smoking or downloading porn on their iPhone.

‘Neil, the kids will be home from Uni in three weeks…and I made a cake…’ I gestured towards the snow-topped, perfectly iced confection like it would make a difference to his planned departure. Three minutes ago this beautiful fruit cake had, along with the Christmas Tree, been the centre and beginning of my pre-Christmas world. We both stared at the cake as though it held the answers and if we stared for long enough all the bad things would go away. But they didn’t, and when I looked back, the eyes staring out of my husband’s face were a stranger’s eyes.

‘When are you going?’ I asked, trying to bring myself round.

He shrugged, ‘Tomorrow…?’

I suddenly couldn’t bear another minute of this and as another wave of anger engulfed me, I called his bluff. ‘How about now? Go now,’ I said.

‘You think I should go now?’ He looked almost relieved, which hurt and angered me even more.

‘You can’t wait to leave, can you?’ I spat incredulously.

‘No, no… I don’t want to upset you…neither does Jayne; she’s so upset and feels terrible about everything.’

That did it.

‘Oh poor, poor Jayne is upset? Why didn’t you say? You must go to her, how selfish I am thinking only of me when she’s the one who’s devastated…I feel awful for keeping you.’

He made an awkward move towards me and I picked up the palette knife in a threatening manner like I’d seen crazy people do in crime dramas on TV. In that moment, with the panic rising in my chest, I felt just as mad as those wild murdering types, slashing around with a cleaver. It was just as well my weapon of choice was only a round-edged, blunt decorating tool and not a big, sharp chef’s knife,especially when I started waving it at himaggressively.

He edged back along the kitchen wall like the wimp he was, flinching as I punctuated my harmless but dramatic palette waving with swearing and ridiculous threats.I couldn’t stop and the more he cowered, the more I flailed my ‘weapon’ around while starting on a detailed personality assassination. As therapeutic as this was,I had to stop because I was reaching volcanic levels and could feel a panic attack coming on. I stood back, put down the knife and leaned against the kitchen unit to get my breath back. Just as I put my head in my hands and he thought I wasn’t looking, the little coward made a bid for freedom. He weaselled his way out of the kitchen and ran upstairs to pack his pyjamas and toothbrush, without even asking if I was okay.

‘I could have died,’ I yelled at him as I heard his tentative steps on the stair carpet before he put his head round the door like a rabbit in the headlights.

‘I’m going to go now, because I think you need to calm down and me being here might just make things worse,’ he said, like he was dealing with a petulant child.

Too late. I had a brown paper bag over my mouth (which I always kept at hand in the event of a panic attack) whilst continuing to ladle a thick layer of snowy frosting on the cake on auto-pilot like a woman possessed. In my state of shock all I heard was him mutter something about calling me ‘tomorrow’, and as he walked out of the front door I cracked, picked up the cake and blindly chased him down the hall. Halfway down the drive he turned back and I saw the fear in his eyes as he spotted my frosty confection coming straight for his head accompanied by my season’s greetings;  ‘Happy bloody Christmas’, I screechedalong with other non-festive expletives I would rather not repeat. He ducked of course, but as the cake frisbeed past him and across the street the whole thing was witnessed by Alfie Mathews, the son of my neighbour, who also happened to be a pupil of mine. There was frosty icing everywhere, a large cake sliding down the garden wall, me standing in the doorwayscreaming like the madwoman in the attic …and one of my pupils filming the whole spectacle on his mobile.

It was all very surreal and I was so distressed and disorientated I couldn’t face tackling the film-maker sojust staggered back indoors.

Once inside I slammed the door, sat down on a chair, and marvelled at how in less than thirty minutes my life had melted like snow in hot hands. Everything I thought I had, everything I’d thought I was,had gone in a whirlwind…along with the now smashed Christmas cake.

Eventually, I stirred and picked up the TV remote without moving from my seat in the kitchen, and turned on the TV.

‘Ooh you have to have squidgy ones,’ the voice purred from the screen on the wall. Neil had put it up there a couple of years ago because I liked to watch cookery shows in the kitchen, particularly Bella Bradley’s shows, and the ‘squidgy ones’ to which she was now referring were chocolate brownies, which as always looked perfect – but then she had no need to throw them at anyone did she? I stared at the screen numbly. It seemed as though as my life was collapsing, while Bella’s was going from strength to strength. Each year she and her lovely home seemed to be glossier, more expensive, her Christmas cakes more ornate, her tree taller. Bella’s eyes glittered from her fairy lit kitchen, colour matched in red and green with a hint of classy sparkle. The long dark hair, luscious red lips and happy marriage made her look at least ten years younger than she was and despite loving her show I couldn’t help but sometimes feel a twinge of resentment. I wished my life had been as glamorous and successful as Bella’s and felt the envy and regret even more keenly after what had just happened. I found vague comfort in watching Bella add mixed spice to a bowl, stirring vigorously, causing the reindeers on her tight red ski jumper to frolic across her full bosom. I wondered for the millionth time what it would be like to have Bella’s Christmas, her marriage – her life.

What made the contrast in our very different lives so painful was that Bella Bradley used to be my best friend. We’d once shared everything, from secrets to perfume to clothes, we’d been best friends from our first day at school and watching her now on screen I found it hard to reconcile this well-groomed, accomplished woman with the crazy, funny friend I used to love. When we were kids Bella was the one who took risks while I stood on the sidelines watching in awe, and sometimes horror, while she got herself into the most horrific scrapes. Throughout her school days she had been involved in smoking, playing truant, swearing and writing obscene words on the gym wall – yet still she seemed to charm her way out of it all. I didn’t have her charisma or her daring; I suppose that’s why Bella’s a TV star and I’m a maths teacher, I thought, absently watching her whisk up a batch of chocolate brownies with the kind of noises one would associate with an orgasm.

‘Ooh that’s very, very naughty,’ she was saying, her eyes looking into the camera, a tight close-up of just her tongue licking chocolate-covered fingers I assumed were her own. Mind you, from the sounds she was making one had to wonder if her delicious husband was somewhere off camera reaching into her red-lipsticked mouth. Who knew what was going on behind that soon to be batch of warm bad boys?

Just thinking about Bella’s husband reminded me of my own, or sudden lack of – making my stomach churn. I tried to shake the thought of Neil having sex with another woman from my head while pacing around the house, wondering what to do, asking myself so many questions. Had I known, or at least suspectedhe was having an affair? Had I become lazy and complacent, not necessarily wanting Neil around, but not brave enough to make any changes? There were times when I’d doubted if Neil and I would make ‘forever’, but they were just blips weren’t they? Didn’t everyone go through times when they wondered if they’d married the right person? You just got on with it, which is why I was so surprised to find myself suddenly single. I wandered into the living room and stared at the Christmas tree I’d put up the previous week. It had been decorated with hope and anticipation for the season ahead. I’d hung each bauble imagining the four of us sitting round a glistening turkey on Christmas day lit by the glow of that tree. But looking at it now, days later, I felt nothing–just sad and disappointed.

It was an ancient white tree, and even the sparkly white fairy now looked less like a sparkly young girl and more like Miss Haversham, the ageing bride whose groom had left her on her wedding day.

I couldn’t take it in, I looked at the sad fairy seeing myself reflected back – Neil had gone and my Christmas was over before it had begun. Then my eye caught the icy blue bauble we’d bought together on a trip to Paris one Christmas. Carefully plucking the bauble from the tree I held it, feeling the cool Christmas roundness in my palm. There was a raised hand-painted picture of a glittery, snow-covered Eiffel Tower, a lovely memory I hung every year and went straight back to the French Christmas market where we’d bought it. Holding the bauble, watching it sparkle,I was on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées,more than twenty years before, a cold wind was swinging the lights on the stall and heavy rain splashed our faces. Neil and I had been so young and in love back then we only saweach other in the twinkle of fairylights in the rain. It was bustling with noise, festive music played and the air was heady with Christmas as we held hands and chose our special souvenir of our first holiday together. I was eighteen. Looking into the bauble now, watching the glitter change from white to pink to blue as I twirled it I felt sad for what we’d lost. Then I remembered with a jolt how later on that evening we’d argued about something trivial and Neil stormed out of the hotel. He came back very late and quite drunk and I cried all night while he slept soundly next to me. We barely spoke to each other all the next day, despite it being Christmas Day, and my dreams of Christmas in Paris floated off down the Seine. Funny how I’d forgotten about that, perhaps Neil’s leaving had made me more cynical, more aware of what we were, and not what I’d wanted us to be? I should have known then we wouldn’t last; if a couple fall out in the city of love on Christmas Eve then cupid’s trying to tell them something. We were such different people, Neil and I, and in those early days I’d naively thought he would change, but he never did.

I thought of all the Christmas Eves since then that the kids and I had waited for him to come home.They always wanted to wait for Daddy, but he was usually ‘caught up at the office,’ and I was so busy making Christmas for them I didn’t have the time or the energy to worry where he was. I did everything without him, not just Christmas,  but days out, barbecues in the garden, even parents’ evenings – it was usually just me and the kids. I lived like a single mum, with Neil working away, late at the office or on a golf course somewhere (though there were times I queried his ‘night golf’ sessions, which went on way too late for my liking). Suddenly, it dawned on me, perhaps he wasn’t busy or golfing – perhaps he just didn’t want to come home to me? While I was imagining pitch black golf courses and heavy late night meetings he was ‘going home’ to Jayne from the legal department. As my thoughts drifted back over my marriage to Neil, I realised I had stripped the Christmas tree until it was bare and everything was packed away. All trace of Christmas gone.

I was now alone, I had no husband and all I could think was ‘How will I tell the kids?’ My only consolation was that the twins were now both away at their respective universities and though the break-up of their parents’ marriage would hurt, it wouldn’t impact on their lives as it might have when they were younger. Resentment rose in my chest and I was glad Neil wasn’t there with me because I had a whole block of kitchen knives and who knew what might have happened? Neil and I didn’t have an idyllic marriage, we didn’t ravish each other passionately every night of the week, life got in the way. Neil needed new friends, sparkly objects and flashing lights in his life – whereas I was happy with the status quo and a nice cup of tea.

I returned to the kitchen, my Christmas was over, but Bella was still on the TV creating a Christmas heaven in her home.

‘People laugh when I put bananas in my trifle,’ she was saying, making her eyes wide, her mouth forming a soft O. ‘But I implore you, if you do nothing else this Christmas –have a go with a big banana.’ This was breathed into the lens rather than actually spoken, and was pure cooking porn. ‘Whisky soaked, damp with alcohol, crushed nuts, a scattering of sour cranberries to cut through that icky-stickiness and snowy peaks of cool, white, severely whipped cream. Oooh,’ she was now dipping her finger in the cream, eyes closed, licking slowly, she was no doubt engaging more viewers than just the country’s amateur chefs. Every straight male and gay woman in the UK must have been transfixed by Bella’s culinary Christmas spectacle. I bit my lip, she was too much. Even Nigella would baulk at ‘severely whipped cream’ to describe a bloody trifle.

‘Bella’s Christmas Bake Off’ always started in early December and for years had prepared me and the rest of the country for the culinary season ahead. Bella basted beautiful, golden turkeys, cooked crispy roast potatoes, baked magnificent cakes and biscuits, causing power surges throughout the country as people turned on their ovens and baked. She would sprinkle lashings of glitter, special olive oils, the latest liqueurs and all in a sea of Christmas champagne bubbles.

Bella’s style was calm, seductive, and gorgeous. Her very presence on screen made you feel everything was going to be okay and Christmas was on its way. She didn’t just stop at delicious food either – her tables were pure art and her Christmas decorations always the prettiest, sparkliest, most beautiful. Bella Bradley had an enviable lifestyle and she kept viewers transfixed all year round, but her Christmases were always special. Her planning and eye for detail was meticulous, from colour-matched baubles to snowy landscapes of Christmas cupcakes and mince pies – and soggy bottoms were never on her menu.

So in an attempt to forget my own life and fill myself with something like Christmas cheer,I watched Bella now, as she poured the whipped cream on ‘naughty’ custard. Oh if it were only the custard in my life that was ‘naughty,’ I thought as sheadded edible pearls for decoration, fingering each one as she pushed them firmly into the cream. I sat in my little kitchen just waiting for the Christmas sparkle to land on me, the frisson of Christmas baking, the preparation, the anticipation that always came with the first ‘Bella’s Christmas Bake Off.’ But this year I just couldn’t get excited by her baking or her beautiful, twinkly home or her magnificent tree. She had everything – and I had nothing…which had always been the case, but now I didn’t even have a husband anymore.

Bella’s husband, Peter Bradley, or the Silver Fox, as Bella affectionately referred to him, was gorgeous. He was a foreign news correspondent who, when he wasn’t making ‘impromptu’ appearances in Bella’s busy kitchen during the show, could be seen on battlefronts across the globe. He’d wander into Bella’s kitchen all five o’clock shadow and war-weary as she iced her voluptuous buns or titivated her tarts. He always looked quite out of place in this domestic idyll after doing a piece to camera in a war-torn city, but he was obviously happy to support his wife’s career by just being there. Unlike my husband, he hadn’t left her alone at Christmas for another woman – he’d stayed by her side, happy to brush the flour from her décolletage and stick his finger in her buttercream.

‘The Silver Fox loves my plump, tasty breasts,’ she was now saying while tearing at tender white turkey flesh with a knowing look. Peter was there in all his war-torn glory, taking her proffered morsels with a twinkle in his pale blue eyes, a crinkly smile on his well worn features. He was so handsome, fit for his late forties, and no doubt, given his career, very strong, intelligent and brave. He was the perfect accessory to Bella, bringing just the right amount of rough masculine charm and good looks to her glossygirlishness. And as a delicious bonus, the Silver Fox wasn’t afraid to show his feminine side judging by the previous year’s Christmas special, when he’d flown in from Iraq to whisk cream in nothing but combats and a tight vest. I was transfixed – trust me, Christmas had come early!

Bella was now informing us that we had to rehearse for Christmas Eve. Rehearse? As if one Christmas stress-fest wasn’t enough? She was wearing silk pyjamas and a girly grinwhich, given my current state, seemed to me like she was bordering on smug.

‘So, imagine it’s Christmas Eve – the turkey has soaked in something fabulous, and so have I, and now I’ve put my jim jams on,’ she giggled, shaking her breasts for no apparent reason – she did that a lot.  I noted with envy how her chocolate brown eyes matched the chocolate brown silk of her pyjamas and considered my own nightwear, a pair of frail pyjamas, once pale pink now edging towards grey after too many washes. If I needed any proof that her life was completely different to mine – it was all there in those ancient pyjamas.

‘Me and the Silver Fox just love a pyjama party at Christmas,’ she twinkled, a little wink and a sip from the crystal flute.‘But then, don’t we all?’

‘Speak for yourself,’ I said, turning off the TV and finishing the last of a bottle of cava I’d found in the fridge. Oh yes, Bella Bradley had always been the lucky one, even when we were kids – but it didn’t stop me loving her – she was my best friend. Then, when we were eighteen I did something stupid which affected her life so profoundly she left the area where we lived and I hadn’t seen her since. I tried not to think how our friendship had been destroyed by what I’d done all those years ago. I still felt guilty about what had happened and longed for her forgiveness. Watching her on screen was the nearest I would ever get to her, and despite the odd twinge of envy I found it therapeutic to see her in a wonderful new life, knowing she was okay… even if I wasn’t.

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Review

#Bookouturexmas q and a with Holly Martin

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I am very lucky to have the gifted writer Holly Martin on the Blog today as part of #Bookouturexmas

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Hi Holly   – Thank you for taking part in this q and a for #bookouturexmas would you like to start by introducing yourself to my readers..?

Hello lovely readers,

I’m Holly Martin and I mainly write sweet, cute romantic comedies. I have two books out this Christmas, Christmas at Lilac Cottage and Snowflakes on Silver Cove are both set in the same seaside town of White Cliff Bay.

How did you go about doing the research for these 2015 Christmas books I understand you visited a chainsaw carver for one of them?

I visited an ice carver as thats Penny’s job in Christmas at Lilac Cottage. It was very interesting to learn about the process and I chatted to them for several hours and watched them carve. For a previous book I interviewed a chainsaw carver and some of the skills I learned from him were transferable to ice carving too, in fact the ice carver i met used to be a chainsaw carver. I also interviewed someone from the lifeboat crew to get the details right for the lifeboat rescue that appears in both books (both books are set in the same week leading up to Christmas so we see key events from different points of view)

Who are your favorite Authors?  And what genre of books do you enjoy reading? If you have time.

I don’t get a lot of time for reading but when I do I love reading the kind of books I write, I do love chicklit, it just makes me smile. It has to have a happy ending or I’m just not interested. I love Aven Ellis, Lisa Dickenson and Sarah Morgan.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Getting to go to different places and meeting different people for research, creating the kind of stories i like to read, making people smile with my words. When i get a message from someone who has read my book and loved it, there is no nicer feeling than that

Do you have any advice you can give to new writers?

Write everything down, any idea, any scene, any conversation that pops into your head, write it down, it might then become a story, it might not but it will never become anything unless you write it down. It might be awful, but you can edit awful, you can’t edit nothing

Which book has been your favourite to write?

I generally don’t write sequels, my stories are all finished by the end of the book and I don’t see the point of returning to a character but there was so much love for One Hundred Proposals, I wanted to do a little Christmas bonus for them. One Hundred Christmas Proposals was a novella, only 30,000 words but I absolutely loved being back in the world of Suzie and Harry again. I enjoyed writing it so much that I finished the whole thing in 3 weeks while I was on holiday in Canada.

And finally – have you started writing your next book? Any clues as to what it maybe about?  I am sure my readers would love to know.

I’ve just started writing my spring book which is set in White Cliff Bay again. Its set in a lighthouse and features Riley Eddison, a sexy American and Darcy Davenport, a clumsy sweet red head.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these

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Holly Martin

Holly emerged onto the Chick Lit scene by winning the Belinda Jones Travel Club short story competition – and has not looked back since.

Her adult fiction debut, The Guestbook, hit number 5 in the Amazon chart and she has now written three books with Bookouture: Fairytale Beginnings, Christmas at Lilac Cottage and Snowflakes at Silver Cove.

www.hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com

Review

#BOOKOUTUREXMAS #GIVEAWAY

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I am over the moon at taking part in #bookouturechristmas over the next few days. I am going to kick start the week with a Giveaway.Each of these authors will be featured on my blog and in the other Team bookouture xmas blogs this week.

So Bookouture are giving 1 lucky winner a chance to win the below 5 books in E book form

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So what are you waiting for get entering. I will announce the winner at the end of #bookouturexmas

CLICK HERE TO ENTER
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