Friday 30 November 2018

Review: There There by Tommy Orange

Jacquie Red Feather and her sister Opal grew up together, relying on each other during their unsettled childhood. As adults they were driven apart, but Jacquie is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. That’s why she is there.
Dene is there because he has been collecting stories to honour his uncle's death. Edwin is looking for his true father. Opal came to watch her boy Orvil dance. All of them are connected by bonds they may not yet understand.
All of them are there for the cultural celebration that is the Big Oakland Powwow.
But Tony Loneman is also there. And Tony has come to the Powwow with darker intentions.

Review: This novel was a bit of a mixed bag for me. As you know, I don 't read a lot of literary fiction but this one appealed to me and I had seen people with similar reading tastes to me reading so I decided to give it a go. I also read this with a friend which gave me time to put my thoughts together a little more coherently and a little quicker than I might have otherwise done. 

This books definitely felt more like a collection of short stories with a common link than any kind of novel or chronological account. Once I started to think of each section as a separate short story it definitely became easier for me to read. I would definitely recommend going into this book with that mindset rather than trying to make sense of how the characters link together, especially in the very first section. 

This is an own voices native American novel and it had some facts an figures between some of the stories which were a real education and an eye-opener for me. I knew very little about this culture and now I feel I know a little bit more. I also enjoyed the factual sections as a break from the stories in the book as some of them can become quite intense. 

The way the stories all link together become clear in the last couple of chapters, we see how characters are connected and the whole thing culminates in one shared event. I actually thought the ending was pretty clever and I do feel like this is a book that would benefit from a second reading because things definitely get revealed as it goes on that would definitely have helped my understanding of the beginning of the book a whole lot more. If you are looking to add more Native American literature to your collection then this is a great place to start but I would definitely go into it with the mindset of it being a collection of short stories rather than anything longer than that. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Thursday 29 November 2018

Blog Tour: Excerpt from Black Moss by David Nolan

Today I excited to be part of the blog tour for Black Moss by David Nolan. 
In April 1990, as rioters took over Strangeways prison in Manchester, someone killed a little boy at Black Moss. I have an exciting excerpt to share with you today and if you like the look of that, you can click here to order the book yourself! Here's what it's all about...

And no one cared. 

No one except Danny Johnston, an inexperienced radio reporter trying to make a name for himself.

More than a quarter of a century later, Danny returns to his home city to revisit the murder that's always haunted him. 

If Danny can find out what really happened to the boy, maybe he can cure the emptiness he's felt inside since he too was a child.

But finding out the truth might just be the worst idea Danny Johnston has ever had.

 And here's that exclusive excerpt for you, to give you a taste of what's in store...

Twenty-six after the events of 1990, Danny is now ‘Daniel’, a famous TV presenter. He’s been arrested for drink driving and has to go for treatment at an addiction centre. This is what it’s really like. Trust me!
Leaning into the intercom, Daniel pressed the button next to the speaker and waited for his cue to talk. Nothing. He buzzed again.
‘Hello?’ the female voice said.
‘Hi. It’s Daniel Johnston. I’ve an appointment with Jo McGuire.’
‘Push the door and come through,’ came the reply. Daniel tried to do as he was told but pushed too soon. The door didn’t move. After he’d finished pushing, the door buzzed, and the latch was opened. By the time he realised he’d missed his cue, the door had locked again. He pressed the intercom again. ‘Hi. It’s Daniel again... I... sorry...’
The door buzzed again and this time he made it through and into a tiny reception area with enough room for two people, three at a push. There were two layers of glass between him and the receptionist. A large sign warned that the physical or verbal abuse of staff would not be tolerated. The receptionist – a woman in her thirties with tattoo-covered arms – glanced at him over the top of her large, black-rimmed glasses. ‘Are you here for the needle exchange?’ she said.
Daniel returned her look. Then he realised that she was talking to him. Needle exchange?  ‘No,’ he said. After a pause, he added: ‘I’m with the alkies.’ He smiled at the receptionist, quite pleased with his attempt at keeping the situation light. It didn’t seem to have worked – her face was unchanged. ‘Alcohol support,’ said Daniel. ‘I’m with the alcohol support programme.’
‘Alcohol is to the left. Go through, take seat.’ A second door buzzed, and Danny went through into the waiting area. Things are bad, he thought, but they could be worse. I could be turning right.
Daniel sat down. The furniture was dark beige and blocky. The floor was a chessboard of dull, dark brown and light brown plastic tiles. There were framed pictures on the wall that were abstract and bland. One wall was completely covered in leaflets and flyers: self-help, support groups, psychotherapy, yoga, Pilates, massage – all the kind of things that he would normally have given a very wide berth to.
He sat very still. Very still indeed. Don’t look right, he thought.
Author Info

David is a multi award-winning author, television producer and crime reporter. He has written a dozen books including Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, the true story of the largest historic abuse case ever mounted by Greater Manchester Police. He presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary based on the book called The Abuse Trial. It won both the Rose D’Or and the New York International radio awards in 2016. Officers involved in the case helped David with the police procedures featured in Black Moss, particularly the way the system deals with missing children.  


Thanks to David for sharing this with us today and thanks to Love Books Group for the tour opportunity!


Wednesday 28 November 2018

Review: Feminists Don't Wear Pink and other Lies Curated by Scarlett Curtis

You need this book. Funny, powerful and personal writing by women, for women, about what the F word means to them.
Every woman has a different story to tell. Reading them all in one book might just change your life.
New pink feminists are being announced every week - follow @feminists on Instagram to find out more!
Keira Knightley - Gemma Arterton - Bridget Jones (by Helen Fielding) - Saoirse Ronan - Dolly Alderton - Karen Gillan - Alicia Garza - Jameela Jamil - Kat Dennings - Nimco Ali - Beanie Feldstein - Olivia Perez - Amika George - Evanna Lynch - Akilah Hughes - Tanya Burr - Grace Campbell - Alison Sudol - Elyse Fox - Charlie Craggs - Rhyannon Styles - Skai Jackson - Tasha Bishop - Lolly Adefope - Bronwen Brenner - Dr Alaa Murabit - Trisha Shetty - Jordan Hewson - Amy Trigg - Em Odesser - Emi Mahmoud - Lydia Wilson - Swati Sharma

Review: This book was just so great. I expected to like SOME of the essays in this book but I took something from each and every one of them! I just loved the variety of topics that they covered, the variety of writers that were chosen. There is excellent representation across the entire book so there is literally something in here for everyone. 

I expected a lot of the essays to be personal or some of them to be fact based but there is a great balance between fact, opinion, memoir style stories and poems in this book. I loved the fact that sometimes I was called to action, sometimes I learned something new, sometimes I was nodding along about a shared experience, it was just a great read from cover to cover. I also loved the openness about every topic, nothing was taboo and this book is supremely body positive as well!

Some of my favourites are 'A Playlist for Feminists in Any Situation' by Akilah Hughes; 'Feminist Comebacks' by Scarlet Curtis; "I Don't Feel Like A Woman' by Swati Sharma; 'If in Your Mind You Are Born A Girl' by Tasha Bishop and 'Braless White Women' by Angela Yee. Really though, I could have listed anything here. I love how open and honest these writers were and this really is a great collection to add to your shelves or give as a gift to someone who needs it!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Guest Review: My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

I want to make my husband fall back in love with me.
Let me explain. This isn't an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven't been reading articles in old women's magazines. 'Twenty ways to keep your man'. That couldn't be further from the truth.
I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he'll care. He won't just think, 'Oh good'.
I want it to hurt.
Paula has had Robert's back since they got together as drama students.
She gave up her dreams so he could make it.
Now he's one of the nation's most popular actors.
And Paula's just discovered he's having an affair.

She's going to remind Robert just what he's sacrificing.
And then she's going to break his heart like he broke hers.
It will be her greatest acting role ever.

Revenge is sweet. 
Isn't it?

This author is new to me, although I have discovered that she has written quite a number of successful books. As so often happens, I was attracted to this book by its cover, and, having read the synopsis, decided that it was definitely one I might enjoy. I chose the audio version of the story, which kept me entertained throughout. I'll be looking out for more books from Jane Fallon. 

The central character in this story is Paula, devoted wife of successful actor Robert. She has given up her dreams of becoming an actor herself to look after him and their daughter, Georgia, who, when we join the story, is now on the point of leaving home for university. Paula has found out by glancing at Robert's phone at the wrong minute that he is having an affair with, Saskia, a co-star on his TV soap. She sets out to have her revenge in an elaborate plan which leads her on a convoluted path along which she discovers a lot about herself, as well as meeting some new people and developing new interests. 

I'm definitely glad that I picked this book up; it really is a gripping tale that had me gasping at the twists and turns that the story takes, while also laughing at some of the amusing situations Paula finds herself in. Paula's plan for revenge sounded good enough, but there are a great many side turns and red herrings along the way. I was literally shouting at her not to go along that path or not to listen to that person. I really liked her as a person; she has great determination and imagination in buckets. Robert and Saskia were most definitely not likeable people, but Saskia's husband, Josh, turns out to be not only handsome but one of the more interesting additional members of the cast of characters. The way in which the story is told also appealed to me. Some chapters are from Paula's point of view, and some from Saskia's. Then there was the habit of the narrator addressing the reader; I liked that idea. I wholeheartedly recommend My Sweet Revenge; it takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride and has you hooked from page one. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Monday 26 November 2018

Cover Reveal: The Helpline by Katherine Collette

Today is a very exciting day because I get to take part in the cover reveal for The Helpline by Katherine Collette. This book will be coming out in the UK on June 13th and you can click here to pre-order your copy now!

Here's what it's all about:

Germaine Johnson may not be all that good with people but she’s great with numbers. Unfortunately, as she discovers after 'the incident' at Wallace Insurance (and the subsequent disputed allegations), there are very few openings these days for senior mathematicians. Then her cousin gets her a job at the council. On the Senior Citizens Helpline.

It’s not the resumé entry Germaine wanted - but it turns out Mayor Verity Bainbridge has something more interesting in mind for her. A secret project involving the troublemakers at the senior citizens centre and their feud with the golf club next door. Which is run by the strangely attractive Don Thomas.

Don and the mayor want the seniors closed down. Germaine wants what Don and the mayor want. But when she’s forced to get to know the ‘troublemakers’- things get more complicated.

Witty, big-hearted and hugely enjoyable, The Helpline is what you might get if you crossed The Rosie Project with The Office. Germaine is a perfect oddball heroine, and Katherine has created a wonderful cast of supporting characters, from Ralph in Health and Safety to Jin-Jin, Germaine’s mischievous neighbour. If you have ever wrestled with the world of office politics, this charming debut novel is for you.


drumroll please..... 

here's the cover!

So what do you think?

Sunday 25 November 2018

Guest Review: Cricket and All That By Henry Blofeld

This is a compelling and irreverent account of a sport that originated in 16th century England and was then gradually fed to the British Empire; nowadays, of course England are regularly outplayed by most of the commonwealth countries. The author's probing research has uncovered hitherto unrevealed secret scandals amongst the governing bodies of the game and of the complex lives of some of the great heroes of the past and present day. He reveals the plots and sub-plots that have, it can now be said, livened up the MCC Committee meetings at Lord's over the years.
Totally outrageous, written with Henry Blofeld's contagious sense of humour, Cricket and All That shows cricket as a game that has had a profound effect on the very structure of English life.

Review: As its sub-title states, this is an irreverent history of the game of cricket from the 16th century until the start of the 21st century. The author, Henry Blofeld, is a retired sports journalist and radio cricket commentator. He is well known for his rich turn of phrase and sense of humour, and the book is infused with this sense of fun throughout.

As he states in the introduction, the author has been selective in the individuals and anecdotes described in the book, but those included provide a rich selection of some of the larger than life characters that have graced the game of cricket. Hence, such famous names as Colonel Charles Lennox (who subsequently succeeded to the title of Duke of Richmond, was present at the Battle of Waterloo and whose wife gave the famous ball prior to the battle), W G Grace, Don Bradman, Geoffrey Boycott and Imran Khan decorate the pages.

As a cricket enthusiast, I found the book an enjoyable and fun read, and was fascinated by its descriptions of the history of the game, how its laws 
evolved and became codified, and how its headquarters and the home of Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord's cricket ground, procured by Thomas Lord, originated. All of this is written in Henry Blofeld's colourful and inimitable style.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Friday 23 November 2018

Guest Review: New Beginnings at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

Part One in the brand new series from Holly Hepburn!

It’s September and the new season is bringing change to the village of Little Monkham. Nessie has moved in with the lovely Owen and his son Luke, leaving her sister Sam next door in their renovated pub, the Star and Sixpence. But is all change for the good? Sam and Joss have gone their separate ways and he’s left Little Monkham for good.
New chef Gabriel Santiago is causing a flutter among the women of the village but Sam is determined not to make the same mistake again and keeps things strictly business between them. But an inconvenient attraction to Gabe is the least of Sam’s worries when an unexpected visitor arrives at the Star and Sixpence. Who is Laurie Marsh and what does he want from the sisters?

Review: This is the first part in a new ebook series about the Star and Sixpence Inn, its owners and the villagers of Little Monkham, where the pub sits by the village green. I very much enjoyed the original stories about the inn and was delighted to find that Holly Hepburn had written a further series that takes up more or less where the other one finished. 

In this first part of the new series, we catch up with what has been happening in the lives of the owners of the Star and Sixpence, sisters Nessie and Sam Chapman. Nessie has moved out to live next door with Owen, the village blacksmith and his son, Luke, but is still very much involved with running of the pub. Sam is once more single, boyfriend Joss having left the area altogether. Other inhabitants of the village are very much the same as when we left them at the end of the last series. However, the village is buzzing with excitement over the imminent arrival of a new Michelin starred Spanish chef, Gabe Santiago, who is going to be producing some of his delicious cuisine at the inn. Young and handsome Gabe is quite an attraction for the ladies of the village, but can Sam remain immune to his charms?  In addition to all this, a stranger walks into the inn with a claim that rocks the girls' lives. 

It was lovely to return to Little Monkham and find out how things were progressing with everyone. As usual, Holly's skilful writing transported me to this lovely little village clothed in autumnal colours. You can almost imagine opening the door to the inn and walking into the welcoming warmth on a chilly evening. There are also some pretty mouthwatering dishes being prepared in the kitchen in this story; yet another reason for wishing it was all real. I'm already looking forward to the next story in the series, which I'll be starting to read as soon as it lands on my Kindle. 

To order your copy now, just click here!

If you loved Part One of the LAST ORDERS AT THE STAR AND SIXPENCE series, pre-order Part Two: Christmas Kisses at the Star and Sixpence now!

Thursday 22 November 2018

Happy Thanksgiving 2018!

No review post today since it is a holiday here today. I will be resting and relaxing in Las Vegas seeing friends tomorrow and doing that traditional holiday eating and drinking. 

Thank you for all the support this past year, I hope that whatever you're doing you get a chance to read, just a little bit and that you have a wonderful day!

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Blog Tour: Interview With Amelia Mandeville Author of Every Colour of You

Today I have a very exciting interview for you. I was lucky enough to ask Amelia Mandeville, author of Every Colour of You all of my burning questions about her writing and the book. The book is out now and you can click here to order your copy!Thanks so much to Amelia for stopping by the blog today to chat with us and don't forget to stop by the other blogs on the tour for more reviews and other exclusive content. 

Here's what it's all about. 

What happens when someone who lives every day to the full
meets someone who can only see reasons to stop living . . .?

Zoe's life is full of colourA fan of impromptu yoga, inspirational quotes and experimenting with hair dye, she's on a mission to make the most of each and every day - even if she is currently spending most of her time behind a checkout till.

Then she meets Tristan. The rumour is that since his dad died, Tristan's life has fallen apart. No one has seen him for months. But now he's reappeared, does that mean he's back to 'normal'?

Zoe soon realises Tristan is struggling with a sadness that she can't possibly understand and becomes determined to bring a world of colour back into his life. But the harder she tries, the more she realises it's something she can't fix - and in trying to put him back together, a part of her is beginning to break . . .

Full of big emotions and heart-wrenchingly relatable characters, Every Colour of You is an unforgettable story, and perfect for anyone who's ever felt a little bit broken.

First question-bit of a cliche-how did you get into writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, always been writing, always been creating stories, and I don’t think it was until I got a laptop when I was probably about 13/14 that I started writing novels.
 And here's that interview for you:
Do you write full time & if so, have you always done this?
No I don’t! I do spend a lot of time on my writing, however not full time! A girl can dream though.
Do you have a particular writing style or genre that you prefer?
 Um, I don’t really know. I guess authors do have their style, but I’m only starting so I’m still learning what my style is. I like focusing on emotions though. I know that.
How do you develop your characters as you write, are any of them based on real people?
 I think writers do write based from what they know, but I’ve never written a character who is the exact copy of someone I know.
What was the inspiration behind Every Colour of You?
 I wrote it when I was in a bad place, so it was a bit of an escape for me. I think it’s really hard to get into the heads of people struggling with mental health, and I wanted to show that. And I think sometimes even harder with guys struggling with mental health as they believe they should ‘man up.’

What is your writing process-do you map it out first? Write in chronological order?
 I do tend to map it out, I hate planning though, I get so excited and want to start writing, however its very crucial. I try to always have a good idea of what events follow through from the beginning to the end, but it does change as I write and edit.

How much of you is reflected in your writing? 
 I would say a lot. I’m quite an emotional person. I think there’s a bit of both of me in Zoe and Tristan.
What kind of research did you do before/during writing Every Colour of You?
 I did do research. I had to research into anti depressants, hospitals, specific wording, conditions, I did a lot of googling. I wanted to try make it as accurate as possible

How much attention do you pay to the reviews that you get?
Ah. I try not to. It’s my first published novel, so I really have no idea what my writing is like. So I am curious. But obviously not every book is everyone’s taste, so I do need to take a lot of reviews with a pinch of salt, and also see it as help to develop my career. Some reviews have been lovely though, so so lovely.

Are friends and family supportive of your writing?

Very supportive, my Mum always encouraged me never to give up!

How do you feel leading up to your publication day?
I’m scared its going to flop! Very nervous! I’ve been waiting for this day for almost 5 years

 I really like Emily Jenkins. Her book We were Liars really got me. Jeeeez.

Finally...what are you working on right now?
Book number 2 (not related to Every Colour Of You, new characters, new story)

Meet the author

Amelia Mandeville has been creating stories and characters in her head ever since she can remember. When there became too many, she started to write them down. Now 21, Amelia is the debut author of Every Colour of You, publishing in November. Besides getting lost in the stories she's written, Amelia spends her time attempting to bake, dyeing her hair and vlogging for the YouTube channel she shares with her sister, Grace - the aptly named TheMandeville Sisters.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Am Thankful For 20/1//18

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Now being thankful for a book can be for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes a book comes along at just the right time in your life and it really adds something then and there. Sometimes I am thankful that I was privileged enough to read a book that is timely and challenging and sometimes a book is just a salve for the soul and so I am thankful for it. So this thanksgiving, here are a few of the many books I am thankful for!

Monday 19 November 2018

Blog Tour: Extract from Mistletoe and Mystery by Daisy James

I am very excited to be part of the blog tour today for Mistletoe and Mystery by Daisy James, christmas and mystery, what more could you want? I have a wonderful extract to share with you today. The book is out now and you can click here to order your copy if you like what you read in the extract. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews!

Here's what it's all about:

Welcome to the Cotswolds Festive Feast cookery course...

Fresh off the successful opening of the Paradise Cookery School in St Lucia, Millie Harper is headed to the Cotswolds for Christmas!
Co-presenting Claudia Croft’s famous Festive Feast cookery course at Stonelea Manor is a dream come true for Millie…as is reuniting with gorgeous estate manager Zach Barker.
But arriving in a winter wonderland Millie learns the manor is under a mysterious threat. It’ll take a holiday miracle, but Millie is determined to save the school and get Zach under the mistletoe to finally finish what they started in the Caribbean!
Cosy up with this fun, festive visit to the Cotswolds premier cookery school! Perfect for fans of Jenny Oliver and Sarah Morgan
If you loved Mistletoe & Mystery, why not read the first two stories in The Paradise Cookery School series? Sunshine & Secrets and Confetti & Confusions are both available now!

And I'm sure you're as ready as I am to read some, so here you go...

“Oh my God! Millie, I’m so jealous! Are you sure Claudia doesn’t need a fabulously talented assistant for the Festive Feast course? I could help with the reindeer cupcakes, or the gingerbread Santas, or the St Clements mince pies! And you know how much everyone loves my melt-in-your mouth shortcrust pastry!”

Millie had to smile at Poppy’s enthusiasm. She really did wish she could take her friend and fellow pastry chef along with her to Claudia Croft’s famous cookery school in the Cotswolds.

“In fact, scratch that. I’d even be prepared to grab my Marigolds and get stuck into the washing up if it meant I could spend the next week in Berryford watching Claudia show a bunch of enthusiast foodies how to rustle up a celebrity-grade Christmas feast. You are sooo lucky! Oh, and not to mention the fact that you’ll be able to reacquaint yourself with that hunky estate manager you’ve never stopped talking about since you came back from St Lucia, the delicious Mr Zach Barker.”

Millie felt the heat whoosh into her cheeks and groaned. She had been back from her trip to the Paradise Cookery School in the Caribbean for over two months, but she hadn’t been able to hide her feelings for Zach from Poppy who had dug relentlessly for every scrap of detail like an overzealous gossip columnist. Nevertheless, she still wanted to make light of their imminent reunion, despite the eager anticipation that was bubbling in her stomach.

“Poppy, I’m going to Stonelea Manor to co-present the Festive Feast cookery course, not to demonstrate how to manage a country estate. I’ll probably be so busy with the tutorials that our paths won’t even cross.”

“Who are you kidding? I’ve seen the photos of Zach on your Facebook page – he’s absolutely gorgeous. If I was in your dainty sequinned sandals, I’d definitely be planning a few unscheduled visits to that cute little stone lodge he calls home, armed with a basket full of freshly baked cinnamon cookies and a bottle of home-made rum punch. Did I tell you how envious I am?”

“You might have mentioned it once or twice!” Millie giggled and rolled her eyes at Poppy as they finished wiping down the marble countertops in Étienne’s, the tiny patisserie in Hammersmith where they were both fortunate enough to work. 

Millie adored the atmosphere in the little café; cosy, welcoming, friendly but with a touch of Parisian elegance and the ambient fragrance of warm buttery croissants. However, for her, the best part of the shop was its bay window, hung with a necklace of red, white and blue bunting and showcasing a smorgasbord of delicious delights more akin to a high-end jewellery store – and displaying a wider variety of colours. She loved the neat rows of multicoloured macarons, of pistachio and kiwi mille-feuille, of angel wings and miniature rum babas. Every morning, she would feast her eyes on the display and declare it to be a piece of culinary art, far better than its cousins in the Tate because Étienne’s patrons could taste their creations! 

“Okay, looks like we’re done for the day,” said Poppy, flicking off the lights and grabbing her duffle bag. “I’ve got a bottle of chocolate vodka upstairs just crying out to be tested. Come on, let’s go and celebrate your good fortune properly.”

“My flat or yours?”

“I don’t want you to take this personally, Millie, but mine – definitely. I like a bit of seasonal cheer just as much as the next person, but your living room looks like a Christmas volcano has erupted and spewed forth every decoration imaginable! Where on earth did you get all that stuff? I mean, a set of dancing pineapples in sunglasses and Santa suits?”

Millie laughed. “Got those in St Lucia – I love them! I really wanted to buy the matching set of bananas dressed as elves, but I just couldn’t cram another thing in my suitcase. Maybe I should give Ella a call and ask her to ship them over for me?”

“I’m no interior decorator but take my advice and try to resist that temptation!” 

Millie saw Poppy grin as she opened the door of her apartment nestled in the eaves above the patisserie and just across the hallway from Millie’s own tiny studio. Poppy’s flat was exactly the same size as hers, but that was where the similarities ended. The décor here reflected her friend’s personality to a tee – brash, bohemian, with jewel-bedecked mirrors and lamps that Poppy had designed herself at her Wednesday night art class, a hobby chosen because it meant she could drool over the tutor – a moody French sculptor called François.

Millie sighed and collapsed down on Poppy’s over-stuffed orange sofa with a surge of relief. It was the second week in December, the pre-Christmas frenzy had started in earnest, and her feet throbbed their objection to the onslaught of activity. She was already beginning to regret accepting Poppy’s invitation instead of heading straight for a long soak in a hot bath filled with her favourite Moulton Brown bubbles that her sister Jen had given her for her birthday.

However, when Poppy dropped down on the seat next to her with the promised bottle of vodka and two glasses, she quickly changed her mind about the bath. She accepted a generous measure and sat back against the scarlet silk cushions, curling her legs under her bottom and taking a tentative sip of the popular liquid remedy for the weary.

“Mmm, delicious, thanks Poppy.”

“So, what did your mum say when you told her you weren’t going over to France for the holidays this year? Did she freak out?” 

“Not when I explained why. I mean, it really is a dream come true, isn’t it? Mum knows how much I loved presenting the Paradise Cookery School’s Chocolate & Confetti course at Claudia’s villa in St Lucia. It was a fabulous experience and I learned so much from Ella about Caribbean cooking, but now I’ve got this amazing chance to work with Claudia Croft herself! Poppy, I’ve decided that’s what I want to do – present cookery classes to enthusiastic food lovers. Sooo… in the new year I’m going to start looking for a new position where I can do just that.”

“And leave Étienne’s?” Poppy looked scandalised, but her chestnut brown eyes were gentle and understanding. “Only joking. Millie, you could smash whatever you put your mind to. And you’ve no idea how happy I am to hear you say that. It’s about time you moved on to new adventures – you’ve got a Michelin star, for God’s sake. I don’t know why you insist on hiding that fact.”

“I’m not hiding it.”

“Well, you’re definitely not shouting about it from the rooftops like I would be!” 

Millie watched her friend remove her sparkly hairclips and allow her hair to frame her cheeks in glossy mahogany waves. A whiff of jasmine perfume invaded the air and her heart gave a nip of gratitude for her good fortunate at having someone like Poppy in her life – she really had provided the balm to her ragged soul when she’d arrived in London having been ditched at her own engagement party. 

“Actually, all that feels like ancient history now, an episode from someone else’s life – someone I don’t recognise.”

A splash of sadness swished into her chest, but she doused it in a flash. She rarely thought of her ex-fiancé nowadays, and when she did it was with only fleeting regret, not the long, slow burn of agony that had stalked her endlessly until a couple of months ago. The way Luke had chosen to terminate their two-year relationship had hurt tremendously, but the icing on the pain-filled cupcake had been the discovery that the person he had abandoned her for was her best friend’s mother. That morsel of information had been just too much to bear so she had walked out of the restaurant they co-owned, grabbed her suitcase, and ran away to start a new life of anonymity in the metropolis. Poppy had been the first non-family member she had confessed her heartbreak to and her friend had welcomed her into her world with open arms, a cheerful smile, and a surfeit of vodka in a myriad of flavours which had helped to dull the pain.

However, she was happy to report that she was done with licking her wounds. Her confidence in her culinary creativity had returned, and she was ready to launch herself into a new challenge, professional and personal. Her lips twitched at the corners when a fully formed image of the person she had to thank for her renaissance into a normal human being again appeared in her mind’s eye: Zach Barker, Claudia’s estate manager, whom she’d encountered at the Paradise Cookery School back in September.

Poppy was right. Zach was gorgeous; handsome, athletic, inquisitive, with a sharp line in sarcasm and a quirky sense of humour. Even the fact that they occupied opposite ends of the orderliness spectrum hadn’t prevented them from connecting on a deeper level than she had expected. She smiled at the memory of the warm, lingering kisses they had shared beneath the swaying palm trees, with the tropical backdrop of the white beaches, sparkling blue ocean and verdant lushness of the vegetation making the whole experience seem so much more romantic.

Meet the Author
Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.

Thanks so much to Daisy for stopping by today!