#Author Spotlight Jan Ruth and #BookReview ‘Midnight Sky’

Jan Facebook Banner

As you can see in this banner, Jan Ruth has written plenty of novels, although I have discovered her recently, quite by chance, on Facebook and Twitter. I was drawn in by her by her book of Christmas stories, Home for Christmas, which I read over Christmas, and I decided that I liked her writing style, so I went for one of her full-length novels, Midnight Sky, which is part one  of the Midnight Sky Series, and I contacted her at once for an author spotlight, because I enjoyed it so much, but first my review.

*****

Midnight Sky is a contemporary family drama and romance, with touches of humour, which lighten some of the intense moments.

The plot revolves around the lives of Laura, her partner Simon, and her sister Maggie’s family, on the one hand, and James, a brooding horse whisperer, who is dealing with many personal issues, on the other.

I loved the setting, partly in Chester, but mainly in Rowen, a small village in the Welsh countryside, and the nearby beaches, farmland, cottages, country lanes and Victorian houses, pictured from freezing January, when the story starts, through to the warm summer, when the novel ends. It was also enlightening and heart-warming to watch James at work with his troubled horses on the farm.

Jan Ruth 1

Laura is an interior decorator who works with her partner in a successful business. Life seems to be perfect, but really, Laura is stuck in a dead-end relationship with Simon, whose ex-wife and two children often seem to be more important for him than Laura. Laura would like to have a family, but Simon already has children, and this brings great conflict to their relationship.

Laura’s sister, Maggie, introduces Laura to James’ sister Liz, and Laura and Simon are employed to refurbish their cottages. James is unfriendly at first because he’s against any type of change on his farm, and we’ll discover that part of the reason for his moody nature is that he is still mourning the loss of his wife, Cary, in tragic circumstances, two years earlier.

Laura and James gradually connect, and after some heartache and strife, both their lives become intertwined. Their friendship slowly develops into love, and the novel has a satisfactory ending, however, there is room for a sequel, and I’m delighted to hear that part two is due out this month, and that there’s also a part three. (I’ve already read part two Palomino Sky, since writing this review. I’ll be reviewing here soon)

I enjoy reading character driven novels, and there are plenty of lively and well-drawn secondary characters, such as James’ Bossy sister, Liz, and Maggie’s stoic and secretive husband, Pete. Another vibrant character is Laura’s niece, Jess, a rebellious teenager who has a crush on James, and provokes many of the hilarious situations in the novel, sometimes on the farm, where she helps with the horses, and often at the pub, leading to many memorable scenes!

I highly recommend. It was a pleasure to read.

Especially for lovers of romance, passion, and complex family relationships.

****

Midnight Sky Cover EBOOK Palomino Sky Cover MEDIUM WEB

Here’s Jan Roth’s Interview.

  • I’ve read Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky, and I’m looking forward to book three, but could you tell us something about your previous novels?

My previous novels stay with the family-saga theme; they’re a blend of rural and city, business and countryside, with the family dynamic central to the story line. I think my sequels (Palomino Sky and Dark Water) have steered away slightly from the original genre by bringing in a grittier thread as both books feature crime and some suspense.

  • Your fiction has a very contemporary setting, how much of your novels, especially people and places, is based on personal experience?

The places are real, they do exist! I think the characters are a cocktail of people I’ve encountered in my life. As a writer we tend to draw on experience whether consciously or not. Oh, and that goes for the horses and dogs too.
I moved from Cheshire to Snowdonia, North Wales, about fifteen years ago and it kick-started my writing in a big way. I love the landscape here and use it almost as a character in its own right.

  • I know you’re working on part three of the series, when will it be published? What can you tell us about it? Is it the end of the series?

I’m currently writing part three of the Wild Water series, Silent Water and yes, the end of that series. I think three is enough where the main plot line revolves around two characters coming together. I’ve read series where they’ve become too lightweight and watered down even by book two, or the original characters are forgotten and new ones take their place; sons and daughters of…etc. I don’t want to do that. I want to keep the three books tight and rich with story. Part three of the Midnight series will be Strawberry Sky… I do think there’s a lot more to come with James and Laura, Jess and Sam, Pete and Maggie. Their story isn’t quite complete. I’m hoping to start this one next year.
Silent Water will be published spring/early summer.

  • What are you planning on writing after the Midnight Sky Series?

After Silent Water, my current work-in-progress, I’m liking the idea of a set of novellas called The Heart series.First consideration will be Christmas Heart. No, not a fluffy thing, you know me better than that! But it will be – hopefully – funny. I always find hiking groups full of eccentrics and believe me, I’ve done the research! So I have a vague outline around a walking holiday. And Christmas teams well with observational humour. Add some pathos and a few baubles along the way and I think I may enjoy this after writing two full-length, more serious tomes for the previous two years. And for contrast, I like the idea of Celtic Heart and Ancient Heart, exploring the idea of a historical time-slip.

  • I recently wrote a post about the prejudice against self-published authors. You’ve had the experience of working with a traditional publisher and as an independent author, which would you say are the advantages and downside of both types of publishing?

This is a huge subject, and each and every author will have a different experience so whatever I say here applies specifically to me and my material. I think there are still misconceptions about self-publishing, especially amongst the die hard traditionalists who’ve always had an agent or a publisher. There’s also confusion over vanity publishing and those self published books produced to a poor standard. The advantage of a small to medium size publisher is that your material will be edited and published for free. The disadvantages? Everything else. There is nothing a small publisher can do for you which you can’t do for yourself – and thus keep not only the royalties but full control over your material from the covers to your branding. I thought a traditional publisher would know more than me and therefore sell more of my books than I could by increasing my visibility with serious marketing.
Full story here: https://janruthblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/publishing-a-lot-of-smoke-and-mirrors/

  • You’re very active on social media, especially on Facebook, where you manage a public group called Readers and Writers UK, how important are social media for writers?

I suspect it as much about establishing support and sharing information amongst fellow authors, as it is to sell books. We’re selling on on-line product, so we need to be on-line, otherwise no one will discover our books!

  • What would you like readers to know about you in a couple of sentences? 

I live in Snowdonia, North Wales. I write contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic with a generous helping of humour, horses and dogs. My books blend the serenities of rural life with the headaches of city business, exploring the endless complexities of relationships.

Grey Horse

  • You’re a very experienced self-published author, the most experienced I’ve ever had on my blog. Could you tell us about how you became a writer?

The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. I failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day I struggle to make sense of anything numerical.

My first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.

Many years later, my second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.

Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. I went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections and after a brief partnership with Access Press in 2015, I returned to the freedom of independent publishing.

Fiction which does not fall neatly into a pigeon hole has always been the most difficult to define. In the old days such books wouldn’t be allowed shelf space if they didn’t slot immediately into a commercial list. As an author I have been described as a combination of literary-contemporary-romantic-comedy-rural-realism-family-saga; oh, and with an occasional criminal twist and a lot of the time, written from the male viewpoint.

No question my books are Contemporary. Family and Realism; these two must surely go hand-in-hand, yes? So, although you’ll discover plenty of escapism, I hope you’ll also be able to relate to my characters as they stumble through a minefield of relationships. I hesitate to use the word romance. It’s a misunderstood and mistreated word and despite the huge part it plays in the market, attracts an element of disdain. If romance says young, fluffy and something to avoid, maybe my novels will change your mind since many of my central characters are in their forties and fifties. Grown-up love is rather different, and this is where I try to bring that sense of realism into play without compromising the escapism.

How can readers contact you or find out more?

Jan’s Facebook
Jan’s Twitter

Where can readers purchase your novels? 

On my Website
On Amazon

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Thank you so much for visiting my blog, it was a pleasure to read about your work and your publishing experience. I’m looking forward to reading the Wild Water Series, and the Heart Series sounds intriguing 🙂

 

#Author Spotlight Shani Struthers and #BookReview ‘Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story’

What do you do when a whole town is haunted?

In 1899, in the North Yorkshire market town of Thorpe Morton, a tragedy occurred; 59 people died at the market hall whilst celebrating Christmas Eve, many of them children. One hundred years on and the spirits of the deceased are restless still, ‘haunting’ the community, refusing to let them forget.

In 1999, psychic investigators Theo Lawson and Ness Patterson are called in to help, sensing immediately on arrival how weighed down the town is. Quickly they discover there’s no safe haven. The past taints everything.

Hurtling towards the anniversary as well as a new millennium, their aim is to move the spirits on, to cleanse the atmosphere so everyone – the living and the dead – can start again. But the spirits prove resistant and soon Theo and Ness are caught up in battle, fighting against something that knows their deepest fears and can twist them in the most dangerous of ways.

They’ll need all their courage to succeed and the help of a little girl too – a spirit who didn’t die at the hall, who shouldn’t even be there…

Eve Teaser

My Review

Two psychic investigators, Theo and Ness, from Sussex, are called to a small village near Scarborough to solve a mystery, just before Christmas. The North Yorkshire market town of Thorpe Morton has been a sad place to live since Christmas 1899, when tragic events occurred in the village. Theo and Ness must find a way of helping the community recover their Christmas cheer.

Our Psychics meet plenty of spirits on their arrival, at the Market Hall where it all happened, in people’s homes, and in their guesthouse, as the two brave sleuths delve into the world of tortured and aggressive spirits. The inhabitants had become accustomed to the unfriendly and mischievous ghosts, but the arrival of the psychics, makes matters worse, seeming to anger the ghosts even more.

The characters, the village, and the events are so well drawn that we feel we’re actually there, which makes it more ‘scary’! I enjoyed the bond, which grew between the two women, and helped them overcome their own personal traumas and issues, as well as helping the ghosts in the town move on, and leave the world of the living, so that the townspeople could live happier and healthier lives.

The social condition of the workers, especially miners, and their struggle for fairer wages and working conditions is at the heart of the discontent of the original tragedy, because it was only the poorer people who died.

The two psychics used their abilities to discover what really happened, as the living are no longer a reliable source of information. They need to find out why the souls are trapped and angry, and why the village has been living in torment and sadness ever since.

Especially for lovers of scary, supernatural tales with happy endings.
This was a short introduction to Shani’s work, I’m looking forward to reading more of Shani’s ghost stories this winter.

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I asked Shani to take part in my weekly Author Spotlight so we can all get to know her and her work.

Shani Pic

Author Spotlight

You’ve written three books of paranormal fiction, including International Amazon Bestseller, Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall, Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me, and your newest is Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story – the prequel to the Psychic Surveys series, which I’ve just reviewed. You’ve also written Jessamine, an atmospheric psychological romance set in the Highlands of Scotland and described as a ‘Wuthering Heights for the 21st century.’ Where does your interest in the paranormal stem from?

The paranormal has always been my preferred genre, right from a child I’ve been interested in it and would tend to prefer darker fairy tales as opposed to lighter ones. Ruth Manning-Saunders, an author no longer in print, used to take traditional fairy tales and twist them into much darker stories, I was addicted to her books and from thereon in that interest grew both in terms of literature and film. As a teen I devoured Stephen King’s books, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz and James Herbert. As an adult the lack of good ghost stories dismayed me, which is why I started writing them!

When someone says to you, ‘I don’t believe in ghosts.’ What’s your reply?

Lucky you! Seriously, that’s fine, it doesn’t bother me, as people are entitled to believe what they like. But… once you get talking about ghosts, even those who deny the existence of anything paranormal usually say ‘oh hang on, there was that time…’ and then they go away not quite as cynical as before. I ‘think’ I’ve seen ghosts, certainly I’ve had some experiences that could be considered paranormal but they were mainly as a child, as an adult I think we naturally tend to close off to the spiritual world as the material world just takes up so much of our time and effort.

Are your novels based on real events or people or are they purely imaginary?

I like to mix fact with fiction in all my books and so real events are included, either those I’ve experienced personally or those told to me by friends and friends of friends. The Haunting of Highdown Hall is based on a story told to me by a friend of a friend, about a house he inherited that used to be the home of a famous film star. She died there and her bedroom was kept thereafter as a shrine. Every time he walked into it he had to leave, there was so much anger and negativity, it was impossible to linger let alone think about redecorating! He had the whole place exorcised and everything was fine after that but it gets the imagination going: was she still there, why was she still there, what was preventing her from moving on? And so the first book in the Psychic Surveys was born.

Haunting Highdown Hall Teaser 6

Which of your novels would you recommend readers to start reading first? And why? 

(This one’s for me really! I have several of your novels on my kindle to read next, and I was wondering if Jessamine or The Haunting of Highdown Hall!)

Thank you so much for reading Eve and your review of it. Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story is the prequel to the Psychic Surveys series but can be read as a standalone. I’d recommend reading Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall next, which is not a horror but a paranormal mystery. Although be warned, the sequel, Rise to Me, gets darker, much darker! Jessamine is a stand-alone novel set in the Highlands of Scotland and is essential a romance with a touch of the supernatural. Jessamine is actually my favourite of all the novels I’ve written and, as you do with your wonderful Eyre Hall series, I drew inspiration from the Bronte sisters whilst writing it. The fact that some readers have said it puts them in mind of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights whilst reading it (in tone rather than story) is a huge compliment.

Jessamine Teaser 3

What are you working on now?

I’ve just sent off Psychic Surveys Book Three: 44 Gilmore Street off to my publisher so I’m waiting for the editing process to begin on that. Also, I’ve just written the first draft of The Venetian, which is Book One in the ‘This Haunted World’ series. This new series will be a set of stand-alone novels taking place in and around the world’s most haunted locations and the first is set in and around Venice as well as the island of Poveglia, in the Venetian lagoon, an island with a shocking history that dates back centuries. Like my Psychic Surveys books, they will be a mix of fact and fiction and what links them this time is not the characters but the haunted locations.

What would you like readers to know about you? Brief bio?

I live in Brighton with my husband, three kids and four cats – life is always hectic but in it I’ve made time to indulge my passion, which is novel writing, something that is rapidly becoming the day job! I’ve also been a freelance travel writer for many years, love eating, drinking and being merry as well as travelling the world to places haunted and not so haunted. Yep, even I need a break from the spooks sometimes!

How can readers find out more or contact you? 

Facebook Author Page:
Twitter:
Blog:
Goodreads:
Website:

Where can readers buy your novels?

Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall
Global Link
Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me
Global Link
Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story
Global Link
Jessamine
UK

Thank you for visiting my blog, Shani. It’s great to meet an author who writes paranormal and ghost stories, so convincingly. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing the rest of your books by the fireplace in dark winter evenings 🙂

#Author Spotlight Linn B. Halton & #BookReview A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love for @BrookCottageBks

This Friday’s Spotlight is for BY LINN B. HALTON author of A LITTLE SUGAR, A LOT OF LOVE

A little Sugar Tour Banner

Genre: Chick Lit
Release Date: 15 January 2016
Publisher: Choc Lit

Blurb: A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love

Life isn’t all love and cupcakes …

Katie has had her fair share of bad luck, but when she finally realises her dream of opening a bakery it seems things can only get better.

But the reality of running a business hits Katie hard and whilst her partner, Steve, tries to help she begins to sense that the situation is driving them further apart. Could Katie be set to lose her relationship and her dream job?

Then, one winter’s day, a man walks into her shop – and, in the space of that moment, the course of Katie’s life is changed.

But nobody finds happiness in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it takes two Christmases, three birthdays and a whole lot of cake to get there …

Previously released as Sweet Occasions by the author. Revised and edited by Choc Lit December 2015.

Cover in snow

Katie has had her fair share of bad luck, but when she finally realises her dream of opening a bakery it seems things can only get better.

But the reality of running a business hits Katie hard and whilst her partner, Steve, tries to help she can’t help but feel that the situation is driving them further apart. Could Katie be set to lose her relationship and her dream job?

Then, one winter’s day, a man walks into her shop – and, in the space of that moment, the course of Katie’s life is changed.

But nobody finds happiness in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it takes two Christmases, three birthdays and a whole lot of cake to get there …

Just Cover

My Review

Katie and Steve are both unsatisfied with their lives, for different reasons. Katie is running her small bakery creatively, making delicious and original celebration cakes and cup cakes, but her partner, Steve, wants the business to grow financially. She gives in, but isn’t happy with the impersonal way it’s being run.

Adam, on the other hand has recently lost his wife, and is bringing up his daughter on his own. He’s lonely and worried about his grandmother, who is becoming older and more frail.

Katie amd Adam’s lives cross for the first time when he’s on his way to buy a cake for his grandmother. Although they establish an immediate connection, Katie is in a relationship, and they each have their own busy lives. They meet again several times, due to her cakes, which he buys for his grandmother and daughter, and although the bond grows, neither seems able to take their relationship any further.

Steve, is such an unpleasant character, that I was hoping Katie would realize, she’s sacrificing her happiness, and giving in to his demands, overlooking her own. At times it annoyed me that Katie was too nice and condescending to undeserving Steve. Adam was also, too restrained. It was his grandmother, an endearing character, who finally pushed them on, with some supernatural help!

The romantic suspense is gradually built up, as it takes a long time for the couple to realize that they’re meant for each other, but it’s no secret that this will eventually happen, as it’s a HEA, sweet romance.

It’s told from alternating points of view, which are clearly included in the chapter titles. I like the way we get a variety of opinions of the events, and peek into the characters’ motivations and doubts. It was a pleasure to read, because although I expected a happy ending, it was easy to keep turning the pages and find out how the story gradually unfolded to its satisfactory ending.

Especially for lovers of very sweet romance.

BUY LINKS:

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US

LBH author photo

ABOUT LINN B. HALTON

“I’m a hopeless romantic, self-confessed chocaholic, and lover of coffee. For me, life is about family, friends, and writing. Oh, and the occasional glass of White Grenache…”

An Amazon UK Top 100 best-selling author with A Cottage in the Country in November 2015, Linn’s novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award. Linn writes chick lit, women’s contemporary fiction and psychic romance for Choc Lit, Harper Impulse and Endeavour Press.

Website/blog: http://linnbhalton.co.uk/

Twitter: @LinnBHalton

Facebook: Linn B Halton Author

Amazon: http://smarturl.it/LittleSugarLotOfLove

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Contest Open Internationally – No Purchase necessary
1st Prize – £25 Amazon Voucher
2nd Prize – Cupcake themed Swag Bag

Enter the Rafflecopter here

 

 

#Author Spotlight Georgia Hill & #BookReview ‘While I Was Waiting’ for @BrookCottageBks

Today I’d like to introduce you to Georgia Hill, author of a While I was Waiting, a unique novel which combines contemporary and historical romance set in the English countryside. 

While I Was Waiting Tour Banner

Genre: Historical/time-slip romance
Release Date: 2/7/15 (e-pub) 10/9/15 (print)
Publisher: Harper Impulse

Blurb

Tired of her life in London, freelance illustrator Rachel buys the beautiful but dilapidated Clematis Cottage and sets about creating the home of her dreams. But tucked away behind the water tank in the attic and left to gather dust for decades, is an old biscuit tin containing letters, postcards and a diary. So much more than old scraps of paper, these are precious memories that tell the story of Henrietta Trenchard-Lewis, a love lost in the Great War and the girl who was left behind.

WIWW final cover

BUY LINKS
AMAZON UK
AMAZON US

MY REVIEW

While I was Waiting combines sweet, contemporary romance as well as historical fiction, revealed through letters and a memoir written by the previous, deceased owner of Clematis Cottage, where our main character, Rachel, is now living.

After moving away from London to Herefordshire, Rachel, an illustrator, moves to rural England, and finds romance in Gabe,  a local builder’s son, who is working on her run down cottage. At the same time, she becomes obsessed with Hetti’s incomplete story, which she aims to discover.

Rachel has many personal issues such as lack of trust, insecurity, and a controlling and sometimes obsessive personality, which make it difficult for her to make lasting relationships with men. Gabe has problems of his own, which he’s not willing to share either, so their relationship will have a few ups and downs. It’s a HEA, so they manage to sort it out in the end, with the help of a puppy called Piglet, time, and sharing their real feelings.

I liked the way the author was able to give the reader a feeling for life in a small rural village, from an idyllic, as well as a realistic perspective, as the residents have to cope with the devastating impact of Foot and Mouth disease.

It’s not only a sweet romance, the novel also delves the reader into the trauma and suffering caused by the First World War, and the way cancer affects a family.

The secondary characters, the Estate Agent, the Vicar, Gabe’s parents, Stan and the locals at the pub, etc. are believable, added to the plot, and made the story more varied and interesting.

It was pleasant and easy to read, and had a very English feel to it. Especially for lovers of sweet romance.

While I was waiting author

ABOUT GEORGIA HILL

I used to live in London, where I worked in the theatre. Then I got the bizarre job of teaching road safety to the U.S. navy – in Marble Arch!

A few years ago, I did an ‘Escape to the Country’. I now live in a tiny Herefordshire village, where I scandalise the neighbours by not keeping ‘country hours’ and being unable to make a decent pot of plum jam. Home is a converted Oast house (Old agricultural building used for drying hops), which I share with my two beloved spaniels, husband (also beloved) and a ghost called Zoe.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel widely, though prefer to set my novels closer to home. Perhaps more research is needed? I’ve always wanted to base a book in the Caribbean!

I am addicted to Belgian chocolate, Jane Austen and, most of all, Strictly Come Dancing.

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AUTHOR LINKS
FACEBOOK

TWITTER

BLOG

PINTEREST

Lovely to have you on my blog today, Georgia.

It was a pleasure to read and review your novel for Brook Cottage Books, and learn more about you.

#Author Spotlight @NicciMayne and #BookReview Full Circle for #RBRT

I recently reviewed Full Circle – A Duke Lost as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team (#RBRT)

NM Cover

My Review

This is a historical romance, set in Regency England. It has three main characters and four distinct parts.

The first part is a poetic and unhurried. It takes us through an intense and beautiful love story between a Duke and a young deaf girl. Bram is the honourable Duke of Bramford, who has fought for his country and is very loyal to the crown. The wedding had been arranged by his mother since the bride was two years old! Anna is an orphan who has been living practically on her own all this time, in an isolated castle in Scotland, waiting for her betrothed. When they meet, in her 18th year, they are both surprised to fall in love. I thought I was going to read a sweet, traditional romance, because their love story was drawn out in great detail. I didn’t mind, because I love historical romances, but I did wonder where the story would be going.

The second part of the plot moves on with the only obstacle to their happy marriage, namely Bram’s best friend, Michael, Earl of Milford, who thinks Bram should marry a richer and more worldly society lady. Surprisingly, Michael also falls in love with Anna, and although their friendship is threatened, Michael finally remains both their friends.

The plot then takes a third surprising twist (I can’t go into any detail without including a spoiler), and Anna will learn that her husband is not the man she thought he was, and that he has other priorities and duties in life, which exclude Anna and their children. Anne must turn to Michael for support, with Bram’s approval.

Finally, the title refers to the end of the story in which harmony is restored, at great emotional cost to all involved. It’s not a sad ending, although it’s not a perfect HEA either. I think it’s the best possible ending, although I can’t help feeling sorry for the way in which one of the characters is excluded from ‘the circle’.

The three main characters were engaging, and the plot, which was slow at first, moved on well in the second part. Especially for lovers of historical romance.

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I asked Nicci if she would like to take part in an interview so we could know more about her and her, her novel, and writing process.

Quote-Nicci-Mayne_1000

This is your first published novel, and it’s set in Regency England. What is it about the Regency era that most interests you?

I’m going to tell you a little story about a dream I had many times before even having set foot in England:
Surrounded by village shops and treading a cobblestone street, I smile to myself. A feeling of absolute pleasure comes over me. I love everything about the quintessential English style. The higgledy-piggeldy street starts to incline and I look up towards an emerald green hill. A winding path leads up to a church of magnificent proportions. A proud steeple signals a hearty welcome. I approach with eagerness. But with every desperate step I take, the church seems further and further out of my reach…
I came to England having stored this in a remote part of my subconscious. When I visited Chesterfield, the dream came rushing back to me. If you have not been there before, the town has an ordinary church with the most extraordinary twisted spire, both of human and natural creation. At that very moment, I realised I had truly found my home. England.
And if you know anything about English people or culture, you know that that spire is more than just a bizarre piece of architecture. It is wholly unique and yet considered. Inconsequential and yet determined. Beautiful. Like it’s people.
It has a history that can be felt in the rhythm of it’s pulse.

Is your plot based on any real historical event or people?

I have worked for twenty years in social care and, for much of that time, I have had the privilege of knowing people who have overcome adversity and have challenged the cruel hand that life has dealt them. I admire these people for their fight and optimism. But it wasn’t until I watched a movie made by deaf children to help people who can hear understand what life is like for them that I realised deaf people are inspirational and truly lovely and positive people.
I then reached out to deaf people using social media and read some of their stories. I was especially touched by a piece written by Christina Hartmann. She describes a world of deafness that has shaped her life into something quite beautiful and personal. Her world is clearly hers and hers alone to cherish and enjoy. She wrote:

“Make no mistake: my deafness was no curse. It shaped my perspective of the world, and I’m glad for it. For me, deafness opened up new worlds, rather than the other way around”.
I encourage you to find Christina’s personal account called ‘What it is like to be deaf from birth’.

What are the challenges facing authors of historical novels?

First and foremost, Anachronisms. If you have never heard of this very wicked word, the best way to explain it is by giving you an example of my own close call- in Full Circle- A Duke Lost, the Duke’s best friend, Michael, is having a full-on rant about the major mistake the Duke will be making if he marries Anna. Michael goes on to say:
“Don’t do it man. Every eligible beauty between here and London is ready to be set before you to be savoured and selected, each and every one resplendent in this season’s finery and primed to please. The one you are hell bent on has baggage, a heaping pile of baggage the size of the Matterhorn.”
Originally, this read “a heaping pile of baggage the size of the Kilimanjaro.”
Fortunately, my editor, Jacqui, is not only a linguist extraordinaire, but an English history enthusiast and she knew that Mount Kilimanjaro would not have been well-known during the period Full Circle is set in. She also uses Census information to research the names I use for characters to ensure they are ‘period appropriate’. Perhaps the moral of the story is that behind every good author is a ‘Jacqui’.
This leads onto the next set of challenges:
Historical accuracy vs. the use of creative license (where would a romance novel be without creative license… snooze fest!).
Too many descriptive paragraphs vs. too few (how much is too much, how little is too few?) and then, my arch-nemesis,
To use the Queen’s English or something a little more universal (I vote for “ma’am” as in “farm”, and not “ma’am” as in “jam”, but this is apparently not everyone’s cup of tea!)

Which writers have inspired you as an author?

I first read Pride and Prejudice as a teen. Now, you may not be surprised by this, after all, Jane Austen is probably many, many people’s first waltz with period romance. But South African teen’s are no ordinary teens, not those born in the ‘70’s anyway. I had a very sheltered life. My idea of a good man was one who worked hard, mowed the lawn on a weekend, knew how to ‘braai’ (barbecue) and at some point in his life had played rugby. Needless to say Mr. Darcy, made my pulse race.
After that I couldn’t get enough of period books. Although Pride and Prejudice will always have a special place in my heart, Forest Lovers by Maurice Hewlett is my absolute favourite. Set in the medieval times in a dream world, Maurice Hewlett describes an awe-inspiring love.

What are you working on now?

Hedgerows & the Imperious Duke’ is a period novel that tells the story of two unique people: Shael Nathan Averay, 11th Duke of Stanthorpe, born to wealth and expectation. However, he is no ordinary member of the aristocracy and is prone to extreme peculiarities which are not tolerated amongst the ton. He doesn’t blame anyone for detesting his company; he feels the same way about himself. Although alone and absolute, self-pity is just not part of his vocabulary. In fact, he feels little for anyone. He knows he is a monster.

The Duke resigns himself to the life of a recluse. But he does not take into account the fifth and youngest of the girls he has earmarked to be the future wives of his brothers- Nelle- an untamed, playful and nature-loving sprite who makes it her personal mission to show the Duke a life previously unknown to him. Unexpectedly, Nelle’s life is not what it appears to be on the surface and the Duke’s poor social skills, joined with his insular nature, means that he fails to recognise a kindred, suffering soul. Will he be in time to save her?

Well, you will have to read the book! But, I can tell you this, these star-crossed lovers make my tummy turn and their cruel circumstance made my editor extraordinaire cry…

Nicci Picture
What would you like readers to know about you?

I suppose I could tell you that which you could read on any of my networking site (trained social worker, studied psychology, love my family, love my dogs, love England), but instead, I will tell you a few select things that will help you understand why I can write about adversity:
~ I am convinced I can feel my eyebrows growing, like aliens on my face. I have Googled this phenomenon and can’t find anyone like me. It doesn’t feel good to be different.
~ I am obsessive about clean and clear surfaces. Order and control are biggies for me. I understand that feeling vulnerable can make you feel a little doolally.
~ I had very bad early childhood experiences. I know what it is like to feel ‘little’ in a very big world.
~ I believe Lattes are a key source of essential nutrients.

Where can readers find out more or contact you?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NicciMayne.givelifeago/?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NicciMayne
BingBing: http://www.thebingbing.com/niccimayne
Email: niccimayne.givelifeago@gmail.com

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Full-Circle-Duke-Nicci-Mayne-x/dp/1515271269/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452808804&sr=8-1&keywords=nicci+mayne
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011Z3UZF0?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/593044

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Thank you for stopping by, Nicci. It was a pleasure getting to know you better.

#Author Spotlight LeeAnne Hansen and #Review of ‘Ghost Light’

I occasionally download and review books from Story Cartel. I’m so glad I found Ghost Light here a few weeks ago, quite by chance, because it’s a fabulous novel. I’d like to introduce you to LeeAnne Hansen, because I became her fan almost from page one. This post includes a short blurb, my review, and an author interview.

ghost light cover
Blurb Ghost Light

Fiona Corrigan sometimes has difficulty discerning between the reality of stage and real life, especially when it comes to the attentions of her handsome co-star, the dark, brooding, Patrick Berenger.

Before they can depart for Edinburgh for their next performance, Patrick and Fiona’s acting troupe are mysteriously summoned to a remote village in Scotland, in the dead of winter. Once there, although stranded by a massive storm, Fiona is happy that she will finally have the time alone with Patrick that she needs to seduce him.

Unfortunately, Fiona couldn’t have anticipated Sean’s appearance, (Patrick’s equally handsome, drunken cad of an older brother) or his devastating effect on both her and Patrick. Nor could she have anticipated the true purpose of the strange summons by the eccentric landlord, the dark secrets he would reveal in twisted ways, or the identity of the phantom woman who haunted the stage each time the ghost light went dark.

Set in 1920’s Scotland, Ghost Light is equal parts tingling romance and chilling ghost story.

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My 5-Star Review

Sometimes it takes a few pages to get into a novel, but this is another novel I knew I’d love from the first line. ‘Devon slammed his glass down onto the wooden desk, sloshing whiskey onto his hand.’ Then a very theatrical exchange between two lovers takes place. A few pages on, the passage ends with ‘Then the lights fell to black. And the curtain dropped.’ Fabulous! I knew the novel would mix reality and fiction, real life and stage life, and it did not disappoint.
There are two unusual and impossible love stories, which are linked to form a complex love triangle. The brooding and moody Patrick, and his fiery and impulsive brother, Sean.

The love story in the novel is Fiona’s journey of self-discovery. What does she want from life? What is love? Who does she love? The decision seems easy, at first, but soon their relationships become more intense, and Fiona realizes she desires real love and passion, instead of a romantic idealization of love. The outcome is traumatic, as she continues to deny her need for real love. There are moments she seems to prefer to experience an ideal yet imaginary love on stage, because she is afraid of unleashing her real passion.

It is an intense novel because the characters are a group of actors who travel to an isolated Scottish village, Loglinmooth, just as winter is falling. Most of the action takes place in a spooky castle and a haunted old family theatre, which has been opened for the purpose of their visit, to put on a play. All the characters are well-developed; merry Abby, enigmatic, dark Gavin, enthusiastic and encouraging Nicolas, their director, and inspiring and learned Andrew the playwright, to name a few.

There’s a cryptic letter, a mysterious train journey, a disappearing coffin carrying the brothers’ cruel, dead father. A vampire-like butler, a vanished mother, whom many believe to be a ghost, a ghost, a murderous plot, a murderer, a play which mirrors the characters lives, and lots of chilling moments along dark passages and rickety backstage.
It has all the ingredients of an entertaining and chilling ghost story, with engaging characters, a sound plot, and a passionate love story. A wonderful winter read!

I contacted LeeAnne on Twitter, before I even finished Ghost Light to tell her how much I was enjoying it. When I finished reading (a sad moment because I was having such fun!), I asked her for an author interview, and here it is:

LeeAnne Hansen

1- Ghost Light is set almost entirely in a small Scottish village, including a haunted castle and old theatre. Could you tell us what inspired you to write this novel? Is it based on a true story or event?

Well, there was a personal experience but sadly it was not in a castle. A few years back, a friend and I attended a play together to see a mutual friend perform. The theater had this plaque in the lobby dedicated to their ghost light. My friend that was with me had never heard of a ghost light which had surprised me because having grown up and gone to school in theater, I just always assumed it was something that everyone knew about. So, as I was explaining to him how it was meant to keep ghosts away but most likely to keep people from tripping at night I realized that Ghost Light would be a great title for a novel. That thought later inspired me to touch on a few other theater traditions and superstitions in Ghost Light; for example, to never whistle on stage, or mention that cursed Scottish play Macbeth by name, things like that. And in addition, having traveled to Scotland and Ireland, I found the setting and atmosphere there just right for a ghost story.

2- I’ve noticed that both your novels to date, Ghost Light and Yonder include ghost stories. Why are you so interested in ghosts? Do you believe in ghosts?

Well, I am a huge fan of the mysterious and unexpected, like The Twilight Zone and Hitchcock movies as well as classic ghost stories like The Shining or The Haunting of Hill House. I love a story where the main characters have set goals they are trying to achieve but something unexpected or unexplained enters that plan. As for ghosts, I have had a few experiences with them and the thing I have found is that whenever the topic of ghosts comes up, almost everyone has their own story or wants to hear yours. Nora Roberts used a metaphor to talk about ghosts once that said something about when a plant dies the roots still remain or are left behind. I always really liked that.

Cover for ebook- Yonder

3- What would you say to a reader to convince him/her to read Yonder?

Yonder is a mix of so much of me and that time period. It has the music I just adore of the 20s-40s. The chapter headings are all songs from that era. (I even created my own playlist for the songs and listen to it constantly while I am writing.) It is also close to my heart and past, being that my Grandmother was from Mississippi and she was Southern through and through, not to mention the cover of Yonder is her statue my Grandfather (who fought in World War II) gave her. Yonder also has a bit of what it was like growing up in the Bible Belt, which is a hard thing to explain to people outside of that belt, but it is the world that the character’s of Yonder exist in and it was part of my childhood. I also think the 1940’s was such a romantic and beautiful time period and if I had a time machine I would travel back to the dances my Grandmother always talked about. I love the music, the clothes, the fact that there was no text messaging or social media complication; it just seems like the perfect world for a girl to get swept off her feet.

4-What’s your writing routine like?

I establish the characters first and then let them tell me their story. I don’t really plot. For example, the villain in Ghost Light was never intended to be evil, they just literally stepped up and took over. I was completely surprised. Although, looking back now, all the clues were right in front of me, even if I wasn’t totally aware of placing them there. Another example would be, in Yonder there is a scene with Isabel sitting on a dock and she impetuously throws off her dress and leaps into the lake … which surprised the hell out of me! What can I say? That girl is a hot mess and she just likes to take over whenever she can.

5- What are you working on now?

The sequel to Yonder called The Great Hereafter. It is quite an experience that book. It has gotten darker than I had expected. Our poor main character has one hell of a story to tell.

6- What would you like readers to know about you?

Well, I adore Monty Python. I have the biggest crush on Dean Martin. I love me some chocolate salted caramels. I am a huge romantic. I also have a scar above my eye from believing Peter Pan had taught me to fly. One of my first stories I had written as a child was Star Wars fan fiction … I will not be sharing that one but it was written in different colored ink that varied page from page.

I love this picture of LeeAnne. Doesn’t she look like a character straight out of her novels?

LeeAnne.1

 

7- How can readers find out more about your books or contact you?

 

     My official website is- www.leeannehansenbooks.com – which I have a blog on. I try to tell stories of the history of certain things that happened in my books.

 

I am also on twitter under @LeeAnne_Hansen_   or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LeeAnne-Hansen-164792133615223/

Thank you for visiting my blog, LeeAnne.

You can find her books in the following links:

 
They are also available on all platforms, be it ITunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, really any online store.
Thank you so much for visiting my blog, LeeAnne. It’s been a pleasure to have you here tell everyone about your wonderful books!
 

 

#Author Spotlight @Patricia_Sands & #BookReview of her Novel ‘The Promise of Provence’ for #RBRT

I recently read and reviewed The Promise of Provence as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Promise of provence cover

My Review

The Promise of Provence is an innovative and unusual type of novel because the heroine is not an innocent or feisty young woman in search of a career or a companion. The main character is a middle-aged woman, in her late fifties, who finds that the life she was living, and had planned to continue leading, disintegrates unexpectedly before her eyes. As a result, she is forced reinvent herself and redesign her future.

The first part of The Promise of Provence carries us through the traumatic events, which will shatter Katherine’s life. As all life-changing experiences, the difficult moment must first be overcome in order to move on to the following stage. The rest of the novel deals with how she recovers from the loss and renews her faith in herself.

I enjoyed the interior monologue of a mature woman, facing life choices, normally associated with younger women, such as coping with men’s sexual advances, finding a place to live, and meeting new friends. Katherine has the intelligence and experience to realize what she wants, and the courage to leave her comfort zone and attempt to get over the sadness she feels and recover her self-esteem.

She does something she has always dreamed of doing; she visits Europe. When she takes part in a home exchange holiday in the South of France, it will change her life forever, because she finds new incentives in life. Katherine’s journey is spiritual and emotional as well as geographical.

‘I thought I was coming on this exchange to run away from something, but now I feel I was really running toward something – a new me.’

I enjoyed her travels in Europe. She carried me away with her curiosity and sense of adventure, showing me the scenery, the delicious food, and museums, chateaux, and historic sights of France, Monaco, Budapest, and Italy.

Throughout her travels, she meets some wonderful people, but she also has some unfortunate experiences. There is romance, and there are some nasty characters, too. The romance, which eventually evolves, is not a whirlwind, and it is not the central issue in the novel, but it is solid, because it has potential to develop. Presumably it will be one of the main storylines in book two, Promises to Keep (Love in Provence Book 2).

It is a well-written and moving story, which transmits hope and optimism. A person’s happiness is in his/her own hands. As Francois tells Katherine:
‘Life is full of choices. Don’t be afraid to make them when you know they are right for you. You are much younger than I and have so much to live. Live it well.’

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I enjoyed the book so much that I asked the author, Patricia Sands, some questions for an Author Spotlight.

Patricia sands

1- The Promise of Provence and its sequel, Promises to Keep, are doing very well with 400 reviews between them. Why do you think the series is so popular?

When I first published The Promise of Provence, I thought it was a stand-alone novel. However, I received so many emails from readers asking for more of Katherine’s story that I decided to add two more books, shorter than the first. The majority of my readers love stories set in France and many are devoted Francophiles. After Amazon Publishing contacted me and purchased the rights to the series, my readership is increasing even more through their great marketing. I feel tremendously grateful to have been offered this opportunity to work with Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing, their women’s fiction imprint.

2- The main character in your novel embarks upon a new life when she’s well over fifty. Were you surprised that so many readers were interested in reading about this type of heroine?

It’s been a lovely surprise, thanks!
My first novel, The Bridge Club, is about eight women and follows their lives until they are in their ’60’s. I heard from a large number of readers then who said they enjoyed reading about older female characters and that’s what encouraged me to continue writing to my demographic. Now I know that the majority of my readers are over 40 and many over 60. They tell me it is rare to find novels with older characters and they like that about my stories.

3- What inspired you to set it in Provence?

I’ve had a love affair with France since I first spent a year in Europe after university, when I was twenty-one. Fortunately, I’ve visited different parts of that beautiful country many times throughout my life. For the past twenty years my husband and I have spent extended time every summer in the south of France, usually in Nice or Antibes. In 2011, we rented an apartment in Antibes for five months where I wrote the first draft of The Promise of Provence.
On many of our visits, we have arranged some of our accommodation through home exchanges and that’s one of the reasons I wrote that experience into The Promise of Provence. It’s a fabulous way to travel!

4- What are you working on now?

I’ve recently finished final edits with Amazon’s Lake Union Pubishing for “I Promise You This“, Book 3 in the Love In Provence series. It will be published in spring, 2016. The plan is to write another three-book series with the same characters in the south of France as they open a small inn. I’m excited about getting on with those books and thrilled that I can keep writing about the part of the world that my readers love as much as I do.

5- What would you like readers to know about you?

I love writing and all the work that goes with it! It’s been a great surprise to me to begin a completely new career as an author after I turned sixty. I’m often asked to speak to women’s groups and love to encourage women of all ages to follow a dream, no matter how old we are. It’s never too late!

I also love hearing from readers and believe that’s an author’s greatest reward. I send out a newsletter once a month and feel that’s my chance to speak to each one of the subscribers. There’s always at least one book giveaway per letter (from many of my author friends) and often there are sneak peeks at my writing, along with photography and information about France.

6– How can readers contact you or find our more about your books?

I can be reached directly by email at patriciasandsauthor@gmail.com. All my book information and a sign-up link for my newsletter can be found on my website: http://patriciasandsauthor.com/

I’d like to thank Patricia Sands for writing such a lovely book and for visiting my blog. It was wonderful to read her novel and find out more about her books and her writing process!