The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

A Spell in Provence

A Spell in Provence

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Welcome to The Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock

Hello Julie and welcome to the blog. As a French native, I am always delighted to read novels set in France, and even more delighted when the location is a little different. Alsace is a beautiful region but I must say that I haven't read many novels set there yet.

I absolutely love this cover. Can you tell us a little about the novel?

The Vineyard in Alsace is a second chance at love story between Fran and Didier who were in love at university but split up when she went to take a job in London. She returns to Alsace after her fiancĂ© cheats on her and finds herself working on Didier’s vineyard. Little by little, they fall in love all over again but they have to overcome a few obstacles obviously before they can have their happily ever after.

A vineyard... How lovely! Can you tell us a little about you?

I’m a contemporary romance author and to date, I have independently published two novels. Setting is especially important to me so my first novel, published in 2015, travelled between Dorset and Nashville, and my latest one is set on a vineyard in Alsace in France.

I love to travel but most of the time, I live in Bedfordshire with my family.

Tell me, Julie, where do you get your ideas for your stories?

So far, my books have been inspired by my love of travel and also my interests. So my first book was about singing and country music, and my love of all things Nashville! My second book came about through my love of France and the French language, and also the fact that I used to work for a mail-order wine merchant some years ago. My next book is set in a restaurant – can you see a pattern emerging?!

Yes indeed! In three words - What kind of man is Didier, your hero?

Aidan Turner lookalike!

In three words - What kind of woman is Fran, your heroine?

Determined, independent, loving.

What is the one thing you absolutely need to write? (quiet, music, an empty house?)

I need to know where the story is going! I’ve just been suffering from a bit of a block but today, I came through it and now I can see where I’m heading again.

I am a complete pantser, so I can sympathise when you say you get stuck sometimes. I often have to backtrack and change everything. What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on my next book – the one set in a restaurant - and I’m about a third of the way in. I have written an outline but things never quite seem to work out the way I plan... I have my plot planned and I know who my main characters are but my characters always seem to take the plot a different way!

WORD ASSOCIATION FUN TEST!

day light; busy; time.
night awake; darkness; quiet.
winter dark; cold; long.
summer sun; rain; salad.
romance heart; happiness; together.
writing joy; hard; achievement.
music essential; happiness; singing.
hair grey; nightmare; short.
love family; music; food.
ring wedding; union; eternity.

Thank you very much, Julie, for being my guest today, and I wish you lots of success with A Vineyard in Alsace.

Thank you very much for having me as a guest on your blog, Marie.

Blurb
Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?
Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.

Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.

Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?

The Vineyard in Alsace is a contemporary romance set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in Alsace in France.
Amazon

EXCERPT
Fran
‘Here, you can have this back!’ I wrenched my engagement ring from my finger and flung it in the general direction of their naked bodies, huddled together under the sheet on the bed. Our bed. ‘I obviously won’t be needing it any more.’
‘What the hell, Fran?’ The thunderous look on Paul’s face as the ring pinged against the metal bedframe almost made me doubt myself. I closed my eyes briefly. Don’t let him control you. You are definitely not the guilty party!
I took one last look at him and then I turned and ran. I kept on running, as far and as fast as my legs would take me, blood pounding in my ears, my long hair whipping around my face. The whole time my mind raced with thoughts of his double betrayal.
Eventually, my body couldn’t take any more and I stopped on the pavement near an underground station, doubled over and panting from the effort. Once I’d got my breath back a bit, I gave Ellie a call. She picked up on the first ring.
‘Hey, Fran, how are you?’
That question pushed me over the edge into full-blown sobbing and once I’d started, I couldn’t stop.
‘What’s the matter? Where are you? Is Paul there? Talk to me, please!’
‘Hold on a minute,’ I managed to choke out, wiping my face on the sleeve of my t-shirt. ‘I’m at the Tube station and I need a place to stay. Paul…Paul…well, there is no Paul and me any more.’
I heard her sharp intake of breath before she said, ‘Of course you must come here. Will you be okay on your own or do you want me to come and get you?’
‘No, I’ll be okay. I should be about half an hour. Thanks, Ellie.’ I rang off and made my way down into the depths of the Tube, grateful that I would have somewhere to stay so I didn’t have to go back home tonight. Afterwards, I couldn’t remember finding my way to the platform. I was so distracted by all that had happened and in such a short space of time but the next thing I knew, I was squashed into a seat on a crowded rush-hour carriage, trundling north on the Northern line.
No-one spared me a second glance on the train. It was oddly calming to be sitting among complete strangers in my misery and to know I didn’t have to explain myself. I wrapped my arms protectively around my body. Why on earth had Paul done this to me? I wracked my brain as the train rattled on, but I could make no sense of it.
When I arrived at Ellie’s, she scooped me into her arms at once for a hug, which only made me start crying again. She patted my back comfortingly, and eventually the tears subsided.
‘Why don’t I get us both a drink and then you can tell me everything that’s happened?’

Author Bio
Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She indie published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and has just published her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace. A follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville is also in progress, as well as the next novel.

She blogs regularly on her website, 'My Writing Life.' You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author Page.
She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and The Society of Authors.
When she is not writing, she works part-time for a charity as a communications officer, and freelance as a web designer and supply teacher. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Find Me at Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt


It's been a busy week for me on the blog! Today I am delighted to welcome talented author Kate Hewitt and her novel FIND ME AT WILLOUGHBY CLOSE, which is part  of the Willoughby Close series but can be read as a standalone. I really enjoyed the story and you can find my review below. There is also a great giveaway at the bottom of this post, so don't miss out!




Genre: Women’s Fiction

Release Date: 14/03/2017

Series – Willoughby Close #3 (can be read as a standalone)

Welcome to Willoughby Close… a charming cluster of cozy cottages, each with a story to tell and a happy ending to deliver…
Harriet Lang had the perfect life, so she's left reeling when everything is taken from her in one fell swoop. Suddenly, Harriet learns her beautiful farmhouse in the Cotswolds is double-mortgaged, her husband Richard’s been unceremoniously fired—and he’s become a little too close to his young, sexy assistant.
Harriet moves into Willoughby Close with her three children, trying to hold her head up high. With the help of her neighbour and newfound friend Ellie Matthews, Harriet starts to rebuild her life--but dipping a toe in the dating pool feels strange and meanwhile her children are struggling in different ways. She wonders if starting over is really possible...
Then Willoughby Close begins to weave its healing magic on both her and her children, and Harriet begins to see a way forward. She even starts to date sexy local vet Tom Roberts--but when Richard reappears in her life, wanting to make amends, Harriet must make the painful decision about how much of the past can be forgiven—and what kind of future she is fighting for.

My Review:

I must confess that I didn't Harriet very much at first. She lives in a dream house furnished and decorated by an interior designer. She spends money without ever looking at price tags, drives a huge four wheel drive, organises PTA fund-raising events, and ferries her children to after-school clubs every evening of the week. All she seems concerned about is appearances and fitting in with the other 'yummy mummies' of her beautiful Cotswolds village. When she finds out that her husband has been having telephone conversations at night with his sexy young secretary, that he was fired from his high-pressure job in London and that they have to drastically change their lifestyle, all she does is complain, wallow in self-pity and worry about keeping up appearances. She doesn't ask herself if she was in any way to blame for their marital or financial problems. 
And then I realised that Harriet doesn't like herself much either, or at least she doesn't like what she has become over the years. Once she and her three children move into their small cottage at Willoughby Close, and as they adapt to their new, smaller, shabbier surroundings, to the lack of money and life without Richard, Harriet starts to think back to the days when she and Richard first lived together - the days when they didn't have much money but shared plenty of love and laughter. Her outlook on herself, on her marriage and what is really important shifts and it's as if a new person - or rather the old Harriet - emerges.
Kate Hewitt's writing style is very lively and engaging. The author certainly knows how to bring her characters to life, and once I started reading I really wanted to find out how it would all end. I now would love to find out what happens to Harriet's neighbours at Willoughby Close, and I will be reading the other stories in the series.
Find Me at Willoughby Close is a an engaging journey of self-discovery, and reminds us that money, a beautiful country house and all the latest 'in' accessories aren't important, and in any case not more important than love and family.
EXTRACT

“Come on,” Harriet said now, as she climbed resolutely out of the car and gave them all as cheerful a smile as she could. “Let’s check it out.”

    The movers had already come; Harriet had marked what furniture to take from their house to Willoughby Close, and it had been a depressingly small amount. The big, bespoke kitchen table wouldn’t fit, and the huge dresser with all the pottery she’d collected over the years wouldn’t either. In fact, at least two-thirds of their furniture was going into storage, which was expensive, but Harriet couldn’t bear to lose all of it along with the house. They’d need it when Richard got his job, and they bought something bigger.

She’d spent hours and hours, weeks and months, selecting all the furniture for the house, with the help of the expensive interior decorator who had more or less held her hand through the entire process. She’d bought tasteful antiques interspersed with fresh modern pieces, carpets and kilims from various holidays, watercolors and oil paintings of places that were meaningful to them. Sophie had once said, with admiration that bordered on envy, that Harriet’s house could be featured in Country Life. 

And so it would again. This was a blip, damn it. Things were going to get better. Richard was going to find a job, he’d said so, and they’d get back their house or buy an even better house, and she’d live there without him, happy and defiant. Or something like that. She couldn’t picture specifics yet, but she couldn’t stand the thought of the rest of her life looking like… this.

The children trooped silently behind her as she fumbled with the keys and then opened the door to number two. The smell of fresh paint and emptiness hit her like a smack in the face. It was the smell of fresh starts, and she didn’t want one.

She stepped inside, reaching for the lights. Although it was only four in the afternoon it was already getting dark, the skies heavy and low with gray clouds. Spring felt a long way off, despite the fact that it was mid-February, and the spattering of snowdrops interspersed with an early crocus or two that she’d seen on the drive in.

“This is it?” Mallory’s voice rang through the empty space, scornful and incredulous. William kicked at the skirting board, scuffing the pristine white paint. Chloe stuck her thumb in her mouth.

“Yes, this is it,” Harriet said, trying to pitch her tone somewhere between firm and bright. “It’s lovely, isn’t it?”

BUY LINKS





About the author:
Kate Hewitt is the author of over 65 novels of women’s fiction and romance. Whichever the genre, she loves telling a compelling and emotional story. An American ex-pat and former New Yorker, she now lives in a small market town in Wales with her husband and five children. You can learn more about her books and life at http://www.kate-hewitt.com.







GIVEAWAY

1st Prize - £10 Amazon Gift Card

2nd Prize – a print copy of MEET ME AT WILLOUGHBY CLOSE (book 1)
GIVEAWAY OPEN INTERNATIONALLY

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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Abi's Neighbour by Jenny Kane


Hello, Jenny and welcome!

Thank you for inviting me along today on Day 4 of my Abi’s Neighbour blog tour!
Abi’s Neighbour, the second novel to feature Abi Carter, is set in the Penwith region of Cornwall; an area which included Lands End, Penzance, Sennen, St Just, and a myriad of beautiful villages in between.
I really enjoyed Abi's House, so I was delighted to return to Cornwall for Abi's Neighbour! Cornwall is a very beautiful county. I have only been there once for a short holiday but I would love to return one day. How important is the Cornish setting in both novels?

I have no doubt that the Abi’s House, the first of my two ‘Abi’ novels, did so well because of the gorgeous Cornish setting. This got me to thinking about what it would be like to introduce a character into Abi’s life that really doesn’t want to be in Cornwall at all. A character who doesn’t like the seaside or anything to do with it.

Blurb for Abi’s Neighbour

Abi Carter has finally found happiness. Living in her perfect tin miner’s cottage, she has good friends and a gorgeous boyfriend, Max. Life is good. But all that’s about to change when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Cassandra Henley-Pinkerton represents everything Abi thought she’d escaped when she left London. Obnoxious and stuck-up, Cassandra hates living in Cornwall. Worst of all, it looks like she has her sights set on Max.

But Cassandra has problems of her own. Not only is her wealthy married lawyer putting off joining her in their Cornish love nest, but now someone seems intent on sabotaging her business.

Will Cassandra mellow enough to turn to Abi for help – or are they destined never to get along?

Complete with sun, sea and a gorgeous Cornwall setting, Abi’s Neighbour is the PERFECT summer escape.

Buy links-



Tell me, Jenny, how did you come up with Cassandra' character?

Cassandra Henley-Pinkerton was so much fun to invent and write about. She is a complicated lass to say the least- not to mention perfectly made up, dressed, confident and successful. Your basic nightmare!

Cassandra finds herself in Sennen, in the house next door to Abi, hiding from her lover’s wife. A million social miles from London, she is out of her depth for the first time in her life- and to make things worse- there’s no Wi-FI!

She also hates the seaside.

What? Really? How s that even possible? Everybody loves the seaside!

Well- umm...confession time- I’m not keen on it either! I like seaside villages and wandering along coastal paths and everything else about the seaside- but not the actual beach. I hate the way sand gets everywhere, and how the seagulls attack the litter bins, and seaweed- I can’t stand seaweed....so I sort of know where Cassandra is coming from. Although, I hasten to add, I’m not like her in any other way!!

It’s going to take a miracle for Cassandra to adjust to Cornish life...

Author Bio
Jenny Kane is the author of the full length romance novels Abi’s Neighbour, (Accent Press, 2017),  Another Glass of Champagne (Accent Press, 2016),  Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015), the contemporary romance/medieval crime time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the best selling contemporary romance novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle (Accent Press, 2015).

Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Jenny also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee and historical crime as Jennifer Ash.

Social Media Links

Web site – www.jennykane.co.uk

Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor

Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl   




Thank you ever so much for hosting my blog today Marie.

Happy reading everyone. I hope you enjoy all the stops on my tour.

Jenny xx

You are very welcome, Jenny. Congratulations on the release of Abi's Neighbour and good luck for the rest of the blog tour!







Tuesday, 9 May 2017

THE OTHER SIDE by Kaylor Ward


I am delighted to welcome author Kaylor Ward to talk about her writing and her novel THE OTHER SIDE, a fascinating read to be released on May 14th 2017 by Parker Press Publishing. There are fantastic prizes to be won, including a Kindle Fire! Scroll down to the bottom of the post to enter.


Hello Kaylor, and thank you very much for being my guest! Can you tell us a little about you?

I did always want to write, but it never really occurred to me that I could. I don’t know why that was the case. I think, looking back, it was because on some level I didn’t think I understood people enough to write, which is very strange, because I now know that I have incredibly good insight and awareness of both myself and others.

I did science A levels and a degree in engineering, of all things! I was a dreadful engineer. I lasted four months in my first job before transferring to the marketing department. I have spend most of my career working for myself as a business consultant and coach, and it is the coaching part which has had most impact on my writing. There is a lot of psychology to being a good coach, and I studied it at masters level. As my writing develops, getting inside the human psyche and condition is my passion.

I also had a pretty traumatic experience with my first marriage when my husband upped and left when my son was just ten months old, and he never came back. This inspired Manic Mondays, my first novel, which was based on a different woman, Catherine Blake whose husband did the same thing.

My writing is about broken family life and people struggling to rebuild and hold onto the people who matter. There are also light moments in my writing, so maybe bittersweet is a good word to use. So, you can begin to see how my writing ideas work. When I hear a story about a broken family, a man fighting to see his child, a woman accused of being mentally unstable, domestic abuse, etc (the list is endless) I start to think about the psychology of that.

What is THE OTHER SIDE about?

The Other Side is a novel of love and loss with a strong element of psychology running through it. Our hero, Rick, and our heroine, Lauren, struggle with their inner worlds as they fight to keep their outer worlds together. Family bonds and love are both their strength and are also their failure.

The couple are both in their second marriage, and their first marriages and the baggage that entails has a huge influence on their lives. They are left an allotment by a family friend, and against Lauren’s initial best judgement, they take it on. They throw themselves into the ‘good life’ with high spirits, and all is well until a new family move into one of the cottages on the other side of a high stone wall that borders their allotment.

Rick is working on the allotment one day when he hears the voice of a woman calling the children in for dinner. He recognises the voice as his ex wife, and the woman who forced him to leave his children behind seven years ago. As Rick sinks into a world of obsession, Lauren believes that Rick is repeating what happened to her in her first marriage, and is having an affair.

As they struggle with their separate journeys, the twist at the end is both shocking and heartbreaking.

This story sounds fascinating. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working a sequel to The Other Side. I’ve not written a series before, so I thought it might be good to try. Side By Side is the next episode in Lauren’s life as she is once again thrown into a situation that she cannot fathom, and she finds herself caught in a web of distrust and fear as she fights to keep her family together.

Choosing the names of my characters is one of the things I enjoy the most when writing a new story. What about you? How do you chose the name of your characters?

I find this really tricky. I know what not to name a character, and so when the family sits round the table making suggestions I’m like an ace tennis player bouncing it right back at them, with a ‘thanks, but not quite’, and then someone will come up with something, and I’ll give them a thumbs up. I write contemporary fiction, and so names need to be current and also fit the age of the character. A name needs to fit the expectation of my readers as well, so it does need plenty of consideration. I also try to pick names (not always, though) that are likely to last, and not immediately age, so I ask my twenty year old son and teenage daughter if they know people with the names – that’s how Lauren came to be named, and Jack, and Kate, and Beth. Rick’s name found him, so although none of the children know anyone called Rick, it fit him.

What comes first when you are thinking of a new story - the plot or the characters?

The idea for a story, usually comes with that – the initial idea, and it will usually be prompted by something that I see firsthand, or am told by someone, or something that I hear about. So, I think that it’s definitely the plot that comes first.

I start to think about the experience from different angles, and ask myself, ‘What it would be like if that happened?’ and, ‘how would those people react, behave and deal with that as a situation, and what if there was a twist here and there that they didn’t see coming?’ And then I’m up and running.

Thank you so much, Kaylor, for being my guest today. I wish you a lot of success with THE OTHER SIDE.

And now for the Word Association Fun Test!

winter – fire, walks, mud!

summer – sea, boats, sky

writing – freedom, passion, creativity

music – guitar, singing, festivals

love - loss, family, bonds


Author Bio
Kaylor Ward, originally from London, now lives in South Wales. She worked for many years as a management consultant and trainer, writing part-time until her first book was published under the name, Michaela Weaver (Manic Mondays). She has studied creative writing at Masters level, and in addition to her writing she is a qualified Writing Coach. Michaela is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and a reader for their New Writers' Scheme. Michaela writes cross genre contemporary fiction with psychological twists often about the darker side of family and domestic life.


Twitter @kaylorward




THE OTHER SIDE

Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Jodi Picoult meets Clare Makintosh)

Release date: 14th May 2017

Publisher: Parker Press Publishing

Blurb

Lauren is locked in a cell. She knows she shouldn’t be there.

When Lauren and Rick are left an allotment they embark on a lifestyle change that is supposed to bring their step-family closer together. They embrace the chance for a slice of the good life, fresh air and family times together. Lauren and Rick are in love and happy but sometimes their past issues surface. For Lauren it’s the affair that her first husband had before he left her. For Rick it’s the children he was alienated from and forced to leave behind seven years ago.

One day a new family move into a cottage behind the allotment. That day changes everything. That day they start falling apart.

You can buy THE OTHER SIDE here





Excerpt

Prologue

The door shut with a cold, hard slam sending harsh metallic echoes around her. Her eyes shot warily from left to right as she raked her fingers through her hair and tried to make sense of her situation. She was in a cell. She had asked them not to lock her in, but they hadn’t paid her any attention. Where there had been a face a few seconds ago, there was now a slammed metal door with peeling grey paint showing the cracking blue paint beneath. She hated confined spaces. They told her there was a buzzer if she needed anything. Needed anything?

          Panic welled in her chest, her throat and her brain as the grey walls and the naked single white light closed around her. Breathe...breathe...slow...down... This was not the place for a panic attack. Not here, not today. She was alone. She had to get through this.   Focus...focus... Think yourself somewhere else.

She thought of her daughters, their smiles and their joy. She lay on the hard thin plastic mattress on the concrete bed, and pulled a thin blue blanket over her head to block out the light, to block out the room, and to block out now.



Giveaway

Prizes

Kindle Fire!

Lolita Wine Glass from Jack's wine bar

Bottle of Vino from Jack's

Scarf from Puffin Island

Just Follow the link to enter the Competition

http://kaylorward.com/index.php/kaylors-sign-up-contest/

And as if that wasn't enough... There is a free six week writing course for everyone run by Kaylor Ward herself! Here is the link to access it

http://kaylorward.com/index.php/free-course-lp/