I’m thrilled that my very 1st book, Making Marion, is being rereleased with a new title and cover in January. It will also be available in audiobook for the 1st time!
It’s had a few tiny tweaks, but is otherwise the same story. This book has such a special place in my heart, I can’t wait for you to read it. You can preorder the ebook here.
Marion Miller needs a fresh start.
Her childhood in Northern Ireland wasn’t easy, with a father who passed away when she was young and a mother who got lost in grief. Now grown-up and with family relations as tense as ever, Marion heads to England, to find out the truth about her father’s mysterious past – and hopefully an extended family who will love her as much as he did.
Scarlett Obermann runs a holiday park in Sherwood Forest with her daughter Grace, but what’s she’s best at is making people feel like they belong. With her merry band of waifs and strays, Scarlett welcomes Marion with open arms, and it isn’t long before Marion finally understands what it means to find a home.
As she tries to uncover her father’s story, Marion slowly blossoms, even daring to indulge in her crush on Reuben, the son of the Lord of the Manor, but she hasn’t quite out-run her past. And as Scarlett faces her own tragedy, it’s Marion’s turn to take care of everyone.
Because you can’t choose your family, but you can make your friends the family you choose.
I’m absolutely blown away that Just the Way You Are has sold 100,000 copies since it came out 8 months ago! I’m so grateful to everyone who has read, reviewed and blogged about the book. And, of course, to my amazing publisher Boldwood Books who have made so many of my writing dreams come true. They also sent me this rather lovely champagne, so I’ll be popping the cork this evening as it also happens to be my wedding anniversary. Thank you so much if you decided to read Ollie’s story!!
I have a confession: I really don’t like snow. Well, maybe that’s not quite true… I don’t mind looking at it through the window, while wrapped in a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate. Or driving on a clear road, with white trees either side as though I’m heading into Narnia. But having to walk through slushy, slippery snow while my hands, toes and face go numb is not one of my favourite things to do.
Where we live, the schools have to close if there’s more than an inch or two, because the teachers can’t get down the country lanes. We often end up stuck in the village, which is fine for a couple of days, but while the idea of being snowed in can seem romantic and cosy, the reality can be very different…
My worst ‘snow-in’ happened when I was eleven, during the ‘Big Snow’ of 1987. I will never forget it! Young Adult novels about nuclear holocausts were filling up my local library, and to my overactive imagination I fancied myself in a similar situation as I shovelled snow off the drive because frozen pipes meant no running water.
For a few days we had a bucket of melted snow in the bathroom for flushing the toilet, and even, under my Mum’s firm instructions, washing my face. I remember looking the bits of pine cone floating in it and wondering how on earth this was going to make me cleaner than before I started. This was well before bottled water was commonplace, but thankfully we managed to find some before the shops sold out so we didn’t have to drink tea with twigs and dirt for added flavour.
We also had no power for several days. My family spent our time reading, or huddled around the battery operated radio playing cards by candlelight, my brothers and I arguing over who got the best torch at bedtime. My dad, a Queen’s Scout, dug out his ancient camping stove and we heated up water, soup or tins of beans and sausages.
The gas was restored before the electricity, at which point we could toast bread and crumpets on our fire. One evening we all trooped round for dinner with a neighbour who had a gas oven. When my mum got a new kitchen a few years later, she made sure we had one too in case it ever happened again.
As a child I enjoyed the novelty for the first day or so, but it must have been so stressful for my parents. However, once school returned, I discovered that we had it easy. One of my friends in a nearby village had no electricity for three weeks.
I’m happy to say that in Let in Snow, when Bea and Henry find themselves snowed in while trying to get home for Christmas, despite sharing some of the logistical challenges I encountered during the Big Snow, they end up rather cosy. Maybe getting snowed in can be romantic after all…
Here in the UK it is hot and sunny, but I’m so excited that my new book, Let it Snow, is out on August 30th! It is available to pre-order on ebook, and on publication day will also be released in paperback, audiobook and hardback. I had huge fun writing about Bea and her family – and of course Henry – and can’t wait for you to meet them.
After the end of a long-term relationship, local weather girl Bea Armstrong has been avoiding her family, and their inevitable ‘I-told-you-sos.’ But with Christmas fast approaching, she is finally on her way home to Charis House, the school in Sherwood Forest that her mum and dad run in their old family home. And to top it all off, the insufferable Henry Fairfax – who her parents have always wanted her to marry – has also been invited.
Relief comes in the shape of a last minute interview for her dream job. There are just a few minor problems… The interview is in Scotland, Bea has no car, and the snow is falling already. The only solution is for Henry to drive her – could this Christmas get any worse…
But during an unforgettable two day interview, a stay in a log cabin and a nightmare journey through the snow, Henry turns out to be nothing like she thought. And when Bea’s first love and recent ex shows up, Bea has a difficult choice to make…
I’m so excited that my new book, Just the Way You Are is now out in paperback, audio or ebook.
I’ll be celebrating today with some fancy cheese for lunch and a meal out at a lovely riverside restaurant this evening. Oh, and my publishers Boldwood Books sent me these very cute biscuits, so I’ll need at least 4 mugs of tea to go with them.
I’m so excited that my new book, Just The Way You Are is now available to pre-order as an ebook! Release date is 17th February, and will be available in paperback and audiobook as well as the ebook from that date.
A novel about friendship, romance and learning to love yourself – just the way you are.
When Olivia Tennyson – or Ollie to her friends – was sixteen, she wrote a Dream List of all the things she wanted for her life, including a happy marriage and a family. But at twenty-nine, Ollie is single, living at home with her over-protective and manipulative mother, and is feeling like her dreams are getting further out of reach.
It’s time for a change.
It’s time to take matters into her own hands.
Without telling her mum, or more importantly, asking her permission, Ollie finds the perfect place to start her new life. End Cottage has a duck-egg blue front door, a garden that leads to acres of forest, and definitely counts as her dream home.
Now all Ollie has to do is complete the rest of her list and find out who she really is, before she can imagine any romance coming into her life. After all, how is she going to find her dream man in the middle of a forest…
I first got hooked on the TV show Married at First Sight back in 2015. As a hopeless romantic, how could I not watch these all-inclusive blind-dates unfold, hoping that against all the odds the couples found their happy ending?
So when none of the marriages did end up a Happy Ever After, it was inevitable that my author’s imagination was going to start dreaming up its own marriage at first sight story, which eventually became my new novel, Take A Chance On Me.
Part of the planning and plotting for this book included delving into why people decide to marry a stranger. In our 21stcentury, Western culture, most of us would hope and expect that we get married for love. But, as any historical romance fan knows, up until relatively recently a ‘love match’ was a brilliant bonus, but by no means a prerequisite for a wedding.
For thousands of years, people have got married for all sorts of reasons – security and protection, money and status, at their family’s insistence, for convenience or companionship, pregnancy, lust…
When we think about it, those reasons aren’t unheard of today.
But somewhere over time emerged this narrative that everyone (or, dare I say it, every woman) needs a Mr Right in order to have their Happy Ending, and along with that expectation can sometimes come the kind of pressure that has thousands of people applying to ditch the fairly modern notion of a love-match for the ultra-modern wisdom of science and not only marry a stranger, but do it in front of millions of people on TV.
So, my meanderings through all things marriage resulted in a story that explores all sorts of reasons for marriage, and what might prompt a man and a woman to risk everything on a blind-date wedding.
Perhaps more importantly, all this pondering left me certain that when it comes to a Happy Ever After, perhaps we need a few more options. Getting married is, thank goodness, rarely necessary for a woman’s security or status these days – but does society still imply that it is necessary for their success?
Does our culture still promote the story that little girls (and grown up ones) are incomplete until they find their prince (or princess)?
I’ve had friends who resisted the relentless pressure to find a life-partner, instead choosing a happy ending that included falling in love with a career, investing in deep-spirited friendships, or embracing the freedom to please themselves. But they’ve told me how this required fighting off lifelong assumptions about finding The One, instead finding the courage to create a future of their own invention.
I love being married. I’m so grateful to have found a man who is right for me. But I don’t want my children to believe this is their only option for happiness. That as their mother I will be holding my breath like Mrs Bennet until they’re all married off.
Take A Chance On Me is about marrying a stranger. It’s also about staying married to the one you chose to love. There’s five fabulous sisters, some dubious science and a ridiculous bet. It’s also about how when we take a chance on ourselves, we might end up with a Happy Ending that’s completely unexpected.
This month my publisher, Boldwood Books, invited their authors to provide some encouraging thoughts to help us through lockdown. Here’s mine…
If there’s one valuable lesson that my 44 years have taught me, it’s that life, more often than not, comes in seasons.
I’ve had busy seasons, productive times where I’ve felt like I was running downhill faster than my legs could carry me. I’ve learnt to get through these with strict work-life boundaries, figuring out what matters in the long run verses what seems urgent that day, and reminding myself of the life I really want (which doesn’t include grinding myself down to the bone to please other people).
I’ve had quieter seasons, and whereas in my younger days I found these frustrating, growing restless and bored and anxious that life was trickling by without me, I now treasure the opportunities to rest and replenish, to breathe in for a while instead of giving out. These pauses are to be guarded fiercely and savoured deliciously.
I’ve had times of joy, when all was right with the world I found myself on top of. And I’ve again learnt to relish these moments, to unashamedly mark them with special meals, a fancy dress and with laughter and music and the people I love.
And yes, there’s been seasons that have felt like the harshest winter. Three stand-out seasons, when life was just hard:
The first, when in fourteen months I graduated university, moved city twice, started my first full-time job, got engaged, then married, and had a baby. I was 21, nudging into 22 – an age when just one of those things would have been a big deal. The next fifteen years seemed almost a breeze in comparison.
Until the second, the year my father died – anguished months of helping take care of him as a brain tumour wreaked its evil havoc. That year I learnt what true heartbreak feels like.
And then, we have 2020/21. A global pandemic. Eleven months and counting of long-covid’s fatigue and breathlessness and tasteless cups of tea. A personal family situation that has at times knocked me to my knees. My first year as a foster carer – a role that swiftly brought everything else into sharp perspective.
But this is meant to be an uplifting thought. So what’s my point…
These were seasons. Horrible, exhausting, at times devastatingly lonely, stressful and overwhelming times. But they were times.
In a book of philosophy called Ecclesiastes it says this:
‘For everything there is a season…
A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance…’
It even says, ‘A time to embrace and a time to turn away’ – words that have become startlingly true on a grand scale. Who could ever have imagined that we would be unable to hug our friends?
Looking back, my toughest seasons have made me who I am. I’ve dug deep down within myself and found strength and courage I never knew I had. They’ve shaped my values and sharpened my priorities. The challenges have imparted more wisdom than I could ever have learnt from a book or a training course. I have more empathy for other people’s suffering because I’ve experienced similar struggles.
This season is dreadful, for so many reasons. It’s lonely, scary and gruelling and utterly relentless. And at times it seems like it’s lasted forever, like parties and holidays and being able to see people smile are some weird dream we once had.
But it is a season. The end is coming. It is almost in sight.
And while it is a terrible tragedy that far too many people will not walk out the other side of this valley, for those of us who do, even as we emerge battered, bruised and battle-scarred, we will do it together. And we will love, and laugh and hold each other like never before.
And one day, we will look back and remember this seemingly-endless winter was not endless after all. And we will discover that we are stronger, and wiser, and braver and more loving than we would have been without it.
I’m absolutely thrilled that my next book, Take a Chance on Me, is now available to preorder. It will be released on 5th February in paperback, ebook and audio book.
One of the characters in the book has the neurological disease ME (also historically known as CFS). Another main character works in ME research, and is involved with fundraising. Historically ME has been widely misunderstood, and is severely lacking in funding, despite up to 250,000 people and 20 million worldwide suffering from this incapacitating illness. To date there is no known cure or effective treatment. With this in mind, as someone who once upon a time worked as a research scientist, with my salary funded by a charity (in this case, it was Cancer Research), I will be donating 100% of the royalties I receive from all preorders and sales in February to the ME Association and the Open Medicine Foundation (50% each). Both of these organisations support vital research. I would be so grateful if you would consider buying a copy of the book before the end of February, and helping this much needed work. Thank you, and best wishes!
For book lovers, I don’t think much can beat the joy of discovering a fantastic author – like each page is slowly unwrapping the best sort of birthday present, or opening up an old chest to find it’s full of treasure. And when you learn that they’ve already written a whole load of other books, that’s even better.
Back in the spring, my books of choice were the paper version of a comfort blanket – old favourites, read many times before, from authors who could immediately whisk me away from the stresses and strains of real life for a while, replacing it with the hope of a happy ever after.
But by the time libraries reopened in July, I was more than ready for some fertile hunting ground, on my endless quest for new authors whose writing I love. When the books are free, I can take risks, step out of my usual genres and try things on a whim. And in the past few weeks I’ve found 3 authors in particular who I’m now looking out for on future library visits.
So, in the interests of spreading the joy, my Fantastic Finds are:
Stella Newman – The Foodie’s Guide to Falling in Love
Food and romance – two of my favourite things in one book, so I had high hopes for this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. It tells the story of Laura, a secret restaurant critic (I first picked up the book because a food reviewer features in my current work in progress), Adam, a chef, and a horrible restaurant review that causes no end of problems. I absolutely loved the humour – it was genuinely whip-smart funny without being crude or tasteless. But my highlight was the relationship between Laura and Adam – it managed to be tender and sweet while not at all saccharine. I immediately bought two more of Stella Newman’s books, which basically says it all.
This book was a genuinely pleasant surprise. It wasn’t that it was more light-hearted than I expected (although at times, it was). More that it felt full of light. The story follows a sixteen year old girl who ends up working as a companion for a depressed widow who worked for NASA during the space race. The unfolding of their relationship is simply beautiful, and I was desperately rooting for them both. But what I loved most was that, despite covering some difficult topics, overall the book was full of all the things I love to read about – warmth, wisdom, hope, and joy amidst the trouble, and learning to love and value yourself enough to reach for the stars. I will definitely be looking out for more books from Lisa Wingate, with the hope they are equally as uplifting.
Okay, so this is a totally different genre – the 2nd in a 4 book thriller series (though skipping the 1st book didn’t matter). It follows the ongoing adventures of Orphan X, who broke out of a government programme of trained assassins (not a million miles away from Jason Bourne) in the previous book, Easy to read, entertaining throughout, enough emotion to keep me caring – park reality at the front cover and enjoy the ride. (WARNING: I did need to overlook one of the worst ‘male author writing about a beautiful woman admiring her own naked body in a mirror’ scenes that I’ve been unfortunate enough to encounter while not on a themed Twitter thread).