Happy Ever Afters…

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.

Seasons

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.

Spring is coming. I’ll see you there.

Take a Chance on Me!


Join Beth Moran, Cooper and the Donovan sisters on this life-affirming and uplifting tale of love, family, friendship, and risking it all for happiness. 

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!

My summer book harvest

3 authors I’ve discovered in lockdown…

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:

  1.  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.

https://amzn.to/3mCelSK

2. Lisa Wingate – Dandelion Summer

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.

https://bit.ly/33OZwDU

3. Greg Hurwitz – The Nowhere Man

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).

https://amzn.to/2FZO1kR

So, that’s my lockdown book harvest – I’d love to hear your favourite author discoveries of the summer!

The inspiration behind A Day That Changed Everything

One of the things people tend to ask me after they find out I’m an author, is where my ideas come from. The best answer I can usually come up with is ‘Everywhere!’ Every conversation I’ve had (or earwigged). Every memory, or funny story or interesting fact. Snippets of the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met, swirling together like imagination soup until the scent of an interesting idea wafts out and catches my attention.

And like usual, the original idea behind A day That Changed Everything was not one idea, but several, scribbled down over the years in a notebook. One of them was about a woman who had a promising sporting career, and then gave it up for a man who turned out not to be worth it. I wondered about this woman, where she ended up and whether she ever got over her bad decision. Whether, after giving up the dream of winning, she would forever class herself as a loser. But of course, the more I grew to like her, the more I wanted her to find a way to believe in herself again. To dump the shame like she dumped that no-good man.

But for that to happen, it would mean restoring her physical wellbeing, as well supporting her mental health.

And that naturally got me thinking about my amazing mother-in-law, Phyllis Moran. Unlike Amy Piper in the book, Phyllis was never considered sporty, and raising 8 boys in the Northern Irish Troubles is exercise enough for one woman. But it’s also very stressful, and Phyllis struggled at times with her mental health, as do so many of us, in whatever situations we find ourselves in. However, she pressed on, she worked hard, she laughed loud through all the tough times, and once her sons were grown men and she finally had some time to herself, now in her 60s with a gaggle of grandchildren, she joined a running club. And to her surprise, she met a group of people who didn’t think any less of her for being the oldest one there, or a novice, or for getting lost if she ran on her own. Instead they cheered on her every step. And as she fell in love with running, her confidence blossomed. As she grew stronger physically, her mind grew stronger too. In months she was running half-marathons, inspiring the club members so much with her quiet determination and positive attitude that they gifted her with an all-expenses paid trip to do the Great North Run.

My mother-in-law has unfailingly been one of my biggest author fans. She is beyond proud of me. Well, Phyllis, your family are just as proud of you, and are so pleased you’ve finally learnt to be proud of yourself.

And that was my hope and dream for Amy Piper, too. That after years of hiding away, she would learn to feel proud of herself again. And what better place for that to happen than a running club. Where, like my mother-in-law, Amy finds group of women from all walks of life, who cheer her on, run alongside her (even when she’d rather they didn’t) and teach her that, with a little help, things can change for the better.

https://amzn.to/3hay74m

A Day That Changed Everything

I’m so excited that my next book, A Day That Changed Everything is now available in paperback, ebook and audio book. I absolutely LOVE this cover – it captures perfectly one of my favourite scenes in the book, and just somehow makes me feel sunnier.

https://amzn.to/30Sgstg

Amy Piper is a loser. She’s lost her confidence, her mojo and her way.

But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…

What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.

The trick to changing your life, is to take it one day at a time. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, Amy is determined to make just one day special – for herself and for Joey. And who knows, today might be the day that changes everything…

Uplifting, funny and unforgettable, Beth Moran returns with a joyous tale of friendship, love and facing your fears. 

This book was previously published as How Not to be a Loser.