Thursday, 29 June 2017

Book Review - Last Seen by Lucy Clarke

Amazon UK
Title: Last Seen
Author: Lucy Clarke
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 29th June 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.

Unputdownable and enthralling, I can't really ask for more than that from a book, and Last Seen offers that and even more. 

On the surface its a reasonably easy story to understand. Jacob and Marley were inseparable best friends. 7 years ago unfortunately Marley drowned on Jacob's birthday when they were 10 years old. Now on the night of his 17th birthday Jacob is last seen in The Sandbank area and no one knows what happened to him or where he is. 

The story is told from the points of view of Isla and Sarah. Sarah is Jacob's mother and Isla was Marleys. Between them we discover just what happened this summer, and also the hidden details of what happened 7 years before, as well as developments in between. 

I found it really hard to like Sarah as a character and I wasn't overly keen on Isla either, but as the book progressed the writing had be so absorbed, and I was very interested to see just what happened to Jacob that I was able to see past my dislike of them and just not stop thinking about the book. 

The timeline of the book is easy to follow, and the pacing was great. Although I didn't think too much happened in the first bit of the book, it was really laying the foundation for the rest of the story. 

There are so many secrets and half truths in the book, that every time you thought you knew what would happen, or had just about grasped the current theory, then something else occurred that had you thinking in a different direction. 

Originally I was slightly upset that Lucy Clarke hadn't featured another exotic location for this book's setting, like some of her previous ones, but that was forgotten just a few pages into the book, when the writing grasped me regardless and wouldn't let me go. Regardless The Sandbank was in fact an excellent setting for a book, being a sandbank that is only generally accessed by boat when the tides are right, and that it contains a row of beach huts, and not too much else. Which gave the book a really atmospheric setting, while still coming across as summery but in a slightly sinister way! 

Unfortunately I had no choice but to put Last Seen down a few times, but given half a choice I would have read this in one sitting. Even when I wasn't reading it my mind was on the book, as it really is compelling storytelling. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Q&A with Cressida McLaughlin - #BlueMoonGuesthouse Blog Tour

1. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse?

I spent many of my childhood holidays in a seaside town in Dorset called Burton Bradstock. It had the sandy beach and ice cream kiosk, and the towering cliffs.  I have happy memories of long days on that beach, or in the teashop in the village, visiting Lyme Regis and Corfe Castle.  Then, several years ago, I went to Hastings for a few days with my husband.  We found a beautiful hotel right on the seafront, in one of those impressive, grand old houses. Each of the rooms was themed around a different country, and we stayed in Japan, with a futon and a square spa bath - it was such a unique place. Over time, the memories from my childhood holidays and the hotel in Hastings came together, and I had the idea of a guesthouse where each of the rooms was themed around something that had meaning for my central character, a place that was her business, but also symbolic of her friendships, her past - the things that made her who she was. The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse developed from that one idea. 

2. What do you find hardest about writing in general?

Believing in yourself.  It’s so easy to think that everything you’re writing is a load of rubbish, and hard to fight the urge to hold your finger down on the delete key.  Like everything, there are good days and bad days, but sometimes it’s tough to push through the doubts (that only you create), and get the words on the page.  First drafts will never be any good, second and third drafts improve things marginally.  As with so many things, you have to keep working at it, be patient, carve out your story over time – and squash the doubts!  

3. Has any other writer influenced the way you write?

There are lots of other writers that I admire, and who have probably influenced the way I write somewhere along the line.  I love Harriet Evans’ writing style, her way of striking a balance between wholly believable characters and dramatic, emotional storylines.  Jill Mansell and Miranda Dickinson are two other writers I love reading and really look up to, and I try to emulate their humour and romance, and the magical quality of their books, though I’m sure I don’t come close. 

4. Please could you tell us something that isn’t commonly known about you?

I had – and possibly still have – a massive crush on the Disney Robin Hood fox. 

5. Could you describe your perfect day?

It would involve some writing in the morning, followed by a nice lunch and spending the afternoon walking somewhere picturesque with my husband, or reading outside in the sun.  I love being close to water, a river or the sea, and I’d end the day with an al fresco dinner as the sun went down.  Food will always feature heavily, but the setting is important too – I love the Lake District, Cornwall and Edinburgh, as well as Norfolk, and would be happy doing those things in any of those places. 

Thank you so much Cressida for answering my questions. I loved Once In A Blue Moon Guesthouse. Check out my mini review from when I read it on my recent holiday here.

Robin Brennan has come home to Campion Bay. Now her parents have retired, she’s set to become the new landlady of The Campion Bay Guesthouse.

Bookings have been as thin as the hand towels, and it doesn’t take long for Robin to realise that the place needs a serious makeover. Perhaps throwing herself into the task will help to heal her sadness at the tragic end to her dreams in London.

As she gives the guesthouse a new lease of life, Robin encounters old friends and new, including old flame Tim, who’d clearly like to reboot their romance. But what about Will, the new arrival at No. 4, who’s rocked up with the cutest dog ever?

Caught up in a flurry of full-English breakfasts and cream teas, Robin’s never sure what, or who, the next check-in will bring…

Purchase from Amazon UK

Follow along with the rest of the blog tour. 

Book Review - Curves, Kisses and Chocolate Ice-Cream by Sue Watson

Amazon UK
Title: Curves, Kisses and Chocolate Ice-Cream
Author: Sue Watson
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 27th June 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Dani’s on a mission to get her life back on track by the end of the Summer. Running, rowing, aerobics and more, but perhaps all she needs are sweet treats and a second chance? 

Twenty years ago, Dani fled Appledore with a broken-heart and a suitcase full of shattered dreams. Only now is she brave enough to put her past behind her and return for a summer selling homemade ice-cream and getting fit by doing sit-ups by the sea. 

But the new-look cafe is filled with old memories of Jude, her teenage sweetheart-turned-sour. She thinks of him every time she swirls warm sauce onto a “chocolate-bockaglory” and even with the help of Chris, her gorgeous personal trainer, the urge to break her diet is everywhere she turns. 

When Jude makes an appearance at the cafe on the eve of Dani’s birthday party, history threatens to repeat itself. Is Dani strong enough to say no? And is the love she’s been longing for much closer than she thinks? 

Without a doubt, my new favourite book by Sue Watson - its fabulous, its funny, its full of ice-cream, its full of all around goodness, wrapped into one fantabulous story! 

I spent so much of the first part of the book laughing and smiling, and also seeing myself in the main character of Dani. Dani is on the larger size, works in an ice-cream shop, and consistently wishes she was thinner, but she also loves to binge eat and isn't too keen on exercise. She is full of good intentions, and has a really bubbly personality, although often she perhaps talks a bit too much. 

The first couple of times Dani goes into the gym are hilarious, her mouth runs away from her induction interview, then the treadmill runs away from her in another session, and then there is another injury too. Needless to say that Dani and gyms don't necessarily go together, but then she gels with Chris, and things begin to change!

The descriptions of ice-cream in this book are mouth watering, I was finding I could only really read this book while I was eating, or else I would have been binge eating like Dani, to cope with the hunger being generated by the salivating descriptions of ice-cream flavours. 

This is of course the ice-cream shop that featured in the first Appledore book, but they can both be read as standalones. It is of course great to catch up with the gang from the shop, and I was especially pleased to see that Sue makes a reappearance.  I can't believe how many more malapropisms she has, but they made me laugh, or at least roll an eye with each one! 

At the start of each chapter there is one of Dani's previous failed diets, plus the reasoning for being on the diet in the first place. If you are on the lookout for a new diet, I wouldn't recommend any of the ones Dani's tried as they clearly don't work that well, or have horrible side effects, but the do make for amusing reading! 

I  can't express how satisfying and enjoyable I found every second of this wonderfully entertaining story. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Bookouture for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Book Review - The A-Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson - Blog Tour

Amazon UK
Title: The A-Z of Everything
Author: Debbie Johnson
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Publisher supplied copy
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 20th April 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

P is for Paris where it all began. J is for Jealousy where it all came undone. But the most important letter is F. F is for Forgiveness, the hardest of all.

Sisters Poppy and Rose used to be as close as two sisters could be, but it’s been over a decade since they last spoke. Until they both receive a call that tells them their mother has gone – without ever having the chance to see her daughters reunited.

Andrea, though, wasn’t the kind of woman to let a little thing like death stand in the way of her plans. Knowing her daughters better than they know themselves, she has left behind one very special last gift – the A-Z of Everything.

A is for Andrea, who in her last few weeks on earth has created a A-Z of everything that she hopes will bring her two estranged daughters closer together, so that they can move on together as a family, and support each other in their grief. 

L is for Lewis, who is Andrea's best friend and has helped put together the A to Z of everything for the girls. He doesn't appear much but from the small appearances he makes, it is clear he was a very kind man but also quite opinionated. 

P is for Poppy the younger of the two sisters and whose actions ultimately caused the initial rift between the sisters.  

R is for Rose is the older of the two sisters who has a 16 year old son, and just seems generally unhappy with her life from first appearances. 

J is for Joe, Rose's son, and he appears in quite a few chapters, seems to have a good head on his shoulders and has never met his long lost aunt Poppy. 

E is for Emotion - there is plenty of emotion in this book, as Andrea has set up this whole quest as such for her daughters and in doing so has left them videos and tapes to be read/listened to after she has died, and some of them almost had me reaching for the tissues. 

G is for grief as the Poppy and Rose are grieving for the majority of the story, while undergoing all the various tasks. Grief is also touched on as Andrea recalls how she felt when her own mother died.  At times you can just feel their distress radiating off the page.

F is for flashbacks, during part 1 of the book, we are treated to some flashbacks of how the sisters we towards each other, as children, and I loved seeing their loving and protective relationship until things went wrong. 

S is for the storyline, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. It is the sort of story that will get under your skin and keep you thinking, possibly long after you finish reading. 

B is for brilliance, which is just one of many adjective that I would love to use to describe this amazing book. The pacing of the story is just right and I loved learning what all of the various letters would be, and their significance. 

D is for Debbie Johnson who has managed to craft such a superb story. It clearly took a lot of thought to put this together simply wonderful story. It made me laugh and will make those with hearts less frozen than mine cry too, and is a book that will keep having you turn the pages to see how the sisters are now getting on, and also to see what Andrea was going to reveal with her next task. 

Well that is my own partial A to Z for the A to Z of Everything! I am so happy that I had a chance to read this book, and think it could easily be the authors best work by far (which is something I'm sure I've said about her past couple of books too!). 

Thank you so much to Charlotte Ledger at Harper for this copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Please follow along with the rest of the blog tour. 

Monday, 26 June 2017

Book Review - The Apple Orchard by Veronica Henry - Book #66

Amazon UK
Title:  The Apple Orchard
Author: Veronica Henry
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 13th April 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

In the charming town of Peasebrook, there's a place for everyone. War vet Joe has made new friends and a new home for himself here, overlooking a beautiful apple orchard. But when tragedy strikes and Joe is left out in the cold, it will bring them all together in entirely unexpected ways . . .

A delightful but incredibly short story, set in Peasebrook. It is a small heart warming tale about a man's life who is a bit down on his luck and how the community feel about him. 

I loved even this short visit to Peasebrook, as it was the setting for the authors two most recent full length novels, and I loved seeing characters that I have met before in this. 

The Apple Orchard is the sort of book that is ideal as a quick read in a lunch fact I didn't even finish eating before I had hit the end of the story!  

Often short stories can feel rushed or you don't get too much sense of any depth on characters, but that is definitely not the case here. This a  rounded look at one person's life and feels like the perfect length for this piece of writing. 

Thank you to everyone that voted for Veronica Henry this week, it was a very close contest, and given how little I've been reading in the heatwave, it was a relief that you picked the nice quick book for me! However I wonder what will win this week! 

Rachel Reads Randomly - Vote #67

Thank you everyone for your input last time. The results of the last vote were:

0 Votes - Amber Green Takes Manhattan by Rosie Nixon
3 Votes - Almost a Bride by Jo Watson
7 Votes - Practice Makes Perfect by Penny Parkes
7 Votes -  Breaking All The Rules by Rachael Richey
8 Votes - The Apple Orchard by Veronica Henry

This was one of the most interesting votes to watch pan out for ages, for most of the week I had no idea which book would win, but what did strike me was I was most likely going to either be reading the longest book of the selection or the shortest. Given the heatwave last week I'm very glad it was the short story that won, as that was about my level of concentration. 

Since we haven't done this for a few weeks this week its the turn of the fact I think I've only read one paperback all month which seems like not enough for someone trying to reduce the piles, so lets see what comes up this time. 

Below is my initial theory for this feature, and then a bit further, what you are all waiting for... This weeks's vote! Enjoy!

I am also awful at deciding what book to read next, as I often have about 10 titles or authors jumping into my brain at any time, shouting at me to read them, and I tend to worry I have made the wrong decision while reading a perfectly good book. I am hoping this will save me having to make at least 1 choice a week, while possibly providing a review to the site of a book you all either love or are curious about yourselves. 

So what I am proposing, is my lovely loyal readers of Rachel's Random Reads, select one book for me to read a week, and I will post the review the following week. 

This week's random numbers are...

And the books these numbers correspond to are...

So the 5 choices with my gut feeling responses are:

23 - The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson - I've had this book for a while, and it definitely look like the sort of book I want to read. 
29 - The Bum Magnet by K L Brady -  I won this book and it looks and sounds like it could be really funny. 
44 - The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain - I've been looking forward to reading this book since I won it,  have a feeling it could be fascinating. 
51 - The Memory Box by Sarah Webb - This is the sequel to something I read years ago by the author. However since its been so long I have  a feeling it would be like a new book to me. 
61 - One Kiss in Rio... by Various - 3 Books in 1 from Mills and Boon, should be 3 hot and steamy romances with a Brazilian twist.  

This is an interesting selection this week, I won all of these books in giveaways, so on the whole don't know too much about them, but know I would quite like to read all 5 eventually. I will be very intrigued to see what you all pick! 

Pick your favourite or the one you most want me to review, or just the one you are curious about, and leave me a comment below, before midnight on Wednesday. 

I look forward to seeing what I will be reading over the weekend, courtesy of you all. 

And authors, if its your book up on this feature, feel free to take part, vote for yourself, or stir up excitement amongst your fans! 

The explanation if you haven't seen the feature before. 

How is this going to work?

Every Monday, I am going to have a post like this, which is going to have some choices on it. I am planning on using to select 7 random numbers, to coincide with my spreadsheet of unread books.  

I will from that produce a list of hopefully 5 books, I reserve the right to veto any books, and will give reasons for them, if it occurs.

I will take screenshots and post them, of the chosen books, and also give you my instinctive reactions to the choices (without checking blurbs or any other info about them, which could be interesting as there are probably many forgotten about books on my spreadsheet!). 

Your task is to post a comment on this post, with the book you would like me to read this week. At midnight on Wednesday I will take a tally of the votes and the book with the most, I will read and review for the following Monday, where you will also get a new choice post. 

In the event of a tie, I will chose which one appeals most, for the Monday review, and possibly try and read and review the other to appear when I can. 

I am hoping this will provide some variety to the books appearing, and will let me potentially read or discover some great authors that I have wanted to read but not got around to yet.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Book Review - Meet Me at the Lighthouse by Mary Jayne Baker - Fab Firsts

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Although not the first book by Mary Jane Baker, this is the first one that I have read.

Amazon UK
Title: Meet Me at the Lighthouse
Author: Mary Jane Baker
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 30th June 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

The day I turned 28, I bought a lighthouse and met the love of my life’

Bobbie Hannigan’s life in a cottage by the sea with her dog and her twin sister is perfectly fine … until she decides the logical thing is to buy a lighthouse and open a music venue with Ross Mason, the first boy she ever kissed.

Bobbie tries to be professional with Ross, but the happily-ever-after they’re working toward is too good to resist. That is until someone from his past crawls back to cause trouble. Can Bobbie look past the secrets Ross has been keeping from her? Or will the boy, the lighthouse, and the dream all slip away?

Escape to the Yorkshire coast this summer with this laugh out loud romantic comedy from Mary Jayne Baker!

Well its not often that you start a book with an impulse purchase of a lighthouse! And its the small act of marginal madness that not only sets off a chain of events for Bobbie and old friend Ross, but also sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the book. 

For this is lovely light hearted story, with a lighthouse and some interlinked love stories at the heart of it. The lighthouse itself is the focal point, and Bobbie and Ross do have a master plan for it, which involves fundraising initially and then music.

There is just a fun and pleasant story that made me smile throughout it. It's the first book I have read by the author, and I loved her writing style, and general sense of humour. It is just such a quirky story and I loved everything to do with the Lighthouse itself.  

The book is easy to follow and there are a few small surprises along the way. What really helped make the book so great were some of the characters. There is Bobbie's mother who gives potential new boyfriends a Spanish Inquisition style grilling, there is an old thespian who is just OTT, there is a bar owner who does a great line in bad chat up lines, and bizarre dress sense, there is an ex wife that seemingly has her own agenda, and an ex boyfriend who I really didn't like at all, for reasons that will become apparent as you read the book. 

Meet Me at the Lighthouse is a lovely story to read on a relaxed and sunny weekend, or at any other time really, and was a great introduction for me to a new author who I definitely will be interested in reading more from. 

Thank you to Harper Impulse and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Kate Fitzroy

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Today I'd like to welcome to Rachel's Random Reads, Kate Fitzroy.

1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

My first book was never published… understandably as the main protagonist fell down a rabbit hole and I was only eight at the time 

2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I think it’s a natural progression to move from loving to read to becoming a writer. My original inspiration was a monthly competition in a long-lost magazine called the Elizabethan. I won prize money twice and it was a most welcome addition to my spasmodic pocket money.

3) How long did it take you to write your first book?

I wrote Perfume of Provence in five months but then I lived in a remote corner of the Loire Valley and have a most understanding husband.

4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I am smugly content with my debut. Carina published my first two books and I enjoyed working with them, although I never liked their covers. I jumped from that platform into Indie publishing with KDP and Create Space. I enjoy the autonomy… and higher royalties.

5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

I am sure everyone has their own method of working to their best potential. I like to write from 6 am until 8 am nearly every day and it is a habit or maybe an addiction. I then have my day free for family and friends and, if I have time, I edit and prettify the text in the afternoons. 

6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

I always, always have a notebook or use my mobile to capture any ideas that fly into my head at odd moments… or a snatch of a conversation… sometimes waking from a dream, I write in the dark on my bedside notepad!

Tell us about your first…

7) Book you bought

The first book I bought for myself, rather than those bought for me, was ‘Lorna Doone’. I spent my aforementioned prize money on a delicious turquoise leather-bound edition. It was the first in a special classic collection and I was determined to buy them all. The next was a jolly red leather edition of Father Brown’s Stories and then… I must have given up… or the series floundered… but I do still have them both and love them dearly.

8) Memory

Looking up at a pattern of apple leaves and branches outlined against a shimmering blue sky. I am told my pram used to be parked under a large apple tree so maybe I could have been a second Newton if only I had been mathematically minded. As it is, I love blue skies so much that I went to live on the Cote d’Azur when I was twenty-one

9) Person you fell in love with

I am not sure if it was love or infatuation but he was an assistant golf pro who looked like James Dean and rode a motor bike. Naturally, my parents forbade me to go anywhere with him off the golf course. So, I jumped on the back of his bike one evening and went to Southend-on-Sea. He turned out to be surprisingly gentlemanly and treated me to an ice cream and returned me home. It was some time before I realised he had only been after my high handicap for mixed foursome competitions!  

10)  Holiday you went on

My unusual parents decided to board a boat in Newcastle (I think) and cross the North Sea to Norway for a skiing holiday. It was an extraordinary trip and I learnt to go up mountains with reindeer skins strapped to my very long narrow skis and cross over vast frozen lakes. I don’t remember much downhill skiing, except once when I had lost my right ski in a ravine and was rescued by Olaf who put me on his shoulders and ski-ed back down to the village, ducking low beneath snow-laden branches in a pine forest.  I was seven. 

Thank you so much Kate for answering my questions. What a fabulous sounding first holiday, and love the story about your first love!

Author Bio

Kate Fitzroy has two lives. One in a flinty Victorian cottage in Newmarket, where she awakes to the clatter of horses' hooves as strings of racehorses pass early each morning. Kate's other life is played out in a Napoleonic manor set in a sleepy village amongst the vineyards of the Loire valley. 

Her life has not always been so blissful. Widowed at the age of twenty-one, already with two children to love and protect, she fought her way up as hard a path as any of her heroines. Now happily married and surrounded by a large, loving family, Kate enjoys every moment of every day... CARPE DIEM... TEMPUS FUGIT.... or should that be CARPE MOMENTUM?

Kate on Twitter
Kate on Amazon

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Back Catalogue Book - Q&A with Karen Aldous

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, going to aim to read books that have been out for at least 6 months, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

Hi Rachel,

Thank you so much for inviting me along to your new ‘Back Catalogue Books’ feature. What a wonderful idea. Just so that your readers know a bit about me, I’ll give a *wave*, I’m Karen Aldous, author of five contemporary romances with HQUK/HarperCollins, which are set in some of the most beautiful locations, and as well as containing lots of emotional family drama, my strong, independent heroine will always find her happy ending.

Please tell me about your first book, and what started you writing in the first place

The Vineyard is my first book and it’s inspiration came from my first visit to Provence several years ago. I fell in love with the ambience of Provence, the landscape, the hilltop villages, the vineyards, but my character Lizzie was too young to live so rural, she needed the cosmopolitan vibe of Cannes to live and run her business and so Provence became her dream. The story was born. It didn’t actually reach fruition until 2012 though. I wrote the first half of it whilst my mum was undergoing her chemo treatment. I finished it the following year and sent it to CarinaUK, now HQUK.

1) How many books have you written and what are they?

I’ve just completed my fifth novel but both The Vineyard and The Riviera, are, as I mention above, set in Cannes and Provence, and follow the story of Lizzie and her three-year-old son Thierry and Cal and his son who lives on the US island of Nantucket. After falling for bad-boy Anton, Thierry’s playboy father, Lizzie then falls for Cal, her mother’s toy boy. Lizzie has difficulty trusting any man since Anton, so even when discovers the truth, it takes an exceptional man to win her trust. 

The Chateau is set around the beautiful Swiss Riviera on Lake Geneva where Gina meets Ollie and is immediately disturbed by a figure on the lake. As more is revealed of Agnes-Francesia, an unrested spirit at the Chateau, the quest to settle the spirit becomes Gina and Ollie’s fascination. 

My fourth novel, One Moment at Sunrise is set on the path and beside the stunning Canal du Midi, also in the South of France. My main character Evie appears to have everything, the elegant villa, the rock-star boyfriend and his gorgeous little girl, Charlotte, but Evie is extremely unhappy. When she researches the building of the canal for film director Ben, she finds herself identifying with one of the characters and discovers more about herself and where her own life should be leading. 

My fifth and most recent title, will be released 14th June, is called ‘Under a Tuscan Sky’.

2) Which book are you most proud of writing?

This is so tricky to answer because each makes me proud. It’s been a journey on which I am still learning and so each one is a testament to learning something new from the last. I suppose, it’s like asking me to favour a child. I can’t!

3) Which book was your favourite to write?

The Chateau was inspired by a dream soon after my mum passed. It was an extremely vivid image of a woman being dunked in the deep waters outside a medieval dungeon. I woke up sweating and quickly wrote the scene. I felt her spirit needed to settle, and her story told. I think it was my favourite to write not just because it was so close, but because Gina, my character was on a quest to discover the relationship between the spirit Agnese-Francesia and what she needed to do to settle her. I enjoyed that mysterious side to it. 

4) Who are your favourite characters from your books and why?

Relative to the above. I really loved Agnes-Francesia in The Chateau because as a spirit she had to enter different eras to find the person who would help her settle that spirit, and find ways of engaging and communicating with them. Arriving in the twenty-first century from the seventeenth century, she is exposed to so many changes, not just the landscape but material and technological changes. So from a more primitive era of road tracks and horse and carts, she has to endure the staggering changes to roads, as well as the unfamiliar, the speed etc ., of cars, trains, aeroplanes, and then decipher what phones and tablets etc., are, and how to make them work for her. It was entertaining and a particularly absorbing task. Imaging how lost we’d feel leaping forward or back four hundred years!

5) If you could go back and change anything from any of your books, what would it be, and why?

Oh goodness, I wouldn’t change any of the stories per se, but I would love to go back and re-edit them in terms of their language; changing sentences, phrases, grammar etc. I’d like to think I’ve developed as a writer and I’m sure if I went back and re-read them, my editing pen would soon run out of ink!

6) Which of your covers is your favourite and why?

I love my covers. The team at HQ have a great sense of what stands out.  I think the cover of One Moment at Sunrise is one which has a spiritual significance for me. Maybe it’s the mystical figure of the woman on the front walking into the unknown. She is following the light. I was talking to an author at an awards evening recently and we spoke about our previous careers; seeking locations for clients. We both agreed that our best finds are discovered when we are completely lost. I think that is what the image evokes for me, and it’s that stepping into the unknown and discovering what is out there which ignites me.

7) Have you ever thought about changing genres, if so what else would you like to write?

Yes. Apart from a contemporary romance, I enjoy psychological thrillers and historical or dual-timelines. I am currently working on some ideas for a dual-timeline. It is quite a challenge to create two stories which somehow weave together, but I feel ready for the challenge. There are some excellent authors out there who create wonderful dual-timelines and I would love to be among them. As I state above, stepping into the unknown can be a great adventure.

8) Looking forward can you let us know what you are working on next?

Under A Tuscan sky is being edited and set for 14th June release, just after my daughter’s wedding there, but I’m also working on characters and ideas for my next novel which is also set in Italy. Like France and Switzerland, Italy has so many layers and beauty, I find it inspiring in all aspects; landscapes, history, art, culture, culinary delights, not to mention the wine, so I’ve planned a tour for the research, and hope to meet some new characters and discover their stories. Nothing is ever wasted. I will also continue building on my dual-timeline novels.

9) I dare not ask for a favourite author, but is there any author’s back catalogue you admire and why?

Oh, there’s so many. Erica James is one of my favourite and among her back catalogue are dual-timelines. I like to read and learn from these experts; what strategies or vehicles authors use to create their different eras. I’ve been reading, Lucinda Riley, Santa Montefiore, Kate Moreton, Rosanna Ley, Kath McGurl, Iona Grey, and a new discovery recommended by a wonderful book-blogger, Katherine Webb. There’s probably more. I just love both the reading of the stories ,and working out how they’re all pieced together.

10)Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your back catalogue of books?

As a writer, I want nothing more to inspire my readers and allow them to escape to another world so they can submerge themselves into the character’s mind. I ask only that your readers will try one or two of my back catalogue of books and if they enjoy them, to keep coming back for more, and recommend them to their friends.

Thank you so much Karen for answering my questions. I love your books and I'm looking forward to starting Under a Tuscan Sky when I get a spare moment.

Author Bio

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Much of Karen's inspiration comes from her travels and meeting people. The UK, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and parts of the USA and Asia are just some you will experience in her books to date. However, wherever she goes, new characters emerge in 'Karen's World' screaming at her to tell their stories; past or present. She loves to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two!

Karen’s books published by HQUK/Harper Collins are available at most ebook retailers.

Here are the links to AmazonUK:

You can also follow Karen:
Twitter: KarenAldous_

Under A Tuscan Sky was published 10 days ago

Amazon UK
A summer she’ll never forget…
When Olivia Montague’s grandmother passes away, she decides it’s finally time to make some changes in her own life. So she breaks up with her ‘going nowhere’ boyfriend and embarks on a journey to her Nonna’s home in Tuscany.

Until now, Olivia has always believed that she’s incapable of love, after being abandoned by her parents as a baby. But with each day spent at the gorgeous villa nestled in the rolling Italian hills, she feels her heart begin to flutter…

And when handsome antiques dealer Hugh St. James arrives on the scene, she realises things might be about to change forever!

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