book review · emotions · second chances · starting over · travel · women's fiction

Book Review – The Forever Cruise

An uplifting page-turner of travel and second chances.

When Halcyon Seas, a luxury alternative to retirement living, sets sail on her maiden voyage, three women on board dream of a better future.

Will Captain Marianne Moore prove herself capable in her new role? Her career depends on it.

Will Cabin maid Olivia Rose be able to keep her secret and her job? Her impoverished family relies on her wages.

And will pensioner Alice Wagstaff finally find the courage to live the life she wants?

When the cruise ship veers off course, the future is uncertain and dangerous.
Can the three women embrace this new direction, or will the journey of a lifetime turn into a living nightmare?

Purchase LinkAmazon UK

About the author

Deborah has worked as an occupational therapist, a health service manager, a freelance journalist, and management consultant in health and social care.

Deborah writes page-turning, uplifting stories about friendship, community, and emotional courage. Her novels, The Borrowed Boy, and Just Bea have won multi-international awards. She lives on the Essex coast, where she loves to walk by the sea or the surrounding countryside filling her pockets with shells, and acorns, and her head with stories.

 Visit her on her website at or follow her on Twitter @DeborahKlee

My Review

Having read and enjoyed another of the author’s books – The Borrowed Boy – I was delighted to be invited to read her latest book – The Forever Cruise – with its concept of a cruising as a lifestyle choice for retirees. I could totally understand why widow Alice, the MC, seized the opportunity when her daughter was all for selling the family home and moving Alice nearby. Like Alice, I felt sure that a retirement home was just around the corner for her. Instead, Alice stood her ground and opted for a life at sea, visiting new places and meeting new people.

At the helm of Halcyon Seas is the newly appointed captain, Marianne Moore, who has been waiting for this moment for many years, constantly feeling overlooked for the most senior position in favour of her male colleagues. She hopes that by safely and successfully steering the ship on its maiden voyage (or at least the first year or so of its itinerary), the powers that be will finally grant her the captaincy of a regular cruise ship where passengers come and go rather than the permanency of the “residents” of Halcyon Seas. As much as she enjoys getting to know those on board, seeing the same faces for the duration of her tenure is not all it’s cracked up to be.

The early weeks of the cruise seem to prove its idyllic nature, and Alice is loving the stop-offs at cities she’d never visited before. She even makes plans to visit her son when the ship makes its way to Australia. That said, being catered for all the time and never having to lift a finger to keep her cabin clean soon takes it toll, and when she befriends her regular maid, Olive, it’s not long before she and a few other like-minded passengers decide to help lighten the maid’s workload by tidying up for themselves. Alice does have an ulterior motive and enjoys hearing about Olive’s family who are relying on her wage back in Madagascar. But there’s more to Olive’s story than that, and when she can no longer hide her secret, Alice and her friends come up with an extraordinary plot that subsequently changes the ship’s itinerary for good. That change in the ship’s circumstances brings Halcyon Seas into the glare of the public eye. For the management, this is not a good thing, but for the passengers – who are now a little bored of life at sea – their new situation brings out the best in many of them and truly offers them the change in lifestyle they were seeking when they first boarded the ship.

I loved how the passengers came together when faced with their new predicament and how they treated Olive’s family, friends and neighbours with such respect, a respect that was returned many times over. The author creates a stunning image of Madagascar, and you can completely understand why some passengers make the choices they do. Many have formed enduring friendships that they don’t want to walk away from at this point in their lives; they’ve been energised and stimulated in ways that they never imagined, and their forever cruise has turned into something so much more important to them.

Following Alice, Marianne and Olive, the story reflects different perspectives and challenges that combine to tell a heart-warming story of second chances, of romance, and of eternal friendships.

The Forever Cruise is inspirational in rewarding passengers like Alice for taking a risk later in life; it highlights the struggles of Marianne in her career path and how much she has given up personally to reach the top, and finally it is enlightening in showing how different cultures live and heart-warming in proving how those differences can be overcome with respect, kindness and compassion.

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archeology · asking questions · blog tour · Contemporary Romance · Scotland · travel

Blog Tour – A Perfect Discovery (with Q&A)

A Perfect Discovery

To find love, they need to dig deep.

When kind-hearted archaeologist Rhona Lamond has her precious research stolen, she returns home to the Isle of Mull, lost and frustrated. An island project that tugs at Rhona’s soul comes up, and she’s desperate to take it on. But there’s a major problem.

Property developer Calum Matheson has a longstanding feud with the Lamond family. After a plot of land he owns is discovered to be a site of historical importance, his plans are thrown into disarray and building work put on hold. Calum doesn’t think things can get any worse, until archaeologist Rhona turns up. Not only is she a Lamond, but she’s all grown up, and even stubbornly unromantic Calum can’t fail to notice her – or the effect she has on him.

Their attraction ignites but how can they overcome years of hate between their families? Both must decide what’s more important, family or love.

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Author Bio

Margaret is a writer, mummy, wife and chocolate eater (in any order you care to choose). She lives in highland Perthshire in a little house close to the woods where she often sees red squirrels, deer and other such tremendously Scottish wildlife… Though not normally haggises or even men in kilts!

She has published nine books and written many more. Margaret won a short story writing competition in 2012 and her winning entry was performed live to an audience at Pitlochry Festival Theatre as part of their Winter Words Event. This spring boarded Margaret’s journey from writing for fun to novel writing – though she still enjoys every minute of it.

Margaret is also a keen amateur photographer, who enjoys drawing, reading, and talking about books.

Social Media Links

Firstly, I want to thank Margaret for answering my questions, especially during a busy book launch. So, settle down, and get to know Margaret’s writing life better 🙂

Tell me about your book / series? What do you want readers to most remember after reading it/them?

My series is set on the Isle of Mull in the Hebrides and so many people message me and say reading my books makes them want to visit it! I was even approached by the owner of a bookshop on the island who had heard of my books and wanted to stock them as he thought they’d do well for the shop. He recently messaged me again to say they’d sold out already which was very exciting! I’m not sure that was my aim when I started writing them but I’m really pleased about it.

One reader said she loved the fact that every character had something she could identify with and relate to straight away – I definitely aim for that, so it’s lovely to hear.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Usually it energises me and I really love doing it!

Have you ever got reader’s block? What’s your favourite genre to read?

I love reading romance books. I love to find romance everywhere and if I read a book where there isn’t any inkling of a possible romance, I generally don’t enjoy it! Give me all the romance!!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Be brave!! Get people to read your books and accept constructive criticism. It’s the best way to grow.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

A wolf – not sure exactly why, it just seems to fit.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

One book remaining in this series which will be out in October and I have three first drafts for books in a new series for next year. I always like to be way ahead with my drafts so I have plenty of time for editing.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It depends how much I know about a subject beforehand. For this book, I spent a lot of time researching archaeology and the work of an archaeologist. I really enjoy learning about history so I found the research very interesting. In my previous book, the lead character was a footballer. I’m not much into football but my husband is, so my research consisted of asking him lots of questions at all hours of the day (and night – sorry hubby!)

How many hours a day do you write?

I have two writing days when I’m not at my day job. I try to write for six hours both days while my son is at school. On a good day, I can get a lot of words down, when I’m really in the zone.

What did you edit out of this book that you really wanted to keep? Will you reuse it at a later stage?

Nothing – this book flowed from start to finish and was one of my easiest to write (what a joy).

How do you select the names of your characters?

I tend to choose names I like and that I think suits the image I have of them. I try not to make them too unusual or hard to pronounce as I know a lot of readers dislike that.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Sometimes I read them. I try to look on bad ones with an objective eye. At least the person read the book and it evoked enough of a reaction for them to leave a review – obviously not the reaction I hoped for but a reaction nonetheless. I also know you can’t please everyone all the time and it’s pointless to try.

What comes first for you, character or plot?

The two leads and their main conflict is always where I start and build the plot around that.

What was your hardest scene to write? Why?

In this book I think it was the memory scenes where Calum thinks back to his school days and remembers something awful that happened. I was bullied at school so I could relate to his feelings and some of it was hard to dredge up.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

My other job! If I could afford to.

If you could speak to any author – past or present – who would you like to meet and what would you ask them?

J.R.R. Tolkien – because he invented such an incredible and enduring universe

What are you writing now?

The fourth book for my new series – I can’t give too much away but it’s set in a pink hotel near a loch!

That went well, didn’t it? What fabulous answers, and a great insight into the life of an author. Thanks again, Margaret, and good luck with future books and sales. That pink hotel near a loch is very intriguing.

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culture · Europe · humour · lifestyle · travel

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Gerard Philey’s Euro Diary: Quest For A Life

Gerard Philey’s Euro-Diary: Quest for a Life

‘Could there be a world of interest and adventure beyond the Midlands? A world of confidence, sex and excitement? A better life – a better me?’ These are the questions Gerard Philey grapples with over New Year, 1995. Sitting in his rented Black Country room, reflecting on his thankless teaching job and miserable love life, he courageously decides to abandon his humdrum existence and embark on a quest for Euro-fulfilment, fun and fitness on the Continent.

After a shaky start in Brussels, events manoeuvre him to Amsterdam where chance encounters shift his world well and truly into fifth gear. He samples the trials and tribulations of new relationships, alongside managing a sex shop in the city’s Red Light Area – on top of the challenges of fat-free living and international travel!

Through his bittersweet diary, we see how Gerard steers a laugh-out-loud course through farcical episodes and fanciful characters…and how entanglements from past and present draw him unwittingly into a criminal underworld where events ultimately take their toll.

Purchase Link –

Author Bio

Brendan James is the author of the new comedy novel, “Gerard Philey’s Euro-Diary: Quest for a Life”. Though this is his first novel, he has a large number of non-fiction publications (under the name Brendan Bartram) as a former university lecturer and researcher.

A passionate linguist and Europhile, he spent a number of years working in the Netherlands, France and Germany. He lives in the West Midlands with his husband.

Social Media Links

Goodreads –

LinkedIn –

Twitter @Brendan23015569

My Review

There’s much to like about this book, and as a fellow Midlander and Europhile, this totally appealed to me. It’s humorous, sad, eye-openingly honest, far from subtle and, generally, a fun read. Gerard’s encounters with the likes of Frank, Joop and Sandra are heart-warming and puzzling in equal measures. Getting to know them is an adventure, it’s a challenge, but oh so worth it. These people, with all their idiosyncrasies, show him a side to European culture that differs from the glitz and glamour of Paris and Rome. In Brussels and Amsterdam, Gerard lives a life that is colourful in an altogether different way – from working in a sex shop to delivering “paintings” to shady characters for an even shadier thug-boss.

Here, the British tendency to “polite silence” is shot down by vocal outbursts, blunt statements and a laissez-faire attitude. This is all too visible when his friends from England venture across the Channel on a visit. It is cringingly uncomfortable to see their reaction to this “permissive” society, and it’s all quite pompous of them to look down on Gerard’s lifestyle compared to his life back in Walsall.

Stepping out of his comfort zone makes him reflect on his past life and question whether this time away from his old life could ever be a permanent thing. He has his doubts, wonders if he’s just drifting through life, but it is the relationships he forms that convince him how much richer is life is. I can’t wait to see how how things develop for him and hope a sequel is not too far away.

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blog tour · book review · Contemporary Romance · holidays · travel

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Clueless in Croatia

Clueless in Croatia

D.I. Fierce always gets his man, but can he get his woman?

Actor Leonard Lupine is sick of his life, both on and off-screen, so when his agent suggests a luxury villa holiday in Croatia he leaps at the opportunity to escape. What he doesn’t realise is that his greatest mystery of all is waiting to be solved on the tiny island of Brač.

Does he have what it takes to follow the clues to love? ♥

Purchase Links – –

Apple –

Nook –

Kobo –

Universal Link –

Author Bio

Joy lives on the seductive island of Corfu with her four dogs and an embarrassing number of cats.

Her many years working in the tourist industry on this sunny isle and her love of all things literary inspired her first novel Corfu Capers which recently hit the #1 spot in Parenting and Family humour much to her delight.

She loves to cook, dance and drink wine, usually at the same time, and is currently working on book number three, due to be released later this year.

She also loves to travel, absolutely anywhere, and is looking forward to jumping on a plane!

Social Media Links

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Twitter –

FB –

Instagram –

My Review

I’ve never been to Croatia, but after reading this it’s definitely on my list, and the sooner, the better. The author paints a wonderful picture of the island of Brac, showing how community-minded and family-oriented the people are. Sounds like the perfect place for a fabulous holiday.

As a successful TV actor with a gruff personality that he has been encouraged to adopt off screen as well as on, Leonard has become disenchanted by the industry and the demands it makes on his life. He never gets to see his two sons, his ex-wife being a major obstacle to that also. When the chance crops up of a week away from it all with his boys, he can’t wait to get away from it all and cast off the shackles of DI Fierce. It’s time to be a dad again, and his sons are so looking forward to it as well.

Isabella manages the villa where Leonard and his boys will be staying, and goes to great lengths to make sure everything is perfect for them. She has no idea who Leonard / DI Fierce is, but a quick google search shows her that the man might be best left to his own devices once she has done her job, especially since she has her own son to look after.

Of course, as romantic tropes go, they don’t hit it off immediately. Isy almost begrudges having to rescue Leonard from a few scrapes because he simply has ignored her advice, but for the sake of his adorable boys she is always on hand to put things right. Things can only get better, right?

Until they get dramatically worse and the romance that could have been looks like an impossible dream.

For me, Leonard’s two sons are the stars of this story. They’d love to spend more time with their dad; their mum is too caught up in her own life to really bother about them. When they meet Isy and her son, they see a chance for their dad to be happy again … and the little minxes go all out to encourage a romance for the adults. and who can blame them?

Well, the paparazzi for one, who can’t resist snapping photos of Leonard with Isy and splashing the news all across the papers and internet.

Is there a way back for them or will the holiday in Croatia forever be just a happy memory?

Clueless in Croatia makes for the perfect summer read, a stunning location with charming traditions, fabulous characters (the taxi driver is a star in the making), appetizing food, and the ups and downs of an unexpected romance.

Thank you to the author for an advanced copy of this book.

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blog tour · book review · romantic comedy · series · travel

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Flying Duo

Flying Duo

Can true love go the distance?

London lawyer Rachel Watson has wound up in an Indian ashram with hippy heartthrob lover, Seb.

A high-achiever, Rachel has always lived life according to her Life List, ticking off goals along the way. But now that she’s in India, Rachel is going with the flow, or at least trying to…

Rachel’s visa is running out and it’s time to decide whether her relationship with Seb is a holiday romance or built to last.

The pair embark on a trip to Nepal for an Everest base camp trek, but will their relationship survive this gruelling expedition or is it time to part ways?

Flying Duo is the second romantic comedy in the ‘Flying’ series, following on from bestseller, Flying Solo, which was described by the Daily Express newspaper as ‘a must read that will appeal to fans of Sophie Kinsella, Beth O’Leary and Mhari McFarlane’ ★★★★★

Purchase Links

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US –

Author Bio

Zoe May is an author of romantic comedies. Zoe has dreamt of being a novelist since she was a teenager. She worked in journalism and copywriting in London before writing her debut novel, Perfect Match. Having experienced the London dating scene first hand, Zoe couldn’t resist writing a novel about dating since it seems to supply endless amounts of weird and wonderful material!

Perfect Match was one of Apple’s top-selling books of 2018. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award, with judges describing it as ‘a laugh out loud look at love and self-discovery – fresh and very funny’.

As well as writing, Zoe enjoys walking her dog, painting and, of course, reading! She adores animals and if she’s not taking a photo of a vegan meal, she’s probably tweeting about the dairy industry. She is half Greek and half Irish and can make a mean baklava. Zoe has a thing for horror films, India, swimming, hip hop and Radiohead. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of handbags having spent several years working in fashion copywriting and could probably win Mastermind if this was her specialist subject!

Social Media Links

My Review

Another gem from Zoe May. 

After reading and enjoying Flying Solo, it made perfect sense to jump aboard the tour for book two, and I was barely a few pages into the story before I had a big grin on my face. Flying Duo was the tonic I needed, and it met my expectations from start to finish. As I knew it would, because this is an author whose books I will return to time and time again because they offer that magical blend of fun, frivolity, and pure escapism.

That’s not to say the story is pure froth; it’s not. It has many more layers than that, but is delivered in a way that nothing jarred or threw me out of the story. 

Having become “persona non grata” at the Ashram where she went to find her boyfriend, Paul, Rachel is now very happy to have moved on and found Seb, as well as to expose the corrupt goings-on inside the Ashram. But her endeavours had consequences. She and Seb had to move out, and it became time to question if their relationship was more than a holiday romance. 

Unfortunately, neither seemed willing to bring the topic up. Talk of the future turned into a “where next?” conversation, and saw them heading to Nepal. It’s fair to say they had different expectations of the trip; Rachel was not prepared for the less than comfortable hostels and the trek up Everest – even if only to the basecamp – and it’s safe to say those blood-sucking leeches did not feature on her radar …until they did! But Seb was so enthusiastic, she couldn’t deny him the opportunity, especially as his father had made the journey many years before. 

While the experience was not the relaxing break she had looked forward to, it did prove to be a time of personal growth for both of them. This was very much a story of two people, Rachel & Seb, both of whom had to overcome issues in their own lives that were holding them back before they could truly move forward together as a couple.

There were laugh-out-loud moments as well as times of great poignancy, and it all flowed together seamlessly. The perfect antidote to lockdown syndrome, and some fabulous scenery and adventures to boot. The ending was what every reader would hope for them, and it left the way open for a third book (or, at least I hope it does).

A fabulous read; romantic comedy at its best. More please, Zoe May! 

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book birthday · book blitz · book review · non fiction · travel

Book Birthday Blitz ‘n’ Review – Solo

Solo: A Down to Earth Guide for Travelling the World Alone

Feeling alone? Trapped? Lost?

Time for an adventure!

The bad times won’t last forever, and for more than five years, Aaron Hodges has journeyed the globe alone, visiting everywhere from Istanbul to Argentina. Honest and insightful, SOLO is packed with his personal travel tips and humorous stories. Learn about the ups and downs, the triumphs and the pitfalls of venturing off the beaten path. Follow his guidelines for exploring the world alone and be inspired to take the trip you’ve always dreamed of.

Discover the world of solo travel.

Go Solo!

Purchase Links

Author Bio

Aaron Hodges was born in 1989 in the small town of Whakatane, New Zealand. He studied for five years at the University of Auckland, completing a Bachelors of Science in Biology and Geography, and a Masters of Environmental Engineering. After working as an environmental consultant for two years, he grew tired of office work and decided to quit his job in 2014 and see the world. One year later, he published his first novel – Stormwielder – while in Guatemala. Since then, he has honed his skills while travelling through parts of SE Asia, India, North and South America, Turkey and Europe, and now has over a dozen works to his name. Today, his adventures continue…

Social Media Links

My Review

5/5 stars

Wow! That was such fun. Just like having a personal adviser to answer all your travel questions. Great job, Aaron!

With info based on actual experience – I, for one, love an expert – peppered with funny anecdotes, it’s impossible not to get the travel bug after reading this gem. Delivered with a personal touch, the author treats the reader like a friend with his chatty, conversational style. You can tell this author writes fiction too, as he doesn’t just tell you what you need to do, he shows you – warts and all! 

Whatever your age or budget, travelling solo is an option open to everyone (once the world gets back on its vaccinated feet, that is) From the planning stages right through to arriving at your destination and moving around, the authors inspires and encourages with suggestions and tips specific to many countries. 

If this doesn’t give you itchy feet, then nothing will.

¡Buen viaje!

Audiobook · autobiography · blog tour · book review · Europe · expat life · food and drink · friendship · fun · Italy · real life · starting over · travel

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Chickens Eat Pasta

Chickens Eat Pasta

by Clare Pedrick

Chickens Eat Pasta: Escape to Umbria

Not just another romance, but a story of escapism, coincidences, friendship, luck and most of all… love.

Chickens Eat Pasta is the tale of how a young Englishwoman starts a new life after watching a video showing a chicken eating spaghetti in a mediaeval hill village in central Italy. 

“Here I was, 26 years old, alone and numb with boredom at the prospect of a future which until recently had seemed to be just what I wanted.”

Unlike some recent bestsellers, this is not simply an account of a foreigner’s move to Italy, but a love story written from the unusual perspective of both within and outside of the story. As events unfold, the strong storyline carries with it a rich portrayal of Italian life from the inside, with a supporting cast of memorable characters. Along the way, the book explores and captures the warmth and colour of Italy, as well as some of the cultural differences – between England and Italy, but also between regional Italian lifestyles and behaviour. It is a story with a happy ending. The author and her husband are still married, with three children, who love the old house on the hill (now much restored) almost as much as she does. 

Chickens Eat Pasta is Clare’s autobiography, and ultimately a love story – with the house itself and with the man that Clare met there and went on to marry. If you yearn for a happy ending, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a story that proves anything is possible if you only try.

Purchase Links

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US –

UK Audiobook

US Audiobook –

About the Author

Clare Pedrick is a British journalist who studied Italian at Cambridge University before becoming a reporter. She went on to work as the Rome correspondent for the Washington Post and as European Editor of an international features agency. She still lives in Italy with her husband, whom she met in the village where she bought her house.

You can follow Clare on her Facebook Book Page, her own Facebook page and on Twitter.

Read her blog about life in Umbria hereGiveaway to Win an audiobook copy of Chickens Eat Pasta (Open Internationally)

Winner gets to pick between audible and ibooks audio code

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


Good Luck!

My Review

This was such a fun read for me, having had a similar experience. I was totally absorbed in Clare’s world, I recognised the people she met, the endless bureaucracy that was involved in living abroad, the challenges of getting things done, and the absolute charm and curiosity of her new neighbours. These were people who welcomed her with open arms, yet remained a little cautious by her strange ways (I loved Tito and his bamboozled state when she would send her articles ‘down the wire’ at his store and not even rack up any kind of bill at the end of it)

With great neighbours, who became life-long friends – Ercolino and his aitches, being one of my favourites – she might have felt alone, but they didn’t desert her when she needed help. This whole story was a wonderful example of community spirit, especially the gatherings for weddings and funerals.

The author entertained us with fabulous characters, the kind you just could’t make up. It was like an episode of the Dingles in Umbria! I loved it!

Vivid imagery really brought the settings to life, I could easily visualise Clare zipping along those winding streets in her Cinquecento (which just happens to be my most favourite car right now).

And then there’s the food! Who can read a book about Italy, and not drool over the endless feasts where one and all come together to celebrate, grieve, sing, dance, cry and laugh ( not forgetting the hilarious squabbles between Generosa and Settima, and the missing artichokes from the vegetable patch)

And through it all, Clare fell in love not only with her house, but the people, their customs (despite the cultural differences at times) and also with the man of her dreams.

A feel-good story that really resonated with me; it made me smile, sigh and occasionally squirm, but the overwhelming effect was to appreciate Clare’s story – the Good Life in all its simplicity, at a time when the world wasn’t quite so small as it is today.

For more reviews, check out these blogs – you won’t regret it – and then make you’ve entered the giveaway.

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Spain · travel

Seville – Sevilla: A Travel Guide

The blue skies of these photos drew me in … and while I’m only a few hours drive away, I have never yet visited Sevilla.

I need to …

¡Hasta luego!

Seville has been on my hit list for a long time. So when Ryan Air started flying there from our local airport, I booked us a break quicker than you can say ‘make mine a cava’. Here are my tips on how to have a wonderful weekend in the Andalusian capital.

via My Seville travel guide — Words by Nina