blog tour · book review · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Golden Oldies Book Club

The Golden Oldies Book Club

Deep in the Somerset countryside, the Combe Pomeroy village library hosts a monthly book club.

Ruth the librarian fears she’s too old to find love, but a discussion about Lady Chatterley’s Lover makes her think again.

Aurora doesn’t feel seventy-two and longs to relive the excitement of her youth, while Verity is getting increasingly tired of her husband Mark’s grumpiness and wonders if their son’s imminent flight from the nest might be just the moment for her to fly too. And Danielle is fed up with her cheating husband. Surely life has more in store for her than to settle for second best?

The glue that holds Combe Pomeroy together is Jeannie. Doyenne of the local cider farm and heartbeat of her family and community, no one has noticed that Jeannie needs some looking after too. Has the moment for her to retire finally arrived, and if so, what does her future hold?

From a book club French exchange trip, to many celebrations at the farm, this is the year that everything changes, that lifelong friendships are tested, and for some of the women, they finally get the love they deserve.

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Author Bio

Judy Leigh is the USA Today bestselling author of The Old Girls’ Network and Five French Hens and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction.

She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.

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My Review

I was looking forward to reading this story in which a group of older women shine, supporting each other and living life to its fullest. For some of those women – Ruth and Aurora – this proved to be true as both seem to come to life when they realised what they really wanted out of life. Jeannie, the main character, was more difficult to root for; it was as if she’d already resigned herself to a boring, safe existence, as if giving up running the cider business made her not only redundant in the orchards but in life as well. She had many opportunities come her way, but it felt like she was more reluctant to enjoy herself. For a woman who’d run a business for so long, she didn’t seem to want to choose her own destiny but rather let it simply happen.

What I did enjoy about this story was the seasonal element of the apple trees, from the wassailing in January, to the new growth of spring, the explosion of summer blossom and fruit, and finally the autumn harvest before winter set in once again. I felt this cycle was complimented by the multi-generational cast. The older characters are looking to wind down (some more than others) whilst the younger characters bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the business and the village.

For me, the story is heavy on description, and as beautiful as the subsequent village scenes are, I felt it had the effect of slowing the story down too much. The book club aspect of the plot formed a consistent backdrop to the changing fates of the characters, though I think it was the visit to France that finally made most of the women see the direction in which their lives were heading, and as such decided to control their future for themselves.

Aside from Jeannie, Ruth, Aurora, Verity and Danielle, stand-out characters for me were Violet (Jeannie’s mum) – but, oh, those jokes were soooooo bad, and Barney, whose down-to-earth, matter-of-fact honesty made me laugh out loud. The younger characters, too, were very real and pitched in to help. The French trip was a hoot – the sand-yachting hilarious – and the new arrivals to the village (primarily Anthony & his brother, Mikey) not only spiced up the village gossip but also helped inspire the younger members of the book club – Verity & Danielle – to take control of their lives and invest in themselves and their futures.

Overall, an engaging read about family, friends and community, and the realisation that life is for living, no matter your age.

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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?

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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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blog tour · book review · historical fiction · revenge · romance · social history · The Midlands · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Hat Girl’s Heartbreak

The Hat Girl’s Heartbreak

Will it be tears or triumph for the Hat Girl from Silver Street?

It’s been five years since Ella Bancroft lost the love of her life, Harper Fortescue, and despite her friends’ encouragement, she’s still not been able to move on. The one thing keeping Ella smiling is the success of her hat shop, Ivella.  Her beautiful designs and fabulous creations are the first choice for the fashionable Edwardian ladies of Walsall, and her fame is spreading far and wide.

Darcie Newland won’t ever forgive Ella for stealing her fiancé and ruining her life, even though Harper was never really hers in his heart.  After being exiled by her parents to Scotland after yet another scandal, Darcie is now back in Birmingham and set on revenge.

As her hat shop flourishes, and the possibility of a new love appears when she least expects it, Ella finally dares to hope for a happy future. But storm clouds are gathering over the Black Country, and life might have other plans for the hat girl from Silver Street.

The Queen of the Black Country sagas is back with this page-turning story of friendship and fun, love and second chances. Perfect for fans of Val Wood and Lyn Andrews.

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Author Bio

Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children.

She was born and raised in Wednesbury, and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.

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My Review

This is a wonderful story, and while it can easily be read as a standalone book, I really want to read the first in the series too, just to catch up with the early years of Ella Bancroft.
As a Midlander, I revel in books set in my neck of the woods, and those using the local dialect hold a special place on my bookshelf. Clearly, I wasn’t around during the period of this story but references to places I’m familiar with – like the Rag Market – take me back so effectively to my hometown.
Now, the story …well, where to begin? It’s jam-packed with drama and yet is so full of heart and warmth that you can’t help but be drawn in. Ella and Ivy are co-owners of the hat shop Ivella, yet theirs is a trying relationship. Once rivals, they’ve now joined forces and their business has grown exponentially. It’s mainly down to Ella’s creativity, since Ivy’s designs are still stuck in bygone times, but nonetheless the two of them are enjoying a boom in business, and Ella is fast becoming known as the only place to buy a hat. Trouble is, this creates a little friction, and Ivy is a tad jealous. Ella manages to ignore the curt responses from Ivy and is hugely generous towards the older woman. Such is Ella’s character that she treats others well, but even she has noticed a change in Ivy, and when others in their workforce voice similar concerns, Ella seeks out advice to help Ivy. What follows is a heart-warming yet tragic foray into Ivy’s degenerating health as dementia sets in and causes her to forget things and get very frustrated with herself and others. The outcome is heartbreaking and so beautifully and sensitively handled by the author.
With all this on her plate (increased fame, rampant sales, and caring for Ivy) you might think romance would take a back seat. After all, Ella has suffered her fair share of loss already, and fear of being hurt again has prevented her from risking her heart. The romance subplot fully respects her fears and concerns yet sweetly blossoms towards the inevitable. Ella is apprehensive about moving on, and her visits to a “medium” to get permission from her dearly departed love to do so brings her back into contact with an old face, someone who bears Ella a grudge like no other. The desire for revenge is strong and action is imminent to threaten Ella’s livelihood.

It was so refreshing to read about women succeeding in their own businesses during those years when they were often treated like second-class citizens. I loved the mash-up of conflicts facing Ella, and how she handled them. There’s a lot of tension in the revenge subplot in particular and that had me racing through the book to see how it unfolded. However, I did feel that specific storyline fell a bit flat in its resolution and was a little too perfect / convenient an outcome. Nonetheless, I was totally pulled into Ella’s world, and once I’ve caught up with the first book in the series I hope there will be more to discover about The Hat Girl 🙂

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blog tour · book review · Contemporary Romance · France · romantic comedy · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – A Year at the French Farmhouse

A Year at the French Farmhouse

Escape to France with this warm, witty romantic read.

After ten years of loyal service Daisy Butterworth has been made redundant. Like any clever woman, she knows the cure to redundancy is a little too much wine and her best friend.

Only the next morning, Daisy has more than a hangover . . . she has a whole new house – in France!

Seeing this as an opportunity instead of a disaster, she’s excited about finally moving to France, just as she and her husband always dreamed of. However, Daisy is in for another surprise. Despite planning to move there for over 20 years, her husband never actually intended to go.

So begins a year in France, alone, renovating the gorgeous old farmhouse that is held together by wallpaper and wishes.

Will a year at the French farmhouse be just what Daisy needs? Or could it be the previous owner, Frederique, that is the answer to Daisy’s dreams?

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Author Bio

Gillian Harvey is a freelance journalist and the author of two well-reviewed women’s fiction novels published by Orion.

She has lived in Limousin, France for the past twelve years, from where she derives the inspiration and settings for her books.

Her first title for Boldwood, A Year at the French Farmhouse, will be published in September 2022.

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My Review

I think I’ve spent more time in France with books this year than anywhere else… and I’ve loved it 🙂

Stunned to find herself redundant, Lily concludes that maybe those plans she and husband, Ben, have been making for years might now just come true. Their son is off to university, so what is stopping them from following their dream and moving to France?
One thing: Ben.
He doesn’t want to go, thinks the time is not right – but that’s what he’s been saying for years now. Lily realises that maybe he never intended to follow through on what is essentially her dream since she was a young girl. She’s forced to acknowledge that he always had a reason to prevaricate, and he’s not even willing to talk about it now.
Cue the red wine and a drunken foray onto the internet, browsing all those wonderful places that will never now be hers, be theirs.
Or so she thinks, until the next morning, replete with hangover, an email informs her of a purchase she made the previous evening. Lily has bought a farmhouse in France. Surely, Ben will see now that it’s meant to be, that fate has stepped in to guide them across the channel to a new life.
Or maybe not?

Lily is stumped – there’s a house literally with her name on it (or potentially on the deeds in a few weeks) and still Ben won’t budge. She can’t possibly let this chance escape her, can she?
Mais, non!
And so, off to France she goes, alone, nervous yet excited, probably still reeling from the shock that has numbed her emotions temporarily.

What awaits her is daunting, amusing, sweet, scary and hugely entertaining. From a squirrel infestation to an overly-romantic mayor, some nightmare “expats” (I can say that as one myself – and I can vouch for the flat-earthers too!)
Lily does find great friends, warm-hearted people who welcome her with gusto, but there’s something missing. While she convinces herself that she can do this alone – or even with a new partner – she cannot quite shrug off her marital status. Unfortunately, Ben doesn’t seem to want to be with her as much as she wants to be with him – or so she believes.

I love how this played out in the end, and I particularly enjoyed seeing Lily grow into herself as a stronger, more self-assured woman. It became clear that whatever happened, she would survive… but I admit to having my fingers crossed for a happy ending.

Thank you Netgalley & Boldwood books for my copy.

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Merci d’avoir lu 😉

blog tour · book review · Giveaways · humour · romantic comedy · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Janet Jackson’s Yorkshire B&B (plus a giveway – UK only)

Janet Jackson’s Yorkshire B&B

Yorkshire lass and dental receptionist Janet Jackson has just taken a big risk. Using all her savings, she’s turned her spacious garage into a Bed and Breakfast, slapped a sign on it and without any experience at all, is now awaiting her very first guests.

With a moody teenage daughter and a crazy sister to contend with she’s already got her work cut out. The trouble she soon discovers, is that guests have undesirable habits, annoying pets and endless demands. ‘Is it bloody worth it?’ she asks herself a dozen times a day. Janet gradually learns her trade – but not without being tested to her limits. The question is: will she come through the experience with her bank balance, cottage and her sanity intact?

Hugely entertaining but a word of warning: if ever you’ve thought of running a B&B, read this hilarious debut novel first– you might want to think again!

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Author Bio

Becky Papworth has spent 20 years making people laugh as a TV Producer on shows like Have I Got News For you, Rab. C. Nesbitt and Citizen Khan.

She’s hoping to entertain some readers with this account of running a B&B, much of it based on her actual experience, she’s not saying which bits…

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Giveaway to Win a Lottie Shaw’s Seriously Good Hamper (Open to UK only)

For full information and extra photos of this hamper please look at

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link under the above graphic.  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.

My Review

When Janet Jackson decides to convert the “garage/annexe” into a B&B, she does so without any of the usual research most people would do, and she has no idea what awaits her. She soon learns it’s much more work than painting a few walls, and adding some matching cushions, rugs and knick-knacks. Her first guest opens her eyes to everything she has overlooked, and from that point on she is playing catch-up to find out what running a B&B is all about.
Daughter Chloe helps out with building a website and online profile for the B&B and … whoosh, the bookings take off. Janet has to squeeze the cleaning of the room between changeovers with her job at the dentist’s. There are never enough hours in the day, but somehow she manages to pull it off.
The diary aspect of this story means that there’s quite a lot of repetition as she struggles to get everything ready. For me, this slows the pace down considerably as it seems like a never-ending loop of client-clean-client-clean. That said, the clients are diverse and each one teaches Janet another lesson about her growing business.
I really grew to like Janet when her awful neighbour, Laura, objects to her running the B&B and reports her to the council. Fortunately, Sharon at the council (my favourite character by a country mile) takes it all in her stride and guides Janet through the minefield of planning rights and permissions.
Janet’s sister, Maureen (Mitzi), adds a humorous touch with her poetry nights out and her steady stream of men friends. Her laissez-faire attitude rubs off on Janet and she finally puts her divorce behind her and has some fun – in between cleaning, of course.
Overall, it’s a fun read, and watching Janet grow into her new role is amusing, sometimes sad, occasionally repetitive (but that’s just life) but always engaging.

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blog blitz · contemporary fiction · romantic comedy · women's fiction

Blog Blitz – A Scandinavian Summer

A Scandinavian Summer

It’s the right time for love, but is it the wrong place?

After the tragic, premature death of her husband Anthony, Martha has spent all her time focused on her teenage daughter Rosie in their small Welsh village.

But with Rosie leaving the nest, and Martha’s own job on the line, it feels that life is passing her by.

Inspired by her love for Scandi-noir dramas, Martha impulsively books a trip to Denmark, determined to push herself out of her comfort zone – even if the thought terrifies her…

Her trip to the tiny island of Fano becomes something much more: in the form of handsome stranger, Lars. Can Martha find love under the Scandinavian skies… but more importantly, can she find herself?

A romantic, warm and uplifting read, guaranteed to leave you smiling. Fans of Jenny Colgan and Kathryn Freeman will adore this feelgood read!

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Author Bio

Helga Jensen is an award-winning British/Danish best-selling author and journalist. Her debut novel was a winning entry in the 2017 Montegrappa First Fiction competition at Dubai’s Emirates Literary Festival. Her debut was also a contender for the coveted 2021 Joan Hessayon Award for new writers. Helga’s second romantic comedy, A Scandinavian Summer, went straight to number one on the Amazon Kindle charts for Danish travel on its publication day. Helga holds a BA Hons in English Literature and Creative Writing, along with a Creative Writing MA from Bath Spa University. She is currently working on a PhD.

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blog tour · book review · drama · humour · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Old Friends Reunited

Old Friends Reunited

Divorced and on a deadline, bestselling novelist Bea Pinkerton has a serious case of writer’s block. With her agent breathing down her neck, Bea will do ANYTHING to avoid writing another word.

So an invite to a reunion with her old school friends at a beautiful chateau in France, is Bea’s perfect chance to escape. Surely here, relaxing with old friends and drinking cold fizz, Bea will find inspiration?

But as soon as Bea arrives, she realises this is not going to be the peaceful getaway she anticipated. Her old school friends Gin and Audrie are in various states of marital distress and to top it off a camera crew has arrived to film the goings on at Chateau De St Cyr.Far from being calm, the trip is total chaos!

Thank goodness for Bea’s new French neighbour Laurent Sinclair – handsome, charming and perhaps exactly the romantic muse she needs to get her mojo back.

But is Bea brave enough to take a second chance at love at her age?

Perhaps with a little help from her friends…

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Author Bio

Maddie Please is the #1 bestselling author of novels including The Old Ducks’ Club and Sisters Behaving Badly. Having had a career as a dentist and now lives in rural Devon where she enjoys box sets, red wine and Christmas. She will be taking a new direction in her writing for Boldwood with joyous tales of older women.

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My Review

I seem to be travelling around France with this author, having recently read and enjoyed Sisters Behaving Badly, and I’m not complaining for one minute! If anything, I enjoyed Old Friends Reunited even more.
What’s not to love about three women in their sixties getting together again, reminiscing and reflecting … and having a ball doing so. Writer, Bea and newly-divorced (again) Gin visit their old school friend Audrie (the owner of the château). Since school, their lives have taken them on very different journeys. Reuniting allows them to look back fondly on those years whilst also putting their current lives in perspective. The three women are funny, endearing, quirky and definitely have lots more adventures left to live.
Misunderstandings and uninvited guests lead to shocks and surprises, some funny, others heartwarming. For Bea, through whom the story is told, there comes a delightful new romance and a realisation that old friendships are worth nurturing especially when they can so dramatically turn your world upside down (in the best way).
The perfect way to escape everyday life and live out dreams of pastures new if only for a few hours.

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blog tour · family · real life · women's fiction

Blog Tour – The Heart Warrior’s Mother

The Heart Warrior’s Mother

Kerry-Anne Aarons is over the moon. She and her husband, Imran Patel, are about to become the parents of a baby daughter, and give their son, Leo, an adored little sister. It wasn’t planned, but Kerry knows that Lily’s arrival will complete the perfect little family she has always wanted. She, Imran and their two children are going to live happily ever after…

Then life intervenes.

Lily is born with a serious congenital heart defect and Kerry’s battle to save her daughter commences. It’s a battle that takes her from the operating theatres and Intensive Care Units of local hospitals to the High Court of South Africa. It’s a battle that strains her relationships with her friends, her parents, and – ultimately – her husband. It’s a battle she is determined to win.

But how much will Kerry have to sacrifice to give Lily the future she deserves?

A true, cross-generational story of the eternal link between love and pain… the greater the love, the more inevitable the pain. Marilyn Cohen de Villiers once again – with amazing skill – depicts the common humanity that transcends differing cultures.”

James Mitchell – former Book Editor, The Star, Johannesburg

A percentage of the proceeds of this novel will be donated to the Children’s Cardiac Foundation of Africa, an organisation that funds lifesaving heart surgery for children across the continent.

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Author Bio

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, the youngest daughter of an extraordinarily ordinary, happy, stable, traditional (rather than observant) Jewish family. After matriculating at Northview High School, I went to Rhodes University in Grahamstown where I served on the Student’s Representative Council (SRC), competed (badly) in synchronised swimming and completed a B. Journalism degree. This was followed by a “totally useless” – according to my parents – English Honours degree (first class), also at Rhodes.

With the dawning of the turbulent 1980s, I started my career as a reporter on a daily newspaper, working first in the news and later, the finance departments. During this period, I interviewed, among others, Frank Sinatra, Jeffrey Archer, Eugene Terre’blanche and Desmond Tutu. I caught crocodiles; avoided rocks and tear smoke canisters in various South African townships as protests and unrest against the Apartheid government intensified; stayed awake through interminable city council meetings and criminal and civil court cases – and learned to interpret balance sheets.

I also married my news editor, Poen de Villiers. Despite all the odds against us coming as we did from totally different backgrounds, we remained happily married for 32 years and three days. Poen passed away as a result of diabetes complications on 15 March, 2015.

After the birth of our two daughters, I ‘crossed over’ into Public Relations with its regular hours and predictability. My writing – articles, media releases, opinion and thought leadership pieces and so on – was published regularly in newspapers and other media, usually under someone else’s by-line. I returned to my roots as a journalist in a freelance capacity some six years ago, writing mainly business and IT articles.

So why, after a lifetime of writing non-fiction, did I decide to try my hand at fiction?

The catalyst was the unexpected death of a childhood friend and colleague in 2012. This spurred me to take stock of my life, to think about what I had achieved. A few months later, I decided to try and write a novel. This turned out to be A Beautiful Family which was published in July 2014. The fiction bug had bitten, and my second novel, When Time Fails, was launched in September 2015, followed by Deceive and Defend, in 2018. Although this was not intended when I first started writing fiction, the three novels together constitute The Silverman Saga trilogy

Unlike my earlier novels, my latest book, The Heart Warrior’s Mother, was inspired by a true story.

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I don’t have a review for this book because, as much as I wanted to read it, I couldn’t squeeze it into my schedule. That said, it’s on my TBR list, so “watch this space”. For now, I have an extract to whet your appetite. Thank you, Marilyn.



When Lily was born and diagnosed with a congenital heart defect (CHD), her parents, Kerry-Anne and Imran, were told that she would have to undergo several open heart surgeries if she was to have a “normal” life. The first major surgery was undertaken when Lily was just 10 days old, and despite a minor setback, she had come through that with flying colours. In this extract, Lily has just had her second scheduled open heart surgery and Kerry and Imran are allowed into the ICU to see her.


“Okay, Kerry,” she said to herself. “You can do this. Just walk over there and see exactly what is going on. It can’t be as bad as it looks from here.”

She forced her legs to carry her across the ICU to Lily’s cot. She could sense Imran walking next to her. She kept her eyes fixed on the cot. She stopped and grasped the cold metal cot side. She took a deep breath. She looked. She made a mental list of what her eyes were seeing.

Machines, lots of machines, blinking and beeping.

A nurse fiddling with one of the machines.

A naked baby girl.

A shock of thick black hair. Lily had thick black hair.

A round little face barely visible beneath thick white tapes holding a fat tube in place in her mouth. That meant the baby had been intubated and was breathing with the aid of a ventilator.

Bruised-looking eyes, closed.

“I’m … I’m going outside for some air,” Imran said.

Kerry nodded vaguely and continued her itemised examination.

Limp arms. Little hands tied to the cot’s sides.

A large, bloodstained dressing stretching from vulnerable little throat to belly button.

A blood machine circulating the baby’s blood outside her body, just like the baby son of that dignified woman with the bible. That baby had died.

Stitches. Lots of black stitches. Everywhere.

Kerry looked up. Her eyes took in Imran through the glass panel on the ICU door. His eyes were closed. His face was twisted in silent agony. She returned her gaze to the baby.

Catheter draining urine from the bladder.

Drips, feeding medication into the baby’s neck.

Drains, lots of drains, blood-filled drains. Coming out of her tummy and her chest. Draining fluid from somewhere.

So much blood. Why so much blood?

“How is she?” Kerry heard a voice whisper. Had she spoken? Her throat was parched. Her tongue was thick.

“She’s just come out of theatre. She’s holding her own,” the nurse said.

Kerry nodded. She returned to her examination of the almost lifeless body. It looked like a prop from a horror movie – a damaged doll, disfigured and tortured by a sadistic Chucky-child.

A thought squeezed into her frozen consciousness. That was her baby lying there. Her Lily. She turned and strode across the ICU. She pushed open the glass panel door. She walked towards her husband. She began to shake uncontrollably.

“My baby! My baby!” she screamed.

Imran caught her as she fell. Tears were streaming down his face.

Sandy, Jade, Paul, Eliot and Josh – Josh who never entered a hospital – came down the corridor towards the ICU. They watched in horrified silence as Kerry and Imran rocked together in a slow shuffle of anguish, Kerry wailing incoherently, inconsolably.

“What is it? What’s happened,” Eliot asked as his younger sister’s wails shuddered into hiccupping sobs.

“Lily – is she …,” Sandy’s voice faded. Josh stood stiffy, silently, poised to take off back down the corridor if Kerry started howling again. Paul and Jade looked intently at an invisible mark on the wall above Kerry’s head.

“It’s okay. It’s just that she’s … it was such a shock seeing her like that. It’s just … it’s awful. It’s horrible. There’s all these tubes and blood and the respirator and… and she looks, she looks…” Kerry couldn’t continue.

Imran pulled her close again. “She looks terrible. I … I couldn’t bear to see her like that. You have no idea …”

They all stood there in the corridor, in a huddle of friendship and love… and terror.

“Let’s get out of here,” Imran said after a while.

Josh gratefully led the subdued little troop upstairs, through the foyer and out into the still bright sunshine. They sat on the hospital’s front steps.

“Yo – you’re still a noisy cry baby, aren’t you,” Eliot teased. “You should have seen her when she was a kid. We just had to look at her sideways, Neville and me, and she’d start howling.”

Kerry giggled. It wasn’t true, of course. Eliot and Neville had been pretty kind to her when they were growing up, all things considered. When they hadn’t been ignoring her.

“Yeah, and I remember that time when Imran…” Sandy chimed in, quickly taking up the task of trying to distract her friends, trying to make them laugh a little, before they’d have to go back and face the sight that no parent should ever have to see.

You can read more about this book, including several reviews by checking out these blogs.

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blog tour · book review · family · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – New Family Required

New Family Required

Sasha Greenhope has a very lovely life. Her marriage is solid, her only daughter is delightful, and the family business is going full steam ahead.

The only blip on the horizon is the upcoming family reunion for her parents 40th wedding anniversary at Chadwell House – the family pile. Sasha just does not fit with her rich family. Her French mother, Delphine thinks everything Sasha does is a faux pas.. And siblings, Adele and Beau, are clearly the favourites, leaving Sasha surplus to requirements

So when Sasha’s husband Ben takes this exact moment to reveal that they are about to go bankrupt, Sasha wants to be anywhere but stuck in a lavish marquee!

Swallowing her pride, and a whole bottle of fizz, Sasha determines to ask her family for help – and maybe even a loan – only to discover that her parents and siblings are all keeping secrets of their own!

Family secrets, warring siblings and a disastrous reunion… what could possibly go right?!

Purchase Link –

Author Bio

Carmen Reid is the bestselling author of numerous woman’s fiction titles including the Personal Shopper series starring Annie Valentine.

After taking a break from writing she is back, introducing her hallmark feisty women characters to a new generation of readers.

She lives in Glasgow with her husband and children.

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My Review

The premise of “You can’t choose your family” runs through this story effortlessly, ad you can feel Sasha’s awkward reluctance at attending her parents’ 40th anniversary at the family home – or should that be mansion?
As the middle child, she’s always felt she hasn’t lived up to her parents’ expectations, believing her old sister and younger brother were each the favoured child of her dad and mum. While she and her husband are running a business together, a blow to their finances makes her think she’ll be seen as a failure alongside her incredibly successful siblings.
But there are things Sasha doesn’t know about her family members, secrets that come to the fore during her stay there, secrets that make her reflect and reconsider her long-held opinions.
The author presents a story of family dynamics filled with poignant memories, new understandings and the realisation that Sasha has no need for a new family. The one she has is pretty special after all.

I loved this and will check other books by this author right now.

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book review · contemporary fiction · Contemporary Romance · family · relationships · women's fiction

Book Review – The Switch

Leena is too young to feel stuck.
Eileen is too old to start over.
Maybe it’s time for The Switch…

Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.

But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

My Review

I can honestly say I didn’t expect to love this book quite so much. I mean, how funny, sad, heartbreaking and heartwarming can one story be? The Switch made me laugh out loud and also brought a tear or two to my eyes.
The premise is a family – grandmother – mother -(grand)daughter – all still grieving for the loss of Carla and not knowing how to help each other through their grief. By switching lives, grandmother, Eileen, and granddaughter, Leena might just understand each other and themselves better, and the “a change is as good as a rest” theory might help Leena understand her mother, Marian’s decision when it came to letting Carla go.

You’d think from that premise, this story might be heavy-going … but the remaining characters enable Eileen and Leena to throw themselves into their “new” lives and in so doing become the best version of themselves as well as bringing the respective communities together. The story, while focused on Eileen and Leena, also touches on loneliness, domestic abuse, cheating partners, all of which is balanced by the funnier side of online dating for the over 70s, Neighbourhood Watch meetings, and the ultimate village rivalry for the May Fayre.
It’s a story that delivers new friendships, rekindles old friendships and that promises new starts, because you’re never too old or too young to be the better version of yourself.

Praise for The Switch:

Another life-affirming joy‘ HEAT MAGAZINE

Warmwitty, and a cast of characters I wish I was friends with – I truly loved it!‘ LAURA JANE WILLIAMS

I am blown away. I didn’t think Beth could top The Flatshare but she has. It sparkles with wit, warmth and compassion. It deserves to be huge!‘ GILLIAN McALLISTER

Heartwarming and uplifting. Everyone should have an Eileen in their life!’ HEIDI SWAIN

‘Eileen Cotton proves you don’t have to be in your thirties to be Bridget JonesA triumph of a second novel!’ ANSTEY HARRIS

Bursting with warmth and humour’ LOUISE O’NEILL

I loved it! A total joy to read. Such a breath of fresh air‘ LIBBY PAGE

‘It’s an absolute joy from beginning to end’ MIKE GAYLE

I just loved The SwitchWhat a beautiful story with such memorable charactersI have been well and truly Eileened! It’s an absolute triumph!‘ EMMA COOPER

‘Beth O’Leary has absolutely smashed it out of the park with The SwitchBrilliantwarmfunnyfull of heartCompletely loved it!‘ RICHARD ROPER

About the author

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being within reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
You’ll usually find her curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).