16 December 2014

Festive Q&A Post 11: Ruth Saberton

Welcome to post 11 of my Festive Q&A, and today I'm happy to introduce Ruth Saberton for her Q&A! Ruth's latest book Escape for Christmas, and follows on from her summer story Escape for the Summer which I loved. You can read it stand-alone too, and it's certainly enjoyable, I'm almost at the end of it now! Thank you to Ruth for answering my questions :)

You can buy Escape for Christmas as an eBook now!

Q1. Please tell me about your new festive book!
My new festive book is called “Escape for Christmas” and it is the second installment in the adventures of Gemma, Angel and Andi, whom readers first met in “Escape for the Summer”, although it can be read as a stand alone book too. The story picks up about 18 months after the book finished and centres on Gemma, who is looking forward to a very romantic festive season with her partner, Cal.  Gemma has made all sorts of plans but when she discovers that Cal’s has been meeting his gorgeous ex in secret events take an unexpected turn and her perfect Christmas suddenly isn’t quite so perfect after all…

Q2. What do you think it is about festive books that readers love so much year after year?
Everyone loves Christmas and curling up in front of the fire with a festive novel has to be one of the nicest things about the season. It’s a busy and an expensive time and a Christmas book is the best way to escape the chaos of getting prepared for the big day without breaking the bank.  The covers are gorgeous and there’s the Christmas magic between the pages too – digital or paper!

Q3. What prompted you to write a Christmas book?
I am living in the Caribbean at the moment and although we all go Christmas crazy here (the Christmas lights are something else!) I really do miss Christmas at home. I know I am spoilt rotten to lie on the beach on Christmas Day but there’s a big part of me that longs to be in a big jumper and watching the snow fall while we cook Christmas lunch (Richard Curtis movies have a lot to answer for!) Writing a Christmas book is my way of going home for the festive season and a wonderful way to travel back without having to fly. I was also asked by lots of readers if they could have a sequel to “Escape for the Summer” and this seemed the perfect solution. Cornwall at Christmas time is simply wonderful and when I wrote the scene where Gemma and Angel are shopping in Truro I was almost shocked to look up and find myself back in  Grand Cayman.  Maybe lowering the air con to a chilly seventy F was something to do with it?

Q4. Quick fire questions! What's your favourite thing about Christmas?
Spending time with my boyfriend, family and friends and my horses!

Q5. Favourite christmas film?
The Muppets’ Christmas Carol! I know all the words and sing the whole lot. Show me an English teacher who doesn’t love that movie.  As soon as the film begins I’m instantly in the festive spirit.

Q6. Favourite Christmas song?
Can I cheat and say Rafe Thorne’s “One Christmas Kiss” from my novel “Dead Romantic”? It is the song her writes for Cleo, his ‘one who got away’.

Q7. Favourite Christmas tradition?
Watching The Muppets’ Christmas Carol with my Year 7 class!

Q8. What are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree this year?!
Lots of happy readers who enjoy my books! That’s the best present any writer could hope for.

Q9. What's the best Christmas present you've ever been given and why?
Can I say my divorce? That was a fantastic present and came just in time for Christmas : )

Q10. What is up next for you?
Next year is looking very busy for me. I have four books out and a new project planned which I can’t say much about yet.  “Katy Carter 2” should be out in the spring and I am so excited about this. The title hasn’t been decided yet but maybe “Pinchy the Lobster Strikes Back”!

Thank you Ruth!

15 December 2014

eBook Review: The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman

"Meet Britain's Worst Innkeeper

Single mother and extremely undomestic goddess, Lottie, has five days to become the ultimate B&B hostess to save her beloved Aunt Kate’s livelihood.

When Aunt Kate ends up in the hospital, Lottie and her seven-year-old daughter are called to rural Wales to stand in at the B&B. Without the faintest idea how to run a hotel (she can barely run her own life), Lottie must impress the picky hotel reviewer and his dysfunctional family who are coming to stay over Christmas. Without the rating only he can bestow, Aunt Kate will lose her livelihood.

But will Danny, the local taxi driver who she hires to help her, really be Santa’s little helper, or the Grinch who stole Christmas? "

Festive Feeling Rating:

You can buy The Reluctant Elf as an eBook now.

Sometimes it is nice to pick a short story, and know that you can finish reading it pretty swiftly and you haven't got nights of reading ahead of you. I was really pleased to be sent a review copy of The Reluctant Elf which is Michele Gorman's latest festive short story. I loved her 2013 short story Christmas Carol so had high hopes for this one. Luckily, it didn't let me down.

Lottie is devastated when her beloved Aunt Kate is in an accident and ends up in hospital in a coma over the festive period. What makes it worse though is that her Aunt runs a B&B which is due to be inspected over Christmas by a special Christmas visitor... a hotel reviewer. Lottie has to make a dash to Wales to the B&B, and is shocked by the dilapidated state it's in. She recruits Danny, a local taxi driver to help her refurbish the outdated and rundown B&B, but the pair are really up against it. Lottie knows nothing about running the B&B, and wants her Aunt Kate to be okay more than anything. Is Lottie going to be able to make her 2 Christmas miracles come true?!

Knowing this is a short story means the pace moves quite quickly, and we are thrown straight into the story from the very beginning. We discover about Aunt Kate's accident, and are on the train to Wales with Lottie immediately, and this is how we get to find out about her and her family set-up. Apart from her daughter Mabel, Kate is the only family that Lottie has left, hence the connection the pair have. I really liked how it was written that Lottie discovered the state of the B&B, and you can't help but feel devastated along with her. The strange friendship she immediately strikes up with taxi driver Danny is odd, but somehow works for the story.

We read about how the pair work as quickly and frugally as they can to restore the B&B to its former glory, using the things in the house as they've been snowed in and can't get to the shops, never mind the fact it's nearly Christmas and most shops are closing, let alone living in the middle of nowhere! Reading some of the things they did put a smile on my face, and there were certainly some hilarious moments in there too. The arrival of the hotel inspector ensured more hilarity, and there were some real laugh-out-loud moments, I don't know how Lottie kept it together to be honest! It does feel very Christmassy though, with Lottie and Danny hurrying to decorate the B&B, and pull together a Christmas dinner with an unusual theme twist...

This was a really enjoyable and light-hearted read that left me with a smile on my face as I finished it. There's lots going on to keep your interest throughout the story, and you can't help but wonder how Lottie ever thinks she is going to be able to get a good rating for Aunt Kate's B&B as things swing from bad to worse! The arrival of the reviewer and his (awful) family allowed for some seriously funny moments, and really put the pressure on poor old Lottie and Danny too. I enjoyed reading this eBook from start to finish, it's the perfect thing to curl up with for a while and enjoy in one sitting, and it'll definitely leave you feeling warm and festive!

14 December 2014

Festive Q&A Post 10: Fiona Valpy

Welcome to another Festive Q&A, this time with author Fiona Valpy! I absolutely loved her festive book The French for Christmas, it was a really heart-warming and enjoyable read, one that I can definitely recommend this year. Thank you to the Fiona for taking the time to answer my questions!

You can buy The French for Christmas as a paperback or an eBook now.

Q1. Please tell me about your new festive book!

'The French for Christmas' is the third book in 'The French for...' series. What all three books have in common is that they are about being in a foreign culture and finding out a lot about yourself when you see life through a different lens. But, no matter what challenges are thrown in their paths, all my heroines have romantic encounters along the way as well – I’m all for romance and happy endings!

As the book opens, we meet Evie, who is dreading Christmas this year. So when her friends offer her the use of their French holiday home she grabs the chance to escape. But she hasn't counted on the neighbours - and one of them in particular - who help her to work through her grief and anger and to find forgiveness, which may just allow her to face life again. She finally realises that, no matter how hard you try to escape it, Christmas Happens!

'The French for Christmas' is a bit different from the usual seasonal chick-lit, in that the book does tackle some very painful subjects. But at the same time I’ve tried to capture the beauty of the French countryside (even without the summer sunshine) and to highlight what, for me, are the things that are really important at Christmas: family, and offering kindness and support to others. I hope it has something for everyone – a lovely festive read with a bit of depth too.

Q2. What do you think it is about festive books that readers love so much year after year?

They are all part of the anticipation, the build-up to the Christmas magic. And at an often dreary time of the year they bring light and hope.

Q3. What prompted you to write a Christmas book?

The first two books in 'The French for...' series were very much summer reads (although lots of readers have said how much they’ve enjoyed reading them as an escape from dreary winter days too) and so I thought it would be a good contrast to write about the local area out of season, the side that people who come for summer holidays don’t see. But, at this time of year, the importance of community can be even stronger and there’s always the sense that another beautiful spring and sun-filled summer are just around the corner… And as I love Christmas novels - (but then I love most novels as I’m a total binge-reader) - I thought I should write one!

Q4. Quick fire questions! What's your favourite thing about Christmas?

Family and friends.

Q5. Favourite christmas film?

The Snowman - I always cry!

Q6. Favourite christmas song?

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (as sung by Judy Garland in the film Meet Me in St Louis: another total weepie moment!)

Q7. Favourite christmas tradition?

Christmas Eve supper with everyone gathered round the table, kitchen decorated, stockings hung and the anticipation mounting. Since we moved to France, we always have Tartiflette which is a dish from the French mountains with potatoes, bacon, onions and cream, simple comfort food before the next day's Christmas Dinner Extravaganza.

Q8. What are you hoping to find under the christmas tree this year?!

A pair of cosy sheepskin boots, perfect for draughty French farmhouses...

Q9. What's the best Christmas present you've ever been given and why?

Two years ago my sons gave me a specially engraved heart charm for a bracelet I have. I wear it every day and it reminds me of them, wherever they are in the world.

Q10. What is up next for you?

The year ahead is a bit of an unknown for me and I am considering various options at the moment... but I hope it will be filled with love and joy and family and friends. Just like Christmas itself!

13 December 2014

Festive Q&A Post 9: Scarlett Bailey

Today I would love to welcome the fabulous Scarlett Bailey to my blog for her festive Q&A! Scarlett's books are some of my favourite of the year, and this year her festive read is a follow-up to some of her previous books, Just For Christmas and Two Weddings and a Baby. I can't wait to read it. My thanks go to Scarlett for taking the time to answer my questions!

You can buy Scarlett's latest book Secret Santa as an eBook now!

Q1. Please tell me about your new festive book!
Secret Santa is a little Christmas Novella, continuing the stories and characters of 'Just For Christmas' and 'Two Weddings' and its a very festive, slightly magical romantic tale. With a George Clooney inspired Santa.

Q2. What do you think it is about festive books that readers love so much year after year? 
I think that festive fiction can really indulge us in everything we love about Christmas. There is always snow, always magic and sparkle, always love and family, and sometimes a hot Santa.

Q3. What do you enjoy about writing festive stories? 
I love writing it for exactly the same reason as people love reading it, it's a beautiful world to be in, a bit like living in a snow globe.

Q4. Quick fire questions! What's your favourite thing about Christmas? 

Q5. Favourite christmas film? 

Q6. Favourite christmas song? 
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Q7. Favourite christmas tradition? 
Carols on Christmas Eve.

Q8. What are you hoping to find under the christmas tree this year?! 
A Memory locket.

Q9. What's the best Christmas present you've ever been given and why?
My dad gave me a dolls house that he made for me himself when I was about 9. I don't see my dad anymore, but I remember the dolls house.

Q10. What is up next for you? 
I'm off to New York City to indulge in some American Christmas cheer, where I'll be reenacting scenes from Elf.

Thanks so much Scarlett!

11 December 2014

Festive Q&A Post 8: Debbie Johnson

Welcome today to the lovely Debbie Johnson, author of new Christmas eBook Cold Feet at Christmas. I read the book a few weeks ago and loved it, it's a fab Christmas read to download to your Kindle now! Thank you to Debbie for taking the time to answer my questions, please enjoy!

You can buy Cold Feet at Christmas as an eBook or a paperback now!

Q1. Please tell me about your new festive eBook!

It’s called Cold Feet At Christmas, and the opening scene shows our heroine, Leah, running away from her own fairytale Scottish castle wedding after discovering her fiance in a compromising position with one of the bridesmaids! Understandably upset, she flees in his car – into a snow-bound Christmas Eve wilderness inhabited only by sheep, random women in soggy wedding dresses, and our hero, Rob. After finding herself stranded in an isolated cottage with only Rob for company, she starts to realise that although everything is technically going wrong in her life – it might be the best thing that ever happened to her!

Q2. What do you think it is about festive books that readers love so much year after year?

I think Christmas is a strange time, of high expectations and heightened emotions. We all have idealised versions of it in our heads, backed up by our own experiences and all of the festive movies, songs and books we’ve absorbed growing up. It’s a time of year when we want everything to come out right – for everyone to be at peace, well-rested, well-fed, in harmony with the world. Basically, even if our lives are stressful the rest of the year, we want a Christmas happy ending, even if it’s only for a few days – and losing yourself in a lovely festive story is one of the very best ways to find it!

Q3. What prompted you to write a Christmas book?

I had the idea for it during a very snowy spell, when we’d go out walking the dog and lose each other in the white-out! So I started to think about how it would feel to be lost in that for real, on what should have been the happiest day of your life, and then what might happen if you stumbled across a classic glass of tall, dark and handsome while all of that was unfolding! Sadly, that never happened to me – I usually just fall over and stagger home with a soggy backside!

Q4. Quick fire questions! What's your favourite thing about Christmas?


Q5. Favourite christmas film?

Bad Santa – sorry!! I love that, even if it is totally gross!

Q6. Favourite christmas song?

Last Christmas by Wham – I had my heart broken to it back in the 80s!

Q7. Favourite christmas tradition?

Creeping downstairs with the kids at stupid o’clock, checking to see if Santa has been, all wearing onesies!

Q8. What are you hoping to find under the christmas tree this year?!

My usual wish list: books, books and more books! And a boxed set of all the Lost episodes – I need to rewatch Sawyer for Christmas!

Q9. What's the best Christmas present you've ever been given and why?

My husband and I have a tradition of finding each other ‘tat’ – silly showbiz stuff, weird bits and bobs, that kind of thing. A few years ago he found me an autographed, framed picture of David Bowie as the Goblin King in Labyrinth, which now has pride of place in the hallway, next to his autographed photo of the Lovejoy cast....yes, we are tragic!

Q10. What is up next for you?

As well as Cold Feet At Christmas, I also have a supernatural crime thriller out called Fear No Evil – it’s all set in Liverpool, where I live, and features a feisty female private eye called Jayne McCartney. Then in March I have an urban fantasy out, Dark Touch, the sequel to Dark Vision, which came out earlier this year. After that, a lot of sleep – and possibly rewatching Lost!

Thanks so much, Debbie!

9 December 2014

Festive Q&A Day 7: Alice Peterson

Today I am delighted to welcome the lovely Alice Peterson to my blog for her Festive Q&A! Alice's latest book One Step Closer to You was one of my favourite reads of this year, and it's one I urge you all to pick up. Thank you to Alice for taking the time to answer my questions!

You can buy One Step Closer to You as a paperback or an eBook now.

Q1. You've yet to write a festive book - is it something you'd consider in the future?!
Possibly. You never know…

Q2. What do you think it is about festive books that readers love so much year after year?
Well, Christmas books can definitely help get you in the mood. Christmas is one of the happiest times of the year, and one of the loneliest too. There’s lots of emotion and joy and probably a lot of comfort reading about a time of year that’s universal to us all.

Q3. Quick fire questions! What's your favourite thing about Christmas?
Mince pies. I love singing carols too.

Q4. Favourite Christmas film?
Love, Actually – love Colin Firth in anything he does.

Q5. Favourite Christmas song?
If I’m alone, I’ll sing along merrily to Mariah Carey, All I Want …

Q6. Favourite Christmas tradition?
I love wrapping up presents on Christmas Eve. I also love doing last minute shopping on Christmas Eve too as the atmosphere is always wonderful, everyone in a good mood.

Q7. What are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree this year?!
Anything that sparkles! I love Kate Spade jewellery. I could also really do with a cosy warm chunky knit jumper. Or anything from Anthropology – they sell gorgeous china, things for your kitchen, jewellery, clothes, writing books, rugs – that shop is heaven.

Q8. What's the best Christmas present you've ever been given and why?
A lovely fake fur cream coat that makes me feel so glamorous, like a film star…

Q9. What is up next for you?
I’ve just had a new idea for a book and it’s so powerful and exciting, I cannot wait to start writing it in the New Year… 2015 is going to be the best year yet... Let’s hope anyway...

8 December 2014

Festive Q&A Day 6: Judy Astley

Another day, another Festive Q&A! Today is the turn of the fabulous Judy Astley, who has a new festive read out this year called It Must Have Been The Mistletoe! I can't wait to read it, and Judy has been kind enough to answer my questions as part of the Festive Q&A, thank you very much Judy!

You can buy It Must Have Been the Mistletoe as a paperback or an eBook now.

1. Please tell me about your new festive book!

It’s newly single Thea who goes to join her brother, sister, their children and her parents at a beachside house in Cornwall for Christmas. Her parents are soon to be divorced but insist they are still Great Friends.  A schedule of fun activities is organised to keep everyone busy but not all goes to plan and not everyone who turns up was actually invited.

2. What do you think it is about festive books that readers love so much year after year?

Two reasons – first of all, books make great Christmas presents!  Also, a book over Christmas is a great escape from all that’s so hectic and it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a warm, fun read, perfect for relaxing with next to a blazing fire or to escape with to bed.

3. What prompted you to write a Christmas book?

I usually set my books in the summer and thought it was time for a change of season.  My own extended family had a big get-together in Cornwall last summer, about twenty of us with scheduled events (Wednesday afternoon = beach barbecue.  Friday night = quiz, sort of thing).  I thought at the time – ooh, add a few tensions and there could be a book in this.  I should say here that NONE of the family are actually in this book!

4. What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?

Apart from hanging out with my family, I think I most like the scent of Christmas cooking.  Spiced cranberries, quince jelly, mince pies – they all give the house that special Christmas atmosphere.  I love that.

5. Favourite Christmas film?

It’s not Christmassy as such, but I really can’t imagine NOT watching the Great Escape at some point over Christmas.  I’m always ridiculously certain that one day, Steve MacQueen really will make it over the wire.

6. Favourite Christmas Song?

Walking in A Winter Wonderland by the Ronnettes.    In fact I love the entire Phil Spector Christmas album.

7. Favourite Christmas Tradition?

We have a beach barbecue on New Year’s Day in Cornwall, which started because Australian friends were forever telling us about their Christmas beach barbies and we were being competitive. Lots of people come, it’s always freezing cold, often raining (so rainy last year that we had to have it in our garden instead, which felt shamefully defeatist) but it has to be done – simple sausages in a bun, fizz, flasks of tea and plenty of warm clothes.

8. What are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree this year?

World peace would be good but failing that, I’ve seen a stunning, gloriously coloured Vivienne Westwood scarf and I’ll be dropping many a hint.

9. What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever been given and why?

Tickets to Australia!  I had NO idea till on Christmas day my husband handed me an envelope with the flight details in, for travelling a month from then.  I’d wanted to go, to see my fab friend Frané but thought it would be too expensive and tricky to organise so he just went ahead and booked it.  I was absolutely thrilled.

10. What is up next for you?

I’m just planning a new book and will be starting it any day now.  It’ll involve houses (think Location x 3) and renovations and some love interest but I rarely plan before I start so I’ll just dive in and see where it goes.  It’ll be a jolly read, that much I can say.  I don’t want to write books of gloom – the world can always do with a cheer-up.

Thank you so much Judy!