It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Winter is definitely here and in Hertfordshire we’ve enjoyed some wonderful frosty mornings. The sun has been shining and Christmas is definitely in the air!

During 2016 I knew I wanted to release a Christmas novel and I became so addicted to writing about winter and the festive season that I thought, why not write two books.

My first winter / festive read came out in October and so far readers have loved In a Manhattan Minute so I’m really happy. My latest novel is called Christmas at The Little Knitting Box and it’s out now!

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Christmas at The Little Knitting Box is available from Amazon as an ebook and the paperback should be ready in the next couple of weeks. I set this one in New York City too and it follows the story of Cleo who moved to the big city from the Cotswolds to run the family’s knitting store. Here’s the blurb and if you feel like taking a trip to New York with me, here’s the link to Amazon… Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Have a wonderful December and a very Merry Christmas to you all.

Helen J Rolfe x

Christmas at The Little Knitting Box

Christmas is coming and New York is in full swing for the snowy season. But at The Little Knitting Box in the West Village, things are about to change …

The Little Knitting Box has been in Cleo’s family for nearly four decades, and since she arrived fresh off the plane from the Cotswolds four years ago, Cleo has been doing a stellar job of running the store. But instead of an early Christmas card in the mail this year, she gets a letter that tips her world on its axis.

Dylan has had a tumultuous few years. His marriage broke down, his mother passed away and he’s been trying to pick up the pieces as a stay-at-home dad. All he wants this Christmas is to give his kids the home and stability they need. But when he meets Cleo at a party one night, he begins to see it’s not always so easy to move on and pick up the pieces, especially when his ex seems determined to win him back.

When the snow starts to fall in New York City, both Cleo and Dylan realise life is rarely so black and white and both of them have choices to make. Will Dylan follow his heart or his head? And will Cleo ever allow herself to be a part of another family when her own fell apart at the seams?

Full of snow, love and the true meaning of Christmas, this novel will have you hooked until the final page.

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The story behind my paranormal romance – An Extraordinary Life

Our guest on the blog today is the lovely Jo Hollywood. Jo is a columnist and has written two non-fiction books about her youngest son who has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) under her real name, and has now written her first romantic novel under the pen name of Hollywood. So without further ado, we’ll hand over to Jo to tell us a bit about her inspiration and why she simply has to write come what may.

hollywood2I love to write; I write every day. For the past five years or so I had devoted time to writing on the subject of autism. However, a few years ago I decided that I needed to take a break from writing daily on the subject. This was for a number of reasons. My books on autism are about my youngest son who was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of three, and when he turned 7, I knew that I had set out to do what I had originally planned, that of helping parents during the very early years of diagnosis. So I stopped blogging and writing books, although I do still write a weekly column about autism.

However, I felt twitchy, as I still needed to write. In a former life I had had studied English literature at University, and as a voracious reader and lover of all things books, I decided to write a novel. This was when I decided to join Wattpad. I felt that it would give me focus and a reading and writing community that would support me on my journey. When it came to choosing my genre, it just had to be romance. I love to read romantic stories and I suppose that I am a hopeless romantic at heart. The paranormal element was simply a pleasant surprise as I began to form the character of the rather lovely and handsome ghost, Jack. Originally, he had not been a ghost, but while writing my first draft I decided to add a paranormal element to the story and Jack became the ghost that he is today.

Readers have told me that An Unextraordinary Life is a very different kind of paranormal romance and that it is slightlyhollywood1 quirky, and I suppose that this is true. At its heart is a story of love and loss and ultimately, one that is of new beginnings. It just so happens that one of the protagonists is a ghost. I wanted to write a romantic novel, with real emotions and which conveyed the message that love never truly dies. This is explored via the love triangle of Tess, Rob and Jack; all of whom have suffered loss at some time in their lives.

I really did enjoy writing the paranormal element of this story, as I could let my imagination run wild and play around with the narrative. However, for my second novel I am sticking firmly to the restraints of reality. Picking up the Pieces, is a romantic story that is based around Kate, a mother caring for an autistic son. When Matt, a handsome neighbour moves in next door, she is forced into facing up to her past in a way that may very well threaten her future. Matt too has some issues from his past that he needs to deal with. It is through their exchanges with Kate’s son, Sam, that their friendship grows.

I find writing romantic fiction to be incredibly cathartic and cheaper than therapy. It is what I do as part of my ‘me time’, an activity that is just for me. I just hope that those who read my books enjoy them as much I enjoy writing them.

Jo Hollywood

Thanks Jo, we love hearing about other author’s writing lives, so thank you for giving us a peak into your world. The Write Romantics’ own Jo – Jo Bartlett – has read and really enjoyed your book, so we thought we’d add Jo’s review below, so that our readers can find out a bit more about the story:

dreamstime_s_28682146An Unextraordinary Life by Jo Hollywood

So many romances are predictable from the first page, you know who the heroine is going to end up strolling into the sunset with, but ‘An Unextraordinary Life’ is not like most other romances. Paranormal romance is not my usual reading genre, but the book was recommended to me as a really different read to the norm and Jo Hollywood’s novel did not disappoint. It had me reading until late into the night and I felt like I knew Tess almost as a friend from the start, which might have been because the first person point of view was handled so well. I could really empathise with her desire to re-invent herself to try and escape the ghosts of the past and make new friendships where she wouldn’t just be the girl who’d lost her husband. Only the ghosts of the past aren’t so keen to be escaped and when her late husband makes a reappearance in her life, no-one is more shocked than Tess. Although the resulting triangle, with new love interest Rob, isn’t the sort you’d normally expect, the author handles it with both believability and sensitivity. I didn’t know right up to the end who Tess would choose and both heroes certainly had the ability to make the reader fall for them. I really recommend this novel and if, like me, you haven’t read much paranormal romance, you really should take a chance on this one. Original, poignant and well-written, I’d say this is pretty extraordinary after all!

You can purchase Jo Hollywood’s book here and follow her on Twitter on @mummyworgan

 

Jessica is Dreaming About Daran

What started out as a snippet of an idea thirteen years ago grew into something bigger. I had a protagonist, Sarah, who needed two best friends for her story to work. One of them needed to support her in her ‘quest’ and the other needed to think that the ‘quest’ was a “pile of bollocks”.

Whilst I loved Sarah and her supportive friend, Elise, her not-quite-so-supportive friend, Clare, really captured my imagination. Feisty and full of fun, she was a friend with a past and, as the words to my debut novel Searching for Steven poured out, it became apparent that both Elise and Clare had their own stories to tell. Stories that could not possibly be justified as a sub plot in Steven. They needed novels of their own! (Greedy characters!)

Dreaming About Daran CoverElise’s story  – Getting Over Gary – naturally needed to be told as the first sequel because I knew hers was going to be a bit gentler. Clare’s would be more explosive and bring a fitting climax to the trilogy.

Today is the launch day and I’m delighted to release Dreaming About Daran into the world to join my other boys. It’s my favourite cover of the three stories, my favourite character, and my favourite story… although don’t tell Sarah and Elise as I love them too and don’t want to upset them.  It’s also a bit deeper and darker that the two before so be warned!

I’ve had a few technical issues with my paperbacks so can’t include any pictures here of me dressed in blue to match the cover (I have colour coordinated myself for both of the other ones – does that make me a bit sad?) but I can put a picture of what they look like together before Daran got boxed up again and sent back to the printer.

I’m thrilled to hear that there are already three 5-star reviews on Amazon from reviewers who obtained a copy early for an honest opinion. And I mean honest opinion. If these reviewers don’t like a book, they will say so. Therefore, getting 5-star reviews from them is a dream-like thing!

Here’s the blurb about Daran:

Sometimes, you can run from the past, but you can’t hide. Since the age of sixteen, Clare O’Connell has lived her life by four strict rules:

  1. Don’t talk about Ireland
  2. Don’t think about Ireland
  3. Don’t go to Ireland
  4. Never let anyone in

And so far, it’s worked well. She’s got a great career, some amazing friends, and she’s really happy. The future’s all that counts, isn’t it?

However, when her boss insists she travels to Ireland to repair a damaged relationship with a key client, Clare finds herself drawn back to the small village of Ballykielty where she comes face to face with the one person she’d hoped never, ever to see again.

With the door to her past now wide open, the first three rules have gone out of the window. Can Clare stick to rule number four?

Happy reading!

Jessica xx

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The Tightrope Women Walk – a Jane Lythell guest post

At my launch with lesley and sinnetToday we are joined on the blog by good friend of the Write Romantics, the very talented and totally lovely, Jane Lythell. Jane’s guest post explores the ways in which her new novel mirrors the challenge so many women face in balancing their work and home lives. Over to you Jane.

 On the dust jacket of my new novel Woman of the Hour it says: Meet Liz Lyon: respected TV producer, stressed-out executive, guilty single mother… Woman of the Hour. This sums up the dilemma of my central character very well. I was keen that in this, my third novel, I would put the focus on a working mum who has a high pressure job as a TV producer and a stroppy teenage daughter at home.

My heroine Liz Lyon is 41 years old and divorced; her daughter Flo is 14. Liz took on a big mortgage so that she and Flo could have a decent home. She is stressed by the demands of her job but she needs the TV salary to pay her mortgage. She calls this ‘golden handcuffs’, being paid so much that you feel you can’t leave your job.

Liz is in charge of the feature output of StoryWorld TV station which puts out a daily live morning show. It is her job toE-book and Paperback cover woman of the hour_rough 2_new_1 manage and soothe the huge egos at the station. There’s Fizzy Wentworth the star presenter, Gerry Melrose the astrologer, Ledley the Chef and Betty the Agony Aunt. There is also Liz’s team of researchers and a power-crazed boss called Julius Jones.

A television station often has a feverish atmosphere and even more so when the shows are live. Live TV is more dangerous than pre-recorded because things can go wrong. When it does go wrong presenters have to cope under pressure, there’s a surge of adrenalin and feelings run high. I try to capture this in a number of scenes in Woman of the Hour from the moment when a guest won’t come out of Make-Up because her hair looks awful, to the scene where a prominent politician tears off his mic and storms out of the TV station. Liz is left to pick up the pieces and has to be the calm sensible one who sorts out the problems.

When Liz gets home she has to deal with her daughter Flo who she loves deeply but who is doing that teenage thing of pulling away from her mum. Liz often can’t say what she means when she’s at work but when she gets home she can let her out her emotions, and she does. She’s sometimes like a pressure cooker ready to blow. She worries that she’s a better mother to her team at work than she is to her daughter Flo who presses all her buttons.

Why did my rows with Flo escalate so fast? Why was I able to control my anger at work but not at home? I felt a failure as a parent and I wanted to call Ben (her ex-husband) and tell him that he didn’t know what he was missing.

Liz feels a lot of guilt about the length of time she spends at work. She knows she should put Flo first but all too often the demands of work take precedence.

When Janis first came to work for me she told me a story that has stayed with me. It was a hot afternoon and after she had picked Flo up from school she took her to Primrose Hill to find a breeze and to eat sandwiches on the grass. They had walked to the top of the hill where there is this panoramic view of London spread out below with all its buildings, cranes and spires. Flo pointed to the view and said: ‘That’s London and my mummy works there.’ It makes me sad when I think of Flo saying that. She was missing me and she probably wished she had a stay-at-home mum who would pick her up from school every day.

When Liz gets home she often cooks to help her decompress from the stresses of work. At the end of the book I’ve included three recipes called: Comfort Recipes for the Stressed Out. I do think that many of us find comfort in cooking after a particularly bad day at the office!

Doing an interview for TV-am at car factoryI worked in television for 15 years, first at TV-am and later at WestCountry Television doing live TV. On Good Morning Britain I was one of the people who booked the guests for Anne Diamond to interview and I’d write the briefs for her. The hours were long and unpredictable and this made it difficult for me as a lone parent. I left my career in television when my daughter was nine years old.

Many books depict the emotional and family lives of women. I’ve seen much less fiction about a woman struggling with the pressures of work. Yet that had been my life. A working mother, trying to keep all the balls up in the air and feeling conflicted about competing pressures and I wanted to explore that in Woman of the Hour.

Jane Lythell

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Thanks so much for that insightful post, Jane. The Write Romantics loved Woman of the Hour and here’s Jo’s review:

 I’ve loved both of Jane Lythell’s other books – The Lie of You and After the Storm – but I think she hits new heights with ‘Woman of the Hour’. This is a departure from the tense psychological storylines in her first two books, to more of a women’s fiction feel – although my husband is reading the book now, and loving it too, and there are still plenty of deeper themes around the complexity of family and working relationships.

I really liked the first person writing in this novel and it was as if I was living Liz’s experiences with her. Sharing her upsCover WOTH and downs, anxieties and frustrations, particularly at the treatment she received from some of her colleagues at StoryWorld and the huge egos battling it out at times!

It is obvious that the author has researched this book by living some of the experiences and the writing is all the more authentic and engaging for that reason. There are a wealth of wonderful characters in the StoryWorld setting, many of whom could warrant their own novel, so I’m really glad to hear that there is more to come from this series.

There are clever sub plots weaved into the story, but Liz’s life is undoubtedly the main focus. As a working mum myself – familiar with the constant guilt trip that accompanies it – I loved the way the book moved between Liz’s working life and her interactions with her teenage daughter Flo. Again, the authenticity with which the scenes between mother and daughter were written, had me hooked.

There are moments to make you laugh, bring a lump to your throat and even to make your mouth water! The comfort food recipes at the end were a lovely touch too. As I said at the outset, I think Jane Lythell is a fabulous author and once again her novel, as with the other two, had me reading into the early hours. This is her best yet, though, and I’m already waiting impatiently for the next in the series.

You can find out more about Jane Lythell on her Facebook author page here or follow her on Twitter @janelythell

You can download Woman of the Hour, and Jane’s other books, from Amazon and they are also available in all good bookshops.

Lies, polaroids and taping the Top 40 – how we connected with Kerry Fisher’s brilliant new novel

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I’m an unashamed child of the late 70s and early 80s, when Arctic Roll passed for a sophisticated dessert and you could lose your car keys for a week in the depths of the new shag pile carpet. I remember one birthday, when I was about seven or eight, being given the two things at the top of my wish list – a pogo stick and a Polaroid camera. I never did manage to pogo more than about twice in a row, but the Polaroid camera? Now that was nothing short of a miracle. Within moments – and some vigorous shaking that would give a Jane Fonda workout a run for its money – you had a passable instant image. I remember my dad saying “what will they think of next?”, if only he’d known! Those growing up now can’t move without taking a selfie (from 23 different angles, until they get it right) and posting the ‘wrong’ photo online carries with it the risk of going viral. In 2016 teenagers have their phones permanently attached to them, so almost nothing is safe from being caught on camera.

The WRs – many of whom were children in a similar era to me – were reminiscing this week about the tall tales our parents told in an attempt to protect us, and the fibs we told them in response, hoping to get away with pulling a fast one in an era before cameras came with us everywhere to capture every momentAAA Polaroid Camera.

Jessica confessed to being a secret Easter egg rustler – munching not just hers, but her brother’s Easter eggs before she was supposed to. Smoothing out the foil in the packaging afterwards to give the illusion the eggs remained untouched. Jessica was also warned that, if she played on a local building site, the police would cart her off. When her poor Easter-egg-deprived brother decided to test out his parents’ theory, he just got a polite warning from the boys in blue, but that didn’t stop his sister blackmailing him for sweets for some time to come, it order to keep schtum.

AAA nailbitingHelen R was told that if she bit her fingernails, she’d end up with a ‘manly’ fingernail like her aunt! We have to say that made all the WRs smile.

Lynne was told that if she didn’t eat her greens, she’d never get hairs on her chest. Unsurprisingly, that did little to convince her to tuck in…

Then there were the usual stories about eating carrots helping you to see in the dark and the warning that your face would stay like that if the wind changed. I remember one instance, when my mum had just finished wallpapering the tricky hallway and landing, only for me to accidently tear a bit of the new wallpaper off when I was dashing down the stairs. She asked my sister first and then me, if either of us had done it. We both denied it of course. My mum, wannabe Columbo that she was, told us it was fine and that she’d soon find out who the culprit was, because their tongue would turn black from lying. Cue me, running around hysterically, pulling out my tongue to see if was already too late! Put it this way, in the end, it didn’t take Columbo to work out who the guilty party was.

All of this explains why I loved reading Kerry Fisher’s ‘After The Lie’ so much and connected with Lydia from the prologue, where she was busy trying to tape the Top 40 off the radio, without the DJ butting in. My kids and their Apple Music downloads don’t know they are born. ‘After The Lie’ reveals the dangers a family’s secrets can risk, even in an era when going viral meant a bout of flu and the internet wasn’t even the stuff of science fiction movies. The novel moves from the prologue in the 80s to the present day, but the events of years before are still taking their toll on Lydia’s life:

Something happened in Lydia’s past that has shaped her whole life. Especially as her mother doesn’t given her a second to forget what the incident meant for the whole family. StillAAA After the Lie Lydia manages to put it behind her, or at least to shut it up tightly in a metaphorical box, until her past suddenly collides with her present in a way she could never have envisaged.

I loved both of Kerry Fisher’s earlier novels, ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’ and ‘The Island Escape’, but for me ‘After the Lie’ has hit a new high. As a forty something year old, I’m past the stage where I want to read about the search for ‘Mr Right’. I want to read something I can relate to and ‘After The Lie’ definitely gave me that.

This novel is beautifully written and even the most minor characters have an important role to play. ‘After the Lie’ has you rooting for Lydia, even when you want to shout at her not to do what she’s about to do. It’s believable, relatable and oh so real. This novel’s for readers who know that there’s so much more to life than a happy ever after and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

‘After The Lie’ is currently available on Amazon for just 99p. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and, in the meantime, we’d love to hear about those little white lies you told growing up, or the ones your parents told you.

Have a great week

Jo xx

Interview – Debbie Johnston – Brook Cottage Books

Today I’d like to welcome Debbie Johnston from Brook Cottage Books to the blog. Welcome Debbie!

debbie johnston

Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi, firstly thanks for having me! In the bookish world I am known as JB Johnston, but my real name is Debbie Johnston. I work full time for a local health trust and as a book blogger and book tour co-ordinator in my spare time.

When did you start BCB and why?

I started Brook Cottage Books on 1st December 2012. I had a personal blog on which I posted up the odd book review. Once I started writing reviews I began to get lots of requests from authors. It was then that I decided to start a dedicated book blog and the rest is history!

BCB-HeaderWhat’s your favourite part about BCB?

Oh my goodness! I love all of it so much! I love being a part of the book world and meeting lots of lovely authors. I find that authors and book bloggers are amongst some of the nicest people in the world. The kindness, devotion to what they do and the support is wonderful. I love that BCB gives authors the chance to showcase their work. It gives me such a buzz.

What’s your favourite genre to read and review?

Before starting BCB and indeed reviewing in general, I was very closed in terms of only having one genre as a favourite. I would never have considered reading romances or paranormal books and would have stuck strictly to crime / thrillers or horror. But, now I can honestly say that I am more open minded and by being open minded about what I read I enjoy them all and try new things!

How do you choose which books to review?

When I first started reviewing I would have accepted every book that was offered to me which was totally wrong as my tbr list grew to epic proportions and I know there are authors out there who have been waiting a long time for a review. Apologies guys. So now, I let authors know that I cannot say when I will get round to reading their book so in exchange for their book I offer a guest post / interview or promo post on the blog. I want to give something back. Because I run book tours, I have to prioritise books on the tours. I have a reading schedule that I try to keep to and try to include non-tour books and books from my own bookcase.

What do you do if you read a book you’re supposed to review but you really don’t like it?

I usually either try to contact the author to let them know that the book just wasn’t for me and offer a guest post instead. Or, I try to offer constructive criticism in my review. I would never write anything horrible. Reviewers need to remember that a book is an author’s baby. Be gentle!

Is there a particularly memorable guest you’ve had on your blog?

Oh goodness I have had so many wonderful guests on the blog! I love promoting Indie authors especially but I have had a few well-known people interviewed on the blog – Fern Britton, Josephine Cox and Barbara Taylor Bradford

What happens when an author enrols to do a blog tour with BCB?

When an author emails me about a tour they are sent a tour info sheet and a questionnaire to complete. Once I have all the relevant information then the author just has to sit back and let me get on with it. I organise a tour banner, tour page and sign up tour hosts. Then during each day of the tour I share all the host’s posts across social media. An author’s book gets maximum coverage! There is actually a lot of work involved in organising tours.

And finally, what’s next for BCB  Website: 

Brook Cottage Books and the book world has become my life! I would love to give up my day job make book work my full time career. I have so many ideas floating around my head. It would be lovely if someone somewhere noticed my work and offered me a job in the book world! Hopefully Brook Cottage Books will continue to flourish and I have lots of authors who are return customers so I must be doing something right! Brook Cottages will continue to support Indie authors and offer a range of free services as well as paid ones.

Thanks for visiting the blog, Debbie, it was fantastic to hear all about Brook Cottage Books!

www.brookcottagebooks.blogspot.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/BrookCottagebks 

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/brookcottages

Facebook: www.facebook.com/brookcottagebooks

Email: brookbooks@hotmai.co.uk

Helen J Rolfe 🙂

How to Catch a (Rock) Star…

Today we’re delighted to welcome the lovely Gabrielle Aquilina to the blog, to tell us all about her fabulous debut.  Over to you Gabrielle…

Gabby cover 2First of all, I’d really like to thank the Write Romantics for having me – it’s a real pleasure and I’m thrilled to be publisher buddies with two of them!

So, I have my first book, ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ coming out in a few days which is incredibly exciting but also really, really scary. Pretty much everyone I know has said they are going to buy a copy and read it and that is, quite frankly, terrifying. Great but terrifying.

I’ve been really busy writing guest posts for various blogs as well as getting together a short story for my website but, for this guest post, I want to tell you how ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ came to be.

As with most authors, I’ve pretty much always written – picture stories when I was a kid, awful poetry when I was a teenager, mostly journals, diaries and letters (I know – old school!) when I was in my twenties and, finally, a novel when I hit my thirties.

Actually, ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ started out life as a completely different story to the one it ended up being. Originally, it was going to be a story about a group of friends and the dynamics of those all important female relationships. I wanted to explore what happens when one friend amongst a group of close friends becomes envious of another friend and how that impacts on the entire group.

But once I wrote Jed in, he wouldn’t leave the story and it became a novel of love, lust, mistrust and betrayal set against a backdrop of rock music! And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good love story? Especially one that involves super hot rock stars, relatable heroines and some good old drama and tension…

The drama in ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ comes from people keeping secrets and the fallout that happens when that secret explodes. I’ve experienced this myself in a relationship although it wasn’t quite as dramatic as either of the secrets Married Matt or Jed are keeping, thank God!

I hope a lot of readers will be able to relate to Lillie’s reaction and her subsequent downwards spiral. I’ve tried to make her a realistic heroine, one who makes mistakes and has flaws but, ultimately, is strong and picks herself up in the end.

I’m sure she’s frustrating at times, but isn’t everyone? Even my most favourite people annoy me sometimes and I try to write characters who are as real as possible because I prefer to read books where the protagonists are less than perfect. I find that makes for a more compelling and interesting story than perfection!

I enjoyed writing the characters from ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ so much (and quite honestly, they just will not leaveGabby 2 me alone!), that I’m currently writing a follow-on novel, which will star Johnny, Jed’s best friend, and I plan on writing a third which will be all about Lillie’s best friend, Kate. So, if you read and like ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’, then keep an eye out for the next two books!

If you do read ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’, then first of all, thank you very much, I hope you enjoyed it! And secondly, if you have the time, please leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon…

Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, Write Romantics! x