Monday, 5 November 2018

Chapter Reveal - Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland

Chapter 1
As I descended the stairs to the Wynthorpe Hall kitchen, the vacuum cleaner bumping along behind me, I couldn’t help but think about how eerily quiet the place seemed. As a rule, lunchtime was a bit of a free-for-all as the family, which included us staff, made a beeline for a place around the table to feast on whatever delicious fare the hall cook, Dorothy, had spent the morning preparing. I reasoned that the unusual silence would likely have something to do with Anna, something she had arranged, and I decided to play along with whatever my well-meaning friend had dreamt up. Though I was, for once, itching to get back to town. 
I had barely opened the door an inch before a rousing chorus of ‘Here Comes the Bride’ erupted. The vacuum was whisked from my grasp and the sounds of popping corks and party poppers filled the air. 
‘You twits,’ I laughed, as Anna pulled me into a 
suffocating hug. ‘Tonight is just my engagement party, not my wedding day!’ 
‘We know that, Hayley,’ she said, squeezing me tighter, ‘this is just a little taster of what we’ll have lined up for you here at the hall when the big day finally dawns.’ 
Anna had certainly pulled out all the stops. I knew there would be no one better to take on the roles of wedding planner and chief bridesmaid. 
‘And when can we expect to see the handsome groom- to-be?’ asked Angus, handing me a champagne-filled crystal flute. ‘I take it the Scorching Scaffolder will be coming to pick you up?’
Angus Connelly, the eccentric gent who was married to Catherine, the hall owner, had certainly found a fitting nickname for my ancĂ©. 
Gavin Garford, aka The Scorching Sca older, had been practically everyone’s crush when I was at high school, and the subsequent years – combined with his job erecting and dismantling scaffolding – had played their part in turning a teenage tearaway into a fine specimen of manhood. 
Gavin and his workmates had been called to Wynthorpe Hall earlier in the year to construct a scaffold tower that we all hoped would keep Angus safe while he worked at a height. Gavin had wasted no time in asking me out, and the whirlwind romance that led up to his autumn proposal certainly lived up to the steamy fantasies I’d had about him as a teenager. 
‘I’m afraid not,’ I sighed, gently clinking my glass against 
Anna’s. ‘He’s working at the other side of Peterborough today and won’t be back until late this afternoon.’ 
‘Wouldn’t his boss let him take the day off?’ Jamie frowned. ‘There must be loads still to check over at the pub.’ Clearly Jamie – Angus and Catherine’s youngest son, and heir to the hall – wasn’t particularly impressed by my beau’s absence.
‘We’re both well aware of that,’ I responded with a cheeky 
grin, ‘but some of us don’t have a grand family hall to live in. We have to work all the hours god sends to save up ridiculous deposits just to buy poky ats in town.’ 
‘Still no news on the affordable housing front?’ asked Mick, the hall handyman, who also lived on-site. 
‘Not a word,’ I sighed. ‘At this rate we’ll be drawing our pensions before the council even approve the plans.’ 
‘You know you’re always welcome here,’ said Catherine, kindly. ‘We would be more than happy to accommodate you and Gavin if it meant you could secure your own home sooner.’ 
Catherine had been offering me a room ever since my final year at school when I’d found myself pregnant and was abandoned by my parents when they couldn’t stand the shame. At the time, my nan had been working as a cleaner at the hall, and her untimely death, along with my miscarriage, had ensured my education had never been properly finished. I had gone home soon after Nan’s funeral, but I gratefully took over her job. I loved working with the antiques, paintings and curios and had become something of a self-taught expert in historical conservation. 
‘Thank you, Catherine,’ I smiled at my kind-hearted employer, ‘I do know and, as always, I appreciate your gen- erous o er—’ 
‘But you’re not going to accept it,’ Jamie cut in. 
‘And be constantly on-hand to pick up your pants, Jamie Connelly?’ I batted back as Anna giggled and Dorothy tutted. ‘I don’t think so.’ 
Washing the family’s clothes had never been part of my job description, but teasing Jamie about his slack habits with the laundry bin was far easier than explaining why I needed to be at home; Mum and I may have had our di erences in the past, but I couldn’t leave her defenceless against Dad and his belligerent temper. I knew the time for me to move on would come at some point, but not just yet. 
‘And besides,’ I cunningly added, ‘we’ll be into November next week. You’ll no doubt be too busy planning for Christmas and packed to the rafters with more family and friends than you’ll know what to do with, won’t you?’ 
Moving the conversation on to Christmas was a mas- terstroke on my part. The mere mention of it had Angus bobbing up and down in his seat. I focused my attention on devouring Dorothy’s delicious sandwiches to soak up the zz, barely listening to the ideas Angus was rattling o , until the words ‘Winter Wonderland’ were spoken and I looked up to see Catherine’s face fall. 
‘Absolutely not,’ she said sternly.
‘But—’
‘No, Angus,’ she said again. ‘We’re going to be stretched to our limit as it is, what with the addition of the Christmas tree competition and the party on top of the usual sleigh rides.’ 
‘What Christmas tree competition?’ I asked, pushing my plate away. 
‘Have you not been listening at all?’ tutted Anna with a smile. ‘We’re hosting the tree-decorating competition this year because the church has so many December weddings booked that they haven’t got room for all the trees amongst the pews.’ 
‘It’s going to be spectacular,’ Angus joined in. Clearly, he could already picture it. ‘There were almost thirty trees last year, all decorated by a di erent community group. The one from the hardware store was a triumph, covered in mini tools and DIY materials. I thought it was the best by far.’ 
‘What with that and the party to raise funds for the char- ity,’ Catherine was quick to remind her husband, ‘I hardly think we’ll have the time or the manpower to establish this Winter Wonderland you’ve dreamt up.’ 
‘But as you just reminded us, Mum, we do already have the sleigh,’ said Jamie, catching his father’s eye, ‘and none of what Dad has in mind would encroach on the hall. Just a couple of extra tweaks outside and we could be in business.’ 
‘We could have a snow machine,’ said Angus, wistfully. 
‘Are you joining ranks with your father, Jamie?’ asked Anna. 
She sounded as surprised as the rest of us were no doubt feeling. 
‘Well,’ Jamie swallowed, ‘the charity is going to be closed 
throughout December so we could use the space in the courtyard, and we’ll have an extra pair of hands on-site to help out by then. A very practical pair of hands.’ 
Anna and Catherine raised their eyebrows in perfect syn- chronicity and I thought it was just as well that the charity, which supported bereaved children and young adults, was going to be closed if such extravagant festive plans were afoot. 
‘I’m not siding with him exactly,’ Jamie mumbled. ‘I just don’t think it would be all that tricky to set up, that’s all.’ 
That was as good as a green light to Angus, and I could already tell that a manic few weeks lay ahead. I might have drawn the focus away from my refusal of Catherine’s o er but, in the process, I’d opened up one heck of a can of tinsel- toting worms. 
‘So, who does this extra pair of hands belong to then?’ asked Molly, who had suddenly appeared in the doorway, her wild pre-Raphaelite hair framing her pretty face. 
Molly, with her white witch tendencies, had a spooky knack for popping up out of nowhere. She always looked to me as if she oated on a cushion of air, not setting her feet on solid ground like the rest of us mere mortals. 
‘Is it someone who is going to be passing through or some- one who is staying for good?’ 
‘Since when did anyone get away with passing through?’ laughed Mick, as he pointed rst at himself, then me, Dorothy and nally, Anna. 
We had all arrived at the hall on the understanding that we wouldn’t stay long, but that wasn’t how things worked here. Once Catherine, Angus, the dogs and the hall had found their way into our hearts, we were hooked – for good. ‘That’s true,’ Molly laughed, claiming the seat next to me and giving me an incense-scented hug. ‘I just wanted to pop in to wish you good luck for tonight, Hayley, in case I don’t 
get a chance later.’
‘Thanks, Molly,’ I smiled, squeezing her back.
I appreciated the fact that she had left the cosy con nes of 
her cottage in the woods, but I really didn’t need luck. It had been Molly herself who had read my tarot cards in the spring and had told me love would feature dramatically in my life before the end of the year. I admit I had been dismissive at the time, but then Gavin had turned up in his too-tight vest and set my heart pounding. Sure, he had a reputation, but who didn’t? As far as I could tell, he was the person Molly had predicted, and his timing couldn’t have been more perfect. 
‘So, who’s coming to stay?’ Molly asked again. 
‘A pal of mine,’ explained Jamie. ‘Someone I’ve known for ages and worked with out in Africa. He’s visited here before, too, but that was years ago. He’s agreed to take on the outdoor activities we o er at the centre, as well as adding a few more of his own design.’ 
‘I thought you were in charge of all that, Mick?’ 
‘I have been,’ he said, ‘but I’m not getting any younger and this chap has other skills Jamie can put to good use.’ 
‘You aren’t being put out to grass are you?’ I teased. 
‘No,’ he said, ‘of course not. I just want to get back into the garden. The students from the horticultural college coming out every week have made a massive di erence, and Catherine and I think now’s the time to think about a proper renovation.’ He sounded needled that I had suggested he was on the wind-down to retirement, so I winked to show I was only teasing.
‘You don’t change, do you, missy?’ He tutted, shaking his 
head. ‘I hope with a wedding to plan you’ll soon be more interested in your own goings-on than everyone else’s.’ 
I laughed at that. 
‘I wouldn’t hold your breath,’ I told him. ‘And on the topic of other people’s business, does this pal of yours bring some tragic baggage with him, Jamie?’ It was an unwritten rule – more of an assumption now – that everyone who turned up at the hall had some heartbreak they needed to heal from. We all had a sob story to tell. 
‘More to the point: when is he coming and where is he going to be staying? I’ll need to get cracking if I have rooms to prepare.’ 
‘He’ll be with us by the end of next month,’ Jamie explained, ‘and he’s moving into the gatekeeper’s cottage, so if you could give it an airing, that would be great.’ 
I noticed he hadn’t responded about his friend’s baggage, but I didn’t quiz him further. I was sure it would all come out at some point. It always did, whether we wanted it to or not. 
‘I’ll set a re going rst thing tomorrow,’ I told him, ‘and I’ll open the windows to get the air moving, that way the weather won’t have a chance to take hold and make it feel damp.’ 
‘And in the meantime, Hayley,’ said Anna, pushing back her chair, ‘we need to get you to town so you can prepare for your engagement party tonight. Are you ready?’ 
‘As I’ll ever be,’ I smiled, taking a deep breath as I prepared to meet my fate. 

The blurb
After calling off her engagement, Hayley, the Wynthorpe Hall housekeeper, wants nothing more than to return to her no-strings fun-loving self, avoiding any chance of future heartbreak. Little does she know, Wynbridge’s latest arrival is about to throw her plan entirely off course . . .
Moving into Wynthorpe Hall to escape the town’s gossip, Hayley finds herself immersed in the eccentric Connelly family’s festive activities as they plan to host their first ever Winter Wonderland. But Hayley isn’t the only new resident at the hall. Gabe, a friend of the Connelly’s son Jamie, has also taken up residence, moving into Gatekeeper’s Cottage, and he quickly makes an impression on Wynbridge’s reformed good-girl…


About the author

Heidi Swain is the Sunday Times bestselling author of five novels: The Cherry Tree CafeSummer at Skylark FarmMince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas MarketComing Home to Cuckoo Cottage and most recently, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair. She lives in Norfolk with her husband and two teenage children.






Heidi Swain on Twitter: @Heidi_Swain
Website: http://heidiswain.co.uk
Goodreads - Amazon UK - Amazon US


Thursday, 1 November 2018

The Christmas Wish - by Tilly Tennant


The blurb: 

Lose yourself in this beautiful romantic comedy set in a land of sleigh rides, sparkling starry skies and gingerbread cottages. Perfect for fans of Karen Swan, Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell. 

Christmas is coming but it doesn’t feel that way for Esme Greenwood. Recently jilted by her cheating fiancee Warren,she’s had enough of London life and escapes to Thimble Cottage in the Peak District, home of her beloved grandmother Matilda

While Esme mourns for the wedding she’ll never have, Matilda puts her granddaughter back together again with comforting words and generous helpings of fruitcake and together, they plan the trip of a lifetime, to Lapland to see the northern lights, somewhere Matilda has always dreamt of going. 

But tragedy strikes and when Matilda dies, Esme screws up the courage to go on the trip on her own to honour her beloved grandmother’s wishes. At the airport she meets a motley crew of characters including Zach, a handsome, brooding, out-of- work actor and together they set off for an adventure. 

Beneath the indigo skies of Lapland, Esme and Zach grow closer. But when Esme is bombarded by messages from Warren promising he’s changed and she discovers that Zach is hiding something very significant - will her head be turned? And when a trip to the northern lights reveals the full extent of Zach’s own secret past, is there any hope that Esme will get the happy ending that her grandmother wished for her? 

My Opinion:

*Book provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

After having an on and off relationship with her boyfriend Warren (the one, who just doesn’t propose to her), Esme spends some time with her grandmother Matilda. They plan a trip to Lapland together, something Esme always wanted to do. Sadly, Matilda passes away, which is really hard on Esme, but she still goes on the trip. 

She meets some great people like Brian and Hortense, but especially Zach. They spend a lot of time together. They grow very close. I really liked him, but he had his moments, where his reactions were weird and at times unrealistic. It all made more sense though, after learning about his past. To add more drama to the storyline Warren bombards Esme with messages and eventually even shows up in Lapland. I also got a bit angry with Esme. Her relationship with Warren drove me crazy and I didn’t understand her feelings at times. 

I really want to visit Lapland after reading this book. Tilly Tennant has done a great job describing the setting. Add some Christmas vibes, the Northern Lights and some pretty special moments, I really fell in love. 

The story is very emotional and a wonderful Christmas read!

Rating:

Tilly Tennant in Twitter: @TillyTenWriter
Website: https://tillytennant.com
Goodreads - Amazon UK - Amazon US

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Fashion Corner - Shoulder Cutouts


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The weather has clearly changed here, so let's at least enjoy some summery outfits. 


The lovely shirt has lace on top and I just love the shoulder cutouts. I combined it with some skinny jeans, I rolled up, my black and white slippers from Steve Madden and a jacket from Banana Republic. 



- Shirt: Guess
- Jeans: Jack WIlls
- Shoes: Steve Madden
-Jacket: Banana Republic










Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Santa Claus and My Christmas Eve + Win A Cosy Christmas Prize (Him With The Beard blog tour)

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In some countries Santa Claus leaves presents in shoes and in other countries in stockings.
In Japan, Santa Claus has eyes in the back of his head and he likes a belly massage.
In Hawaii, he gives his reindeer a break and arrives instead in a canoe pulled by dolphins.
And in Italy, he’s a woman named La Befana, who flies on a broom and delivers presents to the children.

Santa Claus is many things, and just the question of where he lives has numerous different answers. But we can easily agree that Santa Claus and Christmas belong together.
Santa Claus changes name, clothes, and personality depending on the country and the family that is telling the story. You find loving memories in each of our Santa Claus traditions.
In my family, we have a tradition of locking the door to a room on Christmas Eve, 24th December, where Santa Claus can leave his presents in peace and quiet.
As a child, there was nothing more magical than being allowed to look through the keyhole and scream, convinced, to my just as curious siblings and cousins that he was in there!

Santa Claus is a busy man and his sleigh is small, so it usually takes most of a day for him to leave presents, and in all that time, you can’t enter the room and disturb him.
In the afternoon, when he’s done leaving presents, he will come on a visit and say hello. It’s a special sight to see when the kids, who have been overexcited all day because of Santa Claus, suddenly become quiet and shy in front of the kind man. And it’s an even more special sight when you see the adults’ faces shining in joy along with the kids’.

But the best thing I know is when Santa Claus, throughout the month of December, suddenly knocks on the windows, the walls, and the doors to always remind you that he’s there.

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New Release
Do you remember that moment you stopped believing in Santa Claus?


When nine-year-old Mille suddenly no longer believes in Santa Claus, it turns the house upside down.
Her mother, Stella, is in a pickle as the hunt to find Santa Claus unearths some family secrets. Christmas is at risk!
And there’s only one person who can save it.
Count down the days until Christmas with this tale about Santa Claus, family and Danish Christmas traditions.
Buy here
Amazon UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pernille-Meldgaard-Pedersen/e/B07HXLPDSJ/ Amazon US - https://www.amazon.com/Pernille-Meldgaard-Pedersen/e/B07HXLPDSJ/ Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/him-with-the-beard
Itunes UK - https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/isbn9788797086216
Itunes US - https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9788797086216


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Win A Cosy Christmas Prize
Help me celebrate my release by entering the rafflecopter below. Open internationally. You can win this awesome prize: One Jim Shore Santa Claus Ornament, Santa Claus Marshmallows, A Chocolate Advent Calendar, A Pretty Christmas Storage Box and finally, A Signed Copy of my book Him With The Beard.



  a Rafflecopter giveaway 


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About the Author
Pernille was born in 1988 and loves that she was born in the decade with the tallest hair, the most colourful clothes, and the best music.
Her imagination never stands still, and it’s often expressed in words and pictures.
She wrote her first story when she was six years old. It was about the cat she unfortunately never got but wished for more than anything.
She loves autumn and Christmas and believes in elves.

From day to day she is a knight in training, an animator, and a secret agent – she has saved the world a few times by now.

She’s also a professional daydreamer.

She thinks the recipe for a good book is the same as the one for having a good life – a sense of kinship, humour, love, and that one thing that gives you a daily smile.
Vestercity is a fictional city based on her upbringing near the city of Herning in Denmark.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Every Breath - by Nicholas Sparks


The blurb: 

In the romantic tradition of The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe, #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with a story about a chance encounter that becomes a touchstone for two vastly different individuals -- transcending decades, continents, and the bittersweet workings of fate.

Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. At thirty-six, she's been dating her boyfriend, an orthopedic surgeon, for six years. With no wedding plans in sight, and her father recently diagnosed with ALS, she decides to use a week at her family's cottage in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to ready the house for sale and mull over some difficult decisions about her future.

Tru Walls has never visited North Carolina but is summoned to Sunset Beach by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. A safari guide, born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tru hopes to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his mother's early life and recapture memories lost with her death. When the two strangers cross paths, their connection is as electric as it is unfathomable . . . but in the immersive days that follow, their feelings for each other will give way to choices that pit family duty against personal happiness in devastating ways.

Illuminating life's heartbreaking regrets and enduring hope, Every Breath explores the many facets of love that lay claim to our deepest loyalties -- and asks the question, How long can a dream survive? 

My Opinion:

*Book provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Believe it or not, this was my first Nicholas Sparks novel, but definitely not my last. I have seen all the movies, but never had time to read the books. This will change now! When I got contacted to be part of the blog tour, I was over the moon. 

Now let’s talk about the story. Hope Anderson and Tru Walls are from two completely different worlds, but when they meet their attraction and connection is electric. 

Tru comes to North Carolina to finally meet his dad. He grew up in Zimbabwe and has a ten-year-old son. Hope has been with her boyfriend Josh for six years, but he still hasn’t proposed. Her dad is sick and she has to make some difficult decisions. 

I loved the moments and scenes between Hope and Tru, Nicolas Sparks captured them beautifully. Their chemistry is unique. 

This book includes all the emotions and feelings. You go through all of them with the characters, it’s as if you’re in their heads. Both Hope and Tru have some difficult decisions to make, which affect their future, also their future together. Do they even have a chance to be together? The book is divided into different parts and that just makes the story more exciting. The storyline has a great flow, it’s touching, romantic and passionate. 

The setting is amazing as well. Nicholas Sparks created a wonderful atmosphere and a gripping story. There are some “omg” moments in this book and tissues are definitely needed.

Rating:





Nicolas Sparks on Twitter: @NicholasSparks
Website: http://nicholassparks.com
Goodreads - Amazon UK - Amazon US


Thursday, 18 October 2018

By Virtue Fall - by Carrie Elks

My own copy
Original Cover














The blurb: 

A heartwarming Shakespeare Sisters romance from the bestselling author of Fix You.
The fourth, and final, book in the Shakespeare Sisters series.
With a broken marriage behind her, Juliet is just about ready to give up on love. Living in a ramshackle bungalow in Shaw Haven and working as a florist, she is desperately trying to build a new life with her daughter, Poppy. But try as she might, the one thing she can't ignore is the man next door . . .

My Opinion:

*Book provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I was very excited the start the forth book of the Shakespeare Sisters series, because I absolutely adored all the book and of course wanted to know what happens to Juliet. 

Juliet has basically given up on love. Her marriage has no chance of surviving and her ex is being really difficult, especially when it comes to their daughter Poppy. He somehow also can’t let go and wants to control everything Juliet does. 

Her neighbour Ryan is a single dad too and the two of them have instant chemistry. Their banter is fun and sweet. It’s not the best time for them to be together, but one thing leads to another. Drama and misunderstandings add some excitement to the storyline as well. I feel like they both got a second chance to find happiness, they just had to be true to themselves and deal with their past. 

The children add a lot of charm as well, as does the detailed, vivid and passionate writing. Carrie Elks really understands how to create a unique atmosphere and exciting plot. 

I loved catching up with the other Shakespeare sisters. It’s great to see what changed in their lives. I’m sad the series is over, especially after reading the adorable and wonderful epilogue. 

 A fabulous romance book, which offers so much more as well!

Rating:




Carrie Elks on Twitter: @CarrieElks