One of my fellow HarperImpulse over has popped in today!
Thanks for inviting me over Jill.
There’s one thing I’ve always loved about being part of the horsey set in Cheshire, apart from the men, and that’s the great girls. If you want to meet some strong minded women, who are independent and capable, then head for almost any stable yard or country estate.
In Stable Mates I had the ideal opportunity to introduce lots of athletic, good looking guys – from the fit eventer Rory, to the older Billy and ex-model Tom, with a lot more in between. But, I also had the chance to create some wonderful female characters. The type that make a great and loyal best friend, the type you know will always be there for you. The type that don’t have to have a man lurking in the background all the time.
Lottie is slightly scatty, very disorganised and often forgetful, but she’s reliable and more than capable of handling a big horsebox or a stroppy horse. Then there’s Pip, the journalist who is as well groomed as any of the horses, and as happy with the country set as the models, footballers and WAG’s in nearby Kitterly Heath. Lady of the Manor, Elizabeth, has a penchant for a strong gin and tonic, but she isn’t half as batty as she like people to think, even if she is decidedly eccentric. And although she might appear to be a bit of a trouble maker – she knows exactly what she’s doing and why. There’s loveable Sam who knows just how to keep her superstar other half happy. And then of course there’s Tabatha, the goth teenager who already has a good idea of how to wrap her easy going father round her little finger…
Without all the strong female characters there wouldn’t be a story – the men might think they’re in charge, but we all know the truth, don’t we?
Tom only half heard. None of this was turning out quite how he’d planned. Not that there had been any big master plan, but it definitely hadn’t involved hitting the national headlines, landing a two-page spread in the local rag and getting the best shag of the decade followed swiftly by the hangover from hell. Nope, it had involved obscurity in the countryside. Yeah, great to be settling in, who the hell had coined the phrase rural idyll? Except, for some strange reason, he actually couldn’t feel upset about it. Although the primary aim had been to settle Tabatha, and right now she didn’t look that settled. Even with her precious four-legged and furry friend in tow.
‘Are you going to come or not, Dad?’ She was glaring at him.
‘Sure I am, poppet.’
‘I told you not to call me poppet.’
So much for the happy phase, that had lasted about five minutes, at a push. Maybe once she got the animal bedded and boarded she’d admit to being slightly satisfied.
‘Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. Mom rang this morning.’ And with a satisfied smirk on her face, mission accomplished, she turned and strode off after Lottie.
His own happy phase exploded into the ether as he stared after her, his mouth open, with a new churning in his stomach that had nothing to do with vodka.
Bestselling author Zara Stoneley lives in deepest Cheshire surrounded by horses, dogs, cats and amazing countryside. When she’s not visiting wine bars, artisan markets or admiring the scenery in her sexy high heels or green wellies, she can be found in flip flops on the beach in Barcelona, or more likely sampling the tapas!
Zara writes hot romance and bonkbusters. Her latest novel, ‘Stable Mates’, is a fun romp through the Cheshire countryside and combines some of her greatest loves – horses, dogs, hot men and strong women (and not forgetting champagne and fast cars)!
Secrets and scandals, love and lust – when the ‘Cheshire Set’ are up against the ‘Footballer’s Wives’ the only common ground is carnal…
Flirting and fun seem the perfect antidote for Lottie’s battered heart, and where better to find them than back in tranquil Tippermere, home of sexy eventer Rory Steel, the smiling Irish eyes of hunky farrier Mick O’Neal, and mysterious newcomer, model Tom Strachan?
But when landowner Marcus James drops dead unexpectedly, and the threat of his waggish wife Amanda selling the heart of the village out from under them looms large, things look like they’re about to heat up in and out of the saddle.
With tensions running high, and the champagne flowing as freely as the adrenalin, is it any wonder that love catches more than one of them unawares?
An Italian paradise is the last thing she wants… but the one thing she needs!
Surely any girl would kill for the chance to tour Italy’s most famous cities for the summer? To experience the warmth of the Tuscan sun, the culinary delights of the pizzerias and caffés and to stroll along the cobbled streets of the City of Love itself…
Any girl apart from ambitious oboist Carly Davis that is! For her, the Easthampton Civic Symphony’s latest European tour is one massive inconvenience. She can’t even put her smartphone down long enough to snap a picture of the Coliseum.
Only, there’s one Italian attraction that Carly hadn’t quite expected to be a part of the tourist route…
Tour guide Michelangelo is as dark and delicious as Carly’s morning espresso. And when she needs a few lessons in the language of love to land her an important gig, he’s a more than capable tutor.
But with her promising career back in Boston, can Carly really afford to lose her heart in Italy?
Dionne paints a perfect picture of Italy in this fresh and funny Women’s Fiction novel. Her main character, Carly, is a smart, hardworking American girl who travels to Italy on a gig with her orchestra. Carly is in desperate need of some fun! And a little romance to boot. You can tell Dionne is classically trained in music (or has done a lot of research on the matter!) because she described every moment that Carly and the others are playing so their instruments so perfectly, can can almost hear the songs as you read along.
I have this theory about the book, which I could be wrong about, but I believe that Carly’s love interest, Michelangelo, is actually the main character. He is so well developed and well rounded, and i found myself routing more for him to be get Carly than the other way around. You know him so well by the end of the book and really want everything to work out for him! Unfortunately I can’t get too much into what goes wrong in his life without some huge spoilers but I will see the guy could use a break! (and a pretty blonde wouldn’t hurt either).
All in all I give this book 5 stars. It’s well written, funny, and romantic. Great for the beach or if you’re sitting outside. I say that because i read this book mostly in bed but the amount of Italian sunshine described in the book made me wish i was sitting on my porch instead with a glass of lemonade!
Aubrie Dionne is an author and flutist in New England. Her books have received the highest ratings from Romance Times Magazine and BTS Magazine, as well as Night Owl Reviews and Two Lips Reviews. She has guest blogged on the USA Today Happy Ever After Blog and the Dear Teen Me blog and signed books at the Boston Book Festival, Barnes and Noble, and the Romance Writers of America conference. Her books are published by HarperImpulse, Entangled Publishing, Astraea Press, Spencer Hill Press, Inkspell Publishing, and Lyrical Press. When she’s not writing, Aubrie teaches flute and plays in orchestras.
I originally reviewed Hilary’s book a few months back (http://chicklitbooks.com/book-review-dangled-carat/) when it was self-published. But the big news that she and I want to share is that her book has been picked up by BookTrope Publishing. Isn’t this cover glamorous?!? A big congratulations to you, Hilary!
For every girl who wondered if she should love him or dump him…..
For every girl who listened to her heart instead of her friends advice….
For every girl who l wondered if she was wasting her time dating that guy….
She had gotten used to dating the commitment-phobic Marc, thirteen years her senior. They had a great relationship–why rush into things? She saw no need to pressure him for marriage, believing that when the time was right, he would propose. But after they had been together for four years, their friends decided to take matters into their own hands, pushing Marc to propose and making Hilary realize how much she really did want to marry the man that she loved. Unfortunately, Marc still wasn’t ready–and their friends’ meddling in the form of a faux engagement party led to a disastrous New Year’s Eve that brought their relationship to an inevitable turning point.
For anyone who has ever dated a commitment-phobe, who has found their patience wearing thin with the one they love, or who has sat around wondering if he is ever going to pop the question while trying to remain the very picture of patience and grace, Hilary’s humorous and honest story will hit home.
“Dangled Carat sparkles with humor and shines with wisdom. It is a gem of a book.” - Christina Baker Kline – New York Times Best Selling Author of Orphan Train.
“Fans of Sex and the City – Grossman makes a reference to Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big – will enjoy the story, but its real-girl charm should draw an even wider crowd.” - Kirkus Reviews.
Hilary Grossman dated a guy so commitment-phobic that she was able to write a book about their relationship. She has an unhealthy addiction to denim and shoes. She loves to find humor in every day life. And she likens life to a game of dodgeball – she tries to keep many balls in the air before they smack her in the face. When she isn’t writing or blogging she is the CFO of a beverage alcohol importer. She lives on Long Island.
How did you become a writer? It’s a question which I am often asked. The truth is that from as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write stories. But the problem was that it wasn’t the kind of career you could easily train for like a teacher or a scientist.
I grew up in a place called Harrow Weald, a ‘green belt’ area about forty minutes away from London on the Metropolitan line. Despite its proximity to the capital, there were woods and fields which I would often walk through, making up tales about people and places I knew.
My school was one of the first girls’ schools in the country – very academic - and because I didn’t consider myself to be particularly bright, I took refuge in novels like Jane Eyre. I also longed to be one of the bubbly party set but that wasn’t to be! So I threw my angst into writing poetry. It seemed quite natural to read English at university – the only subject I was interested in – and then to become a magazine journalist. Again, it was the only job that seemed to have any relation with my ultimate ambition – to write a novel
But life has a habit of de-railing you! I married young and left my job on Woman’s Own to bring up my three wonderful children. At the same time, I freelanced furiously for a wide range of magazines and newspapers – mainly specialising in family features and celebrities. I was lucky enough to interview all kinds of famous people including Julie Walters and Barbara Dickson. Sometimes if I was desperate (childcare wasn’t easy), I would take my children with me to these interviews . Pam Ayres was particularly kind when I brought my then two year old along.
By the time my youngest son was three, I realised time was running out for that novel. So I wrote 100,000 words about a housewife who swapped place with a journalist. It was called Amersham Wives. I found an agent through the Writers & Artists Yearbook and thought I was made. However, although the novel had nice rejection letters, no one took me up. So, on my agent’s advice, I wrote another noel – and another. Finally, after writing a novel a year for ten years, I got my first contract. The book was called ‘The School Run’ and the publisher was Hodder & Stoughton. My agent suggested writing it under a pen name – Sophie King - in case readers mistook it for a non-fiction book (I’d already written quite a few of those by then).
My fifth Sophie King novel ‘ The Wedding Party’ was shortlisted for Love Story of the Year by the Romantic Novelists Association in 2010. That was wonderful!
Then I changed publishers to Random House and they wanted to re-launch me with a new name. So I became Janey Fraser (‘Janey’ is actually my real name although ‘Fraser’ isn’t). It’s rather odd having a pen name. In some ways it protects your privacy but in another, it makes you feel like someone you aren’t.
My fourth Janey Fraser novel is called ‘After The Honeymoon’ and has just come out. It’s about one honeymoon destination; thee couples; and six secrets. The first half is set in gorgeous sunny Greece and the second in a small English town where the couples come to terms with the first six months of married life!
In real life, I’ve had two honeymoons. My first marriage came to an end after twenty seven years which was very hard for all of us. Three years later, I went onto marry a family friend who is also the Godfather to my children. It means a lot to me that he’s known them since they were babies. My first husband has re-married too. My second honeymoon was more of an extended wedding reception in a beautiful country house hotel, set in the Lake District. I didn’t want to go away after that, as I wanted to be around for my then 16-year-old son.
Writing, for me, is a mixture of being a mum – even though the children are much older now – and having time to myself. My husband is very good at that. He never minds when I go up to my study for ‘a few minutes’ and come down several hours later…
If you want to write, I’d advise you to keep your eyes peeled for a situation that grabs you. Then think about what kind of people might find themselves in that situation and what problems they could encounter. Picture the place they’re in – use magazine pictures as a prompt – and smell it. You might also like to look at a book I wrote called ‘How To Write Your First Novel’ by Sophie King, published by How To Books.
Kaylie carefully unfolded the paper that remind her of the kind you’d tear out of your notebook to pass a message to your friend in class. Kailey held the note up to the one, dirty window in the basement in order to get a better view of the words. But even lit up by the peering light, the hand written note made no sense to her.
I’ve gone, I can’t take being here any longer. I hope you understand. I love you.
George whimpered, as if he somehow knew that the note said. Kailey passed the letter to Sam, whose face dropped in horror as his eyes quickly scanned the paper.
“He’s gone?” Sam said, shaking his head.
Kailey looked up at him, she raised both eye brows and shook her head. “No,” she said declaratively. “That’s not Max’s handwriting.”
“Are you sure?” Sam asked just as Kailey headed for the staircase.
“Of course I’m sure,” she muttered, hitting each step with determination. “He’s my brother.”
Kailey made her way back outside and looked around. She ran her fingers through her hair as she tried to calm herself down. Someone had taken her brother. Someone wanted to make it look like he left on his own.
Sam materialized next to her and wrapped his strong arms around her waist. She flinched and inches away from his grasp. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Don’t have time for what?” Sam asked, looking genuinely confused.
“For you,” she spat out. “For your weird mixed signals. You were the one who cheated on me and now you’re all over me? I called you to help me find my brother, not cop a feel in the forest.”
“I told you, that was a mistake.” His eyes suddenly flashing with anger.
“Oh yeah?” she countered. “Well so was calling you today.”
Sam shook his head. “You’re crazy.”
“And you’re useless,” she narrowed her eyes. “George! Come here boy!”
George came running over to her and she tugged lightly on his leash. Kailey took a few steps forward just as Max shouted out after her.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to find my brother,” she said without looking back.
Hey everyone! Today I have Charlotte Ashby, author of Girls Like Us, talking about her career thus far, and what she has learned from all of her experiences!
A year ago, I found myself in the enviable position of not being the breadwinner for a while – 20 years later I had another gap year to fill. Naturally I had planned all sorts of life enhancing activities like flicking through ‘get the look’ sections of women’s magazines and removing hairballs from the corners of my kitchen.
I have always loved reading and studied English at university but had no serious intention of writing a book, until that is, my best friend came up with a suggestion. Send me one page she said, just one page and I won’t hassle you again. Looking back, that was fiendishly cunning. You can’t write the first page without inventing characters, scenarios, relationships and then once you’ve started, you can’t just abandon them. You’ve got to keep going and find out what happens next. I sent her a chapter a week and waited with baited breadth for a response, which wasn’t always flattering but she was usually right. I was obsessed, for the next 10 months, I would find myself driving with no clue where I was, utterly absorbed and distracted by the characters and how it could all work out.
Of course it helped that I had spent 20 years in a consumer PR agency, one of the most colourful and ludicrous workplaces you could imagine. There were graduate trainees running the marathon dressed as a pot noodle, brainstorms in sandpits, photocalls with abusive celebrities and all manner of harebrained stunts to grab the tabloid headlines. So Emily Brighouse, my hapless, slightly slutty, well meaning heroine, is only a slight exaggeration. Because I have hopped into the offices of the Daily Sport dressed as an Easter Bunny, I have abseiled down the side of a building for some nutty PR stunt and I too have been invited onto the Richard & Judy show to explain my offensive publicity campaign.
Nothing can describe the excitement of seeing the front cover for the first time – knickers on the chandeliers – need I say more! Girls Like Us was described by one newspaper as a ‘heady mix between Bridget Jones and Jilly Cooper’ and the next thing I know, I’m Sun ebook of the week. But the truth is, it was all worth it just to give my friend a laugh and every snigger I get beyond that is a massive bonus.
And what have I learnt from this strange, emotional, maddening experience? For every publisher or agent that turns you down, there is a kind tweet or review that keeps you going. If you can just write the first page, you can write a novel. It’s definitely OK to laugh at your own jokes and there will probably always be hairballs in the corners of my kitchen, because whether I like it or not, I will never stop writing novels.