Five books I wish I could read again for the first time

I love this thought experiment, which I have shamelessly stolen from Bookish Bron. What are the books I loved reading so much the first time, that I wish I could have that exact experience again?

Not surprisingly, the five books I’ve chosen are on my ‘favourite books of all time’ list, though that list is much longer than this one.

The Thorn Birds

Cover of The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough
Rural image of a farm in outback Australia

Blurb

A sweeping family saga of dreams, titanic struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback, returns to enthral a new generation.

What I remember about my first read

I was far too young to read this book when I read it the first time – around twelve years old – but I got lost in it. The writing taught me so much about the depth of human feelings. I wanted to be Meggie, as wretched and heartbreaking as her life was. I’d even read excerpts aloud, playing both ‘parts’ and cutting my emerging acting teeth. My copy was dog-eared and by the time I left high school, I must have read it a dozen times.

I should go back to it.

The Bronze Horseman

Cover of The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
Half a woman's face
Two tanks in background denoting the context of the book - the Russian Revolution

Blurb

The golden skies, the translucent twilight, the white nights, all hold the promise of youth, of love, of eternal renewal. The war has not yet touched this city of fallen grandeur, or the lives of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanova, who share a single room in a cramped apartment with their brother and parents. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler’s armies attack Russia and begin their unstoppable blitz to Leningrad.

Yet there is light in the darkness. Tatiana meets Alexander, a brave young officer in the Red Army. Strong and self-confident, yet guarding a mysterious and troubled past, he is drawn to Tatiana—and she to him. Starvation, desperation, and fear soon grip their city during the terrible winter of the merciless German siege. Tatiana and Alexander’s impossible love threatens to tear the Metanova family apart and expose the dangerous secret Alexander so carefully protects—a secret as devastating as the war itself—as the lovers are swept up in the brutal tides that will change the world and their lives forever.

What I remember about my first read

My first full read happened after starting the book several times and not being able to get past the first chapter. Once I did, I could not put it down. Paullina Simons was inspired to write this story by the love story of her grandparents and this re-imagining is epic, heart-breaking, and often left me breathless. I was in constantly in awe of the characters’ courage, and I was utterly swept up by the love story, which was richly explored. And I found it impossible not to fall in love with Alexander. I wept at the end and impatiently waited for Simons to write the follow up (there are two).

The Goldfinch

Cover of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Painting 'The Goldfinch' obscured by paper wrapping; tear in the paper revealing only the bird in the painting

Blurb

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

What I remember about my first read

I spent most of this novel in awe of the prose – Tartt’s unique way of crafting a phrase or a description, the succinct but poignant way she conveyed human emotion. The story itself shifts in tone in a way that echoes the protagonist’s experiences and realisations in perfect, seamless harmony. It’s exquisite and definitely one I will re-visit after some more time has passed.

The Time Traveller’s Wife

Cover of The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
A young girl's legs; she is wearing knee socks and black shoes and is standing in a field
Next to her is a picnic blanket on which are stacked men's folded clothes and a pair of men's shoes

Blurb

A most untraditional love story, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.

What I remember about my first read

Sobbing constantly, intercut with laughter and swooning. I fell so in love with Henry and was so heartbroken every time he and Claire were separated, I was a wreck for the duration of this read. I also thought it was an absolute stroke of genius that Niffenegger stated the premise at the start of the book – that because of a genetic disorder, some people jump about in time. Once the premise is stated and accepted, it becomes ‘realism’ and she handles the ‘what if’ of time travel so perfectly, so humanely. God, I loved this book. And although I like both Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams as actors, I watched about ten minutes of the film before turning it off.

Strangers

Cover of Strangers by Dean Koontz
Sign for the Tranquillity Motel on a lonely highway; hotel in background overshadowed by a large, red full moon

Blurb

Six strangers are unaccountably seized by nightmares, attacks of fear, and bouts of uncharacteristic behavior. The six begin to seek each other out as puzzling photographs and messages arrive, indicating that the cause may lie in a forgotten weekend stay at an isolated Nevada motel.

What I remember about my first read

There was a decade of my life in which I read every Dean Koontz book as soon as they came out. Strangers and Lightning are my favourite Koontz books – both because of the mind-blowing twists. The twist in Strangers was so epic, I went back and re-read the first ninety per cent of the book before finishing it. Just wow.

Drop your list below in the comments.

Cover Reveal for Lucy Knott

Very excited to be part of the cover reveal for the next book by the fabulous Lucy Knott, The Little Barn of Dreams.

Book Cover: Woman reading a book in front of a bar on a farm; dog and stack of books in the foreground

About the book

Boy meets girl meets… happy ending? Flo has one summer to make it happen…

Quirky bookworm Florence Danver spends most of her time lost in whimsical daydreams about characters from her favourite books. Who wouldn’t rather be fighting dragons or falling in love with impossibly perfect heroes than stuck behind a computer doing boring data entry all day? But when she loses her job, Flo knows it’s time to make some changes.

Her beloved Nanna Margot encourages her to spend a week at Camp Calla Lily, but this is a place she hasn’t been since she lost her mum and dad, and her return is bittersweet… until she meets Jo Hadlee.

Fellow dreamer Jo is a writer and soon the pair are inseparable as they talk books and build castles in the air. But what happens when the fantasy bubble bursts and real life comes roaring back in? The real world is a place of pain and loss where bosses frown upon her distracted air, where people tease her, and where nothing ever has a happy ending.

If Florence wants to turn her fairy-tale summer with perfectly imperfect Jo into a happily-ever-after of her own, she will have to accept that love, like life, is best when it’s messy and very, very real.

Release date: July 8 (ebook) & October 14 (print)

Pre-order now:

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

About Lucy

Lucy Knott lives in Manchester England, just around the corner from her childhood home and less than five minutes from her twin sister Kelly and brother-in-law Chris. She loves spending time with her family in addition to writing, reading and cooking Italian food. When not buried in a book, scribbling in a notebook or having dance parties for one to Harry Styles, she works as a teaching assistant where the majority of her days are spent talking about dinosaurs and making Godzilla out of just about everything, from Blu Tac to cardboard boxes, and she loves every minute.

If she could up and move to the stunning Amalfi Coast, San Francisco or live in a cabin surrounded by fairy lights, she would, but for now she’s quite content writing about those magical places. Lucy loves to write uplifting stories that she hopes will put a smile on your face, fill your heart with joy, encourage you to embrace the awesomeness that you are and believe that any dream is possible.

Follow Lucy (and Kelly)

Twitter | Instagram | Website

Catching up with Author Marie Laval

So pleased to welcome Marie Laval to talk about Angel of the Lost Treasure, her historical romance which will be released by Choc Lit this week! And look at that cover!

Cover of Angel if the Lost Treasure
Wooden rafters of an old building; a dove flying to land on a rafter; a gold medallion hanging from the rafters

Tell us what inspired you to write Angel of the Lost Treasure.

Thank you so much, Sandy, for welcoming me on your blog today. I always loved historical fiction, and stories about secret societies, Knights Templar, lost treasures and of course romance! I grew up in a village near Lyon in France, a beautiful city with a fascinating old quarter full of meandering cobbled streets and Renaissance buildings… a city with many secrets and links to the occult. I always thought Lyon and surrounding Beaujolais and Pilat regions would make a great setting for a historical romance.  

When did you start writing seriously?

I have written short stories ever since I was a teenager in France. When I came to England I carried on writing, this time in English, and I was overjoyed when three of my stories were shortlisted for various competitions, and one of them won first prize. This was when I started thinking that I could write in English and make a success of it. Of course, it took me many years to actually complete my first novel and get my first publishing contract. Things haven’t always been easy or straightforward. I have three children, changed jobs several times and retrained as a teacher in my mid-thirties, and struggled through difficult periods in my life, but writing is what I really love doing and I have never let negativity put me off…

What do you love most about being an author?

There are so many wonderful things about being an author! Seeing my book cover for the first time is always tremendously exciting, and of course reading people’s comments when they enjoyed the story is the best feeling ever. What I love the most is when I can ‘hear’ the characters speak and ‘see’ them interact and when they become real people I think about and talk about all the time… a bit crazy, but true! I have been very lucky to make great friends in the writing community too, and meeting some of them for a chat, and attending workshops or the RNA conference is always a joy.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on two projects – a contemporary romance and a short story.

The contemporary romance is set on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and has been an absolute joy to write but has taken me far longer than anticipated. I hope to finish it and send it to Choc Lit in the next few weeks.  I always start with a fairly simple idea… then as I never plot anything things get terribly complicated!

I am also working on a short story for the Miss Moonshine anthologies to which I am a contributor along with eight author friends. This will be our third anthology together and it should be released in the spring. I also have two other projects in the pipeline and research is ongoing! It’s busy, and at time stressful to manage my writing along with my teaching job, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There should also soon be another historical romance, this time featuring Hugo Saintclair’s son, but this isn’t for just yet!

What do you hope readers will take away from Angel of the Lost Treasure?

I want them to fall in love with Hugo Saintclair and Marie-Ange, be fascinated by the dark secrets and mysteries of the plot, be curious about the history of the Knights Templar and intrigued by Lyon -perhaps even book a plane or a train ticket to explore the city when travel restrictions are lifted!

More about the book

An ancient secret hidden within a mother’s song …
When young widow, Marie-Ange Norton is invited to Beauregard in France by the mysterious Monsieur Malleval to collect an inheritance, she has no choice but to accept.
But when she embarks on the voyage with her fiery-tempered travelling companion Capitaine Hugo Saintclair, little does she know what waits for her across the sea in turbulent nineteenth-century France on the eve of Napoleon’s return from exile. When she arrives, she is taken aback by Malleval’s fascination with her family – seemingly inspired by his belief they are connected to a sacred relic he’s read about in coded manuscripts by the Knights Templar.
As it becomes clear that Malleval’s obsession has driven him to madness, Marie-Ange is horrified to realise she is more the man’s prisoner than his guest. Not only that, but Hugo is the only person who might be able to help her, and he could represent a different kind of danger …

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo

More about Marie

Blonde woman wearing blue and white floral dress, smiling

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for the past few years. She writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her novels are published by Choc Lit and include best selling contemporary romantic suspense novels LITTLE PINK TAXI and ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU, shortlisted for the Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense category of the 2021 RNA Awards, as well as A PARIS FAIRY TALE and BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC.

Her latest novel, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, will be released in February 2021. Marie also contributes to the best selling Miss Moonshine’s Emporium anthologies together with eight author friends from Yorkshire and Lancashire

Follow Marie: Twitter | Facebook

Thank you for joining us Marie and all the best for this new book!

Catching up with Author Ella Cook

It is a pleasure to welcome Ella Cook to Off the beaten Track to talk about her debut novel, Beyond Grey. Thank you for joining us, Ella!

Tell us what inspired you to write Beyond Grey?

The idea for the book came from a very long, wet and difficult drive home. A storm hit us when we were around 50 miles from home, and the roads flooded really quickly. It was all too easy to imagine a situation in which an accident could happen. Thankfully, we got home safely, but in this book, I explore what happens when the journey home ends in tragedy.

I’ve experienced a few ‘white feather’ moments in my life, and times when we’ve believed there’s someone watching over us. I was going through my own period of difficulty, so was inspired to write a way to get through ‘the grey’ and come out the other side.

When did you start writing seriously?

Writing has always been a huge love for me – and I’ve been incredibly privileged to turn it into my career: I write bids and funding applications to help families and children who are facing challenges.

I started writing contemporary when my Mum was having treatment for cancer – quite often while I was sitting on oncology wards with her (some of the treatments made her very sleepy). It gave me something positive to focus on and her something to read.

I’d written before, when I was younger, but got distracted by life and work and other commitments for a few years, before coming back to fiction.

What do you love most about being an author?

Beyond Grey is my debut novel, so it’s quite early to ask this, but I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some amazing reviews, and I’m loving being able to share my stories with the world.

What are you working on now?

My next book is with my publishers at the moment: It’s about a little girl called Summer whose last Christmas was basically cancelled (sound familiar to anyone?) because she was so poorly. Her village community is tight-knit and they adore Summer and her family, and work together to bring the magic of the festive season into August to celebrate ‘Summer’s Christmas’.

What do you hope readers will take away from Beyond Grey?

In one word: Hope.

Beyond Grey is a story that deals with some really sensitive issues. It’s starts in one of the darkest places, with death and loss, but ends with healing and happiness. I’m going to be cheeky and quote a review here, because when I read it, I thought ‘Yes! That was the reaction I was hoping to give people’.

“Although the book is based around a difficult subject it was a genuinely heartfelt and life affirming read. You to get to know a family as they experience one of the most awful things to happen to anyone and discover the joy in living and loving.”

It might seem like odd timing, to publish a novel about death in the middle of a worldwide pandemic – but it truly is a book about healing and finding the spark of hope in the darkest, most painful of places. And I really think that hope is something we could all do with a little more of right now!

More about the book

Jenn and David had the perfect love story. They were teenage sweethearts who married, and had two wonderful children. Everything was going to plan and they were looking forward to growing old together. Until Jenn is killed in a tragic accident, leaving David distraught and struggling to cope without the love of his life.

But for Jenn, death is not quite what she expected. Instead of resting in peace, she is trapped in a ghostly, grey world, struggling to reach the people she loves the most. To reach beyond the grey to help her family find happiness again, even if it means forgetting her to move on.

Where can you get it? Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Amazon US

More about Ella

Ella Cook, smiling woman, with shoulder length hair

Ella grew up in London, where her grandparents has a miniature wishing well in their garden where fairies would leave gifts for well-behaved children. She now lives in Warwickshire where there are almost definitely more fairies. She shares her home with her ever-patient husband and two small, demanding parrots who like to chase her cursor across the computer screen.

She still looks for moments of magic in everyday life, and is surprised by how often she finds them.

Follow Ella: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Catching up again with Author Fiona Leitch

It is with great pleasure that I welcome fellow Renegade Author, Fiona Leitch to Off the Beaten Track, especially as it is publication day for the first book in her new cozy mystery series with One More Chapter! Let’s learn more about Murder on the Menu and the new series!

Cover of Murder on the Menu. Wedding cake in the foreground with a sharp knife sticking out of it. In the background, the coastline of Cornwall.

Tell us what inspired you to write Murder on the Menu?

I love murder mysteries that are cozy, without being either too graphic or, at the other end of the scale, too twee. I love ‘Midsummer Murders’ on the telly and I wanted to see if I could create something similar. But it would have to include three things I love: a great location, a strong female protagonist, and warmth and humour. I used to live in Cornwall and it is truly beautiful, but it’s also not always an easy place to live, what with lack of work and just being so cut off from the rest of the country. So I wanted to write about it, but not just as some glorious seaside town where the sun always shines.

I wanted a detective who’s not a complete bumbling amateur. Someone who could cut corners and not be tied to working within the law, as the police would be, but who isn’t constantly just stumbling over clues; she has to work for it. Ex-copper, Jodie, might be unorthodox, but she knows what she’s doing. She also knows how to rustle up a three-course meal for 100 people and make a banging Victoria sponge.

And finally, I wanted my protagonist to be warm, relatable and human. Jodie has responsibilities, she has a daughter and an elderly mother (and a dog!). She’s made mistakes in her love life and she may well make more. Then again, she may choose more wisely this time…

When did you start writing seriously?

I’ve been writing for years. I started out writing screenplays, which were always on the verge of being The One to break out … I had meetings with producers, got shortlisted a couple of times for the BBC Writersroom scheme, was a finalist in a big screenplay contest – but it never quite happened.

And then in 2017 I was persuaded to turn one of my screenplays into a novel. I’d always resisted writing a book, as there just seemed to be too many words! But once I started, I loved it. That novel, Dead in Venice, was picked up by Audible as one of their Crime Grant finalists. It came out in 2018, and that was when I realised I might actually be able to do this for a living.

What do you love most about being an author?

The same thing that I love about being a reader – the ability to escape into someone else’s life for a while! I get a little bit obsessed with my characters. They feel like real people to me, and I’m almost bereft when I get to the end of the book because it feels like I’m saying goodbye to them. Luckily, I can always write another adventure for them!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the outlines for what I hope will be the next three Nosey Parker books. I love writing about Jodie and her friends. I’ve also got three romcoms outlined AND I want to write another book in the Bella Tyson series (Dead in Venice is book 1), so you could say I’m pretty busy.

What do you hope readers will take away from Murder on the Menu?

That a ‘cozy’ mystery doesn’t have to be twee or talk down to the reader, and that it can be well written. I think cozy mysteries, while massively popular among readers, have something of a poor reputation among book snobs. What they don’t seem to realise is that some of our best-selling and most critically acclaimed writers – Agatha Christie, MC Beaton and Alexander McCall Smith to name but three – could easily be categorised as cozy mystery writers.

More about Murder on the Menu

A sparklingly delicious confection to satisfy the mystery reader’s appetiteHelena Dixon, bestselling author of the Miss Underhay Mysteries

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realising that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

Where you can buy Murder on the Menu

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Nook

More about Fiona

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Fiona is represented by Lina Langlee at the North Literary Agency.

Follow Fiona

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Thanks so much, Fiona! No doubt Murder on the Menu will fly off the shelves!

Catching up with Author Andreina Cordani

Very excited to welcome Andreina to Off the Beaten Track on the publication day for her intriguing first novel, The Girl Who… Welcome Andreina and huge congrats on your publication day!

So, tell us what inspired you to write The Girl Who…

I was in a features meeting at the women’s magazine I was working for – the editor was talking about a child who had been a victim of crime years ago. Her face had been on the front of every newspaper, she’d won awards for bravery, been the subject of a couple of books and by then would have been about eighteen years old. It suddenly struck me how impossible it would be to grow up in a situation like that, with the whole world thinking you’re an angel/martyr/inspiration. You woudn’t be free to make the usual teen mistakes, to decide for yourself who you are. So that’s where the idea started – it kind of got darker along the way.

When did you start writing seriously?

I always knew I wanted to write books, but when I left university I didn’t feel qualified somehow, so I trained in journalism thinking that, at least, I could hone my writing skills while I waited for inspiration to strike. In a way it was a good move – I learned so much from my interviewees and the amazingly talented people around me – but it also meant I took my eye off the writing ball a bit. Then a few years ago I suddenly realised that if I didn’t do it now – right this minute – I’d never do it. I had to step back from my career to give myself the mental space and time to do it. My bank manager is not so happy about this, but I feel much better for it.

What do you love most about being an author?

As a journalist I wrote within very stringent requirements – producing x-amount of words based on hard facts and designed to appeal to a very specific set of readers. Now I love being in charge of the story and creating characters from scratch. Of course, I work closely with my editor and change things as needed but it’s a much more flexible process. I really enjoy it and hope I get to keep doing it!

What are you working on now?

I’ve just delivered book two to my editor and while writing it I learned so much more about twists and turns… and planning. Definitely more planning next time. So now I’m doing outlines for book three – it’s the fun stage where all sorts of possibilities are swimming through my head, where the idea could morph into pretty much anything. That’s always exciting.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Girl Who…?

I think a lot of what I write is about understanding people in impossible situations, often under the glare of a media spotlight. These days I think we all understand that what we see in the news and online is only one part of the truth, I’m hoping that this book helps people think about that even more.

More about The Girl Who…

The girl who… survived
The girl who… inspires
The girl who… has something to hide

People can’t bring themselves to say what happened to her. They just describe her as ‘the girl who… you know…’. But nobody really knows, no one sees the real Leah.

Leah is the perfect survivor. She was seven years old when she saw her mother and sister killed by a troubled gang member. Her case hit the headlines and her bravery made her a national sweetheart: strong, courageous and forgiving.

But Leah is hiding a secret about their deaths. And now, ten years later, all she can think of is revenge.

When Leah’s dad meets a new partner, stepsister Ellie moves in. Sensing Leah isn’t quite the sweet girl she pretends to be, Ellie discovers that Leah has a plan, one she has been putting together ever since that fateful day. Now that the killer – and the only one who knows the truth – is being released from prison, time is running out for Ellie to discover how far Leah will go to silence her anger . . .

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Waterstones | UK Bookshop | Hive

More about Andreina

When she was at school, Andreina Cordani used to get out of gym class by saying she would use the time to write a book and dedicate it to her gym teacher. Sadly it took years of exercise-dodging before she was able to complete The Girl Who…, and she hasn’t been able to touch her toes since 2002.

In the following years, she pursued a career in journalism, working for women’s magazines including Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. Specialising in ‘real life’ stories, she interviews seemingly ordinary people about their extraordinary lives – most of which you wouldn’t believe if you read it in a novel.

She lives on the Dorset coast with her family where she reads voraciously, watches YouTubers with increasing fascination and swims in the sea.

Follow Andreina

Twitter | Instagram | TikTok: @acordanixo

Thank you, Andreina, and all the best for your new release. No doubt it will fly!

Catching up with Author Davina Stone

I am very excited to welcome Davina Stone to Off the Beaten Track today, especially as it is publication day for her debut novel, The Alice Equation! I have been fortunate to read an early copy and absolutely loved it. Here’s my review on Goodreads.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Alice Equation?

I love the idea of how love can change us, make us a better version of ourselves. So it started with Alice, the painfully shy bookworm and her unrequited love for her charming but womanising friend, Aaron. And it grew from there. In fact it went through a complete rewrite before either Alice or Aaron (particularly Aaron, he kept behaving very badly), were ready to be introduced to the world!

When did you start writing seriously? 

I’ve always written stories and I won a prize in a young writers competition with a novel I wrote when I was twelve. (Painstakingly hand-written it was called Grandpapa’s Secret, and was all rather “gothic”  if I remember rightly.) But I can pin-point when it became serious. I was diagnosed with a large hole in the heart four years ago. I had to undergo open heart surgery and that was a wake-up call that life is short and we need to live our dreams. I’d always wanted to write romance so I closed my health counselling business, my husband and I moved  away from the city to a bush block near Margaret River and I focussed “whole-heartedly” on my goal of becoming a writer.

What do you love most about being an author? 

The wonderful quirky characters my mind comes up with. I love sending them out to play, watching them tie themselves – and each other – in knots, then helping them fathom out how to get to their Happily Ever After. When you write romance the world you build is a world of emotion and the five senses. Nothing is more intense than truly falling in love. And that’s probably what I  enjoy about it most of all.

What are you working on now? 

I’ve just finished the second book in the series, about Alice’s best friend, Polly. It’s more enemies to lovers, because Polly is very feisty, and Solo her love interest, well, let’s just say he’s got some secrets in his past he’s running from. The Polly Principle will release in April 2021. And I’m now working on the third book, The Felicity Theory which is set in London and Sydney, two of my favourite cities.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Alice Equation?

I hope it leaves a smile on their face. It may sound a very simple goal, but I really just want to write stories that make people happy. Because we need a whole heap more happiness in the world right now, and I reckon writing romances is the best way I can contribute to that.

About Davina

Davina Stone writes romances about flawed but lovable characters who get it horribly wrong before they finally get it right. They also kiss a fair bit on the way to happily ever after. Davina grew up in England, before meeting her own hero who whisked her across wild oceans to Australia. She has now lived half her life in both countries, which makes her a hybrid Anglo-Aussie.

When not writing she can be found chasing kangaroos off her veggie patch, dodging snakes, and even staring down the odd crocodile. But despite her many adventures in her heart, she still believes that a nice cup of tea fixes most problems – and of course, that true love conquers all.

Davina’s short stories have been published in five Romance Writers of Australia anthologies. Her first novel, The Alice Equation was a finalist in the 2020 Valerie Parv Awards. Her second novel, The Polly Principle (release April 2021), took second place in The Romance Writers of Australia 2020 Ripping Start Competition.

Follow Davina

Facebook | Instagram | Website

More about The Alice Equation

Alice Montgomery’s life is like Groundhog Day. Five years after graduating, she’s still working in her mum’s bookshop, hiding her stash of romance novels under the bed and pining for the gorgeous guy who helped her over a panic attack before her final uni exam.

Aaron Blake loves to party – hard. His idea of commitment to anything other than his legal career is strictly three months. Until landing a job with the most prestigious – but conservative – law firm in town means he has to convince the partners he’s deeply committed to family values.

Aaron needs a fake date fast – and who could be safer than his bookish friend Alice?

Soon Alice finds herself dating her secret crush, sporting a daring new look of vintage frocks and itsy-bitsy lace lingerie.

Now the heat is notching up. Aaron’s feelings for his fake date are proving anything but safe, and Alice is discovering her inner sex-goddess.

But when secrets are revealed and lies uncovered, both Alice and Aaron will have to work out the hardest equation of all… what this crazy thing called loved is all about.

Author confession: Okay, things do get a bit hotter than kissing. Heat level: 3–4 sizzling flames.

Where can you get The Alice Equation?

Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo | Books2Read

The Christmas Swap #OMCReadalong with One More Chapter

Very excited to announce that The Christmas Swap has been chosen as One More Chapter’s holiday read-along book from December 8-11.

How can you join in on the fun?

Grab a copy of the book today, mark your calendar, and follow the hashtags and posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

There will be an Instagram live event on December 11, as well as quizzes, challenges, sharing of Christmas traditions, reviews, Q&As and much more!

So if you love all things Christmas, sign up or mark your calendar today!

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Book bloggers, sign up here:

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The Christmas Swap Blurb

Chloe, Jules, and Lucy meet at a Maui resort kids’ club, aged 11, forging a lifelong friendship spanning two decades and three continents.

Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap Christmases, none of them expecting the hilarity and romantic escapades that will ensue.

Chloe from Melbourne spends her Christmas with Lucy’s mum and dad in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England, stunned to the core when she discovers who grew up across the road from Lucy.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend a balmy ‘Orphan’s Christmas’ with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away from her mundane life is just what she needed.

Join these three lovable women as they each get a Christmas to surpass their wildest dreams.

Buy Links

Amazon AU | Amazon UK| Amazon US | Kobo | Dymocks(AU) | Booktopia(AU) | A&R(AU) | Waterstones(UK) | Foyles(UK)

Paperback out now in the UK and coming soon to other countries.

Cover Reveal x3 for Fiona Leitch!

I am very excited to be part of the cover reveals for Fiona Leitch’s upcoming cosy mystery series with One More Chapter.

Here’s the series blurb

Ex-copper turned caterer Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker returns home to Penstowan, the small seaside town in Cornwall where she grew up, after almost twenty years in London’s Metropolitan Police Force. With her teenage daughter in tow, and her slightly batty mother still living there, Jodie plans on having a quiet life running her new catering business.


But she soon discovers that life in Penstowan is not as quaint (or boring) as she remembers. Missing brides, bodies in the shrubbery, annoying writers pushed off cliffs and movie star madness all conspire to get this not-so-amateur detective back on the case. Helped by her old childhood sweetheart Tony and hunky newcomer, DCI Nathan Withers, not to mention new member of the family Germaine the Pomeranian dog, finding the killer is bound to be a piece of cake. Murder, mayhem and much consuming of pasties will ensue, to prove that when Jodie’s around, murder is always on the menu…

And check out these covers!

I’ve read Murder on the Menu and it is BRILLIANT. You’re gonna love this series. Clever, funny, pacey and yes, even romantic!

Buy links:

Murder on the Menu | A Brush With Death | A Sprinkle of Sabotage

And you can grab Fiona’s (brilliant) Bella Tyson books here:

Dead in Venice | Murder Ahoy! | Murder at the Grotto (Bella Tyson short)

It’s Publication Day for The Christmas Swap

Cover of the book The Christmas Swap. A snowy scene at the top of the cover, with a ski lodge and a man and a woman. On the bottom of the cover is a beach image with bathing boxes and surfboards and a man and a woman sitting together.

So excited that this day is (finally) here! I started writing this book in July 2019 for Camp NaNoWriMo with the goal of writing 30K words in 31 days. I wrote 35K words, then tweaked the manuscript with help from my agent, and we pitched it (with a synopsis) to my publisher, One More Chapter.

They loved it, then it was slotted into my publication schedule and today’s the day when it is out in the world!

To mark the occasion I am sharing my acknowledgements.

Acknowledgements and a note from the author

It’s hard to believe I am writing the acknowledgements for my fourth book, but here I am. I have dedicated this book to my parents―my mum, Lee, my dad, Ray, and my step-mum, Gail. I am extremely fortunate to have parents who not only love me, but champion me and inspire me. They have also instilled in me the importance of family―including the family members we choose―as well as having a sense of adventure and following your dreams.

Family is a prominent theme in this book and as I write these acknowledgements amid the second round of COVID-19 lockdowns here in Melbourne, ‘family’ has become more important to me now than ever. And for me, a person who has lived on three continents, that word encompasses all the people I love, all the people who inspire me, lift me up, confide in me, and ease my path. Thank you, family―wherever you are. Stay safe and we will meet again someday soon.

As always, I am grateful to my two partners-in-writing, my editor, Hannah Todd, and my agent, Lina Langlee. It is wonderful having you in my corner and you are both gifted collaborators. Hannah, thank you for being my champion at One More Chapter and HarperCollins, and for your excellent feedback, which always elevates my writing. I continue to grow as an author under your guidance. Lina, I greatly appreciate your advocacy, your astute guidance, and your ongoing support of my writing career. Ever onwards and upwards―together.

Thank you to my fellow authors for supporting, championing, and inspiring me, particularly my fellow Renegades, Nina, Andie, and Fiona. Our daily catchups sustain me; they are chocolate for my soul. Thank you to Lucy Coleman (Linn B. Halton) whose quote appears on the cover of this book. I hope that one day I will be as prolific and as accomplished as you. Your books are the stuff of dreams. Thank you to all my fellow romance authors who forge and shape this genre, and to the book lovers, bloggers, and reviewers whose passion for romantic fiction lifts us all, especially my friends at UKRomChat, The Reading Corner Book Lounge, and Chick Lit and Prosecco. Thank you to the volunteers at the Romance Novelists Association and Romance Writers of Australia for your tireless efforts to sustain and elevate romantic fiction. And thank you to my fellow Aussie authors at the Australian Writer’s Centre and #AusWrites.

Lastly, dear reader, thank you. Thank you for traveling across three continents with me and enjoying some Christmassy goodness. Christmas is my favourite holiday, and over my lifetime, I’ve spent it in the US, the UK, and Australia―each Christmas special for its distinct traditions and the loved ones I’ve shared it with.

Happy Christmas, happy holidays, and stay safe.

~ Sandy Barker

Read about my inspiration for writing The Christmas Swap

Read more about the book, including where to find it