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 Andie Newton

I’m thrilled to be able to share this gorgeous cover for Andie Newton’s next book, The Girls from the Beach, which is out July 9.

Woman in 1940s civilian dress walking on a dirt track with haphazard fencing - posts and barbed wire. She is walking towards a beach. War planes fly overhead.

About the book

We’d heard stories about the nurses in tent seven. A secret mission, stolen money, and spies…’

In 1944, four American nurses disappeared for five days. No one knew what happened to them. Until now.
When Kit and Red set foot on French soil during the Normandy landings, they know they have to rely on each other. As they head for the battlefield, their aim is simple: save lives. But when they’re called away on a top-secret mission to patch up a few men behind enemy lines, everything changes.

Alongside fellow nurses, Roxy and Gail, they’re told to prepare for the worst, trading in their nurses’ fatigues for civilian clothes and hiding medical supplies under their skirts. But it’s a lie. Their real mission tasks them with the impossible – to infiltrate the Reich and steal something the Nazis desperately need to win their losing war.

In an ultimate test of courage and comradeship, each woman must decide what she is prepared to risk and what she has to live for.

Publication date: July 9 2021

Pre-order from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Nook

About Andie

Smiling woman with long blonde hair wearing a black Tshirt and standing in front of a tree

Andie Newton is the USA Today bestselling author of The Girl from Vichy (2020) and The Girl I Left Behind (2019). Andie holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master in Teaching. She would love to say she spends her free time gardening and cooking, but she’s killed everything she’s ever planted and set off more fire alarms than she cares to admit. Andie does, however, love spending time with her family, trail running, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

Follow Andie

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website

Cover Reveal for Julie Shackman

Thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for Julie Shackman’s upcoming book with One More Chapter, A Secret Scottish Escape! And look at this stunner!

Cover of A Secret Scottish Escape, a two-storey cottage on the banks of a loch in Scotland, with mountains in the background. A woman sitting at a table in the garden in front of the cottage. Quote by author, Julie Caplin 'Glorious...a wonderful taste of the Highlands'

Blurb

Escape to the beautiful Scottish Highlands for a heartwarming and feel good cosy romance that will whisk you away!

As Scotland’s sleepiest hamlet becomes the centre of hot gossip, Layla Devlin finds herself caught in a mystery…

When Layla’s fiancée has an unexpected heart attack and dies – in another woman’s arms, no less – Layla is determined to pack up and leave Loch Harris, the village she’s always called home. But an unexpected inheritance and love for her quiet corner of Scotland send her down a new path.

Now Layla finds herself facing a whole new kind of drama. Rumours swirl that a celebrity has moved into Coorie Cottage and Layla is determined to have him headline her opening night at local music venue The Conch Club. But the reclusive star is equally determined to thwart Layla’s efforts. Rafe Buchanan is in hiding for a reason, and soon his past comes to Loch Harris to haunt him…

Where can you pre-order it (ebook and print)? Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Nook | Kobo

Follow Julie Twitter | Instagram

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!

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)

Catching up with Author Kitty Wilson

Kitty Wilson Author Photo

Welcome Kitty – so great to have you here!

Thanks ever so much for inviting me on your blog. It’s lovely to be here. I thought I’d talk a little about Christmas Wishes as it has just been released in paperback and we are fast approaching the time of year to snuggle down with Christmassy reads.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Cornish Village School – Christmas Wishes?

Cover of Christmas Wishes, a snowy village with floral Christmassy foliage framing a church.

The Cornish Village School series had been up and running for a little while by the time I wrote Christmas Wishes. Initially the series had been inspired by my love of Cornwall and the sense of community I found living there, my experience as an Infant teacher and the fact that I loved nothing better than to escape into a romantic comedy. As the series developed it was clear that the books were representing each of the seasons and I had always wanted to write a Christmas book, to steep myself in everything Christmas, so this book was a happy inevitability. I wanted a Nativity, Carols, choirs, Christmas elves, all the fun of being in a school in that last week of Christmas term where everything is glitter and snowmen and celebration so I crammed it all in.

I also wanted to write a book about the outrageously good-looking vicar in Penmenna. He had started off as a minor village character with all the women of the parish panting after him and I wanted to expand his role, have a hero that the world thought encapsulated handsome whilst he himself had so much baggage that not only did he not see it, the attention was completely inexplicable to him. I hope by the end of it, readers see him as a man who’s truly heroic because of his character and his actions, that his looks have very little at all to do with it. 

When did you start writing seriously?

I have always wanted to write, ever since I was a tiny little thing and have been putting pen to paper most of my life, but in truth never seriously until a few years ago. I was working as a Reception teacher and absolutely loved my job when chronic illness struck. Suddenly I was unable to work, unable to parent the way I always had and my life as it was disappeared before me. I did try and hang on for a very long time but it made me worse and worse. It wasn’t long before I was dependent upon my children and the community around me for the most basic of tasks.

It took a couple of years to get used to and after a little wallow I realised I could reframe things. I had always wanted to write and I believed that one day I would get back to the classroom but until then I would use the time to write and indulge the dream. If nothing else it would be good for me to have a purpose, be something to do on the days I was well enough to type, and show my children that just because life dealt tough blows didn’t mean you didn’t try again.

I may not be back in the classroom, and I don’t suppose I ever will be, but I have five books published, a new career that I absolutely love and have found my tribe within the writing community.

What do you love most about being an author?

This could easily become an essay. I love SO many things about being an author. There is all the obvious stuff like working from home, living in pyjamas and eating biscuits all day if I so choose. Then there is the sheer indulgence of being able to lose yourself in thought for hours at a time and claim it’s work. The world-building, the development of characters and setting and plot and all of that being a little bit tricksy until you have one magic moment where it all falls into place and you can’t wait to get it down onto paper. Seeing snippets of life as you walk around in the world and loving something so much that you then work out how to weave it into your manuscript. This is all bliss.

Holding a book in your hand that is full of words that wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t sat down day after day and made them up is pretty awesome and whenever I have a new book published into paperback I do spend a couple of days with a really daft grin on my face but I think the most special thing for me is when readers reach out. When I get a message or read a review saying thank you, this made me giggle at a time in my life I really needed it. That right there, that is the very best thing about being an author.

What are you working on now?

Oh joy, joy, joy! I am writing another Christmas book and I am so excited, I really am. It is a little different to the Cornish Village School, but is still a light-hearted romantic comedy. It’s set in Bristol – I moved here the same weekend the very first Cornish Village School book came out – but despite the city being very different to Cornwall I seem to be weaving community though as much as I did with Penmenna. I am thoroughly indulging my own humour and my inner geek as I write it – which is giving me far more joy than should be legal. And that is all I can tell you at the moment!

What do you hope readers will take away from Christmas Wishes?

I hope that Christmas Wishes gives my readers that real seasonal escape that festive reads bring every year. I hope that they get caught up in the humour and relax a little with the Penmenna community as they read and enjoy a few hours away in a fictional Cornish village at Christmas time. I have to admit I really love the mischievousness of this opening chapter and Ethel and Annie (an elderly parishioner and Dan the Vicar’s grandmother) are two of my favourite characters.

But as with most light-hearted reads there are deeper issues sitting underneath the comedy and the will-they-won’t-they romance, and this one is about identity, insecurity and how we perceive ourselves compared to how others in our community perceive us. So, I also hope it helps remind people that we are all too often our harshest critic and we should be as kind to ourselves as we are to those that we love, especially at this fabulous but slightly pressured time of year.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Penmenna…

Teaching assistant Alice has sworn off men, which is fine because with Christmas coming she’s super busy organising the school Nativity. This should be a blast with the help of close friend and village vicar, Dan – if she can ignore those more-than-just-a-friend feelings she’s developed for him…

Dan is happy to help Alice – his secret crush – but not only is his beloved Granny Annie about to be made homeless, the church choir has disintegrated and he’s battling some dark demons from his past.

With meddling grannies and PTA wars thrown in the mix, can Alice and Dan overcome their past hurts to move forward? Will they be spending Christmas together as friends… or something more?

Here’s where you can get it:

Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay | Waterstones (UK)| Hive (UK)

And here’s where you can follow Kitty! She loves to hear from readers.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Catching up with Author Rosie Marshall

Today, I am please to welcome Rosie Marshall to ‘Off the Beaten Track’. Rosie lives in South Wales and when not reading or writing, she loves visiting the seaside with her family. It looks stunning! 

shoreline of South Wales, houses leading to the water's edge, author and family on the shore

She’s here today to talk about her book I Saw You.

Tell us what inspired you to write this book.

We have an allotment – it has a strict rule that no one is allowed to stay there overnight. It got me thinking: what would it be like to camp out in our spidery shed? What could have happened to someone to lead them to needing or wanting to sleep there?

I began plotting out my story. As I fleshed more out, I felt that it was going to be a murder mystery with maybe a little peril involved. Suddenly, I needed a more dramatic setting! I think it was my husband who suggested beach huts when I said I’d like it to be based near the sea and a dangerous causeway…

When did you start writing seriously?

I have a work in progress that’s been going on for a few years! Like many people, lockdown made me think about what I wanted to do, moving forward. How was I ever going to be an author if I didn’t just go for it? So, I fitted in writing almost every day, between working from home and looking after my kids.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love the moment when you hit a flow and the characters are doing and saying things and you have no idea what they’re going to do next. That and reading great reviews!

What are you working on now?

Book two!

I had a lot of requests from people wanting to know what happened to Vi and Jasmine after this book finished. Rashly, I have set it at Christmas time so I have my fingers crossed (when they’re not busy typing!) that I will get it done for Christmas 2020!

What do you hope readers will take away from I Saw You?

I want them to have been gripped and to have been surprised by the twists and turns but, most importantly, I want them to see the journey of the main character, to feel the importance of looking around you and really seeing the special people in your life.

Here’s the blurb

Cover of I saw You

When murder refuses to let you live a quiet life…  

Vi’s life is everything she wants it to be. Every day, she successfully manages to avoid human contact: her sister, her ex, the strangers who wander the beaches of Saltford Sands. Living in a beach hut makes it easy to hide away.

Then Vi witnesses something that sends her life into a tailspin.   

Dragged unwittingly into a murder investigation, Vi discovers that she has a natural aptitude for detective work. She’s almost having fun…until threatening notes start appearing at her hut. 

It’s a race against time: can Vi solve the crime before she becomes the next victim? 

Vi faces inner and outer demons in this page-turning murder mystery. 

Here’s where you can get it

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US

And you can follow Rosie on Instagram! Thanks for joining us Rosie!

Romance Tropes Part 2: The Love Triangle

Earlier this year I wrote about the ‘Enemies to Lovers‘ trope in romcoms and today I’m tackling a trope that, for some readers, is a HUGE turn-off. How do I know that some readers vehemently dislike the love triangle trope? Because I’ve written a love triangle and have learnt* that for some readers, a love triangle equates to cheating―regardless of the circumstances.

Also, this is the most popular post defining ‘love triangle’ from the Urban Dictionary:

Love Triangle

So, let’s dig in.

Simply, as the Urban Dictionary’s indicates, a love triangle is when the main character has genuine romantic feelings for two other characters.

Where I think a good love triangle diverges from this definition is that it is possible for 2 out of 3 people to end up happy. As I write romcoms, this is critical―readers want a ‘happily ever after’ at the end of the main character’s journey.

Another key ingredient to a good love triangle is when each love interest brings out something special in the main character―that both relationships lead to that character’s growth.

One of my favourite love triangles (ever) is from Bridget Jones’s Diary (book and film series).

BJD

Daniel Cleaver is the sexy bad boy who awakens Bridget’s sexuality, sassiness and grit―a downturn in their relationship prompts her to quit her ho-hum job and get into television. And, of course, Mark D’Arcy is the curmudgeon, who despite all outward appearances tells Bridget he likes her ‘just the way you are’ (swoon). Bridget is transformed by her relationships by both men, gaining both confidence and self-acceptance.

Aside: the third book in the trilogy is extremely different from the 3rd film and (I think) vastly better.

In Sweet Home Alabama, which also explores the enemies to lovers trope, Melanie is engaged to Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) and returns home to Alabama to secure a divorce from Jake (Josh Lucas), who she married when they were just out of high school.

SHA

[SPOILER] Melanie learns that she’s her truest self when she’s with her soon to be ex-husband and, yes, she shares a kiss with him while still engaged to Andrew, but her ‘cheating’ is far from malicious. She realises that she has genuine feelings for each man and must decide what ‘happily ever after’ means to her.

The television show Younger explores a love triangle over multiple seasons (currently 6 and soon to be 7).

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Liza, 40, masquerades as a 20-something to get a job in publishing and has a relationship with the much younger Josh, who knows her real age and doesn’t care about the age difference, and the age-appropriate Charles, who thinks she is 20-something and is, ironically, concerned about the age difference.

Liza oscillates between these two relationships over the multiple seasons, only rarely ‘cheating’ on one when she is officially with the other. It’s a moral dilemma for her as well as a romantic one, because she loves them both and doesn’t want to hurt either man―though, of course she does. This is a love triangle and someone always gets hurt in a love triangle.

In the 1st book of The Holiday Romance series, One Summer in Santorini, Sarah meets and falls for 2 very different men.

Each brings out something different in her. With the older James, she sees herself in a new light―that her ‘heart on her sleeve’ approach to life and the hopeful way she enjoys simple pleasures, make her immensely lovable, something she has never quite believed about herself.

With the younger Josh, she sees how ‘stuck’ she is in her own life and she learns that she has the power to transform it. She needs to stop feeling sorry for herself and participate fully in her own life.

Sarah has genuine feeling for them both and wants to figure out which man―if either―is the right man for her, and in A Sunset in Sydney [NO SPOILERS], we find out.

But along the way, she is in a relationship with both men. This is the core of the love triangle I’ve written and while some readers balk at Sarah’s ‘cheating’, it is never malicious, and being duplicitous about her two relationships makes her uneasy. It should also be said that there is no commitment to either man until the end of Sarah’s love triangle story.

Lastly, I wanted to share my fave love triangle romcom series by Lindsey Kelk, the Tess Brookes series, in which Tess’s love pendulum swings between Charlie, her longtime crush, and Nick, the brooding journalist.

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Fair warning, it does take 3 books to find out who, if either, she ends up with but it’s a fabulous ride!

‘Til next time, happy reading and if you have a fave fictitious love triangle, drop in in the comments.

*By ‘learnt’ I mean that I’ve read some ‘passionate’ reviews of my books saying just this.**

**Maybe if you hate a trope so passionately, don’t read books based on that trope. 😉

#SummerSolsticeReadalong

It’s that time of the year! Solstice!!!

I am excited to be participating in the Summer Solstice Read-along.

Solstice Read

‘But, Sandy, aren’t you in Australia?’ I hear you ask. Why, yes, I am, but I always celebrate Winter solstice each year, as even though we’re less than a month into Winter by now, the days will start to get longer – something to be grateful for when you are a Summer lover like I am.

So, for the inaugural Summer Solstice Read-along, organised by the fabulous Emma Jackson, there are 15 romance authors who have all swapped books. I am reading Lynne Shelby’s latest, The Summer of Taking Chances. I’ve loved Lynne’s previous books and this was no exception! Such a great read and I will tell you why in just a moment.

So, join us! Post your pics (where and what are you reading?) and book covers on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #SummerSolsticeReadalong and share your reads on Facebook too!

SUMMER OF TAKING CHANCES

About the book

It’s been ten years since Emma Stevens last laid eyes on Jake Murray. When he left the small seaside village of South Quay to chase the limelight, Emma’s dreams left with him.

Now Emma is content living a quiet and uneventful life in South Quay. It’s far from the life she imagined, but at least her job at the local hotel has helped heal her broken heart.

But when Jake returns home for the summer to escape the spotlight, Emma’s feelings quickly come flooding back. There’s clearly a connection between them, but Jake has damaged her heart once already – will she ever be able to give him a second chance?

My review

You will fall back in love with life in this wonderful, romantic story of second chances. I’m a lover of all things theatre, especially Shakespeare, so the small town production of Romeo and Juliet was a wonderful thread throughout this story. I absolutely loved the cast of characters, especially Emma, who lost sight of her dream, and was a heroine to champion!

This is a deep dive into the themes of second chances, being true to yourself and following your dreams.

A must read!

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo