Wednesday, 26 July 2017

A little treat from the previously reviewed 5** House of Secrets by Lynda Stacey from Choc Lit.

We have a guest post from the lovely Lynda today and she's here answering questions about the book!

And here she is answering some questions for our enjoyment!

On the 4th July my novel House of Secrets was turned into a paperback and I couldn’t have been prouder at the moment I got to take it back to where it all began, the beautiful Wrea Head Hall hotel in Scarborough.

It was at this time, I got to look back at how I created Bandit, the hero of House of Secrets.

I’ve often been asked where the name for my hero came from.

Well, I’ll try and explain. Christopher Lawless, the hero of House of Secrets is an ex-marine, and like all marines I wanted to give him a name that gave credit to his profession, and in actual fact the nickname Bandit, came first and his ‘real’ name came after. So, his surname is LAWLESS and a lawless man is a Bandit… hope that explains it.

Who is Bandit?

Bandit is obviously gorgeous but has just an edge of vulnerability that quickly shows in his personality. He suffers with post traumatic syndrome after his time working in Afghanistan where he saw both his girlfriend and his team blown up by a roadside bomb. He’s been discharged from the marines and has gone back to live in his childhood home, the gatehouse at Wrea Head Hall. Here, he has taken the job of game keeper, and does all the general maintenance around the hall. It’s a job he loves, purely because it means he gets to spend a lot of time alone, with nature.

When we first meet Bandit, he’s getting through each day the best he can. He’s a little unkempt. His hair is longer than it should be and he rarely shaves. But, we see a very gentle, caring side to him, that comes over as being a little more than overprotective, especially when he meets Maddie and her three-year-old daughter Poppy.

What makes a good hero?
And of course this is only my opinion.
A good hero is hard to find. I often read books where the hero isn’t that appealing (to me), they are often flat and without much of a personality, which is why I like to give my heroes a history. I feel that they need depth of character and a big personality. They don’t necessarily have to be gorgeous, but of course it helps. I feel that it’s more important for them to be kind, respectful, passionate and sensitive. I also feel that the hero needs to be interesting, a little flawed. He needs to feel emotion, even if sometimes that’s anger or hatred, especially towards someone who is trying to hurt the people he loves. All of this helps the reader identify with him, they take the journey with him as he overcomes those flaws, and what’s more they begin to root for him to achieve and succeed.

Who would be the perfect Bandit?

I think someone like Stuart Martin who played Silas in Jamestown. He’s a little vulnerable, a little rough around the edges, yet still gorgeous. Yes, Stuart Martin would definitely be my Bandit.

An extract of the novel from Bandit’s point of view …

‘Damn woman,’ Bandit cursed as he glanced up at the hotel and saw Madeleine watching him from the window. Raising the axe high above his head, he brought it down with a satisfying thud, making the log split in two and fall to the ground. He scooped up the logs that he’d previously cut and threw them into the wheelbarrow that stood by his side. It was still early autumn and without the glow of embers in the open fires, the house could easily turn cool at night. Besides, the reception rooms always looked much nicer with the logs alight, the guests preferred it and it was his job to ensure that there was enough dry wood to keep each of the three fires going right through the winter. But he knew he had to be ahead of his game, this wood would need to be stacked and dried out for at least six months before it would be ready to burn.
            He saw the back door open and watched as Morris Pocklington emerged.
‘Look, I’m really sorry about last night. I didn’t know that Madeleine was your daughter,’ Bandit said, pre-empting the conversation that he guessed was about to happen.
‘She’s pretty pissed at you,’ Morris replied with a laugh. ‘I’m not sure I’d want to get on the wrong side of her.’
‘Shouldn’t be going round pretending to be a burglar then, should she?’ Bandit fired back as he picked up another log and brought the axe down to split it. There was no way he could have known who she was. He hadn’t even known that the boss had a daughter, so he couldn’t be blamed for not knowing who she was when he’d seen her creeping around like a hunting tiger, looking for its next meal. But tigress she was not. He’d seen the way she’d looked up at him like a frightened doe in the darkness. Her eyes wide open with fear. She’d appeared vulnerable yet powerful, and timid yet fiery, all at once. She was so similar to the type of women he’d encountered in the marines. Women who could cut you down with words at ten paces, or shoot you from a distance and, to be honest, he wasn’t sure he wanted to encounter women like that again. Not after Karen.
 ‘You don’t like her?’ Morris asked as he stepped up on the log to perch on the fence and pushed his hands deep in his pockets.
Bandit bit his lip. ‘I barely know her.’
He thought of the deep musky perfume that she’d been wearing; its scent had annoyingly stayed with him through the night. She’d had a feisty personality, a spark about her that could have lit a campfire from a distance, yet he couldn’t work out what annoyed him the most; her high spirits, her feisty personality or the vulnerability that shone from within. None of them could possibly be a good thing.
‘Afghanistan, it changed you, Bandit.’
It was true. Afghanistan had changed him. Karen had changed him. ‘I know.’
‘Do you want to talk about it yet?’
‘No, I don’t.’ The words were sharp, harsh and meant to stop the conversation. The very last thing he ever wanted to talk about was Afghanistan. Just the thought made his palms begin to sweat and he rubbed them down his jeans as he felt his whole body begin to tremble. He wanted to close his eyes, but couldn’t. On some nights there was no sleep at all, some nights he’d sleep for an hour or two, but then the nightmares would begin. Every sudden noise reminded him of the explosion, every beach reminded him of the desert and every woman reminded him of Karen. Everything that had happened played on his mind. One minute he’d been part of an elite group, the next he was flying home: inadequate, alone and uncertain of his future.

About House of Secrets:
A woman on the run, a broken man and a house with a shocking secret...
Madeleine Frost has to get away. Her partner Liam has become increasingly controlling to the point that Maddie fears for her safety, and that of her young daughter Poppy...
Desperation leads Maddie to the hotel owned by her estranged father the extraordinarily beautiful Wrea Head Hall in Yorkshire. There, she meets Christopher 'Bandit' Lawless, an ex-marine and the gamekeeper of the hall, whose brusque manner conceals a painful past.
After discovering a diary belonging to a previous owner, Maddie and Bandit find themselves immersed in the history of the old house, uncovering its secrets, scandals, tragedies and, all the while, becoming closer.
But Liam still won't let go, he wants Maddie back, and when Liam wants something he gets it, no matter who he hurts...

House of Secrets is available as a paperback from all good stockists and also as an eBook on all platforms. For buying options, click here:

About the author:
Lynda, is a wife, step-mother and grandmother, she grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire.
She is currently the Sales Director of a stationery, office supplies and office furniture company in Doncaster, where she has worked for the past 25 years. Prior to this she’d also been a nurse, a model, an emergency first response instructor and a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor … and yes, she was crazy enough to dive in the sea with sharks, without a cage. Following a car accident in 2008, Lynda was left with limited mobility in her right arm. Unable to dive or teach anymore, she turned to her love of writing, a hobby she’d followed avidly since being a teenager.
Her own life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.
Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit & Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star competition.
She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her ‘hero at home husband’, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for over 20 years.

Friday, 21 July 2017

And now for something completely different!

To celebrate the release of T A Williams' new book To Provence With Love, I'm featuring a blog from Trevor himself. One of the stars of the book is Marlon, the labrador and here are the thoughts behind him.

It’s a dog’s life

   My new book, To Provence, with Love, is the story of a famous old film starlet who engages the services of disgruntled teacher, Faye, to write her memoirs. Through her, Faye soon learns that the pathway to stardom is not always easy. But then, the same can be said about Faye’s life and the life of the hunky, but reclusive, lavender farmer down the road. They have all had their problems and they all have their demons to face. But it isn’t all gloom and doom in To Provence, with Love; one of the characters in the book hasn’t a care in the world.
   Those of you familiar with my other books will know that I always (well, almost always) include a black Labrador in my books. We’ve had Dante, the Italian Lab in What Happens in Tuscany, Stirling, the heartbroken English Lab in What Happens at Christmas and way back in my very first book, Dirty Minds, there was Noah, the Lab whose master is heartbroken. Now, in To Provence, with Love, we have the happiest of the lot: Marlon.
   Named after the great man himself – after all if your owner’s a mega-famous film star, what else could you be called? – Marlon lives in a chateau. Some dogs, like Snoopy, live in a dog house, some live in little flats, some in big houses, but only the very, very lucky ones live a life of luxury in a chateau. However, unlike so many wealthy inhabitants of spectacular homes, Marlon isn’t spoilt, he isn’t overweight and he isn’t at all snooty. Of course, in common with all Labradors, he is constantly hungry, and has perfected the “they don’t feed me” expression we all know so well. But that’s about his only vice. Well, that and barking his head off every time the postman comes up the drive.
   He is the best dog in the world to take for a walk – he doesn’t pull on the lead and he never runs off after bunny rabbits. He is totally housetrained, faithful and obedient. He is excellent company and he is a really, really good listener. As a man, I must admit to my share of responsibility for, like so many of my gender, not being a terribly good listener. My wife tells me stuff and, well, I don’t always concentrate. I do try my best, but it’s something that’s built into our DNA. Now, I can probably recall almost all of the commentary on the last rugby match, but domestic stuff tends to go in one ear and out the other. But not so, our Marlon. He listens attentively, never butts in (unless it’s to put a sympathetic paw on your knee) and those big, doleful brown eyes are full of mute comprehension.
   You getting the picture? That’s right, Marlon is one of the main characters in the book. He is an epic example to all of us as to just what true, uncomplicated love is all about. If he likes you, he steals your bra and lies on it. If he’s feeling sorry for you, he gives you a nudge with his cold, wet nose and if he’s happy to see you, he stands up on his hind legs and does his best to lick your face. We all need a bit of that from time to time.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

An extra treat! 

An extract from the wonderful new book by Lisa Hill from the amazing Choc Lit. 

A 5** book, previously reviewed below:


She stood up to take her coat off and surveyed the panoramic view of Prestbury Park, the soft tufts of grass smothering the course across to the edge of the tree-lined village of Prestbury, before the horizon took a climb all the way up to the top of Cleeve Hill which formed part of the Cotswolds.Before she got too carried away, her attention was drawn to a tall figure talking to the racecourse director – and Hennie’s boss – Ralph Cunningham, over by the viewpoint for the Parade Ring.He was wearing well-cut jeans with frayed backs where they were slightly too long, over-hanging what looked like cowboy boots.A Barbour sculpting his lean frame, he had a chiselled, tanned, stubbled face and a look of thorough concentration while he was talking to Ralph – allowing Hennie to ogle just that few seconds longer…
            But you’re renouncing men!
            Well, it didn’t hurt to window-shop from the safety of the office, did it?
            ‘Here you go.’Lyn placed a steaming mug of black coffee by Hennie’s mouse.
            ‘Thanks,’ Hennie said, typing in her password on her keyboard.
            Hennie looked up to find Lyn detached from her desk, legs crossed and sipping coffee like she was ready for an episode of Corrie.She was looking at Hennie very expectantly.
            ‘So what?’
            ‘The date!’ Lyn exclaimed as if Hennie couldn’t have possibly forgotten.Which she had.Buried deep in her unhappy memory box along with her mother dying and her divorce from Mark.‘What did you think of Nigel?’
            ‘Oh!Fantastic, I—’
            ‘Before you go any further,’ Hennie leapt in to stop Lyn making a fool of herself, ‘lovely, but not for me.’
            ‘Oh.’Lyn’s shoulders visibly slumped.‘May I ask why?’
            ‘Just not the man for me.’It wouldn’t help to be brutally honest and tell Lyn how incredibly dull she had found Nigel.
Hennie glanced at the figure of the tall hunk walking slowly up the ramp back towards the offices with Ralph.
            ‘That guy out there, with Ralph.’ Hennie tilted her head towards the window and tried to act nonchalant.
            ‘He is absolutely gorgeous, isn’t he?’ Lyn said, wistfully.‘Like something from a Ralph Lauren advert.’
            Hennie’s head swung around.‘Lyn!You’re a married woman.’
            Both women were now craning their necks to get a glimpse of tall, tanned and handsome as he stopped by the door, still engrossed in conversation with Ralph.
            ‘Who is he then?’Hennie asked, bent so far over the arm of her chair her long hair was touching the floor.
            ‘Guy Lynch.’ Lyn pronounced every syllable as if a square of silky chocolate was melting on her tongue.
            ‘And who is Guy Lynch, exactly?’
            Lyn visibly tensed.‘Ack, that’s the bit you’re not going to like.’
            Oh God.He was gay.Hennie just knew it.A gay horse vet.Bound to be.
            ‘He’s Charlie Carrisbrook’s new farrier.’
            ‘What?’Hennie suddenly sat up, catapulting Lyn, who had been leaning over her, back in the direction of her own desk. It was worse than if he’d been gay.At least then they could have been friends.

About the book:
What if finding happiness was a race against time?
Grace Cavendish knows a thing or two about horses – but what she doesn’t know is that her husband, top horse racing trainer Charlie Carrisbrook, is having a literal ‘roll in the hay’ right under her nose. 

When the painful truth is revealed Grace has no choice but to move in with her highly-strung grandmother Clara and cousin Hennie; a single mum who has renounced men (at least that’s what she says!)

Determined to start again, Grace takes a job at the local cafe, Number Five. And whilst serving up coffee and cake is a far cry from the stables, she enjoys it – especially as she gets to work alongside the rather scrumptious Sam Whittaker.

But the past is racing to catch up with Grace. Can her life still be a romp to victory or will a devastating secret stop her dead in her tracks?

About the author:
Lisa grew up in the village of Bussage, near Stroud, in the Cotswolds until she returned to Cheltenham as a teenager. She is married to her very own hero, Matt, and has three sons, Hamish, Archie and Laurence. Her first encounter of a romance author was chats over the garden wall between her father, Godfrey, and Mrs Cooper from the neighbouring village of Bisley. It came as quite a surprise in later life to find that Mrs Cooper was in fact Jilly Cooper! Lisa’s writing inspiration now comes from other Cotswolds authors including Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde. 

Lisa writes contemporary romance with a light-hearted tone. What interests her most is people, their interactions, emotions and relationships. It’s probably why her career to date has been based in property; she confesses herself that she is ‘naturally curious’. 

When she’s not busy writing, helping Matt run his electrical empire, or being her sons’ taxi service Lisa enjoys running with her gun dog, Sparky. They are both currently training for the Stroud half-marathon although Sparky’s motivation lies much more in chasing bunny rabbits. 

Lisa is a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme and attributes this supportive and informative scheme to her winning the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition 2016 with her debut novel Meet Me at Number Five.