The Secret at Arnford Hall-a Cheshire love story by Mollie Blake @MollieBlake0 #Cheshire #amreading

I’m really happy to welcome local author Mollie Blake to My Chestnut Reading Tree. I met Mollie at a local gathering of authors, bloggers and readers and have been following her writing journey with excitement as she counted down to her publication with Black Opal books. Here Mollie gives us her thoughts on that journey.


Firstly I would like to thank you, Jo, for inviting me to write a guest post for your wonderful My Chestnut Reading Tree blog. I feel very honoured to be included among some amazing authors who have written such wonderful, clever and intriguing books. I hope I am somewhere near worthy to sit alongside them.
So how did I get here? I guess it sort of started nearly eight years ago when I made the leap from boardroom to playground at the fulfilling age of forty-six. There were times when it felt more like a plunge than a leap. Suddenly the fulfilments of cycling a hundred miles, learning to ride a motorbike, sitting on a board as finance director, and having a baby, seemed less than a memory. It was as if they had become figments of my imagination.
Except the baby, of course.
As I crept towards my fifties the rewards of motherhood and the privilege of being an almost fulltime mum, became blemished with feelings of loss of self-worth and lack of achievement. I needed another challenge in my life. One which would fit in with my role as mother.
They say there’s a book in all of us. Well, I decided to give it a go. I am quite an eclectic reader of fiction and love reading thrillers, romance and comedy. Reading Fifty Shades also reminded me I used to enjoy a steamy love story.
So I set about writing a story of “provocative romance and alluring suspense.”
After self-publishing with limited success, I forwarded one of my manuscripts to an American publisher, Black Opal Books. I was delighted to be offered a contract at the end of 2015 for my story “The Secret At Arnford Hall.”
I have five books with the publisher now and am writing a sixth. I always have a notebook to hand and my dictionary and thesaurus are never far away. I write romantic thrillers spiced with steamy sex scenes. My aim is to ensure that readers are eager to meet realistic characters, unravel dangerous plots and discover intriguing secrets.
As my journey continues, I feel privileged to be part of the writing and reading community. I am a member of the International Thriller Writers group and the Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. I have learned so much from other authors, editors and bloggers, and I have met some amazing people, whose enthusiasm for reading and writing is contagious.
The relationship with the publisher has taught me patience; everything takes such a long time. But I think the rewards are worth it. I have enjoyed the editing experience and my book has been given a fabulous cover. I can reach a wider audience of readers through bloggers and reviewers and I am forever grateful for any feedback.
As the first book was released on 4th February, I am looking forward to the process for my next two books to be published, Keeping You and Guiltless, which are due out in the summer. But my favourite pastime is to write more stories. Finding myself writing about various forms of abuse has also inspired me to seek ways to help raise funds for victims of abuse in the future. It all keeps me busy.

Thanks so much Mollie for sharing your very personal journey to publication with us today. I wish you continued success in 2017 and beyond! If you want to find out more about Mollie then you can visit her website HERE and find out more about her book HERE 


About this book…

He lived in a nightmare. His son brought him daylight. Can this woman be his breaking dawn?

Gabriel Black didn’t give a damn about the world. Until, that is, his seven-year-old son enters his life for the first time. The young boy brings daylight into the darkness of Gabriel’s world. But a single parent needs a distraction. And this single parent has no limits when it comes to getting what he wants…

She’s built a new life for herself on the ruins of the old, but this man can destroy everything she’s worked so hard to gain…

Grace McGuire lives with a dark secret—one that, if revealed, will destroy her new life. Then her world collides with that of forceful Gabriel Black, a multi-millionaire with a secret of his own, a secret Grace is determined to uncover for her sanity and all she holds dear.

My review…

Although I mainly review crime and psychological thrillers nowadays, I do have a huge affection for romance which I have had since my obsessive reading of Mills and Boon as a teenager. And I love that nowadays it’s far more acceptable for romance books not to stop at the bedroom door!

The Secret at Arnford Hall works well due to Mollie Blake really getting inside the heads of both her main characters and you can tell that, even when Gabriel is at his worst, she has a huge affection for him. Both Gabriel and Grace have secrets which have made them emotionally damaged individuals who have hidden their true selves away from the world but the author slowly builds their connection with her descriptive writing style that pulls you deeper into this untraditional affair. I have to say that this is a long book at just under 600 pages but it never dragged and kept my interest right up until the final page.

Although the relationship between Gabriel and Grace takes centre stage, there is also the chance to watch the relationship develop between father and son which kickstarts Gabriel’s journey of self discovery as he faces up to the secret that haunts him, the one that challenges his emotions, making him the cold and aloof autocrat we first meet. And then Mollie Blake gradually works her magic, peeling away his layers until we find out what the family has tried to bury deep within its history. The author isn’t afraid to tackle some harrowing topics but does so with understanding and sensitivity.

It’s like Fifty Shades of Grey meets The Real Housewives of Cheshire, a sexy Beauty and the Beast fairy tale for grown-ups, with characters you will come to love or hate, all set within the playground of the wealthy Cheshire set. If you like your romance on the deeply sensual side, dripping with designer products, beautiful people and dark intrigue then this is the book for you!

Many thanks to the author for my review copy of The Secret at Arnford Hall: A Cheshire Love Story which was published in February 4th by Black Opal books.


Killing Kate by Alex Lake #BookReview @Alexlakeauthor

About this book…

A serial killer is stalking your home town.

He has a type: all his victims look the same.

And they all look like you.

Kate returns from a post break-up holiday with her girlfriends to news of a serial killer in her home town – and his victims all look like her.

It could, of course, be a simple coincidence.

Or maybe not.

She becomes convinced she is being watched, followed even. Is she next? And could her mild-mannered ex-boyfriend really be a deranged murderer?

Or is the truth something far more sinister?

My review…

It was a nice surprise to see this for sale on Amazon although after all the hype that surrounded After Anna when it was released, Killing Kate has rather crept in the back door without much of a fanfare! I thought that After Anna was a decent enough read so after reading a sample chapter of Killing Kate I downloaded the rest and settled down to read.

The thing that attracted me most from the sample was the fact it was set locally to me, around the Warrington area and I’m always a sucker for a Cheshire based book especially a psychological thriller. But beyond that, I really loved the idea that a killer was going around killing women who looked exactly like Kate, even though I had to suspend belief that they all coincidentally lived in or around the same village as her. There is obviously a back story surrounding the group of three friends, which once included a fourth, and the book starts with them on holiday in Turkey where Kate meets Mike, also coincidentally from the same area. And at home brooding about their recent break up, Kate’s long term boyfriend Phil is trying to get back on the dating scene whilst battling an addiction to stalking his ex. All great so far! I have to admit that, like before in After Anna, i did work out what was going on pretty early in the book. But because I was aware that this would probably be the case I was able to just relax and enjoy the ride, especially the last quarter of the book where things do get rather dramatic and exciting, if a little bit far fetched at times.

This is a book that you will probably want to devour in one sitting, rather like I did. It’s a fun and easy to read grip-lit full of unlikable characters which seems to be a bit of a theme for Alex Lake. And it was nice to be able to picture the settings as I went along, Jodrell Bank being a particular favourite, alongside the good old M6 bridge The Thelwall Viaduct.

Worth a look especially if you really enjoyed After Anna and I have to say that for me personally, Killing Kate does have the slight edge over that debut novel.
Killing Kate is out now and available to buy here at Amazon UK

About the author…

Alex Lake is a British novelist who was born in the North West of England. After Anna, the author’s first novel written under this pseudonym, was a No.1 bestselling ebook sensation and a top ten Sunday Times bestseller. The author now lives in the North East of the US.

Local author interview with Toni Mackenzie #SelfHelp #Cheshire #fridayreads @MsToniMackenzie @SianElinFF

Earlier in the year I had the pleasure of meeting Toni Mackenzie at The Knutsford Literary Society where she talked about her book Your Flight to Happiness: A 7 step Journey to Emotional Freedom. Being a closet Bridget Jones for self help manuals I was lucky enough to get a copy to review and you can read that review Your flight to happiness here.

Author Interview…

Welcome Toni!

You’ve had some interesting jobs in your life, tell me a little about them…

I started off working for an advertising agency but although I enjoyed aspects of my work, it didn’t really match my expectations. After a few years, I left that 9-5 job to work as a hostess at a very high class revolving restaurant, situated at the top of a very high tower building, and really enjoyed working varied hours and meeting different people every day in sumptuous surroundings.

Because I worked different shifts, I also managed to fit in some photographic modelling, mainly for magazine ads and fashion catalogues as well as a few TV ads. I knew than that I’d never be a 9-5 girl again and after I’d enjoyed a few years working at the restaurant, when I found myself ready to move on from being a restaurant-hostess, I decided to apply to an airline to work at a much higher altitude as an air-hostess!

Again, I really enjoyed the varied hours, working with and meeting such a wide variety of people, and travelling to so many different destinations. After a short time I was promoted to the more senior position of line-training stewardess, which involved interviewing and training cabin crew as well as continuing to carry out in-flight duties. I loved my job and stayed with the airline for around ten years before giving up my career to get married and start a family.

Why did you write your book when you did and how would you like it to help others?

Since my metaphorical ‘plane-crash’ (which is detailed in the first chapter of my book) I’ve learned so much about the power of the mind and how to take control of my life and create happiness for myself. I feel it’s so sad that everyone isn’t taught how they can do that at an early age and consequently so many people go through life feeling unnecessarily negative, fearful and unhappy.

Over the years, while working as a therapist with hundreds of clients on a one to one basis, I found myself thinking more and more that I really wanted to let as many people as possible know that happiness is an ‘inside job’ and share with them the lessons I’d learned over the years. I decided that the best way I could do this would be to write a book, encapsulating those lessons into just 7-steps containing ‘flying lessons’ which would teach people how to grow their wings and learn to fly, and in a much shorter period of time than it took me to do so!
You are a full-time counsellor, hypnotherapist, psychotherapist and mindset coach, how did you fit in your writing with running your own business?

Fortunately, the hours I work in my role as a therapist and mindset coach are very flexible so I was able to find time to write around my client sessions and get a lot written in a short space of time! All the information I wanted to share was already in my head, it was just a matter of being creative in the way I put it together.

Rather than writing a lengthy text-heavy manual, I knew that I wanted my book to be visually attractive with colour illustrations, well designed and easy to follow, and provide readers not just with information, but also with highly effective practical tools they could use to quickly change their lives for the better. From all the wonderful 5* reviews I’ve had on Amazon, where my book, ‘Your Flight to Happiness: A 7-Step Journey to Emotional Freedom’ has been in the bestseller list since being published in May this year, it appears that this is something I’m managing to do!


Thank you so much Toni for sharing your background and reasons for writing your book.

Your Flight to Happiness: A 7-Step Journey to Emotional Freedom is available to buy now at Amazon UK



Country Rivals by Zara Stoneley

Local Author Review for May!

After meeting some great local authors at The Knutford Literary Society I thought it would be a fabulous idea to once a month read and review a book written by an author living here in the gorgeous county of Cheshire! The author I have chosen for May is the lovely Zara Stoneley who coincidentally has a new book due out in e-book on 26th May so that is the one I decided to read.

About this book…

Dashing eventer Rory is ready to button up his breeches and settle down. His gorgeous wife, Lottie, wants a bank balance in the black so she can protect the beautiful family estate for future generations.

But with the wedding business at Tipping House going up in flames, and rumours that it was arson not accident, Lottie begins to wonder who she can trust with her future.

Tranquil Tippermere is under siege as movies moguls and insurance investigators invade the countryside, and as events gather pace rescue plans start to look too good to be true, and intentions may not be as honourable as they seem.

As a moody, but definitely marvellous, polo player enters the fray and squares up to the eventing hero of Tippermere, does Lottie stand to lose her husband as well as her home?

My review…

Well, how have I never heard of Zara Stoneley before?! When I did some research I was amazed that I hadn’t read any books by her previously as the blurbs all sounded right up my street. What’s not to love about gorgeous men, affluent lifestyles, dogs and horses and all set in my own gorgeous home county of Cheshire! Having been (and still am, of course) a huge fan of Jilly Cooper when I was younger I knew that I was onto a winner here!

I will start by saying that this book can totally be read as a standalone novel but as with any series, although I think you can probably get more for this instalment if you read the previous Tippermere books. If I had read the ones before then this would probably have been a 5* review but, as I felt at times I wasn’t getting the most from Lottie as I hadn’t been there for her character development,  I have ended up giving 4.5*. This is probably just a personal thing as I like more in-depth characterisation but this has probably been prevalent in previous books. Saying that, I absolutely adored Lottie, everything about her was just so realistic. Her fight to keep her business, her home and her husband was a gripping storyline and I was cheering her on every step of the way. My other favourite character was Lady Elizabeth, she was so well written that I have even picked out an actress to play her in “Tippermere The Movie” if they ever make one! She’s one scary old lady who’s bark is worse than her bite but there is a heart of gold hidden there full of love for her family. There were a couple of occasions that I even got quite emotional at events that took place but then I am a wuss when it comes to books containing animals! And there were plenty of those in Country Rivals-eventing horses, polo ponies, Shetland ponies and various breeds (or not!) of dogs. The cast of characters also included family and the awful members of a film crew who descend on Tipping House Estate after Lottie agrees to let them film there.  The family are rather desperate for money as they are awaiting an insurance payment after the fire that put the wedding business on hold. The author is brilliant at making sure you are aware of back stories that happened in previous books so please don’t be put off if you haven’t read them although, like me, you will probably end up wanting to read them anyway!

The county of Cheshire and its rural villages and expensive towns is certainly well represented here!  But Zara Stoneley has taken these attributes and created a fabulous fictional village around them that I would move to in a heartbeat! Her enthusiasm shows throughout this book and  it is totally adddictive! I was able to imagine Tippermere and its surroundings with its church, houses and shops and restaurants filled with some of the very rich and gorgeous residents of the area. They say you should write about what you know so I love the fact that the equine scenes are very authentic showing that the author has plenty of experience of horses, I just need to look out for all those gorgeous local men now! So if you want a fun and flirty read full of glamour with some hot and heavy romance on the side all set in the most enviable location then this is the book for you!

About the author in her own words…

I live in deepest Cheshire surrounded by horses, dogs, cats and amazing countryside. When I’m not visiting wine bars, artisan markets or admiring the scenery in sexy high heels or green wellies, I can be found in flip flops on the beach in Barcelona, or more likely sampling the tapas!
I write hot romance and bonkbusters. My most recent releases, ‘Stable Mates’ and ‘Country Affairs’, are fun romps through the Cheshire countryside and combine some of my greatest loves – horses, dogs, hot men and strong women (and not forgetting champagne and fast cars)!
You can find out more about me, and all my contact details at

Available to buy at Amazon

I have a few more books from looking authors to read or review in the coming months so keep an eye out! Thank you to the publisher Harper Impulse for the copy of this month’s book and this is my unbiased review.