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.


Don’t Look Behind You by Mel Sherratt #BlogTour #TheReturnofEden @bookouture

Happy publication day to Mel Sherratt! And I am absolutely thrilled to be one of the stops on the blog tour for Don’t Look Behind You on this very special day for a fabulous local author.

About this book…

She got into bed but sleep didn’t come easily. Every creak in the house made her alert. She was waiting for him to come and get her.

The small city of Stockleigh is in shock as three women are brutally attacked within days of each other. Are they random acts of violence or is there a link between the victims? For Detective Eden Berrisford, it’s her most chilling case yet.

The investigation leads Eden to cross paths with Carla, a woman trying to rebuild her life after her marriage to a cruel and abusive man ended in unimaginable tragedy. Her husband Ryan was imprisoned for his crimes but, now he’s out and coming for her.

As Eden starts to close in on the attacker, she also puts herself in grave danger. Can she stop him before he strikes again? And can Carla, terrified for her life, save herself – before the past wreaks a terrible revenge?

My review…

I have been a fan of Mel Sherratt for a few years now but I have to admit that this new series is becoming my firm favourite so far! As soon as I met DS Eden Berrisford, I knew that Mel was onto a winner. Eden was first introduced to us in The Girls Next Door, a twisty and terrifyingly realistic crime thriller set in the city of Stockleigh. In this sequel, we get to see a more personal side to Eden as she’s determined to find out why her husband Danny left her and daughter Casey and hasn’t been in touch since. But she somehow manages to put everything aside to throw herself into the search for a serial sex offender.

I don’t half love Eden! She’s a strong minded and determined kick-ass single parent who manages to juggle her home and family life with running the Community Investigation Team where she also maintains strong relationships with the other team members. She lives and works in an area she loves and knows like the back of her hand. So she is trusted by the locals to do the right thing. And she takes it very personally when her community is threatened! She’s definitely the type you need to keep onside! Having met the whole of Eden’s family last time, we are now settled into their lives and the secrets within but there was still a bit of a shock instore for me with some disclosures about Eden I HADN’T been expecting!

Twisting throughout the storyline are a number of flashbacks which some readers may find disturbing due to scenes of domestic violence. It’s pretty terrifying and had me on the edge of my seat, mainly trying to work out how it was connected to the stalker watching one of the female characters. I just knew that it was building up for a major violent confrontation and felt sick at the thought of justice not being served.

This series has really upped it’s game with this hard hitting storyline and we’ve really got a sense of who Eden is now. But where does she go from here? There is so much more to discover and I can’t wait to find out. If you haven’t read this author or series before you are really missing out! Don’t Look Behind You is a lot darker than it’s predecessor and creepy as hell! Do NOT read this when you’re alone in the house- every little noise will have your imagination working overtime so make sure you keep those lights on! A gripping must read crime drama with a high voltage finale to knock your socks off!

Don’t Look Behind You: A dark, twisting crime thriller that will grip you to the last page (Detective Eden Berrisford crime thriller series Book 2) is published by Bookouture and available to purchase now.

Meet the author…

Mel Sherratt writes gritty crime dramas, psychological suspense and fiction with a punch – or grit-lit, as she calls it. Shortlisted for the CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in the Library Award 2014, she finds inspiration from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante and Elizabeth Haynes. Since 2012, all nine of her crime novels have been bestsellers. Four of her books are published by Amazon Publishing’s crime and thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer and she has a new series out with Bookouture.

Mel lives in Stoke-on-Trent, with her husband and terrier, Dexter, named after the TV serial killer, and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for some of her books.

 You can find out more at her website or on Twitter at @writermels

The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge by Elisabeth Hobbes @MillsandBoon @ElisabethHobbes

About this book…

At the mercy of her enemy!

Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face to face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He’s now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his…

Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?

My review…

Mills and Boon books have always been a guilty pleasure for me but it’s only recently that I’ve discovered and enjoyed some of their historical titles. I loved The Blacksmiths Wife by Elisabeth Hobbes so I was really looking forward to her latest book The Saxon Outlaws Revenge. But once I started to read I realised that my knowledge of that period of history was shockingly bad! So off I went to that fabulous source of all information, the internet, to refresh what I thought I already knew but apparently didn’t!

Constance is a wonderfully feisty and courageous heroine and I loved her fearless journey from plucky young girl to mature woman. When she saves Aelric’s life it leads to a decision for her own future unfortunately though it’s one she is unable to act upon through no fault of her own. But this couple are destined to have their lives entwined and at their next meeting the tables have turned leading to a dangerous liaison.

Elisabeth Hobbes is a very talented lady as her books are packed full of the most in depth and authentic historical details which make them a delight to read. Her characters are realistic, gutsy and have endured hardship making them relatable too. This isn’t a sweet and fluffy “will they or won’t they” romance, it has an emotional intensity that goes much deeper than that. It’s beautifully written and imagined that it pulled me into a world far away from my own until I could almost have been lurking within the pages myself. To have spent a contented day curled up on the sofa with Constance and Aelric, in a Cheshire that existed nearly a thousand years ago, was a real heartwarming treat.

This is an engaging and compelling tale that I can highly recommend for fans of historical fiction who like a side order of romance. And I have to admit-I miss this couple already!

Many thanks to the author for my review copy of The Saxon Outlaws Revenge.

The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge (Mills & Boon Historical) was published on 1st December and is now available to buy here at Amazon UK.

And after loving The Saxon Outlaws Revenge I’m now looking forward to Elizabeth’s next book especially as I’ve heard she is going to be revisiting a character from The Blacksmiths Wife. You can find my review for that book HERE I can’t wait to see what she has in store for Roger as I have a feeling the knight is about to have his comeuppance!

Meet the author…

Elisabeth grew up in York, where she spent her teenage years looking for a handsome Roman or Viking to sweep her off her feet.

She achieved her dream of becoming an author after finishing third in Harlequin’s SYTYCW contest 2013 and being offered a two-book contract. When she isn t writing, she spends her time reading and is a pro at cooking while holding a book!

Elisabeth lives in Cheshire with her husband, two children and two cats with ridiculous names.

Jungle Rock by Caroline James #BookReview #amreading @CarolineJames12

About this book…

Handsome young chef, Zach Docherty is feeling the heat. Following an exposé in a national newspaper, his fiancée Poppy Dunlop has broken their engagement. Heartbroken at the thought of life without Poppy, Zach drowns his sorrows and when his agent suggests that Zach becomes a contestant in a reality TV show, Jungle Survival, he reluctantly agrees. Plunged deep in the jungle, into a bizarre mix of talent and trials, Zach meets glamour model, Cleo Petra, and the cameras go crazy.
Will Zach survive and be crowned Jungle King?
Or will his latest exploits push Poppy further away…

My review…

Having read both “Coffee, Tea, The Gypsy and Me” and “Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean and Me” I was looking forward to the next instalment in the life of Jo and her family and friends in “Boomerville”. So it was a lovely surprise to find out I didn’t have to wait till Spring 2017 to get my next fix as Jungle Rock has come along just in time for a Christmas hit of Jo, Hattie, Zack, Poppy and the gang.

The jungle game show here is obviously based around I’m a Celebrity Get me out of here… it’s a great time of year to read this novella especially if you are a fan of that show. It didn’t dwell on a HUGE cast of characters though or, thankfully, any in-depth descriptions of the sometimes stomach churning tasks, instead it was used as a platform for Zach, the celebrity chef to raise his public profile and contemplate his messed up life. He has lost the the girl  his dreams, Poppy, through a drunken mistake and escaping the UK and his bad reputation in the press seems a gift too good to turn down, especially if he increases his popularity AND meets an pneumatic blonde model in the process. Back home his mum Jo and her partner in crime best friend Hattie have turned their hotel into Boomerville for the single over 50s and are cashing in on Zachs jungle celebrity status! I’ve loved Jo throughout these books and watching her adapting to different changes in her life is one of my main enjoyments of this series.

This is a fun, romantic novella and so only took me a couple of hours to read but what a humour filled, chilled out couple of hours they were! I did stop reading at one point as I was loving the descriptions of the Epcot Food Festival so much that I had to go off to Google it to check if it’s a real event…..and it is! Heaven!

So if you fancy a Christmas novella with a jungle twist then this is the festive download for you. And how can you not fall in love with this colourful cover giving a blast of Jungle heat in a frozen sea of snowy white Christmas books! And don’t worry if you’ve not read any of the authors other books, it works totally as a standalone and will set you up for the riotous fun and frolics that look set to come in Boomerville next year!

Many thanks to the author for supplying my review copy of Jungle Rocks.

Jungle Rock: A fabulous & funny feel-good read was published on November 21st by ramjam publishing and is available to buy here from Amazon UK.

And let me tantalise your taste buds further with my review of  Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean and Me by Caroline James which you can catch up on here.

Meet the author…


Caroline’s debut novel, Coffee Tea The Gypsy & Me shot to #3 on Amazon and was E-book of the Week in The Sun newspaper. Her second novel, So, You Think You’re A Celebrity… Chef? has been described as wickedly funny: ‘AbFab meets MasterChef in a Soap…’ Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me, an Amazon best-seller, was a Top Ten Finalist at The Write Stuff, London Book Fair 2015 and the judge’s comments included: Caroline is a natural story-teller with a gift for humour in her writing.” Her next novel, Boomerville will be published spring 2017.

Caroline has owned and run many catering related businesses and cookery is a passion alongside her writing, combining the two with her love of the hospitality industry and romantic fiction. As a media agent, Caroline represented many well-known celebrity chefs and her TV script, So, You Think You’re A Celebrity Chef? was runner up at the Winchester Writers Festival 2016.

She has published short stories and is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association. Caroline writes articles on food and celebrity based interviews and is Feature Editor for an online lifestyle magazine. She is a founder member of The Cheshirati and is available for inspiring and entertaining talks on anything related to the hospitality and publishing industry.

To find out more you can visit Caroline on her website or Twitter.

Twitter: @CarolineJames12

The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt #HelpMe #BlogTour @Bookouture

Today I am absolutely thrilled to be the last stop on the blog tour for The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt, her first book for publisher Bookouture! And I’m sharing my date with the fabulous Emma Welton so check out her review over at damppebbles


About this book…

One warm spring evening, five teenagers meet in a local park. Only four will come out alive.

Six months after the stabbing of fifteen-year-old Deanna Miller, someone is coming after the teenagers of Stockleigh, as a spate of vicious assaults rocks this small community. Revenge for Deanna? Or something more?

Detective Eden Berrisford is locked into a race against time to catch the twisted individual behind the attacks – but when her own niece, Jess Mount, goes missing, the case gets personal.

With the kidnapper threatening Jess’ life, can Eden bring back her niece to safety? Or will the people of Stockleigh be forced to mourn another daughter…?


My review…

I’ve been a big fan of this author for a good few years now especially her DS Allie Shenton series so I was very keen to see what she would do with a new publisher and a new feature character. And I have to say that she has got this new series off to a great start and I LOVE DS Eden Berrisford!

There is a real sense of family loyalty here as we meet not only Eden and her daughter but her sister Laura and Laura’s two girls Sarah and Jess. I must say though that I did feel poor Laura had the short straw with her ordinary name compared to the exotically named Eden! But I probably felt more empathy with Laura, struggling to bring up her daughters as a single working mum and having one of them going through those awkward teenage years. Jess was a brilliantly realistic character creation, a teenager who’s friends and boyfriend are more important to her than her own family even if they are a bad influence on her. And then there is her best friend Katie, who has found out the hard way that being in with the wrong crowd can have serious and long lasting consequences.

As usual Mel has set her story up in a community that has echoes of the places she knows and loves. And this is what I love, as it could be any of our friends or neighbours suffering in this way. When Jess is taken and her friends attacked, suspicion falls on the local troublemakers but Eden is determined not to jump to any conclusions. The whole community is in a state of shock due to the recent murder and she needs to keep control of the situation to prevent anyone handing out their own form of justice. I found it very easy to imagine this crime being reported on Signal One, our local radio station for the Stoke area-it felt that realistic!

Once I picked this up it was pretty impossible to put it down-it was that addictive! And I didn’t work out where it was going with it’s surprising plot twists, which is always a huge positive for a crime fan like me. This is a great start to the new series and I’m really looking forward to seeing what develops next for DS Eden Berrisford. She’s my kind of girl!

Thanks to the publisher Bookouture for my review copy of The Girls Next Door.

The Girls Next Door: A gripping, edge-of-your-seat crime thriller (Detective Eden Berrisford crime thriller series Book 1) is published by Bookouture on 27th October and available to buy here at Amazon UK


About the author by the author…


I write gritty crime dramas, psychological suspense and fiction with a punch – or grit-lit, as I call it. Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in Library Award 2014, my inspiration comes from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes. Since 2012, all eight of my crime novels have been bestsellers, each one climbing into the kindle UK top 20 and I’ve had several number ones. I’ve also had numerous Kindle All-star awards, for best read author and best titles.

I also write contemporary fiction under the name of Marcie Steele – Stirred with Love was published in September 2015, The Little Market Stall of Hope and Heartbreak in December 2015 and The Second Chance Shoe Shop in April 2016.

I live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with my husband and terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer) and make liberal use of my hometown as a backdrop for some of my books. You can find out more at my website or I’m on Twitter at @writermels

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



The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley

About this book…

Two women, two very different lives – one perfect solution to escape festive heartbreak!

Tucked away in the idyllic English countryside, Daisy Fischer’s cosy little cottage has always been her safe haven. But when her completely dependable boyfriend issues her an ultimatum, Daisy realises there’s a whole world out there she’s missing out on.

Florence Cortes’s life couldn’t be better – gorgeous apartment right on the beach, fabulous job and dreamy boyfriend, or so she thought. Suddenly, Flo’s life isn’t so perfect after all.

When the girls house swap for the holidays, it’s not long before Daisy is being distracted by sun, sea and sexy Javier while Flo finds herself snowbound for Christmas with only handsome neighbour Hugo and a house full of animals to keep her company.

Love actually does seem to be all around this Christmas, but in the places Flo and Daisy least expect to find it…

My review…

Get ready to raise a glass of Cava as Tippermere is back but with a little Spanish twist! I love the Tippermere series (I have to admit that my own Cheshire village comes very close to all the fun and drama but maybe doesn’t have quite as many gorgeous single men!) but here we get twice the fabulous settings as the cosy Cheshire village is romantically twinned with bustling Barcelona for a Christmas treat! And although Tippermere is the location for one of the swaps this is a standalone book so you don’t need to have read any others (but you should anyway!!)

What I adore about Zara Stoneleys books is that you get a real sense of her locations as she writes about what she knows. All the way through I could practically taste all the wonderful tapas dishes and feel the warmth of the Spanish sunshine then, when I turned the page, I was immediately back in the Cheshire countryside, in the snow, hacking down country lanes. And then she fills her authentic settings with the most wonderful characters who are gorgeous and funny and feel like they are your friends. I adored both Daisy and Flo, who decide to swap their lives for a few weeks. Daisy isn’t sure that she wants to accept her boyfriend Jimmy’s proposal and Flo is expecting a proposal but she gets rather a different kind of shock instead! So it just makes sense to try living in one another’s shoes, it always brings things into perspective…doesn’t it?! One of the things that made this book work for me was that I loved both girls stories equally. Often when there is a dual point of view I can find myself racing through one person’s chapter just to get to the other storyline but here I felt at home with Flo and with Daisy and enjoyed both of their journeys of self discovery. If you don’t feel happy and relaxed and full of Christmas cheer by the end then your name must be Scrooge!
This book has been promoted as addictive reading for fans of the film The Holiday and I have to back that up 100%! I don’t feel it’s really Christmas until I’ve snuggled down under a cosy blanket with a fully loaded hot chocolate and a plate of homemade mince pies to watch The Holiday. It’s a Christmas tradition that I undertake with one of my daughters every year as its her favourite film! This year I have to say that I have already preordered the paperback of The Holiday Swap to pop in her Christmas stocking as I know she will love it as much as I do! The cover alone makes me smile so I can’t wait to see her face on Christmas morning (although it may backfire on me when she’s too busy reading to help peel all the veg!)

I always recommend this author to fans of Jilly Cooper especially ones who love Jilly’s quick witted humour and puns but struggle with the huge cast of characters and animals. This book had me smiling from cover to cover and I loved the pages of little tips at the end too. Christmas in Cheshire is going to be fabulous this year!

The Holiday Swap: The perfect laugh-out-loud romance for fans of the Christmas movie The Holiday is published by Carina and available to buy here at Amazon UK

About the author…



Bestselling author Zara Stoneley lives in Cheshire surrounded by horses, dogs, cats and amazing countryside. When she’s not visiting wine bars, artisan markets or admiring the scenery in her sexy high heels or green wellies, she can be found in flip flops on the beach in Barcelona, or more likely sampling the tapas!

Zara writes hot romance and bonkbusters. Her latest novels, ‘Stable Mates’, ‘Country Affairs’ and ‘Country Rivals’, are fun romps through the Cheshire countryside and combine some of her greatest loves – horses, dogs, hot men and strong women (and not forgetting champagne and fast cars)!

She writes for Harper Collins and Accent Press.

Where you can find her-

Twitter: @ZaraStoneley

The Blacksmith’s Wife by Elisabeth Hobbes

Local Author Review for August…

So once a month I read a book by a local author and for the month of August that author is Elisabeth Hobbes. Now I met Elisabeth at the monthly meeting of The Knutsford Literary Society when she came to do a reading from The Blacksmith’s Wife. I found her backstory of how she became a published author fascinating and so I have a little Q&A here with her to find out more and share that with you. She also very kindly gave me a signed paperback copy of her book to review which was an absolute pleasure to read! I was a HUGE Mills and Boon fan as a teenager and it has been a revelation for me to be reintroduced to a genre that now publishes books monthly to suit all fans of romance from every time period possible! There is Viking romance, Regency romance but Elisabeth writes Mediaeval romance and a damn fine job she does of it too!

About this author…

You live in Macclesfield. Are you born and bred there or are you originally
from somewhere else?
I’m originally from York (a great city for historical inspiration). I moved to Macclesfield in 1999. I’d been teaching in Greece and my husband had got a job in Wilmslow. The car broke down here when I was house hunting and we never left.

How did your publishing deal come about?
I started writing my first story when my husband was working away. I was at home alone in the evenings with young children and wanted something to keep me busy. A writer friend who I met through Wattpad told me about Harlequin’s annual So you Think You Can Write contest in 2013 so I entered the first chapter in secret (I hadn’t even told my husband that I’d written it). Against all my expectations I finished in third place. The editors said they loved the story but I would need to make some changes to fit in with the series guidelines- focusing more on the emotional conflict and bringing the characters together on the page more. I revised it and sent the manuscript back and was thrilled when I got the call to say that not only did they want it, but they were offering me a two book deal. Since then I’ve been offered two further contracts, had four books accepted for publication in total (The Blacksmith’s Wife is my third) and am now well into writing my fifth book.

When did you find out you had got the deal?
It was February half term. The contest had finished in December and I’d been working on revising the story. Just before going on holiday I’d sent my revised manuscript to Sarah at Mills & Boon and kept everything crossed that the changes I’d made were enough to fit with the series expectations. I was on a cross-channel ferry heading back to Dover in rough seas when I got the call so I was completely taken aback (and seasick) and not really in the position to be able to celebrate.  Once I got over the initial surprise I was over the moon. The first thing I did once I was on dry land was call my mum and tell her. Friends and family have been thrilled for me, despite a bit of teasing about the subject matter- they say I’m the last person they’d expect to write romance!

Do you write full time?
Not yet. I teach three days a week which I enjoy as it’s great to interact with the children and have some adult conversation. Of course if the writing really takes off I’d love to be able to devote more time to it.



About The Blacksmith’s Wife…

A passion forged from fire

Rejected by her favoured knight, Joanna Sollers knows she will never love again. Especially when the man she’s now forced to marry is none other than her beloved’s half-brother!

For blacksmith Hal Danby, marrying Joanna makes his life-long dream of entering the Smiths’ Guild possible, even if the secrets in his past mean he’ll forever keep his distance. But everything changes with one stolen night, and in the arms of his new bride, Hal wonders if this loveless arrangement could transform into something real…

My review…

If you are a fan of romance then I will start with a warning that once you pick this book up, you better have nothing else to do for the rest of your day because you will want to devour it in one passionate sitting! Although I was a Mills and Boon fan throughout my misspent teenage years, I hadn’t read one for quite some time. So imagine my surprise and utter delight to discover that historical romance has moved on a bit since those days!

This is a medieval romance that is full of rich and authentic descriptions of the characters we meet and the setting of York and the North Yorkshire moors is brought to life so vibrantly that you feel like you are almost there with Joanna as she battles against misunderstandings on her path to true love. This is no soppy tale with an insipid heroine, Joanna is a strong minded and talented woman who has met her match in the ambitious but kind hearted blacksmith. I just loved her! And Hal too, whom I imagined in my head to look just like the gorgeous cover picture (and it may have helped that he bore an uncanny likeness to a certain actor who have been bearing his chest aplenty in recent BBC dramas!!!) and who would have had me swooning in his arms if I had been around in those days! And I have to mention Sir Roger as we all love a bit of a scoundrel don’t we?!

Elisabeth has really found a fabulous niche for her writing here. She has obviously done a huge amount of in-depth historical research and this shows in the way her writing just flows off the page. Her characters are instantly engaging and the interactions between them are realistic and believable. And being an old romantic at heart, I just loved them all, especially Hal and Joanna, and was egging them on to achieve their “happy ever after”.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future books by Elisabeth and due to those gorgeous covers I think paperbacks are the way forward for me from now on! Many thanks to Elisabeth for providing me with a review copy of The Blacksmith’s Wife and this is my unbiased review based on that book.

The Blacksmith’s Wife (Mills & Boon Historical) is available to purchase at Amazon UK

Your flight to happiness: A 7 step journey to emotional freedom

Local Author Review for June..

This month I am going down a slightly different path as my local author for June is Toni Mackenzie. Her book Your flight to Happiness-A 7 step approach to emotional freedom was published in May this year and has over 20 5* reviews over on Amazon UK. As I have always been a bit of a Bridget Jones when it comes to self help books, I was delighted to receive a review copy and have been reading it over a few nights but can now bring you my thoughts.

About this book…

Your Flight to Happiness is a self-help book with a flying theme, taking the reader on a journey which will enable them to release negative thinking and limiting beliefs, and create emotional freedom and happiness from within. Chapter one tells of how the author found herself at an all time low point in her life, her ‘plane crash’. She then guides the reader through the seven steps she used to rebuild her life and learn how to fly again.

So many people believe they will be happy at some time in the future – when they get a new job, meet a new partner, go on holiday, buy a new outfit, lose weight… The truth is, happiness does not come from outside experiences or other people, happiness ultimately is an inside job!

Throughout this colour-illustrated book she also shares some of her relevant early childhood experiences, illustrating how our subconscious minds become programmed during the first few years of our lives with downloaded information. This information leads to our beliefs about ourselves, other people, and the world we live in, and we continue to act upon them, often holding ouselves back, believing that we’re not good enough, feeling anxious about the future, fearing that we’ll fail…

The exercises and information within the chapters provide the reader with various tools and techniques to change the way they feel by changing the way they think, and ultimately reach their destination of Happiness.

About the author…

Toni Mackenzie hung up her air stewardess hat many years ago, married a pilot and was happily cruising along when her plane unexpectedly descended into a crash landing. After many challenging life experiences and lessons, she gradually became stronger and wiser, eventually learning to fly again, this time higher than ever before…

As a self-empowerment coach, Toni now spends much of her time sharing the lessons that she has learned by speaking, writing and helping other people to create inner peace, freedom and happiness for themselves.

The rest of the time she enjoys being mum to her grown-up son and daughter, and her two beautiful long-haired cats, as well as reading, practising yoga and qi-gong and dining out with friends in the many nearby restaurants of the Cheshire and Manchester area where she currently lives.

My review…

This book has such a lovely look to it that the first thing I will say us that even if you normally read on a Kindle, I would definitely get the paperback version of this gorgeous little self help book. Mainly due to the fact there is space to write your thoughts but also because the graphics and artwork in it looks so much better in paperback form! It’s one of those books you will want to either keep little bookmarks in or to turn a corner down, to refer back to a helpful phrase or exercise. A perfect book to keep on your bedside cabinet or in your handbag.

One of the reasons that this book works so well is because Toni gives so much of herself to it. Yes, she is a trained therapist now but once she was just a normal wife and mother who found herself unexpectedly in the most difficult time of her life. And to use one of my own favourite sayings, a woman is like a teabag, it isn’t until she’s in hot water that you realise how strong she is! I loved the way Toni gave us a very personal insight into her life, it was quite an open look into her background and to how her life was shaped from her upbringing which in turn lead to the paths she took. And there was quite a major crossroads she had to face!

Due to Toni having been an air stewardess, she has pursued a flight theme within the book that works perfectly and many of the little quotes and sayings have an aviation  feel to them as well. The exercises need a little bit of time to get used to, but I have picked up some fabulous little tips here that will stick with me for ever now and I will pass down to my family as well. A self help book to help bring a little positivity into your life as the only person who can do this is YOU!

Many thanks to Toni and to Sian for my review copy of Your Flight to Happiness in return for an unbiased review.

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