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2022 Is A Go. Last Year Did Not Happen…….

After writing the 2021 post last year, things got worse again in my life so Book Addict Rambles got stuck in the bin for a while. I ignored it, I read god knows how many books and not one review or post was made. I’m hoping 2022 will be a better success for me. I’m in a good place, I’m not putting any pressure on myself and am full of optimism to get back into blogging… Fingers Crossed anyway!!! Buying books will still happen, that’s a given. I’ve got numerous on pre-order and will more than likely stumble across many others I want. Or need.

There will be no blog tours, no promo posts, nothing involving ARCs or anything like that. Instead, I’m tackling 2 or 3 reading challenges. One: The infamous A to Z Challenge that has been floating around for a while, and Two: Beat the Backlist which is basically tackling my overwhelming TBR room. You can find this challenge here: Beat The Backlist. There are prompts as well, which will help me pick the books. It’s also all available on StoryGraph. I’m also considering doing the PopSugar 2022 challenge, but looking at the prompts has me scratching my head on potential books. I’ll probably leave PopSugar alone and try the other 2 if I’m honest.

So, how did 2021 go with reading? Well, at the time of writing this I was 132 books in. I aimed to read 52 at the beginning of the year, not knowing how I would be with my anxiety and depression. It’s safe to say that I smashed that. I set a target of 35000 pages and managed to do a nice 45,373 at the time of doing this post.

Favourite book of the year?
I can’t give just one book…. I’ve probably got 5 which are: (In no certain order)

Least favourite books? There were a couple I didn’t finish, but no book bashing here. Least favourite finished would probably be King of Code by CD Reiss. I just didn’t enjoy the book, or the characters. I usually like this author and it hasn’t put me off.

New favourite authors? Straight away I can say Melanie Harlow, Debbie Cassidy, and Staci Hart. All brilliant authors who right fantastic stories.

Favourite series of 2021? Hmm… It’s between The Plated Prisoner by Raven Kennedy or Black Hat Bureau by Hailey Edwards. Both are unfinished and completely different but both are fantastic.

What are you plans for 2022? Are you do any challenges? Let me know in the comments!

Book #2 2022: Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
Format: Paperback Page Count: 327

Challenge Prompt: A Book Written For An Age Group You Don’t Belong To
Challenge Letter: T
Book 2/100

Review

After a slow first few pages, I was intrigued by the sudden full-on mystery of everything. What happened to the teacher? Who did it? What happened to Lacey and Sarah? Who is Ellery and Ezra’s dad??

After a while, I suspected who was guilty of the teacher’s death. It wasn’t glaringly obvious but there were a few little things that niggled at me about certain characters. However, I did like Ellery and Ezra immediately. The addition of Malcolm was welcome as well and I loved the chemistry between the 3 of them, including Mia as well. At one stage I was convinced that Declan was somehow involved but I got proved wrong with that.

This was a well written book, and just as good as the author’s first book. She managed to keep the mystery and thrill of it all going throughout the whole book. While I had my suspicions of the guilty character, I did keep second guessing myself throughout the whole book.

Favourite character? Probably Ellery, she was the one I connected with the most. Her obsession with true crime hits close to home. And the struggle with frizzy hair!! Her relationship with her mum improves I feel from the beginning of the book. She came across as bitter towards Sadie to begin with, but by the end you did feel the love she felt for her. Ellery’s relationship with her brother is a nice touch and made it Malcolm’s relationship with his brother a little more sad. You see this great connection between Ellery and Ezra and then compare it to the distance between Malcolm and Declan and feel a little sorry for him. I’m glad that you see improvement with that to be honest.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and will definitely read more by this author. She weaves a fantastic high school story full of mystery and thrills, with a little touch of teenage drama thrown in as well.

Book #1 2022: Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

Side not: this is the first review I have written in well over 2 years. Bear with me if it’s a little disorientated and rambling.

Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco
Format: Digital Page Count: 448

Challenge Prompt: 2nd In A Series (Beat the Backlist)
Challenge Letter: K

Book 1/100

Review

First Impressions: Well…. I struggled to get into the first few chapters. It took me a moment to remember the end of the first book, Kingdom of the Wicked, and to get my head around what was happening and why. When I’d done that, I started to fly through the pages.

As the book went on, I found myself trying to see where the story was going. I did find that my attention was wondering occasionally, there was a lot of downtime and not enough action or anything happening in big parts of the book. I found that I didn’t really care if Emilia found out who killed her sister, which we are still no closer to. Or know if she’s actually dead or not. There were parts of the book that I thought would have been quite momentous, like her not being able to access her magic, but it just got put on the back burner until someone fixed it for her. Which frustrated me to no end. Emilia wanted to come across as this strong, independent woman but she didn’t feel like to me. For me, she came across as undecided, nervous, and too full of herself.

I like the Emilia/Wrath chemistry though, their banter and other interactions left me wanting more. I looked forward to those, their chemistry was sky-high if not a little…. Confusing. They clearly wanted each other desperately but Emilia just didn’t cave to it. I must admit, I like Wrath a whole lot more than her to be honest.

I wish we had more of the brothers to be honest, I didn’t get enough Envy, or Lust. I think we’re missing a whole lot of fun, witty banter, and lustful action with the brothers. I’m really intrigued by them, all of them. Hopefully we get more of all of them in the next book…. Talking of the next book, I’m expecting the first few pages to be off the charts with the ending of this one. It finished at such a critical moment which I can guarantee a lot of readers were screaming at.

Well written, it kept me engaged and held my full attention (to some extent) to the last page. And frustrated to the last page because of the tension between Emilia and Wrath. I’m left wanting more from them, and the brothers, and the world that has been written. I’m going to be waiting very patiently for the third book… Maybe anyway.

#TopTenTuesday: Most Anticipated Releases in The First Half of 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic. Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.


With making a fresh start with blogging, I thought I would do the posts I enjoyed doing the first time round. One of those is the Top Ten Tuesday posts!! So, here we go…… This one hasn’t got a full 10, just 5 of the books I’m excited for.

Most Anticipated Releases in the First Half of 2022

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down.

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City, #2)

Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

The God of Lost Words (Hell’s Library #3)by AJ Hackwithhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58784070-the-god-of-lost-words

To save the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, former librarian Claire and her allies may have to destroy it first.

The God of Lost Words (Hell's Library #3)

Claire, rakish Hero, angel Rami, and muse-turned-librarian Brevity have accomplished the impossible by discovering the true nature of unwritten books. But now that the secret is out, in its quest for power Hell will be coming for every wing of the Library.

To protect the Unwritten Wing and stave off the insidious reach of Malphas, one of Hell’s most bloodthirsty generals, Claire and her friends will have to decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice to keep their vulnerable corner of the afterlife. Succeeding would mean rewriting the nature of the Library, but losing would mean obliteration. Their only chance at survival lies in outwitting Hell and writing a new chapter for the Library. Luckily, Claire and her friends know how the right story, told well, can start a revolution.

The Haunting of Las Lágrimas by W.M. Cleese

Argentina, winter 1913.

The Haunting of Las Lágrimas

Ursula Kelp, a young English gardener, travels to Buenos Aires to take up the role of head gardener at a long-abandoned estate in the Pampas. The current owner wishes to return to the estate with his family and restore the once-famous gardens to their former glory. 

Travelling deep into the Pampas, the vast grasslands of South America, Ursula arrives to warnings from the locals that the estate is haunted, cursed to bring tragedy to the founding family of Las Lágrimas. And soon Ursula believes that her loneliness is making her imagine things – the sound of footsteps outside her bedroom door, the touch of hands on her shoulders when there’s no one there. Most strangely of all, she keeps hearing the frenzied sound of a man chopping down trees in the nearby forest with an axe, when all her staff are in sight. 

As the strange occurrences intensify – with tragic consequences – Ursula questions if there’s truth in the rumours about the cursed estate. The family’s return is imminent – are they in danger? And the longer Ursula stays at the estate, the more she realises that she too is in mortal danger.

Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Gallant

Sixteen-year-old Olivia Prior is missing three things: a mother, a father, and a voice. Her mother vanished all at once, and her father by degrees, and her voice was a thing she never had to start with.

She grew up at Merilance School for Girls. Now, nearing the end of her time there, Olivia receives a letter from an uncle she’s never met, her father’s older brother, summoning her to his estate, a place called Gallant. But when she arrives, she discovers that the letter she received was several years old. Her uncle is dead. The estate is empty, save for the servants. Olivia is permitted to remain, but must follow two rules: don’t go out after dusk, and always stay on the right side of a wall that runs along the estate’s western edge.

Beyond it is another realm, ancient and magical, which calls to Olivia through her blood…

Glow by Raven Kennedy: No Cover or Description available but I’m so excited for this after the ending of Book 3.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Book Lovers

Nora is a cut-throat literary agent at the top of her game. Her whole life is books.

Charlie is an editor with a gift for creating bestsellers. And he’s Nora’s work nemesis.

Nora has been through enough break-ups to know she’s the woman men date before they find their happy-ever-after. That’s why Nora’s sister has persuaded her to swap her desk in the city for a month’s holiday in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. It’s a small town straight out of a romance novel, but instead of meeting sexy lumberjacks, handsome doctors or cute bartenders, Nora keeps bumping into… Charlie.

She’s no heroine. He’s no hero. So can they take a page out of an entirely different book?

I’m Back!! 2021 Plans

So. I’ve taken a year away from blogging, reviewing, a lot of social media, and read what I’ve wanted, when I’ve wanted. And when I’ve been able to. My mental health for the past 18 months/2 years has not been the best. Crippling anxiety, very unexpected debilitating depression has made things in my world completely different to what it was when I was last blogging.

However, after my year away I’ve had time to reflect on what was bringing me joy, what was causing me to constantly burn out, and what I could just throw away in to the realm of shit.  While things are still not easy, I’ve realised that blogging/reviewing was something that I enjoyed, and something that made me heard. Although not the biggest of blogs, or the massive numbers of followers some people have, I enjoyed that there were people who were reading and enjoying (maybe anyway…) my posts.

So, on the back of that I took a look at what I could do with this on my terms. No deadline dates, no pressure for reviews and constant posting or participating in blog tours or a blitz or whatever else there is… I may sometimes do a tag but I doubt it.

I may be a bit blind to my addiction on book purchasing so this is where my ever growing TBR has its moment. I’m only going to read books that I already own for the whole of 2021.  I’ve got a few pre-orders so they will count, but I’m aiming to not buy one single book during the whole of 2021… Mad…. Mental… Completely impossible. Yep, I hear you. As for the blog. Well. I’ll be reviewing the books, and only those books. I was going to do something like an A to Z challenge, or the popsugar one or something similar but I changed my mind.

2021 is looking like this for me then. No new books, only reading what I own (or pre-ordered), reviewing only those books. And to be held accountable for the books I do end up buying… We all know its going to happen. I’ll also be doing the usual yearly Goodreads challenge so I’ll keep track of it through here as well.

What are your 2021 reading plans? Feel free to drop a comment below.

#BlogTourExtract: Death at Eden’s End by Jo Allen @JoAllenAuthor @Aria_Fiction

Death at Eden’s End by Jo Allen

Publisher: Aria
Publication Date: 12th December 2019

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Description

A brand new DCI Jude Satterthwaite crime mystery from the bestselling Jo Allen.

When one-hundred-year-old Violet Ross is found dead at Eden’s End, a luxury care home hidden in a secluded nook of the Lake District’s Eden Valley it’s tragic, of course, but not unexpected. Except for the instantly recognisable look in her lifeless eyes… that of pure terror.

DCI Jude Satterthwaite heads up the investigation, but as the deaths start to mount up it’s clear that he, and DS Ashleigh O’Halloran need to uncover a long-buried secret before the killer strikes again…


About Jo Allen

Jo Allen was born in Wolverhampton and is a graduate of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and the Open University. After a career in economic consultancy she took up writing and was first published under the name Jennifer Young in genres of short stories, romance and romantic suspense. In 2017 she took the plunge and began writing the genre she most likes to read – crime. Now living in Edinburgh, she spends as much time as possible in the English Lakes. In common with all her favourite characters, she loves football (she’s a season ticket holder with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cats.

Follow Jo:

Twitter: @JoAllenAuthor | Facebook: @JoAllenAuthor


Death at Eden’s End Extract

Violet Ross was a hundred years old and lived in a nursing home, so Klemmie really shouldn’t have been surprised. That said, the old woman had always given the impression of someone who would, if it were possible, live for ever because she couldn’t bear to miss a tiny piece of someone else’s business by dying. If for no other reason, Becca herself was astonished to find it was this particularly durable old lady rather than any one of half a dozen more fragile candidates who had passed so quietly away in her chair.

She crossed the room in a few swift steps and lifted Violet’s thin wrist. The delicate skin under her fingers had acquired a strange, translucent quality and there wasn’t so much as a flutter of movement in the veins. To judge by the faint flush of warmth that lingered about her, Violet’s lifeblood had only recently stilled. ‘Run and fetch one of the nurses. I think Ellie’s in the canteen.’

The woman bolted past her, barging into the tea trolley so the crockery rattled like an alarm.

‘Klemmie!’ Mrs Hodgson’s plaintive voice drifted out into the corridor. ‘Klemmie, what about my tea?’

Becca laid Violet’s hand down where she’d found it, resting on the arm of the wing-backed chair in the window bay. In her experience the dead so often looked peaceful, but Violet managed to look outraged, as if she’d fought death all the way and he’d only defeated her by foul means. Her perfectly set white hair was slightly disarranged, as if she’d woken before dying, knowing what was happening to her but powerless to prevent it, and her finely featured face bore an expression of resistance, mouth slack and open, a faint shadow lingering beneath her open, staring eyes.

A hundred, Becca said to herself, with a measure of awe. Violet had been a force of nature. Not many people at Eden’s End had warmed to her, though Becca had and her affection had been repaid. She, along with Klemmie and a few honoured others, had been instructed to address the old lady by her Christian name whereas so many others had been kept at a distance by the rigorous formality of ‘Dr Ross’. Violet had lived to a venerable age and been blessed by good health and spirit with which to bear her increasing frailty, remaining in complete control of all her senses until the day of her painless departure. Passing away in her chair as she stared out towards the damp softness of the Eden Valley, grey and green and brown, was surely the way she would have chosen to die. Quite what she had to look so disgusted about was something of a mystery.

‘What’s going on?’ Ellie, the head nurse at Eden’s End, bustled in, her thin frame bristling with indignation, Klemmie trailing behind her. Ellie hated being disturbed on her break. ‘What’s Klemmie talking about? I can’t make sense of her when she rattles on like that. Sometimes I think she forgets how to speak English. Is Violet ill?’

Used to being patronised by Ellie, Becca stepped back. The head nurse was younger than she was and considerably less experienced, but seemed to think a mere district nurse was in her job because she wasn’t good enough to do any other, rather than through choice. ‘Not ill. I’m afraid she’s passed away. Klemmie found her just now.’

‘She should have come to find me straight away, not called you. This really isn’t your job, Becca. Haven’t you got something else to be doing? You district nurses always claim to be so busy.’

#BlogTourGuestPost: The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall by Emma Burstall @EmmaBurstall @HoZ_Books

The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall by Emma Burstall

Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication Date: 5th December 2019

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Description

In the quaint Cornish village of Tremarnock, Chabela Penhallow arrives for a holiday and to discover more about her Cornish ancestors. But, as always with newcomers to the small seaside town, rumours start to fly about this beautiful stranger. Is there more to her than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, Rob and Liz Hart’s marriage is on the rocks, but only one of them knows the real reason. Once the secret is out, will they be able to handle the repercussions or will it destroy their life together?

For the residents of Tremarnock, the revelations will either bond or break them – forever.


About Emma Burstall

Emma Burstall was a newspaper journalist in Devon and Cornwall before becoming a full time author. Tremarnock, the first novel in her series set in a delightful Cornish village, was published in 2015 and became a top-10 bestseller.

Follow Emma:

Twitter: @EmmaBurstall | Facebook: @EmmaBurstallAuthor | Website: emmaburstall.com


Emma Burstall’s Guest Post

FROM CORNWALL TO MEXICO AND BACK AGAIN

Cornwall is one of my favourite places in the world, and I adore Mexico, so what a gift it was to be able to set my latest novel, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME TO CORNWALL, in both places!

I’ve always been interested in cultural differences and how easy it is to mistake them for rudeness, say, or indifference. Thus the idea of introducing a vibrant, independent, beautiful but ultimately unhappy Mexican woman to my fictional seaside village, TREMARNOCK, appealed enormously.

Would she fit in? What would she make of the locals and vice-versa, and could a trip to this very different and unfamiliar place cure her heartbreak?

Fortunately for me, the research involved several trips to Cornwall, a spell in Mexico City and also time spent in a small town called Real del Monte, known by some as ‘Little Cornwall’, which lies about two and a half hours outside the capital.

I was fascinated to discover that Cornish tin miners, who were considered among the finest hard rock miners in the world, travelled to this unprepossessing town in their droves in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to work in the silver mines.

Although few people are aware of the fact, many returned home much richer than they arrived, while others married locals, stayed on and made brand new lives for themselves.

A Methodist cemetery just outside the town is a moving testament to the hardships they faced. The graves, some no more than child-sized, bear typical Cornish surnames such as Pengelly, Skewes and Carew.

After receiving a letter from a stranger, my Mexican heroine, Chabela, is ostensibly drawn to TREMARNOCK, where all the books in my latest series are based, to discover more about her own Cornish roots. These are evident in her surname – Penhallow.

In reality, however, it soon becomes clear that researching her ancestry is a bit of an excuse. The truth is that she is running away from something, and it is a while before she is able to admit the deep down cause of her pain.

Life is a journey, and Chabela encounters many twists and turns, shocks, secrets and surprises along the way. Like so many of us, the truth is that she doesn’t even really know what she is looking for when she sets out, but you’ll have to buy the book to discover if she finds it in the end!

I hope you enjoy reading THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME TO CORNWALL as much as I enjoyed writing it. Do drop me a line at www.emmaburstall.com and let me know!


#BlogTourGuestPost: Ruby by Heather Burnside @heatherbwriter @Aria_Fiction

Ruby by Heather Burnside

Publisher: Aria
Publication Date: 5th December 2019

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Description

The stronger sex.

Ruby has always been strong. Growing up with a feeble mother and an absent father, she is forced to fight the battles of her younger siblings. And when a childhood experience leaves her traumatised, her distrust of men turns to hatred.

On the streets.

With no safe place to call home, Ruby is desperate to fit in with the tough crowd. She spends her teenage years sleeping around and drinking in the park, and by the time she is sixteen, prostitution has become a way of life. But Ruby has ambitions, and she soon moves up the ladder to become the madam of her own brothel.

The brothel.

But being in charge of a brothel has its down sides, Ruby faces her worst nightmare when an enemy from the past comes back into her life, and gang intimidation threatens to ruin everything. Can she find a way to beat her tormentors? And will she be strong enough to see it through?


About Heather Burnisde

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels.

After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.

Follow Heather:

Facebook: @HeatherBurnsideAuthor | Twitter: @heatherbwriter | Website: https://heatherburnside.com/


Heather Burnside’s Guest Post

From Feeble to Feisty

Following the success of The Mark, book one in my Working Girls series, I am so excited to be releasing book two, Ruby, and I hope my readers will enjoy it. The Mark was a bit different to my previous books in that the middle class background of the main character, Maddy, is dissimilar to that of the working class girls featured in my previous books.

As a writer I like to challenge myself by trying alternative story lines as I don’t want my books to become tedious and predictable. However, I realise that Maddy isn’t necessarily the type of main character my readers have come to expect, unlike Ruby who has a hard working class upbringing.

In Ruby we see a character that is like Maddy’s polar opposite. Where Maddy is vulnerable and susceptible to errors of judgement, Ruby is feisty and fierce, and makes bold decisions. They also differ in appearance as Ruby is almost six feet tall, and is physically strong and toned whereas Maddy has a softer appearance. People are drawn to Maddy because she is approachable but a lot of people aren’t initially attracted to Ruby who has a harsh façade.

Although Ruby does bad things, in many ways I admire her, particularly her strength of character and her sense of loyalty. In fact, while writing Ruby I developed a strong affinity with the title character as she’s a tough, no-nonsense type of person but she’s also straight with people. If you upset Ruby then you’d better be prepared because she’ll come for you. She is one of my favourite characters of all the ones I have created and probably the favourite since Rita the Man Eater in the Riverhill Trilogy.

Ruby does have a heart though and throughout the novel we get to see her softer side. This is shown through interactions with her mother and youngest brother, and the way she looks after them financially. Her cash offerings help to assuage her guilty conscience for walking out of the family home at a young age and living a life that remains secret to them.

We also see her softer side in the way she behaves towards her partner, Tiffany. Not only is Ruby loving and affectionate towards her but she is also extremely protective. She would rather suffer herself than see Tiffany suffer.

Ruby’s close friendship with Crystal reveals her loyal nature and it is based on trust and loyalty. They have developed a bond since their early days as working girls and Ruby often helps Crystal out when she has got herself into a tricky situation. Although her manner towards Crystal can be brusque, it’s because she is frustrated at Crystal’s willingness to put up with maltreatment. She realises that Crystal doesn’t have her strength of character and tries to get her to toughen up.

When Ruby does bad things it is usually because she is pushed by particular people and situations, and she will always justify her actions in her own mind. But, because of her personality, when things do turn bad she comes out fighting, and God help anybody who does her wrong. She’s definitely not one to mess with. So get ready to meet Ruby because I’m about to unleash my most formidable character to date.

#BlogTourExtract: A Million Dreams by Dani Atkins @HoZ_Books @AtkinsDani

A Million Dreams by Dani Atkins

Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication Date: 14th November 2019

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay

Description

Beth Brandon always dreamed of owning a florist, but today the bouquets of peonies and bright spring flowers are failing to calm her nerves. Because today, Beth has a life-changing decision to share with her husband.

Izzy Vaughan thought she and her husband would stay together forever, but sometime last year, their love began to fade. They both find such joy in their young son Noah – but is he enough to keep them together?

Eight years ago, something happened to these two women. Something that is about to bring them together in a way no-one thought possible…


About Dani Atkins

Dani Atkins is an award-winning novelist. Her 2013 debut FRACTURED (published as THEN AND ALWAYS in North America) has been translated into sixteen languages and has sold more than half a million copies since first publication in the UK. Dani is the author of four other bestselling novels, one of which, This Love, won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2018. Dani lives in a small village in Hertfordshire with her husband, one Siamese cat and a very soppy Border Collie.

Twitter: @AtkinsDani | Facebook: @DaniAtkinsAuthor


A Million Dreams Extract

‘So what’s new? What have you been up to recently?’

‘Nothing much,’ I replied. Except preparing to get pregnant. For a horrified moment I thought I’d said the words out loud, but my sister’s face on my laptop screen looked neither stunned nor shocked, so I don’t suppose I could have.

It was morning in Australia and Karen was sitting in her preferred spot for our Skype chats, on the deck of her Sydney home against a backdrop of tropical blooms. I’d long since seen through her not-so-subtle attempt to lure me subliminally to the other side of the world with exotic foliage.

Our calls were the highlight of my week. She was half a world away, but she was still my best friend, and the ache of missing her had never gone away, not even after all these years. I still longed for the smell of her shampoo when she hugged me, the graze of her lips against my cheek when she said hello, or her hand squeezing mine for those moments when words just weren’t enough. We’d always been close, even as children, and although I’m sure we must have squabbled the way siblings do, the memory of it was buried so deeply beneath missing her, I truly couldn’t recall it.

We knew each other’s secrets: first crush; first kiss; first sneaked cigarette; first time with a boy: ‘Honestly Bethie, I don’t know what all the fuss is about; it was all over in seconds.’ That one still made me smile, although one devoted husband and two small children later, I doubt she still felt the same way. But now I was keeping the biggest, boldest secret in my entire life from her, and every time I opened my mouth I was scared it was going to come tumbling out.

‘How are Mum and Dad?’ Karen asked, momentarily disappearing from my screen as she reached for her glass of orange juice.

‘The usual,’ I replied in sister shorthand. I knew she’d be able to translate that one: Mum was busy with her book club, volunteering and amateur dramatics, while Dad was trying to pretend that retirement wasn’t boring him to death, or that his arthritis hadn’t deteriorated from slightly troublesome to seriously debilitating.

Karen pulled a face that I recognised only too well. The guilt that was never far away scored a sneaky bullseye. It was no secret that my parents had always intended to spend their retirement years in Australia. The pull was perfectly understandable: the weather was better for a man with Dad’s condition; plus, fifty percent of their

offspring lived there, with one hundred percent of their grandchildren. It was really all about the maths.

I’d always suspected that Karen had a secret master plan to move our entire family ‘down under’. It had been a clever long game. She’d fed our parents titbits of information about beachside retirement properties beside golf courses, and had even sent links to Tim about teaching jobs with funny notes attached: Didgeridoo skills not needed for this one!

Although we’d never pursued it, I could see Tim’s curiosity had been piqued. Karen knew I wanted to live by the coast again – and there was plenty of that in Australia. So mission (semi) accomplished. Or at least it might have been, until there was a persistent stomach spasm that wouldn’t go away, and a perpetual sickness that caused the weight to drop from Tim almost overnight…and suddenly all talk of living elsewhere disappeared. We were much more focused on just living at all.

#BlogTourExtract: Country Lovers by Fiona Walker @fionawalkeruk @HoZ_Books

Country Lovers by Fiona Walker

Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication Date: 14th November 2019

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay

Description

They say you should never go back, but glamorous Ronnie Percy did just that, to the home she ran away from with her lover.

But not everyone is finding it easy to forgive and forget.

Daughter Pax, fighting for custody of her small son as her own marriage disintegrates, is furious to have to spend New Year’s Eve waiting for some stranger her mother has invited to help run the family stud farm.

Even more annoyed is the staunchly loyal stud head groom, Lester. Does Ronnie think he’s lost his touch with the horses? And anyway, who is this so-called Horsemaker, Luca O’Brien? Why does he seem to be running away from something? And what is the true story of his relationship with grey stallion Beck, once destined for the Olympics, now broken and unrideable, screaming his anger from the Compton Magna stables.

Passionate, sexy, gripping, laced with her trademark wisdom and humour, this is bestselling Fiona Walker at her dazzling best.


About Fiona Walker

Fiona Walker is the author of eighteen novels, from tales of flat-shares and clubbing in nineties London to today’s romping, rural romances set amid shires, spires and stiles. In a career spanning over two decades, she’s grown up alongside her readers, never losing her wickedly well-observed take on life, lust and the British in love. She lives in Warwickshire, sharing a slice of Shakespeare Country with her partner, their two daughters and a menagerie of animals.

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Country Lover Extract

Blue-eyed, ruddy-faced and athletically seductive, Signe was like a lot of horse professionals Luca knew, who rode hard all day and viewed recreational sex as the after-party. They were cut from the same cloth, nomadic work riders who followed the competition seasons round all continents, love and commitment top-shelved. Probably in her early thirties, she was old enough to know what she was doing and was good company, with her melodic voice, upbeat attitude and ready laugh. The perfect no-strings fling was being dangled in front of his eyes, had he not been so tied up in knots, counting the days until he was free from his royal noose.

Keeping his head down and grafting harder than ever, Luca was determined to stick it out. He was here to help the most talented horse he’d ever worked with get to the Olympics – and he was being paid a lot to do it. His only obstacle was the lad who would be riding him there.

‘Golden boy fall off again today?’ asked Signe, unbuttoning his shirt as deftly as she plaited a mane.

‘Yep. That’s five days in a row. They’re competing again tomorrow, so they are.’

‘Your accent is such a turn-on.’ Her kiss tasted of vodka. He liked that. Grey Goose, the kick pure as sea surf in this hotbed of fake rain, steel high rise and plastic trees.

Coming up for air and turning away to refill their glasses, he dwelt reluctantly on the memory of the boy at his last competition, unable to get the horse out of the collecting ring, dumped in the silica sand at the FEI official’s feet. Luca had worked the stallion for an hour beforehand, privileged to be balanced on a fast-thinking powerhouse, the rocket detonating over practice fences, a warhorse ready to lay down his life to win, his trust total. But when the boy had taken over, his skills sketchy and his nerves tight, his faith was not in the horse or in Luca, but in a birthright and advantage beyond their reach. Luca couldn’t have done any more to help, short of brainwashing the stallion to believe that the kid could ride.

 ‘Mishaal needs to learn more feel.’ He let the second vodka burn into him. ‘Right now, he thinks showjumping is just about steering and staying on.’ The thirteenth child of a high-ranking royal, the young prince was a go-cart driver with a Grand Prix ego.

‘If anyone can teach feel, you can, yes?’ Signe slapped her small palm against Luca’s, fingers interlacing to draw his hand to her mouth, bonbon blue eyes gazing up into his. He sensed she knew exactly how cute she looked.

‘As Mishaal keeps reminding me, his showjumping coach is a four-time gold-medallist from California.’ He gently removed his forefinger from her mouth, its soft, wet suck too fast-track. ‘I’m just here to warm up the saddle for him.’

‘You’re way more than that.’ Signe was indignant. ‘You are the Horsemaker. Does golden boy have any idea how lucky that makes him?’

Luca was grateful to her, cupping her face, tipping his twice-broken nose against her upturned one, then ducking away from another kiss to finish his vodka shot.