When I was offered the opportunity
to go to the Books and the City event held by Simon and Schuster UK, I practically
bit their hand off. By the time I had got lost in the car park of Birmingham
NEC and ended up back on the motorway I feared I would never make it but after a helpful hand from the wonder that is Sat Nav, I made it and found myself
in a room heaving with excited ladies all buzzing with the anticipation of
seeing their favourite authors.
Rebecca Chance, Ali Harris, Louise
Fennell, Milly Johnson and Helen Warner aka ‘The Fab Five Fictionistas’ were
glorious. They spoke with such passion about their writing that I felt inspired
within the first 10 minutes. The fab five spoke about the moment when they
first get an idea that won’t leave them alone, Rebecca referred to it as an
‘Oooooooooooh’ moment, when you mention a story idea to a friend and they go
“Ooooooooooh”. She shared with us the idea for a book based on Princess Diana
that made the entire audience go “Oooooooh”, thus proving her point.
Victoria Connelly! Victoria's website is bursting with regularly updated content, is easy to navigate and has some great writerly resources. Well done, Victoria!
BOOK JACKET OF THE YEAR
And the winner is...
We all cooed over the Meet Me Under the Mistletoe cover when it was released. The soft jewel colours, the font, the glittery snowflakes and stars and the super romantic Lucy Truman illustration: this cover is unabashed chick lit with more than a dash of whimsy and it's our favourite of 2012.
PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR
Simon & Schuster (UK)
Avon (HarperCollins UK)
And the winner is...
Avon (HarperCollins UK). This was a tough category but Avon have really gone above and beyond to provide us with consistently fantastic content and access to their authors in 2012. They got involved in our Novelicious Undiscovered competition earlier this year by providing some amazing prizes and it's been a genuine pleasure to work with the Avon team, in particular Becke Parker and Caroline Hogg. The above, combined with a regular output of quality commercial fiction and a fantastic flourishing social media presence, makes Avon an easy choice for our publisher of the year.
AUTHOR-TWEETER OF THE YEAR
And the winner is...
Rowan Coleman. As well as being an absolutely super writer, Rowan Coleman is a friendly and approachable tweeter. She is consistently supportive of fellow authors and aspiring writers and is a generous re-tweeter. In June this year, Rowan set up a weekly twitter initiative under the hashtag #rowancolemanswritingclinic in which she answered questions for aspiring authors about writing.
DEBUT OF 2012
The Desperate Bride's Diet Club by Alison Sherlock
The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene
Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid
Tony Hogan Bought me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson
And the winner is...
Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid. In Black Heart Blue, Louisa deals with abuse, neglect and disability with grace and intelligence. This would be incredibly challenging for an established author to pull off but for one only just beginning it is both courageous and immensely powerful. We cannot wait to see what Reid comes up with next...
ALTERNATIVE THURSDAY BOOK OF THE YEAR
The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown
The Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell
The Apothecary's Daughter by Charlotte Betts
The Light Behind The Window by Lucinda Riley
And the winner is...
The Light Behind The Window by Lucinda Riley. Lucinda Riley's story makes you wonder if you would put duty before love, if you could you put your trust in someone you shouldn't and when the unimaginable occurs, how you would react in their place. It also has two unexpected heroes. The Light Behind The Window is beautifully written and haunting.
BOOK OF THE YEAR
Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams By Jenny Colgan
Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes
And the winner is...
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. We were all taken with Lou and Will's compelling and heartbreaking story. It made us laugh and sob and kept us transfixed until the last page. This is the book we've most recommended this year and we've yet to hear back from someone who didn't like it. Our must-read book of 2012.
AUTHOR OF THE YEAR
And the winner is...
Jane Green. We have a bit of a crush on Jane Green. Her books (including this year's The Patchwork Marriage) are some of the most engaging and gorgeously written we've read and her huge success has done nothing to diminish her deep connection with readers. Jane upholds a busy social media presence and blog and invites her fans to share in her life on facebook. Jane also gave us our favourite interview of the year in this epic two part chat with our Amanda Keats. Jane Green is an inspiration to so many readers and writers of women's fiction and we can't wait to see what 2013 will bring for her.
Huge congratulations to all of the shortlisted and winning authors. It's been a wonderful year for books!
Anna Carter has one wish on
her Christmas list: to be married by Christmas. Since her unhappy childhood,
there’s nothing Anna wants more than her dream wedding to Tom Collins, the one
she’s had planned since she was a little girl. But her perfect husband-to-be is
about to drop a bombshell two weeks before Anna is set to say, ‘I do’.
Discovering your fiancé is already married, to a Las Vegas showgirl no less,
could derail any wedding plans. But Anna is going to pull out all the stops to
ensure she gets her big day.
Following this unwelcome
surprise, an upset Anna goes in search of Tom’s wife in New York, her last
known location, while a distraught Tom stays in England with Anna’s best friend
Liv, who has a secret of her own she’s trying to hide. Unexpectedly joined by
old flame Miles on the flight to New York, Anna is determined to track down
Charisma Jones, the current Mrs Collins. But will there still be wedding bells
on Christmas Eve?
For a brief moment at the start
of the book, I was unsure about super - organised Anna, who ran the risk of
becoming annoying. But almost as soon as this gripe surfaced, it disappeared,
and Anna became a very likeable, kind character you can relate to; we all have
an inner Anna. After being abandoned by her mother as a child, her wedding day
is the culmination of years of organisation to ensure that everything will, for
once, go right for her. Even Tom, who is close to ruining his fiancée’s happiness,
is difficult to dislike. Liv is very sweet, wanting only the best for Anna while
knowing that this could lead to her own heartbreak. Miles is funny, considerate
and easy going, perhaps just what in-control Anna needs. Although they seem
like complete opposites, I couldn’t imagine Anna taking on New York without
The ever lovely Carole Matthews' Christmas Short Story collection is out today and IT'S FREE!
Winter Warmers includes three festive tales:
All I Want for Christmas is You
Christmas is around the corner but Maria just can't get into the spirit - will she ever find Mr Right? But when a secret admirer starts leaving her poems and notes, it looks as though her luck is about to change . . .
Tara is in love with a man she can't have. She expected to spend Christmas with him but when the big day arrives, she finds herself alone. Sad and upset, Tara just wants to ignore the festive season - and then a chance encounter changes everything.
I love my husband Sam but our relationship isn't what it used to be. Can I find a way to bring us back together?
The Perfect Present
is a huge tome of a book with over 500 pages and a beautiful, sparkly cover. As
a reviewer, with around two-weeks in which to read it, there was a flicker of
trepidation as I picked it up. Would I finish it in time? Would it keep me captivated
for all 530 pages? I needn’t have worried.
Laura Cunningham is a jewellery maker living in a sleepy
Suffolk village, working in a studio cut off from the mainland when the tide is
in, spending time with nobody beyond her devoted boyfriend Jack and young
friend Fee. When Rob Blake walks into her studio a few weeks before Christmas
and commissions her to make him the perfect charm necklace for his wife Cat’s
birthday, his brusqueness and demands initially put her off. But when she
discovers what he is willing to pay, and that it would allow her to buy Jack
his dream for Christmas, she is forced to reconsider.
Rob asks her to interview the key people in Cat’s life, so
that each of the charms will represent a key moment or memory. As she visits
Cat’s friends, work colleagues and family, Laura discovers that Cat’s life is
not only incredibly privileged, but Cat herself is also seemingly perfect.
Beautiful, gifted and kind-hearted, Laura begins to think she is creating a charm
necklace for an angel. And when Laura is forced to join Rob, Cat and their
friends at their ski chalet in Verbier for a celebratory weekend to get the
interviews finished, Laura is thrust headlong into their world.
The Perfect Present
is a lush, opulent novel full of intrigue, romance and secrets. It is rich in its story, and in its
story-telling. The writing is wonderfully descriptive without stifling the flow
of the story; the characters are fleshed out and believable, each with their
own paths, and their own relationships with Laura or Cat. I loved Kitty and her
busy family home, Sam with her sharp exterior, and Fee’s teenage dress-sense
and endless optimism. Laura, too, is a complex character, strong-willed but
with a vulnerability that isn’t initially explained. The locations, too, from
Laura’s Suffolk village and studio to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Chalet in
Verbier, are 3D enough to put you right in the middle of the action.
It’s coming round to that time of year where it’s completely
acceptable to cosy up on the sofa and indulge in the Christmassy wonder that is
‘Love Actually’ and become blissfully embroiled in the love stories of each
character, joyfully blubbing into our hot chocolate. So the arrival of Ali
McNamara’s ‘From Notting Hill to New York Actually’ couldn’t be more perfectly
The follow up to the incredibly
popular ‘From Notting Hill with Love Actually’ sees Scarlett O’Brien, utterly
addicted to romantic films, finally happy with her leading man….but can romance
really be like the movies?
Scarlett and Sean are happy. Scarlett is convinced that she’s found
Mr.Right, the happy couple are now living together but the reality of
day-to-day life isn’t quite as exciting as Scarlett hoped it would be. Sean works away on business a lot and Scarlett is trying to occupy both her time
and her addiction to celebrities, even going so far as to join a local gym because she thinks Jude Law works there...
When Sean notices that she’s
becoming ‘bored’ with her life he suggests going to New York to visit her
father. Scarlett reluctantly agrees (whilst secretly worrying that he seems a
little too keen on the idea of her not being around) and before you can say ‘Big
Apple’ she’s on a plane on her way to the place itself, flamboyant best friend
Oscar by her side.
must say at the outset, that I haven’t quite cracked this one yet. I have, over
time and through bitter experience, got considerably better. But I still don’t
know whether it is better to roll my roast potatoes in semolina (Nigella) or
just wang them in goose fat and be damned (Jamie).
I love my Christmas dinner. It is the very
best meal of the year. So why have I never quite got the hand of it? The first
Christmas dinner I ever cooked was not an unmitigated success and that has
somehow set the tone for my Christmas dinner career.
At the age of twenty-one and new bride, I
was very excited to cook my first turkey. What I hadn’t appreciated was how
much difference there was between said turkey and a chicken - which I had happily
roasted most Sundays. So I popped the monumental turkey in the oven for an hour
and a half and whacked on the rest of the vegetables at the same time too.
Result: an excellent meal of veg and roast potatoes for dinner at seven, followed
by turkey sandwiches at half past eleven at night when the damn thing was
finally ready. Who knew that a turkey would take hours and hours to cook!
Sprouts. They’re a mystery too, aren’t
they? My mother puts the sprouts on in July and let’s them percolate on a slow
simmer until Christmas day. I didn’t realise until I went to someone else’s
house for Christmas dinner that sprouts could be anything other than a noxious grey
puree. I have, however, followed in her
footsteps and eschew every recipe that advises me to stir fry them with lardons
and white wine. I boil them. To oblivion. And no one in the house likes them
anyway, so I don’t even know why I do that!
Our current Christmas morning ritual is to
go to our next door neighbour’s at ten o’clock and start the big day with a
sociable round or two of bucks fizz. I thoroughly enjoy it. Some years a bit
too much. Due to imbibing fizzy wine and orange juice, I have dropped two
Christmas dinners just as I was about to serve them. One year I pulled both
shelves out of the oven at once to inspect the roast potatoes and veg. Both
slid in slow motion to the floor before my drink-fuddled reactions could kick
in. The next year I did exactly the same but, for added effect, stumbled
backwards and knocked the resting turkey to the floor too.
On both occasions we had our soup and then
a very, very long wait. Now I buy an emergency, back-up Christmas dinner.
Bernard Matthews’ turkey roll, Aunt Bessie’s roast spuds and parsnips. If all
else fails, we can eat that.
One year , for a change, we had a three
bird roast which was a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey. Which was,
indeed, every bit as bizarre as it sounds. I’ve never had the nerve to tackle a
For the last few years, I’ve tried to put
aside the temptation of creating a gorgeous, groaning feast as peddled to us by
Gordon Ramsay and the like. I’ve bought in most of my dinner pre-prepared.
Marks and Spencers are the housewives’ friend. I buy all my veg peeled and cut
into appealing shapes. I buy my gravy ready made and my cranberry sauce. Heston
Bloomingheck does my Christmas pudding (thank you, Waitrose!) and Mr Kipling
will do my mince pies.
This year I am going to bake and ice my
own Christmas cake for the first time! I fear it may be a step too far.
Hope you enjoy making your own Christmas
dinner whatever you have. Anyway, must go, have to get the sprouts on!
This modern re-telling of Persuasion caught my eye when the first chapter was included in Avon's free short story ebook The Perfect Treat. I'm in the middle of it now and it really is a joy: Smart and sharp and funny in a cool girl kind of a way.
Queen Marian Keyes has described it as “Very very witty and funny. Left me in awe…a total gem.”
So Mhairi is clearly a writer to watch out for.
Here's the blurb:
‘Think of the great duos of history. We're just like them.’ ‘You mean like Kylie and Jason? Torvill and Dean? Sonny and Cher?’ ‘I think you’ve missed the point, Rachel.’
Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart. It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.
They’d been partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on: Ben is married. Rachel is not. Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.
Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you’ll be hooked from their first ‘hello’.
You Had Me At Hello has just been released and is only 99p. Our full review will be with you soon!
There are some things in life you just can’t plan
Eloise Elliot is one of the youngest newspaper editors
in the country. But on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, she’s hit with a
sharp pang of loneliness. With dazzling clarity, she realises what she wants-
someone to share her life with.
Fast forward three years and she is the adoring mother
of a gorgeous little girl, Lily. Juggling a high-powered job with single
motherhood is not easy and when Lily starts asking about ‘Daddy’ Eloise begins
to panic. What will she tell her?
So Eloise goes on a mission to find Lily’s father.
After all, she chose the perfect donor, surely there won’t be any surprises...
When I think of a Claudia Carroll
book, I automatically think of being curled up on the sofa with a brew and the
fire on. She always manages to create stories that give you a ready-brek like
glow, and her last few books have been great.
This book opens on Eloise, the
main character, celebrating her thirtieth birthday with a few ‘friends’ from
work. It’s a bit of a damp squib, for want of a better phrase, and it causes
Eloise to reflect on her life so far. Being one of the youngest newspaper
editors in Ireland doesn’t exactly give her life a lot of meaning, so she makes
a drastic decision, with dramatic consequences.
The first Cecelia Ahern novel I ever read was the widely
known and incredibly popular PS. I Love
You. Cecelia wrote it when she was
21 years old and I was in awe of her ability to make me care so much about her
characters that I laughed and cried with them. As I have read her newest
offerings, some I have loved, some not so much but throughout it all I have
always had an immense empathy with her characters. Her books are modern
fairytales and One Hundred Names is no
Kitty Logan’s journalism career is in tatters after she
wrongly accuses an innocent man on television. The only person who still has
any faith in her career is mentor and long term friend Constance Dubois but
Constance has terminal cancer and is dying. After managing to brave the
hospital ward and battling with her fear of seeing the person that she admires
and looks up to the most so ill Kitty goes to visit Constance with the hope
that she’ll know the answer. Constance tells Kitty about the one news story she
always wished she’d had time to write. She tells Kitty to track down a file. The
file contains a list of one hundred names, none of which mean anything to Kitty.
She hopes that by following up Constance’s story it will lead to reviving her
career and achieving the last wish of her friend.
Every Time We Say Goodbye opens at a graveside, as Marianne,
mother to two young children Kate and Andrew, buries her husband. Marianne’s
shock at having to face a life bringing up her children without their father is
clear but, while others grieve around her, Marianne’s own feelings are more
ambiguous. It soon becomes obvious that not everything was rosy in the Thomson
family even before Dominic’s untimely death. Dominic’s behaviour in the last
years of their marriage was erratic and increasingly violent, and Marianne, in
some ways relieved that he is gone, focuses all her attention on supporting her
children and helping them cope with the loss of their father.
Marianne has a strong support network around her in the
shape of her two best friends Helen and Jo, who she has been inseparable from
since they grew up together in a children’s home, and live-in mother-in-law Dot.
But as Marianne tries to secure a future for her family, revelations about
Dominic’s life shatter her already unsettled world. As troubled as she thought her late husband
was, it seems she didn’t know the whole story.
Marianne is forced to make some hard decisions, and every time she thinks
things will begin to settle down, a new revelation forces her to think again.
It is a truth universally acknowledged
that these days every second couple you meet is virtually guaranteed to have
met online. Because online dating is to our generation what the parish dance
hall was to our grannies, circa nineteen fifty. Except a helluva lot cheaper
and you don’t have to go to the bother of washing your hair for it.
And yet for years I stubbornly resisted.
Dismissed it. stayed resolutely single and when well-intentioned pals would
gently nag and ask, ‘Why don’t you ever try online dating?”
But then something shifted in me. I was
busy writing A VERY ACCIDENTAL LOVE STORY and spend a disproportionate amount
of time mulling about finding love in the most unexpected places, which is the
central theme of the book. And then out of the blue, my friend Lisa said to me
asked me exactly what kind of an accidental love story I had in mind for
myself? ‘Or are you still harbouring onto some Jane Austen-esque quaint notion
that fate will intervene and you’ll get swept off your feet by a handsome
stranger?’ Can’t remember what I replied, but it was doubtless along the lines
of ‘feck off with yourself and leave me alone!’ but my pal is made of sterner
stuff than that and persisted. ‘Cause if
that were going to happen, sure it would have by now?’ how else can you meet
fellas from the comfort of your own home, with no make-up on and
So off to my computer I go, if for no
other reason than to wipe the self-satisfied smile of Lisa’s face just because
she happens to be out-dating me. Yet again.
Right then, there’s something I should
probably explain. Up till this, my attitude to online dating can safely be
summarised thus; fine if you want to meet weirdos, saddos, whackos or married
men, but not if you just wanted to meet someone…..normal. Grand if you happen
to like men with profiles that read, ‘sixty-something farmer, almost all my own
teeth, seeks nubile young lass for fun times. Must have own chicken.’ Then
there’s the blatant, unbelievably outrageous, big, fat, hairy lies people tell. Whoppers. Like when
someone describes themselves as ‘fun’, it means ‘annoying. Just as ‘enjoys a
drink,’ means ‘would suck the alcohol from a deodorant bottle.’