Q&A: Travelling with Katy Collins

Today I am delighted to welcome the wonderful Katy Collins to The Love of A Good Book!

About Katy:

As a qualified journalist with articles published in Company Magazine and The Daily Star she crossed sides to work in Public Relations before selling all she owned to backpack solo around South East Asia and finally put her thoughts into words, writing as she travelled.

katy-colins-022Katy currently lives by the sea in France where she is on a one woman mission to educate the French about the necessity and technicalities of making a good cup of tea. When she is not writing about romance, travel and adventure, she loves travelling, catching up with family and friends and convincing herself that her croissant addiction isn’t out of control – just yet.

You can find out more about Katy, her writing and her travels on her blog http://www.notwedordead.com or via twitter @notwedordead

Using only three words can you describe Destination Chile? Exotic heart-warming escapism

Georgia is allowing us readers to travel the globe with her, where else will her journey take us? In Destination Chile we are shown a different side to Georgia as she is faced with yet more challenges and certainly feels way out of her comfort zone. Being half the way around the world doesn’t always mean you leave your problems at home.

If you could choose one of your characters to spend the day with, who would it be and why? (FYI I would choose Ben *swoons*)  

Ben is a good call (*dreamy sigh*) but I think I would have to choose Shelley or Marie. Having a squad of friends who ‘get you’ and support you no matter what mistakes you make or how much you embarrass yourself is so important. Plus, they would be great fun to hang out with!

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Can you share with us one of your favourite quotes from the series? I think that has to come from Georgia’s dad who says that that even when you don’t feel brave just pretend you do, no one will tell the difference. It’s something I try to listen to myself when I’m in an unfamiliar situation and just want to run and hide. By feeling the fear and doing it anyway it pushes you out of that comfort zone!

What is your dream destination? I am desperate to tick Japan off my list and also want to see the northern lights in Iceland. My problem is that there are too many amazing places out there and no time to fit them all in!

Can you share some facts about your first ever trip abroad? I admit that I was very nervous when I travelled alone for the first time but I knew how lucky I was to get to do this and wanted to make the most of every day. I made some mistakes with paying too much for trips, not haggling tuk tuk fares very well and tried to cram too much into each day but going travelling is a learning curve that helps you to grow in confidence for the next journey!

For those preparing to go backpacking, what five essentials would you advise them to take? Apart from your passport, tickets and money I’d say antibacterial hand gel, an e-reader, a torch, a scarf that works to warm you up and cover you up, and a notepad and pen to keep a travel journal. Trust me you don’t need as many clothes as you think you do.

What’s your writing routine? When I’m travelling I carry a lightweight tiny netbook and 51pq87ylh0l-_ac_us160_try to jot as much down as I can which is fine in the planning stage but by constantly moving locations it’s hard for your brain to switch off and focus! When I’m back in the UK I write in a small office and tend to outline the novel on post-it notes cluttering the walls. I write quickly and then have the fun of edits to polish it until it shines.

You are trapped in a book shop (isn’t that living the dream), what section would we find you in and with which book in hand? A dream indeed! I would of course head to the travel section, I love reading about other people’s adventures in remote places but I am also partial to the self-help section. I think mindfulness and self-awareness is a great way to take a step back from your busy life and appreciate it all. Then no trip to a bookshop would be complete without filling your arms with novels and I love escaping with rom-coms, psychological thrillers and women’s fiction.

51kjjvpr8l-_ac_us160_The best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? The world is your oyster. I was told this many times when my relationship ended and I had no idea what I was going to do next. I think this advice doesn’t just mean to travel but also that anything is possible for you to achieve, if you work hard enough to make it happen.

The Lonely Hearts Travel Club is being given its own cocktail (or cupcake) what are the ingredients? Oh that would be great! Hmm, it would be something with exotic fruits, a dash of spice and served with a cute umbrella!
Destination: Chile by Katy Colin’s is out on 22nd September (Carina, £7.99)



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NEW RELEASE! The Braille Club Undone – J.A Kerr

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The Braille Club Undone is the third book in The Braille Club series and is AVAILABLE NOW!

The Braille Club Undone - Full wrap.

Blurb:

The Braille Club fulfils desires and fantasies. It guarantees members—sensory overload. Pleasure comes in many forms. Some playful and exciting, others…twisted by evil. Would you risk pain in exchange for pleasure?

Benedict and Sienna Harrison are left reeling…

Siena and Benedict—newlyweds and owners of the exclusive Braille Club—are determined more than ever to protect their family. “Knox,” their new home seems safe; but a presence lurks in the shadows. Watching, waiting. When the weak link is identified, their whole world will be blown apart.

Simon Lawrence will stop at nothing to satisfy his desires…

But his wife, Tess, has other plans. Tired of her husband’s infidelity, she resorts to desperate measures. However, Simon won’t let this new woman slip through his fingers. Distraught, Tess will stop at nothing to protect them and her secret. How far will she go to save her husband…from himself?

Virinder Bashir desires the freedom of the club…

Forced to marry Noor Chaudry, a beautiful, ruthless, and desperate woman, Virinder rejects their arranged marriage, seeing through her façade. During his sensual Braille lessons however, Noor becomes the center of his fantasies. After tragedy comes a blooming love, but not everyone wants them to live happily ever after.

A new client tempts Anna Dunbar down a dangerous, yet exciting path…

Manager of Harrison’s and the Braille Club, Guy Walker’s relationship with Anna Dunbar is failing. Feeling neglected, Anna’s flirting ignites Guy’s determination to win her back. Their mutual development of a new Braille Club Zone reawakens their dark desires, but will these desires unite…or destroy them?

Cords and ropes aren’t the only strings being pulled at the Braille Club. Danger lurks beneath deadly desires and obsessive fantasies… Will you indulge your desires and enter the Braille Club once again?

 

Five Star Review! As an avid follower of The Braille series, I couldn’t wait to read the next instalment from J A Kerr. Book 3 doesn’t disappoint! With increasingly complex storylines and clever introductions to fresh characters, you are taken on a roller coaster of a ride; experiencing contradictory emotions as the book gathers pace. Definitely darker than the first two books, Kerr manages to balance romance with danger, and offers the reader fascinating insight into “edgier” elements of sexual desire. Braille club die hards will enjoy the twists and turns of familiar relationships however “Undone” takes them to another level, setting up a tantalising finale that will keep you guessing! Great read, highly recommend! – Marie Lynch.

Teaser

Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1Uijb2u

The Braille Club Undone is available at:

Amazon.com: https://amzn.com/B01IE62Z5O

Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01IE62Z5O

The Braille Club Undone Teaser.

Author Bio:

Author Pic.

I was born in the spring of 1967 at Paisley’s Ross Hospital in Scotland and grew up in Glasgow. I was an office administrator and latterly a recruitment consultant before marrying and relocating to The Netherlands with her husband. After two years, I moved to Cheshire where my first child was born and returned to work part-time. My final relocation took me back to my home town of Glasgow where I welcomed the arrival of my second child. I raised my family whilst harbouring dreams of becoming a writer. In September 2013, I took the plunge and started my first book.

When I set out to write these books, I wanted to create something that mirrored exactly the kind of books I like to read. My top picks are always originals featuring strong male and female protagonists with attitude. The Braille Club Series books are a great mix of genres. Although sensuality plays a big part, there is also intrigue and a touch of thriller.
I love to connect.

Never miss a thing sign up to my fun monthly newsletter http://bit.ly/1VY3q4E Keeping up with a KERRdashion…for all my book gossip, giveaways and updates 🙂

Facebook: http://facebook.com/JAKerrBRAILLE
Twitter:https://twitter.com/ AuthorJAKerr
Website:https://www.thebrailleclub.com
Goodreads:http://bit.ly/2amHxN9
Amazon Page http://amzn.to/1fHNdxO

The Braille Club series!

The Braille Club 1

The Braille Club is available and FREE for a LIMITED TIME:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/29F4jzq

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1KQ7K1c

The Braille Club Unbound 2

The Braille Club Unbound is available at:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/29uUPXP

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1XbQogj

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WIN AN EBOOK, BOOK SWAG & $5 AMAZON GIFTCARD!

All you have to do is like the below Facebook page:

http://facebook.com/JAKerrBRAILLE

A winner will be selected on the 3rd August.

Beauty Corner: OGX

Summer Reads

 

Last year I went through a turbulent relationship with my hair, in the quest to like myself better I took my frustrations out on my appearance and the result of this meant that I went through an array of hair colours, which unfortunately took its toll. Thankfully my hair is now completely healthy and I plan on keeping it that way.

With this in mind i have completely overhauled my haircare routine and with that came the discovery of OGX  Keratin Oil Shampoo and Conditioner.

What the website says:

Strength. It’s a beautiful thing. Why not infuse your hair with it? This rich, fortifying collection infused with keratin proteins helps reinforce each strand to resist split ends, flyaways and bad hair days.

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My Disclaimer:

Before I purchased these products I checked the company’s website and discovered that only four products in their range contain gluten (OGX® Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen, OGX® O2 Line, OGX® Niacin and Caffeine Root Stimulator Spray, and OGX® Bamboo Fiber-full Thickening Root Booster), the Keratin range is free from gluten containing ingredients but as stated on their website “There is a possibility of contamination during the manufacturing process”

As a coeliac I am aware of my reaction levels to cross contaminated items and will try products that aren’t ingested.

About the product:

Firstly lets discuss the packaging:

Both the shampoo and conditioner come in a pink bottle that features gold writing and a gold cap. The bottle looks great and feel high-end. I really like the shape of these bottles and find them unique compared to previous shampoos/conditioners I have tried.

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The shampoo looks reminiscent of honey and smells absolutely incredible. You don’t need a big amount to bring the shampoo to a lather.

The conditioner is a slightly richer colour and offers a cream like texture. This also has an incredible smell and leaves the hair feeling luxuriously soft.

After use my hair feels softer, looks shinier and smells amazing. And if I am honest I keep finding myself swishing it.

I am pleased with the results of these two products and will definitely be purchasing more in the OGX beauty range.

I’m on my quest for luscious mermaid hair and OGX are coming with me.

 

 

 

You Had Me At Merlot by Lisa Dickenson

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Full of sultry summer nights, hilarious moments and plenty of adventure, You Had Me at Merlot is a romantic, funny and wine-fuelled novel that will have you crying with laughter one moment and nodding your head in agreement the next.

Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they’re single, they’re not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren’t filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine. She likes her independent life, but Laurie wants love and she wants it now.

So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. She has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else’s idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?

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You Had Me at Merlot introduces us to workaholic Elle and her best friend Laurie. Laurie is recovering from another disastrous relationship and on a quest to cheer herself up she talks best friend Elle into a singles holiday! 

Laurie maybe in search of her Mr Right. Elle however, is more than happy to enjoy the sunshine and wine, after all no man would fit into her perfect single life.

I absolutely adore Lisa Dickenson’s writing style, her humour and descriptiveness have you captivated within the first page. Her characters are real and striving for what they believe they should’ve achieved before they hit their thirties. Laurie longs for the dream wedding and the babies that most of their friends seem to be having. Where as Elle is more career driven and focused on putting in long hours at work, she isn’t striving for a prince but instead a promotion.

I love Elle, she is very easy to relate to and It is fantastic seeing her let her hair down and enjoy the sunshine, the wine certainly seems help.

I think a special mention should go to Jamie, the HOT, incredible Jamie. The only thing that put me off this fine specimen of a man was the fact he shares the same name as my brother (ewww) but I certainly wont hold that against him as I dream of holding myself against him.

I also love the way in which Dickenson sets the scene, for not only am I left with my mouth watering imagining those wines but I also feel as though I have been to Florence taking in the art, culture and gelato.

In fact I am in love with every part of this story, the atmosphere, the characters, the setting…. the list is endless

You Had Me At Merlot is a sensational summer reads that brings friendship and love into your life and leaves you drunk on happiness.

A big thank you to Clara at Little Brown for sending me a copy to review

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Valley Of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Dolls – red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight. For Anne, Neely and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three beautiful women become best friends when they are young and in New York, struggling to make their names in the entertainment industry. Only when they reach the peak of their careers do they find there’s nowhere left to go but down – to the Valley of the Dolls.

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Before Ana met Christian and Carrie met Big there was a story filled with the desire for love, the pull of passion and the addiction that life within the spotlight can bring.

Valley of the Dolls begins with small town girl Anne leaving her life behind in Lawrenceville in the 1940’s. Anne is in search of something more and heads to New York City to find it.The story spans two decades and follows the lives of Anne and two other women.

When Anne first embarks on her life in New York City she finds herself neighbour to Neely, a petite seventeen year old with plans bigger than her small frame.
Later on Anne meets Jennifer, a glamour puss who has the beauty women yearn for and the body men long to touch.

Three women all from different walks of life all striving to make their way in the world!

I absolutely adored this story, it is strange to think that it was written 50 years ago and still the material seems as fresh as the day it was penned. This story hits home on the pressures that are placed not just in Hollywood or on Broadway but the pressures that women are placed under by both society and themselves.

The story explores the use of drugs (the dolls) as a way to keep slim, alert, fight insomnia etc, it explores the cocktail of drugs that at times some would use to function day to day. But this story isn’t one to glorify the taking of drugs for it also demonstrates the effect they have on a person and their mental state.

This story had my emotions on a rollercoaster when it came to rooting for the characters because there were times when my heart went out to them but there were also times when I found myself annoyed at the path they were taking.

The story also explores sexuality and passion, it was likely to have been extremely racy back in its day and thanks to the sexual exploits of Anne, Neely and Jennifer it could still be considered slightly suggestive. Throw into the mix Lyon Burke an easy on the eye cad (a present day player) and you have some sizzling chemistry.

This book has had an effect on me, I don’t know whether it is the fact that something written 50 years ago still seems current and gripping or whether it was Mr Henry Bellamy and the helpful advice he offered within the pages but either way this book has fast become a favourite of mine. And after finishing Valley of the Dolls I found myself wondering…

Did this story pave the way for advances in female literature? The taboo subjects it raised no doubt caused controversy in its era but yet something about it has remained timeless and classic making it a story that will hopefully live on forever!

A big thank you to Helen at Little Brown/Virago for sending me a copy to review and introducing me to such an incredible book!

Solo Travel Things I Know Now by Katy Colins

Today i am super excited to welcome Katy Colins to The Love of a Good Book. Last month I shared with you my review for Destination Thailand and today I am delighted to share with you an exclusive guest post from Katy!

I was pretty hapless when I booked my first ever six month solo backpacking trip. Carried away with visions of casually strolling through the streets of Bangkok, lazing on the white shores of Goa and maybe managing a trek through the Himalayas all on my own, meant I had little time to think about what the reality may be like.

Like the fact that unless you take ear plugs and an eye mask there’s no way you’re getting any shut eye in a dorm full of snorers or late night revellers. Like the fact that being a solo female traveller will mean A LOT of male attention, some of it very unwanted and irritating. Like the fact that a stupid amount of time will be spent planning your next steps, booking transport and reading reviews of hostels where you can sleep the following night that don’t resemble Bates Motel.

I now know that being classed as an ahem slightly older traveller (anything over 25 years old and you suddenly feel like an OAP at a teens disco) meant I couldn’t hack it like the young ‘uns. Just saying young ‘uns already shows my age. My liver, already knackered after my carefree uni days, stubbornly refused to let me get down with the kids, or if it did then I would pay for it the following day. Being hungover in scorching clammy heat with no Netflix or greasy all day breakfasts to cure this self-infliction is not big or clever.

I now know that you will develop an alter ego who bursts out of you Hulk-style during frustrating situations. Being meek and mild mannered most of the time will only get you so far, but a feisty new you will emerge when you’re haggling fares with tuk tuk drivers, putting your foot down as politely but persistently as you can telling your tour guide that no you don’t want to visit his second cousin’s jewellery shop, and sticking to your guns that you’re certain you don’t want to buy a naff souvenir from an insistent beach seller.

I now know that style goes out of the window when on the road. You can forget your matching outfits, pretty hair accessories and *gasp* even makeup, when you travel comfort is king. That and finding confidence in leaving your room with unwashed hair, unshaved legs, a wet wipe shower and a spritz of eau de mozzie spray knowing that no one will judge you.

I now know that you need to enjoy the actual travel time. The process of getting from A to B can be full of delays, cancellations and uncomfortable crossings but you’ve just got to sit back and try to enjoy the ride.

Destination India, the second instalment in The Lonely Hearts Travel Club series by Katy Colins, is published by Carina UK

Thank you to Katy for an incredible guest post and to Alice at Carina for inviting me to be part of the blog tour!

Destination India, review coming NEXT WEEK

Read on for more information about Katy and Destination India.

Destination India blog tour banner.jpgAbout Katy Colins
Katy Colins completed her first novel A Dogs Tale at the age of 11 which received rave reviews… from her Grandad and English teacher. This was just the encouragement she needed to carry on writing.

As a qualified journalist with articles published in Company Magazine and The Daily Star she crossed sides to work in Public Relations before selling all she owned to backpack solo around South East Asia and finally put her thoughts into words, writing as she travelled.

After living in Normandy (where she was on a one woman mission to educate the French about the and technicalities of making a good cup of tea), Katy is now back in the UK finishing the third novel in The Lonely Hearts Travel Club, although she already has itchy feet for yet more travel adventures.

When she is not writing about romance, travel and adventure, she loves travelling, catching up with family and friends and convincing herself that her croissant addiction isn’t out of control – just yet.

You can find out more about Katy, her writing and her travels on her blog www.notwedordead.com She is also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – just search Notwedordead – and she is also a little bit addicted to sharing her travel adventures via Snapchat (TheNotwedordead). 

Katy Colins

Destination India:

Starting the Lonely hearts Travel Club was supposed to be the second chance that gave Georgia Green back her life. She thought it would be just like travelling, but the reality is far from rosy as she realises that starting a new business is definitely not a beach!

So when Georgia finds herself on an impromptu work trip to India she knows something’s got to give! Where has the girl gone who fought so hard to rebuild her life?

The land of Bollywood, gorgeous beaches and the Taj Mahal might just hold the key to Georgia finding her stride again… Only she is about to find out that when in India the country calls the shots – not you. But Georgia’s not going down that easy!

Join Georgia Green for her next big adventure in Bollywood!

The new favourite series for fans of Bridget Jones’s Diary, the Shopaholic series and Eat, Pray, Love.

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Destination Thailand (The Lonely Hearts Travel Club, Book 1) by Katy Colins

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What if you had a second chance… to find yourself?
Instead of slipping on her something borrowed and tripping up the aisle to wedded bliss, Georgia spends her big day crying into a warm Sex-on-the-Beach, wondering where it all went wrong.

Forced to make a bucket list of her new life goals by best friend Marie, it’s not long before travel-virgin Georgia’s packing her bags for a long-haul adventure to Thailand.

Yet, Georgia’s big adventure doesn’t seem to be going to plan. From strange sights, smells and falling for every rookie traveller scam in the book Georgia has never felt more alone.

But the good thing about falling apart is that you can put yourself back together any way you please. And new Georgia might just be someone she can finally be proud of…

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I’m trying to find the words to describe Destination Thailand in a way that does every single aspect of this book the justice that it deserves. There is something incredible about a book that allows you to forget your surroundings and almost believe that you are in the idyllic locations that are described within the pages. it wasn’t just the location of this story that won me over but the wonderful mix of characters that you discover whilst on the journey. There were characters to love and hate, ones to lust after and long for and characters that spoke to your core. I have often discovered characters that I relate to but I have never before discovered a character who has resonated with me in the way that Georgia Green has.

Georgia Green has had her life turned upside down, she went from planning her wedding to being single, homeless and jobless. But Georgia isn’t going to take these changes lying down and encouraged by best friend Marie she embarks on backpacking her way around Thailand.

I instantly warmed to Georgia and recognised so many of her traits in myself, sadly I am still waiting for someone like Marie to give me a nudge in the right direction.
*Although as I type this I can’t stop thinking about Georgia’s story, maybe this is in fact the nudge that I need.

When Georgia first embarks on her travels she joins a tour group, which brings a variety of people into her life, I have to admit that when she was on the tour I found myself disliking the majority of the people she was travelling with. in fact the only person I did like was Claire a shy french girl who I felt had more that she wanted to say. 

However, later on in the story there are a whole host of wonderful characters to help Georgia with her journey. Like beautiful Ben,  Little Em and Astrid (to name but a few) . 

All of these characters I hope to be reunited with as we travel with Georgia to other destinations in what is proving to be a promising series about The Lonely Hearts Travel Club.

 

This is one of those books that will change you and encourage you to go in search of the happiness you deserve!

 

Cover reveal: The Revenge by Holly Martin

Here is the gorgeous cover for The Revenge, the new book by Holly Martin.   

This is the third book in The Sentinel Series and here’s the blurb so you can see what happens next for Eve and her friends.
He was created to be her back up and now he’s out to take her place

After the Oraculum orders Eve’s execution, she has to flee her home in the fort as those that have been guarding over her are forced to turn against her. Amongst the chaos, a new Sentinel is named. Adam, Eve’s half-brother. 

Adam has spent his life incarcerated by the Oraculum while Eve was allowed to grow up with a family and friends. Now he is hell bent on revenge. He rules over his Guardians and his new kingdom with arrogance and a cold heart, but his one ambition is to make Eve’s life a living hell. Nowhere is safe from him, not even her dreams. 

With the threat from the Putarians moving closer, her own Guardians betraying her, the survival of the world hinges in the balance. 
Above all else, Adam must be stopped. But when Eve has a prophecy of her and Adam saving the world together, she quickly realizes she needs to work with him not against him. 

But can Eve get through to Adam before it’s too late? Or will Adam’s evil heart result in the destruction of all? 

Praise for The Sentinel (Book 1 in The Sentinel Series)

It’s a book you HAVE to read, because it’s incredible. An outstanding book that has left me bereft its finished. I wished I’d savoured it for longer. This book was one of those that once you started it was impossible to come away from. It was fast paced, exciting, full of suspense and action that had me gasping in shock at twists I never imagined could happen. It’s a story of courage and adventure. And no matter how dark it gets, there’s always love and hope. – Victoria Loves Books Blog 

It’s really hard to find the words to describe how amazing this book is. 

This is definitely the best debut I’ve read this year! I just love this book, I want you all to read this book, in fact you all need to read this book! – Love of a Good Book Blog

If you want to pre-order this book so it pops straight onto your kindle on December 1st then pop over here. Its only 99p/99c

UK http://amzn.to/1GQcNOt

US http://amzn.to/1S7aAOX

And if you haven’t read the first two books in the series yet, then pop over here and get your copy, all three books are 99p/99c at the moment

The Sentinel

UK http://amzn.to/1giKNVp

US http://amzn.to/IKSOUk

 

The Prophecies

UK http://amzn.to/1DZ8ECN

US http://amzn.to/1khpDuY

 

 

 

FIRST CHAPTER! FAIRYTALE BEGINNINGS BY HOLLY MARTIN

Today I have an exclusive sneak peek of the absolutely brilliant Fairytale Beginnings by Holly Martin which is out now

 Fairytale Beginnings  
Milly drove up the steep, curvy, cliff top lanes with the warm sun on her back and the wind in her hair. From up here, she could see the sparkling blue of the sea below her stretching out for miles into the horizon. It was a beautiful day, made even lovelier by the endless yellow fields of rapeseed on the other side of her. It smelt wonderful but she wished it was clover instead as that might be some indication that she was going in the right direction.FB
She was hopefully heading towards Clover’s Rest. The satnav had, of course, stopped working half an hour ago and all she was left with was a flashing question mark on the screen, indicating that the satnav had no idea where she was. Nothing seemed to be known about the village of Clover’s Rest or Clover Castle which presided over the tiny dwelling. It didn’t appear on any maps, and bizarrely there was no record of it on any kind of historical documentation. That in itself was a mystery and one Milly was keen to solve.
Dick, her beaten up old Triumph, was having trouble with the steep gradient of the inclines and she had spent most of the last fifteen minutes barely coming out of first gear. Her brother, Jamie, had begged her several times to buy a new car but her beloved white Triumph TR2 was her pride and joy.

Up ahead, on the very summit of the hill, she suddenly saw a flash of a blue-topped turret from behind the trees and her heart soared. But no sooner had it appeared, it had gone.

Dick whined as she pushed him round a very steep corner and she leaned forward and gave him a little pat of encouragement. He spluttered and coughed, but thankfully didn’t cut out. The handbrake wasn’t the best and she wasn’t hopeful that Dick could cling to the road surface without sliding back to the foot of the hill again.

Steam started to appear from under Dick’s bonnet as she floored the accelerator and crossed her fingers and toes. She glanced down at her multi-coloured star bracelet and absently made a wish that she would make it to the top of the hill.
‘Just a little further, Dick, come on.’

Dick was barely moving at all now, Milly could get out and walk quicker. As she begged and pleaded with Dick to just last a little bit longer, a kid on his bike rang his bell and scooted round her, disappearing into the trees up ahead.

How insulting to be overtaken by a kid on a BMX. And Dick obviously thought so too as he suddenly found a last bit of energy and groaned and coughed up the last few metres, where the hill finally levelled out.

They shuffled into a tunnel of trees, which swallowed her up, shutting out all the bright daylight behind her and overhead so she was driving through a canopy of total green. It was very dark, with just a tiny pinprick of light ahead of her that she pushed Dick towards. Movement swirled in her rear view mirror; as she glanced up it almost seemed like the trees were closing the gap behind her, covering the road with their tangle of branches so there was no escape.

Dick finally burst through the trees to the other side. Daylight temporarily blinded her, she briefly saw some houses and a village green and then a thick plume of white smoke burst from the engine and the village vanished from view. Dick let out what sounded like a really big fart and then died, smoke still pouring from underneath the bonnet.

Milly sighed. She had asked too much of him, she knew that. It had seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up; going out in her convertible along the seafront when the weather was so hot, and Clover’s Rest was only supposed to be an hour and a half away from where she lived. But Dick was over twice her age and was only really capable of short flat journeys, nothing like the mountainous terrain she had just traversed.

‘It’s ok Dick, you can have a few days to have a little rest and maybe we can find someone to tinker under your bonnet before we go home. And it’s all downhill from here so worst case scenario, we can just roll you home. Plus we’re on holiday next week, I promise you can stay at home every day. I intend to sit in the garden and do nothing but read for the entire week.’

Dick let out a sigh of relief and the smoke slowed and then stopped, revealing the most gorgeous, picturesque village she had ever seen.

Milly quickly got out and gazed across the village green, staring at the whitewashed cottages like a kid in a sweet shop. The roofs were topped with yellow thatch that glinted like gold in the sunlight. They were a hodgepodge collection; the nearest ones to her were timber framed and the ones on the far side were made from stone. But all of them came with their unique lumps and bumps, jutting out bits of stone or bent bits of timber indicating that these houses were hundreds of years old.

She quickly grabbed her suitcase, gave Dick an affectionate pat, and abandoned him on the edge of the green as she walked in awe along the cobbled road.

The historian in her picked out key features in the houses straight away. Of course without certain dating tests it would be hard to be specific, but the first house on the green had to be at least four hundred years old, which meant it should be a listed building. But there had been nothing in any historical documents or files that even indicated this place existed, let alone had listed buildings.

Her toes curled with pleasure at the prospect of what this mysterious Clover Castle looked like. Was it possible that she was going to round the corner of the green and see a sixteenth century undiscovered jewel?

She approached the nearest house and ran her hand appreciatively up the oak timber frame. There was something incredible and humbling about touching something that had been around for hundreds of years. What had this building seen and heard, what stories could it tell?

She leaned closer to the wood and sniffed it. The rich smells of smoke, wood and earth engulfed her and she smiled.

She suddenly realised she wasn’t alone. Milly looked up from the wood into the bulbous eyes of an old man, dressed in a tatty suit. His skin seemed to have shrunk against his bones, making his eyes seem more bulging and protruding. He was chewing on what looked like a small stone, rolling it around his mouth and back again as if he was trying to work out what it tasted like. His white hair stuck out making him look like he was a crazy scientist but he was looking at her as if she was insane, which she supposed she was, standing on someone’s front lawn stroking and smelling the side of the house.

He took a drag of his cigarette and then flicked it into the nearby bushes. She winced at the desecration of such a historic place but chose to ignore it as he still had the moral high ground at the moment, being the slightly saner one of the two.

‘You can’t leave your car there,’ said the man, indicating poor Dick, who looked so deflated and exhausted that even his headlights seemed to be drooping. ‘It’s double yellow lines.’

Sure enough, double yellow lines covered the roads on both sides, as if it was a main road through a busy city rather than a tiny remote village with probably no more than thirty houses. But closer inspection showed the lines to be very wobbly and most likely hand painted. Who would do such a thing? Traffic clearly wasn’t a problem up here, there wasn’t even another car in sight and Dick wasn’t blocking up the road, which was wide enough for two cars to pass easily in both directions.

‘Well unfortunately my car broke down, so it will have to stay there until I can get someone to have a look at it.’

The man sucked air through his teeth and shook his head. ‘Igor won’t like that. It’s likely the car will be towed.’

Igor? Wasn’t that the name of Dracula’s assistant?

‘Sorry, what did you say your name was?’ Milly asked, deliberately.

‘Danny.’

‘Danny, I’m sure Igor will understand that a broken down car is not my fault. I’m a guest of Lord Heartstone, so if there’s any problem Igor can come and see me at the castle.’

Milly hoped that using Cameron’s name and title would be enough to get Danny to leave her and Dick alone, but that wasn’t the case. Danny’s face suddenly filled with disdain.

‘He isn’t exactly Mr Popular round here at the moment. He’s only been back here a few months and he’s sacked all the staff already. Grumpy sod, too, keeps himself to himself.’

‘Well it’s a big responsibility to suddenly inherit a castle, I’m sure it will take a period of adjustment. I’m here to see if I can help him.’

She spotted a flag flying above the trees and grabbed her suitcase and started walking towards it, hoping that Danny wouldn’t follow her, but he did.
‘It’s the Summer Solstice this weekend, we always have a big celebration and he won’t even be a part of it.’

‘Well maybe I can talk to him.’

She squinted at the flag, it wasn’t like any she had ever seen before. It was hard to see from this distance what was on it, but it looked like a dragon eating a heart.
‘Are you staying up there?’ Danny yelled after her, finally giving up following her.

‘Yes, for a week.’

‘You’ll never leave. Those that stay there never leave.’

She stared at him. These sinister words sent shivers down her spine.

‘And whatever you do, don’t go out after midnight. The Oogie will get you.’

‘The Oogie?’

‘A sea monster who eats unwanted visitors.’

‘That’s a local myth, surely.’

Danny shook his head. ‘The village has lost lots of victims to the Oogie. Just don’t go out after midnight and make sure you keep all the doors and windows locked at night.’

He was clearly joking or just insane. Danny wandered off and she stared after him, realising he was only wearing one shoe. Definitely insane. She looked around at this calm, tranquil little village. With the bright sunshine beating down on the little houses, the scent of the roses that twisted round all the doors, she wasn’t going to let some crazy nonsense about a sea monster bring her down.

She had a castle to look at and she couldn’t wait to see it.

Milly walked round the corner into the trees. Up ahead she could see some large, highly decorative wrought iron gates, with swirls and flowers. The gate was probably Victorian or Edwardian. It was very pretty but her heart sank a little bit. It didn’t necessarily mean that the castle was from that era, but she hoped it wasn’t. Castle Heritage, who she worked for, would have nothing to do with the castle if it was from the Edwardian era. They were only interested in ancient relics, particularly those from the medieval period.

She wanted to help Cameron, she really did. She had spoken to him a few times on the phone and he’d sounded desperate. He had this deep, rich, voice that sounded velvety and she guessed he was about fifty years old. She had a way of accurately estimating people’s ages too, not just the age of houses.

It was the stuff of dreams to wake up one morning and find that not only were you a Lord but one that owned a castle too, yet from speaking to Cameron it seemed it was more like a nightmare than a dream.

He’d spoken to her about burst pipes, broken windows, rotting walls, crumbling masonry and a severe damp problem. It wasn’t the inheritance that he had hoped it would be.

If the castle was old enough, Castle Heritage would probably buy it off him or, at the very least, pay to have these things repaired and maintain the upkeep of the place. They might even make it into a tourist attraction if they thought it was a viable option. If she thought it was a viable option. That’s what she was here to assess. The steep incline of the hill was definitely a negative point. Thousands of people every year visited the big castles in the UK. The road she and Dick had driven up earlier couldn’t sustain that many visitors, nor could the tiny village. But if the property was worth it, her company would pay to improve the road too.

She ran her fingers over her multi-coloured star bracelet, as she always did when she wanted something really badly. Most of the time the bracelet let her down but occasionally her wishes came true. Singing the first few lines of the song ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ in her head, she closed her eyes and made a wish. ‘Let the castle be something truly spectacular,’ she whispered.
She opened the gate and it creaked in protest. Clouds skittered across the sun, casting long shadows across the curved drive. As she stepped through the entrance, a cool wind whipped around her, dragging her blonde hair into her face. The wispy summer dress she was wearing hardly seemed appropriate all of a sudden, she should at least have worn a jacket or a cardigan. English weather was always so unpredictable.

She shivered and walked round the corner, pushing the hair out of her eyes so she could get her first glimpse of Clover Castle. And suddenly there it was.

Her heart soared. For someone who had grown up obsessed with all things Disney, and still loved Disney now, years after it was socially acceptable for her to do so, seeing what was quite obviously a real life Cinderella’s castle in front of her was something out of her wildest dreams. Turrets jutted out from all parts of the castle, some protruding out of other turrets. There were four towers, all topped with conical blue spires. From her position at the foot of the drive, she could see twenty-three blue spires, some of which topped the turrets, some that were simply large conical topped pinnacles that didn’t seem to have any purpose other than for decoration. Each spire had a long, gold flagpole on the top with a scarlet banner, apart from the large flag in the middle that had that weird dragon design. She stared at the flag for a moment, although very different in its design, the theme of the dragon wrapped protectively around the heart was eerily similar to the tattoo she had on her right side.
The castle was beautiful but her heart had already plummeted into her shoes. This couldn’t be any more than a hundred years old. It looked Bavarian in its design and was built purely for enjoyment and certainly not to protect.

There was a splendid drawbridge in the middle of the front castle wall but as she walked up the drive she could see there was no moat for the drawbridge to go over.

It seemed as though, at some point over the last hundred years, someone had decided to build a castle, looked at what features other castles had and decided to have one of everything – whether it was needed or not. Or in the case of the spires, twenty-three of them.

Standing on the hilltop with the sea framed dramatically behind it, the castle was an incredible sight. It was magical and arrogant and wonderful all at the same time and … Castle Heritage wouldn’t come anywhere near it.

She might as well turn round and head home now. Her birthday was later this week, and she didn’t really want to be working on her birthday. If she left now she might even be able to start her holiday a few days early. But she had promised Cameron she would stay for a week to do all the tests and surveys. He had already paid Castle Heritage quite a significant sum for her time and services and although she could refund the money there must be something she could do to help him. At the very least she could stay for a couple of days in order to get a feel for the place.

She couldn’t feel too disappointed at her wasted trip, the place was spectacular and she got to sleep here, hopefully in a room fit for a princess in one of the tallest towers.

As she stared up in wonder at this thing of beauty, she heard two deep barks. She turned in time to see a heap of black, shaggy fur before she was knocked to the ground.

‘Gregory, NO!’ a deep voice yelled out.

But Gregory, if that was indeed the beast’s name, was not to be dissuaded. Standing over her, Gregory started bathing her face in pungent wet licks, his coarse tongue tickling her face and making her giggle.

Suddenly the dog was snatched from over her and she was yanked to her feet. She slammed into a hard wall of muscle and looked up into a pair of eyes that were so dark they were almost black. Dark, curly hair topped his head, but she was too close to see any other features. He smelt amazing though, all woody and earthy and wonderful.

‘Oh God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise I pulled you so hard.’ He took a step back and Milly stared up at him, aware that her throat was completely dry. This guy was frigging hot. Dark stubble lined his jaw bone. He was huge too, muscles screaming from every single part of him. He was wearing a suit that was very tight around his broad, muscular shoulders. She felt very under-dressed all of a sudden in her beach dress and sparkly pink Converse trainers.

‘Oh God, your dress, I’m so sorry.’ He stepped forward and brushed her breasts, trying to wipe off the two muddy paw prints that had been imprinted onto the material. His face immediately turned pale as he realised what he had done. He leapt back, looking horrified. ‘I’m so sorry. I … God, I’m so sorry.’
Milly couldn’t help but take pity on him.

‘It’s not the usual greeting I get, normally a handshake would suffice.’

He stared at her for a moment, then laughed, a deep, booming laugh. He offered out his large bear paw of a hand, and she shook it. ‘I’m Cameron Heartstone.’

This gorgeous man was Cameron Heartstone? She had expected someone so much older, probably smoking a pipe and wearing tartan slippers.

‘Milly Rose. We spoke on the phone. It’s good to finally meet you.’

‘Yes of course, come in.’ He bent down to pick up her discarded suitcase. ‘Gregory, Sit! Stay!’ He commanded the black, hairy beast by his side. Gregory was so big Milly thought she might be able to ride him. His eyes were lost under a mass of fur, his pink tongue lolling out the side of his face. He gave a wag of his tail before running off and disappearing round the side of the castle. Clearly very obedient. Cameron sighed and ushered her through a small side door, with his hand in the small of her back. ‘He’s not my dog, he sort of came with the castle. The first day I arrived he turned up and hasn’t left since. He doesn’t belong to anyone in the village, so I guess I’m stuck with him.’

He was clearly nervous, though she wasn’t sure why. He pulled at his collar, obviously not comfortable wearing a shirt and tie. Had he dressed up for her?

She stepped through into a warm kitchen, with a large wooden table standing in the middle and wooden benches either side. The walls were painted a cosy terracotta. Delicious, tangy smells reached her and her stomach gurgled appreciatively. An Aga stood at one end of the room and something was bubbling away in a huge pot on top.

‘I’ll make us some lunch. Will your boss be joining us soon?’
‘My boss? I don’t really have one. Well, the board of directors at Castle Heritage are sort of my bosses, but I mainly work for myself.’

Her heart sank a bit. He had been expecting someone older, too.

‘Oh, well, the science people, the historians, the ones who will do all the tests?’
‘That would be me.’

He stared at her, disappointment registering on his face. He looked her up and down disdainfully. ‘They’ve sent me a child, is this someone’s idea of a joke? Your idea of history is probably what happened in EastEnders last week.’

Milly felt her mouth fall open. She was used to getting some prejudice when she turned up at these historic places. With her long blonde hair, large blue eyes and Mary Poppins style rosy cheeks, no one thought she was capable of having any knowledge of history at all. She knew she didn’t help these first impressions by having pink tipped hair and sparkly clothes and shoes, but generally the comments she got were little jokes. That remark about her historical knowledge hurt. And she had never been called a child before. This man couldn’t be any more than five years older than she was, although, being so short, she knew she looked a lot younger than her actual age.

She drew herself up to her full height, which did nothing to diminish the height difference between them.

‘I am not a child. I’m twenty-eight years old. You judgemental ass. You see the blonde hair and the pretty dress and automatically assume that I’m some kind of bimbo. I have a Doctorate in Archaeology and Historic Architecture. I have a Master of Science degree in Heritage Conservation and a Bachelor of Science degree in Medieval History. I have extensive experience in dendrochronological and geophysical surveying and my PhD studies required detailed research into archaeological remains, excavation and historic building construction. I guarantee I know more about this castle than you could possibly ever know but if that isn’t good enough for you, I will quite happily leave right now and take every chance of you ever working with Castle Heritage with me.’

She stormed to the door but he beat her to it, slamming it closed before she’d only opened it an inch.

‘You can’t leave.’

‘Just watch me.’ She tugged at the door but he leaned against it, so it didn’t budge. She tried again.

‘I’m sorry.’

She stopped tugging, but didn’t let go of the handle.

‘I really am.’

She looked up at him and his eyes were honest and concerned.

‘I’ve hurt you and it really wasn’t my intention to do that. It’s been a really bad couple of weeks, well, a bad couple of months if I’m honest. Since my dad died and I inherited this place, it’s been one problem after another. He was in so much debt and that debt doesn’t appear to have died with him. There is no money in this estate, none at all, and he was still paying all the staff here right up till he died but I can’t see how or where the money came from. I’ve had to let them all go, which means everyone in the village hates me and I’ve been going through all his paperwork and keep uncovering more and more problems. Without the staff the place will fall into ruin. I have no money for any of the repairs or to pay any of his debts and quite frankly the idea of selling the place to Palace Hotels and making it into a five star resort is looking very appealing right now. You are my last hope. I looked at you and thought …’

‘You thought wrong.’
‘I know, I’m sorry, I had no right to judge you by your appearance. I’m a terrible judge of character, I really am. I should have learned my lesson by now, not to judge a book by its cover. The people I’ve trusted have sold me out and betrayed me. I’ve had my share of model girlfriends, the types that look good on your arm but with not a lot else going for them and … I … Well, I’m really sorry. Please stay, at least have some lunch whilst I beg your forgiveness some more.’
Milly felt all the fight go out of her. She couldn’t hold a grudge for long. Besides, she was starving and the soup that was bubbling on top of the stove smelt amazing.

‘Ok. I’ll stay for lunch, but it depends how good the soup is whether I stay longer.’

His mouth lifted up into small, cautious smile and he gestured for her to sit down.

‘There’s a hell of a lot riding on this soup then. If I’d known that perhaps I would have thought about the recipe a little more carefully instead of just throwing everything into the pot with a bit of seasoning.’

She sat down on the bench and watched him fill two big bowls. There was nothing graceful about him. The soup splatted into the bowl and over the sides and he didn’t seem to care. There were big chunks of meat, large slices of potato, whole florets of cauliflower, all of which should have been blended or at least chopped smaller. He grabbed a large round loaf and tore it into chunks. He plonked the bowl down in front of her and left her half of the loaf on the table next to her bowl, not even on a plate. The man really had no finesse. He sat down opposite her and took a big bite of the bread. He was like a caveman and strangely she found his raw masculinity a bit of a turn on.

‘Do you normally have such gay abandon with your food?’
He paused with the spoon halfway to his mouth. ‘It seems to work.’

He gestured for her to try it and she took a small sip from her spoon. It was incredible, so thick and full of flavour. ‘It’s really good. Did you make the bread too?’
He nodded, before biting off another huge chunk from his loaf. ‘It’s potato bread.’

She took a small piece and bit into it. It tasted delicious. ‘You’re actually really good at this “throw it all into the pot and see if it works” method.’
He shrugged shyly. ‘It’s kind of how I write my books, too.’

‘What kind of books do you write?’

‘Children’s books, with magical forests and super powers and fantasy adventures. But I never plan anything or follow any set rules. A lot of my author friends will have post it notes and charts and character interviews or CVs but I never do any of that, I just sit down and write. People seem to like it. I mean, I have enough to live off and pay the bills but I’m not going to be buying an island in the Caribbean any time soon.’

‘Well if you have enough money to write full time, you must be doing something right.’

He shrugged again, obviously not keen to admit that he was any good.

‘I’d like to read them.’

He shook his head. ‘They’re just kids’ stuff, not your thing at all, I’m sure.’

‘As we’ve already established, my thing is very different to what you think my thing is.’

‘Right, of course.’ He swallowed a big lump of bread and didn’t look up at all after that.

She sighed. She didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable around her. She already regretted her little outburst earlier, she was normally much more professional than that.
‘Thank you for letting me stay, there was nowhere else anywhere near here apart from the tiny B&B I booked and when their pipes burst and flooded the house, I was at a bit of a loss for what to do.’

‘It’s fine,’ Cameron said, in a way that said it really wasn’t fine.

‘Don’t feel that you have to cook for me or anything. This is lovely,’ she gestured to the soup. ‘But I can look after myself. I presume the village has a shop. I can buy some food and make my own meals. You don’t have to worry about that.’

‘I have food here, it’s silly for both of us to be cooking separate meals, unless you’re on some weird diet,’ he glanced briefly at her slender frame. People always assumed she ate really healthily when the truth was miles apart.
‘I eat anything.’
‘Then we might as well eat together.’
‘I don’t want to be in your way.’
‘You won’t. I have work to do and you’ll have tests and measurements to do so I hope … I mean I guess we won’t be getting in each other’s hair too much.’

He didn’t want her there and her heart sank even more at this. Well, if he didn’t want her to stay and she probably couldn’t help him anyway, maybe she would only stay one night after all.

‘Tell me about the castle.’

He looked across the table at her. ‘I don’t know a lot. I used to live here when I was very young, but my mum took me away when I was about six. I never saw my dad after that and I never came back here either. They were always arguing, mainly about the lack of money, even back then. Mum wanted to sell the place and move, my dad refused, so she left. I know it’s been in the family for hundreds of years, hence the rather obnoxious title of Lord that I’ve been bequeathed.’

Milly sat up straighter. The castle she had seen from the outside was not hundreds of years old, but that didn’t mean there hadn’t been some recent modifications to the original structure. Perhaps the Cinderella façade was hiding something far more exciting and mysterious.

The Two of Us by Andy Jones

Blurb: 

 Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most is what happens next…

Fisher and Ivy have been an item for a whole nineteen days. And they just know they are meant to be together. The fact that they know little else about each other is a minor detail. Over the course of twelve months, in which their lives will change forever, Fisher and Ivy discover that falling in love is one thing, but staying there is an entirely different story.

The Two of Us is a charming, honest and heart-breaking novel about life, love, and the importance of taking neither one for granted.

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A big thank you to Hayley at Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy to review 

My Thoughts: 

Andy Jones has created a story that is honest, heartfelt and real.
The characters, their feelings and problems are things people face daily and yet amidst if all is something that pulls you in and has you turning the pages eager for more. 

Fisher and Ivy are wonderful characters to discover and discover them, we do! 

The duo face a lot within the pages and by the end of the book, it feels like you are waving goodbye to old friends.
I loved the little discoveries that they made about each other and I had to laugh at how Ivy deals with her books. 

The truth is, I loved this book but for me the subplot with Fisher and his best friend El, was what pulled me in deeper.
El was at times bitterly truthful but there was no denying the history and love he and Fisher share. 

One of the most poignant and thought provoking moments in the story comes from Craig, even now I keep replaying it over in my head. 

 Jones has poured heart and soul into his words and that is evident throughout, the emotions are constant, be it laughter or hurt, you will experience it all as you journey through the pages.

The Two of Us is a beautiful read about love, friendship and life!