Monday, 30 June 2014

Carmel Harrington talks to The Love of a Good Book

About Carmel:
With my husband Roger and two beautiful children Amelia and Nate, I live a pretty idyllic life in Ireland, full of stories, songs, hide and seek, Mickey Mouse, walks on the beach, tickles, kisses, chocolate treats and most of all abundant love. To make life even more perfect, I have now fulfilled a lifetime ambition to be a writer as I am both a published author and a playwright. I believe in Happily Ever After’s because that’s what happened to me.

Anything else you should know? Well, I’m pretty much always on a diet, I have hair that frizzes up in hot weather, in cold weather, ok lets face it, in pretty much any weather, I would love to sing on broadway (sadly my talents don’t back up my ambition!), I’m considered quite funny by my friends, on that note, I’m a good friend, love my family, am a Daddy’s girl, love my dresses, have a wicked handbag collection, have a pretty decent eye for interior design, take dozens of photos EVERY day of the children and can make a mean risotto. Think that pretty much sums it up!

http://carmelharrington.com/


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They say the journey to being published is one of the hardest an author can take, please can you describe the journey that you went on?
For me, I started off by self-publishing my first novel Beyond Grace’s Rainbow as an eBook. It became a no.1. bestseller in iTunes and top 100 bestseller on Amazon, so I got noticed by an agent, who signed me and who in turn got my publishing deal with Harper Collins’s romance imprint, Harper Impulse.
Self publishing is hard work, but I’ve worked just as hard since I signed with HC. Best fun I’ve ever had though!

Writers put so much time and energy into their characters and I have been told in the past that a writer carries their characters around with them. So my question is if you could go out for a day with any one of your characters: who would it be, what would you do and why did you pick this particular character?
That’s such a great question! And one I find hard to answer…. I’d love to hang around with lots of them. I think, I’d pick Sarah in The Life You Left, because I think it could be the best fun ever spending the day with someone like her, with a gift like hers. I would ask Sarah to bring along James, her brother though! Love him!


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If you were told that you could live any day without repercussions for your actions, what would you do and why?
Right now, I’d go to everyones phone and text ‘Gavin’ to 50300.
He needs funds, so that he can get to the USA for a new form of treatment, that might save his life. He's out of options in Ireland for treatment.
€4 for the text, not too much and could save this little boys life. We can all afford that can't we?
So that’s what I would do. I’d do my utmost to get the #myboy campaign going and get Gavin to US asap.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’d go Disneyland with the children, because Amelia and Nate are so obsessed with all things Disney. I want to see their faces when they meet Mickey Mouse and the princesses for the first time.

If you could choose one book that you think everyone should read, what would it be and why?
Other than my book of course? lol…. Ok, lets see, so many to chose from. I would suggest they read To kill a mockingbird. Why? Because, no matter what genre you enjoy, no matter what age you are, its a book that transcends genre and age and is inspirational, it will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
If there was one saying that could sum up your life to date, what would it be?
‘She loved life and it loved her right back’

Please share with us, one random fact about yourself or your book?
I once partied on a private jet owned by U2!

What can we expect next, any future books in the pipeline?
I’m working on my third book, which revisits some of the characters from Beyond Grace’s Rainbow. I always felt that Abby and Gerry in particular had more to share, so this will be their stories!


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What or who in life inspires you?
My husband and children, our life together. I love seeing them happy and everyday I work hard to make them all smile.

What is your all time favourite book?
Impossible to pick one! I refuse! :)

What is your writing process?
I always tell my writing group, to just write, get the story down in its entirety, then go back and edit. Don’t keep editing every line you write, because that way you may never see ‘The End!’ I seem to do three rewrites with each of my books. Three is the charm!

Please would you share who your 5 dream dinner party guests would be?
Oh this is good! I would like to invite Oprah, Stephen Fry, Alan Carr, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Buble. Thats a good table isn’t it?

Thank you for stopping by today Carmel and for your wonderful answers
Also a big thank you to Amy at Harper Collins for inviting me to be part of the tour!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

My first vlog & potentially my last!

So today I allowed my crazy to take control and Vlogged.

Because I'm all for sharing the humiliation here's the video:

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Feel free to comment!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Sex Me Up Readathon SIgn Up

Do you ever find yourself feeling embarrassed about reading erotic fiction? Do you want to talk about the sex you read in books with other people? Do you want to join a group of people and talk about erotic fiction and sex for a whole week?

Well now you CAN!

For one week in July we are going to dust off our erotic novels stashed away at the back of the bookcases, sit down and enjoy the exciting and pleasurable world of sex in books. Not only that, we want you to talk to each other about them too. Often we want to stand and shout, THIS BOOK HAS MADE ME HOT AND BOTHERED AND I MIGHT NEED TO CHANGE MY UNDERWEAR and we want to have no shame in saying that – why should we? Erotic fiction is designed to arouse you and make you excited and thrill you!

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Does this sound like something you want to take part in?

If so head over here to sign up!

This is a no pressure readathon – it’s not about reading as many books as you can and trying to be the fastest reader – this is just about enjoying erotic fiction and being able to read it without judgement!

Once you’ve signed up we will email you with a list of books we recommend as well as the link to the Sex Me Up Readathon blog!

We hope you want to get involved – we are so excited about this and hope you are too!

The Bookshop on the Corner by Rebecca Raisin



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Blurb:

Who said that only real heroes could be found in fiction?
Sarah Smith had an addiction – she was addicted to romance novels. The meet-cute, the passion, the drama and the gorgeous men! Now this wouldn’t have been such an issue if she hadn’t been the owner of the only bookshop in Ashford, Connecticut.

Ever since her close friend Lil, from The Gingerbread Café, had become engaged she had been yearning for a little love to turn up in her life. Except Sarah knew a good man was hard to find – especially in a tiny town like Ashford. That was until New York journalist, Ridge Warner stepped into her bookshop…

Love could be just around the corner for Sarah, but will she be able to truly believe that happy-ever-after can happen in real-life too!



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A big thank you to Rebecca for sending me a copy to review whilst on the Gosling Girls tour.

My Thoughts:

Sarah Smith runs the Bookshop on the Corner, a beautiful place to pilgrimage to, for pre loved books and a quaint room to read them in.
Sarah can often be found lost in the world of fiction and investing her emotions in the heroes of the pages.
But one day the handsome Ridge enters the shop and Sarah starts to wonder, do handsome heroes only happen in books?

I defy any booklover to read this and not instantly relate to Sarah because this incredible novella will speak to every bookworm out there.

Rebecca Raisin has created a captivating novella that will have you longing to visit Ashford and meet the wonderful people who live there.
Because through the pages you don't just meet Sarah, you also meet her wonderful friends Missy, Ceecee and Lil.

The descriptiveness with which the bookshop was described had me longing to run my hands along the shelves and feeling the spines of old books that could share with us many stories.

This is a beautiful story that will have you losing hours, lost in the world of books and words, could there be anything better?



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Thursday, 26 June 2014

COVER REVEAL: What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan? By Jill Knapp

I am so excited to be part of the cover reveal for What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan?

Blurb:
When you live in the fastest moving city on earth, how do you decide-
What is worth the chase?

Life in the city gives 23 year old Amalia Hastings a ride she is not expecting... As she tries to find her way on the little island that never sleeps, she discovers she has a harder time navigating through life then she does the streets of Greenwich Village!

Amalia thought she had everything she wanted – a new apartment in Manhattan, a first-rate education at NYU, a group of fabulous friends and Nicholas, a boyfriend who she once believed was her soul-mate. But somehow, it isn’t enough.

Stumbling through her relationships, Amalia encounters Michael. An attractive classmate who quickly moves from being one of her close friends, to an inconsistent friend-with-benefits. After all, the only thing consistent about New York is its beauty.

Amalia is essentially torn between two men, and Michael is torn between two women. Her best friend Cassandra is being strung along by her "boyfriend", Bryce, and even her friend Olivia is having a secret relationship!

After getting hopelessly lost searching for love in all the wrong places, Amalia finds herself asking – what happens to men when they move to Manhattan?!



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It's such a gorgeous vibrant cover!

Publication Date: July 24, 2014

About the Jill Knapp:
A native New Yorker, Jill Knapp is the author of the New Adult series What Happens To Men When They Move To Manhattan?. A former adjunct professor of Psychology at her Alma Mater Kean University, she received a Master’s degree in Psychology from the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post and The High Tea Cast, Knapp writes about entertainment, dating, and the differences between city and suburban lifestyles.

Twitter: @JL_Knapp



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One Hundred Proposals by Holly Martin

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Blurb:
Is there really such a thing as a perfect proposal?
Over the next hundred days I intend to find out. I will find one hundred ways to propose to our Chief Proposer Suzie McKenzie and post the results here for your enjoyment. One thing’s for sure, not one of my proposals will be on top of the Eiffel Tower with a dozen red roses.’


Best friends Suzie and Harry are partners in romance. That is, they run the.PerfectProposal.com, coming to the aid of would-be grooms to create the ultimate marriage proposal.

But when Harry decides to catapult the business into the big leagues with a PR stunt all Suzie can see is a hundred days of heartbreak stretching ahead of her. But however exotic the location, or breath-takingly romantic the setting, Suzie has to keep remembering that ‘Marry Me?’ is the one question she can’t say yes to.

This business proposal should come with one hundred broken heart warnings...
One hundred proposals, one hundred chances to say yes.


Order from Amazon



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I would like to thank Holly Martin for sending me a copy to review

Review:

One Hundred Proposals follows business partners Suzie and Harry as they embark on getting their company out there.
Founders of the.PerfectProposal.com, they spend their lives planning the dream proposals for couples and with the number of Eiffel Tower proposals on the increase, Harry has an idea; over one hundred days he will propose to Suzie in one hundred different ways.
To Harry it's the best idea he has had but for Suzie it's torture, how does she tell Harry she longs for it to be a real proposal and for one YES to change their live!

I've often been heard saying, that was such a hard review to write, well I take it all back.
When I finished this book, I was left in a turmoil of emotions, I found myself trying to work out how it was possible that Holly Martin had created a story that was a romance like nothing I've ever read before.
The emotion, the passion, it pours from the pages of this spectacular novel.

Suzie was a superb character, the feelings that she felt for Harry were felt throughout and it was heartbreaking sharing in her thoughts after every proposal. Anyone who has been in love, whether unrequited or not, will feel for her.
But then we have Harry, gorgeous, loving Harry. A man who is full of romance, he isn't just the love of Suzie's life, he is her best friend, her confidante, her everything....
Harry is a character that makes you long for him to be real, it's evident throughout that he cares for Suzie and his proposals are incredibly romantic.
On many occasions he had me teary eyed and screaming YES!

I want to share with you so much about this book, but I keep reminding myself how wonderful it felt to find myself consumed within this story.

it wasn't just Harry and Suzie, but Jack, Jules and Badger too. Their lives captivated me and with every revelation and proposal I was even more in awe.

Buy it, read it, devour it and see that the magic of this story isn't just a man proposing one hundred ways, it's the emotion, the friendship that is imbedded deep within the words, it's the feelings within the pages, it's the love within the paragraphs and the exemplary writing that is found in everything that Holly Martin writes.


Buy from Amazon

Throwback Thursday: Charlene shares Dahl



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Today's Throwback Thursday guest is the lovely Charlene from http://charlenejess.wordpress.com

As a bookworm for as long as I can remember, there are so many books I could write about but I chose this beautiful classic.
Roald Dahl as I am sure you all are aware, is able to create magic with words and it is timeless.
My son lynx has had the Roald Dahl bug for about a year now and he just loves his work. We will be visiting his museum in the school holidays and hope to watch one of his musicals. I imagine that will be amazing!!
Several of his books have been turned into films now, capturing a wider audience which in turn I am sure would create more readers.
Matilda for me connected on many levels, I have always had my head in a book and often as a child preferred the company of books.
My childhood was crap and I never quite fitted in but with books you know you aways have them.
Even to the extent of Matildas family, I could relate to that isolation and that need to learn and read.
I actally lived across the road from a library so as I got older that’s where I would always be.
This story is about family, friendships, school and magic!
I must admit I hadn’t read it for many years, so my memory was getting mixed with the film . So I read some recently to lynx as a bedtime story. I felt like a kid again.
I think the magic of this book, is that it shows how important reading and a love of reading is and how far you can be taken!

I am still a huge bookworm and still get such pleasure fom vising the library just ike Matilda did.
Whats even better is, I now have 2 little bookworms who love books …from babies they were read to. I was a young mum when I had Estelle and theres such a stigma but I like to think I exceed peoples expectations,
Even now as a single mum I still ensure they read, visit libraries and enjoy all things books.
It brings me such joy when they ask for books and have received awards etc at school for reading and enthusiasm.
Anyway im rambling.. heres some pics

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It really is a amazing magical book.
Thank you Kirsty for having me!

Thank you for stopping by Charlene, I loved Matilda, it's one of my favourite Roald Dhal books!

If you would like to take part in Throwback Thursday please drop me an email on loveofagoodbook@gmail.com

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire

Blurb:

The Beautiful Disaster phenomenon continues in the first heart-pounding new adult romance in The Maddox Brothers series. Fiercely independent Camille "Cami" Camlin gladly moved on from her childhood before it was over. She has held down a job since before she could drive, and moved into her own apartment after her freshman year of college. Now tending bar at The Red Door, Cami doesn't have time for much else besides work and classes, until a trip to see her boyfriend is cancelled, leaving her with her first weekend off in almost a year. Trenton Maddox was the king of Eastern State University, dating co-eds before he even graduated high school. His friends wanted to be him, and women wanted to tame him, but after a tragic accident turned his world upside down, Trenton leaves campus to come to grips with the crushing guilt. Eighteen months later, Trenton is living at home with his widower father, and works full-time at a local tattoo parlour to help with the bills. Just when he thinks his life is returning to normal, he notices Cami sitting alone at a table at The Red. As the baby sister of four rowdy brothers, Cami believes she'll have no problem keeping her new friendship with Trenton Maddox strictly platonic. But when a Maddox boy falls in love, he loves forever - even if she is the only reason their already broken family could fall apart. In the first instalment of The Maddox Brothers series, readers can experience the rush of reading Beautiful Disaster for the first time, all over again.



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I would like to thank my gorgeous best friend Victoria for allowing me to borrow her copy, she is the best!

My Thoughts:

Beautiful Oblivion follows Trenton Maddox as he declares his love for barmaid Camille Camlin.
It's a trait with those Maddox boys, when they love, they love with all their heart and won't let their women go.
But Cami's life is complicated, her family are messed up and then there's the fact that Cami is already in a relationship!

I'm writing this with a sense of disloyalty.

When I read Beautiful Disaster I fell in love with Travis Maddox but I'm now realising that it wasn't love, it was lust.
So it's with a heavy heart that I say SORRY Trav, but I'm in complete and utter crazy all consuming love with your brother Trenton!

I don't know where to start, part of me wants to threaten everyone reading Beautiful Oblivion, to tell you that Trent is mine. That he can have my body, heart and soul,
He can tattoo his name on my forehead and threaten anyone who talks to me.
But at the same time I realise that Cami is great for him, that although they are both messed up, they need each other.
So I'm going to let Cami keep him, but if she hurts him, HE IS MINE!

I think the reason I fell so hard for Trent, isn't just his tattoos, his body or his job. It's the way he is with Olive. A young girl who Trent looks after and clearly loves.
The chapters with her and him, warmed my heart. I just wanted to jump into the pages and hug them both.

There is a part in the story where Trent explains why the Maddox boys love like they do, I cried.
Hearing him say it, it broke my heart!

The truth is, I love Jamie McGuire and her books, every word she writes is filled with emotion, but I think Beautiful Oblivion is my favourite.

Although that being said JAMIE, PLEASE WRITE TRENTS STORY, to read his words, his emotions, his thoughts, would be incredible and I would willingly trade my first born (sorry future child, mummy needs this book)

There are so many incredible characters in this book and I won't lie, I'm pinning my hopes on lots of books following them all!
That's the thing I love most about Jamie McGuires books, every character feels real and leaves you wanting to know more about them.

So on my hands and knees, I beg you, please Lady, can I have some more!

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India Black and the Widow of Windsor by Carol K. Carr

Blurb:

A MADAM OF ESPIONAGE MYSTERY

Whether running a brothel or running from danger as a spy for Her Majesty, India Black knows how to use the tricks of her trade. This time she s off to Scotland to ensure that the Queen doesn t end up getting killed...

When Queen Victoria attends a séance, the spirit of her departed husband, Prince Albert, insists she spend Christmas at their Scottish home in Balmoral, a deviation from her usual practice. The prime minister suspects that Scottish nationalists are planning to assassinate the Queen, and sends the ever-resourceful India and the handsome British spy French to the Scottish Highlands undercover.

French takes the high road, looking for a traitor among the Queen s guests and India takes the low road, disguised as a servant in case an assassin is hiding among the Queen s staff. For her part, India doesn t need a medium to predict that someone at Balmoral is determined that this Christmas will be her Majesty s last...



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A big thank you to Chloe at Titan for sending me a copy to review.

My Thoughts:

The second story in the India Black series, sees us reunited with India and French as they are called upon to solve another mystery....

The Widow of Windsor takes us to Scotland as the duo are asked to escort Queen Victoria to Balmoral for Christmas.
The Queen still grieving for late husband Albert has been advised to spend Christmas at her home in Balmoral.
Knowing it was Alberts favourite place, Victoria has no doubts when believing the word of a medium. But could the assassination plot on her life, be the mediums reason for Victoria needing to be in Scotland.
Pretending to be a ladies maid, India once again assists the British government.

As with the first in the series, there is a great mix of characters, from the Marchioness that India has to look after, a very strange character who enjoys snorting snuff and is also quite likely to snort sugar or pepper if not watched, to Bertie the prince with wondering hands and an eye for any comely wench.

It was wonderful being caught up in India's world again, she is an incredibly feisty and outspoken character which makes her a joy to read about.
After the second instalment in the series, I find myself eager to read more and discover what will be her next mystery!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Crazy, Undercover, Love by Nikki Moore



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Nikki Moore lives in beautiful Dorset and writes short stories and sexy, pacy romances. A finalist in several writing competitions including Novelicious Undiscovered 2012, she graduated from the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers' Scheme after four years and and has contributed to their magazine Romance Matters. She has far too much fun attending the annual RNA conference and has previously chaired a panel and taken part in a workshop at the Festival of Romance.
She blogs about some of her favourite things – Writing, Work and Wine – at www.nikkimooreauthor.wordpress.com and believes in supporting other writers as part of a friendly, talented and diverse community.

You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NikkiMooreAuthor or on Twitter @NikkiMoore_Auth and she invites you to pop in for chats about love, life, reading or writing!


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They say the journey to being published is one of the hardest an author can take, please can you describe the journey that you went on?

This is a tough one as it feels like my journey has been relatively quick compared to some authors I know, but on the other hand it feels like it's taken forever!

I started reading at a fairly young age and as soon as I was able to write, the stories started pouring out :) I had a fantastic English teacher in secondary school who really encouraged me with creative writing and I adored handing my short stories - usually pretty gory as I read a lot of teen horror - to him. He usually gave me A's :)

I took a creative writing class at the local college when I was nineteen and wrote my first book, which was a romance, when I was a single mum in my early twenties. That got as far as an acquisitions meeting with Mills and Boon and I was lucky to have a fair amount of constructive feedback from one of the senior editors, Tess Shapcott, which improved my writing and my confidence enormously. I tried with another book which was rejected, and then set writing aside for a few years while I pursued a career in Human Resources, had another child, got married etc.

However I was still reading lots and writing when I had time. I was also a reader for the Romantic Novelists Association awards for a couple of years. I came back to writing and trying to get published properly in 2010 when I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme. Over the next three years I entered and was a finalist in several writing competitions, set up a blog and submitted a number of manuscripts to the NWS, and received lots of encouragement and advice. I had a ball attending workshops and conferences and worked hard and spent countless hours on my writing. In the summer of 2013 I was offered my first paid writing contract for my short story A Night to Remember to appear in the Mills & Boon/RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply which was released in February 2014.

My lovely editor Charlotte at Harper Impulse, who I submitted my first chapter to at the RNA conference last July, called me in October '13 with the offer a four work contract and since then it's been a giant whirlwind - seeing my first book cover; the ebook release of Crazy, Undercover, Love which currently has a 4.4/5 star rating on Amazon; getting my first 5* review; watching my book shoot up and down the Amazon rankings; writing my next few stories for HarperImpulse… it's been an exciting and rewarding journey so far and I can't wait for the next part of it.


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Writers put so much time and energy into their characters and I have been told in the past that a writer carries their characters around with them. So my question is if you could go out for a day with any one of your characters: who would it be, what would you do and why did you pick this particular character?
Wow, fab question! And I completely agree about writers carrying their characters around; to me they're very real, and feel like old friends:)

Of course I would enjoy spending time with Alex or Charley, the main characters in Crazy, Undercover, Love, but actually I would love to go out with Jess, who is a secondary character. I'd like to do something daredevil with her as she is one of those girls who has no fear, so maybe snowboarding or sky diving followed by a huge vat of white wine in a trendy bar :) I'd pick her because I love how honest and direct she is, plus since finishing CUL I've been itching to write her story, so she is alive and kicking in my head right now, even though I'm working on a completely different book! I've been so delighted by some tweets I've received from readers asking for a sequel to CUL and in particular for Jess to get her guy.

If you were told that you could live any day without repercussions for your actions, what would you do and why?
This is an even better question from the last! There are so many things I would do; go shopping and blow a ton of money, be brutally honest with some people about what I thought of them; buy a mansion by the sea; grab the most gorgeous guy I coud find and kiss him senseless (I'm single so it's allowed lol) ... I may go away and give it some more thought...

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Now I want to go on holiday! Thailand, definitely. Ever since I saw The Beach with Leonardo Dicaprio – a great film but an even better book – I've wanted to travel there. It looks beautiful but also both idyllic and exciting at the same time. My sister's been and she said it was like paradise.

If you could choose one book that you think everyone should read, what would it be and why?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it in my early teens and it left an enormous impression on me. It's so beautifully written, and tells such a profound story about prejudice, empathy, childhood and growing up, that it's the one book I consistently recommend to others.

If there was one saying that could sum up your life to date, what would it be?
Live well, laugh much, love with all your heart.

Please share with us, one random fact about yourself or your book?
I have a tattoo! It's quite small, on my lower back and is the chinese symbol for courage (something I think everyone needs to get through the challenges in life; cheesy, I know, but I had it done at eighteen). I don't regret getting a tattoo for instant, it's part of who I am.


Thanks so much for the Q&A Kirsty – I love your blog, and the rest of The Gosling Girls :)

Thank you for stopping by today Nikki, it was lovely having you on The Love of a Good Book

One Hundred Proposals; Extract, Chapter Two

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Chapter Two

I woke the next day with a start, being quite simply torn from a dream about Jack – a memory of playing with him on the beach as he tried to put wet seaweed down my back. As I became more conscious, the loss of losing him hit me all over again.
I knew immediately that someone was in the room with me. I was face down on my pillow and I leaned up and swept my curtain of tangled brown hair off my face. Harry was sitting next to me on the bed, sipping his coffee and reading my very dog-eared copy of The Hobbit.
I scowled at him. I wasn’t a morning person.
‘Do you not knock?’
Harry’s attention didn’t even waver from the page he was reading. ‘You gave me a key.’
‘I could have been naked.’
He put his book down and looked at me. ‘All the more reason for me not to knock.’
I blushed and climbed off the bed.
Most mornings I woke to this. I must admit, it was a lovely way to wake up. One night, after these early morning visits had become more regular, I went to bed in my sexiest lingerie in the hope that the following morning he would come in and be so turned on that he might immediately ravish me. But not only did he not even bat an eyelid when he saw me in my black, satin nightie, he was more excited about his McDonalds breakfast and the free hash brown he had been given by the girl flirting with him behind the counter than what I had to offer. To add insult to injury, as I tried to arrange myself subtly into a sexy pose on the bed next to him as he chomped through his Bacon and Egg McMuffin, I had simply slithered off the bed into a crumpled heap on the floor. Nowadays it seemed much easier and more comfortable to sleep in my regular pyjamas.
Harry handed me a coffee fresh from the café round the corner. I took a sip – it was made exactly how I liked it, with three sugars and a dash of hazelnut syrup. As I went to take another sip, I realised that a small heart had been drawn in the froth on the top. I smiled and hovered near his side, peering round him to the brown paper bag I could see tucked by his hip.
He was busy reading so I coughed loudly to gain his attention. When he glanced up, I looked deliberately at the bag.
‘How do you know this is for you?’
‘Because you always bring me nice things from the café. What is it this morning, an apricot Danish, ooh a walnut plait or…’
He whisked it out the bag and showed it to me, and the words dried in my throat. Iced into the top of my favourite cinnamon swirl were the words ‘Marry Me.’
I had almost forgotten about this silly hundred proposals thing. I’d hoped he’d forgotten as well. But now it looked like he really did mean to torture me. One hundred days. One hundred different ways to break my heart.
I looked at him and he was watching me hopefully.
‘It’s certainly unique.’ I took the bun from him, and picked a currant out of it, averting my gaze from his. I forced my voice to sound normal before I spoke again. ‘If I bite into this am I at risk of swallowing a diamond ring?’
He shook his head. ‘No ring. You said a ring was clichéd. Besides, why propose with diamonds when you can propose with cinnamon and coffee?’
‘You should take a picture of it before I eat it. Put it on the blog.’ I had a huge lump in my throat.
‘Good idea.’ He whipped out his phone, pressed a few buttons and pointed it in my direction. I held it out for him to get a good angle and realised my hands were shaking. Harry realised it too. To my shame, tears swam in my eyes.
Harry was off the bed in a second. ‘What’s wrong, what’s happened?’
‘Nothing, I’m fine. Just tired.’ I stepped away from him but he pulled me back, holding me tight and squashing the bun between us. I breathed him in, his wonderful earthy smell as he started to stroke my back.
‘Did something happen with Tiny Tim?’
I couldn’t keep up with the lie any longer and it had achieved nothing anyway.
‘We broke up,’ I said into his chest, hoping that would explain why I was soaking his shirt with my tears.
‘Oh honey, I’m sorry.’ His hand moved to my hair and my breath caught in my throat. ‘Had you been seeing him long?’
Oh what a tangled web we weave.
‘A few weeks. It wasn’t serious, but I really liked him. But obviously I liked him more than he liked me.’
‘Well then the man’s an idiot. Who wouldn’t love a girl in a cow print onesie?’
I giggled.
He tilted my face up to look at him.
‘Right, enough tears. Any man who makes you cry is not worth it.’
If only he knew.
‘Anyway, I have a day out planned for you today, so stop moping around and get yourself showered and dressed.’
He released me and we both looked at the squashed bun. Although it looked a bit worse for wear, the words ‘Marry Me’ were still very obvious on the top. Harry took a photo and I quickly ate it so I wouldn’t have to stare at the empty words any longer. It tasted good, despite the fact that with every mouthful my heart broke a little bit more.
‘So, as proposals go, is this what you imagined for yourself?’ Harry asked, when it was gone.
‘Undoubtedly. The perfect proposal. So you don’t have to bother with the other ninety-eight different ways now. Write on the blog that you bought me a cinnamon swirl and I caved. I’m a cheap date, easily pleased.’
Harry pulled a face. ‘It was a bit cheap and naff, wasn’t it? Ok, for my next one it will be something huge.’
‘Really, the cinnamon swirl was cute… and don’t underestimate the value of cute.’
But Harry was already walking away into the office, scrolling through his phone as he went.
‘Harry, are you listening? Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a personalised cinnamon swirl.’
‘Get in the shower, woman, I need to make some calls.’
I sighed. I had to sway him from this path. Ninety-eight heart-breaking days stretched ahead of me like an endless desert, with no respite from the sun.
I got in the shower and stuck my head under the stream.
No, I could do this. Proposals were my entire waking life. My dreams were plagued by them too. Something like this could only be good for business. I just had to become immune to the words. They were empty and meaningless. And now I knew that I was to expect it every day, I could prepare myself for it, pretend in my head the words meant something else.
I got dressed quickly and walked into the office.
‘Hey.’ Harry was busy typing. ‘Our blog has nineteen followers already.’
‘Our Proposer’s Blog? This hundred proposals malarkey?’
‘Malarkey? I’m offended.’ He smiled up at me briefly before returning his attention to the screen. ‘Yes, I guess they want to see what I come up with next.’
I leaned over him to see what he had written and caught a whiff of his wonderful clean earthy smell. There was the close-up picture of my squashed bun, and another picture I hadn’t realised he had taken – of me eating it, my hair a full bird’s nest, my face red and blotchy from the tears, dressed in my rather unflattering cow print onesie. Great!
Under the picture was Harry’s blog.

Proposer’s Blog

Day 2: The Cinnamon Swirl Proposal. Location: Suzie’s bedroom (I assure you, nothing saucy going on here).

Is the way to a woman’s heart through her stomach?
Our Suzie McKenzie has a very sweet tooth and so I thought to charm her with a sweet proposal of her own. Nadia’s Bakery, St Patrick’s Road makes the best Cinnamon Swirls in the world and it’s one of Suzie’s all-time favourite things to eat for breakfast. So when I explained the situation to the lovely Nadia this morning she was more than happy to provide me with a personalised one along with a heart-topped latte.
So what was Suzie’s reaction? She seemed a bit blasé about it actually. Wolfed it down and barely registered the words.

That wasn’t true of course, but it was better he wrote that than writing that I burst into tears.

I always thought those proposers that pop the question with a ring at the bottom of the champagne glass were silly – who wants to fish the diamond ring out of the toilet a few days later? Though now Suzie’s eaten my proposal, there’s nothing left of it apart from the icing on her lips.

I immediately checked my lips and I saw Harry smirk out of the corner of my eye.

Next time, I will do something grand. Something she can’t possibly miss. Plus, who would really say yes over a 59p Cinnamon Swirl?

‘That makes me sound shallow,’ I said, squeezing past him to log on to my own computer.
‘Not shallow, just greedy. And don’t bother logging on, we’re going out.’
‘I can’t, it’s our busiest time of the year, you know that. Three days before Valentine’s Day, all those last minute Larrys will be phoning us up for support.’
‘I’ve already diverted the calls to your mobile and you can still pick up your emails, besides today is completely work orientated – we’re sourcing new locations, so stop making excuses and get your boots on.’
When I hesitated, he grabbed my hand and pulled me out the office.
I laughed. ‘Where are we going?’
‘First stop, we’re going to buy you some decent pyjamas, so the next boyfriend won’t be scared off by seeing you in that onesie.’
I stopped dead and when he turned to look at me, his eyes were kind.
‘Jack bought it for me,’ I said, quietly.
‘I know.’
‘I’m not getting rid of it.’
‘I’m not saying throw it out. But I know Jack, he had a wicked sense of humour and you know as well as I do that he bought it for you as a joke because you used to take the piss out of onesies and people that wore them. You know that he never intended for you to wear it at all let alone every day since his death. If you want to keep it, keep it. All I’m talking about is options. Something else you could wear that would show off that fabulous figure of yours.’
I opened my mouth to protest as the last words he said slammed into my brain. Fabulous figure?
He moved his hands to my shoulders and when he spoke his voice was soft.
‘I know you’re trying to keep your brother alive, keep him close, but he would be cringing if he could see you wearing that thing and you know that. Keep him close with your memories of him, not by compromising who you are.’
I blinked. That was very profound for half nine on a Thursday morning.
‘I’m just saying, the Suzie McKenzie I know and love wouldn’t be caught dead in something like that.’
‘I think it’s funny.’ I knew I sounded like a petulant child.
‘Yes, for about five minutes after you opened your present – it’s not quite so funny eight months later.’
He had a point. I’d washed it so many times that the white patches were now grey and the udders were looking decidedly limp.
‘And while we’re on the subject. You can stop wearing black as well. We’re not in the Victorian times anymore.’
He pulled me into the bedroom and I followed, still in shock over his brutal honesty. He opened my wardrobe and pulled out my favourite scarlet jumper dress. ‘You can wear this today with those purple leggings.’
They would clash horribly. I smiled
‘And you can wear them with those Barbie pink boots you love so much and…’ He rooted around in one of my drawers, finally found what he had been looking for, pulled it out and thrust it into my face. ‘This. You’ll wear this.’
‘But –’
‘No buts. Get changed. You have five minutes.’
I stared after his retreating back and then down at the black shirt and black trousers I had put on out of habit. In the months after Jack’s death my taste in bright and garish clothes had seemed disrespectful somehow. Was one month too soon to return back to my colourful spots, stripes and swirls? Was two months? But now it had been eight months and I had seemingly been wearing black ever since. My bright clothes even seemed to have a thin layer of dust on them as they hung forgotten in my wardrobe. Harry had a point. Again.
I came downstairs a few minutes later, dressed in my purple leggings, scarlet jumper, pink boots and my red and gold spotted sequinned beret that I adored and Jack hated because he said I looked like a toadstool. I felt lighter already.
Harry grinned when he saw me. ‘You look beautiful.’ He offered me his arm. ‘Now let’s go.’
I leaned into him and walked out into the early morning sunshine.
*

‘No way. I’m not doing that,’ I said, staring at the scene before me in horror. ‘There’s nothing romantic about that.’
‘Who says proposals have to be romantic?’ Harry said as he bent down to forcefully remove my boots.
‘It’s the rules. Flowers, fireworks, chocolates. A stuffed teddy with the words emblazoned across a red heart. Not this. Never this.’
‘I disagree.’
‘You would,’ I said as Harry pushed me gently but forcibly forwards in the queue.
‘I think proposals can be weird, funny or in the case of this little adventure, adrenaline filled.’
I was next.
‘If I die –’
‘I’ll wear a cow print onesie to your funeral. Now get up there.’
My phone rang in my pocket.
‘Oh I have to get that, shame I’ll miss my turn.’
But to my annoyance, Harry had already wrestled my phone from my pocket and had answered it. He was more than capable of dealing with our customers and he knew I knew that.
‘Are you going or what, love?’ asked a big gruff man whose face looked like it had been punched several times. His nose was bent in two places and he had a huge scar across his forehead. Had he sustained these injuries doing this? I shrunk back but Harry pushed me forward.
‘Yes she is, and send her as high as you can.’
The man nodded, somewhat evilly I thought.
I climbed the steps to my doom and they attached thin rubber cables to my harness. I kept my eyes on Harry as the man bounced behind me for a few seconds, causing me to bounce as well. A moment later I was propelled some ten feet into the air, a scream tearing from my throat. I fell back to the earth but no sooner had I touched the ground than I was sent back into the air again, this time even higher than the last.
We had been walking along the Thames when the sounds of screams had attracted us. As we rounded the corner, we saw the bungee trampolines and watched with amusement as we saw people screaming, being bounced higher and higher in the air. My amusement had quickly turned to horror when I realised Harry had paid for me to have a go, and that we had come here deliberately for this reason.
I screamed again as I flailed in the air, kicking my legs helplessly in the hope that it would slow my descent. Each time I thought I was going to crash into the ground, I came to a slow stop, bounced gracefully off the trampoline and was propelled back into the air again. As I was thrust into the air for the fifth time, a bubble of laughter escaped my throat. It was a rush – a terrifying, brilliant rush. The man bounced with me, sending me higher, and I roared with joy.
All too soon the experience was over, and the man slowed me down and stopped me. He unhooked me and I quickly clambered down the steps and ran straight into Harry’s arms, still laughing uncontrollably.
Finally my laughter subsided.
‘Thank you.’
‘You’re very welcome,’ he said, into my forehead. ‘You see, at this point, while your heart is still pounding furiously and with the grin plastered on your face, I would propose.’
‘And I would say yes.’
I felt him smile into my hair.
‘So one we can definitely add to our repertoire?’
‘Yes, I take it all back. I love it.’
‘They’re not here all the time, but the guy is going to give me his card as they go all round the UK. We can phone them up if need be and find out where they are.’
‘Excellent, it’s great to get contacts like this.’
‘Are you ready for the next part of our day?’
I pulled back, intrigued. ‘There’s more?’
‘Yes.’ He chivalrously picked up the bag containing the pyjamas he had bought me earlier. Very simple, very elegant satin pyjamas. I’d liked the black but Harry put his foot down and we’d eventually agreed on a dusty rose.
‘Was the phone call anything good?’
‘I’ve emailed over to him our basic package.’
I sighed. ‘That’s the fourth today.’
‘Hey, the basic package is a good little money earner. You know – on average – half the customers that buy the twenty pound package from us, come back and spend ten times that on a big extravagant proposal.’
‘I know, but at this time of year I kind of expect to get more big proposals rather than so many basic packages.’
Harry was right, we earned quite a bit from our basic package. For twenty pounds, we sent our customers a brochure of our top fifty proposals. Ideas ranging from the romantic to the ridiculous, top class restaurants to tiny little tucked away cafés strewn with fairy lights. We included days out, fun experiences and romantic getaways. We also included vouchers for discounts and special offers at these hotels and restaurants and if our customers went there, we also got ten percent of their final bill from the companies for introducing our customers to them in the first place. It also gave brief details of more elaborate proposals, something only we could organise, with the promise of a refund of the twenty pounds if they were to book one of the grander proposals with us.
‘Romance isn’t always about big gestures though,’ Harry said. ‘Sometimes it’s the words the man finds or the effort that he has gone to. It doesn’t have to be something expensive.’
‘I know that, the smaller gestures are sometimes the best, a message written in the sand on a favourite beach or a personalised cinnamon swirl.’ I nudged him as we walked along the road and he smiled. ‘But from a business point of view I’m not sure people paying us twenty pounds to send them to propose elsewhere is the best idea. They could spend a hundred pounds or more at these posh places. That’s a hundred pounds they could have spent with us.’
Harry switched sides with me and I wondered why as he put himself between me and two men who were arguing, placing his hand on the small of my back as he nudged me round them. I felt embarrassed by the goose bumps that suddenly exploded over my body at his touch.
Harry continued on as if he hadn’t noticed my heart leap out of my chest. ‘Most people have in their mind what kind of proposal they want to do before they contact us. For most of them it would involve some kind of romantic meal, so they’re not likely to spend their money with us anyway. By providing them with a list of romantic places to eat, not only do we get the twenty pounds but also any kickbacks from the restaurants too. We’ve probably earned more money from the basic package than we have from the big proposals – so I wouldn’t knock the smaller gestures if I were you. Come on, through here.’
Harry ducked into a tiny alleyway that wound round the corner out of sight. He knew London like the back of his hand and very rarely went on the underground. There was always so much more to see when on foot. I followed him, his hulking frame almost filling the alley wall to wall. The walls were covered in graffiti and chewing gum, but some of the pictures sprayed on the bricks were very skilful. As we came to an old boarded-up window, he stopped and as I drew near he pulled me to his side, with his hand at my waist, sending delicious shivers down my spine.
‘There’s a place called Bubblegum Alley in California, and a Chewing Gum Wall in Seattle, where millions of pieces of gum have been stuck on the walls. It’s so bright and colourful that what started as something gross has now been declared an official tourist attraction. People travel from miles around to see it and to add their own gum to it. Some have even created little works of art amongst the thousands of globules.’
He stood back a bit and pointed to the wall. There in a heart made from pink chewing gum were the words ‘Annie, marry me,’ also made from chewing gum.
‘Love can be found in the most unlikely of places, you just have to look for it.’
He stared down at me and for a moment I wasn’t sure if he was talking about him, or about me and him.
‘It doesn’t need to be about romance, just little heartfelt gestures.’
I smiled. ‘I wonder if she said yes.’
Harry pointed to the green letters written in globules of chewing gum underneath the heart. In big proud letters, the word ‘Yes’, stood out.
‘I like it.’ I grabbed my phone from my pocket and took a few shots. I had to put this on the website.
‘I knew you would.’
‘You see, I don’t need big gestures, so whatever you have planned for our next proposal, it doesn’t need to be a big yacht or a trip to the moon.’
He walked away, heading towards the sunlight that was piercing our gloom.
‘I’ll cancel the space rocket then.’
‘Harry, I’m serious. Don’t waste your money on me.’
He ignored me as we stepped out into the sunlight. He was incredibly generous with his money and he had a lot of it. He didn’t get a very good salary from me but he didn’t really need it. Years before, whilst travelling around America, he’d had the foresight to invest in a tiny little up-and-coming online social media site called Connected. He’d given a thousand dollars at the time, money he had won at a casino, and years later, when Connected had been the biggest social media site in America and probably the world, he had sold his shares for a huge sum. He’d never told me how much he got from that little endeavour. But it was enough that he could afford the huge house on the other side of the green from me, bought when the property prices had plummeted. And he always seemed to have enough money for little gifts and meals out.
‘Spending money on you is never a waste. And we’re running late now so we’re going to have to run.’
He grabbed my hand and started jogging through the streets, winding his way expertly through the other people.
‘We could catch the tube,’ I whined, as I tried to keep up with his long-legged pace.
‘Running’s much more fun,’ Harry said, without breaking his stride.
*

The Glade at Sketch was like nothing I’d ever seen before. With its white bricked front, Sketch looked like a simple townhouse – and we’d actually walked past the place before we’d realised it was there. But down the darkened staircase and to the left, a tranquil wooded glade had been transported from some fairy tale forest to this seemingly unassuming restaurant in central London. Trees covered every wall and surface, the leaves of which were painted in every shade of green and gold imaginable. A huge chandelier dominated the ceiling, casting delicate lights over every surface from its tangle of branches. Tiny gold fireflies danced around the walls and floor. Mirrored panels near the roof moved slowly, catching the light from the huge sun roof above us and sending its rays across the room as if the sun was moving through the trees. Wicker chairs, tables and sofas with huge green embroidered cushions were placed casually throughout the room as if they were garden furniture and we were all just simply sitting out in the garden somewhere, enjoying the sun.
‘Harry Forbes, we have a reservation for afternoon tea.’ Harry said to the beautiful waitress who looked like a woodland nymph with the plaits and twists in her hair, and her floaty dress.
The waitress showed us to our table and we quickly placed an order for tea. Breakfast tea for me, something that sounded like a rare tropical disease for Harry.
‘Harry, this place is beautiful.’ I couldn’t stop looking around, until my eyes met with his and I realised he’d been watching me. ‘Thank you for today.’
‘My pleasure. I just wanted you to have some fun. You’ve been so down lately.’ He paused, awkwardly, while he rearranged the cups on the table. ‘The food here is amazing.’
I reached across and squeezed his hand. ‘Thank you.’
The afternoon tea arrived just as Harry was poised to say something else. I reluctantly let him go so there was room for our cake stand on the table.
Harry was right, the food looked and tasted amazing. The sandwiches were all topped with extras like quail eggs and caviar, bringing a simple egg mayonnaise sandwich alive with an assault of different flavours.
There was an array of cakes, all tiny, mouth-watering bites of pure pleasure, some kind of trifle and of course delicious fresh fruit scones.
‘So tell me,’ Harry said around a mouthful of something chocolaty, ‘Tiny Tim, did you and he…?’
Oh God, Tiny Tim was going to come back and haunt me forever.
I picked up some kind of pink meringue that literally dissolved as soon as it touched my tongue. I licked my lips as I played for time.
‘Did we what?’ I smirked as Harry shifted uncomfortably, waving his hands around in what I presumed was some kind of representation of the act. The man had no problem discussing his sordid sex life but he was still awkward when discussing mine. I wanted to play him at his own game.
‘He liked to dress up,’ I said as I popped some kind of fruit tart in my mouth. The fruit was crystalized and was like an explosion on my tongue.
Harry’s eyes widened. ‘Like air hostess, police woman, cheerleader, that kind of thing?’
I shook my head. ‘Lots of different things really. One of my favourites was dressing up as a unicorn and he was a lion. He liked to take me from behind and he would roar when he came.’
Harry stared at me, his face unblinking. I picked up a tiny coffee éclair and caught the eye of a tiny little old lady sitting at the next table, her fruit tart poised halfway to her mouth. I blushed, realising she had heard every word.
Still, there was no going back now.
‘He liked to dress up as one of the flower pot men, Bill normally, I’m not sure why. I was always the flower, Weed. Then Bill would come at me with his big hose.’
The old lady leaned over to me. ‘Dear, do you have the name of the shop where you bought these costumes?’
‘I don’t I’m afraid, Tim always brought them with him. I will miss his big hose.’
Harry was still staring at me. ‘I didn’t realise you were into all that weird stuff.’
I licked the icing off the top of the éclair and popped it in my mouth, trying desperately to suppress my laughter but it was to no avail. I snorted so hard that a bubble of snot burst from my nose and I quickly had to wipe it away on my beautiful cotton serviette.
‘You’re joking?’ Harry looked almost relieved.
‘Of course I am.’
‘So you guys… didn’t…’
‘It’s none of your business. Just because you like to talk about all your sexploits, doesn’t mean the rest of us do.’
‘That’s a ‘no’ if ever I heard one.’ He smiled smugly. I wasn’t going to let him get away with that.
‘It’s a ‘yes’ actually, but it was just regular sex.’ I wanted to expand on that, regular sex sounded so boring. ‘Well as regular as three hour sex marathons can be. He had the stamina of a horse. We’d do it all over the flat. On the dining table, up against a wall, in the shower, in the kitchen, on top of the washing machine, backwards, forwards, sideways, doggy style.’
The old lady choked on her fruit scone.
‘Sideways?’ asked Harry.
‘Yes. You should try it, it’s great fun. Can you pass the sugar?’
I stared down at my tea. Sideways, how exactly would that work?
‘Tell me about your plans for the summer. You said you were thinking about going to New Zealand.’
Harry recovered himself well. ‘The land of the hobbits. I would love to. Maybe hire a camper van and drive from North to South. There’s so many things I want to do, but it’s more fun doing them with someone else.’
‘Sexy Samantha not keen?’
‘She’s definitely not the camper van sort. She’s more of the ‘five star hotel with daily spa treatments’ kind of girl. We should go.’
‘I would love that, I want to see the world, every tiny little pocket of it, but no girlfriend of yours is going to be happy about you taking another woman off on holiday. Sleeping together in the back of the camper van.’ I blushed as Harry’s eyebrows shot up. ‘I meant actually sleeping – not having sex.’
The old lady leaned in closer again, ready to catch the next instalment in my sex life.
‘I should hope not,’ Harry said, his tongue licking seductively up the side of his éclair. ‘I don’t have a lion costume.’
*

I sat back and watched the gold fireflies chase each other up the walls. I was so uncomfortably full, but everything was so hard to resist, that I’d had to eat it all.
We’d had a lovely time, chatting all afternoon, but one of the main topics of conversation from the other guests was the toilets and how funny they were. I had to check them out myself.
I excused myself from the table and, following the directions of the woodland nymph waitress, I walked through another restaurant to a very white room on the other side.
The stairs leading up to the toilets were a brilliant opulent white – looking like they led to somewhere much grander than just some toilets. I walked upstairs to a brightly lit room, the ceiling decorated with beautiful rainbow tiles, but as I reached the top I stopped in my tracks. Several pods sat in a white chamber at the top of the stairs, looking like white cocoons from an alien spaceship. They were about seven foot tall and tapered off like eggs at the top.
I looked around for the toilets but there was nothing else up here. On the other side of the room were several more pods. These pods were clearly the toilets and were obviously the reason for such amusement from the other guests.
I opened the door on one of them, expecting to hear some kind of space age whoosh and was slightly disappointed when I didn’t.
Inside was the weirdest toilet I had ever seen. There was no seat at all. I walked in and closed the door behind me. It was obviously some foreign kind of toilet where you stand. A long ceramic oval hung from the wall jutting out at the bottom to catch the waste. I stared at it – how on earth was I supposed to pee in that? Backwards seemed the only safe option. With a bit of negotiating I pointed my bum in the right direction and leaned forward into a sort of half squat. I quickly finished and after redressing I left the pod, dying to tell Harry about the very weird toilets. He was standing right outside and looked shocked to see me coming out of one of the pods.
‘What?’ I said
‘These are the boys’ toilets.’
I laughed. ‘No they’re not, the waitress pointed me up these stairs.’
‘Yes, the girls’ pods are over there.’ He pointed to the other side of the stairs where several pods were bathed in pink lights in comparison to the pods where I was that were bathed in blue.
Harry peered over my shoulder and burst out laughing. ‘Did the urinals not give you a clue?’
I looked back and gasped in horror. I had just peed in a urinal. Now he had pointed it out to me it was obvious. It wasn’t some weird foreign type toilet at all, just a bog standard urinal. I felt my cheeks glow crimson.
‘I’m intrigued. How exactly did you manage to pee in there?’
I quickly hurried to the sinks and washed my hands. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
I heard Harry go into one of the pods, his laughter so loud I could hear him from the outside.

To see the rest of the story pre –order your copy of One Hundred Proposals now. http://amzn.to/1ouP9w0

Cover:


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Monday, 23 June 2014

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter

Blurb:

I just can't imagine me without you…

50% Friendship, 20% Humour, 20% Betrayal,10% Sexual Content. 100% Honest.

It's the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn't be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo's jealous ex-best friend and Renée's growing infatuation with Flo's brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the heart-stopping power of female friendship.



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My Thoughts:

Although people on twitter highly recommended Paper Aeroplanes, I really didn't know what to expect.

What I found within the pages was a wonderful story of friendship and youth.

The story follows 15 year old schoolgirls Flo and Renee as they embark on a new friendship through their last year of school.
Both dealing with drama at home, the girls friendship is at times tested to the limit.

Dawn O'Porter has a great writing style that pulls you into the story and has you back in your teenage years within minutes.
It's a captivating story that deals with teenage angst in a way that's very real to life.

Flo and Renee are both likeable characters, although at times both have the odd teenage tantrum, but all can be forgiven when you discover the problems they are dealing with.

Although there are light hearted elements to this story, do not expect a comedy, this is a poignant read about the coming of age and dealing with the hand we are dealt!

One Hundred Proposals; Extract, Chapter One

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Prologue

‘Ok, you can open your eyes now,’ Harry said.
I blinked in the gloom of the cave. Moonlight tumbled through the opening above us, reflecting off the waterfall as it cascaded into the pool below. We had been in Australia for just a few days but I knew it would never cease to amaze me. Dancing in the pockets of the cave walls were hundreds of fireflies, sparkling like fairy lights.
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
The fireflies started to gather together and slowly a shape was formed. I frowned in confusion and then within seconds the words, ‘Suzie, Marry Me,’ stood proud against the cave walls, written by the fireflies.
I whirled round to face Harry in shock. ‘How did you do that?’ I looked back at the fireflies, not wanting to miss anything. Would they perhaps move to form the lyrics of my favourite song? Were they super trained fireflies and in a minute they’d all whip out their mini cheerleader pom-poms and start some kind of dance where they would balance precariously on each other’s backs?
‘It’s some kind of fruit juice, they love it.’
I fumbled in my bag for my camera. ‘We have to get a picture for the website.’
I fired off a couple of shots and I could see a few other tourists had entered the cave and were clearly waiting for my answer. They’d be waiting for a long time.
‘So what do you think?’ Harry said. ‘Is this the perfect proposal?’
‘It’s definitely one of your best, very romantic.’ I focused my attention on the photos I was taking. They were going to look fantastic with the waterfall in soft focus in the background and the fireflies in sharp detail set against the inky blue light of the moon.
‘But still not the perfect proposal?’
‘Not for me, but someone else would love it.’ I watched the faces of the other tourists fall at my callous response. ‘We’re not together, we just work with each other.’ One couple looked at me dubiously, so I pressed on. ‘Our company creates the perfect proposal, this kind of thing is our bread and butter.’
I resisted the sudden urge to rush over to them and start handing out business cards. As if reading my mind, Harry slung an arm round my shoulder, restraining me with his hand.
I looked up at him innocently but he didn’t seem convinced.
The tourists moved further down the cave, leaving us alone.
‘You always do that,’ Harry said.
‘What, promote our business? I know, I can’t help it. I’m just so proud of what we’ve achieved that I want to tell anyone that listens and anyone that doesn’t.’
‘No, not that. You always say our company, our business. It’s yours, you started it. I’m just the tech guy.’
It was just me to start with. I created the.PerfectProposal.com over two years ago when my boyfriend at the time proposed drunkenly to me over a greasy kebab. It struck me that maybe the menfolk of this world might need a little helping hand to create a proposal their girlfriends would remember forever. Although the greasy kebab is not one I’m likely to forget.
Harry was my web designer. When the business first started he would come by my office, the back bedroom in my home, every day to help update the website with my new ideas, photos and special offers. In the end it made sense to make him a permanent feature. Our website looked fantastic and as an online company this was integral to our success.
But Harry wasn’t just the geeky IT guy, far from it. He was the biggest man I had ever seen in my life, with large thighs and big feet. He had stubbly, dark hair and chocolate eyes. But he also had a vivid imagination – where I was organising the logistics for a champagne helicopter trip, he would be the one that would come up with something completely unique like using fireflies.
‘And you always put yourself down. We’re equal partners now, you helped to make the company a success too,’ I said.
He shrugged, never keen to accept that he played such an important part in it. He gestured to the fireflies that were starting to break formation now. ‘Is it too sickly?’
I let my camera hang round my neck and leaned into him, I loved the way I fitted against him. ‘I love it, I really do, it’s… magical. But there’s still something missing.’
Was there really such a thing as a perfect proposal? Three months ago, just before Valentine’s Day, Harry had made it his mission to provide me with one. But deep down I knew what I wanted and I doubted Harry would be able to deliver it. I should have told him that when he first started this wild goose chase. It would have saved me a lot of heartache.

Chapter One

Three Months Before
I put the phone down on another excited client and sighed. It was February 11th and we’d had a surge of customers all desperately wanting to propose on top of the Eiffel Tower on Valentine’s Day. I felt like screaming. It was only by careful planning that I’d arranged that my customers weren’t going to be there at the same time. That’s just what a girl wants to feel special, to see other girls being proposed to at the same place and time that she was. Was there no originality anymore? Harry was brilliant at coming up with unique proposals, but no matter how many times I had tried to sell Harry’s ideas to them, they wanted the traditional and that was that.
‘Another Eiffel Tower?’ asked Harry as he absentmindedly uploaded photos to our rolling gallery.
‘He wants a dozen red roses delivered to the observation deck at eight.’ I rubbed my head in defeat. ‘What about something different, going to the ballet or proposing over a bag of chips at the end of Brighton Pier?’
He swivelled in his chair. ‘What would be your perfect proposal?’
I looked at him and had a sudden flash of him holding me in his arms and asking me to marry him.
‘I don’t know, the perfect guy would definitely be a bonus.’
‘Ok so you have your perfect guy and it’s not greasy kebab boy –’
‘Let’s be clear, it was the kebab that was greasy not the man.’
He waved away the details. ‘So Orlando Bloom or some other non-greasy hunk is asking you to marry him, how would he do it?’
I took a sip of tea whilst I pondered this. If one of my customers phoned up at a loss for inspiration I had a hundred ideas. But for me, my mind was blank.
‘I have an idea.’ Harry’s eyes were suddenly bright with excitement. He whirled round on his chair and started tapping away furiously on his computer. I peered over his shoulder at our website.

Proposer’s Blog
How Do You Propose to a Proposer?
Over the next hundred days I intend to find out. I will find one hundred ways to propose to our Chief Proposer Suzie McKenzie, and post the results here for your enjoyment. One thing’s for sure, not one of my proposals will be on top of the Eiffel Tower with a dozen red roses.

‘You can’t put that, we’ve had fifteen customers who want to propose like that over the last week,’ I said, ignoring the sudden thundering of my heart that Harry was going to propose to me.
‘Then maybe they’ll have a rethink.’ Harry was already uploading a picture of a diamond ring onto the blog.
‘Or ask for their money back.’
But Harry was still writing.

Day 1: The Traditional Proposal. Location: Our office.

He stood up and got down on one knee – yanking the snake ring off his thumb, he held it aloft to my shocked face.
‘Suzie McKenzie, you are my best friend and I cannot imagine finding anyone I would rather spend the rest of my life with. Marry me.’
The world stopped. My mouth was dry. How unfair was it that the one thing I wanted most in the world was happening right in front of me and it was as real as a pair of breasts on Sunset Boulevard.
I wanted to snatch the ring off him, stuff it on my finger and march him down to the nearest registry office. But I didn’t.
I cleared my throat of the huge lump. ‘Too clichéd, wrong location, wrong ring.’
He grinned as he appraised his ring and stood up, clearly not fussed by this rejection. He started typing.

Crashed and Burned. Apparently a snake ring with evil red eyes and the beige walls of our cramped office isn’t good enough for her. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Surely not. A hundred days of this torment? I didn’t think I could bear it.
He looked at his watch. ‘Oh, I’ve got to go, hot date with Sexy Samantha again tonight.’
Samantha was his first girlfriend in nearly a year. When I first met him he seemed to go through a different girl each week, so I wasn’t sure why he’d gone through the sudden dry patch. But Samantha was definitely the type to tempt him out of it.
I’d had the pleasure of meeting Sexy Samantha the night before. Suspicious of Harry’s relationship with his best friend, she’d barrelled into my home and demanded that Harry introduce me. I came downstairs in leggings and an oversized black hoodie – I knew I was hardly dressed to impress. And impress her I didn’t. The look of relief when Samantha saw me was palpable. She, on the other hand, was a vision of heavenly loveliness. She was almost as tall as Harry, with long blonde hair and curves everywhere. My eyes were immediately drawn to a big pair of breasts, squeezed between an overly tight top. Harry was definitely a breast man. All of his girlfriends were very well-endowed in the breast department. Some of the breasts, I suspected, weren’t even real – though Harry didn’t seem to mind. I was more in the straight up, straight down department, definitely no curves and not really any breasts to speak of.
I watched Harry log off his computer with haste and obvious excitement about what Sexy Samantha had in store for him that night.
‘I have a hot date too,’ I blurted out, watching for any flicker of jealousy. Of course there was none.
‘That’s great Suze.’ He looked genuinely pleased. ‘You haven’t seen anyone since Jack…’ He trailed off. My life was defined into two segments. Before Jack and After Jack. I wondered if Jules felt the same. He grabbed his jacket, averting his eyes from me, perhaps knowing that he had said something he shouldn’t. ‘It’s about time you got back on the horse again. We can swap notes tomorrow.’
‘Or not.’ I couldn’t bear thinking about that conversation. The literal ins and outs of Harry’s date would be something I really didn’t want to hear. I’d changed the subject twice that morning already when he started giving me explicit details that would be right at home on the pages of an erotic fiction novel. Sexy Samantha was far kinkier than those baby blue eyes might suggest. Besides, what did I have to contribute to that conversation? My hot date consisted of a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and a night in with the beautiful Brad Pitt. I logged off my own computer, keen to show him I also had something exciting to run off to.
‘Where did you meet him?’
I racked my brain as I fluffed out my hair in the reflection of a photo showing me and Harry covered in snow and grinning ear to ear after sledging at the indoor Snow Zone. Before Jack.
‘Skiing,’ I said, then wished I hadn’t.
He stopped in his hasty exit. ‘Skiing? When have you been skiing?’
‘I go every Sunday, skiing lessons, he’s my ski instructor.’ I was making it worse.
‘You hate skiing.’
I had said that hadn’t I. Because this photo was taken when we had our first and last skiing lesson a year before. I had spent forty minutes falling on my bum – as kids as young as five glided effortlessly past me – and the last twenty minutes of the lesson, after Harry had been upgraded to the adult slopes, trying to get up and rolling around on the floor with my skis in the air, looking like an oversized beetle stranded on its back. Harry had felt sorry for me that I had failed so spectacularly and had taken me sledging instead. Much more up my street. There was no skill at all involved in sliding down a slope in a red plastic sledge.
‘I like it now. I’m very proficient. Obviously just needed the right instructor.’
‘Well that’s great, maybe we can go together sometime.’
I fixed a smile onto my face. ‘Maybe.’
‘What’s his name?’
I cast around for a suitable name and a suitable adjective to describe him, something comparable to Sexy Samantha. I had nothing, no names in my head at all. The only name in my head was Harry and that would be too weird. He was staring at me, waiting for me to come up with a name, the silence stretched on. I had to say something.
‘Tim.’ I almost shouted out with relief. ‘Tiny Tim.’
Great. Just great.
Harry’s face fell. ‘Tiny Tim?’
‘Yes.’
‘As in…’ he waggled his little finger at me.
‘No, no, of course not, he’s very big in that department. Big all over in fact. Huge. It’s kind of an ironic name.’
‘Big like me?’
‘Well I have no idea how big you are in that department.’ My eyes cast down to the sizeable bulge in his jeans and I felt my cheeks burn as he clearly saw me checking him out.
‘I meant in height,’ Harry said. I’m sure I saw his mouth twitch as he supressed a smile.
‘Oh yes, he’s very tall.’
‘Good. That’s good. I have a friend who’s a ski instructor at the Snow Zone, he might know your Tim. What’s his surname?’
‘Timmings.’
I was a terrible liar.
‘Tim Timmings?’
‘That’s right.’
A horn tooted outside and Harry peeled back the net curtain to wave at Sexy Samantha as she leaned on the bonnet of her sexy red convertible. I didn’t think I’d ever be so relieved to see her again.
‘Well have fun.’ Harry threw me a cursory wave as he thundered down the stairs. A second later I heard the front door slam.
I peered out the window, hoping not to be noticed as Harry swept Sexy Samantha into his arms and swung her round as if he hadn’t seen her in months. As he deposited her on the floor she waved up at me and I was forced to wave politely back.
With a wheel spin and the stereo blaring out something young and hip, the red convertible roared up the road, taking my heart with it.
I’d been in love with Harry for two long, painful years and we were further away today from getting together than we had been when we first met. We were now firmly in the friend zone and there was never any coming back from that.
Two years was way too long for unrequited love. It was time I moved on with someone else. I would just fall out of love with him, simple as that.
I sighed as I walked into my bedroom and got changed into my cow print onesie. I flicked through some songs on my iPod until I found something suitably rousing and as Gloria Gaynor started belting out ‘I am what I am’, I turned up the volume, leapt up onto the bed and danced and wiggled my bum in time with the lyrics. I was highly skilled in the playing of air drums and as Gloria reached a crescendo so did my frenetic drum playing. As the instrumental kicked in I leapt off the bed, doing the splits mid-air. I pulled a muscle in my groin and as I flicked my hair theatrically out of my face I saw Harry’s eyes widen in horror as I landed on top of him, one leg somehow hooked over his shoulder as my other foot kicked him square in his crotch.
He screamed in pain. I screamed with embarrassment as he staggered back and landed hard on his bum, my leg still wrapped round his neck.
Gloria was still singing loudly in the background as we stared at each other. Finally I managed to speak.
‘What are you doing here?’
‘Currently, wondering if I’ll ever be able to have sex again. Can you please get off my lap?’
I quickly climbed off him, kneeing him in the face as I tried to stand up. He slowly staggered to his feet, doubled over in obvious pain.
‘I forgot my wallet,’ he said, by way of explanation.
I swallowed. ‘You saw me dance?’
He lifted his head and this time there was no mistaking the grin. ‘From the very beginning to the dramatic finale.’
I groaned.
‘I better go, Samantha will be wondering where I am. Nice onesie by the way. Does Tiny Tim have one too? A horse or a pig perhaps?’
I stared down at myself, at the pink udders hanging limply from my stomach, and wanted the ground to swallow me up. ‘He’s not coming round till later.’
‘Of course not. And I imagine he thinks you look quite cute in it.’
Cute? Puppies were cute. Is that how he thought of me, as a cute little puppy?
He moved to the top of the stairs and I followed him.
‘Do you think I look cute in it?’
He turned and walked back up a few stairs, kneeling on the stair below me so we were eye to eye. ‘Yes.’
My heart dropped. I was so far in the friend zone I was now categorised as cute. He’d be patting me on the back next and telling me he saw me like a sister.
‘Sexy cute?’
‘No.’
My heart sank into my feet.
‘I bet Samantha would look sexy in it?’
‘I doubt it. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to look sexy in it.’
I felt slightly better at this.
‘And don’t underestimate the value of cute, it’s a great quality to have.’ He leaned forward and kissed me on the nose. ‘And don’t stay up too late, I have a big day planned for you tomorrow.’
He ran down the stairs and was gone a second later.
I touched my nose, still feeling the softness of his lips. He thought I was cute. I smiled as I fell in love with him all over again.

To see chapter 2 check back here tomorrow or pre –order your copy of One Hundred Proposals now. http://amzn.to/1ouP9w0

Cover:


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Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson

Today I have the awesome pleasure of welcoming Lucy Robinson to The Love of a Good Book.
A huge thank you to Lucy for the fantastic guest post and to Katie at Penguin for inviting me to be part of the tour and sending me a copy to review.

Read on for exclusive content and my review
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Exclusive content:
I’m still enjoying my weekend in Bristol with lovely friends. The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me is, I hope, flying off the shelves and I am on my way to becoming a Times Top Ten Bestseller with several million copies sold. Er, fingers crossed and all that.

Today I’m very happy indeed to be blogging from the excellent Kirsty of The Love of a Good Book. Thank you, Kirsty, for having me, it’s very lovely indeed to be here.

So, to recap. During this tour I am talking about two things: MAD PEOPLE and FEAR.

The MAD PEOPLE are my cast of main characters from The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me. During this tour I’m revealing them to you, one by one.

And then I’ll talk briefly about FEAR. Facing your fears; seizing the day, just being brave is a major theme in this novel and at the end of this blog tour I’ll be facing a sizeable fear of my own and showing you a video of the results. ARGHHH. So, here we go. Feel free to butt in with any actor suggestions for the blockbusting film that will surely follow.

JULIAN BELL
Julian Bell – ah, swoon. Julian Bell. A complete mess of a man, who wears his clothes back to front and loses his phone every five seconds. He seldom remembers to get his hair cut, he forgets most things and he lives in a rented room in Brooklyn with a dog called Pam. He smells of nice laundry detergent and wears lovely soft old tshirts (they could do with an iron, mind . .)

Julian edits a slightly silly magazine called the Brooklyn Beaver and he has the most ridiculous accent you’ve ever heard. He was brought up both on a farm in Devon and New York and the resulting accent is insane. Julian isn’t too bothered about this. He’s been through some fairly big things himself and he tends not to sweat the small stuff anymore. When he and Sally first meet, she is busy stealing something, but it doesn’t phase him much.

Julian is almost impossibly kind, reasonable and gentlemanly. He’s the man you’d be dreaming of all day, if he didn’t have holes in his clothes and an obsession with importing English junk food to his home in Brooklyn. I won’t lie, I have a massive crush on him. I’d definitely go there. Watch out for the scene with the custard creams and the view.

My favourite Julian Line: ‘I’ve been getting fluffy hair since I was born,’ Julian yelled. He let out some sort of a war-cry, crashed into the dining table, fell sideways into a massive pouffe, pulled his head out of the T-shirt and sprinted through one of the doors.
Julian’s biggest fear: Julian’s biggest fear is rather hard for me to reveal, because if I do it’ll kind of ruin the story. However I can say that he is afraid (on a far lesser scale, mind) of spiders, because the farm he partly grew up on was crawling with them.



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Blurb:

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson, author of A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger, is a wonderfully witty and gorgeously romantic story of facing your fears and falling in love.

Sally is an incredible singer but she sings only in her wardrobe where nobody can hear her. She'd rather join a nudist colony than sing in public.

That is until she ventures to New York where a wild and heady summer of love and loss changes her forever. No longer able to hide in the shadows, Sally must return home to London to fulfill a promise she cannot break - to share her voice.

But just as she's about to embark on her new life, a beautiful man turns up on Sally's doorstep bearing a sheepish smile and a mysterious hand-written message.

How did he find her? Why is he here? Does he hold the truth to what happened back in New York? And, with him back on the scene, will she still have the courage to step into the spotlight?

Laugh out loud and follow your heart with Lucy Robinson's The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me.



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My Thoughts:

Three words, Robinson is back!

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me, reunites us with the wonderful wit and writing style of the one and only Lucy Robinson.

The story follows opera lover Sally as she embarks on a journey to sing outside of her wardrobe. Only Sally's journey is under duress and made even more complicated with the reappearance of her ex.

I wish I knew where to begin, this book is so freaking good.
Enveloped within the pages is a story that will have you laughing out loud and tearing up with emotion.

The characters are phenomenal;

Sally is full of self doubt and is so relatable and loveable. You want her to realise her true worth, to have the opera dream she longs for and deserves.

Barry, the wonderful Welshman that is always there to offer advice and a little honest criticism, I LOVE BARRY! He is such an incredible friend and I want to be one of his 'chickens'

Jan, the hilarious Eastern European
opera singer who loves himself some sexing. (I may have snorted on several occasions whilst reading about him)

Julian, jaw droppingly handsome, swoon worthy, slightly scruffy Julian. I loved this man and at certain times in the book I wanted to take him into the wardrobe and hug him (yes HUG him)

Then you have Helen who isn't opposed to straight talking and proves to be a wonderful friend to Sally.

There are characters in the book who instantly show the hand they are dealt and Sally's cousin and best friend Fiona is one of them.
Fiona was dealt a troubled past and this carries with her through adulthood, at times I found myself wanting to shake her but I empathised with her so much.

As you can see, Lucy Robinson has packed this book with so many wonderful characters, but I have to admit as much as I loved all those mentioned, Stevie was my favourite. Her personality, her vibrancy and the way she put things into perspective, always left me smiling!

From beginning to end I was on a rollercoaster of emotions, I've laughed, nearly cried and had my heart broken on several occasions because what is evident throughout is the empathy and emotion that was poured into this story. Whilst still ever present is Lucy's personality and humour.

I love everything about this book, the characters, the story and the message felt throughout.

In the words of Barry 'it's imperative chicken' BUY THIS BOOK!

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Friday, 20 June 2014

Girls On Tour Event

Being a blogger I've been lucky enough to attend some incredible bookish events, but on Wednesday evening I was SUPER EXCITED to attend one in my city!


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Girls On Tour is a collaboration between Books and The City (Simon & Schuster) and Waterstones.
It is a chance for readers to meet the authors who huddle on their bookshelves and captivate their imagination.
For the first Girls on Tour event in Birmingham, the High Street branch of Waterstones played host to three wonderful authors, Ali Harris, Milly Johnson and Paige Toon.


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After being greeted with a smile and offered a glass of fizz along with a cupcake. Guests were shown to their seats and the fun began.
The authors talked about their books, the inspiration behind the stories and characters, their favourite reads and wanky names.
Everyone was at ease, laughing, smiling and a little in awe at these three remarkable women.
After questions with the authors it was time to meet the ladies themselves and have your books sighed.


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The evening left me on a high and I loved meeting these women who have inspired me through their words!
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Highlights of my evening were:

Listening to the authors describe how their stories grew, discovering the inspiration behind their books and watching their passion for writing, flow amongst the room.
Finally getting to meet and hug the awesome Sara-Jade (@BookMinxSJV), someone who I have corresponded with for a while but never met in real life.
Socialising with bloggers Kim and Sarah.
Meeting the lovely Simon & Schuster team.



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I would like to thank Books and The City for arranging such a fabulous event and really hope that there will be more,
Also a thank you to the staff at Waterstones for being lovely to talk to and having great offers on show which meant that my TBR pile grew even more that night.

*Girls on Tour cost £8 (£6 if you have a Waterstones loyalty card) and was worth every penny!


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