Monday, 31 October 2016

Blog Tour ~ Guest Post | Search For A Silver Lining ~ Miranda Dickinson

Today I'm delighted to be taking part with the blog tour for the lovely Miranda Dickinson as we celebrate her new novel, Search For A Silver Lining.

If you follow Miranda on social media you will know that she wanted her blog tour to be fun and interesting, with a collection of posts she has exclusively written linking to the book as opposed to the usual tours full of review.

So without further ado, I'm handing over to Miranda to share her Silver Linings...

It began with a promise . . . 

Matilda Bell is left heartbroken when she falls out with her beloved grandfather just before he dies. Haunted by regret, she makes a promise that will soon change everything . . . 

When spirited former singing star Reenie Silver enters her life, Mattie seizes the opportunity to make amends. Together, Mattie and Reenie embark on an incredible journey that will find lost friends, uncover secrets from the glamorous 1950s and put right a sixty-year wrong.

Touchingly funny, warm and life-affirming, this is a sparkling story of second chances. Perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern, Searching for a Silver Lining will take you on a trip you'll never forget.

Search for a Silver Lining
Miranda Dickinson
October 2016
Pan McMillan

My Silver Lining
The key theme in my eighth novel, Searching for a Silver Lining, is the power of second chances. As a confirmed optimist, I have always believed in looking for good in bad situations – hope, for me, is the best weapon we have in dark times.
All through my life I have found silver linings and there are so many I could share. But perhaps the first time I was really aware of the power of hope was when I failed my A-levels. I’d managed to secure a place at a university in York, to study drama, film and television, beating over 1,500 applicants to be offered one of 35 places. I sat my exams confident that an exciting future awaited me. I’d told everyone where I was headed and had spent hours dreaming of all the amazing things the next chapter of my life could hold.
And then, my results arrived. I had failed one A-level and my practical exam for drama had been severely marked by the visiting examiner. In that moment, everything fell apart. Everything I had hoped for, worked for, lost. In tears I called the university, hoping against hope that my successful audition would be enough to keep my place. They were very kind and understanding, but confirmed my worst fears.
I wanted to go to university – I was the first person in my family to be able to do so – and so I decided to enter the clearing system. I was accepted by a college of higher education in Cheltenham (now the University of Gloucestershire) to study for a Performance Art degree and while I was there I discovered filmmaking. I made art films and a computer animated kids’ feature and fell in love with the process. Years later, I decided to make vlogs as a published author when not many other writers were doing it and now I’m known for my vlogging. It’s a lovely positive that came out of a huge challenge (and of course a great degree!) You can find (and subscribe to) my vlogs at:
Thanks so much for reading this blog exclusive! For more, follow my Searching for a Silver Lining blog tour. I really hope you enjoy reading the story!

Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. From an early age she dreamed of writing a book that would make the heady heights of Kingswinford Library and today she is a bestselling author. She began to write in earnest when a friend gave her The World's Slowest PC, and has subsequently written the bestselling novelsFairytale of New YorkWelcome to My WorldIt Started With a KissWhen I Fall in LoveTake A Look At Me Now,I'll Take New York and A Parcel for Anna Browne. Miranda lives with her husband Bob and daughter Flo in Dudley.

Thank you so much to Miranda and Pan MacMillan for allowing me to be part of this fabulous blog tour - Make sure you check out the other amazing bloggers for more insights into Search for a Silver Lining!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Promo Post | The Poppy Garden ~ Claire L Brown

Today I'm joined on the Book Corner by author Claire L Brown to talk about her new book, the Poppy Garden.

The Poppy Garden
Claire L Brown
November 2016

What would you do if the love of your life didn't know who you were? 
What if he forgot you? 

Forgot the first time you met, your first kiss, the day he proposed and the day you married? 

What if six months after your perfect start it was all taken away in the blink of an eye?

Sky Flynn thought she had it all, she was the happiest she’d ever been from the moment she met Nick Robinson until the moment a military officer showed up at her door, then things changed. 

Fighting to save her marriage and help her husband recover from both physical and mental scars of war Sky has to find away to cope and overcome.

Inspired by memories of her grandfather and how he channeled his PTSD into his garden she sets out to create somewhere for recovering service men to go, to assist in their recovery and create a place of beauty to share with their families. But will the beauty of the garden heal her husband’s wounds and bring him home to her forever? 

I'm a writer - but what does that really mean?  I tell stories, but where do they come from? 

I've always been obsessed by stories, ever since I was a child. If I wasn't reading them I was writing them or acting them out.  If there wasn't a story in my collection I wanted to read then I made it up and told it to myself.   As I got older I started writing ideas down and then slowly they evolved in to books or screenplays.  

The book I'm publishing next month is something different for me.  I think it's the first time in my life I've told a story with out some kind of twist or mythic/adventure element.  It's the first drama I've ever written and it's probably going to be one of the most personally important books I'll ever write.  

I started this project two years ago - I know that's a long time to be working on one book.  But I had to get it right, because its for someone very special.  

I spent a great deal of my childhood with my Granddad.  While my parents both worked on a Saturday my Granddad used to wake me at six and take me to the beach.   We'd park the car and walk along the pier and the sand and I'd think nothing of it.  It was something my Granddad did with me.   I always thought it was just something he did to get out of the house while my nan did the house work or baked.  It wasn't until after he died that I found out the beach was the first place he came when he returned home from World War 2. It was a special place for him, a place to remember and draw strength from, because he had made it home.  

My grandfather, Joseph Robinson was around nineteen when he joined the RAF in 1940. He was a Brylcream boy and remained one his whole life.   He rose to the rank of sergeant, the tail gunner of LM471 in 576 Squadron Bomber Command.  He married my nan in February 1944 and on the night of the 24 March 1944 he was part of a bombing raid over Berlin.  His plane like many that night was blown off course in to a field of flack and shrapnel which tore at the plane crippling it.  He fought as long as he could until he was left with two other members of the crew, the others having parachuted out. He was directed by the pilot, to take the last parachute and jump from the bomb doors as they main door was damaged.   The Pilot and Flight Engineer went down with the plane and were killed.  

Landing in France behind enemy lines my grandfather was taken in by a farmer, initially they became good friends until one day the farmer handed him over to the Gestapo and  he was entered as a POW. 

The Wedding of Sgt. J Robinson 

As many prisoners did my granddad wanted to escape and took part in the digging of tunnels as others had in the Great Escape. Before he could leave he was marched out of camp as the Russian Army approached.  He became part of what is known as the Long Walk; a death march from which he escaped. 

He returned home to his wife and raised a daughter and then two grandchildren.  He was a strong man, I never heard him swear or loose his temper and he never told me the whole story of his time as a POW.  

As a child you don't really question the stories you are told, now I wish I had because his is a story I would love to read completely.  

If every life is a book, a story to be told some of the pages of his are blank to me and I so wish I knew the hidden stories.  

I tried for a long time to find a way to tell his story, the lack of information was always my stumbling block, until one day while digging in my garden it struck me how I had spent many an hour watching him work in his.   It was then that I realised this was his way of coping with the horrors he had lived, just like going to the beach.  He took the bad and made it beautiful, he turned the horror of war in to the beauty of a rose.  

His story isn't a recounting of history but more a story of hope, of coming to terms with the experiences of his life and finding a way to live and thrive.  So I started writing The Poppy Garden, a story of an injured soldier coming to terms with his experience and the family that support and fight for him.   I only hope this story honours his memory and brings beauty from darkness the way he brought beauty to his garden.  

My grandfather was a great support of the Royal BritishLegion and I would ask  if you can please wear a Poppy with pride this Remembrance day. 

Thank you Claire for sharing this with us.

Author Bio 

Claire L Brown born Sunderland, England. Claire is a BA Hons Graduate in Media with American History from Sunderland University. After attending Western Washington State University and spending several years working as a personal assistant in her native North East, Claire now writes part time. 

Claire concentrates mostly on romance, fantasy and thriller genres.  

Claire also writes two blogs, My Life as a Writer focusing on her experiences as an author and My Life as a Writer When I'm Not Scribbling where she writes about lifestyle, beauty, books, movies and anything else. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Blog Tour ~ Review | Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan With Love, #3) ~ Sarah Morgan

Miracle on 5th Avenue - 
From Manhattan With Love #3
Sarah Morgan
October 2016
Rating: 5/5

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. Even if she is spending it alone housesitting a spectacular Fifth Avenue apartment. What she didn’t expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous–and mysterious–owner.
Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife’s death looming, he’s isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

I cannot tell you how eager I have been to read Eva's story since I was approved a NetGalley copy - Thank you Cara! - however I purposely put off reading until I knew I had a completely free day to delve in and delve in is what I did.
As with Paige's story in Sleepless in Manhattan and Frankie's in Sunset Over Central Park, I completely devoured Miracle on 5th Avenue in one sitting - who needs to eat or drink anyway, right?!

From Manhattan With Love is the first books I have read from Sarah Morgan, to say she's now a firm favourite author would be an understatement - although I'm not sure I will ever catch up with her back catalogue ;-)

As I said, I was very much looking forward to reading Miracle on 5th Avenue but knowing the little about Eva we did from the first two books, I was a little apprehensive that the book would be a little too romantic - you know how you really fancy an indulgent hot chocolate and then after realise you shouldn't have had the marshmallows and cream? I guess I was a little concerned that the novel would be too over indulgent on Eva's hopeless romantic side and happy ever after as sometimes you can have a too much of a good thing....

I was completely wrong!

Miracle on 5th Avenue was completely different to Sleepless in Manhattan and Sunset Over Central Park, in the fact that it featured Eva and Lucas and very little of the other characters, although there where references to Paige and Frankie, and their company Urban Genie - which is doing fabulously!

Eva has been hired by one of the companies regular clients, Mitzy, with the task to decorate her grandson's 5th Ave apartment for the holiday season and to stock pile his freezer, whilst he is away in Vermont writing his next crime novel.

Only Lucas isn't in Vermont.
He's hiding out in his apartment and isn't overly impressed with Eva's arrival.

Despite Eva's love for sunshine, happiness, good food and unicorns, I felt she really came into her own in this book. She had a fiesty side which I wasn't expecting - telling Lucas exactly how it is and not beating around the bush!
This side of Eva intrigues Lucas and suddenly he starts to have an idea about characters and plots for his new crime book - one in which he is supposed to have completed in time for Christmas yet has nothing penned to paper.

I'm not really a crime book fan but having the odd reference to murder and blood to tie in with Lucas' occupation, really worked well and gave a great balance to the story.

As the book progresses, Eva starts to open up about how the loss of her Grandmother has effected her, Lucas has an equally sad story to tell and its clear that they both bring out the best in each other.

Miracle on 5th Avenue is full of wonderful dialogue containing lots of raw and honest emotion and banter - the sexual tension between these two literally oozed off the pages!
The book wasn't all smelling of roses - there's lots of moments when the pair are against each other, particularly when they start to get close but Lucas backs away refusing to love again - even towards the end as the last few pages were turned, I had to question whether Eva would get the happy outcome we all know she craves and deserves.

Miracle on 5th Avenue is a delightful story about falling in love and taking chances, and even though Paige and Frankie play a small part in this book, the fundamental statement of good friendship shines through when it's needed.

I've loved discovering Sarah Morgan with this From Manhattan With Love series, and am over the moon to discover that Sarah is writing a further three books set here - I do hope though that this gorgeous trio of character friends aren't forgotten and make some cameos as I feel there's much more to their stories.


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Review | Christmas Under A Starlit Sky (A Town Called Christma, Book 2) ~ Holly Martin

Christmas Under A Starlit Sky -
A Town Called Christmas, Book 2
Holly Martin
October 2016
Rating 5/5


Step inside a beautiful winter wonderland where love, laughter and cosy nights by the fire will make this Christmas one to remember. 

Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season? 

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself. 

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith? 

Get swept away by this deliciously sweet and heartwarming tale, and spend an unforgettable Christmas on Juniper Island.


Its no secret that Holly Martin has become one of my favourite authors - you only have to read my recent review of the first book in this A Town Called Christmas series, Christmas Under A Cranberry Sky, in which you can access here - to know that I've fallen for Holly's festive fictional world.

With its colourful Northern Lights, glistening snow, cosy wooden lodges and a wonderful cast of characters, it's no wonder that Holly Martin is having the success she's getting as I truly feel that her books are pure escapism for us romance genre lovers.

Although Christmas Under A Starlit Sky is the second book from the series, it can completely be read as a standalone novel - although if you were to take my advise, I would read Cranberry Sky first as for me it gives you a better understanding of Juniper Island and works well as a nice intro to the books.

Whereas in the first book the focus was primarily on one relationship - Gabe and Pip, with Christmas Under A Starlit Sky we are treated to two relationships - both cleverly crafted to entwine to make one complete story.

Christmas Under A Starlit Sky has four main characters - Neve, Oakley, Adam and Ivy - although there are plenty of references to the characters featured in Cranberry too.

Neve and Oakley's story is the main thread here but I adored reading Adam and Ivy's alongside. Neve is the manager of the Stardust Lake Hotel and has recently split up with her movie star boyfriend Oakley. When he suddenly arrives on Juniper Island just prior to Christmas, Neve is completely confused as to his feelings for her and their future together, especially when he blows hot and cold in reaction to a secret she has been keeping from him. This on/off chemistry between the pair really kept the book interesting and the pages turning with its twist and turns.

Adam has been brought to Juniper Island by Gabe to work as assistant manager with Neve gets the hotel up and running and to help guide it through their first Christmas and New Year period.
Adam comes with his own heartbreak but throws himself into his new role of which is not short of challenges, and one of them first challenges is to locate Ivy Storm, one of the local villagers that has gone missing.
From the moment Adam finds Ivy and discovers that she's not the elderly lady her name suggest, you can feel their chemistry jumping from the pages - as I read on I was left wondering if their broken hearts could be mended and if they could learn to trust each other in order to be happy.

Christmas Under A Starlit Sky is a story full of hopes and dreams, love and romance and of course that festive warmth you want from a Christmas story, so grab yourself a hot chocolate (marshmallows a must!), a snuggly blanket and curl up with what is my favourite novel of the season so far!


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Review | All I Want For Christmas ~ Jenny Hale

All I Want For Christmas
Jenny Hale
October 2016
Rating 4/5


Christmas comes once a year . . . But true love comes once in a lifetime. 

Snowflakes are falling, there’s carol singing on every corner, and Leah Evans is preparing for a family Christmas at her grandmother’s majestic plantation house in Virginia. It won’t be the same now that her beloved Nan is gone, but when Leah discovers she has inherited the mansion, she knows she can give her daughter Sadie the childhood of her dreams. 

But there’s a catch. Leah must split the house with a man called David Forester. Leah hasn’t heard that name in a long time. Not since they were kids, when Davey was always there to catch her. 

Now David is all grown up. He’s gorgeous, successful, and certain of one thing: Leah should sell him her half of the house. 

They can’t agree, but as they share memories over wine by the log fire, Leah notices a fluttering in her stomach. And by the look in his eyes, he’s starting to feel it too. 

Will it be Leah or David who must give up their dreams? Or, with a little bit of Christmas magic, will they finally understand Nan’s advice to them both about living life without regrets … and take a chance on true love?


There is no question that Jenny Hale knows how to write those kind books that make you grin and make you cry but overall leaves you feeling warm and contented as you you turn the pages.

All I Want For Christmas is no exception, Here Jenny treats us to a warm and humbling story about love, life and friendship.

We are introduced to Leah Evans and her young daughter Sadie in the run up to Christmas. The relationship between these two characters is adorable right from the outset and it is clearly obvious that the recent passing of Leah's Nan is playing on their minds as they prepare to head back to Evergreen Hills - the old plantation that Nan transformed in to a glorious family home.

The house is also set to be a massive part of Leah and Sadie's future as they had always planned to move and live there and carry on opening the plantation up to host events and weddings just as Nan had. Sadie's passion is gymnastics and there is also an amazing school to teach this near by.

However, their well thought future gets turned upside down when Leah receives a letter stating that Nan had changed her Will prior to her passing and that the house was to be split between Leah and David Forester.

Leah and David knew each other when they kids - Leah looked up to him and he looked after her but David and his family moved away and Leah hadn't thought much of him since.
Now they are faced with the prospect of being joint home owners.

Everything Leah has worked and planned for is destroyed when David says he wants to buy her out - over the coming chapters little things remind Leah of Nan and the memories that had at the plantation. All the while she is building up a way to tell Sadie they aren't moving, and trying to hold back the feelings she's starting to have for David.

Alongside all of this there is a really strong and powerful element of friendship in the form of Leah's two friends Roz and Louise and their children Jo and Ethan respectively. The Girls as they are affectionately known have been there as a little trio through thick and thin and they are Leah's rock when it comes to making a decision on Evergreen Hills.

Although there is a small romantic element between Leah and David in this book - and Jenny is brilliant at her romantic stories - this book has much more to it. There is a deep line of moving on past grief and the importance of living life with no regrets. There is also a mysterious element as we learn quite early on that Nan sent a letter to someone named Samuel but we had to keep guessing until much later on.

For me personally though, I felt that the relationship between Leah and David could have panned out a little better. They seemed to go from friends to something more without much in the middle and I missed they way Jenny usually writes making her characters flirt and fall in love.

Overall though, I really enjoyed All I Want For Christmas - it was humbling, warm and cozy and had plenty of festive links and lots of snow! 


Monday, 10 October 2016

Blog Tour ~ Extract | The Christmas Promise ~ Sue Moorcroft

Today I'm delighted to be on the blog tour for The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft and with thanks to Avon Books, I'm bringing you a little teaser from the book!

Below you will find the cover, synopsis and extract... be sure to check out the other amazing bloggers on this tour too!

The Christmas Promise
Sue Moorcroft
eBook October 2016
PB December 2016

For Ava Bliss, it’s going to be a Christmas to remember …

On a snowy December evening, Sam Jermyn steps into the life of bespoke hat maker Ava Blissham. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good ones…

When Sam commissions Ava to make a hat for someone special to him she makes a promise that will change her life. She just doesn’t know it yet.

Ava needs this job – she’s struggling to make ends meet, her ex-boyfriend is a bully, and she’s desperate for distraction because no one dreads Christmas like Ava does.

But soon Ava finds herself reluctantly needing something from Sam. He’s quick to help, but she’s in for a nasty shock… Will she be able to keep her promise? And if she does, might this be the Christmas her dreams come true?

Curl up with this gorgeous, festive read – the perfect treat for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

Extract - The Christmas Promise

Ava had to raise her voice to be heard over the Christmas revellers and pulsing music. ‘So I get to meet Sam the Big Important Man tonight?’
‘He’s over there’ – Izz was tall enough to see above people’s heads – ‘with Patrick and Jake. I can see some of the girls, too, over in the corner. Nobody else seems to have brought guests,’ she added uneasily, doing the looking-without-looking thing that was more obvious than staring.

Ava gave her arm a reassuring pat. ‘But you were told you could. And I can always disappear off home if you think I’m in the way.’ She paused to check the angle of her black-feathered pillbox hat fixed to the coil of blonde plaits at one side of her head and made sure that the rest of her hair streamed smoothly over her shoulder. No point turning herself into a walking display of her work if she wasn’t meticulous with the effect.
‘No!’ said Izz in alarm, fluffing up her short hair, a pretty brown that, in Ava’s opinion, could do with a more exciting cut. ‘If you go home early I’ll have no one to talk to.’
‘What about Tod?’
‘He’ll talk to the others.’ Izz glanced back at the door, as if contemplating baling out before the evening began.
It wouldn’t help Izz if Ava were to demand to know how she could be shy with people she’d worked with for weeks, so Ava simply said, ‘OK, let’s pile in.’
Without the benefit of the height enjoyed by Izz and Tod, Ava was corralled by backs and shoulders as they battled through the melee, and could only gauge that their goal had been reached by a sudden chorus of, ‘Hey, Tod! Hello, Izz.’
Izz hung back, allowing Tod to tug Ava forward. ‘Ava, meet Patrick and Jake.’
Patrick had dark eyes, crisp curls and the kind of smile that was probably supposed to be a smoulder. Jake was more of a vague beamer.
Ava smiled politely. ‘Hello, I’m Ava—’
‘And,’ Tod barrelled on as if he couldn’t wait to get to the important stuff, ‘this is Sam, our creative director.’
Ava hadn’t intended to be impressed by Sam Jermyn, the golden boy who’d handled PR for a high-profile foot­ball player and, at thirty-five, made enough money to invest in his own communications agency. But as Sam turned his gaze on her she couldn’t help but be aware of him. He was tall, even taller than Tod or Izz. His tawny hair fell across one eye and was just long enough to tuck behind his ears. In his dark suit and white shirt he looked as well put-together as an expensive car.
With a slow smile, Sam took her hand in his. ‘Ava. I’ve heard a lot about you.’
‘Likewise.’ She smiled sweetly. She wouldn’t embarrass her friends by telling Sam that Tod and Izz sometimes seemed to have no other topic of conversation.
‘What are you drinking?’
‘Thank you, but I’m not feeling flush enough to get involved in rounds. I might only stay for a couple, anyway.’
‘You’ve been invited for Christmas drinks. No need to reciprocate.’ Sam consulted Tod over Ava’s head. ‘What does Ava drink?’
‘Zinfandel rosé.’ Tod cheerfully ignored Ava’s exasper­ated stare.
‘It’s not PC to dismiss a woman’s perfectly valid wishes,’ Ava half-joked at Sam’s departing back as, having swiftly taken orders from Tod and Izz, he made towards the bar.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Extract | One Christmas In Paris ~ Mandy Baggot

Today we are celebrating the publication of One Christmas In Paris - the new novel from Mandy Baggot, and with thanks to Bookouture, I have a little snippet of the book to tease you with!

One Christmas In Paris
Mandy Baggot
October 2016

They say Paris is the City of Love, so bring your je ne sais quoi and don’t forget the mistletoe!

Ava and her best friend Debs arrive in Paris just as the snow starts to fall. The Eiffel Tower glitters gold and the scent of spiced wine is all around, but all Ava can think about is Leo, her no-good, cheating ex.

Debs is on a mission to make Ava smile again, and as they tour the Christmas markets, watch lamplight glittering on the river Seine, and eat their body weight inpain-au-chocolat, Ava remembers there’s more to life than men ... Until they cross paths with handsome, mysterious photographer Julien with his French accent and hazelnut eyes that seem to see right inside her.

Ava can’t ignore the intense chemistry between them, but her fingers have been burned before and she can’t forget it, especially when her ex, Leo, starts texting again. Can Ava really trust Julien – and what exactly is his secret? 

Will Ava go home with a broken heart, or will she find true love amongst the cobbled streets of Paris? 

Join Ava and Julien in the most romantic city in the world this Christmas, as they discover the importance of being true to themselves, and learn how to follow their hearts.

One Christmas in Paris is a gorgeous, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy – perfect for fans of Jane Costello, Miranda Dickinson and Lucy Diamond.

About the Author

Mandy Baggot is an award-winning author of romantic women’s fiction and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. In Feb 2016, her Bookouture novel, One Wish in Manhattan was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award. A contributor to writing blogs and short story anthologies, she is also a regular speaker at literary festivals, events and women’s networking groups.
Mandy loves mashed potato, white wine, country music, Corfu and handbags. She has appeared on ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and auditioned for The X-Factor and lives in Wiltshire, UK with her husband, two children and cats Kravitz and Springsteen.
Extract - One Christmas In Paris 
Up-Do Hair, Kensington, London

Leo:[EMAIL] I’m sorry. Can we talk?[END EMAIL]
Ava Devlin swiped the email hard to the left and watched it disappear from the screen of her iPhone. That’s what you did with messages from liars and fakes who had whispered one thing into your ear, as they wrapped their arms around you, and did the complete opposite when your back was turned. She swallowed back a bitter feeling. She had always worried that Leo – successful, rich, good-looking in a Joey Essex kind of way – was maybe a little bit out of her league.
‘Boss or boyfriend?’
The question came from Sissy, the hairdresser who was currently coating Ava’s head in foils and a paste that felt as if it was doing nuclear things to Ava’s scalp.
‘Neither,’ she answered, putting the phone on the counter under the mirror in front of her. A sigh left her. ‘Not any more.’ She needed to shake this off like Taylor Swift.
Giving her reflection a defiant look, she enlarged her green eyes, flared the nostrils of her button nose and set her lips into a deliberate pout she felt she had never quite been able to pull off. With her face positioned like she was a Z-list celeb doing a provocative selfie on Twitter, she knew she was done. With men. With love. With everything. Her ears picked up the dulcet tones of Cliff Richard suggesting mistletoe and wine, floating from the salon sound system. Her eyes then moved from her reflection to the string of tinsel and fir cones that surrounded the mirror. This rinky-dink Christmas crap could do one as well. Coming right up was a nation getting obsessed with food they never ate in the other eleven months – dates, walnuts, an entire board of European cheeses – and a whole two weeks of alterations to the television schedule – less The Wright Stuff and more World’s Strongest Man. And now she was on her own with it.
‘Well,’ Sissy said, dabbing more goo on Ava’s head, ‘I always think Christmas is a good time to be young, free and single.’ She giggled, drawing Ava’s attention back to the effort Sissy was putting into her hair. ‘All those parties... people loosening up with goodwill and...’
‘Stella Artois?’ Ava offered.
‘You don’t drink that, do you?’ Sissy exclaimed as if Ava had announced she was partial to Polonium 210. ‘I had a boyfriend once who was allergic to that. If he had more than four it made him really ill.’
‘Sissy, that isn’t an allergy, that’s just getting drunk.’
‘On lager?’ Sissy quizzed. ‘Doesn’t it mix well with shots?’
Ava was caught between a laugh and a cry. She swallowed it down and focussed again on the mirror. Why was she here having these highlights put in? She’d booked the appointment when she’d had the work do to go to. Now, having caught Leo out with Cassandra, she wouldn’t need perfect roots to go with the perfect dress he’d bought her. She didn’t even like the dress. It was all red crushed velvet like something a magician’s assistant might wear. Like something her mother might wear. But Leo had said she looked beautiful and she remembered how that had made her feel at the time. All lies.
‘Stop,’ Ava stated abruptly, sitting forward in her seat.
‘Stop?’ Sissy clarified. ‘Stop what? Talking? Putting the colour on?’
‘All of it,’ Ava said. She put her fingers to the silver strips on her head and tugged.
‘What are you doing? Don’t touch them!’ Sissy said, as if one wrong move was going to detonate an explosive device.
‘I want them off... out...not in my hair!’ Ava gripped one foil between her fingers, pulling.
‘OK, OK, but not like that, you’ll pull your hair out.’
‘I want a new look.’ Ava scooped up her hair in her palms, pulling it away from her face and angling her head to check out the look. Nothing would make her jawline less angular or her lips thinner. She sighed. ‘Cut it off.’ She wanted it to come out strong, decisive, but her voice broke a little at the end and when she looked back at Sissy, she saw pity growing in her hairdresser’s eyes.
‘Well... I have to finish the tinting first.’ Sissy bit her lip.
Ava didn’t want pity. ‘Well, finish the tinting and then cut it off,’ she repeated.
‘Trim it, you mean,’ Sissy said, her eyes in the mirror, looking back at Ava.
Ava shook her remaining silver-wrapped hair, making it rustle. ‘No, Sissy, I don’t want it trimmed. I want it cut off.’ She pulled in a long, steady breath. ‘I’m thinking short... but definitely more Bowie in his heyday than Jedward.’
That short.’ Sissy was almost choking on the words.
‘You did say a change was good,’ Ava answered. ‘Change me.’ She sat back until she could feel the pleather at her back. ‘Make me completely unrecognisable even to my mother.’ She closed her eyes. ‘In fact, especially to my mother.’
With her eyes shut, she blocked out everything – Cliff Richard, the tinsel and fir cones, Leo. A different style was just what she needed. Something that was going to go with her new outlook on life. A haircut that was going to say, You can look, but if you set one eyelash into my personal space, suggesting joy to the world, you will be taken down. Nothing or nobody was going to touch her.
Ava’s phone let out a bleep and she opened one eye, squinting at the screen. Why didn’t Leo just give up? Why wasn’t he suctioned to Cassandra like he had been for God knows how long? She was betting Cassandra had never had to use Clearasil.
Sissy leant forward, regarding the phone screen. ‘It says it’s from Debs.’
Cheered considerably, Ava reached for the phone, picking it up and reading the message.

[TEXT STARTS]I know I said not to bring anything, but I totes forgot to get something Christmassy. Can you get something Christmassy? To eat... like those crisps that are meant to taste like turkey and stuffing or roasted nuts and cranberry. And bring red wine, not white, because I got three bottles of white today. And if you’ve completely forgotten all about coming to mine tonight for neighbourly nibbles before I leave for Paris then this is your reminder. Debs xx[TEXT ENDS]

Debs texted like she was writing a dissertation. There was no OMG, FFS or TMI with Ava’s best friend. And Ava had forgotten about the ‘neighbourly nibbles’. That was what having a break-up on your plate did to you – addled your brain and fried the important relationship circuits. Well, she was taking control now – elusive and aloof to anyone but her best friend – and the only frazzled motherboard was going to be the one with wires connected to men.
Ava looked into the mirror at Sissy. ‘After you’ve cut it, Sissy, I want you to make me blonder,’ she stated. ‘And not the honey kind.’ She smiled. ‘The Miley Cyrus meltdown kind.’