Just over a month ago my friend Kate and I began our challenge to email each other 500 words every week of the new novels we were about to start – and, I’m happy to report, it… More
While many writers have more than enough on their plates tackling two lead characters, Holly Martin takes on four – plus a large supporting cast – and still produces her typically witty, emotionally-charged, romantic page-turner.
There is an injection of adrenalin on the very first page of Christmas Under A Starlit Sky, which is book two in the A Town Called Christmas series, with the dramatic entrance of Hollywood hunk Oakley Rey who has come to sweep Neve Whitaker off her feet.
As manager of a hotel on a remote snow-covered Scottish island, Neve gets to work alongside her family in a beautiful location but something, or rather someone, is missing – Oakley.
She split up with him just before he left for California after catching his big acting break and has been channelling “If you love someone, set them free” ever since.
What she hadn’t counted on was him coming back to fight for her, especially as she has a huge secret she’s struggling to keep.
We also get to meet deputy hotel manager Adam Douglas and artist Ivy Storm, two people struggling with their pasts, who might just have a future – if they can get beyond what is holding them back.
I’m a massive fan of Holly Martin’s writing and while this wasn’t my favourite of her books, it was still a great read.
It made me long to snuggle under a blanket in front of a roaring fire – even though I read it during an Indian summer and would probably have overheated if I had tried. That’s just how good her writing is; it draws you in and you get caught up in the characters and the location.
I did struggle with the name Oakley (I just kept thinking of sunglasses) and there were a couple of points where I actually said out loud to Neve: “Just tell him already.” (You’ll see what I mean when you read the book).
On the whole though I was swept along by the interwoven stories and found it very enjoyable.
Format: Kindle (published today!).
Price: £1.99 via Amazon (October 16).
My rating: Four stars.
Thank you to Bookouture (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.
It’s an age-old question. Or it would be if “age” described the 20-odd years that take us back to the 1990s when blogging began, which seems like only last week to me.
Anyway, it’s a question that appears to unite all bloggers at one point or another, no matter how big or small their audience. It is asked at the start, probably many times in the middle and one last time at the end.
I imagine there is more of a list when you are a pro-blogger; hopefully there is still a love of writing but also income, readership, contracts signed etc. What about for us folks for whom blogging is a more of a hobby? Why do we start and, perhaps more importantly, keep going?
While I’ve consistently kept a paper journal since I was 18, I found it was a lot easier to grip a phone and type one handed while holding a finally sleeping baby than to attempt to write with a pen in a notebook and still keep said baby from rolling on to the floor.
Blogs had also kept me company in the lonely wee hours of those early months of motherhood when I felt like I was drowning. They helped me find the energy to kick my legs and get my head back above water.
So when I was feeling a little less overwhelmed, I thought I’d have a go at telling my story too.
It wasn’t completely new to me, I had blogged anonymously in the early noughties (full of angst following a nasty breakup) but much has changed in the online (and offline) world since then – not least the advent of social media.
As it happens it was thanks to social media that I got a reminder of why I blog.
A Twitter friend kindly re-shared an old post of mine from more than two years ago, which I clicked on to re-read.
Freya had just turned one and, as well as celebrating, I was also reflecting on what a hard year it had been and why it didn’t seem like the “done thing” to say so.
Amid my ramble was this paragraph:
At first I thought: “Wow, did I really include that?” I shocked myself! Maybe I should have edited that out? It’s hardly ideal to admit I was so low that I thought about harming her or me, even if I didn’t do it.
Then I realised, this was a huge moment in our lives – one I had all but forgotten until now.
As I read it again, I was back there, standing at that junction with the pram, the bus coming towards us. I can still feel the deep-down despair, the absolute certainty that I was a terrible mother for not being able to ease her reflux and stop her suffering and that this could be a way to stop all our pain. And I can still feel the whoosh of cool air hitting my face, blowing my hair back, as the bus drove by.
It was a turning point.
I was at my lowest but I decided to fight on.
Look at us now, how far we have come.
Yes, reading it again was like a hug for me, a “you got through it, you survived” but it was more than that. I continued to read and discovered a couple of comments on the post (including from the lovely Jenni, who I remain in touch with). To this day I am still surprised and delighted when people take the time to comment and especially if they can relate in some way to my experiences. I also remembered a couple of emails I’d received from other mums who were struggling, possibly even as low as I was. They said the post made them feel less alone, more able to keep going – exactly as those blogs that I read when Freya was tiny did.
It’s that connection, along with preserving the memories (good and bad) and the fact I love to write that keeps me blogging and reading blogs (so please don’t stop writing).
I’m not suggesting that every post will hit the mark, especially when I write about falling in love with a lemur, but sharing our stories – the joyful moments as well as the tougher times – matters on a personal front but also on a wider level, possibly more than we think.
Why do you blog? I’d love to know.
We decided to explore Beccles on the Norfolk/Suffolk border yesterday, which included a trip up the 122 steps to the top of the bell tower, built in 1515, for some amazing views over the surrounding area.
Apparently on a clear day you can see Norwich 20 miles away but yesterday started a bit misty and it was still burning off when we were there. I loved seeing the changing colours of the trees.
Speaking of autumnal colours, as we wandered through the market town’s pretty streets doing a bit of window shopping I spotted this wall. I could have stayed and happily snapped away for the rest of the day but I don’t think Mark and Freya would have been as keen.