Creating the perfect man… isn’t this most women’s dream? You can design what he looks like (tall, dark and handsome), how funny he is (very), what he does for a living (tax inspectors need not apply), how romantic he is (runs the bath for you, and pours you a wine), you can essentially devise a wish list and watch as every box gets a big tick put in it. But perfection is boring. I wouldn’t want to share my life with a walking talking demigod – because I know that by comparison I’d never match up, so you have to throw a few flaws in there too, but nothing that can’t be overcome. We’re talking about a little bit moody (Fitzwilliam Darcy), a bit bumbling (Mark Darcy), or in the case of Will Scarlet, my loveable, gorgeous hero in Me, You and Tiramisu, a little bit famous. For Jayne, watching on the side-lines as Will rises in popularity, his charisma and killer cheekbones are swiftly becoming the biggest obstacle to their happiness. Jayne loved him when they were spotty teenagers drinking cheap cider from plastic cups in the park, this new Will is now public property and suddenly perfection seems very overrated indeed.
If you think about all the best romantic comedy heroes, they’re all quite charming (usually in a floppy-haired sort of way – Hugh Grant, I’m looking at you) but also, they’ve all got their foibles. Will, my hero, is undeniably gorgeous, but he also has a pair of grotty tracksuit bottoms that he insists on wearing when he has man-flu. He can cook a delicious feast, but also makes the kitchen look like a tornado ripped through it.
For me to want my characters to succeed, for them to get their happy-ever-after, I need to love them both, I need to want to root for them, and I want my readers to as well. I want them to fall in love with my hero, and I want them to like my heroine, and I want them to feel sad when it’s all going wrong and cheer when it turns the corner (for those who haven’t read the book, this may or may not happen, who knows?!) Will Scarlet is my first fictional hero, and he and his tiramisu will always have a special place in my heart…
Me, You and Tiramisu
23rd February 2017
Fall in love with the perfect feel-good romance for fans of Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell and Carole Matthews.
It all started with a table for two…
Life for self-confessed bookworm Jayne Brady couldn’t be better – she has a twin sister she adores, a cosy little flat above a deli and now she’s found love with her childhood crush, gorgeous chef Will.
But when Will becomes a Youtube sensation, thanks to his delicious cookery demos (both the food and his smile!), their life of contentment come crashing down around them. Can Jayne have her Tiramisu and eat it?
What if the person you love most in the world was in terrible danger … because of you?
Three years ago, Toni’s five-year-old daughter Evie disappeared after leaving school. The police have never been able to find her. There were no witnesses, no CCTV, no trace.
But Toni believes her daughter is alive. And as she begins to silently piece together her memories, the full story of the past begins to reveal itself, and a devastating truth.
Toni’s mind is trapped in a world of silence, her only chance to save herself is to manage the impossible. She must find a way to make herself heard. She must find her daughter.
A compelling, gripping thriller with a breathtaking twist that will keep you awake until the early hours. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train, Behind Closed Doors and The Sister.
Blink is one of those rare books that has you gripped from page one. We meet Toni, devastated after the loss of her husband, she moves across the country with her 5 year old daughter Evie to start again. One day Toni is late getting to school to pick up her daughter, she arrives to find her daughter has vanished in to thin air. Toni remains adamant her daughter is still alive.
I loved Blink, I was immediately captivated by Toni’s story and was desperate to keep reading. Slater’s writing style is very clever and really managed to draw me in to the story. Slater manages to flit effortlessly between the past and the present, weaving an intricate tale that builds tension throughout with some exciting plot twists and red herrings to keep you guessing the whole way through. I loved discovering more about Toni’s past and how everything tied together to come to the point in her life she has reached. While she isn’t the easiest of characters to like at first, I admired Toni’s strength and her determination to carry on and raise her daughter the best she can and her unwavering belief in her daughter still being alive.
Blink was an exciting and compelling read. I never suspected where the plot would take me and I was eager to read on to learn more and uncover the secrets surrounding the disappearance of Evie. Slater manages to tackle some difficult topics and I was intrigued and fascinated with the way she tackled Toni and the parents role and position in society when their child goes missing and the blame often attributed to them.
This is a different but clever crime thriller and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. I could say so much more about this book but I don’t want to spoil this incredible story for anyone. Blink is a book to be read and enjoyed, a story to be immersed in and to live.
What readers are saying about Blink:
‘I was excited to start reading this one and once I started I couldn’t stop. I devoured it. Chomped away chapter by chapter until I have hoofed the whole damned lot and you know what? It left me hungry for more …An absolutely stonking 5 stars from me. Jen Med’s Book Reviews
‘This is a novel that those who liked The Girl on The Train and Behind Closed Doors won’t want to miss’ My Little Book Corner
‘I finished this book in nearly one day. I was completely unable to put this book down. Everything about this book sucks you in and doesn’t let go.’ Bombshell Reads
‘Blink was just BRILLIANT’ It’s All About Books
‘A thrilling roller coaster of a read that will have you gripping on for dear life to see how it will all end’ By the Letter Book Reviews
‘The book had me from the very first sentence and kept hold of me until I finished it…. There are twists galore but on one occasion my jaw actually dropped open as I realised that all was not as it seemed. Fantastic writing, excellent characterisation that has left me salivating for book number three! Five stars.’ Angela Marsons
‘Five stars! This book had me hook line and sinker … this author’s mind is very very clever …’ Sue and her Books
‘WOW,What a corker of a book, gripping story, believable untrustworthy characters and not just one but two totally jaw dropping unexpected twists.’ Nicki’s Life of Crime
‘What a read …The ending took me completely by surprise! In most books, I end up guessing the ending, but this book was spectacular. The book had me gripped from word ‘go’. I couldn’t stop reading …a brilliant brilliant book’Any Excuse to Read
‘a fantastic psychological thriller and I was kept hooked throughout. Lots of twists and turns, an excellent pace and so much suspense and surprise, I didn’t quite know where the book was going at times …couldn’t be anything other than five stars!’ Donna’s Book Blog
‘With bucketfuls of suspense and intrigue Blink is guaranteed to keep the most hardened psychological thriller love on the edge of their seats. Five Stars. ‘ The Book Review Cafe
‘Pure genius!! Blink is everything a psychological thriller should be! K L Slater is in a class of her own …Just when you think you have it figured out, you are knocked out of the park! One of the most mind-bending twists ever, just simply stunning!’ What Rachel Read Next
‘The twist towards the end took me completely by surprise. I actually had to put the book down for a moment and stop before I could carry on. It really took my breath away. K. L. Slater pulled this off brilliantly!’ Hooked from Page One
‘K.L. Slater has done it again with her latest book, Blink. From a creepy beginning to the twisty end, this book keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat. Hang on for the ride’ Shelf Knowledge
About KL Slater
For many years, psychological thriller author KL Slater sent her work out to literary agents but never made it off the slush pile. At the age of 40 she went back to Nottingham Trent University and now has an MA in Creative Writing.
Before graduating, she received five offers of representation from London literary agents which was, as Kim says, ‘a fairytale … at the end of a very long road!’
Kim is a full-time writer and lives in Nottingham with her husband, Mac.
Writing about families: how to strike a balance between your personal life and fictionby S.D. Robertson
I seem to find myself writing about families a lot.
My first novel, Time to Say Goodbye, was all about the close bond between a single father and his young daughter.
Now my new book, If Ever I Fall, looks at how a marriage has been devastated by a horrific incident from the past. (Sorry, I can’t tell you much more than that without giving too much away.)
The point is that families and the various relationships that exist within them are at the heart of my fiction. Why? I suppose it’s because they offer a rich seam of possibilities for an author to mine, including the potential for lots of conflict, which is what drives narratives forward.
I can’t say that I specifically set out to write about families. It just happened that way. I’m a big believer that as a writer you don’t always get to consciously choose your topics. Often they seem to choose you, although in fact they’ve probably been simmering away in your subconscious, waiting for the right moment to appear.
One tricky thing when it comes writing about families is gauging how much to tap into your personal life for ideas.
How do you strike the balance between real experiences and fiction?
Mostly, I go with my gut. If something feels a little too close to home, I either change it there and then or I ask for someone else’s opinion – most often my wife. If I’m still in doubt after that, I change it. Your nearest and dearest won’t thank you for recreating their private moments letter for letter in a story.
It’s also worth pointing out that real life is rarely as exciting as fiction. However, readers need to be able to associate with your characters and what they go through; using genuine experiences really helps with that.
So I’m not suggesting for an instant that an author shouldn’t use their personal experiences. They absolutely should, but more for inspiration than reproduction.
A good example is Time to Say Goodbye. It was inspired by my own close relationship with my daughter after I gave up my day job and became a stay-at-home dad.
However, that’s not the story I told. Instead, I imagined a terrible scenario in which my protagonist got killed in a road accident and became a spirit unable to tear himself away from his child’s side. I made him a single father, unlike me, to ramp the stakes up even higher. And then, with my fictional world in place, I was able to weave in bits and pieces of real experiences to add colour.
It’s a similar story with If Ever I Fall. I placed my two central characters in an impossible situation unlike anything, thankfully, that my wife and I have ever been through. And then I tapped into situations we have experienced and used these, in combination with my imagination, to craft something that I hope feels genuine.
To conclude then, I’d say the key is to try to use your personal experiences rather than to copy them. You could remember how one thing made you feel, for example, and then channel that into something else – something fictional. All you should really lift directly from real life, in my view, are the little details you pepper throughout your story to help make your imagined world jump off the page and come to life in the reader’s mind.
*Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his job as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming an author and to spend more time with his wife and daughter. If Ever I Fall (Avon HarperCollins, £7.99) is his second novel. A heart-rending story of family tragedy, it is published on 9 February 2017.
We recently reviewed Mhairi McFarlane’s wonderful read Who’s That Girl – check that out here: http://compellingreads.co.uk/whos-girl-mhairi-mcfarlane/
and now we’re delighted to have Mhairi on the blog answering a few questions for us!
Tea or coffee?
Coffee always. Tea is coffee’s weakling brother. All writers are total caffeine jockeys from what I can tell. Double shot skinny lattes in Caffe Nero, that’s what you need to fuel the imagination and make you jitter by 3pm.
Something sweet or something savoury?
Hmmmm I was a choco-monster when younger but I shock myself by not being much bothered these days. Also, I read cookbooks avidly for pleasure but for some reason I find dessert recipes really dull. Weird innit? I look at those only if I need to make a pudding, but not for fun. So clearly I am a savoury. Cheese boards still baffle me though. This is one of those ‘food confessions’ which makes you sound like Alan Partridge, but eating lumps of cheddar and crackers after a main meal still seems madness to me. Unless it’s Christmas, obviously, when anything goes and your basic daily calorie needs rise to 11k.
Reading at night, light on or by torchlight?
Light on! You’ll strain your eyes! Yes, I sound like your nana. A lamp, not the main light though, I’m not an animal.
You’re stranded on a desert island – you have 1 book with you, which book is it & why?
The Collected Works Of Shakespeare. You might as well be rescued feeling clever and generally better informed about human nature. Also let’s be real: you’re going to end up hating anything else you take if it’s just one story.
You’re dreaming of walking down the aisle, which fictional character is waiting for you at the alter?
Oh God, Mr Darcy from Pride & Prejudice! How is that even a question. <3 He completes me. I do have an angry man fetish, I admit.
Book or Kindle?
Book, always, but I’m not a Kindle disliker by any means. I love how you can impulse buy books at all hours, and have done. Including comedy mythical monster porn like ‘Boffing Bigfoot.’ It didn’t have much of a plot.
If you could only choose one book genre to read forever, which would you choose?
Aaaaargh only ONE? OK, crime / thriller. Yeah yeah not my genre, ya got me. Obviously I still love my genre best, but given I write it, I wouldn’t want to only read it too. I’m making a twisted sort of sense here.
First book you remember reading?
If we discount childhood picture books, I was obsessed aged about nine with a book about a poor little girl who was banished to live in an attic with a cruel family – hints of Harry Potter, actually – and someone snuck in and put things in her room for her night after night that made it nicer. It appealed to my sense of ‘hygge’ and cosiness or maybe I’m just really materialistic. Later it was discovered she was a princess or at least rich and everything was fine. If anyone remembers this book from my terrible description, I’d love to know what it was / read it again. I recall thinking after I finished it I was going to become an author.
You’re stranded on a desert island, which one of your characters would you most like to be stranded with & why?
Ooh good question. Perhaps surprisingly, I’m going to go with vile womaniser Lawrence from Here’s Looking At You. The firepower of all the arguing would keep me going.
Pen or computer?
Computer, I’m afraid. I don’t know how any writer writes in pen given the amount of rewriting that goes on. Also I recently noticed that my handwriting is completely trashed from years of never really writing anything. The birthday cards I send make it look like I’ve had a stroke 🙁
A zombie apocalypse begins, you have time to save 1 thing from your writing room, what do you grab
My rose gold MacBook of course! Easy.
A zombie apocalypse begins,do you run for your life or put pen to paper?
Dear God, what kind of person would fire up a Word document? They almost deserve to die. I have a whole plan for the zombie apocalypse that involves my mate Iain’s big van, solar panels, tinned foods and setting up an encampment in the Scottish highlands.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote & if so what was it about?
My mum saved them all so I can say with some confidence it was called The Adventures of Snaily Snail. That dude got up to a lot for an invertebrate.
Write in private or in public?
Private mostly, but I’m not averse to a coffee shop. Last summer, staff in my favoured branch of Caffe Nero thought I was studying for my finals, I was in there so often. As a 40 year old, I was DELIGHTED at this mistake.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as an author?
Ooh I’m not sure. This is a funny one, but it sticks in my mind: the brilliant author Jo Rees, who did a critique of You Had Me At Hello for me, was a fount of wisdom. She told me that one of the hardest things in storytelling is finding a reason for the characters you need to meet up, to be in a room together. And weirdly, though it sounds daft, I’ve found that to be true. I mean, you think ‘well you put them in the same workplace duh’. But that accounts for a per centage of meeting up. There’s still a lot of story where you have to contrive situations again and again. See – this is why they had so many brunches in Sex & The City!
MEET THIRTY SOMETHING DAD, ALEX…He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
MEET EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SAM…To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.
When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other… When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
A Boy Made of Blocks is a beautiful and heart warming novel that really opened my eyes to the struggles of having and looking after a child with autism. I’ve had little experience with children and adults with autism and I felt that this book touched sensitively on the problems and difficulties faced.
Keith Stuart has written a truly magnificent novel that left me mesmerised and meant I could not put it down. I loved watching the relationship between Alex and Sam evolve and grow. I loved discovering and learning more about both Alex and Sam and their relationships with other characters in the book and how all of this combined to the discovery and understanding of autism that finally bonded and reunited a father and son. I was taken on a roller coaster ride of discovery and understanding, life can be difficult but sometimes the hard times can be what help us to discover the good we are missing.
While there were moments I disliked Alex and wanted to do nothing more than shake him and shout at him, the moments of realisation had me in tears and wanting to hug Alex. As for Sam, this little boy has got to be one of my favourite characters ever. Sam is such a beautiful character well developed and full of life and character, who felt very real. I was delighted to discover more about him and join him on his journey, I loved watching him evolve and come out of his shell.
The use of Minecraft was superb and I felt really added to the journey and discovery, and was a pivotal part of the novel. The attention to detail was fantastic and I certainly felt as though I learnt something throughout this novel, not just about autism, but Minecraft too. I shall now be prepared for when my children are older.
A Boy Made of Blocks is a raw and genuine read. Humour is used sensitively and appropriately, making this a warm and lighthearted read which touches on the uniqueness of a child with autism, whilst not being bogged down on the negatives but highlighting the beautiful, insightful and empathetic traits of someone with autism. This is a beautiful and honest book and I can not recommend it highly enough. This book offers a glimpse into the beautiful mind of a child with autism and is something that will stay with me for a long time to come.
About the author:
In 2012 one of KEITH STUART‘s two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together – especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.
A Boy Made of Blocks
A beautiful, funny and surprising story of family and love, perfect for fans of The Rosie Project, David Nicholls’ Us and Nick Hornby’s About a Boy.
MEET THIRTY SOMETHING DAD, ALEX…He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn't understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
MEET EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SAM…To him the world is a puzzle he can't solve on his own.
When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other… When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
A Boy Made of Blocks is a beautiful, funny and heartwarming story of family and love inspired by the author’s own experiences with his autistic son.
Today we are joined by the lovely Bella Osborne as she contemplates a Christmas without Santa…..
Hi , Thank you for having me on your blog today. Can you imagine Christmas without Santa? Well, very soon I am going to have to face up to this as my daughter is ten years old and I feel I have done very well for her to have believed in Santa this long. However, I know it won’t be for much longer and I am dreading the day it happens. But why? Surely it’s all part of growing up? I used to have perfectly happy Christmases as an adult before my daughter came along – so why do I hate the idea of her not believing? I think it’s because it is at this point that the magic of childhood starts to fade when they realise that the impossible is no longer possible, that magical worlds don’t actually exist* and evil cannot be conquered with special powers. Also, if I’m being honest, for the last few years I have been able to indulge my love of Christmas, make it extra special and go slightly overboard on the silliness.
In our house we have a visit from the elves who stay for most of December and do something naughty every night before Santa picks them up on Christmas Eve. I think this has helped to keep the magic alive as my daughter totally believes that the elves come to life and get up to all sorts of things because each morning the evidence is indisputable – paper chains hung everywhere, marshmallows strewn across the kitchen and two elves holding more aloft ready to throw, elves in her remote control car and a makeshift race track in the living room and one of my all time favourites: green elf wee in the toilet and toilet roll unraveled all around the bathroom. I mean no grown up would do this so it has to be the elves, right?
I fear the elves will soon have to find another house to visit and create mayhem in and perhaps I will replace them with a treasure hunt, which just won’t be the same. We also put out our stockings on Christmas Eve (yes we all do this) because who doesn’t like a stocking full of presents on Christmas morning? My husband and I open our stocking presents with as much glee as the child to see what silly things we’ve bought each other – it’s a great excuse to go a bit daft.
I will still continue to fill a stocking with all the small items I know she’ll love but perhaps knowing that I’ve done it won’t be quite the same as the magic of the elves gathering all the information to get her these much wanted gifts or Father Christmas making his journey around the world in one night to deliver them in person. Or, as my husband points out, perhaps she will understand on another level how much she is totally adored by two adults who will go to great lengths to make her life as magical as possible for as long as we can. That or she has plenty of evidence to get us both sectioned!
Have a very Merry Christmas!
*I do still harbour a hope that there are magical worlds that are hidden from us, most likely for our own safety.
Part two of a cosy and heartwarming seasonal romance, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley.
Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a safe place for little Leo.
When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.
Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…
Willow Cottage is part of a serialized novel told in four parts, following the journey of Beth and her new life in the Cotswolds. The full book will be out next June, but for now, enjoy Willow Cottage seasonally!