A Visit to the Village

As of this time yesterday, the husband and I have been married for ten whole years.

To celebrate, we took advantage of my parents’ offer of thirty hours of free childcare last week and absconded to Portmeirion for the night.

For those unfamiliar with North Wales’ only Italianate village, it looks a bit like this:

2016-10-26-10-32-28

Built by architect Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion is the ultimate folly, and quite unlike anywhere else in the world. It is also the setting for the cult 1960s TV series, The Prisoner, which the husband made me watch all of while I was pregnant, and thus unable to rely on wine to help make sense of the weird twists and turns of the plot.

(Wikipedia summary: The series follows a British former secret agent who is abducted and held prisoner in a mysterious coastal village resort, where his captors try to find out why he abruptly resigned from his job. This does not, I feel, even begin to cover the general surreality of the whole experience. The Wild West episode, for instance, is a particular low point.)

The husband is a big fan, though, and since he’s always wanted to stay in The Village (as it’s called in the show) I thought I’d treat him for our anniversary. (The fact that I love it there and it has a two Michelin starred restaurant and dinner included in the price was completely coincidental.)

I was a little concerned that, without the kids to fuss over and argue with, we might run out of things to talk about. It’s been a long time since we had only each other for company. (The husband, having discovered The Prisoner TV channel in our suite, had no such concerns.)

2016-10-25-18-52-14-1

But as it turned out, thirty hours away from the children, and from reality, in a weird Welsh village, was the perfect opportunity for us to have all the conversations you never really have time for in everyday life. The ones about the future, and hopes and dreams and plans.

We talked about the kids, of course, and how they’re both doing, and how we can support them. We talked about the house, and our plans for redecorating and, eventually, moving. We talked about ideas for next year’s family holiday, and possibilities for celebrating his upcoming milestone birthday. We talked about his job, his PhD, and the direction he wants to take his career next.

Which led, quite naturally, to him asking about my career, and where I wanted to go next with my writing.

The thing is, I’m always so grateful to be fortunate enough to have the career I always dreamed of, I sometimes forget to think about the next step. I spent so long trying to get to where I am – a published author – that I never really considered what would come next.

When Number 6, the Prisoner himself, first woke up in the Village, he had only one objective – escape. But soon it became clear that escape alone wasn’t enough for him. He needed to know why he was there, who had taken him, where the Village was, and who ran it.

There’s always a next step.

In my case, I think it’s taking a moment, in between all my contracted projects, to dream a little. To imagine that road I’ve only walked halfway along, consider the signposts, and speculate about what might be around the next bend – then figure out how to get there.

I’m not escaping – I’m going deeper and further into a world I love. And I’m excited to find out what’s waiting for me there.

 

Back to School

It’s September 1st!

Dragon Parade

The daughter taking part in a Dragon Parade at Manorbier Castle

As much as I love summer – and this one has been particularly awesome – there’s something about the start of autumn that makes me want to buy a new notebook and pencil case and start planning stuff. (Okay, full disclosure, I want that notebook and pencil case pretty much all year round. But still, September is special.)

More than anything, it feels like a fresh start. A chance to look back at all the lovely things that happened over the last couple of months, then pack them away ready to tackle new adventures. To knuckle down and get to work again. (Which is just as well, as I’ve been slacking and now have to write All The Words.)

So first, the looking back part…

Summer Party 2014

Summer Party 2014

Since school broke up in July, it’s been a summer of constant adventure and fun, and occasional travel sickness. We’ve had a summer party to celebrate my mum’s retirement (there was limoncello, an Italian feast, and only twenty minutes of rain), a trip to London to see Hetty Feather on the stage (and have lunch at Joe Allen’s), a day out at Duxford, BBQs with friends, not to mention sleepovers, holiday club and a Frozen dance workshop for the daughter. We had a week in beautiful Pembrokeshire with my family, a few days in a log cabin in stunning Snowdonia with friends, and now we’re back home again, preparing for school. (I have sewed a lot of labels into pinafores and cardigans today… Next year, someone remind me to do it at the start of the holiday, please?)

A Groom Worth Waiting For UK coverBook-wise, my third Harlequin Romance, A Groom Worth Waiting For, was released in August and – leading nicely into the What Comes Next? part – I just got the blurb for the sequel, His Very Convenient Bride, which will be out in January! Here’s what it’s about:

From bridesmaid to bride…  

Stepping into her sister’s place at the altar beside gorgeous tycoon Flynn Ashton, Helena Morrison hopes saying ”I do” and uniting their two families will finally be enough to redeem her in her father’s eyes. It has nothing to do with the fact that she’s always held a special place in her heart for her childhood crush! 

But after embarking on the perfect Tuscan honeymoon, their paper marriage dissolves to ash as an unexpected heat flares between them… Dare Helena dream that this convenient marriage could be the fresh start they’ve both been searching for?

So, what else do I have planned for the next few months? Well, I just discovered this morning that my first Harlequin Romance, Stranded with the Tycoon, will be coming out in translation in Italy and Germany next month, which I am ferociously excited about. My first foreign language releases!

Writing-wise, I need to finish up my installment of the Summer Weddings trilogy coming out next summer. Jessica Gilmore and Scarlett Wilson have already finished theirs (mine is the last in the trilogy) and I can tell you they’re both wonderful. I have two very tough acts to follow!

After that, I have another standalone Harlequin to write, then… well, you’ll have to wait and see. But I’m working on a proposal for something very exciting right now!

Oh, and before any of that, there might be a special festive something coming out too…

See? I told you September was the time to get stuck into new adventures!

What adventures have you got planned? 

Release day for Thea and Zeke!

A Groom Worth Waiting For UK coverIt’s August at last! Apart from meaning I’m only two weeks away from a truly epic family holiday (10 people, 2 under sixes, 7 days, 1 flat…) it also means it’s release day for my latest Harlequin Mills and Boon Romance – A Groom Worth Waiting For.

This was such a perfectly summery book to write. Set in Tuscany in the height of summer, it’s the story of Thea Morrison, who is about to get married for security, business and other sensible reasons – until her groom’s brother, Zeke, walks back into her life, eight years after she refused to elope with him.

Here’s a snippet from the first meeting in eight years:

‘What do you mean, he’s coming here?’ Thea Morrison clasped her arms around her body, as if the action could somehow hide the fact that she was wearing a ridiculously expensive, pearl-encrusted, embroidered ivory wedding dress, complete with six-foot train. ‘He can’t!’

Her sister rolled her big blue eyes. ‘Oh, calm down. He just told me to tell you that you’re late to meet with the wedding planner and if you aren’t there in five minutes he’ll come and get you,’ Helena said.

‘Well, stop him!’

No, that wouldn’t work. Nothing stopped Flynn Ashton when he really wanted something. He was always polite, but utterly tenacious. That was why his father had appointed him his right-hand man at Morrison-Ashton media. And why she was marrying him in the first place.

‘Get me out of this dress before he gets here!’

‘I don’t know why you care so much,’ Helena said, fumbling with the zip at the back of the dress. ‘It’s not like this is a real wedding anyway.’

‘In two days there’ll be a priest, a cake, some flowers, and a legally binding pre-nup saying otherwise.’ Thea wriggled to try and get the strapless dress down over her hips. ‘And everyone knows it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride in the wedding dress before the big day.’

It was more than a superstition, it was a rule. Standard Operating Procedure for weddings. Flynn was not seeing this dress a single moment before she walked down the aisle of the tiny Tuscan church at the bottom of the hill from the villa. Not one second.

‘Which is why he sent me instead.’

Thea froze, her blood suddenly solid in her veins. She knew that voice. It might have been eight years since she’d heard it, but she hadn’t forgotten. Any of it.

The owner of that voice really shouldn’t be seeing her in nothing but her wedding lingerie. Especially since she was marrying his brother in two days.

Yanking the dress back up over her ivory corset, Thea held it tight against her chest and stared at him. ‘I thought you weren’t coming.’ But there he was. Large as life and twice as… Hell, she couldn’t even lie in her brain and finish that with ugly. He looked…grown up. Not twenty-one and angry at everything any more. More relaxed, more in control.

And every inch as gorgeous as he’d always been. Curse him.

Helena laughed. ‘Eight years and that’s all you have to say to him?’ Skipping across the room, blonde hair bouncing, she wrapped her arms around him and pressed a kiss against his cheek. ‘It’s good to see you, Zeke.’

‘Little Helena, all grown up.’ Zeke returned the hug, but his gaze never left Thea’s. ‘It’s good to see you too. And rather more of your sister than I’d bargained on.’

There was a mocking edge in his voice. As if she’d planned for him to walk in on her in her underwear. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the country! Flynn had told her he wouldn’t come and she’d been flooded with relief—even if she could never explain why to her husband-to-be. But now here Zeke was, staring at her, and Thea had never felt so exposed.

She clutched the dress tighter—a barrier between them. ‘Well, I was expecting your brother.’

‘Your fiancé,’ Zeke said. ‘Of course. Sorry. Seems he thought I should get started with my best man duties a few days early.’

Thea blinked. ‘You’re Flynn’s best man?’

‘Who else would he choose?’ He said it as if he hadn’t been gone for eight years. As if he’d never taunted Flynn about not being a real Ashton, only an adopted one, a fall-back plan. As if he hadn’t sworn that he was never coming back.

‘Anyone in the world.’ Quite literally. Flynn could have appointed the Russian Prime Minister as his best man and Thea would have been less surprised.

The second part of this duet, which is Helena’s story, has just been signed off – and been given a title!  His Very Convenient Bride will be out in January, for a sunny, post Christmas pick-me-up.

And now, back to work on what will be my FIFTH novel for Harlequin M&B… it’s going well!

A Groom Worth Waiting For CoverWhere to buy:

A Groom Worth Waiting For

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Mills & Boon ~ Kobo ~ Nook

 

The Kiss Before Christmas

Home for Christmas

I’ve been home for Christmas for thirty six hours, now. In that time I have:

  • Had a manicure that has, miraculously and for the first time ever, lasted the full three days
  • Been on a playdate at the soft play that didn’t even dent the manicure
  • Eaten a ridiculous number of excellent meals
  • Watched the Daughter’s ballet show DVD eight times with a variety of relatives
  • Experienced a particularly epic Boat Sunday
  • Sung a lot
  • Watched my middle brother’s band perform a covers set ranging from My Sharona to Last Christmas to Cupid
  • Refused to drink any form of alcohol that comes in a test tube or mixed with red bull
  • Sadly not refused to drink the wine
  • Been ousted from the spare room and forced to sleep in the tiny and freezing back bedroom at Mum and Dad’s, so slept in extra sweaters and socks
  • Watched my youngest brother’s boyfriend deal manfully with meeting the entire 30 strong family in one sitting, not freak out when we all started singing in public, and then fall asleep on the table in the pub afterwards
  • Attempted last minute Christmas shopping in Chester but ended up spending too long eating lunch so failed to buy anything
  • Been a-visiting friends and family

I am now very, very ready for a nap.

The Kiss Before ChristmasActually, what I’m most looking forward to, after the initial frenzy of festive fun is over, is settling down with a good book and losing myself in someone else’s world for a while, before I get back to reading my own.

Of course, in reality what I’m doing, at 5 in the morning when I wake up freezing, or at midnight when I’m half asleep, or over lunch on the free restaurant wifi, is checking the reviews for my latest release – festive novella, The Kiss Before Christmas, from HarperImpulse.

So here, as a sort of early Christmas present to myself, is a quick round up of some of my favourite review snippets from the last few days:

A great festive romance. My heart melted for the characters and I felt for their situation. Their story was engaging and I couldn’t stop reading!

Sienna, Lost to Books – 5 stars

If you love holiday stories, you’ll enjoy this romance novella, but it’s perfect for devouring any time of the year.

Lucy Felthouse, Blogcritics – 5 stars

A perfect Christmas read.

Rachel Cotterill, Goodreads – 5 stars

The characters were great-I really warmed to Dory in particular.

Books with Bunny, 8.5/10

This is a well crafted, quick enjoyable Christmas read. Well worth a few hours, of your time. I will be keeping my eye out for more from this talented author in 2014.

Claire Robinson, Goodreads – 4 stars

I was in the mood for a light romantic read and The Kiss Before Christmas was just what I was looking for.

Irene, Goodreads – 4 stars

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and review Dory’s story this Christmas. And if you’re looking for a little something to curl up and read this Christmas Eve, I hope you might enjoy this one…

The Kiss Before Christmas

Release Day: The Kiss Before Christmas!

It’s here! Out TODAY is my latest release – a very Christmassy novella called The Kiss Before Christmas. Just in time for you to settle down with a glass of mulled wine beside your Christmas tree, and lose yourself in Dory’s Christmas romance…

The Kiss Before ChristmasAn English Girl in New York…

As the snow starts to fall on Manhattan, PA Dory Mackenzie is a long way from home, far from the comforts and cheer of her cozy family Christmases back in Liverpool.

So when her boss Tyler Alexander offers to pay her pricey ticket home for New Year, Dory just can’t say no… even if she has to pretend to be his girlfriend for the holidays!

Tyler may be hiding the real reason he needs a girlfriend-of-convenience but that’s the least of Dory’s worries when she’s up against the disapproval of his high society mother, and the suspicions of his gorgeous older brother Lucas, the black sheep of the family.

There’s no fooling Lucas, and it’s not just the truth he wants to get closer to… So before the bells have even rung out for Christmas day, Dory finds herself caught up in the Alexander family’s dramas – and sharing more than just a few kisses under the mistletoe!

If you want to read more about how I came to write this story, check out my post, The Sophie Pembroke Christmas Special.

Where to grab it:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The Kiss Before Christmas

The Sophie Pembroke Christmas Special

I love a good Christmas special. Adding tinsel to a well loved show can’t help make things a little more sparkly. And I love Christmas romances, too. There’s nothing more romantic than snuggling up on a winter night, after all.

Which is why this year, after twelve months of incredible events, several new books and opportunities, and an awful lot of fun, I thought I’d have my own celebratory Christmas special. A Sophie Pembroke story with even more added Christmas than usual. I wanted more than just tinsel. I wanted Cliff Richard music, antique ornaments, holiday parties, woods full of Christmas trees and – most importantly – kisses under the mistletoe.

Luckily for me, the lovely folks at HarperImpulse agreed that this was a good idea!

And now the lovely Amanda at One More Page has done the official cover reveal, I can present to you, The Kiss Before Christmas!

The Kiss Before Christmas

This little novella started life as a promise. When my first editor at Mills & Boon, Charlotte Ledger, left to join HarperImpulse, I promised her I’d write her a novella when she got settled. Then books and life intervened a little bit. But every time I saw Charlotte (usually over wine at some event or another – it’s amazing how many of those we managed to fit in this year…) I renewed the promise.

I think she was quite surprised when she actually received Dory and Lucas’s story.

I wrote it back in September, while listening to an awful lot of uber-early Christmas music, and while the sun still shone brightly outside my study window. But when I saw the cover, and proofed the text, the nights had already drawn in and I had a blanket on my knee, reading with the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the corner.

It’s out on December 19th, just in time for you to curl up with over the festive period – and it’s available for pre-order right now, if you want to surprise yourself with it when you open your kindle on the first day of your holidays! I really hope you enjoy it, and that all your Christmases are magical and bright.

What it’s about:

The Kiss Before Christmas
An English Girl in New York

As the snow starts to fall on Manhattan, PA Dory Mackenzie is a long way from home, far from the comforts and cheer of her cozy family Christmases back in Liverpool.

So when her boss Tyler Alexander offers to pay her pricey ticket home for New Year, Dory just can’t say no… even if she has to pretend to be his girlfriend for the holidays!

Tyler may be hiding the real reason he needs a girlfriend-of-convenience but that’s the least of Dory’s worries when she’s up against the disapproval of his high society mother, and the suspicions of his gorgeous older brother Lucas, the black sheep of the family.

There’s no fooling Lucas, and it’s not just the truth he wants to get closer to… So before the bells have even rung out for Christmas day, Dory finds herself caught up in the Alexander family’s dramas – and sharing more than just a few kisses under the mistletoe!

Where to grab it:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

A Cadence Creek Christmas

Guest Post from NY Times Bestselling Author – Donna Alward!

A Cadence Creek ChristmasThanks to Sophie for helping me spread the word about my new release: A CADENCE CREEK CHRISTMAS!

This is book 5 in my Cadence Creek Cowboy series. I’ve had SO much fun writing all the books – the final one releases in February. It was awesome to make it my writing “home” for the past few years, and get a chance to catch up with some of the characters again as I wrote each book.

A CADENCE CREEK CHRISTMAS is almost like a double whammy of awwww factor – you not only get the magic of Christmas in this story but the fairy-tale setting of a Christmas wedding. It really was a joy to write and research – especially all the wedding decorations. It’s my favourite time of year, and red just happens to be my favourite colour!

Here’s the blurb:

It’s Christmas in Donna Alward’s Cadence Creek…

Taylor Shepard has come to Cadence Creek to organize her brother’s Christmas wedding. Organizing such a special event might be a little bit stressful – but she can’t deny she’s swept away by the town’s holiday charm…and by brooding rancher Rhys Bullock. 

Loner Rhys has been burned far too many times in the past. He’s sure he has city girl Taylor all figured out -she’ll be hightailing it straight back to the city in a few days! But as the snow starts to fall, Rhys and Taylor embark on a tentative winter romance. Could Taylor be the Christmas present Rhys never even knew he wanted?

You can snag it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in the US and at Amazon UK and anywhere Mills and Boon books are sold in the UK.

 

Stranded with the Tycoon UK Cover

New Releases and Reviews

I’m back at my desk for the first time in over a week, after seven glorious days away in Turkey (full holiday post and photos to follow!) and it’s all going full speed!

First off, I have two new releases: Stranded with the Tycoon  and Summer of Love are now both out as e-books in the UK!

They’ve both been getting some great reviews around the web. Here are some of my favourite snippets…

Stranded with the Tycoon (Mills & Boon Cherish)

Stranded with the Tycoon UK CoverTheir attraction is undeniable, and when they get snowed in together, it’s the perfect setting to have her heart melted and remolded by the very man who could be her soul mate. Romantics will relate to the main characters and take pleasure in Luce’s transformation. With its well thought-out storyline, fans of passionate tales will want to read this one repeatedly.

RT Book Reviews

I very much enjoyed Stranded with the Tycoon. I loved that the lead female was a history buff, and some of the references made me smile. The writing style is easy and engaging, the characters fun and likeable – despite their faults – their back stories worked for me, too. Overall, a very romantic tale which left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. I look forward to more from Ms. Pembroke.

Lucy Felthouse, Blogcritics

If you want a book with simmering attraction slowly building between two characters who think they have nothing in common then you might want to read this book.

Jessica Hale, Goodreads

Stranded with the Tycoon is a beautifully written romance novel with a slow build up.The romance was based more on the conversations between the characters and how they thought about each other rather than their mutual attraction and passion.

Harlequin Junkie

Summer of Love (Love from Wales, Book 3)

Summer of Love by Sophie PembrokeA lovely little “local bad girl” makes good story where the prodigal ‘bad boy’ of this little Welsh town returns to make a new start. Pembroke has a way of presenting the characters that gives an instant emotional reaction to the reader: understanding their flaws or disliking their behavior, you will never be bored.

Gaele, the Jeep Diva

I loved Lily, and like Alex wondered why on earth she’s been with Edward so long…and then as things unfolded in the novel I understood where she was coming from.

Jeannie Zelos, Goodreads

Summer Of Love is about expectations, pressure and the ability to be yourself. Lily has to learn to live for herself and not as other people expect her to. Alex has to adapt to his new circumstances and realise his idea of a perfect marriage may not exist.

Zili in the Sky

As if that wasn’t enough excitement to come home to, I also got a sneak peek at the US cover for my next Harlequin Romance, Heiress on the Run! I’ll post the final thing here later in the week, so keep an eye out!

A Little Bit Of Holiday Magic

A Little Bit of Holiday Magic

Today’s the day that my paperback Cherish Duo with Melissa McClone hits the shelves in UK shops! Even though my book, Stranded with the Tycoon, has been on sale over in the US and Australia since September, this is my first chance to actually see it in shops in my home country. Of course, given that I’m frantically trying to finish my next book for Harlequin Mills and Boon (my third) before I go on holiday next Friday, I’m not sure when I’ll get to go hunting for it on the shelves! So, if any of you UK dwellers spot it out and about, I’d love it if you could take a photo for me…

And don’t forget – you can still win a copy of this 2-in-1 in my Goodreads giveaway.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what it’s all about:

A Little Bit Of Holiday Magic

A Little Bit of Holiday Magic.

All widow Grace Wilcox wants is a fresh start for herself and her young son. When her truck spins off the icy road, her rescuer turns out to be hot firefighter Bill Paulson and even wary Grace can’t resist this Christmas hero!

Stranded with the Tycoon

Hotel tycoon Ben Hampton knows there’s fire behind workaholic Luce’s buttoned-up exterior and fanning its flames is an irresistible temptation. Luckily, getting snowbound in the countryside gives him the perfect opportunity to tempt out the real Lucinda Myles…

Buy it at:

Amazon UK

Waterstones

Book Depository

 

Snowbound With The Soldier - UK

Guest Post: Jennifer Faye talks about holidays and traditions

I am super delighted today to have fellow Harlequin Romance author, Jennifer Faye, here to talk about her latest – and very Christmassy – release, Snowbound with the Soldier!

Take it away, Jenn…

Holidays & Traditions 

Snowbound With The Soldier - UK

 

Available at:

 

Amazon   |   Amazon – UK   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Harlequin  |  iTunes  |  Waterstones

The Book Depository   |   IndieBound  |  eBooks.com  |  Mills & Book UK

Books-A-Million   |   Indigo   |   Walmart  |  Booktopia  |  Mills & Boon Australia

 


With summer over and the leaves changing colors and fluttering to the ground, it means that the holiday season isn’t far off. First there’s Halloween…then Thanksgiving…then Christmas. I keep asking myself how that can be when it seems like we just had Christmas…but I guess that was ten months ago. At least that’s what the calendar is telling me. *shakes head*

But on the plus side, it means that the holiday romances are hitting the shelves. And I don’t know about you but for me there is nothing better than a stirring romance wrapped up in the holiday festivities.

When I set about writing SNOWBOUND WITH THE SOLDIER, my first ever Christmas romance, I was excited. I was writing what I loved. But then I bumped into my hero, Jason, and he wasn’t bubbly and full of holiday cheer.

So I had to stop and wonder, what if someone hadn’t grown up with holiday traditions such as trimming the tree? Singing Christmas carols? Having a family dinner?

What if something had happened that made the holidays less than festive? My heart went out to Jason. There was a reason he was a Scrooge, but being a military man, he wasn’t forthcoming.

My heroine, Kara, has a hard time imagining someone missing out on the fun and joy of the season. But if she plans to convert Mr. Scrooge, it’s going to take more than some twinkling lights and cutout cookies.

Our family has a bunch of holiday traditions starting with trimming the tree and the house on Black Friday, while I take periodic breaks to check out the online sales. 😉

How about you? What’s one of your holiday traditions?


Maybe this Christmas…?  

Snowbound with the Soldier

It has been seven long years since Kara Jameson last saw Jason Greene. Returning home as a wounded war hero, Jason looks a shell of the man she once knew. Yet her heart still skips a beat as if it was yesterday…. 

Stepping back into civilian life, Jason looks to Kara for help. But there’s too much water under the bridge—not to mention too much lingering attraction. 

But it seems that the mountain weather has other ideas, and when Kara and Jason end up snowbound together they are forced to confront the ghosts of Christmas past.

 


Author Bio

Jennifer FayeJennifer Faye is a two-time RT Book Reviews TOP PICK author. Maybe that’s partly due to the fact that she has spent most of her life with her nose in one book or another. It was only natural that she dreamed of becoming a romance writer and spinning the tales of the imaginary people running around in her mind. But first life took her on a couple of detours. Refusing to give up on her dreams, she finally succeeded in getting her name on a book cover. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her very, very patient husband, one amazing daughter (the other remarkable daughter has flown the coop to chase her own dreams) and two spoiled rotten cats. When she’s not glued to her laptop writing another contemporary romance (which isn’t often) or enjoying some family time, she loves to get lost in a good book, cross-stitch, embroider, quilt, knit, watch hockey (go Pittsburgh Penguins!), and garden. Jennifer loves to hear from readers–you can contact her via her website.

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