Festival of Romance 2014

On Friday 12th and Saturday 13th of September, I headed down to Leighton Buzzard for the 2014 Festival of Romantic Fiction. I had a fantastic time and met lots of lovely authors and came away with a whole new list of books to check out.Bernadette O'Dwyer, Bella Osborne, Terri Nixon

I arrived on Friday and the first event I attended was Girls Night in with the authors Mandy Baggott, Jane Lovering, Jill Steeples and Rowan Coleman.  They each did a reading which even had (very good) singing from one author, and then they answered questions. All I can say is if there is a zombie apocalypse, keep your grandparents away from Mandy and if you have a diary, hide it from all of them! There was also pink fizz and cakes – a lovely start to the evening.

I then moved over to the author party (while not being an author this party was for all festival goers honest!), despite being there on my own I was made to feel extremely welcome there, especially by Mandy Baggott, Rhoda Baxter, Rachel Lyndhurst and Linn B Halton. After more wine it was time for bed.(L-R) Carmel Harrington, Katie Fforde, Liz Fenwick, Fiona Harper, Tracey Bloom (and of course George Clooney!)

Saturday I attended three events – the first was an afternoon with authors Fiona Harper, Tracy Bloom (who also bought George Clooney with her), Liz Fenwick, Carmel Harrington and Katie Fforde who all did readings and answered questions.

I then headed off to afternoon tea and had a lovely time chatting with the authors at my table and listening to readings from some of the award nominees. Every author I heard a reading from made me want to buy their book! Good job I have a birthday coming up – Amazon vouchers for the win!

It was then time to go and get ready for the awards evening which had some great dancing and singing from a local theatre school before the awards began. The award winners in the categories voted for by Romance Readers were

  • Best Romantic Read – One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson
  • Best Historical Read – The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans
  • Best Short Romance – Taming Her Italian Boss by Fiona Harper
  • Best Ebook – The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas
  • Best Author Published Romance – Christmas Yves by Nicola May

Caroline Raynor

There was also a new talent award chosen by professional authors and a publisher, this years winner was Caroline Rayner with Catherine Meadows as runner up – I might add they were both on the same table as me for afternoon tea, as was Fiona Harper so clearly I am a lucky charm 😉

After the awards, canapes and of course wine, Mandy, Linn, Kate and myself went for a curry only to find the restaurant was shutting and they turned us away – 11.15 on a Friday night, unheard of! Instead we headed to the kebab shop before heading to bed.

I had a fantastic time but was very surprised at the lack of regular readers like myself there, it was primarily authors. Having said that everyone was so friendly – as an example –  Saturday morning I was sitting by myself in the bar when Kate Nash noticed me on my own and recognised me from the day before as being with the festival. She then promptly introduced me to two authors sitting at the next table – Terri Nixon and Glynis Smy who were only too happy to chat and made me feel very welcome.

Mandy Baggott, Rachel LyndurstI know the organizers are desperate for more readers to attend and I can’t understand why they didn’t. As a big romance reader I was thrilled to find this event in the UK and will definitely be going again. Maybe next year we can get more readers to attend. Out of interest, what would other romance readers be looking for at a festival like this, what would make you want to go?




Truly, Madly, Deeply

 From wedding days to special anniversaries, steamy one night encounters to everlasting loves, Truly, Madly, Deeply takes you on an unforgettable romantic adventure where love really is all you need.

This is a collection of 24 new stories from some of today’s best romantic authors including Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Miranda Dickinson. There really is something for everyone here, but I must confess I did not like all the stories, and some authors that were new to me and I will not look to read again. However, there were also a number of authors who I had never read before that will definitely have me looking for more of their work – Nikki Moore (she made me cry!), Alison May and Heidi Rice to name but three.

I have to say I’m not a big fan of short stories like this, as there is not enough time to really develop characters or a story. Having said that, I am amazed at how well some authors could drag me into their story in only a few pages.

I am also an extremely quick reader so short stories like these can take only a matter of a couple of minutes to read. Probably why I prefer a longer story I can get my teeth into. I do like a drawn out romance 🙂

This is however a great collection of stories and if you are the sort of person who likes to read in bite sized chunks this is perfect. Romance abounds and as mentioned you may discover some new authors to add to your reading shelf.

Please note this is a review of the paperback version, the e-book contains a number of bonus stories which I have not read.

Book Information
  • Author: Sue Moorcroft
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Irreverent Questions With… Katie Fforde

I was absolutely beside myself when Katie Fforde kindly agreed to be our next victim guest on Irreverent Questions!

She is without a doubt one of the finest writers of contemporary romance (or chick-lit if you prefer) and I have been a huge fan for the longest time.  Her books are sweet, funny, and utterly engaging with characters you can easily empathise with.  The settings are as unique as the characters; quaint rural english villages, highlands of Scotland and even a canal barge to name but a few.  As they aren’t part of a series, you can pick up any book of hers and be absorbed, so if you haven’t experienced any of Katie’s wonderful stories, what are you waiting for?

Katie Fforde’s latest book is Recipe for Love and is released on 1st March 2012!

On with the Irreverence!

What would you be or want to be (or still are), if you weren’t an author?
I’d like to be a torch singer but failing that an agony aunt.

Do you have any rituals or processes before you can start writing?
I play a lot of spider patience on my computer and go on Twitter. This can take hours!

Describe your working environment right now (desk, sofa, bathroom, etc.)
I have a little, incredibly untidy office. It has a lovely view though. And a lot of books, a kettle, a heater and a radio.

How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
I felt weird when my first book was published. It just felt very very scary. Still feel like that really.

Whose opinion matters most to you?
My readers opinions matter to me. Also my editors’ (I have two) and my daughter’s.

Do you get fully dressed to write?
I usually write in my nightie and dressing gown – slippers in winter, Berkies in summer.

What gets you in the mood or inspires you to write?
Professional writers always have to be in the mood to write. Although sometimes you really don’t feel like it and your have to just start. You get into it by doing it.

Who would play you in the film adaptation of your life?
Very hard to think of who would play me in the film of my life. Have a horrible feeling it would be Imelda Staunton.

What is the weirdest comment you’ve had?
It was from a German journalist interviewing me about the fact my books are being made into films for TV in German. She said, ‘Would you like to be as famous in the UK as you are in Germany.’ I don’t think I’m famous in Germany!!!!

What is the best experience you’ve had with fans?
All experiences with fans are good. I suppose it’s best when they become friends.

What do you value most?
My family, no question.

How do you deal with negative comments?
I don’t deal well with negative reviews as I always think they are right! But I don’t comment on the whole. I am a bit too sensitive.

It’s movie night, the credits are just about to roll, Happy Ever After or Everyone Dies?
Happy Ever After! Who likes Everyone Dies? That’s what happens in real life!

What do you do to relax?
Read, watch television.

Do you have pets, and if so, describe them?
I have many pets currently, including three puppies that need homes. Apart from them, there are two dogs (Cavalier King Charles Spaniels) and a cat who thinks it’s funny to scratch me.

What are your preferred conditions for writing, i.e. silence, background noise, TV?
I quite often start writing with the radio on (R4) but as I get into it I turn it off and have to have silence. Sometimes I have to go downstairs and turn the radio off down there if I can hear it.

What is your favourite type of music?
I like many sorts of music and love singing. I’m a member of a choir. That said, I mostly listen to talk radio. I really hate churches with bands in them that include drum kits.

Do you have any phobias?
I don’t like heights at all although have agreed to abseil down our church tower to raise funds. Yes I am mad.

Do you find the time of year makes it easier or harder to write, are you inspired by spring or delayed by the summer heat for instance?
I like to write in summer but my deadlines mean I mostly write in autumn and winter.

Slippers, socks or barefoot?
Slippers in winter, sometimes barefoot in summer.

Many thanks to Katie Fforde for taking the time to answer our questions and if you want to know more, visit her Website, Facebook or Twitter!

Pictures provided by, and used with permission of Katie Fforde

Irreverent Questions is BookThing‘s fun, weekly feature where we ask a series of random questions that popped into Grete’s curious head. If you are an author and would like to take part, please get in touch!


Summer of Love

I was a bit disappointed with Summer of Love which is unusual for me and a Katie Fforde novel since I usually ADORE them.  It’s still a funny and sweet story but I felt it lacked Fforde’s usual sparkle.  It’s by no means a bad book, I still read it in a day and would read it again, but it is not one of her best.

One of the things I find outstanding in her writing are the characterisations; they are loveable, believable and sometimes larger than life.  In Summer of Love this is still the case but some of the reactions and interactions just missed the mark and I found some conversations a little confusing.

The plot itself while simple and sweet felt very close to a few other books I’ve read in the past which is perhaps why it didn’t feel quite right to me.  ‘Girl meets boy, has only one day before he has to leave the country, mad romp ensues and has unexpected consequences.  Forward five years to see where Girl is at now and ends up meeting Boy again, confused feelings, arguments then Happy Ending’.  Usually that’s the kind of story I love, but it just seemed to lack the impact her books usually bring.

I did like the main characters however, Sian and Rory were funny and a great mum and son team.  Fiona was just loveable and I think everyone would want her as a friend! James was a nice surprise and became much more than he first appeared. Gus had moments when he irritated me but on the whole he was just what Sian needed.

The character I didn’t like at all was Richard, he just didn’t really seem to have any impact whatsoever, except to give Sian a different option, and not really a very good one at that.

There were also a few typos which jerked me out of the story, and again this is very unusual for a Fforde book.  If I had to describe how the book felt, I would simply say it felt rushed.

Definitely worth reading since it is a sweet story but not one of her best, I’m sad to say.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Katie Fforde
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Books I can’t wait for in 2011

There are so many books in already established series’ I am looking forwards to reading this year, not to mention new ones I have yet to discover.  Here is a selection that I really can’t wait to get my paws on :

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance


A Hard Day’s Knight (Nightside) by Simon R. Green (Ace Books)
Kitty goes to War (Kitty Norville) by Carrie Vaughn (Gollancz)


River Marked (Mercy Thompson) by Patricia Briggs (Orbit)
Invincible (Chronicles of Nick 2) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (ATOM)
Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood) by J. R. Ward (Piatkus Books)


Ghost Story (Dresden Files 13) by Jim Butcher (Orbit)
Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Orbit)
Born of Shadows (League 4) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Piatkus Books)


Hunt the Moon (Cassie Palmer) by Karen Chance (Signet Books)
Deadline (Newsflesh Trilogy) by Mira Grant (Orbit)


Kitty’s Big Trouble (Kitty Norville) by Carrie Vaughn (Gollancz)


Pale Demon by (The Hollows) Kim Harrison (Harper Voyager)
Retribution (Dark-Hunter) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Piatkus Books)
Downpour (Greywalker) by Kat Richardson (Piatkus Books)


Envy (Fallen Angels) by J. R. Ward (Piatkus Books)



Land of Painted Caves (Earth’s Children Book 6) by Jean M. Auel (Hodder & Stoughton)
Twilight’s Dawn (Black Jewels) by Anne Bishop (Roc)


Shadow Chaser (Chronicles of Siala) by Alexey Pehov (Simon & Schuster)

Chick Lit


To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell (Headline)


Summer of Love by Katie Fforde (Century)
Kiss and Tell by Fiona Walker (Sphere)


Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson (Corgi)



You Belong to Me by Karen Rose (Headline)


Virals by Kathy Reichs (Arrow (Young))

Recommendations: Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes is one of those writers that can capture ordinary moments in life and turn them into something special.  Funny, witty, sarcastic yet also sombre and poignant, she is not afraid to draw on her own darker personal history to give her books that something extra.

So what do you do when you have read everything she’s written and looking for more?  Along with Marian, here are some of my favourite reigning queens of ‘chicklit’.

Jill Mansell

A funny, amazing storyteller who reminds me that while life can be difficult and painful, there are always moments of hilarity and joy that can make the day seem so much brighter.  Lighter of heart than Marian Keyes but just as good.

Jenny Colgan

I find Jenny Colgan’s books the lightest in mood from all the authors on this list, but she shares Marian Keyes’ knack for writing and capturing characters that feel so real and funny or sad.  She combines that with stories that keep you engaged and reading right until the end.

Katie Fforde

It’s a pleasure reading Katie Fforde’s work, it’s full of life, love and those moments where you just have to stop and take a good long hard laugh at yourself.  Light in tone but gets you in the heart when you least expect it.  Highly recommended.

Fiona Walker

Another excellent author who can look at life and take both the good and the bad and turn them into funny, powerful and heart-warming stories.  A great match for everyone in this post.

If you have any other authors or books you feel would be enjoyed by people who loved Marian Keyes, feel free to comment on this article with your recommendations.

Love Letters

Booklover Laura Horsley is a shy, quiet girl who loves her job working in a small bookshop.  When the owner decides it’s time to retire, she finds herself in the scary position of having to find new employment.  Against her better judgement,  she agrees to help organise a literary and music festival in the countryside and a moment of misunderstanding leads the committee to think she personally knows one of the literary world’s brightest and more reclusive stars.  With the funding, band involvement and other author attendance all dependent on Dermot Flynn attending, she is given the task of tracking him down personally and getting his involvement.  No small task then, especially since she’s had a crush on him since University and first read his books!

I thought this was an incredibly sweet book.  I loved the characters, especially Laura and Dermot and groaned each time they had a missed opportunity be it from bad timing or misunderstandings.  The pace of the story was good and as the run up to the festival started, you felt the pressure and urgency mounting which I thought was very clever.  It was involving and interesting and I loved seeing Laura come out of her shell.  I think a lot of people will see themselves in the character, myself included.  There were several funny moments that had me laughing and there were also some very touching scenes which were nicely done.  It was very enjoyable, couldn’t put it down and I think it’s definitely one of Katie Fforde’s best books.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Katie Fforde
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Highland Fling

Jenny Porter is a Virtual Assistant, asked by her client to go to Scotland and see if she could find out why a mill he had a stake in, was failing. Her less than supportive boyfriend Henry thinks she is too softhearted and impulsive to do the job and she is determined to prove him wrong. Agreeing to help out at a roadside cafe probably wasn’t a good start and finding herself lending a hand to everyone at Dalmain House didn’t help either. Deciding she wanted to save the mill from closure, in spite of what her client wanted might have been a bit much but then Henry arrives. Should she tuck her tail between her legs and return home or stick to her guns and do what she set out to achieve, and could the abrasive but attractive Ross Grant have something to do with that?

This book was a bit of a disappointment after enjoying Artistic Licence so much. The character of Jenny was well written and I liked her, but everyone else seemed a bit drab and irritating. She ends up doing so much for everyone else, it felt a bit exhausting and given the interplay between her and Ross, the ending of the book seemed a bit improbable. It was entertaining and I certainly wanted to finish it to see how everything turned out but to me it was an OK read rather than a good one.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Katie Fforde
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Artistic Licence

Thea Orville, one time professional photographer, now fed-up landlady to art students is persuaded to accompany a friend on an art appreciation holiday. While there she meets a charming artist and when almost home, decides to throw wind in the face of caution and escapes to Ireland to visit him. Realising she needs a new direction in life, Rory gives her the perfect opportunity and when her nosy friend turns up on his doorstep with some equally unwelcome guests, she seizes the opportunity with both hands. Now if she can just realise her plans while learning to saying NO! to Molly, Rory and Petal, and deny her attraction to the enigmatic Ben, things might just work out…

I find it hard to put Katie Fforde’s books down, they are lighthearted, funny, romantic with wonderful escapism, and Artistic Licence is yet another great read. The only disappointing thing, is that I finish them too soon! This book took me about five hours to read, and just like her other books, left me with a warm glow, and the feeling of having been thoroughly entertained.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Katie Fforde
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)