Posted in Writing

It’s publication day for Girl in Red Velvet by Margaret James…


Will loving two men tear your heart apart?

It’s the 1960s and Lily Denham is about to begin her studies at Oxford University.
On her first day she meets Harry Gale and Max Farley, two fellow undergraduates who are both full of mischievous charm. The three of them become firm great friends and enjoy exploring everything Oxford has to offer, from riotous parties to punting up the river on sunny afternoons.
However, something threatens to disrupt the fun, because Lily soon realises she’s falling for both of her new-found friends, men who might offer her two very different futures – but who will she pick? Harry is generous and kind, reliable and trustworthy. Max embodies the spirit of the sixties; adventurous and rebellious, but possibly a little bit dangerous as well.
As university ends and Lily struggles to make her mark on the vibrant fashion scene, she must make a decision. But she soon becomes aware that the wrong decision could have devastating consequences for her own future and for Max’s and Harry’s futures, too…

Girl in Red Velvet is book 6 in the Charton Minster Series (The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain, The Penny Bangle, The Wedding Diary & Magic Sometimes Happens).





B&N Nook:

iBooks: (problem with link this morning)



I was lucky enough to be asked to read and review an ARC of Girl in Red Velvet, Margaret James’ new novel for Choc Lit.

Meeting Harry Gale and Max Farley on her first day in Oxford Lily Denham – christened Red Queen by Max because of the dress she is wearing – soon becomes close friends and drinking buddies with them.  Although similar in height and colouring, the two are poles apart when it comes to personality. While Harry takes his studying seriously, Max always needs to test boundaries and live on the edge.  His womanising and outrageous pranks soon make Lily  realise that although she is attracted to him more than Henry, he would be the worst mistake she could make.  Yes, life with Harry seems a far more stable option.  But in choosing stable, is she selling herself short?  Her personal tutor Minnie Rushman certainly thinks so.

Max loves Lily but never seems to be able to put his feelings into words. When he discovers she has slept with Harry, he knows he can no longer stay and leaves Oxford. Abandoning his degree and finds a new career as a travel writer visiting extreme locations and often putting his life in danger (a sort of nineteen sixties Bear Grylls).  Harry and Lily successfully complete their degrees with Harry joining the civil service and Lily deciding on a career in fashion – using her clever dressmaking skills to become as she puts it ‘the new Biba’.  Living with Harry and concentrating on her career she feels settled, despite Max’s occasional ‘between travel project’ visits which tend to resurrect old feelings. But then a trip to India to source material for a new collection changes everything…

This is a wonderful story, covering three decades and charting Lily, Harry and Max’s lives and the changes that occur because of the choices they make along the way.  The writing flows well and I loved the way the three characters interacted. I have to admit to having soft spot for Max. In the beginning you see him as someone constantly challenging authority and doing the most outrageous things.  Then as the story progresses we learn the reason for his behaviour is deeply rooted in his unhappy childhood. Yes, I’m always drawn to vulnerable  heroes.

For me it’s the sign of a good read when you actually care what happens to the characters you are reading about.  I desperately hoped for a happy ending for all three.  Did that happen?  Well you’ll need to read the book for yourself and find out I’m afraid….and please do because it’s a great read.

A well-deserved five stars



Author-pic-e1382741922267-150x148Margaret James was born and brought up in Hereford and now lives in Devon. She studied English at London University, and has written many short stories, articles and serials for magazines. She is the author of sixteen published novels.
Her debut novel for Choc Lit, The Silver Locket, received a glowing review from the Daily Mail and reached the Top 20 Small Publishers Fiction List in November 2010 and in the same year a Reviewers’ Choice Award from Single Titles. The Golden Chain also hit the Top 20 Small Publishers Fiction List in May 2011.
Margaret is a long standing contributor to Writing Magazine for which she writes the Fiction Focus column and an author interview for each issue. She’s also a creative writing tutor for the London School of Journalism.
Margaret loves hearing from her readers, and can be found on both Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Writing

Tuesday Talk catches up with lawyer-turned-novelist Caroline England whose debut novel Beneath the Skin will be published this October…

_DSC5966Good morning Caroline and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Hi, I’m a former divorce and professional indemnity lawyer who lives in South Manchester. I came over the border from Sheffield to study law at Manchester uni and stayed. I have three gorgeous daughters and three greedy cats but only one husband!

How did your writing journey begin?

I had always thought it a romantic notion to write a novel, but never thought I’d actually do it! I finally put pen to paper about ten years ago. I wrote very basic drafts of three or four novels, then decided short stories and poems were a lot less effort! Many of them were published in literary magazines and anthologies. A few years later, I came back to Beneath the Skin.

Who are your favourite authors? Have any of them influenced your writing?

My holiday reading is mostly crime – anyone from Ian Rankin to Jo Nesbo, and some contemporary – Mary Wesley back in the day, Kate Atkinson and Maggie O’Farrell. When Kate Atkinson combined contemporary and crime in her Jackson Brodie novels I was ecstatic! Though my novels are not crime fiction per se, I think my writing has been influenced by the blend of those genres too, so I write about contemporary lives but with intrigue, dark edges and secrets. And, of course, love.
Roald Dahl has been another big influence. I never read his children’s books, but I adored his short stories when I was a teenager. My copy of Switch Bitch did the rounds at school but was eventually confiscated. I think my love of the twist and my need to surprise readers comes from there.

Your debut novel, Beneath the Skin, is due to be published in October, can you tell us something about it?

Good or bad, I do love all my characters! They first made an appearance in a short story called The Dinner Circle and the novel grew from there, mostly when I was musing in the bath! Each character has their private fears, weaknesses and demons hiding beneath the skin…
I have always struggled to describe the mix of different genres in the novel, but I’m delighted the label ‘domestic noir’ sums it up in two words!
Sarah Jasmon, the author of The Summer of Secrets reviewed Beneath the Skin and said: ‘Four couples with interlocking histories; eight individuals, all with secrets that are ready to explode. Set in the lush heartland of the Cheshire countryside, this is a tautly elegant psychological thriller, razor-sharp and utterly believable. I loved it.’
Thank you, Sarah Jasmon, I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Are you a beach or city girl? Name your favourite destination and why you love it so much.

A city with a beach would be my preference (culture, mooching and relaxation) though last year’s holiday to Mexico would be hard to beat – a white sandy beach and turquoise sea, swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing, cocktails on demand…

If you hadn’t decided on a legal career, is there another profession that would have interested you?

When I left the law I became a volunteer mediator. It was very rewarding work, and though those participating had complete confidentiality, it was brilliant insight to the human psyche – misunderstandings, emotions, fears, viewpoints, identity and versions of truth! Just the sort of things I find fascinating and explore in my writing.

And lastly, you’ve been invited onto I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. If you could choose four of your companion contestants, who would they be and why?

This is a tough question! I’m hopeless at coming up with quick-fire answers to what I want for my birthday or for dinner, let alone being abandoned in Australia! But I’ll give it a go…
Kate Atkinson, not only because I admire her writing so much, but to find out how exciting it must have been to have Jason Isaacs, perfectly cast, as Jackson Brodie!
Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (I’ll count them as one) because they were both so hugely talented (and to thrash out what really happened in their tempestuous relationship).
Steve Coogan because he’s witty, funny and creative. And he’s a great impressionist. And comes from Manchester!
James Keziah Delaney, the character Tom Hardy played in Taboo. He’s an incestuous brutal monster, but he’s a compelling, vulnerable and damaged human being too! It would be fascinating to peel back the layers of his past and I don’t think he’d have a problem with the challenges and bugs! Tom Hardy would have to come too, obviously. He’s such a fabulous and versatile actor, he’d be very welcome to play any, or indeed, all the characters in Beneath the Skin!




Facebook author page:
Twitter: Caroline England @CazEngland

About Caroline England

Born a Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at Manchester university and stayed over the border. Caroline practised family and professional indemnity law. She became a partner in a firm of Solicitors and instigated her jottings when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a wide variety of literary magazines and anthologies.

Beneath the Skin

Buy Link:


The lies start small. They always do.
Antonia. It’s been her name for many years. But sometimes, like tonight, she forgets.
Antonia has a secret. A secret so dark and so deep that she can barely admit it to herself. Instead, she treats herself to Friday night sessions of self-harm while her husband David is at the pub and her best friend Sophie is drinking too much wine a few doors down.
Nobody close to her knows the truth about what she saw all those years ago. No one, that is, except her mother. But Candy is in a care home now, her mind too confused to remember the truth. Antonia is safe. Isn’t she?