Posted in Writing

It’s 29th January and publication day for Magnolia House by Angela Barton…

magnolia house cover

When you open up your home and your heart …

Rowan Forrester has it all – the happy marriage, the adorable dog, the good friends, the promising business and even the dream home after she and her husband Tom win a stunning but slightly dilapidated Georgian townhouse in London at auction.

But in the blink of an eye, Rowan’s picture-perfect life comes crashing down around her and she is faced with the prospect of having to start again.

To make ends meet she begins a search for housemates, and in doing so opens the door to new friends and new beginnings. But could she be opening the door to new heartbreak too?









I was lucky enough to receive an ARC copy of Magnolia House, Angela Barton’s latest novel from Choc Lit Ruby.  I’d read Arlette’s Story and loved it but realised this was going to be completely different.  Magnolia House is set in modern day London.  Tom and Rowan Forrester have purchased a dilapidated Georgian town house near Clapham Common which they have completely renovated.  Tom has a thriving photographic business and Rowan makes jewellery.  Relocating from Cheshire with their spaniel Jet they look forward to settling into their new home and having Tom’s sister Libby and husband David as close neighbours. Rowan dreams of starting a family, but in the blink of an eye, everything she holds dear is ripped away from her.

I was rooting for Rowan all the way.  She’s a strong character and needs to be after going through such overwhelming life changing experiences. Although sister in law Libby is there for her, she has her own problems and a marriage spiralling out of control. When Magnolia House is turned into three flats, Rowan takes on two tenants:  Mason ‘call me Ace’  – an outrageously camp character who runs a vintage clothing store and loves colourful designer clothes – and Nora. Nora is a part time model and single mum to toddler Primrose.

I’m not going into any more detail, only to say there’s a huge range of emotions here: love, humour, betrayal , deception with some suspense stirred into the mix.  I mentioned love? Well that comes in the form of Ace’s younger brother James, newly returned from America and staying with him for a while.  As we know the course of love has a reputation for being bumpy and just as Rowan begins to form an attachment to James, in walks his ex- Helen who makes no bones about wanting him back.  And as for suspense, who is the anonymous person sending cryptic messages to Rowan through the post, and why?

The characters are well written and the story pulls you in right from the beginning – in fact at times I honestly felt quite frustrated having to leave my Kindle to do other things.  The settings were vividly brought to life too, whether I was  dog walking on Clapham Common with Jet or wandering through a French market with Rowan during her holiday with her parents.  




Angela Barton was born in London and grew up in Nottingham. She is married with three grown up children and adorable four-year-old twin granddaughters. Angela is passionate about writing both contemporary and historical fiction and loves time spent researching facts for her novels. Having signed publishing contracts for three of her completed novels with Choc Lit’s new imprint, Ruby Fiction, Angela is excited to be working alongside such a lovely team.

Angela and her husband, Paul, recently moved to France and planted a lavender field. She’s looking forward to spending more time writing in the beautiful Charente countryside working from her new writing room, a beautiful shepherd hut. Angela is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Nottingham Writers’ Studio.


Posted in Writing

It’s 22nd January and publication day for The Final Reckoning, author Margaret James’ first ‘not to be missed’ thriller…



What if you had to return to the place that made you fall apart?

When Lindsay Ellis was a teenager she witnessed the aftermath of a violent murder involving her lover’s father. The killer was never found.

Traumatised by what she saw, Lindsay had no choice but to leave her home village of Hartley Cross and its close-knit community behind.

Now, years later, she must face up to the terrible memories that still haunt her. But will confronting the past finally allow Lindsay to heal, or will her return to Hartley Cross unearth dangerous secrets and put the people she has come to care about most at risk?





Well known for her historical and contemporary novels, The Final Reckoning is a completely new direction for author Margaret James as she delivers her first thriller.

Central character Lindsay Ellis is returning to her home village of Hartley Cross after an absence of eight years. Her mother has died and she is there to organise the funeral and sort out the estate. The last time she was here as an eighteen year old she discovered the dead body of Louis Dyer, father of her then boyfriend Simon. After Simon’s arrest she was sent away to live with her father, who had recently divorced her mother.

Reminders of that long ago time when she and Simon were inseparable tug at her memory.  Acquitted of his father’s murder he now lives in the village where he runs a small antiques business.  Their relationship was an intense one. Is there any chance when they meet again some spark still remains after all this time?

Lindsay arrives with Nick Singer, an astrophysicist with whom she house shares in Oxford. As her own car is out of action he has offered to run her here and stay for a while.  Settling in she begins to make arrangements for the funeral. As she reacquaints herself with the villagers unanswered questions still remain. Who did murder Louis Dyer and why?

There is an incident after the burial which at first Lindsay doesn’t pay much attention to.  However when others occur she realises someone in the village doesn’t like the fact she’s back and wants her gone. But who exactly, and what is their motive?

I particularly liked Nick. Dis-organised and chaotic he came over as a typical scientist, totally committed to his work with little time for mundane things like washing up and keeping the place tidy. I think despite the fact they were total opposites Lindsay had a soft spot for him right from the beginning and it was interesting to see how their relationship developed.

The Casson family, whose bible bashing father was Louis Dyer’s best friend, are also central to the story. Among them the beautiful Jael, married but possibly having an affair with Simon.  Nathan, quiet and surly, a close friend of Lindsay’s and Simon’s during their teenage years.  Jael’s beautiful home is filled with expensive things. How has this been achieved when her husband works in an abattoir? Lindsay soon realises there are many things about this family that don’t quite add up.

This story keeps you guessing all the way. It’s well balanced between past and present so you have all the information you need about what led up to Louis Dyer’s demise.  As the book progressed and I got to know the villagers it seemed clear that more than one person had motive for Louis’s murder and for targeting Lindsay.   A great entertaining read with some unexpected twists.

Thank you Choc Lit for an ARC copy of The Final Reckoning in exchange for an honest review.



margaret jamesMargaret James was born in Hereford, a beautiful cathedral city in the English Midlands. She started writing fiction when her children were very small, and her first novel A Touch of Earth was published in 1988.

Since then, she has expanded her range of writing-related activities to take in journalism, short story writing, teaching creative writing, helping to organise and judge writing competitions, and editing other people’s books.

She was delighted when her novel Elegy for a Queen was featured in the UK’s Woman and Home magazine in a selection of the five best time slip novels. The fact that Margaret’s own favourite time slip novel The House on the Strand was also featured put a big grin on her face!

Since becoming a novelist, Margaret has realised that having a name like Margaret James leads to lots of confusion, and in her next life she intends to have a name that she shares with absolutely nobody else.

When she’s not writing, Margaret loves walking, reading anything and everything, gossiping, gardening and eating chocolate. She quite often manages to eat chocolate and write at the same time, which occasionally makes for a somewhat sticky keyboard, but also makes for happy writing.

Just for the record – this Margaret James wrote: A Touch of Earth, Fortune’s Favourite Child, The Treasures of Existence, The Snake Stone, A Green Bay Tree, The Ash Grove, A Special Inheritance, The Final Reckoning, Hallowed Ground, The Morning Promise, The Long Way Home, The Penny Bangle, Elegy for a Queen, The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain, The Wedding Diary, and she contributed to the anthology Loves Me, Loves Me Not. Margaret’s latest novels are Magic Sometimes Happens and Girl in Red Velvet.

The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain and The Penny Bangle are available as a Kindle download entitled The Charton Minster Trilogy.

She was thrilled when The Silver Locket won a prestigious Cataromance Single Titles Award in 2010, and when the cover of The Golden Chain was chosen to feature on the design of a KLM airliner in 2011.The Wedding Diary was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s RoNA award for romantic comedy 2014.

Margaret and Cathie Hartigan are co-authors of The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook, which takes students through the entire creative writing process. The Short Story Writer’s Workbook is the second of their bestselling guides for writers and is published in ebook and paperback. The third guide in the series is The Novelist’s Workbook and is available now.

See for more details of the writing guides and the competitions run by CreativeWritingMatters, which include the Trisha Ashley Award for the best humorous short story.

Posted in Writing

Cover Reveal for The Path Keeper…Book 1 of the Indigo Chronicles.

Yes, I’m a little late to the party but wanted to wish N J Simmonds every success with her Indigo Chronicles series….

The Story

What if all our lives were mapped out before birth? Does anyone have the power to change our destiny?

Ella hates London. She misses her old life in Spain and is struggling to get over her past—until she meets Zac. He’s always loved her but isn’t meant to be part of her story. Not this time. Not ever. Little does she know that his secret is the one thing that will tear them apart and force her to live in a world that no longer makes sense. A world full of danger, lies and magic.

The Path Keeper is a passionate tale of first loves, second chances and the invisible threads that bind us. Can love ever be stronger than fate?

The Author

Natali Drake, who writes under the pen name of N.J. Simmonds, is an accredited member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. When she’s not busy working on her YA fantasy romance series she is also a freelance writer and brand consultant. She has written articles for various UK newspapers and online publications with two of her essays appearing in The Mother Book published by Selfish Mother. In 2015 she co-founded the online magazine The Glass House Girls A littleand is a regular contributor.

Originally from north London, Natali studied Feature Writing at City University and began her career in corporate publishing and marketing before moving to Spain to write, and to raise her family. She now divides her time between her two homes in the Netherlands and Spain with her husband and two daughters.

Posted in Writing

New Year…New Beginning…

This time last year there were half a dozen milestone birthday bashes to look forward to, a week in Menorca followed by a week in the South of France. I had just completed The Boys of Summer and was about to submit to a publisher. I looked at the year ahead with optimism. Okay life’s not perfect but you have to take the good with the bad and there was a lot off good stuff going on that year.

Sometimes I think it’s just as well we can’t see the future, although in my case, if I had maybe I wouldn’t have landed up in a situation that intruded on most of 2018: my broken ankle. As my consultant’s registrar said, pulling no punches ‘You’ve done the worst possible thing you could to your ankle.’ I’d broken it in not one, or two but three places, resulting in having to have it permanently pinned and plated. And all this because I missed the bottom step on a staircase!

Five individual plasters (I was most upset that OH wouldn’t entertain the thought of me have a pink or blue one), a horribly itchy orthopaedic boot and a walking stick later, I’m well down the road to being back to normal. As soon as this happened to me, that was my goal. I brushed aside all those who very kindly said I could buy one of those ‘pretty collapsible walking sticks’ to keep in my handbag – sorry that wasn’t about to happen! As far as I was concerned the end of my journey was going to see me walking normally. And happily it has.

Getting rid of the stick by early September was the start of yet another phase. Although my right leg was much stronger after being incarcerated in plaster for six weeks, I now became faced with an issue I hadn’t even thought of – balance. At times I felt like a toddler taking their first few steps: wobbly and unsure. I could not believe my balance had been affected so much, but it had. Gradually, however, with daily walks, I gained the confidence which brought me back to normal mobility. The downside was while out walking I had to keep making stops as the ankle would start aching if I did too much. At the same time I knew I had to keep pushing myself to get the joint working properly. No gain without pain!

It’s crazy to say this but when I actually managed a trip into town for the first time on the local bus, I felt I’d achieved so much. It was yet another big milestone to getting back to the life I’d had before the accident. Seven months on I’m continuing to put the ankle through daily physio exercises. Yes it still aches occasionally and first thing in the morning the muscles have to be ‘woken up’. I’m doing regular walks and have joined a gym. Now it’s all about maintaining these routines, keeping positive…oh and watching where I put my feet in future!

Best wishes