Book Review: The Mercury Travel Club, by Helen Bridgett #TheMercuryTravelClub #BlogTour

I’m so excited to be joining The Mercury Travel Club Blog Tour today! Thanks for stopping by 😀

Publisher: RedDoor Publishing

Publication date:  16th March 2017

mercury-club-my-review

the-mercury-travel-club-cover

Firstly, that gorgeous cover is an invitation to abandon everything else in your life and dive right in, isn’t it?! 🍹

At fifty-three years old Angela (Hargreaves) Shepherd is adjusting to life as a divorcee. The outlook is so overcast that even a meteorologist would have a hard time fathoming what happens next. Still, she does do her best to look on the bright side even though her daughter is still coming to terms with the ‘other woman’ in their lives, as is her rebellious, larger-than-life friend, Patty. Come to think of it Angela hasn’t quite got to grips with the gravity of the situation either.

It was uncomfortable to see her shuffling into a new position as her family unit is rearranged, so I was grateful to the animated widow Patty for encouraging her oldest friend to step out of the shadows by applying a firm, well-meaning shove. Instead of floundering in self-pity, sitting in her little rented house alone, swaddled in cardigans and playing skittles with the vino empties, Angelia can embrace the opportunity to paint a different scene on the now blank canvass that is the rest of her life.

Modest social engagements (except for the odd, cringe-worthy karaoke sensation) spark some unlikely friendships, as well as new ideas for short breaks to revive bookings for the humble travel agency she works for – aaaand behold – The Mercury Travel Club is born!

How terrific to watch Angela embark on her self-made destiny as she scales life’s stumbling blocks. But no tailored vacation remains unchallenged, as a calamitous streak follows her sterling efforts – it’s a miracle she returns from her travels unscathed! As themed weekends take on a mutinous life of their own via a series of impromptu interruptions, this part-time travel shop sales assistant sees her big ideas multiply and offer their own ‘unique’ rewards.

Life’s little downpours are chased away by sunny nuances throughout. I especially liked the mysterious and endearing arrival of a gnome, and other gardening curiosities, leaving Angela wondering who is behind the sentimental helper. Seeing the people at the centre of her world breaking out of their own cocoons was inspiring too.

I’m delighted to have hopped on board this gentle-paced journey to follow the personal itinerary of our narrator, courtesy of The Mercury Travel Club. An array of unscheduled stops en route allow her to rediscover the little things that truly matter to reinforce that somehow, someway, life can reflect a contented symmetry once more.  

Lighthearted, entertaining, and a genuinely lovely read.

Rating:    4/5

(I received an advanced paperback copy of this title from the publisher, and it is my pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

mercury-club-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘Hi, I’m Angela. My husband ran off with the caterer we hired for our daughter’s graduation party. Pleased to meet you.’

Meet Angie Shepherd who, after 24 years and 11 months of marriage, finds herself divorced and driven by friends and family to move on. From hangover to makeover, Angie steps firmly away from the sensible knitwear, and launches into every adventure on offer from baking classes and book groups, to speed dating, and even ‘The Granny-Okes’, a 1980’s tribute act and YouTube sensation.

But Angie needs more than a bar of galaxy and a night in with Murder She Wrote… what she dreams of is entrepreneurial success. Channelling her inner Richard Branson, the light bulb moment happens: it’s time to take the plunge and invest her divorce settlement into The Mercury Travel Club, an exciting new business venture. But as the Travel Club gets going, things don’t go according to plan, and in this digital age a little chaos brings the fame she s been looking for.

Set in present-day Manchester, this classic mid-life journey features the 1980’s soundtrack from Angie’s youth, and sees her travel the world whilst coping with life after the Ex. Angie’s journey is the catalyst her friends need to examine their own lives; as they start to find their true callings, will Angie find hers? Witty, entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, this feel-good debut novel shows it s never too late for a second chance.

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mercury-club-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Helen Bridgett was born in the North-East and now lives in Manchester having stopped off at a few places in between. Following a career in Marketing, Helen took an MA in TV and Radio Script-writing and created short films before writing her first novel. She loves nothing more than a glass of wine and witty banter with friends; her love of dialogue feeds into her work and has given her the perfect excuse to eavesdrop on conversations. Helen lives with her husband and their chocolate Labrador, Angus; all three can often be found wandering the Cumbrian hills or in country pubs.

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THANK YOU FOR TRAVELLING WITH THE MERCURY TRAVEL CLUB. WE HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED TODAY’S STOP  🎵 🎤 🎶

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Book Review: The Little Breton Bistro, by Nina George

Publisher:  Abacus (Little Brown Book Group)

Publication date:  2nd March 2017

the-little-breton-bistro-my-review

You can’t change dreams; you can only kill them – and some of us are very good murderers.

the-little-breton-bistroThe Little Breton Bistro is a place where delicious food and great companionship are served with free life assistance. It plays host to the great recital of life, where some folks are lucky enough to hit the right notes while others find only the flats, the sharps, or those bum ones that weren’t supposed to be heard out loud.

Firstly ignore the pretty facade of the cover for a moment, inside people’s lives are crumbling. Its opening chapter is a pretty grim introduction to Marianne as it walks us through the conviction of her decision to end things. Instantly I found myself standing on a bridge beside a woman as the final little details of her life played out in readiness for her leap into the river Seine; the shedding of her coat, her wedding ring, her entire life.

At this stage I already knew I wasn’t a reader any longer but a witness, powerless to intervene. I suddenly wanted to know everything about Marianne and who had driven her to such a dark place and left her there, emotionally ill-equipped and alone.

Cue fate’s invisible hand in the guise of a ceramic tile made by the hand of an artisan in Port de Kerdruc. Marianne discovers this strangely alluring article in the hospital after she follows through with her decision to jump.

I won’t lie, I felt sad knowing her intentions hadn’t changed but also oddly encouraged as the humble tile maps out a curious destiny. She ups and leaves with only the clothes on her back (allowing the painted tile to guide her) and quickly experiences a religious encounter in the form of a nun on the bus, becomes a stowaway aboard a fishing boat, and is mistakenly offered a job as a trainee chef. There are too many tender, agonising, or entertaining exploits to mention, but each one is vital, poignant, and determined to set her free in one way or another to rediscover the woman that had already died; a bright, intoxicating spirit her forty-one years of marriage had snuffed out.

The cast of equally challenged locals embrace the arrival of this unassuming woman until she is revived by their well-intended interference, and in return so are they. Apprehension prevents many people in this novel from opening their hearts to the possibility of happiness or even recognising it at times, especially when it’s staring them in the face. But a gentle nudge from someone who cares could give you the courage to run towards something rather than from it.

The underlying message of The Little Breton Bistro is universal in any language; while we remain intent on channelling our emotional efforts in the wrong direction we’re essentially forgetting how to live, only succeeding in losing a little bit more of ourselves along the way.

Rating:  4/5

(My thanks to the publisher for approving my Netgalley request to read this title, for which I am delighted to provide this unbiased review.)

the-little-breton-bistro-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Marianne Messman, a housewife, wants to escape her loveless marriage and an uncaring and unfeeling husband of 35 years [Note: review copy says 41 years]. Marianne and her husband (army sergeant major Lothar) take a trip to Paris, during which Marianne leaps off the Pont Neuf into the Seine, but she is saved from drowning by a homeless man. Angered by her behaviour, major Lothar takes a coach trip back home to Germany, expecting that a psychologist will escort Marianne home a few days later. However, Marianne comes across a hand-painted scene of the tiny port of Kerdruc in Brittany, and becomes fixated with the place. Marianne decides to make her way to Kerduc, and once there meets a host of colourful characters who all gravitate around the small restaurant of Ar Mor (The Sea).

It is this cast of true Bretons who become Marianne’s new family. She finds love and passion with Yann, an artist who becomes her guide to the secrets of Brittany. Before long, Marianne’s husband is back to retrieve her and Marianne feels pulled towards her old life by way of duty and guilt. She leaves Kerduc and gets as far as Paris before she realises it’s now or never when it comes to building the life she really wants.

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the-little-breton-bistro-author-profile

(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Born 1973 in Bielefeld, Germany, Nina George is a prize-winning and bestselling author (“Das Lavendelzimmer” – “The Little Paris Bookshop”) and freelance journalist since 1992, who has published 26 books (novels, mysteries and non-fiction) as well as over hundred short stories and more than 600 columns. George has worked as a cop reporter, columnist and managing editor for a wide range of publications, including Hamburger Abendblatt, Die Welt, Der Hamburger, “politik und kultur” as well as TV Movie and Federwelt. Georges writes also under three pen-names, for ex “Jean Bagnol”, a double-andronym for provence-based mystery novels.

In 2012 and 2013 she won the DeLiA and the Glauser-Prize. In 2013 she had her first bestselling book “Das Lavendelzimmer”, translated in 27 languages and sold more than 500.000 copies.

To read the full author biography please visit Nina George’s website or Goodreads.

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OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR:

The Little Paris Bookshop: My review was published on 28th April 2015.

The Little Paris Bookshop

Book Review: Redemption Song, by Laura Wilkinson

Publisher:   Accent Press   |   Publication date:   28th January 2016

Redemption Song My Review

Redemption Song Cover

Life, loss and love harmonize beautifully to play all the right notes in Redemption Song.

Many people suffer in silence, holding in their bereavement until their emotions escalate and in turn this holds them back from actually living. Saffron and her mum are two such people. After the death of people close to them Saffron takes a break from her studies at medical school to return home to live with her mum, unusually called Rain, a minister of the local chapel, which is badly in need of repair.

Despite her strong belief that religion will be there for her through everything, even Rain is having reservations and privately copes with her husband’s death in the only way she knows, by taking anti-depressants when she feels an anxiety attack creeping up on her.

Mother and daughter have been thrown together as a result of a tragic event. Both are suffering in different ways, despite not confiding in each other of their concerns and as a consequence their unhappiness grows deeper everyday. That is, until the mysterious carpenter Joe Jones arrives on the scene when the old car Saffron was driving broke down in deep snow. Joe’s old Landrover is as reliable as he is and at first he’s only too happy to help, despite the young woman’s frosty reception.

There’s a hint from the early beginnings that Saffron and Joe might be destined to develop feelings for each other. They are both concealing secrets and hidden feelings from their respective pasts and they are both learning to trust for different reasons. The failing chapel roof brings Joe and his carpentry skills closer to the family, and little by little Saffron thaws to his charms, even when he’s trying to keep his distance and is being politely aloof and very, very mysterious.

Saffron warms to Joe and confides in him, but he’s still looking over his shoulder and not wanting to get too close. Throughout we hear snippets of conversations he has with a close friend who gives him fair warning when his past is about to catch up with him. The warning gives little detail at the beginning, so you’re left guessing as to why he might have to move on without saying goodbye.

Meanwhile, Rain is headed for a melt-down, as she is coping with her problems by herself while battling the congregation’s attitude toward her as the ‘new’ girl on the block. Competing with her predecessor does not help her situation, and when she embarks on saving the old ballroom by the pier she has yet another fight on her hands.

The enigmatic Joe appears too good to be true as he may have discovered an unexpected solution to the parish’s problems, much to everyone’s relief and surprise. It appears it’s not the only surprise he has up his sleeve, as a shadowy figure from his past comes back to haunt him and Saffron’s newly settled life is in danger of taking flight again.

Redemption Song sees testing bouts of confusion and shining moments of clarity, when people confront events they’re running away from and stop holding others at arms length, no matter how difficult it may seem at first. It’s a wonderful story of learning to trust and forgive others, even yourself – sometimes horrific things may happen in our lives, but if you’re given a chance at finding true happiness, you shouldn’t turn your back on it.

This is a lovely, gentle-paced read with a sense of community spirit at it’s heart, and I’m truly happy to have been given the opportunity to relax and enjoy it. 

Rating: 4/5

(I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the author for generously providing a digital copy in exchange for an honest review – it’s much appreciated.)

Redemption Song Book Summary

(Courtesy of Accent Press release)

Redemption Song is the powerful new novel by Laura Wilkinson, critically acclaimed author of  Public Battles, Private Wars. This engaging and beautifully written book explores themes of loss and loss, set against the atmospheric landscape of a small seaside community.

Saffron is studying for a promising career in medicine until a horrific accident changes her life for ever. Needing to escape London, she moves to a coastal town to live with her mother. Saffron feels trapped until she meets Joe, another outsider – despite initial misgivings, they grow closer to each other as they realise they have a lot in common. Like Saffron, Joe has a complicated past that’s creeping up on his present…

Can Joe escape his demons for long enough to live a normal life – and can Saffron reveal the truth about what really happened on that fateful night? Love is the one thing they need most, but will they – can they – risk it?

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Remdemption Song Author Bio

(Courtesy of Accent Press release)

Laura Wilkinson Author

Laura Wilkinson says: “I’m fascinated by the human capacity to heal and move on from traumatic, damaging events, especially when we feel responsible. Honesty and forgiveness, for ourselves and others, can be hard to find. Guilt and hatred can linger and poison. I wanted to explore the role family, friends and the wider community play in the process of repair; the importance of love and hope in moving towards new beginnings.”

Former journalist Laura Wilkinson grew up in North Wales and lives in Brighton. Alongside writing fiction, she works as a reader and editor for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, and a mentor for The Writing Coach. She has published short stories in magazines and anthologies, and novels. Public Battles, Private Wars was a Welsh Books Council Book of the Month in 2014.

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Book Review: Kitty’s Countryside Dream, by Christie Barlow

Publisher:  Bookouture   |   Publication date:  25th February 2016

Take a moment. Go on. Just look at that cover, isn’t it wonderful? All that inviting gorgeousness on the outside is only the beginning. Just wait ’til you step inside…

Kittys Countryside Dream My ReviewKittys Countryside Dream by Christine Barlow

Kitty’s Countryside Dream is a soul-boosting necessity. I have a suspicion it’s been sprinkled with a little bit of magic, as on the darkest days it’ll warm your cockles and make everything seem right with the world. And I don’t say that lightly – this is not my usual genre of book, but my mood went from grumpy to carefree in nought to sixty (pages that is!).

Life’s not been too kind to Kitty Lewis. She lost her dad when she was young and her mum recently passed away after a long illness and Kitty nursed her until the end.

Ideally she could do with a break. She’s still grieving but needs to try and move on, look for a job, heck, discovering a social life would be a start, when out of the blue our gal in the title unexpectedly inherits a chicken farm. Yes, a chicken farm!

It’s a new start, alright. But she knows as much about chickens as she does about her grandmother – a well respected, but private lady, and a relative she never knew she had.

Kitty’s apprehension to practical poultry is tackled, courtesy of Tom ‘nice on the eye’ Drew, a neighbour and her grandmother’s farm manager. Their initial introductions are met with Kitty generally falling over and planting her rear in the mud, and Tom subsequently smirking while rescuing her.

As Kitty settles into country life with all its farm yard antics on offer, she is determined to discover more about her mystery benefactor. When routinely sorting out the office, the diary of a young woman called Violet comes to light and poses more questions than answers. Kitty might muck in and get her hands dirty, but she’s edging closer to a broken heart. With the help of her characterful friends and a little detective work they try to uncover the past, but it’s a history Kitty could never prepare for.

Expect humorous learning curves, romantic confusion, and the highs and lows of life when secrets that may have died with her parents begin to bubble to the surface. So, get those wellies on and head for a new roost in the country in this delicious feel-good tale with a gorgeous soft centre – this book shows that adapting to a new life is ever easy, but if you’re willing to embrace it then anything is possible.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks, as always, to Team Bookouture for arranging a digital copy of this book for review.)

Say hello to Snowflake, one of my nephew’s favourite Silkie chooks (one of the breeds mentioned in the book). THEY’RE SO FLUFFYYYY!!!

Kittys Countryside Dream Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

New home. New Life. New beginning. Love affairs can blossom in the most unlikely places…

When Kitty inherits Bluebell Lodge from her grandmother, a farm in the beautiful Staffordshire countryside, it’s time for fresh air and a fresh start. Up to her elbows in chickens and ponies, Kitty soon realises there’s an awful lot to learn about farming. Still, at least the locals seem friendly, not least her handsome neighbour Tom…

But just as Kitty is beginning to find her feet, and the possibility of love, the discovery of a long-hidden diary, by a mysterious character called Violet changes everything. Who is Violet and what is her message for Kitty? As Kitty fills in the lost pieces of her family jigsaw and discovers some shocking revelations, will her countryside dream and blossoming relationship fall to pieces? When it comes to life in the country, nothing is ever quite as it seems …

A heart warming, moving and funny tale, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Cathy Bramley.

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Kittys Countryside Dream Author Bio

(Bio Courtesy of Amazon UK / Author photograph courtesy of publisher)

Christie Barlow Profile

Christie Barlow is the author of A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother, The Misadventures of a Playground Mother and Kitty’s Countryside Dream. She lives in Staffordshire with her husband, four kids, horses, chickens and a mad cocker spaniel.

Her writing career came as somewhat a surprise when she decided to write a book to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams. She is a Mum who wrote a book to prove to her children whatever you want to do in life go for it. The book she wrote to prove a point is now an Amazon #1 bestseller in the UK and USA.

Christie loves to hear from her readers…

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Book Review: Learning to Speak American, by Colette Dartford

Publisher: Twenty 7  |  Publication date: Kindle – 5th November 2015 / Paperback – 14th July 2016

Learning to Speak American - My review

This novel eloquently tackles the deeply troubling relationship between two people whose lives have been torn apart by a harrowing event, and works to chip away at the walls they have built to protect themselves from facing the reality of it.

Duncan and Lola have everything, everything, that is, except a child. This story is a powerful portrayal of the fallout a couple experiences following the tragic death of their only daughter. Since the incident, Lola and Duncan have been standing on the edge of the massive ‘Clarissa shaped’ hole in their lives, neither one of them having the strength to tackle it.

Lola is withdrawn from the world, a shell of her former self, while Duncan working all hours and permanently engaging in furtive behaviour throughout the book. The emotion and suffering appears endless. With both of them suffering in their own private hell, he suggests they take a holiday to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and try to rekindle something of their past relationship. Lola robotically agrees.

They visit the beautiful Napa Valley and experience fabulous wine, gorgeous climate and the Californian way of life. It’s there where Lola feels hope in the shape of a dilapidated property in need of renovation. The fact it’s been empty for years makes her believe she could to breathe new life into it, to make it whole again. Something she couldn’t do for her child.

The locals are relaxed and welcoming, addressing each other by their first names, which is alien to ‘stiff upper lip’ Duncan. Yet he reluctantly plays his part in this chilled company, as it’s the first time he’s seen his wife smile in over two years. During the renovation these new neighbours and friends help to open all manner of emotional doors for them. It’s only then that the magnitude of their daughter’s loss becomes clear. While the experience is a positive one for Lola, it would appear Duncan’s been keeping more than just his own grief from her, and the strain is becoming unbearable.

The process of transforming the little house in need of repair offers the couple solace in more ways than they could ever imagine. The lovely, lovely writing throughout captures the changes to their fragile relationship perfectly, and it’s wonderfully done.

(There’s just one curious loose end for me – what became of ‘Polo’? As he was a living memory of their daughter’s life I’d have expected him to have been mentioned in the epilogue, if only in passing. It’s a minute factor, but I can’t help wondering!)

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks for Midas PR and Twenty 7 Books for providing an ARC of this book for review.)

Learning to Speak American - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Having suffered in silence since the tragic death of their young daughter, Lola and Duncan Drummond’s last chance to rediscover their love for one another lies in an anniversary holiday to the gorgeous Napa Valley.

Unable to talk about what happened, Duncan reaches out to his wife the only way he knows how – he buys her a derelict house, the restoration of which might just restore their relationship.

As Lola works on the house she begins to realise the liberating power of letting go. But just as she begins to open up, Duncan’s life begins to fall apart.

Colette Dartford’s debut novel, Learning to Speak American, explores whether a parent can ever truly move on from the death of a child. And, after all the heartbreak, whether Lola and Duncan can learn to love again.

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Learning to Speak American - Author Links

(Courtesy of press release with ARC)

Colette DartfordLearning to Speak American, is Colette Dartford’s debut novel and is based on her experience of renovating a derelict house in California’s Napa Valley. Having bought and renovated the house, Colette lived there with her husband for many years before moving back to the UK. Colette wrote the book in California where it was a quarterfinalist in Amazon’s first novel award. Before becoming a writer, Colette worked as a Political Research Consultant in public policy for many years and has an MPhil in Political Science. Her second novel, The Sinners, will be published by Bonnier in 2017.

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Book Review: A Christmas Tail, by Cressida McLaughlin

Publisher: Harper Collins  |  Publication date: 5th November 2015  |  Edition: Paperback (review copy)

A Christmas Tail Front CoverA Christmas Tail is gorgeous, both inside and out!

From the glittery sprinkles on the cover to the chirpy story just waiting to sing to you, just about everything sparkles about this book, and I mean EVERYTHING.

Originally published in four parts, these tales of the residents of Primrose Terrace are now combined in one beautifully presented edition. Despite the Christmassy cover, it pretty much spans the seasons of a year in all their wonderful glory. There’s:

Part 1) Wellies and Westies Part 2) Sunshine and Spaniels Part 3) Raincoats and Retrievers, and ends with a BIG Christmassy finale Part 4) Tinsel and Terriers.

Our main heroine is Catherine Palmer whose turbulent fictional life can be pretty unpredictable. After morphing from bad to worse as she’s already been fired from her job, she is currently living with her best friend and trainee veterinary nurse, Polly and Polly’s brother, Joe. While Cat’s suffering from the woes of employment issues, she’s trying to ignore a potential romance on the horizon and her antics are often worse that the cliental of her new dog walking business she’s decided to open. But given her track record, not everyone is convinced she has everything under control and will go out of their way to put a stop to her new livelihood. Cat’s mission is to prove them wrong and she is desperate to make an impression with Pooch Promenade.

With her heart of gold and infinite determination, you’ll soon find that Cat will attempt to turn anyone’s frown upside down. Yet she lives up to her name, as curiosity undoubtedly gets the better of her on occasion. Her natural ability for jumping in offers the most surprising results!

There’s a whole host of colourful characters just bursting to greet you behind the doors of Primrose Terrace, and of course there’s Cat’s cute canine pals to coo over too – and that’s before we get started on the self-assured ‘Mr smug chin’ and the serious illustrator with more to him than meets the eye…

Through their highs and lows and rallying for a common cause a unique camaraderie is created, not only as neighbours but as friends. And the ‘will they / won’t they’ moments are a real treat.

I usually plough through my books but I simply had to savour this one, as it was such a delightful diversion. It’s charming, it’s entertaining and it’s got the’ feel-goods’ written all over it – you’d be barking mad not to read it!

Rating: 4/5

(My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending a positively glistening paperback copy of this wonderful read for review.)

A Christmas Tail Book Summary

This book was first published as an e-serial Primrose Terrace Parts 1-4. Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Lucy Dillon and Debbie Johnson.

A Christmas Tail was first published as a four-part serial set in Primrose Terrace.

Catherine ‘Cat’ Palmer realizes that bringing an adorable puppy into work is a bad idea, especially when it gets her the sack. Deciding it’s the perfect opportunity to launch her dog-walking business, Cat enlists the help of flatmates Polly and Joe. After all Primrose Terrace, the street where they live, is full of home-alone hounds.

Getting to know the owners and their precious pooches isn’t all plain sailing, but soon Cat is making friends, particularly with sexy Mark and his Collie, Chips. But is he the right man for her?

With her talent for misadventure, Cat’s new life starts to show some cracks, and when one of the street’s loveable schnauzers gets ill, it looks like this Christmas could be turning into a dog’s dinner. But Cat has never given up on anything in her life – and this is one Christmas that’s definitely worth saving…

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Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David.

Cressy’s favourite things – other than writing – include terrifying ghost stories, lava lamps and romantic heroes, though not necessarily at the same time. (Though perhaps a good starting point for a story . . ?)

When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful and romantic Norfolk coastline.

Connect with the author, Cressida McLaughlin:

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