May 2023 Books #AmReading

I don’t think I am even going to comment on what ARCs I have, because whenever I think I get to the end of my pile, an other arrives! Still, I am not complaining. It means I have all the more books to share with you!

Keep Her Secret by Mark Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another captivating read by best-selling psychological thriller author Mark Edwards!
Matthew is in a good place, having rekindled his university romance with his old girlfriend, Helena.
Only, on a trip to Iceland, faced with losing her life, Helena confesses to something which has far-reaching consequences for both their lives.
I can’t say much more about the story because then I would give the twists away, but I can say that I was hooked from the moment I picked this book up! I was reading in the bath, as you do, and before I knew it, the water was cold, and I was nearly at page one hundred! Needless to say, it didn’t take me long at all to finish this book!
I won’t say it was an easy read – which psychological thriller is? But it swallowed you whole, and you just want to keep reading to find out which twist will be revealed next!
There were moments I felt so sorry for Helena, but then doubts crept in and then would get swept away again… And I did feel for Matthew, dragged into a situation that he would never have been in had he not met Helena again after all these years.
But the ending. Wow.
And I always thought rollercoasters had a firm end in sight…

Released 30th May, 2023

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve not read any books by Kuang before, so this was a new-to-me author.
A trainwreck story about an author who hasn’t achieved success, whereas her counterpart has hit the big time.
Being cherry-picked as the diverse writer of the moment, Athena has experienced none of the disappointments and rejections that the average writer does, like her friend June.
June and Athena have spent an inordinate time together, despite not really being friends, and then one day, on a night out, Athena is suddenly not there any more.
A too-tempting opportunity arises, and soon, June, now known as Juniper Song, is also hailed as a literary success, but not without huge bumps and attacks on her conscience following the big time.
This book delves deep into the psyche of an anxious writer and the publishing world. It is very interestingly written but quite niche in its appeal to a mass market.
There are some extreme situations, but they have been executed well.

Released 16th May, 2023

Just Like That: The perfect feel-good romance to make you smile by Nina Kaye
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nina Kaye has done it again with this captivating read!
Jess is an event manager. Not any old event manager but a brilliant one. She’s heading places in her industry. People are trying to headhunt her.
Then a tragedy in her personal life means she has to scale back on her work, leaving her with some less than favourable minor events to organise, rather than the big glitzy ones she has been used to.
And to top it off, she gets to her new main client and has to deal with a grumpy grouch of a man, there too, who seems hell-bent on making her life a misery… or is he?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially as it had not only a build-up of romance and enemies to lovers but cute animals! And how could it not, since the majority of it is set in a wildlife reserve?
Jess is torn between wanting to be the best in her job and fulfilling family duties. I truly felt for her throughout.
Then you have Nick, the grouchy grouch head keeper at the reserve, with whom she has to work closely… Tensions simmer and are built up fantastically through Kaye’s writing.
There is a very sensitive portrayal of learning how to live with a disability and how caring for someone suddenly incapacitated can take its toll on your life.
A fantastic read that I would recommend.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Canelo for an ARC.

Releasing 1st June, 2023 (like my book, Straight As A Jalebi!)

Unladylike Lessons in Love: spicy and romantic Regency debut for 2023 perfect for fans of Bridgerton by Amita Murray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since Bridgerton hit the screens, I have searched out Regency Romance novels, devouring the Julia Quinn books and several others.
The premise for this book intrigued me, with a woman, the illegitimate child of an English nobleman and his Indian second wife, or mistress, as the rest of the Ton would say, and how she navigates the world of the wealthy in upper-class London.
Lila Marleigh is a fantastic character, full of spunk. She’s carved out her own place in society as the hostess of salon nights, where gambling and drinking take place, as well as some more (in)discreet meetings of lovers and the suchlike.
You can tell she has resigned herself to a life alone regarding relationships, but she has a huge heart, which shows in how she treats her staff, and those around her.
Things go awry with the arrival of a certain ice-blue-eyed gentleman to her salon nights. Ivan looks like he might be trouble, wrapped up in a nobleman’s guise…
I have to say I devoured this in a day and enjoyed the diversity at play, as well as the storyline. And this is another example of how racy those Recency folk were, too!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK for an ARC.

Releasing 30th May, 2023

The Little Italian Hotel by Phaedra Patrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fabulous summer read!
Ginny Splinter spends her days advising the public about all matters in their lives and her evenings enjoying time with her husband, Adrian.
They appear to have a perfect marriage and are on the eve of celebrating their silver wedding anniversary, as well as the impending wedding of their daughter.
Until Adrian drops a bombshell that almost destroys Ginny.
Instead, she picks up the pieces of her life and finds herself on a three-week holiday in a little rustic hotel with four total strangers, each with their own heartache.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Ginny is at that time in her life, about to hit 50, thinking that everything is just as it should be. I guess it’s rare to be in such a position, so when everything comes crashing down around her, I felt huge empathy for her.
The little hotel the motley crew end up in is quaint, lived in, and filled with some secret power that allows each of these guests to open up and accept their lot in life.
I loved Edna, the octagenarian, who brings so much wisdom to the group, what with all her experiences in life.
Did the ending totally convince me? I’m not sure. Maybe I would have liked it tied up a little more unless, of course, Phaedra Patrick is planning a sequel to let us all know what happens!
However, a beautiful book that I raced through easily in a day.
Many thanks to NetGalley and HQ for an ARC.

Releasing 20th July, 2023

Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An engaging, frustrating, but great story!
Samantha Gales has returned to Martha’s Vineyard to help her dad and step-mum with some ‘supervision ‘ of her younger teenage brother while they leave for a few weeks. Life hasn’t been easy for her, losing out on a promotion and ending up with no job.
Arriving at home, she is thrown against a hot, bookish guy on the ferry, and a not-so-typical relationship begins.
You see, Sam is not so typical, either. As a woman diagnosed with dyslexia as a teenager, she has struggled to find her niche in life, and that is where the kitchen welcomed her. So to find herself strangely drawn to a guy who appears to love books and one who appears to be way out of her league, that is a frightening situation,
Bennet, or Ben, is in Martha’s Vineyard for the summer with a mystery to solve and hadn’t foreseen meeting a woman in his plans.
I don’t want to tell you the story; this is a review, but needless to say, it was a good read. A woman who has felt rejection keenly over the years, I feel Sam’s pain purely because characters on a page won’t sit still for her. She is a brilliant chef, yet still gets overlooked for so much, not knowing whether her condition or gender are to blame for her stilted rise to success.
And Ben is just a darling! He has his issues, obviously, but to see someone so caring and considerate, despite his own issues, was a pleasure.
There are a couple of steamy scenes, which added a bit of spice, too! And there are those key ‘will-they/won’t they?’ moments, too!
Recently, there has been a slew of books with some neurodivergent MCs at the help. It makes my heart happy to see these stories out there, considering how many people operate in a non-neurotypical manner. Way to go, diversity and inclusive literature!

Releasing 20th July, 2023

Tough Crowd by Andi Osho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was thrilled to be asked to read Andi Osho’s latest offering, having enjoyed her debut very much,
Tough Crown is well written, funny, and emotional journey for the female MC Abi, who is battling negativity from her mother for her chosen path, becoming a comedian, as well as navigating a new relationship that brings her into new territory of not only being girlfriend but needing the approval of children…
I loved Abi. She knows what she wants in life, and despite everything, is trying her hardest, even though there are successes all around her, sometimes ready to make her vow never to cross a stage again. And to be thrown into the role of ‘Dad’s new girlfriend’, well, that’s gotta be pretty tough for someone who never thought they wanted kids!
There is a great supporting cast, including Will, her new beau, who could be The One, but with some excess baggage.
The kids, Elle and Elsie are two opposite characters, but they truly make Abi work for her own money, Elle especially.
But I loved Abi’s father. Only has a small role within the book, but he is a star, ever her cheerleader, and someone who has his own mini-character arc within the book.
This a good insight into the stand-up comedy circuit gigs and how those comedians struggle to make it big… if only it were that easy to just stand on stage and rattle off a few jokes…
A great read. Again. Well done, Andi Oshi!
Many thanks to NetGalley and HQ for an ARC.

Releasing 20th July, 2023

A Midlife Gamble by Cary J. Hansson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was honoured to be sent an ARC of this book to complete the Midlife trilogy I have devoured.
It is always great to revisit characters who feel like old friends, and this one is no different.
We meet Kat, Helen and Caro again, after that fateful holiday, where their friendship showed its frailty after thirty years.
However, friendship, true friendship, can overcome even the biggest hurdles.
There are old moments revisited, new battles to overcome, as well as a brilliant surprise trip to Vegas, where so much happens.
Ultimately a book about friendship, growing older and how friendships have to change, and the importance of trust and honesty.
Rather like the beautiful Japanese are of Kintsugi, repairing broken things with threads of gold, we see the fragments of this friendship slowly being glued back together with gold… but is gold strong enough to keep it together?

Published 17th May, 2023

What Would Jane Austen Do? by Linda Corbett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You can read my review soon when the lovey Linda comes to visit me for a Book & A Brew with Ritu!

Releasing 16th June, 2023

Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, so I admit to having this on my TBR shelf a tad longer than I wanted, but finally got to read it, and I enjoyed it!
Kareena is older than the average Single Indian Female and has a deadline looming. If she doesn’t get engaged or married, she forfeits a chunk of money that would help her with her dream of buying a certain house.
Prem is a cardiologist who might mend broken hearts but not emotionally broken ones. He has no belief in love, even though that’s what his name stands for. He’s about to lose grasp of an investor through an unfortunate incident that went viral, and his dreams of a special medical centre are fading.
Of course, they meet/clash/whatever you call it.
And they find themselves in a bit of a predicament, where they could use each other, only they appear to hate one another and have totally opposite views on love and marriage.
But do they?
Honestly, I love a book with South Asian characters. I love the whole familial dynamics at play, being able to recognise so many of the characteristics of different members of the extended family and the expectations put upon youngsters by the elders.
Nisha Sharma has written a great story here with the Shakespearean classic, Taming of the Shrew, as the backbone of the story.
There is much to love, a fantastic extended cast of characters, and the promise of more stories spun around the same faces you root for.
Oh, and it is a bit steamy, too, if you catch my drift! If you can look beyond a rather funny nickname for a certain appendage, you will surely enjoy!

Instant Karma by Kay Bratt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adore these Hart’s Ridge books by Kay Bratt and was thrilled to get a copy of Instant Karma, book 5 in the series, as an ARC.
This time, along with keeping up with Taylor Gray, the main character whose thread runs through all these books, we get to know more about her sister, Jo, and her son. Until now, readers haven’t had a chance to get to know much about her, other than that she is a single mother, so getting the background on her was another stepping stone to being immersed in the Gray family.
It was wonderful to see how Kate, Taylor’s mother, continues to build on her dream of an animal sanctuary, meaning we get to meet all wonderful animals, too!
Since there is always a crime or mystery to solve, we also have a chance to peep into the life of Faire, one of the long-term residents of Hart’s Reige, but someone who has become an almost recluse, with her bird, Baby, as her main company. Fearful of a lonely future, with not much money left in her coffers, Faire offers a room in her house to a lodge, which brings more than just rent money to the table.
Another truly wonderful read!
I can’t wait for number 6, and am even more excited knowing there are 8 in total!

Releasing 29th July, 2023, Kiltie will be joining me for another Book & A Brew, though it might be with Bubbles!

Another ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me! I will share the review with you in that post!

The List by Yomi Adegoke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ola and Michael are the #BlackLove poster couple. A hot, young pairing who seems to have it all, with just weeks to their wedding, when Ola finds something extremely disturbing about her fiance.
Someone on Twitter has been collating a Google Spreadsheet named The List, with men on there deemed toxic.
And her man is on there.
A topical book, given all the slurs and allegations that get slung around due to the internet’s openness, damaging innocent people’s reputations.
Equally as important is the fact that though some men may be innocent, there are plenty who aren’t, yet still get the chance to either sweep accusations under the carpet or, within a few months, have managed to shine their tarnished images once again and appear unblemished.
I enjoyed this book, and though the middle may have been a little slower, the build-up was fantastic, and the ending… well. Wow. Honestly wasn’t expecting that!
Many thanks to NetGalley and 4th Estate for an ARC.

Releasing 20th July, 2023

A Game of Romance and Ruin by Ruby Roe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My, oh my, Ruby Roe, you naughty girl!
I thought the first book was risque, but I was mistaken.
Graphic Sapphic taken to another level!
A Game of R&R is book two in the Girl Games series, and though it could be read as a stand-alone, it is better if you read the first to get the backstory, which is referred to on multiple occasions throughout book 2.
The story is an extremely steamy but emotional second chance romance for Stirling and Morrigan, who have a chequered history with one another.
One is a scorned lover, the other a hacked-off princess. But they both feel a magnetic pull between them, regardless of all situations. And as a reader, we feel that pull, too!
Roe’s world-building is fantastically intricate, and the level of detail involved in the story is mindblowing.
I loved getting back into this series,
It had me gripped from the off.
But choose carefully where you are sitting to read it! 🥵🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️

Releasing 22nd June, 2023

Releasing 11h July, 2023

No review yet as Gillian and her fab newest release will be featured on a Book & A Brew with Ritu in the near future!

Releasing 2nd October, 2023.

Another one where I will hold my review until Jodie visits for a Book & a Brew with Ritu in September! Another lovely. quick read!

So, tell me what you have been reading, and what caught your eye from the above!

Keep Her Secret by Mark Edwards @mredwards  #BlogTour #BookReview @fmcmassociates

Today I am bringing you a fantastic psychological thriller by four million copy best selling author Mark Edwards, Keep Her Secrets.

The Blurb

The perfect girlfriend. The dream holiday. The most deadly secret …

Standing on top of a mountain in Iceland, Matthew can’t believe his luck. Not only is he finally taking the trip of his dreams, but joining him for the trip is his college girlfriend, Helena. He knew the moment he saw her at their college reunion, after all those years, that he wanted a second chance. While they’ve only been back together for a week,
he knows this is it. She’s the one. That is, until Helena takes one step back, trying to get the perfect picture, and falls …
As Matthew scrambles to the edge he finds Helena precariously hooked by her rucksack belt on a small ledge. Desperate to get help, Matthew nearly misses Helena cry, ‘I deserve this’, just before she is rescued.
Suddenly Matthew’s perfect girlfriend isn’t looking so perfect after all… but when she confesses her secret to him, he knows he’ll do anything to keep her safe. Only to discover that he wasn’t the only one listening to her confession.

With blackmail in the air, Matthew must decide – how far is too far to keep her secret?

My Review

Keep Her Secret by Mark Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another captivating read by best-selling psychological thriller author Mark Edwards!
Matthew is in a good place, having rekindled his university romance with his old girlfriend, Helena.
Only, on a trip to Iceland, faced with losing her life, Helena confesses to something which has far-reaching consequences for both their lives.
I can’t say much more about the story because then I would give the twists away, but I can say that I was hooked from the moment I picked this book up! I was reading in the bath, as you do, and before I knew it, the water was cold, and I was nearly at page one hundred! Needless to say, it didn’t take me long at all to finish this book!
I won’t say it was an easy read – which psychological thriller is? But it swallowed you whole, and you just want to keep reading to find out which twist will be revealed next!
There were moments I felt so sorry for Helena, but then doubts crept in and would get swept away again… And I did feel for Matthew, dragged into a situation he would never have been in had he not met Helena again after all these years.
But the ending. Wow.
And I always thought rollercoasters had a firm end in sight…

About the Author

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people. He has sold over 4 million books since his first solo novel, The Magpies, was published in 2013 and has topped the bestseller lists
numerous times. His other novels include Follow You Home, Here To Stay and The House Guest. He has also published six books co-authored with Louise Voss. His most recent book is The Hollows, published in July 2021.
Mark lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and two cats.

He tweets at @MrEdwards


Book and a Brew with Ritu – Instant Karma Book 5 in the Hart’s Ridge Series by @kaybratt #NewRelease #BookReview #BookAndABrew

Yes, we are back with another Book & A Brew with Ritu post!.

Today, I am thrilled to welcome a dear friend and hugely prolific author, Kay Bratt, to my blog for a cuppa and a bit of a chat about all things bookish, but especially her latest release, Instant Karma, book five in her Hart’s Ridge series. It’s out TODAY!

Hello, and welcome to But I Smile Anyway, Kay! I will apologise in advance, but I am feeling a fangirl moment happening over here! Let’s get you set with a drink first. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or maybe a masala chai. I do have a Tassimo if you prefer a fancy coffee? Or maybe a sweet, iced tea? I know that is big over the pond, and I have been practising!

Ha! You know how I love my Southern sweet tea! But I grew up drinking hot tea, black with tons of sugar, and it’s still my comfort drink. Let’s go with that.

We can have some lovely homemade biscuits or my daughter, Lil Princess made fairy cakes! If you’re feeling adventurous, I can bring out some pakoras!

I’m all about fairies! Have you seen some of my fairy houses I’ve put out this year? I really do it for the grandkids. Making those memories of the silly Nana who had fairy houses tucked around her yard and fairy doors on trees.

Oh, what a special thing to do! Well then, it better be fairy cakes!

I am so thrilled to have you over, Kay. You have been a real inspiration to me over the last few years. When I was invited to join the Book Tribe group on Facebook by Amanda Prowse (My Book Friends, now), I didn’t realise how many friendships I would make, as well as learning about so many more amazing authors, you being one! I’ve read many of your books, and you write on such varied themes. Can you tell us a little bit about how and why you started writing?

First, let me say that when you talk about making friends with us authors, you really mean it. It’s not just an author/reader relationship. We are truly friends and can feel the love you send over the pond to most of us. And we were so happy to welcome you into the circle of being a published author! You worked so hard on your first book, and it was exciting to see it so well received.

Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. 😊

Like you, as a child, I loved to write short stories and poetry.

Do you remember your first short story? Tell us about it!

You know, I don’t remember my exact first story, but I will never forget an early poem which was about the relationship between my brother and me as children! I wrote it when I was around 9 years old. It was a typical love-hate relationship, so the poem showed that, too! And one memorable story I wrote was a fictional account of getting married and how I was feeling as a young British Asian girl. It won Highly Commended in a writing competition at school, too! I guess that segued into my Chickpea Curry Lit-style novels!

I remember mine! It was written when I was 11. My sister and I had just gone through a terrible tragedy in which we saw our best friend mowed down and killed by a car as we were all crossing the highway. The teacher knew I was shut down and asked me to write it out, to express it on paper.

I’ve always found that writing my feelings out helps immensely, so I am not bogged down with negative or worrying thoughts or energies. I guess it is why I blog.

As a young adult, journaling was the way that I worked through the hard things I was dealing with in life. I took that into my adulthood, and when I spent nearly five years living in China and volunteering in the local orphanage, those journal entries became my first published book, called Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope. A few years later, I was back on home ground and off and running with my writing career. I now have 31 books published, with three more to come before the end of 2023.

You really are an inspiration to me, Kay. And you’ve explored quite a range of genres in your writing too. Is there a favourite of the different genres you have written?

While now I concentrate on writing women’s fiction and small-town mystery, I truly loved writing historical fiction set during the Cultural Revolution in China in the mid to late 60s. The research I lost myself in was fascinating, especially because of China’s closed-door policy. Most of the world had no idea about the travesties that were happening there at the time. That book is called The Palest Ink.

Ritu, when writing your first novel, did you enjoy the research you put into it?

I did. A lot of the background, including locations and general information, as well as stigmas and family relationships, were things I live with daily. Though none of the books I write are autobiographical in any way, there is still a lot of ‘me’ in them. But I did research to make sure my memory wasn’t skewed since the books are set in the year 2000 and onwards. It was like a trip down memory lane, getting old photos out, as well as talking to different people to make sure I was on the right track. With my soon-to-be-released book, Straight As a Jalebi, given the MM romance within it, I also had to research India Legislation, as well as get sensitivity readers to make sure I was on the right track. And now, I am interviewing people to help me formulate the basis of the storyline for book three!

I would love to give you a little space to talk about the fantastic work you do with rescuing and fostering animals, especially about your special fur babies.  I know they take up a huge space in your heart, as well as a lot of your time. It amazes me how you still manage to write so much, given all you do for them!

I’m a director with a small rescue called Yorkie Rescue of the Carolinas, and I use my platform to advocate for displaced pups. We have also fostered more than a dozen dogs, with some of them ending up permanent Bratt Pack members. I’ve been known to put myself in dangerous situations to make life better for a dog and have negotiated myself out of trouble for it more than I can count.

I love to read the positive updates, but it can break a person’s heart when you post about some of the pups in need of homes!

I always like to ask about your writing space. Is it somewhere peaceful, or are you overrun with your fur babies?

Because I’m an empty nester, it’s peaceful for the most part, but my three fur kids are always with me in my office. They nudge me now and then to remind me to take a break and walk around, take them outside and stretch our legs.

Ritu, what is your writing space like?

I am lucky enough to have a lovely writing and reading space on a floor of my own in our home! We live in a dormer bungalow which means most of the living space is downstairs. However, the attic was converted into a strange-shaped room with a little toilet up there, too. Usually, I can be up here undisturbed, but Sonu Singh does like to come and sit with me, either to keep me company or to miaow at me, asking for treats! Sometimes he commandeers my chair or gets on the desk to block my work, but for the most part, he lays there being my furry muse!

Now, I could talk about animals all day. I know Sonu Singh would love that, but the reason you are here is so we can have a little catch-up about your latest release, Instant Karma. This is the fifth book in an eight-book series, set in the fictional town of Hart’s Ridge. I have loved each of the books so far. Again, this is a genre different to your past books. Each one has a link to a crime story that might or might not be inspired by a real event. How do you go about researching these crimes?

The research comes naturally to me because I’m a true crime addict! I love shows like Forensic Files, 48 Hours, Snapped, and all those good ones. For the first book in the series, I was on the interstate doing a six-hour round trip to pick up grandkids and was listening to HLN on satellite radio and heard the episode about a girl who was driving home from work and missing. I thought it would make a great novel, and my character, Joni Stott, was born.

Oh, it was a great read, so your inspiration worked well!

I love Taylor Gray, the female main character who is the thread to tie all the books together. I love how you have woven her character development into each book, as well as introducing us to the different members of her family as the series develops. Do you feel a special affinity to any of them, in particular?

Taylor is probably the one I connect with the most, as from the time I was growing up until I turned around 50, I was the sibling that was the natural-born peacemaker and tried to bring everyone together for family events. I finally realized that it took too much of my own emotional energy, and I eventually let the pieces of our fractured family fall where they may.

Taylor came from a broken family, and I did too, and like her, I worked hard to climb out of the mire and make something of myself. I have this one vivid memory that lingers around me all the time. I was around eighteen and had fled the apartment that I shared with my husband after he’d physically attacked me. He took my purse, my car keys, and there weren’t cell phones then. I ended up sitting outside a gas station on the curb, crying as I hugged my knees and wished I had somewhere safe to go. People passed me, looking at my face, then looking away quickly. I wished so badly that one would stop and just ask if they could help.

I was financially broke and emotionally broken, but something inside me wouldn’t let me give up. I went back and did another five years with my abuser, but I kept improving myself as I worked through each situation. Now, three decades later, I’m married to a wonderful man (just had our 29th anniversary). I’ve had a successful career in Human Resources, a fulfilling mission in China, and I’ve sold over a million books.

Who would’ve thought!?

As I said, you are an inspiration!

Back to the Hart’s Ridge series, all three of Taylor’s sisters have tiny bits of personality from my own sisters, though I’ll never tell which ones to which sister! That could get me in a load of trouble! I do like to explore family issues that are loosely inspired by my own experiences. For example, you’ll see many of my books have a mother-daughter conflict and the journey to forgiveness they take, and I think that’s my soul yearning for a better relationship with my own mom. 

Ritu, does your book have any of your life experiences mirrored in the themes?

I think, as writers, there is always a bit of us in our writing. I can recognise traits that I have given to certain characters that may or may not mirror people I know, but there is no one character who is based on one person. Though the father figure, Mohinder has a lot of qualities like my own Pops. And I may have heard of events that inspire my stories, but none so far have mirrored my life or that of anyone I know. The third one will be closer to home as its main subject is infertility, and we went through quite a journey to fall pregnant. My two kids are my miracles. They are hard work as teens, but like blessings to us. While the story won’t be mine, it brings back a lot of feelings from a very tough time in my life, so is hard but also cathartic to write.

A bit of a topic change again! There are always dogs in the books, which I love, and this time we even get a horse and a special bird, too, called Baby. Do you try and write an animal character into each book you write?

I really don’t intentionally set out to write an animal character, but it sort of happens as I’m fleshing out the characters. Animals are a big part of my own life, and I think I can’t imagine a set of people where at least one of them doesn’t have a pet. Animals are such amazing gifts from God, put here to bring people comfort.

Oh, I 100% agree with you on that! Sonu Singh has been a godsend to us, and we would love a canine companion, but while we are all working or at school, it would be unfair to have a pet who has to be carted to care everyday or home alone for long times. We just enjoy any time we get with friends and the neighbour’s pups!

I was honoured and thrilled to have a little mention as a character in book 4, Borrowed Time (check me out as a lawyer!), and I saw Ritu mentioned at the beginning of this book, too. Thank you for that, Kay. You truly made my day when I read that! She even had curly hair and loved to smile!

Yes! I had fun putting you in there, Ritu! I’m so glad you recognized her, and hopefully, you picked up on the soft and encouraging personality I gave her that mirrors yours!

You’re making me blush!

Do your books include any cameos from your real-life family or friends? Don’t you find yourself sometimes wanting to stick someone in there and be mean to them? (ha .. kidding..maybe)

Hee hee! Cheeky! There are so many times when I want to, but I just know it will get back to that person in a roundabout way! I did tell my lovely beautician that a character in book three may have a similarity to her… but no meanness!

Now, I know there are at least three books left in the series. Are these all you are working on at the moment, or do you have other projects on the go? (I don’t know how you do it all, honestly!) I know my readers would love to know!

Nope! I’m also working on writing a prequel to the series, as well as a book in an upcoming multi-author series. This is the year of writing myself into the ground, but I have big plans to relax a bit more next year. My close friend tells me I say that every year, but we’ll see!

I look forward to that! And I also agree that you need to have a little breathing space, as well, as much as I love your books, I know how much it can take out of you to write.

Looks like your teacup is empty there. I would offer you a top-up, but with our time differences, I know it may be hard to stay up for another!

Thank you so much for popping over, Kay, it has been a pleasure to have you here on But I Smile Anyway. 😊

Very thankful that you invited me, Ritu, and happy you are in my life.

The feeling is mutual, Kay!

Peeps, I do hope you get the Hart’s Ridge bug, because it is a pleasure to catch!

Now, as I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to read an ARC of Instant Karma, so let me share the blurb and my review.

The Blurb

In Instant Karma, the fifth book of the Hart’s Ridge small-town mystery series by Kay Bratt, Deputy Taylor Gray is hoping for a break after the recent crime wave that hit her town. But when a stranger shows up unexpectedly, she realizes that danger never takes a holiday.

Meanwhile, Cate Gray is cautiously optimistic in her hope for a solid future, and when karma finally seems to be on her side, she dares to dream of her own happily ever after.

But in Hart’s Ridge, nothing is ever as it seems. As secrets are uncovered and tensions rise, readers will be on the edge of their seats, unable to put down this suspenseful tale.

If you’re a fan of small-town mysteries with well-drawn characters and an engrossing plot, then you won’t want to miss Instant Karma, the latest book in the Hart’s Ridge series.

Instant Karma is book five of the new Hart’s Ridge small-town mystery series, written by Kay Bratt, million-copy best-selling author of Wish Me Home and True to Me.

My Review

Instant Karma by Kay Bratt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adore these Hart’s Ridge books by Kay Bratt and was thrilled to get a copy of Instant Karma, book 5 in the series, as an ARC.
This time, along with keeping up with Taylor Gray, the main character whose thread runs through all these books, we get to know more about her sister, Jo, and her son. Until now, readers haven’t had a chance to get to know much about her, other than that she is a single mother, so getting the background on her was another stepping stone to being immersed in the Gray family.
It was wonderful to see how Kate, Taylor’s mother, continues to build on her dream of an animal sanctuary, meaning we get to meet all wonderful animals, too!
Since there is always a crime or mystery to solve, we also have a chance to peep into the life of Faire, one of the long-term residents of Hart’s Reige, but someone who has become an almost recluse, with her bird, Baby, as her main company. Fearful of a lonely future, with not much money left in her coffers, Faire offers a room in her house to a lodge, which brings more than just rent money to the table.
Another truly wonderful read!
I can’t wait for number 6, and am even more excited knowing there are 8 in total!

Buy a copy of Just Friends For Now, HERE!

Author Bio

As a writer, Kay used writing to help her navigate a tumultuous childhood, followed by a decade of abuse as an adult. After working her way through the hard years, Kay emerged a survivor and a pursuer of peace–and finally found the courage to share her stories. She is the author of more than a dozen full length books, with ten of those published by Lake Union Publishing. Kay writes women’s fiction and historical fiction, and her books have fueled many exciting book club discussions. Her works have been translated into German, Korean, Chinese, Czechoslovakian, and Estonian.

As a rescuer, Kay currently focuses her efforts on animal rescue and is the Director of Advocacy for Yorkie Rescue of the Carolinas. As a child advocate, she spent a number of years volunteering in a Chinese orphanage, as well as provided assistance for several nonprofit organizations that support children in China, including An Orphan’s Wish (AOW), Pearl River Outreach, and Love Without Boundaries. In the USA, she actively served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children in Georgia, and spear-headed numerous outreach programs for underprivileged children in the South Carolina area.

As a wanderer, Kay has lived in nearly three dozen different homes, on two continents and in states from coast to coast in the USA. She’s traveled to Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Philippines, Central America, Bahamas, and Australia. Currently she and her soulmate of more than 25 years enjoy life in their forever home on the banks of Lake Hartwell in Georgia, USA.
Kay has been described as southern, spicy, and a little sassy. Social media forces her to overshare and you don’t want to miss some of the antics that goes on with her and the Bratt Pack.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and then buckle up and enjoy the ride. You can find a full list of her published works at — To be notified when new books are released, please sign up for my monthly email newsletter at

Book and a Brew with Ritu – Just Friends For Now by @Lucy_K_Author @ChocLituk #NewRelease #BookReview #BookAndABrew

Yes, we are back with another Book & A Brew with Ritu post!.

Today, I am thrilled to welcome fabulous Rom-Com author, and friend of mine, Lucy Keeling to my blog for a cuppa and a bit of a chat about all things writerly, especially her newest release, Just Friends for Now. It’s out TODAY!

Hello, and welcome to But I Smile Anyway, Lucy! Let’s get you set with a drink first. Now would you prefer a coffee of some sort? I have a Tassimo machine. I can stretch to that! Or maybe a cup of tea, a chai latte, or would you like to be brave and have a traditional homemade Indian masala tea? (Maybe we should do a Mimosa brunch like the one served in Lulu’s!)

Well, I would love to try an Indian masala tea, especially after reading your books, it sounds delicious. Although maybe after our catch up, we should go and do a bottomless brunch somewhere and just have all the giggles.

Oh, my goodness, that would be such fun! We have to, most definitely, one day! But for now, if we’re going masala tea, I can bust out the samosas and pakoras (fried potato and vegetable fritters), but I have biscuits, specifically shortbread, too!

I adore samosas and pakoras so absolutely count me in! But and this will come as absolutely no surprise I also love biscuits so I’ll have whatever you’re having, don’t go to any trouble just for me.

Right, well I’ll just lay a whole spread out, then!

Now that first, inevitable question… Why writing? Was it always a dream? How did you end up getting published?

I’ve always written, or at least attempted to. In fact, I’m now wondering if I wrote because I have always been obsessed with stationery (and therefore would ask for stationery every birthday) or if I’m obsessed with stationery because I’ve always been a writer. (Fellow stationery addict, here. I 100% understand your obsession!)

As for how I ended up being published, well…

My publisher was running a competition. I entered, and although I only came in second place, I was offered a three-book contract as a result. Woohoo! It makes it sound like it’s so easy, so what I will add, if that’s ok, is that for many years I honestly didn’t know you could plan a novel. I really thought that an author would sit at a desk, be inspired, and the words would just flow. So every single attempt at writing, I’d run out of steam around Chapter 5. When I discovered that you could plan it out, it completely changed everything. There are so many misconceptions out there about writing a novel, I know! I think I was the same at first, but now, in book three, I have realised I can’t be a Pantser all the time. I am now a Plan-tser!

I love your Just Friends Series! Can you tell me where your passion for writing Rom-Coms stems from?

Firstly thank you so much. I still can’t get over the fact that people actually read my stories.

But why romcoms? Well, I adore reading them. It’s that simple. I’ve loved reading them and watching them. In fact, I remember being like 10, maybe, and my favourite movie was Overboard – Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn. In fact, it probably is still one of my faves, to be honest. Do you like watching Romcoms, and if yes, do you have a fave?

I do indeed love them! I love both Western ones and Bollywood ones, too! But my all-time fave has to be Pretty Woman! I could watch it over and over!

Do you have a favourite from the books you have written so far?

Ohhhh, I don’t know if I can pick a favourite. Can you pick one of yours? What I will say is that there’s something in each book that I’ve really loved exploring. In the first one, I wanted to look at how the female love interest can be the one that makes the big gesture. The second one was exploring how relationships, friends or romantic, can help people grow. Mya’s story in the third was looking at strong women and how they don’t have to change when they fall in love. Book 4 this one is looking at barriers that we might put in our way. A friend of mine once told me to get out of my own way, and I’ve sort of explored that. However, as well as themes, I also go trope heavy. So we have book 1 – best friend’s brother. Book 2- fake dating. Book 3 – Enemies to lovers, competitors even! Book 4 – bang to get it out of their systems, with a grumpy sunshine combo. And I have LOVED every single trope! Do you have a favourite trope or one that you’d love to write about?

Oh, I know, Lucy, it is a hard question and perhaps very cheeky of me to ask! I think Marriage Unarranged will always have a special place in my heart because it took me so long to write and launched my dream. I feel book 3 will be very dear to me because the subject matter is close to my heart… I am not big on writing to trope, as such, but I do love Enemies to Lovers and Second Chance Romances.

Where do you like to write?  Do you have a special room at home, or are you one who is spread across the dining room table, like I was when I wrote my first book?

I have a little desk in my bedroom, but like you, my first two books were written on the kitchen table. It was only when I was sent home, in the pandemic that I added a desk to the bedroom, and there you have it. I’m a lot closer to the post-its but further away from the tea and biscuits. So….

Certain distractions we have to try and fight… But I make it worse by having a stash of snacks in my writing room! (And I wonder why my clothes are getting ever tighter…)

We have known each other for a while now. I think I ‘met’ you on Twitter first during Lockdown, then it extended to Facebook and, The Gram, and TikTok, too. How do you cope with the pressures of keeping on top of all the different social media channels you are active on? (I’m constantly juggling life with keeping up to date on my blog, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with a few visits to TikTok, and trying to use the time wisely to write, too!)

Firstly, you are a joy to know virtually, and one day, I hope to meet in real life!

Aw, Lucy! You are such a sweetheart! And,yes! We need to do that bottomless brunch! I would love to meet you properly!

But, oh, my days there, is so much to do, Ritu! I know you’re the same as me, working as well as writing, and then the social media stuff as well, it’s a lot. I wish I knew the secret, I really do, but I don’t. But I can tell you that because of the lack of time, when I do post, I’m usually really honest. Too honest. Much too honest. I’m a complete oversharer. I know that some people can curate an online image, but no, sorry, what you see is very much what you get. And it’s almost always too much, lol. Should anyone want an unfiltered Lucy Keeling in their lives, their best heading to my Instagram, lol.

I LOVE the unfiltered Lucy Keeling!!!

Coming back to the Just Friends series, how did it feel to finally be writing about the fab four again?

Well, as my contract was for three books and you’ll know from book 1 my intention was to make sure each of the main female leads were going to have their HEA. But pandemic times and all that meant that there was a slight delay in book 4 coming out (sorry again to those that were waiting).  While I’m so excited for everyone to read about Paige, I am really sad that the series is over, but I’m hoping I’ve given them all a lovely HEA send-off. (You have done the series proud!)

And this is your first stab at writing FF romance, with a few sizzling scenes, too! Dare I ask, what kind of research was needed for that? Did you launch into reading more sapphic books, or talk to women, to get a realistic feel?

Hahaha. Lots of reading, lots of research, and lots of chats with people that didn’t mind me being a little bit nosey. For me, it’s really important that as an author, I reflect the world around me. The world around me includes the LGBTQ+ community. But I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous.  

I know that feeling, what with my MM romance in Book 2! It is nerve-wracking, but, I hope, what with my great sensitivity readers, and my other advance readers (Thank you, Lucy!), that I have done the relationship, and story justice!

Paige has a psychic ability in this series. Do you know anyone who has this gift? If you did, how would you use it? (Aside from knowing exactly where your next release would sit in the best seller’s chart – which it will!)

I don’t or I don’t think I do. I spent too long thinking about this and realised I was massively overthinking it and actually, if I had like any sort of psychic ability, I’d use it to get a lottery win. Sorry, I know that’s boring, lol. What about you?

I think the Lottery win would be up at the top, somewhere, too, as well as seeing what life has in store for my kids, so I can help guide them…

I was lucky enough to read an arc of Just Friends For Now and truly enjoyed it (Review follows after the Q&A). I feel sad that it is the end of the series. I loved getting to know Paige, Sophie, Polly and Mya. I’d love to see a spin-off about the adventures of Connie! But, if that isn’t available, can you share anything with our readers about what is in the pipeline for you and any future releases?

Did it work for you as an end-of-series book? It did! I was really trying to finish it in a way that it was rounded off for all of them.

How brilliant is Connie! One of my all-time favourite characters to write. She is fabulous!

I’m currently trying to figure out what to write next. I have two ideas, and I just don’t know which one to focus on. Does this ever happen to you? How do you know what to work on?  

I have a little notebook with ideas I have jotted down, and right now, the focus is on the release of book two, Straight As A Jalebi, and writing the first draft of Book three. After that, I am not sure what I will concentrate on. I have a couple of ideas for novels or novellas spinning off from the Ristay Series, but I also have a fairytale retelling which I started, using the Indian part of me as inspiration for the story… That is something I would love to finish.

Oh! Looks like the cups are empty, and the plates, too!

Lucy, it has been a pleasure having you over for a Book & A Brew chinwag!

And I also want to add a huge thank you for your support over this whole series, I’m so grateful Ritu, thank you so much x

It has always been, and always will be, a pleasure, my dear friend. 😊

Peeps, honestly, you need to go and start the Just Friends series if you haven’t already. It is such fun!

Now, as I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to read an ARC of Just Friends for Now, so let me share the blurb and my review.

The Blurb

Just friends for now … but how about later?

Bar owner Paige can’t deny that there’s just something about Melanie and her prim and proper librarian look that messes with her mojo. But Melanie is no librarian; she owns Lulu, the new super Instagrammable brunch spot in town, boasting bottomless mimosas and prime selfie opportunities. If anything, Melanie and Paige should be rivals, probably not friends – and definitely not anything else.

But when they both team up to work on a community project, and then Melanie finds Lulu the subject of a malicious online review campaign, they might find that staying just friends is going to be a little trickier than either of them could have imagined …

Book 4 in the Friends series, but it can be read as a standalone novel. This is Paige and Melanie’s story.

My Review

Just Friends for Now by Lucy Keeling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was thrilled when I heard there was a fourth in the Just Friends series by fabulous author Lucy Keeling, and I sped through it!
Each book in the series centres on a different friend in a tight circle of four, and Just Friends for Now is about Paige (or Book as her gran, Connie, calls her – I LOVE that!) and her love life.
Paige owns Barbarella’s, a bar, and has a kind of psychic gift that has been playing up recently. She is feeling broken. She hasn’t been in a relationship for a while, but the entrance of a new business owner, setting up another establishment nearby gets her hackles up.
Or at least she thinks that’s what is happening.
Then we have Melanie, the competition. She’s stressed. Her business, Lulu’s, seems to be going well, but she is on the go constantly, what with helping her sister raise her son, as well. Then there is the friction she feels emanating from that other local bar owner, Paige…
I won’t tell you what happens. Otherwise, why would you go and grab your own copy? Needless to say, I loved this FF romance, with plenty of sizzle and drama and a fantastic conclusion!
It was great to catch up with the rest of the gang, Sophie, Mya and Polly, and seeing how the friends all get together to help the latest one of them in a pickle.
Several other characters we get to know, including Connie, Paige’s Gran, and Cleo, Melanie’s bar manager, are just fantastic. Real feisty women!
I have to admit to being rather sad about the fact that it is the end of a much-loved series, but the epilogue made me all warm and fuzzy, and I guess we can only hope that maybe, just maybe, Lucy Keeling might want to resurrect some of these characters in the future…

Buy a copy of Just Friends For Now, HERE!

Author Bio

Lucy Keeling is an author writing fun, sexy, stories with all of the happily ever afters.

When she’s not typing at the kitchen table, she’s arranging and then re-arranging to see her friends for the occasional spot of day drinking.

Lucy is currently writing the third book in a Contemporary Romance series, the first of which was Runner-Up in ChocLit’s ‘Search for a Star’ competition. This story has become her romantic comedy debut ‘Make It Up To You’. The second book in the series ‘Just Friends’ has been described as ‘unputdownable’ and ‘A fabulous will they won’t they love story with moments of hilarity sprinkled throughout’ and is available now.

Follow Lucy on her Social Media Channels – She’s lots of fun, especially on TikTok and Instagram!



Amazon: Author Page

Instagram: @lucy_k_author


Book & A Brew with Ritu and @LeonieMAuthor A Taste of Italian Sunshine #BlogTour #BookReview @rararesources @BoldwoodBooks #BookAndABrew

I am so pleased to be on the tour for my friend Leonie Mack’s latest release, A Taste of Italian Sunshine!

And she even joined me for a Book & A Brew, too!

Today, I have a lovely visitor to my Book & A Brew with Ritu segment, and that is Leonie Mack, talking about all things writing and her newest release, A Taste of Italian Sunshine.

Hello, and welcome to But I Smile Anyway, Leonie! Let’s get you set with a drink, first. What would you like?

I can offer you a typical English tea, or, if you fancy a little something different, I can always brew up some masala tea… or a coffee if you please?

Or do we skip the hot drinks and sip some prosecco? I feel that might be more appropriate, given your latest release! I have my usual samosas and pakoras, which might be an interesting combo with the prosecco, or there are always biscuits if you prefer a hot beverage.

If we were in Italy we’d probably be dipping our biscuits in coffee! But prosecco actually pairs very well with well-spiced food, so perhaps we should stick with a little tipple to accompany those samosas and pakoras (how much do I love pakoras by the way!)

I’m loving that idea! (pops a cork…)

Now, I think you and I connected first through Anita Faulkner’s FaceBook group, Chicklit & Prosecco. It’s a wonderful place to chat, isn’t it, and to get support from other authors and romance fans?

Yes, that group is also part of the reason I decided to write a book about the prosecco region of Italy! Writing is sometimes an isolating activity. You spend so much time in your own head, but it’s important to share the journey however we can. Finding people who write similar stories is so important, even if we often don’t live in the same places.

You are so right there. We need our little writerly community, especially for romance, nowadays.

I am amazed, six books in the space of the last three years. It took me eighteen years to write my first book! How have you managed to write so much over the last few years?

I was quite lucky with the timing of my first book contract. We’d not long moved countries, and I’d just settled my daughter into Kindergarten, so I could take some time out from working in the usual sense to kick-start my writing career. I’ve also been very lucky that my publisher Boldwood Books, has done amazing things in the industry and has been very supportive (I’m on my third contract). But I get quite obsessive about my research and writing, and once I’ve got a plot and some characters settled, they tend to pour out and I’ll sit at my laptop day and night until it’s finished (sorry, family!)

You’re lucky to have a supportive family. I do, too, though they don’t always get the other part of the writing and publishing process: the promotion and networking online… It is hard to explain that I am not just browsing Instagram and TikTok, but that I am actually having valuable interactions with like-minded folk and prospective readers of my own book!

So, do you have a favourite out of your book babies?

I love all of my characters for different reasons, but my favourites so far have been this book, Italian Sunshine, and We’ll Always Have Venice. These two were just super fun to write, and the characters kind of wrote themselves. Some characters take longer to become clear to me, and those books are always a bit harder to write.

I agree that if you connect personally with the characters and story, it flows so easily.

I always ask this question. Do you have a special place where you write? An office, writing room/nook, or are you someone who takes their laptop or notebook and pen everywhere, writing wherever you go?

I have written a lot of words on trains over the past few years! I find that, somehow, the best to get the words flowing. I wrote my first few books at a desk either in my bedroom or in the living room (with kids home during lockdowns, that wasn’t always easy). We moved last year, and our new house has a little room that’s supposed to be sort of storage off the kitchen or space for a sewing machine or something (old-fashioned housewife’s room!), but it’s become my office! It’s just big enough for bookshelves, my desk and the dog’s bed.

I love that! A little secret… my writing room wasn’t meant to be mine, either! It was earmarked as my Hubby’s home office, since he works from home more often, and a smaller box room would have been my cubby hole. When we moved in, the internet connection wouldn’t reach upstairs where this room is, and so he had to camp out in the downstairs room, and I nabbed it! It worked out quite well, thought because if he is in there for long periods of time, he has a nice view of the garden, whereas even though I ‘d like to be in here more often, I don’t have a much time, so the lack of windows isn’t a problem for me! It is an attic conversion so there are a couple of velux windows…

I’ve read some of your books (others are on my Kindle waiting to be read!), and there is a heavy focus on other countries, Italy especially. Is there any reason for the Italian fancy?

I love travel in general, so I always included interesting places in my writing, even before anything of mine was published. My first book takes readers to Miami, Mexico and the Caribbean coast of Colombia! After I wrote my second book, Italy Ever After, where my publisher suggested I might want to try writing about somewhere more well-known, the books kind of spawned each other! I had already done a lot of research about northern Italy, so Venice was a logical next choice (so much inspiration there!). The Venice books actually sparked the idea for A Taste of Italian Sunshine. Northern Italy isn’t too far from where I live, in central Germany, and we’ve been down there quite a few times now, so that’s another reason for the northern Italian settings.

Let’s bring it back to your latest Italian offering, A Taste of Italian Sunshine. Did you set this somewhere you visited? I found the descriptions extremely evocative.

This is the only book where I managed a dedicated research trip while I was still drafting. But I live in a wine region, too, so I watch the progress of the vines every day on my dog walks, which helped give this book some context, too. But it’s a fascinating region and is now recognised as UNESCO World Heritage because of the uniqueness of the hills and the way the vines are cultivated there. But yes, I dragged my kids down there with me last year in the school holidays, and we had a fun week hiking in the hills and paddling in the Piave River.

And has the research for the book made you more of a wine expert? Your main character, Jenn, is an expert in all things wine, and I can only imagine that you had to do a bit of tasting yourself to really get into the character.

Yes, there was tasting involved!! I get a little obsessive about everything that goes into my books, so I had a lot of fun reading up on prosecco, the flavour notes and the different ways the bubbles are produced. Reading descriptions of wines is also fascinating – a challenge like writing fiction, in some ways, to help people to imagine a taste. It was a lot of fun.

I can imagine that was fun!

I always ask this, too. What next? Is there a project you are working on now that you could drop some hints about?

I seem to be on a schedule of winter and summer books, so you can guess it’s a winter book coming up next! I’m just emerging from my writing cave on that one and will be going through edits soon. There’s a hint of a family mystery, which was something new for me, but of course, as usual, a heart-stopping romance as well, in a unique and superlative landscape…

That sounds intriguing! Peeps, you heard it here first! Something very interesting coming from Leoni, next!

Thank you so much for visiting me here on my blog, Leoni! We’ll have to do it again, soon!

Thank you for having me. 😊

The Blurb

Jenn has always prided herself on being a city girl – she insists on easy access to good coffee, great food from around the globe, not to mention an easy commute. So, when her job takes her to one of the most famous Italian wine regions in search of the perfect Prosecco, travelling to meetings on a tractor is a bit of a culture shock. Tiziano hates the city.  He was made for the mountains and vineyards of Veneto, and generations of his family have earnt their living from the land. But times are changing even in the Italian countryside, and the arrival of Jenn at his grandmother’s B&B opens up a window on a different world. Jenn has two months to persuade the Prosecco producers to trust her with their business, and Tiziano has one summer to persuade Jenn that there’s more to life than the rat race. But can a city girl and a country boy ever find enough in common to see a future beyond one long summer of sun… Let Leonie Mack magic you away to the vineyards of Veneto for one hot summer in Italy. Perfect for fans of Mandy Baggot, Jo Thomas and Sarah Morgan. ‘This book was very heartwarming, with a great set of characters, all taking place in a wonderful setting – what more could you want from a book…’ ‘This is one of those books where you want to get to the end, but you also don’t want it to end because you know you’re going to miss it when it’s done. A great read.’ ‘Ah, the romance – I really loved every moment, as the two main characters I’d really taken to my heart fought that magnetic pull between them when you really, really wanted them to have their happy ending. This was one of those perfect summer reads, but with a depth and emotion that was particularly satisfying – most definitely one I’d recommend to others.’ ‘A burst of pure joy… It has all the feel-good elements needed for an irresistible romance you can’t help but root for, even though you know the odds aren’t in their favour! ‘Beautifully written, this is a great take on the opposites attract theme.’

Buy it here:

My Review

A Taste of Italian Sunshine by Leonie Mack
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jenn is a woman on a mission. Having landed in Italy, she must prove to her boss (and crush) that she has a wealth of knowledge and ‘the nose’ to root out the perfect prosecco for the hotel chain she is working for.
There are several issues, though, including where she has to stay and that her ‘nose’ isn’t all that friendly with bubbles.
Oh, and there is a moody farmer, Tiziano, who keeps popping up wherever she is. A farmer with his own deep-rooted secrets and nightmares.
I loved our Korean heroine, fighting to balance her mother’s expectations for her life and career, as well as navigating certain cultural expectations that kept on popping into her mind at inopportune moments, with her true desires for her life and future, that became clearer as she spent the summer in Veneto, among the farming community and in the bosom of Tiziano’s family.
Lovely arcs for both main characters and fun to read!
I enjoyed this and read it pretty much in one sitting!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Boldwood Books for an ARC.

About the Author

Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great international locations and big feelings. She loves a happy ending and shares that love in every book she writes! She is a journalism graduate, a language nut and loves to travel, particularly on foot, by bike and by train. After growing up in Australia and living most of her adult life in London, she now lives in Germany, among the vineyards on the Main river.

Follow Leoni on Social Media!

Instagram: @leoniejmack


TikTok: @leoniejmack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

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