Small Deaths by @RijulaDas #BlogTour @FMcMAssociates

I am delighted to be a part of the book tour for the release of this translated title, Small By Rijula Das, published by Amazon Crossing.

Click image to order

In the red-light district of Shonagachhi, Lalee dreams of trading a life of
penury and violence for one of relative luxury as a better-paid ‘escort’.
Her long-standing client, Trilokeshwar ‘Tilu’ Shau is an erotic novelist
hopelessly in love with her.
When a young girl who lives next door to Lalee gets brutally murdered, a spiral
of deceit and crime begins to disturb the fragile stability of this underworld’s
existence. One day, without notice, Lalee’s employer and landlady, the
formidable Shefali Madam, decrees that she must now service wealthier
clients at plush venues outside the familiar walls of the brothel. But the new
job is fraught with unknown hazards and drives Lalee into a nefarious web of
prostitution, pimps, sex rings, cults and unimaginable secrets that endanger
her life and that of numerous women like her.
As the local Sex Workers’ Collective’s protests against government and police
inaction and calls for justice for the deceased girl gain fervour, Tilu Shau must
embark on a life-altering misadventure to ensure Lalee does not meet a
similarly savage fate.
Winner of the 2021 Tata Literature Live! First Book Award – Fiction
Longlisted for The JCB Prize for Literature 2021
SMALL DEATHS
Rijula Das
Set in Calcutta’s most fabled neighbourhood, Small Deaths is a literary noir
as absorbing as it is heart-wrenching, holding within it an unforgettable
story of our society’s outcasts and marking the arrival of a riveting new
writer.

My Review

Small Deaths by Rijula Das


I was intrigued by this book after reading the blurb I was sent.
A book centred around the oldest profession in time, set in the town of Shonagachhi, Calcutta, in India.
We start by getting to know Tilu, an aspiring author of erotica who wants to get better recognition for more literary work. He visits the Blue Lotus in Shonagachhi whenever he can afford it to meet Lalee, his favourite concubine.
A visit there ends with the other inhabitants of the house finding the body of one of the girls who lives among them.
What follows is a tale of true sadness. These women don’t choose to be dragged into prostitution; however, once there, they are estranged from their loved ones due to the shame of the work they have been made to do. The other girls become their families. But nothing can stop the way society taints them and how they are looked upon as public property; the johns do whatever they want, and the madams who are there to ‘look after’ them are just as bad, selling them from one bad situation to another, and not often a better one.
Here, an awful sex trafficking ring is exposed, involving a much-respected ‘holy’ man. But the violence that is used toward women is horrific.
It made for uncomfortable reading, in some ways, but the sad truth is that these things do happen the world over; it’s just that we aren’t all privy to the knowledge.
We see the story unfold through several viewpoints, including the above two characters, other girls from the Blue Lotus, police officers, a pimp, and some other random characters, which can be a little confusing but adds another layer to the story.
An interesting but heartrending read.

About the Author

Rijula Das received her PhD in Creative Writing/prose-fiction in 2017 from
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where she taught writing
for two years. She is a recipient of the 2019 Michael King Writers Centre
Residency in Auckland and the 2016 Dastaan Award for her short story
Notes From A Passing. Her short story, The Grave of The Heart Eater, was
longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2019. Her short
fiction and translations have appeared in Newsroom, New Zealand and
The Hindu. She lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand.

Author Q & A

Tell us a little bit about your book, Small Deaths?
Set entirely in the Calcutta’s red light district, Small Deaths is the story of Lalee, a sex worker trafficked into the trade as
a child who dreams of trading her precarious life for that of a better-paid escort. Tilu Shau, her loyal client, makes a living
writing cheap erotica and dreams of literary fame and Lalee’s love. When a young woman is murdered in Lalee’s brothel,
the two of them are drawn into a misadventure that threatens the fragile stability of their lives and forces them to ask
what is the price of one’s right to dignity, a future and a life?


The book was originally published as A Death in Shonagachhi – what role does the setting of Shonagachhi play in your novel?
Sonagachi is a neighbourhood in North Kolkata, and the largest red-light district in Asia with several hundred multi-storey
brothels where more than 30,000 commercial sex workers live and work. It is rare to find works of fiction set entirely in
this area, even though the neighbourhood is one of Calcutta’s oldest. The novel is a product of my doctoral research on
the relationship between sexual violence on women in India and public space; I looked at how we ‘allow’ women to access
public spaces, and what punishments are meted out to them when they violate the unwritten rules. The red light district
in traditional, patriarchal societies is a space of contradictions. They are often the oldest of neighbourhood, well-known
and yet, unacknowledged spaces. I wanted to understand the way sex workers access a city where they are invisible
citizens –– how they live, die, advocate, organise and make a life that is uniquely their own.


Why was it important to you to tell this story now?
Living in the world we do, it is easy to forget that women’s rights are not actually indelible and unalienable. It is easy to be
lulled into a sense of security. But women’s rights, or indeed the rights of vulnerable people, irrespective of gender identity
is under siege at all times, many instances of which we are witnessing at present time. The right to bodily autonomy is an
unfinished fight for us, as is the constant fight for the recognition and acknowledgement of women’s labour, wherever
that may take place. Stories from the margins like that of women like Lalee, because they are real, living women, are a
useful and timely reminder of where we are and how easy it is to deny human rights to vulnerable people even in this age.


How do you do your research? Your research specifically looks at the connections between public space and sexual
violence – how did this inform your writing of Small Deaths?

There is a wealth of both academic research and case studies and interviews with the sex workers of Shonagachhi. Social
welfare organisations are extremely active in the area and have extensive grassroots knowledge. As I wrote Small Deaths
over 7 years, the research seeped into the work, informing the fictional narrative, and sometimes changing or adding to
the course of events. In creative work research informs the lived experience of the book’s universe, but it should never
get in the way of the narrative. It’s often a tight-rope walk.


Tell us more about writing truthfully about sexual violence and why it was important to write on this theme?
We’ve always written about sexual violence, but how we do it, matters. What we decide to show and what we decide to
leave unsaid, matters. Very often we see gratuitous, even erotic portrayal of sexual violence in fiction. As someone who
has faced sexual and other forms of violence as a woman, it changes the way I could write about it. I had to ask –– at what
point does writing a sexual violence scene become voyeurism? How do I write with authenticity, empathy and truth and
still reserve dignity for those on whom the violence occurs? Whose eyes and heart does the chapter look through, is it the
victim or the abuser? There are certain expectations when a book deals with the life of women trafficked into sex-work,
but the greatest satisfaction, for me, came in subverting any pandering to trauma-porn, or a representation of abject and
unabated victimhood because that is not consistent with the reality of life on the margins.

Were there news stories that particularly inspired your work?
Small Deaths is inspired by real people and real events, and where reality is shocking, invention is not only unnecessary
but a travesty. I wanted the book to cleave as close to reality as possible and as such, a number of real events have inspired
the action in the book. The scandal of an ashram called Dera Sacha Sauda where a powerful, self-styled guru held women
hostage in a warren of rooms and sexually abused them for years has inspired events in the book. The disappearances and
deaths of sex workers, and the migration of women across international borders for sex work in coercive circumstances
have inspired both characters and events. It is however not one event, but a landscape and an ecosystem developed over
decades that this story has grown from.


Are there any books that you would recommend to explore more about the themes in your novel?
There are a number of academic works that I read and referred to while writing this book. Fictional work set entirely in
Shonagachhi is harder to come by.


You have translated a number of books in your work, including Nabarun Bhattacharya’s short fiction. How do you
think your translation work helps to inform your writing?

Translation has definitely influenced how I use language. How we use English as Indian writers is evolving as our relationship
with English becomes more organic, more intertwined with our multilinguality. Reading in diverse literary traditions, as
translation helps us do, also changes my relationship with narrative form and storytelling.


What made you want to become a writer? Why fiction?
I’m not sure we decide to become a writer any more than we decide to become ourselves. It does take a certain amount
of practice, showing up for it over decades, a lot of hard work without any promise of reward or even the assurance that
one should persevere, but we write because there is no other way to exist. Fiction allows me, personally, the necessary
distance from myself to explore places that would feel too exposing to do as autobiography. It is also the sheer joy of
being in other people’s heads, creating characters who are entirely different from me, and watching them take-off on
their adventures.


Which other writers have informed your work?
It is hard to see my own influences. I often read people whose work I enjoy as a reader but as a writer, we’d be widely
different. I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan. His comedic brilliance and timing is so effective and subtle that you almost don’t
realise the sheer genius required to pull it off. Jeanette Wintersen, Marguerite Duras and Borges have been abiding
influences.


What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To stick with it. People often think of talent as the sole variable that makes a writer, and while there is such a thing,
another very important variable is the ability to stay the course. It takes time to make even a bad book, a good one can
and does take time to see the light of day.


What’s next for you?
I’m finishing a translation of Nabarun Bhattacharya’s novel, soon to be published by Seagull Books. After that I hope to
focus on my second novel.

Book and a Brew with Ritu – Christmas At The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday by @Kiley Dunbar @HeraBooks #NewRelease #BookReview

Trying something a bit different today with my book review… You’ll have to let me know if it should be a regular ‘thing’.

Today, I am thrilled to welcome amazing romance author Kiley Dunbar to my blog for a cuppa and a bit of a chat about all things writerly, especially her newest release, Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop. it’s out TODAY!

Hello, and welcome to But I Smile Anyway, Kiley! 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, chai latte, or would you like to be brave and have a traditional homemade Indian masala tea?

Hiya Ritu! Thanks so much for having me. It’s been ages since we had a brew and a catch-up! Since I’ve already had my morning coffee, I’d better switch to tea, please, or I’ll get the shakes! Very jealous of your Tassimo machine, though!

Don’t worry. We can try that later if you need a top-up. 😉

If we’re going masala tea, then I can bust out the samosas and pakoras (fried potato and vegetable fritters), but I do have biscuits, specifically shortbread, too!

 Ah, wow! Hit me up with the samosas and pakoras, please! They smell amazing, and I missed breakfast again, a bit of a bad habit I have when I’m in the thick of writing!

I promise the snacks won’t be too spicy. I am a very bad Indian, you know… I can’t handle food that is too hot! Right, here we are. I have fried snacks, the masala tea, and I’ve got a plate of Indian sweets here, too, since we attended a wedding last week, and we were gifted boxes of the stuff! It is very sweet, mind you.

So, the last few years have been pretty busy for you, haven’t they? No less than seven books out, since 2019. Quite a feat! Can you tell me a bit about your journey to getting published? Did you think of going Indie at all, or was it agent then publisher, or publisher direct?

It’s been a whirlwind of writing and publication days since March 2019, when my debut came out. There wasn’t much time to think about anything back when I was writing my debut because it just sort of happened one day in the summer of 2017. I sat down and just started writing a romance. I was compelled to do it! It just sort of poured out, and by Christmas, I had a full draft and no idea what to do with it. I hadn’t heard about agents or indie publishing (I was that clueless) and just sent my manuscript to the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Scheme for feedback which came back really quickly, and then I rewrote it following their advice and immediately sent it out to publishers who had open submissions (I just googled romance publishers and made a list) then in August 2018 Hera Books expressed an interest and that was it! I was going to have to share my book with actual readers. Gah!

I still remember reading your first book, Kiley. It was fantastic, and because it was set in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which was so close to where I grew up, I felt a real pull to read it. I am so glad I did because you are now one of my have-to-read authors!

How does that compare with your experiences, Ritu? I am in awe of your writing journey. Do you agree that the very best thing about debuting is that people are finally going to be able to read your book, and that’s also the very worst thing about it too? Ha ha!

Oh, goodness, my journey was a winding one, starting in the year 2000… Yes I am ancient, I know (and hitting 47 on Saturday, too!) I always wanted to write but didn’t know where to start. the first few chapters of what became Marriage Unarranged were written then, but the manuscript didn’t get completed until 2018! This is also the reason why my books are set in 2000 and onwards because that is when I started writing them. And I remember being in conversation with you not long after your first release when I sent it to Hera Books, but it wasn’t right for them at the time. I did try a couple of agents but ended up thinking life is too short, so I went down the self-publishing route. I found a fantastic editor, cover designer, and beta readers, too. The release was all set for February 2020, then a certain virus hit, which meant a lot of plans I had went down the drain. However, the book got a wonderful response from readers and ended up in the hands of one of the directors of Spellbound Books. They are so keen to represent Desi (Indian origin) authors and offered me a three-book deal, including rereleasing Marriage Unarranged in June 2022. And that is where we are, right now!

I only have one book to talk about so far, but you have several now. Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written?

I know you’re not supposed to have favourites, but I definitely do. Matchmaking at Port Willow (Hera Books 2021) feels like the book where it all came together for me. I loved those characters, too, and I got to write about an older female character who was going through menopause and a mum in her early 40s having a baby after miscarriage and terrified, and a very cute guy who’d been ripped off by a catfishing scammer he’d fallen in love with. It’s a real rollercoaster of a book with lots of love and laughs and Christmas cosiness.

I really related to this one, too, I have to say, being a little older, but also having experienced miscarriages. It was very sensitively written, Kiley. Thank you for that.

Tell me about yours because you’re busy writing the follow-up to Marriage Unarranged for Spellbound Books, aren’t you? I cannot wait!!! How do your feelings for them compare? Did one prove easier or quicker to write than the other?

I have just finished the first draft of book two during the summer holidays, actually! It’s with Alpha and sensitivity readers at the moment. Marriage Unarranged was never meant to be more than that one book we all have in us, but my characters! Oh, they weren’t to be silenced! As a result, the next two books will follow two different couples we met in the first book, and I try and cover cultural issues and stigmas that are prevalent in the British Indian community. Book Two is tentatively titled Straight As A Jalebi – The road to love is never straight… and looks at sexuality… I’ll leave you to ponder that. 😁 Considering MU took me 18 years to write, three years for SasaJ isn’t too bad, is it? And I hope that book three will be even quicker! Plus, now having a publisher means that there is more of dead line though Spellbound Books have been amazing, because they know I am a teacher, too with limited free time! I will always have a special place for Marriage Unarranged because that is where we meet all the crazy characters, but I think, as you said, each book we write holds its own place, doesn’t it?

Now, I’m intrigued. Where do you like to write? Because you often post about being at the coffee shop!

I’m a coffee shop writing girl. I’ve a desk in my bedroom, but it’s just not comfy. I am very impressed with your gorgeous new writing room. It looks idyllic! Is that where you always work?

Thank you. I am very lucky with my special area. A little secret? It wasn’t meant to be my room. It was initially going to be Hubby Dearest’s ‘working-from-home’ office, but due to issues with internet access, he set himself up in the smaller room downstairs, and I got this one. I wasted no time setting it up, and now I have my own haven! I tend to do most of my writing here but sometimes bring my laptop down to the conservatory or garden, if the weather is good.

Kiley, there are so many genres out there. Why romance? Have you ever toyed with the idea of writing in a different genre?

It was always going to be romance for me. I love the genre and have since I was in my early thirties (I came late to seriously reading romances). Before I wrote my debut, I had it circulating in my brain that one day I’d tell a love story, but I was so wound up in my academic career and publishing non-fiction stuff as part of that I just didn’t have space for falling in love with romance writing. Then, in 2017 I found out I was going to be made redundant from my uni job. That changed everything.

Redundancy can offer so many chances, can’t it? I know a few people who grabbed the bull by the horns and made dreams come true when they were let loose from their day jobs!

What about you? Are you tempted to kill off a few characters or send them into space or back in time?

Oh, gosh, no! Nothing that extreme! I enjoy my Chickpea Curry Lit! But I would like to dabble in children’s picture books one day, too. That’s another dream of mine. Now, to find a decent illustrator…

Coming back to the Borrow a Bookshop series, where did the inspiration hit for this premise? I have said it to you before, but I would love to go on a holiday and borrow a bookshop, as well as enjoying a bit of baking! (Might add an Indian twist to the items served!)

Living and working in a bookshop (but with none of the financial and business worries) is The Dream! Especially if it has a cosy café too! Since writing the first book, I’ve found there are a few opportunities around the world to live and work or sleep over in bookshops, but I was just dreaming up the ideal holiday for my characters! Setting is everything in my stories. And I like writing about nerds falling in love, so where better to unite these nerds than in a bookshop?

Perfect! And where did you get the inspiration for the idyllic village of Clove Lore, where this wonderful bookshop is?

I borrowed the village’s layout from Clovelly in Devon. Have you ever been? God, it is Gorgeous! My partner took me there on a date the weekend after we first met, and I associate it with the newly-in-love feeling and summertime.

That is just so cute, to base it on a real place that has such lovely memories attached! 😍

How do you pick a setting, Ritu? Have you used places that were important to you in your real life?

So far my books are set in Birmingham, UK and various places in India. They are all locations I have been to, or where I have lived, so I can relate to them, and describe them in the best way possible for me. Birmingham will always be special. That’s where I was born.

Now, I loved the first book, The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday, with Jude and Elliot finding love in the midst of a booking mix-up. What can we expect to read about in Christmas in the Borrow a Bookshop? Will we get to meet some of our old friends from book one? It’s always lovely to know what loved characters are up to.

Only if you tell me all about your own series! Hehe! 😜

Well, in Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop, there’s a gorgeous cosy love story that looks idyllic until a massive storm hits the coast and Clove Lore suffers a huge flash flood right before Christmas. Suddenly there’s a lot more to fight for than lovers and books. There’s a whole village at risk. It’s a story about community and pulling together to recover when it seems all is lost. And all the characters from book one are back, and you’ll get two love stories and one surprise wedding for your money!

OK, now you!

Ha ha! So, the books are all centred around one family; Aashi’s family; and each subsequent book takes one of her brothers and concentrates on their lives and relationships. Book two will be about Sunny, and Book three will be about Bali and Kiran. Most of the characters people have already met in Marriage Unarranged, will be there, and a few new ones, too!

You are very naughty, Kiley. You keep on leading me astray. I could talk about my books forever but this about you!

I was lucky enough to read an arc of Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop, and I hand on heart loved it. Tell me, and our readers here, will there be any more in the series?

You’re lovely! Thank you for saying so! That makes my heart happy. Well, I haven’t told anyone, but there is a freshly inked contract on my desk, and the promise of three new Borrow a Bookshop stories between now and early 2025. There, the cat’s out the bag! Yippee! I’m having another samosa to celebrate, if you don’t mind! They’re yummy.

Three new stories? Oh wow, now. I can’t wait, and congratulations on the new contract, too! When we celebrate anything, we always say ‘mooh mittha karo‘, which means sweeten your mouth after good news, so you will need to try one of the sweets!

Thanks so much for having me over, Ritu! Let’s do it again soon! Next time we’ll be celebrating your new book. I’ll bring the snacks this time. Something Scottish, like me. Haggis, neeps and tatties, maybe?

That sounds like a plan, Kiley! What fun that was!

Peeps, you heard it here first! Kiley has THREE more Borrow a Bookshop books coming out!!!

Now, as I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to read an ARC of Christmas At The Borrow A Bookshop, so let me share the blurb and my review.

The Blurb

With just two weeks until Christmas, everything in Clove Lore should be perfect. But the latest holidaymaker to the Borrow a Bookshop is feeling far from festive…

Icelandic ex-bookseller Magnús Sturluson might be surrounded by love stories in the Bookshop, but he’s nursing a sadness that not even fiction can fix.

When Alexandra Robinson finds herself stranded in Clove Lore, she finds a safe place to hide from heartbreak. After all, all that’s waiting for her at home is a cheater boyfriend and the memories of her parents. As Alex finds herself embraced by the quirky village community, she finds her tough exterior thawing – and as she grows closer to Magnús, she finds an equally soft heart under his gruff shell.

It seems that Clove Lore is working its magic once again – until a great flood on Christmas Eve brings devastation in its wake. It’s up to Magnús and Alex to batten down the hatches and help bring the village back together again, while also introducing the locals to the Icelandic tradition of the jólabókaflóð – Yule book flood – where families and friends gather on Christmas Eve to exchange books and read together.

But can Magnús and Alex truly rescue the ruins of the village, and salvage their Christmas spirit? Or is there another complication lurking even closer than they thought?

A totally uplifting read that will lighten the winter gloom, for fans of Jenny Colgan and Trisha Ashley. Booklovers will adore this seasonal treat!

My Review

Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop by Kiley Dunbar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I finished the first book in this series, I didn’t know there would be another, and all I wanted to do was find a place like this bookshop and immediately book a holiday there! Books and baking are two of my things, you know.
To know there was a second book was just too much excitement to bear, and I devoured this story revolving around another holidaymaker, Magnus, and his story, coupled with a stranger, Alex, who comes into his holiday life out of the blue with her secrets.
Clove Lore is a special place (which I wish were real!), and it’s a place filled with optimism and hope. Qualities that are needed in large quantities by the residents, and certain visitors, as the story progresses.
I loved how Kiley Dunbar wrote an obvious romance from the start, with no enemies to lovers or other silly obstacles. However, things couldn’t just be that simple. We, as readers, know they will be together, but after learning their backstories, we know there will be hiccups or storms.
A big one, in fact!
The biggest storm they have ever seen in the area threatens to uproot each and every one of the inhabitants of the village.
I also liked the fact that the story wasn’t solely centred around Magnus and Alex, but that we revisited the first couple who were brought together in book one, Jules and Elliot, and that we learned more about Lady of the Manor, Minty, and her best friend Jowan, who is still mourning the loss of his wife.
There is romance, yes, but that isn’t all this book is about. It’s about community and working together to bring back something you all love,
I loved it, and after reading the Author’s letter to the readers at the end, I am even more excited because there will be a third book! Sqeeee!!!

These are the buy links for #christmasattheborrowabookshop

AMZ: https://amzn.to/39v0coN

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3QpSgpj

Apple: https://apple.co/3Oewbs0

Hive: https://bit.ly/3HI1olz

And here’s a little about Kiley and her other books.

Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places.

One Winter’s Night is shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.

CHRISTMAS AT THE BORROW A BOOKSHOP COMING SOON

Take your pick from Kiley’s six novels (for author’s accompanying content/trigger warnings go to kileydunbar.co.uk):

Matchmaking at Port Willow (NEW FOR SEPT 2021) Beatrice is back in this sequel to Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, and she’s loved up and wanting other inn guests to experience the same magic she did last summer. Low-tech dating profiles, empty-nesters on a second honeymoon, and a lonely New Yorker in exile. With added puppies and Heiland Coos.

The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday (May 2021) Jude rents a tumbledown bookshop by the sea in Clove Lore, Devon, for a fortnight. When fellow bookseller-holidaymaker Elliot turns up unannounced, she discovers she’s not the only one running away from real life. Only one bed, bookselling and blossoming romance.

One Winter’s Night (September 2020) Return to Stratford-upon-Avon for a winter full of adventure, romance and family drama. Mystery, new neighbours, and a show-stopping theatrical procession. The sequel to One Summer’s Night.

Summer at the Highland Coral Beach (2020), the first in the Port Willow Bay Series, takes you on an impromptu crafting holiday in the Scottish Highlands and reminds us that after the storm comes the rainbow. Crafts, ceilidhs, coral bays and gentle recovery.

Christmas at Frozen Falls (2019) will fly you to snowy, remote Finnish Lapland over Christmas where Sylvie Magnussen is getting a second chance at love with an old flame – sexy Stellan Virtanen – the one who got away – well, he ran away actually, and Sylvie never understood why. Hot kisses in a cold climate, Northern lights and a stunning resort setting.

One Summer’s Night (2019) whisks you away on a working staycation in beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon during a sultry heatwave summer. A starting-over story, handsome actors, backstage passes, and a whole lot of drama in the Heart of England.

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

‘Kiley Dunbar Author Book Page’ on Facebook

Website and newsletter: www.kileydunbar.co.uk

Instagram: @kileydunbarauthor

August 2022 Books #AmReading

Okay, so now it is August, the month I have pretty much all off, from school, so it is time to ease up on school pressures, get words down, and do family things. But you know I will be reading throughout!

Stay tuned for a review on the Blog Tour post on 9th September!

Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop by Kiley Dunbar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now, I shall not leave my review here for you to read, since Kiley is appearing on a very special post tomorrow morning to celebrate the release of her new book, so I hope you will pop over. It is such a wonderful read!

Releasing 1st September, 2022

Releasing 1st September, 2022 Review will be posted on 1st September on a Blog Tour post!

A Colourful Country Escape by Anita Faulkner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have just finished this fantastic debut by Anita Faulkner, and I am blown away!
What a brilliant read!
Lexie Summers’ life appears much like her thrift shop clothes. A bit borrowed, a bit colourful with quite a history, and no longer needed by previous owners.
When she finds herself ousted from her home and relationship with a rich boy who was playing at being your average rock band singer bloke, Lexie takes off in Penny, her aunt’s old camper van, and heads off to areas unknown in search of a new start, a new job and new friends.
What seems like the ideal job for her, as a social media manager for a small family-run paint company in the village of Tewkesbury, ends up being quite different from what she imagined. And it includes wealthy families and rich boys she’s sworn off for life, along with a matchmaking circus she has no intentions of getting involved in…
Oh, and some pretty feisty peacocks, too!
I loved Lexie and her colourfully tweaked CV that got her a position that her life experiences had already qualified her for. She’s a caring, compassionate soul who just can’t seem to put herself first, even when she knows that is what she should be doing.
Enter rich boys, Ben and Cory, brothers who are like chalk and cheese. Ben is the uptight, business-minded (bland, some might say) but kinda cute older brother in charge of recruiting for a role he really doesn’t understand. Cory is the free-spirited, hunky surfer-dude-styled younger one, without a care in the world, who wants to help his brother bring their family business into the 21st century.
Okay, so we’re reading contemporary romance, so you kinda know that things will work out in the end, but it’s always the journey that we’re here for, isn’t it, readers?
And the side characters.
Because without a colourful cast, things can get a bit monochrome.
Lexie’s sister, Sky, is a flakey hippie who lives on a commune in a quadruple with Billy-Bob…
Grace is a posh version of Lexie, and they become firm friends, despite the differences in their backgrounds.
Then you have Mrs Moon, the homely, widowed housekeeper at Nutgrass Hall, and Tom, the dear gardener, with his own yearnings.
And how could I forget Mrs Carrington-noble, Ben and Cory’s mother, who spends most of her time looking down her nose at common Lexie and is convinced she is only in the job for the family fortune?
Truly loved this book, and I cannot wait for her next release!

The Direction of the Wind: A Novel by Mansi Shah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mansi Shah created a fantastic story here of a search for individuality in a culture where it is expected of you to do what everyone else before you has done.
Sophie is a young woman from Ahmedabad, India. After losing her mother at a young age, she was brought up by a loving father and her aunts until tragedy struck again, and she lost her father, too.
The thing is, she finds out a family secret after hearing her aunts talk and through some intriguing letters that her father had always kept. Her mother didn’t die but left her and her dad to go to France.
The story plays out on a dual timeline, as we follow the young Nita to Paris, hoping to realise her dream of becoming an artist rather than staying at home being a wife and mother, and we follow a modern-day similar journey with Sophie. She goes to Paris to try and find the only family she has left.
The story moved along beautifully, and I felt for Nita, stuck in a life she didn’t want to be living, and how the twists and turns of fate treated her in Paris.
Equally, the shock and hurt of Sophie’s predicament kept me hooked.
I almost wish the ending weren’t as rushed, but there was sadness and some joy to finish the story.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Publishing 17th January, 2023

Before I Do by Sophie Cousens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know when you start a book and are convinced you know what the outcome will be? That was me at the beginning of this story.
Audrey is the bride-to-be, and the story’s beginning sees her stumble out of the church in a rather unconventional manner.
As we visit different times in her past, fragments of her life join up to create the picture we think we will see at the end.
Six years before, she was a single woman with not a lot to write home about. In fact, she was still living at home, so there was no need to write.
A chance strip of photos left in the rack of an old photo booth triggers something in her that leads to meeting someone who could just be the one.
Fast forward to now, and that didn’t materialise how she dreamed, but Audrey has her true Prince Charming, Josh, waiting at the end of the aisle.
But, many signs, bad omens, if you believe that, like old Granny Parker, mean she ends up questioning whether this marriage is the right path for her. Especially when Photo Booth Guy turns up at the wedding as a plus one.
I don’t want to go into this anymore for fear of giving the story away, but suffice to say, many deep-rooted issues from Audrey’s past need revisiting to reset her life and thoughts for the future.
I enjoyed the story. Another great read by Sophie Cousens.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Hodder, and Stoughton for an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.

Publishing 20th September, 2022

Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been a long while since I’ve read a sapphic romance, and this was a perfect way to get back into them!
Make You Mine This Christmas is a laugh-out-loud romance with all manner of kerfuffles, including rude jumpers and rescuing reindeer. Oh, and falling in love with your fake boyfriend’s sister in the middle of a charade set up to make life easier…!
Haff finds herself in Oxley with Christopher, a relative stranger, having only met by chance at a party she has crashed, pretending to be his girlfriend to stop his parents with their matchmaking efforts as he nurses a bruised heart and a bit of an identity crisis.
Thing is, she hadn’t expected to meet a woman who could turn her world upside down, only to lose her, then find her again, in the most complex of situations.
Haf is a fantastic heroine, and kudos to Huxley-Jones for all the representation in this book! So, Haf: well, she’s a plus-sized, bisexual woman about to spend her first Christmas alone, not through any choice of her own.
Then you have her flatmate and good friend Ambrose, who has carved a career out for themselves as an influencer, and they are the most straight-talking friend you could ever have.
Christopher, the fake boyfriend, is a sweet guy who is being pressured into following in his father’s footsteps rather than following his own dreams.
And how could I forget Kit, the aforementioned fake boyfriend’s sister? Kit is a tall, beautiful, strong woman with a fantastic career, a potty mouth, and a disability that makes everyone think she can’t be capable of all she can.
There are plenty of other characters that help make this story a joy to read, but if I detail them all, you would find everything out in the review, and that is not what I want to happen at all!
A really fun read, where I did laugh out loud. several times and I was so happy with the ending. We all need supportive friends, even though they can interfere a bit too much sometimes!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton, Hodder Studios for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 13th October, 2022

You Don’t Know What War Is by Yeva Skalietska
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading any situation from the eyes of a child can be eye-opening, and harrowing, and the view of war, is one of the toughest to read.
Yeva’s recount of those first few days of the Russia/Ukraine war was touching and heartbreaking. This is exactly like a modern-day Anne Frank story, filled with pictures and diary entries, as well as transcripts of WhatsApp group messages between Yeva and her classmates.
Something the youth of today should maybe read, too, so they realise what war in the now is really about.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 25th October, 2022

A Year at the French Farmhouse: Escape to France for the perfect BRAND NEW uplifting, feel-good book for 2022 by Gillian Harvey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been following Gillian Harvey for a while. However, this was my first read by her, making me want to put her other books at the top of my teetering TBR pile!
A fabulous story about a middle-aged woman, ready to spread her wings as her chick flies the nest and embark on that adventure she and her husband have been planning for many years.
Lily’s redundancy couldn’t have come at a better time. Her son, Ty, is off to university, meaning the pay-out money can help her and Ben realise a dream they have been nurturing for a long time. Moving to France to live a wonderful life out there.
Only, she finds out it might not have been Ben’s dream, only hers.
In a state of emotional drunkenness, Lily makes the sort of eBay purchase that makes her cringe in the morning.
A dilapidated farmhouse. In France.
Oops!
How’s this one going to work out?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story as anything about women my age grips me straight away. Wouldn’t we all like to move away, somewhere new, and begin living our lives for ourselves, after decades of being wife/mum/slaves to our jobs?
Lily has to battle the fact that her husband wasn’t interested in fulfilling the dream they had always talked about and decides to just go for it, with or without him. A strong woman!
Moving to a different country will always have its ups and downs, and to do that alone and to find out exactly how dilapidated the property you bought on a drunken whim could be classed as a huge dip in your line of ups and downs.
Fortunately, Lily meets some fantastic people along the way, and she still has her best friend, Emily, as a support for her, by phone, message and impromptu visits.
There is even a little romance, but, how do you explain to your teenaged-son that you might be going on dates but that it doesn’t mean anything, even though you and your husband have split up?
A Year at The French Farmhouse was an easy read with a great ending, and it fostered the spirit of never being too =old to make our dreams come true!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Boldwood Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.

Releasing 29th September, 2022

Releasing 6th October, 2022

Twenty-One Nights in Paris by Leonie Mack
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fantastic story by Leoni Mack!
Heiress Ren is used to a luxury lifestyle and living in hotels like the Ritz.
Sacha is a man from the wrong side of the Parisien tracks.
One night, they meet in rather unfortunate circumstances, yet their meeting was fated.
Ren is trying to understand her life or the lack of control that she has over hers. Sacha is dealing with his ghosts.
Somehow, he gets roped into helping Ren get over a broken relationship, to the horror of her grandmother,
But, as we know will happen, acting soon turns into reality.
But, just how they end up at that stage is an endearing, deep story filled with poetry and exploration of feelings.
I really enjoyed reading this, as well as now wanting to go and revisit Paris!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Boldwood Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Their Surprise Safari Reunion by Ella Hayes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An easy-to-read second chance romance where two meant to be together individuals were separated due to circumstances out of their control, only to meet again to rekindle their relationship.
Maddie and Kaden met as teenagers and were in a relationship when the actions of Maddie’s father meant she and her mother had to flee the country, leaving the two lovers estranged, with no contact between them.
Years later, her identity changed; Lina embarks upon a visit to a newly opened safari park and lodge in her position as a well-respected travel blogger.
Only to be met with a face from her past.
Kaden.
A lovely read, dotted with realistic descriptions of the wilds in Africa, as well as sympathetic views on the main characters’ vulnerabilities.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Romance for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wishful Thinking by Kay Bratt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed the first set of The Wishing Tree Books and am thrilled that the second wave of instalments is coming through now!
It was lovely to go back to Linden Falls, visit familiar faces like Neve, follow what happened with her new housemate, Janie and her daughters, and meet newcomer Coco, the News Anchor wannabee.
The Wishing Tree plays a huge part, as always, in this book, as the community fights to save its existence when an outsider buys a property which includes the tree in its land, and they want to tear it down!
Each book centres around one or two specific characters in the area, and in this, we find out how Janie is settling into Linden Falls after separating from her husband, Max. She has set up a new business which she is very proud of, and though it isn’t anywhere as lucrative as her previous career, it fills her with passion.
Coco is the newcomer this time. She’s moved to Linden Falls for a couple of months to reset herself, and lose weight, to get the job she always wanted, but ends up in the thick of the local Wishing Tree trauma, when she helps the local journalist, who is incapacitated, to raise awareness of the potential loss of a tree which is dear to so many.
We have family ups and downs, slow-burn romance, and cats and dogs. What more could you ask for?
Thanks to Kay Bratt for an ARC.

Releasing 8th September, 2022

Wishes of Home by Barbara Hinske
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this instalment of The Wishing Tree series, even though, as I am reading arcs, I have been reading out of order!
Pam has moved to Linden Falls after a divorce that we learned about in a previous book in the series.
She’s back in her home town, living in her grandmother’s home and renovating it, helping her mother with her Saturday market stall, and being a Personal Trainer at the local gym.
When we left her last, she was starting a relationship with fellow PT, Steve.
The Wishing Tree is the catalyst for more adventure in the book; as a wish Pam helps Neve, the keeper of the wishes, to rescue from the tree when it has been raining, strikes a chord.
This wish plays on Pam’s mind, as she thinks of what she could be doing with her free time now the renovations are done.
There is love, self doubt, investigations, suspicions, and a TV series in the middle, as well as cats and dogs! Love this series!

Releasing 29th September, 2022

Picture Perfect by Jeevani Charika
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having read a couple of Jeevani Charkica’s books before, I was excited to start this one, and I’m so glad I read it!
Niro is a photographer who has lost her mojo. setbacks in the forms of broken relationships and constant derogatory comments have worn her down.
Vimal is a hard-working guy who tries his hardest to win back his girlfriend of four years after being told he is simply boring.
Through the meddling of the Sri-Lankan Aunties, they are introduced and somehow end up on holiday together with a mutually beneficial deal in place; she gets her photography mojo back and he wins back the girl.
Is anything ever so simple?
I absolutely loved this story with kudos to Charika for her POC heroine, who is not only overweight but dark-skinned too. The issues brought about by constant remarks about those two attributes weigh heavy on Niro’s heart and mind and have huge, detrimental effects on her confidence.
And the best thing is that this story embraced both facts and showed that it is possible, and fine, to look beyond these two factors, and love the person within.
And, sorry to say this but shame on the Aunties for making Niro feel so low with their constant comments about her appearance! Beauty is in everything, and the most beautiful shine from within, not outwardly.
Vimal is a person I feel I know. He is intelligent and capable but so unconfident because he thinks he will never ‘fit in’ with many of the people he works with. Yet he wants to change himself to win back the love of his life.
The side characters’ cast was also great, with Sam, Niro’s cousin and cheerleader, and the new friends she makes on this ‘working’ holiday. Felicity was one who helps to break other stereotypes. Not all young beautiful, and rich people are the shallow, selfish people some think they are. loved how she became another of Niro’s cheerleaders!
I honestly wanted to slap Lucien. What a pompous, institutionally racist piece of rubbish! But, again, there are people like that, unfortunately, and good on the author for calling him out!
I raced through this book and loved it, especially the ending. READ IT!
Many thanks to NetGalley and HQ Digital for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing 21st October, 2022

A Little in Love by Florence Keeling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, so I nabbed this little beauty when it was on offer a couple of weeks back, and I didn’t regret my purchase at all!
Rose Pedal is quite happy at home, living with her parents in the local vicarage. Yup, dad is the local vicar. Things haven’t quite worked out on the job front until she has a brainwave and sets up a business for weddings, Pedals and Prosecco, and begins the rounds of the local wedding fayres, hoping to drum up some business to get her venture on the map.
Of course, things were never going to run smoothly for Rose, were they? Because, quite honestly, it seems that life has never been kind to her regarding her decisions about her future…
She has a near miss on the way to her first fayre and arrives in a dishevelled state to find the drenching culprit, a stall owner at the same fayre.
James Blume is there to showcase his family business, Blumes; flowers, obviously! But his arrogance and seeming lack of tact rub Rose the wrong way.
Rose and James begin to clock through a series of mishaps and coincidences. Still, the road to romance is never smooth, and various characters along the way crop up to create obstacles in their budding relationship.
Oh, I loved it! Knowing who I wanted to get together and seeing it progress, albeit with a few stops and starts, was fantastic.
The setting in Weddington (love the name!) and its surrounding villages in the English countryside was quaint, and you could feel the sense of community among the residents, the strong friendships within the cast of characters, and the camaraderie between the local wedding businesses, as they help to straddle all sorts of problems.
Two very different families with their own ups and downs and supportive, though meddlesome, best friends provided a lovely supporting cast to our ‘will they, won’t they?’ couple.
The romance was a wonderful slow burn, and the ending was perfect.
Florence Keeling, I shall be visiting your books again very soon!

Review to follow in October when I am on Diana’s Blog Tour! But, it is a very different book to the kind I have been reading, recently!

Overdue Wishes by Tammy L. Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another wish to Linden Falls and the Wishing Tree!
This time, Author Tammy. L. Grace is showing the way with a story about Norma Braxton, the school’s librarian with a secret.
A secret that’s about to come tumbling out with the surprise visit from a face from her past.
Norma is so scared that the impact of the knowledge about an event that occurred when she was much younger will tarnish her relationships and respect that she hides from someone who really doesn’t want her to disappear.
What a sweet conclusion to a story that could have had a much harsher ending, if her thoughts were true.
I enjoyed this next visit to Linden Falls, and fall a little more in love with the whole community whenever I read another book!

Releasing 15th September, 2022

I managed 17 books over the summer, along with finishing my first draft for my own book 2! Not bad going, eh! Let me know which books tickled your fancy!

Women Like Us by @MrsAmandaProwse #BlogTour #AudioBook @FMcMAssociates @AmazonPub

I am so thrilled and honoured to be host to the absolutely fabulous and indeed down-to-earth literary sister of mine, Amanda Prowse. And we kick off the Audio Book Tour here on But I Smile Anyway!

Amanda’s most recent release, Women Like Us, is not a work of fiction but a memoir, and I cannot stress enough how amazing a read (and listen it is)!

I think you should read the blurb first, before reading my review.

Blurb

I guess the first question to ask is, what kind of woman am I? Well, you know those women who saunter into a room, immaculately coiffed and primped from head to toe?
If you look behind her, you’ll see me.

From her childhood, where there was no blueprint for success, to building a career as a bestselling novelist against all odds, Amanda Prowse explores what it means to be a woman in a world where popularity, slimness, beauty and youth are currency—and how she overcame all of that to forge her own path to happiness.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side.

One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible—against the odds—to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success from a woman who’s done it all, and then some. 

As I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book and an audio version.

Amanda has narrated all her audiobooks, and to hear this whole book in her own words was just fantastic and added another layer of genuine feeling to the whole experience. Her voice is so soothing, and you feel she is talking to you personally.

And so to my review!

Women Like Us: A Memoir by Amanda Prowse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know when you read books, and you have that favourite author?
Then she goes and releases a memoir, and you just HAVE to read it because you are in awe of her?
That was me when I heard that Amanda Prowse was writing her story.
She has always come across as a true, down-to-earth, ‘real’ woman, who has had her fair share of struggles, including being an army wife, battling cancer, and how her family coped with the depression her son Josiah went through due to them both writing about it.
Yet, she has never been afraid to talk about these things.
I felt I already knew her.
But reading Women Like Us made me aware of how much I didn’t know.
We all have a backstory, and it is that which moulds us to be the people we become.
Amanda Prowse has opened up about her life in a way that I feel will relate to many women.
Without wanting to give too much away, because I would urge anyone reading this to read the book themselves, Amanda’s life has had huge amounts of love poured into it by her wonderful family and husband.
However, there have been events and situations that have tested her and almost broken her at times.
An undiagnosed medical condition, loss, abuse, miscarriages, and that overwhelming feeling of never being good enough or thin enough.
I read each chapter, and yes, there were times I smiled and laughed out loud. I’m as clumsy as Mrs Prowse and could relate to many things she wrote.
My eyes moistened at other times, reading about some of the things Amanda had gone through.
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I realised that some situations hit much closer to home than others. I’ve been there before, too, and maybe, I’m there right now.
And Amanda has come out of the other side, not necessarily unscathed, but a brighter, happier, more positive woman for it.
It takes a brave person to open up the way Amanda has, and I truly applaud her. I would be giving her the hugest of hugs right now if she was in front of me.
Amanda, thank goodness you managed to overcome the words of that English teacher because where would I be without my Prowse books?

This woman, honestly, I love her to bits!

About the Author

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author whose twenty-six novels,
non-fiction titles and seven novellas have been published in dozens of languages around the world. Amanda is the most prolific writer of bestselling contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also consistently score the highest online review approval ratings across several genres. Her books, including the chart-topping No.1 titles What Have I Done?, Perfect Daughter, My Husband’s Wife, The Girl in the Corner and The Things I Know have sold millions of copies across the globe.
A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda is a regular panellist on Channel 5’s ‘The Jeremy Vine Show’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She also makes countless guest appearances on BBC national independent Radio stations, including
LBC and Talk FM, where she is well known for her insightful observations and her infectious humour. Described by the Daily Mail as ‘The queen of family drama’ Amanda’s novel, A Mother’s Story won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the Year Award while Perfect Daughter was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016.

My Perfect Ex by @Lizzie_Chantree #NewRelease

Oh, I do love to be able to support my fellow friends and authors when they have a new book coming out and today is no different!

The lovely Lizzie Chantree has a new book out on Monday and it sounds like a cracker! (oh, and if you preorder, you should get it for the promotional price of 99p!)

Join bestseller Lizzie Chantree for a wonderfully romantic, feel-good summer read.

Poppy Marlowe, a mental health advocate, moves into Cherry Blossom Lane to escape her past and build a future with her gorgeous, but troublesome, boyfriend, Dylan.

Dylan lives in the house across the street. But his reputation as a heartbreaker is legendary and Poppy reluctantly decides that she must walk away to protect her heart.

Poppy’s friends think she is perfect for go-getter Jared, who’s ready to step into Dylan’s shoes and whisk her into his glamorous world.

Taking a chance on happiness is harder than Poppy imagined. Can she let go of her past and allow herself to fall in love with the same man again, or should she step into the limelight and walk towards a life with someone new?

Will love find a way to bring them back together, or are they destined to go their separate ways?

Universal book buy link: My Perfect Ex: viewbook.at/MyPerfectEx

I hope you’ve preordered yours! I’ve already clicked and ordered!

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