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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Tell Me How THis Ends by @JoLeevers  #BlogTour #BookReview @fmcmassociates

Today I am bringing you a beautiful story written by Jo Leevers, Tell Me How This Ends.

The Blurb

Can Henrietta find out what happened to Annie’s sister—before it’s too late?

Haunted by the past, Henrietta throws herself into a new job transcribing other people’s life stories, vowing to stick to the facts and keep emotions at arm’s length. But when she meets the eccentric and terminally ill Annie, she finds herself inextricably drawn in. And when Annie reveals that her sister drowned in unexplained circumstances in 1974, Henrietta’s methodical mind can’t help following the story’s loose ends…

Unlike Henrietta, Annie is brimming with confidence—but even she has limits when it comes to opening up. Ever since that terrible night when her sister left a pile of clothes beside the canal and vanished, Annie has been afraid to look too closely into the murky depths of her memories. When her attempts to glide over the past come up against Henrietta’s determination to fill in the gaps, both women find themselves confronting truths they’d thought were buried forever—especially when Henrietta’s digging unearths a surprising emotional connection between them.

Could unlocking Annie’s story help Henrietta rewrite the most devastating passages in her own life? And, in return, can she offer Annie a final twist in the tale, before it’s too late?

My Review

Tell Me How This Ends by Jo Leevers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A book I found I wanted to get back to as soon as I was able, every time, I had to put it down.
Henrietta is a woman with a quirky personality. She sees things in very specific ways. When she get a job at a centre for the terminally ill, helping them to write their life stories, I wondered how she would cope with the sensitive nature of the job.
And there were a few hiccups.
But she meets her first candidate, Annie, and how the story unfolds, and their relationship develops is beautiful.
It is not straightforward at all, though.
Annie has secrets. She has also suffered heartache through family situations and in her marriage. But Henrietta has her own skeletons, too.
Some sensitive issues are dealt with throughout the book, and the story is told in an engaging manner.
It’s a centre for the terminally ill. There will be sadness, but there are spots of brightness which make the read so worthwhile.

About the Author

Jo Leevers grew up in London and has spent most of her career working on
magazines, most recently writing features about homes and interiors for
leading newspapers and magazines. This means she gets to visit people
around the country and ask them about all the things in their homes.
Some might call this a licence to be nosey…
Tell Me How This Ends is her debut. Whether writing fiction or interviewing
people for articles, she is fascinated by the life stories that we all carry
with us. She has two grown-up children and lives with her husband and
their wayward dog, Lottie, in Bristol.

Where Waters Meet by Zhang Ling #BlogTour #BookReview @FMcMAssociates @AmazonPub #InternationalFiction

Today I am bringing you a beautiful story written byZhang Ling, Where Waters Meet.

The Blurb

A daughter discovers the dramatic history that shaped her mother’s secret life in an emotional and immersive novel by Zhang Ling, the bestselling author of A Single Swallow.
There was rarely a time when Phoenix Yuan-Whyller’s mother, Rain, didn’t live with her. Even when Phoenix got married, Rain, who followed her from China to Toronto, came to share Phoenix’s life. Now at the age of eighty-three, Rain’s unexpected death ushers in a heartrending separation.
Struggling with the loss, Phoenix comes across her mother’s suitcase—a memory box Rain had brought from home. Inside, Phoenix finds two old photographs and a decorative bottle holding a crystallized powder. Her auntie Mei tells her these missing pieces of her mother’s early life can only be explained when they meet, and so, clutching her mother’s ashes, Phoenix boards a plane for China. What at first seems like a daughter’s quest to uncover a mother’s secrets becomes a startling journey of self-discovery.

Told across decades and continents, Zhang Ling’s exquisite novel is a tale
of extraordinary courage and survival. It illuminates the resilience of humanity, the brutalities of life, the secrets
we keep and those we share, and the driving forces it takes to survive.

My Review

Where Waters Meet by Zhang Ling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where Waters Meet is a heartwrenching story about a daughter and her journey to discovering the truth about her mother’s life after her death.
Phoenix, or Yuan Feng, travels from Canada to China in search of answers and peace for her mother, Rain, or Chunyu, from the only living relative left on her mother’s side, her mother’s sister.
The novel is told in a bit of a disjointed manner, moving back and forward from the present to various times in the past.
It took me a while to realise that the ‘past’ chapters were based on a manuscript that Phoenix is writing and sending back to her husband, George, in Canada, about her mother’s life and her own.
Once I got into the swing of it, I was intrigued.
I wanted to know the secrets of Chunyu. I felt the trauma of a young woman during the war-torn era in China, with the communist regime, facing famine, with a young daughter and a husband who couldn’t help due to injuries while in service.
I feel like I wanted to know more from Phoenix about how she felt when hearing about the most shocking parts of her mother’s past, which is not revealed until the final quarter of the book, as it is not something any child would expect to hear.
But I was invested in the story and felt the raw emotion of adult Phoenix and the young Chunyu before she could leave China with her daughter.

About the Author

Zhang Ling is the award-winning author of nine novels and numerous collections of
novellas and short stories, including A Single Swallow, translated by Shelly Bryant;
Gold Mountain Blues; and Aftershock, which was adapted into China’s first IMAX
movie with unprecedented box-office success.
Born in China, she moved to Canada in 1986 and, in the mid-1990s, began to write
and publish fiction in Chinese while working as a clinical audiologist. Since then, she
has won the Chinese Media Literature Award for Author of the Year, the Grand Prize
of Overseas Chinese Literary Award, and China Times’s Open Book Award. Where
Waters Meet is her first novel written in English.

Tell Me Lies by @TeresaDriscoll #BlogTour #BookReview @FMcMAssociates

Allow me to introduce to you the next release from best-selling author Teresa Driscoll, Tell Me Lies. Oh, what a good read!

The Blurb

From bestselling author Teresa Driscoll comes a chilling thriller of past secrets and present terror. Deep in a rural hideaway, it’s only the owls watching them…right?

After a betrayal that sent their marriage into freefall, Hannah and Sam are desperate for a fresh start with their eight-year-old daughter Lily—and where better than picture-perfect Owl Cottage in beautiful Cornwall. But something about the holiday home stirs dark memories for Hannah…

When she finds dead creatures on the doorstep and hears mysterious knocks at the door, Hannah can’t help wondering whether someone is messing with her—or whether the past she’s been running from has finally claimed her sanity.

As the disturbing events at Owl Cottage seep out into the local community and the police become involved, Hannah turns to Sam for help, but when he dismisses her worries, she wonders if she was wrong to ever trust him. Are the memories making her paranoid, or is this something more sinister than she dares imagine?

My Review

Tell Me Lies by Teresa Driscoll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve not read Teresa Driscoll’s books before, but this one had me hooked and on the lookout for her other books!
Hannah is in a bit of a mess.
She suffered huge trauma as a child and teenager, and just when her life was settled with her husband, Sam, and daughter, Lily, something pulls the rug from under her feet.
To start afresh, the small family take a holiday and settles in what seems like an idyllic cottage named Owl Cottage. Perfect for Hannah, who loves owls.
The thing is, idyllic rarely stays as such. Strange things begin to happen, causing Hannah and her family to begin to regret coming.
Told mainly from the POV of Hannah, with some switches to Sam, Maud, Hannah’s mother, and the DI in charge of the eventual case. We also meet Hannah’s neurotic friend Amy and her handsome, but a bit smarmy, husband Adam.
Her mother is worried. She can see her daughter in free fall, and knowing what has happened in the past, she’s concerned about what Hannah might do.
Sam is tense, not knowing what impact his actions will have on his wife.
The DI in charge of what should be a simple sudden death case ends up unearthing a lot more than that.
I read this fairly quickly and was invested from the beginning. I could feel the anxiety and confusion in Hannah throughout. She did become a bit self-absorbed at times, but considering all she had been through, it’s not a surprise.

About the Author

Teresa Driscoll is a former BBC TV news presenter whose psychological thrillers have
sold nearly two million copies across the world. Her first thriller I Am Watching You hit
Kindle Number 1 in the UK, USA and Australia and has sold more than a million copies
in English alone.
Teresa writes women’s fiction as well as thrillers and her work has been optioned for
film and sold for translation in more than 20 territories. For decades Teresa was a
journalist working across newspapers, magazines and television. Covering crime for so
long, she was deeply moved by the haunting impact on the relatives, the friends and
the witnesses and it is those ripples she explores now in her darker fiction. Teresa lives
in glorious Devon with her family and blogs regularly about her ‘writing life’ on her

Her Deadly Game by @robertdugoni #BlogTour #BookReview @FMcMAssociates #PoliceProcedural

Something a bit different from me, today. I am on the blog tour for a Police Procedural/Crime Fiction novel by Robert Dugoni, Her Deadly Game

The Blurb

Keera Duggan was building a solid reputation as a Seattle prosecutor until her romantic relationship with a senior colleague ended badly. Now, returning to her family’s failing criminal defence law firm to work for her father is her only option. But with the right moves, maybe she can restore the family’s reputation, her relationship with her father, and her career.

Keera’s chance to establish herself comes when she’s retained by Vince LaRussa, an investment adviser accused of murdering his wealthy wife. There’s little hard evidence against him, but considering the couple’s impending and potentially nasty divorce, LaRussa faces life in prison. The prosecutor is equally challenging: Miller Ambrose, Keera’s former lover, is eager to destroy her in court on her first homicide defence. But as a competitive former chess prodigy, Keera is confident she can outmanoeuvre him.

As Keera and her team start digging, they uncover more than they bargained for. Keera is sure that LaRussa didn’t kill his wife, but she’s starting to suspect that he’s not an innocent man. With a duty to her client, her family’s legacy, and her own future to consider, she’s caught in a deadly game…

My Review

Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always say I’m not a crime fiction kind of gal, but then I pick up a book, like this one, part courtroom drama, part police procedural, with a whole load of family drama thrown in, and I find myself sucked in.
Her Deadly Game focuses on a lawyer, Keera, who, through no fault of her own, has to leave one job and go, tail between legs, to work with her father and sisters in their family law practice.
She becomes embroiled in one case that she ends up heading after being the after-hours lawyer on duty, which could make or break her.
A murder.
Someone with a motive, but many, many other aspects that don’t tie up, as well as an alcoholic father threatening to put the case in jeopardy and an ex who ends up causing her hell in the courtroom.
Keera’s old interest in playing chess also plays a part in the story. I’m not a chess player, so the different moves and names of pieces meant little to me, but I liked the parallel that was created between the tension in her working life and the online game she is playing.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading this. A definite page turner.

About the Author

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series, which has sold more than eight million books worldwide. He is also the author of the bestselling Charles Jenkins series; the bestselling David Sloane series; the stand-alone novels The 7th Canon, Damage Control, The World Played Chess, and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, Suspense Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year, for which Dugoni won an AudioFile Earphones Award for narration; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post best book of the year. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Book Award for fiction and a three-time winner of the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for the Thriller Awards and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, as well as a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for mystery and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards. His books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Visit his website at

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