Book and a Brew with Ritu – Do What You Love by @Marjorie_Mallon by #NewRelease #BookReview

I’m back with a second edition!

Today, I am thrilled to welcome an old blogging and writing friend who I have met in person. None other than the lovely Marjorie Mallon, one of my blogging sisters! She’s got an awesome poetry collection out TODAY, entitled Do What You Love.

Hello, and welcome to But I Smile Anyway again, Marje! First things first. What would you like to drink?

We have all the usuals, tea, coffee, masala chai, fancy coffee from the Nespresso machine, or green tea if you’d prefer. Lil Princess has been busy baking cookies for us, too!

Ah, I’ve put a bit of weight on recently, Ritu, so I better say green tea, but I’d love a cookie! Thanks, Lil Princess. 🙂

So, firstly, let’s set the scene. You recently left British shores and have moved abroad to Portugal. What a brave move! Tell us about it. How has it changed life for you since you are also a mother? And are you able to be more creative out there now?

Thank you so much, Ritu, for inviting me over to chat about my new book and for taking the time to read and review it. I appreciate it so much. We’re still swamped in the bureaucratic post covid process, Ritu.

Even though things are starting to move! At the moment, I’m spending over half of the year in the UK, mostly in Edinburgh and the rest in Portugal. As I have elderly parents and my daughters are both based in the UK, I see this time as a precious gift to be with them. I miss my daughters, family and friends in the UK.

But… we have had a lot of visitors! In truth, I find it more difficult to focus on writing here as there are so many distractions! I have to be disciplined and find the time! Yesterday (after a late night and a rock concert,) I began writing this interview on the train travelling from Faro back to Tavira.

You haven’t pigeonholed yourself as a writer, have you? YA fantasy fiction, and all sorts of poetry and cross-over poetic fiction books. What is your favourite type of creative writing?

No, I haven’t. I would try anything… I might even attempt to write a crime and/or romance novel one day. My favourite kind of writing is… perhaps poetry and short fiction as I find it the easiest to write. I love writing full-length novels too, but they are much more challenging, frustrating and time-consuming.

I’ve been wondering, how is your 2nd book progressing Ritu… Can’t wait to read it.

Currently, it is sitting with my editors at my publisher! So, not long. June 2023 is the pencilled-in publication date! Oh, they do take forever to write, don’t they, especially when you are working full time, too!

You know I’m a nosy soul. Where do you like to write?  Is it a very different setup for you now you have moved?

Yes! We have downsized from a 5-bed family home with a large garden to a one-bed rented flat with a tiny balcony and no garden. I must be mad! I mainly write in said flat in Tavira – in the kitchen! My hubby bought me a nice table and chairs with a pretty view of the fields and trees nearby  I used to have an office in our old house, but we are only renting at the moment, so I am making do! I am flexible that way… as long as I have a laptop, power and wifi, I am ready to go.

What about you Ritu where do you write?

I have my little reading and writing room. I loathed to call it an office because it then seems like work rather than the pleasure I find creating stories!

We’ve been friends for a LONG time now. And we’ve had the pleasure of meeting each other in person at the ABBA’s. (Remember them? I miss those opportunities to catch up with my blogily!) How do you feel your blogging career has evolved over the years?

Yes, we have been friends for a LONG time, and I value your dear friendship so much, Ritu. I miss those events and your lovely in-person company! I must admit to having downsized my blogging activity. I miss it, but something had to give! I focus mainly on writing reviews now, doing blog tours etc., which I love doing. I’ve started a bookstagram account mainly for this purpose:

Who knows where my future writing/blogging may take me.

I would love to write more about my travels…as I am a keen photographer. I’ve started drafting a story set in Tavira, so we shall see…it started off as a romantic idea but seems to be veering in another direction. So me!

You must find it so hard to find time Ritu with your work commitments… How do you manage? Oddly I find it even harder now I am retired from my day job. The opposite to what I expected!

I’m not actually sure how I manage, Marje! But, I feel that if you really want to do something, you will find the time for it, so that is how I manage. I don’t watch an awful lot of TV, so my spare time is all reading and writing and adding my regular posts to my blog!

I have been honoured to read most of your work as working copies, or arcs, over the years. What has been your favourite project so far?

You are a star and such a huge supporter of all my work! It’s a pleasure to read and an honour to be trusted with someone’s creativity!

I love your writing too and can’t wait to read more of The Rishtay series!  (Blushing…) Thank you.

My favourite project… a difficult one to answer as I love them all.

Overall, it has to be my debut novel Bloodstone, in The Curse of Time series, as it was my first writing project, the 1st novel I’d ever written and published. It kickstarted it all, and I am very proud of all the positive and diverse reviews it has received. It now has 84 reviews on Goodreads… and counting, with an overall rating of 4.14.

Also, I met the inventor of the Corpus Christi Clock (one of the inspirations for the series,) Dr John C Taylor, and went out for lunch and a stroll with him, which was a huge highlight of my life.  And Bloodstone is now available in audiobook which I love. We are currently working on the audiobook of book 2, Golden Healer. So excited about this!

I’ve just literally finished reading Do What You Love, your latest poetry collection with an eclectic mix of writing, where you revisit key moments in life and talk them through via the mediums of fictional conversations with the Three Sisters of Fate. Tell us how this idea came about.

I had a conversation with the sisters of fate, and they said to write this! Only joking. Like all of my writing projects, it evolved rather than was planned. It showcases poetry, prose and photographic images about my favourite places to live, emotional memories, happy times, amusing moments, and imagined discussions with the 3 three sisters of fate over a wide period of time. I suppose it is me having a soul-searching chat with myself about how my life is about to change and how perhaps I have to come to terms with that. Moving abroad is much more difficult than I first anticipated. I tend to jump and think later…

Since we’re sitting here with our drinks and cookies, and your book is about reminiscences, can you tell us a bit about a favourite food or snack and the memories it evokes?

My favourite food or snack has to be my mum’s beef rendang (Malaysian curry) or her Chinese duck, or sweet and sour pork – truly scrumptious, and her snacks…meat sate sticks, dim sum, homemade spring rolls.

My mum’s cooking evokes memories of family gatherings, and my hubby’s mouth-watering… he kept on coming to see me and ended up being spellbound by her fabulous cooking. Lol. Not joking. My mum is still a wonderful cook at age 80! She still gets up early every morning to cook. Bless her.

That all sounds delicious!

Now, to finish, can you tell us what to expect next? Will there be more from your YA series or other fiction? Or will you be concentrating on your poetry?

Next up is the final book in my YA fantasy series which will be set in The Land of Shadows. I also have several unfinished projects, some of which are short stories and as I mentioned earlier, the beginning of a story set in Tavira. Perhaps if I do write another poetry collection it will be set in Portugal… time will tell! 

Oh, now exciting!

Thank you so much for visiting, Marje. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you for inviting me, Ritu.

My pleasure 😊

Peeps, you heard that right, the last in Marje’s YA series is on its way, too!

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

The Blurb

Do What You Love is a personal poetry collection celebrating how the fates may have a part in all that we do.

With special poems and short reflective moments inspired by family, flowers and nature, love, scrumptious morsels, places I’ve visited, lived and intend to live in, the friendships and hopes I have for the future.

The overarching theme is to live a life well lived… And to do what you love.

float along with me
create clouds of sweetest joy
to do what you love
hold fate’s hand as we venture
near and far on life’s journey

My Review

Do What You Love: Fragility of Your Flame Poems Photography & Flash Fiction by M.J. Mallon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh what a lovely book, filled with poetic gems and beautiful prose!
I enjoy reading MJ Mallon’s poetic fiction, where she ties poetry with prose, and have read several of her previous books written similarly.
Do What You Love is almost autobiographical in the sense that she has taken her memories and written them in poetic form. The fictional, almost fantastical element is where she meets the three sisters of fate through her journey of reminiscences, and they talk about her different memories.
It’s not linear, but no conversation ever is, is it? Memories jump from the more recent to the older ones as they come tumbling into your mind.
I felt a keen connection to the poems about her daughters and the autumn trees. Autumn is one of my favourite seasons.
A lovely book with a personal touch.


Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

Amazon Canada:

And here are some links about Marje and her other books.

I am thrilled to say that two of my poetry collections (Mr Sagittarius and Lockdown Innit) have been requested by prestigious libraries in the UK: The British Library, The Bodleian Library Oxford University, the Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales and Trinity College Dublin for Legal Deposit.

Add the book to your TBR:

The cover of the paperback and kindle have been designed by Colleen Chesebro who has a new service for authors which I can highly recommend. Colleen also designed the interior and cover of The Hedge Witch And The Musical Poet.


All links via:


Other poetry/flash fiction collections:

Kyrosmagica Publishing

The Hedge Witch And The Musical Poet

Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose

Anthology – This Is Lockdown (poetry, diaries and flash fiction – kindle)

Poetry during Lockdown – Lockdown Innit

Poetry also features in my highly acclaimed YA Fantasy series.  Each chapter begins with a short poem. The Curse of Time Book 1 Bloodstone and Book 2 Golden Healer are published by Next Chapter Publishing.

About the Author

M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began to be bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations, and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives sometimes in the UK and often times in Portugal. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile to greet her.

Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too.

Book and a Brew with Ritu – Snowfall over Halesmere House by Suzanne Snow@SnowProse @canelo_co @Katrina_Power #NewRelease #BookReview

I’m back with a second edition!

Today, I am hosting a new-to-me author, Suzanne Snow, as I read her most recent release, Snowfall Over Halesmere House, as part of a blog tour!

Hello, and welcome to But I Smile Anyway, Suzanne! Now, the first thing we do is get the drinks sorted.

Thank you for hosting me, Ritu, I’m looking forward to answering your questions after our drink!

I do a mean Indian masala chai. However, I noticed that your main character, Ella, enjoyed coffee more, so if that is what you’d like I can offer that, or even a yummy hot chocolate. I have the whipped cream and marshmallows ready.

In the spirit of all things foodie, since Ella was a chef, I have some lovely fresh Indian snacks to go with the tea, samosas and pakoras, but an additional steamed dhokla, which originates from Gujarat, if you fancy a try!

I would love to try all of those, thank you, and I know they’re going to be delicious! I’d be very happy with the masala chai or a turmeric latte. I drink more tea than coffee, and I’m not a big fan of hot chocolate (sorry!).

We have something in common already. I am definitely a tea drinker rather than a coffee one!

Now, I always love to find out more about where a fellow author’s journey started. When did you realise you wanted to write, and how was your journey to becoming a published author? I know the RNA played a massive part, too.

It really did. I began writing as a child, immersing myself in books which fired my imagination and took me to places I could picture perfectly in my mind. It wasn’t long before I knew I wanted to create my own and I probably have some awful short stories written by ten-year-old me in a box somewhere!

I was always drawn to romance, and I joined the RNA as a new writer in 2018 with two manuscripts already written. My first report was very positive and suggested some edits, which I did, and it also gave me the confidence to approach agents and publishers.

There were of course plenty of rejections along the way. I met my agent Susan Yearwood at the 2019 RNA conference, where I was pitching my second manuscript. In April 2020 I signed a 3-book deal with Canelo and both of those early manuscripts went on to be published as books one and two in the Welcome to Thorndale series.

I think many hours of work and perseverance played their part in getting published, along with opportunities for new writers to learn through the RNA. I can’t overstate the importance of the New Writers Scheme and connecting with people who share your love for the genre through the Association.

At present, you are a new-to-me author, as I mentioned, but you have several other books out there. Could you tell us a little about the inspiration behind your other series?

Welcome to Thorndale is a four-book series set in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. The village of Arncliffe, currently used for filming some scenes in All Creatures Great and Small, was my original inspiration for Thorndale. I visit the Dales quite regularly and I still half expect to see my characters going about their business when I’m there!

My inspiration to write comes from a love of landscape, romance and rural life, and I wanted to bring all of these together in the books. Each is a standalone story, but they are best read in order as characters from the first book return in all four.

I completed the series with A Country Village Christmas last year, but I have an idea for a fifth book at the back of my mind. Books one and four in the series have epilogues on my website, and it was so much fun to return to familiar characters and write them.

It’s funny how some characters don’t want to be put to bed. My first novel, Marriage Unarranged was a stand-alone. Still, the characters wouldn’t be quiet, so I have just finished book 2 and am starting the process for the third in that series, and even then, there are ideas for novellas and possibly sequels coming into my mind!

And do you have a favourite out of all your published books so far?

It’s very difficult to answer as they’re a little bit like favourite children! How do you choose! If I had to pick just one, it would be The Cottage of New Beginnings, as it’s the first book I had published, and that’s such a special moment for any author. Annie and Jon’s story was the beginning of my new career, and they’re definitely favourite characters, and I still wonder where they might be in their lives now. Each book was a joy to write, and I’m very grateful to be continuing into a second series with Canelo.

I’d agree with you, there. Our books are always our babies!

I always ask this one, but could you tell me where you like to write? Do you have a writing room/desk, or are you a writer who likes to take their laptop/notepad out and about?

I can write more or less anywhere, and if it’s going well, the noise around me will cease. I do most of my writing from around six am, and I’m at my best first thing. I write for three hours before a walk to work out what’s next. I have a lovely writing nook, and it’s very cosy with lots of books. My husband suggested the colour when we redecorated it as it’s described as a romantic grey-pink. He thought it would suit my room perfectly; he was right, and I love it!

That sounds ideal!

Have you ever written a book you feel will never see the light of day? I know I have a few half-written ideas, but nothing I finished completely, then set to one side!

I haven’t got a full-length manuscript in a drawer, but there are probably one or two terrible, unfinished ones from many years ago. They will never see the light of day, I’ll make sure of it! I mainly wrote short stories during my teenage years, and it was a good way to begin. I found some recently during a clear-out and couldn’t bring myself to shred them as they’re part of my own story as an author. I hope you finish yours, Ritu, and they do see the light of day, I’m sure they’re much better than mine!

Oh, gosh, no! We should never get rid of them, should we? You never know where that little fledgeling of an idea may flourish and form a part of a story you write in the future! And I highly doubt they are much better than yours! Probably different, but no less rushed and immature!

Now, I invited you over to have a little chat about your newest release, Snowfall over Halesmere House. Firstly, can I just say, I love that you have a Christmassy book and your surname is Snow! Where did the idea for the story of Ella and Max come from?

Thank you, I love the snow on the covers of my Christmas books. It’s very apt! I think I’ll have to keep on writing about Christmas!

I wanted to write a series set in the Lake District and had the idea for a holiday home and group of artists’ studios with characters coming and going. I love Cumbria and have spent lots of time there visiting studios and different areas of the county for inspiration.

Ella and Max are both familiar with loss in their lives, and I hope their story is an uplifting one rooted in a sense of place that helps them move on and look to the future. Prim, the English Pointer dog, was inspired by our own, and wonderful to write. Max’s children Lily and Arlo, and his mother Noelle all play their own part in a story of family and finding love.

Ella is a chef, as I mentioned earlier. Are you a dab hand in the kitchen? If so, what is your speciality? If not, who is the cook in your house?

I’m a good home cook, and we like to try new things along with the old favourites. I love making meals for family and friends, and a few years ago I made hundreds of individual portions of soup to sell for charity. My husband enjoys baking, and he makes a fabulous black cherry cheesecake.

I love that your husband bakes! I do love a bit of baking. My Hubby Dearest well, he is a dab hand at ordering takeaway, if you catch my drift! He can microwave meals like no one else, and can boil an egg…

My speciality would probably be a roast dinner, as my dad taught me and he still makes the best gravy. My son is also a good cook and always willing to help out if we’re busy. He’s more experimental than me and likes to create his own recipes.

Oh. I love roast dinners! Your son sounds like my brother. He’s a great cook and always knocking up different dishes!

I understand that Snowfall Over Halesmere House is the beginning of a new series for you called Love In The Lakes. Any sneaky clues as to who the next story may centre around?

The next book is due out in February, and it’s Lizzie and Cal’s second chance at first love. Until this one, I hadn’t written about a couple who’d known each other before, and I loved creating that first connection and writing about the summer they spent together twelve years earlier. They’re back at Halesmere for different reasons and creating their story, as they go in search of family and maybe a future, was brilliant.

That sounds fantastic, and. I can’t wait for book two in the series!

Thank you so much for visiting, Suzanne. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Ritu, I’ve loved answering your questions. I hope one day I’ll get to try those amazing samosas, pakoras and steamed dhokla. I wish you all the best with your unfinished work too, I look forward to them seeing daylight!

My pleasure 😊 And thank you for the good vibes! May we bring many books out between us!

So, you have a fantastic book to read, my Peeps, and a second one following it, soon, too!

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

The Blurb

Welcome to Halesmere House, where romance might be just around the corner…

After years of living in the past, Ella is ready to start building a future. The perfect opportunity presents itself when she is offered a short-term role at Halesmere House in the Lake District, and tasked with kick-starting its artists’ residence. She can’t wait to start and explore a new career in an inspiring location.

But when Ella arrives at Halesmere, she wonders if she’s made a huge mistake after she clashes with Max, the new owner. Max has his own reasons to be unsettled by her presence, but despite his misgivings it seems everyone else loves having Ella around. As a single dad, it’s his children’s attachment to her that bothers him most. Who will pick up the pieces when Ella leaves?

What Max doesn’t know is that Ella is falling for more than just the Lake District and the community around her. Can her temporary job lead to a permanent happy ending?

A tender and uplifting Christmas romance for fans of Heidi Swain, Karen Swan and Sue Moorcroft.

My Review

I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC of Snowfall at Halesmere House to participate in a blog tour.
A lovely story about our main character, Ella, who has spent her whole life chasing a dream that wasn’t hers. She’s ready for a chance to think about what she wants in life.
A spot of a post on Instagram brings her to an idyllic but small village a fair distance from her home, where she encounters some interesting characters and plenty of challenges of her own.
I loved it.
Noelle, the woman who brought Elle to the Lake District, is a hoot, and her son, Max, and his children get under the skin of our MC pretty quickly.
There is an excellent cast of supporting characters and a certain woman who is the thorn in Ella’s side, but I don’t think she realises until quite far along in the story!
And the slow-burn romance that builds among the Christmas cheer is as welcome as a log fire on a cold winter’s night!
A great read!

Author Biography

Suzanne writes contemporary and uplifting fiction with a vibrant sense of setting and community connecting the lives of her characters. A horticulturist who lives with her family in Lancashire, her books are inspired by a love of landscape, romance and rural life. 

Her first novel in the Thorndale series, The Cottage of New Beginnings, was a contender for the 2021 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and she is currently writing the Love in the Lakes series for Canelo. Suzanne is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors.

Check out Suzanne’s Website:

Follow Suzanne on Twitter

Follow Suzanne on Instagram

Book and a Brew with Ritu – The Christmas Trip by @sandybarker @OneMoreChapter_ #NewRelease #BookReview

What fun! We are on part three of Book and a Brew with Ritu!.

Today, I am beyond excited to have a fangirl moment as brilliant romance author Sandy Barker pops over for a visit! I’ll have you know it took a little time to align our body clocks and timings to work with the UK/Australian time difference, but we managed!

We’ll talk about her latest release, The Christmas Trip, a sequel to the fantastic The Christmas Swap. as well as plenty of other bookish and writerely things!

Hello, and welcome to But I Smile Anyway, Sandy! Let’s get you set with a drink, first. What wonderful warm drink can I interest you in?

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 maybe it is mulled wine we should be sipping since we are talking all things Christmas with your new release out! Let me know. I have my usual samosas and pakoras, and I even baked some of my grandmother’s delicious three-ingredient butter shortbread biscuits, which I thought would be particularly fitting for our catch-up!

First, thank you so much for having me. It’s great that we can finally catch up. Now, normally I’d say a cup of tea – but mulled wine is on offer? I think I have to say yes to that, and I LOVE shortbread biscuits, so yes, please!

Now you’ve got your drink and a nibble, let’s get started.

I always love to find out more about where a fellow author’s journey started. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to be published, Sandy? I ‘met’ you via the RNA. Were they part of your journey?

Absolutely, the RNA has been part of my journey. I self-published my first book back in December 2017, right as we were about to leave Australia for a one-year sabbatical. We moved to Bali first, and it was there I wrote book 2 in the series. By the time we got to the UK in August, I’d self-published book 2 and was writing book 3. That’s where I discovered the incredible writing community that centres around the RNA. I joined the New Writer’s Scheme for 2019 at the same time I was pitching to agents and publishers in the UK.

When we landed back in Australia in January 2019, I got a publication offer for my first self-published book – the one that became One Summer in Santorini. Off the back of that offer, I secure my brilliant agent, Lina Langlee, and we’ve been building my writing career ever since. I am very grateful for the support of the RNA community, particularly as I started my writing journey. It was a thrill to get to the 2022 conference this year and meet many of my contemporaries in person!

Sandy, you have managed to amass a total of 8 books released since 2019. I am in awe! (Considering it took me near enough twenty years to get my first finished and published…) Where do your ideas come from? I know you love travelling, and foreign shores feature heavily in all your books.

Travel is definitely a strong inspiration for my stories and often the starting point. With Bali, for example, I thought, ‘Who in the Holiday Romance series can I send to this incredible destination?’ That’s when I had the idea of giving a supporting character from That Night in Paris, Jaelee, her own story with most of it set in Bali.

With The Dating Game, which also features travel but is more focussed on the machinations of a reality TV dating show, I was writing recaps of The Bachelor for my colleagues – we were in a sweepstake together during the height of the COVID lockdowns and it was a fun way to connect with them. Those recaps sparked the idea of sending a recapper on the show undercover. That was a blast to write.

And what about you? Where do you get your ideas?

Thank you for asking! My writing tends to find its roots in my own, to be honest. I like to write about life, and situations that are often not openly discussed within our Indian community, with a twist that will engage readers from all backgrounds. It’s always fiction with an educational element, if you like, as many readers of my first novel, and some blog posts always comment on what they have learned about our culture, after reading.

Sandy, is there a favourite book out of the eight of yours that are out there?

I have a soft spot for book 5 in the Holiday Romance series as I got to bring everyone back together and write Tuscany! That was also during lockdown – Melbourne being the most locked down city in the world over the past few years – so it was great escapism to write about such a beautiful destination. But I think The Dating Game is my funniest book.

Do you have a fave of mine, Ritu?

That is a tough question, Sandy! I have enjoyed them all, but I think the Christmas Swap was a particular favourite, because who doesn’t love a bit of festive fun?

Now, I’m a nosy parker, you know. I like to see where others process their creative magic. Where do you like to write? (If I’m not mistaken, I am sure I saw you with a standing desk on one of your social media posts!)

I do have a standing desk, something necessitated by neck issues and headaches I’ve had for twenty plus years.


I typically get up between 5 and 6 in the morning and write or edit for a couple of hours before switching gears to my day job. A couple of years ago, I also went part-time – 4 days a week instead of 5 – and I treat Fridays as a workday – but for my author job. Sometimes, it’s fun to get out and take my laptop to a place with a view – the beach or a winery – and hole up there for a day of writing.

I have such trouble finding time during the term to write because my teaching job uses up all my reserves, and as I have a commute, driving around an hour every day, on top of my working hours, the holidays and weekends are my time to create, the way I want. Maybe one day, I might drop a day, too! But I think that is a while away, yet! (Because I do love my day job, too…)

Where’s your favourite place to write?

I love writing in my writing nook at home, but I’d love to be one of those authors who can camp out at a cafe, bashing out the words, while people-watching and finding even more inspiration! Alas, time and my other life as a teacher as well as a big family person mean that I have very little time for whimsical ideas like that… one day, though. I am scoping out local cafes to have a try!

I’ve read each one of your books, so far, Sandy, and loved them all. Have you ever written a manuscript that is sat, hiding on your desktop, or idling on a USB stick, that you haven’t had published, for whatever reason?

I think we all have at least one of those – hee hee. I do have a few story ideas that are ‘trapped’ in various notebooks and I have a short story (about 15k words) that I’d like to develop into a full-length novel one day. But it’s very different from the romcoms I write. And thank you for the kind words about my books. I’ve got Marriage Unarranged loaded up on my Kindle and can’t wait to get into it – it looks like such a fun read. Thank you so much, Sandy! I hope you enjoy it when you get around to reading it. If your TBR is anything like mine, I know it’s a slog to fit all that reading in around life and writing, too!

Before I warble on about all manner of other things, let’s bring it back to the book of the moment, The Christmas Trip, and top up that mulled wine! This is a sequel to the fantastic The Christmas Swap, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And, lucky me, I got to read an ARC of The Christmas Trip, which was equally wonderful. Did you always plan for a sequel, or was it something that was borne after seeing the way readers lapped up these characters?

I didn’t plan on a sequel when I wrote the first book, but a lot of readers who read The Christmas Swap wondered ‘what next?’ for the May Ladies – Chloe, Lucy and Jules – so I had a think and ended up writing The Christmas Trip, bringing them all back together. I also wanted to set it in a location that was unique to these characters. I love Hawaii and wrote about Maui in A Sunset in Sydney, so I decided to set this book on the island of Kauai.

Have you ever had Christmas in a warm part of the world?

I have! We celebrated in Kenya a few times, growing up, as my parents were both born there, so it would coincide with the odd visit. However, it was never Christmas as we knew it, since all the times we were out there at that time, we were celebrating another family wedding! At least four, I think, and turkey and all the trimmings were a distant dream! But Pops and Mum always bought our presents along, and we would have our Christmas dinner at home when we got back!

I must ask… are you a Christmas geek? And what is Christmas like, for you, Down Under? I know we rarely get a white Christmas over here, but it is even less likely for you!

I am a complete Christmas geek. The Christmas Swap actually came about because I wanted to write about some of the Christmases I’ve had in the past – including in England and Colorado. Here in Australia, it’s typically a hot day, so we sip champers and eat seafood. I always make a pavlova too. That sounds great! I have family in Perth. Maybe, one day, we can try an Aussie Christmas, with them!

What about you? What do you and your family do for the holidays?

If we are home, despite being Sikh, we always celebrate Christmas the traditional way. As a child with my parents, and now, either at my in-laws or at our home, with the turkey and full trimmings! I love getting the tree up on the 1st December, but have to station it in a place where Sonu Singh, our cat, cant chew off the branches, or bat off the baubles! There are less wrapped presents underneath too, nowadays, since the kids are teens and they prefer an envelope with cash!

Now, back to your bookish plans, Sandy…

I may be being cheeky here, but are there any plans for a part three? If not, what do we Sandy Barker-ites have to look forward to, from you, next? I hear there may even be a collaborative offering in the pipeline…

Not sure about a part 3 for the May Ladies – maybe one day. At the moment, Fiona Leitch and I are putting the finishing touches on a co-authored project we’ve been working on in between other books. We call it Big Little Lies meets Gone Girl. It’s a sexy suburban noir thriller set in contemporary Melbourne. I am also working on a labour of love – a dramedy set in Sydney called Tilly Finnegan, Begin Again. I’m about 1/3 of the way through that. And I have started a new rom-com series. I can’t say much about that at the moment, but it will be a lot of fun to explore a range of romantic tropes throughout the series.

So what are you working on next?

I’m currently editing book 2 in The Rishtay Series, due for release in June 2023, and working on the ideas for book 3! (Honestly, I can’t believe there is more than one book in me!)

Your collab with Fiona sounds amazing, and Tilly Finnegan, Begin Again, too. (I am now singing Michael Finnegan under my breath, I’ll have you know! Earworm!)

Now, much as I’d like to keep supping wine with you, I know you have a busy schedule, what with it being publication day, Sandy! Thank you so much for taking the time to pop over and visit! I can’t wait to do it again!

Thank you SO much. What fun questions! 

Good luck with the release, Sandy! I loved reading The Christmas Trip, and I know others will love it, too!

So much to look forward to, from Sandy (and Fiona Leitch, too!). I can’t wait!

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of The Christmas Trip so please find my review below, as well as the buy links and some more information about my fabulous guest, Sandy!

The Blurb

It’s a year on and our three May Ladies are all loved up but still living worlds apart.

Chloe has had a whirlwind year amongst the glitz, glamour (and demanding work) of Hollywood. She’s taken on the role of Assistant Producer on the film, ‘An Extraordinary Woman: The Eloise Capel Story’, Archer’s passion project and as Archer’s girlfriend, she’s now schmoozing with A-listers.

Jules is immersed in her Melbourne life, working for a non-profit and sharing an increasingly crowded flat on the waterfront with flatmate, Ash ― and their frequent visitors: Ash’s boyfriend, Davo, and Jules’ love, Matt, and his dog, Dexter. She’s considering moving out on her own, only Matt keeps hinting at Jules moving to his vineyard down south.

Lucy, meanwhile, is stuck in long-distance-relationship hell. While her career is flying high ― a promotion and frequent trips to the US for work ― her relationship with Will has stalled. She doesn’t want to be a part-time girlfriend, finding their time apart agonising, but Will seems perfectly content.

When Archer’s planned Parisian proposal at Christmastime is derailed by an ash cloud over Europe, he hatches a plan to bring all six of them together for a Christmas ― and a marriage proposal ― to remember. In Hawaii!

Join the May Ladies and their loves in the most beautiful destination yet for a Christmas filled with mayhem and misunderstandings, and rocking romance around the Christmas tree!

My Review

The Christmas Trip: A gorgeous Christmas romance to escape with in 2022 by Sandy Barker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always love a chance to revisit characters who made an impression the first time round, and knowing we were meeting the May Ladies again was a thrill in itself.
I love Sandy Barker’s stories. Modern romances with a bit of heat but a lot of love and plenty of hiccups along the way!
This time our ladies are firmly ensconced in their relationships, but so busy the year has flown by with not much chance to be together.
The effects of an ash cloud result in the three of them being together again, for Christmas, on a beautiful tropical island with their plus ones by their side.
Lucy, Chloe and Jules have plenty to keep them occupied, as each is weaving their way through the maze of long-term relationships. Still, we also meet some great new characters, like Leilani, the housekeeper, or Mama to all, and the immature but intriguing Audrey.
And there is always a little drama to keep the action going!
The descriptions of the idyllic Hawaiian island where they spend Christmas make me want to jet off on holiday too!
I really enjoyed the story, and I’d be more than happy to hear a little more about how they get on in the future!
Many thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, for an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.

These are the buy links for #TheChristmasTrip

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA | Amazon US

KoboiBooks | Nook | Google Play

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

Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.

Sandy lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the five-book Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins.

The series continues in Paris, Sydney, and Bali with Tuscany the final destination in the series. Sandy’s novels The Christmas Swap and The Christmas Trip celebrate her favourite time of the year, and her romcom, The Dating Game, is set in the (fascinating) world of Reality TV.

Follow Sandy:

Book and a Brew with Ritu – The Gingerbread Cafe by @anita_faulkner_ #NewRelease #BookReview

I’m back with a second edition!

Today, I am thrilled to welcome a relatively new but nonetheless amazing romance author, Anita Faulkner. Her second book, The Gingerbread Cafe, is out TODAY!

Hello, and welcome to But I Smile Anyway, Anita! Let’s get you set with a drink first. I know you are a fan of a cuppa. I see you with your mugs on your Chick Lit and Prosecco Wednesday catch-ups!

I can offer you an English brew, or, if you fancy a little something different, I can always brew up some masala tea… or a coffee if you please? Let me know. Snacks a plenty, too, from biscuits (yes, even gingerbread) to samosas.

Ooh, now I remember reading about masala tea in your fabulous novel, Marriage Unarranged. And as it’s deliciously full of ginger, cinnamon and spices it sounds perfect for our bookish chat about The Gingerbread Café. Let’s put a pot on!

And do pass the samosas …

So, a debut author only a matter of months ago, and already you have your second book out. How does that feel? Tell me a bit about your journey from aspiring writer to successful published author.

The journey has been long! But like many things in life, it has been worth the work and the wait.

I probably started writing my first novel the best part of ten years ago, back when I was still a bolshie solicitor. But little did I know, writing and editing a 100,000-word novel – and then trying to get it published – was no walk in the park!

That first novel (which I rewrote at least three times) will probably always live in a dusty drawer. It was rejected a million times over, but the feedback I got about it from the fabulous Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme taught me so much and enabled me to go on and write something so much better.

Then through the RNA, I met my fantastic publisher Little, Brown (Sphere) and award-winning agent Kate Nash. By some glorious miracle, they both loved A Colourful Country Escape, and it became my debut.

My festive romcom The Gingerbread Café is hot on its heels.

Do you feel a special affinity to either of the books you have written?

As I’m sure you’ll agree, wonderful Ritu, creating a novel is kind of like bringing a baby into the world. And much like children, each will hold a special place in your heart – for their own unique reasons.

Oh, I 100% agree, Anita! I always call them my Book Babies!

The Gingerbread Café is dedicated to my friend Gina, who sadly passed away unexpectedly – and far too young – whilst I was writing the story. Gina had plans to write her own book and even gave me some ideas for this one. (Look out for Cedric the Shih Tzu who wears crystals in his bandana.) So this story will always be dear to me, partly for that reason. I wrote it for Gina.

I am always curious as to where my authorly friends like to create their wonderful stories. Where do you like to write? 

I bounce around, depending on my mood! Do you do that too, Ritu? Or are you always in that gorgeous writing space of yours? I’ve seen the pics!

I do love my little writing space! But some days I may be in my bed, or in the conservatory, too!

I have an upcycled writer’s bureau that I absolutely love. From there, I can look out onto the garden and daydream. (It also has cute little drawers for pretty paperclips and coloured post-its. My eight-year-old self is in heaven!) Gotta love a garden view!

In the winter, I like to cosy up on the sofa with a blanket and a candle. (Not too close together – that would probably end in a blazing disaster.) I even have a hot water bottle on my lap for extra cosy vibes!

But if I need to crack on without gawping at birds or faffing with mood lighting, I use my desk upstairs. Although I am planning to redecorate it with a peacock theme to tie in with Lexie’s adventures in A Colourful Country Escape …

I met you through your wonderful Facebook group Chick Lit & Prosecco, which is a hugely successful group filled with romance writers and readers, so I know romance is your passion. Why romance? Have you ever toyed with the idea of writing in a different genre?

Writing romance is such a joy, isn’t it? (In fact, even when I’m reading another genre, I’m rooting for someone to fall in love along the way.)

Gotta love a bit of romance, Anita!

My books always contain a storyline outside of the romantic bit. My heroines (and heroes) are fighting for something that will challenge them and shape their growth. In The Gingerbread Café Gretel needs to get over her grief for her mother and sister, and to shake off her unhealthy obsession with Christmas. And of course, she needs to take a giant leap out of her comfort zone to try to run the café she’s inherited – when she has never been sociable, and she seriously can’t bake!

But of course, I live for the love story too. As my characters push through their struggles and grow, they become ready to accept love – because they can finally accept themselves.

I wouldn’t know where to start with writing in a different genre, but I do love reading widely. I’ve been into a few cosy mysteries and psychological thrillers at the moment, and there’s a lot to be learned from those twisty plots and that page-turning pace.

Do you love a bit of murder too, Ritu?

I’m okay with reading psychological thrillers, but I have never felt the inclination to write them. I am not sure I could write murders, and the plots are so complex, I don’t think my brain works that way! Gosh!

I think we need more tea. Time for a top-up before we carry on, and maybe we could nibble on a gingerbread man, as we go!

Anita, I loved your debut, A Colourful Country Escape. Those peacocks were a hilarious addition. I have to say we have an orange vintage VW camper that is seen around our local area, and it now reminds me of Lexie! Was that the first novel you had ever completed, or had you written others before that haven’t been published?

Ha ha, we’re back to that dusty old drawer book! I think a few of us writers have those, and it always helped me as a budding author to hear about them. I went to a book talk once with an international bestselling debut author, and she admitted that she still had four dusty old rejects that had never been published.

Quite often those are the books that help us learn and grow. Whilst I don’t plan to go back to it any time soon (or indeed ever!) I’ll always have a soft spot for it.

(In fact – Secret Squirrel. If you’ve read Sky’s wedding scene in A Colourful Country Escape, you’ll have met Lexie’s friends Mia and Jake, who were the main characters in the aforementioned dusty tome. Ooh …)

Maybe it won’t stay in that drawer… it could get a little dust off and become a reader magnet for your newsletter… you know, sign up and receive a little extra something from me! Food for thought, my friend.

Now, let’s get back to the book of the moment, The Gingerbread Café. I was lucky enough to receive an arc, and I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Gretel and Lukas. What was your inspiration for this Christmas-themed story?

Since I came across so many fabulous authors in my Facebook group Chick Lit and Prosecco, I’ve become a little obsessed with Christmas novels. (Hello Jaimie Admans, Katie Ginger, Sandy Barker, Leonie Mack, Kitty Wilson … and so many more!)

Festive reads can be so enchanting, and I just wanted to play around with some of that Christmas magic. So I kind of thought ‘what’s the most Christmassy thing I can think of?’ And so perpetually Yule-addicted Gretel and her Christmas-themed gingerbread café were born! From there, I kept sprinkling on the Christmassy-ness.

Obviously, as the title suggests, gingerbread is a running theme through the book. Are you a baker? Or do your attempts mirror those of our lovely main character, Gretel?

Oh, I’m a definite Gretel-style baker! That’s to say if you’re brave enough to enter my kitchen after some baking has gone down, you’ll think there’s been an egg fight in a snowstorm. Think gunk on every surface, enough washing up to sink Santa’s sleigh, and a whole lot of burnt stuff.

Thank goodness we have your delicious samosas, Ritu! I should never be left in charge of the food.

I am thrilled you are enjoying them. Thank goodness for mums passing down recipes, eh!

I have told you this before, but you have found a proper fan in me with your two books so far. (Fan-girl moment that you are here on my blog!) Tell us, what is in the pipeline for the rest of your soon-to-be fans? Any sequels to your two stories, or are you branching out with some new characters in your next book?

I’m currently working on a brand new series which is set on a lavender farm. That may be subject to change, as it isn’t yet under contract. But in the meantime, I’m having a whole lot of fun with it, and in my wildest dreams, I can see it growing into something quirky but wonderful.

The main character in the first book of the series is Bea, who we meet in The Gingerbread Café. In Gingerbread she runs a shop called Lavender & Honey, where she sells produce from the farm. But I have some exciting new plans for her! And I’m hoping that you’ll see some of the characters from A Colourful Country Escape and The Gingerbread Café in that series too. But we’ll see! Fate will decide.

I love this, and cannot wait, Anita!

Do share the gossip on what you’re working on, Ritu. I need more of your fantastic stories in my life.

Aw, thank you so much for asking. Editing on book two in the Rishtay Series is going on, right now, since I had my alpha and sensitivity reader feedback, with a June 2023 release date, to coincide with Pride Month. (Big hint about the content in that release date, there!) And book three is taking shape in my mind and on paper, ready to start writing, soon!

Well, the teapot is almost empty. I am ready to brew another, Anita, but I know you have different places to visit, as your release date is today. I wish you and your beautiful story heaps of luck, and we will have to carry on this conversation when it’s time for the next release!

Thank you so much for visiting, Anita. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you so much for these brilliantly fun questions and for inviting me on your blog. 

My pleasure 😊

So, not only is there Anita’s newest release, but news on a new series to come! I can’t wait!

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

Can Gretel find the recipe for the perfect Christmas?

The Gingerbread Café is always full of Christmas magic. Come rain or shine (or even a July heatwave), there’s always a hot chocolate bursting with cinnamon and marshmallows waiting for you. For introverted Gretel, it’s been the perfect escape from ‘real life’. The owner, Nell, is Gretel’s last link to her late mum, and hiding out at the café feels so much safer than making new friends.

So when Nell suddenly passes, Gretel is left heartbroken. Then she discovers that Nell has left the café to her – but there’s a catch. Gretel has to share the running of The Gingerbread Café with the least festive person ever: Nell’s nephew, Lukas. Head chef at the local fancy restaurant, Lukas makes it clear he has no time for the café, Gretel or even Christmas itself, and Gretel’s too busy struggling to save her burnt batches of gingerbread to work out why.

Gretel is determined to keep Christmas alive and make the café a success before Lukas hands the keys over to the scrooge-like developers. But she can’t do it alone; besides an over friendly ferret and a waitress with a secret, the only person she has now is Lukas. Will it take a Christmas miracle to get the pair to finally see eye to eye, or could the ice already be melting?

Packed full of sugar and spice, The Gingerbread Café will tick all the wishes off your Christmas list this festive period. Perfect for fans of Heidi Swain, Jo Thomas and Bella Osborne.

My Review

The Gingerbread Cafe by Anita Faulkner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many thanks to NetGalley and The Little Brown Book Co UK for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Anita Faulkner is a relatively new author on the block, but, having already read her debut, A Colourful Country Escape, I was brimming with excitement to read her soon-to-be-released The Gingerbread Cafe, and I was not disappointed one bit!
Gretel is stuck in a time warp, replaying all that is Christmas in her life every day because it’s the safest way. Memories she doesn’t want to forget about people she has lost, all attached to the festive season.
And what better place to be able to relive them than in the village’s all-year-round Christmas-themed coffee shop, The Gingerbread Cafe, run by Nell, a person who has been her surrogate mother for many years.
Then illness takes that one person who grounds her but leaves her with a gift she had never expected. the ownership of said cafe. Or rather, shared ownership with Nell’s grumpy nephew, Lukas, an up-and-coming head chef with aspersions much higher than a lowly cafe, themed around the season he hates the most. And worst of all, the Will conditions state that they are stuck with each other and the cafe for a while before they can be rid of one another.
I loved the way this story developed and how each main character found themselves, more and more as the pages were turned,
Gretel needed to learn that she could live in the now and that not all memories had to be lived constantly, and Lukas had to find a way to fulfil his real dreams, not those he was expected to have,
No story is complete with a decent cast of characters, and the village of Mistleton was not lacking, I tell you! The other shop owners of the village, as we came to get to know them, each brought much colour and wisdom to the journey Gretel found herself on, as well as Amber, the mysterious, sort-of waitress, with her strange uniform, and straight-up wisdom, even though her mouth needs to be reined in sometimes.
And then, our villain of the piece, Francesca Wimple, or Swingy Bob, is determined to strip all the local villages of their individuality and character by turning everywhere into franchise-run high streets.
The review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention Angel Gabriel, Gretel’s pet ferret, who plays a starring role in the story with his little squeaks and quirks.
I feel all gooey inside after reading this. I finished it in a day, and now I really want to go to Mistleton, sample all the gingerbread goodies and hot chocolate in the cafe, and visit the other wonderful independent shops that line Green Tree Lane!
A wonderful second book by this author who is fast becoming an instant buy fave of mine!


And here are some links about Anita and her other book.


Have a Nosey at Anita’s website:

Join Anita’s Mailing List

Join us in Anita’s Facebook group – Chick Lit and

Follow Anita on Twitter:

Follow Anita on Instagram:

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





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.


Take your pick from Kiley’s six novels (for author’s accompanying content/trigger warnings go to

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:

Instagram: @kileydunbarauthor

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