Among the Zinnias

By Linda Fagioli-Katsiotas

 

Book Blurb

Come and travel between the Italian island of Incompresso and the small American town of Robin’s Nest. Experience passion, sorrow, laughter and love in a tale that will hold your heart and spark your desire to know what is happening . . . Among the Zinnias!

Eighty-five-year-old Giovanna Boeri awaits the return of her daughter, Angelina, from America. She cannot understand why Angelina has left their small island when it contains everything anyone would ever want. Giovanna is struggling to care for her ailing husband who is beset by memories of war and murder, one he, himself, has committed but understands too late that it’s his grandson, Rocco, who will pay the price.

As Giovanna comes to terms with her husband’s deteriorating condition, she realizes she can no longer count on him to make decisions, nor can she wait for her own fate to be decided by Angelina.

Angelina, with her husband, Pasquale, is struggling in Robin’s Nest to maintain a pizzeria. Their son, Rocco, has just been released from an Italian prison after having served ten years. Rather than have him return to their small island, they’ve bought the pizzeria in hopes of giving Rocco a new beginning in a new location. The pizzeria is supposed to be their catalyst to a happy life.

But life rarely follows one’s expectations . . .

My Review

The stage is set as Giovanna Boeri watches her daughter Angelina sail from her island home in Italy and return to New Jersey to be with her husband and children. Angelina is torn between remaining with her aging parents and returning to the home she has made in America. The story that follows will keep you turning the pages.

Many personalities were introduced making the characters and their relationships believable.  I could relate to Giovanna and the difficulty of watching her child leave for a distant place.  Her relationship with her husband reminded me of my own grandparents.  Angelina was in a challenging place emotionally, and  I felt a lot of empathy for her as her roles of parent, wife, and daughter sometimes were in conflict, but I loved the way she was able to balance them. From the beginning, Rocco seemed to be a seedy character, and I took an immediate dislike to him, though, by the end of the book, I thought he had redeemed himself.

I’d have liked to have seen the characters of Giovanna, Angelina, and Gina developed a bit more in the beginning. Switching from one to another was confusing until I read enough of the book to get a firm grasp on each.

The author created a storyline that in some form or another has been played out by all those who have immigrated to another country – the quest for acceptance, the heartache of leaving family, finding their niche in their new home, and genuine desire to make it all work.

Once again, Linda Fagioli-Katsiotas has given us an enjoyable, multifaceted story crossing two nationalities to savor.  I would definitely recommend this to any reader who enjoys stories of multi-generational families of another culture.

I was gifted this book in return for my honest review.

About the Author

Linda Fagioli-Katsiotas lives on Long Island with her husband, Nick.  She teaches English to newly immigrated English language learners at her local public school. She is also a speech pathologist working with adults who have brain injury. Although Among the Zinnias was inspired by these two roles, it remains a work of fiction. (Taken from Among the Zinnias)

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Beauty Rising

By Mark Sasse

 

Beauty RisingBook Blurb

“My heart sank. I dumped my father’s ashes in the heart of communist Vietnam – over a thousand miles from the death of his comrades – over a thousand miles from the smile of that girl. How could I have been so stupid?”

Only the bumbling, overweight, thirtyish, stay-at-home Martin Kinney could have mistakenly flubbed his dying father’s request with such gusto. This thousand mile mistake awakens the ghosts of long-held family secrets and puts Martin on a fateful course with an unlikely romantic interest – a young, beautiful, yet troubled Vietnamese woman named My Phuong.

With its cross-cultural setting and unlikely romance, the 61,000 word novel Beauty Rising creates a powerful, unique voice in today’s literature. In a swift-moving, dialogue-driven prose which is funny, honest, tragic and unpredictable, Beauty Rising explores the depths of culture, family, and love as the Vietnam War, a generation removed, continues to hang on the periphery of society, cursing families and causing destruction.

My Review

BEAUTY RISING is both a romance and a historical novel.  Martin, the 30-year-old son of highly dysfunctional parents, is determined to fulfill his father’s death wish – to scatter his ashes near a large protruding rock under two banana trees, by a lake in Vietnam. Martin scatters his dad’s ashes according to his wishes, but soon discovers he took them to the wrong lake, wrong banana trees.  Only the beginning of his bad luck, Martin’s wallet is stolen, and without any money or credit cards, he comes under the wing of a Vietnamese taxi driver and an American English teacher for the remainder of his stay.  After returning home, Martin is unable to forget the beautiful, young woman who he believes stole his wallet.

My Phuong’s life couldn’t get any worse. The daughter of a pastor, My Phuong escaped as the corrupt ruling party arrested her parents and brothers for illegally praying in the open.  After hearing that her parents were dead, she left her home and traveled north.  Reduced to life as a pickpocket, hairdresser, and prostitute, My Phuong flees Vietnam to save her life.

Sasse portrays the two main characters and their emotional struggles with sensitivity. This colorfully written saga of two unfortunate people across the miles from the United States to Vietnam and back, clearly shows the author researched his book in depth.

An emotionally charged story of love, redemption, and heartbreak, BEAUTY RISING is a book you do not want to miss.

About the Author

Mark is a proud Western PA native but has lived most of the last twenty years in Vietnam author photo1and Malaysia. His experiences in Asia have redefined everything including his palate, his outlook on life, and naturally his writing. You can find him most days cruising around Penang Island, eating the local delicacies and taking in the sun and exotic breezes as he looks for interesting places to write.

He has authored four novels with number five and six already somewhere on the horizon. His interests cast a wide net – from politics to literature – to culture and language – to history and religion – making his writing infused with the unexpected as he seeks to tell authentic and engaging stories about people from all walks of life. His writing is straightforward and accessible to all, especially those who enjoy writing injected with doses of Asian culture, history, adventure, and delightful humor. You never know what you might get when you pick up a Sasse novel.

Besides novel-writing, Sasse is a prolific dramatist, having written and produced more than a dozen full-length dramatic productions. He especially is fond of the short play format and has twice won the Best Script award at the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival Penang. His plays and short musicals have also been produced in Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, Australia. Performances of his scripts also won Gold and Bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Forensics Competition 2014.

His professional background is as diverse as his writing. He holds Master’s degrees from California State University Dominquez Hills and Azusa Pacific University in Humanities and TESOL respectively. His undergraduate degree was in English, which helped him develop his passion for creative writing. He has extensive experience in teaching English, history, and drama.

On top of all of this, he loves to cook everything from gourmet pizzas, to Mexican, to various Asian dishes. Flavor is the key of both his cooking and his writing. He very much hopes you enjoy the taste. (Biography is from Goodreads.com)

Website: https://www.mwsasse.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/markwsasse

Twitter: @sassevn

Amazon Author Page: Mark Sasse Amazon Author Page

 

Waking Amy

By Julieann Dove

Waking AmySynopsis

Amy Whitfield is blindsided when she comes home and finds a note on the fridge from her husband, Wesley, stating that after four years of marriage, he’s leaving her. Amy was in the midst of trying to spice things up, to bring life back to their boring marriage. It seems now that she was too late.

As Amy sits with her head between her knees, trying to figure out what to do next, a call comes from Mercer General Hospital. The ER nurse is telling Amy’s answering machine that Wesley has been in a car accident.

When Amy arrives at the hospital, she finds her husband in a coma. The doctors say there is no sign of brain damage, and Wesley will eventually wake up. Relieved, Amy sees this as her second chance: the chance to get it right this time. To channel the girl Wesley won’t leave when he regains consciousness… She just needs some help to pull it off. After all, she was voted girl most likely to die a virgin in high school.

Amy would never figure on getting that help from Mark Reilly…Wesley’s doctor! He’s a non-committer, too-cute-for-his-own-good bachelor, and completely the guy Amy begins falling for. It’s a race against time to see who wakes up first—Amy or her husband.

Publication date – February 23, 2016

My Review

Amy is walking through life accepting her marriage for what it seems until she finds a note from her husband on the refrigerator door – he’s leaving her.  She can’t envision not being married to him or to living alone and is confident she can make Wesley fall in love her again.  While she is still reeling from the reality of Wesley’s note, she receives a call from the hospital. Wesley was in a terrible accident and is in a coma.

Though the book deals with the reality of Amy’s situation and Wesley’s accident that occurred as he was driving away from her, there is a lot of laugh out loud humor, and it all begins when she meets Wesley’s doctor Mark.

Amy enlists Mark’s help to teach her how to be attractive and sexy so that Wesley will wake up from his coma and realize the mistake he made in leaving her.  When Mark agrees, the fun begins.

In this character-driven story, the author paints Amy as someone who is searching for her own identity. She has always been there doing Wesley’s bidding and accepting their marriage as it was – virtually platonic. Wesley’s departure and his accident, force Amy to take stock of herself.

From the first, I despised Wesley, but because he’s in a coma your knowledge of him is second hand until much later in the book.  However, you will learn enough upfront to dislike him instantly.

Mark is definitely swoon-worthy but has his own problems to overcome.  As the handsome doctor who sleeps with someone different every night, can he convince Amy he’s the one for her?

Dove did a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters. Amy was complex. She was sheltered and unsure of herself, but with the help of other characters, she became strong and self-assured.  The storyline was believable and filled with fresh humor.  A fast-paced story, I read it in one sitting.  Waking Amy is one of those books you can’t put down.  It is contemporary romance, chick-lit, and comedy rolled into one.  If you enjoy any of these genre’s you will enjoy reading Waking Amy.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the AuthorJulieann Dove

Julieann lives in Virginia, yet longs to live everywhere else. It doesn’t come as a surprise that along with her gypsy soul, comes an active imagination. That’s why she loves to write and invent worlds and people, so that she can formulate their happily ever after. Hobbies include cooking new recipes, sewing, and spending time with her cute boyfriend/husband and five fabulous children. Vacations happen in Nantucket or the Carolina beaches—anywhere there is inspiration for her next book. One day she hopes to travel to Italy, drive one of those little cars around the countryside, and speak the language fluently!

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Not By Design

A Getting To Mr. Right Series

By Carol Balawyder

Not Byy DesignBook Blurb

Not By Design: A Feel Good Novel
In a life turned upside down, Felicity finds joy is sometimes just around the corner.
Ever since she first appeared in Getting To Mr. Right, Felicity Starr has been struggling to find her own kind of contentment. Now, at thirty-five and living in Rome, Felicity is about to break into the world of fashion design, and caught in a flurry of plans for her wedding when calamity strikes.
Her father’s sudden death brings into question the whole meaning of success. Then Marco, the man she’s about to marry, leaves her when he learns of her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis.
Forced to return to Montreal, Felicity finds her life thrust into unexpected turns. As she confronts the on-going challenges presented by her disease, she gains the strength to let go of old beliefs and face her inner truths.
Love, friendship, and rewarding work come in different forms and Felicity finds it all in ways she never imagined – in a life that’s not by design.

My Review

When I began reading Not By Design, I expected it to be a twist on a traditional romance novel but was delightfully surprised to find it was much more than just a variation of the conventional romance.  Felicity left her father’s company in Montreal and moved to Rome to pursue her career in art causing a rift between Felicity and her father that could not be healed.  While in Rome, she found love and a proposal of marriage, along with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. When Marco, her fiance, learned of her diagnosis, he said, “Arrivederci.” Frightened about what was in store for her in the future, Felicity decided to move back to Montreal where she could have health insurance and be near her life long friends Missi, Suzy, and Campbell. But what frightens her the most is whether or not with her diagnosis, will she ever be able to find true love.

The characters were true to life, and as much as I loved Felicity from the start, I equally disliked Marco.  Felicity had a love-hate relationship with her mother Nicole in the beginning, but I was happy to see some of the walls between them torn down and a much better mother-daughter relationship take hold.  I love characters that serve to lift up a friend or family member. Missi, Suzy, and Campbell convince her to get a puppy and a cane. Her friend Eduardo, who ran an art gallery, and her new found friend Jeff who walked his dog Clyde at the same dog park where Felicity walked her dog Bonnie, all figure into Felicity’s acceptance of her multiple sclerosis and her outlook on the future.

The book was well researched, and the story took us through Felicity’s depression and hopelessness for future happiness to learning to lean on friends for the love and support they so willingly gave, and finally to acceptance of what her life with MS would be, and making the best of it.

I don’t often read a book straight through, but I couldn’t put this one down.  I honestly can’t find anything I didn’t like about it, other than Marco.  It was a heartwarming story of a person learning to accept and live with a debilitating disease.  There is no reason for me to not award Not By Design five stars.

File Size: 2161 KB

Print Length: 164 Pages

Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited

Publication Date: January 31, 2016

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Language: English

Genre: Contemporary Romance

About the AuthorCarol Balawyder

Carol Balawyder holds an undergraduate degree with a major in English Literature and a graduate degree in Criminology. She has taught English in various colleges in Montreal, Concordia University and Ho Chi Minh University of Technology in Vietnam. During this phase of her teaching career, she developed teaching material including Open For Business (Harper & Row), Windows on Sci-Tech (Thomson Publishing) and Pour Etre Ganganat (Beauchemin Publishers).

In the second half of her teaching career, she taught criminology in Police Technology and Corrections Programs. She helped set up and animate a writing workshop for women in prison and has worked in halfway houses and drug rehab centers.  She has self-published Mourning Has Broken (a memoir on grief) and her Getting to Mr. Right Series. Her short stories have appeared in Room Magazine, The Canadian Anthology of Fiction, Mindful.org, Between the Lines, Carte Blanche and she was given an honorary mention for a play submitted to The Canadian Playwright Competition.

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Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Carol-Balawyder/e/B00HVETKWM

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7704883.Carol_Balawyder

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Website – http://carolbalawyder.com/

Blog- http://carolbalawyder.com/blog/

Dancing to an Irish Reel

By Claire Fullerton

 

Dancing to an Irish ReelBook Blurb

On sabbatical from her job in the LA record business, Hailey Crossan takes a trip to Ireland for the vacation of a lifetime. What she finds is a job offer too good to turn down.

But her life in Ireland comes with one complication—Liam Hennessey. He’s a famous Irish musician whose entire life revolves around performing, so when he meets Hailey, he is so unbalanced at the prospect of love that he can’t decide whether to come closer or run away.

And so begins the push and pull of Hailey and Liam’s attraction. It is a dance enriched by colorful Irish friends who help Hailey navigate her budding romance with Liam in a landscape with more charm and character than any place Hailey ever imagined.

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing

Publication date, March 6, 2015

Page count; 236

Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0990304256

ISBN-13: 978-0990304258

My Review

Dancing to an Irish Reel is written in the first person of Hailey Crossan, the main character.  Hailey arrives in Connemara, Ireland on vacation, but when offered the job of a lifetime at a music company, she extends her vacation. Through Hailey, we learn about the people of Connemara, their language, their country, and their music.

Hailey is a strong person who tends to tell it as she sees it. She is not afraid to explore on her own, or travel by herself.  When she meets Liam Hennesey, an accordion player, she immediately feels an attraction.  Liam has a slow way of pursuing Hailey, but he is definitely interested. However, he seems uncertain of their relationship.  There is a lot of hesitancy and on again, off again in their relationship, and even at the end, we aren’t sure where the relationship will go.

The author is a master at rich description allowing us to immediately feel at home in Connemara.  Her vivid descriptions are what drew me in from the first.  The plot evolves with slowly, leaving us to savor our visit with the land and people of Ireland.

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the AuthorClaire Fullerton in front yard with dogs Dec 28 2011

Claire Fullerton is the author of “Dancing to an Irish Reel” (Literary Fiction) and “A Portal in Time,” (Paranormal Mystery), both from Vinspire Publishing.  She is a 4 time, award-winning essayist, a contributor to magazines (including “Celtic Life International” and “Southern Writers Magazine”) a former newspaper columnist, and a 5-time contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series. Claire hails from Memphis, Tennessee and now lives in Malibu, California, with her husband and two German shepherds. She has recently completed her third novel, which is a Southern family saga set in Memphis.

Website

 http://www.clairefullerton.com

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Author Facebook page:  Link​

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Dancing to an Irish Reel – Google+ page:  Link

Claire’s blog: Link​​

Follow Claire on Twitter: @cfullerton3

Claire on Pinterest:  Link

Excerpt link http://www.clairefullerton.com/dancing-to-an-irish-reel

Available on: Amazon.com     Amazon.co.uk     Barnes & Noble

 

Secrets in the Sky

By Pauline Wiles

SecretsInTheSkyCover013Medium-641x1024Book Blurb

No-one ever accused Sophie Campbell of being a coward. From caving trips to rooftop pranks, it appeared nothing could hold her back, especially once she landed a dream job promising travel all over the world.

But Sophie’s jet-setting lifestyle is not what it seems and she’s been spending more time in the quiet English village of Saffron Sweeting than she cares to admit. When her beloved Great Aunt Wol dies suddenly, Sophie loses one of the few people who truly know her. As friends, family and an old flame gather for the funeral, questions soon follow. Worse, Sophie finds herself increasingly attracted to the man most likely to expose her secrets. Can she manage to guard her past, yet finally follow her long-held dream?

Type of Book – paperback, e-book

Publisher – Pauline Wiles

Pub Date – Feb 26, 2015

Page Count – 342 pages

Genre – Women’s Fiction / Chick Lit

My Review

The protagonist in Pauline Wiles’ prequel to Saving Saffron Sweeting, Sophie Campbell, has so many secrets to keep, and some to discover; secrets that get in the way of her moving forward after the death of her beloved Great Aunt Wol, and of finding true love. In the small village of Saffron Sweeting are her secrets really safe? Most of all Sophie wants to keep her secrets from her mother, but will her boyfriend Joey, who is close to Sophie’s mother, spill the beans? Is Sophie willing to do what it takes to keep him from telling all?

When Tom enters the story, early in the book, there are vibes that Sophie tries to ignore. Tom discovers a link between him and Sophie, but soon discovers she’s not who she says she is.

The various characters woven expertly into the story, each have a place in the unraveling of Sophie’s story. Whether they are supporting her, as her friend and housemate Bella, or have a reason to expose her, each character adds to the viability of the story. The author beautifully introduces characters who, each in their own way, have an impact on the direction the story is taking the reader, while at the same time creating a real life image of a village that feels as real as any town the reader may have visited.

A five-star book, I was mesmerized by Secrets in the Sky and didn’t want it to end. Secrets in the Sky is a book I highly recommend to all readers of women’s fiction/chick-lit. Now I need to get a copy of Saving Saffron Sweeting!

About the AuthorPauline Wiles

British by birth, Pauline Wiles is now a contented resident of California, although she admits to an occasional yearning for afternoon tea and historic homes. Her work has been published by House of Fifty, Open Exchange and Alfie Dog Fiction. Her first novel, Saving Saffron Sweeting, was a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and a number one Kindle bestseller. When not writing, she can be found getting the steps wrong in a Zumba class or calculating how many miles she has to run to justify an extra piece of cake.

Connect with the Author

Website
www.paulinewiles.com

Social Media Links
https://twitter.com/paulinewiles
https://www.facebook.com/scribinglimey
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I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-jan-2016

 

Wild Water

By Jan Ruth

Wild WaterBook Blurb

Will life and family conspire to keep these lovers apart again?

Wild Water is the story of forty-something estate agent, Jack, who is stressed out – not only by work, bills, and the approach of Christmas, but by the feeling that he and his wife, Patsy, are growing apart.

His misgivings prove to be true when he discovers Patsy is having an affair, and is pregnant. As his marriage begins to crumble around him, he becomes reacquainted with his childhood sweetheart, Anna, whom he left for Patsy twenty-five years before.

His feelings towards Anna reawaken, but will life and family conflicts conspire to keep them apart again?

 

My Review

Just about everything his life touches – work, his home life, his wife Patsy’s infidelity – leaves Jack Redman stressed.  When he confronts Patsy, she says she wants a divorce and runs off, with their youngest child in tow, to live with her French lover Phillipe.  While dealing with this major upheaval, Jack’s father sends him to talk to Anna Williams, a former girlfriend from long ago, about selling her farm. Thus, we have basis of the love triangle – Jack, Patsy, and Anna.  Phillipe is, for most of the story, in the background and his character doesn’t really come into play until the later part of the book.

The characters are so well drawn; they came to life for me.  Jack is somewhat of a tragic character that evokes the reader’s sympathy.  Patsy is the easy to dislike. She fits the stereotypical idea of a wife who runs off with her lover, forsaking many happy years of marriage and family life. Without regard for her young daughter Lottie’s feelings or the feelings Jack and of the other members of her family, she uses the child as a pawn in the divorce.  Anna is easy to like, she is a friend, a single mother, a caretaker of her farm, and finds that her long buried feelings for Jack are still burning strong.

Wild Water takes place, in part, in rural Wales, which the author describes in such vivid detail you can visualize the mountains, the farm, the beauty of the area as you read.  The plot has a many elements seamlessly woven through it to keep you turning the pages.  Well written so that fiction could be one with reality, Wild Water is the kind of book you never want to put down. It is the first of Jan Ruth’s books that I’ve read, and it won’t be the last.

 

To Read a Sample Chapter: Mybook.to/wildwater

Available as Kindle or Print Book

Publisher: ACCENT PRESS

Publication Date:  July 2015

90,000 words (324 pages print)

Genre: Contemporary Family Saga

 

About the Author

Jan Ruth lives in Snowdonia, North Wales, UK.Jan Ruth - B & W - Lake

This ancient, romantic landscape is a perfect setting for Jan’s fiction, or simply day-dreaming in the heather. Jan writes contemporary stories about people, with a good smattering of humour, drama, dogs and horses.

ABOUT JAN RUTH

Jan was born in Cheshire and moved to North Wales in 1998, although she has always maintained a strong connection with the area from a much earlier age. Her feel for the Welsh landscape is evident in all of her work.

The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. She failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day struggles to make sense of anything numerical.

Her first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.

Many years later Jan’s second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.

Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. Jan went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections. Jan is now pleased to announce that throughout 2015, she will be re-published with Accent Press.

ABOUT JAN’S BOOKS

Fiction which does not fall neatly into a pigeon hole has always been the most difficult to define. In the old days such books wouldn’t be allowed shelf space if they didn’t slot immediately into a commercial list. Today’s forward-thinking publishers – Accent Press being one of them – are far more savvy.

As an author I have been described as a combination of literary-contemporary-romantic-comedy-rural-realism-family-saga; oh, and with an occasional criminal twist and a lot of the time, written from the male viewpoint.

No question my books are Contemporary and Rural. Family and Realism; these two must surely go hand-in-hand, yes? So, although you’ll discover plenty of escapism, I hope you’ll also be able to relate to my characters as they stumble through a minefield of relationships, family, working, pets, love …

I hesitate to use the word romance. It’s a misunderstood and mistreated word in the world of fiction and despite the huge part it plays in the market, attracts an element of disdain. If romance says young, fluffy and something to avoid, maybe my novels will change your mind since many of my central characters are in their forties and fifties. Grown-up love is rather different, and this is where I try to bring that sense of realism into play without compromising the escapism.

Jan Ruth. 2015.

Discover More About Jan Ruth

Jan writes a variety of posts – funny, serious, informative – about Snowdonia and it’s landscapes. Horses and history, her inspiration to write fiction set in Wales and her publishing journey so far.

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