In conversation with writer
Kelly Florentia

Kelly Florentia was born and bred in north London, where she continues to live with her husband Joe. HER SECRET (2018) is her third novel and the sequel to NO WAY BACK (2017).

Kelly has always enjoyed writing and was a bit of a poet when she was younger. Before penning her debut The Magic Touch, relaunched with a new print-run in 2019, she wrote short stories for women’s magazines. To Tell a Tale or Two… is a collection of her short tales. In January 2017, her keen interest in health and fitness led to the release of Smooth Operator – a collection of twenty of her favourite smoothie recipes.

As well as writing, Kelly enjoys reading, running, drinking coffee, scoffing cakes, watching TV dramas and spending way too much time on social media. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

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Today I’m super-excited to welcome writer Kelly Florentia to my blog. Her novels include No Way Back and Her Secret, starring the inimitable Audrey Fox; her delicious short story collection To Tell a Tale or Two and her standalone novel The Magic Touch.

BH: Hi Kelly, thank you for joining me today. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Audrey Fox fan and I’m not alone. Can I kick off by asking if we’ll hear more from Auds in the future?

KF: Hi Bev, thank you so much for inviting me on your fabulous blog. I’m thrilled to hear you’re a big Foxy fan! Quite a few people have asked me if there are any plans for a third Audrey book. It isn’t something I’m thinking about at the moment, but I do think that Audrey’s still got a lot to give. So, watch this space.

BH: Kelly, I live in hope! Okay, let’s talk about The Magic Touch. I’ve just finished my copy and I absolutely loved it. But in your own words and without giving too much away, what can readers expect?

KF: The Magic Touch is a romance with a sprinkling of the supernatural. Emma King, who’s reluctant to marry a second time, despite endless proposals from her lovely partner Harry, starts to doubt the strength of their relationship when she discovers a string of flirty texts on his phone. Of course, Harry denies everything, but Emma’s not convinced. Determined to find out who the other woman is, she sets off on a mission to unravel the truth with the aid of her best friend, her elderly neighbour, and her sister-in-law’s app, The Magic Touch. The story is quite light-hearted and has been described as a laugh-out-loud rom-com, but it does touch on some serious issues, including death, domestic violence, and health concerns.

BH: Congratulations on the reviews, Kelly; a straight five-star Amazon rating is phenomenal – you must be over the moon. Why do you think the book has struck a chord with readers?

KF: Yes, I’m absolutely delighted, the response has been amazing. I think it’s struck a chord with readers because it’s so relatable, and Emma is a very down-to-earth heroine. She has flaws and fears and makes mistakes. But I also think that people like the supernatural aspect of the story. Sometimes it’s nice to escape into a mysterious and intriguing world where a little bit of magic happens.

BH: Who or what inspired the idea for The Magic Touch?

KF: In a nutshell, it was mobile phone applications. I was intrigued by how much we rely on them – from keeping us entertained to booking a restaurant etc. Being a runner, I actually use several weather apps to plan my weekly runs. There seems to be an app for everything these days. So, I was sitting in front of the T.V. one night with my husband, marvelling at a new app I’d just downloaded when I turned to him and said, ‘What if there was an app that could predict your future, but with alarming accuracy?’ And The Magic Touch was born. Of course, I had to create a story around the app. I took a common scenario, discovering flirtatious texts on your partner’s phone, and combined it with people who were in a long-term relationship but unwilling to tie the knot. I was particularly curious about men who were eager to get married because usually it’s the other way around. So I did a bit of research and my story unfolded.

BH: Kelly, you’ve amassed an impressive collection of published work. How and when did you begin writing seriously?

KF: I’ve always enjoyed writing. I used to write poetry when I was younger and still have some of my poems stuffed in a drawer somewhere. But I suppose I started to take it a bit more seriously when I began writing and selling short stories to magazines. The stories were a success and the feedback was good. One thing that readers kept telling me was that they didn’t want them to end. So I thought I’d have a try at writing a full-length novel and the rest, as they say, is history.

BH: AM or PM? Tell me about your writing routine.

KF: Whilst I haven’t got a strict routine, I do most of my writing before 2pm, with intermittent social media breaks! I write at my desktop in my office but I edit anywhere, even in bed sometimes. Once I’ve got the first draft done, I work on subsequent drafts on paper, often over a few cups of good coffee in local cafe.

BH: What are you working on at the moment?

KF: A psychological thriller. It’s about a thirty-something divorcee who, on the spur of the moment, makes a wrong decision involving her best friend’s husband and ends up in a very tight spot, which has a detrimental impact on her life and those she loves. It’s about friendship, trust, and instinct, and features a hot, fit gardener. Also, look out for Emma and her in-laws from The Magic Touch, they make an appearance in this one, too!

BH: Any tips for fledgling writers just starting out?

KF: Firstly, get that first draft done. Don’t wait for the perfect moment because it may never come. You can work on fine tuning and perfecting your novel in subsequent drafts. I do about three drafts, sometimes four. Do make sure you read a lot and try to write every day, even if it’s just a few hundred words. If the genre of your book is romance, sign up to the RNA New Writer’s Scheme. I did! Hook up with other authors online, they will support you on good days and bad, believe me. When you’ve finished your book, or even before, get a beta reader or a friend to read it for you; and make sure it’s someone who will give you an honest appraisal. I admit, no one likes to have their work criticised, but sometimes we can overlook things, mainly because we know the story and the characters so well, plus your own typos are hard to spot! A beta reader can point things out that you may have missed, or tell you if the story is working or not. And finally, don’t let rejection bite! I know it’s disheartening but it’s all part of the process.

BH: Brilliant advice, Kelly. Thanks so much for all your insight today and for talking about The Magic Touch.

The Magic Touch https://amzn.to/2t2sU7J
No Way Back https://amzn.to/2HR5sVe
Her Secret https://amzn.to/2DaAsdd

Follow and read more about Kelly Florentia at:
Website https://kellyflorentia.com/
Twitter @kellyflorentia
Facebook @KellyFlorentiaAuthor
Instagram @kellyflorentia

 

Book Review : The Magic Touch by Kelly Florentia

The Magic Touch is the third book I have read and enjoyed by Kelly Florentia and it was a joy from first to last page. The author has an effervescent style and writes with such empathy that at times I felt I was reading someone’s journal as I could totally imagine her being in the same situation as her protagonist; in this case, Emma King, a talented but struggling illustrator, part time waitress and long-term live-in girlfriend of Harry Georgiades.

From the outset, I warmed to Emma and her resistance to be subsumed by Harry’s loving but somewhat overwhelming family. We soon learn that Emma and Harry have hit a rough patch in their relationship. The gloss is off, and thanks to an ambiguous text from another woman on Harry’s mobile, a degree of mistrust has set in. Emma’s suspicions are egged on by a circle of friends that includes slinky Ola, and psychic Caroline. The latter has launched a phone app ‘The Magic Touch’, that provides daily predictions, some of which are spookily accurate. Moreover, there are flashes of paranormal activity throughout the story that I personally found chilling.

Whilst romance sits at the heart of TMT, don’t expect twee and cosy. In common with No Way Back and Her Secret, TMT is an edgy, modern and quirky saga that leans away from the sentimental. I found myself giggling one minute and horrified the next – for example, we learn that Emma has experienced real trauma in a previous relationship. Then there’s the ‘Marc factor’; to say any more about this entanglement would be a plot-spoiler but suffice to say that this angle kept the pace and suspense going at a trot.

I loved the complexity of Emma and Harry’s relationship (it felt very real and grown up to me); pair this with Kelly Florentia’s vibrant writing style which provides just the right level of insight into each character, and it all adds up to a no-brainer five-stars.

Finally, eagle-eyed readers will note a brief reference to latter day heroine, Audrey Fox.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Touch-Kelly-Florentia/dp/1783757450

 

In conversation with writer Eva Jordan

Eva Jordan was born in Kent but has lived most of her life in a small Cambridgeshire town. She describes herself as a lover of words, books, travel, and chocolate, and is also partial to the odd glass or two of wine. Eva is both a mum and stepmum to four adult children, all of which have provided her with some of the inspiration behind her three novels, 183 Times A Year, All The Colours In Between, and Time Will Tell– which take a delightfully funny, but sometimes tragic and poignant look at contemporary family life. Her career has been varied including working within the library service and at a women’s refuge. She also writes a monthly column for her local lifestyle magazine The Fens. However, storytelling through the art of writing is her passion.

Modern, witty and relatable are three words that capture Eva Jordan’s glorious writing style. Eva has written two bestselling novels to date: 183 Times A Year and All the Colours In Between, and is due to release Book Three in the series about Lizzie, Cassie, Connor and the rest of the Lemalf family, and I for one can’t wait to read the next instalment. I caught up with Eva ahead of next month’s launch of Time Will Tell.

BH: Eva, congratulations on the success of 183 Times A Year and All the Colours In Between. The reviews are amazing, you must be delighted.

EJ: Hi Bev, thanks for chatting with me and yes, thank you, I’ve had some wonderful reviews for both books. I’m really grateful when people take the time to read and review my books; it’s an amazing feeling to know your words have touched someone, whether it’s moving them to tears, making them laugh, or simply making the reader feel as though they are not alone in their struggles with life. I’m happy to read the less complimentary reviews, too, especially if the criticism is constructive, as sometimes it confirms the tiny nagging doubts tucked away at the back of my mind and I can learn from them. At other times I simply have to concede that my story just wasn’t for that particular reader.

BH: 183 Times a Year was your debut novel; had you always wanted to write fiction? In brief, how did it happen for you?

EJ: My journey to becoming a published author has not been an easy one and although I always knew I wanted to be a writer, it didn’t come about quite as I’d imagined. I dabbled a bit when I was younger, had a few poems and short stories published. However, limited opportunities, inexperience, and bad life choices all held me back, as did a lack of belief in myself. Then came marriage, quickly followed by two beautiful children followed by divorce. That was my “Nodus Tollens” moment. I love this phrase, coined by John Koenig from his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, it means “the realisation that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore.”
Divorce was both difficult and unpleasant and financially life became very tough. My children were very young then, so I had to take jobs that fitted in around them – school holidays were an absolute nightmare; most of the money I earned went on childcare. I decided I wanted a different, better life, especially for my children. So, with the help of my parents (who babysat), I went back to college during the evenings. I studied English, History, Sociology, and Psychology for two years then applied to study for a BA Hons Degree in English and History. It was a full-time course over three years, and it wasn’t easy to find work that fitted in around the children and my degree. In 2009 I graduated with a BA Honours Degree in English and History and gained a first for my history dissertation, which was a study of civilian morale during the London Blitz of WWII. I felt immensely proud, as did my children and parents. After finishing my degree, I began working for the library service. By then I’d met and moved in with someone new who also had children, and ours became a blended family. During my spare time I started to pen my first novel – a thriller come love story based in 1960s London. However, trying to navigate my new life as a working parent and stepparent was both fraught and outrageously funny at times. I often felt like pulling my hair out and soon realised that there are many people enjoying but struggling with the same daily problems I was experiencing; a seed for a story was sown. I continued working on the novel I’d started but another story was calling me, so I abandoned that one and started writing what became my debut novel, 183 Times A Year. I self-published it as an ebook but several months later it was picked up and published as a paperback with Urbane publications, also responsible for publishing my second and third novels.

BH: What are the key themes of the two novels, Eva?

EJ: 183 Times A Year is an exploration of domestic love, hate, strength and friendship set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families. Initially it was the women in my life, including my mother, daughters and good friends who inspired me to write my debut, and they continued to inspire my second novel, as did the idea of modern family life in general, whether it’s the one you start out with, or the one you gain along the way. All The Colours In Between is a tale of love and loss, of friendships and betrayals, and coming of age, with a liberal sprinkling of humour.

BH: Your writing is very character led – which member of your ‘cast’ came to you first?

EJ: Two members of my cast came first, Lizzie the exasperated mother of her somewhat dysfunctional family, and Cassie, her angst-ridden teenage daughter.

BH: You’re a busy mum, what does your writing routine consist of?

EJ: It was a little erratic last year due to the health problems of both family members and myself. I’ve also been back and forth to London as my daughter is currently attending university there. My other half runs his own business consultancy and while he spends most of the week travelling, I’m at home doing the paperwork for the company, and fitting writing in between. I like peace and quiet when I write so I aim for at least a couple of hours each morning, but if that’s not possible I’ll fit it in when I can. I used to have a writing goal of 2000 words a day, but as 2018 was particularly difficult, often I wasn’t hitting my target, which made me feel a bit low, the focus tending to be more on what I wasn’t achieving rather than what I was. So, I decided to look at things differently, have a better positive mental attitude, and now I’m happy if I manage to write every day, whether it’s 500 words or 5000! Having said that, I’d got behind with my third novel and have been working up to sixteen hours a day to catch up – I even worked through the holidays.

BH: Your books are very contemporary; do you think it’s important for authors to reflect modern life as it is today?

EJ: Yes, it’s very important for everyone, not just authors, to reflect on modern life, including family and social values, what we are destroying/contributing to our environment, plus the impact of social media and modern technology on our everyday lives. We have more means now than ever to communicate with each other but in some ways we talk less. It’s also easy to focus on what we don’t have, too, but as my third novel – which steps back in time to the 1960s – shows, life has changed dramatically in the last fifty years or so. Generally, people have more in the way of material possessions than say, my dad did (who was born in the 1940s) growing up as a boy and a young man, but I’m not sure we are any happier for it.

BH: So, what can readers expect from Time Will Tell?

EJ: Time Will Tell is the third and final story concerning Lizzie Lemalf and her madcap family. There are, like the previous two novels, some humorous moments, however, there are some very dark ones too. After the death of a much-loved family member, Lizzie is struggling with life. She is also doing her best to keep her family together, especially as the recent death of a well-known celebrity has them all in a spin. The police suspect foul play; Lizzie and other family members suspect one another, which sets Lizzie on a journey to look for answers, only to find herself being dragged back to 1960’s London, and the former life of her father, that up until now she has never been privy to. Every family has its secrets. However, they also say the past comes back to haunt you. Surely the truth will out? Maybe, but only time will tell…

BH: Thank you so much for chatting to me today, Eva. I’ve loved the series so far and can’t wait for the next book.
Time Will Tell will be published by Urbane on 14th February 2019 and is available to pre-order on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Time-Will-Tell-Eva-Jordan/dp/1911583948/ 

More about Eva :
Website: https://evajordanwriter.com/
Twitter: @evajordanwriter
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EvaJordanWriter/
Instagram: evajordanwriter

 

 

Book Review: In The Dark by Cara Hunter

I’m wishing you all a very happy and healthy New Year, and am kicking off my blog for 2019 with my review of In The Dark, which I enjoyed immensely and awarded 5 stars on Amazon.

In the Dark is Cara Hunter’s second novel in her DI Adam Fawley series. Personally, I preferred it to the first book. The crime was meatier and more original; a young woman and a small child are discovered imprisoned in a cellar by builders working on the house next door and DI Fawley and his Oxford based Thames Valley Police force are tasked with finding the culprit. It’s a twisty tale; I found myself jumping from one suspect to another and the ending was a revelation.

Adding to the richness of the plot are the back stories of the key police officers and their various domestic troubles. I very much liked the character expansion of the team and the respective chemistry and rivalry between them – a natural and welcome progression from Ms Hunter’s earlier volume, ‘Close to Home’ (which I also enjoyed).  I’m looking forward to the third in this series ‘No Way Out’ which is due shortly.

Overall, In The Dark is a pacey and compelling read and I highly recommend this competent blend of psychological thriller and police procedural.

Where do you stand on the body
image debate?

Yesterday saw the Victoria’s Secret 2018 Fashion Show play out in New York at Pier 94. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that it’s a much-anticipated global event that in recent times has been held in Shanghai, London, Miami and Los Angeles.

The models who walk for Victoria’s Secret are widely acknowledged to be the cream of the industry; they are also some of the most vilified women on the planet. Why? For having the temerity to be some of the most beautiful.

This morning I caught an item on breakfast television about body image that used the VS show as a peg. Engaged in the debate were two equally gorgeous and slender women; one for and one against the continued use of stereotypical pin-thin models for this kind of production. The piece also featured two attractive and much curvier women, gussied up to look like VS ‘Angels’: ie, wearing incredibly sexy lingerie, skyscraper heels and expansive feather wings.

They looked great; smokin’ hot, in fact. But should they have walked the runway in New York yesterday, in line with the Hadid sisters, Megan Williams, Candice Swanepoel, Ella Hosk and veteran Angel, Adriana Lima? Well, no – not in my opinion. Clothes simply lay better on very slender women. It’s not fair, but it is so and trying to shoehorn bigger ‘normal’ women into these garments does not present them at their very glamourous best.

Unrelated to VS but pertinent to the wider debate, I saw a post on Twitter this morning. It was from a sportswear brand that has recently branched into Shape-Wear; or for the uninitiated, stretchy underwear that sucks everything in and smooths everything out. In the photograph, it looked so pretty, that I found myself clicking the link to check it out. But OMG; the vitriol that this promo inspired was off the hook! Hundreds of tweets, many peppered with expletives, attacking the brand for its misogyny and fat-shaming. Calm down, peeps; it’s just a big pair of drawers. If you don’t like them, don’t buy them. Simple as.

Because here’s the thing: being offended by the way the fashion industry represents women is utterly pointless. It is what it is. Woman of all shapes, sizes, ages, cultures and colours can be (and are) beautiful, but VS is not just selling frilly bras and pants; above all, it’s selling fantasy. And to most people, the ethereal creatures that stalk the catwalk are exactly that.

Personally, I don’t want to see normal, bigger, human women representing VS. Should I be offended because I’m in my late fifties and the oldest woman on the runway was Adriana Lima, walking for the last time, at age 37? I am not offended, and neither should you be.

I’m appalled by so many aspects of modern living – we live in an imperfect world – but skinny models with long legs, shiny hair and great teeth isn’t one of them.

 

Book Review: Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner

I’ve just finished and thoroughly enjoyed Ronnie Turner’s debut ‘Lies Between Us’ – if enjoyed is quite the right word for something so utterly macabre.

Personally, I like my psychological thrillers like my favourite chocolate; dark, bitter, well-crafted and satisfying. Conversely if you’re looking for a safe, predictable read – don’t even go there. Lies Between Us tackles some grim themes; infant death and child abduction to name a couple. But ultimately, this is a tale of obsession, narrated by three separate and very different characters: John, a successful author and devoted father, Maisie an ICU Nurse who cares deeply for her patients but hides her own pain and Miller, a weird and misunderstood kid, with a terrifying inner dialogue.

The plot flows between three timelines and I’d advise paying attention to these as you go along. At the heart of it sits the abduction of Bonnie, six-year-old daughter of John and his pregnant wife, Jules. Whilst there is no shortage of missing-child-thrillers (I’ve read four or five this year alone), the author manages to provide a fresh take.

I loved Ronnie Turner’s visceral writing style which raises no flags that Lies Between Us is her debut, and the pace was exactly what I wanted.

I enjoyed every riveting mile of the journey, but this is where I must fess up and say I was confused by the final destination. There are several big reveals, including how the characters’ lives are connected – which was brilliant – but beyond that I’m torn between several interpretations. This is a book that will stay with you, long after you’ve snapped the pages shut and I highly recommend it.

 

 

Book Review : The Gift
by Louise Jensen

The story is written in the first person from the point of view of Jenna, a young woman who has suffered heart failure and who’s been given a second crack at life with a donor heart. Jenna’s new heart previously belonged to Callie and, overwhelmed with gratitude, Jenna meets Callie’s family, with whom she feels a strong connection.

Jenna starts to feel mentally and physically different, and we soon learn that she is experiencing ‘Cellular Memory’; a condition that means she is affected first hand by Callie’s thoughts and emotions.

Callie’s family are grief stricken but cagey about the circumstances of their daughter’s death – as is Nathan, her devoted boyfriend. Callie is attracted to Nathan (are they her own feelings or Callie’s coming through?). And where is Sophie in all this? Grief stricken and gone to ground over her big sister’s death – or is Sophie too in imminent danger?

Determined to uncover the truth, Jenna turns detective, putting herself in mortal danger, sure that no one (not even her therapist) will help or even believe her.

Attracted by over 700 reviews I bought The Gift expecting a pacey thriller; overall, I was not disappointed although I found one or two segments repetitive and a little plodding. I also got a bit lost with some of the female characters as there are great many ‘bit parts’ (Jenna’s friends and colleagues at the vets’ for instance). During the last third of the book, the pace quickens, and I was keen to find out how poor Callie died and where her kid sister had disappeared to. There are some excellent twists which I won’t spoil here but personally I found the ending too neatly ribbon-tied to be credible. Then again, most books would be dull as ditch water without a little poetic licence and fantasy.

 

A moving story

So, I’ve neglected my writing for months…lost my mojo with it, so to speak. It happens sometimes – often for no good reason – but in this instance it’s because I’ve just gone through a difficult relocation.

Anyone who knows me is probably aware that I have moved around.  A lot. Gypsy blood, itchy-feet, wanderlust, stupidity – call it what you will but this latest move, from West Malling, Kent to Chichester, West Sussex adds up to my sixth move in the last dozen years – and all bought and sold, none of your footloose rentals for the boyf and I; oh no – that would be far too easy. I can’t understand why the Chancellor hasn’t sent us birthday or Christmas cards recently – you’d think we’d be his best friends with all the stamp duty we’ve paid. Oh god, I feel sick now. But I digress…

So. Moving then. Why do we do it? Good question. And one I have asked myself a thousand times since we left Kings Hill six weeks ago. The warm, comforting, slouchy familiarity; the ease of communication with good neighbours – many of whom became sincere friends – has been replaced by a hyper-attentive, watchful hope, as I search nameless faces with one thought – could you be a friend?

Thing is, wherever you go, most people are decent enough.  Open, kind, receptive. I mean, not everyone – I didn’t move to Disneyland or anything…although come to think of it, Disneyland has some pretty rotten apples so scratch that comparison, but you get my drift.

Being a serial mover, this is all familiar territory to me – that ‘ick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I walk around the local park with Brodie, hoping that people will think we’re worthy of a wave and a hello and eventually maybe a coffee, or a glass of wine.  It’s early days, but the signs are good. I’m a friendly person, which surely must count for something, no?

As sad as we were to leave behind our friends in Kings Hill (understatement of the year, I wept buckets in my last week there), we came to the cathedral City of Chichester because we liked the buzz and the giddying array of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as the galleries, and the fabulous theatre (which I’m told acts as a crash-test for many West End shows).  It’s close to the majestic South Downs national park and the sunny South Coast is nearby.  I’ll probably swerve Bogner because it’s busy and commercial, but I’ve already fallen for Selsey East Beach (a rustic, quirky version of the Hamptons), posh West Wittering, and lovely Pagham.  The former has been a source of joy and happiness as all three of us have swum in the sea there; Brodie’s little paws scooping like billy-o when I thought he was afraid of water brought tears to my eyes.

The house we’ve bought is a whole other subject. It’s big, detached, and surprisingly dated and rundown for its tender teenage years.  But like people, houses respond to love and attention, and Mark and I intend to lavish both upon it.

On that note, I’ll close on a story that a lovely friend whom I don’t see anymore (because I moved away) told me (Nigel: I’ve always remembered this tale, as I remember you – with affection).

Two travellers arrived in a new town…

…and came upon a local farmer. The first said, ‘I’ve come a long way, tell me, what are the people like here?’

‘What were they like in the place you’ve come from?’ the farmer said, answering a question with a question.

‘Oh, they were a bad lot. Mean, rude and selfish – lazy too. I was glad to leave them behind.’

‘Interesting,’ replied the farmer, ‘I’m afraid you’ll find them just the same here.’

Gutted, the traveller trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

A while later, the second traveller came along, and waylaid the farmer;

‘What are the people like here?’ he asked.

‘What were they like where you’ve travelled from?’ replied the farmer once more.

‘Oh, they were lovely; kind, honest and friendly. I was sad to leave them behind.’

‘Well, fear not,’ the farmer said, ‘you’ll find they’re just the same here.’

Wishing you all an awesome August – wherever you are in the world.

 

 

Book Review : The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Cherry Radford

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is the third novel by Sussex writer Cherry Radford but an enjoyable first for me. I did not know what to expect but was initially attracted by the excellent reviews. The title may have a ring of historical romance to it, but I’m delighted to say that LHKD is a contemporary tale set against a backdrop of social media, long-distance love and secrets from the past.

Set in East Sussex and Madrid, the story centres on Imogen, who is exiled in a relative’s lighthouse, where she’s gone to lick her wounds after a painful divorce – and Santi, a beautiful and talented Flamenco guitarist, soap-star and would-be serious actor whom she meets online. We see their relationship develop, from it’s tentative, spiky inception on Twitter to it’s moving conclusion almost a year later. The two initially develop an online friendship, but things move up a gear when Santi finds himself in the running for the lead role in a high-profile movie – and needs to improve his English, fast. Enter Imogen, who with the benefit of good, general Spanish becomes Santi’s teacher.

Early on, much is made of the language barrier – and some oops moments guaranteed to make readers smile. But there’s more to LHKD than international romance and the well-drawn, authentic landscapes of Beachy Head and Madrid, and mystery lovers will appreciate the beautifully dovetailed second tier of the novel: the disappearance of Imogen’s father, the lighthouse keeper, who drowned when she was a child. Presented with a drip-feed of her father’s diaries by her aunt, Imogen finally unveils the shocking truth about his disappearance.

LHKD is engrossing and elegantly written. I preferred the chapters set in Madrid and particularly loved the character of Santi (and having lived in Spain for a year in my youth, I could hear his voice perfectly). There were times when I questioned why such a fabulous stallion of a man, with his pick of Spanish MAWs would be interested in the fragile, ‘melocoton-haired’ English mare; but it is Imogen’s very novelty that initially attracts, and eventually mellows and matures Santi.

Readers who like a quirky, romantic thriller will not be disappointed.

 

Rolling Stones No Filter, London Stadium, 22nd May 2018

Last night, I looked into Mick Jagger’s eyes and saw fire. No, I wasn’t dreaming (although I have dreamt about most members of the Rolling Stones, and even all at once, but I digress). In the real world, I was privileged to see the Stones play the London Stadium and it was quite a homecoming.

Last September, I caught the Italian leg of the Stones’ No Filter Tour in Lucca and was euphoric to get a second bite of this luscious cherry at the start of their UK tour. So I thought I knew what I was getting. Well I did, and I didn’t. One thing evident from the opening chords of Street Fighting Man was that the Rolling Stones are fresher, rested and rearing to go. Their playing was tighter, their energy higher and the happy vibes on stage were off the hook.

The set list has the same components, but in a different running order (which confused the faithful as we stood hooting in the fading light in anticipation of Sympathy for the Devil) and as with the 2017 European dates, each city gets its own track, voted for on social media some 48 before. In the case of The London Stadium, this was Under my Thumb.

Thanks to superior (read more expensive) tickets we had a much better view and were closer to the stage in London than in Lucca and despite the capacity crowd of around 80,000 there was an intimacy which is hard to describe….I dunno, maybe the people at the back and up in the gods would disagree; there was also a poignancy about seeing the boys in their home town.

So, to the music: Street Fighting Man was swiftly followed by It’s Only Rock & Roll (which naturally sparked a mass singalong) then into Tumbling Dice and Paint it Black before entering the Blues zone with Ride em on Down. Under My Thumb followed before a change of tempo with Fool to Cry.

Without naming the whole set list, I’ll just say that no Stones fan would have been disappointed. It was all there – including a grandiose ten-minute version of Midnight Rambler when the lid blew off and stayed off – through Start Me Up, Jumping Jack Flash and Brown Sugar, ending in the ultimate encore with Gimme Shelter and Satisfaction.

I defy any Stones fan present to be disappointed; the love in the room could have powered the national grid.

And that’s the thing about the Stones. The fire still burns; I saw it raging in the eyes of Mick Jagger, less than ten metres away. These guys love what they do more than life itself – and we love them for it. When it comes to performing live, nobody can touch the Stones and every gig is a life affirming celebration. Mick, Keith, Charlie, Ronnie and their extended musical family are a total inspiration – and long may that continue.

*Photographic images my own