The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

A Spell in Provence

A Spell in Provence

Friday, 18 August 2017

August Round Robin: Getting your Plot Moving Forward

The topic of our Round Robin for August is: When you are stumped on moving a plot line forward, what do you do to reinvigorate your imagination and get your characters moving?

My post today is going to be very short, because whenever I am stuck in my story - and it happens more often than I would like - it's basically because of one of the following two reasons: either I have lost touch with my characters; or there is something wrong, somewhere, in the story and I know it, but tackling it requires far more energy and imagination than I feel I have, so I am trying to ignore it and plod on...and it doesn't work.
Losing touch with my characters happens quite a lot in my case. First of all because I have a day job and can't spend as long as I would like writing and focusing on my stories. But also because I get too enthusiastic about researching background information, and easily sidetracked by facts and anecdotes I find fascinating but which, although more or less relevant with what's going on in my story, distract me and take me further from the heart of the novel - the characters.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Of course, I can try the usual remedies, which quite often will help get my story going again: a long walk, a conversation with myself (I do that quite a lot) or with a trusted friend about my story, eating lots of cakes in the hope that the sugar rush will stimulate my imagination...

But sometimes I need to go back to the very beginning, and the most important: the characters, their essence, motivations, personality, flaws and qualities, what makes them unique.
I look at my notes, start reading my story from Chapter One all over again, and try to recapture my feelings for my hero and heroine, and that wonderful enthusiasm and passion I feel when starting a new story and I am completely in love with my characters. With luck it won't take too long before the characters talk to me again and I can hear them, see them, and fall in love with them all over again. Then they can sort the mess they have made later on in the story, and get the plot going!

Once, for my contemporary romantic suspense A Spell in Provence, all I needed to get the story flowing again was to change the name of my heroine - from Alex to Amy. How odd that a simple change of name should open a whole lot of new possibilities.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
However if the characters still aren't talking to me and don't get the story moving, then it is probably a sign that something is drastically wrong with my plot, and I may have to rethink my novel, which is very scary.

This could involve reviewing my characters' motivations, getting rid of a character - or create a new one - or tackling the novel from another angle. It could also mean starting the story from a completely new place.
This happened when I was writing The Dream Catcher. I reached about 20,000 words and got stuck - really stuck. Something wasn't right. My plot wasn't going anywhere. It felt contrived. I left it for a while, then had a rethink and changed the starting point of the story. And as if by magic, the words starting flowing and everything fell into place... Well, it wasn't quite as easy as that, of course, but at least it worked!

If I have tried all that and I still can't get the plot going, then it might be a sign that there is only one thing to do. Give up. At least for a few weeks or months. I hate giving up on a story, but I have done so in the past. Some stories I have picked up again. Some are still dormant in my computer and my mind - but dormant isn't the same as dead. I will write them one day when I figure out what is missing and how I can fix it...

The following authors are taking part in the Round Robin and would love a visit from you!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Ravine of the Wild Woman, Algiers - Family Memories by Marie Laval

Our romantic anthology ESCAPE TO AFRICA is published today! This latest offering from the World Romance Writers is a collection of six very different romantic suspense short stories, all set in Africa, and available here for the special price of £0.99.

Let your wild side free and Escape to Africa! Come along on an adventure through these 6 stories brought to you by 6 best-selling, award-winning authors. You will uncover tales of an undercover operative in Casablanca, a safari guide in the Serengeti, students on holiday in Morocco, time-traveling agents in Tripoli, vengeance in Algeria, and deadly secrets in Carthage. Each of these stories will captivate you with love, danger, intrigue, and excitement. What better way to Escape?
When I was asked if I wanted to write a story for the anthology, I didn't hesitate for one second. Africa, and particularly Algeria in North Africa, always held a special place in my heart, and I hope that one day I will be able to visit and see the wonderful landscapes I have dreamt and written about.
Renée Cantrel, my mother, 1950s

My mother was born and brought up in Algiers, the sixth child of the Cantrel family. There was Marcel, who died at Dunkirk on June 1st 1940, Roger, Christiane, and twins Georgette and Guy.

Famille Cantrel, 1940. My mother is standing on the chair. Marcel is in his uniform. 
 My great-grandparents had a mixed and colourful background, since they came from Spain, France and Italy to settle in Algeria in the nineteenth century. They were what French people call 'Pied-Noirs'. They weren't wealthy at all but worked as builders and engineers, although there was always that story that my grandmother's family - the Di Bernardis - were aristocrats and had left their castle near Turin to emigrate to Algeria. I strongly suspect this was just one of those family fantasies handed down from generation to generation...

Paul in his Zouave uniform and his wife Noelie Cantrel
 My grandfather, Paul Cantrel, fought in the Zouaves regiment during the First World War.

Whilst in the trenches in Verdun he formed a friendship with a director from the Maison Godin de Guise - who still to this day manufacture stoves and cookers. They kept in touch after the war and he was appointed sales representative for Godin in Algeria.
The company gave him a car, which I believe the family was exceedingly proud of. Incidentally, the Godins were also 'visionaries' or 'utopian industrialists' who in 1846 built an ideal industrial city for their workers in the North of France, the Familistère, a fascinating building and project which is open to the public (details here).

Marcel, Roger, Christiane and twins Georgette and Guy Cantrel in the Godin company car, some time in the early 1930s
The Cantrel family lived in the Robertsau district of Algiers, and shared a cabanon (literally, a shack) on the coast where my mother said she spent the most carefree and wonderful holidays, swimming and fishing for sea urchins and mussels with her brothers and sisters. Like I said, the family weren't rich, and my mother was often sent to the local grocery shop to get supplies to put on a tab because she was small and cute and the grocer had a soft spot for her. She remembered that tea often consisted of slices of stale bread rubbed with garlic and softened with olive oil.
Suffren, Algeria
She came to live in Amiens in the North of France after Algeria became independent in 1962, and found it really hard to adjust to the climate and the 'strange accent' and 'funny ways' of people there. It would be fair to say that people found her strange too. All her life she kept her Pied Noir accent, full of sunshine and quirky words and phrases taken from the Spanish, Arabic or Italian languages. This Pied Noir dialect even has a special name - the Pataouète.

She often talked to my sisters and I about her youth, and filled our heads and imagination with her memories of the Mediterranean sea sparkling under the midday sun, of hidden coves where pirate Barberossa's treasures were rumoured to be buried, of exotic scents, foods and colours. At times it was almost as if we'd been there ourselves.
Garden in Algiers, courtesy of Pixabay
My inspiration for The Ravine of the Wild Woman is a real place in Algiers, close to the Birmandreis Forest, named after a wild woman who lived there in the 1840s. Who was she really? Some said she was a melancholic young woman who had been abandoned by her lover and lived in a cave on the charity of locals. Others claimed she was a young mother who had lost her mind after her children vanished in the forest one day...

Algeria, North Africa, 1865.
Lenora Sharp is Azerwal's perfect woman. Brave, determined and unconventional, she is also related to the man who stole his name, his childhood and his identity - the very man and he has vowed to destroy, even if it takes him all the way to hell. Will love get in the way of revenge, or will Azerwal lose his soul before he loses his heart?

Author Bio
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in Lancashire, Northern England, for the past twenty-five years. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, Marie loves dreaming up romantic heroes and writing love stories. Her native France very much influences her writing and gives her novels 'a French twist'!

You can find more about my novels on

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Romance of the Lake District by Helena Fairfax

I am delighted to have author Helena Fairfax on the blog today. I always love Helena's romantic stories, and I am very much enjoying reading her latest novel, FELICITY AT THE CROSS HOTEL, a wonderful romance set in the spectacular Lake District, which was released last Friday.
Hello Helena and congratulations on the release of your novel. I have to say that I absolutely love your cover! The Lake District has just been designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco, and deservedly so. I am lucky to live not too far away and try to visit at least once a year. We went to Coniston last August and absolutely loved it, even if we had a bit of a misadventure when walking up The Old Man, but that's another story...

Tell me, why did you choose to set your romantic novel in the Lakes?

Is there a better setting for a romance novel than the Lake District? With its spectacular landscape, its green mountains and the shining lakes, Cumbria has been inspiring writers for centuries. In the nineteenth century Cumbria inspired a whole school of poets – the "Lake Poets" of the Romantic Movement. The most famous of these poets is Wordsworth. Nearly every school child has heard of Wordsworth's host of golden daffodils, and in some ways his poetry has become devalued because it's now so often quoted. But actually, even in his day Wordsworth had his critics. Byron once said of him, "What will any reader out of the nursery say to such namby-pamby?"

To be honest, I have to agree with Byron about the "namby-pamby". I find Wordsworth's poetry a bit too simplistic and a little childish in its optimism. Here is the last verse of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud":

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

It's strange that Wordsworth wrote mainly about the gentle beauty of the Lake District – the dancing daffodils - when there is also so much that's dark and dramatic. Besides the romance of the landscape, the setting of the Lake District is also perfect for a novelist because a soft, sunny day can swiftly turn threatening. Patrick Cross, the hero of my novel, is grieving the death of his friend, who died because of an act of recklessness while diving in the still, green waters of the lake. There have been many deaths in the mountains and lakes of Cumbria, and in my book I've dwelt on the contrast between the beauty and the danger of the landscape.

Derwent Water
It's a shame that nowadays some parts of the Lake District are inundated with tourists, and the roads in summer are very often clogged. But it's only in recent times that the Lakes have become a tourist destination, and there are many quieter areas that have remained unchanged for centuries. Alone in this magnificent landscape, away from the traffic, you can't help but feel a part of a long, long history of the soil that stretches back thousands of years.

Lots of people have fallen in love in this wonderful setting, but there are some exceptions. Bill Clinton was famously moved to propose to Hillary for the first time by the shores of Ennerdale Water, but she turned him down. Obviously there are some people who remain unmoved by the romance of the Lakes!
Ennerdale Water, scene of Bill Clinton's proposal, Trevor Harris via Wikimedia Commons
Will love blossom for Patrick Cross and Felicity Everdene, the hero and heroine of my novel? Here is the blurb to Felicity at the Cross Hotel:           

A quaint hotel in the Lake District. The Cross Hotel is the perfect getaway. Or is it?
Felicity Everdene needs a break from the family business. Driving through the Lake District to the Cross Hotel, past the shining lake and the mountains, everything seems perfect. But Felicity soon discovers all is not well at the Cross Hotel …
Patrick Cross left the village of Emmside years ago never intending to return, but his father has left him the family’s hotel in his will, and now he's forced to come back. With a missing barmaid, a grumpy chef, and the hotel losing money, the arrival of Felicity Everdene from the notorious Everdene family only adds to Patrick’s troubles.
With so much to overcome, can Felicity and Patrick bring happiness to the Cross Hotel … and find happiness for themselves?

Author Biography:

Helena Fairfax is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She's grown used to the cold now which is just as well, since these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. Helena walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings. Subscribers to Helena's newsletter receive news of free stuff, competitions with prizes, gossip, and links to cool websites she's been looking at when she should have been writing.

Thank you very much for being my guest today, Helena. I had no idea Bill Clinton has proposed to his Hillary in the Lake District! Congratulations once again on your release. Felicity at the Cross Hotel is a wonderful read.

Amazon universal buy link for Felicity at the Cross Hotel:

Social Media Links

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Author Jenny Twist takes us to beautiful Morocco!

I am continuing my tour of Africa and the authors of the romantic suspense anthology ESCAPE TO AFRICA, which will be released by the World Romance Writers on July 14th as an ebook, and on July 15th as a print book.

Let your wild side free and Escape to Africa! Come along on an adventure through these 6 stories brought to you by 6 best-selling, award-winning authors.

You’ll uncover tales of an undercover operative in Casablanca, a safari guide in the Serengeti, students on holiday in Morocco, time-traveling agents in Tripoli, vengeance in Algeria, and deadly secrets in Carthage. Each of these stories will captivate you with love, danger, intrigue, and excitement. What better way to Escape?

Hello Jenny and welcome. What were your initial thoughts about the theme for the anthology?

When World Romance Writers told me the theme for the next anthology was to be romantic suspense set in Africa, I told them I couldn’t do it since I know nothing about Africa and I don’t even know what romantic suspense means. Then one of my friends said, “I know for a fact you’ve been to Morocco. You’ve got pictures of it all over your Face Book page.” I felt like a complete twit.

Of course I know Morocco. I’ve been there twice and loved it both times.

The problem was it sort of didn’t feel like a foreign country. For a start it’s practically just down the road from me. I live half-way up a mountain in Spain and on a clear day I can see the Rif mountains of Morocco poking over the horizon.

The other thing is that the part of Spain I live in was ruled by the Moors for hundreds of years and was, in fact, the last Moorish stronghold when the Christian monarchs finally drove them out. Our buildings, our landscape and much of our culture was shaped by the Moors. So when I went to Morocco, I found it very familiar.

The major difference was that everything was miles cheaper than in Spain and that you can’t have a beer with your lunch. The only place you can drink alcohol is in tourist hotels. That is, in fact, for me, the only thing that prevents Morocco from being a paradise.

Casa Joya, Jenny's house
How lucky you are to live in such a beautiful place, and in a hot climate. Having suffered many Lancashire rainy and grey summers, I can only envy you! What you tell us about the setting of your story?

Tangiers is a typical tourist town, full of shops, restaurants and hotels. The hotel where we stayed was a delightful example of Old Raj splendour gone to seed. Beautiful carved wooden panelling, a huge ‘Scarlet O’Hara’ staircase sweeping down beneath a gorgeous stained glass skylight. The reception rooms and bars were luxuriously furnished. It was all a little shabby but somehow endearing.

However, upstairs was rather different. At some point someone had had the bright idea of refurbishing all the bedrooms in formica and white plastic. Even the headboards and bedside tables were plastic. This gave you the uncomfortable feeling that you were in a Wendy House.

The pianist in the bar was a total delight. I won’t describe him here, since he figures in the story and I don’t want to spoil it. Just take it from me we had one of the most entertaining nights ever.

Moroccan market, courtesy of Pixabay
We didn’t go on any of the wonderful tours on offer in the hotel lobby, nor did we accept the services of any of the ‘guides’, so perhaps our experience wasn’t typical. We just wandered through the streets, shopping and stopping to eat from time to time. I bought two leather handbags, my friend bought a djellaba (the loose, flowing, Kaftan-like garment beloved of tourists) and my husband bought a pair of bright orange slippers with those pointy toes that curl up at the end. I’ve never seen them since. I wonder what happened to them?

They sound like the kind of fun slippers a genii might like! Where else did you visit in Morocco?

Blue door, Chefchouen
Later we visited Chefchouen . . . it was a joy. The town was founded by Jews driven out of Granada by the Christian monarchs. It is typically Spanish with narrow, winding, cobbled streets lined with stalls, a Moorish fort and a delightful place by the riverbank where the women still do their washing. I was told they all have washing machines but for large or heavy things, such as carpets, they still go to the river. Indeed, when we went we saw all the carpets hanging over the walls to dry.

But the really amazing thing about Chefchouen is that the houses are painted blue! This is nothing to do with Smurf films. Legend has it that that was the Granada style and they brought it with them.
Granada is not painted blue now, so maybe Chefchouen is your only chance of seeing what Granada might have been like under the Moors.
I would go back. I intend to go back. The next time we have guests who are staying long enough to make it worthwhile I want to go again. It seems a shame not to share it. Meantime I have written about it.

I was lucky enough to read your fast-paced romantic suspense story before anybody else, and I really enjoyed it!

Incidentally I still don’t know what romantic suspense is. I googled it and nobody else seems to know either with any degree of confidence. Therefore I have written a sort of thriller with a romance in it and introduced as much suspense as I could.
I would be really grateful for comments on this when the book comes out.

I am sure you will get lots of compliments on your story, Jenny. Thank you very much for being my guest on the blog today.

Here is the blurb for Jenny Twist's story - An Object of Desire
Two students on holiday in Morocco discover that two sinister looking characters are following them. They meet an attractive man who offers to take them to their next destination. All seems well until one of the girls disappears.

ESCAPE TO AFRICA is available for pre-order at the special price of £0.99  here

Friday, 30 June 2017

Alicia Dean on Africa, Romance and Acacia Trees!

Welcome to Alicia Dean, one of six authors featuring in ESCAPE TO AFRICA, an anthology of romantic suspense stories to be released as an ebook on July 14th and print book on July 15th. This is the third anthology by the World Romance Writers, and I am delighted to have stories in the first anthology and Escape to Africa too.

Let your wild side free and Escape to Africa! Come along on an adventure through these 6 stories brought to you by 6 best-selling, award-winning authors.
You’ll uncover tales of an undercover operative in Casablanca, a safari guide in the Serengeti, students on holiday in Morocco, time-traveling agents in Tripoli, vengeance in Algeria, and deadly secrets in Carthage. Each of these stories will captivate you with love, danger, intrigue, and excitement. What better way to Escape?

Hello Alicia, and welcome. Can you tell us a little about your story?

Of course. The story is called Dying to Love You. Here is the blurb:

After dying for the third time, unloved and unlovable Autumn Baines is running out of chances to avoid purgatory. For her latest life, she’s sent to the Serengeti, where she’ll have to perform a selfless act and find someone to love her. She sees her chance with the arrival of widowed father Logan McBride and his teen daughter.
Faced with an opportunity to make a tremendous sacrifice, she’ll have to decide…can she forego her eternal happiness to give them theirs?

What an intriguing storyline! What went through your mind when you agreed to take part in the anthology?

When I agreed to write a story in Africa, I was a bit intimidated. I was unfamiliar with the continent, and to be honest, uninterested. I knew I wanted a place where safari tours were available, and I landed on the Serengeti. I set about researching and my apathy soon became amazement.

You must have done a lot of research. What interesting facts did you come across?

I learned all sorts of interesting facts about the people, the animals, and even the plant life. Some of the facts made it into the story, others did not. One fascinating tidbit that I really wanted to use, but couldn’t make work, was about the Castor Bean plant. Many West African tribes used the poisonous beans from the plant as a lie detector for handing down decisions in court. The accused would be fed numerous beans. If God miraculously allowed them to live, it meant they were innocent. If they died (which I imagine was the most common outcome), that would ‘prove’ they were witches or possessed by demons. Uh, yeah, that sounds fair.   I still might use it one of these days… Uh, in a story, not on a person. J

One tidbit I did mention in the story, which I thought was fascinating, was about the acacia tree. This is taken directly from my story, the best way to explain. J

Its hook-shaped thorns act as a deterrent against grazers. Despite the thorns, some herbivores still feed on the trees. The trees can release a toxin known as tannin, which can be lethal to animals if ingested. Acacia trees also have another chemical defense system, whereby they release a chemical called ethylene, which ‘warns’ other acacias in the vicinity. Within fifteen minutes, all the neighboring trees increase the tannin levels in their leaves, making the area unappetizing to tree-grazing animals. Giraffes tend to eat downwind from the trees, in the hope that the trees do not alarm each other. They usually only graze for a short time before moving on to the next tree.
Acacia Tree
Trees warning one another? Didn’t God create an incredible world?

That's absolutely fascinating indeed! Thank you very much, Alicia, for being my guest today.
ESCAPE TO AFRICA is available for pre-order at the special price of £0.99  here

Friday, 23 June 2017

Round Robin: The importance of researching characters...

Thank you so much for including me in your 'round robin' this month to talk about June's topic: How do you go about developing your characters for a story? How much time do you spend or does it just happen in the writing process? What inspires it?

I write romance, which is a character-driven genre. For me, the most important in a romance novel is the characters, the conflict and the chemistry between them. If readers care about your heroine and fall in love with your hero (or vice-versa!), then they'll want to turn the pages to find out what happens to them, and how they overcome challenges to find happiness together. If your characters aren't believable or endearing enough, then you run the risk of losing your reader, no matter how exciting your plot, that's why it is so important to spend some time thinking about the characters and developing their personality, their background, and motivations.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
What makes an endearing heroine? You may be tempted to turn her into the kind of woman who trips over every five minutes, keeps blurting out silly comments or believes every lie people tell her. Or into a weak, self-pitying one you want to shake when she gets taken advantage of again. Or again portray her as a harsh, uncaring, and ambitious woman who will trample all over others to get at what she wants. Characters, like people, are complex. It's all right for a heroine to be distracted or have a few silly moments, or to appear cold and unfeeling at times, as long as her she has good reasons to be like that.

Her moods, and the way she reacts to events are down to her background and the past experiences which shaped her personality, as is her ultimate goal, which will become apparent as the story unfolds.

What about the hero? In a romance novel, heroes have to be confident and successful, although that doesn't necessarily mean rich - I personally have had enough of billionaires! I mean, how many of them are there around? He too has a story, a secret buried deep in his past which made him what he is today. He doesn't have to handsome, but he needs to have a strong presence. He must be someone the heroine, and the reader of course, can fall in love with. You don't have to describe him in detail - the reader needs to form their own impression of him, by seeing how he moves, listening to his voice, and feeling his anger or his ambition.

I remember once attending a romance writing workshop and the tutor saying in a very dismissing way that no reader could possibly dream about a man dressed in a cardigan holding the heroine's hand whilst gazing at the stars. Really? Since then (that was a few years ago), cardigans have become quite fashionable for young hipster men, and what's wrong with holding hands whilst looking at a summer night sky?

Although I am by nature what is called a 'pantser', I always have a good idea about what happened in my characters' life to shape their personality and make them what they are, and that involves carrying out some basic research.

One of the books I regularly re-read is 'On Writing Romance' by the brilliant Leigh Michaels. She advises writers to compile lists about their hero and heroine. For example, what is their worst nightmare or what would their dream holiday be? What are their most important material possessions, why, or what would they save if they could only rescue one thing from a fire? (actually that reminds me of one of my favourite films - Leap Year). What would they like to change about themselves - and the world? What are their favourite foods and drinks? What do they like to wear, not to wear? What job do they have, or what is their ideal job? And the list goes on.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Often, the basic research into my characters starts with finding the perfect name. I look through lists of names from different geographical areas over different periods until I find the name that clicks. The surnames too have to be consistent with my characters' personality. I will confess here that one of my secret resources for finding surnames are maps, especially maps of Dorset and Somerset, where hamlets and villages often have unusual and often poetic names, perfect for my characters' surname. I love maps!

I realised recently that many of my villains had surnames starting with 'M' - Malleval, Mortemer, Morven, Melville (all name places, by the way!) - although I'm not sure what that means...I once received a critical review of my very first historical romance, Angel Heart, from a reader who complained that my protagonists' name were 'too French', 'too complicated' and too 'old-fashioned'! Well, the characters were French, and the story was set in the early nineteenth century. I couldn't call them Sharon, Mike or Bailey, could I? Yet I supposed the reader had a point. If you can't pronounce your hero or heroine's name, or if they sound too exotic, you might be put off...

Finding names is all very well, but what about the setting of the story, or your characters' living space? Unfortunately it's not always possible to visit the setting of the story, walk through an old cottage or a manor house, and get that 'first-hand' experience of the place.

Lovely fountain in Provence
My hometown Lyon, France
I can say that out of all the settings for my novels and short stories, the only ones I have personal experience of was Provence where I used to holiday as a child, and where I have returned since with my children, and Lyon where I am from originally.

I therefore find the internet invaluable. I love Google Earth, real estate websites, YouTube clips of towns or tourist sites, and television programmes I can watch at leisure on my laptop. I also listen to music from the area where my story is set to get in the mood. While writing my historical romance The Lion's Embrace I listened to Tuareg and Algerian music, and it was wonderful.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
And when writing my Dancing for the Devil Trilogy, which is set in Scotland, I had Scottish folk songs on all the time. In fact, that's how I found the titles of the three short books that form the trilogy: The Dream Catcher, Blue Bonnets and Sword Dance, which are titles of traditional Highland dances.  
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
The first purchases I make when I start a new novel are always a road map and a good travel guide of the area where the story is set. I love maps...did I mention that already?

To conclude, I can say that I find research essential, useful and incredibly enjoyable - too enjoyable at times. I often find anecdotes which send me to a totally different direction than the one I had planned originally. I am also aware of my limitations and the last thing I want is to get some important detail so wrong that I will lose all credibility with readers.

I hope you enjoyed reading my post. Please click on the links below to visit the blogs taking part in the Round Robin!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Welcome to The Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock

Hello Julie and welcome to the blog. As a French native, I am always delighted to read novels set in France, and even more delighted when the location is a little different. Alsace is a beautiful region but I must say that I haven't read many novels set there yet.

I absolutely love this cover. Can you tell us a little about the novel?

The Vineyard in Alsace is a second chance at love story between Fran and Didier who were in love at university but split up when she went to take a job in London. She returns to Alsace after her fiancé cheats on her and finds herself working on Didier’s vineyard. Little by little, they fall in love all over again but they have to overcome a few obstacles obviously before they can have their happily ever after.

A vineyard... How lovely! Can you tell us a little about you?

I’m a contemporary romance author and to date, I have independently published two novels. Setting is especially important to me so my first novel, published in 2015, travelled between Dorset and Nashville, and my latest one is set on a vineyard in Alsace in France.

I love to travel but most of the time, I live in Bedfordshire with my family.

Tell me, Julie, where do you get your ideas for your stories?

So far, my books have been inspired by my love of travel and also my interests. So my first book was about singing and country music, and my love of all things Nashville! My second book came about through my love of France and the French language, and also the fact that I used to work for a mail-order wine merchant some years ago. My next book is set in a restaurant – can you see a pattern emerging?!

Yes indeed! In three words - What kind of man is Didier, your hero?

Aidan Turner lookalike!

In three words - What kind of woman is Fran, your heroine?

Determined, independent, loving.

What is the one thing you absolutely need to write? (quiet, music, an empty house?)

I need to know where the story is going! I’ve just been suffering from a bit of a block but today, I came through it and now I can see where I’m heading again.

I am a complete pantser, so I can sympathise when you say you get stuck sometimes. I often have to backtrack and change everything. What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on my next book – the one set in a restaurant - and I’m about a third of the way in. I have written an outline but things never quite seem to work out the way I plan... I have my plot planned and I know who my main characters are but my characters always seem to take the plot a different way!


day light; busy; time.
night awake; darkness; quiet.
winter dark; cold; long.
summer sun; rain; salad.
romance heart; happiness; together.
writing joy; hard; achievement.
music essential; happiness; singing.
hair grey; nightmare; short.
love family; music; food.
ring wedding; union; eternity.

Thank you very much, Julie, for being my guest today, and I wish you lots of success with A Vineyard in Alsace.

Thank you very much for having me as a guest on your blog, Marie.

Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?
Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.

Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.

Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?

The Vineyard in Alsace is a contemporary romance set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in Alsace in France.

‘Here, you can have this back!’ I wrenched my engagement ring from my finger and flung it in the general direction of their naked bodies, huddled together under the sheet on the bed. Our bed. ‘I obviously won’t be needing it any more.’
‘What the hell, Fran?’ The thunderous look on Paul’s face as the ring pinged against the metal bedframe almost made me doubt myself. I closed my eyes briefly. Don’t let him control you. You are definitely not the guilty party!
I took one last look at him and then I turned and ran. I kept on running, as far and as fast as my legs would take me, blood pounding in my ears, my long hair whipping around my face. The whole time my mind raced with thoughts of his double betrayal.
Eventually, my body couldn’t take any more and I stopped on the pavement near an underground station, doubled over and panting from the effort. Once I’d got my breath back a bit, I gave Ellie a call. She picked up on the first ring.
‘Hey, Fran, how are you?’
That question pushed me over the edge into full-blown sobbing and once I’d started, I couldn’t stop.
‘What’s the matter? Where are you? Is Paul there? Talk to me, please!’
‘Hold on a minute,’ I managed to choke out, wiping my face on the sleeve of my t-shirt. ‘I’m at the Tube station and I need a place to stay. Paul…Paul…well, there is no Paul and me any more.’
I heard her sharp intake of breath before she said, ‘Of course you must come here. Will you be okay on your own or do you want me to come and get you?’
‘No, I’ll be okay. I should be about half an hour. Thanks, Ellie.’ I rang off and made my way down into the depths of the Tube, grateful that I would have somewhere to stay so I didn’t have to go back home tonight. Afterwards, I couldn’t remember finding my way to the platform. I was so distracted by all that had happened and in such a short space of time but the next thing I knew, I was squashed into a seat on a crowded rush-hour carriage, trundling north on the Northern line.
No-one spared me a second glance on the train. It was oddly calming to be sitting among complete strangers in my misery and to know I didn’t have to explain myself. I wrapped my arms protectively around my body. Why on earth had Paul done this to me? I wracked my brain as the train rattled on, but I could make no sense of it.
When I arrived at Ellie’s, she scooped me into her arms at once for a hug, which only made me start crying again. She patted my back comfortingly, and eventually the tears subsided.
‘Why don’t I get us both a drink and then you can tell me everything that’s happened?’

Author Bio
Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She indie published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and has just published her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace. A follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville is also in progress, as well as the next novel.

She blogs regularly on her website, 'My Writing Life.' You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author Page.
She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and The Society of Authors.
When she is not writing, she works part-time for a charity as a communications officer, and freelance as a web designer and supply teacher. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.