As Good as Gold by Patricia Furstenberg

I have received a free copy of the children’s poetry book As Good As Gold: A dog’s life in poems by Patricia Furstenberg for son2 to review.

As Good As Gold by Patricia Furstenberg

Here is the book blurb.

As engaging as a tail wag
Celebrating the simple things in life as seen through the eyes of our old time favourite furry friends, “As Good as Gold” is a volume of poetry revealing the talent and humour we always knew our dogs possessed.
Dogs are full of questions, yet they are famed sellers of innocence especially when it comes to explaining their mishaps and often foolish effervescence through ponderings such as “Why IS a Cat Not Like a Dog”, “As Brown as Chocolate”, “Silver Stars and Puppy Tail” or, best yet, “Dog or Book?”
A book with an enormous heart for readers of all ages, it includes 35 poems and haiku accompanied by expressive portraits of our canine friends.

As Good as Gold by Patricia Furstenberg

My favourite poem is “As Pink as a Puppy’s Tongue” because it has a pug in it and pugs are my favourite dog. This is a very good book.

The two sentences above are what son2 has written for his review.

I also read this book and loved how the 35 poems are arranged in categories. So it starts with a section where the poems are all questions from the dogs. The second section features poems, each based on a particular colour. Then we have musings. And finally Haiku, which are 3 line poems. I remember being taught Haiku at school, but certainly never succeeded in writing any as good as these. And all the poems are beautifully illustrated with dog photographs.

A delightful collection, that you can dip into time after time. Great for reading out loud to younger children or for older children to read themselves. And appealing to adults too, especially dog lovers.

Newly published today, As Good as Gold is available on Amazon, currently priced at 99p in kindle format. A lovely poetry book. Highly recommended by both son2 and me.

About the author

Patricia Furstenberg came to writing through reading. She always carries a notebook and a pen, although at times she jots down her ideas on the back of till slips or types them on her phone.

Patricia enjoys writing for children because she can take abstract, grown-up concepts and package them in humorous, child-friendly ideas while adding sensitivity and lots of love. What fuels her is an exhilarating need to write and… coffee: “How many cups have had this morning?” “None.” “Plus?” “Five cups.”

Between her books you can find the beloved Joyful Trouble, The Cheetah and the Dog, Puppy, 12 Months of Rhymes and Smiles.

She is a Huffington Post contributor and pens the Sunday Column for MyPuppyclub.net as well as dabbing in freelancing. After completing her Medical Degree in Romania she moved to South Africa where she now lives with her husband, children and their dogs.

Author Website
Pat’s books on Amazon UK
Pat on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest.


I’m participating in the blog tour. Do take time to browse round some of the other posts.

As Good As Gold by Patricia Furstenberg

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Chocolate Courgette Muffins

I am sure most of you have heard of carrot cake, so I wanted to see what other vegetables could be incorporated into baking. In particular I wanted to focus on a vegetable that neither of the boys would agree to eat, if they saw it on their plate. I decided on courgette and knew it needed to be well hidden, to get past the point of them actually eating. Therefore a type of chocolate cake was the answer.

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

Ingredients (makes 12)

100g soft brown sugar
50ml vegetable oil
160g self raising flour
40g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs
1 courgette (approx 200g)
few drops of vanilla essence

Method

Preheat fan oven to 180 degree C.
Place muffin cases in muffin baking tray.
Grate the courgette.
Add sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla essence to mixing bowl and beat together.
Mix in the grated courgette.
Sieve in the flour.
Add cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
Fold in all these dry ingredients.
Spoon mixture into muffin cases.
Bake on middle shelf of preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until well risen and springy to the touch.
Cool on cooling rack.
Serve and enjoy.

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

So then I offered the “chocolate” muffins to the boys, which were initially eagerly accepted. And waited for the verdict on the experiment. Son1 asked if he could have a second muffin straightaway but son2 only ate half his muffin. Perhaps it needed more sugar to be disguised for son2. He could only say he didn’t like it, but not why.

I then told son1 there was a mystery ingredient and asked if he could guess it. He failed to guess and didn’t believe me when I told him it was courgette. I had to show him the photos to convince him. But I’m glad to say he continued to enjoy the muffins. And I thought they were very tasty too.

I’d love to hear your ideas for hiding secret vegetables in other dishes? I’m thinking chocolate might be a good cover for either beetroot or avocado too.

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The Carmichaels by Charlotte Penn Clark

I have received a free e-copy of the book The Carmichaels Complete Series by Charlotte Penn Clark to review. You may find out more about the author on her website.

The Carmichaels by Charlotte Penn Clark

Here is the book blurb.

The lives and loves of five privileged daughters of a Colorado political family….

Rich. Smart. Beautiful. Talented. And they even get along. Mostly.
The five Carmichael sisters lucked out in the game of life, but their privilege doesn’t protect them from heartbreak. Read all five contemporary romance novellas newly revised and together for the first time!

CORINNE wants her independence, but when tragedy strikes her family she relies on her new French boyfriend for support.
Headstrong DAISY goes after what she wants as a financial journalist, but the guy she wants keeps her at arm’s length.
VALERIE, still shaken by past trauma, is surprised when her feelings for her E.R. doctor grow beyond friendship.
MARIE is just getting started as a sportswriter so she really shouldn’t fall for her first subject, the newly-drafted quarterback.
SAMANTHA has crushed on her college advisor for a year but now that she’s about to graduate maybe she finally has a shot with him.

The box set has just been recently released, but all 5 individual novellas were published a couple of years ago. So far I have read Corinne.

Corinne is the eldest of 5 daughters of senator Roger Carmichael who is considering running for President. She is doing modelling jobs between studying at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) but she is battling against her father who wishes her to stop modelling because of the media interest. She insists on honouring a modelling job she has already secured in Hawaii but overall, feels she is losing her independence.

There she meets Paul, a French photographer, with whom there is a mutual attraction. After flying their separate ways, they text each other regularly and meet up a few months later one weekend in LA. But even then, the media capture some shots of them. They start a long distance relationship and she invites him to meet her family at Thanksgiving. They share an idyllic week in France followed by more family time at Christmas.

But a couple of months later tragedy strikes with a helicopter crash. Corinne relies on Paul during this difficult time. How will things pan out?

A lovely story. I’m about to start reading Daisy next, although I feel I already know a bit about all the family from the first story.

The Carmichaels Complete Series is available on Amazon, currently priced at £3.54 in Kindle format and is also available in paperback. Five stories in one book. What a great bargain for lovers of romantic reads.


About the author

Charlotte Penn Clark writes sweet-sexy New Adult and contemporary novellas that take romance seriously. As an avid romance reader, she used to spin love stories in her head until she finally started to write them down two years ago. She has studied English literature and taught college composition, but now she enjoys playing matchmaker to friends and enemies, geeks and nerds, jocks and bookworms.

So far she’s published eight books in two series: the Carmichael series interweaves the lives and loves of five privileged sisters in a political family, while the Extra Credit series tells the stories of three unlikely couples thrown together on a college campus.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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An energy boost

I have just started a new job and there is lots to learn during the training period, which I find can be quite exhausting. Especially as I have to juggle it with family commitments.  Plus it is a shift role, so a mixture of early starts, late finishes plus night shifts again, which I’ve recently had a few months break from. So I was very pleased to be offered a free energy boosting goody pack from Pharmaton.

Energy boosting goodies

I received the following products.
75ml thisworks deep sleep pillow spray
Neom Energy Burst On the Go Mist
50g Nutriseed raw Maca powder
Boots £10 gift card (to purchase Pharmaton Vitality Capsules)

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules

So on my next shopping trip, I popped into Boots to buy a bottle of the Pharmaton Vitality Capsules. This contained 30 capsules, currently at an RRP of £9.49, for which the recommended dose is one tablet daily. I decided to take the full packet before telling you what I thought of them. The packet indicates that they are clinically proven against tiredness and lack of energy. Would I find that so?

The first 2 days didn’t go too well with me getting a bad headache overnight. The packet does warn that headaches may be a common side effect. But after that, things improved and although it is difficult to say with any certainty, I feel that overall I was probably more energised. During week 4, I did my first night shifts in several months, and I felt that my body adjusted back better afterwards.

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules contain a special blend of vitamins and minerals, including the unique G115 ginseng extract. The idea is that they work with your body’s natural metabolism to relieve fatigue and restore vitality, and also help keep you stay mentally and physically alert. They can be taken every day for up to 12 weeks. (For the relief of temporary periods of fatigue. Always read the label).

And of course I tried out the other goodies too.

thisworks deep sleep pillow spray

The pillow spray is great. You just spray it on your pillow and the top end of your duvet. Then smell the delightful fragrance of lavender, vetivert and wild camomile as you drift off. Lavender is one of my favourite scents so this was perfect for me.

Neom Energy Burst On the Go Mist

The Neom mist has a lovely fragrance too and is 100% natural, but it comes in a very tiny bottle. I can’t see the size details on the packaging, but I’m guessing 5ml, so it won’t last me long. I’ve already used over half of it. Basically you spritz it above you or on your wrists, then supposedly breathe in through your nose for a count of 7 and out through your mouth for a count of 11. However I found that I couldn’t breathe for anything like this length, so I’m just doing it as slow as I can manage.

And finally the organic maca powder. I had never heard of maca, so I had to do some research. I found that the Incas have been cultivating it for 1000s of years in the high Peruvian Andes, boosting their energy at such a high altitude. More details on Wikipedia. The packet says to add 1-2 teaspoons to your smoothies, shakes, juices and healthy bakes. Well I decided to use it in my not quite so healthy chocolate cookie recipe.

Double choc chip cookies with maca

Double Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients (makes about 13)

200g butter
200g plain flour
50g cocoa
1 heaped teasp maca powder
120g soft brown sugar
1 egg
few drops vanilla essence
1 tbsp milk
100g chocolate chips

Method

Preheat fan oven to 170 degree C.
Grease 2 baking trays.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Beat in the egg.
Add the vanilla essence.
Sieve in the cocoa.
Add the maca powder.
Sieve in the flour.
Mix together.
Mix in the chocolate chips.
Mix in milk if mixture is too stiff.
Spoon balls of mixture onto the baking trays.
Bake in pre-heated oven for about 12 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
Serve and enjoy.

Double choc chip cookies with maca

Delicious. Everyone gave these the thumbs up.


And here are some more simple tips to help you make the most of your day and get your energy levels back.

  1. Stay Hydrated

It seems obvious but make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day. According to the Natural Hydration Council, dehydration can reduce the ability to concentrate and impact cognitive and physical performance. NHS choices recommend that you drink at least 1.2 litres of fluid a day which is roughly 6-8 glasses of water. The best way to remind yourself is to keep a glass or bottle on your desk and set yourself a target amount to drink by the end of the day.

  1. Eat right

Make sure that you eat the right foods at the right time. It is tempting to reach for high fat, high sugar products when you are tired but these will leave your energy levels crashing, making you feel irritable and still hungry. Keep a pot of nuts such as almonds or cashews at your desk for when you need an energy boost.

  1. Get a good sleep

According to the national Sleep Council, your bedroom should not be an extension of the house. So don’t use the bedroom to eat, watch TV, work or talk in – the bedroom should be used for sleeping. Plan a consistent sleeping schedule by trying to get the same amount of sleep every night and at similar times. Move all screens out of the bedroom and try to avoid staring a bright screen an hour before bed, as the light keeps your brain awake leaving you struggling to drift off.

  1. Move it

If you feel your concentration failing, don’t reach for another coffee or sugary snack – get moving! Even low intensity exercise like a brisk walk around the block at lunch can help reduce the feeling of fatigue.

I’d be interested to hear your top energy boosting tips.

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Disclosure. This post includes a review of products I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.

Guest post: Benefits of Portion Control

Overeating is a common habit these days. People don’t realize that they are overeating. Larger portions have more calories obviously and make you eat more. It causes problems like obesity, diabetes, etc. So, if you are looking for a healthy lifestyle, portion control should be a priority for you.

Practicing portion control can help you to be satisfied by eating less food, which is beneficial for you, both physically and financially.

Here are a few benefits of portions control that can encourage you.

  1. Digestion Improvement:
    Portion Control can help you improve your digestion and metabolism by not overeating with lots of food in every meal. It will assist in weight-loss as well because your portions will be smaller and the ingestion will be able to take place smoothly.
  2. Helps in Managing Calorie Intake:
    To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. When you are practicing portion control, you would want to eat something that would keep you full for some time since the portions are small.
    Bulking your meals with vegetables, oats, and fruits is one of the easiest ways to manage portion control because they fill you up and are calorie free!
    A proper amount of healthy food will supply your body with essential elements without eating extra.
    Practicing portion control will help in managing calorie intake and it also helps in maintaining blood glucose control. It is well-noted fact that increase in our waist size is directly proportional to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is closely related to diabetes.
  3. Money Saving:
    It’s pretty evident that when you eat smaller portions, you tend to spend less money. You also save money that you spend on junk food because when you practice portion control, you plan to eat healthy food to keep you full instead of junk food, that makes you crave for more and adds to binge-eating.
  4. Increase in Your Satiety:
    It might sound strange but it is a fact, eating less makes you feel full. When you eat less, your stomach shrinks with time, and the feeling of satiety comes quick. Thus you prevent overeating.
  5. Increased Energy:
    Research says that eating smaller portions boosts people’s energy and productivity. Eating irregular meals can lead to problematic issues like a feeling of depleted energy and irregular eating habits. Having increased strength will also help you engage in physical activity, which is essential for good health.
  6. Helps Fight Illness:
    Smaller meals that are taken throughout the day help fight certain illnesses. Eating smaller portions with healthy ingredients give a better regulation of blood glucose levels and is linked to reducing cholesterol and chances of diabetes.

AUTHOR BIO:
Michelle Hannan is a nutritionist, and she’s on a mission to give you all the information you need to lose weight successfully. She also blogs regularly at https://www.hcgdietinfo.net/

Michelle Hannan

Guest post by Michelle Hannon

My Duke’s Seduction by Tammy Andresen

I have received a free e-copy of the book My Duke’s Seduction by Tammy Andresen to review.

My Duke's Seduction by Tammy Andresen

Here is the book blurb.

Can her gentle tenacity unlock a duke’s heart?

Lady Tricia Riley is the sweet daughter of a duke until her family’s ailments force her to breech societies’ dictates and go where no lady should… the docklands. When a tall, strong and handsome stranger helps to keep her safe, she agrees to keep their meeting, secret. She’s no interest in marrying a tall and darkly handsome stranger. Actually, she has no intention of marrying at all. Instead, she plans to dedicate herself to charitable pursuits.

Ryker Pembroke, Duke of Landon, will marry eventually, as duty requires him to do. But it is a fate, he regards with a certain amount of dread. That is, until an auburn haired minx bursts into his life. Her warmth, charm and giving nature draws him to her even as he attempts to maintain a safe distance. She is entirely wrong for him with her impulsive nature and blatant disregard for her own safety makes her a terrible choice for a wife… doesn’t it?

This is a stand-alone romance with a lovely HEA! The heroine does appear in the Earl of Sussex: Wicked Earls’ Club. And the books that follow will all be connected with the Earl of Sussex and his lovely bride, Tabbie.

This is the first book in the Wicked Lords of London series set in 1816. However Lady Tricia did briefly appear in The Earl of Sussex which I had read a few months ago. Her sister was the heroine in that book.

The story starts with Lady Tricia Riley alone at night in the London docklands, not a great place for a respectable young lady to be. She is searching for her cousin Fenton, who she is worried will die in the opium dens. But she is scared as some drunks emerge from a pub, leering and grabbing at her arm. Thankfully she is rescued by the mysterious Ryker, a gentleman who we later discover to be the Duke of Landon.

However she foolishly wishes to continue her search rather than be escorted to safety. So Ryker suggests that he will send someone to look for Fenton tomorrow instead. As they walk to where Ryker’s carriage is waiting, they hear a baby crying and Tricia picks up the abandoned infant. Another rescue. They take the foundling to an orphanage that her sister had opened, before they part ways close to Tricia’s home.

The next day she realises that she doesn’t know who Ryker is, so how will she know if Fenton has been found. She decides she will have to find Ryker to ask, but the only place that she knows to look for him is the docklands.

So having already narrowly escaped ruin once, she plans yet another night time escapade. What will happen this time?

My Duke’s Seduction is available on Amazon, currently priced at 99p in Kindle format. This is a nice romantic story, when you want a light read between thrillers.


About the author

USA Today Bestselling Author, Tammy Andresen lives with her husband and three children just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up on the Seacoast of Maine, where she spent countless days dreaming up stories in blueberry fields and among the scrub pines that line the coast. Her mother loved to spin a yarn and Tammy filled many hours listening to her mother retell the classics. It was inevitable that at the age of 18, she headed off to Simmons College, where she studied English literature and education. She never left Massachusetts but some of her heart still resides in Maine and her family visits often.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Captain of my Heart by Danelle Harmon

I have received a free e-copy of the book Captain of my Heart by Danelle Harmon to review. You may find out more about the author on her website.

Captain of my Heart by Danelle Harmon

Here is the book blurb.

He wanted no woman, except one made of sails and wood and wind …

Handsome, wily Irish privateer Captain Brendan Jay Merrick is running from a painful past — and fighting for a new nation’s future when he arrives in the colonial town of Newburyport, Massachusetts, with plans for shipwright Ephraim Ashton to build his magnificent new schooner. Brendan’s daring sea battles against His Majesty’s fleet have made him a legend in his adopted country — but one look at the dashing stranger and Ashton’s daughter Mira starts making plans of her own. . . .

She wanted no man — but him.

Brash, hot-tempered, and born at sea in a raging gale, Mira Ashton is more than most men can manage. Disguising herself as a crew member and sneaking aboard Brendan’s newly-built Kestrel, she becomes the schooner’s finest gunner . . . and the captain’s most outrageous distraction. As desire ignites between them, Mira finds herself competing against Kestrel for Brendan’s love. But when tragedy strikes, Mira must join forces with her mighty rival in a daring adventure that turns the tide of battle and brings glorious victory to the colonists, the captain . . . and the lady who has captured his heart.

The book is set in Massachusetts in 1778-79, only a couple of years after the American colonies had declared independence from Britain. This is not a period of history that I am at all familiar with.

Irish Captain Brendan Merrick had been in the Royal Navy back in the prologue in 1775, but is now captain of an American privateer. He seems to be making a habit of falling overboard and surviving, usually at the hands of his arch-enemy British Captain Richard Crichton. This time he is rescued by Matt Ashton, who ironically is the son of shipbuilder Ephraim, whom Brendan was going to have build his new ship, from the drafts which have suffered a soggy fate in his pocket.

Matt takes him home, where he meets Matt’s unconventional sister Mira, who prefers to dress as a boy and is a dreadful cook. Mira and Brendan are attracted to each other. The ship Kestrel is built and Brendan brings his sister Eveleen to stay with the Ashtons too. Mira initially doesn’t take to Eveleen and to avoid being left at home with her, sneaks aboard Kestrel as a gunner for the maiden voyage.

It took me quite a while to get into this story but was definitely worth persevering. The different strands of the story are woven together excellently. Sea battles, romance, confusion, there’s lot more excitement to come.

Captain of my Heart is available on Amazon, currently priced at £10.99 in paperback and is also in Kindle format. A nice read once you get into it.


About the author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Danelle Harmon has written seventeen critically acclaimed and award-winning books, with many being published all over the world. A Massachusetts native, she has lived in Great Britain, though these days she and her English husband make their home in New England with their daughter Emma and numerous animals including five dogs, an Egyptian Arabian horse, and a flock of pet chickens. Danelle enjoys reading, spending time with family, friends and her animals, dog showing, plane-spotting, and sailing her reproduction 19th century skiff, Kestrel II. She welcomes email from her readers and can be reached at Danelle@danelleharmon.com.

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Marble Cake

When one of my regular readers recently let me know that she was trying out my chocolate cake recipe, it got me thinking that it was time to try out something new too. And since I sometimes end up buying a marble cake at Lidl, I decided that I would try to bake one, something I’ve never tried before.

Marble Cake

Marble Cake

Ingredients

175g self raising flour
175g butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa
vanilla essence
3 tbsp milk

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degree C.
Line a loaf tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Beat in the eggs.
Add the vanilla essence.
Sieve and mix in the flour and baking powder.
Divide mixture between 2 bowls.
Mix cocoa into one bowl.
Mix milk into same bowl.
Spoon alternate mixtures into the tin.
Bake in pre-heated oven for about 50 – 60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
Cut into slices.
Serve and enjoy.

Marble Cake

It looked and tasted delicious. I love the swirly way it looks. No wonder it is named marble cake. Just like the pattern of a glass marble.

Marble Cake

Marble Cake

I’d love to hear what cakes you enjoy baking?

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The Wicked Marquis by Mary Lancaster

I have received a free e-copy of the book The Wicked Marquis by Mary Lancaster to review. You may find out more about the author on her website.

The Wicked Marquis by Mary Lancaster

Here is the book blurb.

The lady meets her match – and he’s hopelessly ineligible.

Poverty stricken marquis, Lord Tamar, is regarded in Blackhaven as an amiable eccentric and a gifted painter, rather than as a wicked man. But Tamar has secrets that he dare not reveal to anyone, let alone to the delightful Lady Serena, the Earl of Braithwaite’s sister, who suddenly lights up his world.

To Serena, fed up with London etiquette and sent home to her family castle in disgrace after her engagement is broken, the fascinating Tamar is a breath of fresh air. Accepting his help with the mystery of the strange barrels in the castle cellar, she is soon in the midst of danger involving smugglers and spies and a friend’s broken heart.

But it is her own heart which is in most danger, as she falls swiftly and desperately in love. And neither her family nor Tamar himself would ever countenance a marriage between them. Moreover, the marquis turns out to have committed a far more shocking crime than mere poverty.

This is the fifth book in the Blackhaven Brides series. I haven’t read any of the previous titles, but found that this worked well as a stand-alone read.

This historical Regency read begins with Lady Serena having been sent back in disgrace from London, after the break off of her engagement, to the family country estate Braithwaite Castle on the Cumbrian coast. With only her younger sisters and their governess for company, she is bored. Supposedly not even allowed out of the castle, she dashes into the orchard, where she encounters a trespassing artist, who asks her to stop whilst he paints her picture. He then kisses her.

She wakes in the middle of the night to spot smugglers with a barrel in the courtyard. Up early the next morning, she disturbs the smugglers brazenly still there. She gives chase and then panics when she realises one is threatening her with a knife. Luckily she escapes, running slap bang into the mysterious artist.

It doesn’t take many more encounters for them to fall in love, but Tamar hasn’t yet revealed that he is an impoverished Marquis. Is he a fortune hunter? And is Serena still in danger from the smugglers?

The Wicked Marquis is available on Amazon, currently priced at £2.13 in Kindle format. The fifth book in the Blackhaven Brides series. This is a great romantic read, with plenty of other strands to the storyline.

You’ll see in the interview with the author below, that the sixth Blackhaven Bride book is due out this month. Having had a quick look at who are the heroines of the previous titles, I’m guessing that the sixth book may be about Miss Grey, the governess although I think that Serena’s friend Catherine would make a good heroine for another title.


About the author

Mary Lancaster lives in Scotland with her husband, three mostly grown-up kids and a small, crazy dog.

Her first literary love was historical fiction, a genre which she relishes mixing up with romance and adventure in her own writing. Several of her novels feature actual historical characters as diverse as Hungarian revolutionaries, medieval English outlaws, and a family of eternally rebellious royal Scots. To say nothing of Vlad the Impaler.

Her most recent books are light, fun Regency romances written for Dragonblade Publishing: The Imperial Season series set at the Congress of Vienna; and the popular Blackhaven Brides series, which is set in a fashionable English spa town frequented by the great and the bad of Regency society.


Interview with Mary Lancaster – Author Journey and Writing Career

1. In your bio, you state that your first literary love was historical fiction. Was there a specific book that started that love?

I suppose, looking back, that it might have been LM Alcott’s Little Women! But I can only have been 8 or 9 years old and it was the characters who obsessed me rather than the historical setting. I think it was more reading several very different historical novels that focused my love of the genre. Lorna Doone and The Count of Monte Cristo among the classics, and then I discovered Georgette Heyer and the great Dorothy Dunnett.

2. At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve written stories almost since I could hold a pencil. I was certainly still at primary school when I realized I wanted to be a published author. Of course, real life and self-doubt kept me writing in secret for my own entertainment for years. Then a desire to escape a job I disliked and a somewhat optimistic notion of being able to write at home while I brought up children, made me look seriously at getting published.

3. What does your average writing day look like?

I wake up early, about 6am and drink coffee in bed while writing until I have to get my daughter up for school and rouse anyone else who needs to be up and out. Then I cram in another hour of writing, take the dog for a walk and return to write until my daughter comes home from school.

I’m trying to adjust the balance, because this schedule doesn’t leave much time for housework (which I hate in any case!) but if I’m on a roll, I can’t bring myself to stop until I’m forced to 😊

4. Where can we find you writing? At home, in a coffee shop? With or without music?

I prefer privacy to write, so usually at home. Sometimes I write with music, sometimes without. It depends on my mood and the mood of the book, and what’s going on around me.

I have a pleasant room (known as Mum’s library) where I like to work, surrounded by books and a few favourite knick-knacks we’ve picked up on our travels over the years. And the dog often joins me there on a nearby cushion 😊. Unfortunately, the kids also use this room in the evenings if they have friends in – which at least one of them nearly always does – so sometimes I’m driven away by the mess they leave behind until they’re forced to clear it up!

5. Where do you get the ideas for your books from? Dreams? Real life?

Anything can set me off! A line in a book, an item on the news, the atmosphere of a particular place, a face glimpsed on a train. The whole story of A World to Win was inspired by a man on a Romanian train when I was traveling as a student. An Endless Exile, A Prince to be Feared and Rebel of Ross, were all inspired by sentences read in books when I was researching other things.

Often, it’s the history itself that inspires me initially, but the story waits in the background to be told because the right character or some other spark hasn’t quite brought it alive in my imagination.

6. Do you outline your stories or just start writing and see where the story takes you?

I usually make a brief (and often vague!) outline of the plot and the motivation of the characters, and the first scene or two. After that, I tend to go wherever the story leads!

7. What’s the most discouraging thing about being an author, and how did you get over it?

Rejection. I think most authors would say that! Most of us have been rejected multiple times by several publishers, agencies etc., until you wonder why you bother carrying on. You have to be determined to wade through all of that and keep going. An encouraging letter or a single acceptance works wonders, though!

Nowadays, with so much self-publishing, it’s not always necessary to put yourself through that, but then there’s the difficulty of being seen in such a crowded market place, and lack of sales can be seen as the rejection of readers! As can a poor review. Self-doubts never really go away, but I suppose I get over the tough times by remembering the positives – a reader’s appreciation, or an editor’s praise mean the world!

8. Do you have a favorite book of your own work? Which one is it, and why?

I don’t know that I do have one favourite! I’m aware none of them are perfect and yet I’ve been totally immersed in all of them and like different things about each. I love to make historical figures come alive and if I believe I’ve succeeded, it makes me proud. For those reasons, I like An Endless Exile (about Hereward the Wake) and A Prince to be Feared (Vlad Dracula). But my main aim is always to entertain and I’ve been really thrilled with reader reactions to the lighter Regency romances – the Imperial Season series and especially Blackhaven Brides. I think they’re fun, and I have great fun writing them.

9. How do you come up with the titles for your books?

Various ways! Sometimes, they just pop into my head as I’m writing them, or when I’m writing a summary for submission – inspired by an event or a character or a line in the book itself. Vienna Waltz just seemed to suit the shenanigans of my first story set at the Congress of Vienna, and of course my heroine falls in love during a waltz! The Wicked in the Blackhaven Brides titles is Regency society’s perception of certain heroes or heroines.

When I can’t think of a title, I look for inspiration in quotations – like A Word to Win (Marx) and A Prince to be Feared (Machiavelli).

10. What’s your least favorite part about writing? Writers block, research, etc.?

I love writing (and research!) so it’s hard to think what I don’t like! I suppose it’s when I feel a story might be lagging a bit and I’m not sure whether to push on in this direction and see if I change my mind, or to scrap that part and try something else. I know from experience the same answer isn’t always right!

11. What’s your favorite part of the publishing process? Picking/making the cover, release day, etc.?

I do love seeing a good cover and knowing it’s right! But there’s always a special excitement about a release day celebrations – especially a good release day when you can chat with readers, the first reviews are quick and positive, and you see the sales numbers/rankings begin to climb 😊

12. Any advice for aspiring authors?

I think every author makes their own journey in different ways, but I think it’s always good to keep reading, and not just in the genre you wish to write in. And to write constantly and listen to constructive criticism. Most of all, don’t give up!

13. What are some of your other hobbies, or things you enjoy that’s not writing related?
I love spending time with my family and friends, enjoying good conversation, food and wine. And I love reading for its own sake, and a good film or binge watching a tv series that’s grabbed me. I also like to visit new places and soak up different cultures and different history.

14. Currently, what are some of your favorite books and authors?
I like to read a mixture of genres and both old and new books. I’ve been reading a bit of Gothic romance, recently, by Eve Silver, and have got heavily into Jennifer Ashley’s historical detective series about Captain Lacey. I was also blown away recently when I read Daphne du Maurier’s The King’s General – so brilliant and moving! I also love Toni Anderson’s romantic suspense. And Christopher Brookmyre who writes clever and hilarious Scottish thrillers – I am in awe 😊.

15. What are your short term and long term goals as an author?

Short term, I’d like to keep readers happy with more Blackhaven Brides stories, and expand my readership there – so recommendations greatly appreciated 😊. Longer term, I suppose I’d like to be a recognized bestseller – who wouldn’t? But mainly, I want to keep entertaining with my books.

16. What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

Next is the 6th Blackhaven Brides book, The Wicked Governess, which should release some time in April.

I’ve also written a novella in the multi-author Marriage Maker series, which should be out later on in the year.

Looking further ahead, there will be at least 3 more Blackhaven Brides books! And I have another book I want to write following on from my medieval Scottish “Ross” series – these are still romantic but veer slightly more towards historical fiction than historical romance.

Honestly, I have more stories in my head than I have time to write them!


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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Guest post: How Yoga, Meditation benefit the Mind and Body

We as humans have come a long way and if you will ask me that whether we are happy about it or not, I will have a mixed answer. The modernity has brought us ease and comfort, but it has also brought the fierce competition with it that do not let us relax entirely. The thought of what will come next is almost destroying the inner peace of one’s self.

To say that a car ride is not what we want would be absolutely wrong but a small walk to the nearby mart or the bar with the company you like or even alone can do wonders to you internally and externally both. But somehow, in all the luxuries and races we have forced ourselves in; we are forgetting that the inner peace is more than you need for a better life.

One of the most significant and brightest person that ever lived once said that.
A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the constant pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness. – Albert Einstein

For many of us the comfort lies in the luxuries, that the future will bring with the efforts we will put today, but what will happen to the peace we need today, ever thought about that? I have so many things that can be a suitable answer to this question, but yoga or meditation has been proven to be the best solution up till now.

According to several types of research, taking out some time for yourself and shutting down the world has proven to be effective for you not just mentally but physically too.

  • BENEFITS TO THE BODY

Yoga has been in practice since a human cannot imagine but with every passing time, the popularity of this method of relaxation and reducing weight is being known to everyone. Celebrities around the world are going crazy over yoga as it does so much in so little time.

Following are the benefits that yoga, meditation holds for our body.

  1. Better health
  2. Flexibility
  3. Better diet
  4. Reduces back pain
  5. Cures the hangover
  6. Better cardiovascular health
  7. Improves digestion
  • BENEFITS TO THE MIND

According to a research conducted by Dr. Cahn, if people allow themselves a session of yoga on a daily basis, they can rid of the anxiety and depression they are going through, and for better results, a vegetarian diet can be opted.

Many psychiatrists even ask their patients to meditate every day even if it is in the comfort of their bedroom and not with a professional.

Meditation is considered as a religious act in some religions. Like, in Christianity, the practice is not common in every school of thought but the tradition of desert fathers from the early times who use to isolate themselves individually or in groups, used to pray (spoken or sung) in synchronized breathing, is now a practice of some schools. In Islam, Muslims consider their daily prayer as a form of meditation as they spend that time alone with their God. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the pundits and Buddhists meditate for years for spirituality.

Following are the benefits that yoga, meditation holds for the mind.

  1. Stress management
  2. Emotional health
  3. Better sleep
  4. Mood booster
  5. Clears your mind

Author bio: Michelle Hannan is a nutritionist, and she’s on a mission to give you all the information you need to lose weight successfully. She also blogs regularly at https://www.hcgdietinfo.net/

Michelle Hannan

Guest post by Michelle Hannon

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