My Top Ten Contemporary Women’s Fiction Authors 


This is the third in my series of genre specific top ten authors.  I have separated women’s contemporary fiction from romantic fiction (chick lit), which will feature in a later blog post.  This genre does seem to encompass a wide range of books ad can be interpreted in different ways.  I am not saying any of these books cannot be read by men, of course they can, I have simply gone on what genre the books marketed for.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that this is my personal list, of authors I have read.  I am sure many of you will disagree with some of my choices, if so please comment so I can see some of your choices and add them to my ever growing TBR pile.


Lucinda Riley.

Lucinda Riley has gradually become one of my favourite authors at the moment.  I first found out about her books when Hothouse Flower was chosen for The Richard and Judy Book Club.  Lucinda has written several stand alone novels as well as currently writing the fifth book of her Seven Sisters series, which is my favourite series of the moment.  I have reviewed the first four in this series on my blog: The Seven Sisters, The Storm Sister, The Shadow Sister and most recently The Pearl Sister. Of her stand alone novels my favourite is The Midnight Rose spanning four generations of the Astbury family and takes us from England to the palaces of India.  She is a very skilful writer who brings both characters and places to life.  I also really like that she doesn’t have a lot of surplus characters, each is there for a purpose, a tip many authors could take.




Karen Swan

It was my mum who introduced me to Karen Swan’s books, my first being Christmas at Tiffany’s, about Cassie, whose marriage falls apart and spends the next year living with each of her best friends, in Paris, New York and London, in order to decide what she wants to do with her life.  The sequel to this, Summer at Tiffany’s was released last year, and is still sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.  Karen Swan releases a book every Christmas, and for me Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without one of her books.  They are full of great characters, and set in wonderful locations.  I recently reviewed The Rome Affair, which I think is her best book yet.  This years Christmas novel is The Christmas Secret which I will review in a couple of weeks time, just before publication date.


Kate Morton

Kate Morton is another author I found out after The House at Riverton was chose for the Richard and Judy Book Club.  I am a fan of the two plot line structure, one historical, one contemporary:  I find it really grabs my attention and keeps it, it prevents the book from getting flat at any point.  The plots each have a mystery at the centre, whether a missing child, an abandoned young women, and murder, that cross generations and decades.  Kate Morton is a fantastic writer, as the stories twist and turn with each chapter leaving you at a cliff hanger so you have to read on, and just when you think you know the ending, there is always a surprise.


Kate Mosse

The Languedoc trilogy, Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel are  fantastic read.  Again there is the dual timeline and they have a plot full of conspiracies and mystery.  There is always a strong woman at the centre of the plot, both in the present and in the past.  They are very much a mixed genre containing romance, mystery, thriller, history and a bit of the supernatural.  These novels certainly keep you on your toes and encapsulate a lot of France’s history.  Since writing this trilogy Kate Mosse has written a couple of historical novels as well.


Douglas Kennedy

Leaving the World is a book that stayed with me long after I read it. Douglas Kennedy writes about everyday dilemmas that turn peoples lives upside down.  His writing is full of emotion, and he has a brilliant understanding of the human psyche.  His most famous book is probably In the Pursuit of Happiness, that was turned into a film with Will Smith.  My favourite so far is Five Days, a modern day Brief Encounter about a chance meeting in a hotel lobby changes the life of the main protagonists.  It follows Laura as she questions her previous twenty years of marriage and the loss of her dreams as she became a wife and a mother.  It really is a beautiful book, stylishly written, and full of emotion.  If you haven’t read any of Douglas Kennedy’s novels, I highly recommend them.


Sally Vickers

Sally Vickers is one of those authors whose books I will buy without even needing to read the book blurb.  She has a lyrical style of writing that entrances you and draws you Ito the very heart of the story.  Her books also deal with some serious issues, self discovery, death, faith, redemption and loss.  Being a huge fan of art history her debut novel Miss Garnet’s Angel is a book that has stayed in my heart.  It follows retired teacher, Julia Garnet as she takes a spiritual journey to Venice, its churches, art after the loss of a close friend.  Entwined with her story is the biblical tale of Tobias and the Angel, whose story is in a set of paintings in a local church to which she is drawn.  Of all her books, I think the most clever is Mr Golightly’s Holiday, about an author whose has had a previous bestseller but whose reputation is in decline after failing to write another great work.  He is left to consider his work, the death of his son and the modern world, full of emotion and reflection it is a great read.


Rachel Hore

Like Lucinda Riley and Kate Morton, Rachel Hore’s books have the split timeline that I enjoy in a book, and she is another author whose book was chosen for The Richard and Judy Book Club. At the centre of each plot is a mystery from the past that has repercussions in the present.  Her writing is very descriptive, both in relation to the characters and the locations.   I have read The Memory Garden, A Gathering Storm, The Glass Painter’s Daughter, The Dream House and most recently The House on Bellevue Gardens. All these books have a strong female lead, both in the past and present, wonderful characters and plot lines that will compel you to read on.


Diane Chamberlain

When I read The Midwife’s Confession a few years ago, I was hooked to Diane Chamberlain’s books and writing.  All her books have a dilemma at the centre that none of us would want to be presented with.  The plots are very emotive in their narrative and full of conflicting emotions.  The great thing about this is that you start to question what you would do in the characters position.  Plot lines include child custody battle, babies switched at birth, family secrets and lies and suicide.  Diane has written a large number of books so there is a wide range to choose from, so give them a go.



Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse is the author of sixteen novels, and all are bestsellers.  Amanda shows great understanding and empathy for her characters and the difficulties they face.  Her books deal with everyday problems, faced by many, head on.  The plot lines are immersive and highly emotional.  The characters are well developed and come across as very  real, they could be someone you know, and that is what makes these novels a brilliant read.



Lisa Jewell

After reading The Making of Us, a novel about identity, where a secret binds three very different characters, I was hooked and have since bought all of Lisa’s novels, even though I have not read them all yet.  I love her characterisation, she really brings the characters to life and makes the reader invest in their lives and care what happens them, even if they are all a bit flawed.    Recently Lisa has moved into thriller writing very successfully.



So, these are ten of my favourite contemporary women’s fiction authors.  I hope I have given you some inspiration for future reading.















A Life in Books with Robert Rees


This evening I welcome author Robert Rees to bookliterati blog to discuss some of his favourite books in A Life in Books.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Hi, I am 57 years old and was born in Berkshire. My father was a teacher of History and then headmaster at various schools. I attended Eton College and Trinity Cambridge before pursuing a career in the City of London. After retiring from the City in 2007, I now divide my time between a house in Kent and Provence writing music, novels, and plays.


 81vPZQR0TALWhat was your favourite book from childhood?

I read a lot as a child, most of the normal canon – the Narnia books, Paddington, EE Nesbit being my favourites. I also loved all the various mythologies and graduated quickly from them onto the Lord of the Rings. However, after finding a book on how to make fireworks, my chief love became science and in particular chemistry – a love that I have never lost, despite not really using it in my later career. I particularly enjoyed reading about the history of science.


What type of books did you read as a teenager?

Heavily into Tolkien and similar fantasy books, including a lot of science fiction. But I also enjoyed Russian and French literature. Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier, and Father and Sons by Turgenev were my two favourites.


When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?31SdOZcG-yL

As I was a scientist my English studies ended at 16. The books we were made to read – generally Dickens or Thomas Hardy, were not my books of choice – though for French I did enjoy The Outsider by Camus. I became interested around that time in philosophy ( here was a course for scientists who could write properly at school – not a big group!) so I should add in the History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell.


What is your favourite classic book?

I think it is almost impossible to name one – but if you twist my arm then probably Jane Eyre (or maybe War and Peace)


41Sjqr8p2VLWhat would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years

Difficult as there are so many – but I was very taken with both novels by David Nicholls, Us and One Day. Also The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachmann



What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

That is easy – I have taken a copy of Proust “a la Recherche du temps perdu” on holiday for at least the last three years and it remains unopened


What do you consider to be your favourite book ?7120KPcj8uL

The book I have undoubtedly read the most – though at a much younger age would be The Lord of the Rings.


 Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?



71i83f0-I+LIf you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?

Are we allowed the Bible free, like on Desert Island discs? If not, that would be one. Then probably Shakespeare’s works – including the sonnets. If Bible allowed then War and Peace



 Kindle or Book?

Robert Rees’s novel, A Season In The Sun, is available to buy now.












The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley




CeCe D’Aplièse has never felt that she fitted in anywhere, and following the death of her adoptive father, the elusive billionaire Pa Salt, finds herself at breaking point.

In desperation, and armed with only scant clues her father has left her, CeCe begins a search to discover her true origins….a search which takes hero the searing heat and dusty plains of the Red Centre of Australia.

But what is her connection to Kitty McBride, a Scottish clergyman’s daughter wholes there over a hundred years ago?

As CeCe unearth deeply buried and long forgotten secrets, she starts to believe that this wild, vast continent could offer her something she never thought possible: a sense of belonging and a home…



I have previously reviewed the first three books in this series, The Seven Sisters, The Storm Sister and The Shadow Sister, so I have been eagerly waiting for the release of this fourth book in the series.  In my opinion The Pearl Sister is the best so far, I was immersed in CeCe’s story, I really couldn’t put this book down.

CeCe’s story takes the reader to the beautiful and exotic beaches of Thailand, and its antithesis the desolate outback of Australia.  As with the previous three books, Lucinda Riley’s skill as a writer brings these contrasting places to life.  You can really visualise the dusty, hot and desolate Australian Outback, the red dust coating everything in sight, and the intense heat of the sun.  Lucinda also brings to life the history of Australia; the pearl industry, the discrimination towards those of colour and even more towards children of mixed race, and the shipping of orphans to Australia after the war and their treatment in orphanages.  It was also very interesting to read about the aboriginal myth of The Seven Sisters of Pleiades, and how important it is in their culture.  It is amazing that The Seven Sisters are part of many different cultures, whose basic story names the same but with small differences important in that culture.  I certainly learned a lot reading this book, which enhanced CeCe’s story, and in some way the story of the other sisters as well.

I loved CeCe as a character, she has many insecurities stemming from looking different from her sisters, her dyslexia but most of all from being separated from her sister Star, whose story is told in The Shadow Sister. Throughout the book we see her grow as an independent young women, and accept who she is as a person and as an artist.  I also admired Kitty MacBride who travelled to Australia as a ladies companion in the early twentieth century and ends up staying there and making a new life for herself.  Her strength of character really shines through as she faces many challenges and continues to thrive in the face of adversity.  Her strength is mirrored in her house maid and friend Camira, a woman of mixed race who is been and grown out of her previous job after she became pregnant.  As her child is mixed race she faces having the child taken from her, but Kitty doesn’t have the prejudice of others and helps her.  Overcoming adversity, both in the present and the past, is a strong theme in this book as is the strength of the female characters.  The thing I enjoy about Lucinda Riley’s characters is that she doesn’t overload the reader with a lot of extra characters, there is a small cast of central characters that are important to the plot.

The Pearl Sister is a beautiful book, it will captivate you from the first page with its breath taking plot that will sweep you up in CeCe’s journey.  The Seven Sisters series is getting better with each book, and we fall in love with each sister as they start the journey to find out their true heritage.  They truly are a magical and captivating read, and like those before The Pearl Sister is a superb read that will stay with you long after you have finished it; a sublime reading experience.

Keep an eye out next week for my interview with Lucinda Riley which I will post on 2nd November to coincide with the release of The Pearl Sister.















Guest Review: Mussolini’s Island by Sarah Day




Mussolini’s Island follows the lives of Francesco and his gay/bisexual friends as they are arrested for being who they are at a time in Italy where prejudice is rife and differences are punished.

They are transported to an isolated island where they meet a young girl whose fascination with the men leads to intrigue and danger.

The story involves murder and double crossing for the sake of loved ones; living with differences at a time of war; taking risks to protect others and innocence being trampled because of the prejudices of many.


Francesco is banished to the small island of San Domino at a time when Italy was run by biased, unforgiving forces.  His past memories of his father mixed with his tumultuous feelings of what is right and wrong, and meeting an innocent girl desperate to escape the confines of an island life she is desperate to escape, leads to story of conflicting emotions of fear and rights.

The historical truths of this tale is heartbreaking and Day is able to weave these historical facts into a story that is modern in the way it helps us to realise that biased towards people who are gay or bisexual is not simply historical.


The point of view changes throughout the novel, you do have to be awake to keep on top of it all.  Francesco is however the main character but the novel changes time throughout; does become a bit confusing at times.

I enjoy historical novels and it did engage with a less well known aspects of Mussolini’s reign.  I did find that I had to reread parts at times to ensure I was up to date with what was happening but it was worth doing.

An enlightening read, highlighting an aspect of that part of history.


My guest reviewer today is Anne Skelton, a member of my book club Hens Hooked on Books.

Anne Skelton, I have six amazing children I am immensely proud of. I’m an English teacher in beautiful Scotland, working in Kirkcaldy High School.
I have always had a passion for reading that came from my parents. My first memory of books is my dada reading Brer Rabbit to me when I was very young.  And when I was around 11 he gave me ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to read, it was, and still is, my all time favourite read.























Her Dark Retreat by J A Baker




The coastguard’s residence Chamber Cottage, which sits high upon the North Yorkshire cliffs, overlooking the the North Sea, holds many secrets.

Alec and Peggy are struggling to overcome their marital problems.  Both damages by issues from their childhoods, they are trying to get on with their lives.  But this is hard for them to do when they both believe they are being watched.  As a result, Peggy, who has terrible scars on her face, becomes more agoraphobic.

To make matters worse, Peggy discovers her estranged mother is stalking both she and Alec, claiming she has a dark secret that is putting Peggy in danger.

What caused the scars on Peggy’s face?  Is Alec really the monster Peggy’s mother believes him to be? And what secrets does Chamber Cottage hold?



I was very grateful to Bloodhound books to give me the chance to review Her Dark Retreat; I love a good thriller and I am passionate about supporting local authors.  The opening to this book is every persons nightmare, trapped underground in the dark, with no idea of how you got there, being buried alive.  This first chapter opens the door to a plot full of suspense, drama, darkness and slowly building tension.  The plot is narrated by four of the characters; Peggy, her husband Alec, Peggy’s estranged mother Audrey and Maude, their nearest neighbour who has dementia.  It is fair to say that all are unreliable narrators, all are flawed characters with a reason to twist the narrative for their own gain.

The cast of characters were all dealing with important issues in their lives.  Peggy has a scarred face which leaves her with low self esteem and agoraphobic.   Alec had a bad childhood in which he suffered physical abuse at the hands of his father that resulted in him being put in the care system.  Audrey has no contact with with either of her daughters, has lost her husband and has a drink problem.  Maude has dementia and doesn’t understand why her mind is foggy and that she can only remember certain things.  Of all these characters it was Peggy and Maude I had some empathy for; as a woman Peggy’s facial disfigurement is difficult to live with, and has altered her life and Maude being confused, not knowing what is real and not.  All of these difficult issues are dealt with great care but also with reality.

The setting of the cottage on the cliffs in on the Yorkshire coast is perfect for this book.  The isolated cottage, on the edge of the rocky cliffs, being battered by the elements is a metaphor for Peggy and Alec’s marriage.  They are isolated socially by Peggy’s agoraphobia, and literally by where they live.  Their lives are battered by the outside influences of Peggy’s mother and to an extent Maude.  Their marriage is on the rocks, and there is a coldness between them, they are walking on eggshells, and there is little affection between them, they are two solitary figures within the marriage.

Her Dark Retreat sone of those books where the suspense builds slowly, like a pressure cooker, and you know that by the end there is going to be one big release of this pressure.  With so many twists and turns my stomach was clenching tighter and tighter as I read on until the gut wrenching conclusion, that shocked and surprised me.  I highly recommend this dark chilling thriller, it is perfect for these dark cold autumn nights.


















Guest Review: Summary Justice by John Fairfax





Tess de Vere was on work experience during the summer break from her University studies – she experiences the conviction of William Benson for murder.  She is convinced of his innocence and suggests to him that he could fight back by studying the law himself.

Sixteen years later William is out of prison and trying to establish himself as a barrister against the wishes of the establishment and a public swell of opinion.  Tess is drawn back into his world and starts to work alongside him – at the same time trying to work out whether he was innocent or guilty of his original conviction.



If you enjoy John Grisham novels then this book is for you.   A legal mystery and subsequent investigation of not only one but two murders 16 years apart, but the writing of John Fairfax is based in England rather than America (like Grisham) and therefore seems more relevant and accessible to a reader in the UK.

It is obvious that the author is an expert in legal technicalities and these are what William Benson has studied whilst in prison making him a formidable and unexpectedly clever opponent in the law courts.  I found the first quarter of the book a little slow as the scene was set and characters introduced however it soon picked up and I found it difficult to put down during the second half.  The relationship between Tess and William is central to the novel but we are also introduced to a number of side plots with twists and turns along the way.  Naturally the reader tries to guess the ending but it was not obvious although I would not be surprised if there were more novels involving some of the characters in this one – which I would certainly read.

I would score the book 4/5 – I rarely give a 5 but I would say what let the book down (if anything) was the first few chapters which failed to hook the reader as much as the rest of the book, once it got going. In a phrase ‘The English answer to John Grisham’


My Guest Reviewer today is Anne Packwood, who is a member of my online book club Hens Hooked on Books.

Anne works full time as an academic administrator at a university in the Midlands.  She counts reading as one of her main hobbies along with dancing, crafts and going to the theatre.  She normally reads at least one novel each week but sometimes this is difficult with all the other demands on her time.  Her tastes in books vary and she is always willing to try something or someone new, at the moment historical fiction and crime seem to be dominating her ‘to read’ pile – she is also pedantic about reading a series of novels in the order they were written even if the author does not feel this is important – feeling that there is nothing worse than missing something in a previous book that had a bearing on the current ‘read’.   If she ever has enough time she would love to write a novel herself and has taken a number of creative writing classes but is waiting for the big idea to come along.


The Treatment by C L Taylor.




All sixteen year old Drew Finch wants is to be left alone.  She’s not interested in spending time with her mum and stepdad and when her disruptive fifteen year old brother Mason is expelled from school for the third time and sent to a residential reform academy she is almost relieved.

Everything changes when she’s followed home from school by the mysterious Dr Cobey, who claims to have a message from Mason.  There is something about the ‘treatment’ he is undergoing.  The school is changing people.

Determined to help her brother, Drew must infiltrate the Academy and unearth its deepest, darkest secrets, before its too late.



I don’t normally read Young Adult Fiction, but I am a huge fan of Cally Taylor’s thrillers so when she was looking for reviews for The Treatment, I thought I would give it a try.  Like her other books, this is well written, spine tingling psychological thriller.  The only real difference between her YA novel and her adult psychological thrillers is that the main protagonists are teenagers and of course there is a difference in the language used.

Like her other thrillers, C L Taylor has a female lead character, who is stronger in character than they think they are.  Drew is a young woman who is being bullied at school, doesn’t have a great relationship with her stepdad and is quiet and introvert, something a lot of young people can identify with.  Through the novel we see her grow as a person, and gain confidence in herself and realise how much she really does love her brother.  As in a lot of. YA novels her nemesis is the adult, her stepdad the ‘friends’ and doctors at the Academy and the establishment.  There is a fairly small cast of characters which helps focus the attention.  The attention to detail of the characters gives them a sense of realism and makes them memorable so you are having to flick back for details you may have forgotten.  I thought that many of the characters, and the situations and relationships they have were very relatable which enhances the readers experience of the novel, and makes the thriller more exciting.

The plot is fast paced with plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.    The chapters are short and end at a cliffhanger point making you want to read on.  Being a YA novel, I feel the short chapters make this an accessible and encourage you to read on; a much less daunting prospect than long chapters.  The narrative of children being brainwashed is and idea that has always appealed to younger readers, it is a time when the YA dynamic are finding their feet, pushing boundaries and questioning the establishment, so the idea of the young protagonists taking them on is a perfect theme.

The Treatment a fast paced, rollercoaster of a thriller, written with the same skill and finesse as C L Taylor’s adult thrillers.  A brilliant read.


















A Life in Books with Tracey Sinclair


This evening I welcome author Tracy Sinclair to my blog to discuss A Life in Books.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m a freelance writer, author and editor, born and raised in Newcastle but now living by the sea in Brighton. I write across all genres and have written for magazines, websites, stage and screen!


 What was your favourite book from childhood?81o2Xe99lzL

I read voraciously as a child so it would be hard to narrow it down to just one, but I did adore The Phantom Tollbooth. I was also obsessed with superhero comics, like The X-Men.


What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I never really had a sense of reading ‘age appropriate’ books, so I devoured pretty much everything I could get my hands on, though I particularly loved sci-fi (the Harry Harrison Stainless Steel Rat books were a favourite). The only ‘teenage’ books I remember reading were S E Hinton’s The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now, which I loved.


 When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

I honestly can’t remember from school, but I did love Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad when I read it in college.


51va2zQsh2LWhat is your favourite classic book?

A tie between several of Jane Austen’s (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion), Ford Maddox Ford’s The Good Soldier, and Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, which I liked so much I named one of the characters in Dark Dates after the author!



What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

Gosh, that’s a tough one: I read a lot of books! This year I have been impressed with the thriller the Roanoke Girls, and last year my book of the year was Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, which is exquisite.


 What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. It’s just so long…


 What do you consider to be your favourite book?512C21D+0HL

Alongside the classics listed above: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and probably a handful of Terry Pratchett books. But too many to narrow down!


Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

Oh, loads. Life is too short to read a book you’re not enjoying: I regularly DNF stuff that isn’t clicking with me unless someone whose opinion I respect has told me to stick with it. I’ve also abandoned plenty of classics because I was bored: Crime and Punishment and anything by Joyce, for starters!


61tpaSrlRQLIf you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?

The Guards and the Witches Discworld compilations (Terry Pratchett) as they are my go-to comfort reads.


Kindle or Book?

Depends on the circumstances. I download a ton of books onto Kindle and like the accessibility and ease (as well as the fact that sometimes cheaper downloads make me take a chance on a book or author I might not otherwise try) but I also love a paper book, especially a nice hardback or something with a lovely cover. Nothing beats browsing in a bookshop or second-hand bookstore and finding something unexpected. I hate snobbery around it, though: I find the whole Kindle-vs-paper argument tedious – they’re all books!


Tracey Sinclair is an author and freelance editor and writer. Her books include the romcom The Bridesmaid Blues and the Dark Dates/Cassandra Bick series, the latest of which, Angel Falls, is out now.

Don’t Stop Me Now by Colleen Coleman




Poppy Bloom has her future mapped out.  After completing her PhD in Psychology she is expected to get a fellowship to stay at Banbridge University, and move into one of the little cottages on site with her boyfriend.  However, she now finds herself unemployed, living back at home with her mum and step-dad, sleeping in her childhood bedroom, and questioning her future.

After Poppy meets her old childhood friend, Leanne, and her brother Tom her life begins to change; she joins Leanne’s netball team, gets an internship at the local radio station, and realises there is more to life than academia; and spending time with Tom is a bonus.

As Poppy negotiates her way through her new life she has to consider where her priorities lie, and can she juggle new friends, romance and a new career or will she end up back where she starred, unemployed and back living at home.



After having a bad time with my spondylosis I needed a book that was light hearted, easy to read, had a good plot and had humour and a feel good factor;  Don’t Stop Me Now ticked all those boxes.  I really enjoyed following Poppy’s story, as she negotiated life away from university and deals with the ‘real’ world that she has been sheltered from.

Colleen Coleman’s writing brings the characters and their dilemmas to life.  I would imagine that there are, and have been, may people who have had Poppy’s problem of leaving the world of academia at the age of twenty nine, and having to navigate their way through every day life, unemployment, living back at home and realising that whilst they have been studying their old friends are now married with children, have been working for ten years and own their own homes.  I really admired Leanne’s strength of character, she has so much  motivation and is the tour de force of the netball team, whose camaraderie help Poppy find her feet and encourage her to move forward and have the confidence to move forward with her life.  As a reader you find yourself willing Poppy to make the right decisions, and take some of the advice she gives out to others as a psychologist.  There is a great cast of supporting characters as well, Poppy’s rock-star father, the ex cons who work with her mum at the hair salon, the diverse characters of the net ball team and the not so nice Harriet, her friend from university.  Poppy’s character is given a chance to shine in her interaction with these characters.

This is a well written novel, with a fast moving plot that is engaging and attention grabbing; you feel invested in Poppy’s story and are compelled to keep reading to see where the plot is taking her. There are a lot of laugh out loud moments in this book, but also some poignant moments as well.  Don’t Stop Me Now is a witty and heartwarming tale of self-belief, friendship, love and strong women.  An uplifting and inspiring read that will keep you entertained from start to finish.

















Carol Walker and Jessica Fairfax on their collection of short stories Big Twists Little Tales.




A Walk on the Fair Side

Carol Walker and Jessica Fairfax are working in collaboration and are celebrating their official launch of their anthology Big Twists Little Tales at Waterstones in Newcastle on the 11 October at 7pm. It is their first ever book launch. The evening will be centred around an interviewed by Newcastle’s own Dr Jacky Collins, Lecturer in European Fiction, Film & TV. Creator and Director of Newcastle Noir.

Carol and Jess first met two years ago while attending a writing group at their local library. Both had writing experience but wanted to meet likeminded people and build on their creative writing skills. With a willingness to learn they were sponges – soaking up everything the group had to offer. Reading out their stories each week they could see that they liked each other’s work and knew soon after meeting that they would work together. And that’s where they started.

The partnership is based on mutual respect and a shared love of murder, mystery, psychology and the paranormal. Basically, anything dark and twisty, including the humour.

They swiftly moved on to produce scripts together where they had great fun in the development stage.

Big Twists Little Tales is their first anthology, with twenty-three short stories and two poems – all of which are exactly what it says in the title, every tale has a twist. They don’t shy away from exploring the darker side of life, tackling subjects such as paedophilia, domestic abuse, stalking, drug use and murder.

How does it work? Good question!
There’s something that is just there; humour, life, values, experiences … there was something there that they both felt they could draw on and work with. So, they decided to give it a go. Everything fell into place when they sat down to write. It just clicked. They support and encourage each other but are each other’s critics as well.

Their individual backgrounds come into play. On paper, it possibly shouldn’t work but it does.
Jessica, originally from Lancashire, moved about a lot in her early years as her father was in the RAF. Her mother had various part time jobs while she was growing up. They settled in Surrey for her teenage years and she moved up to the North East in her mid-twenties, which she says was like coming home. She has a very different working background to Carol and has spent most of her working life in the public sector, with young offenders and with adults and children who needed support physically and/or emotionally. Jessica is also a trained teacher.

Carol is from the North East of England. Her father was a builder and a mother ran a number of different businesses, from a corner shop to a bed and breakfast as a landlady. Her parents were enterprising but struggled financially while she was growing up. On finishing college, she moved to London and worked as an Art Director in advertising agencies. Then she had a stint working in Edinburgh where as a Geordie she was jokingly accepted as an honorary Scot. Returning to the North East she became a lecturer in design and advertising before a move in to IT via internet development. Living on the coast she is back where she belongs.

What is different about working in a partnership?
Openness to discuss ideas is key. It’s a solid sounding board. Jessica and Carol spend time planning and plotting, developing and editing until eventually they might actually form a story. This is great fun, bouncing ideas around and bringing a storyline together.

Working in a team, a partnership made this creative journey less scary and they felt empowered to take risks together. They tell each other how it is, or how they see it and provide constructive criticism as they go. There are a lot of laughs with the rapport these two have but in development a kind of seriousness kicks in.

BIG TWISTS LITTLE TALES developed a bit at a time. Some of the stories Jess and Carol wrote together but they both had a back catalogue of short stories, which they wrote independent of each other. These were in a raw form and needed further development. This is where the fun began. They didn’t hold their thoughts, or punches. Luckily there were no major injuries but there were a few casualties. A couple of stories were cut and edited, as one or both of them, weren’t happy with how they were shaping up and others were brutally slashed and remain in a folder for another time!

The final cut of stories forms an eclectic mix. There really is something for everyone. A variety of writing styles has been adopted which suit the characters created. The stories are littered with twists and turns. Some are hard hitting and reflect the darker side of life such as The Moral Compass of Barnaby Grey, while others embrace the paranormal such as The Shrieking Woman.

There has been a mixed response to each story. Some people love the horror and the paranormal others like the pacey monologues. There is no dispute it is well written whatever the literary taste. This book is not for the faint hearted in any way and the thought provoking tales leave you wanting more. Already these princesses of darkness have been asked for a volume 2 and they are only just about to officially launched this volume!


The official launch of Big Twists Little Tales will be held at Waterstones in Newcastle from 7-9pm on the 11 October. The evening will be centred around an interview by Dr Jacky Collins, Lecturer in European Fiction, Film & TV. Creator and Director of Newcastle Noir. There will be the opportunity to have your book signed by Jessica Fairfax and Carol Walker. And there will be wine.
Everyone is welcome. Tickets are available at

Big Twists Little Tales is available in paperback and for kindle at

So, what’s next?
Jessica and Carol continue to work on scripts together – one which they may develop in to a book. They are both working on their own novels, individually but still take time regularly to discuss concepts, plots, direction and characterisation. Jessica’s novel is crime / horror. Carol’s novel is crime / psychological thriller. There are many more ideas in the pipeline at various stages of development. Jessica has a manuscript for a children’s book series out to publishers. Together they have a script out for consideration.

They can’t say they keep each other sane but the only thing better than working on projects you love on your own is working on them with your bestie, your partner in crime.

Book & book mark