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  1. It's time from my Travel Thursday blog again and we're in for a treat this week as my guest, Jane Risdon, has some fascinating tales to tell.

    Hi Jane, welcome to the blog. Can you tell us a bit about where you live/have lived?

    Hi Karen.I’ve lived in Singapore, Germany, and America…I was born in England and I’m English, so I should count England. Here's pic of Singapore, I lived there as a child, and again later as an adult working with a Chinese singer.

    1-01010859 (3)

    Do you like to travel?

    I have to say yes. I have been travelling most of my life beginning with a week long flight to Singapore at the age of two back when planes had to refuel several times and there were often over-night stops in several countries. Since then I have travelled to more countries than I can remember or have time to list here including Germany, America Singapore, Canada, Taiwan, Malaya, even Baffin Island near the North Pole, for example.

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     Long houses in Malacca, Malaysia

    What's your favourite means of travel?

    This is a hard one. I have to fly but I hate airports and the messing around with security. I’ve been detained for endless hours along with some of my artists (musicians) many times, searched and questioned about nothing at all when it came down to it. At least in a car you are free to go wherever you want without risk of incarceration for no apparent reason. So I think car would be the answer.

    What country had made the most impact on you?

    That’s a difficult one. I would say most have had a huge influence upon me for so many different reasons. America I suppose would be near the top of the list. I’ve lived there, worked there and I have family there. It changed the way I think I am convinced of that. I tend to think ‘big’ and aim high possibly as a result of doing business with companies who are house-hold names and who wouldn’t consider doing business with someone who didn’t do the same.

    Having been in the international music business most of my adult working life I’d say that the experiences gained from working in Hollywood for example, in music, which involved dealing with all aspects of entertainment in some form or other, such as movies, television, radio and the entertainment press, has given me wonderful insight into how things work, and why and this has been wonderful fodder for my writing as you might imagine. I cannot imagine sitting in an office in England doing business with certain ‘family’ members with a gun and baseball bat on their desk as they conduct negotiations with me.

    image (4)

    Have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels?  Tell us a little about them?

    This is a difficult one to answer briefly. Of course many of my experiences living and working abroad, not just in music, have found their way into several of my books and short stories. I can even call upon my experiences working at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when I was younger at the height of the Cold War when every day at work was an adventure. Working in music is one long surreal adventure with so many countries and experiences to dip into for inspiration and settings. My story The Haunting of Anne Chambers  in the anthology Shiver published by Accent Press, is set in Cornwall in past and present times.



    Only One Woman, my co-authored book with Christina Jones, (Published by Accent Press May 2017) is a prime example of a story based on experiences garnered living abroad as well as in London in the late 1960s when London was such a cool place to live. Great material for fiction. My parts of the book are set in Germany and England when music and fashion influenced teenagers. Christina’s parts are set in Jersey (Channel Islands) and England, so I’d say that we’ve both been influenced by our experiences in this places and have found their way into our fiction.

    wetter ruhr


    How do you research? Do you use Google or actually visit the place?

    I use various means to research when writing, in addition to my own experiences which I can draw upon – some have been unreal when I think back – and yes, Google is one resource. Because I write mainly Crime/Thriller fiction I have a number of people I can go to for ‘inside’ help in matters of Police procedure and the like. I’ve also undertaken several Forensic Science courses (online) with a variety of Universities to further educate myself in DNA, Fingerprinting, Facial Reconstruction, Identifying the Dead, Witness Investigations and Criminal Justice in relation to Forensic Investigations. I have also studied (very basic) Archaeology in order to try and ensure my writing is as accurate as can be. I am constantly educating myself and research is a huge part of my writing life.

    Can you tell us the funniest/ most unusual thing that have happened to you while you've been travelling.

    As you can imagine most of my life has been spent on a tour bus, plane, or in a car travelling huge distances for long periods each year going from country to country, city to city and with little or no time to register exactly where I might be at any given time. So many countries, so many miles, so many stories. How to pick one experience is hard.

    On a flight to San Francisco with a group of teenage/early twenties male musicians, who’d never flown or been out of England before -  on their way to record their very first album – the plane suddenly diverted and made an emergency landing on what can only be described as a very large Iceberg. We’d developed an electrical problem so we were told later.  The iceberg turned out to be a place called Baffin Island up near the North Pole from whence various Polar expeditions set out. There was a wooden hut and flares lighting a make-do runway on the ice, for us to land and that was it. Nothing. I have never been so cold in my life. We all had to get off the plane and as most people were dressed for the heat of San Francisco, foil blankets were issued to the passengers whilst we stamped out feet and tried not to become hypothermic for the two hours we waited, whilst a female flight engineer fiddled under the cabin floor. The band with us thought it was so cool. You can’t print what I thought. We’d already had a ten hour delay at Heathrow. This same band nearly got us all arrested in San Francisco for shenanigans in a hotel elevator, but that’s another story – one of so many I’m afraid to admit.

    1-Filming Baywatch

    Working on the Baywatch set.

    Travelling across America with a band is a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Travelling with some artists is worse than others. I recall being chased by a utility truck full of Mexican men when on the road in Texas with a duo and just a record company radio station liaison guy who drove our limo. They’d spent a whole night standing outside our motel – sometimes we stayed in five star places, other times in grotty, smelly, mould-ridden motels - staring at our rooms which looked out on a deserted dust yard and a Coca Cola machine. There weren’t any staff at this place and I swore I’d kill the person at the tour agency whose bright idea it was to book us in there. There was nothing for miles but tumbleweed and an endless black sky sprinkled with – cliché description here – diamonds, because that is what it looked like. They watched. We worried, and in the morning when we left they followed us. One of my artist’s was a young female, terrified, and clinging to me. The record company liaison guy took a large gun from the glovebox and checked it was loaded, he’d already shown us his rifle in the trunk, just in case! After a Starsky and Hutch ride for several endless, remote miles, when they came alongside gesturing, shouting, and waving guns, we managed to pull into a gas station – in the midst of nowhere - where we waited until they got bored and left. I was relieved to see our companion put his gun away.

    Whilst travelling either alone or on tour I have experienced shoot-outs between cops and robbers, several earthquakes and tornadoes, floods, fires, mud-slides, race riots and most things in-between. So when you ask me about funniest or unusual events whilst travelling. I find it hard to pick something; well, something you can print here.

    It sounds like you've lived a fascinating life, Jane.



    Jane Risdon has spent most of her life in the international music business. Married to a rock musician, their hectic life didn’t allow for her writing ambitions to be fulfilled, especially when later they went into business together managing musicians, song-writers and record producers. Six years ago she was able to realise her ambition. She is author of short stories, mostly crime/thrillers, with several novels in progress – in various genres.

    She is published by Accent Press and her series of novels, Ms Birdsong Investigates – about a former MI5 officer – are almost completed and ready, she hopes, to be published.

     She has co-authored - with award winning author Christina Jones -  Only One Woman, set in the late 1960s telling the story of two women in love with the same lead guitarist, which is to be published by Accent Press May 2017. Jane and Christina have been friends since Christina, then a rock/pop journalist, was also fan-club secretary to her husband’s band. Only One Woman draws upon their experiences of the music, fashions and world events during the closing days of the Swinging Sixties.

     Shiver featuring The Haunting of Anne Chambers by Jane Risdon

    Shiver, the anthology Jane's story The Haunting of Anne Chambers is published in

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your fantastic memories with us, Jane. What an exciting life you've led!

    Thanks so much for having me Karen, I have enjoyed recalling some of these memories. I really hope your readers enjoy them too.


  2. I'm interviewing blogger Lainy Swanson today. Lainy blogs at http://www.alwaysreading.net/ which won the Top 100 Book Blog Award. Congratulations, Lainy.



    Thank you for agreeing to guest on my blog, Lainy.Grab a cuppa and take a seat. :)



     Hi Karen, thanks so much for asking me to take part. 

    Can you tell us a bit  about yourself, Lainy? Why you blog, what inspired your love of books, what sort of books you like reading.

    I am a Scottish bookworm, I have been reading since I was a kid, I started with Stephen King.  I know, not what you would allowed or expect a child to be reading but it hooked me way back then and I have never looked back.  My friends mum took us to the library, I had never been and just loved everything about it, it was quiet, warm, inviting, surrounded by all of these beautiful books and friendly people.

    My blog began because I kept buying books I had already read and hadn’t realised, so I made my blog to keep track, really it was just for me.  My reviews aren’t highbrow at all and often I feel very amateur compared to some of my amazing friends blogs. 

    I started off with horror and only read horror until I was a pre-teen, then I moved onto Mills and Boons, when back to horror and since joining many book clubs I have now branched into every genre.  I will try any kind of book at least once. 

    You sound like an eclectic reader. What is your favourite book of all time?

    Oh I always find this such a tough tough question to answer.  I love The Green Mile by Stephen King for so many reasons, the book that has stayed with me the longest has to be A Time To Kill by John Grisham and the book I have bought, gave out the most and one of my all time favourites has to be Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

    How many books, on average, do you read a month?

    It depends on the month, sometimes as few as 10 and sometimes as many as 15.

    Have you ever sat up all night because you were desperate to finish reading a book? If yes, what book was it?

    Oh absolutely, more often than not to be honest, doesn’t everyone?

    Do you ever cheat and skip to the end of a book?

    Good Lord no, why on earth would you.  You know, I only heard of someone doing this for the first time last month in an online book club, I was horrified.

    What sort of plots do you dislike reading?

    I hate where animals die or are killed.  I am not a huge fan of historical fiction however I have read a few in the last two years and really liked them.  I also hate being left with loads of questions or where the author lets you decided the end!

    What sort of things would you like to see in a novel?

    I like everything tied up to be honest, I like seeing strong characters and women not fawning all over a man.  I do enjoy romance so I guess I like a bit of everything and it always depends on your mood too.

    What is the most unusual place you’ve ever read a book?

    Hmm that is a good question, I always have my book with me so I have read just about everywhere.  On the way home, walking.  Waiting in queues, not too sure to be honest, I have been approached in the middle of the street when I was reading outside a pub waiting on my o/h :D

    What author would you most like to have a cup of coffee with? Why?

    They always say you should never meet your idol and I would hate to wreck my image of him however it has to be Master Stephen King, he is the reason I am hooked on reading and to be honest he has a brilliant mind!

    Do you have any other hobbies?

    I like taking photographs of just about everything and posting the majority of them on Instagram, it is linked to my blog so tons are of books.  I also like collecting bookmarks, my favs are between magnetic and bookbandz.

    Do you write? If so, what sort of things do you write. If not, would you like to be an author?

    Not really, I wrote poetry as a kid and I started a few short stories pre-teen but nothing as an adult, excluding academic work for courses.  I do love books and think I would enjoy writing one however I have over 5 bookcases and books lying around the house, my hands are full. 

     You can find out more about Lainy here:

    Blog link http://www.alwaysreading.net

    Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/smbslt/?fref=ts

    Twitter - @smbslt


    Thanks for dropping by to talk to us, Lainy!


    Bring a little sunshine into your life!  Sassy, feel good romance by Karen King. Just right to cosy up with. Published by Accent Press






    Welcome to my Travel Thursday blog where I'm going to be talking to some authors about how the places they've been to, or lived in, have influenced their writing. And opening the blog is Natali Drake. Natali writes as N J Simmonds.

    Hi Natali.  First, can you tell us a bit about where you live.

    Hi Karen. I currently live in in Delft, in The Netherlands. Here's a picture of it.




    It’s home to the famous blue and white pottery, Vermeer and the backdrop to The Girl With The Pearl Earring...it’s about as arty as you can get. I even live in a 16th century canal house, which is both impractical and impressive, and so far not haunted. I say I’m ‘currently’ living here as I’m a bit of a nomad. Holland is the fourth country I’ve lived in so far...in fact the first time I emigrated I was just three week old. I’ve since moved from one country to another five times!

    Do you like to travel? What is your favourite means of travel?

    I love travel – the idea of settling for one place forever makes me feel physically ill. Before I had children I would use up all my holiday time travelling; on a good year I could go abroad up to eight times. I’m happy with any mode of travel as long as I’m moving...I’ve travelled by every boat imaginable, experienced amazing road trips that have lasted days and even ridden through Italy and Vietnam on the back of motorbikes. Mind you, I now live in The Netherlands and I’m still not very confident on a bicycle!

    How exciting, Natali.

    What countries have you visited or lived in?

    I’ve always called myself a proud North Londoner but, although I was born there, I was less than a month old when I returned to Barcelona, Spain, where I was raised by my English mother and Spanish father. At seven years old I moved back to London, at 25 I set off to Australia for a year alone (where I found my future husband), after a year we moved back to the UK together, then five years later we moved to the south of Spain where we lived in the sunny seaside town of Estepona. August last year my husband’s job offered him a great opportunity in The Netherlands and we packed up and moved on again - this time with two kids in tow. We’re a family of restless gypsies...but with portable jobs and an IKEA at every port. In a couple of year’s time, once our girls are old enough to carry their own bags, we aim to spend a couple of months backpacking through South America so we can use our Spanish and see Machu Pichu and the Rio Carnival!



    I’ve seen a lot of the world – from southeast Asia, southern Europe and parts of America to India, Morocco, the Caribbean and every inch of Oz. But when it comes to making a difference I would say that my life changed in Australia. I have often wondered if it was the country itself that made such an impact on me or whether it was the moment that I truly found myself.  For starters I was travelling alone. For the first time in my life I had no one to answer to – no friends, parents, boyfriend or boss. I was totally free. I conquered fears (I got over my arachnophobia and qualified as PADI scuba diver), life took a spiritual turn for me (I trained in Reiki and got into meditation and astrology), I found the confidence to do some amazing things and I saw sights that will stay with me forever. But it was on a sunny non-descript morning in October when I clambered onto a sweaty coach heading to Sydney from Cairns when my life changed forever – because the hung-over guy that stumbled on to the bus and gave me a shaky smile before tripping over and sitting behind me ended up being my husband. And we never stopped travelling the world together after that...

    That's so romantic. :)

    5) Have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels?  Tell us a little about them?

    Absolutely! In fact, I think my entire YA series has featured nearly every place that has ever touched me. Ella, the protagonist of ‘The Path Keeper’ lives in Highgate in London – which is where I grew up from the ages of 7-25. She hangs out in Camden Town, as I did as a teenager, and her father’s family is from Ronda...a stunning, very old, town in Andalucia which I visited a lot when I lived in Spain. There is even a short scene in Morocco in my second book ‘Son of Secrets’ – which is where I spent my honeymoon!



    6) Has any country/place you’ve visited ever given you inspiration for a story?

    All of them, even the horrible places. My most inspirational destination is Tarifa in the South of Spain. It’s such a magical place that oozes Moorish charm and has a very unique mystical energy to it. Not only is it just 20 miles away from the north of Africa, which you can see from the beach, but it’s where the Mediterranean and Atlantic meet. It has a crazy wind that blows year round and bright yellow fine sand. It’s full of windsurfers and kite surfers yet the streets are labyrinthine, as if you have stepped back in history. It captured my imagination so much that I featured it in ‘The Path Keeper’ there, then partly set the second book ‘Son of Secrets’ there too.

    7) How do you do your research? Do you use Google or actually visit the place?

    I tend to write about what I know, so most of the places I mention in my books are places I have known well. Saying that though, a lot of research is involved when writing about settings in the past – such as East London in 1941, which features in ‘The Path Keeper’ and The Netherlands witch trials in the 1600s, which will feature in the third book in the series. One place  I have had to Google is Fiesole, in Italy, as although I love Florence I have never been there and I never had the chance to go before I wrote about it in ‘Son of Secrets’, but I was adamant I would include it.


    Camden Town


    8) Is there any country/place you would love to write about but haven’t visited yet?

    I am desperate to go to South America. I’m sure once my kids are older and we start going on holidays further afield again I will have a plethora of inspirational memories to draw on.

    9) What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while travelling?

    Oh dear, probably how accident prone I am. Writing off a hire car in Australia before leaving the premises, being hospitalised in the outback for a venomous spider bite, nearly breaking my hand in Goa after getting it trapped in a sun lounger, sinking in mud up to my knees on the banks of the Mekong river, having to be rescued from beneath a raft when I capsized in Thailand...I’m sure they weren’t funny at the time, but looking back at these surreal moments I’ve no idea why I always find myself in trouble in the most remotest of areas. Although the most hilarious thing that I ever saw was my husband jumping up in the air and screaming in a restaurant in Laos as something had tried to climb up his trouser leg, only to find that it was the smallest and most feeble looking kitten ever. We laughed for a very long time.

    10) What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen/done while travelling?

    I saw a family of humpback whales while living aboard a working pearling boat travelling up to Darwin. I hitched a lift onboard...as you do! I’ve also played with baby crocodiles in Darwin, a baby tiger in a wildlife sanctuary in Spain, raced camels in the desert and wrestled my water bottle back off a huge monkey in Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I never thought I was much of an animal person, but looking back on it I’m a full on Steve Irwin!

    Angkor Wat

    Angkor Wat, Cambodia.


    Natali Drake is an accredited member of The Society of Authors and writes as N J Simmonds. She is a freelance brand consultant and writer and has had her work published in various UK newspapers, websites and publications including The Mother Book. In 2015 she co-founded The Glass House Girls, an online magazine for women who need to be heard. Originally from North London, Natali now divides her time between her two homes in the South of Spain and The Netherlands where she lives with her husband and two daughters. 'The Path Keeper' is her first novel from the series, her second book 'Son Of Secrets' will be available February 2018. Follow her writing adventures at njsimmonds.com.

    the path keeper front cover (1)


    Thanks so much for dropping by, Natali, and telling us about your travels.


  4. A warm welcome to my guest blogger Noelle Holten who blogs at https://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk/ - which won the 'Best Newcomer Blog Award 2016'.  Congratulations, Noelle. :)


    My Cover Image

    Thank you for agreeing to guest on my blog, Noelle. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable then we'll begin.


    First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, why you blog, what inspired your love of books, what sort of books you like reading.

    Hi, Karen. I am a Senior Probation Officer by day and an avid reader of #AllThingsCrime by night!  I blog so I can share my love of books with others, shout out about the amazing authors I have come across and really just to connect with other like-minded people.  I have always loved reading.  From a young age, you would find me huddled away delving into the worlds created by others.  It was and still is the greatest escape from reality!  Anything to do with crime, psychological thrillers or horror are my favourite genres.

    It sounds fascinating, Noelle. What is your favourite book of all time?

    Crime & Punishment by Fydor Dostoevsky

    How many books, on average, do you read a month?

    This varies depending on my FT job, freelance work or if I fall into the dreaded reading slump!  But if I had to guess, I would average about anywhere between 10-20 books per month.

    Wow, that's a lot of books! Have you ever sat up all night because you were desperate to finish reading a book? If yes, what book was it?

    All the time!  I have chronic insomnia so staying up all night to read is a regular occurrence! LOL – the latest book this happened with was Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead – OMG- What a book!

    Do you ever cheat and skip to the end of a book?

    Never!! I am not sure why people would even do this….the best part is the anticipation of finding out how a story will end….for me, any way!

    What sort of plots do you dislike reading?

    Really, really SLOW plot-lines….if I am not hooked within the first few pages, I struggle.  I also dislike really chaotic plot-lines – when you have no idea what is happening because there is just too much going on.

    What sort of things would you like to see in a novel?

    I love characters.  They make or break a story for me.  You could have the best storyline ever, but if I don’t connect with the characters, I am afraid I struggle to keep interest.  I love books that really mess with your mind as well.  I often play amateur detective as I am reading and if I cannot solve the crime before the book ends…well that is a great book for me! 

    What is the most unusual place you’ve ever read a book?

    I am probably a bit boring on that front as I cannot think of anywhere particularly unusual!  If I can read, I will read…no matter where I am!

    What author would you most like to have a cup of coffee with? Why?

    I have been privileged enough to have shared a coffee or a few drinks with a few authors, but one I would love to meet is Angela Marsons because she is brilliant and devious in her writing!  I would love to pick her brain about DI Kim Stone!  

    Do you have any other hobbies?

    Reading/blogging is my main hobby and takes up a vast majority of my time.  I enjoy going for walks with my chocolate Labrador (Buster) –but they are generally short because of his hips (Poor Poor doggy) and I like watching a good film or TV series. I also now enjoy attending book events and festivals but other than that, I am pretty much your classic introvert! 

    Do you write? If so, what sort of things do you write. If not, would you like to be an author?

    I am trying to write but really need the motivation and inspiration to stick with it.  I did NaNoWriMo in 2015 but scrapped most of what I had written.  I am attending Crime & Publishment at The Mill in Gretna Green this year to pick up some tips and inspiration.  I have an idea, random chapters (very chaotic) written but really need to sit down and put it into some meaningful context.  Whether it sees the light of day or not, I would like to at least write one Crime Novel in my lifetime.  I think, however, I am better placed on the reading and promo side of things….for now! 

    You can contact Noelle here:


    Twitter: @nholten40

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crimebookjunkie/?fref=ts

    Thanks for dropping by, Noelle. Good luck with your crime novel!


    Bring a little sunshine into your life!  Sassy, feel good romance by Karen King. Just right to cosy up with. Published by Accent Press



  5. I'm delighted to welcome guest author, Shelly Betts, to my blog today, to talk to us about her writing career.



    Welcome, Shelly. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

    Hello, Karen. I’m forty seven, and live in Warwickshire with my husband. I have a grown up son who is married and a stepson. I suffer with Fibromyalgia and Primary Immunodeficiency. Writing gives me the escape I crave when housebound for endless days.

    My short story “Dance Floor Days” took second prize in the Herefordshire & Worcestershire 2013 Active Age Literary Festival. My first novel “The Power of Goodbye” was long listed (final twenty) for debut novel of the year with Cinnamon Press in 2015. I love music and listen to it every day. Sadly most of my preferred songs are those from the eighties and I am pretty much stuck in that era with my music, much to my family’s despair!


    The Power of Goodbye


    Congratulations, Shelly. How did you get started writing?

    I began writing after spending time in the classroom as a teaching assistant. Helping the children produce storyboards, characters and dialogue, sparked a light within me to write my own story. After suffering severe depression in 2010 and taking time off work, I used my first novel as a cathartic therapy, helping me push through the darkness. “The Power of Goodbye”, although a novel, is quite autobiographical. I wrote it in the hope that it would help others who are experiencing difficulties in their life.

    Have you ever attended a writing course? 

    I began attending a writing course run by Sue Johnson at No 8 in Pershore on Friday mornings, back in March 2013. Here I wrote short stories during the sessions (as well as drink coffee and eat delicious biscuits) and I actually created, without knowing, some of the characters for my second novel “Let it Go”. I really enjoyed my time on the creative writing courses, but unfortunately my health intervened forcing me to stop going. I have fibromyalgia and arthritis which limits what I can do.


    Let it go

    Do you have any other interests apart from writing?

    My other passion in life is dogs. I have had a dog since I left home (many years ago!) and currently have a huge Rottweiler crossed with a Doug de Bordeaux (like Hooch) who slobbers and snores but is a gentle giant. My other dog was from Dogs Trust and she is a husky cross. She doesn’t slobber but nudges my arm for endless fuss. They are great company and my best buddies.


    Sonny & Larna - aren't they gorgeuos!

    What writing tip would you give other writers? 

    My writing tip would be to write what you know and what you feel. If you write a little every day, you will keep your fire alight and want to keep going. If I’m writing a novel, I try and finish the day’s work with something ready for the next day so that I am driven to get back to it. I had writers block with my third novel and didn’t write for months but then an idea just came to me. I was two thirds through it and I knew I had to finish it. Sometimes you have to be patient and let the ideas come to you.

    What are you working on now? 

    My forthcoming novel is “Don’t You Want Me?” It’s a time split plot and takes place in the 1980’s and 2016. Here’s a peek at the blurb and cover…

    Want me



    Where can we find out more about you, Shelly?

    You can find me on Facebook or my website. My books are available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

    Thanks for dropping by to talk to us, Shelly. Good luck with your new book!


    Thanks so much Karen for inviting me to write on your blog.


    Shelly x


    Bring a little sunshine into your life!      

    Sassy, feel good romance by Karen King. Just right to cosy up with on cold winter nights. Published by Accent Press