The ups and downs of writing a series

As I sent off the final edits for Book 3 of my Little French Guesthouse series last week, I found myself filled with very mixed emotions. It’s been quite a journey, from beginning that first book in the series and finding the right home for it (you can read about that here) to finishing the third, due out on 12th July.

When I sent that first book off to Bookouture, I told them that I had ideas for a sequel. I never imagined they would come back to me suggesting a series!

Eventually, we agreed that three books would be the perfect number  to tell Emmy’s story and those of her family and friends without getting stale.

Having only written standalone books before, writing that second and third book for the series was quite a learning curve for me.


I am by nature what my American writer friends call a ‘pantser’. My natural instinct is to have a basic idea of the plot in my head, a good handle on my characters, but then to let those characters take over and see where they go, reining them in later if necessary.

It soon became clear that I wouldn’t be able to do that for Books 2 and 3 of the La Cour des Roses series. My editor wouldn’t let me! 🙂 And quite rightly so. I needed to plan ahead – not only the general direction of the books but all the separate story arcs for each of the main characters and some of the secondary characters, too. I had to ensure there were no discrepancies between the books, from events to character descriptions to dates … 

Although I knew it was both necessary and useful, I did find that level of planning hard … not necessarily the planning itself, but sticking to the plan. I couldn’t feel free to just ‘let go’.

The sweetener for all this was that for each book, I didn’t have to dream up a whole new setting and bunch of characters – I could just happily immerse myself right back into La Cours des  Roses and its environs and spend time with the characters I’d come to know and love.

By now, I knew instinctively what they would all say or do, I could expand on their stories far more than I could have in one book, and it was lovely to be allowed to explore some of the secondary characters in more detail than a standalone book would allow. It also meant that I could take Emmy and thereby the reader to even more lovely places in the Loire region of France and have her enjoy further activities there.

Another important bonus – I could explore Emmy and Alain’s relationship in a slower and more satisfying way than in a standalone romance novel, from their initial attraction in Book 1 to their developing romance in Book 2 to their impending wedding in Book 3.

The first book of the series, The Little French Guesthouse, meant a great deal to me. It had spent a long time as an idea in my head before it took a long time becoming a reality on my computer screen and an even longer time finding a publishing home.

To be able to take those characters and that setting that meant so much to me and expand on them, to explore so much more than that single book allowed me to, was an incredible opportunity, and I will always be grateful to my publisher, Bookouture.

Would I attempt to write another series sometime? I’m not sure … but they do say ‘Never say never’, don’t they? 😉



Ordinary People – a guest post by thriller author Linda Huber

I’m delighted to welcome Linda Huber back on the blog with a great guest post!

But first, take a look at the dramatic cover and blurb for her latest release, Baby Dear, which is already getting fab reviews on Amazon.. . . 

Caro and Jeff Horne seem to have it all, until they learn that Jeff is infertile. Jeff, who is besotted with Caro, is terrified he will lose her now they can’t have a baby.

Across town, Sharon is eight months pregnant and unsure if she really wants to be a mother. Soon her world will collide with Jeff’s. He wants to keep Caro happy and decides that getting a baby is the only way.

Then Caro is accidently drawn into an underworld of drugs… Meanwhile, Jeff is increasingly desperate to find a baby – but what lengths is he prepared to go to?


And now over to Linda . . .

Ordinary People

It’s the characters who make a book. My characters are all people like you and me, with families, jobs, homes, likes and dislikes, needs and wants. Ordinary people.

But then, something happens. Something extraordinary. Or maybe even not so extraordinary, but it has to be something vital to the character. And this something sets off a chain of events which, once started, can’t be stopped, and other people are sucked into the stream of events and their lives are changed too, forever.

In Baby Dear, it’s Caro’s wish for a baby that starts everything off. Like so many women, she wants to be pregnant, she wants to give birth to her own child and give it everything she didn’t have herself as a child. Happily, she has exactly the right husband to make all this possible. Or so she thinks. Who wouldn’t sympathise with Caro when she and Jeff discover that he’s infertile?

Then there’s Julie. A single mother, struggling to make ends meet, she loves little Sam and baby Amy more than anything in the world. There must be millions of Julies in the world. I was a Julie myself at one time.

And Sharon. Weeks away from giving birth to her first child, she still isn’t sure how she feels about impending motherhood – and her husband is pretty sure he doesn’t want to be a father. Not an enviable situation, but again, millions of women will have shared Sharon’s doubts, and felt her fears.

At the beginning of Baby Dear, these three have never met, and in the course of the book only two of them do meet. But Caro’s dilemma will change Sharon’s and Julie’s lives, and the lives of their children.

Three women. Two babies.

It was never going to work…

Thank you, Linda.  Like your previous novels, it sounds so compelling! I do find thrillers like this, where ordinary folk are caught up in extraordinary events, very page-turning and often quite chilling!

You can buy Baby Dear at this universal link:



Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but has lived for over 20 years in Switzerland, where she teaches English and writes psychological suspense novels.

Baby Dear is Linda’s sixth psychological suspense novel. She has also published The Saturday Secret, a charity collection of feel-good short stories. (2017 profits go to Doctors Without Borders.)

After spending large chunks of the current decade moving house, she has now settled in a beautiful flat on the banks of Lake Constance in north-east Switzerland, where she’s working on another suspense novel.

You can find Linda at these links:

Linda’s website          Amazon          Facebook          Twitter  




Welcome … Samantha Tonge!

I’m delighted to welcome author Samantha Tonge to the blog with her new release, The New Beginnings Coffee Club. I met Samantha at an author/blogger shindig last year, and she’s a lovely lady to chat to. Since I thoroughly enjoyed reading one of her previous novels, Game of Scones, I was keen to find out about her latest release.

But first, take a look at the very pretty cover and the blurb …

Everyone deserves a second chance…don’t they?

Jenny Masters finds herself living the modern dream. Wife to a millionaire, living in a mansion and mother to Kardashian-obsessed ten-year-old April, there isn’t anything missing. Until, her whole world comes crashing down, forcing Jenny and April to leave behind their glittering life and start over with nothing.

With village gossip following her wherever she goes, she finds refuge and a job in the new coffee shop in town. As the days pass Jenny fears she doesn’t have what it takes to pick herself back up and give April the life she always wanted to. But with the help of enigmatic new boss Noah, and housemate Elle, Jenny realises it’s never too late to become the woman life really intended you to be!

And now to find out more …

Tell me, Samantha, what was the initial kernel of an idea that got you started writing The New Beginnings Coffee Club?

To start with I wanted to write a book about a list. A wish list. Perhaps written by a child. I liked the concept. The idea sprung from there and then ended up not really being about that – as is often the way. Instead the story developed into one about second chances and being true to yourself. However April, the little girl, is turning out to be a popular character amongst readers and she has an emotional journey during the novel.  As do her mum, Jenny, enigmatic barista Noah and his colleague Elle. The New Beginnings Coffee Club is about identity, starting over and friendship.

I love a story about new starts and characters who rediscover themselves as the book progresses. What did you enjoy most about writing your heroine Jenny?

I enjoyed showing what a brave woman she is. The new beginning she has to make is a challenging one, for a person in her position, and she is full of self-doubt. However, for the sake of her daughter she shows great determination and it was lovely to feel the character blossom and become more confident with her new life.

How much importance do you attach to your secondary characters?

They are incredibly important. They give a fuller view of the main character and can also flesh out a book’s themes. And creating a cast of very different people is great fun.  I often feel that the secondary characters are just as important as the hero/heroine and that has proved the case in this book. Many readers have really taken to Elle’s story which, I believe, is very relatable.

I too love creating secondary characters, and I agree, they can add so much to the story!

Now, a little about you. Where do you do most of your writing? And what would be your fantasy writing spot?

At a TINY desk, which folds away into a wardrobe. We do have a fancy office downstairs but I am used to my cosy little space now, in the spare room with our cat, Mitzie!

My fantasy spot, however – sitting next to Chris Hemsworth on the sofa, apart 🙂 – would be a beautiful, spacious office with a sea view. That is real fantasy though. However big the space I live in, I always, eventually, manage to fill it with disorganised clutter.

Oooh, yes, a sea view. Although I suspect I’d never get any work done!

As a romance author, are you romantic in real life?

Yes. Very. Romance is super important to me. I like sending little gifts and cards; holding hands; love a romantic movie.  Romance adds sparkle to life and we all need a bit of sparkle – otherwise, what’s the point?

I agree! And finally, can you tell us something unusual about yourself?

I’ve recently developed an interest in meditation and mindfulness. It teaches you that thoughts aren’t you. They come into your head – it’s up to you to push them away if they are negative. This is very liberating!

Good for you! I keep trying that kind of thing, but my annoying brain seems determined to fight me all the way … 

Thank you for visiting, Samantha. It’s been lovely to find out about you and your latest book.  🙂


You can buy The New Beginnings Coffee Club at these links:




Samantha lives in Cheshire with her lovely family and a cat that thinks it’s a dog. Along with writing, her days are spent cycling, willing cakes to rise and avoiding housework. Formally trained as a linguist, Samantha now likes nothing more than holing herself up in the spare room, in front of the keyboard. Writing romantic comedy novels is her passion.

Samantha has sold over 80 short stories to mainstream women’s magazines. Her debut romantic comedy novel from HarperCollins (CarinaUK), bestselling “Doubting Abbey”, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction Best Romantic Ebook award, 2014. The bestselling summer novel, Game of Scones, won the Love Stories Awards 2015 Best Romantic Ebook category.

You can find Samantha at these links:

Samantha’s website and blog          Twitter          Facebook 



Happy 1st birthday to ‘The Little French Guesthouse’ …. and a giveaway!


I can’t believe it’s a year since the first in my La Cour des Roses series, The Little French Guesthouse, was published.

And what a year!

The journey to publication was a long and arduous one. (You can read the post I wrote about that, just before publication, here)

But it was SO worth it.

When I signed with Bookouture, I could never have dreamed that my book baby would reach:

  • #4 in the UK Amazon Kindle charts 
  • #1 in the UK Amazon Kindle Romantic Comedy category
  • #1 in the UK Amazon Contemporary Romance category
  • #1 in the UK Amazon Women Writers & Fiction category

For a time, it sported one of those lovely orange #1 BEST SELLER flags on Amazon, stayed in the top 100 for a good long while, and sat alongside some rather esteemed company.

More importantly for me were the wonderful reviews that the book garnered. It’s been such a pleasure to know how much people enjoyed escaping to the French countryside with Emmy and friends, and I have been overwhelmed by the number of positive reviews (currently over 470 5* reviews on Amazon UK) and the lovely messages I’ve had, and continue to get, from readers of all ages.

Equally exciting, the book is or will soon be available in Turkish, Hungarian, Czech and Italian!

It’s been a busy year since publication. The sequel, Return to The Little French Guesthouse was published at the end of August 2016, and I’ve since been working on Book 3, Summer at The Little French Guesthouse, which will be published on 12th July this year.

To celebrate The Little French Guesthouse‘s first birthday, I have a . . .

 *     GIVEAWAY!     *  


Thank you to all those who entered.

 I’ve very much enjoyed reading your comments about France and the many things there are to like about it!

In time-honoured high-tech fashion, my husband was asked to pull a name from a hat (well, a mixing bowl) and the winner has been contacted by e-mail.

The winner of the draw will receive a signed paperback copy of The Little French Guesthouse and a beaded ring, appropriately in the shape of a rose. 








All you have to do to enter the draw is to comment below, telling me what you like most about France. If you haven’t been to France, just let me know what you think you’d like most! You’ll need to give your e-mail, but don’t worry, that won’t be published.

The draw ends at 5.00pm UK time on Sunday 7th May 2017, when I’ll pick out a name AT RANDOM and get in touch. 

I’ll start off by telling you that I think nothing beats sitting outside a cafe in the sunshine with a decent coffee, drinking in the atmosphere of a French town or village. 

How about you?


Cover reveal and pre-order for ‘Summer at The Little French Guesthouse’!

I’m thrilled to reveal the gorgeous cover for Book 3 in my La Cour des Roses series, Summer at The Little French Guesthouse! Here it is . . .

Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

This summer, escape to the rolling vineyards of France for an utterly uplifting read. Fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson and Nick Alexander will want to join Emmy for a pain au chocolat in the sun-drenched garden at La Cour des Roses.


Available for pre-order NOW! (published by Bookouture on 12th July)

Amazon UK               Amazon US

Welcome back . . . Julie Stock!

I am delighted to welcome fellow member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Julie Stock, back to the blog with her new release, The Vineyard in Alsace. I had plenty of questions to ask her, but first, take a look at this gorgeous cover and the blurb . . .

Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?

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

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

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

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

And now to find out more . . .

I love the sound of that, Julie! So tell me, what was the initial spark of an idea that set you off writing The Vineyard in Alsace?

There were a few things actually. Firstly, I wanted to set my second book in France, a country that’s very dear to my heart, but I wanted it to be somewhere that hardly ever gets written about. I’ve been to Alsace a number of times and love the wine too so that was that bit sorted! Secondly, in a former life, I worked for a wine merchant and while I was there, I studied for a Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma and travelled to a few different vineyards as part of my job as well. So it seemed a good, and perhaps obvious, idea to set my book on a vineyard in Alsace.

I’ve never been to Alsace. It sounds like a fantastic setting for a romance. And that sounds like a fascinating job to have once had. How lovely, to be able to work something unusual like that into your current work!

The book is about a second chance with a former love. What made you want to explore that particular theme?

When I wrote the first 80,000 words of this book, it was a completely different story, involving two sisters living in the UK who then find out that one of them was adopted. They go back to France to try and trace the sister’s birth mother. On that trip, Fran bumps into a former love and they get back together. He owns a vineyard as well. For many reasons, I just couldn’t get the original story to work the way I wanted it to so I ended up cutting half the book and starting again. I really liked the idea of ‘what if someone met their former love after some years apart and fell in love with them all over again?’ so that was the theme that I kept.

Gosh, that’s such a lot of work to ‘lose’ and so brave of you! But it sounds like you ended up with a brilliant story in the end.

Which aspects of Fran and Didier’s characters did you enjoy writing the most? Did anything about them surprise you as they developed?

I liked the way that Fran develops more confidence in herself as the story progresses and that it’s Didier who brings that out in her. Despite all that’s happened to her, she grows as a person and knows what she wants second time round. As for Didier, he is angry at his estranged wife at the start of the story but manages to admit that later on and they both do what’s best for their daughter in the end. Their reconciliation did surprise me because that’s not what I had planned originally but I’m glad I went with that in the final version.

This book is set in France, obviously, but your previous novel involved Nashville. Do you always research and visit the area your books are set in? 

When I wrote From Here to Nashville, I hadn’t actually been to the place myself but I did lots of very thorough research on the internet, which made everything a lot easier. I did get there just a couple of months after my book came out and I checked every reference to make sure I hadn’t made any mistakes. Luckily, it was all fine and I’ve had some lovely reviews from people who know it better than me so it must be okay!

I had been to Alsace several times before but I went again just before the book was finalised so I could put in some extra details as well.

My next book is set in Devon so that will be a bit easier!

As a romance author, are you a hopeless romantic? Or is there a little good-humoured cynicism in there?

I really am a hopeless romantic. I want everyone to have their happy ever after ending and I get very upset when they don’t, if that’s what I’m expecting. Without mentioning any names, there was a film out recently that led me to believe there would be a HEA and then didn’t provide one for the characters and I was very cross! For me, romantic fiction or movies should be about escapism and should leave you feeling all loved up at the end. Having said all that, some of my favourite books and films (Romeo and Juliet, Me Before You, The Time Traveler’s Wife) are ones where the main characters don’t have a happy ending but then I wasn’t expecting one – so in my book, that’s okay!

I must admit, I’m a dreadful sucker for a dash of escapism and a happy ending 🙂

Finally, can you tell us something weird or surprising about yourself?

I have a lazy right eye with virtually no vision in it so my left eye does all the work. When I was young, I had a whole host of interesting glasses, including one pair, which made me a dead ringer for Deirdre from Coronation Street! But as soon as contact lenses came along, I went for that option instead because I am quite vain! However, I only wear the one lens in my left eye because there’s no point with the right.

Ha! The glasses I wore when I was about nineteen – and had the obligatory Eighties perm – made me look like Su Pollard from Hi-Di-Hi, according to one of my brothers 😀

Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog again, Helen. It’s been lovely to catch up with you.

Thank you for visiting, Julie. It’s lovely to hear all about your latest book 🙂


You can buy The Vineyard in Alsace at these links:

Amazon UK     Amazon US



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

She blogs regularly on her website, ‘My Writing Life.’ You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author Page.

She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

When she is not writing, she works part-time for a charity as a communications officer, and freelance as a web designer and supply teacher. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.


A Week in Cornwall

Last time, I wrote about our week in Devon in September. If you missed it and are interested, you can read about it here.

The following week, we moved onto Cornwall.

Again, we were relatively lucky with the weather – plenty of sun, but with some cloud and rain. 

We stayed in a self-catering property in a converted farm building. I couldn’t tell you where it was near – it seemed miles from anywhere! Liskeard was the nearest town, several miles away, and finding our accommodation involved some very narrow roads.

The last mile or so was on this one, with NO passing places and a fair chance of meeting a tractor !

Funnily enough, I was happy to let hubby do the driving for the most part 🙂

Our first full day, we drove to Talland Bay – and it turned out to be my favourite spot of the holiday.

A small bay, it’s on the South West Coastal Path, so there are great walks in either direction.

There are two cafes in the vicinity, both lovely, and the only thing I had against it was the hair-raising narrow AND steep road to get there. I’m not sure I would dare attempt it in high season with all those cars trying to get past each other, but I am a cautious soul 🙂

The following day was rainy, so we ventured into Looe, leaving the car in Liskeard and travelling by train on the scenic Looe Valley line.

This turned out to be a good move , as the town was preparing for a music festival the following weekend and parking was limited. We enjoyed ourselves despite the rain, mooching around the gift and coffee shops.

The next day was brighter, so we visited Polperro. You have to park outside the village, due to the narrow streets – it helps preserve the olde-worlde atmosphere, too.

It’s twenty-five years since I last visited Polperro, and at that time, the place felt a little run down, with property seemingly difficult to shift, even at low prices. Now, the place seemed thriving – and those same tiny cottages were going for serious money.

We enjoyed the village and harbour, then sat for a long time just staring out to sea.

Midweek, we visited the Eden Project. We’d never been before, and in some ways I’m glad we waited, as it’s so well-established now. Nestled in its valley, it looks strangely futuristic.

I liked the rainforest biome the best . . .

To get the most from our visit, we took our time, reading all the information – although it’s probably equally nice to just stroll through and enjoy the atmosphere.

Now that the project has matured, it has grown high enough for a canopy walkway. Since I’m unlikely to visit a real rainforest any time soon, I particularly enjoyed this, despite my fear of heights. Here I am, looking as intrepid as you’re likely to ever see me!

We had lunch in the Mediterranean biome and enjoyed a stroll around it, took a look in the educational centre and mooched around outside a little, but we were tired by then and it was getting chilly. It was also rather late in the year to see the gardens at their best, so if we revisit sometime, it would be nice to do so earlier in the year and to spend more time outside.

Our final day was spent back at Talland Bay, where we enjoyed a lovely combination of a decent coffee, a healthy coastal walk, sitting on the beach to read, and a delicious cream tea.

I’ll leave you with a pic of my favourite coffee spot – one of the three beach huts at the cafe there . . .