Award winning author

Bookings are now open for my three 2020 residential writing retreats, co-tutored with RNA Chair Alison May. Details can be found here.

Discovering New Authors

The first stop on my ‘new authors’ list was a wonderful book – and she has a good sized backlist for me to explore.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I did promise myself that this year I would experiment more with my reading and try some new authors. Not necessarily new as in debut authors – but new to me.

That’s not to say I am abandoning old favourites. Never! But I felt it was time to be a bit more adventurous and move out of my comfort zone. So for the past few weeks I have been grabbing new authors of my huge to-be-read pile.

It’s been a lot of fun…

After The Last Dance – Sarra Manning (paperback and new author)

I loved this. I really did. World War II is a popular theme right now in books, and I confess I am starting to look past a lot of the WWII books, because I’m finding them a bit same-ish. Not this book! This book wove together the stories of two woman – one is looking back at her youth during the war, and one is struggling with the present. Neither story was a conventional love story. In fact, the younger heroine was very unconventional. Maybe that was why I really liked her.

This book was shortlisted for a Romantic Novelists Association Epic Romantic Novel Award last year and I can see why. I really liked the way she wove the two timelines and the two stories together into a seamless whole. The characters were interesting, wonderfully flawed and very, very engaging.

This is the first Sarra Manning book I’ve read but it won’t be the last.

My friends were right when they said I had to try Carole Matthews.


Let’s Meet on Platform 8 – Carole Matthews (paperback and a new author)

I don’t know how or why I have spent this many years reading women’s fiction and romance, and never read best-selling author Carole Matthews. That seems very remiss of me.

This was literally thrust at me by a friend. It is one of Carole’s early books, so is perhaps not as polished as her more recent work. But it is easy to see why she has gone from this book to such a spectacular career. He writing style is light and deft and humorous, even when dealing with deeper topics.

The characters are warm and, most importantly, real. Not perfect. Just human.

I tend to read to heavier/ darker end of women’s fiction… but next time I feel like taking a walk on the light side. I’ll know where to go.


An award winner that dealt in a realistic way with a teenager’s pain.

The Secrets We Share – Emma Hannigan (paperback and a new author)

This book won the Romantic Novelists Association Award for an Epic Romance last year.

I really liked the set up for this book and the young heroine who suffers such a shocking loss at the beginning. I really hate books where a character recovers too quickly from some life changing event – and in this case, the author got it just right. The book was a very real portrait of a teenage girl struggling in the aftermath of tragedy and the impact that had not just on her life, but also on her family.

This was another book that delved in World War two and its aftermath in the backstory. That part was well envisaged and well written, but for me didn’t stand out from the other stories set in this time.

I can easily see how it earned its place on the award shortlist. But to be totally honest, my vote would have gone to the Sarra Manning book, which I thought was just a little bit better.


I enjoyed listened to the author’s keynote speech and liked her writing style as well.

The Perfumer’s Secret – Fiona McIntosh (paperback and new author)

Fiona McIntosh was the keynote speaker at the Australian Romance writers’ conference I attended last year, and her publishers gave each of us a copy of her latest book.

She was an entertaining and inspiring speaker, and she also writes beautifully. The book is set at the outbreak of WWI, but it’s not a story about the battles. It’s the story of the people left behind. And it’s a story about family secrets.

I found this to be a very gentle book, even though it’s dealing with some subject matter that would seem less than gentle. I enjoyed the book, but have to say was not as emotionally invested in these characters as I was in other recent reads. A friend alerted me to the fact that Fiona McIntosh has written epic fantasy as well, and I have one of those on my TBR shelf now. She is a good writer and perhaps the fantasy will have that slightly harder edge that I prefer.


This was one of my favourite recent reads. It was touching and the characters felt like friends.

Three Amazing Things About You – Jill Mansell (paperback and known author)

Jill Mansell is a popular and best-selling writer of romantic comedies. I had read a couple of Jill’s books and enjoyed them, but I’m not a big reader of rom coms. I love a good rom com film, but I tend to go for slightly heavier books, so Jill dropped off my radar a bit.

A friend urged me to read this book so I did and I really enjoyed it. While maintaining Jill’s humour and light style, this book is also meaty and thought provoking. It deals with a young woman with a life threatening illness – but isn’t at all sad or depressing. And it is ultimately uplifting and life affirming.

So – I have learned a lesson here. Rom com doesn’t necessarily mean fluffy and without substance and I should give some books that are promoted as Rom Com a bit more thought.

Overall – I think my decision to go a bit further afield in my reading has paid off. It’s been an interesting few weeks of reading. I have my eye on some more new authors to try – but I also have some old favourites waiting on my to-be-read pile. I’m not sure where I’ll go next.

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Writing retreats 2020 - Intensive tutor-led retreats with Janet Gover and Alison May

Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalist for The Wild OneColorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence Finalist for The Wild One
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