Saturday, 8 May 2021

Cherry and almond tart!

 So many people have been asking for the top secret,  Nonna Rossi cherry and almond tart recipe from A Taste of Home this weekend so, even though I've posted it before, I thought I'd share it again and make it easier to find!

I really hope you enjoy baking it and I'd LOVE to see the results on social media. Please tag me if you make it!

Happy baking and happy reading!

H x

Friday, 7 May 2021

Publication celebration winners!

 Hi my loves! The first thing I'd like to say to you all is, thank you so, so much for the fabulous support you have been giving this latest trip to Wynbridge. All of my social channels have been buzzing every single day since the release on April 29th and the fabulous reviews have stacked up incredibly fast. I'm over the moon and so grateful.

Secondly, thank you for coming back to check who has won the A Taste of Home publication celebration giveaway prizes. I hope it's you!

The winners have been selected using a random number generator

Congratulations to -

@ellenwaite

and

@bookwormblogss

You will each receive one of the bundles as soon as I can get them in the post.

There were a record number of entries for this one so thank you to you all!

Sending you all lots of love

H x

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Welcoming Zoe Wheddon to the blog

 Today I am delighted to welcome a new guest to the blog. 

Zoe Wheddon, author of Jane Austen's Best Friend, talks to us about friendship. Welcome Zoe and thank you for writing such a beautiful post for this, your first visit.

You Got A Friend in Me

‘If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends’ sang the Spice Girls, words that believe it or not could have been written by Jane Austen, (had she been a songstress and born a few hundred years later.) During my research for Jane Austen’s Best Friend: The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd I discovered that friendship really did mean everything to Jane. She had a very small circle of friends and was close as close could be to her elder sister Cassandra, but the friend that she schemed to be with, the family that she chose for herself, as they say – was a woman called Martha Lloyd. 

Ten years older than her they at first seemed an unlikely pairing when it came to being best friends. But kindred spirits they were. To the point that when Jane received a proposal of marriage from a very charming suitor (with all the right connections and an Estate in the Hampshire countryside to boot) after initially accepting him, one long fretful night later, in which she faced losing herself, her literary dreams and any real say over her day-to-day decisions, she broke off the engagement. Jane knew in her heart what she wanted (what she really really wanted I can hear some of you singing at the back!) and that was to be free to follow her creative impulses, with her best friend Martha and her sister Cassandra nearby. She was simply not prepared to give any of that up.

As well as being the theme of my book, friendship turned out to be at the heart of my own writing journey. In fact, everything began with the hand of friendship offered by Catherine Curzon, an author, who contacted me after reading my blog, saying that she wanted to ‘pay it forward’ and would I like to write something to pass on to her publisher? I did and a long way down the road later I was offered the chance to publish my book with Pen and Sword. I still remember that when the email came 9 months after I had sent something off, I thought it was a phishing scam and it took my grown-up kids to reassure me that no, this was not an IT hoax but a bonefide blessing.

From thereon in friendships began to spring up all around me; the kind publishing team held my hand throughout the process of writing a first draft, editing, proofreading, and finally printing and publishing. I could never have imagined that so many people would have helped me and with such joyful hearts. Authors like our lovely Heidi, were so kind to me behind the scenes, encouraging me and believing in me and responding to my cries for help and reassurance. 

Many of these new friends I have still never met in person but have only ever conversed with over the internet or on the phone. One of these, Karrie Elizabeth and I met on Instagram. Karrie paints the most gorgeous pictures of houses, cottages, shops and pubs near to where she lives. She has an incredible and curious talent for conjuring up luscious watercolours on the screen. I had followed her for a while and loved the romantic qualities of her style. One day we got to chatting, I explained my vision for the cover of the book and asked her if she would be able to create an illustration for me? We set up a Pinterest page together and had lots of fun collecting and collating different images and I sent her the scruffiest, vaguest, scrawl of a sketch showing her how I envisaged the jacket front cover. What Karrie created was the most beautiful and eye-catching illustration, it literally took my breath away and I will treasure it forever. I now have it on everything – a paint by numbers, my screen saver on my phone, on a pair of earrings! She even made me bookmarks.  I am absolutely in love with it. It is exactly what I had imagined, only infinitely better in her skilled and creative hands. 

Other People along the way kindly gave me permission to use pictures, drew me images, created me a family tree graphic and gave me their time to simply chat or to show me around a part of Martha’s world. Since publication others have talked about my book, posted about it online and said wonderful things about it, people from all around the world have attended my virtual launch party or come along to an online talk and showed up with such kindness and interest. All these friendly gestures have just blown me away. I had not been expecting that when I sat down to try and make an idea that I had had come to life. Nor could I have imagined my dreams of support from my literary heroes, best-selling authors such as Lucy Worsley, Paula Byrne, Rose Servitova and Natalie Jenner coming true; that they would even read my book let alone say such magical things about it too.

But when all is said and done, I think the best friends to me during the whole book birthing process were the people who surrounded me in my everyday life. My work colleagues who smiling, patiently asked how my book was going, my friends who asked after it and my family, who supported me, wrote me encouraging notes to stick on my desk, made me coffee after coffee that I often left to go cold, left me alone to think and to write without making me feel guilty, and sat as study buddies in the early mornings, even on holiday. 

What I truly learnt is that when it comes to our creative dreams or our desires, we have to be our own best friend.  We have to actively refuse to listen to that negative voice in our heads and not let it talk us out of something we deep down really want to try. The best friend to my book, in the end was me. I knew I wanted, more than anything, to tell Martha’s story and to share it with the world.  I wrote myself notes, I created a little routine to help me settle down to write, I lit my favourite wood crackling fire scented candle and added postcards of Jane and even her wallpaper to the sides of my desk as little atmosphere settlers. I made schedules and day after day I sat in the chair and just did it. I told myself not to worry about how good the writing was and instead I asked myself ‘what if you can?’ 

There were many emotions to deal with swirling around like the weather, sometimes I typed through storms inside me; sometimes I felt like I was dancing on air, with the sun at my back and light breezes ruffling my hair. When I finally sent off the completed first draft of the manuscript, I literally shook like a willow tree both during and after pressing send. For a full half an hour my teeth were chattering and my tummy was doing cartwheels. But when sometime later I sat at the bench in Jane and Martha’s garden at Jane Austen’s House, Chawton, where Jane wrote and rewrote her own novels, I felt the warm calming inner peace of a summer’s day enfold me.  I imagined Jane and Martha sitting beside me, holding my hands, as we smiled at each other. That day, I knew it to be true, just as the Spice Girls claimed, ‘Friendship never ends’ or as Jane Austen put it ‘Friendship is certainly the finest balm.’


JANE AUSTEN'S BEST FRIEND: THE LIFE AND INFLUENCE OF MARTHA LLOYD is a heart-warming examination of the 'recipe for friendship' between Jane Austen, (with whom all Janeites are best friends in their imaginations,) and Martha Lloyd. In looking back somewhat longingly at Martha and Jane's strong and enduring bond we can examine all their interests, including the hits and misses of their romantic love lives, their passion for shopping and fashion, their family histories, their lucky breaks and their girly chats.

Through an examination of the defining moments of their shared lives together, the book gives readers an insight into the inner circle of the famously enigmatic and private authoress and the life changing force of their friendship.

All fans for Jane Austen everywhere believe themselves to be best friends with the beloved author and this book shines a light on what it meant to be exactly that. JANE AUSTEN’S BEST FRIEND: THE LIFE AND INFLUENCE OF MARTHA LLOYD offers a unique insight into Jane’s private inner circle. Each chapter details fascinating facts and friendship forming qualities that tied Jane and Martha together. This book offers a behind the scenes tour of the shared lives of a fascinating pair and the chance to deepen our own bonds in ‘love and friendship’ with them both.

Buy the book - UK





Buy the book - US



About Zoe 


A native of Jane Austen's beloved county of Hampshire, Zoe lives in a North Hampshire village, on the outskirts of the town that she and her husband Matt both grew up in, with their 3 grown up children and their cat Leia. When she is not researching or writing, Zoe can be found in the classroom teaching Spanish and French or singing ABBA songs loudly in her kitchen. People can get to know her better at www.zoewheddon.co.uk

Connect with Zoe

Instagram – Zoe_Wheddon

Website – www.zoewheddon.co.uk

Twitter – @ZoeWheddon

Facebook – @authorzoewheddon


Link to the Insta Live with Oriana

 Last night the Insta Live with Oriana was such a giggle, I thought I'd share the link for anyone who missed it and might want to see what all the noise was about.

There were some fabulous questions - thank you to everyone who sent one in - and we managed to answer them all, which was a first for us.

Watch the fun!

Thank you so much for inviting me to chat Oriana. It was the perfect way to end a fabulous week of celebrating the release of A TASTE OF HOME!

Saturday, 1 May 2021

April highlights

 Can you believe it's May already? No, me neither! 

In the future, I'll be posting my monthly highlights during the last weekend of the month, but as the A TASTE OF HOME publication day was scheduled for the 29th and I had so much else to share, I thought I'd leave the April highlights until now.

However, before I get into sharing with you what have I enjoyed listening to, watching and reading over the last four weeks, I want to say a massive thank you to you all for making publication day so memorable! The Facebook Book Club party, organised and run by Fiona and Sue was a total triumph and I was delighted to see so many fabulous reviews for the book posted so quickly on Amazon!

The day for me also included the prettiest flowers 


and a stunning cherry and almond cake from my wonderful publisher!


And of course, last, but by no means least, I had my first dose of the vaccine and a #shelfie in Waterstones!


It was quite a day!

And, while I'm mentioning celebrations, don't forget to enter the publication week giveaway which is in a post below. There's still plenty of time and I also have an event over on Instagram with wonderful Oriana at 7.30pm tonight (May 1st). Details found in the event listings on the right.


APRIL HIGHLIGHTS

What I read

I didn't read quite as many books as I planned to during April but that was because I was busy writing, editing and getting ready for publication day, however, my favourite of those I did read, was THE LAST ACT OF ADAM CAMPBELL by Andy Jones.


You don't need talent to join this group of actors. The ability to remember lines or stay awake throughout a performance is appreciated, but not essential. The only mandatory is a terminal diagnosis.

But Adam Campbell is less than enthusiastic about this eccentric form of group therapy. He has under one year to live, and a heck of lot to get done. Like explaining mortality to his six-year-old daughter. And making amends with the woman who should have been his wife.

The last thing Adam needs is a part in an amateur production of 'Shakespeare's Greatest Deaths'. But help and hope can be found where we least expect them. And perhaps camaraderie, and a shared purpose, will turn out to be the best medicine after all.

As Shakespeare, didn't quite put it: Shuffling off this mortal coil is a drag; but it's no reason to stop living.


Poignant, powerful and properly funny was how I described the book earlier in the week and it's a brave write too. I loved it!


What I watched

I haven't watched all that much on the tellybox, but one show I never miss is OUR YORKSHIRE FARM. I've watched and loved it right from the very first series and I'm still fascinated by this vibrant and entertaining clan.

I'm a huge fan of Tony the pony and have total parenting envy! Clive and Amanda are extraordinary in my opinion.


I also watched LOVE AND MONSTERS on NETFLIX, starring DYLAN O'BRIEN and that was fabulous too! Really fun!


In the real world, during my early morning walks, I've been watching the blossom bloom. Looking back through the camera roll on my phone, I know lots of things in the garden are much later than last year, but whenever they rock up they're a delight, right?



What I listened to

The dawn chorus has been a real feature during the last few weeks and it's getting earlier and earlier.

There are lots of very vociferous male blackbirds in and around my garden and they have to be my favourite bird to listen to around 4am!

I've also been listening to a few of the SARAH RAVEN and ARTHUR PARKINSON podcasts


Absolutely lovely, gentle listening


So, there we have it, that's what I've been reading, watching and listening to in April. The list isn't as lengthy as I would have liked which suggests I've got my work / life balance a bit out of kilter. Now I know, I'll try and make amends. 

After all, all work and no play...

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend and thank you again for your support!

H x

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

A Taste of Home publication day!

Hooray! Hooray! The A TASTE OF HOME publication day has finally dawned and I can't think of a better way to celebrate it than with the ultimate taste of home. This particular sweet treat means so much to both Fliss, and the wonderful Rossi family.

Fliss had to wait years before she was given a copy of the recipe for Nonna's cherished cherry and almond tart recipe, so I'm thrilled I can share it with you today. Although, looking at the list of ingredients, I get the feeling Nonna might have left out her top secret pinch of something... None the more for that, this tart is an absolute joy and I very much hope you enjoy baking it!

Thank you all so much for joining me to celebrate this latest trip to Wynbridge. It's a real pleasure to be visiting in the sunshine again.

Here's to a summer filled with fabulous fresh fruit, new friends and family!

Cheers!

H x

Monday, 26 April 2021

The publication celebration giveaway!

 Here we are again my loves, enjoying yet another wonderful week of publication celebrations! 

This time we're safely back in Wynbridge, for the summer at last, and getting to know Fliss and her grandad Bill Brown, in A TASTE OF HOME.

As you probably already know, I drew inspiration from my own childhood to tell Fliss's story and loved reminiscing about summer holidays spent picking strawberries with my family. 

To celebrate this latest release, I'm giving you the chance to take part in a little giveaway. 

You can win -

A signed paperback of the book

A busy bee notebook 

Strawberry sweets 

A pretty pastel highlighter

There are 2 bundles available and to be in with a chance of winning, simply tell me in the comments below, which summer fruit features in the book and on the cover, and please, please leave your name, Twitter handle or similar so I can tell you if you've won! You'd be amazed how many people forget.

The competition closes on May 7th and is UK only

Good luck everyone and thank you for your support!

H x