What an honour and pleasure it is to be included in this fantastic blog tour in honour of the fabulous Erica James and her fantastic achievement in her writing career. As many of you will already know Erica recently released the hardback version of her new novel, Song of the Skylark, on March 10th. That alone is enough to celebrate and have a tour for, but Song of the Skylark is just that bit more special and deserves a lot more attention. Why? Well, because it’s Erica’s twentieth book to be published. Twenty books please? How amazing is that? I mean, I can’t even write a blog post properly and for the life of me couldn’t even write a novella. Can you imagine writing twenty full novels with most of them being best sellers and have won awards at that? What a wonderful achievement. I really am so very happy to be included in this joyous twentieth birthday book bonanza. Wow, what a mouthful. 😜
Lizzie has always had an unfortunate knack of attracting bad luck, but this time she’s hit the jackpot. Losing her heart to her boss leads to her losing her job, and with no money in the bank, Lizzie finds herself forced to move back home with her parents. When she reluctantly takes another job, she meets Mrs Dallimore, a seemingly ordinary elderly woman with an astonishing past . . .
Now in her nineties, Mrs Dallimore is also coming to terms with her situation. Old age is finally catching up with her. As she and Lizzie form the bond of unexpected friendship, Mrs Dallimore tells the story of a young girl who left America before the outbreak of World War Two and, in crossing an ocean, found herself embarking on a new life she couldn’t have imagined.
As Lizzie listens to Mrs Dallimore, she begins to realise that she’s not the only person to attract bad luck, and that sometimes life has a way of surprising you . . .
⚪️ Book Details:
Title: Song of the Skylark.
Author: Erica James.
Genre: General Fiction (Adult).
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group.
Publication date: Hardcover, ebook, audio version – March 10th 2016. Paperback – June 30th 2016.
Page Count: 400.
With an insatiable appetite for other people’s business, Erica James will readily strike up conversation with strangers in the hope of unearthing a useful gem for her writing. She finds it the best way to write authentic characters for her novels, although her two grown-up sons claim they will never recover from a childhood spent in a perpetual state of embarrassment at their mother’s compulsion.
The author of many bestselling novels, including GARDENS OF DELIGHT, which won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and her recent Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, SUMMER AT THE LAKE and THE DANDELION YEARS, Erica now divides her time between Suffolk and Lake Como in Italy, where she strikes up conversation with unsuspecting Italians.
⚪️ Book Count Down:
1) A Breath of Fresh Air – 1996
• Blurb: Charlotte Lawrence, widowed at thirty-four, decides to return to all things pre-Peter, and that means moving back to the Cheshire village of her childhood.
It also means exchanging a clinical company flat for the pretty but overgrown garden of Ivy Cottage, and the constant attentions of her interfering sister Hilary.
Most of all it means Alex, Ivy Cottage’s drop-dead-gorgeous tenant, with whom Hilary is determined Charlotte should find love anew, and whose charming exterior hides his own secret tragedy…
2) Time for a Change – 1997
• Blurb: Hilary had always thought she’d lived a charmed life. With a caring husband, David, and two lively children, she took an active part in both family and village life. Then, one Monday morning, Hilary’s world is turned upside down. She discovers that David is having an affair. How could he? How could he put at risk their children and everything they have built together over the years? The question is, what should Hilary do? Turn a blind eye, much as neighbour Cindy has done over her own husband’s various dalliances? Confront him, as her outspoken new friend Georgia suggests? Or perhaps she should throw herself at attractive newcomer to the village Nick Bradshaw…
Whatever happens, it seems certain that for Hilary, life is never going to be quite the same again.
3) Airs and Graces – 1997
• Blurb: Ellen has been living on her own in a picturesque if damp cottage in Cheshire since her husband abandoned her to go and live with another woman in Provence. Having married once for love, she is now determined that the second time around it will be for money. Close at hand is Duncan, her not unattractive, and enticingly single, divorce lawyer…
But then two new people enter her life: Jo-Jo, a homeless girl several months pregnant, and Matthew, an artist who paints murals in country houses and who, on first meeting Ellen, openly criticises her for being mercenary and devious. But, as hostility gives way to friendship, Ellen realises that she has wavered off course from her original plan and has to remind herself very strongly indeed that Duncan is the man for her…
4) A Sense of Belonging – 1998.
For Jessica Lloyd, it is a haven where she can recover from a love affair long past its sell-by date; Amanda Fergusson, whose marriage is one of straightforward convenience, is determined to get the most out of the situation; for Kate Morris it offers a fresh start where her love for newly divorced Alec can flourish; and for Josh Crawford, his new home offers a sanctuary where he can come to terms with the most devastating news of his life.
In their different ways, all the newcomers to Cholmford Hall Mews are searching for something – love, peace, a sense of belonging. But will they find rather more than they bargained for…?
5) Act of Faith – 1999.
• Blurb: It’s almost Christmas. But for Ali, the season of good cheer is the anniversary of her baby’s death. As she stands at her son’s grave, she is poignantly aware of how dramatically her life has changed. Determined to stand on her own two feet and get through Christmas alone, Ali turns down her ex-husband’s unexpected invitation to spend the holiday with him and his father, only to give in to her best friend’s cajoling to share the festive season with her. The only trouble is, it means having to be nice to Sarah’s awful husband, Trevor.
Sarah may be a saint for putting up with Trevor, but Ali is no such thing, and as his cranky behaviour escalates, she takes it upon herself, in an extraordinary act of daring impetuosity, to play God with her friend’s incomprehensible marriage. But Ali’s meddling has consequences even she could not have foreseen…
6) The Holiday – 2000.
• Blurb: Between struggling to live up to the expectations of being a Modern Woman and ridding herself of the effect of a repressed upbringing, Izzy Jordan would be the first to admit that it’s time to take stock of her life. She’s thirty-one, with a teaching career on the skids – not surprising, really, given that she harbours a strong desire to lock her pupils in the art room cupboard and throw away the key. She also has a manipulative mother and an ex-boyfriend whose parting shot was to tell her she was boring in bed!
So when she’s invited to spend the summer on Corfu and is offered the chance of a no-strings holiday romance with the irresistible Theo, what should she do? Go for it, or listen to the voice of Modern Woman and tell him to sling his hook? Just as she thinks she’s made up her mind, along comes Mark, whose turbulent past sets in motion a series of dramatic events…
7) Precious Time – 2001.
• Blurb: In order to spend more time with her four-year-old son Ned, Clara Costello trades in her secure, well-paid job and two-seater sports car for a camper van called Winnie, and the three of them set off on a mystery tour of England. Of course, her friends and family think she’s gone mad.
But when they arrive in Deaconsbridge, a small market town on the edge of the Peak District, Clara and Ned become drawn into the lives of the locals. Two in particular seem destined to get under Clara’s skin: Gabriel Liberty, a cranky widower who terrifies his family; and Archie Merryman, a local dealer in second-hand furniture who possesses a heart of gold.
Then Clara finds herself having to confront a problem much closer to home, and one she had hoped she would never have to face…
8) Hidden Talents – 2002.
• Blurb: Dulcie Ballantyne knows that creative writers’ groups attract an unlikely mix of people, so when she starts up Hidden Talents, she is well prepared for the assortment of people she is bringing together.
Beth King is facing empty-nest syndrome as her only son, Nathan, leaves home for university. Jack Solomon, a local estate agent, is having trouble coming to terms with the shock of his wife leaving him for his best friend. Jaz Rafferty is an intensely private seventeen-year-old girl who writes to escape her large, boisterous family. Victor Blackmore is a know-it-all, who claims to be writing the blockbuster novel every publisher will be clamouring for.
What they all have in common is a need to escape, as well as a desire to keep their lives as private as possible. As they grow more confident in their writing skills, friendships develop, and gradually they come to realise that a little openness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
9) Paradise House – 2003.
• Blurb: Angel Sands is a traditional seaside resort of bed and breakfasts, cottages to let and teashops. And with the best views of the tiny beach and surrounding coastline is Paradise House, home to the Baxter girls – or the Sisters of Whimsy as they’re known locally.
With their mother taking time out to find herself, it’s down to Genevieve to maintain the smooth running of the family-owned B&B. Not an easy task, given that their father – now that his wife isn’t around – has suddenly become a magnet for the opposite sex. And there’s little help from her sisters: Nattie is too busy offending her long-time admirer, and Polly spends most of her days with her head in the clouds or in a book. But when news spreads in the tightly knit community that a nearby dilapidated barn has been sold, Genevieve finds that a bittersweet trip down memory lane is unavoidable…
10) Love and Devotion – 2004.
• Blurb: Harriet Swift thinks she has the perfect life – a satisfying career, her own flat and a new boyfriend who respects her need for her own space. But then her only sister is killed in a car crash, and Harriet is forced to give up her well-ordered life to help look after her orphaned niece and nephew. Moving back to her childhood home in Maple Drive, and sacrificing so much, doesn’t come easy and before long Harriet discovers things about her family she never believed possible.
Meanwhile, the shabbiest house in Maple Drive has a new occupant. Will Hart also thinks he has the perfect life. Having swapped his successful career as a lawyer for that of an antiques dealer, he believes in living for the moment and is entirely happy with his lot. Then from nowhere tragedy strikes and he faces the biggest challenge of his life.
Harriet and Will have no choice but to piece together a new future for themselves, but can they see it through?
11) Gardens of Delight – 2005.
• Blurb: The Gardens of Delight brochure promises the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful gardens in the Lake Como area of Italy. For Lucy, the chance to go to Italy offers more than just gardens. Lake Como is where her father lives, and the last time she saw him was when she was just a teenager.
Recently married Helen and her wealthy husband have just moved into the Old Rectory. With her husband spending so much time away from home, Helen throws herself into caring for the garden. But Helen needs help – and friends – and so decides to take the plunge and join the local Garden Club.
Conrad isn’t the least bit interested in gardening. Widowed for five years, his life revolves around work and humouring Mac, his elderly uncle who lives with him, and who has expressed a desire to go on the Gardens of Delight tour. Reluctantly, Conrad agrees to accompany him. ‘Anything for a peaceful life,’ he concedes. But a peaceful life is the last thing any of them are in for…
12) Tell it to the Skies – 2007.
• Blurb: Venice has been Lydia’s home for many years, a place where she has found peace and fulfilment. Then one day she glimpses a young man’s face in the crowd that threatens to change everything. He’s a heart-stopping reminder of a dreadful secret she believed she had banished to the past…
As a young child, Lydia and her sister were sent to live with grandparents they’d never even met before. It was a cruel and loveless new world for them and it forced Lydia to grow up fast. She learned to keep secrets and to trust sparingly, and through it all she was shadowed by grief and guilt.
Now, twenty-eight years later, Lydia is persuaded to leave behind the safe new life she has created for herself and return to England to face the past. And maybe her future.
13) It’s the Little Things – 2008.
• Blurb: Dan and Sally Oliver and their friend Chloe Hennessey are lucky to be alive. Three years on, after surviving one of the world’s biggest natural disasters – the Boxing Day tsunami – their lives have changed dramatically.
Dan and Sally are now parents. Dan is enjoying being a stay-at-home father taking care of their young son, and Sally is the breadwinner and loves her job as a partner in a Manchester law firm. The arrangement has so far worked well, but when Dan starts to question whether Sally has got her priorities right, the cracks in their marriage begin to appear.
Dan and Sally have everything Chloe wishes for in life – a happy marriage and a beautiful child. Dumped by her long-term boyfriend just weeks after the tsunami, she’s been on a mission ever since to find the perfect father for the child she craves. When she meets Seth Hawthorne, she thinks she may have hit the jackpot. But is Seth the man she thinks he is?
14) The Queen of New Beginnings – 2010.
• Blurb: Alice Shoemaker habitually goes to great lengths to avoid telling the truth about herself and her past. After agreeing to help out a friend by shopping and cleaning for the unknown man staying at Cuckoo House, she soon becomes suspicious that her strange and obnoxiously rude client has something to hide…
Clayton Miller’s life is a mess. His career as one of the country’s best comedy scriptwriters has stalled and his long-term girlfriend has left him for his ex-best friend and ex-writing partner. Just when he thinks his life couldn’t get any worse, he commits a spectacularly public fall from grace and with the press hounding him, his agent banishes him to the middle of nowhere until the dust has settled. And there he meets Alice…
When Alice and Clayton discover the truth about each other they form an unlikely friendship – until Alice discovers Clayton has betrayed her in the worst possible way.
15) Promises, Promises – 2010.
• Blurb: ‘I Must Stand Up for Myself More’, promises Maggie Storm, who spends her days cleaning houses for people who often have more money than manners. Married to a man with as much sex appeal as Mr Blobby, she dreams of a life straight from the pages of a romantic novel.
‘My Head Must Rule Over My Heart’, promises Ella Moore, who, determined never to let her heart get the better of her again, is recovering from seven wasted years of failing to win over the daughter of the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.
‘No More Women’, promises Ethan Edwards, who, to distract himself from the depressing sham of his marriage, is a repeat offender when it comes to turning to other women for sexual consolation. But when Ella appears unexpectedly in his life, he finds himself turning to her for very different reasons…
16) The Real Kate Lavender – 2011.
• Blurb: Katie Lavender has always thought she was pretty unshockable, until a year after her mother’s death she receives a letter from a solicitor telling her that the man she thought was her father, in fact wasn’t. Her real father, a man named Stirling Nightingale, has for years been building a trust fund for her. And now she’s of an age to collect it.
But Katie’s not interested in the money. She wants to know about the man instead. So decides to do some snooping. She tracks him down to a beautiful riverside home on the night he’s hosting a birthday party for his ninety-year-old mother. And as she’s hovering outside, Katie is mistaken for a replacement waitress – an opportunity just too good to miss. And so Katie discovers that the Nightingales are far from your normal family…But what makes a normal family anyway?
17) The Hidden Cottage – 2013.
• Blurb: Mia Channing appears to have an enviable life: a beautiful home, a happy marriage, a job she enjoys and three grown-up children to whom she’s devoted. But appearances can be deceptive…
When the family gathers for her son’s thirtieth birthday, he brings with him his latest girlfriend, who, to their surprise, has a nine-year-old daughter. Then, before the birthday cake has even been cut, Mia’s youngest daughter Daisy has seized the opportunity to drop a bombshell. It’s an evening that marks a turning point in all their lives, when old resentments and regrets surface and the carefully ordered world Mia has created begins to unravel.
18) Summer at the Lake – 2014.
• Blurb: Lake Como – beautiful, enchanting, romantic…
For Floriana, it is the place where the love of her life is getting married to another woman. And she’s been invited to the wedding.
For Esme, it is where, over sixty years ago, she fell in love for the first time. So often she’s wondered what happened to the man who stole her heart – and changed the course of her life.
Adam is in danger of burying himself entirely in his work after his girlfriend left him. Could a trip to Lake Como be the distraction he needs?
Now it’s time for each of them to understand that the past is not only another country, it can also cast haunting shadows over everyone’s lives…
19) The Dandelion Years – 2015.
• Blurb: Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling cottage on the edge of a Suffolk village, it provided a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.
Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to broken and battered books, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a hidden notebook – and realises someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own – Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, OUR BIRTHDAY BOOK OF COURSE.
HAPPY 20th BOOK BIRTHDAY, ERICA 🍾🍰
Can I take this opportunity to thank Elaine Egan over at Orion and Erica James for inviting me along on the tour. I was supposed to be comparing two of Erica’s books, one old and one new, but unfortunately I’ve not been able to do that as my family recently received some devastating news and I’ve not been able to get things done in time. I can only apologise and promise I will put the original post up once I can. I hope this is enough for now though.
Dedicated to Harold Gray.