Monday, 6 October 2014

Time for a makeover!

...and the word 'time' is the key one here. As most of you know, I also write (and blog) as Zara Stoneley, and I've been finding it increasingly difficult to keep everything up to date. So, I've had a clean out, a makeover, a clean sweep!

At the start of my career as Zara, I only wrote erotic romance - and so it seemed to make sense to keep the naughty stuff in one place, and the not so racy stuff somewhere else. But when my publisher, Harper Collins, asked me to release Stable Mates under the name Zara Stoneley things changed.

I've now got everything in one place, on my website which can be found HERE.

Details of all my books are there, with News and updates about my writing life, book signings and tours. Plus I blog about Tippermere, Barcelona, and have posts from Guest Authors.

All in one place, which makes life much simpler... and gives me more time to write.

Let me know if you like the new, fresh look - and if you think there's anything missing!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Welcome to author Elsa Winckler!

I'm delighted to have the lovely Elsa Winckler here today, chatting to me about her new release 'Touched to the heart'. The book sounds very interesting - fit cyclist who also happens to be a tycoon, who can resist? And isn't that cover just gorgeous?

Touched to the heart 

Discover beautiful South Africa in this sweet, heart-warming Cinderella story about a blogger, a billionaire, and one chance meeting. 

When it comes to men, if physiotherapist Caitlin Sutherland didn't have bad luck, she would have no luck at all. To help cope, Caitlin starts blogging in her spare time, about the types of men she meets and the bad dates she goes on. While on duty during the annual Wines to Whales bicycle race, a gorgeous, sweaty cyclist walks in and sets her hormones dancing. But he is Don Cavallo; one of the four Cavallo brothers — hotel tycoons, famous as much for their business skills as for the number of beauties regularly seen on their arms. Don Cavallo has his own issues with the other sex. He has yet to find one who is interested in him and not in his money or hotels. But when this sexy physio puts her hands on his back she not only touches his body, but also his heart. They've both been burned before, but neither of them can stop themselves from playing with fire.

So, Elsa

  1. Have you ever been out with a hotel tycoon, like Don?! If not, what made you pick that as his career?

No, I’ve never been out with a tycoon, hotel or otherwise. I wanted the hero to be filthy rich, one who was never sure whether a woman liked him or his money.

  1. Can you tell us a bit more about Hermanus, in South Africa and why you used it as the setting for your book?

Hermanus is a beautiful sea village about an hour’s drive from Cape Town. When I was a student, my boyfriend’s (now husband) parents had a beach house there so I’ve always had a soft spot for the place. It has changed much over the years, from a little fisherman’s village to a playground for the rich and famous. Caitlin, the heroine has her physiotherapist rooms there and Don has inherited a house from his uncle.

  1. If you had a choice where would you choose to live, and why?

I live exactly where I’ve always dreamed of living – in Betty’s Bay. It’s another little seaside village, but much more rustic than Hermanus. Here are no shopping malls for instance, just long beaches, a beautiful mountain, a botanical garden and wind – gale force winds in winter J

  1. What comes first when you write a story?

It differs, I find. But usually, I get an idea and then decide on the characters. I like to give some background of the characters, so that the reader understands why the character behaves as she or he does.

  1. Can you name five characteristics we’re likely to find in your heroes, and same for heroines?

I like my heroes to be assertive but gentle, firm but loving, self-assured, except when it comes to understanding the heroine, he must be brave, honourable and above all, caring. And after he meets the heroine, no other woman will do – he is forever faithful.

The heroines in my stories are sassy, feisty, independent (financially and emotionally), brave, smart, funny, and defiant.

  1. What’s your idea of a perfect day?

The rare occasions when all our kids are around a table for a long, drawn-out dinner.

  1. Can you tell us anything about your next book?

I also publish in Afrikaans and have two stories coming out in September. At the moment I’m working on what I hope will be the next story of the Cavallo brothers – Dale’s story.

  1. If you weren’t a writer, what would be your next choice of career?

I’ve done many different things in my life – I started out as a primary school teacher, managed a clothing shop, somewhere along the way I studied again, taught again an ended my ‘other’ career as an administrator. At the moment I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than write.

And before you run off, can you share a little excerpt?

‘Where’s your girlfriend?’ Was the first thing that popped out of her mouth. Caitlin nearly groaned out load. She looked away and unlocked her car. ‘Sorry, none of my business,’ she mumbled and opened the door.
‘She’s just a friend.’
‘Did you enjoy your date?’ she asked.
He shook his head. ‘I was watching you the whole night.’
Stunned, she swallowed.
‘And you? Did you have a nice time?’ he asked.
‘I…’ At a complete loss for words, she frantically tried to think of a word, any word. Nothing came to mind. She shook her head. He’d been watching her all night?
He stepped around so that the car door was between them. Her hands were resting lightly on the door.
‘Thought so.’ His smile was devastating. ‘I’d like to take you out, Caitlin.’
 ‘As in a date?’ she asked, still stunned.
‘Yes, Caitlin, as in a date.’ He touched her cheek. ‘There is something here,’ he said and motioned with his hand between them.
She didn’t move, just stared at him. Was he really asking her out on a date?
‘I don’t know what it is, but it’s keeping me awake at night. Let’s try a date and see how we like it. Friday around seven?’ he asked. ‘I’ll pick you up and we’ll have dinner.’
Caitlin stared at him for another minute before she was sure she could string a few words together. ‘Don, you…me…’ She shook her head and grimaced. ‘We live in two completely different worlds, we have nothing in common. You are…you, the papers are full of your businesses. I’m a physiotherapist from Hermanus. I don’t think —’
‘Then don’t. Think, that is.’ He smiled. ‘You do know that you can’t believe everything you read in the papers. And I happen to like this physiotherapist from Hermanus.’
She looked at him a moment longer. This was so not what she should be doing. Hannah’s warning and her own misgivings about him swirled around in her head.
His eyes never left hers.
She was a big girl. And if she prepared herself for the worst, then surely she’d be fine.
‘Where? I’ll meet you —’
‘I’ll pick you up,’ he said and lowered his head.
‘You don’t know where I live and I always drive myself,’ she managed just before his lips touched hers lightly.


Here's where you can grab a copy of the book –  

Thanks for stopping by and sharing Elsa, the book sounds great. Good luck with it! 

About Elsa Winckler  - 

 I have been reading love stories for as long as I can remember and when I ‘met’ the classic authors like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James The Brontë sisters, etc. during my studies, I was hooked for life.
I married my college boyfriend and soul mate and after 39 years, 3 beautiful children and 3 grandchildren, he still makes me weak in the knees. We are fortunate to live in the picturesque little seaside village of Betty's Bay, South Africa with the ocean a block away and a beautiful mountain right behind us. And although life so far has not always been an easy ride, it has always been an exiting and interesting one!
I like the heroines in my stories to be beautiful, feisty, independent and headstrong.  And the heroes must be strong but possess a generous amount of sensitivity. They are of course, also gorgeous!  My stories typically incorporate the family background of the characters to better understand where they come from and who they are when we meet them in the story.

Where can your readers find you?

Twitter: @elsawinckler

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Re-release! Lily’s Leap by Téa Cooper

I’m thrilled to have Tea Cooper drop by today, and it’s not just because she’s such a nice person and writes great stories (although that’s important!) – it’s because she’s here to talk about the re-release of Lily’s Leap.

If you read this blog regularly you may have a vague memory of our chat when this book first came out in May 2013. So here’s an update!

  1. Has “Lily’s Leap” altered since it was originally released, if so, how?

Yes, it has! The original story is the same but the ending is longer, a little less rushed, if I am truthful. It’s been an interesting journey because Lily’s Leap was the second book I wrote and my writing style has changed. I think it’s tighter and most importantly because it has been released by an Australian publisher it more truly reflects Australia. I like to call it a historical rural romance.

2.     Can you tell us a bit about the gorgeous new cover and how well it sums up the story?

I’m thrilled with the new cover. Lily is just right – the pampered daughter of a colonial upstart who has no intention of being pushed around. The background is Dungarven – the horse stud she calls home.

  1. What was it like going back to Lily and Tom – meeting up with old friends, or a bit awkward at first?

Definitely meeting up with old friends but knowing so much more about them, as though you’d had a chance to “spy” on them so I knew what they were thinking.

  1. What/who inspired you to write the story?

Without a doubt Patrick Bruin! On Tuesday, February 16th Patrick made the mistake of bailing up the local JP Mr Thomas Crawford. I say made the mistake because he’d run off at the mouth and bragged about what he was up to. Someone dobbed him in. Mr Crawford was there with his servants, all armed, and Patrick was mortally wounded and died in Wollombi Lock-Up. Mind you none of those things happened Tom!

  1. Would you consider a follow up story?

That’s an interesting question because Lily is actually my first Wollombi story and Matilda’s Freedom, which released in July 2013, is the follow-up. Both books stand alone but there are a few characters who appear in both stories – my favourite is Jem the Aboriginal tracker.

And a bit about you…
  1. You’ve had lots of books published since we last chatted, how do you find the time? Are you a fast writer who hides away for days on ends, or is it a little bit here, a little bit there?

I have to admit to throwing in the towel and giving up full time work so I have more time than a lot of people. I’m a bit of a marathon writer. Once I get the plot sorted I like to write a quick and dirty first draft in as little time as I can manage. I live it and breathe it until it is done – mind you it then takes me the same amount of time to do the first edit!
  1. What are you reading at the moment, and are there any particular authors that are must-reads?

My latest favourite is author is Kate Morton. Right now I can’t get enough of her books. I’ll read anything by Deborah Challinor as soon as it comes out – I love her books and I also have a “bit of a thing” for non fiction, especially anything that is historical. I picked up The Art of Beauty by Madame Lola Montez at the local flea markets recently, first published in 1858.  Books like that are a must read.

  1. Has life changed for you over the last couple of years/since you’ve signed with your new publisher?

Yes! I am now published by Escape Publishing – an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia. It is an absolute delight to work with an Australian publisher when you write Australian romance!

  1. Best bit of advice you’d give an aspiring author?

Be patient – don’t jump at the first contract you are offered. Check out all the possibilities before you sign on the dotted line. And write – and keep writing!

  1. Best bit of advice you’d give yourself now as a writer, if you could relive the past couple of years?

As above – be patient!

  1. Have you any other books in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

Yes! In October, 2014 my first 1920s romance releases with Escape. It’s called Jazz Baby, set in Sydney in the 1920s. It was a pretty nasty place to be. In February, 2015 Forgotten Fragrance which is the first book in a family saga From the Ocean to the Outback – set aboard a whaling ship somewhere between Tasmania and Sydney releases. Lots of pirate like characters and of course romance, and the spin-off from Jazz Baby, The Wages of Sin, will release sometime after that.

Thanks, Susie! Lovely to visit again.

From Escape's Queen of Australian historical romance comes a story about a privileged member of Australian's squattocracy, a bushranger, and a very special horse.

Born into the rough, but privileged society of the Australian colonial landowners, Lilibeth Dungarven finds herself married, widowed, and, much to her distress, back under her father’s thumb, all before her twenty-first birthday. Determined not to forgo her dream of breeding the perfect racehorse, Lilibeth ignores propriety and sets out to restore the family’s flagging fortunes.

When Captain Tom and his mismatched band of bushrangers stumble across a mob of the best horses they’ve ever seen, and the daughter of the famed Dungarven horse stud, they know their fortunes have changed. Their catch is worth a king’s ransom. All they have to do is hold her for seven days. How hard can it be to control the pampered daughter of a colonial upstart?

ISBN: 9780857991713 Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Amazon and Goodreads Reviews:

Forget work, forget all your responsibilities and slide into this delicious story ... a well-written book by a talented writer ... since I doubt I’ll be visiting Australia, it was a treat to feel like I was there, herding horses to market across the Australian Outback. The landscape assumes the position of a character in this exciting romance; playing a pivotal role in Lily’s adventure. A fabulous read by a very talented Aussie author … I have no hesitation in HIGHLY recommending Lily’s Leap.”

Hunter Valley, Australia 1848

Lilibeth Dungarven’s cry of pure pleasure soared skywards as the massive black stallion rose to clear the fallen tree, sending the horrors of the last four years scuttling into the dirt of the ancient land.
Clenching her knees against Nero’s heaving flanks she bent low, ducking the overhanging branches framing the bush track, her cheek pressed to the warmth of his muscular neck. When the erratic pounding in her chest settled she drew Nero to a shuddering halt and pushed the damp curls back from her forehead.
A pair of black cockatoos, disturbed by her madcap gallop, shrieked their annoyance and resettled in the whispering casuarina trees. The crack of their beaks as they threw the mangled nuts to the ground filled the silence. Below her the ribbon of sandstone road weaved its way towards Payne’s Crossing and she shielded her eyes from the sun, searching for her mob of horses.
A glint of reflected sunlight drew her eye to a mounted figure in the middle of the road. Despite the hat pulled low shadowing his face, the stockwhip crack of his words registered deep in her belly.
‘Bail up! Guns down and off the horses.’
‘What do you think you...?’ Constricted by the tension in her throat her words petered out. No one would dare steal such a valuable mob of horses. They were branded. Everyone in the colony knew the Dungarven brand. To lose them was unthinkable. Years of breeding — the first pure Dungarven bloodlines. Months proving herself capable of managing the sale and the trip to Sydney. And now a hold up! It would not happen. Not if Lilibeth Dungarven had any say in the matter.

About the author:

Lily’s Leap is Téa's second Australian historical romance set in Wollombi. Her first, Matilda’s Freedom is available now.

In October, Jazz Baby, a 1920s rags to riches story set in Sydney will be released and in February, Forgotten Fragrance, Book I of a family saga entitled From the Ocean to the Outback. At the moment she is working on a parallel time-line series called The Adventures of Miss Abigail Wynter. She has also written three contemporary romances.

Where to find out more:

And here's a glimpse of that follow up book!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Planning a Wedding? Tricky Table Plans? You need Sam Birch!

I'm lucky enough to have the lovely Sam Birch guesting here today. I can well remember that when I got married one of the trickiest decisions was just who to sit on the top table, and what to do with all the ex's who hated each other! I asked Sam to give us some hints and tips on just what I should have done, and you can find her brilliant advice below. I just wish she'd been around all those years ago when I was in a state of panic!

The High-Street Bride's Guide
Brides-to-be, this one’s for you!
You can say your vows in a catwalk gown so beautiful it reduces your mum to tears (and not because she paid for it).
You can style a reception so stunning your guests won’t believe you didn’t hire an A-list planner.
And you can sprinkle the day with personal touches that make everyone feel like you gave them special attention before they even got there. Without spending a house deposit on it. Honest.

Samantha Birch has written for GLAMOUR, Brides, You & Your Wedding and Cosmopolitan Bride. She knows a thing or two about planning a wedding on a budget, how much you can expect to pay for everything and where to go to get it for less. And she’s put it all down here.

Buy Link: Amazon 

Your Table Plan Trauma: Solved

It’s keeping you up at night, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. Samantha Birch, author of The High-Street Bride’s Guide, talks you through all things table-plan.

Dun-dun-duuuun! Hear that? It’s the sound every couple hears just before they sit down to do the—whisper it—table plan. Look away! Cover any nearby children’s eyes! Scream in a suitably blood-curdling manner! Oh the horror, the horror of having to decide who’s going to be lumbered with boring Uncle Albert, how in the heck you’re going to seat your recently-broken-up couple friends and just what in the wide world you’re supposed to do about your evil-eyes-and-snide-comments-at-every-turn divorced mum and dad!

But there is a way! Trust me! Put down that cushion and peel your hands away from your eyes. There will be no rage-induced pushing-over of tables, no face-in-the-cake falling asleep at old Al’s latest ‘anecdote’ and no friends running out in floods of tears in the middle of the speeches. Why? Because I’ve got it. I’ve got the solution to your seating plan problems. And no, it’s not closing your eyes and pulling the names out of a hat…

Divorced Parents
Don’t do it. The top table. Just don’t do it. Why would you put yourself through that? Yes, it’s tradition, but if Mum and Dad can’t be in the same room as each other without the passive-aggressive remarks/flames behind the eyes/gazing-over-each-other’s-heads-I-can’t-SEE-you act kicking in, why would you put them at the focus of the room, with just you and your new-husband (yay!) between them?

Instead, come over all US of A and go for a ‘sweetheart’ table; that’s a little one just for you and your groom that means plenty of hard-to-come-by just-the-two-of-you time during the wedding breakfast. Or, opt for the increasingly common bride-and-groom-and-bridesmaids-and-best-men set-up; we couldn’t fit all ours on the one table so we had a few with us and a few heading up other tables around the room.

The parents? Give them each a table to host, at opposite sides of the room, but still towards the front so they can be equidistant from you. Fill their seats with happy, supportive family types who won’t be easily swayed into don’t-you-just-hate-your-dad’s-tie-type conversations. Impossible? Seat them with roughly half family, and half strangers. They’re less likely to air their dirty laundry in front of unknown quantities, and if you pick the right people they can keep the chatter firmly on lighter topics.

Tip: The same tactic works for feuding or recently broken-up good friends; just split the friendship group down the middle and give them half each. Alternatively, if one person holds up their hands and admits that they’ve done wrong, see if they wouldn’t mind taking a smaller cut of their pals just for the wedding breakfast. The injured party might need a bit more emotional support, and it’ll feel like a small victory at a tough time.

The Most Boring Man Alive
We’ve all got one. Nobody’s quite sure how, but nothing has ever happened to him. His idea of a ripping yarn is an in-depth assessment of the colour of something that just emerged from some orifice or other, and he responds to your hilarious tales of derring-do with a blank stare, and a blink.

First up: seat him between someone who’s very patient, and someone who never seems to shut up. If he gets chatting, the patient person on his left will kindly humour him; if he strikes up a conversation with the person on his right, he won’t get chance to say anything that puts other people off their pudding.

Second manoeuvre: make sure his table has plenty of games on the go. The ‘Who Am I’ game is cheap and simple—all people need is a pen and a slip of Rizla they can lick and stick to their forehead—or there are plenty of fun quiz-in-a-box-type things that keep the conversation answer-focused.

Tip: The same thing works for those relatives you didn’t realise were so offensive. Y’know, the ones your mum just revealed have some pretty non-PC views. Yesterday. After you sent them an invite. Don’t seat them near people whose buttons they’ll push, or the objects of their so-not-cool perspectives, and flank them with pre-warned seriously-laid-back people who won’t be easily rankled.

Single People
The obvious answer is don’t surround them with smug married couples, but table numbers don’t always work out as clean-cut as all that. If you’re stuck with one or two singletons between four long-term loved-up-types, the trick is to mix up the seating so the pairs are on the same table, but they aren’t sitting next to each other.

Think school classroom: boy, girl, boy, girl works best if you don’t want Wife 1 and Wife 2, who already know each other through Hubbies A and B, to end up just ignoring The Single Girl. And bring on those games again: leave instructions that split the table down the middle into two teams, so there’s no last-one-picked embarrassment.

In the mood for a spot of match-making? Go for a Singles table if you’re having circles, and plot your own carefully constructed game of Confessions, where the questions come on cards pre-written by you. Judge the level your table is at, and be careful not to actually embarrass anyone; the aim of the game is to get people to show off their good side without, y’know, actually showing off. Leave instructions for the most confident character to host, getting everyone to read out the question you’ve left in their place, even if they don’t know who ‘Lucy’ or ‘Martin’ is.

Here’s the lowdown: Your maid of honour loves a guy who’s good with kids? Plant a question at someone else’s seat—‘Adam, what went wrong when you babysat Millie?’—that lets your friend tell all about the time his niece ended up with Nutella in her hair. The best man’s after someone adventurous? Get someone sitting near him to ask Christina about that time she went backpacking in Nepal and got stuck halfway up a mountain. The trick here is not to give the question to the actual person you think will fancy the answerer: for one thing, it’s too eye-rollingly obvious; for another, it’s too high-pressure! Do it right, though and their attraction will seem utterly organic…

Rectangular tables? Okay, so the game’s not likely to fly—too difficult to stretch across and hear each other—but it’s not as goldfish-bowl if you want to just take the hit and sit a potential couple opposite one another.

Tip: Those rectangle tables are also a good way to seat somebody who’s shy: put couples you know will talk to each other on either side, and sit them opposite someone super-nice or talkative; whatever they’ll find the least frightening! In a circular-table situation, your best bet is to surround them with people they’ve known a while or sit them with you and your groom, and keep them out of games that bring on the blushes! Not an option? Nominate someone who’s not too intense to sit next to them and gently guide some softly-softly safe conversation.

Meet the author - 

So far I’m the author of one book: The High-Street Bride’s Guide. I’ve written about dresses, bridesmaids and cake toppers for Brides and You & Your Wedding, and regularly contribute to the likes of GLAMOUR and Love Baking – often while eating cake in my pyjamas. I live with my husband in a chaotically untidy flat in Letchworth, which I pretend is an artfully unkempt writer’s loft in St. Albans.

Join Sam and find out more -
Twitter (me): @SamBirchWriter

Twitter (the book): @HighStreetBride

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Three great romance re-releases from Eva Scott

I'm handing over to Eva Scott today - who has three tempting re-releases on offer. Aren't the covers gorgeous? Tell us more Eva...

Forget chocolate eggs and the Easter Bunny!  This year Musa Publishing have given me the best Easter gift ever by re-releasing my three contemporary romance books.  The books traverse locations from the city (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) to rural and seaside settings.  We’ve got a hunky vet, a sexy tradie and the one that (almost) got away.  Fancy a little get away for less than a cup of coffee? Then this is for you! 

Dr Camden James is a rural vet, not a wedding planner, so he quickly feels out of his depth when, in a fit of generosity, he offers to glam up his sister's budget wedding in a secret move designed to surprise her. With only six weeks to make this the wedding of his sister's dreams he needs to move fast.
Stumbling around in the largely female world of weddings he gets a lead on the go-to girl for wedding flowers - Georgiana Mac Intyre. Georgi, reeling from a very public breakup, is not interested in men in anyway shape or form. Not even super-cute vets - even when they are clearly interested in her.
Cam shamelessly uses his story to get her to help. It has all the elements; romance against the odds, true love, orphans (you can't have good story without an orphan or two), and a bride.


Nick and Talia Carmichael were childhood sweethearts. Grief over the death of their baby daughter from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome crushed their marriage. Talia moved to a new city, with a new career and life. Now it’s time to close the door on the past and ask Nick for a divorce.
Nick has other ideas. Once his wife, always his wife. He has no intention of letting Talia off so lightly and proposes terms and conditions to his agreement. It will mean moving back into their marital home, and force her to face long buried grief. Can she do as he asks?
Being with Nick causes her to question everything she thought was true. Has she made a mistake thinking her love for Nick is dead? Can he still love her? More importantly, can he again trust after everything they’ve been through?

During her Christmas Eve performance, part time Burlesque dancer Miss Ginger Snap looks out into the crowd to see her first and only love, Clay Roberts. The man who broke her heart and betrayed her. The man who caused her to flee her home town to Sydney and never look back. Desperate to avoid him, she makes a mad dash for the last train back to her home town in time for Christmas.
For Clay time stands still as he recognises the dancer. He’s certain it’s Jessica King. She ran out on him at their high school graduation and he’s been searching for her ever since. After missing her train, Clay convinces Jessica to travel home with him.
Can Clay convince his one true love to give him the opportunity to atone and a second chance? Can Jess risk being hurt again by the man she loved?


Eva lives on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland Australia in the town which brought the world the Bee Gees. When she’s not writing romance you can find her out on the water kayaking, fishing or swimming. When on dry land it’s all about the shoes and the coffee (and old Bee Gees records).


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Cover Reveal and Giveaway! 'Anonymous' by Dani-Lyn Alexander

I'm delighted to have fellow HarperImpulse author, Dani-Lyn Alexander here today - revealing her gorgeous new cover!

The cover and title are enough to intrigue me, but if you need to know more...

What happens when an online date is not what it seems?
After Ali's heart is broken, she decides to try Anonymous, a new dating website where you can retain complete anonymity while you search for your soul mate. When she discovers Joe, she thinks she may have at least found a new friend and decides to put her past behind her and move on.
Several death threats and an attempt on her life force her back into contact with her soon-to-be ex, Mark, who is the lead detective on the case. The tension builds between them while Ali struggles to get over Mark, and Mark races to find the maniac who's trying to kill her.
When Ali meets up with her online flame, she finds he's anything but the friend she imagined…

RELEASE DATE is April 17th, but you can pre-order now from Amazon, and be one of the first to get your hands on a copy! 
Buy Link: Amazon 


Dani-Lyn Alexander lives on Long Island with her husband, three kids and three dogs. She loves spending time with her family, at the beach, the playground, or just about anywhere. In her spare time, which is rare, she enjoys reading and shopping—especially in book stores. Some of her favorite things include; Bernese Mountain Dogs, musicals, bubble baths and soft blankets. She’s an incurable insomniac and has an addiction to chocolate.

Where to find Dani-Lyn:

And don't miss out your chance to enter the giveaway! Just click on the link below -
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 17 March 2014

A Barcelona Love Affair... Passeig de Gracia (2)

A wet dark morning stuck on a motorway is guaranteed to make a weekend in Barcelona even better than normal. Not that last weekend the weather at home was expected to be bad, sunshine was forecast throughout the UK, but it was still nice to board that ‘plane!

Barcelona has lots of hidden surprises, some you hear about chatting in bars, some on line, but this particular secret was one we found out about in a book about the city, not your standard tour guide, but one that had been written a fair few years ago by someone who had adopted the place as a second home – much as we have.

This particular place is hidden ‘in plain sight’ as they say, and I bet there are a fair few people who have wandered past one store in particular on the Passeig de Gracia and never given it a second glance.

Passeig de Gracia is one of the two main shopping streets that run up from near Placa de Catalunya – easy to find, on all the tourist maps, and indeed on the route of the tourist city bus. It’s one of those must see streets. If you’re hoping to visit the designer shops, then this road will be on your itinerary, the other being Rambla de Catalunya (not to be confused with La Rambla which runs from Placa de Catalunya down towards the port).

Even if you aren’t interested in the shops, the road is well known for its architecture – in fact one block has been nicknamed ‘La Mançana de la Discòrdia’ (block of discord) as within a short distance there are buildings designed by three different famous modernist architects (for those that want to know Josep Puig i Cadafelch, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Gaudí).

So, wander up here and you will soon spot Casa Mila, La Pedrera ‘the quarry’. The building is famous, but unfortunately the façade of the building is currently covered for renovation and so I couldn’t take a photo – but there are plenty of pics about on the internet and in guide books.  Join the queues to look inside, go up to the roof and view the city, you can even visit at night and discover the ‘secret Pedrera’ but make sure you do something not many other people do. Visit the shop next door.

Vincon stands adjacent to La Pedrera, and has secrets of its own to reveal. Yes, go in and it’s a shop, well a ‘design store’. Downstairs you can buy stationery (if you love notebooks and pens you could spend hours browsing!), lights, some amazing books with photographs of the city, and much more (if you have the money to spend). But it’s upstairs that we found the real surprise.

It’s a listed building, that was designed by architect Antoni Rovira i Rabassa in 1899 and belonged to a painter, Ramón Casas.

From the terrace you can admire the back of Pedrera, from inside you can forget you’re in a department story and imagine what it would have been like to have lived there.

And when you’ve finished? Carry on up Passeig de Gracia, to just beyond the Avinguda Diagonal, sit in one of the two café’s/bars on the other side of the square and admire the beautiful architecture that is Casa Fuster. If you’ve got the money to spare, go in for a glass of champagne (Woody Allen has played Jazz here). If you’ve not, why not sit, like we do and have a coffee at Buenos Migas and just imagine…

And, if you love tapas and like a hot romance, you might like to check out the erotic romance that was inspired by one of my trips to Barcelona..
Spice It Up -  'Altogether hot and delicious - and that's not just the food.'

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