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Miranda Mondays With Team Bea

I’m delighted to be part of Team Bea for the upcoming release of Miranda Dickinson’s new book ‘I’ll Take New York’. To celebrate the launch of the book, us lucky members of Team Bea will be posting some wonderful content on our websites such as giveaways, interviews and extracts. Check out the banner below which has the schedule of treats we have in store over the coming weeks. Keep up to date with the hashtag #TeamBea for further information.

Miranda Mondays

Humbugs And Heartstrings By Catherine Ferguson

Humbugs and Heartstrings‘Humbugs and Heartstrings’ is Catherine Ferguson’s debut novel.

Two ex-friends. One Christmas to remember. Bobbie’s boss Carol is a real misery-guts, dedicated to making the lives of everyone around her unhappy in pursuit of every last penny. What makes it worse is that the two women have history: they were once best friends. When handsome hotelier Charlie steps into the frame the two women go to battle as one sees a romantic future and the other a possible lifeboat for her business. With wonderful warmth and humour – and the odd mince pie fight – the women are forced to confront their shared past, the turbulent present and, most importantly, the potential of the future.

I have to admit I really enjoyed this book, it was fun and entertaining from the very beginning. The story is seen from the perspective of Bobbie Blanchett, a young woman who aspired to have a successful art career who has now ended up working for her ex best friend Carol in her cleaning business, as she tries to scrimp and save for her younger brother’s surgery to correct his curved spine.

Carol is the villain of the story, referenced throughout as ‘The Boss’, she has a nasty streak and is quite ruthless with her employees, thrifty with money although she is rich, she is forever buying from charity shops and car boot sales. Even though she is a horrible character, there are regular flashbacks in the story as Bobbie reflects back to when they friends and didn’t have a distance between them, there are also quite a funny moments in the story when they together.

The story is quite reminiscent of ‘A Christmas Carol’, as Bobbie has her future read by an amateur psychic who tells her that she will have three visits and this gives the tale a lovely warm and intriguing element.

It’s packed with fun characters, particularly Charlie who is main hero in the story, who Bobbie meets whilst trying to book a budget hotel for Carol and together they have an entertaining banter and repertoire with each other. Another person who I loved was Bunty, Bobbie’s mothers friend, wonderfully loud and outspoken she was always quick to tell people what she thought of them, whether it offends them or not.

A lovely story that I immediately fell in love with, ‘Humbugs And Heartstrings’ is a delicious festive story filled with likeable characters and an affectionate and funny plot line that flows at an easy pace.

You can buy Humbugs and Heartstrings from Amazon

Scarlett Bailey Reveals Christmas Ebook – Secret Santa

Secret SantaNo Christmas would be complete without a book from our favourite festive author, Scarlett Bailey and she is returning with a Christmas ebook called ‘Secret Santa’.

The story of ‘Secret Santa’ is –

A self-confessed Christmas queen, Sue Montaigne prides herself on organising the annual nativity pageant in her small Cornish village of Poldore.

But this year, what with having to deal with the repairs on Castle House after it was wrecked by a terrible storm, training a new – and frankly flighty – Virgin Mary and managing a Joseph who is allergic to sheep, she is distinctly lacking a little bit of ‘me time’.

And then there are the auditions for the new Santa. But nothing prepares her for the beautiful man who turns up, a twinkle in his eye and a promise to make her Christmas dreams come true…

It’s only October and I’m already looking forward to curling up with this Christmas book.

You can pre-order Secret Santa from Amazon and will be available to buy for only 99p from 6th November 2014.

A Husband’s Confession By Zoé Miller

'The Husband's Confession‘The Husband’s Confession’ is the latest book by Zoé Miller.

The artisan bakery Ali and Max Kennedy own isn’t just a successful business – it’s a second home, a dream come true. But when bad luck begins to stalk the couple, Ali worries that her fear of losing it all is becoming a reality. Across the city, Max’s brother Finn and his wife Jo long for the carefree happiness they had when they first met in Australia over twenty years ago. But when Finn loses his high profile TV job and becomes more bitter by the day, Jo starts to suspect that he’s hiding something from her. While both couples navigate their marriages, little do they realise that Max and Ali’s daughter Jessica harbours a dark secret which threatens to destroy the whole family. Then it happens – the accident. And the Kennedys will never be the same again.

I’ve heard of Zoé Miller and know that she is a well established Irish author but ‘A Husband’s Confession’ is the first book that I have read by her and it was a truly compelling and thrilling story that kept me hooked from the start.

The story revolves around the lives of the Kennedy brothers Max and Finn and their wives Ali and Jo, at just the moment when their perfect worlds start to unravel. Max and Ali’s bakery business is thriving with him in demand for television appearances when they start to receive hoax bookings and Ali begins to wonder why her husband is so concerned. Finn and Jo met in Australia and fell madly and passionately in love but when his acting career starts to slow down, Finn becomes withdrawn and distant pushing Jo away. Max and Finn have a difficult relationship, not close to one another. Finn is jealous of Max’s success and always passing some kind of snide comment.

But then one night, Max and Ali’s daughter is injured in a hit and run accident that has left her battling for her life and at a time like this it should bring a family together, but seems to drive everyone further apart.

The story starts at a prologue in the present where an incident occurs. Cunningly written, we don’t know who is involved in the incident. The story is then divided into two parts, the events leading up the incident and the consequences after it.

All the characters in this book are wonderfully interesting and strong, particularly the leading ladies who work hard alongside their husbands. Both with passions for their families and life, Jo and Ali are quite similar in their personalities but never got the chance to have a proper friendship due to their husbands competitiveness.

Max and Finn are two complex characters that have a dislike for each other, the story regularly flicks back to the past to the point where their relationship deteriorates and this gives us a great insight and understanding as to why they behave as they do.

This book is a thrilling read, cleverly written in a style of a who done it type of scenario, we are left guessing until the very end. Alternating between the past and present at regular intervals, we meet the Kennedy’s when they were at their worst to their very best. With a strong plot line and engaging cast of characters, ‘A Husband’s Confession’ is masterful piece of writing that begs the question, is it possible to forgive and forget?

You can buy A Husband’s Confession from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Vanessa Greene Talks About Recipes

Vanessa Greene (c) Jim PoynerToday, on the tour for Vanessa Greene’s new book ‘The Seafront Tea Rooms’, Vanessa and I talk about our favourite recipes. Vanessa has provided the recipe for Charlie’s Deliciously Indulgent Florentines and in turn give out the recipe for Blondie Cupcakes from Marian Keyes recipe book, ‘Saved By Cake’. So here goes!

Hi Bronagh,

Thanks for inviting me here to the Handwritten Girl blog today. As I write autumn has well and truly arrived, the rain is pouring down outside, and I think it’s high time for a chat about the cheering qualities of comfort food. Plus, apparently it’s Chocolate Week. I don’t know who invents these things, but I’m glad they do. So, let’s get to it.

My latest novel, The Seafront Tea Rooms, is about the joy of finding a special hideaway that you only want to share with the closest of friends. Letty’s tea rooms on the windswept South Bay in Scarborough are a haven for Kat, Charlie and Seraphine, three very different women who’ve all reached a crossroads in their lives. What brings them together? Well, one of the things is a love of good cake. Seraphine is an au pair from France, whose passion for pastry-making has been with her since childhood, Charlie is an enthusiastic food critic, and Kat is a talented baker who has shelved her ambitions since having her young son.

They band together to help Charlie write an article about Britain’s best tea rooms, and from York to Whitby sample freshly baked scones and delectable raspberry macaroons. One of my favourite afternoon tea treats are Florentines – the mix of delicate ingredients with a good dose of chocolate. The great thing about these is that whether you’re a perfectionist who ends up with perfect discs, or a novice baker who doesn’t mind a few rough edges, they will end up tasting just as good.

Enjoy!

Love, Vanessa x

Charlie’s Deliciously Indulgent Florentines

90 g/2 ½ oz butter
100 g/4 oz caster sugar
100 g/4 oz flaked almonds, chopped
50 g/2 oz sultanas
6 glace cherries, chopped
25 g/1 oz cut mixed peel
15 ml/1 tbsp single cream
175 g/6 oz plain chocolate
Oven: 350 ºF/180 ºC/Mark 4 for 10 minutes

Makes 12 Florentines

You’ll also need: three baking sheets, parchment paper, palette knife/spatula.

1. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Melt the butter in a large pan and stir in the sugar. Boil them together for one minute, then remove the pan from the heat.

3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, except for the chocolate.

4. Drop small rounded heaps of the mixture on to the baking sheet, keeping them far apart, one in each corner, as they will spread quite a lot.

5. Bake until they are golden.

6. Using your palette knife or spatula, nudge the Florentines into their classic circular shape, then leave them to harden for five minutes.

7. Transfer them to a wire rack, taking care not to break them.

8. Leave them to cool.

9. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

10. Coat the flat side of each Florentine with chocolate, then trace a fork over it to make the distinctive wavy pattern.

11. Leave them to set.

Blondie Cupcakes

Blondie cupcakes are brownies with white chocolate.

Makes 12 Cupcakes

100g butter
300g white chocolate
100g macadamia nuts or hazelnuts
3 eggs
100g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

1. Line one or two 12-hole cupcake trays with paper cases and preheat the oven to 170C /325F /Gas 3.
2. In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of hot water, gently melt the butter and 200g of the chocolate, remembering that white chocolate burns easily. Keep an eye on it and stir often.
3. Roughly chop the remaining the 100g of white chocolate and the macadamia nuts and set aside. Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate/butter mix.
4. Sieve in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold through. Gently stir in the remaining chocolate and nuts.
5. Divide the mix among the paper cases and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack and then serve.

You can buy The Seafront Tea Rooms from Amazon and is also available to buy from good bookshops.