It was probably inevitable that one day I would write a series set on a farm or small holding, because I grew up in the countryside, six miles from the nearest town, surrounded by farmland, on a few acres of land where my parents built their own home.

We were always surrounded by animals. We started out like most other people, with dogs and cats, but even that was taken further than the average family, and we ended up with seven dogs at one point. It was partly because my dad was a soft touch and when he took my sister and I to pick a puppy from a litter of Jack Russells, we wanted different ones. So, Dad being Dad, we came home with both! We’d also take in dogs that other people no longer wanted, including a beautiful Great Dane pup who was given almost no chance of surviving, so the breeder couldn’t sell her. She came to live with us and was aptly named Chance. My dad tried to insist he didn’t want another dog, but she became his devoted companion. She’d sit next to him while he was working at his desk, leaning her head on his knee. Sadly, before she was even two years old, Chance’s heart gave out. When she died, it was the only time in my life I saw my father cry, sobbing at the loss of the sidekick that had been his shadow since the day she’d moved in.

Along with the cats and dogs, we had chickens and horses – lots of horses – and my sister competed in showjumping competitions at a national level. We even ended up delivering a foal, when our parents went out for the evening. It was pre-mobile phones, so we couldn’t call them to come home, and there was no chance of Googling how on earth to deliver a foal. So, we stood in the stable, my sister at the business end and me with an Encyclopedia Britannica looking up how to get help the foal out safely. Things got a bit James Herriot at one point, with the encyclopedia dumped unceremoniously on to a pile of straw, but we did it.

We also helped the local sheep farmer to care for abandoned lambs in the spring. They’d come to us if their mothers rejected them, or didn’t make it through the delivery. I remember coming home from school and seeing lambs sitting in front of the gas fire, drying off, after being bathed by my mum. It was as normal for us as seeing a dog sitting there. We’d feed the lambs special formula milk, from re-purposed wine bottles with teats on the end, even getting up to do night time feeds.

We had loads of cherry trees and we picked cherries by the bucket load. My mum was always baking or cooking, and she was nicknamed Ma Larkin for her ability to put on a spread at the drop of a hat. There was one bus a day to the nearest town and no guarantee that it would be coming back again; it really was a Darling Buds of May existence. It all seemed so normal back then and I’m sure we took it for granted, but I think that idyllic upbringing was bound to influence my writing in ways I wasn’t even aware of.

I’ve undoubtedly recreated pieces of my childhood in the series and, if you decide to read One Last Summer at Seabreeze Farm, I really hope you enjoy it.

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  • Exercise is a waste of time. It takes several marathons to burn off one banana so save yourself the effort. Don’t eat bananas. Bananas make you slip up!
  • Every other day put a ping pong ball in your mouth and keep it there for twelve hours.
  • Never eat breakfast. Save your breakfast calories for chocolate.
  • Sleep less. Stay up two hours later every night. Insomniacs burn more calories than sloths.
  • Fidgets are thinner. Tap your feet and drum roll your fingers at every opportunity.

Quote from Mr B. ‘It’s not rocket science, a ten-year-old zounderkite can follow my diets.’

Disclaimer from Clara King, manager of the Bluebell Cliff Hotel – currently rolling her eyes in horror.

‘The views expressed above are Mr B’s only and certainly DO NOT reflect the official ethos of the Bluebell Cliff Hotel or any of its employees.’

‘Independent advice should always be taken when beginning a weight loss regime.’

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Have you ever wanted to lose weight for an important occasion? Yes, me too. And this is the challenge that Ruby Lambert has in book five of my Bluebell Cliff series. When a friend asked me if I had done much research for this book I could honestly say I’d spent my whole life researching it.

I LOVE food, but I’m not so keen on being overweight so I’ve lost weight (and put it back on again, countless times). I’m not a fan of gyms either, at least not the kind that mean you have to work out in public! I prefer the anonymity of my back room!

Ruby Lambert, my heroine, is only 34, but she put on two and a half stone after the birth of her gorgeous son. She’s on a mission to lose weight because in four month’s time she is chief bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding. Being the kind of girl who doesn’t do anything by halves, Ruby decides to join Booty Busters, a swanky new diet and exercise club that’s just started at The Bluebell Cliff Hotel.

Calorie counted meals cooked by the infamous Mr B, the fabulous chef at The Bluebell, and an exclusive cardio programme designed by You Tube sensation, Saskia York – surely this is a recipe for success.  What could possibly go wrong?

Lots, of course. If you’ve read any of this series, you’ll know that where Mr B is involved trouble will surely follow – even if it is trouble that’s very entertaining. He might be a fabulous chef but he’s also a conspiracy theorist who can’t resist winding people up.

Ruby and her fellow ‘Booty Busters’ including new grandmother, Dana, young mum, Becky, and Harry, a local multi-millionaire whose wife blackmailed him to join Booty Busters, are on a mission but the path of weight loss doesn’t run smoothly.

Something’s amiss at Booty Busters. Rivalry between Mr B and Saskia York threatens to sabotage the slimmers’ goals.

Are the meals too good to be true?

Will Mr B and Saskia ever see eye to eye?

Will Harry and his wife sort out their marital difficulties?

And will the people who are keeping the biggest secrets ever get rumbled?

Both Ruby and Harry discover that if it looks too good to be true it probably is and getting back on your feet when your world has been knocked sideways, isn’t just something that happens in an exercise class!

I had the best fun writing this story which is set in my home, fabulous Dorset. Corfe Castle, Chesil Beach and Durdle Door are the backdrop.

There are elements of every weight loss club and exercise class I’ve ever been to included. It’s the perfect antidote to dieting, I promise.

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The summer wedding season will soon be here.

My new book, Villa of Second Chances out on March 1st, is set mainly in Antibes on the French Riviera and also in Dartmouth Devon.

Freya and Marcus, having divorced several years ago, are re-marrying at the Villa Sésame a luxury wedding venue and whilst not re-enacting their original wedding, the bridesmaids and the best man have arrived to do their duties for a second time. But circumstances have changed and people are different this time and the wedding party arriving from England bring their own problems with them.

These days it seems lots of people marry more than once – some multiple times. But it’s unusual to hear of someone remarrying their ex. Or is it? According to one American report I read, 10% to 15% of divorced couples will get back together again.

Anyone planning to remarry their ex this summer, will need to be sure both of you are making this new commitment for the right reasons because it won’t be easy. Statistically speaking, the odds are against you as second marriages end in divorce more often than first marriages. According to Psychology Today 60% of remarriages fail and the couple end up getting divorced again. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton are probably one of the most famous couples to prove this statistic. Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson also come to mind, remarrying and divorcing twice. But if you think remarrying one’s own ex-spouse following divorce is limited to celebrities and larger-than-life personalities, you’d be surprised to know just how many people living a normal day to day existence, have taken a second chance with their ex.

Marriage in general though appears to be a good thing! The Office for National Statistics in the UK have discovered in a first study of its kind, that a happy marriage really is the key to a longer and healthier life. The report supports findings from several previous studies which shows married people often live longer, healthier and happier lives. Experts believe that this is because partners look out for their loved ones, urging them to get health check-ups whenever an illness or condition emerges.

Although the wedding is central to the plot Villa of Second Chances, the story is about more than that. It’s a story about friendship, guilt, lost opportunities and so much more. I do hope you enjoy it.

My grand-daughter got married last September and this is the cake my daughter made for her. Isn’t it beautiful?

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Happy Annie Valentine’s Day!

Annie Valentine is back! Thanks to the lovely people at Boldwood, The Personal Shopper has had a makeover. I hope new readers will love Annie and previous readers will remember her fondly.

So, a little bit about her… At first glance, Annie is one of those wonderfully pulled together women, who is doing it all. She has a glamorous job styling the rich and famous at London’s flagship fashion destination, The Store. Her two children are at a London private school. Her wardrobe is a gorgeous confection of swishy designer day dresses with all the accessories – delightful shoes, delectable bags and classy sunglasses.

But really, she’s much more down-to-earth than she may appear. She’s a single Mum struggling to pay all the bills and meet all the endless emotional demands. She’s a born fixer, who can’t really bear not to give advice to a troubled friend, take care of a relative, and, of course, help someone to find the outfit that’s going to give them the confidence boost they need to get that pay rise, make the big impression, or take the brave leap into a new direction.

And that’s what her clients, her friends and her family love about her – she really cares and wants to make not just your wardrobe, but your life better.

In the course of the story, she finally faces her own big problems too and starts to make things better for herself. I don’t mind telling you that, at its core, this is a second-time-around love story.

There’s also a lot of fashion! I kind of love fashion, and spent much of my teens reading and re-reading copies of Vogue and Elle, but I am more of a fashion spectator than a player. I can recognise and appreciate the craftsmanship in a Chanel jacket, a Versace blouse, a Mulberry bag, but really, I always find the price tags just far too breath-taking.

So, Annie’s world is fantasy fashion fiction. And I know readers have enjoyed that about it too. Like watching Sex In The City and its latest incarnation And Just Like That – it’s glorious to see what the girls are wearing, but I won’t be walking down the pavements of Glasgow in those outfits anytime soon!

Though I will admit that spending time with Annie always inspires me to pull myself together just a little bit more: style the hair, apply the mascara, take the best coat and scarf out of the wardrobe. I hope she will make you smile and enjoy your day just that little bit more.


What would Annie do?

Annie, it’s February, the weather is terrible, and I’m completely depressed. I don’t even want to leave the house, let alone get dressed up.

There are some days when clothes have to be your insulation against not just the cold, but the world. You need comfortable boots and a big enveloping coat that together keep out the wind and the wet. But make sure you pick a lovely scarf from your cupboard – one that feels soft and comforting and is in your favourite colour. Try to find a hat that suits you and gives you some hope when you put it on, not one that makes you feel like a smurf. Tinted lip balm and comforting gloves will both help. Then when you’re outside, listen for birdsong. Honestly, the birds are already singing and flirting. They know that Spring is ahead.

Annie – help! After two years of WFH, I have to go back into the office and nothing fits! I can’t close a single waistband; my boobs are bursting out of my blouses. What do I do?

First of all, don’t panic!  Post-lockdown office wear has completely changed. You’ll find the CEO has replaced his shirt and tie with a t-shirt and jeans, and it’s now totally fine to wear soft, stretchy trousers with a nice cardigan. Concentrate on your ‘barely there’ make up and ramp up your earring-and-necklace game. You can sew little hooks into the blouse gap, if that works for you; or just put a nice vest top under and open the blouse one button lower. Do not underestimate the power of a gorgeous, multi-coloured, swishy and voluminous day dress. Everyone is doing them, from M&S, to H&M and all the letters in between. Literally all your colleagues will not see any extra lockdown poundage and instead, will ask all day long: ‘I love that dress, where did you get it?’

Annie, do I now need to carry two handbags at all times?

Oh, I know, where SJP leads, we will all follow. To be honest, I love the practicality of carrying not just one, but two handbags. Make one a cute and dinky one for your phone, keys and lippie. Then bag number two can be an elegant, but much more practical beast for laptop, book, groceries, nappies, kitchen sink etc. etc. That way when you are standing outside your front door in a howling gale, the keys are in the small bag, halleluiah! And there’s no need to dumpster dive into the big one.

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