Review | What Are Friends For? by Lizzie O’Hagan

A modern take on Cyrano. 3.5/5 stars.

What Are Friends For by Lizzie O'Hagan book cover

Thank you to Headline for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Eve doesn’t have time for dating, but having watched her best friend and flatmate have her heart broken one too many times, she reluctantly volunteers to play her Cupid.

Max is too much of a hopeless romantic to find the algorithms of online dating anything other than clinical, but he lives with his romantically-challenged best friend who desperately needs his advice.

And after all, what are friends for?

As Eve and Max become more involved in their best friends’ relationship, they quickly realise there is a fine line between instruction and imitation, especially when they find they can’t stop thinking about their best friend’s date…

My take:

The premise of this book is great. It’s a modern-day take on Cyrano de Bergerac, and the use of text exchanges between the lovers is engaging and lively. The settings for the dates were well-described, and there was a pub that I – and probably most book-lovers – would love to visit. Aside from the romantic relationships, I particularly enjoyed the friendships, especially seeing a close friendship between two men (Max and Tom) depicted in first person.

However, I would warn those looking for a rom com, this is really more a story about friendship and dealing with loneliness, self-doubt and grief than a light love story.

Continue reading…

UK book bargain alert: Art and Soul just 99p! #indieauthor #ArtandSoul #RomanceBooks

UK readers! Are you looking for a light, cheerful read?

Then grab a 99p bargain at Amazon UK!

Art and Soul novel book cover contemporary romance uplit

My debut novel, Art and Soul is only 99p on Amazon UK until 24th June.

Why should I read it? If you want a happy, easy-to-read romance to escape into, please give Art and Soul a try. I promise the story will provide some light relief.

The blurb: An expert at solving other people’s problems, single mum Becky is hired to help artist Charlie get out of his creative slump. But when she starts falling for her client, will she be able to fix her own love life?

Reviews so far: I’m delighted to say that readers are enjoying it!

40 four and five star reviews from Amazon UK customers for Art and Soul by Claire Huston

My favourite so far:

Knickergripping review for Art and Soul by Claire Huston

Don’t miss out on the chance to bag a “knickergripping story” for just 99p! Pop over to Amazon UK and treat yourself to a bargain. And if you’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, you can download the book for free.

International readers: I’ll be running a wider sale in July. I haven’t forgotten you!

Thank you!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

Review | The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael

A great romantic short story.

The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael

The blurb:

My take:

Having taken his long-suffering girlfriend for granted one too many times, Kurt finds himself dumped. When the usual heartfelt apologies and begging fail to win her back he decides to make a grand gesture. And that’s how he ends up reading from Wuthering Heights every day outside the local train station. But will it work?

This is a terrific, romantic short story. It’s something you could download and read on your lunchbreak or even in your tea break for you speed-readers out there. It’s well-written, flows beautifully and is peppered with some lovely comedic touches.

Continue reading…

Thank you and book update. A quiet lockdown launch for Art and Soul… with cake!

Art and Soul an uplifting contemporary romance novel by Claire Huston book cake 2
Yes, the enormous book in the middle is, in fact, a cake!

Like many authors, I always hoped to have a small party to celebrate the publication of my debut novel, Art and Soul. Like everyone, I didn’t expect lockdown. But, even if she only has 4 people to feed, you can’t keep a baker down. And with a good excuse to make a giant cake, I made one!

Art and Soul an uplifting contemporary romance novel by Claire Huston book cake 3

Here’s another picture of it sliced, just to prove it really was a cake. Two large layers of simple sponge cake with vanilla buttercream and then an edible customised topper which I ordered online.

And if you’re wondering where I am… ta-dah!

Art and Soul an uplifting contemporary romance novel by Claire Huston book cake (2)

Sorry I look so squinty, but it was a beautiful bright day so at least we got to eat cake in the garden.

Blog Tour thanks

Thank you to all the bloggers who took part in the blog tour for Art and Soul and, of course, to Rachel Gilbey for doing such a wonderful job in organising it all. Their reviews are brilliant and I’m thrilled they enjoyed the book, with many of them finding it was exactly the sort of cheerful distraction they needed at the moment.

Thank you too!

And thank you everyone for your kind words, sharing the message the book was out and, indeed, to those of you who bought or downloaded a copy. I really appreciate it.

If you have read and enjoyed Art and Soul, if you can, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It does make a huge difference to how visible the book is to other readers.

Still a book bargain!

If you like contemporary romance and are looking for an uplifting story, I’d be delighted it you would give Art and Soul a try. And/or tell your romance-reading friends about it!

The ebook is still only 99p / $0.99 on Amazon or free to read with Kindle Unlimited.

And/or if you could add the book to your to-read shelf on Goodreads, I’d be very grateful.

Art and Soul contemporary romance novel cover by Claire Huston a heartwarming uplifting romance

Thank you again! I hope you’re all keeping safe and well.

Next week, normal service will resume with a recipe post 🙂

Get your copy of Art and Soul now!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

Happy Publication Day! New #ContemporaryRomance, Art and Soul by @ClaraVal, out today! Ebook just 99p/$0.99! #ArtandSoul #RomanceBooks

Happy publication day to me!

Art and Soul novel book cover contemporary romance uplit
My debut novel, Art and Soul, is out today!

If you are fond of contemporary romance and looking for an uplifting story, please give my book a try.

The ebook is only 99p (or $0.99) on Amazon. so go on, treat yourself, a family member or a friend today!

And/or if you could add the book to your to-read shelf on Goodreads, I’d be very grateful.

Here’s the cover, the blurb and a bit about the blog tour which starts today and runs until the end of April.

P.S. For those of you who are only here for the cake and biscuits, normal service will resume soon! I promise! 🙂

The blurb:
There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…

Struggling single mother Becky Watson longs to revive her career as a life-fixer, working miracles to solve her clients’ problems, no matter how big or small. Since the birth of her two-year-old son she has been stuck preventing wedding fiascos for the richest and rudest residents of the Comptons, a charming, leafy area of southern England known for its artistic heritage.

So when semi-reclusive local artist Charlie Handren reluctantly hires Becky to fix his six-year creative slump, she’s delighted to set him up with a come-back exhibition and Rachel Stone, the woman of his dreams.

Though they get off to a rocky start, Becky and Charlie soon become close. But as the beautiful Rachel becomes Charlie’s muse, Becky is forced to wonder: will giving Charlie everything he wants mean giving up her own happily ever after?

A heart-warming, uplifting romance served with a generous slice of cake.

The blog tour!

Thank you to all the amazing bloggers taking part in the tour for Art and Soul. Special thanks to the fantastic Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources who organized the tour.

I’ll be doing my best to share everyone’s posts on my other social media accounts. Thank you again to everyone for your support!

Get your copy of Art and Soul now!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

Author Interview: Claire Huston @ClaraVal

I’m delighted to be featured on Esther’s brilliant blog today to talk about my debut novel, Art and Soul (which comes out next Thursday, 23rd April – eeek!), writing and baking (of course!).

You can read the whole interview by following the link to Esther’s blog and the original post blow 🙂


It’s a pleasure to introduce you to Claire Huston. I met Claire at an author meet-up a little while ago and was very interested to hear about her forthcoming book.

Q. Your first book, Art and Soul, is due out on April 23rd this year. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

A.Art and Soul is an uplifting, contemporary romance featuring love, art and cake.

The main character, struggling single mother Becky Watson, longs to revive her career as a life-fixer, working miracles to solve her clients’ problems, no matter how big or small. Since the birth of her two-year-old son she has been stuck preventing wedding fiascos for the richest and rudest residents of the Comptons, a charming, leafy area of southern England known for its artistic heritage.

So when semi-reclusive local artist Charlie Handren reluctantly hires Becky to fix his six-year creative slump…

View original post 740 more words

Review | Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

I honestly don’t think she’s capable of writing a bad book. 4/5.

Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

The blurb: Hallie has a secret. She’s in love. He’s perfect for her in every way, but he’s seriously out of bounds. And her friends aren’t going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie doesn’t have long to live. Time is running out…

Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won’t be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends – let alone anything more.

Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she’s afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.

Three Amazing Things About You begins as Hallie goes on a journey. A donor has been found and she’s about to be given new lungs. But whose?

My take:

I picked up this book in a local charity shop because I was in desperate need of a cheerful, lighter read. I’ve read about ten of Mansell’s books now and I’ve enjoyed all of them. So although I flicked through the first few pages before buying, just to double check I hadn’t read it before (my memory isn’t brilliant for titles and all the covers are very similar), I didn’t bother reading the blurb because I trust Mansell to entertain me with a good contemporary romantic tale and don’t feel the need to know exactly what’s going to happen.

The result of this was that I was already four or five chapters into the book and had been introduced to all the main characters and their love interests before I finally read the blurb… and was instantly on edge! In that short time I’d become quite attached to the characters and it was certainly an incentive to keep reading to find out which one of them was going to end up being an organ donor!

Mansell’s books usually present us with various heroines and heroes. This is a great tactic because you can be pretty sure that you’ll become deeply invested in at least one of the stories, if not all of them. For me, the highlight of the book was Hallie’s story. She was so likeable, I desperately wanted her to get her happy ending in terms of her health and love-life, and her story was well-paced.

Overall: another great contemporary romance from Jill Mansell. If you like this sort of thing, you can’t go wrong with any of her books!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul


3 Mini Reviews: Regency romance, farce and women’s fiction

Recently I read three books which I enjoyed but didn’t have enough to say about them to post a full review here. This is not a reflection on the books but rather on my lack of imagination! So here, in a few sentences, are my thoughts on the following books:

Three mini reviews

1. From Wallflower to Countess by Janice Preston. 4/5 stars.

From Wallflower to Countess by Janice Preston book coverThe blurb: click on the cover image to go to Goodreads and a description of the book.

My take:

In the interests of full disclosure, I know the author of this one! Jan is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a lovely lady. This is the first book published by Mills and Boon I’ve read, although I’m not sure how I got to my age without reading one!

As you may have guessed from the cover, this is an English romance set in the Regency period. If you’re a fan of the specific genre and/or romance in general, I highly recommend you read this book. It’s extremely enjoyable, easy-to-read escapism with likeable characters. A fun read. It also features that most elusive of things: well-written sex scenes!

2. The Second Chance Shoe Shop by Marcie Steel. 3/5 stars.
Continue reading…

Review | The Cake Shop in the Garden by Carole Matthews

Warm and sunny with a slice of cake. 4/5.

The Cake Shop in the Garden by Carole Matthews book cover

The blurb: Fay Merryweather runs her cake shop from her beautiful garden. She whips up airy sponges and scrumptious scones, while her customers enjoy the lovely blossoms and gorgeous blooms. Looking after the cake shop, the garden and her cantankerous mother means Fay is always busy but she accepts her responsibilities because if she doesn’t do all this, who will? Then Danny Wilde walks into her life and makes Fay question every decision she’s ever made. When a sudden tragedy strikes, Fay’s entire world is thrown off balance even further and she doesn’t know which way to turn. Can Fay find the strength to make a life-changing decision – even if it means giving up the thing she loves the most?

My take:

The Cake Shop in the Garden was exactly what I needed to read on a unseasonably cold, grey, wet day. This book is sunny, sweet and romantic: ideal escapism if you’re having a tough time. It’s a fun, light read which made me smile a lot and laugh out loud a couple of times too.

I did have some problems with the first-person narrator, Fay. She’s extremely kind, caring and loyal… to the point of insanity. While these traits makes her likeable, they also make her a cake-baking doormat who needs a good shake on more than one occasion.

At three-quarters of the way through the story my frustration with Fay’s incomprehensible levels of selflessness were on the verge of becoming unbearable. Fortunately, Matthews knows exactly what she’s doing and this is exactly when she hits us with a huge surprise which shakes everything up and paves the way for a satisfying conclusion. I’m still reeling from just how good a shock it is. I can’t say more because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but you should know that a certain character’s actions made me gasp and say, “what a total bitch!” out loud. I had to put the book down for a second to roll my eyes and have a good huff. I promise you, you’ll be similarly outraged.

Overall: a must-read for fans of sunny contemporary romance with generous helpings of tea and cake.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

Review | You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell as reliable as always. 4/5.

You and Me Always by Jill Mansell book cover

Thank you again to Headline and Sonya over at A Lover of Books for my copy of You and Me, Always which I won through a competition on Sonya’s blog.

The blurb: On the morning of Lily’s twenty-fifth birthday, it’s time to open the very last letter written to her by her beloved mother, who died when she was eight.

Learning more about the first and only real love of her mum’s life is a revelation. On the same day, Lily also meets Eddie Tessler, a man fleeing fame who just might have the ability to change her world in unimaginable ways. But her childhood friend Dan has his own reasons for not wanting Lily to get too carried away by Eddie’s attentions.

Before long, secrets begin to emerge and Lily’s friends and family become involved. In the beautiful Cotswold village of Stanton Langley, nothing will ever be the same again...

My take:

When you’ve just read a creepy book about serial killers, what better than to go to the other end of the spectrum and pick up a contemporary romance? 🙂

This is Jill Mansell’s 27th book and was published at the end of January this year. I’ve now read 8 books by Mansell and I’ve found them all to be well-written and carefully-plotted with characters who jump off the page. I consider her work to be the high watermark in the contemporary romance genre and You and Me, Always maintains her high standards. This book is like a warm hug. It’s cosy, humorous and while the plot may be predictable it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

Overall: if you enjoy contemporary romance, I urge you to read Jill Mansell’s books. You and Me, Always is another good example of her excellent work!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul