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Second Chance Summer by Phillipa Ashley #Review

  I an delighted to be part of the celebrations for Phillipa Ashley's Summer novel, Second Chance Summer which was published by Penguin on June 6th. From the moment Lily Harper arrives at a remote retreat on the breath-taking Scilly Isles, she is itching to get back to civilisation - and her thriving business. Slowing Down simply isn't in her vocabulary, and so she quickly clashes with the gorgeous but dour Sam who runs the retreat. Just as Lily is about to give up and leave, disaster strikes, and she is involved in an incident that changes her perspective on everything. Lily is no longer sure she wants to return to the life she thought she loved. But will she have the courage to give the retreat, and Sam, a second chance? Praise for the Author ‘Full of genuine warmth and quirky characters’   Woman’s Own ‘Filled with warm and likeable characters. Great fun!’ Jill Mansell ‘Utterly glorious … one of the freshest voices to emerge in women's fiction today’   Cl

Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley #AuthorInterview

Today I am delighted to welcome author Simon Whaley to the blog today to talk about his debut novel. Blooming Murder and his writing life. Blooming Murder is a cosy mystery, the first in the Marquess of Montiforde series. Before we hear from Simon, here's a little about Blooming Murder


Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?


Welcome to Books, Life and Everything, Simon.

Blooming Murder is your first novel. Have you written much fiction before?

Yes! While Blooming Murder is my first published novel, I’ve a few early novels in my bottom drawer. However, I’ve also written many short stories, some of which were published in magazines, such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, That’s Life Fast Fiction and Yours.

Your amateur sleuth in Blooming Murder is Aldermaston, who is the Eighth Marquess of Mortiforde. Why did you decide to make Aldermaston a Marquess?

I’ll let you into a secret. Originally, Aldermaston was an independent local councillor, not a Marquess. I spent a few years working for Herefordshire Council, so I understand how local authorities work. I realized having an independent local councillor might be a superb job for an amateur sleuth, because people are always approaching their local councillors with their problems. And, with their local knowledge, a councillor knows where to go to get information.

But a couple of editors at different publishers gave me similar feedback, suggesting that readers wouldn’t find a local authority setting appealing. They liked the humorous style of the book, and suggested that having Lord or a Duke as my main character would not only add more humour, but be of more interest to readers.

In my research, I discovered that the title of Marquess was frequently awarded to nobility in the Scottish and Welsh Borders, and as my fictional town of Mortiforde is in the Welsh Borders, it seemed a perfect fit.

Where exactly are the Welsh Borders?

Do you know, so many people are unsure of exactly where the Welsh Borders are, which is a shame, because it is a truly beautiful part of Great Britain. The Welsh Borders is the name given to the English counties that border Wales (Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire) and the Welsh counties that border England (Flintshire, Powys, Monmouthshire).

Confusingly, they’re occasionally referred to as the Welsh Marches, because Marches is an old word for border region.

Why did you set your Mortiforde Mysteries in the Welsh Borders?

Well, as someone who lives in Shropshire, it’s my home turf! It’s a stunningly beautiful area, full of history and culture. And whenever I’m out walking in the sparsely populated countryside, I often think, “That isolated barn over there would make a great place to plan a crime,” or “There are no houses to be seen anywhere here - you could bury a dead body here and nobody would know!” Perhaps I shouldn’t admit that!

There are also practical considerations, too. Living in a rural area adds problems and challenges. There are many more mobile phone black spots in rural areas, which means getting help or backup isn’t always easy. Narrow, winding roads means getting anywhere takes time, even for police cars with sirens blaring. So, beacuse of this, people in rural communities are more resourceful. They come together to resolve problems, which is what my Mortiforde Mysteries celebrate, really: communities working together.

Aldermaston has an older brother, the eccentric Basildon. Why isn’t Basildon the Marquess?

Ah! When I was first toying with the idea of making Aldermaston a Marquess, I liked the idea that the title has been thrust upon him unexpectedly. He has a keen sense of duty, but because he has an older brother, he expected Basildon to inherit the title and the responsibility, and planned a more mundane life for himself.

During my research into British inherited titles, I discovered titles can’t be passed down to younger siblings if the oldest decides not to inherit it. So, I needed a way of making Aldermaston the eldest, without him being the eldest. I realised that Aldermaston’s elder brother needed to be his step-brother - a family secret that only became apparent upon the sudden death of his parents.

Blooming Murder opens just over a year after Aldermaston has been the Eighth Marquess, so he’s still learning how to be a Marquess, while also solving murders and keeping the local community together.

What do you do in your spare time, when you’re not writing?

I love exploring the Welsh Borders. Walking and photography are how I relax, and living in the Welsh Borders gives me plenty of opportunities to combine the two. I go for a walk every day, not just to stretch my legs, but to take photos and to think. Walking is great thinking time, and I frequently work out a plot problem I have while I’m out walking. If ever you get stuck on something, go out for a walk!

Where can people find out more about you?

I have a website ( where I put a lot of my work, especially articles I’ve had published in magazines, along with some of my Welsh Border observations. And I frequently share many of my photos on Twitter (@simonwhaley) and on Facebook (

About the Author

Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Book link: Amazon UK  | Amazon US

 Thanks to Simon Whaley and Rachel of Eachel's Random Resourcesfor  the interview and a place on the tour.  

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