The Thirty List by Eva Woods

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What’s it all about:

Everyone has one.
That list.
The things you were supposed to do before you turn thirty.

Jobless, broke and getting a divorce, Rachel isn’t exactly living up to her own expectations. And moving into grumpy single dad Patrick’s box room is just the soggy icing on top of her dreaded thirtieth birthday cake.

Eternal list-maker Rachel has a plan – an all new set of challenges to help her get over her divorce and out into the world again – from tango dancing to sushi making to stand-up comedy.

But as Patrick helps her cross off each task, Rachel faces something even harder; learning to live – and love – without a checklist.

First of all, I want to say a MASSIVE thank you for being asked to be a part of this tour. As well as my review, the wonderful Eva has done a guest post and given me her guide to surviving 50 dates in one year so without further ado, I’ll hand over to Eva…..

2013 was a bad year for me. I got divorced, I got fired, and I dated with a man who had 40 cuddly toys and a collection of videos about the Third Reich. I’d hoped 2014 would be better, but it started with my boyfriend, who I’d just moved in with, suddenly announcing he was moving to Scotland, and so I was once again single and had nowhere to live.

I decided I was sick of things that didn’t work out. There must be lots of eligible men in London- I would just date until I found someone. Accordingly, I got myself onto Guardian Soulmates, and filled out all my vital stats, tried to find some photos where I wasn’t clutching  a drink, and wrote out a hopefully witty yet informative profile. Online dating is a bit like being let loose in a sweetshop -hundreds of people, who you know are single, and in theory must at least like the sound of you if they’ve sent a message.

My first date was a playwright, and it was fine until I said this phrase:  ‘Of course, cannibalism is really on trend right now’.  I meant in a literary sense, but I never heard from him again. However, I didn’t mind too much as he’d turned up in a dirty jumper. So perhaps this dating thing was going to be harder than I thought. Lesson -one don’t mention cannibalism on dates.

Number two date was with a journalist. I realised I wasn’t ready to be dating when he dumped me by email and I cried in a Pret a Manger. When I told my friend that, she said she’d also once cried in a Pret and got a free coffee, but I didn’t. Less two – I had no coffee and I was almost definitely going to die alone.

But I soldiered on and went on date three, during which I heard myself say, the phrase ‘so what’s your favourite software programme?’ After this I thought I needed a bit of a change, so I tried OKCupid, a free site. I met up with a stand-up comedian ( I really do like those creative types) and there was an immediate spark. I really liked this guy, but it all had to end when my grandfather died and he told me ‘you shouldn’t be sad, it’s not sad when old people die.’

After that things lost their sparkle a bit. Once you’ve had the heady feeling of really liking someone, it’s hard to go back. There was the one where we didn’t like each other on sight. On the way home I was so disheartened I bought and ate a packet of chocolate covered wasabi peas. There was the one whose cat bit me on the hand, there was the one who turned out to be the ex of a friend (the hazards of online dating), there was the one who wore denim cut-off shorts on the date. There was the journalist I had a great date with, who lent me a book to discuss ‘next time we meet up’, then never got in touch or answered my messages. There was the guy who took me to the zoo in the depths of winter and spent twenty minutes taking pictures of naked mole rats (look them up, it’s not pretty). There was the twenty-five year old, and the forty-three year old. There were dates of all kinds, some horrible, some brilliant, some hilarious, some hilariously bad.

All in all, I dated fifty people last year. That seems like a lot, but it’s all too possible what with online dating and apps like Tinder. Many were lovely, some were awful, but I never got past six dates with anyone. Sometimes this was just to do with timing, or circumstances, like one of us meeting someone else. Sometimes I have no idea what happened. It’s now almost a year later, and I feel l’ve learned a lot. Mostly that dating both is and isn’t a numbers game. Yes, it will help if you get out there and meet people. But only if you’re in the right frame of mind for it, and you’re picking the right people, and you can approach each person with an open mind and heart. I also learned that you should give people a chance – I’ve had great dates with people I’d almost written off – and maybe even a second chance. But not a third. My final piece of advice is this –  however bad your date is, don’t eat chocolate covered wasabi peas…

Review

Book provided by Mills & Boon via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

OUT NOW!

I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK.

As an eternal list maker myself, the moment I read the blurb I just knew I had to have this book. The second Mills & Boon sent me a copy, I got lost in Rachel’s world and refused to come back to my own until I’d finished.

We start the book at Eva’s wedding, a moment that every woman dreams of, right? The day that is supposed to be your Happy Ever After? Well what magazines fail to tell you, is that as Rachel discovers, there is also that crippling fear as you’re stood at the top of the aisle, knowing that all eyes will be on you, knowing that this is it, the moment you marry your love and you’re with them FOREVER. But with her dad by her side, she makes it down the aisle towards her beloved and gets married.

Two years later, Rachel is getting divorced. At 30, she is now having to start all over again which is a depressing thought really, but she muddles along with the help of her two best friends, Emma and Cynthia, and has to start finding her feet again. The first step is house hunting. Rachel’s thoughts about house hunting, like many things in the book, are set out in list form and this is where I really started to giggle to myself, especially when she refers to estate-agent speak where ‘charming means one step up from the gutter and simple means not much more than a cardboard box.’ Eva Woods is so on point with her true to life observations that I found myself nodding along with her frequently.

Finally, Rachel hits the jackpot when she finds Patrick who is looking for someone to flat share for free, as long as she helps look after the dog and house because he works so much.

So with a new place to live, Rachel just has to learn to function again on her own, which is when her friends step in with a new list for her. A list to avoid the post-split pre-divorce slump. A list that includes many things along the lines of ‘try an extreme sport’, ‘eat something weird, and ‘sleep with a stranger’. 

I can tell you now that as she ticks off each item (or almost ticks them off in some cases), there are many hilarious outcomes, but what I loved the most as the story went on, was the friendship she formed with Patrick and his son, Alex. The bond between them grows and they begin to help each other get over their respective splits, Patrick writing his own list and they promise to support each other with each item.

I absolutely adored Patrick. There wasn’t a single point in the book where I didn’t want more of him! The chemistry between Rachel and Patrick is brilliant and a part of me wishes there could have been more scenes with the two of them rather than Emma and Cynthia, or just longer scenes with the pair. There is a part where they go on holiday together for example and I wish that had been a bit longer but overall, there’s nothing that I would grumble about or change.

A fantastic romantic comedy debut by a wonderful author (one who also writes crime as Claire McGowan FYI) and one who I will be keeping an eye on in the future….especially if the future brings more Patrick 😉

A perfect summer read for when you’re relaxing by the pool or sunbathing in your back garden, so from me it’s…..

5 STARS

Buy the book on Amazon UK

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Website: ink-stains.co.uk

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About Eva

Eva Woods

Eva Woods lives in London, where she writes and teaches creative writing. She likes wine, pop music, and holidays, and thinks online dating is like the worst board game ever invented.

BLOG TOUR! Return to Bluebell Hill by Rebecca Pugh

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What it’s all about:

As sweet and satisfying as strawberries and cream! This British summertime, get out in the garden with Rebecca Pugh’s sparkling debut novel.

Home is where the heart is…

Jessica McAdams has never belonged anywhere; never truly felt at home. Of course, what did she expect from parents who never made her feel welcome in her own house? Leaving her life in London to return home to the charming country village of Bluebell Hill is harder than she thought. Especially as she never considered she’d be returning under such heart wrenching circumstances…

Clearing out the stunning and imposing Bluebell House after her parents’ death is difficult for Jessica—they never had the best relationship and now it’s too late. Yet spending time in the house that was never a home, having afternoon tea with dear old friend Esme—and sharing hot, sizzling kisses with delectable gardener Rueben!—opens Jessica’s eyes to the potential of Bluebell House… Could this big old, beautiful manor really be her forever home? Is Bluebell Hill where her heart is, has always been?

Jessica soon dares to dream of her very own home with delicious Rueben by her side. But when a deep, dark secret of Bluebell House is unearthed, Jessica’s world is turned upside down…

Will Jessica ever find where her heart truly lies?

An emotional tale of self-discovery, taking chances and romance! Rebecca’s unique British voice feels like coming home again and again.

Firstly, I’d like to thank the wonderful Carina UK for allowing me to take part and for providing me with a copy of Return to Bluebell Hill. I’m truly honoured to be taking part in Becca’s tour for her debut and couldn’t be happier that this is my very first blog tour.

Review

I’ve known Rebecca for some time now thanks to her blog, Becca’s Books, and felt like a proud parent when she announced that Carina UK had signed her as one of their authors. There couldn’t be a more perfect pairing and from the moment the title was announced, I knew that this was going to be one of those books where:

1. I wasn’t going to be able to stop staring at the cover; and

2. I was going to get grabby hands and need to read it ASAP!

Imagine my delight when I was told I was on the tour!! Elated isn’t the word and the moment I got home from work, I got lost in Bluebell Hill, only coming up for air when completely necessary.

Return to Bluebell Hill follows Jessica McAdams as she returns to her childhood home after the death of her parents and is given the task of emptying and selling the property. Jessica left Bluebell Hill when she was 18 and hasn’t looked back. Her relationship with her parents wasn’t the best – she was raised by the nanny, Esme – and when she did leave, they didn’t come after her. If I could pluck characters from the pages of books, Esme would be one that I would happily turn into a real person and have cosy afternoon tea with every single day. She is THE CUTEST!

Her plan to empty and sell Bluebell House so that she can return to her life in London as soon as possible don’t go according to plan, mainly thanks to the delicious gardener of Bluebell House, Rueben. Rueben, Rueben, Rueben, where do I begin? Handsome, patient, Rueben whose kisses could make even the hardest of souls go weak at the knees. The chemistry between the pair is there from the start and the fact that he makes her feel so at ease during such a life changing and soul destroying time makes you cheer their relationship on. He is her rock in so many ways while she clears the house and when the pair are together, you can’t help but smile. And that’s what happens so often throughout this book, you find yourself sat there smiling because the world you’re pulled into makes you feel genuinely happy.

The characters Rebecca has created are ones that you can’t help but wish were real. You yearn to talk to them long after the book has finished, you want them in your life for just one more chapter!

There are a couple of twists and turns for the lovely Jessica and you can’t help but want the best for her. You want her to be able to put old ghosts to rest and feel like she can let others in, you will her to stay in Bluebell Hill and leave her life in London so that she can marry Rueben and have millions of babies with him but that’s just me ha. But seriously, I would be thrilled if we could see the pair again. Hint hint Rebecca 😉

Overall, I can’t recommend this book enough. If you want a summer read that will keep you wondering until the very last moment, that you can lose yourself completely in and is a beautiful debut from a talented young author, then Return to Bluebell Hill is the one for you.

5 STARS

Buy the book on Amazon NOW – UK / US

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Keep up with the tour here:

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About Rebecca

Becca latest

Rebecca Pugh grew up in the green county of Shropshire, with a mind full of fairy-tales and happy endings. Enchanted by true love and Disney Princesses, she decided that no matter what life threw her way, she’d continue to see the world through a child’s eyes. Through the pages of countless books, her adoration of reading blossomed, and it didn’t take long for her to fall under the spell of hundreds of authors’ words.

Now, Rebecca’s own story has taken a fairy-tale like turn, and at 22, her dream has come true. With her faithful companions: Bonnie the dog, her partner, and her gigantic family by her side, Rebecca is ready to share her stories with readers who enjoy falling in love and losing themselves within beautiful, fictional worlds.
Rebecca Pugh is the author of women’s fiction and romance, her all-time favourite genres. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good swoon?