Exclusive sneak-peek preview of My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas

Exclusive sneak-peek preview of My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas

We have an exclusive sneak-peek extract of the stunning new novel from award-winning author, Jo Thomas. Set in the sunny lemon groves of Sicily, My Lemon Grove Summer follows Zelda as she tries to find a second-chance.

Zelda’s impulsive nature has got her precisely nowhere up until now. A fresh start in a beautiful hilltop town in Sicily looking for new residents, together with her best friend Lennie, could be just what she needs. And who better to settle down with than the person who knows her best?

But the sun-filled skies and sparkling seas can’t hide the shadow hanging over Citta d’Ora, which means not everyone is pleased to see their arrival. The dreams Zelda and her fellow new residents had of setting up a new life might be slipping away. But a friendship with restauranteur Luca could be about to unlock the possibilities that lie in the local lemon groves. And there’s a wedding on the horizon that might be just what the town needs to turn it around…

Could a summer in Sicily help Zelda learn to trust her instinct and follow her heart?

Click here to read the first chapter of My Lemon Grove Summer

Click here to buy My Lemon Grove Summer

My Lemon Grove Summer

My Lemon Grove Summer is out in ebook on 6th June 2019 and in paperback and audio 11th July 2019

All I want for Christmas is… we hear from Graham Norton, Cate Woods, Jo Thomas and Olivia Beirne about which books are on the top of their wish list

All I want for Christmas is… we hear from Graham Norton, Cate Woods, Jo Thomas and Olivia Beirne about which books are on the top of their wish list

Can you believe that it is Christmas Day TOMORROW?! In the final blog as part of our Bookends Christmas author series, we asked Graham Norton, Cate Woods, Jo Thomas and Olivia Beirne, which books would you most like to find under the tree on Christmas morning?

A Keeper Graham Norton

Graham Norton, author of A Keeper

I still haven’t got around to reading Kate Atkinson’s new book Transcription or Normal People by Sally Rooney. I’m also very excited by the prospect of a new novel from David Nicholls next year!

More Than a Feeling Cate Woods

Cate Woods, author of More Than a Feeling

One of my favourite books of the year was Uprooted by Naomi Novik, a bewitching fairytale-inspired novel with a fantastic, kick-ass heroine, so I can’t wait to read Novik’s next book, Spinning Silver.

A Winter Beneath the Stars

Jo Thomas, author of A Winter Beneath the Stars

Milly Johnson’s The Mother of all Christmases. I love Milly’s books and I know this will get me right in the Christmas mood. 

The List That Changed My Life by Olivia Beirne cover

Olivia Beirne, author of The List That Changed My Life

So I never usually ask for specific books, I ask my family members to pick me out something (which we all tend to do for each other). Last Christmas our house was like a library. Saying that, I am really desperate to read Libby Page’s The Lido, Joe Heap’s The Rules of Seeing and Emma Cooper’s The Songs of Us.

From all of us here at Team Bookends, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A Winter Beneath the Stars – Jo Thomas | Friends of Bookends Reviews

A Winter Beneath the Stars – Jo Thomas | Friends of Bookends Reviews

We asked our Friends of Bookends panel what they thought of Jo Thomas’ latest winter warmer novel, A Winter Beneath the Stars. This is what they said . . .

Angela N

The weather turned whilst I was reading this book and that may be why I was shivering so much…or maybe it was the wonderfully wintery location
of this atmospheric story. Either way, I would advise you to grab a blanket before you read this as Jo Thomas’ descriptions of the frozen
North will definitely give you chills (even if your heating is turned up to maximum, and maybe even if you have a rugged reindeer herder to
keep you warm!)

Halley is a courier, hand-delivering precious objects around the world. She is less than thrilled to venture to the North of Sweden to deliver
wedding rings to two brides. Halley’s hopes of a quick drop-off and even quicker return to civilisation come a cropper when her bags are
switched with an enigmatic Swedish chef. (I was going to refer to him as the ‘Swedish Heston Blumenthal,’ until I realised that Blumenthal
actually sounds like a Swedish name anyway so, maybe not.) The only way for Halley to reunite with her bag is to join sexy reindeer-herder
Bjorn (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d use) on a trek across the ice.

‘This is a spirited story which deals with the themes of love and loss in a setting most of us can only imagine.’

Thomas’ descriptions of the scenery and the wildlife will certainly make you want to visit Sami country and, readers, beware! This book will make you hungry! So grab a blanket, some snacks and saddle up Rudolph – you’re in for a fun ride.

Angela W

A Winter Beneath The Stars is a perfect read for those cold, winter evenings.’

Halley is a courier and her current job takes her to Sweden to deliver some wedding rings.  When she loses her bag containing the rings she has to rely on reindeer herder Bjorn to get her back to her bag. The bag also contains her travel journal which her husband gave her and she is desperate to retrieve it.

A Winter Beneath the Stars

Bjorn is adorable and every time I read his name, I got an image of Kristoff from Frozen in my head. Although he was a lot more serious than Kirstoff, he still had this endearing quality underneath his harsh exterior which came out more as he got to know Halley and her reasons for always being on the move. He helps her come to terms with her past without feeling sorry for her and in-kind she helps him find a way to combine both his passion for cooking and his passion for his family’s reindeer herd.

The setting of Sweden was so beautifully described, I almost felt like I was there on the journey with them (although much warmer thankfully). It made me add Sweden to my list of places I want to visit, although I think I’ll stick with the hotels rather than a tent in the forest.

Lars was a great side character, he provided such humour and his belief in fate, just like his grandmother said. I’m glad he got a happy ending, even if it wasn’t with Halley.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will look forward to reading more from this author in the future.


I have read Jo Thomas’ The Oyster Catcher previously, and knew that the author obviously did methodical research for her books. This means you can fully immersed yourself in the story. This latest offering again showed a great deal of knowledge of the subject matter and the reader does learn a lot about the Sami and it’s culture. 

Sweden + Love = A Winter Beneath the Stars

However, it did seem after a while as though I was being lectured. The phrase ‘show don’t tell’ came to mind-there was too much telling. ‘Respect the animal’ was quoted too often,labouring the point. Both ‘reveals’ were telegraphed and Lars persistent pursuing was unconvincing, but he did add comic valve and was central to the plot. Bjorn was an enigma and it wasn’t difficult, despite their differences, to understand Halley’s growing attraction to him. United in grief and pain, the pair bonded, their layers of defence gradually being peeled away. Though the ending was never in doubt (part of the appeal of these stories is there assuring outcome) the journey the author took the reader on, was both educational and interesting.


This is the first Winter story from one of my favourite authors. It has a warm Christmassy feel and I romped through the story and found it easy to imagine I was in Swedish Lapland with Halley.

Jo Thomas’ characters are convincing, especially her strong heroine who turns her life around after the journey of a lifetime.Halley is a personal courier whose job involves taking exceptional care of packages which she delivers to the recipient. The crux of this story is that this is a job which goes badly wrong, throwing her future employment into doubt.She writes a daily diary, which she explains is for her husband to read and it is only later in the book we discover all is not as simple as this.

Her initial mistake could have cost her her job, livelihood and tipped her over the edge, but instead was cathartic and the happy ending was all the better for being eagerly anticipated.

I am sure there is further scope for the continuing adventures of Halley and her partner as they settle in to life with the reindeer, restaurant and blogging, instead of deliveries!

‘Relax with this novel, wrapped in a cosy blanket and with a hot chocolate at your side. It will provide an antidote to the feverish activities of Christmas preparations!’

Who’s the trickiest person to buy for on your Christmas list? Graham Norton, Joanna Bolouri, Jo Thomas and Joanna Nell fill us in!

Who’s the trickiest person to buy for on your Christmas list? Graham Norton, Joanna Bolouri, Jo Thomas and Joanna Nell fill us in!

From difficult dads, to best friends who already have everything – we all have someone on our Christmas present list who is impossible to buy for.

Luckily, some of our fabulous authors are here to share the trickiest names on their lists… and offer up some much-needed Christmas gifting inspiration!


Graham Norton, author of A Keeper

Some people are truly gifted when it comes to shopping for presents. I am not. My solution is to throw money at the problem so that while the gift may be unsuitable and disliked, it will at least be expensive so I can’t be accused of being ungenerous. My mother is always a challenge because whatever good ideas I might have had were all used up years ago.

Jo Thomas, author of A Winter Beneath the Stars

Hmmm, I think maybe my Mum. She always says she doesn’t want anything! And I always want to get her something she’d really enjoy. Usually I buy her books which I know she’ll enjoy, especially armchair travel ones.

Joanna Nell, author of The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village

My husband is always tricky to buy for, especially since he stopped wearing ties to work and shaved off his beard (who knew fancy beard products were a thing?). It’s the one time of the year when I wish he wasn’t such a “low maintenance man”. When I ask for ideas (we’re fairly pragmatic in our family), he reminds me that he already has more books on famous explorers than he has time to read, owns a shirt for every day of the week and the less said about that kite-surfing lesson I bought him one Christmas the better. This year I’ve decided to give my husband a voucher for dinner for two at our favourite restaurant. That way, hopefully I get to enjoy it too.

Joanna Bolouri, author of Relight My Fire

My dad, definitely.  He doesn’t like anything ‘specific’ so inevitably he gets something sensible from Marks and Spencer.

And for a gift that’s sure to be a winner, here are some brilliant new reads courtesy of our lovely authors!

 A Keeper Graham Norton Relight my fire  

Jo Thomas, Joanna Nell, Karen Cole and Olivia Beirne share their go-to Christmas dishes!

Jo Thomas, Joanna Nell, Karen Cole and Olivia Beirne share their go-to Christmas dishes!

Here at Bookends HQ, Christmas has come early as we ask a selection of our lovely authors to fill us in on their favourite festive dishes!

From pigs in blankets to advent calendar chocolates…
Keep reading if you want to feel seriously hungry!


Jo Thomas, author of A Winter Beneath the Stars

I always make a big Christmas chilli con carne for Christmas Eve. That way it doesn’t matter what time people arrive, dinner is simple and ready to go when we are!

Joanna Nell, author of The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village

The sweltering Australian Christmas takes some getting used to. I’m often homesick for England at this time of the year, and especially nostalgic for my gran’s homemade Christmas puddings (complete with traditional tooth-crumbling sixpence). My rudimentary skills in the kitchen could never match my grandmother’s so I don’t even try. Each year I buy a beautiful brandy and Macadamia nut pudding from a charity that raises money for a school in Uganda. I can pop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, which leaves plenty of time to swim and sip chilled champagne, my new Christmas day traditions.

Karen Cole, author of Deliver Me

I love Christmas food and my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I make a delicious cashew nut loaf and my mother-in-law makes great veggie sausage rolls. My mum’s Christmas pudding with my aunt’s brandy butter… I could go on!

Olivia Beirne, author of The List That Changed My Life

Oh my lord pigs in blankets. I’m obsessed with them. It was a testing Christmas the first year I wasn’t living with my parents and realised that nobody could stop me from buying twelve packets and eating them all whilst watching Miranda. I also love advent calendars (obviously) and think we should have them for every day of the year. I once wanted to be grown up and sophisticated (always a terrible idea) and insisted on buying a picture calendar (urgh). I aggressively cursed my smug past self for the following 24 days. 


Vive la France! Team Bookends' Frenchie picks

Vive la France! Team Bookends' Frenchie picks

In honour of the French election that took place this week, team bookends thought we’d carry on the theme and give you our picks of French-themed books!

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper

These Dividing Walls book jacket

One Parisian summer
A building of separate lives
All that divides them will soon collapse…

In a forgotten corner of Paris stands a building.

Within its walls, people talk and kiss, laugh and cry; some are glad to sit alone, while others wish they did not. A woman with silver-blonde hair opens her bookshop downstairs, an old man feeds the sparrows on his windowsill, and a young mother wills the morning to hold itself at bay. Though each of their walls touches someone else’s, the neighbours they pass in the courtyard remain strangers.

Into this courtyard arrives Edward. Still bearing the sweat of a channel crossing, he takes his place in an attic room to wait out his grief. But in distant corners of the city, as Paris is pulled taut with summer heat, there are those who meet with a darker purpose. As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37…

‘Confident and brilliant. She will immerse you in a world I dare you to turn away from.’ Lisa O’Donnell, author of The Death of Bees

I’m Still Here by Clélie Avit (Lucy Foster trans.)


I'm Still Here book jacket

A modern-day Sleeping Beauty story of love and hope, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes. ‘A rare and beautiful novel’ (Daily Mail)

Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family must face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support.

What they don’t know is that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness – she just has no way of telling them.

Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother and, seeking a retreat, finds his way into Elsa’s room. When he begins to talk to her, he doesn’t realise she can hear every word – and that he is giving her a reason to wake up.

And so begins a love story that might just save both their lives…

The Last Kiss Goodbye by Tasmina Perry

Last Kiss Goodbye book jacket

Everyone remembers their first kiss. But what about the last?

1961.Journalist Rosamund Bailey is ready to change the world. When she meets explorer and man about town Dominic Blake, she realises she has found the love of her life. Just as happiness is in their grasp, the worst happens, and their future is snatched away.

1962.Deep in the vaults of a museum, archivist Abby Gordon stumbles upon a breathtaking find. A faded photograph of a man saying goodbye to the woman he loves. Looking for a way to escape her own heartache, Abby becomes obsessed with the story, little realising that behind the image frozen in time lies a secret altogether more extraordinary.

Late Summer in the Vineyard, Jo Thomas

Late Summer in the Vineyard book jacket

Emmy Bridges has always looked out for others. Now it’s time to put down roots of her own.

Working for a wine-maker in France is the opportunity of a lifetime for Emmy. Even if she doesn’t know a thing about wine – beyond what’s on offer at the local supermarket.

There’s plenty to get to grips with in the rustic town of Petit Frère. Emmy’s new work friends need more than a little winning over. Then there’s her infuriatingly brash tutor, Isaac, and the enigmatic Madame Beaumont, tucked away in her vineyard of secrets.

But Emmy will soon realise that in life – just as in wine-making – the best things happen when you let go and trust your instincts. Particularly when there’s romance in the air…

The Lavender House by Hilary Boyd

The Lavender House

Nancy de Freitas is the glue that holds her family together. Caught between her ageing, ailing mother Frances, and her struggling daughter Louise, frequent user of Nancy’s babysitting services, it seems Nancy’s fate is to quietly go on shouldering the burden of responsibility for all four generations. Her divorce four years ago put paid to any thoughts of a partner to share her later years with. Now it looks like her family is all she has.

Then she meets Jim. Smoker, drinker, unsuccessful country singer and wearer of cowboy boots, he should be completely unsuited to the very together Nancy. And yet, there is a real spark.
But Nancy’s family don’t trust Jim one bit. They’re convinced he’ll break her heart, maybe run off with her money – he certainly distracts her from her family responsibilities.

Can she be brave enough to follow her heart? Or will she remain glued to her family’s side and walk away from one last chance for love?

The Prodigal Daughter – Prue Leith

The Prodigal Daughter book jacket

It is 1968. Angelica Angelotti has grown up in the Italian food business started by her English mother and Italian father. Now she is using her cooking talent to strike out on her own, moving to Paris to go to culinary school. There, among the excitement and wild emotion of the student barricades, she falls in love with her charismatic but unreliable cousin Mario – a manic depressive ten years older than her whom her mother had sacked from their restaurant.

Navigating a blossoming career, from the Savoy hotel pastry kitchen to the world of food writing and presenting, alongside an increasingly toxic relationship, eventually proves impossible. Angelica has to leave Mario, and makes the decision to move back to the family home in Gloucestershire to help her other cousin Silvano with a new branch of the family business – reopening the local pub, the Frampton Arms, as a restaurant. As they get to know each other better, Angelica realises her mistake: she chose the wrong brother.

But when Mario reappears, determined to win her back, and as other jealous relatives plot the downfall of the Frampton Arms, will Angelica be able to hold on to her business and the man she’s come to love?

My Favourite Christmas memory…with Jo Thomas and Debra Daley

My Favourite Christmas memory…with Jo Thomas and Debra Daley

We’re continuing the Christmas cheer on Bookends with some of our favourite Bookends authors and their favourite Christmas memory. Jo Thomas tells us about the time the REAL Father Christmas sat on her foot and Debra Daley got stranded in Paris. 

Jo Thomas

It was Christmas Eve and as all good children know, unless you’re asleep Father Christmas won’t visit.

I tossed and turned, but sleep wouldn’t come.

Then, at what must have been about midnight, a chink of light appeared around my opening bedroom door.

Oh god! It was him! And if I wasn’t asleep he wouldn’t leave any presents.

I had to pretend to be asleep or the magic would disappear! I lay, motionless, eyes shut. And it began to happen, the rustle of presents being pushed into a stocking.

When finished, instead of leaving, Father Christmas sat down, heavily, on my foot!! ‘Ow!!!’ but I knew I mustn’t utter a sound! So I laid there, with Father Christmas on my foot until eventually, he rose and slowly left the room and I finally let out the breath I had been holding. I could feel the weight of the stocking on the end of my bed. The real Father Christmas, fresh from the North Pole, had sat on my foot. Proof if proof were needed. He was real all right!

For more festive cheer, pre order Jo Thomas’ latest novella Notes from the Northern Lights, available exclusively in eBook. The perfect read for a weekend with your feet up in front of the fire. 

Debra Daley

We’ve had many great family Christmases, but for sheer serenity, it’s hard to beat the Christmas of 2010, when a combination of sudden, serious snow, Eurostar cancellations and two French cats that needed looking after in a friend’s apartment meant that we inadvertently spent the 25th in Paris.

In blizzardous conditions, we made a last-minute run to the local corner store, bought champagne, a celeriac, pungent cheese and an odd-looking bird that turned out to be a guinea fowl. With no internet and no obligations, we seized the chance to spend Christmas Day writing, then ate our impromptu festive dinner lounging in front of the TV watching Alec Guinness act his way impeccably through Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Magic!

Read Debra Daley’s latest book The Revelation of Carey Ravine, a beautiful historical mystery set in 1770’s London.


Look out for more festive fun on Bookends this month and if you feel like getting up to some baking this weekend, why not try Emma Hannigan’s Gingerbread Cake recipe


Photo credit: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/st-nicholas-day-is-tomorrow-and-why-its-worth-adopting-or-inventing-family-traditions/

Listen to a free extract of Late Summer in the Vineyard by Jo Thomas

Listen to a free extract of Late Summer in the Vineyard by Jo Thomas

Ahead of the release of Jo Thomas’ novel LATE IN THE SUMMER VINEYARD this week, we couldn’t wait to share a sneak peek into the world of Emmy Bridges with you.

Escape to the South of France and listen to a free extract here

If you want to know what Emmy gets up to next, you can order your copy of LATE SUMMER IN THE VINEYARD here to arrive on publication day.


Jo Thomas' ode to the most divisive of Christmas veg

Jo Thomas' ode to the most divisive of Christmas veg

It really wouldn’t be Christmas without Brussels sprouts! What I love most about sprouts is the way they bring my family together. I love the fact that my husband has one sprout, once a year – it’s tradition. I love remembering the time my daughter thought she was being really cool and loaded her plate with them and, like the Vicar of Dibley on her third Christmas dinner, ate them all. I love the fact that my Labrador will eat all the leftovers, but leave the sprouts.

One Christmas, when the children were younger and chaos was breaking out all over the house as presents were opened and paper strewn everywhere, I have a clear memory of walking into the kitchen where my brother stood by the sink trimming the sprouts, and singing along to Robbie Williams’ ‘Mr Bojangles’.

‘Do you remember this? It was one of Dad’s favourites.’

He handed me a glass of bucks fizz and a knife and the two of us stood side by side, listening to the song, trimming the sprouts’ outer leaves, cutting crosses in the bottom and remembering our Dad on Christmas morning. It was a moment of happy contemplation away from the madness.  It is one of my really happy Christmas memories, and that’s why sprouts will always have a place at my Christmas table.

Jo’s latest novel THE OLIVE BRANCH is available now in paperback and ebook.

In case you missed it, read…

…about Kathryn Hughes’ Christmas traditions

…what Team Bookends are hoping to receive from Father Christmas this year

Jo Thomas tells us how her love for the autumnal seaside inspired A RED SKY AT NIGHT

Jo Thomas tells us how her love for the autumnal seaside inspired A RED SKY AT NIGHT

Well, the clocks have gone back. The evenings are darker and autumn is slowly but surely showing us her true colours – red, orange, yellow and gold. I love this time of year; love it! I love the early evening mist as it rolls in through my village, mixing with the smell of wood smoke as log burners are woken and brought back to life after their long summer break.
I love getting wrapped up in big thick sweaters, gloves and hats and getting out in the fresh air. This is the time of year I love to walk my dogs the most and as I walk, the more I find stories start to play out in my head.
And more than any other time of year, it’s the autumn when I find myself drawn to the sea. There’s a beach I go to near us, where dogs aren’t allowed in the summer months. I look forward to the autumn when I can drive over there in my camper van, take the dogs and let them charge around on the soft sand, dipping in and out of the rock pools, chasing seagulls that land. I love the bracing fresh air, watching the dogs run in figures of eight and bound in and out of the little waves. And then what I really love is to cook outdoors, sizzling, spitting sausages on barbeques on the beach or jacket potatoes in the embers of a wood fire, hot juicy hotdogs held in hands covered by fingerless gloves, cheeks glowing from glasses of well-deserved red wine after the exertions of a good walk. I just love it!
This is how I came to the idea of A RED SKY AT NIGHT.  I wanted to write about being by the sea as autumn rolls in on a wave, like Aphrodite riding ashore on her giant shell, on the backs of galloping white horses.
As a child I used to holiday in West Wales, the same two summer weeks, the same long drive and the same campsite every summer. It was wonderful. We loved the freedom we had as kids there, telling our parents we’d be back at teatime. We spent hours crabbing in the rock pools, jumping off the rocks into the deep water and mackerel fishing. They were happy carefree days.
Then last year, I bought Dorothy the camper van and we took it back to that same campsite, where my three children enjoyed the same things I used to as we watched the sun set over the sea. They loved it just as much as I had.
So with the clocks going back, make the most of glorious autumn days. Why not take a walk to the beach and watch the white horses or catch leaves in the woods and make a wish. Sometimes we need to go back to the things we loved as a child to find our way again as an adult.

This weekend is my daughter’s birthday. We have family and friends coming to stay. We’ll be wrapping up warm, taking the dogs along the beach and then lighting a fire in the back garden and eating hotdogs and chilli by the fireside.

Everything changes in the autumn. It may be the end of the summer, but for me, it feels more like a new beginning, like something exciting is waiting just around the corner.


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Liked this? Why not try find out why…

Emma Hannigan loves the Heart of Winter so much

Tasmina Perry was inspired to write THE LAST KISS GOODBYE