Come and join our new book club!

Do you love reading? Fancy joining a new, fun online book club? 

A NOVEL BOOK CLUB is a friendly group for bookworms run by four authors. 

Every other month we will vote for a book to read together then have a full discussion afterwards. In between, we will chat about current reads, share our book love and news about upcoming titles and bookish events. 

Even better, we will feature: giveaways, exclusive author interviews, writing competitions and reading challenges. If you’d like to join us, click here and follow the instructions! 

We look forward to welcoming you to our first book club read-along!

Confessions by Caro Land – author interview

To celebrate the publication of Caro Land’s second novel Confessions, author Caroline England talks to me about her writing inspiration and publication journey.

Confessions Caro LandCaroline, thank you so much for joining me and congratulations on the publication of Confessions – your second novel writing as Caro Land!

The hardest part of writing a book is often starting it in the first place. How long did it take to write your first manuscript?

I wrote my first manuscript when I was hiding in the novel closet! I had admitted to friends and family that I was writing a few poems and short stories, but I kept the novel writing to myself as I felt a bit of a fool trying to write one. At the time I was still working as a solicitor and I (naughtily) penned the first few lines of A Slight Diversion at my office desk. I’d had a dream the night before and thought the handsome fantasy guy would be a great character in a chick-lit up-and-down love story. Funnily enough, the novel was written from the POV of a female solicitor…

I really enjoyed writing the story and I finished the book fairly quickly. What I didn’t realise then was that it was too short – around 45,000 words – and that what I thought was a complete novel was actually just a first draft. Now I’m older and wiser I know that first drafts aren’t as brilliant as us writers think, and that it takes a lot of polishing until your plot, your vocabulary, your dialogue and characterisation positively gleams!

Writing the manuscript is the first step – how long did it take you to secure an agent?

Watching Horsepats Feed the RosesStill in the novel closet (but writing more) I was approached by ACHUKA books. The editor had read one of my published short stories and asked if I had another eleven for a collection. I was delighted to say yes, and my short story collection Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses was published. This gave me the self belief to come out of the novel closet and offer A Slight Diversion to ACHUKA, which they were delighted to publish too.

It was wonderful to have both digital publications out in the world, but what was even The Wife's Secretbetter was the confidence it gave me in my own writing ability, and I concentrated more seriously on the other first draft manuscripts of the psychological thrillers I had already written. Beneath the Skin [now called ‘The Wife’s Secret’] was the first of those and I started sending it out to literary agents. Though, like most authors, I had a lot of rejections (and a book deal that fell through), I eventually got lucky and found my agent through submitting a short story (again! The moral is to get those short stories out there!).

Getting published is every writer’s dream! Tell me about your book deal moment.

The offer from HarperCollins came through a few months after signing up with my agent. Fortunately I didn’t know a great deal about the process back then, so I wasn’t constantly fretting or looking out for emails. My agent didn’t tell me about any rejections, but waited until an offer was made. I had assumed that if an editor liked a manuscript, that would be a yes, but in fact any new novel needs the thumbs up from various departments such as marketing and sales. I was thrilled to be offered a digital deal initially, but the real pleasure was when the publishers confirmed the book would be in paperback too!

What is your latest book Confessions about?

My psychological thrillers Beneath the Skin, My Husband’s Lies and Betray Her (out in July 2020) are written under my Caroline England name. I have also written two legal dramas, and because they are a different genre, they have been published by a different publisher and under the pen name Caro Land.

The first, Convictions, was published this January, and it introduced my protagonist Natalie Bach, a feisty but fun solicitor who returns to her old job with a broken heart. Nat faces moral, personal & legal dilemmas. With the help of fellow solicitor, Gavin Savage, she gets to the bottom of several challenging legal cases and conundrums.

Convictions and Confessions 3

The follow up, Confessions, has just been published. Nat is facing more personal turmoil and legal challenges. While trying to make a difference, she walks the fine line between being a help and a hinderance.

Seconded to criminal law firm, Savage Solicitors, she finds herself out of her depth when she’s handed a complicated and tragic case of assisted suicide. Will she get to the bottom of what really happened?

With a heavy workload to juggle, can Nat untangle her own feelings from another very personal and troubling investigation?

“This book made me cry, at times, and hold my breath in anticipation but it also made me smile, a lot. Once again, a captivating story of love, loss, friendship and family with a fascinating insight into the daily lives of solicitors. I LOVED it!”

Where did you find the inspiration for your Natalie Bach series?

They say to write what you know. I was once a solicitor, so I thought it might be a good idea to write a series revolving around… well, a feisty feminist solicitor! The firm I worked for as a trainee was a criminal law practise, then I moved onto divorce and after that professional indemnity work, so I have plenty of experiences and cases to draw ideas from!

Us writers often spend time alone, but how are you finding lockdown?

Apart from having a houseful, I have to confess that not a lot has changed for me writing-wise. I’m usually home-alone during the day, so suddenly having four other people making demands (how very dare they!) can be disruptive, but I’m still wearing joggers and a hoodie and scribbling away at my desk. At this time of the year I usually venture outside for the Newcastle Noir, CrimeFest and Theakston Old Peculiar’s crime writing festivals, so I have missed appearing on panels, chatting to readers, seeing writer friends such as yourself and stalking celebs!

What’s coming next for you book-wise?

The UK standard paperback of my Caroline England psychological thriller Betray Her will be published on the 16th July. Here’s a quote by the author Sheryl Browne to give you a flavour of the story:

Betray HerBetray Her is exquisitely written. I identified with the narrator so profoundly through her grief at one point, I literally stopped breathing. Alternating between present and past, this is a cleverly woven story, full of passion and intrigue, sexual tension and desperate longing. Two girls, poles apart in their early upbringing, are drawn together at boarding school to form an unlikely friendship that endures into adulthood. But as we examine the friendship, going back to the musty halls of the boarding school, forward into the girls’ teenage years, on to the present, it’s clear that the friendship is not all that it seems. There are secrets under the surface, secrets that shaped who the women now are. There is jealousy and manipulation, co-dependency to a degree. Their relationship is tumultuous and, with a man in the mix who is married to one friend, but has a history with the other, there is a tinderbox of emotion simply waiting for a spark to ignite it, bringing us the final explosive conclusion. I was fascinated by this book, in awe of the writing. Mesmerising storytelling. A taut, tantalising thriller and one I would highly recommend.

Confessions 2


Thank you so much, Caroline, for answering my questions.

Confessions by Caro England is out now!

Tylko Matka

The Polish edition of Only a Mother is out now!


Erica Wright nie musiała ścierać ze ścian swojego domu napisu „MORDERCA” od ponad roku. Życie powoli wracało do normy. Ale kobieta wie, że jej syn, Craig, wkrótce zostanie wypuszczony z więzienia. A wtedy z jej życia znów zniknie spokój.


Erica nigdy nie wątpiła w niewinność Craiga – pomimo kłamstw, które mówiła dla niego lata wcześniej. Jednak gdy jej syn wraca do domu, od razu dostrzega w nim zmianę. Nie rozpoznaje w nim własnego dziecka.

Tylko Matka została opublikowana 3 czerwca. Możesz przeczytać próbkę tutaj

Click here to read a sample of the Polish edition.

Short Story Time

The Grim Reaper

‘Nana,’ says a little voice in my ear. It’s my favourite of all the names people call me: Nana, Mum, Rose, that nosy old woman at number fifteen. ‘Are you all right, Nana?’

It’s Izzy, my six-year-old granddaughter, yet I keep my eyes closed. I don’t want to worry her, but I’m too scared to open my eyes in case there’s another one of them at the end of the bed. I read in a magazine once that patients, moments from death, reported seeing the previously departed in the same room. These are my final hours, I can feel it in my bones.

But why would Sandra Burkett appear to me? I last saw her over thirty years ago. She lived on our street and we brought up our children at the same time. When her son reached sixteen, she ran off with the owner of the corner shop. Imagine that: her and Mr Turnball. She called him Bully, which was quite apt as he had a belly the size of Jupiter.

Anyway, two years later, her son told us that Sandra had died during a hot spell in Tenerife. Terribly upset he was, obviously. I didn’t say it was karma taking a bite, because no one deserves that sort of retribution. But it would be just my luck to end up with her as my companion to the other side.

My husband, Eric, doesn’t believe in all that nonsense. ‘Once you’re dead, you’re dead,’ he says. He tells me I should stop worrying all the time, to just live in the moment, but it’s hard when I might die at any moment.

I don’t know why I’m in hospital this time. The last thing I remember is peeling potatoes at the sink; it was so hot. Was it yesterday? I must’ve been found in the kitchen, sprawled on the floor. It could’ve been worse, though – I could’ve been in the bath or on the loo. My face burns with the shame of it, even though didn’t happen. Vivid imagination, Eric says.


‘Don’t bother her, love,’ says another voice. ‘Let her sleep.’

It’s Steven, our only child. I say child, he’s forty-two.

I carefully flicker open an eyelid. Izzy’s playing on her dad’s phone anyway. It didn’t take her long to abandon the notion of receiving precious words of wisdom from her dying grandmother.

The curtains are closed around us and there’s no one at the end of my bed any more. I open my eyes fully, and put my hands either side of me to make a show of sitting up. I know I shouldn’t, but there are certain things to be expected of a woman of my age.

Steven gets up quickly from the plastic chair.

‘Mum, love,’ he says. ‘I’ll help you.’

‘Give over,’ I say, pulling myself up and leaning back against the lovely soft pillow. Stoic as ever, they’ll say when they remember me. ‘I’m fine.’

I want to add I’m not dead yet, but I wouldn’t want to devastate the poor lad when he remembers this moment in a few days.

‘You had us worried for a while,’ he says.

I look around, probably a bit too obviously. He means his wife, Anna, and his dad.

‘They’ve popped downstairs for a coffee,’ he says.

He’s always been good at noticing my little looks, unlike his father. No, no. I’m being factitious now. Eric’s always been a good sort. We married when I was twenty-one and he was twenty-three. By standards these days, we were only starting out, but things were different then.

I should’ve popped Steven something extra in my will – though everything will go to Eric first. Only my mother’s wedding ring is mine alone. It’s quite sad really; I’ve not many precious possessions of my own. But life isn’t about things, is it? Not when you’re in my position. Still, he’d get a few quid for the ring, if he sold it. But I can’t think about that.

When my mother died, it was just me and Dad for years. I was only twelve; it was so sudden. Dad cleared out all her belongings after just a few months and we barely spoke about her. Poor Mum. It was a heart attack in her sleep. She was only thirty-nine.

I often think I could die at any moment – it’s worried me all my life – that I’d go to sleep and never wake up. I’ve got too much to do, though. I’ve been older than her for thirty-eight years.

If anyone out there is listening, I think to myself, I can’t go now. I have to go to Izzy’s end of term play this Friday and book club on Thursday. I read this month’s novel all the way through this time and I’ve a few things I want to say about it. It would be just typical if I didn’t get there. Especially as Judy, the organiser, had words with me last time for going off piste with my comments on Wuthering Heights, the film version.

Why can’t my mother be the one to come for me? Instead, it’s been left to Sandra Burkett, the grim reaper personified. She was always gossiping about everyone else. I suppose she elbowed her way past those who really wanted to collect me.

No, Rose, I scold myself. Stop thinking like that.

I always thought that when I was about to leave this earthly plane, I’d have wisdom – a love for enemies. Why am I still the same? People will forget I was ever here if I’m still myself, someone ordinary. I sit up even further on my bed and try to think of some insightful observations of life.

All I can think of is the time it takes to boil carrots.

Izzy’s still engrossed in the game on Steven’s phone.

Anna pulls the curtain aside and places two inches of magazines on my overbed table.

‘I hope these are okay, Rose. I didn’t know which ones to pick so I bought them all.’

‘Bless you, love.’

Anna’s like a daughter to me. I should tell her how much I appreciate her before it’s too late.

The consultant whips the curtain open – I recognise her from my last visit, which is odd as I’ve never had the same one twice before.

‘How are you feeling, Rose?’ she says.

‘Now I think about it, I feel all right. What did I come in with?’

She gives me a quizzical look.

‘Low blood pressure. If you ever feel light-headed again, see your GP. But for now, we’re going to equip you with a monitor for twenty-four hours.’

‘Have you looked at my heart?’ I say. ‘I was always told that there was something wrong with it. Well, I wasn’t actually told that. It’s my mother, you see. She died of a heart attack. These things are hereditary, aren’t they?’

‘We carried out an ECG and an echo of your heart. It’s perfectly fine for a person of your age.’

‘So, I’m not about to die?’

‘I can’t predict anything, Rose, but from your results at present, no.’

Eric comes in … there’s a look to his face. Guilty? No: sheepish.

‘Er, there’s a visitor for you, love,’ he says, eyes wide.

After writing on my notes, the consultant leaves. She’s replaced by an older woman, standing at the end of my bed.

Oh god, it’s Sandra Burkett again.

I look to Eric; he keeps glancing at her. What on earth is going on?

‘You can see her as well, then?’ I say.

He frowns. ‘Yes, love. We’ll leave you two to catch up.’

‘Wait, no …’ I say, but they’ve already scarpered.

Sandra pulls the chair along the floor and it squeals, just like the voice in my head. She sits down only half a yard away from me.

‘I thought you’d died.’ I say. ‘Your son was distraught.’

She takes off her coat. My shoulders sag.

‘Dead? Me? No. Plenty of life left in me yet. My Peter took a while to forgive me for running off, but he did, thank the Lord. Anyway. We’ve got so much to catch up on. I’ll tell you it all from the beginning.’ She settles into the chair. ‘Well, as you know I ended up in the Balearics, but the weather played havoc with Bully’s overactive sweat glands …’

I lean back against the pillow.

God, if you’re listening, put me out of my misery.

People Short Story


‘The Grim Reaper’ first appeared in the Sunday People August 2017

My new psychological suspense is out now – The Woman Downstairs published by Orion





The Woman Downstairs is out now!

The Woman Downstairs

Now available in ebook!

Can you ever really know your neighbours?

When human remains are found in a ground floor flat, the residents of Nelson Heights are shocked to learn that there was a dead body in their building for nearly two years.

Sarah lives at the flat above and after the remains are found, she feels threatened by a stranger hanging around the building.

Laura has lived in the building for as long as she can remember, caring for her elderly father, though there is more to her story than she is letting on.

As the investigation starts to heat up, and the two women become more involved, it’s clear that someone isn’t telling the truth about what went on all those years ago…

You can order it here – I hope you enjoy it!

The paperback will be published 6th February 2020 and can be pre-ordered here


‘Only a Mother’ will be published 27th December 2018

Publication day for ONLY A MOTHER is getting closer!

Erica Wright hasn’t needed to scrub ‘MURDERER’ off her house in over a year. Life is almost quiet again. Then her son, Craig, is released from prison, and she knows the quiet is going to be broken.
Erica has always believed Craig was innocent – despite the lies she told for him years ago – but when he arrives home, she notices the changes in him. She doesn’t recognise her son anymore.
So, when another girl goes missing, she starts to question everything. But how can a mother turn her back on her son? And, if she won’t, then how far will she go to protect him?

Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Louise Jensen, Katerina Diamond, Helen Fields and CL Taylor – a hard-hitting psychological thriller told from the fresh perspective of a killer’s mother.

Only A Mother is brilliantly observed, both tender and heart-breaking, without once flinching from harsh realities. Taking on a traumatic subject, combining realism with drama, is an incredibly difficult task but Carpenter handles it with breath-taking skill. Highly recommended, this is exactly the subject matter that book clubs have been waiting for’ (Helen Fields)

A refreshing move forward from the sometimes exhausting twists and turns of some psychological thrillers, Only a Mother is nevertheless a real rollercoaster of a read, with an emotionally resonant ending that left me both moved and humbled by the strength of a mother’s love. I couldn’t put this book down (Charlotte Duckworth author of THE RIVAL)

Tense, shocking and terrifyingly believable. Only A Mother turns the psychological thriller on its head, coming at the genre from a wholly original angle. The writing is sharp; the characters complex and compelling; the story skillfully plotted. A fantastic read. (Rebecca Tinnelly, author of NEVER GO THERE)

An unsettling, consistently compelling thriller with a terrific sense of foreboding. (B.P Walter, author of A VERSION OF THE TRUTH)

Elisabeth Carpenter skilfully portrays a mother’s love with unflinching honesty and tenderness. But is it misplaced? I recommend reading this tense and compelling thriller to find out. (Caroline England, author of MY HUSBAND’S LIES)

ONLY A MOTHER will be published 27th December 2018 by Orion and can be pre-ordered here.

I hope you enjoy it!

11 Missed Calls

11 Missed Calls Cover

Here are two things I know about my mother:
1. She had dark hair, like mine.
2. She wasn’t very happy at the end.

Anna has always believed that her mother, Debbie, died 30 years ago on the night she disappeared.

But when her father gets a strange note, she realises that she’s never been told the full story of what happened that night on the cliff.

Confused and upset, Anna turns to her husband Jack – but when she finds a love letter from another woman in his wallet, she realises there’s no one left to help her, least of all her family.

11 Missed Calls will be published 26 July 2018 and is available for pre-order here

Guest Post: My writing day by Caroline England

Thanks for inviting me onto your blog, Libby. At least I think so – I have just spent the last twenty minutes tidying my study for the photograph! Hm, still doesn’t look very tidy, but it’s certainly the place where I’m most focused and productive!

Caroline England Work Space.JPG

Caroline’s Writing Space

So, my writing day… I’ve hardly done anything at all over the summer as I’ve been happily distracted by having my three daughters at home. No more excuses, though; my eldest has now moved to London, my middle is back at university and my youngest at school, so my plan is to get back into the writing zone!

Typically I start the day waving Emily off to school. Then I feed the pesky cats and make a huge cup of Yorkshire tea. I head to the study, sit at my desk (which looks messy, but is actually very ordered) and fire up the laptop. I reach for the first letter in my in-tray, then look at the top item on my to-do list. I read an email next, then go back to the tray. I bet you wish you hadn’t asked! I play these silly games to make admin more interesting. Or maybe I’m just odd!

Of course most items on the to-do list are crossed off and put on a new list (that counts as DONE, doesn’t it?) but when I’ve finally cleared the admin decks, I open the latest manuscript and start work. Though what is ‘work’ exactly? It isn’t necessarily ‘writing’. In recent months it’s been more editing, amending and polishing than creating new sentences. And when I do go back to new writing, I have to spend far too much time reading the novel-so-far to remind myself what it’s about! Then, of course there’s thinking moments, or minutes or hours. The bath, a run or the car seem to be the best for that, but when I’m in the study I gaze at my bookcase. Top shelf, books to be read and photos of those I’ve loved and lost. Next two are mainly poetry collections interspersed with lovely cards and recently read novels I haven’t yet squirrelled away in other rooms. I do love this bookcase, not only because it gives me inspiration for character’s names, but because my own novel is on it, a dream finally come true! Coincidentally it’s sitting on top of three other books by fabulous Avon HarperCollins authors, including you!

So back to the zone. Ah yes! Plenty more Yorkshire tea, an early lunch (a toasted chicken and gherkin wrap is the current sandwich de jour), then back to the laptop for another couple of hours until Emily comes home. Then I continue to work fitfully until I realise it’s my job to make dinner. So I peer in the veg basket and gaze in the fridge, hoping my creative endeavours will extend to cooking…

Thank you, Caroline, for sharing your writing day with us. Beneath the Skin, Caroline’s debut novel is available here.




Is it ‘who you know’, or ‘what you know’? Does having industry contacts help a writer get a book deal?

Before I began writing novels, this was a question I often asked myself. I thought novelists belonged to a special kind of club only accessible if you knew someone already in it. I had only written short stories up until then and I wrote alone – I thought that was how it should be done. I also believed that writing a whole book required a unique knowledge – that it just came to the author like an epiphany. It all seemed so out of reach to me.

My thinking changed when my partner, Dom, brought home a copy of Writing Magazine. He wanted to start writing. But, before he had a chance to read it, I had a flick through. There was a whole world of writers out there: writing groups, conventions and festivals. It felt like coming home! But there was still that burning question: did it help a writer to know people in the industry? How did writers get their books published – would attending writing events and festivals help?

After working on my first novel for a few months (oh how naïve was I?), I entered it into a national writing competition. Of course, I wasn’t shortlisted, but I met several other entrants online who were all in the same boat. We formed an online writing group.

This gave me the confidence to go to the York Festival of Writing. I’d been working on my first manuscript for nearly two years; I felt I was nearly there.

It was another revelation. There were loads more writers out there, just like me; writing and hoping that one day we’d be just like those authors who hosted the workshops we attended. Our day will come.

As part of this festival, I paid to have a one-to-one with a literary agent who would critique a few pages of my first ever ‘masterpiece’.

The agent said the writing was good, but was I really going to keep working on this story? ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I believe in it.’ The agent put his head in his hands. Literally.

As I talked to other writers, there were rumours that some ‘lucky’ writers had been asked for full requests after their one-to-ones. It was a brilliant day, though I left York thinking, It’s not my time. Yet I took with me hope that one day it would be. But it wouldn’t be with the book I had spent so much time working on.

The next event I went to – a year later – was Getting Published, organised by literary agency Janklow & Nesbitt in conjunction with Mumsnet. We, the audience, listened with piqued interest, as established authors told us about their paths to publication. We heard anecdotes from respected agents and editors. Then came the pitching session. I had never done one of these before. At York festival, the agent had read my work, but now I had to actually speak. I ended up reading from a sheet of paper, my mouth dry with nerves. The agent couldn’t have been more lovely – she was a normal person! ‘When it’s ready,’ she said, ‘send it to me.’

I sent her the fourth manuscript I’d been working on (I’d completed two NaNo’s in this time, but these will never see daylight!). Surely – after writing four whole books, this would be the one! I could mention in my cover letter that I’d actually met the agent. It took only minutes for the agent to respond to my initial submission – she wanted to see the rest of the manuscript!

Other agents requested this book, too, and it was longlisted in several well-known writing competitions. But ultimately it wasn’t the one for the agent I met – nor any of the others.

Whilst submitting my fourth book, I’d begun another called 99 Red Balloons. I was determined never to give up – I’d come so far. I’d also thought of another idea if this one didn’t ‘work’. I was a few weeks off finishing 99 Red Balloons when I registered for the Curtis Brown Discovery Day.

There were hundreds of writers there, queuing along the bannisters of three floors inside Foyles book shop in London, clutching their first pages that a Curtis Brown agent would read. My legs were shaking, my hands were sweating. When I sat down in front of the agent, my mind went blank. I babbled a bit about what I’d written in the past and was so relieved when she started to read my page. ‘Send it to us when you’ve finished,’ she said. I’d heard that before, but I had confidence in this novel. (Yeah, okay – I’d felt that about the others.)

When I completed my manuscript, I submitted to Curtis Brown. It wasn’t for them, but I had also sent it to a handful of other agents (that I’d never met) who’d expressed interest in my previous work. Several of them liked it enough to offer me representation.

Attending these events was brilliant for meeting other writers and seeing that agents and editors are ordinary people in search of a great book. They aren’t scary gate-keepers to a secret society. There are no rules; there are no special clubs. Even if you have an agent as a best friend, they’ll not represent you if she or he doesn’t like your book.

What it came down to, for me, was to write and write until you’ve written the best book you can at that moment in time, even if you won’t know if it’s the ‘right’ book until you send it out there. The more you write, the better you get.

I heard this phrase once, several years ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since: The harder I work, the luckier I get. I think it’s true.

99 Red Balloons is available here