Saturday 21 December 2013


I'm so excited that I had to take a screen shot of the news!
Today, officially, is my highest ever ranking for Weak at the Knees.
#61 bestselling book today. Yippeeee...........
HOORAY, LET'S CELEBRATE. The champagne is on me.................And thank you Santa


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Friday 20 December 2013


For two weeks starting from now and to last over the Christmas period, Weak at the Knees is being massively reduced in price as part of a special, festive offer.

In the US it will cost just 99 cents:

In the UK it has been reduced to a bargain 77p:

It's for two weeks only. Miss it, miss out.
Please help spread the word.

Happy Christmas everyone. I hope that Santa brings you everything you want!


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Thursday 19 December 2013


Sometimes we do things that we would never imagine doing.
And this was one of them. I looked like an idiot, and at times I felt like an idiot. Not to mention the sore arms. But do you know what? I had the MOST FUN EVER!! And I never thought I would ever get up so close and personal with the River Thames.............especially not in fancy dress!

I'm the one on the right by the way. REALLY not looking my best. Actually, not really looking like ME at all! And Big Ben certainly has a starring role in this pic too. 
I did this for a newspaper article in the Sunday Express. Check it out:

Hope you can read this!

And wishing you all a very happy Christmas too!

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Monday 9 December 2013


It's not often one gets a chance to race against their childhood hero, but that's what happened when I went on my family ski holiday last year. I visited a resort in Austria (Bad Kleinkircheim) which is home to 5 times downhill ski champ, the legendary Franz Klammer. As luck would have it, my stay coincided with an annual event - anyone who wanted to could race against Franz Klammer, to see if they could beat his time!
Well, I jumped at the chance to have a go - the only problem was I hadn't skied for a year and my ski legs hadn't yet had a chance to return before I was faced with the scary slalom course. But I did it, AND I met Franz afterwards and had a chance to chat! And here is the man - still a charmer with the ladies and happy to pose for the camera! You can read all about it in this article:

 Well, this was one of those 'once-in-a-lifetime' moments which you don't expect to happen. I'm sure my son would be just as excited to play football against David Beckham! 

There is even a black slope in resort, a world cup downhill ski run, named after Franz. 
Let me tell you, it was absolutely PETRIFYING! I'm a pretty competent skier, but the surface was icy and hard (it hadn't snowed for ages) and there were lots of hard tiny ice balls. HORRID!
But there is, of course, one way to get over the adrenaline rush: 
Ah, much better. And finally, one great family photo: 
The children are getting a bit useful on skis and are even now able to whoosh down black runs. Although NOT the very tricky Franz Klammer black run!

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Wednesday 4 December 2013

Do Frenchmen make better lovers?!

by Jo Kessel

  1. CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE WINE – this is one of France’s finest red wines. It comes from the Rhone wine region of South Eastern France and is wonderfully deep-bodied and velvety. So much so that I named the book’s male love interest – Olivier du Pape – after the wine. Oh, and you can win a bottle of it as a prize if you enter my competition!
  2. NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN – Translated this means: ‘No, I have no regrets’. It’s an iconic French song by the singer Edith Piaf, one of France’s greatest ever international stars. She became famous after World War 2 and her voice is really distinctive. This song is one of my favorite’s of hers. It’s got so much emotion in it and the lyrics are very pertinent to Weak at the Knees’ plotline.
  3. PAIN AU RAISINS – French bakeries are sensational. No-one makes a pain au raisins (a cross between a Danish pastry and a croissant filled with gooey custard and raisins) like a French bakery. Nope, I have yet to find a pain au raisins outside of France which tastes anything like the real French deal. This is what heroine Danni has for breakfast nearly every day and whenever I go to France, I have to admit that this is what I like to start the day with too.
  4. PERNOD – this is a French liqueur which tastes (and smells) of liquorice. The French drink it diluted with water and it’s a very acquired taste. I have to admit that it’s never been something I’ve taken to. In Weak at the Knees, Danni’s roommate Gina cooks up a carrot dish with Pernod in it, because it’s allegedly an aphrodisiac.
  5. MA BICHE – This looks a little bit rude (and sounds a bit like the word ‘bitch’) but ‘Ma Biche’ is actually a lovely French term of endearment. It literally means ‘my deer’ (as in the cute furry animal) but the French often use this word instead of ‘darling’. Olivier calls Danni ‘ma biche’ the whole time.   
  6. VIN CHAUD – this is mulled wine, and a delicious wintry drink served in bars in France, designed to warm you up from the inside out. In the French Alps, after a cold day’s skiing or hiking, nothing is nicer than to settle down with a hot glass of mulled wine (which has a fruity cinnamon aroma) by a warm log fire. Danni likes to do this in Weak at the Knees.
  7. FONDUE – this is a very traditional French mountain dish. Diners spear cubes of bread onto long-stemmed forks and twirl them into a communal pot of melted cheese which sits on a portable stove. It’s a very convivial meal, best enjoyed in a group, and the sauce is often laced with a sneaky amount of alcohol! It’s easy to get a little drunk when eating a Fondue! Danni and Olivier eat this one night, washed down with a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Heavenly!
  8. ESPRESSO – it’s not just the Italians who like a small cup of supercharged coffee in the morning. No, the French consume just as much. This is how Olivier starts the day, with not one cup, but about five! Danni prefers freshly brewed filter coffee.
  9. FRENCH MEN MAKE GREAT LOVERS – I’m not sure whether proper research has ever been carried out in this department (!), but I have it on good authority that French men make very sensual lovers and are way more amorous than other nationalities. Anyone care to cast an opinion on this?!
  10. FRENCH MEN HAVE A TERRIBLE REPUTATION FOR HAVING MISTRESSES – this is true! Indeed, when French President Mitterand died in 1996 his long-standing mistress attended his funeral alongside his widow. I guess they do things differently in France! Anyway, in Weak at the Knees, Danni is worried about Olivier and the reputation of his fellow men. The question is, does she need to be worried?............................…

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Thursday 14 November 2013


Please everyone, can you spread the word. My virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Book Tours for my new novel Weak at the Knees finishes tomorrow. You've got until the end of the day on Friday November 15th to enter the competition to win $50 Amazon book vouchers as well as a bottle of the divine (and exclusive) French red wine Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Click on the link below and enter the Rafflecopter to WIN.

Happy Reading and GOOD LUCK!

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Saturday 19 October 2013


A few weeks ago I took the brood on a fabulous Mediterranean cruise - a round-trip from Barcelona.
* FIRST STOP was Villefranche (where Madonna holidayed this summer with her toyboy whilst she filmed the movie she's currently directing about Wallis Simpson - the American divorcee who caused Prince Edward V111 to abdicate and never became King. Did we see Madonna?
*SECOND STOP was La Spezia, Italy, gateway to five remote car-free fishing villages linked by walking trails.
* LAST STOP - Pompeii

We had an AMAZING time and you can not only read all about it by clicking on the link below, there's a fabulous short video of our time on board - truly hilarious and uplifting - taking a peek is COMPULSORY viewing..........:

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Wednesday 16 October 2013

More wine.........are we getting drunk yet?!

And this reviewer loved Weak at the Knees so much she's demanding a sequel!

And again, there's more wine to be won - give it a go - what's to lose?!

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A lovely review - and last chance to win!

Click on the link below for the most absolutely lovely review of Weak at the Knees and the last chance to win a simply fabulous French goodie basket.............

Oh, and the goodie basket includes a glorious bottle of the French red wine Chateauneuf-du-Pape - which can be mailed internationally, so why not enter NOW?!

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Saturday 12 October 2013

I'm in the top #100!!!!!

I had to take a shot of the computer screen with my I-phone just in case the moment doesn't last but hey, pop the champagne, my new novel Weak at the Knees made the top #100 in the bestseller charts this morning..............take a look at this pic - if only I could frame it! And please help me to spread the word - I'd like to go even on earth does being #1 feel???!!

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Friday 11 October 2013

My first national newspaper review in The Sun

I am beyond excited. My new book Weak at the Knees has been reviewed in the UK's most popular newspaper The Sun today. Four out of Five stars - Check it out! Even Bridget Jones didn't get a look-in in today's paper!

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Wednesday 9 October 2013

Weak at the Knees PLAYLIST

As promised, here is the playlist for Weak at the Knees, finally..............some time soon I'll try to get the actual tracks connected. Happy listening! 


Someone to Watch Over Me, Ella Fitzgerald
Viva la Vida, Coldplay
Abbey Road, The Beatles
What makes you beautiful, One Direction
Troublemaker, Olly Murs
I dreamed a dream, Susan Boyle
Kissing a Fool, Michael Bublé
Joe le taxi, Vanessa Paradis
Fix You, Coldplay
Boogie Woogie,
The Best of Abba, Abba - Take a Chance on Me, The Winner Takes it All, Mamma Mia, Gimme!Gimme!Gimme, Thank you for the Music
Non, je ne regrette rien, Edith Piaf

Rolling in the Deep, Adele 

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Tuesday 8 October 2013

Sir David Frost - a tribute

I have been meaning to write this for a while, but my blog went down and it now feels a little bit belated, but nonetheless, this was something I really wanted to say - and better late than never.
I was so so saddened when I heard of Sir David's passing. My first ever job in television, nearly twenty years ago, was as a Researcher on a program he was presenting called (surprise surprise!) 'The Frost Program'. It was a one-hour show for ITV which blended his two fortes - part in-depth celebrity interview, part audience-fueled topical debate.  
I remember being so nervous when I met him for the first time - but I needn't have been. He instantly made me feel at ease and part of the posse - at the dreaded 'ideas' meeting (where the production team had to come up with ideas for the next week's show) he never once ridiculed anyone's ideas. All the team felt valued. We all felt equal - and that was down to him. And thanks to him we had (and I got to meet) some of the most exciting names in showbiz who came onto the show to be interviewed - how I wish I'd had personal access to his 'little black book'! Sir Anthony Hopkins, Eric Clapton, Andrew Lloyd Webber, George Michael, Michael Palin......they were all in his book, and they all, among others, appeared on the show.
On being interviewed a few years ago, Sir David said: "the moment I walked into a TV studio, it felt like home."
I know what he means. That's how I felt the first time I set foot in a studio with him, and despite the fact that I now mainly work as a print journalist/writer, I never feel more at home than when I'm in a TV studio or in front of a camera. It's in my blood. And it was most definitely in his.
Not only did Sir David present these shows, he owned the television production company which MADE them - David Paradine Productions. I carried on working with him for six years, on a range of programs from factual to paranormal (yes, we made a couple of live shows which featured spoon-bender Uri Geller) as well as some BBC documentaries. It was the grounding for my career and I've always thought of Sir David so fondly.
I can still smell his cigars (he was a big Cuban cigar smoker), I can still hear his laugh - it was utterly infectious. And I have never heard him laugh so much as when, at one of the ideas meetings, the script-writer mentioned the shenanigans of the night before. After the show, over a glass of bubbly in the green room, one of that nights' guests (an English comedian who shall remain nameless!) invited me up to his dressing room. I never went of course, but Sir David (not to mention the rest of the crew) found the whole story hilarious. I have never blushed so puce in my life.
Eventually I moved on and started working in front of the camera myself, but I have never forgotten David, and according to a good friend of mine who works at BBC Radio, Sir David never forgot me either. He had an uncanny way of remembering everyone and only having good things to say about everyone he knew - what a truly special person he was.
That friend of mine who works for BBC Radio forwarded me this article, which captures the very essence of the man:

Sir David loved and was so proud of his three boys and since losing my own mother recently (in not dissimilar overnight/unexpected circumstances) I can only empathize with both the boys and his wife.
I never imagined that I would never see him again, but he will forever be in my thoughts.
He was a very special man.

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Monday 7 October 2013

Win $100.00 at my new virtual book tour for Weak at the Knees

                                         *********STOP PRESS***********

I've a new virtual book tour starting today in America. There's an awesome tour-wide prize of $100.00 Amazon vouchers as well as some French goodies which include a divine bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine. The prize is open internationally, so please do enter:

Happy Reading and please do follow me on all my tour stops - there are a lot of VERY revealing blog posts coming up!

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Tuesday 24 September 2013


Hello all
Just to let you know of a competition being run to celebrate the release of my new novel Weak at the Knees. You can win a $50 Amazon gift voucher as well as a bottle of the French red wine Chateauneuf-du-Pape (my absolute favorite and featured in the book). To enter just check out my virtual book tour:

Happy reading!

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Monday 23 September 2013

Thursday 19 September 2013


One day ahead of tomorrow's release day, click on the link below to see the first published excerpt of Weak at the Knees:

Happy reading!

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Thursday 12 September 2013

Weak at the Knees Release Party!

Yay, my second novel Weak at the Knees is shortly to be released. You are cordially invited to my release party on Friday September 20th to share a glass of wine and a couple of hours of fun, games and giveaways, including a bottle of the divine French red wine Chateauneuf-du Pape. Please RSVP and tell all your friends to come to!

Oh, and please remember that party time 12 - 2 pm is based on Eastern Time in the US. In the UK party time is 5 - 7 pm.

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Thursday 22 August 2013

Venice for Families

I'm just back from an amazing Mediterranean Empire cruise which visited Olympia, Athens, Istanbul and some gorgeous Greek Islands. The cruise departed from Venice and we flew out a couple of days early because I wanted to share with my children this fairy tale city which floats on water and whose canals and gondoliers give it mystique and romance......
And I wanted to share with all of you a couple of memorable tips which will not only enhance your stay in Venice, but save you money too.
I stay in a lot of hotels around the world, but the hotel I found us in Venice was an absolute gem. I'd been looking for somewhere cheap (not many of those in Venice) and a room which could accommodate all five of us (ditto, not many). But after searching on google and Trip Advisor I found the Hotel Palazzo Vituri:

It was an absolute find and an absolute steal. The hotel was only about a seven minute walk from St. Marks Square, but it felt wonderfully off the beaten track, set on its own quieter square with a fountain in the middle and two of its own churches. Our room overlooked this square - what a view. And speaking of our room. It was HUGE, with a modern bathroom and decor in keeping with the whole residence: Renaissance Venice, with lofty wooden ceilings, cool marble floors and decadently huge oil paintings covering the walls. And what's more, the room only cost us 235 Euros, including breakfast, for all five of us. The hall outside our room had a small balcony and the staff kindly offered to bring us up breakfast to eat there, overlooking the square, watching Venice come to life as the sun rose. Amazing.

Mostly we explored on foot over bridges and through tiny alleys, walking and window-shopping (Venice is packed with dramatic mask shops) and shopping proper (I don't even normally like shopping, but the Murano glass jewelry and chichi boutiques proved too tempting) and we stumbled upon a couple of must see/do attractions:

1. There's a quirky bookshop in Venice close to our hotel (Libreria Aqua Alata: address Calle Longa Santa maria Formosa)which had cats running wild and books piled everywhere in gondolas and bathtubs. And out back there are steps made of books which the children (and Mum) climbed for fabulous views of quiet, backwater canals:

Nathalie, my eldest daughter, is incredibly artistic. Exiting from the back entrance of the rambling book shop we stumbled on another captivating view, void of tourists, which she asked me to take a photo of so that she could draw it back at home:


Minutes later the children started clamoring for some authentic gelato. And Mum certainly wasn't averse to a spot of ice-cream either. Now there's nothing worse than when you start forking out a small fortune (seriously, sometimes five ice-creams can almost cost the price of a pub lunch) on what so often turns out to be sub-standard ice-cream, but we found a place which was the find of the century. Two weeks on and we're all still talking about it. This sleepy little gelateria in a sleepy back road deserves to be mentioned in all guide books (but I'm pleased it isn't) because boy, was their ice-cream stunning and cheap. 1.5 Euros for one scoop in a cone or a cup and the scoops the serving lady served us were HUGE - she did NOT hold back and we couldn't even have eaten any more than one scoop if we'd tried:
Flavours sampled were:
Fragola (strawberry)
Bianco white chocolate with hazelnut
White chocolate with mango
Cream of Pistachio
Gelato al biscotto (my choice)
Trust me when I say that they were ALL sensational and I'm salivating even at the memory.
The name of the ice cream parlor is: Dolce Freddo
The address is Castello, 5377.
And trust me, it's worth a trip to Italy just to try the ice-cream from this place - gelato which won't break the bank. It was the best value ice-cream. Ever. And also not far from our hotel. Top tip: do NOT be tempted to buy ice-cream from major tourist hubs. We did the next day and regretted it. It tasted synthetic and nasty and ended up in the bin.
Anyway, happy on this dreamy ice-cream (I wish we'd taken a photo of us licking our cones but we didn't) we finally found our way to St. Marks Square and the waterfront - behind us lots of gondoliers are lined up (gondoliers cost ridiculous sums of money, so we resisted and the children didn't seem to care - we'd taken a water taxi known as a vaporetto to get there from the airport, so at least felt we'd had a watery experience):

The fan my youngest is holding was another impulse purchase made in Venice. We just couldn't help ourselves.

We also enjoyed the Peggy Guggneheim collection (704 Dorsoduro)- this was about a half hour glorious early morning walk from our hotel. It's small enough to take in the collection and, because is was her home, she is buried in the garden alongside all her dogs. There are pictures by Magritte and Picasso and it has a gorgeous garden, added to by Yoko Ono who sent a Wishing Tree there.

We had such a special 24 hours in Venice and all of the above really made our stay............

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Sunday 4 August 2013


Just a quickie..............I'm shortly about to take to the seas on a couple of American cruise liners. First up is a Mediterranean voyage on board a Holland America ship. Next (the children are salivating at the prospect) it's a Disney cruise around the same waters. But before I report back on those ones, click on the link below for some other family sailing ideas which won't break the bank balance:

P.S I'm afraid I didn't get the camera out last night. The Funghi a la Jo went down very well with the Italian family, but nobody felt that a photo would do them justice. Clearly my cooking's all in the tasting rather than presentation...........

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Friday 2 August 2013


I'm not much of a cook, but I am proud of myself for devising my very own recipe. Real chefs among you won't be overly impressed, but suffice to say that one of the dishes accompanying every BBQ I've made this summer has been a recipe concocted by yours truly. What's more, it's been a veritable hit.
It's a cheat of a dish, but who cares? The reaction from consumers has been unadulterated thumbs up, followed by the unlikely question (those who know me well know that I don't cook): "How did you make these?"
Normally I try to distract from this kind of questioning because normally anything I serve up that tastes special usually isn't made by me at all, but posh-shop bought and passed off as my own.
But with this particular dish I have positively REVELED in the disclosure. So, here it is:

Recipe for Funghi a la Jo

Ingredients: Large flat mushrooms - however many desired
                  Shop-bought pesto sauce

Preparation: Wash mushrooms, place upside down on heads, liberally spread pesto sauce on their undersides. There is no such thing as too much pesto in my opinion.

To cook: Place on BBQ until done.
               Alternatively these can be oven baked or oven grilled.

And hey presto. You have a lick-lipping dish which has guests asking for seconds.

Any other easy BBQ recipes very welcome - please leave a comment. I'm going to try to remember to take a photo of the mushrooms tomorrow night to post for all to see.

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That's what I've had this summer.
Well, ok, it's only been made possible because we've had such amazing weather here in the UK (duh, and a few weeks back I was complaining about how it wouldn't stop raining!) but hey, better to have the epiphany late in life than never at all.
I'm going to be honest. And it hurts. For the last twenty years I've enjoying eating BBQ's round at other peoples' houses, but when it's come to doing my own I've always bought these little tiddly aluminium disposable BBQ trays which fit a maximum of 6 burgers if you're lucky. It's a shocking admission for someone who enjoys their food as much as I do.
But with long balmy evening night after night here in London, I finally made a radical appeal to my husband:
"Darling, I think we should buy a proper BBQ."
That was all the inspiration he needed. A couple of hours later he returned with a beautiful Weber model and we've never looked back.
Meal after meal has been enjoyed in our back garden, accompanied by a cool crisp bottle of chardonnay. We've barbecued burgers, sausages, chicken, sea bass (my favorite), vegetable kebabs with haloumi cheese and one other key dish (see next post). I now can't get enough of the BBQ and can't believe I held off for so long. And what's more, we've enjoyed entertaining in the garden, making each meal a lovely social event. Tomorrow night we've Italian family from Roma coming - let's see if they prefer my home-made BBQ to their home-made pizza.
My beautiful late mother always used to say: "Food tastes so much nicer outside".
Here, here.

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Wednesday 31 July 2013

BBC Proms

Wow, last night took me by surprise. I got free use of a box at the glorious Royal Albert Hall in London, which hosts the annual BBC Proms - a famous classical music festival now in its 119th season- and decided to take my children - twins 10 years, and an 8 year old daughter.
Classical music................hummmmmmmmmmmmm
I like listening to classical music occasionally on the radio. I play classical piano and flute. My three children all study piano and my ten year old daughter is an aspiring rock chick guitarist. But playing classical music is an altogether different thing to actually listening to an orchestra play for any length of time. I remember being taken by my parents to a classical music concert as a child and being so bored that I kept willing my father to want to leave at half-time. Happily he took his cue..........
And so it was with trepidation that I took my three children along last night, but what a delight it turned out to be. A chamber orchestra was playing Schumann's symphony No.2 in C major. It was as if the music was caressing me. Listening to gorgeously played classical music felt like an almost (and unexpectedly) sensual experience.
Sure, there were things that tickled the kids humor. Like the violent body movements of the violinists, all leaning over as they bowed and body swerving to the music. And like when there was a pause in a symphony, but it wasn't the end. So nobody applauded. "Why aren't they clapping?" my youngest whispered, confused. I explained that it hadn't finished. In the silence all that could be heard was a lot of coughing ricocheting around the circular hall. And so, having caught on, my children decided to join in the cacophony with some of their own serious throat-clearing..........!
For the second half they pulled a glorious and impossibly long grand piano onto the stage. There was to be a soloist, Paul Lewis, accompanying the orchestra in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major.
What can I say? His performance took my breath away......................the lightness of his touch as his fingers skimmed across the keyboard made the music feel like liquid velvet. I found myself closing my eyes and swooning...................
To think that I almost hadn't wanted to go and that the children wouldn't enjoy it..................Just goes to show that one needs to grab new experiences in life and give them a go. I shall try to hold that thought with me, today and all days..........

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Friday 26 July 2013

Weak at the Knees Cover!!

The time has finally's cover reveal day for my novel Weak at the Knees, to be released September 20th, 2013.

Here it is:

And here is the book description:

“We got so busy living life that we forgot to live our dreams.”
Danni Lewis has been playing it safe for twenty-six years, but her sheltered existence is making her feel old ahead of time. When a sudden death plunges her into a spiral of grief, she throws caution to the wind and runs away to France in search of a new beginning.

The moment ski instructor Olivier du Pape enters her shattered world she falls hard, in more ways than one.

Their mutual desire is as powerful and seductive as the mountains around them. His dark gypsy looks and piercing blue eyes are irresistible.

Only she must resist, because he has a wife – and she’d made a pact to never get involved with a married man.

But how do you choose between keeping your word and being true to your soul?

Weak at the Knees is Jo’s debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre – a story about love, loss and relationships, set between London and the heart of the French Alps.

I really hope you like the cover - all comments happily received!

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Sunday 7 July 2013

Perfect family holidays!

Well, ok, the sun is shining finally in the UK and now that we're basking in the glory of a Wimbledon win (HOORAH, finally after 77 years we have a British champ) perhaps a staycation will be the must-do family holiday option.
But if you fancy jetting off to somewhere not too pricey and short haul for a family holiday with a difference, then check out these possibilities:

The kinderhotels (a group of Austrian hotels geared towards families) are truly brilliant and great value for a great product. To date I've stayed in at least six different kinderhotels, both in winter for ski and in summer too, and I've even chosen to holiday at a kinder hotel called Gina's in southern Austria TWICE it was that good - my children loved it. There's a lovely mountain lake about a ten minute walk away which my husband and I used to go and swim in - we left the children happily playing in the hotel's mini-club. But had my children been older then we would have enjoyed taking them to the lake too...............

Holland America cruise lines is another deluxe option which (if you can bear the thought of being in an inside cabin) is excellent, all-inclusive value. Apparently it's THE most luxurious cruise liner on the seas at the moment, but I haven't yet been on one so have no personal experience..........

Anyway, check out the link above and I hope it gives you some fresh, last minute ideas.

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Tuesday 2 July 2013

Strawberries and Cream at Wimbledon

Well, my dream did come true - I did manage to get tickets for Wimbledon this year and better still I got to take my tennis-mad son Gabriel with me!
The strawberries and cream this year, for once, weren't ridiculously stingy and overpriced. £2.50 bought us a generous helping of both, with a sprinkling of sugar, which we enjoyed on Murray Mound overlooking Center Court:
Deeeelicious and even count as one (if not two) of our 'five a day'!

An exciting day was had by all, although, boo hoo, all my heroes (Nadal, Roger Federer etc) have been knocked out, so there aren't many players left in the tournament that really excite me.
But on the bright side, it didn't even rain!
We were so close to this outside court that we just wanted to hop over the fence, grab a racket and start playing. Think anyone would have noticed?!

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Monday 1 July 2013

Weak at the Knees

Very exciting news - the publication date for my second novel has just been announced: September 20th 2013. It's called Weak at the Knees and its cover (very sexy) is being revealed at the end of this month on July 26th - I will of course share that on this blog as soon as I am able. The novel is in the new adult/contemporary romance genre and is a story about love, loss and relationships set between London and the heart of the French Alps. I'm currently gripped by a thrilling new French paranormal drama which is being shown with subtitles on Channel 4 in the UK. Its called 'The Returned' (in French it's 'Les Revenants') and it is truly brilliant - spooky, suspense-filled and with a cast to die-for. Better still, the male French love interest in my novel (Olivier du Pape) suddenly came to life for me when I spotted the actor playing Simon in The Returned. Meet Pierre Perrier:

If the world hasn't yet heard of Pierre Perrier then they soon will and I'm excited to be one of the first to spot him. His charisma on screen brings to mind a French Johnny Depp. Pierre is HOT HOT HOT - and should I ever be lucky enough to have my book made into a film then Pierre would definitely be a contender to play my Olivier..................Olivier Martinez would come a close second, although he is now probably a little to old to play the character......................
But seriously, if you haven't yet seen The Returned and have the chance to catch it on I-Player, then you won't be disappointed. Perhaps its the start of a whole host of French Noir drama to hit our screens following the raft of Nordic Noir with the Killing and The Bridge et al......
Any other ideas for sexy French leading male actors please let me know - the French window dresser in the recent ITV drama Mr Selfridge was pretty gorgeous too...........!!

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Thursday 27 June 2013

R.I.P Chris

A sobering morning...........
I've just got back from the funeral of a man who died way ahead of his time. My hairdresser, Chris, had been battling stomach cancer for over six years and in a way it was a miracle he lived as long as he did. The cancer never really went away, it was just managed with chemotherapy and Chris also went to Hungary to receive an alternative treatment made from Misteltoe. Extracts from the plant are thought to fight cancer cells and Chris's family believe the injections he received helped prolong his life and improve its quality.
He was a truly lovely man - kind, gentle, witty - he cut all my children's hair too, so beautifully, and we are all feeling so sad. He worked, probably too hard, throughout his fight, a soldier through and through.
As a friend of him said in his eulogy: "Chris may have been small in stature, but his personality was like a lion. Courageous, self-deprecating and humble."
He was a special, special man and his battle makes me realize how my dear mother (who tragically passed away herself a couple of years ago in difficult circumstances) had an ending which we all, if we had a choice, would prefer:

Chris, I can hear your voice in my head, constantly, and you will be forever in my heart.
I wish your two lovely young daughters a long life.
Rest in Peace.

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Monday 24 June 2013


Today Wimbledon starts and it's not yet even raining!
Whilst I've always had a penchant for Roger Federer and secretly wish (shush, don't tell my husband) that I was married to him, in answer to yesterday's post, it's probably not much of a surprise to learn that whilst my husband WAS in the men's singles finals of  a London tennis club yesterday, it was not on the hallowed turf that is SW19. What's more, he did not win......................but I'm proud of him all the same. As my youngest daughter said: "First's the worst, second's the best.................". Hope she hasn't mentioned that to Andy Murray!
What with my penchant for Roger Federer............and Nadal a close second, I've always had a longing to breed a Wimbledon champ and happily two out of three of my children do love playing and are pretty damn good at it too. Unlike Agassi's father (who hung a tennis ball above the champion's cot when he was a baby) I haven't resorted to those kind of extremes, but check out the article below to see what I HAVE resorted to:

And below's picture was taken from a Cunard Mediterranean cruise last summer where they had a half-size tennis court on deck, would you believe!
Anyway, roll on the strawberries and cream and let's pray that this year, for Andy, is THE year - although truth be told, in last years' final I really did struggle with my loyalties: Andy v Federer.

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Sunday 23 June 2013

Last night's conundrum

I was out last night with friends. They have three young children like me and were equally disillusioned with the AWFUL weather at the moment in the UK - it's so cold it can barely even be described as autumnal.
Anyway, desperate to escape the cold (they're holidaying in the UK this summer) they are trying to book up a long haul winter sun holiday over the school Xmas period. Only they can't afford it. Their budget is a whopping £6k ($9,065) and yet they can't find anything suitable. One of their children is about to turn 12 years which means they will have to pay full adult fare on the airplane and they couldn't find air fares to anywhere hot (Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Arizona etc) for less than £5k for the five of them. Which means nearly their entire budget was eaten up by air fares.
Is this really possible that a family of five cannot holiday in the heat on this budget because they can only travel in the peak school holiday period?
Suggestions for possible great trips VERY WELCOME please..................
I couldn't believe what I was hearing........
Anyway, on a brighter note my husband is in the finals of his little tennis club's mens' singles final...........
And what is that club called?!
Could it be Wimbledon?!
See next post  for reveal..........

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Saturday 22 June 2013

Jordan for Juniors

Yes, I know, I keep travelling to countries situated worryingly near danger zones! Jordan is a tiny country in the Middle East and shares a border with Syria - but this didn't put me off. I've always wanted to go to Jordan - to Petra in particular - and I was excited about this trip.
Ours was a five-day press trip and if I were to travel for an actual holiday I would definitely go for longer. There's so much brilliant stuff to see and do and for adventurous families this is an exciting destination with memorable locations. The children will remember what they saw in Jordan for a LONG time to come.
We flew to capital Amman (Air Jordan was very nice and not too expensive) and stayed in a lovely hotel (Le Meridian) with a gorgeous swimming pool. From here it was just an hours' drive to the gem that is Jerash. Truly, this place is quite a find. It has Roman remains here which rival Pompeii and it's a wonder that more people don't know about it. Very exciting. And in the remains of the amazingly intact Colisseum, there
were soldiers playing bagpipes! Apparently they had done their military training in Scotland - it was so out-of-place it was hilarious!
I've been longing to visit Petra for at least twenty years and it didn't disappoint. This ancient civilisation carved into the red rock was AWESOME. It is a big site, however, and the only way to manage it with the children was to placate them with donkey rides (not cheap, but absolutely worth it -and my children were given mules which they adored) and chariot rides. The chariot rides (so-called by the children) were just horse and carriages with covered tops to shelter you from the glare of the sun. Inspired by their visit to Jerash the day before, my girls imagined they were gladiators sparring in battle as we charged over cobbled paths back to the entrance...................Advice is to come early or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day. Adults could spend a whole day exploring the vast site, but a half day is probably all most children will want to spend.

Aqaba shares a border with both Israel and Egypt and both can be seen across the bay. It sits on the Red Sea and would be a good place to stay for a week and use as a base to explore. Petra can be visited from here as can the Wadi Rum (see next) and the snorkelling is excellent here. The fish and coral (the sea gets its name because the coral is red) are spectacular.
We stayed at the glorious Radisson Blu Tala which had FIVE swimming pools and sits on the beach. It wasn't an expensive hotel and yet it was top quality five star luxury. I would definitely consider coming back here for a week. Apparently Easy Jet are planning cheap flights on a new route from the UK to Aqaba, which will really open this up as a destination. The children LOVED this hotel by the way, and would happily have spent more time here. If not just so that they could swim a different pool every day.

Wow, what an experience. From the Red Sea it was an hour's drive to the Wadi Rum, in the heart of the desert where Lawrence of Arabia came (and the film starring Omar Sharif was filmed here too). The Wadi and it's monolithic rock formations were spectacular. We took a camel ride at sunset (truly memorable - if I hadn't been worried about falling off my camel I'd have pinched myself to check that I was really there) and then settled into our campsite, Captain Desert Wadi Rum.
I won't lie to you. It wasn't the best night's sleep I've ever had. This is our tent, sheltered by the towering rocks:
and the inside! Do use mosquito repellent and the mosquito nets. The repellent I bought in Tunisia (see previous post) worked a treat. None of us got bitten whereas others in our party were munched to bits!
The Bedouins running the camp were so lovely. They took us first on the camel rides:
 And then they prepared us a feast of grilled chicken and lamb cooked under the hot sand. There was a big ceremony as they dug up the dishes. My youngest daughter Hannah thought the concept of cooking food under the sand was disgusting (she'd imagined the food would be sand-coated!), but happily the meat was in pots and it was actually delicious. Everything had been slow-cooked and was so tender it fell off the bone. Carrots roasted whole alongide the meat were sensational.
When dinner was over the bedouins started playing music with local instruments - flutes and strings - and got all the children up and dancing. It was sweet and unforgettable. As was the star-gazing in the inky, unpolluted atmosphere - the dazzle of planets was almost blinding.

This was our last stop. Our base was the Marriott Dead Sea Jordan Valley Hotel and I have to say it was one of the most glorious hotels I've ever been to - and I have stayed in a lot of hotels. Boutique hotel it isn't - it's vast and again has several pools, but wherever you are it somehow manages to feel quiet and unrushed. Plus it has the added bonus of actually being on the Dead Sea, which is so salty you can float and read at the same time. You can also pamper yourself to a self-service mud treatment (the mud is from the bottom of the sea) which is full of so many good minerals that your skin is left silky smooth afterwards.
What absolute fun. The Dead Sea was the highlight for the children, especially this hotel. The food at its Italian restaurant is sensational by the way and the swimming pools were dreamy - one had a water slide that the children never tired of. Again, this would make a great base for a week or even longer. Jerash is an easy daytrip from here, as is Petra. And the rest of the time you could just chill out in the hotel (which has a great spa) and treat your skin to the healing benefits of the Dead Sea. This is the lowest spot on earth and sufferers of psoriasis say it helps their skin too. ............................  A great, great trip.

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A Taste of Tunisia

Slapped wrists, I've been very bad. I've failed friends/followers who were wanting me to give them advice for future holidays with their children. With school summer holidays now looming (and the weather here in the UK ever diabolical) the thought of traveling to warmer climes is very appealing.
We went there for a week back in April. The trip had originally been planned for February (apparently the weather can be nice there even then) but a few days before we were due to leave, the opposition leader was assassinated and there were riots (some violent) in capital Tunis. So we postponed the trip for that all to calm down and we finally got there in April.
I have to admit I was slightly hesitant before going. Tunisia is badly situated, sandwiched by volatile Algeria and Libya. And when David Cameron made a comment about there being a general Al Qaeda threat across North Africa, that did little to pacifiy me. However, we went and I'm so delighted we did, because there was NO sense of unrest anywhere that we went. We took public buses with the locals and had no problems. We found Tunisia and its natives to be ultra friendly and warm and the country has a wonderfully exotic feel to it which sets it apart from other Mediterranean countries. Plus it's refreshingly CHEAP. Not that we experienced any problems with mosquitoes, but as I'd forgotten to bring any repellent with we bought some in a little local shop.  Only £1 a tube and it is the BEST cream ever. So effective. I have since had the need to use it and whereas others were badly bitten, I came away unscathed (and so did my children) thanks to the cream. I wish I'd bought it in bulk - we're off to Venice this summer where (according to many Trip Advisor reports) there are a TON of mosquitoes in the summer. Must be because of those canals.....
Anyway, I digress..
Beyond cheap insect repellent, the hotels in Tunisia also offer excellent value, with many of them geared towards families with great (and free) activites laid on. The cuisine was nice. And nobody suffered from any stomach bugs there, which is always a worry when you travel to Africa. That said, in countries where I'm concerned, I NEVER eat salads, but only cooked vegetables. Likewise fruits - I tend to want to peel it myself. And then I find the chances of getting sick are much reduced.
As I look out my London window now the rain is bucketing, the wind is fierce and the trees are swaying wildly - and it's midsummers day!! If only I was still in Tunisa.............check out my review by clicking the link below:

And please feel free to ask me any questions.
ps - a few days after our return there were the bombs at the Boston marathon. Which just goes to show that we can worry about terrorism, but trouble can happen where you least expect it too. So now I will stop worrying so much about where I holiday..............within reason.

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Sunday 28 April 2013

Hallelujah...........and the RAT!

I've been meaning to start this blog for years and hallelujah, it's finally happened................better late than never. It will take on a diary form about things that happen to me- and sometimes even things that happen to other people. Today's story concerns not just me, and others, but also a big, fat, hairy rat.........
Now, I don't like rats, I never have, but we recently acquired a pet hamster called Lucky (a present for my 8 year old daughter) which has made me more open-minded about rodents in general. So when a friend knocked on my door and pointed out this immobile creature sat in my driveway - yes, said big hairy rat - I felt an affinity with it and failed to regard it as purely vermin. But sadly this rat wasn't in good shape. My friend thought it had maybe been attacked by a cat or bird, but we couldn't be sure. It was alive, but barely - when we approached it made a few wobbly steps away from us, but that was all the effort it could muster.
"Whack it on the head with a spade," suggested one passer-by.
" Lay it on the grass in the back garden," suggested another, "and let nature take its course."
Neither suggestion appealed, so instead I called up the RSPCA who failed to help (isn't this kind of circumstance what they're there for - isn't that what I've donated money to their charity to do?) and suggested I take the rat to a local vet. Which I did. And the vet couldn't see any signs of injury and thought that perhaps it had been poisoned..........only not enough. Thankfully the rat was put to sleep in a humane way...................
The upshot of the story is that it turns out my neighbour had seen a rat run from my garden into hers and because she suffers from an irrational phobia of rats, she shook the contents of my local supermarket's entire supply of rat poison around her garden..............and that's what happened to the poor rat in my drive.
I will now think again about to exterminate rats should I ever need to.....................poison looked like a slow, torturous, horrible way to die........
On a brighter note, it's the Wimbledon ballot at our local tennis club tonight and I'm off to see if I can get lucky in the draw. Fingers crossed.....................this could be THE year to see Murray win...........not that I want to add to the pressure in any way..........

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