My experience at Theo Randall’s restaurant

As readers of Izzy’s Cold Feet may suspect, I’m a bit of a fan of cooking, fine dining and food in general. Jason, one of the central character’s in Izzy’s tale is a well-known chef with his own restaurant, which features in the story.

For me, it all started when I got hooked on Master Chef a few years ago and my enthusiasm has been increased since Chloe (see pics), decided to become a chef. She has a real passion and cooks very technical and challenging dishes – her passion to learn astounds me (I wish I’d had that passion at her age!).

ChloeLast year she became a particular fan of Theo Randall. We enjoyed watching him on Chef’s Protege (where he found an apprentice – David) and between seeing him on that and other TV appearances, we both became keen to visit his restaurant at the Intercontinental on Park Lane. And last night we went there to celebrate her birthday… We were not disappointed.

We expected the food to be good, of course… and it was outstanding. The best meal I’ve ever had. Beautiful tagliatelle, incredible flavours with my guinea fowl, and scrummy dessert – all amazing. If (when!) you go there, you must order the zucchini fritti – so delicious.

Everything else about the experience also made the evening perfect – the fantastic ambiance was complimented by the wonderful staff who all wished Chloe a happy birthday and made her feel like a VIP; the smile on her face throughout the evening was a wonderful thing to behold. She spotted David from the Chef’s Protege show a few times, so she was also pretty chuffed with that.

Theo & ChloeThe highlight for her was meeting her idol, and Theo was so friendly and kind to her, even inviting her to see the kitchen and talking to her about work experience someday.

So: a huge thank you to Theo and all of his staff for providing us with a wonderful evening. Chloe said it was one of the best days ever – and her passion for becoming a chef has grown even bigger. She came away with a signed copy of Theo’s book so I’m looking forward to her cooking his recipes over the coming weeks!

A bit of a different blog for me today, but I wanted to share my experience and highly recommend Theo Randall to all who love Italian food. Normal book/writing-related blogs will resume next time 🙂

A message for my readers…

I spent a long time thinking about what my blog entry would be about today, and finally realised that there’s something I want to say before the year is out:

Thank you!

… to all the readers of Amy & Zach and/or Izzy’s Cold Feet. YOU are the reason I continue to be a writer. YOU have made me smile over and over this year; every time someone leaves a good review or sends me a message to say they enjoyed reading, it really does make my day.

Thanks for your support and encouragement; I am very humbled by it all.

Happy New Year to you – may 2014 bring you good health and much happiness!

PS: While you’re here, please consider signing up to my newsletter, or leaving a review on Amazon if you haven’t already 🙂

Izzy’s Cold Feet on location

Seeing as my Amy & Zach on location blog was quite popular, I thought I’d post some photos of the places Izzy visits in Izzy’s Cold Feet. If you’ve been to any of these places, please comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions! 🙂

London, UKBig Ben from Westminster Bridge

Izzy’s hometown and the setting for most of the book. This view is from Westminster Bridge, one of my favourite spots whenever I visit London (I enjoy walking all over and taking in the touristy spots).

Paris, France

Paris at nightI’m not a city person but I love Paris, and thinking back I wish I’d written more about Izzy’s time there. I’ve visited several times and each time I discover something new. 

This photo is from my birthday earlier this year. It was freezing cold but so worth it.

The Alps, Switzerland

Staubach Falls, Lauterbrunnen, SwitzerlandThe whole Jungfrau area is so beautiful and one of my favourite places on Earth. I could post a hundred photos and none of them would really do it justice. Hence why Izzy isn’t so keen to leave Switzerland!

The photo to the right is of the Staubach Falls in Lauterbrunnen, where Izzy and Ewan stay.

… and this is one of my favourite views, not far from the Eiger. A beautiful, wonderful place.

Switzerland

Verona, ItalyRoman arena, Verona

If William Shakespeare felt Verona was a good setting for his most famous work (Romeo & Juliet, of course), then it certainly isn’t too shabby for me, either! Verona, IMHO, is so much nicer than Venice and has a real charm. Here’s a photo of the roman arena, mentioned in the book.

Masterchef

And, lastly… Masterchef gets a brief mention in Izzy’s Cold Feet, so here’s a photo I took of the judges John Torode & Greg Wallace last weekend at the BBC Good Food show (yes, Jason, one of the characters, was there too if you were wondering…)

Gregg Wallace John Torode

One week before Izzy’s Wedding Day…

Meet Izzy, one week before her wedding day: (an extract from my novel Izzy’s Cold Feet).

Find out more about Izzy’s Cold Feet, including the blurb and where to buy here >>

Izzy coverTonight was my hen night and we were spending the day lounging around Greg’s living room, pampering ourselves and watching girly movies. Greg had left the night before for a weekend in Amsterdam. A dark, sick, hidden part of my mind was hoping he’d return with some weepy confession about a prostitute and I’d have a reason to call the whole thing off, but I knew that was a horrible thought and also slightly twisted wishful thinking; he was too nice to do something like that.

I watched Jade flicking through a pile of magazines she’d bought with her. She had long, chestnut hair, much like mine, except hers always hung nicely, with a few waves at the bottom, whereas mine always seemed to be a frizzy mess.

“So how’re you feeling today, you know, about the aristocrat?” Amber asked casually as she moved from painting one toe to the other. She had been referring to Greg as ‘the aristocrat’ ever since I’d met him.

“Fine. Great. I’m going to stop over-analysing,” I said, hoping I’d convince them. And myself.

“Do we need to go over the list again?”

“Nope.” I smiled but knew they’d see through me.

“If you’re not sure … maybe you should talk to Greg,” Jade said, without looking up from the magazines.

“I’m fine. Really.”

“I’d be nervous too,” she continued, “with all those rich people turning up to see you in your dress. But you’ll be stunning.”

I smiled again and nodded. I hadn’t even given that part much thought as I couldn’t really imagine the day happening, somehow. Yet here we were, preparing for my hen night.

Pamela, my mother-in-law-to-be, had organised most of the wedding, for which I was incredibly grateful. It was taking place in a big country hotel in Surrey, with over three hundred guests and all the usual big-wedding trimmings. I had no idea how much it was costing because she’d insisted on paying for everything, but I knew it was a lot. More money than I’d ever had in my life. My dad had bought my dress for me and he’d had to insist on doing even that. So I couldn’t back out now, not with other people’s money spent, could I?

I might as well drink plenty of champagne and enjoy the hen party.

The day passed by quite quickly. We watched some girly films, gave each other mini-facials and talked about old boyfriends.

Okay, I admit I deliberately swung the conversation that way, as we were right in the middle of a chick flick when I paused it and said:

“You never forget your first love, huh?”

And they fell right into my trap, the poor darlings.

“Your first love was Ewan, right?” Amber said, getting up to top up our bowl of snacks.

“Oh yes, Ewan!” Jade laughed. “I can’t picture him but he was gorgeous, wasn’t he?”

“He was sexy and sweet,” I reminded them, “and very… interesting. He gave me an adventure, remember.”

“That’s true,” Amber laughed, popping an olive in her mouth.

“How do you know that Greg’s the one?” Jade asked. She’d never been in a relationship that lasted more than a few months.

“I don’t know,” I hesitated. Amber glanced at me, ready for yet another pep talk if I needed it.

“I think that every time you fall in love, it’s different,” I told her. “And I’m just ready now, to settle down, you know?”

“I think I know what you mean. Like you’re at the right stage in your life right now?” Jade asked.

“Yes. And each person I’ve been in love with has led me to who I am today. They each make up a part of me.”

“So there was Ewan. Jason…”

“Dexter,” I said, too quickly. Amber glared at me again.

“Oh, yeah, how could I forget Dexter? And now Greg. The Aristocrat.”

“My point is that each one was different. I was in love with each of them. But now I’m older and wiser, and just … ready to get married.”

Is that really true? I wondered.

“I get it,” Jade said, “but I was hoping for something more romantic.”

I wanted to talk about them some more, to really delve into the complexities of each of those relationships, to analyse my compatibility which each of those men. Because I’d never felt as unsure about any of them as I felt about Greg now. Why was that? Had I loved them more than I loved Greg?

But there was no time for that now. It was gone six and we were meeting the rest of the party at seven thirty. So we got dressed up. I put on a little black dress I’d bought in the sale a week before; Jade did my make-up and I did Amber’s. Finally, when we all looked gorgeous, we headed out of Greg’s house and into a waiting taxi.

Half an hour later we were at my favourite restaurant, The Orchid, greeting a small group of my closest relatives and friends. There were fifteen of us all together and we bumbled into the restaurant and took our seats. They made me wear a sash to let everyone know I was the bride and hung a big plastic willy around my neck. We ate delicious food and drank plenty of wine and then we moved to the pub next door.

I was having a great time, talking and laughing, when I noticed Amber frown, then get up and walk through the crowd. I couldn’t see where she’d gone or why so I got up to follow her, wondering if she felt ill.

I pushed through the crowded bar to see Amber chatting to someone in the corner. I peered over someone’s shoulder, saw his face, and felt myself miss a heartbeat.

There before my very eyes was Jason.

Should I go over? Would he want to see me? Did he hate me?

If I’d been sober, I think I’d have avoided him. But I had that drunk, invincible feeling, which gave me a confidence boost. I went over, forgetting about the sash that was actually twisted, and the willy around my neck, and the fact that I would be married this time next week. I walked over, feeling bold.

He was wearing a blue shirt with a black v-neck jumper. I thought I recognised it, and stared at it for longer than necessary. Then I glanced up to his face and saw the two dark brown eyes I’d almost melted into when we first met, look at me again.

“Jason!” I said, almost too enthusiastically.

“Hello Izzy,” he said, smiling as if he was genuinely pleased to see me, and reminding me how much I loved his voice.

“Amber tells me you’re getting married. Congratulations! I’m very happy for you.” He leant forward and kissed me on the cheek. He smelt good. A little tingle ran through my chest.

“Thank you,” I said quietly. My mind went blank. I wanted to think of something to make him stay, to start a conversation.

“Nice necklace,” he said, gesturing at the willy.

“Thanks.”

A woman returned then. A tall, skinny, blonde thing with a perfect face, like she’d just stepped out of an advertisement for perfume or makeup or some such. I hadn’t realised people could look air-brushed in real life. To my annoyance, Jason put his arm around her.

“This is my girlfriend, Anna.”

“Hi,” I said, wondering if I’d ever hated someone so much on the first meeting before now.

“Hello,” said Amber, smiling at Anna. “I love your dress.”

Thanks Amber. You Traitor!

They began a conversation about where the above-mentioned dress was purchased. I smiled and nodded then glanced at Jason. He was staring at me. I looked back at Anna and Amber, but didn’t listen to their conversation. I just imagined pulling Jason into the bathroom, ripping his clothes off and letting him devour me. I was just at the delicious point of my fantasy where Jason had pushed me up against a cubicle door and whispered “I think of you whenever I make love to Anna”, when Amber said:

“We’d better get back to the others.”

“Well, it’s really nice to see you.” Jason smiled awkwardly. Our eyes locked for a second and my pulse quickened. I felt myself blush.

“You too. Of all the pubs in London, what were the chances?”

“Yes, what a jolly coincidence, huh?” he said with too much cheer.

“We’d better get back to the others,” Amber said again, pulling my arm.

Jason nodded and smiled. I loved his smile. He always looked cute yet nervous, in any given situation.

“Well, congratulations,” he said and kissed me again, just lightly on the cheek. Wow, he smelt divine.

“Thanks. Goodbye Jason.”

Amber pulled me away.

“You okay? It’s a bit weird isn’t it?”

“Not really,” I said. “He lives nearby.”

“Izzy,” she said, looking at me sternly, “do not tell me you suggested this place on purpose. Does he come here often?”

I ignored her question.

“He seems so … happy,” I said looking back at him. Amber smiled.

“Yes, bless him. I’m glad. I always liked Jason.”

“Hmm…”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know, I just … I guess … I miss him sometimes, you know?”

“You’re just feeling weird about getting married. Stop over-thinking.”

“Yes. You’re right. I’m going to the ladies.”

She nodded and walked off to join the others. The bathroom was very different, and much dirtier than in my Jason sex-fantasy, which was kind of disappointing. I did the necessary, washed my hands and as I was coming out I almost bumped into someone leaving the gents.

“Oh my god, Izzy!” he said, grinning from ear to ear. I thought I might pass out as I looked into two eyes I thought I’d never see again.

Ewan.

The first man I’d fallen in love with.

The man I’d once thought would be the love of my life.

Find out more about Izzy’s Cold Feet, including the blurb and where to buy here >>

Finding Lucas meets Izzy’s Cold Feet in Chicago

As part of the United Authors of Chick Lit, today I’m handing my blog over to Jamie, from the wonderful Finding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey:

Izzy is going to be here any minute, and I’m not even dressed. I can’t believe I agreed to invite her to dinner at Leah and Katie’s. They’ll probably inspect her pores and ask about her bowel habits. Oh God, and Rachel is going to ask about her sex life. And since Izzy is having doubts about her impending wedding, this is going to be a disaster. Oh no, there’s the doorbell. Izzy’s here.

Jamie (Wow, she’s so pretty, and I’m meeting her in my ratty robe): Hi, Izzy. Welcome to Chicago!

Izzy: Hi! Thanks, I’m so excited!chicago-skyline-and-lakefront_2173917

Jamie: Come on in. Sorry, I’m not dressed yet. Just give me five minutes and we can go.

Izzy: No worries.

Jamie: Um, so maybe I should give you the heads up about my family first. They’re a bit…different.

Izzy: Why?

Jamie (bites her lips and tugs her robe tighter): I was on a business trip with my boss, and well, here’s what happened. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

EXCERPT:

“Leah wants to come over and do a thorough spiritual cleansing. There are ghosts that haunt the new owners or tenants of the house, and she says you need to make friends with them.”

“I’m just getting to know my roommates. Maybe the ghosts can wait for a bit.”

“Leah says you need to do it immediately before they feel you’ve taken over their space.”

I bet the ghosts are pretty damn happy considering they get a live sex show every day. Unless they’re Mormons.

“Okay, I’ll call her now. I just wanted you to know that I’m okay.”

I hang up and I’m about to call Leah and Katie, but when I peer at Andrew, who’s back on the bed, I see his shoulders are shaking, and he’s wiping tears from his eyes.

“What?” I snap at him.

“You have to make friends with the ghosts?” Deep rumbling laughter rolls through him again.

“Don’t you have anything better to do than listen to my phone conversation?”

“On a cellphone, you can hear everything. It’s just so funny. Hello, ghost, why don’t you come in? Would you like a martini or perhaps a dry sherry? Oh, serve yourself, you know where everything is.”

He goes on in this vein for two minutes. And for once, I start laughing, too. Most of the time, I can’t see the humor in Leah’s wacky ideas, but with Andrew falling all over the bed and laughing, and me smiling at him, I do. “She’s not totally insane, you know,” I tell him.

“I never said she was. I think she sounds really cool.”

“Well, I have to call her too so try to contain your laughter for a few minutes.”

I call Leah, and while she repeats the necessity of a ghost e-vite, Andrew pretends not to listen. But his hand is covering his mouth to smother the giggles, and I can just imagine what he’s thinking.

He’s my boss, and he knows way more about my family than Horace and Adrienne who have worked beside me for years. This might not be my brightest career move. And then, he makes retching noises when he hears Leah say, “Maybe your boss would like some of your fish oil pills. Driving for a long time can do terrible things to your equilibrium and liver. Or pick up a bottle of Nu Greens and give that to him for breakfast.”

“Leah, stop. I can’t talk about this right now.” C’mon, I need to have some professional dignity.

“Oh? Can I talk to him?” she asks.

“What?! No!”

But Andrew hears that and holds out his hand for the phone. I furiously shake my head at him, but he wrestles the phone away from my grip. My stomach is churning at what Leah might say. God, she may ask him about his sex life for all I know.

“Uh huh, yes, I will, no I don’t, garlic pills for Jamie? Yes, I’ll remember. No, I feel good. I have a naturopath. My girlfriend doesn’t go to her, but I see her regularly. Am I regular?”

“That’s it! Give me the phone!” I yell.

BUY FINDING LUCAS FROM:

AMAZON US   AMAZON UK   KOBO

FLNov22BigpaperbackBLURB

Can you ever really go back to the past?

After five long years of living with Derek, her former bad-boy-turned-metrosexual boyfriend, Jamie Ross finally reaches her breaking point. She’s had enough of his sneering disdain for her second hand wardrobe, unusual family and low-paying job as the associate producer of Chicago’s sleaziest daytime talk show. When her new boss plans a segment on reuniting lost loves, Jamie remembers Lucas, her first love and the boy she’d lost ten years earlier. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, Jamie goes on a hilarious, disastrous and life changing hunt to track Lucas down. But are some loves best left behind?

Visit Samantha’s blog later today to find out what happened when Izzy met Jamie in London 🙂

Izzy’s Cold Feet – out today!

Well, after years of being just random thoughts, many months of writing and several editing… Izzy’s Cold Feet is released today as an e-book and paperback. I have a strange sense of nervous excitement and can’t wait to hear what readers think of Izzy and her predicament.

You can buy Izzy’s Cold Feet from the following:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Or get any e-book format from:

Crooked Cat Books

…and coming soon to iTunes, Smashwords and all the other usual places 🙂

Ten facts about writing Izzy’s Cold Feet

Izzy cover10 days to go!

Here’s 10 facts about writing Izzy’s Cold Feet

  1. Izzy’s name was originally Alice. I’m not sure why I changed it…
  2. I had a different ending planned, but Izzy took me in a different direction.
  3. My editor was none other than Jeff Gardiner, author of Myopia. Check him out here >
  4. The hardest part to write was the blurb.
  5. Izzy loves to cook, and so do I. Here’s one of my favourite recipes.
  6. I first starting having ideas about writing this story on holiday in 2009… I remember sitting by the pool and thinking about it. It just took me a few years to put those thoughts into action!
  7. When I submitted my manuscript to my publisher, Crooked Cat, the story was untitled. I thought of “Izzy’s Cold Feet” a few days later.
  8. When I write, I often forget to drink or eat. My husband has to keep reminding me. If it weren’t for him, I’d be dead from dehydration.
  9. I had a book launch party for my first book and guests were asked to suggest the name of a character for my next book for a bit of fun. A handful of the names suggested have made it and feature for some minor characters (several were too ridiculous to use!)
  10. There are two cats that make an appearance in the story: Fred and Sherlock.

So, there you go…

In the meantime, the Kindle version of my first novel Amy & Zach is currently on sale for only 77p or 99c! Download while it’s cheap for your holiday reading 🙂

Amazon UK >

Amazon US >

Meet some of the characters from Izzy’s Cold Feet

Here’s a little preview of some of the central characters from my next novel, Izzy’s Cold Feet, released 12 July.

Izzy

Izzy, as the title suggests, has cold feet. She knows her fiancé is a wonderful man, and yet she doesn’t have that passionate loved-up feeling she thinks she ought to have. So she starts to think about the other men who were in her life before she met him. But will this just confuse her, or help her to figure out what – and who – she really wants?

Greg

Izzy’s fiancé is kind, caring, handsome… everything a girl could want. But is that enough for Izzy?

Ewan

Izzy’s first love Ewan was sexy, adventurous and a little aloof. Once upon a time, Izzy thought he’d be the love of her life…

Jason

Dependable, kind, and a very successful chef, Jason was once ready to give Izzy everything she wanted, until she hurt him…

Dexter

Dexter left Izzy heartbroken. Yet, ever since she met him there’s been an intense attraction between them that she can’t explain, or move on from…

Helen

Helen, Izzy’s sister, has been missing since Izzy was 12. The mystery surrounding her disappearance, and the affect it’s had on Izzy are profound. All Izzy wants as an adult is a normal, happy, settled life. She just isn’t sure which man should share it with her.

Amber

Izzy’s best friend, Amber guides her through the ups and downs, happy times and tears.

Jade

Cousin and surrogate sister, Jade is Izzy’s fun-loving favourite relative.

Special cameo appearance:

Two characters from my first novel, Amy & Zach, also pop up for a brief moment. You’ll have to read Izzy’s Cold Feet to see who!

Izzy's Cold Feet16 days to go! 🙂