To celebrate the publication of Keeping a Christmas Promise, we’re offering one lucky reader the chance to win a £200 Christmas food shop at Sainsbury’s so you can stock up on all the essentials (and add a few extra treats) this year!

For your chance to win £200 of Sainsbury’s vouchers, simply complete the form below before the closing date of 23.59pm on 1st December 2022.

One winner will be chosen at random and T&Cs apply.

Good luck!

To celebrate the publication of Keeping a Christmas Promise, one reader will win £200 of Tesco vouchers to spend on Christmas dinner essentials (and extra treats) this year!

For your chance to win, complete the form below before the closing date of 23.59pm on 1st December 2022.

One winner will be chosen at random and T&Cs apply. Good luck!

Hello all,

This is a really hard letter to write, telling you all the news, when there is so much sadness and suffering going on in Ukraine. I have been thinking of the people there. The families just like ours having their lives and homes ripped apart and has made me more grateful than ever for the ones I have around me and the table we have to gather around.

I hope every day that a resolution is found soon.

I have been thinking about the families, displaced and how food and recipes will play a big part in them holding on to their heritage, identity, their memories and their roots and family members they’re separated from.  We all turn to food from our childhood when we’re looking for comfort. Yesterday, I had a tin of tomato soup… I was right back there, on the sofa of the house I grew up in, with sliced white bread and butter to dip into it, dunked and ending up all around my cheeks.

I have been binge watching Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy. I love it! In his first episode he met two women, one who was Italian and been living on a dreadful estate, full of crime and drugs. Another who was part of a romany gypsy community who had settled nearby. The women came together with a desire to make things better, by cooking for their communities. As the project grew, creating dishes from their past, so did the community begin to flourish and prosper. Now they have a restaurant on the site and people travel for miles to eat there. They can fund nursery places for children on the site, while parents work in the restaurant and the community is going from strength to strength. It feels like from the ashes of disaster, as in the words of the song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, have grown the roses of success.

And I hope too, as the displaced Ukrainian people, who have had to flee their homes and have to adjust to a new norm, they find strength and belonging and hope in the recipes they put on the tables for the ones they love, wherever they may be for now.

In the meantime, hug the ones you love, remember the ones that aren’t with you, who made us who we are. Find time to escape into the pages of a book! I know I am. I’m reading Katie Fforde’s A Wedding in Provence and it is just a joyous trip to France, a safe and happy place that I need right now.

Last week I had the joy of hosting the Romantic Novelists Association Awards at a lovely lavish event in London. Here I am with my co-host Larry Lamb from ‘Gavin and Stacey’!

I realised it had been over two years since I’d been to a lively, noisy, excited do like that. The evening was a real celebration of books, escapism and hopeful endings! Just what we all need when life around us is anything but. It was a joy to remember and celebrate the books we love to write, for the readers who love to read them.

Stay safe all.

With Love, as always

Jo x

Eliza has a full house! When her three children grew up and moved out, she downsized to a smaller property… but now they’re all back. Every room in the house is taken and Eliza finds herself sharing her bed with her eldest daughter and her daughter’s pug. Combined with the online course she’s trying to finish, plus her job to fit in, there just isn’t the peace and quiet that Eliza needs.

So when an ad pops up on her laptop saying ‘house-sitters wanted’, Eliza can’t resist the chance to escape. She ends up moving to a rural finca in southern Spain, looking after the owner’s Iberico pigs, learning about secret gastronomic societies… and finding a new zest for life and love along the way.

PRE-ORDER RETREAT TO THE SPANISH SUN TODAY!

To celebrate the publication of Chasing the Italian Dream (and the return of balmy summer nights), we are offering one lucky reader the chance to win a portable pizza oven from Ooni Fyra.

 

Ooni Fyra pizza ovens are wood-fired, easy to set up, and light enough to carry from your back garden to your picnic table. Perfect for relaxed evenings sharing stories, food and drink with your loved ones!

For your chance to win, complete the form below before midnight on 15 July 2021.

Terms & Conditions and Penguin Privacy Policy apply. Good luck!

Happy New Year!

I’m so pleased to be able to start 2021 by sharing the cover for my new book, out this summer in ebook and paperback.

Chasing the Italian Dream is about just that, and even if we have to stick to armchair travel right now that isn’t going to stop me from bringing a bit of dolce vita into your lives.

Read on to find out more about the book.

Ciao!

Jo xxx

Lucia has worked hard as a lawyer in Wales, aiming for a big promotion she hopes will shortly come her way. Finally taking a well-earned break at her grandparents’ house in southern Italy, the sunshine, lemon trees and her nonna’s mouth-watering cooking make her instantly feel at home.

But she’s shocked to learn that her grandfather is retiring from the beloved family pizzeria and will need to sell. Lucia can’t bear the thought of the place changing hands – especially when she discovers her not-quite-ex-husband Giacomo wants to take it over!

Then bad news from home forces Lucia to re-evaluate what she wants from life. Is this her chance to carry on the family tradition and finally follow her dreams?

PRE-ORDER THE BOOK ON AMAZON TODAY

**This competition has now ended. Thanks to all who entered and keep checking back for more competitions in the future!**

 

To celebrate the publication of Finding Love at the Christmas Market we are offering one lucky reader the chance to win the ULTIMATE German Gingerbread chest.

Win a German Gingerbread Chest with Finding Love at the Christmas Market

Cosy up with your copy of Finding Love at the Christmas Market, a steaming mug of Glühwein and a plate of lebkuchen hearts, cinnamon stars and butter biscuits. What could be more Christmassy and transporting?

Finding Love at the Christmas Market

For your chance to win simply complete the entry form below before midnight on 7 December 2020.

Terms & Conditions and Penguin Privacy Policy apply. Good luck!

Win a Christmas Market Gingerbread Chest

Well, it seems autumn is rolling in! It’s time to pull out the chunky sweaters, slip on the slipper socks and curl up with good book! And I am so excited that Finding Love in the Christmas Market is out now in ebook!

 

I can’t wait for you all to meet Connie, Pearl and the gang on this very special trip to the German Christmas markets. It is so sad that we won’t be visiting them in person this year, but hopefully, you’ll grab a glass of Gluhwein and enjoy the trip to The Old Town market where there’s a huge Christmas tree, light falling snow, fairy lights, the smell of sizzling sausages and cinnamon the air. And if you’re not on an e-reader, the paperback is out on 29th October, so not long to wait!

Finding Love at the Christmas Market

I loved the research for this book! I went on a Titan river cruise with friends and fellow authors Katie Fforde and Bernadine Kennedy. We travelled down the Rhine visiting different markets, tasting locally made food, smoked sausages, sugary sweet treats and of course gingerbread. We ate bratwurst sausages and tried currywurst! We drank warm spiced apple juice and Gluhwein from bars in wooden chalets, around open log fires. Families and friends all take the time to meet up in the markets and spend time with each other there. The feeling of community fills the air.

The other research I was lucky enough to do was to spend the day at Cardiff college with the baking and patisserie students, making a gingerbread village. I loved it! Each building was different and beautifully decorated and also tasted delicious!  The kitchen was warm, smelt amazing, the camaraderie amazing and with Christmas music playing in the background it felt like a great big hug!!

It has been lovely to see reviewers and bloggers and those reading early copies of Finding Love at the Christmas Market feeling just like I did when I visited that kitchen with the baking students, warm and hugged.

It all began with a blue and gold settee I spotted under the boughs of a big tree on a busy roundabout just outside of Bordeaux.

I knew that I wanted to write about France again and in particular lavender. When I start writing a new book, it’s a bit like walking into my pantry in the evening and working out what I’m going to cook for dinner. I know the main ingredient, the country I want to base it on, but the other ingredients come later.

I’ve always loved France. From visiting there as a child on family camping holidays in the Renault 14, to teenage PGL holidays in the Ardeche staying in a chestnut forest and sailing in the med, to finally going to work as a waitress there, in a restaurant in Provence. I love Provence. I spent my 20th birthday there, in a pop up restaurant on the beach. A storm blew up and the restaurant pulled down the sides of the awning. The thunder came and lightening too. The sides of the awning flapped and we ate, drank and laughed our way through. It was a special birthday in so many ways, not least that is was the last one with my Dad and he adored Provence. It will always remind me of him.

So, I was going to write about Provence and the beautiful lavender that grows in the region. It’s used in both savoury and sweet cooking but seems to have gone out of favour a bit. I wanted to find out more about how it can be used in food.

I arranged to go to Provence last Spring with my friend and fellow writer Katie Fforde on one of our research trips. The wild rosemary was growing on all the banks either side of the road as we drove from the airport to our little house for the week. The weather got better and better as we were there. Sunday lunchtime, we were sat in the square eating locally produced Sunday lunch and drinking a gorgeous bottle of rose wine. We visited the lavender museum and had a French chef come to our house to show and teach us how to cook a traditional provencal three course meal, and cook with lavender. It was wonderful. Of course we ate it outside, with the smell of the pine trees around us and the sun on our faces. We walked the market and smelt the lavender sold there, tried and bought the cheeses, the salamis and the olives. It was a glorious week.

     

So much so, I went back some weeks later with my Mum, taking her back to parts of the Provence she knew well, where she and my Dad had stayed, visiting the lavender fields up in the mountains and her old school pen pal’s brother who lived in the area. Again, we ate beautiful meals in little bistros and drank the provence rose wine. It was another week of making memories.

   

And as I went to write this book, for some reason, the blue settee on the roundabout kept nagging at me and I knew that it was going to be at the heart of this book. A place where the lavender grows, where people come together, look out for each other and a farmhouse where hearts are healed.

I hope you enjoy your trip to the French Farmhouse in Provence as much as I have enjoyed taking you there.

 

Buy the ebook here

Order in paperback here

And in audiobook here!

Happy New Year to you! I know I’m late, but I’ve been head down working and it still feels like the start of a whole new year with exciting things ahead being planned!

Just before Christmas I picked up the keys to my new Writing Pad in West Wales and absolutely love it. There’s just something about this place. Maybe it’s the daily walks on the beach come rain or shine, usually both within minutes of each other. Or the wonderful café I go to for lunch and a cheeky glass of rose. The wonderful fish restaurant with the tastiest fish I have ever eaten that I keep thinking about for days after. Maybe it just the air that fills your lungs or the view of the sea that stretches my eyes and my mind. I love it.

And so, whilst I’ve been here, I’ve managed to complete my proofs of Escape to the French Farmhouse (coming in June!) and that is now ready to meet the world, and complete my first draft of my German Christmas Markets book for this coming winter.

Just before Christmas, Katie Fforde and I and another writer friend Bernadine Kennedy went on a river cruise to see the German Christmas markets. It was great fun, apart from the ship breaking down at one point and a very bumpy ferry crossing back. The markets were everything we hoped they’d be. The smell of cinnamon and spice in the air, sizzling sausages, white lights twinkling in the darkening afternoons and the whole place coming alive as evening set in and friends and families met for Glühwein. There was greetings and conversation in the air, along with the smells from fabulous food from the stalls and a real sense of celebration, family and friendship. So, that’s where I’ll be taking you in my next winter book!

The new year for me also marked the start of a move to a new home for me and my books too. As of now I’ve joined the family at Transworld and I’m so excited to see what they have lined up this year. The plans certainly sound exciting. In June we publish my first book with them, Escape to the French Farmhouse. I love this book! I’m probably not supposed to say that, but it is my favourite so far. I think it’s because I’ve always had a love affair with France, from holidays as a youngster, parent-free summers canoeing the Ardeche gorge and staying in a chestnut forest, and as a young woman living and working as a waitress just outside of Saint Tropez in Provence and some wonderful happy memories spending time with my family there. Making memories I’ve come to realise is what life is all about. So, whoever said make them good ones, I agree! You never know where they might lead you. For me, it was Escape to the French Farmhouse and I hope you’ll love it there as much as I do.

In other news, of course, we lost our dear Labrador at the end of the summer last year. And later welcomed the soppy, dear sweet Henri into the family. He is all heart. Isn’t it funny how dogs have such different characters! Oh, look out for Ralph, the labradoodle in Escape to the French Farmhouse and the beautiful German pointer Fritz in my next winter book.

Now, I do realise I’ve been rather lax in bringing you a new #InMyKitchen on Facebook. If you haven’t seen them, it’s me, with my son Billy, rustling up dinner, talking book research and a slice of life in the Thomas family kitchen. So, this week, with the German markets book with my new editor, I promised to write you this blog and will bring you a new #InMyKitchen with French food memories on my mind.

If you’re still feeling like you need to cwtch up in front of the fire with a wintery book, make sure you’ve taken the ferry ride to Winter Island, in my winter book Coming Home to Winter Island. But if your thoughts are turning to spring and summer, I’ll catch up with you in the pages of Escape to the French Farmhouse!

Au revoir. Until the next time!

Jo
xxx