Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Darling Girls by Emma Burstall (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Emma Burstall, author of  The Darling Girls!

Author Guest Post

I wonder how many other writers out there found publishing their first book absolutely terrifying?

It’s weird, because I’d looked forward so much to my debut novel – Gym and Slimline – hitting the bookstands. Then when the day finally came, I wanted to curl up in a dark corner.

Don’t get me wrong - I was thrilled when I got my first book deal with Preface, a Random House imprint, and I’ll never forget the moment the call came through from my agent. I was on holiday in France with my family and I screamed when Heather Holden-Brown from HHB Agency gave me the good news. My husband and kids wondered what on earth was wrong.

Like most authors I’d had my fair share of rejections and now suddenly, someone actually wanted not just one, but two of my books. I was over the moon!

But when publication day finally came, I walked my son to school wishing I were wearing a baseball cap and dark glasses. I felt suddenly so exposed, because up till then the only people who’d read my book were my agent, editor and a handful of ‘critical friends’ I’d chosen to give me feedback.

Now, the whole world was free to read my work and give the thumbs up or thumbs down as they saw fit. Would they enjoy Gym and Slimline or find it boring? Worse, would they think they could see into my very soul, read my innermost thoughts and find me wanting?

I’m glad to say that in actual fact I had lots of compliments, bar the odd negative review on Amazon which I found I could live with. After all, you can’t please everyone. But it’s interesting how many people assumed the thoughts, actions and feelings attributed to some of my characters were my own.

I remember one (male) friend asking outright if I’d had an affair with my fitness instructor, like one of my heroines! He couldn’t quite believe my book was entirely fictional. I soon put him right...

Also, a group of local women who kindly chose my novel for their monthly book group and asked me along to talk about it, assumed a rather unpleasant, vain character in Gym and Slimline was someone we all knew. I can truly say she wasn’t and I was pretty horrified, not least because I didn’t want to be done for libel!

I’d be lying if I said I don’t bring my own experience into my writing and I’m certain all novelists do. But I’m extremely careful not to base any characters on real human beings. Rather, my protagonists are a mixture of people I’ve come across or read about, all thrown together with some of my own experience and whizzed up with a big dollop of imagination.

Now that my third book, The Darling Girls, has come out on Kindle I find I’m much more relaxed about exposure. These days I see my novels almost as a thing apart. Writing books feels a bit like being pregnant, growing and nurturing a child in your womb until the moment comes when you give birth and suddenly this little creature emerges as a whole person in its own right, with its own thoughts, feelings, looks and personality, poised to make its own way in the world.

Of course not everyone will warm to your child throughout its life. That’s not to say, however, that I don’t love it when people say they’ve enjoyed my books and taken something from them. For me, it’s what writing’s all about!

About The Author

Emma Burstall has written extensively for national newspapers and women’s magazines including the Guardian, Independent on Sunday, Red, Good Housekeeping, Woman & Home and Woman.

She read English at Cambridge University and began her career as a cub reporter on the Western Morning News in Plymouth, later becoming features editor of Woman and Family Circle.

She gets by in French and Spanish and works out – occasionally – at her local gym. After walking her youngest to school, you might also spot her jogging in Richmond Park with some friends. Slowly.

Emma lives in South West London with her husband, the political commentator Kevin Maguire, and their three children, aged 25, 20 and 10.

She’s currently working on her fourth novel.

Emma Burstall ~ The Darling Girls ~ Virtual Book Tour Page ~ Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Virtual Book Tour Contest Giveaway

Win A $20 Amazon Gift Card

Contest Dates: Jan 7- 28, 2013

Everyone who leaves a comment on Emma Burstall's The Darling Girls Virtual Book Tour Page On Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Anyone who purchases their copy of The Darling Girls before January 28th and sends their receipt to, will get five bonus entries.

Book Review

The Darling Girls by Emma Burstall
Publisher: Independent Self-Published
Publication Date: June 21, 2012
Format: eBook - 403 pages / Kindle - 657 KB
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Chick Lit / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: The Darling Girls

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Three women in love with the same man meet for the first time at his funeral. Can they separate the truth from the lies and learn to trust - and even love - again?

When world famous music conductor Leo Bruck dies suddenly, he leaves behind three grieving women and a mass of unanswered questions. Did the man who juggled these simultaneous relationships while thrilling audiences around the globe, direct The Darling Girls like an orchestra?

Victoria, his partner of twenty years and mother of two of his children, regards herself as his rightful widow and keeper of his legacy. However, a series of shocking discoveries forces her to re-examine the man she thought she knew and query the very foundation of their relationship.

Maddy, mother of Leo’s daughter Phoebe, has a high-powered job and seems independent and sorted. But events take a sinister turn when Maddy becomes involved with Victoria’s troubled teenage son, and her safe world starts to go awry.

Finally there’s Cat who, at just 24, is Leo’s youngest lover. Coping with a sick mother and battling demons from her childhood, she is finding it increasingly hard to hold it together. Will grief, anger and bitterness blind her to the possibility of ever finding happiness, career fulfilment - and even, perhaps, new love?

The Darling Girls is a moving story of love, loss, and the prevailing power of female friendship. Can these three very different women, whose lives become inextricably bound, break free from the masterful control Leo exerts - even from the grave - once and for all?

Book Excerpt:

Cat slid to the ground and rested her back against the hard knobbly bark, burying her head in her arms. Her tears soaked right through to the skin and she didn’t care that the grass was cold and damp.

She was interrupted by a voice close by, which made her jump.

‘Are you all right?’ Someone touched her lightly on the shoulder.

Cat looked up and saw, through her tears, a middle-aged woman. She had big kind grey eyes that were rimmed with red, and hair that was thick and wiry with a few silvery streaks of grey. It was tied up but messy wiggly strands fell around her face. She was wearing silver dangly earrings and a black jacket.

Cat gave a start of recognition: Victoria. This was Leo’s ‘long-term partner’, the woman he’d been with for twenty years. She stood up quickly and nodded, her eyes fixed firmly on the ground, aware of being closely observed.

‘Fine,’ she mumbled, wiping away the tears with her sleeve. This was weird, freaky. She was way out of her comfort zone. She started to push past Victoria, who stopped her.

‘You’re Cat, aren’t you?’

Cat’s heart missed a beat.

‘It’s all right,’ Victoria said, sounding weary. ‘I know all about you. Leo told me. He told me everything.’

Cat’s head started to thump and she could feel the blood pounding in her temples. She was thinking fast.

‘Did he?’ She gave a tight little smile, not wanting to give anything away.

‘I’m sorry you’re upset.’ Victoria’s voice was so gentle that she sounded like a mother comforting her child.

Cat felt her defenses weaken. She didn’t want to look at the other woman but couldn’t stop herself; it was obvious that Victoria was taking the mickey but Cat needed to check. Her eyes, though, were big pools of sugary compassion. Cat couldn’t handle this; it was worse than being mocked or screamed at.

‘I’m going,’ she said, intending to push past Victoria who still stood in the way. Cat realized for the first time how tall the other woman was. She must be getting on for six feet - and broad with it.

Cat stared at her defiantly, experiencing a surge of new-found energy. If Victoria wanted a slanging match or fisticuffs, so be it. Cat might be shorter but she was tough; she’d give as good as she got.

‘Excuse me,’ she said, straightening her shoulders.

Victoria didn’t seem to hear or even sense Cat’s hostility.

‘He was a great man,’ the older woman said quietly, seeming to stare at something in the distance. ‘We’re going to miss him so much.’

She paused while Cat, fists clenched, wondered what was coming next.

‘Would you like to come to the reception? I know he was fond of you. It’s right that you should-’

Cat felt her face go hot. ‘Fond? He wasn’t fond of me, he loved me.’

Victoria shook her head and there were tears in her eyes. ‘Did he tell you that? Poor girl. That wasn’t fair, he shouldn’t have said that.’

My Book Review:

The Darling Girls is the poignant story about three women who are in love with the same man, who meet for the first time at his funeral. From that meeting, the women are left to pick up the pieces of their lives after his death. As they explore the time that they each had shared with him, they discover unanswered questions and secrets about him, only to learn to separate the lies from the truth and face the reality of what their relationships really had been with him, while an unlikely friendship blossoms between them.

Leo Bruck was a world famous music conductor who had orchestrated the juggling of his brilliant career with that of engaging in simultaneous relationships with three women. When he dies unexpectedly from a massive heart attack, he leaves a tangled web of deceit, secrets and unanswered questions for his "Darling Girls" to uncover.

Three very different women, three very different relationships, one same sentiment: Leo had called each one of them his "Darling Girl."

Victoria has been Leo's partner / wife-in-all-but name for the past twenty years. From their relationship came two children: seventeen year old Ralph and eight year old Salome. Victoria knew of the other two women, but had always considered herself the woman whom he had chosen first and loved the most. As Leo's secrets are revealed, she questions who Leo was and if she had ever really known him at all. All she can see is the trouble, pain and possible scandal that lies ahead.

Maddy has been Leo's mistress for the past eight years, and from their relationship came a daughter, seven year old Phoebe. Maddy has always been an independent career woman who was capable of taking care of herself, and didn't need to rely on money from Leo to live the lifestyle that she wanted. Maddy knew about Victoria and her children, but she did not know about the third woman. She has her memories and thinks she will be able to move on in her life until Victoria's son Ralph contacts her and she walks the fine line of deciding if it is appropriate to get involved with him.

Cat is the youngest of the three women, at twenty-four, she is struggling to make her way in the world. She had a troubled childhood, and is taking care of her ill mother. She has been Leo's second mistress for a little over a year. She had met Leo at a bookshop where she worked, he became a second father, a lover, and the man who educated her about music, encouraged her to write, and to learn to enjoy the fine things in life. She knew about Victoria, Maddy and their children. She believes that Leo loved her and only stayed with the other two women because of the children. Now feeling lost and alone, she worries about her future.

Leo's legacy of control over the three women's lives will be tested as they each come to terms with their grief, Leo's dishonesty, and the unfortunate reality of their individual relationships with him. An unlikely friendship blossoms among the three women as they provide mutual support and strength to each other, and learn to accept that life goes on.

Author Emma Burstall weaves a moving story of love, loss, heartbreak, and friendship. Set in London, England, the story is written in the third person narrative, alternating between the present time with flashbacks on each relationship. The reader follows along with the development of Victoria, Maddy and Cat's unlikely friendship as they struggle to come to terms with the reality of their shared relationship and loss of one man that they each loved. This emotional story alternates between the three women and it thoughtfully describes how their lives are interwoven as they deal with their heartbreak and uncertain futures. The reader experiences the full gamut of emotions as the womens' stories unfold, it will pull at your heartstrings. I really enjoyed the differences in each of the women and their respective relationship with Leo, I was fascinated by the unique dynamic of each relationship, it was like Leo was three different men rolled into one. I really enjoyed the development of the women's blossoming friendship, their connection and ability to pull together and help one another was truly inspiring.

The Darling Girls is a riveting story of infidelity and the bond of friendship that is formed between three women through mutual kindness, strength, support and forgiveness borne out of an unfortunate and tragic circumstance.



  1. Thanks for being in the tour!

    1. Hi Samantha! Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event. :)