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Monday, March 4, 2013

A Little Bit Of Madness by Sheryl Browne (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Reading Addiction Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Sheryl Browne, author of A Little Bit Of Madness!

Author Guest Post

As part of my book blog tour I was invited to offer practical advice for beginning to write Romantic Comedy.

As mentioned elsewhere, my road to publication has been a long one and it’s only now I feel qualified to impart such advice. My first ever romantic comedy was picked up by an agent, you see, who hailed it as a bestseller and was then possibly reduced to tears – along with yours truly – when it didn’t sell. Overuse of barbed wit and slapstick I gleaned from feedback was the reason why. I’ve been told by the BBC I have a flair for comedic situations vis-à-vis sitcom, but in regard to novel writing, back then, it was obvious I had some lessons to learn.

I wrote, embarked on a creative writing course, took on board every piece of advice and, finally, I think I got there. I’d like to share some of what of learned along the way, in the hope it might help make the road a little less bumpy for anyone else starting out on the romantic comedy writing journey.

So what is romantic comedy? It’s a boy-meets-girl, falling in love story. And as we know from as far back as Greek Tragedy, falling in love never goes smoothly. People do strange things when cupid’s arrow strikes. As much as any sensible woman knows that true love should be more than skin deep, she will probably decide her bum is too big and go on a crash diet – and then indulge in copious amounts of pleasure-inducing chocolate-coated endorphins when the relationship goes wrong.

Men flounder when love throws their carefully organised emotions into chaos. Suddenly, they’re indecisive. They don’t know what women want. They’re vulnerable. They’re human.

Based on my own experience then, along with feedback from publishers and agents, we have to stay away from slapstick and keep our characters real. When we laugh at characters in a romantic comedy, we’re actually laughing at ourselves. We’re amused because it’s familiar, comedic or embarrassing situation we could – maybe have – found ourselves in. That heart-freezing is-my-dress-tucked-in-my-knickers moment when exiting the loo at a posh do?

So, we’re highlighting the situation with caricature, yes, but in order for the parody to work, our characters need to be fully formed people our readers can relate to. Sex And The City pulled it off beautifully but, in reality, most women have never owned a Jimmy Choo shoe, nor could they aspire to. If a woman is a secretary, home-maker, mother, care-giver or bank-teller, she’s not likely to have a wardrobe stuffed full of designer – unless she’s robbed the bank, of course. Hmm? Could there be a story in there somewhere? Your heroine might be the ditzy blonde no man understands. She might be uber-efficient but emotionally deficient, but she has to have depth.

To illustrate my point – and at the risk of blowing my own trumpet, I’d like to use a couple of snippets from reviews for one of my books, Somebody to Love, a story around a single father and his autistic little boy:

Characters jump of the page & make you instantly care about them. Captures the essence of love, life, family & highs and lows of parenting a special needs child.
Jonty - Associate Reader/Reviewer at

…Autism spectrum disorder - the child in question quickly became my favourite character.
Me, My Books and I

Sheryl’s writing is fabulous. She manages to make you laugh out loud constantly and her stories are so natural and true to life.
All things Books – Kim The Book Worm

I feel that this story has been written with real warmth and heart, with a wry humour at the ups and downs that life throws at people.
The Little Reader Library

Time and time again, these lovely reviewers talk about the ability to portray real people they can relate to. Women, as we know, come with a whole gamut of emotion, as do men. They are real people with all the faults and flaws on show. Someone your reader identifies with and wants to get to know.

Readers want compelling characters, people they care about. They might seem to be incompatible, they might think that they are, but we need to believe love will find a way. The might start out as emotionally vulnerable, incomplete people with necessary inner and outer conflict – think Notting Hill. William and Anna, worlds apart and the odd stacked against them. Plenty of outer conflict there. The inner conflict? Could a lowly bookshop owner from Notting Hill ever really be good enough for a film star from Beverley Hills? Could Anna ever hope to make him see she was ‘still just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her’? Basically then, we need to see the characters conflicts. We need to see them confronted and ideally resolved by the relationship.

And so, to the climax. Again, keep it real. Unless you can come up with a fresh take on kissing in the snow in your underwear, chances are it’s already been done, and done well.

In summary, Romantic Comedy tends to follow a formula: boy meets girl, boy gets girl, despite all obstacles, eventually. The difficult bit is making your reader laugh with your character as he/she falls over those obstacles, because the reader is empathising with the character, because they’ve been there.

Happy writing!

About The Author

Now residing in Worcestershire, Sheryl Browne grew up in Birmingham, UK, where she studied Art & Design. She wears many hats: a partner in her own business, a mother, and a foster parent to disabled dogs. Creative in spirit, Sheryl has always had a passion for writing. A member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, she has previously been published in the US and writes Romantic Comedy because, as she puts it, "life is just too short to be miserable."

Sheryl's debut novel, Recipes For Disaster - combining deliciously different and fun recipes with sexilicious romantic comedy, is garnering some fabulous reviews! Sheryl has also been offered a further three-book contract under the Safkhet Publishing Soul imprint. Somebody To Love, a romantic comedy centring around a single policeman father’s search for love, his autistic little boy and the boy’s Autism Assistance Dog, launched July 1, 2012 with an immediate 5* review. Warrant For Love, bringing together three couples in a twisting story that resolves perfectly, released August 1, 2012, and A Little Bit Of Madness was released on Valentine’s Day 2013.

Sheryl Browne ~ A Little Bit Of Madness ~ Virtual Book Tour Page ~ RABT

A Little Bit Of Madness - Book Trailer

Book Review

A Little Bit Of Madness by Sheryl Browne
Publisher: Safkhet Publishing
Publication Date: February 14, 2013
Format: Paperback - 254 pages / Kindle - 532 KB
ISBN: 1908208031
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Comedy

BUY THE BOOK: A Little Bit Of Madness

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Reading Addiction Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Celia Summers, intrepid mother of two, loves her work as an art therapist at The Harbour Rest Home. She’s proud of her elderly independents’ artwork, even if her partner, Martin, is disparaging of their efforts. But then, Martin is preoccupied, trying to get his hands on his mother’s home, Charlton Hall, to bail himself out of debt. To which end, he has to get Celia on side with a fabrication of lies.

Meanwhile, Celia fights to keep The Harbour from being closed. She’s ready to abseil from a church steeple to bring attention to the plight of her old people, no matter that she might fall and end up splattered all over the flagstones. When she does fall, however, it’s much more painfully. Police Constable Alex Burrows, son of Colonel Burrows, is considerate, caring and chivalrous. He has a wicked sense of humour, which makes Celia laugh, though when she learns of the circumstances surrounding his disabled daughter, she wants to cry. Alex also has a reputation as a womaniser, which Celia tries to ignore. His trying to influence his father’s Will though, she can’t. Alex, who little by little has stolen her heart, appears to be just as much a liar as Martin. Will Alex be able redeem himself? Or is evicting Celia from Charlton Hall, which she and her elderlies have laid siege to, the final straw?

Book Excerpt:

‘I think I might be able to assist. Excuse me, dears.’ May squeezed between them, potty in hand. ‘There,’ she said, opening the window and chucking the contents out. ‘That should cool their ardour.’

‘Oh my God.’ Celia gawked. ‘May, I can’t believe you just did that!’

Eleanor laughed. ‘Relax, Celia. He hasn’t been assaulted quite as rudely as you think. It’s tea, not pee.’

‘I’ve been practising.’ May nodded importantly. ‘It’s not as easy as it looks, you know, making huge potfuls and getting it right, especially when it’s orgasmic.’

‘Organic, May.’

‘Oh, don’t be such a baby,’ Celia shouted through the window, as Martin gave an outraged screech and clutched his shirt from his chest. ‘It was tea, not pee.’

‘It was bloody hot!’ Martin looked up, po-faced. Appropriately, Celia thought. ‘She could have seriously injured me, the silly cow. Come on, Celia, see sense and come out before something awful happens.’

‘It already did, Martin. You happened.’

‘Fine. Have it your own way,’ Martin snapped, ‘let’s see if the police can persuade you, shall we?’ With great fanfare, he flicked open his new mobile, and whoosh, in an instant it was gone—swept away on a cloud of fire extinguisher foam.

‘Yessss!’ Celia did a little twirl on the landing. ‘Well done, Eleanor!’

‘That is it!’ Martin shouted through a face-full of suds. ‘I’m going to find a public telephone. The police will be here in minutes, Celia. You’d better get out under your own steam, while you still can!’

‘Do what you like, Martin,’ she called, as the two men in suits climbed from their vehicle, now parked behind Martin’s Jaguar. They’d had the good sense to stay out of the line of fire until now. ‘We’re not budging. We’re not even prepared to talk until we get assurances no contracts have been exchanged!’

Let him chew on that for a while, Celia thought as she turned away. Damn! The bailiffs! She realised they could split up at any moment and bolted downstairs, missing the last step from the bottom to land in a heap. 

‘Ooh bloody, bloody Martin.’ Celia crawled up the banister and limped on, sure at least one of the bailiffs would be trying to gain entry at the back by now. ‘Batten down the hatches,’ she shouted, stumbling into the kitchen.

‘All battened m’dear. Blighters won’t get in here,’ the colonel assured her, walking stick ready to thrash any hand that might nudge through the cat-flap.

‘Mum,’ Luke yelled from the front hall, ‘it’s Alex.’

Oh no. Celia’s heart plummeted. Why, why, why, if he cared about any of them, couldn’t he have turned a blind eye, bunked off work, done anything but be involved in their eviction?

‘Where?’ She raced back toward the front hall, ready to dish out the same treatment to him as they had Martin, except, um, it seemed someone already had.

‘Here,’ said Alex, meeting her in the hall looking disarmingly Colin Firth-ish. Shirt plastered to his chest, his new shoes sloshing water as he walked, his expression one of total exasperation.

‘Who let you in?!’ Celia stared at him flabbergasted.

‘Luke,’ Alex supplied. ‘On the condition I told the bailiffs to back off and in the hope I wouldn’t drown, I imagine.’

‘Good God!’ The colonel blinked his monocle-free eye. ‘Not raining is it, lad?’

Alex sighed. ‘Torrentially. You might want to point out to May that hosing down policemen isn’t the best way to proceed if she wants to avoid a visit to the station.’

My Book Review:

A Little Bit Of Madness is a delightfully entertaining romantic comedy about a caring art therapist who will do anything to save her elderly residents' home, The Harbour Rest Home, from being closed down.

Written in the third person narrative and set in Birmingham, England, author Sheryl Browne weaves a humorous and lighthearted tale about Celia Summers, a caring mother of two boys, who enjoys stimulating the lives of a group of elderly residents at the rest home where she works. When Celia learns that the rest home might get closed down by the town council, she is determined to do whatever it takes to save her residents from getting evicted from their home. With the help of a quirky set of rest home residents affectionately known as "the troublesome trio": May Binton, Colonel Burrows and Eleanor Simpson, Celia goes about setting a plan of action to attract media attention to help their cause. With a series of madcap misadventures; a condescending boyfriend named Martin who has his own issues; and a hunky knight in shining armor in the form of Police Constable Alex Burrows, who is the son of resident Colonel Burrows, Celia has her hands full with a little bit of madness, that is sure to keep the reader laughing and guessing what will happen next as this zany group of characters' story unfolds.

This is such a fun story that has a nice mixture of romance and humor. The author has created a quirky cast of characters, who are so lovable you can't help but bond with them. The elderly troublesome trio of Colonel Burrows, Eleanor Simpson and May Binton provide a lot of laughter with their engaging dialogue and interactions, they simply draw the reader into the story. As a licensed nursing home administrator for nearly twenty years, I really appreciate the warmth and sensitivity that the author used when describing the care, dedication and thoughtfulness that Celia has towards her residents and her profession. I found myself giggling at different times throughout the book at the trio's crazy antics, it made me think back on some of the antics that my own residents have gotten themselves into through the years. I loved the lighthearted romantic twist in the storyline, where Celia has to choose who her true love is between two suitors who have issues: Martin, her partner who is condescending and boorish; or her rescuer, Alex, the police constable who has his own demons but steals her heart.

With a nice mixture of witty humor and warm romance, A Little Bit Of Madness is a thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy that will tickle your funny bone.



  1. Fabulous review! I can't wait to get reading A Little Bit of Madness. Congrats to Sheryl and thanks to Kathleen for hosting this stop and sharing her thoughts. X

    1. Isn't it FAB!! Thank you so much for stopping by, Nicky! Really appreciated! :) xx

    2. Hi Nicky! Thank you for stopping by and visiting with Sheryl! Thank you for the kind words about the review, I appreciate it. Rock on my friend! :)

  2. Ooh, what a lovely review to come home to! :) Kathleen, I am totally thrilled (this book really was special to me). I'm delighted by your comments from a nursing home administrator's POV. They are not all happy places to be (we have to be realistic) but some are. Indeed, the one a very special character (May) lived and caused mischief in. Thank you for your in-depth and wonderful review. Am a very happy bunny!

    1. Hi Sheryl! Thank you for the opportunity to read, review and host your virtual book tour event. This was a wonderful story, I absolutely loved it. You are so right about some places not exactly being happy homes for the elderly, but there are a lot of caring people who work in the facilities who try to make it as happy and comfortable as they possibly can for their residents. :)

  3. I loved 'A Little Bit of Madness' too - great fun read and certainly had me laughing aloud which is always the test for me with a comedy novel. Well done Sheryl and also Kathleen for a lovely review. x

    1. Hi Emma! Thank you for stopping by. I thought the book was a fun read too! Thank you for the kind comment about the review. :)