New book deal announcement!

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that I’ve signed a two-book deal with the lovely folk at Aria, an imprint of Head of Zeus.

A Question of Us, a romantic comedy following the ups and downs of a northern pub quiz team as they give it everything to try to win the inter-pub quiz league, is out on 5th September. I’m delighted to be working with Hannah Smith and the team at Aria to bring this book into the world. It features some of my very favourite characters and has a special place in my heart.

The full blurb is given below. The book is available to pre-order on Kindle from Amazon at a price of £1.99.

A Question of Us

Two best friends. Eight pub quizzes. One shot at love…

There are some people who seem like they have all the answers in life. Clarrie Midwinter isn’t one of them.

At the age of 26, tomboy Clarrie is still struggling to become a ‘proper’ grown-up. She’s eternally strapped for cash, she hasn’t had a date in nearly a year and her attempts to quit smoking tend to take a nosedive after the second pint. Most annoyingly of all, her ladykiller best friend Simon just won’t stop asking her out. The only thing keeping her sane is her pub quiz team, the Mighty Morphin’ Flower Arrangers.

But when Simon bets her a date their team will win the quiz league, Clarrie is forced to confront what she really wants out of life – and love. Is it finally time for her to grow up?

Gloriously irreverent, badly behaved romantic comedy from the author of Meet Me at the Lighthouse and A Bicycle Made for Two.

A Bicycle Made for Two nominated for Romantic Comedy Award

bicycle-cover-webI’m beyond thrilled to announce that the first book in the Love in the Dales series, A Bicycle Made for Two, has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s prestigious Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award 2019! The full list of shortlisted novels in all categories can be found on their website here.

The book is one of five finalists to make the category shortlist for romance novels that are consistently funny, with 300 entries submitted for the awards overall. The Romantic Comedy prize is this year sponsored by Books and the City, publisher Simon & Schuster’s online community for readers of women’s fiction.

The awards ceremony will take place at the Gladstone Library in London on 4th March, when shortlisted authors will find out who has won in their categories. Category winners will then compete for the overall title of Goldsboro Books’ Romantic Novel of the Year. Awards will be presented by bestselling historical novelist Alison Weir.

RNA Chair Nicola Cornick commented, ‘Romantic fiction in the 21st century is diverse and exciting and this year’s shortlist brilliantly reflects the breadth of the genre. We are very proud to celebrate these outstanding books and authors, and the contribution they make to such a successful and popular genre.’

The Worst Noel (A ‘Love in the Dales’ short story)

‘The primary school got a real donkey for last year’s nativity,’ says Colin the Beaver Scout leader in The Perfect Fit. ‘It didn’t go so well.’

It really didn’t, and you can find out why in this free festive short story featuring characters from Mary Jayne Baker’s ‘Love in the Dales’ series. With Baby Jesus AWOL, will the show go on?

First published in the Sunday People‘s Love Sunday magazine on 2nd December 2018.


The Worst Noel (A ‘Love in the Dales’ short story)

All Reception class teacher Ebony Wren wants for Christmas is a hitch-free nativity play. But with a missing Baby Jesus, a chocolate-addicted Wise Man and an incontinent donkey called Raymond in the mix, fate is most definitely not on her side…



Ebony ignored the hand waving in the air and ran to Harry Beeton, who was leaning against a palm tree sucking his wrist.

‘Harry, don’t. You won’t eat your dinner if you finish a whole…’ She glanced at his wrist. ‘…er, bracelet.’

‘Miss! Miss!’

‘Just a moment, Jade.’ She turned back to Harry. ‘And sweetheart, I know Smarties are very colourful, but would you ask Mum and Dad if they could use plastic decorations for your Wise Man costume next time? You get through so much jewellery this way.’

‘MISS!’ Jade was hopping from foot to foot in her little blue Mary dress.

‘Yes, Jade? Do you need the toilet?’

‘Not me, Miss. Raymond.’ She pointed at the donkey chewing placidly on his bale of hay. The suspicious, steaming pile behind him definitely wasn’t growing any roses.

‘Not again,’ Ebony muttered. ‘Mr Blackford! Shovel alert.’

Ash Blackford, music teacher and official wielder of the Nativity shovel, came rushing over.

‘Someone’s had his oats this morning,’ he said, patting Raymond on the neck. The donkey flashed him a self-satisfied look and wandered off to nibble Jackson White’s shepherd headdress, aka his nana’s best tea towel.

Ebony scanned the assorted animals, kings, angels and shepherds of Egglethwaite Primary’s Reception class. They’d been rehearsing for weeks, but now the day had arrived nothing was going right.

Their star guest, Raymond the donkey, was the biggest problem. He’d been the headteacher’s bright idea.

Mr Collingwood’s daughter worked at the local riding school, and the head had said how fun it would be, how it would bring the true meaning of Christmas alive, to have a real donkey. Raymond was terribly polite, Mr Collingwood had assured them, they’d been friends for years. Mild-mannered, fond of children. What he hadn’t mentioned was that Raymond either couldn’t or wouldn’t control his bowels. Ebony was pretty sure a stage full of poo wasn’t the true meaning of Christmas.

‘Well, we’re doomed,’ she whispered to Ash. ‘I swear school nativities were invented to be the ultimate humiliation for teachers.’

‘We’re not doomed. We’re just having a few teething troubles.’

‘Teething troubles? Ash, we’re performing the thing in half an hour.’

He shrugged. ‘Parents expect hiccups, it’s part of the charm.’

‘Do they expect the overpowering stench of manure?’

‘They will after this.’

‘Ok, gang,’ Ebony said, clapping her hands. ‘Are we ready to practise a bit more before mums and dads arrive?’

Jade’s hand shot up again. ‘Miss! I think I actually do need the toilet, actually.’

Ebony sighed. ‘Quick as you can.’

Ash took a seat at his piano. ‘Right. Let’s practise our song while we wait for Mary.’ He played them in and they launched into The First Noel.

Half the kids forgot the words. All of them forgot the tune. And one tuneless little voice soared over all the others.

‘Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel!’ it yelled. ‘Barney’s the king of Israel!’

Ash spun round, his face rigid with a long-suffering smile.

‘Tinuviel, is that you?’

‘Yep!’ said a ginger sheep with chocolate round its mouth.

‘Now you remember what we – have you been eating Smarties?’

‘Yep! Swapped Harry for a ’vengers sticker.’

Ebony looked at Harry and groaned. A small Incredible Hulk had appeared on his crown.

‘Take it off please,’ she said.

Harry’s bottom lip jutted out. ‘Don’t wanna.’

‘The Wise Men didn’t have Hulk on their crowns when they visited Baby Jesus, did they?’

‘Yeah they did.’

She put on her no-nonsense Miss face, and Harry reluctantly peeled off the sticker.

‘Now, Tinuviel,’ Ash said. ‘Let’s see if we can remember this time. Barney is not the king of Israel, ok?’

‘Why’s it say he is then?’ Tinuviel demanded. ‘Says it right in the song.’

Born is. Born is the king of Israel.’

‘But that’s wrong,’ Pip Donati-Finn, who was playing Gabriel, chimed in. ‘It should be “the king of Israel is born” or it’s wrong way round.’

‘It has to be to make the song rhyme.’

‘S’not allowed,’ the little angel muttered. ‘You can’t make things wrong just to rhyme them.’

‘Who’s Noel then?’ Tinuviel demanded. ‘Is he king of Israel?’

‘Noel isn’t a name.’ Ash’s eyelid had started to twitch. ‘It’s a word that means Christmas.’

‘’Tis so a name. I got a Uncle Noel.’

‘Well, it can sometimes be a name, yes, but –’

Tinuviel’s lip started to wobble.

‘So who’s king of Israel?’ she asked in a tremulous voice. ‘If it isn’t Barney or Noel, who is it?’

‘Jesus is,’ Ebony said.

‘I thought Jesus was king of heaven.’

‘He, er… he’s king of there too.’ Nobody had told Ebony when she’d trained for this job that answering deep theological questions would be part of the gig. ‘Where’s Jade?’

‘Doing a wee,’ Jackson said.


Jackson giggled. ‘Must be a giant wee.’

Ebony turned to Ash. ‘I’d better check on her. Hold the fort.’

When she reached the toilets, muffled sobs were coming from a locked cubicle.

‘Jade?’ Ebony said softly. ‘What’s wrong, my love?’

‘It weren’t my fault,’ Jade whispered.

‘What wasn’t your fault?’

‘I had him in the cloakroom. Someone must of took him.’


‘Baby Jesus.’ The door opened to reveal Jade’s tear-stained face. ‘Someone went and pinched him.’


‘Everything ok?’ Ash asked.

‘Nope,’ Ebony said from behind a fixed grin. ‘I need to find Jesus.’

‘Have you tried that bloke with the sandwich boards outside Costa?’

‘I’m serious, Ash. Jade’s doll’s missing.’

‘So get another. There’ll be one in the storecupboard.’

‘She wants hers.’ Ebony cast a look at Jade, gloomily picking her nose by the manger. ‘If she doesn’t get it back, she says she won’t be Mary.’

It was all hands on deck as they combed the school. They looked all over the stage, behind the palm trees, under the straw. They looked in the cloakroom, the toilets, their classroom. But Jesus was nowhere to be found. By the time parents started arriving, Ebony was pleading with Jade to take the frizzy-haired, one-legged Tiny Tears Ash had dug up.


‘Jade, please. Look, it’s a lovely doll.’ Ebony waggled it encouragingly.

‘That isn’t Jesus.’ Jade shot it a disgusted look. ‘It’s ugly. And it’s a girl.’

‘But sweetheart, we can’t find yours.’

‘Wooooon’t!’ Jade wailed.

Ebony almost felt like joining in with a good, long wail of her own.

As soon as the girl’s parents arrived, Ebony dragged them backstage to see if they could save the day. And much to Ebony’s relief, Jade’s mum was able to bribe her daughter into temporarily adopting Jesus’s one-legged understudy.

However, it was clear once the performance started that Jade was not a happy Mary. She bravely held back her tears while she and Joseph followed Raymond through the streets of Bethlehem. But when it came to her big scene, where she was supposed to pop little Jesus out of her dress and lay him gently in his manger, she yanked him out by his single leg, took one look at him and threw him to the floor before bursting into sobs.

The audience could tell Jesus wasn’t a fan of this kind of treatment from the way his head fell off and rolled under a palm tree.

Ebony cursed silently and dashed to the front of the stage.

‘I’m so sorry, folks. Give us five minutes and we’ll be back with the grand finale.’ She winced as Raymond deposited another steaming Christmas present on the stage. ‘And sorry about the smell.’

‘What’s up, Jade?’ Ebony whispered when they’d dropped the curtain.

‘He’s… not… my… baby,’ she sobbed. ‘He’s not mine and I don’t want him.’

‘We’ll find your baby after, I promise.’

‘Then it’ll be too late. Jesus’ll be born and he’ll be all wrong and it won’t be proper Christmas.’

Ash popped his head through the curtain. ‘Miss Wren, can I borrow you?’

With a helpless glance at the still sobbing Mary, Ebony followed him out.

He led her to the cloakroom, where rows of coats hung on pegs. A pair of feet was poking out under one of them.

Ash pulled the coat aside to reveal Harry in his king costume. Jade’s Baby Jesus was cradled in his arms, chocolate round both Harry’s mouth and the doll’s.

‘Harry?’ Ebony said.

He looked up, and his eyes widened.

‘Miss, I didn’t mean to,’ he stammered.

‘Didn’t mean to what?’

‘Only, my mummy, see, she’s going to have a baby. Maybe on Christmas, same as Jesus. I just lended him so’s I could practise minding babies, I never thought it’d be like pinching him.’

‘You mean you took Jade’s doll?’

‘I was going to give him back, honest,’ Harry said, lip trembling. ‘I thought he was prob’ly hungry, so I took him to give him some Smarties, and then Jade was crying and you was all looking for him…’

Ebony crouched down beside him.

‘And you were worried you’d get in trouble?’ she said gently.

He hung his head. ‘Yeah.’

She looked at the little boy, cuddling the doll with unconscious tenderness, and smiled.

‘It’s always better to tell the truth, you know. You won’t ever get into trouble for being kind.’

‘I made Jade cry. That’s not kind.’

‘She’ll stop crying when she gets her dolly back. Let’s clean his mouth and give him to her, and there’ll be no need to say where we found him.’

When Jesus had been restored to an ecstatic Jade, the curtain rose again.

The delight on Jade’s glowing face almost made her look like a real painting of the Madonna. A collective ‘awww’ went up from the audience when the beaming little girl was revealed, gently cradling her baby, and there was a round of applause as she laid him in his manger.

‘We made it, Ebs,’ Ash whispered. ‘It’s a Christmas miracle.’

‘Every time a bell rings, a teacher narrowly avoids a nervous breakdown. Go on, strike up the carol.’

And as The First Noel rang out through the school hall, one voice soared above all.

‘Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel. Barney’s the king of Israel!’


For more festive amateur dramatics, join Becky and Marcus as they attempt to revive the Egglethwaite Christmas pantomime in The Perfect Fit

The Perfect Fit is out today for Kindle

Publication day is here for The Perfect Fit, the second book in the Love in the Dales series. Get your copy now!


‘A wonderful book with a great story and a sparky, unusual voice. I loved it!’ KATIE FFORDE

After years living in London, costume shop owner Becky Finn is trying to build a new life for herself and fiancé Cole in her old home of Egglethwaite, a sleepy village in the Yorkshire Dales.

Keen to raise funds for the struggling village hall she loved as a child, Becky soon finds herself at the head of a colourful group intent on resurrecting Egglethwaite’s Christmas pantomime. But, as she quickly discovers, there s more to panto than innuendo and slapped thighs.

As opening night grows closer, Becky starts to wonder if her embattled panto will ever make it to the stage and, with handsome co-star Marcus on the scene, if she s picked the right man for her after all.


April events for A Bicycle Made for Two launch

A Bicycle Made for Two is released in paperback on 5th April, and I’m going to be out and about shouting about it, with book signings in some beautiful locations around Yorkshire. I’d love to see you at any of the signings, and if you’re in the area, please do tune in to BBC Radio Leeds or BBC Radio York on 4th April to hear me rabbiting on about books, writing and everything in between.

April events

  • Wednesday 4th April from 1.15pm: interview, BBC Radio York
  • Thursday 5th April: publication day for A Bicycle Made for Two
  • Saturday 7th April from 2pm: book signing, The Book Corner, Piece Hall Yard, Halifax
  • Sunday 8th April, 12noon-3pm: book signing, Waterstone’s, The Wool Exchange, Bradford. Also, keep an eye out for my short story Lawn Order in the Sunday People‘s colour supplement!
  • Tuesday 10th April from 10.30am: interview, BBC Radio Leeds
  • Wednesday 11th April from 11am: book signing, WH Smith, Monk’s Cross, York
  • Saturday 21st April, 11am-12noon: book signing, White Rose Books, Thirsk