Who’s your unsung hero? by SJV
2019/12/04  |  By:   |  Features  |  

It’s been well over a year since I last wrote you a column, so, as I begin the process of shutting down for my extended festive break, and brace for the impact of a brand new decade, I thought it was high time I wrote another.

For me, 2019 has been a year of adjusting and adjustment, and finding a way through the fog of grief to accept those things I can’t change, whilst embracing the challenges of what I can.

I’m lucky enough to have had the constant and blessed relief of work to help. The getting up, getting in, and getting on with the business of books.

I’m lucky enough to have had the constant and blessed relief of my cat, Pepper, to help, who brings SUCH joy and purpose to my life.

I’m lucky enough to have had the constant and blessed relief of having my husband around to help – the best person I know.

And this year, maybe more than any before, I’m lucky enough to have had the constant and blessed relief of friends to help. Friends I’ve mentioned before, in an earlier column. Those friends I call family.

And there is one friend in particular that I want to tell you about.

IMG_0085 (002)I’ve known Juliet Ashton for over 15 years, maybe closer to 20. We first met, IRL, at the Charlotte Street Hotel, at an event her then publisher arranged for the Waterstones Chicklit Focus Group that I managed whilst working in the Fiction Buying Team at head office, to celebrate the launch of her second (or was it third?) novel, written under her real name, Bernadette Strachan.

I remember, very clearly, three things about that first meet-cute. I was wearing a very uncomfortable cerise pink heeled mule, which I immediately threw away when I got home. I was so terribly nervous about meeting the author of one of my favourite ever novels, The Reluctant Landlady, that I was a little bit sick beforehand. And I remember that we chatted for hours after the event had officially ended, over a glass (or 6) of booze.

I remember desperately wanting her to like me. She was so glamorous. And smart. And funny. And grown up.

15 or 20 years, and 13 or so books later, I’m lucky enough to call Juliet Ashton/Claire Sandy/Bernadette Strachan, one of my best friends.

She’s been a force for good in my life. Especially this year. A constant and blessed relief. Thoughtful. Supportive in every possible way. Gently nudging me back into the light.  And I’ll be forever grateful to her.

This Boxing Day, we here at S&S are publishing our fourth Juliet Ashton novel, the brilliant The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen (#SadieMcQueen).

_20191118_213557It’s an unforgettable story about love and community.  Friendship. Family. It digs deeper into the dramas of ordinary people and their ordinary lives.  People like you and me.  At the heart of it, is a tough story of a life unravelled, of addiction, of tragedy, of loss and of guilt. But it’s written with such empathy and humour, that it never feels too depressing or too heavy.

And I’ve been thinking… thinking of the stories Juliet writes, and of the lady herself. Of her loyalty. And her kindness. And her unwavering support. And the fact that she has dedicated #SadieMcQueen to my Big Sister, Clare, who died last July.

So this Boxing Day I’m buying 150 copies of The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen to gift to others.

Not MY others. But yours. Your friends and family. Your community. The people in your life that have helped nudge you back into the light when you’ve felt dark and lonely, like I have this year. The people that make you laugh. Those friends that you’ve never met IRL, but know without a doubt have your back. The colleague at work that always makes you a tea. The lady that does your nails or your hair or your eyebrows. The lady in the coffee shop who always says ‘Good morning’ to you, when you’ve had the worst of mornings. Your friends from your gym who you spin with. Or the woman who teaches your spin class and always shouts encouragement, and doesn’t judge you when you turn up in PJs looking like a tramp. Your friends from #BookClub or #WineClub or #BitchClub. Your family.

So, if you’d like me to gift a copy of The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen to the unsung hero in your life, all you need to do is send me the proof of purchase or pre-order receipt for the copy (either eBook or paperback) of #SadieMcQueen that you’ve bought for yourself, via email, to  If you can put #SadieMcQueen in the subject line please, and tell me the name of the person you are nominating to receive a copy, together with the postal address where you’d like me to send the book.

The first 150 emails I open on 6th January 2020 will get a copy. My inbox is open now, and will close on Sunday 5th January 2020.




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