Monday, 29 June 2015

Summer at Tiffany's - Karen Swan - Author Post and Giveaway





Summer at Tiffany's is published by Macmillan.  Both paperback and Kindle versions will be published on 2 July 2015.


I'm delighted to be starting off the blog tour for Summer at Tiffany's and now welcome Karen to the blog to tell you why she chose Cornwall as a setting for the book. 


At the end of this post, there is a giveaway for 3 winners, each to win a paperback copy (sorry, but entries are restricted to UK only). The winners will receive their book direct from the publisher. 

The tour finishes on 9 July - please do check out the other blog stops. 



Why I love Cornwall and couldn’t resist partly setting the novel there.



Enid Blyton has a lot to answer for. Had I not been brought up on the Adventure Series and Mallory Towers, had I not read the entire box set of Famous Five to my own children, then perhaps all Cornwall would be to me is a scraggly-shaped landmass of black cliffs and treacherous seas, pasties and mermaid tales. But I did read those books, I absorbed them like sugar in the blood and it became for me a land of adventures, where smugglers’ tunnels squirrel far back into the cliffs, where pirates’ treasure is hidden in the gorse and salt-water lagoons are exposed by the tide. It’s wild and savage, unapologetically ungroomed and untidy. Is there any better antidote to modern life? I love the fact that you can’t drive down the lanes with your car windows open because the wildflowers would hit you in the face; I love that we have to hold our breath to get past the stinky farm to our favourite beach, or that in place of the rather prim, painted beach huts of other seasides, ancient little churches sit stoically in the sand dunes. (In fact, the church mentioned in the book, St Enodoc’s, was once buried by the sand.) 

For me, retreat and renewal isn’t a marble palace in Dubai where I can get my nails done; it’s a chunky, rough lime-washed cottage with six foot-deep walls, granite lintels and a black slate floor. I want to climb over serpentine rock and run barefoot along grass-fringed sandy paths, I want the wind to whip my hair into knots and burn my cheeks so that I go home blown-through and giddy; I want to feel like a child again, care-free and guileless. I want texture and colour and to somehow physically grab hold of this piece of England which doesn’t prize the manicured and manufactured over the raw and fresh. 

The very culture of the place is steeped in heritage and endurance, resilience and independence and given that in all my stories, my characters are - in various ways - being stripped back and rebuilt again, it’s an obvious and perfect setting. In this book, Cassie is forced to ask herself what she really wants, even though she’s supposedly already got her happy ending. Does she truly know herself or is she clinging to an idea of how she thinks life should be? Cornwall’s wildness and tempestuousness was a great metaphor for the passions and conflicts still lurking in her heart.









A wedding to plan. A wedding to stop. What could go wrong?

Cassie loves Henry. Henry loves Cassie. With a Tiffany ring on her finger, all that Cassie has left to do is plan the wedding. It should be so simple but when Henry pushes for a date, Cassie pulls back.

Henry's wild, young cousin, Gem, has no such hesitations and is racing to the aisle at a sprint, determined to marry in the Cornish church where her parents were wed. But the family is set against it, and Cassie resolves to stop the wedding from going ahead.

When Henry lands an expedition sailing the Pacific for the summer, Cassie decamps to Cornwall, hoping to find the peace of mind she needs to move forwards. But in the dunes and coves of the northern Cornish coast, she soon discovers the past isn't finished with her yet? 



About the author:


Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and an ADHD puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her first novel, Players, was published in 2010, followed by Prima Donna and Christmas at Tiffany's in 2011.

You can find out more by visiting Karen's website, Twitter or Facebook pages










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Friday, 26 June 2015

Return to Bluebell Hill - Rebecca Pugh



Return to Bluebell Hill is Rebecca's debut novel and I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour, do take a look at the other stops on the tour.

Return to Bluebell Hill is published by Carina and has been available as a Kindle book since 18 June 2015. 





Home is where the heart is…

Jessica McAdams has never belonged anywhere; never truly felt at home. Of course, what did she expect from parents who never made her feel welcome in her own house? Leaving her life in London to return home to the charming country village of Bluebell Hill is harder than she thought. Especially as she never considered she’d be returning under such heart wrenching circumstances…

Clearing out the stunning and imposing Bluebell House after her parents’ death is difficult for Jessica—they never had the best relationship and now it’s too late. Yet spending time in the house that was never a home, having afternoon tea with dear old friend Esme - and sharing hot, sizzling kisses with delectable gardener Rueben! - opens Jessica’s eyes to the potential of Bluebell House… Could this big old, beautiful manor really be her forever home? Is Bluebell Hill where her heart is, has always been?

Jessica soon dares to dream of her very own home with delicious Rueben by her side. But when a deep, dark secret of Bluebell House is unearthed, Jessica’s world is turned upside down…

Will Jessica ever find where her heart truly lies?


* * *




This is a charming debut novel from Rebecca, with an idyllic sounding location, delightful characters and a handsome hero!

Jessica, now 28, hadn’t been home to Bluebell House since she left in a hurry aged 18. She has made a life for herself in London, working for a publisher and loves her job and the life she now has. However, having received a call to say her parents had both died, she has no choice but to make the journey home to Bluebell Hill, the small village where she grew up. An extremely difficult journey brings back memories she would rather forget, she can't remember ever being close to her parents, and the only person she has ever felt loved by and close to was her old nanny, Esme. Whilst clearing out Bluebell House with Esme, she discovers something that shatters her world even more.

Jessica was a very likeable and engaging character although I did feel that she sometimes acted in a manner much younger than her 28 years, but that may be because I am so much older! There was a wonderful supporting cast of characters and many who I would like to meet again. Her elderly nanny, Esme, was so kind and wise - she was certainly someone who I would love to have in my life. Sarah, Jessica’s best friend, was loyal and fun-loving and just the right type of person to bring some fun and perspective to Jessica’s life. And then there is Reuben. What can I say about Reuben – he is sexy, he can cook, likes gardening and is generally an all-round good guy – he sounds perfect!

Rebecca has made Bluebell House and the village sound wonderful, the wrap around porch in the back garden where they have coffee, the stained glass bluebell picture on the front door, pretty country cottages, the bluebell woods – I want to live there!

I have to admit I had guessed the secret before it was revealed but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment.   I felt that there were one or two inconsistencies in the story and this is only a minor point but I would have liked to have known what happened to Jessica’s parents, unless I missed it, their manner of death wasn’t mentioned.

This is a lovely summery story, written in an easy to read and engaging way. There are fabulous characters, a beautiful location, and lots of romance. I was rooting for Jessica all the way through and hoping that she would find the answers she wanted.

Rebecca deserves every success with this, her debut novel. 




My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance reading copy.


About the author:

Rebecca Pugh grew up in the green county of Shropshire, with a mind full of fairy-tales and happy endings. Enchanted by true love and Disney Princesses, she decided that no matter what life threw her way, she'd continue to see the world through a child's eyes. Through the pages of countless books, her adoration of reading blossomed, and it didn't take long for her to fall under the spell of hundreds of authors' words. 

Now, Rebecca's own story has taken a fairy-tale like turn, and at 22, her dream has come true. With her faithful companions: Bonnie the dog, her partner, and her gigantic family by her side, Rebecca is ready to share her stories with readers who enjoy falling in love and losing themselves within beautiful, fictional worlds.

Rebecca Pugh is the author of women's fiction and romance, her all-time favourite genres. After all, who doesn't enjoy a good swoon?


You can follow Rebecca on Twitter - @BeccasBoooks


Sunday, 21 June 2015

No Place For A Lady - Gill Paul






Published by Avon


Kindle edition - 4 June 2015

Paperback - 2 July 2015






No Place For a Lady will hook anyone who’s loving Poldark, weeps at Suite Française, devours writers such as Victoria Hislop, and can’t believe their luck when they find Gone With the Wind is on the TV. Set against a backdrop of the Crimean War, packed with gripping drama, vivid historical detail and with a love story that will squeeze your heart tight – this is the perfect all-consuming summer read.


In wartime, the rules of love change…

1854. Britain slides unprepared into a gruesome war. Lucy Harvington, who knows little beyond how to play the piano, has accompanied her handsome impetuous officer husband to the battlefields of Crimea. She’s way out of her depth, so if he doesn't survive what will become of her?

Dorothea Gray, a nurse at London’s Westminster Hospital, is determined to follow her little sister Lucy to the front and serve her country alongside her heroine Florence Nightingale and the pioneering nurses already risking their lives out there.

Neither sister could have known the horrors awaiting – the brutal cold, the appalling diseases, the hideous injuries … nor could they have guessed the risks they will have to take, the forbidden passions they will taste, and the simple heart-breaking fact they may never meet again …

Rich in historical detail, the far-reaching narrative will sweep you off your feet, making this the perfect escapist read this summer.


* * *


I have a couple of Gill’s previous books hidden on my Kindle (The Affair and Women and Children First) and I now feel quite ashamed that I haven’t yet read them (for no other reason other than having too many books and not enough time) although after reading this, I shall now be keen to bump them up the reading list. No Place for a Lady was a wonderful read and I‘m sure that fans of historical fiction will enjoy it too.

I’ve read many books over the last year or so about WW1 but have never read anything about the Crimean War. I’ve heard of it but I didn’t take in the intricacies of who was fighting against who. Having read this book I feel I know a little more and I do love books that leave you with a little extra knowledge. Don’t think for one moment that this is a history text book though  – it is a beautifully written story of love and duty and the horrors and hardship of war.

When young Lucy Gray marries the handsome and cavalier Charlie Harvington, her elder sister Dorothea is horrified. She thinks that Lucy is far too young to marry and urges her to wait, but Lucy will not be deterred. She thinks that Dorothea is interfering in her life and having discarded her sister from her life, decides to travel with Charlie and his regiment to the Crimea. She is still a teenager and completely unprepared for the hardship of living in a foreign land and on a battlefield.

Dorothea, a nurse, is desperately worried for her. She is very much a person with a strong sense of duty and wants to do her part in caring for those injured in the war and at the same time she hopes to try and find her sister. Her travels lead her first to Constantinople and to Florence Nightingale – I must admit that I now have a different picture in my mind of Florence who, for all the right reasons, appears to have been a much more difficult person than I had previously believed.

The story is told by both Dorothea and Lucy (by third person narration), with their narratives sometimes overlapping. Rather than being repetitive, I found it really helpful to see the same timeline of events told through a different pair of eyes.

Ms Paul doesn’t hold back on the horrors of war – some of the injuries are graphically described, although not gratuitously, and every aspect is so vividly described that you can clearly imagine the landscape and the awful conditions that both nurses and soldiers had to live with.

I really enjoyed the style of writing. I found this an easy and engaging read, and whilst the text was superbly descriptive, it didn’t slow down the story. The story appears to have been meticulously researched and this shows in the level of detail throughout. At the back of my copy (which was a proof copy) were several pages of notes explaining the background to the Crimean War, which I found particularly helpful.

Their different experiences had left their marks on both Dorothea and Lucy and you could see how their characters changed as the story progressed.   In their own way, both were strong women. Of the two sisters, Dorothea was my favourite, Lucy’s opinion of her trying to dominate and ruin her life was quite unfair and in fact Dorothea was extremely kind and caring and would always put others before herself. I felt that Lucy was initially rather spoilt and quite selfish which can be put down to her immaturity but even as she matured and after all that she had endured, I still found it difficult to warm to her.

There is so much that happens in the book that it is impossible to detail it all here and I wouldn’t want to. It is a story that you need to discover for yourself. I loved it and definitely recommend it for fans of historical fiction.

There is an extract from the beginning of the book here, as part of the recent blog tour which I hope gives a flavour for the story.



My thanks to Sabah of The Light Brigade and the publisher for the paperback copy to review.


I should just mention that at the time of publishing this review, the Kindle version is still available on Amazon for 99p - it's a bargain at that price! 



About the author:

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history. Her new novel, No Place for a Lady, set during the Crimean War of 1854-56, is about the difficult relationship between two sisters, against a backdrop of the horrendous chaos of the British campaign and the development of nursing by Florence Nightingale et al. Other titles include Women and Children First, about a young steward called Reg Jones who works on board the Titanic, and The Affair, set in Rome in 1961-62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fall in love while making Cleopatra.

Gill was born in Glasgow and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. She started her own company producing books for publishers, along the way editing such luminaries as Griff Rhys Jones, John Suchet, John Julius Norwich and Eartha Kitt. She also writes on health, nutrition, relationships and anything to do with history. 


How to find out more:


Saturday, 20 June 2015

I Let You Go - Clare Mackintosh

Published by Sphere


Kindle - 6 November 2014

Paperback - 7 May 2015



From Goodreads


A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent's worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating.




* * *


I've had this book from Netgalley it seems like forever but other review commitments prevented me from getting to it.   When the paperback came out, I bought a copy (I really like that cover) and I couldn't wait any longer - it had to be bumped up the list.    

I've seen so many reviews that mention the TWIST.  So of course I was looking out for it....and, when it came, I can't believe that I almost missed it!  I had to read that part twice to make sure!

This was such a fabulous dark, twisty and chilling read that I sat up until 1.30 in the morning to finish it.  The first part of the book has a slower pace as it sets the scene and you get to know some of the characters and then POW - the second half is a complete contrast, the story gets darker, and it is just so menacing.  There were times that I was relieved to get back to the alternating police chapters just to get some respite from the tension. 

The author's experience as a former police officer really shines through in the narrative.  The scenes involving the CID detectives, DI Ray Stevens and his colleague, the newly promoted Kate were believable without being overruled by too much unnecessary detail.  Ray was one of my favourite characters.  Tensions within his family cause conflict with his desire to do his job - the long hours and having family time interrupted by work, all the time having one eye on promotion and having to keep the boss on side.  I felt for him in his attempts to please everybody but never quite achieving it.   Kate was very conscientious and determined but for me slightly lacking in personal likeability factor.  I do think however that they make a great pairing and I would love to see them return in a future story.  

All the characters were extremely well written - and so very different  - including Patrick the vet (who I just adored), the kindly Bethan from the caravan park and even the gruff and monosyllabic landlord Iestyn.  Jenna of course was the main character.  She appeared to be a very complex and insecure person, racked by guilt and grief and intent on hiding away in an isolated cottage.  As the story progresses more of her history is revealed - and this is where the story becomes even more disturbing.  I'm desperately trying not to give away any spoilers so I won't say any more.  

I have no hesitation in giving this 5* and it is a contender for my top books of the year.  The plot is superbly structured and the twists are just so well executed that its hard to believe that this is a debut novel.  I can't wait to see what Clare Mackintosh comes up with next time.  


About the author:


Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant, and now writes full time. She is the founder and director of Chipping Norton Literary Festival, and lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and their three children.









For more information visit Clare's website www.claremackintosh.com or find her at www.facebook.com/ClareMackWrites or on Twitter @ClareMackint0sh 

Friday, 19 June 2015

All The Little Pieces - Jilliane Hoffman

Published by Harper Collins

Kindle and Hardcover published 4 June 2015

Paperback published 4 February 2016



Description:


She could have stopped an awful crime. She could have saved a life. She tried to forget about it. But now, the truth is out. The terrifying new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Retribution and Pretty Little Things.

Faith Saunders is the perfect wife, mother, and community champion – loved and admired by all who know her. One night will change everything.

As she drives home in the pouring rain, a dishevelled young woman appears out of nowhere, pleading for help. The isolated stretch of road is dark, and with her daughter Maggie asleep in the backseat, Faith refuses to let the stranger in. What she sees next will haunt her forever.

When the missing-person posters go up, Faith’s guilt consumes her. And then it turns out Maggie wasn’t asleep that night, her perfect life begins to unravel. Maggie’s testimony leads to an arrest. But Faith is the only one who can identify a second man involved in the woman’s abduction and subsequent murder. She has one chance to convince a jury of what happened. If she fails, two killers will be set free. And they know exactly where to find Faith and her family…



* * *


This is one of those scenarios that will make you wonder 'what would I do?'  If you were driving home on a dark stormy night, lost and heavens know where, with a young child in the back, would you let a young woman into your car knowing that whilst she may be in danger, you could be in even more danger by letting her in?  This is the situation that Faith faced and in those few moments it took for her to decide to drive away, her life changed.  

Unbeknown to Faith, her young daughter was not asleep in the car, as she had thought and when later, young Maggie reveals what happened, Faith loses a vital opportunity to tell the whole truth and one omission leads to a whole lot of trouble.

I have read a few books by Jilliane Hoffman and have enjoyed them all.  She can always be relied on to provide a suspenseful story.  I have to admit that as the story progressed, I did begin to lose some sympathy for Faith.  The decisions she made seemed to go from bad to worse and although I can accept that, because of her personal circumstances, she may not have been able to think or act rationally, there were many times when I thought 'WHY did you do that'?

This was a fast paced and well written story with realistic characters.  I particularly had a lot of time for the detective, Bryan Nill.  He was rather stereotypical in that he was facing a crisis in his personal life with marital and family problems etc but he was sympathetic and non-judgemental (as much as he could be) in his dealings with Faith.  He could see that she had far deeper issues affecting her life and I liked him for that. 

There was one occasion later in the book when I felt that there was perhaps a missed opportunity to rack up the tension even more but that might have been just my slightly twisted mind!  

I really enjoyed this thriller, the premise was original and the story certainly kept my interest all the way through.   I was especially pleased to see the return of C.J. Townsend, having met her in previous books.  I have the feeling that there is more to come from this story, perhaps as part of a future book?  


My thanks to Lovereading and the publisher for the lovely hardback copy provided for review. 



About the author:


Jilliane Hoffman began her professional career as an Assistant State Attorney prosecuting felonies in Florida from 1992 to 1996. Through 2001, she was the Regional Legal Advisor for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), advising more than one hundred special agents on criminal and civil matters in complex investigations involving narcotics, homicide, and organized crime. Originally from Long Island, New York, she presently resides in South Florida with her husband and two children.





How to find out more:

Website: http://www.jillianehoffman.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/jillianehoffman

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jilliane-Hoffman/119489478068569



Thursday, 18 June 2015

Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe - Milly Johnson

Published 18 June 2015 by Simon & Schuster




From Amazon:


Her marriage is all washed up. It's time for a clean start… 

Connie Diamond has always been her husband Jimmy's 'best girl' - or so she thought. But then she discovers that he's been playing away for the past twenty-four years, and that the chocolates she believed he bought her as a sign of his love were just a cover-up, and she is determined to get revenge.

Along with Della Frostick, Jimmy's right-hand woman at his cleaning firm, Diamond Shine, Connie decides to destroy Jimmy's life from the inside. Together they will set up a rival business called Lady Muck, and along with the cleaning ladies who meet at the Sunflower Café, they'll make him wish he had never so much as looked at another woman. 

Then Connie meets the charming Brandon Locke, a master chocolatier, whose kind chocolate-brown eyes start to melt her soul. Can the ladies of the Sunflower Café help Connie scrub away the hurt? And can Brandon cure her affliction and make her smile again…?



*  *  *

It's no secret on this blog that I'm a big fan of Milly's books, they always make me smile (and sometimes cry) but they are always such fun to read, and Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café is no exception.

Unlike the previous book, The Teashop on the Corner, the Sunflower Café doesn't play a huge part in the story, but its still an integral feature, as this is where the Diamond Shine girls have their meetings. 

There are two main themes running through this book, revenge and friendship.  When Connie Diamond discovers that her husband Jimmy has been cheating on her yet again and is planning to leave her, she hatches her own plot to get even.  Does she cut up his clothes, damage his car - oh no, she sets up a rival cleaning business in the hope of destroying his.

As usual, Milly has created some fabulous characters, from the likeable to the bizzare!  There were one or two that I took a little longer to warm to, for example Della.  Della is Jimmy's office manager and there is nothing that goes on at Diamond Shine that she doesn't know about...or so she thinks.  She has secretly been in love with Jimmy for years and is devastated by the turn of events. She is torn between getting revenge and wanting to protect him.

Connie, Jimmy's long suffering wife, was the real star of the book for me and perfect proof that some women won't just sit back and be a victim. I was rooting for her all the way and hoping that Jimmy would get his just desserts.  

There are many other characters who played their part to perfection - there are too many to mention individually - some were odious and others engaging, but they were all brilliantly drawn and realistic.  Among the cleaners, Cheryl was my favourite.  She was kind and loyal but also had her share of misfortune and put up for too long with other people wiping their feet on her.   I had a soft spot for Astrid, an outspoken German who took Cheryl under her wing; and then there is Ivanka.  Ivanka was the office junior and the cause of so much heartache, I should have disliked her, but her manipulative manner and lack of charm did make for many amusing moments.   

There is so much to love about this story, it is funny but also heart-warming and written, as usual, in Milly's forthright and down to earth manner.  It was wonderful to see characters grow in confidence and be helped by each other.  Having seen Milly read from this book at the Books and the City Bloggers event a few months ago, it did bring the book to life for me and I could easily imagine Milly's voice behind some of the characters. 

I couldn't finish this review without mentioning the chocolate.   If you are on a diet then you may have a hard time reading this book because the chocolates sound delicious and are to die for.   

It is quite a big book, over 500 pages but every page is pleasure to read, there are laughs, some sad moments and little twists and turns. I loved it and I'm sure it will be another huge success for Milly Johnson.  


My thanks to #Team Milly at Simon & Schuster for the paperback copy. 



About the author:

Picture from Milly's website

Milly Johnson is a Sunday Times top ten bestselling author. Her novels are about the universal issues of friendship, family, betrayal, babies, rather nice food and a little bit of that magic in life that sometimes visits the unsuspecting. Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe is her eleventh book. Find out more at www.millyjohnson.com or follow her on Twitter @millyjohnson.









No Place for a Lady - Gill Paul - Blog Tour and Extract






'No Place for a Lady' by Gill Paul is published by Avon

The Kindle version was released on 4 June 2015 and is currently available for 99p

The paperback will be published on 2 July 2015






No Place For a Lady will hook anyone who’s loving Poldark, weeps at Suite Française, devours writers such as Victoria Hislop, and can’t believe their luck when they find Gone With the Wind is on the TV. Set against a backdrop of the Crimean War, packed with gripping drama, vivid historical detail and with a love story that will squeeze your heart tight – this is the perfect all-consuming summer read.

In wartime, the rules of love change…

1854. Britain slides unprepared into a gruesome war. Lucy Harvington, who knows little beyond how to play the piano, has accompanied her handsome impetuous officer husband to the battlefields of Crimea. She’s way out of her depth, so if he doesn't survive what will become of her?

Dorothea Gray, a nurse at London’s Westminster Hospital, is determined to follow her little sister Lucy to the front and serve her country alongside her heroine Florence Nightingale and the pioneering nurses already risking their lives out there.

Neither sister could have known the horrors awaiting – the brutal cold, the appalling diseases, the hideous injuries … nor could they have guessed the risks they will have to take, the forbidden passions they will taste, and the simple heart-breaking fact they may never meet again …

Rich in historical detail, the far-reaching narrative will sweep you off your feet, making this the perfect escapist read this summer.

* * * *




I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for No Place for a Lady.  I recently read this and thoroughly enjoyed it, it was definitely a 5* read. My review will be posted soon but in the meantime I do hope you enjoy this extract. 



EXTRACT


‘We love each other with all our hearts. It’s been nine whole weeks since we met and both of us agree we’ve never felt as sure of anything in our entire lives.’ Lucy spoke passionately and in her words Dorothea could hear echoes of the romance novels she loved, full of chaste young girls and brooding heroes.

‘What do Captain Harvington’s family think of this idea? Surely they’ll see that it’s silly to rush into marriage while war looms? Everyone says it’s inevitable after the Russians destroyed those Turkish ships at Sinope last November. Why not wait till he comes back? It’s bound to be over quickly. The Russians are no match for us, especially when we are in alliance with the French. It would make much more sense to wait.’ Dorothea cast around for further arguments that would carry weight with her flighty younger sister. ‘We could plan a beautiful ceremony and there would be time to invite all the family members we haven’t seen for years. You could have a dress especially made, and use mother’s Chantilly lace veil. Think of it, Lucy; a proper wedding, not something rushed and over-hasty …’ She tailed off at the determined glint in Lucy’s eyes.

‘Our minds are made up, Dorothea. Fortunately it’s not up to you. It’s between Papa and Charlie.’ She turned to her father. ‘Papa, you will listen favourably to his request, won’t you? We are so much in love and he needs me to go with him and care for him. Besides, you don’t want to be stuck with two old maids on your hands, do you?’ She looked pointedly at her sister, unmarried at the age of thirty-one, who tutted at the rudeness of her jibe.

‘What’s that you say?’ their father asked, exasperated that his poor hearing meant he had missed much of their conversation. ‘What must I do?’

Lucy spoke slowly and clearly: ‘Captain Harvington will come to see you at eleven. When you speak with him, just remember that I love him very much and want to be his bride.’

After breakfast, Dorothea followed her father down the hall to his study, where he liked to spend the morning snoozing over his newspaper. She waited till he was settled in his comfy leather armchair, with a view over the leafless trees of Russell Square, before speaking.

‘Papa, I hope you agree that Lucy’s ridiculous scheme to get married and go to war with the troops would be disastrous.’

‘Quite.’ Her father nodded in agreement.

Dorothea wasn’t convinced that he understood the gravity of the situation, so she continued: ‘She and Captain Harvington are both good-natured, happy-go-lucky characters, but neither has a practical bone in their bodies. And Lucy is far too young and giddy for marriage.’

‘Yes, indeed.’ He opened the newspaper. ‘You have to stop them, Papa. I know it puts you in an awkward position, but I have a suggestion. Don’t refuse permission outright, but play for time by telling them they can marry on Captain Harvington’s return from war. Doubtless Lucy’s head will have been turned by some other charming fellow by then and the marriage won’t go ahead. Only a couple of months ago she was smitten with Henry Pendlebury, and before that it was Alexander Gwynn Jones. Make them wait and I’m sure this one won’t last.’



About the author


Gill Paul is a writer of meticulously researched historical fiction. Her five novels include Women and Children First (set on the Titanic and published in 2012 for the centenary of the sinking) and The Affair (set in Rome in the early 1960s, and published in May 2013, on the 50th anniversary of the release of the Burton-Taylor Cleopatra movie). Gill has written several non-fiction books, including Royal Love Stories and World War I Love Stories. 

‘A wonderfully imagined peek into the fabulous excesses of the Burton-Taylor relationship, from booze-fuelled spats to their intoxicating chemistry.’ Hello! Magazine review of The Affair


"It's a galloping good story, and the author has clearly done her research and has a good grasp of the period." Natasha McEnroe, Director, Florence Nightingale Museum

You can follow the author on Twitter



Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Half the World Away - Cath Staincliffe - Extract and Review



I'm a big fan of Cath Staincliffe's books and jumped at the chance to be involved in the blog tour for this latest release.  Half the World Away was published by Constable/Little, Brown in hardback on 4 June, the Kindle version will be available on 11 June and the paperback will be published in February 2016.


My review is at the end of this post but to give you a taster, I have the first blog post from Lori, which I hope you enjoy.



Lori in the Ori-ent

What’s in a Name?

Posted on 15 October 2013 by Lori



Hello, and welcome to my new blog.

A bit of background – I’m a Brit, from Manchester, photography graduate (yay, Glasgow!), taking a few months out with my trusty camera to see something of this amazing planet and report back. In my former life I never made it beyond Tenerife so for me writing this from a guesthouse in Thailand is beyond cool.

(Hi Mum *waves* still alive. Sorry I’ve not replied to your texts – bit of hassle sorting phones out.)

Lori in the Or-ient will be my working title. I was going to be Lori on the Lam but someone got there first, heads up to www.manonthelam.com. Then I came up with Lori’s Big Adventure but that’s been well and truly snaffled by many bloggers. So we are where we are. In my case Thailand. Whoop-de-doo!

My given name is Lorelei. It’s not very common, though Marvel comic aficionados and the fans of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will know it. The name means either ‘alluring rock’ or ‘murmuring rock’ or ‘alluring temptress’. There is an actual rock called the Lorelei on the Rhine river in Germany. The story goes that it’s inhabited by a siren whose singing lures mariners to their death. In my defence I’d like to point out that

a) No one asked me

b) I’m really not the alluring type

c) If I am called after a rock then so are the Jades and Rubys and Ambers out there, and maybe my rock has a little bit more character than theirs. Maybe. Granite, anyone? Millstone grit?

d) My singing may drive people to distraction but I have never drowned a soul, mariner or otherwise.

Most people call me Lori, not to be confused with lorry (a.k.a. truck, for any US visitors).

And here are my favourite photos so far, most from Ko Samet, where we stayed in a cabin above the bay and lounged like lizards. The island gets its name from the Cajeput tree – related to the Tea Tree – and also called a paper-bark tree. You can see why in the pictures.

Next week we head for Vietnam. Come and see me there. 


Lxxx






Newly graduated photography student Lori Maddox spends the year after university travelling and visits China where she finds work as a private English tutor. Back in Manchester, her parents Jo and Tom, who separated when Lori was a toddler, follow her adventures on her blog, 'Lori In The Orient'.

Suddenly communication stops and when the silence persists a frantic Jo and Tom report her missing. It is impossible to find out anything from 5,000 miles away so they travel out to Chengdu, a city in the south-western province of Sichuan, to search for their daughter.

Landing in a totally unfamiliar country, with no knowledge of the customs or language, and receiving scant help from the local authorities, Jo and Tom are forced to turn detective, following in their daughter's footsteps, tracing the people she mentioned in her posts, interviewing her friends, colleagues and students. It's an unbearably difficult challenge and, as the days pass, the fear that Lori is lost for good grows ever larger.



REVIEW


Wouldn’t this be a parent’s worst nightmare. Your daughter goes travelling and is seemingly having the time of her life and enjoying new experiences when suddenly all contact is lost – no-one has heard from her, she has just disappeared. What on earth would you do and what lengths would you go to find answers?

This is the horrifying and desperate situation that parents Jo and Tom find themselves in. They are not together; they parted when Lori was very young and Jo is now married to Nick but they find themselves trying to put their past hurt and differences aside in the hunt for their daughter.

I’ve always enjoyed Cath Staincliffe’s books and this certainly didn’t disappoint. One of the aspects of her writing that I love is that her characters and storylines are just so believable with people facing dilemmas and family difficulties that could happen to anyone. Her characters are not perfect – they have insecurities and flaws just as any of us but she effortlessly weaves these in-depth characterisations into a story filled with tension and emotion. We share the frustration of Jo and Tom having to deal with the cultural differences, the language issues, the apparent inertia of the Chinese authorities and of procedures that seem so alien to our own. One or two of the friends that Lori has made seem to be behaving suspiciously and are trying to avoid Jo and Tom - do they know something?

This is not a fast paced thriller but very much a character driven story of two parents desperate to find their daughter, battling against foreign bureaucracy and sometimes unwittingly falling foul of local laws. Having said that, the suspense of wondering what has happened to Lori will keep you turning the pages! The vivid descriptions of the sights and sounds of the Chinese landscape bought the story to life and I particularly enjoyed the little insights telling of Chinese customs and culture.

The story is not just about Jo and Tom however. Jo’s marriage to Nick is in a very fragile state when Lori disappears and her feelings of guilt at being so far away only intensify when problems occur at home and their two young sons, Finn and Isaac need their mother.

The first part of the story, recreates some of Lori’s blog posts – this is a very creative way of bringing Lori to the reader’s mind and giving a feel as to the vibrancy of her character. During her search, Jo goes over these words again and again, trying to find some clue as to her whereabouts.

This story cements Cath Staincliffe’s position as one of my favourite authors, it’s a gripping and thought provoking read – and I can thoroughly recommend it
.


My thanks to Grace and the Publisher, Little, Brown for the Netgalley copy for review. 



About the Author:

© Paul Herrmann
Cath Staincliffe is a best selling, award winning novelist, radio playwright and the creator of ITV's hit series, Blue Murder. Cath's books have been short-listed for the British Crime Writers Association best first novel award and for the Dagger in the Library and selected as Le Masque de l'Année. In 2012 Cath won the CWA Short Story Dagger for Laptop, sharing the prize with Margaret Murphy with her story The Message. Cath was shortlisted again with Night Nurse in 2014. Cath's Sal Kilkenny private eye series features a single-parent sleuth working the mean streets of Manchester.  Letters To My Daughter's Killer was selected for Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club in 2014 and featured on ITV3s Crime Thriller Club. Ruthless is Cath's third Scott & Bailey novel based on the popular UK TV series. Cath's latest stand-alone novel is Half The World Away, a thriller which sees estranged couple Jo and Tom Maddox reunited in a desperate search for their daughter Lori who has gone missing in China. Cath is one of the founding members of Murder Squad - a group of Northern crime writers who give readings, talks and signings around the country. Cath was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, UK and now lives in Manchester, Lancashire with her family. You can find out more from her website, and you can follow her on Twitter, @CathStaincliffe, which she does when she should be busy writing! 



Tuesday, 9 June 2015

COVER REVEAL.....RETURN TO BLUEBELL HILL by REBECCA PUGH





Return to Bluebell Hill


As sweet and satisfying as strawberries and cream! This British summertime, get out in the garden with Rebecca Pugh’s sparkling debut novel.


Home is where the heart is…

Jessica McAdams has never belonged anywhere; never truly felt at home. Of course, what did she expect from parents who never made her feel welcome in her own house? Leaving her life in London to return home to the charming country village of Bluebell Hill is harder than she thought. Especially as she never considered she’d be returning under such heart wrenching circumstances…

Clearing out the stunning and imposing Bluebell House after her parents’ death is difficult for Jessica—they never had the best relationship and now it’s too late. Yet spending time in the house that was never a home, having afternoon tea with dear old friend Esme—and sharing hot, sizzling kisses with delectable gardener Rueben!—opens Jessica’s eyes to the potential of Bluebell House… Could this big old, beautiful manor really be her forever home? Is Bluebell Hill where her heart is, has always been?

Jessica soon dares to dream of her very own home with delicious Rueben by her side. But when a deep, dark secret of Bluebell House is unearthed, Jessica’s world is turned upside down…

Will Jessica ever find where her heart truly lies?


An emotional tale of self-discovery, taking chances and romance! Rebecca’s unique British voice feels like coming home again and again.


........and here is the cover - isn't it lovely? 






Author Biography

Rebecca Pugh grew up in the green county of Shropshire, with a mind full of fairy-tales and happy endings. Enchanted by true love and Disney Princesses, she decided that no matter what life threw her way, she’d continue to see the world through a child’s eyes. Through the pages of countless books, her adoration of reading blossomed, and it didn’t take long for her to fall under the spell of hundreds of authors’ words. 

Now, Rebecca’s own story has taken a fairy-tale like turn, and at 22, her dream has come true. With her faithful companions: Bonnie the dog, her partner, and her gigantic family by her side, Rebecca is ready to share her stories with readers who enjoy falling in love and losing themselves within beautiful, fictional worlds.

Rebecca Pugh is the author of women’s fiction and romance, her all-time favourite genres. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good swoon?

 



Rebecca's debut novel, Return to Bluebell Hill, is due to be published June 18th 2015 by Carina UK. 


LINKS






Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Coming Up Roses - Rachael Lucas - Review & Giveaway




Coming up Roses is published by Pan, with both Kindle and paperback published on 21 May 2015.

I'm delighted to be taking my turn today on the Coming Up Roses blog tour. Please do check out the other stops listed. 


The publisher has kindly offered 2 paperback copies of the book for a giveaway (UK only).  They will send the books directly to the two winners.  To enter, please see the Rafflecopter box below. 





From Amazon:

Would-be gardener Daisy can't believe her luck when her parents announce they're off on a midlife crisis gap year, leaving her in charge of their gorgeous garden. After a turbulent few months, a spot of quiet in the countryside is just what she needs.

 A shoulder to cry on wouldn't go amiss either - so when Daisy comes across Elaine and Jo, she breathes a sigh of relief. But her new friends are dealing with dramas of their own...

As Daisy wrestles the garden into something resembling order, her feelings for handsome Irishman George begin to take root. Daisy's heart's desire − her parent's garden − is under threat, and Daisy's forced to confront nosey neighbours and fight greedy developers. Village life is turning out to be far from peaceful.


* * *




Daisy, our main character, is house sitting her parent’s house, Orchard Villa, whilst they are away on an extended holiday (and also looking after Polly the elderly retriever). She has recently suffered turmoil in her own life and has nowhere else to go; she is glad of the chance for some solitude to re-assess her life and has no intention of making friends or becoming involved in village life.

Having completed a horticultural course, she is keen to make a career from gardening and is looking forward to the chance to get her parent’s vast overgrown garden into shape. Unexpected help is provided by an elderly widower, Thomas, who was responsible for many of the gardens in the village, and still has the notebooks from many years before when he looked after the garden at Orchard Villa for the previous owners. Thomas was a wonderful character, he was not above a bit of harmless mischief making and matchmaking but his wise words were a comfort to Daisy at some particularly trying moments.

Thomas is not the only friend that Daisy makes. After an incident with a hosepipe, she becomes firm friends with Elaine, the wife of a local headmaster. Elaine appears to have the perfect life, she lives in a beautiful house, is married to a handsome and successful man; she doesn’t have to work but spends her time creating visions of the perfect lifestyle for her on-line blog. However appearances can be deceptive and along with another new friend Jo, a single mother of a bolshy teenager, Daisy discovers that everyone has their problems.  One of the aspects that worked so well were the supportive friendships that were formed.

The village of Steeple St John plays a huge part in this story and really is a character in its own right. Daisy is reluctantly press ganged into taking part in village events by the formidable Flora, chair of the Parish Council and events such as the Garden Open Days and the Village Fete just add to that old fashioned feel and I was reminded of the gentleness of St Mary Mead, created by Agatha Christie. Although there are no murders or mysteries here, the cosy and safe feel of the village gave the impression of a bygone age where everyone knows everyone else’s business. However don’t be misled, this is very much a contemporary tale, with very modern problems – with just one such issue being developers buying up beautiful old houses and gardens to create large housing developments against the villager’s wishes.

There is of course romance along the way but moreover this is a story of friendship. The characters were so vividly drawn and realistic that you couldn’t help but be drawn into their lives. Daisy was such a likeable person and I was rooting for her all the way.  For me, one of the stars of the story was not a human character but a canine one - Polly the retriever. I could readily relate to Polly’s long suffering expressions and doleful eyes seeking either food or walks.

This was the first book I had read by Rachael Lucas but it won’t be the last. With a cast of eclectic but charming characters together with vivid descriptions of gorgeous gardens I just loved this gentle, humorous and beautifully written story and will definitely be putting Rachael’s books on my reading list in future.


My thanks to Lucie at Pan Macmillan for the advance reading copy. Lucie was also kind enough to help me out with an emailed copy when I stupidly left the copy I was reading on the train.  I hope whoever picked it up enjoys it as much as I did! 




About the author:


Rachael juggles working as an author, coach and freelance writer with the aid of quite a lot of tea.

She and her partner (also a writer) live by the seaside in the North West of England with their six children.

For more from Rachael, visit her websites at rachaellucas.com and writeforjoy.net

You can find her on Twitter @Karamina and at Facebook.com/RachaelLucasWriter    




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