A Moment With… Effrosyni Moschoudi

Effrosyni Moschoudi is the author of The Raven Witch of Corfu series. 

She is joining me today to talk about how Corfu has inspired her writing. 

*****

My love affair with Corfu began when I was only a child. Ever since I was about five years old, my Corfiot grandparents used to have me over for long periods every summer, first in Corfu town, then in the village of Moraitika.

Moraitika is situated on the southeast coast of the island between Benitses and the port of Lefkimmi. Back in the 1980s, Moraitika was a bustling holiday spot. My family ran both a souvenir shop and a small business of room rentals at the time, which meant I had plenty of opportunities to mingle with tourists on a daily basis, Brits mostly.

My sister and I often spent three-month holidays in Moraitika as youngsters, where we helped our grandmother with the cleaning of the rented rooms. Yet, there was always time for plenty of swimming and sunbathing, as well as for having fun in the evenings with a host of cousins and friends. This time of my life remains the most precious I hold in my heart, and this is even more so the case now that my grandparents have passed away.

I have strong family roots in Moraitika. My great-grandfather, the teacher and priest of the village in the turn of the 20thcentury is buried beside the old church. Part of his home that’s still standing in its entirety near the church was originally used as the school of the village. Today, it has been split up into small apartments which stay closed for most of the year and only come to life for 1-2 weeks at a time when descendants of my great-grandfather (my cousins, aunts and uncles) arrive for a short holiday. Having inherited the part of the house that once belonged to my grandparents, it is a precious bond with that special part of my life that literally comes to life for a few days every summer when I stay there.

Beside Moraitika, and across the river of Messonghi, lies a small fishing village of the same name. Unlike Moraitika that kept getting more built up over time, Messonghi has changed very little since I’d first laid eyes on it in the 1970s.

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Book Extract: A Perfect Cornish Summer by Phillipa Ashley

A big lovely hello to Phillipa Ashley and the blog tour for her new novel, A Perfect Cornish Summer.

Summer is on the horizon, and the people of Porthmellow are eagerly awaiting the annual food festival. At least, most of them are…

For Sam Lovell, organising the summer festival in her hometown is one of the highlights of her year. It’s not always smooth sailing, but she loves to see Porthmellow’s harbour packed with happy visitors, and being on the committee has provided a much-needed distraction from the drama in her family life (and the distinct lack of it in her love life).

When their star guest pulls out with only a few weeks to go, everyone’s delighted when a London chef who grew up locally steps in at the last minute. But Gabe Matthias is the last person Sam was expecting to see, and his return to Porthmellow will change her quiet coastal life for ever.

Phillipa has shared an extract with us today. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Bryony prodded the laminated poster with the toe of her Doc Marten’s. ‘I’d hoped you’d decided to give the festival a rest for a year.’ The dog barked again so Bryony ramped up her own volume. ‘My Sacha hates all the noise and smells.’

Bryony stroked Sacha’s head while Sam tried to let the words wash over her. It didn’t do to argue with Bryony, Cornwall’s self-declared canine expert and the most unlikely metal fan on the planet. Woe betide anyone who dared ques­tion her views on dogs, music . . . or the festival, or tourists, or the weather, or anything else. Sam had often thought that if Professor Stephen Hawking had ever visited Porthmellow, Bryony would have been sure to take issue with his theories on black holes. She lived in a small house not far from Wavecrest Cottage. Sam often heard Sacha barking from fifty metres away.

Spotting a rare gap in Bryony’s tirade, Sam dived in while she could. ‘Well, the festival does bring lots of people into the town who might not otherwise come. Local people and tour­ists and it’s put Porthmellow on the map as a foodie and arty haven.’

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5 Modern Protagonists I’d Like To See

Del Ray; Film Tie In Edition, August 2015

Writers’ ability to create new characters never ceases to astound me. Indeed, for as much as we hear that Hollywood is “out of ideas,” the literary world seems to be full to bursting with them. In just the last few years some of the most noteworthy books I’ve read have concerned a girl on a semi-fantastical journey launched from her family’s Everglades gator-wrestling attraction (Swamplandia! by Karen Russell); a tale of President Lincoln’s son in a state of purgatory (Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders); and a spellbinding narrative in which trees are as much main characters as people (The Overstory by Richard Powers).

A great written story can be spun out of just about any sort of character, provided a writer has a good idea, a bit of talent, and a great deal of imagination. Even with the innumerable ideas that have been tried though, I still catch myself daydreaming now and then about the characters or stories I’d like to read (or perhaps write). Lately, I’ve been musing about some more modern ideas for protagonists that – to my knowledge – haven’t really been tried yet.

Here are a few I’ve come up with.

 

1. A Space Voyager’s Spouse

Space travel is nothing new in fiction. From realistic stories to full-fledged science fiction and everything in between, there have been all kinds of tales written about people venturing out into space. What we don’t see too much of though is writing about the people who might one day be left behind by those heading out on deep space explorations. For instance, imagine Mark Watney, the central character in The Martian, had had a wife on Earth. Wouldn’t her story be fascinating as well? A few years ago, when people were signing up for a highly publicized one-way ticket to Mars, there was actually a profile about one woman’s husband who was coming to grips with never seeing her again. I’d love to see this sort of character fleshed out more in a full-length, realistic, yet fictional account. It feels like an aspect of modern space exploration we don’t consider, yet one of the most deeply human components of it all.

 

 

Credit: Kate Mango Star

2. A DJ

Personally I’m not wildly into the DJ or electronic music scene. Nevertheless, we have works of fiction pertaining to most every genre of music that’s ever dominated our culture – save for modern DJs (to my knowledge, at least). This just seems to be leaving something of a gap, and I would imagine that the right author could spin a fascinating story out of a character like this. Most of these people are fairly young when they make it big, and from that point forward they travel the world playing shows and festivals, with crowds full of people responding to their every whim. It’s an interesting life whether or not you like the music.

 

3. A VR World Architect

Virtual reality has been a hot topic for years now, and it’s had a place in popular fiction for decades. There’s fairly little talk, however, about who might design and control VR worlds if and when they become more sophisticated. In fact, the closest example I could think of in fiction (never mind books specifically) is the vaguely comical “Architect” character in The Matrix films. I’d be curious to see an inventive author draw up such a character though – someone with a god-like ability to control, manipulate, and monitor a VR world catering to thousands or millions of users in the near future. It’s not exactly a comfortable idea, but it’s an interesting character outline that could make for a fun read.
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Book Review: One Last Summer by Victoria Connelly

Today it’s lovely to welcome Victoria Connelly and the blog tour for her latest novel, One Last Summer. 

They have the whole summer ahead of them. Is it enough to rekindle the friendship they once shared?

Harriet Greenleaf dreams of spending the summer in a beautiful ancient priory on the Somerset coast with her two best friends—but her dream is bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s a chance to reconnect three lives that have drifted apart; on the other, she has a devastating secret to share that will change everything between them forever.

First to arrive is Audrey—the workaholic who’s heading for a heart attack unless she slows down and makes time for herself. Then Lisa, the happy-go-lucky flirt who’s always struggled to commit to anyone—or anything. Ever the optimist, can Harriet remind them of the joy in their lives and the importance of celebrating good friendship before it’s gone?

Through the highs and lows of a long, glorious summer, these three women will rediscover what it means to be there for each other—before they face the hardest of goodbyes.

Harriet, Harrie to her friends, books the Priory, a getaway in Somerset for six weeks.

She hopes that she can reconnect with her two oldest friends, Audrey and Lisa. Harrie holds a secret though, one she is not sure she’s ready to share.

Audrey is busy running her own school and is not taking the time for herself. Even when she arrives for the six-week holiday she has promised Harrie, she still can’t stop working.

Lisa has Yoga but isn’t really fulfilled by her day job.

One Last Summer is one of those novels that I knew from the first page was going to make me cry. And it did.

I immediately got very emotionally involved with all the characters. All three of these women have things they are needing to work through – work/life balance, getting older, mortality and relationships.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Plotting and Timelines

Plotting and timelines. 

I am fast realising that I am one of these writers that has to know what is happening in my story; the experiences of National Novel Writing Month has taught me this.

I have been finding this method below quite helpful in plotting my story. This is something I have featured before but thought it worth revisiting.

Grab either a pad of Post-It notes (author Julie Cohen swears by Post-It notes) or some bits of paper and write out all of the current plot points for your current work in progress; all the things you have so far (and don’t worry if you don’t have the end yet. Neither do I.)

Also, if you aren’t currently working on anything, as always, you could pick a published story.

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Book Extract: The Stars in the Night by Clare Rhoden

A big lovely welcome to Clare Rhoden and the blog tour for her novel, The Stars in the Night. 

Harry Fletcher is a confident young man, sure that he will marry Nora, no matter what their families say. He will always protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide.

Only the War to End All Wars might get in the way of Harry’s plans…

From the beaches of Semaphore to the shores of Gallipoli, the mud of Flanders to the red dust of inland South Australia, this is a story of love, brotherhood, and resilience.

Clare has shared an extract today. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

January 1921

 

The unrelenting summer was mute with loneliness, brutal with drought. Neighbours dropped by now and then,or nodded to Nora at church. There was nothing new to say. There was no news,or only delayed bad news. Not even bad news was special now. They all chewed the remnants of a shared disaster like a flash flood, with tales of more destruction coming in belatedly from outlying areas.

Like a flood, war’s effects were unpredictable and astonishing. Great gaps in the congregation showed where places had been saved, places no one would ever fill. No shadow of that lad’s life on the land; no body and no grave. Swept from sight and sense, and only words left in his place, the same words going around over and over again till even the words died somewhere else, robbed of the life they once had. Nora often found her mind wandering when she should have been listening. A month had passed since her father had sailed back to England, shaking off the financial disaster of his failed war investments. Nora began to fear that her future, too, held only longing and loss. Time perhaps to think about another life. But as each week melted into the next, she put off any decision.

At dusk on the last day of January, as the last bloody rays of sun flooded the long drive, she stepped onto the verandah. The eucalypts along the fence looked like petrified coral. Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Shepherds must like hot weather. She waited. The trees exhaled, freshening the air. The first creaking whisper of coolness teased the dust on the grass. The earth seemed to stretch and yawn. Insects jabbered at the coming night.

Nora leaned on the post, aware of the turning of time. Then she saw him coming down the drive, the strap of his swag crosswise on his chest. A self-willed, obstinate, lone merino ram, pride and despair of the flock, returning from the hill paddock in his own good time. Shepherdess’s delight. She nearly shouted his name. The next moment she realised that the waiting was over, that the future was here, and it frightened her. But it was her time.

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NK Chats To… Beth O’ Leary

Hi Beth, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, The Flatshare and what inspired it? 

Thank you so much for having me! The Flatshare is a story about two people who share a one-bed flat but don’t meet: one works nights, the other works regular hours. It was inspired by my own experiences of moving in with my boyfriend when he’d just started work as a junior doctor and was working lots of night shifts. We would go days on end without seeing one another – he’d get home from work just after I’d leave in the morning and vice versa, so we passed like ships in the night. It got me wondering what might happen if two strangers lived that way…

 

What’s your writing process like from idea to final draft? 

For me, the basic concept is often what comes into my head first: in this case, two people sharing a bed but not meeting. The main characters come next, growing out of that: so here, I asked, why might two people be willing to do that? What sorts of people would they be?

 

I generally do a rough plan after that point, which features some key moments I want to happen in the novel, but then I rarely look at that plan again once I get writing. For me, first drafts tend to snowball – I write very quickly, almost with the sense that I’m trying to keep up with the story, and then when I hit the end of the book I go back and do a lot of work from that point onwards. The first draft gets the raw, emotional stuff down, the clay of the story – the second draft is all about shaping that into something.

 

Do you have any writing rituals and somewhere special you like to write? 

Well, I wrote The Flatshare on my commute to and from work, so after a while that became my writing ritual – it took me ages to get used to writing full-time at a desk at home after that! I often listen to music while I write, and tend to create playlists for stories. These playlists are especially useful when I’m editing, because they get me back into the character’s heads even when I’m looking at the book more analytically.

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Book Extract: I Love You Billy Langley by Monika Jephcott Thomas

Hello to Monika Jephcott Thomas and the blog tour for her latest novel, I Love You Billy Langley. 

Twenty-year-old Netta can’t wait to leave Germany and teach in Brighton, England. It’s the height of the swinging 60s, but Netta hasn’t bargained for the prejudice she’ll receive in a country full of anti-German sentiment just twenty years after the war.

She finds solace in Billy, the school caretaker, with whom she falls in love.

But when she takes him back to Germany at Christmas it’s Billy’s turn to be on the receiving end of a frosty welcome.

I have reviewed the novel but first, Monika has shared an extract. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

Netta Portner looked around her bedroom as if it were the last time she would ever see it. It wasn’t.

Not just yet. But she felt the need to capture everything in her memory now, before the chaos of leaving ensued and clouded everything. As she scanned the room she caught sight of herself in the mirror on the dressing table. She turned to face her reflection, smoothed down her dress, adjusted her glasses, and raised her chin in the confident manner she prayed she could adopt when she stood in front of a class of comprehensive school students next week in the south of England.

‘Here!’ Her mother came hurrying into the room, dumping three suitcases of various sizes onto the bed.

To Netta the hurrying and dumping seemed completely unnecessary and typically dramatic. For a split second Netta wondered if it was designed to mask a sadness at her imminent departure from the nest, but that notion was soon buried under her general irritation with her mother, which Netta had cultivated throughout her teenage years.

‘These served me well when I moved here from Kunzendorf,’ said her mother.

‘During the war? When you were pregnant with me?’ Netta asked, delighting in her albeit embryonic presence in the story her mother had regaled her with on many occasions – the story of an arduous journey all the way across a devastated Germany on its knees in the final months of the Second World War. Since then Netta had never been much farther from home than the north coast for family holidays.

‘Hm-mm!’ her mother sang her response as nonchalantly as she could. ‘So a little jaunt to England should present no issue for them.’

‘It’s hardly a little jaunt, Mama.’

‘Well it’s hardly a race across a vast nation being bombed mercilessly by the Allies either, is it?’ her mother said.

Netta seethed as she flipped open the lid of each case.

Her mother, hands on hips, looked around the room as if she had never seen it before. ‘At last I can give this room a damn good clean.’

Netta looked daggers at her mother’s back as she ran her finger along the chest of drawers and grimaced at the dust she found there.

‘Oh please, mother! When was the last time you cleaned anything?’

‘Well, I’ll get Emilia to do it. Chuck out all this rubbish too.’

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Book Review: Amazing Grace by Kim Nash

She’s taking her life back, one step at a time…

Grace thought she had it all. Living in the beautiful village of Little Ollington, along with head teacher husband Mark and gorgeous son, Archie, she devoted herself to being the perfect mum and the perfect wife, her little family giving her everything she ever wanted.

Until that fateful day when she walked in on Mark kissing his secretary – and her perfect life fell apart.

Now she’s a single mum to Archie, trying to find her way in life and keep things together for his sake. Saturday nights consist of a Chinese takeaway eaten in front of the TV clad in greying pyjamas, and she can’t remember the last time she had a kiss from anyone aside from her dog, Becks…

Grace’s life needs a shake up – fast. So when gorgeous gardener Vinnie turns up on her doorstep, his twinkling eyes suggesting that he might be interested in more than just her conifers, she might just have found the answer to her prayers. But as Grace falls deeper for Vinnie, ten-year-old Archie fears that his mum finding love means she’ll never reconcile with the dad he loves.

So when ex-husband Mark begs her for another chance, telling her he’s changed from the man that broke her heart, Grace finds herself with an impossible dilemma. Should she take back Mark and reunite the family that Archie loves? Or risk it all for a new chance of happiness?

Amazing Grace focuses on Grace and her son, Archie. Both are trying to navigate through life since Grace’s split from her husband, Mike. They didn’t have the happiest of marriages so at the beginning of the novel, Grace isn’t feeling on top of the world.

Her self-esteem is really low but she is grateful she has her son. With the help of Archie, her friend, Monica and friends she meets along the way, Grace is hoping she can soon enjoy life again.

This novel took me a couple of chapters to settle into. This has nothing to do with the book or the effortless writing style. The element of the plot that focuses on Grace loosing her mother is something I found quite hard to read having lost my own Mum on this day in 2016.

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Book Review: Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas

Just when you thought you had it all worked out …

Best friends Lisa and Felicity think  – maybe, just maybe – they finally have everything sorted out in their lives.

Lisa is in a happy relationship with her old flame, and busy mum Felicity has managed to reignite the passion with her husband, Pete after a romantic getaway.

But when Lisa walks in on a half-naked woman in her boyfriend’s flat and Felicity is left reeling from a shocking discovery, it becomes clear that life is nothing but full of surprises …

Maybe Baby is the second novel in the Lisa Blake series (the first being The Perfect Pet Sitter.) I had not read the first book but this isn’t a problem. This works just as well as a standalone novel and the back story is worked in well with the current plot.

The two main characters, Lisa and Felicity are wonderful. Their amazing friendship is something that really stands out. Both have a lot of warmth, humour and they seem real, relatable and I could empathise with them very quickly, especially Lisa.

Miscarriage is quite a sensitive subject for me but it is handed in this novel very well. In fact, all the themes are presented well.  Carol’s approach and writing style contribute to this very much. You feel as though you are sat at the table talking to these women. The men in this novel are also wonderful but for me, it was all about Lisa and Felicity.

The plot moves at a great pace and I read this in pretty much one sitting. I am definitely going to go and read the first book in the series.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Hello April. 

Better still, hello to British Summer Time.

This month, the book club title is The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

This is a book I have been meaning to read for a while. As usual, I have posted a question below to start the discussion. If you’ve read this, I’d love to know what you think. If you haven’t, there is plenty of time to read it. Come join me in the comments below.

Anyone can take part in this book club and you can be in your favourite chair with a cup of tea.

 

About The Tattooist of Auschwitz:

I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.

In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.

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Book Extract: My Sister’s Lies by S.D. Robertson

I’m happy to welcome S.D. Robertson back to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for his new novel, My Sister’s Lies. 

For a decade, Hannah’s life has been pretty close to perfect – she has a great job, she’s married to Mark, and her child-free existence means she’s free as a bird. The only sadness in her life is a fall-out with her sister Diane, who hasn’t spoken to her in over ten years. But now Diane is on her doorstep – and this time, she’s got her teenage daughter Mia in tow.

When Diane asks if Mia can stay with Hannah and Mark for a few days, Hannah is glad of the chance to get to know her niece. But as the days turn into weeks and Diane doesn’t return, Hannah begins to worry. Why hasn’t her sister been in touch?

Diane is carrying a devastating secret that will destroy Hannah’s carefully constructed life. But how much is she willing to reveal – and when will she pick her moment?

 

S.D Robertson has shared an extract with us today. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

He was a stubborn man, Frank Wells, so she couldn’t imagine he would have breached his vow to reveal this one particular piece of news. While she could only assume he was the person who’d given Diane her address, this was no doubt with the intention that it might lead to their reconciliation.

As Hannah had lost herself for a moment in these thoughts, her guests had also kept quiet, leading to the first long, awkward silence of their visit. Suddenly aware of it and uncomfortable, she’d responded by taking the bull by the horns and attempting to get to the bottom of Diane’s shock return.

‘You said something before about needing to see me,’ she’d said, squeezing her palms together and raising her eyebrows. ‘That it was important?’

‘Yes, that’s right, but can we talk about it later?’ Diane had replied. ‘How’s Mark, by the way? He’s still at work, I assume.’

‘He’s fine, thank you. He should be home before too long.’

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Book Extract: Wildflower Park Part 3 – Oopsy Daisy by Bella Osborne

Yey, Bella is back. Welcome to Bella Osborne and the blog tour for Oopsy Daisy. This is part three of her four-part serial for Escape to Wildflower Park. 

Escape to Wildflower Park with Part Three of a brand new four-part serial from bestselling author Bella Osborne.

Life’s not always a walk in the park…

When Anna is dumped by her fiancé, she moves in to her own place on the edge of the gorgeous Wildflower Park and pledges to stay off men and focus on her career, but a handsome new colleague seems to thwart her attempts at every turn. And when she receives an accidental text from a mystery man, could it be the new start she needs? Or someone she really shouldn’t be falling for?

Anna’s neighbour Sophie is a stressed-out mum-of-two with a third on the way. Her husband is a constant frustration, and their children are a regular source of newly-invented swear words and unidentifiable sticky surfaces.

Luckily, Anna and Sophie have each other – and Wildflower Park proves to be a sanctuary as they map out a path to find the happiness they both deserve…

 

Bella and Avon Books have shared an extract today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

‘Who do these belong to?’ said a grinning Sophie, waving aloft a pair of men’s Spider-Man underpants as Anna dashed into the kitchen to avoid the downpour outside.

‘What?’ said Anna, glancing at the swinging underwear. She kicked off her heels and sighed with relief. It had been a very long day. She gave her toes a wriggle. Maurice was lying in the hall stretched out like a furry road bump.

‘Who is Mr …’ Sophie paused to study the label ‘… large?’ asked Sophie.

‘Who’s who?’ asked Anna, starting to feel a tiny bit irritated by the silly conversation and the stupid pants.

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Book Review: Nobody’s Wife by Laura Pearson

‘Of the four of them, only three remained. And there was no going backwards from there.’

Emily and Josephine have always shared everything. They’re sisters, flatmates, and best friends. It’s the two of them against the world.

When Emily has the perfect wedding, and Josephine finds the perfect man, they know things will change forever. But nothing can prepare them for what, or who, one of them is willing to give up for love.

Four people. Three couples. Two sisters. One unforgivable betrayal.

From the best-selling author of Missing Pieces comes a heart-wrenching story about family, loyalty, and obsession that will have you racing to the finish.

I had not had a chance to read Laura’s first novel, Missing Pieces, so Nobody’s Wife was my introduction.

The style of writing very quickly pulled me in and I found myself totally engrossed in the setting and the lives of these four people.

One of the things I loved was that these characters felt very real. They are flawed. They make mistakes. Not only does the tension build well throughout the book but I really liked how it is told from all four sides.

This book is very emotional. It had me morally questioning the decisions these characters were making. I found it hard to feel sympathy but at the same time, I wanted to believe in the love story that was being developed. I loved and hated them all at once.

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Book Review: Two Silver Crosses by Beryl Kingston

Twins Ginny and Emily Holborn have everything they could ever need in their Wolverhampton home: a loving family, a garden to play in and a staff waiting to attend to their every need. Until, one summer day in 1926, they disappear without a trace.

Ten years later, bright-eyed solicitor Charlie Commoner is given his first job: track down the still-missing Holborn twins. Despatched to France, he’s left to unravel a web of infidelity, mystery, and terrifying family secrets.

Let bestselling author Beryl Kingston sweep you away on a journey from London to Paris, through tragedy and triumph in the search for two sisters wearing two silver crosses.

 

Twins Emily and Ginny have a nice life with their parents and Grandfather in Wolverhampton.

However, when their father dies, they are told by their mother that they need to leave and can’t go back. Also, they are not to talk about who they are when they reach France.

Back in Britain, the family don’t know why the twins and their mother would just disappear.
Years later, it is important that these girls are found but not everyone wants to see them return.

This was the first novel I’d read by Beryl Kingston.

The plot of this novel is compelling. I did find it a little slow at the beginning so it was a little difficult to get into but I am pleased that I did stick with it as I eventually got really drawn into the story of these three women and the man who was sent to find them.

It’s set in both England and France. The descriptions of the towns in France were so vivid. I could imagine them and felt very immersed in the story.

Ginny and Emily are very different as characters. Ginny is the louder of the two. Emily is the one I resonated with the most. She is a homebody and prefers to be around family. Both girls want to live their own lives but are being held back slightly by their mother; not really understanding why.

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