Blog Tour

Book Review: Jane’s Away by Clare Hawken

Roger Kurmudge is rather smug about his affluent life and happy marriage.

It’s just as well his wife, Jane, is totally in the dark about what he got up to in the past. But on his retirement day, Jane disappears. Roger’s about to panic. Will he have to sell some shares or – heaven forbid! – the house in Bordeaux to pay a ransom demand? Worse – has Jane discovered his guilty secret?

Then Jane’s emails start arriving. Take the dog to the vet. Look after grandson Alfie for the day. Do the washing, shopping and cooking. Host Christmas for the family. Roger doesn’t know why Jane’s gone but he’s sure he can manage her ‘women’s work’ without any trouble. Although it’s harder than it looks.

As the weeks go by and Jane stays away, Roger is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his life and himself. But even if Roger can change for the better, will Jane ever come back? Or has she, too, been keeping secrets of her own?

 

*****

Roger is quite pleased with his perfect life. He’s about to retire from a successful business, he has a nice home in Guildford and he has a beautiful and dutiful wife. He has good reason to be smug right? Especially as he’s managed to keep his secret all these years.

When Jane disappears on the day of his retirement and e-mails from her begin to appear, Roger must quickly learn to adapt but Jane’s job of running the house, walking the dog and looking after their grandson should be easy – or so he thinks.

Roger or ‘Woger’ at the start of this story is one of the most frustrating fictional characters I have ever met. He has this attitude that his family are happy purely based on the fact that he’s always provided for them financially and because of this, he feels that he is well liked and respected, both in his personal and professional life. I really wanted to give him a piece of my mind. Haha.

However, as the book progressed, I loved seeing how Roger adapted and began to realise what he had and what he’d taken for granted. There is a wonderful life lesson with this novel and it is tackled well.

The supporting characters are all well rounded and real. Alfie especially was adorable and I really liked Jamie.

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Book Review: The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen

London, 1885

Amelie Hampton is a hopeless romantic, which makes her the perfect columnist to answer lonely heart letters in The Marriage Gazette. When Amelie plays matchmaker with two anonymous lonely hearts, she also decides to secretly observe the couple’s blind date. To her surprise, the man who appears for the rendezvous is Harold Radcliffe–a grieving widower and a member of Amelie’s book club.

Police detective Michael Baker has been struggling ever since his best friend and brother-in-law died in the line of fire. Because he knows the dangers of his job, he has vowed never to marry and subject a wife and family to the uncertainty of his profession. But when he meets Miss Hampton, he is captured by her innocence, beauty, and her quick mind.

When a woman’s body is pulled from the river, Michael suspects the woman’s husband–Harold Radcliffe–of foul play. Amelie refuses to believe that Harold is capable of such violence but agrees to help, imagining it will be like one of her favorite mystery novels. Her social connections and clever observations prove an asset to the case, and Amelie is determined to prove Mr. Radcliffe’s innocence. But the more time Amelie and Michael spend together, the more they trust each other, and the more they realize they are a good team, maybe the perfect match.

They also realize that Mr. Radcliffe is hiding more than one secret, and when his attention turns toward Amelie, Michael knows he must put an end to this case before the woman he loves comes to harm.

*****

London 1885.

Amelie is a hopeless romantic. Detective Michael Baker has vowed never to marry.

When the body of a woman is pulled from the Thames, Michael and Amelie’s paths cross but can romance bloom in the middle of a murder investigation?

Romance and mystery… perfect!

Amelie is a lovely character with the matchmaking interest of Emma Woodhouse, the sweetness of Jane Bennett and the sass of Lizzie Bennett and I loved her. She’s a strong character but at the same time, and like a lot of us, she wants to fall in love and this makes her a little naive when it comes to her own love life. Love can blind you.

Michael is a wonderfully flawed hero. He’s dealing with grief and loss and without realising it, it’s made him lonely and I believe this makes him very relatable. He certainly doesn’t count on meeting Amelie.

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Book Review: Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh

It’s always a good time for a road trip…

When 82-year-old Lil decides to book herself, her 65-year-old daughter, Cassie, and her friend Maggie on a bus trip across Europe, she hopes for a little adventure to counteract the monotony of life in sheltered accommodation.

Along with three members of the Salterley Tennis Club and the Jolly Weaver five-a side football team, whose ideas of a good time are rather different to Lil’s and strikingly at odds with each other’s, the merry band of travelers set out on their great adventure.

From moving moments on the beaches of Normandy, outrageous adventures in Amsterdam, to the beauty of Bruges and gastronomic delights of France, the holiday is just the tonic Lil, Maggie and Cassie needed. 

And as the time approaches for them to head home, Lil makes an unexpected discovery – even in her advancing years, men are like buses – there isn’t one for ages then two come along at once. Is Lil ready to share her golden years, and can the ladies embrace the fresh starts that the trip has given them. Or is it just too late to change… 

*****

When 82 year old Lil decides that she needs a holiday, she takes her daughter Cassie and her best friend Maggie along for the ride. Along with a variety of different people, they embark on a mini bus tour of Europe and soon discover that it’s never too late to live and love.

This book, to begin with, was a bit of a slow burner. As there are a few people going on the holiday, it meant that quite a few characters needed to be introduced early on. However, once they actually got going on the holiday, I couldn’t put the book down.

Told mainly from the point of view of Lil and Cassie, it covers their holiday across France, Belgium and Amsterdam with many hilarious, poignant and wonderful moments along the way.

It was interesting to see how all the different personalities interacted, especially as they were all travelling in quite close proximity and were a variety of ages.

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Book Review: 28 Days by Sue Parritt

Melbourne, February 2100. Emma Cartwright has 28 days left to find work, otherwise she must report to the Productive Citizens Bureau and accept any vacancy, regardless of location, pay or conditions.

Her situation becomes even more grave when the Employment Positions Portal is disabled and the government refuses to extend her unemployment period. At 70, Emma could opt for voluntary euthanasia, but she has her student son Jack to support.

After a chance meeting with the eccentric Cal Ritchie, founder of the clandestine group Citizens’ Voice and supporter of those fleeing repressive laws to live in bush camps, Emma is determined to escape her life of compliance.

When her son Jack is suddenly arrested, Emma finds herself running out of time and options, and has to take drastic measures. But can she save her son?

*****

28 Days focuses on Emma and the looming end of her government approved unemployment period. Set in the opening days of the 22nd century, she lives in an Australia which has been ravaged by climate change and rising sea levels. This has put huge pressure on population and resources.

As such, everyone needs to be a productive citizen and maintain productive employment. If you’re unable to find employment after a year, you’re allocated a job and for 70 year old Emma, that period ends in 28 days. With an 19 year old son to think about, Emma is getting desperate.

Emma is a well rounded character who is very relatable. She reminded me of my own mother in the fact that she is stoic, resourceful and underestimated. It’s nice to read a novel centred around an active older person rather than a teenager which is something I find you often get in this genre. Emma has life experience that brings something very interesting to her character and predicament.

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Book Review: The Ticklemore Tavern by Liz Davis

Violet makes her own gin.

Logan Cassidy sells it in his pub, The Ticklemore Tavern.

It should have been a match made in heaven, especially since the pair of them fancy the socks off each other, and they are both young, free and single.

Except…

Logan’s mum, Marie, doesn’t think Violet is good enough for her son. No woman is, or ever will be.

And when she becomes ill, Logan is torn between looking after his mum or following his heart.

However, neither Logan, nor Marie, has taken the sheer force of nature that is Violet into account.

What Violet wants, Violet gets.

Usually…

But maybe not this time, eh?

*****

Violet makes her own gin and, along with her brother, owns the OriGINal Gin Distillery.

Logan agrees to sell the gin in his pub, The Ticklemore Tavern. Both Violet and Logan have an instant attraction to each other, both are single so they decide to see where the relationship goes.

However, Logan’s mother, Marie, believes that Violet’s intentions toward Logan aren’t good.

When Marie falls ill, Logan is torn between his mother and the woman he is quickly falling in love with.

It was so lovely to be back in Ticklemore and reunited with many familiar characters, especially Hattie.

Although The Ticklemore Tavern is the fourth book in the Ticklemore series, you don’t need to have read the first three to love this latest instalment. It can stand alone.

This book focuses on two main characters, Violet and Logan.

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Book Review: One Lucky Summer by Jenny Oliver

I’m so pleased to welcome Jenny Oliver to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new novel, One Lucky Summer. 

With an air of faded splendour, Willoughby Hall was an idyllic childhood home to Ruben de Lacy. Gazing at it now, decades later, the memories are flooding back, and not all of them are welcome…

In a tumbledown cottage in Willoughby’s grounds, Dolly and Olive King lived with their eccentric explorer father. One of the last things he did was to lay a treasure hunt before he died, but when events took an unexpected turn, Dolly and Olive left Willoughby for good, never to complete it.

But when Ruben uncovers a secret message, hidden for decades, he knows he needs Olive and Dolly’s help. Can the three of them solve the treasure hunt, and will piecing together the clues help them understand what happened to their families that summer, all those years ago?

*****

Olive and Dolly spent their childhood living in a cottage on the grounds of Willoughby Hall, the estate owned by the De Lacy family.

The girl’s father sets up a treasure hunt for them but tragedy means that the girls leave before completing it.

Years later, Ruben De Lacy is back at his family’s estate. By accident, he uncovers the first clue in that last treasure hunt.

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Book Extract & Review: Lips Like Strawberries by Michael Stephenson

I am pleased to be welcoming Michael Stephenson to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for his novel, Lips Like Strawberries.

Here’s a little about the novel…

For some, it’s the eyes. For others, the heart. But for Ara Lake, the thing that first made her fall in love… was the taste of his lips.

Ara Lake has always thought of herself as living a normal life. She works a regular job, lives in the city and, like any single 30-year-old, fantasizes about finding someone to spend her life with that isn’t her best friend Latre Simms. There’s only one problem. She hasn’t left her apartment since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Three years later, her agoraphobia hasn’t fully kept her walled off from the outside world. She can thank her abnormal abilities for that! Ara’s superpower allows her to sense the world through someone else’s senses for 12 hours. Everything changes when her powers introduce her to a man whose lips taste succulent, juicy, and sweet, like her favorite fruit.

Now, she must embark on a journey of love, strength, and self-discovery that she never expected and isn’t fully sure will end well. But she has to learn to trust her own senses and, in a post-coronavirus world, give herself over to love at first kiss as she ventures to find the one with Lips Like Strawberries!

A romantic comedy for the modern era, Lips Like Strawberries will make you laugh, cry and acknowledge the strength it takes just to fall in love. A perfect beach read to cure our collective lockdown blues, get a taste for love today!

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, Michael has shared an extract with us. Enjoy. 

 

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

 

“Oh, sorry about that,” Ara said, apologizing for the over-touch.

The woman smiled, then let her face droop back into its resting mug. There it was again: a sullen, sad, almost depressing look, as if she knew profound sorrow. Very distracting. Not only did Ara have these powers, she was also an empath. The pain of others magnetized her to try to do something good for them. But because she didn’t know what to do, she simply stopped and stared at the woman walking down the hall.

The elevator arrived and the woman got on, only then breaking Ara’s trance. “Wait,” Ara called. “You didn’t tell me your…” The doors closed. “… name.” Ara looked down at the metal barrier between her apartment and the hallway. Her affliction was so bad that she couldn’t even enter the hall, let alone go outside. If she wanted to know that woman’s name, chasing after her was out of the question. “Eh! Maybe I don’t need to know your name.” It was always nice to know whose senses she shared, but not necessary. She closed her door and went to the kitchen for dinnerware.

She counter-ed the food and said, “Alright, let’s see what I get tonight. What sense are you gonna share with me… delivery girl.” She closed her eyes and focused on her abilities. This was the only way she knew how to activate and deactivate her powers. Holding her eyes shut tight, she raised her hands and crossed her fingers for something good and…

She suddenly tasted the distinctive flavor of cinnamon. Smacking her jaws up and down, she worked her tongue from cheek to cheek, then lamented, “Taste? What? Oh, come on!” She started unpacking the food, turned to get herself a plate, shuffled across the kitchen to the utensils drawer and even grabbed a bottle of water off the top of the fridge, all while complaining. “Taste. That’s great. That’s lovely. I get the sense of taste from a girl that works in a Chinese restaurant, the very Chinese restaurant that I just ordered from. Gosh! I wonder if I’m going to be tasting any Chinese food at any point in the night? So stupid!”

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Book Review: The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood

HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO BE SOMEONE ELSE?

Vanessa has always found it easy to pretend to be somebody different, somebody better. When things get tough in her real life, all she has to do is throw on some nicer clothes, adopt a new accent and she can escape.

That’s how it started: looking round houses she couldn’t possibly afford. Harmless fun really. Until it wasn’t.

Because a man who lived in one of those houses is dead.

And everyone thinks Vanessa killed him…

*****

Vanessa likes pretending to be other people, even if it’s only to be able to view houses for sale that she could never afford.

Harmless fun, she reasons.

That is until the owner of one of these houses is dead and people thinks she killed him.

From page one, I knew that I was going to like this novel. There was something about the plot and the writing style that is very moreish. It just pulled me in until I was finished and realised I’d read it in one sitting.

Told from the point of view of the main character, Vanessa, it goes between ‘now’ where Vanessa is staying with her sister, is without a job and lacks confidence, to ‘then,’ where we see Vanessa as a successful person with the world at her feet. Through the book, we find out what happens between these two states and begin to understand Vanessa as a character.

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Book Review: The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne

Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
 
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Ruby has a plan and she can’t wait to put it into action.

On her train journey down to London to realise her dream, she meets Curtis who immediately rubs her up the wrong way.

She also meets Lewis. He is going down to London to propose to his girlfriend. The problem is, he ends up getting off the train with Ruby’s phone and without the ring.

Ruby and Curtis set out together to try and reunite the engagement ring with its owner, getting to know one another along the way.

Oh, I get so excited whenever Bella Osborne releases a new novel and it really is a pleasure to be part of the blog tour for her new book.

Being such a fan, the expectations for The Promise of Summer were high but it did not disappoint. I couldn’t put it down and read it in pretty much one sitting.

You are pulled straight into the action. I immediately wanted to know what was going on. Was Lewis going to get his ring back? Was Curtis as pompous as he seemed? Was Ruby going to see her dream happen and what was this dream?

I liked how this book was set up going between Ruby and Kim’s point of views. Both these women are different and yet they are dealing with similar things. The fear of being alone.

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Book Review: You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry

TWO FRIENDS
TEN SUMMER TRIPS
THEIR LAST CHANCE TO FALL IN LOVE

12 SUMMERS AGO: Poppy and Alex meet. They hate each other, and are pretty confident they’ll never speak again.

11 SUMMERS AGO: They’re forced to share a ride home from college and by the end of it a friendship is formed. And a pact: every year, one vacation together.

10 SUMMERS AGO: Alex discovers his fear of flying on the way to Vancouver.
Poppy holds his hand the whole way.

7 SUMMERS AGO: They get far too drunk and narrowly avoid getting matching tattoos in New Orleans.

2 SUMMERS AGO: It all goes wrong.

THIS SUMMER: Poppy asks Alex to join her on one last trip. A trip that will determine the rest of their lives.

You and Me on Vacation is a New York Times bestselling love story for fans of When Harry Met Sally and One Day. Get ready to travel the world, snort with laughter and – most of all – lose your heart to Poppy and Alex.

Poppy and Alex met at Art College and have been taking holidays together ever since. They just seem to click. Then Croatia happens and it may mean the end of their friendship. Can more more vacation bring them back together?

I had read Emily’s previous novel, Beach Read and loved it so I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for You and Me on Vacation and couldn’t wait to get started.

I loved Poppy and Alex immediately. They are lovely together so obviously, I wanted them to be a couple. If only they could get out of their own way.

The premise of the plot was great. It reminded me of a cross between One Day by David Nicholls and Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern (two books I loved.) It had a similar optimism and warmth to it.

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Book Extract: The Diary of a Nagging Wife by Donna Mensah

It’s my pleasure to be welcoming Donna Mensah to Novel Kicks today with the blog tour for her new novel, The Diary of a Nagging Wife. 

Here’s a little about the book:

A hilarious story of the ups and downs of a overtired and overworked mother, two needy children and an overbearing husband the perfect laugh-out-loud story

The diary of a nagging wife is a hilarious journey of the up’s and downs of the life of Annie a 39-year-old mother to a chatty toddler and a newborn, going from a high roller financial manager to being boggled down with two children is no easy picnic, throw in an overbearing obnoxious husband to the mix equals a disaster.

Written in the form of a diary, join Annie as she begins to wonder whether there is more to life than swollen breasts and picking up her husbands dirty laundry from of the floor. Can Annie truly figure out what she wants from her life?

 

Donna has very kindly shared an extract with us today. We both hope that you enjoy reading. 

 

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

 

As much as Annie loves being with the family, her idea of doing something nice as a family is more  like a nice picnic, or a quiet stroll in an forest. Not a 2 hour trek to Colchester with the kids screaming in the back seat only to arrive at a mud infested camping site.

‘Isabelle,’ I call out from the hallway. ‘It’s time to go come down please.’ Matthew had put Joshua in his car seat and I remembered to pack the camping gear, food plus fishing rods. We decided to head over to a country park this weekend.

Matthew is such an adventurer. Before me and the kids he would often be found hiking some trail across Europe, or climbing some skyscraper mountain, now he settles for the occasional golf and camping sites, which unfortunately we are obliged to attend. I’m not one for pitching up a tent and walking in mud, but Isabelle loves it; she has her dad’s love for adventure, so she’ll be more than happy to help her father string bait onto the fishing rod, while I’m trying my very best not to gag from the pungent smell of fish guts.

I strap Isabelle into her seat and we make our way out to Colchester, which means I have two hours to sit in the car listening to Isabelle repeat, ‘Are we there yet?’ every fifteen minutes, Joshua crying to get out of his car seat which he absolutely loathes plus Matthew ranting on about his new state of the art self-inflating sleeping bed.

‘I thought this was a self-inflating sleeping bed?’ I find myself saying to Matthew in anger as our state-of-the-art bed wasn’t self-inflating at all – in fact it was completely flat.

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Book Review: The Corfe Castle Murders by Rachel McLean

Meet DCI Lesley Clarke. She’s a straight-talking city copper who doesn’t suffer fools gladly… and she’s been transferred to rural Dorset.

After being injured in a bomb attack, Lesley is presented with a choice – early retirement, or a period of respite in a calmer location.

But things don’t stay calm for long.

Before she’s even started her new job, Lesley is dragged into investigating a murder at one of England’s most iconic landmarks, the imposing Corfe Castle.

Lesley must hit the ground running. Can she get along with her new partner DS Dennis Frampton, a traditionalist who doesn’t appreciate her style? How will she navigate the politics of a smaller force where she’s a bigger, and less welcome, fish? And most importantly, can she solve the murder before the killer strikes again?

The Corfe Castle Murders is a compelling, character-driven mystery perfect for fans of Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, Faith Martin and Joy Ellis.

Detective Lesley Clarke has just moved from Birmingham to Dorset for six months. She needs time away after two big cases and an injury deeply impacted her life.

As the new DCI, she has a new team. They, for the most part are welcoming. Dennis however, prefers traditional methods and isn’t fully on board at the beginning with how Lesley works.

The day before she is due to begin, there is a murder and Lesley finds herself thrown straight into a case and the mystery of the man who came before her.

The Corfe Castle Murders is the first in the Dorset Crime Book series by author, Rachel McLean.

Lesley is a complex character who has a lot going on in her life. I feel that there is more to her than meets the eye and I hope this is further explored as the book series progresses.

The supporting characters were great although I found Dennis to be a little frustrating. In my opinion, his view of the world didn’t particularly aline with modern thinking. I did find it interesting how his attitudes evolved over the course of the book.

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Book Review: The Lily Garden by Barbara Josselsohn

When Caroline left Lake Summers thirty years ago, she thought she’d never go back to the place where she lost her parents.

But when she finds out that the town’s lily garden lovingly built by her mother is going to be destroyed, she knows fate is calling. Dropping everything at her office in Chicago, she knows she is the only person who can save the garden.

Caroline and her daughter Lee are welcomed home by the warm smile of her mother’s best friend Maxine, and piles of pancakes at her cozy little restaurant in town. And Caroline soon learns that she isn’t the only person invested in saving her mother’s legacy, when she meets handsome historian Aaron. As she gets to know him, strolling along the sparkling lakeshore, she can’t imagine anywhere else she’d rather be.

But then Caroline learns a terrible secret about the day her mother died. And soon the real reason Aaron is in Lake Summers comes to light. Will the truth about the people she loves force her to give up a future with Aaron, and the beautiful town that has always been in her heart?

Caroline left Lake Summers thirty years ago after she lost both of her parents and has not been back.

When she gets a note informing her that her Mother’s beloved garden is due to be destroyed, she knows she finally has to return. She has to try and save the Lily Garden.

This was my introduction to Barbara Josselsohn’s novels. The premise intrigued me and I couldn’t wait to start reading.

It was pretty easy for me to feel warmth for Caroline. It was obvious to me from the beginning that she was in an environment to which she didn’t belong. There seemed to be a whimsical feel to her that didn’t fit with the corporate atmosphere. I knew there was more to her story than meets the eye.

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NK Chats To… Simon Whaley

It’s my pleasure to help kick off the blog tour for Blooming Murder. Hello Simon, thank you for joining me today. 

Hi Laura. Many thanks for inviting me onto Novel Kicks to discuss my first novel. It’s lovely to be here.

Can you tell me about your novel, Blooming Murder and what inspired it?

Blooming Murder is set in the fictitious market town of Mortiforde, somewhere on the Welsh Borders, and tells the story of two towns fighting it out in the annual Borders in Blossom competition, to become the Borders Most Blossoming Market Town. For the fifteenth successive year, Mortiforde is up against their arch rivals Portley Ridge in this flower competition final.

My main character, Lord Mortiforde, (Aldermaston to friends and family), who is still finding his feet as the new 8th Marquess of Mortiforde, is tasked with helping Mortiforde win this year. Unfortunately for Aldermaston, Portley Ridge is determined to secure their fifteenth successive win, and have a few deadly tricks up their sleeve.

The inspiration came from an old news item I discovered on the BBC News website once, although I won’t say too much, because it might spoil the plot!

But I’m also inspired by my home county of Shropshire. When I moved here from the outskirts of London over 20 years ago, I was struck by the strong sense of community here. There’s a determination in the people who live here. When something needs doing, the community gets up and does it!

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

It doesn’t always happen, but I try to spend most of my mornings working on my bigger writing projects, such as the Marquess of Mortiforde Mystery series. Then, before lunch, I’ll go for a walk. Being hunched up over a keyboard all day isn’t good, and I’m fortunate to live amongst the beautiful scenery of the Welsh Borders.

My walking time is often some of my best creative time because walking is great for thinking. Charles Dickens sometimes walked twenty miles a day when he was writing. (I’m not sure how he found the time to write – I’d be too exhausted to write after walking that far!)

In the afternoons, I work on commissioned article features for magazines like The People’s Friend, BBC Countryfile, and Writing Magazine.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?

I’m a discovery writer, rather than a detailed planner, so although I have a rough idea of how things will develop, it’s not until I sit down and start writing that I discover where the characters are going to take me. They don’t always take me where I expect them to, so there were times when I found myself getting stuck. And while walking is great for creatively resolving problems, I don’t always resolve my current dilemma on the first walk!

 

What songs would make up a playlist for your book?

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Book Review: Insider by Owen Mullen

Someone’s playing both sides and now they have a score to settle…

When the family business is crime, you can never be sure who to trust. And when three of their businesses are hit in one night, the notorious Glass family close ranks. Either someone is sending them a message or a war is coming… 

With trouble coming from all sides, the heads of the Glass family have more than enough to deal with, but all bets are off when a stranger from the past enters the game, causing division and mistrust.

Crooked cops, rival gangs and old enemies are bad enough, but when the trouble comes from the inside, loyalties are tested, with deadly consequences.

Page-turning, gripping, gritty, Insider is perfect for fans of Martina Cole, Kimberley Chambers and Mandasue Heller.

The Glass family is a crime family based in South London. They have been the undisputed kings of their patch for a long time but now someone is after them.

This book pulled me in quickly. From the start, the action begins and this made it hard to put it down.
Written both in third and first person, it really gave me an idea of how these characters were feeling and their motivations behind their decisions.

Without giving too much away, two of the main characters, Luke and Nina, find out they have a long lost relative and they are looking for their share of the empire.
This aspect only adds to the turbulent relationships already existing within this family and it does a good job of depicting how family loyalties can be tested.

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Book Review: Not In My Name by Michael Coolwood

Private Eye meets Agatha Christie

What if the British people had been given a vote about invading Iraq in 2003. And the referendum split the nation with a 52% to 48% yes vote.

A young activist is beaten to death after an anti-war demonstration.

The police say her murder was random. It wasn’t. More activists will be murdered. The activists only trust each other.

Maybe that trust has already been betrayed. Witty, political and provocative, this New Adult mystery is based on real events, and keeps the reader guessing to the very end.

Not in My Name is set in an alternative 2003. A referendum on whether to intervene in Iraq has just got a 52% Yes, 48% no result.

Phoebe Green is part of a group that opposes the referendum result. They are seen as traitors and the enemy.
When one of their group is killed, Phoebe is determined to get to the bottom of it but it’s not long before the situation goes from bad to worse.

Immediately, this book caught my attention. It’s a very interesting look at how divided a country can be and how quickly we can turn on each other. It scared me and yet the characters fascinated me all at the same time.

It’s both a political and murder mystery which had me invested in the plot very early on.

All of the characters are hiding something and this did add to the intrigue. I really had trouble figuring out what was going to happen or how it was going to end. I didn’t see the end coming actually. I found that, at some point, I suspected everyone of having a hand in Cassie’s murder.

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Book Review: Always and Forever at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

What if we’re all just searching for something?

Anna Stewart is lost. After barely surviving a car accident as a teenager, Anna is scared of settling. Flitting between jobs, boyfriends and homes whenever she gets bored, she has no idea what the future holds. Then her brother Brodie, minister of Glendale, suggests she moves to the beautiful Scottish village, lining up a housekeeper job for her at Glendale Hall.

Out of options, Anna agrees to the move, knowing that she can always run away again. Once at the hall, her culinary skills impress everyone, and she agrees to give Hilltop Farm’s new manager, Cameron, cooking lessons. Sparks fly between Anna and the handsome Scot, but Cameron is looking for love – something that Anna definitely isn’t.

But it’s wedding season at Glendale Hall, and Anna is about to discover that her new home has a way of working its magic on even the coldest of hearts. Will she really be able to just walk away, or could Anna have finally found a place to belong?

It’s summertime in the beautiful Highlands village of Glendale – pack your bags and come on holiday with this gorgeously uplifting, romantic read. Fans of Milly Johnson, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin will love this charming romcom.

Anna never likes to stay in one place too long. She’s running from her family and a past she blames herself for.

When circumstances mean that she has to take a job for the summer in Glendale, she isn’t happy about being near her brother. However, as it’s only for a couple of months, she puts her head down and get on with things.

Can Glendale work its magic on Anna like it has for other village residents?

Always and Forever at Glendale Hall was my introduction to the series but this can be read as a standalone or first if, like me, you’ve not read the previous three novels.

I found Anna to be a relatable character. At the start, she seems so lost. She has a persona of strength but there is such a vulnerability to her because of an accident she had when she was thirteen.

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Book Review: The Bridesmaid by Nina Manning

‘Promise me? If you hear any secrets, never tell me. That would make you a most treasured friend. More than a friend really. You’re almost like a sister to me…’

Your best friend….

From the moment they met as children, Sasha knew that beautiful, wealthy, and confident Caitlin would always be her absolute best friend.  Sasha would do anything to make Caitlin happy.  

Even keep her darkest secrets…

The years have passed, but their friendship remains.  And when Caitlin announces she’s getting married there is only one choice for the role of bridesmaid.  

Sasha will make sure Caitlin’s wedding is as beautiful and perfect as she is.  Won’t she? 

Your worst nightmare?

But Sasha is growing tired of always being in Caitlin’s shadow  – always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  And as the big day approaches, cracks begin to appear between the two woman.  Secrets and lies swirl between the two friends like confetti. Both of them are hiding dark secrets, both of them are lying. 

Could the secrets that once bound these two friends, rip them apart for good?

 

When Caitlin announces that she’s getting married, Sasha is the choice of Bridesmaid. However, secrets that have been buried for years are just bubbling below the surface and Sasha doesn’t know how much longer she can keep things to herself.

When I read the blurb for this novel, it sounded right up my street and I couldn’t wait to get started. It is a slow burner to begin with. I think this sort of start adds to the tension and pulls you right in.

Caitlin and Sasha’s relationship was one I found both fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. They are a good example of how two people, who wouldn’t have chosen each other otherwise, are thrown together as friends simply because they were in the same place at the same time. Even though they are supposed to be friends, social status, class and background play huge parts, even when they reach adulthood.

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Book Review: Things Are Looking Up by Maxine Morrey

What if what you really need is right there in front of you, if you just take a moment to look up?

Milly has been waiting for this moment forever and finally it’s just an hour away – an interview with Vogue magazine and the opportunity to get her Louboutin-clad foot in the door.  There’s just one problem – totally engrossed in her mobile phone, Milly doesn’t see the bus that is fast approaching – until it’s too late…

When Milly next opens her eyes, the consequences of her accident become clear. Everything she has worked for and dreamed of suddenly feels out of reach. But there is one bright spot on her horizon – the reappearance of her ex Jed, in all of his six-foot-four, broad-shouldered glory, with the most piercing ice blue eyes Milly ever saw.

Once used to working in a whirlwind, Milly now has the chance to reconsider how to live. Will she rush back to the treadmill, get her head down and back to business, or is there a whole other life waiting for her, if she’ll just look up to see it?

Milly is on the verge of getting the job she has spent most of her working life trying to get; much to the detriment of everything else.

What she didn’t plan on, was getting hit by a bus.

When she wakes up a week later, she finds herself homeless and jobless.

Her ex also comes back into her life… her very handsome, sweet ex.

It didn’t take me long to get completely engrossed in this novel. I immediately felt immersed in the London setting and I could imagine myself walking around London with Milly.

Milly was a character I could get behind. Yes, she has flaws and there were many points where I found her frustrating, but she felt very real and like an old friend. I wanted everything to work out for her. It was lovely to see her journey as I progressed through the book as she gets to know herself again.

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Book Review: The House Guest by Charlotte Northedge

Kate trusts Della, and Della trusts Kate.
Their downfall is each other.

When Kate moves to London after the disappearance of her sister, she’s in need of a friend. A chance meeting leads Kate to Della, a life coach who runs support groups for young women, dubbed by Kate as ‘the Janes.’

Della takes a special interest in Kate, and Kate soon finds herself entangled in Della’s life – her house, her family, and her husband. It’s only when she realises that she’s in too deep that Della’s veneer begins to crumble, and the warnings from ‘the Janes’ begin to come true.

Why is Della so keen to keep Kate by her side? What does Kate have that Della might want? And what really lies beneath the surface of their friendship?

Kate has long lived in the shadow of her elder sister’s disappearance. Even when she leaves the family home in Cambridge for a new life in London, finding her sister is still priority.

Then she meets Della and is invited to take part in life coaching sessions. Della seems to have it all and Kate is soon under the spell. Are things as they seem though?

When I first started reading, I wanted to reach into the page and give Kate a big hug. She’s so lost.

I really don’t want to give much away when it comes to the plot of this novel as I am hoping it’s one you’ll discover for yourself.

This was a thriller that immediately drew me in. How it starts and then proceeds had me intrigued and desperate to know what was happening and how it fitted together.

It was obvious to me that certain characters and situations were not as they seemed and, like Kate, I didn’t know who to trust. I also questioned whether things were too good to be true.

Unexpected twists and turns throughout had me reading well past my bedtime.

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Book Review: Under The Italian Sun by Sue Moorcroft

A warm, sun-baked terrace.

The rustle of verdant green vines.

The sun slowly dipping behind the Umbrian mountains.

And the chink of wine glasses as the first cork of the evening is popped…

Welcome to Italy. A place that holds the answer to Zia-Lucia Costa Chalmers’ many questions. Not least, how she ended up with such a mouthful of a name.

When Zia discovers that her mother wasn’t who she thought she was, she realises the time has come to search out the Italian family she’s never known.

However, as she delves into the secrets of her past, she doesn’t bargain on having to think about her future too. But with local vineyard owner, Piero, living next door, Zia knows she has a serious distraction who may prove difficult to ignore…

This summer, join Zia as she sets out to uncover her past. But can she find the future she’s always dreamed of along the way?

Want to know what love feels like? Read a Sue Moorcroft novel!

‘Under the Italian Sun’ is the forthcoming novel by this Amazon and Sunday Time best-selling author. When I get my hands upon the new novel, I’m all a quiver as I know I’m in for an exciting, but above all else, romantic ride. This novel didn’t disappoint in any way.

A little about the book, as I hate giving out too much if anything at all about the plot, if I can help it. This is the story of Zia and her journey to find her family; it’s not an easy one. Dumping her cheating boyfriend – a rotter of the highest order, I may add – she goes off to Italy with her best friend (also going through man problems) to see if she can find out more, especially about the father she never knew.

Zia isn’t prefect, making as much trouble for herself as she finds herself in, and that’s the beauty of her character. It’s not easy to write someone who you love, yet at the same time, feel like shouting at the screen, “Wake up woman!” Ms. Moorcroft is the master of this. I also loved her love interest, Piero and the fire between them burns as hot and cold as you could wish for.

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Book Extract: Blood Loss by Kerena Swan

A big hello to Kerena Swan. She’s here with the blog tour for her novel, Blood Loss. 

Sarah

With one eye on the rear view mirror and the other on the road ahead, Sarah is desperate to get as far away from the remote Scottish cabin as she can without attracting attention. But being inconspicuous isn’t easy with a black eye and clothes soaked in blood…

… and now the fuel tank is empty.

DI Paton

When a body is discovered in a remote cabin in Scotland, DI Paton feels a pang of guilt as he wonders if this is the career break he has been waiting for. But the victim is unidentifiable and the killer has left few clues.

Jenna

With the death of her father and her mother’s failing health, Jenna accepts her future plans must change but nothing can prepare her for the trauma yet to come.

Fleeing south to rebuild her life Sarah uncovers long-hidden family secrets. Determined to get back what she believes is rightfully hers, Sarah thinks her future looks brighter. But Paton is still pursuing her…

… and he’s getting closer.

Kerena Swan’s brilliant novel explores how honest mistakes and human frailty can have terrifying and long-reaching consequences. It’s a tale of family ties and loyalty, revenge and redemption that you won’t want to put down.

 

Kerena has shared an extract today. Enjoy.

(CW: May be unsuitable for young children/scenes relating to a body.)

 

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

 

I was inspired to write this novel after reading a news article about people who undertook DNA tests to find out more about their heritage with shocking results.

Blood Loss is book one in a series featuring DI Paton and his son Tommy, a boy with Down’ Syndrome. After writing Who’s There? I was asked many times to write a sequel with the main character, Arnold. Tommy is a reincarnation of Arnold with a few subtle differences. You can discover the characters in a free novella available on my website. www.kerenaswan.com

 

DI Paton

Blue police tape fluttered across a rutted road to the right and three people, hunched in thick coats, stamped their feet nearby. ‘Bloody press,’ Paton muttered. ‘Come to feast while the body’s still warm. Who tipped them off?’

They rushed forward as Paton and Cheryl walked towards the police officer guarding the outer cordon.

‘Can you tell us what happened?’ a man asked, a watery drip wobbling under his red nose.  He grabbed a tissue from his pocket and rubbed it away.

‘Do we know who the victim is?’ A woman in a fur-trimmed hood stood in front of Paton, notebook at the ready, her fingers blue with cold.

‘You probably know more than me at this stage. Excuse me,’ Paton said. Stepping around her, he strode away with Cheryl following.

They gave their names to the officer who wrote them in the crime scene log. Behind him a man in a white suit was taking photographs of the mud and stones, swearing as the snow obliterated his evidence.

‘You need to get suited and booted, and take a spare pair of shoe covers for indoors,’ the officer said, running a finger around his collar and hunching his shoulders as large snowflakes melted against his neck. ‘Are you both on the fingerprint and DNA databases?’

They nodded.

‘When you’re ready, follow the path marked out by the tape.’

Paton was puffing by the time they reached the cabin at the top of the hill.

‘Maybe you should join my gym,’ Cheryl said.

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Book Review: After The Storm by Isabella Muir

When a violent storm blasts England’s south coast, it’s up to retired Italian detective Giuseppe Bianchi to sift through the devastation and piece together the tragic events left behind in the storm’s wake.

Giuseppe Bianchi’s brief visit to Bexhill-on-Sea has become an extended stay. He is loath to return to his home in Rome because of the haunting images that made him leave in the first place.

During his morning walks along the seafront with Beagle, Max, he meets Edward Swain, who becomes Giuseppe’s walking companion. They form a friendship of sorts and find they have a similar outlook on life.

But the devastating events of a single night lead Giuseppe to question the truth about Edward Swain. Teaming up with young journalist, Christina Rossi – his cousin’s daughter – Giuseppe learns about the brutal reality lurking behind the day-to-day life of families in the local community. And as the story unravels Giuseppe is reminded how anger and revenge can lead to the most dreadful of crimes.

After the Storm is the second novel in the Giuseppe Bianchi mystery series – the much awaited sequel to Crossing the Line.

I was very excited to be included in the blog tour for After the Storm which is the second novel in the Giuseppe Bianchi mystery series.

Ex Italian Detective Giuseppe Bianchi is staying with his cousin’s family in Bexhill. When the town gets hit by a terrible storm, he soon finds himself investigating the death of a friend.

From page one this book had me intrigued. I was a little concerned about whether I would be able to keep up with the story as I have not read the first book in the series, Crossing the Line. I had nothing to worry about. After the Storm can easily be read as part of the series or as a standalone.

There is such a calm at the beginning of the book that I really did feel, like a storm, that the narrative was building up to something and this added tension and suspense. Add in the mystery that Giuseppe is trying to solve and this made this book hard to put down.

I also loved the fact that it was based in the 1960’s. I am a big Beatles fan so I have always wondered what it would be like to live in the 60s. It was the decade of change and you can really feel that in the plot; like everyone and everything is on the verge of something bigger. I could realty imagine myself there, at Mario and Anne’s café, sipping tea as I look out over the sea.

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Book Review: The Girls From Alexandria by Carol Cooper

‘Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.’

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s The Girls from Alexandria is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.

 

Nadia finds herself abandoned in a London hospital. She is having trouble remembering many things but the one thing she is sure about is that she needs to find her sister, Simone before it’s too late.

The problem is, she has not seen or heard from her sister in fifty years and the people around her are convinced that no such person exists.

As her current situation becomes more dire, Nadia becomes more determined. She begins to reflect on her past and the time she spent growing up with her family in Alexandria.

This book appealed to me. It’s historical fiction but has a mystery weaving through it which meant I kept wanting to turn the page, losing track of time in the process.

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Book Review: Let in the Light by Gerard Nugent

Songwriter, Richie Carlisle never wanted to be famous.

After stumbling into the limelight five years ago, he soon found himself crashing back out of it. Now, he spends his days working in a small music shop in Edinburgh, attempting to live a quiet life as a part-time dad.

But his 15 minutes of fame have taken its toll. His inspiration for songwriting, music and life in general seems to have all but disappeared.

When Richie is given a flyer advertising the first meeting of the Hope Street Songwriters’ Circle, it’s a chance to step back into the world. But after years of hiding away, letting in the light won’t be easy.

 

Richie finds himself recruited into a band with success that many only dream about. Then, as quickly as fame comes, it goes again, leaving him living in Edinburgh and working in a music shop.

Based on the synopsis alone, you would think that this novel is purely about a musician and his experience with the music industry. However, once I began to read, I discovered it was as much about mental health and how life can imitate art.

Told from the point of view of Richie, it follows his current situation with flashbacks into his past which gives the reader an understanding of him and why he finds himself on the verge of losing everything. As a character, he is not complicated. He is a man who will do anything for the person he loves most and for that, I empathised with him. He was an easy person to invest in.

With its themes of love, loss and regret, there is not much else I can say about the plot without revealing major spoilers but this was a book that very quickly had me engrossed.

One of the things I liked most about this novel is how it shines a light on the important subject of men’s mental health and how ‘not every day can be an anthem. Some days will be in a minor key, and that’s OK.’ I feel that this is such a key message to put across – that it’s OK to not feel OK all the time. Right now, I think this is something everyone needs to hear.

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Book Review: The Invitation by A.M. Castle

Thirteen guests. One killer. No escape.

On an island on the coast of Cornwall, cut off from the mainland by the tides for most of the day, thirteen old friends meet at Tregowan Castle for a weekend of revelry.

By the next evening only twelve are still alive.

Amongst them is a killer – but who? As a storm traps them on the island and past betrayals and grievances are revealed, nerves fray and friendships begin to fracture.

But with no escape and no way of calling for help it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again. And when everyone is keeping secrets, anybody could be the next victim…

Thirteen friends arrive at a remote castle in Cornwall to attend a special Halloween party. The next evening, only twelve are alive. The killer is one of the twelve but who is it?

From the first page, I knew this was going to be my kind of phycological thriller.

Immediately, I got pulled into the story as the tension and suspense continued to build.

This book is told from the point of view of various characters including Rachel, the rich hostess who has planned this special night down to the last detail. Vicky who is fighting a drinking problem and a breakdown in the relationship with her son. Gita and her husband Tom whose marriage isn’t as happy as she’d like it to appear.

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Book Extract: Pluto’s in Uranus! by Patrick Haylock

I am pleased to be welcoming Patrick Haylock to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for his novel, Pluto’s in Uranus!

This Christmas Jupiter and Saturn will become closer to each other than they have been for almost 800 years. It is an event that has set the world astrological community abuzz with the possible consequences of such an alignment and its potential impact on global leaders and world events.

But what happens when an even rarer conjunction between Pluto and Uranus occurs and what affect does it hold in store for the lives of everyday ‘ordinary folk’?

Well, it’s something that Dave from the post room is about to find out. Pluto is in Uranus and for him this indicates that everything is about to come up smelling of roses or so he thinks!

Dave suffers from OCF, Obsessive Compulsive Fatalism, and his Achilles heel is his daily horoscope, which is about to become dramatically affected by the historic planetary alignment.

The lucky omens predicted will compel him to take uncharacteristic chances, cross paths with a hotchpotch of larger than life characters who get him embroiled in situations with hilarious outcomes that are way beyond his control and  out of his comfort zone

Pluto’s In Uranus is written by globally unrecognised no award-winning Essex author Patrick Haylock.

 

Patrick has shared an extract from Pluto’s in Uranus! today. Enjoy! 

 

 

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

 

There are plenty of cars that I would love to own, but I’m afraid to say that a BMW is not one of them, although, I wouldn’t turn one away as a gift.

My main reasoning for excluding this vehicle from my motoring bucket list, is based upon experience, observation, and the fact that you need a set of unique driving skills to own a BMW.

Persistent overtaking, undertaking and the ability to maximise the visibility of your registration plate in the rear-view mirror of any vehicle that refuses to move out of your way are key attributes to successfully driving a Beamer!

Erratic headlight flashing and ownership of outside motorway lanes are also useful assets to possess.

Sadly, not being blessed with any of these talents would mean that a BMW would be wasted on me.

However, just prior to calamity it seems Dave begs to differ, because he wishes to own a BMW, have a great adventure and to feature in a book ending with the word pancake. His goals in life are mediocre but achievable.

Up to now his life had been stagnating, as were his attempts to fulfil his aspirations. Every day always began the same: an alarm call, a nature call, a shower, and a shave.

He would skip breakfast, dash to the newsagent’s, run after the bus, sprint for the train, then crawl to his boss for late arrival –yet again!

His habitual lateness was due to OCF – Obsessive- Compulsive Fatalism which he attributed to being born on December 25th.

This syndrome made it imperative for him to read his online horoscope prior to leaving home every day. After many years of failed predictions, todays were going to prove the spectacular exception, because Pluto was in Uranus!!

Even his computer seemed to be in a more optimistic mode, as, far quicker than usual, it launched Dave’s horoscopic homepage.

The colours seemed more vibrant, and the information as clear, precise, and positive… and today, without doubt, it was addressing him personally.

Capricorn

‘Pluto has moved into Uranus, indicating revolution, a time of rebirth, new thinking, and the sweeping out of old ways.

The risk-averse should abandon their fears and take a leap of faith, as an uncharacteristic decision will turn out well!

Those with names that contain an E D A or V should be extra vigilant, as many surprising, and unexpected, opportunities are about to come your way.

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Book Extract: Girl With Secrets by Carol Rivers

I’m happy to be welcoming Carol Rivers to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her book, Girl With Secrets. 

1938, East London. Nine year old Daisy Purbright is a country girl at heart and together with beloved brother Bobby, they’ve enjoyed the endless freedoms of rural England.

But when her father gambles the family’s fortunes on a speculative investment in London’s docklands, Daisy and her family are swept up into the intrigue, danger and excitement.Desperately the Purbrights attempt to settle to a new life in the East End, but the whisperings of war grow louder.

Then, one late afternoon in September 1940, Adolf Hitler conducts a paralysing bombardment on London and war tightens its grip. Life changes dramatically and closely guarded secrets threaten the Purbrights’ happiness.

Can Daisy and her family survive one of the most fateful events of the 20th century?

Perfect for fans of Nadine Dorries, Pam Howes, Rosie Clarke and Dilly Court.

 

Carol has shared an extract from Girl With Secrets so grab that drink, the comfy chair and enjoy. 

 

 

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

 

Cheer up, ducks, you look as though you’ve lost a pound and found a penny.’ Mrs Hayes steered the rattling trolley towards the canteen at a rate of knots.

‘No, I haven’t found anything. Well, not really.’ Daisy trotted beside the tea lady trying to keep up, listening to the tea-stained mugs clink violently against each other. A quick manoeuvre to the left swerved them down another walkway in the opposite direction to the offices.

‘Either you have – or you haven’t,’ the tea lady objected. ‘Speak now or forever hold your peace.’

Daisy was not certain how – or even if – she should reveal what she had seen. If she was to tell anyone at all, it would be Mrs Hayes or even Bobby, but was there really something to tell?

Perhaps she had imagined Aunt Betty standing close to Mr Calder? Had peering through one eye with the other closed distorted their figures? The more she thought, the more she was uncertain. Yet still the imprint of what she had witnessed remained in her mind. Just like Matt and Amelia’s almost-kiss.

Mrs Hayes launched the trolley into the doors of the canteen, where the scarred and dented flaps flew open. Once safely into the deserted room filled with stout wooden tables and chairs, smelling strongly of the cleaning agent that was used to kill the roaches and mice, the trolley was abandoned.

‘There now, all done,’ sighed Mrs Hayes, planting her hands on her hips as she studied Daisy. ‘Did you find your aunt?’

Daisy hesitated. ’Yes, but I didn’t actually speak to her.’

‘Why not?’

‘She was with – she had – a visitor.’

Mrs Hayes screwed up her eyes. ‘Who was that?’

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Book Extract: Dating The It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager

I’d like to welcome Krysten Lindsay Hager to Novel Kicks and the birthday blog tour for her  novel, Dating the It Guy. Happy book birthday. 

Emme starts dating a popular high school student who happens to be from a famous political family. It seems like everyone at school either wants to be Brendon Agretti or date him.

Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture-perfect ex seems determined to get back into his life, along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti.

Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend dumped her and her whole world is off kilter with her grandparents’ health issues. Life suddenly seems easier pushing Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her.

Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses.

Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work?

Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the It guy.

 

To celebrate the birthday for her novel, Dating the It Guy, Krysten Lindsay Hager has shared an extract with us today. Over to her to introduce it. 

 

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

 

I love this scene because we see the pressures Brendon has on him from growing up in a political dynasty family and it’s also the scene where he and Emme have their very sweet first kiss!

 

Everyone thought Brendon and his last girlfriend would get married in the future because they were both high achievers with perfect looks and backgrounds. It was like the daughter of the peanut butter dynasty being promised to the jelly tsar’s son.

“People always try to map out my life for me,” he said. “They assume I’m going to follow in my father’s footsteps: get married young, run for office, work my way up the ladder, have the perfect family—only unlike my dad, they assume I’ll eventually run for President. Although I think my old man’s still got designs on the Oval Office.”

“So is any of that what you want?” I asked.

He blinked. “I don’t even know what I want. It’s hard to explain, but when you grow up in a family where your dad and your grandpa were known for something, it’s like everyone assumes you’ll pick up the baton and finish the race. I know it sounds like, ‘oh, poor little rich kid crying because his family has connections,’ but it’s overwhelming.”

“Wow, I never thought about it that way. I guess I just assumed you had all these doors open to you, and your life was, well, planned. But also like you had it made—you were set.”

“That’s what most people think, and in some ways it’s true, but is it what I want? I honestly don’t know.”

“What would you do if you didn’t have any family pressure on you?” I asked.

“You’ll laugh at me.”

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Book Review: Space Taxies by A & H Frosh

He’s abducted by aliens to the planet Vost.

He’s saving up for his fare home.

But he’s got the small matter of a planetary apocalypse to deal with first…

In 1977 a New York Cab driver Mike Redolfo is abducted by aliens after being mistaken for a renegade scientist. Meanwhile, back in 1944 a mysterious man and his Jewish fiancée are fleeing across Nazi-occupied Europe.

Redolfo tries to keep a low profile on his new world whilst earning his fare home, but unwittingly gets involved with a shady gang of alien criminals, inadvertently bringing the planet to the brink of catastrophe.

As the link between the timelines becomes clear, Redolfo must discover secrets from the past that may hold the key to saving the planet.

If you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, and Frank Herbert’s Dune, you’ll love this gripping and entertaining sci-fi mystery thriller.

“A perfect blend of science fiction and alternate history”

At first glance, I was intrigued by this novel and so was delighted to be part of the blog tour for Space Taxies.

The plot follows two threads in separate eras. The first setting is Czechoslovakia during the Second World War under Nazi occupation, with the second setting a short time later and hundreds of lightyears away on the planet Vost.

At first, it wasn’t obvious how these two stories connect, which only served to pull me into the book as I wanted to discover how everything fit together.

I was particularly impressed in how the authors interwove actual historical events into the earth bound storyline, at times providing an alternative explanation to things which remain unclear even to this day. The SciFi element is light enough to keep you reading, but involved enough that everything doesn’t just appear to be magic; a hard line to tread. It is easy for a SciFi story to get lost in the details of the technology and loose the readability but I am glad to report that this doesn’t happen here.

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Book Extract and Review: The Village of Lost and Found by Alison Sherlock

A big digital hug and welcome to Alison Sherlock. She’s here with the blog tour for her latest novel, The Village of Lost and Found which is the second book in the Riverside Lane series. 

Scandal hit party girl Lucy Conway needs to leave London fast, so she packs her bags and escapes to the sleepy village of Cranbridge to take care of her beloved Uncle Frank.

But the country village isn’t quite as idyllic as she remembers. To make matters worse, her Uncle’s pride and joy, The Cranbridge Times, is close to going out of business.

Editor-at-Large Tom Addison is having a crisis of confidence and needs help if the newspaper is going to survive. 

With time on her hands, can Lucy work some magic and together save the family newspaper?
Over a long, hot summer, friendships are made and hearts begin to heal. And, with the help of a stray dog, perhaps Lucy and Tom can find their very own new beginning…

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, Alison and Boldwood have shared an extract. Grab that hot drink, biscuit and comfy place and enjoy. 

 

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

 

As Lucy drove across the countryside in her Ford Fiesta, she found herself singing along to the radio.

She knew she should be feeling more miserable than she did at that moment. After all, she had no career to speak of. Her ex-lover had turned out to be married. Plus her parents were still upset about her so-called ‘affair’ ending up on the front pages of the newspapers and the paparazzi were still camped out on the street outside their home.

And yet, despite all of that, Lucy felt happier than she had done all week. Spending a night away from her home to stay in a hotel near to the hospital meant that she hadn’t had to endure her parents’ disapproving silence over an awkward dinner and could relax. Uncle Frank had been told that he was likely to be discharged from hospital in the next few days. She felt relieved that it had not been anything more serious although he would be heading home with a large boot to protect the small fracture in his foot and would need some help getting around. Lucy was thankful that she had the time to step in and assist him in his recovery.

As she drove further into the countryside, her mood lightened even more. It was the middle of June and the air coming through the gap in the car window that she had opened was both fresh and warm. When the song on the radio finished, the sound of birdsong filled the air instead.

This particular journey always brought a smile to her face. Each school holiday, her parents had carried on working and hadn’t wanted her under their feet so she had been packed off to stay with her aunt and uncle in Cranbridge. The summers had been particularly special. She remembered paddling in the shallow river that ran through the middle of the village. Ice cream melting down onto her sticky fingers. The smell of home cooking and freshly made cakes just out of the oven. Hugs from her Aunt Jane. Laughter with her uncle.

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Book Extract: One Night in Beartown by Nick Jones

I am very pleased to be welcoming Nick Jones to Novel Kicks today. He is here with his new picture book, One Night in Beartown (illustrated by Si Clark.)

From the award-winning duo that brought you Sarah’s Shadow comes another magical adventure…

When bear-mad schoolgirl Sandy Lane has her beloved teddy bear Berisford confiscated at school, she dreads the thought of going a whole night without his cuddles.

Little does she know that a bear-rilliant night awaits her, involving Berisford, a bear statue and many other wonderful friends!

 

Nick has shared an extract with us today. This book looks so adorable and is for ages 4-8.

 

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

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Night We Met by Zoë Folbigg

As a man holds his wife’s frail hand, he recounts a journey like no other…

Daniel and Olivia are destined to be together. At least, Daniel thinks this the night he sees Olivia across a sea of people. As he backpacks through Australia, Daniel and Liv continue to cross paths, yet never speak. Until one night, Liv joins Daniel for a drink. And that night everything changes.

Back in London, stuck in a monotonous routine, Daniel finds himself daydreaming of the woman with green eyes and fiery hair. Armed with only a name he vows to find her, yet with every passing moment, Daniel’s hopes begin to disappear. What if it wasn’t meant to be?

But then fate steps in, and Daniel and Olivia’s story can truly begin…

This is a tale of serendipity, missed chances and the power of love.

I had really enjoyed Zoë’s previous novel, The Note so I was looking forward to reading her latest book, The Night We Met and being a part of the blog tour.

A special mention needs to be given to the cover. It’s so dreamy and pretty.

Daniel and Olivia are two people who are very easy to become invested in and attached to.

From the first page, I found their story compelling. It was an emotional rollercoaster. You will need tissues.

It is told from the point of view of both Daniel and Olivia as the former looks back on their lives and love story. It does time jump but it’s easy to keep up with.

Zoë has such a great talent for telling beautiful but realistic stories. This is the kind of novel I’d love to write. She is able to create relatable, likeable characters whilst still including conflict and the twists that life can throw at you.

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Book Review: Smoke by Joe Ide

Happy publication day to Joe Ide. His latest novel, Smoke, has been published by W&N. 

Isaiah is no longer IQ, the genius of East Long Beach. A man on the road and on the run, he is hiding in a small Northern California town when his room is broken into by a desperate young man on the trail of the state’s most prolific serial killer.

Isaiah’s former sidekick Dodson has also had to change life, in an attempt to keep his wife and child. His devil’s bargain is an internship at an LA advertising agency, where it turns out the rules of the street have simply been dressed in business casual. The ageing company’s fortunes may well rest on their ability to attract a younger demographic and Dodson – ‘the hustler’s hustler’ – just may be the right man for the job.

Both Isaiah and Dodson are at a crossroads, but can they leave their former lives behind for good?

Having not read anything by this author, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Smoke. I was a bit concerned, with it being book five in the IQ series, that I would struggle to keep up with the evolved backstory and established characters.

Previous events are touched upon lightly in this book but it can stand on its own. I felt it didn’t hold me back too much in terms of enjoyment.

The plot overall was classic crime thriller but what made this stand out was how it dealt with themes of racial tension, equality and stereotypes. I felt it opened my eyes to situations that I’ve not been exposed to and its handling of these subjects was done well.

It was well written and the story, pace and tension good. I didn’t at any point feel that it dragged its feet. It would be a perfect holiday read (if we were allowed to do that of course.)

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Book Review: The Good Wife by Eleanor Porter

I’m very pleased to be welcoming Eleanor Porter to the blog today and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Good Wife. 

Where will her loyalty lead her?

Once accused of witchcraft Martha Spicer is now free from the shadow of the gallows and lives a safe and happy life with her husband, Jacob. But when Jacob heads north to accompany his master, he warns Martha to keep her healing gifts a secret, to keep herself safe, to be a good wife.

Martha loves Jacob but without him there to protect her, she soon comes under the suspicious eye of the wicked Steward Boult, who’s heard of her talent and forces her to attend to him. If she refuses, he promises to destroy the good life she has built for herself with Jacob.

Desperate and alone, Martha faces a terrible decision: stay and be beholden to Boult or journey north to find Jacob who is reported to have been killed.. The road ahead is filled with danger, but also the promise of a brighter future. And where her gifts once threatened to be her downfall, might they now be the very thing that sets Martha free…?

The brilliant follow-up to Eleanor Porter’s first novel of love, betrayal, superstition and fear in Elizabethan England. A story of female courage, ingenuity and determination , this is perfect for fans of Tracy Chevalier.

 

Having not read The Wheelwright’s Daughter, the previous novel in this series, I was a little worried that I would struggle to keep up with the events of The Good Wife. As it was, I didn’t need to worry. There is a good balance of backstory without slowing down the current plot.

Elizabethan history has always fascinated me and it was great to see a different point of view away from the Royal Court. Eleanor Porter does a really great job of setting the scene and placing you at the centre of Martha’s world.

I found Martha an intriguing character. She’s much stronger and has more courage than she gives herself credit for – something we can all relate to in some way.

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Book Extract and Review: The Juggle by Emma Murray

Happy publication day to Emma Murray. She is here today with her novel, The Juggle. 

Here’s a little about the book…

‘You can have it all,’ they said. ‘Happy children, happy marriage, great career – no problem,’ they said…

Mother-of-one Saoirse is just about holding it all together – combining part time work with the school run, while her husband David gets to focus on his career. But when David loses his job, everything has to change.

With no hesitation, Saoirse suggests she takes on the role of main breadwinner. After all, how hard can it be? And when a new client offers her a life-changing sum of money, Saoirse can look the other over-achieving Woodvale school-run mums in the eye with pride.

But there’s a problem with keeping too many balls in the air – eventually one is bound to drop. And when that happens – well, who knows what the consequences could be…

Laugh-out-loud funny, achingly relatable, but with a heart of gold, and warmth running through every page. This is the perfect read for anyone who has way too many balls in the air! The novel may or may not have been inspired by real life…

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, to celebrate the publication of The Juggle and to help start the blog tour, Emma and Boldwood Books have shared an extract today. Enjoy. 

 

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

 

My four-year-old daughter Anna has been at school for two weeks now, and frankly I’m already having second thoughts. For starters, I appear to always be late for pick-up and today is no exception. I grab my raincoat and keys and shut the door behind me. Two seconds later, I let myself back in again. I have forgotten to bring Anna’s snack. Last week I forgot her snack and she started screaming at me in the middle of the playground. The mortification was endless. I have lived in fear of a repeat of ‘snackgate’ ever since. So, I open the ‘cupboard of crap’, as my husband David likes to call it, and grab a packet of those flavoured cheesy cracker things that flight crew sometimes give you on the plane. I can’t even think of them now without feeling airsick.

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Book Review: Take A Chance On Me by Beth Moran

Meet Patrick Cooper – desperately down on his luck, and head-over-heels in unrequited love with his best friend Bridget.

Meet Bridget’s sister, Emma Donovan –  eternally single maker-of-cakes for many a happy couple, whilst never making it down the aisle herself.

Emma has four younger sisters, all of whom are married or getting married, and an Italian mother who can’t understand what is ‘wrong’ with her eldest daughter, who seems to be stranded on the shelf.  Despairing of her own ability to find a suitable husband, Emma agrees to be part of a compatibility project to get married at first sight. 

Meanwhile Cooper is struggling to get over his crush on Bridget and seems destined to stay firmly on the shelf too. Perhaps it’s time his fate was taken out of his hands…

Is happily-ever-after just about daring to take a chance, or do you need some extra magic to make love last?

Join Beth Moran, Cooper and the Donovan sisters on this life-affirming and uplifting tale of love, family, friendship, and risking it all for happiness. 

Cooper has been in love with Bridget Donovan since the met at College. He even moved so that he didn’t have to see her with someone else. Now he’s back and finds himself helping her with a marriage compatibility study. He’d do anything to help her succeed. He’d even volunteer.
Meet Bridget’s older sister, Emma. She’s had her share of disastrous first dates and decides to volunteer for her sister’s study. They both decide to get married at first sight. What could go wrong?

With the subject of blind date weddings being quite topical right now, I love that Beth Moran has found a unique way to approach it and I found myself quickly and completely engrossed in this book with no idea how it was going to end. In fact, it kept me guessing all the way through.

Emma is instantly likeable as is her entire family. I love the relationship and bond she has with her sisters. Family and its importance is one of the key themes running through the heart of this novel and the Donovans are all likeable, realistic and relatable in their different ways.

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New Releases: Preserved by Fiona Sherlock

Happy publication day to Fiona Sherlock. Her novel, Preserved, has been released today by Poolbeg Press. 

She’s stuck in the past, the killer wants to immortalise his future. When a local farmer announces on social media that he has discovered a bog body in Ardee, the world’s historians are keen to explore the secrets of the life and grisly death of the victim. Antique journalist January Quail is fighting to keep her newspaper job and uncovers far more than she bargained for.

The victim is actually a recent murder, and January uses her nose for the truth to investigate the County Louth town. From shopkeeper to the publican, everyone is a suspect, but when the Gardai can’t find the killer, can January?

Once she sets down the liqueur glass, January gains the confidence of the lead garda investigator. Within days, the case unravels into a much more dangerous situation with a killer on the loose.

Despite the risk, January is electrified that this newest discovery has come at the perfect time to inject some colour into her flailing career. January relinquishes her old ways to fight for survival, abandoning her antiques column and vintage corsets to solve a cryptic crime that has the experts puzzled. This woman who longs to lives in the past must now fight for her life in the present.

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Book Review: Stormy Days On Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke

London 1950

Peggy Ronoscki is happily settling into life running her guesthouse on Mulberry Lane, surrounded by close friends and family. Life just seems too good…

But then disaster strikes.

Pip, her beloved son is left in a coma following a devastating car crash and a young girl collapses in the market leaving Peggy no option but to nurse her back to health.

As things begin to go awry, Peggy worries she has brought trouble to her doorstep?
Can her life ever return to normal? Or has Peggy’s good nature led her astray?

 

Not only is this the first book I’ve read by Rosie Clarke, it is my first introduction to the Mulberry Lane series.

It did take me a couple of chapters to settle in as I was getting my head around who’s who but once that happened, I was so eager to find out what happened to these women.

Peggy is such a wonderful, strong character who wants to see the best in people – even a stranger she finds collapsed in the street. I didn’t know what to make of Gillian and I hoped that she wasn’t going to cause any harm as I had very quickly grown so fond of Peggy and Able.

Shirley was also a character I immediately clicked with and I almost became an overprotective parent, having to remind myself that she was fictional. That’s what’s fantastic about this book; the settling and the people within feel so vivid and real. It’s as though you’re stepping into a existing London street and watching it all unfold.

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Book Review: Just Bea by Deborah Klee

Sometimes you have to stop trying to be like everyone else and just be yourself.

Bea Stevens and Ryan O Marley are in danger of falling through the cracks of their own lives; the only difference between them is that Bea doesn’t know it yet.

When her world is shaken like a snow-globe, Bea has to do what she does best; adapt. Homeless man Ryan is the key to unlocking the mystery of her friend Declan’s disappearance but can she and Ryan trust one another enough to work together? 

As the pieces of her life settle in new and unexpected places, like the first fall of snow, Bea must make a choice: does she try to salvage who she was or embrace who she might become?

Just Bea takes the reader on a heart-warming journey from the glamour of a West End store to the harsh reality of life on the streets and reminds us all that home really is where the heart is.

 

Bea feels like her life is on track. She has a London flat and is on the verge of getting a promotion at one of the most prestigious department stores in the city. She is about to get everything she thinks she wants.

When things begin to unravel, Bea meets Ryan. As they get to know each other, she may come to realise that there is much more to life than what she had planned.

This book was my introduction to Deborah Klee. It did take me a couple of chapters to settle into the story but once this happened, I couldn’t put the book down.

At the beginning, I didn’t know what to make of Bea. She was someone who very much played by the rules and she didn’t seem to respond to much around her. She felt very closed off. However, the further into the novel I got, the more I started to like her and find her relatable. She began to open up and it’s interesting to see how she develops as the story went on.

Told from the point of view of both Bea and Ryan, I liked how you got to see the story from a duel point of view. I also found it interesting that these two people, seemingly in different circumstances, find that they are not that different and how one decision or event can change the course of your life. Plus, it can happen so quickly. However, you are in charge of your own destiny and it’s not about what happens to you but how you deal with it.

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