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Book Review: Who Do You Think You Are Maggie Pink? by Janet Hoggarth

I am pleased to be welcoming back Janet Hoggarth to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for her novel, Who Do You Think You Are Maggie Pink

Maggie Pink is a lot of things to a lot of people, but does she know who she really is?

Maggie is a mother to a stroppy teenager, a wife to a befuddled husband, and a daughter to two very different women. She has always known she’s adopted, but has she ever understood what that means? Not really.

Following the death of her mother, Maggie finally feels able to go in search of her birth mother Morag, and heads to the Highlands of Scotland with her disgruntled daughter Roxie in tow, leaving her crumbling marriage to worry about another day.

The family reunion is bittersweet, but everything is blown wide open when Roxie unearths Morag’s explosive teenage diaries. Why did Morag give Maggie away? What really happened all those years ago, and how have the echoes of the past resounded through the generations, like ripples in a puddle?

And when all the secrets and promises are out in the open, will Maggie finally have an answer to the question – who do you think you are Maggie Pink?

*****

Maggie Pink is a wife to Adam and a mother to teenager, Roxie. Mother and daughter do not have the best relationship.

Maggie has also always known that she was adopted.

When her mother dies, Maggie feels that it’s time to go looking for her birth mother, Morag.

However, the secrets and revelations are only just beginning.

I have previously had the opportunity on this blog to share an extract from Janet’s novel, The Single Mums Move On, and so when I was invited onto the blog tour for her latest novel, Who Do You Think You Are Maggie Pink?, I jumped at the chance and couldn’t wait to get started.

I knew from the books description that this novel was going to be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and I wasn’t wrong.

I did like the multiple viewpoints as it gave a real overall picture of what all these women were going through and thinking.

Maggie was someone I could relate to, having lost my own mother in my 30’s. To start with, she’s a hard character to get to know. She’s a closed book but as the plot progressed, you begin to understand why.

Roxie is a typical teenager but, like with Maggie, empathy for her builds throughout the novel as you see things from her point of view.

The plot, in my opinion, moves well and the characters are well rounded. The supporting characters, Fiona, Issy and Angus especially are wonderful.

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Book Review: The Fire Killer by Ross Greenwood

A lovely big welcome back to Ross Greenwood and the blog tour for his novel, The Fire Killer.

When DI Barton is asked to investigate a seemingly innocuous fire that kills, he believes it’s either children fooling around or a worrying racially motivated crime.

As he delves deeper into the case, he soon realises that there is a history of similar blazes spread out over many years, all within a close area. And after an idea is suggested by pathologist Mortis, Barton suspects he has the arsonist’s motives wrong.

When a night worker comes forward with a tip, Barton narrows down the suspects. Yet all of them act suspiciously and he knows for sure that one or more of them are lying. And when a huge house blaze shocks everyone, Barton fears the killer has lost all control.

Who is The Fire Killer? What will be next to burn?

*****

DI Barton and his team are back! 

A mysterious person is setting fires and it’s not long before arson turns into murder. Time is running out. Can they find The Fire Killer before they kill again? 

Having previously read The Cold Killer, I was excited to start reading DI Barton’s latest case. If you haven’t read any of the previous novels, don’t worry. This can be read as a standalone although I do recommend them. They are so good! In fact, DI Barton and his team are now amongst my favourite fictional crime solvers. The Fire Killer is book five in the series. In case you wanted to pick up this series from the beginning, it starts off with The Snow Killer, then The Soul Killer, The Ice Killer and the Cold Killer. 

Ross Greenwood immediately draws you into the action so I very quickly got pulled into the story, wanting to know what happens. 

The tension and suspense builds very well and I was with these characters, invested in trying to find this killer.

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Book Review: Finding Love on Sunshine Island by Georgina Troy

A big welcome to Georgina Troy who is here with the blog tour for her new novel, Finding Love on Sunshine Island.

Welcome to the Sunshine Island – where the beaches are golden, the lifestyle is perfect and anything is possible.

Piper Le Brocq is happily single after the disastrous ending of her engagement eighteen months before. The only man in her life is Jax, her best friend and cousin, who spends his life teaching locals how to forage and taking tourists on boat trips around the island. Her days are filled with helping out at her mother’s guest house and selling her glass mosaics at The Cabbage Patch emporium in Trinity.

Piper loves living on the Sunshine Island, where the neighbours look out for each other and visitors are welcome. So, when handsome guest Alex Cooper arrives at the guest house to check up on his grandfather, she welcomes him to the sunny island. And when he needs help after his grandfather is injured, she’s quick to get involved.

Yet, the more she gets to know Alex the more mysterious he seems, and Alex isn’t the only one keeping secrets from her.

*****

After a horrible breakup, Piper is happily single, helping her mother at the family guest house on Jersey and creating glass mosaics for sale.

When Alex Cooper arrives to see his grandfather, she welcomes him and even helps him out when there’s an accident. However, is love about to catch her unawares?

I adore the fact that Piper refers to Jersey as the ‘sunshine island.’ I’ve never been there but this, as well as the vivid descriptions in the novel, meant that I could really imagine myself there, amongst these wonderfully well written characters.

It isn’t hard to like Piper. She’s had a lot happen but she has picked herself up and has created her own business. I wanted things to be OK for her.

Alex adds mystery to the story. He’s lovely and charming but he is holding something back. I was intrigued to know what.

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Book Review: My Corfu Love Story by Effrosyni Moschoudi

Spyri forever lives in the past, haunted by old memories. This summer, she meets a man she once loved, and he is about to change everything…

Spyri, a half-Greek restaurateur in her early thirties, is back on the island of Corfu, staying in her grandmother’s village home for a few days to decompress from her busy life in London. Her nostalgia for the good old summer days hit her upon her return.
 
When she hears that Markos, the one she never forgot, is staying at the village, she becomes excited. Sparks begin to fly when they meet, but Markos has his own hurts of the past to deal with…

Spyri, weary with her life as a restauranteur in London is back on the island of Corfu, staying at her beloved Grandmother’s house.

It isn’t long before she becomes nostalgic for the wonderful summer days of her youth. This feeling is made stronger when she hears that Markos, the man she never stopped thinking about, is also back in the village.

*****

My Corfu Love Story is the new novella from author, Effrosyni Moschoudi.

I immediately fell into the story and I loved Spyri. She’s feisty and strong and there was also a vulnerability to her that made her feel very human and real.

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Blog Blitz Extract: A Hotel in Cornwall by Laura Briggs

I am very happy to be welcoming Laura Briggs to Novel Kicks today. She’s here to celebrate her anthology series, A Little Hotel in Cornwall. 

Here’s the information for the series, A Hotel in Cornwall.

All eight novellas in the UK bestselling series A LITTLE HOTEL IN CORNWALL are now available in one collection!

Follow aspiring young author Maisie Clark as she stumbles into a role as a maid in the idyllic hotel by the sea, where there’s never a dull moment, from her quest to track down a reclusive English novelist, to her brush with jewel thieves and a whirlwind trip through Paris and London to name a few.

All the while, she finds herself falling for the handsome and enigmatic groundskeeper Sidney Daniels. Could the key to unlocking her dreams be right in front of her?

This collection contains A Little Hotel in Cornwall, A Spirited Girl on Cornish Shores, Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses, The Cornish Secret of Summer’s Promise, A Train from Penzance to Paris, A Cornish Daisy’s Kiss, A Stargazy NightSky, and The Cornish Key to Happiness.

 

We have an extract to share with you today so, without further ado, over to you, Laura. 

 

*****

Thanks so much to Laura at Novel Kicks for letting me share with her readers about the books in my series anthology A Little Hotel in Cornwall (Books 1-8).

Set at a quirky seaside hotel with an ‘anything can happen’ atmosphere, the series follows the adventures of amateur novelist Maisie Clark, who stumbles into secrets, surprises, and romance while working as a chambermaid at the hotel.

The following extract is from the second book in the series, A Spirited Girl on Cornish Shores.

It finds the hotel hosting an earl’s elaborate (and eccentric) birthday celebration at All Hallows’ Eve, with a guest list that might be at home in an Agatha Christie mystery—including the supposed psychic whose spooky predictions have the other guests on edge.

 

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

 

“I’m looking forward to seeing your power in practice, Miss Norridge,” said the sculptor Ofong to the psychic. “When did you discover you had the gift?”

“I’ve always known,” she answered. “It was just … with me.” She smiled.

She was seated closest to the earl, except for his assistant, who was helping cut the lamb chops into bite-size pieces. Next to her, the worried daughter, who was fussing about the food and the room’s drafts.

“You knew since childhood, I read somewhere,” said Kate the ghost hunter. “Did anyone besides you recognize it? Family, teacher, school counselor?”

“My mother,” said Natalie. “In truth, the gift belongs to my family. My mother shared it, and so did my grandmother. You could say that I come from a long line of spirit whisperers.”

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Book Review: Summer at the French Café by Sue Moorcroft

I am very pleased to be welcoming Sue Moorcroft back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her novel, Summer at the French Café. 

Sparkling sun, strolls in the gorgeous French countryside, that first sip of cool, crisp wine – Summer is Kat’s favourite season. And this year should be no exception…

As soon as Kat Jenson set foot in the idyllic French village of Kirchhoffen, she knew she’d found her home. Now she has a dreamy boyfriend, a delightful dog and the perfect job managing a bustling book café in the vibrant Parc Lemmel.

But when she learns her boyfriend isn’t all he seems, it’s the start of a difficult summer for Kat. Vindictive troublemakers, work woes and family heartache follow, and the clear blue sky that was her life suddenly seems full of clouds.

Then she gets to know the mysterious Noah, and her sun begins to shine brighter than ever. But Noah has problems of his own – ones that could scupper their new-found happiness. Together, can they overcome their many obstacles, and find love again?

The perfect summer read for fans of Trisha Ashley, Sarah Morgan and Carole Matthews.

*****

A 5 Star average on Netgalley? Still, a 5 Star average on Netgalley!

I’ve literally just finished the new Sue Moorcroft novel, ‘Summer at the French Cafe’; and I didn’t want to, finish, that is.

This is Sue’s best book so far, IMHO, dealing as it does with the mental side of relationships, as it’s main theme. Does that sound as if this will be ‘heavy’ reading? You’d think so, wouldn’t you, only you’d be wrong.

The skill of this author shows all of the way through as she winds up the emotion to the exact right level, leaving you there for the perfect length of time in the story, before she artfully constructs the most satisfying narrative.

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Book Review: Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl by Joya Goffney

I am pleased to be welcoming Joya Goffney to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for her novel, Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl. 

Monique lives a perfect life as a preacher’s daughter, and girlfriend of the town’s golden boy. But its not that simple. She’s torn between her parents, who want her to remain their pure, virginal daughter, and her boyfriend, Dom, who wants to explore the more intimate side of their relationship.

Tired of waiting, Dom breaks up with Monique, spurring her to discover she has a medical condition that make her far from perfect. With the help of Sasha, an overly zealous church girl, and Reggie, the town’s bad boy, she concocts a plan to win Dom back. But along the way, she must face some home truths: maybe she shouldn’t be fixing her body to please a boy, maybe Sasha is the friend she needed all along and maybe Reggie isn’t so bad after all…

*****

Monique has the perfect life. She’s the Pastor’s daughter and is dating the town’s golden boy, Dom.

However, her life is more complex below the surface.

She’s torn between the promise she made to save herself for marriage and Dom’s wish that their relationship become more intimate.

After many failed attempts at sex, Dom breaks up with Monique. In trying to understand why, she discovers that a medical condition may be to blame.

With help from her new friend, Sasha and bad boy, Reggie, Monique tries to cure her condition in the hope that she gets Dom back.

When I read the blurb for this book, I found it very intriguing, so I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour.

First, I love the cover. It’s so vibrant, interesting, and colourful.

Although this book is marketed as YA, I got a lot from this book, and I feel teenagers and adults alike can relate. It has many levels to it.

Monique is suffering with a condition called Vaginismus. This novel faces that subject head on and not only did I find this refreshing, it also raises awareness of the condition whilst having a plot that moves along well.

Joya Goffney doesn’t shy away from letting her characters talk about big issues including sex.

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Cover Reveal: The Only Exception by Claire Huston

I am pleased to be part of the cover reveal for the new novel from Claire Huston, The Only Exception which is book two in the Love in the Comptons series. It’s due to be released on 7th June 2022. 

Before we reveal the cover, there’s a little about the book:

Lucinda Green knows something is missing from her life. But what? Her catering business is enjoying modest success and she loves her cosy house, even if she does have to share it with her irritating ex-fiancé.

Whatever’s making her unsettled and edgy, Lucinda’s certain that a lack of romance isn’t the problem. How could it be when she doesn’t believe in true love?

But Lucinda’s beliefs are shaken by a series of electric encounters with Alex Fraser, a newly notorious actor who gradually proves himself to be infuriatingly funny and smart, as well as handsome.

Not that any of that matters. Because Lucinda doesn’t believe in all that ‘The One’ nonsense. That’s the rule.

But doesn’t every rule have an exception?

This uplifting grumpy-meets-sunshine romance is perfect for fans of Phillipa Ashley, Katie Fforde and Trisha Ashley.

OK, so, here comes the cover. Ready? Drumroll…. 

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Mirror Mirror on the Wall

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

 

Today’s prompt: Mirror Mirror on the Wall.

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Book Review: Bad Penny by Michele Gorman

Penny’s life is one big, fat secret… and everyone is about to find out.

Penny isn’t the girl she used to be, or the woman everyone thinks she is now. At 19, she bolted for London and never looked back. Nobody there knows who she was – not her care home colleagues, her boss, her clients or even her best friend and flat-mate. Auntie Mags is her only connection to her past, and she’s keeping schtum.

Oli can’t believe his luck. Not only is he about to fulfill his dream of really making a difference (assuming he wins his seat in the upcoming general election), now he’s met the perfect woman. Within a few dates he’s sure he wants to spend the rest of his life with Penny, and it’s all he can do not to shout it from the rooftops.

But Penny has hidden her secret by not shouting from any rooftops. In fact, the quieter, the better. So when Oli’s campaign swings into gear and the reporters start circling, it’s not only her future that’s about to come crashing down.

How can she find a happy ending with Oli when her past will definitely ruin his future, yet living with the lie will ruin their future together?

Then Penny’s past gets out of prison, and he’s about to turn up like a… bad penny.

*****

Penny has a secret and everyone is about to find out.

At 19, she fled to London. No one knows of her life before, not even her best friend/flatmate. Only her Auntie Mags knows her full history.

When Penny meets MP candidate, Oli, they hit it off. However, as Oli begins campaigning, it’s going to be harder for Penny to keep her secret.

Oh I love Michele’s novels so much. This book was no exception.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Writing a Letter to Your Younger Self

Writing a letter to your younger self.

As I attempt to edit the drafts of my first novel, I have been thinking a lot about how much I can hold myself back, mostly through lack of confidence.

I have never been the most assured person but, as a sixteen year old, I seemed to be a lot more fearless than I am now. How does that happen?

Something I thought might be helpful is to write a letter of advice to my younger self.

What would you tell your 16 year-old-self? It doesn’t necessarily need to focus just on your writing life. It could be about anything.

Try it and see how you get on.

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Book News: Upcoming April Book Releases

This is one of my favourite posts to do as it gives me the opportunity to see which fantastic novels are due to be released.

April is no exception. I wanted to share five novels I am particularly excited about.

I am such a fan of Jules Wake and so I am excited about the release of the second novel in the Yorkshire Escape series, The Wednesday Morning Wild Swim. This is due to be released by One More Chapter on 30th April, with a paperback edition due in July.

This latest novel sounds like a great summer read.

Ettie is trying to work out what to do next whilst Dominic is trying to forget his past.

With the help of friends, a secret hidden lake and a scruffy dog, a new community is made, just when they all need each other most.

 

If thrillers are more your thing, then 22 Seconds by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro is due to be released on 28th April.

Book 22 in the Women’s Murder Club series, this sounds like it’s going to be a page turner.

SFPD’s Sergeant Lindsay Boxer has 22 seconds until she loses her badge or her life.

There’s buzz of a shipment of drugs and weapons due to cross the Mexican border before new restrictive gun laws go into effect.

Lindsay’s top informant tips her to a case.

Former cops, all with the same warning on their bodies – ‘you talk, you die.’

Now Lindsay needs to choose.

 

The third April release is Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

The paperback edition is due to be released by Penguin on 28th April.

I am yet to read any of the books by Taylor Jenkins Reid, (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and One True Loves are on my TBR list,) but I’ve heard so many good things. This one sounds particularly good.

It’s August 1983.

Nina Riva is throwing the annual end-of-summer party and anticipation is high.

Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas.

By midnight, the party will be out of control.

By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames.

See, sounds good right?!

 

The Birdcage by Eve Chase is also due to be released on 28th April.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: We’re Going on an Easter Egg Hunt

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 

 

Today’s prompt: We’re going on an Easter Egg Hunt.

Your character is in their 20’s. They wake up on Good Friday and find a colourful envelope on their pillow.

It is addressed to them. They live alone so they don’t know where it has come from.

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My Writing Ramblings: My March 2022 Favourites

I know I say this kind of sentence a lot but how are we already in April?!

I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of my favourites from March. So, let’s get to it.

The first favourite was the BBC series, Peaky Blinders.

OK, I love this series.

My husband and I came to this series late. In fact, we’ve pretty much watched five series worth over the last month and wondering what took us so long to discover it.

Cillian Murphy is amazing, I am slightly scared of Arthur (LOL) and the last series, which we’re currently watching, isn’t the same without the wonderful Helen McCrory/Aunt Pol but it’s still brilliant so far. No spoilers. Promise.

If you’re looking for a gritty drama and you’ve not yet watched Peaky Blinders, I would throughly recommend.

 

My second favourite in March was Wordle.

Oh my goodness, this word game is so addictive and it also drives me crazy at the same time.

There was a time where I couldn’t check my Facebook feed without seeing a load of results from friends who were also playing.

I have even downloaded an app that gives me more than one puzzle a day! Yes, I know.

Anyone else love Wordle?

 

My third favourite is an app called Beatstar.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Change a Story’s POV

For today’s writing room, change a story’s POV.

Sometimes, it can be good to change it up a little.

Take a passage from either a current work in progress of your own or a favourite novel.

Change the POV of the main character and rewrite the passage.

What would a scene from Pride and Prejudice be like from the point of view of Lady Catherine De Burgh or what about if Rom was the main character in a Harry Potter scene?

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Book Review: Old Friends by Felicity Everett

Moving in together. What could go wrong?

Two couples, best friends for half a lifetime, move in together. What could possibly go wrong…?

Harriet and Mark have it all: successful careers, a lovely house in a leafy London suburb, twin boys on the cusp of leaving home. Yvette and Gary share a smaller place with their two daughters in a shabbier part of the same borough.

But when the stars align for a collective move north, it means a fresh start for them all. For Mark, it’s a chance to escape the rat race; for Harriet, a distraction from her unfulfilled dream of a late third child. Gary has decided to reboot the Madchester band that made him famous, while Yvette hopes it will give her daughters what she never had herself.

But as the reality of their new living arrangements slowly sinks in, the four friends face their own mid-life crises, and the dream becomes a nightmare…

*****

Harriet and Mark are both successful. They have two boys on the verge of graduating and moving out and they have a lovely home in a nice part of town.

Their friends, Gary and Yvette, live nearby in a smaller house in a less affluent neighbourhood. Yvette has been a teaching assistant for many years and Gary, a member of a 90’s band, is just about to attempt a comeback.

When it turns out that all four of them are moving up north, they all decide to move in together. Will it be as fun as they imagine or will it simply lead to trouble?

Old Friends was my introduction to Felicity Everett so I didn’t know what to expect.

Immediately, I was hooked on this story, wondering what was going to happen next.

It’s very clear from the beginning how close these two women are. The men have been bought together by the friendship shared by their wives and it was interesting to see how these dynamics and relationships changed as the story progressed.

It’s these characters that drive the narrative rather than external plot points (things outside the perimeters of these four people and their choices.) It deals with some sensitive themes and I feel it does this well. There are some dark moments yes but there are also many insightful ones too, as well as funny scenes – much like life really.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Dear Son/Daughter

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing flash fiction prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Don’t edit, just write. Once you’re done, you’re welcome to share in the comments but there’s no obligation. 


Today’s prompt: Dear Son/Daughter… 


You receive a text message from your estranged parent telling you they are in trouble and you need to come meet them on the other side of the country.
You decide to go.

You have a week to get there and no transport.

How do you feel? What do you do?

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Book Extract: Keeping up with the Kershaws by Helen Buckley

A lovely big welcome back to Helen Buckley. She’s here with the blog tour for her novel, Keeping up with the Kershaws.

What do you do when your life becomes more dramatic than reality TV?

As the devoted carer for famous antique expert Harold Kershaw, Karrie Morgan was always happy to keep a professional distance from his four spoilt grown-up children, who rarely made time for their father.

But then a surprise involving Harold’s Will means Karrie is flung headlong into a press scandal, and into the chaotic world of the surviving Kershaws.

With the support of her trusted childhood friend Andrew, mild-mannered Karrie must face down ruthless ice queen Portia, master manipulator Gabriel, Botox fanatic Arabella, and ladies’ man Rafe, star of reality TV show Raised in Richmond … although perhaps not as fake and flashy as he initially seems?

As vicious rumours circulate and Karrie’s past comes back to haunt her, she struggles to know who to trust. Can she keep up with the Kershaws’ schemes?

 

Helen has shared an extract from Keeping up with the Kershaws with Novel Kicks today. We hope you enjoy. 

 

 

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

 

In this extract, Karrie is about to face the fury of the four Kershaw siblings, who have found out that she has inherited their father’s millions.

Karrie shuddered with nerves as she paused outside the library, wondering if this was all just some awful nightmare that perhaps she would wake up from. She blinked hard and pinched her hand just to make sure, but she didn’t wake up. It was real and this was really happening, as much as she wished it weren’t. She took a breath, squared her shoulders, and pushed open the door.

The library was once her favourite room in the Kershaw house. The ornate wallpaper was largely obscured by the towering bookcases, made of specially ordered English Cherry, and filled with collectibles and rare books. The room had always smelled of old paper, particles of dust gently floated in the sunlight; a room of knowledge and peace.

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Book Review: Spring Tides at the Starfish Café by Jessica Redland

A big lovely welcome back to Jessica Redland. She is here with the blog tour for her latest novel, Spring Tides at the Starfish Café. 

Welcome back to the Starfish Café – where you will find stunning views, delicious food and lifelong friendships.

A new season…

As winter turns to spring, Hollie – owner of The Starfish Café – is feeling content as she settles into her new life with her loving boyfriend, Jake, and their adorable dog Pickle.

But when an unwelcome visitor threatens the future of her café, Hollie must stay strong to protect her family’s legacy…

A leap of faith…

Emerging from an unhappy relationship, Tori finds herself with nowhere to stay and nobody to talk to. The long-hidden secrets of her past weigh heavily on her until a chance encounter with Finley, struggling to come to terms with his own secrets, provides an opportunity to open up.

Can she find the strength to stop hiding from her past and face up to her family? Especially when that would mean letting her guard down and learning to trust again…

A fresh start…?

Little do Hollie and Tori know that their lives are about to collide at The Starfish Café and they may be able to help each other with a fresh start. After all, with good friends in your life, nothing is impossible…

*****

Winter is now Spring. Hollie and Jake are settling into their new life with Pickle and business at the Starfish Café has never been better. 

However, someone wants Hollie’s café and it seems they will stop at nothing to get it. 

Tori has been with Layton for a few years. After a near death experience, she begins to question their relationship, his commitment and behaviour. It’s also been years since she has spoken to her family. If she left, where would she go? 

I was so excited to be invited onto this blog tour. It was so lovely to be back at the Starfish Café. It was like grabbing a cup of tea, pulling up a chair and being back with old friends. 

Don’t worry if you’ve not read Snowflakes Over the Starfish Café. Although this book is book two in the series, it could be read as a standalone in my opinion. However, the first book is brilliant so I would recommend it. 

Hollie continues to be a wonderful, kind, relatable character. She’s a lot stronger and self assured this time around which was good to see. 

Jake continues to be his lovely, charming self and it was great to see him grow as the plot progressed.  

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Book Extract: Sign of the Times by Susan Buchanan

I’m pleased to be welcoming Susan Buchanan to Novel Kick today. She is here with the blog tour for her book, Sign of the Times. 

Sagittarius – Travel writer Holly heads to Tuscany to research her next book, but when she meets Dario, she knows she’s in trouble. Can she resist temptation? And what do her mixed feelings mean for her future with her fiancé?

Gemini – Player Lucy likes to keep things interesting and has no qualms about being unfaithful to her long-term boyfriend. A cardiology conference to Switzerland changes Lucy, perhaps forever. Has she met her match, and is this feeling love?

Holly is the one who links the twelve signs. Are you ready to meet them all?

A tale of love, family, friendship and the lengths we go to in pursuit of our dreams.

 

Grab that comfortable chair, a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate and enjoy this extract from Sign of the Times that Susan has shared today. 

 

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

 

Czeslawa, her husband and daughter have just moved from a bit of a slum in Edinburgh, to a tiny village about ten miles from Glasgow. This is the first time the whole family has seen the village and they’ve arrived right in the middle of the gala day.

 

Czeslawa slipped her hand into her husband’s and they followed their daughter through the thronging crowds. There were stalls selling local produce, bring and buy stands, a tombola and face painting. Everything she’d expected a village fair to offer. Angelika ran ahead shouting, ‘Look, Mummy, look, Daddy, they are painting their faces. Look, Mummy, there are carts.’ Wojciech and Czeslawa smiled and made all the appropriate noises to Angelika’s exclamations.

‘Daddy, I want one of those teddies,’ Angelika said, pointing to prizes at a hoopla stall.

‘We need to start talking to her in English,’ Czeslawa said.

‘Then you’ll have to learn English, and I’ll have to improve,’ said her husband, putting his arm around her.

‘Mummy, can I run in the race?’

Wojciech and Czeslawa exchanged a glance, then Czeslawa said, ‘Go on.’

‘On your marks, se-e-et–’ the starter blew his whistle ‘–go!’

‘C’mon, Lika, you can do it!’ her parents shouted, in Polish, which attracted a few stares. She finished second. Two minutes later, she took part in her first awards ceremony. They hadn’t seen inside their new home yet, but their daughter had already won a medal, already a part of the community.

 

Angelika stared open-mouthed at the young girl with the golden curls, wearing the pretty dress, looking like a bridesmaid at a wedding. The official slipped the sash reading ‘Kings River gala queen’ over her head. An important-looking man, perhaps the local councillor, placed a sparkly tiara on her head and a bouquet of mixed blooms in her hands. The crowd cheered, then the marching band played a few numbers before the crowd dispersed, some parents being dragged to the face-painting stand, others trawling their children to the ever-popular raffle. After a pleasant two hours of wandering around, they decided it was time to go and meet their new home.

 

‘It’s beautiful,’ said Czeslawa. It was a four-in-a-block terraced house, with a UPVC door, red tiled roof and pebbled walls. The long hall led to a kitchen on the left-hand side after an adequate bathroom, with new-looking three-piece suite. The lounge was at the end of the hall and very spacious, although had no real room for a dining table. The two bedrooms were on the right and she was pleasantly surprised at their size. She would be able to set up a little desk in the corner over there, with a computer. She hugged her husband. Angelika barrelled into her as she returned from racing around the house, eager to explore her new surroundings.

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Book Review: A Year of Mr Maybes by Judy Leigh

A lovely big welcome back to Judy Leigh who is here with the blog tour for latest novel, A Year of Mr Maybes. 

Never say never to falling in love…

Val didn’t expect to be starting again in her seventies, but when life gives her lemons, Val is determined to make lemonade.

Settled into her new home – a picture-perfect fisherman’s cottage in the small Cornish seaside town of Lowenstowe – Val is ready to start a new chapter. And with her son due to get married next Christmas, there’s also the little job of finding herself a plus-one to help her face her ex-husband and his new girlfriend.

With the support of her neighbour Connie, and after decades of married life, Val takes the plunge back into the world of dating with trepidation and excitement. But can she remember how the single life works, let alone what her type is? There seem to be plenty of Mr Maybes, but no sign of Mr Right.

As the year passes, and as friendships and community life flourish, Val begins to blossom. And as Christmas approach, she might just decide she doesn’t need that plus-one after all – although never say never… 

*****

Val is in her seventies and didn’t expect to be starting again. 

After the end of her marriage, she moves to the Cornish town of Lowenstowe. 

There, she meets new friends and begins to find a new lease of life and possibly, a new love. She and her neighbour, Connie, go on a mission to find Val a plus one for Val’s son’s wedding in December. They have a year to find Mr December. Can Val find someone new before the year is out? 

I have become such a fan of Judy Leigh’s novels so I jumped at the chance to be involved in the blog tour for her latest novel, A Year of Mr Maybes. 

From page one, I was completely immersed. 

Immediately, Val is someone you can empathise with. Within the first few pages, her life is forever changed. The character is written with much strength and I loved how there was very little time where she felt sorry for herself. She picks herself up and carries on. That’s inspiring. 

Connie and Loveday are brilliant supporting characters and I loved them. 

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Book Review: The Seed of Rosewood by Massimo Rozzoni

This book is a historical novel (many of the characters are real), set in 1715 in Scotland, the Caribbeans and in London.

In the form of a diary written by the protagonist, the 15 year-old Patrick Douglas, it narrates the events that the boy in spite of himself, has to face.

He will be kidnapped from his small fishermen’s village in the North of Scotland by a crew of adventurers, who will sow death and violence on the route that will lead them to cross the Atlantic.

He will be thrown into a crude and ruthless reality and he will witness the real life of pirates, made of cruelty, superstition, greed and depravity.

In the profound darkness of evil and resignation, he will see the shining light of hope, of good and love, but like the defenseless flame of a candle in the storm…

*****

Scotland, 1715.

Translated from the original novel, Il Same Del Palissandro, The Seed of Rosewood is where we meet fifteen-year-old Patrick, who is kidnapped by the notorious Captain Alexander and his men.

Forced to sail the Atlantic with a group of pirates, Patrick quickly has to adjust to a harsh and violent reality whilst trying not to lose hope that one day, he might see his family again.

Books about piracy are not normally at the top of my list but having read the blurb for this novel, I found it intriguing especially as I love historical fiction.

From page one, the reader is immediately thrown into the action as we are introduced to Captain Alexander and his crew and we see what they are capable of.

For someone like Patrick – a young boy who has known nothing but love and safety to be suddenly introduced to the violent and chaotic life of a pirate, really creates an interesting contrast with these characters. I instantly felt such fear, anxiety and empathy for the main character, that I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to know what happened next.

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Book Extract: Falling For The Competition by Jen Smith

I am pleased to be welcoming Jen Smith to Novel Kicks today with the blog tour for her novel, Falling for the Competition.

It’s going to be the best summer ever for ambitious, overachieving Quinn. A huge history buff, not only has she landed her dream job interning in the archives department of the local castle, but her best friend will be working there too.

However, Quinn isn’t the only one to be working in Archives this summer; Quinn’s academic rival, Patrick, is sharing her office in Muniments. They’re competing for the Letter of Recommendation (singular) from the research historian that Quinn needs to get her dream future placement.

Their emotionally-loaded and competitive rivalry turns into a reluctant friendship, as they spend every day working together in silence (and sharing the occasional Twix). Until the Re-Enactors arrive. Between Patrick and Harry – the Golden Knight of the jousting team – Quinn’s carefully planned summer is thrown into complete disarray. Meanwhile, her best friend’s relationship may look perfect on the outside, but Quinn is starting to realise that there’s more going on than there seems.

Although Quinn is determined and single minded about planning every detail of her sparkling future, she comes to discover that the best things in life are the spontaneous ones – and that some people are more important than any Letter of Recommendation (singular) could ever be.

 

Jen has shared an extract today. Grab a hot drink, a comfy spot on the sofa and enjoy. 

 

 

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

 

One thing that you need to know about Frankie is that she’s kissed exactly two boys (Nathan and Jack) and has had exactly one boyfriend (Jack). People always make out that she’s had loads of boyfriends and has shagged around a bit. But she hasn’t. People make judgements on what other people wear and it’s not fair. I tell Frankie that those bitches in our year started saying those things because they’re jealous that she does her own thing. So what if she likes to wear short shorts, or massive heels, or pillar box red lipstick, and doesn’t care what other people think?

And also, because Kristy McGovern liked Nathan Peterson in year nine and Nathan Peterson kissed Frankie and not Kristy at Jenna Johnstone’s birthday party.

“Oh yeah, I suppose they are friends.” I hadn’t really thought about Patrick having friends. He is just an academic machine to me. An annoying pomaded academic machine.

“So he’s working in archives too?”

“Yeah,” I nod, taking a bite of my chicken sandwich, and I tell her quickly about how annoying he has been already this morning, telling me what to do, sucking up to Lisa.

Frankie sits up and squints at me through the sunlight, ripping her eyes away from a vehemently arguing couple. “So, what’s your plan then?” She says dramatically.

“What plan? Plan for what?”

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Book Extract: Lady Ludmilla’s Accidental Letter by Sofi Laporte

I am so pleased to be welcoming Sofi Laporte and the blog tour for her novel, Lady Ludmilla’s Accidental Letter. 

A resolute spinster. An irresistible rake. One accidental letter… Can love triumph over this hopeless muddle in the middle of the London season?

Lady Ludmilla is mortified. Though the spinster extraordinaire knows it is foolish, she has fallen head-over-heels for the amiable man with whom she’s been secretly corresponding, and that cannot be. When she sets out to uncover his identity, her world shatters. For her best friend Addy turns out to be none other but London’s worst rogue—the man who has ruined her engagement to someone else ten years earlier.

Lord St.Addington is perturbed. The wicked Viscount is developing a marked tendre for a spinster, and that cannot be. She might be mistaking him for someone he is not, or, what is worse, know precisely who he is. As London’s worst hellrake, he has a role to maintain, a charade to play. A depraved heart like his surely can’t be falling in love…least of all with a plain, outspoken spinster.

Determined to discover the truth behind the man she loves, Lu does what she does best: she sits down and writes a letter…

If you crave a humorous romp with witty banter and surprising twists, you will love Sofi Laporte’s charming masquerade.

 

Sofi has shared an extract today. We hope you enjoy. 

 

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

 

Excerpt from Lady Ludmilla’s Accidental Letter by Sofi Laporte:

When Lady Ludmilla sets out to uncover the identity of the man she loves, her world shatters. For Addy turns out to be none other but London’s worst rakehell, who has already crossed her path and ruined her a long time ago. When she encounters him again, she cannot help but challenge him:

 

“I dare you.” Lu thought she must be stark raving mad, even as she heard the words herself. “I dare you to kiss the homeliest Windmere woman with your eyes open.” She tilted up her chin defiantly.

His gaze dropped from her eyes to her lips. “Dare accepted.”

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Book Extract: Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons by Patsy Trench

I am pleased to be welcoming Patsy Trench to Novel Kicks today along with the blog tour for her novel, Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons.

London, 1905. A show. A stuttering romance. Two squabbling actresses.

Is it Shakespeare? Is it Vaudeville?

Not quite. It is Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons, a satirical play about suffragettes which its creators – friends and would-be lovers Robbie Robinson and Violet Graham – are preparing to mount in London’s West End.

It is the play rival actresses Merry and Gaye would kill to be in, if only they hadn’t insulted the producer all those years ago.

For Robbie and Violet however the road to West End glory is not smooth. There are backers to be appeased, actors to be tamed and a theatre to be found; and in the midst of it all a budding romance that risks being undermined by professional differences.

Never mix business with pleasure?

Maybe, maybe not.

 

Patsy has shared an extract with us today so enjoy! 

 

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

 

Extract from Chapter 24 of ‘Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons’- Mrs Santenoy goes to gaol.

It is 1905.  Mrs Santenoy is an elderly suffragist in the early days of the suffrage movement, before Mrs Pankhurst appeared on the scene and when the demand for votes for women were largely peaceful. The protest Mrs Santenoy took part in was perfectly orderly until the police moved in on horseback to disperse it, and a handful of the lady protesters were rounded up and sent to prison for two weeks.

*****

When Mrs Santenoy arrived at Holloway Prison she was in a state of high excitement. For a woman from what society termed ‘a privileged background’, married for nearly forty years, the experience of going to prison was without question the most extraordinary event in the sixty-eight years of her life. Even as she was lined up against a wall with her fellow protestors and given a rudimentary medical examination, Mrs Santenoy still felt the strangest thrill of adventure. She saw herself as an actress in a play, going through the rudiments of being sent to prison without any idea of what lay ahead of her.

On instruction from the prison wardress she was made to undress – ‘Completely?’ – ‘Completely’ – and given some old, stained underclothing, brown woollen stockings and a green serge dress that really was stamped all over with broad arrows. She hunted for but did not find a matching pair of shoes to wear from a huge basket, after which, laden with sheets, a towel, a mug of water and a thick slice of rough bread she was shown to her cell. Even then it all felt quite unreal and startlingly melodramatic. She sank exhausted onto the hard wooden bed and closed her eyes and, surprisingly, slept.

The following day, having requested some reading matter she was given the Bible and an atlas of the world. She embarked on the first with interest and glanced through the second. During the obligatory hour’s exercise in the prison yard she kept her head held high and, as instructed, avoided contact with her fellow prisoners. She managed to keep this up for two whole days without too much pain.

It was around the third day that the excitement faded. It was not until then that she became fully aware of a kind of sour, stale odour seeping through the walls from centuries of poor ventilation and prevailing damp. Her cell was both stuffy and cold. She sensed the presence of something that moved and scuffled. She dare not leave what food she was given on the floor lest her fear of mice and rats became real.

In the exercise yard she observed her fellow detainees with dulled curiosity. Apart from the suffragettes, whom she recognised only vaguely by sight, the women kept their eyes on the ground, and she was struck by the thought that many if not most of them had possibly spent more of their lives in prison than out; that a good half of them were no more than girls, and that there was a kind of resigned doggedness to the way they walked, shoulders slumped, feet dragging, as if tramping mindlessly in a circle was all they knew how to do or would ever do in the future. There were very few outbreaks, or protests; they didn’t seem to have the energy.

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Book Review: Living Your Best Life by Maxine Morrey

I am happy to be welcoming Maxine Morrey back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her latest novel, Living Your Best Life. 

Some days Bee feels invisible. Most days Bee does not feel as if she is ‘living her best life’.

Sure she has a loyal group of friends, a job she’s good at, and a small London flat to call home, but a lot of the time, Bee feels as if no one actually ‘sees’ her.  

Her best friend, the unfeasibly handsome and successful Luca Donato does not have that problem. People are practically falling over themselves whenever they see Luca, but one thing the two friends do have in common, is they haven’t yet found the ‘One’.  When their friend Tia challenges them to change all that through online dating, Luca and Bee set about the task with very different levels of enthusiasm.

The saying goes that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince, and it’s not long before Bee is ready to admit defeat. But with Luca inundated with potential love interests, Bee is determined not to give up. Surely her perfect partner is out there somewhere… 

*****

Bee has spent most of her life feeling invisible and not worthy despite the efforts of her friends to tell her otherwise – especially her best friend, Luca who, up until now has never given any indication that he wants to settle down.

When a mutual friend challenges them to change their love lives through online dating, Bee reluctantly agrees. Luca thinks you can find love through apps, Bee not so much.

Having previously read Things are Looking Up, I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour for Maxine’s latest novel, Living Your Best Life.

I adored Bee from the first page. Bee felt so real to me, so relatable. She’s complicated and shadowed by her upbringing and lack of self esteem. I think many readers will unfortunately know how that feels. I think we’ve all also had those moments at work where we’ve felt under-appreciated but never wanting to rock the boat.

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Book Review: The Personal Shopper by Carmen Reid

I am pleased to be welcoming Carmen Reid and the blog tour for her novel, The Personal Shopper.

Meet Annie Valentine: stylish, savvy, multi-tasker extraordinaire. As a personal shopper in a swanky London store, Annie can be relied on to solve everyone’s problems . . . except her own.

Because as a busy single mum to two kids, Annie’s realised there’s a gap in her life as well as her wardrobe. But with her heart still hurting from losing the love of her life, Annie’s discovered that finding the perfect partner is turning out to be so much trickier than finding the perfect pair of shoes!

Can she source a genuine classic? A lifelong investment? Or will Annie realise that her perfect man is already sitting on the front row of her life…

*****

Annie Valentine is stylish, savvy and great at her job, even if her boss thinks otherwise.

Being a single mother, she does the best she can.

What she is missing is a man.

Can she find the right one? Can he live up to the lost love of her life? Has the perfect love been in front of her all along?

The Personal Shopper was my introduction to Annie Valentine and to Carmen Reid. Although this book did take me a couple of chapters to get into, once I did, I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting.

This novel was a lot of fun but deals with sensitive themes well.

Annie feels like a real, relatable character. She has a need to be control and at work, she is. She’s straight talking and successful. However, due to past events, there is a vulnerable side to her that she tries to hide. This possibly leads to her making some questionable choices in her personal life.

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Book Review: The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

Greta James is adrift. Literally.

Just after the sudden death of her mother – her most devoted fan – and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes second album, Greta James falls apart on stage. The footage quickly goes viral and she stops playing. Greta’s career is suddenly in jeopardy – the kind of jeopardy her father, Conrad, has always warned her about.

Months later, Greta – still heartbroken and very much adrift – reluctantly agrees to accompany Conrad on the Alaskan cruise her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary. It could be their last chance to heal old wounds in the wake of shared loss. But the trip will also prove to be a voyage of discovery for them both, and for Ben Wilder, a charming historian who is struggling with a major upheaval in his own life.

In this unlikeliest of places – at sea and far from the packed venues where she usually plays – Greta must finally confront the heartbreak she’s suffered, the family hurts that run deep, and how to find her voice again.

I adored this novel.

Both Greta and Conrad are complicated, complex characters but beneath it all, they grieve for the person they have lost and find it hard to communicate. Greta is just trying to hang on to the one thing in her life to which she truly feels she belongs – being a musician.

Both Father and Daughter are very relatable. At least to me. I’ve known the grief Greta feels. The themes of grief and loss were handled with care and grace. I wanted Greta and Conrad to be ok.

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Book Extract: Brown Eyes by Frances Ive

I am pleased to be welcoming Frances Ive to Novel Kicks today with the blog tour for her book, Brown Eyes. 

A watchful eye as a marriage falls apart. The phone call, the rows, and the split are all observed by the family Labrador. He knows the habits and senses the moods of his beloved family members. Seeing them unhappy and hurting each other is unbearable. Where did his perfect life go?

Her marriage to Phil in crisis, two children at the challenging teenage stage, and a close friend in peril, Meriel’s world is falling apart. She finds solace in the arms of another man, but is this the answer for her? It is her stubbornness that threatens the family’s future together, until a major loss has a life-changing effect on her. A sliver of hope returns.

Like a fly on the wall, Benji the dog sees it all.

Narrated by both the dog and Meriel, Brown Eyes is a novella (a short read) written by the author of Finding Jo and Give and Take with a Capital G & T.

 

Frances has shared an extract from Brown Eyes today. We hope you enjoy! 

 

 

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

 

Can a marriage be saved?

In many countries including the UK the divorce rate is very high – between one in two or three marriages ends in a split.  Sometimes relationships break down because of extreme behaviour, but others are often just lacking communication and appreciation. The route from problems like infidelity to splitting up is sometimes very fast.

For those couples who seek couples counselling it can sometimes be avoided if both partners want it to work. Meriel and Phil were jogging along in their relationship when one of them strayed off the path. Almost immediately they were splitting up and the children and the family Labrador were distraught. Could therapy save their marriage?

 

Extract from the point of view of Jane, the counsellor. Starting with Phil speaking.

‘I didn’t think it happened quickly. I had liked Meriel for a long time, but she always seemed to be with a boyfriend. I used to wonder how we could get together, and so I just took a risk and rang her. And thank goodness, it worked.’

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Book Review: Unravelling by Helen Forbes

I am very happy to be welcoming Helen Forbes to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her novel, Unravelling. 

A forest of secrets 

Two bodies are found buried in a Highland forest, a place that haunts the dreams of Kate Sharp. Her mother, Ellen, died when Kate was a child. Does the forest hold the secret to her death? 

A secret journal 

Kate discovers her mother’s journal, and the tale of a tragic unravelling begins to unfold. Ellen’s story is one of fear and hope, love and loss, set against the imposing background of Craig Dunain, a psychiatric hospital where she should have been safe.  

Unravelling the truth 

Someone else from Ellen’s past is searching for answers, and he will stop at nothing to find them. Unaware of the danger stalking her, Kate continues her search. Will she find the answers? And can she save her own life?  

***** 

Two bodies are found in a forest near to where Kate Sharp’s mother, Ellen, died years earlier, when Kate was a child.

Following the death of her Grandmother, Kate is searching for answers about her mother.

As Ellen’s story unfolds, Kate discovers it’s one of love, loss, fear, despair and hope.

Someone from Ellen’s past is also trying to find out what happened. Can they figure out the truth? Can Kate save her own life before it’s too late?

This is the first book I’ve read by Helen Forbes. I found the blurb very intriguing. I was excited to be invited onto the blog tour for Unravelling.

Told from the point of view of Kate, Ellen, Daniel and Jamie, this book, from page one, immediately drew me into the novel and into the lives of these characters.

Nothing is what it seems on the surface and, aside from Kate, I wasn’t sure who to trust.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

Hello February. 

I am very excited about the book club pick this month. It’s The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell. 

I don’t know about you but, even by the blurb, this book sounds brilliant and I can’t wait to get started.

Anyone can take part in our book club, at any point in the month, whether you’ve already read the novel or will be reading along with me. As usual, I’ve posted a question below in the comments to start the discussion. See you there.

 

About The Night She Disappeared…

‘Mum, there’s some people here from college, they asked me back to theirs. Just for an hour or so. Is that OK?’

Midsummer 2017: teenage mum Tallulah heads out on a date, leaving her baby son at home with her mother, Kim.

At 11 p.m. she sends her mum a text message. At 4.30 a.m. Kim awakens to discover that Tallulah has not come home.

Friends tell her that Tallulah was last seen heading to a pool party at a house in the woods nearby called Dark Place.

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Book Review: The Cocktail Bar by Isabella May

A big hello to Isabella May. She joins me today with the blog tour for her book, The Cocktail Bar. 

Rock star, River Jackson, is back in his hometown of Glastonbury to open a cocktail bar… and the locals aren’t impressed.

Seductive Georgina is proving too hot to handle; band mate, Angelic Alice, is messing with his heart and his head; his mum is a hippie-dippy liability; his school friends have resorted to violence – oh, and his band manager, Lennie, AND the media are on his trail.

But River is armed with a magical Mexican elixir which will change the lives of three lucky people. Once the Mexican wave of joy takes a hold of the town, he’s glad he didn’t lose his proverbial bottle.

Pity he hasn’t taken better care of the real one…

*****

Fed up with life on the road as a musician, River returns home to Glastonbury. His plan… to open up The Cocktail Bar and, thanks to an encounter with a mysterious woman named Mercedes, potentially change the lives of three people.

To begin with, the locals are not happy. Old school friends are trashing his bar, his ex manager is on his trail and the local aristocracy is up in arms.

There is also the matter of Georgina, a girl from his past. He is soon in a casual relationship with her. However, she has her own agenda and believes Karma is a dish served cold.

Things become even more complicated when Alice, his former bandmate, returns home. She also happens to be the girl that River is actually in love with.

Having previously read, Oh! What a Pavlova, I was looking forward to taking part in the blog tour for Isabella May’s latest novel, The Cocktail Bar.

Told from the point of view of River, Alice and Georgina, it did take me a couple of chapters to settle into the novel and connect with the characters. Once I did though, I couldn’t put it down.

River is an interesting man. Deep down, he is fiercely loyal to the people he loves, if not a little naive to the behaviour of some of the people around him. He, like many people, including Alice, is trying to find his place in the world and that is something many readers will be able to relate to.

I found Georgina an unlikeable character, even before you find out what she’s up to. However, she does add tension and conflict to the story. The same can be said for Lennie.

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Book Extract: The Helsingør Sewing Club by Ella Gyland

Ella Gyland joins me today with the blog tour for her novel, The Helsingør Sewing Club.

Inspired by the incredible true story of how the people of Denmark saved their Jewish neighbours during WW2

Helsingør, Denmark, 1943

In the midst of the German occupation during World War Two, Inger Bredahl joins the underground resistance and risks her life to save members of Denmark’s Jewish community and help them escape to Sweden.

Copenhagen, 2018

Inger’s granddaughter, Cecilie Lund, is mourning her death when a mysterious discovery while cleaning out Inger’s flat leads past and present to intersect. As long-held secrets finally see the light of day, Cecilie learns the story of her grandmother’s courage and bravery, and of the power of friendship, love, and standing for what’s right…even when you have everything to lose.

An inspiring tale of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of community.

 

Ella has shared an extract from The Helsingør Sewing Club with us today. Enjoy! 

 

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

 

The main character’s cousin Gudrun has just returned home from having dinner with her fiancé, Niels the fisherman, and his family, where the topic of conversation was whether to smuggle black market goods back from Sweden or not, with Niels strongly against it and his father in favour of it. This scene is from Gudrun’s point of view.

*****

When she returned home, her parents, Inger, and Jens were listening to Radio London in the parlour. She poured herself a cup of coffee from the blue enamel pot on the stove in the kitchen, and joined her family, squeezing onto the settee next to her brother.

Huddled around the radio, they listened to the news that the Russian army had recaptured a port city on the Black Sea from the Germans, and that the recently overthrown Italian dictator, Mussolini, had been restored to power.

Gudrun’s mind wasn’t really on the news. Instead she focused on the coffee substitute she was drinking. She’d almost, but not quite, got used to the taste of it – not like Inger who hated it – but knew Niels’s father had been right when he’d insisted people would pay for anything if they wanted it enough, and had the money.

At my wedding lunch we’re going to have proper coffee, she thought. Another reason for her and Niels to wait.

The calm, quiet mood in her parents’ parlour was interrupted by a sudden rap on the window at the front of the house. Jens quickly switched off the radio, and her mother draped an embroidered tablecloth over it. Listening to the radio wasn’t forbidden, but the Germans took a dim view of broadcasts from the BBC, and it was better to be safe than sorry in case they confiscated it.

Her father turned off the lights and opened the door, with Gudrun and his wife almost right behind him.

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Book Review: Queen Bee by Nina Manning

I am pleased to be welcoming Nina Manning back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her novel, Queen Bee. 

In the quiet village of Helesbury, Miranda Wallace prides herself on being the most popular member of her small social circle; the perfect friend, the best mum – the queen bee.

Until one day, Verity arrives. Cool and indifferent, Verity is everything Miranda isn’t, but she threatens to shatter Miranda’s picture-perfect life.

Suddenly plagued with insecurities, Miranda is certain Verity is hiding something. And Miranda knows all about secrets and the damage they can cause, because she’s hiding some of her own.

So when Verity threatens to reveal the truth about Miranda and destroy the perfect life she’s built, Miranda knows she has to act to protect the people she loves – even if the results are deadly.

*****

Miranda is enjoying her new life, away from all the mistakes in her past. What’s more, she feels as though she has a true friend in Evie. Life for Miranda is bordering on perfect. 

However, the arrival of Verity starts to pull Evie away from her. Who is this woman? Why is Evie interested in being her friend? Soon, Miranda finds life getting out of control, like it was before.

I had previously read The Bridesmaid by Nina Manning and loved it. I was excited to read her latest novel, Queen Bee. 

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Book Extract: Storytellers by Bjørn Larssen

I am very pleased to be welcoming Bjørn Larssen and the blog tour for his novel, Storytellers.

Would you murder your brothers to keep them from telling the truth about themselves?

On a long, cold Icelandic night in March 1920, Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith, finds himself with an unwanted lodger – Sigurd, an injured stranger who offers a story from the past. But some stories, even those of an old man who can barely walk, are too dangerous to hear. They alter the listeners’ lives forever… by ending them.

Others are keen on changing Gunnar’s life as well. Depending on who gets to tell his story, it might lead towards an unwanted marriage, an intervention, rejoining the Church, letting the elf drive him insane, or succumbing to the demons in his mind. Will he manage to write his own last chapter?

Bjørn Larssen’s award-winning, Amazon #1 best selling novel is an otherworldly, emotive Icelandic saga – a story of love and loneliness, relief and suffering, hatred… and hope.

 

Bjørn has shared an extract today. Grab that hot drink, a comfortable chair and enjoy. 

 

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

 

Like most writers, I have certain subjects that are dear to my heart. Three of them are neurodivergence, mental illness (not the same thing), and addiction.

My protagonist, Gunnar, is on the autism spectrum and has a generalised anxiety disorder accompanied by depression, self-medicated with alcohol. He is also living in the year 1920, before the word “depression” came into use at all. He’s an uneducated blacksmith in a society where showing feelings – revealing that you had them – outside your diaries or poems you wrote was impossible. It wasn’t seen as cynical to say there was no time for grief or melancholy. It was simply the truth. There was too much work to be done.

It’s not just the external world that doesn’t understand Gunnar’s different mind. He has no words to express how he feels. All he knows is that he “shouldn’t” be like this, that “normal people” aren’t. During Icelandic prohibition, the only way to acquire alcohol was to visit a doctor and get it “prescribed” – Gunnar’s whisky is, ostentatiously, medication for his non-existent lung problems. A bottle of whisky a week isn’t enough anymore, though, so he makes moonshine… which is, of course, illegal, which makes his anxiety worse. There’s only one way he knows to feel better – he carries a flask wherever he goes.

There was a time in my life when I went through a long period of depression. Everything was grey. I didn’t even remember how to laugh. I was ashamed of admitting it. I “knew” that depression was a made-up thing that the educated members of the middle-class came up with to justify their laziness. Gunnar doesn’t have the words to express that, but if he could, he’d be thinking the same. There was one medication that calmed me down, even sent me into euphoria. It came in bottles.

*****

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Book Review: Before We Grow Old by Clare Swatman

I’d like to welcome Clare Swatman to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her latest novel, Before We Grow Old. 

When seven-year-old Fran first met Will they knew instantly that they were made for each other. For eleven years they were inseparable, but then, at the age of eighteen, Will just upped and disappeared.

Twenty-five years later Will is back.

Is fate trying to give them a second chance?

Still nursing the heart break from all those years ago, Fran is reluctant to give Will the time of day. The price Will must pay is to tell the truth – the truth about why he left, the truth about why he’s back…

And Fran has her own secrets to hide. The time has come to decide what Fran and Will really want from life – before it’s too late.

*****

Will was the love of Fran’s life. Having been friends since childhood, she thought they would always be together.

When Will then leaves, leaving Fran a letter, she’s heartbroken, thinking she will never see him again.

So, bumping into him twenty five years later is a shock.

Can they pick up where they left off? Is Will hiding something? Worse still, will he find out Fran’s secret?

From the moment I started reading, I knew this book was going to make me cry. I can’t give you a solid reason how I knew, but I did.

Fran is a relatable character in many ways. She’s a single parent, trying to do the best she can for her son and when Will returns, she gives herself hope that she can be happy. Of course, life sometimes has other plans. I really felt a lot of love and empathy for her and Will at multiple points in the novel.

The other characters in the novel are wonderful; Kieran and Elodie especially. Clare Swatman does a really good job of pulling the reader into the story and making them feel like they are a part of this family, going through all these adventures and emotions.

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Book Review: My Heart Went Walking by Sally Hanan

I am pleased to welcome Sally Hanan to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her upcoming novel, My Heart Went Walking. 

Kept apart by their love for one man, two sisters embark on their own paths towards survival, love, and understanding, until all three finally meet again in the worst of circumstances. And the reality might break them all.

My Heart Went Walking is a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that sweeps from the small Irish town of Donegal to the “big smoke” of Dublin City; a book that celebrates the pull of family and the chance of redemption. It is a novel for everyone who feels connected to the Irish approach to life-that of grit and laughter-and also for everyone who loves an overriding message of hope and restoration in all things.

***

Una doesn’t want to leave her family, especially her sister, Ellie. It also means saying goodbye to the boy she loves. However, she holds a secret and so must make a choice..stay and reveal her secret or leave everything she’s ever known.

So, she goes to Dublin to seek a new life, with no plan and little money.

Back in her hometown, Ellie has no idea why her sister left. Even Una’s best friend, Cullen doesn’t seem to know where she is.

These three people will be reunited through the most tragic of circumstances. Secrets will be revealed that have the capacity to change their lives forever.

Set in Donegal and Dubin in 1983, My Heart Went Walking is told from the point of view of three people; Una, Cullen and Ellie.

All three are well written and develop in interesting ways. They all have to deal with pretty intense situations and it was easy to forget as I progressed through the book that they were all still teenagers, having to navigate their way through some heartbreaking and difficult circumstances.

Una has to especially grow up incredibly quickly when she finds herself in Dublin, away from home and alone. She seems very strong but when you begin to get to know her, you see that she is just a young girl who has so much fear and doesn’t want to face it. I think a lot of people can relate to that. Whether, as a reader, you agree with certain decisions she makes will be up to you to decide but I felt that she, like Cullen, was trying to do the best she could and do right by the people she loved.

Cullen is a confused guy who doesn’t understand why the girl he loves suddenly disappears. He’s very much a good guy. I really felt for him through this story as he is, in a way, stuck in the middle between his past with Una and his potential future with Ellie.

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Book Extract: A Stranger’s Revenge by K.J. McGillick

A big welcome to K.J. McGillick and the blog tour for her novel, A Stranger’s Revenge.

When art law attorney Abigail Clarke is mistaken for the murdered twin sister she never knew existed, will she be able to outwit a man determined to kill every member of her treacherous family.

Thirty years ago, during a thunderstorm, on an isolated street in South Boston, an unidentified two-year-old girl was discovered, abandoned, shot, barely clinging to life. After a thorough investigation, the case was eventually designated to the cold case files until Abigail Clarke, now an astraphobic art law attorney, is mistaken for the murdered twin sister she never knew existed.

What the FBI Art Crime Division cannot determine is if Abigail is an innocent bystander or a co-conspirator in her sister’s art fraud crimes.

Compelled to uncover all her family’s secrets, nothing prepares Abigail for the disastrous meeting with her murderous brother and crime boss father. Her life is irreversibly changed the more she becomes mired in her family’s treachery. She soon finds herself drawn into a game of cat and mouse by the vengeful killer who methodically plans to execute every member of her family, holding each one of them ultimately responsible for the murder of his own family thirty years ago.

 

K.J. McGillick has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

Warning: Language.

 

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

 

March 2021

An explosive streak of white lightning splayed its arthritic fingers across the gray sky, threatening to snatch me through my windows. However, it was the explosive thunder bomb which shook my windows that almost sent me under my desk. Shot and then left for dead when I was two years old, thunderstorms still scared the hell out of me and left me paralyzed with fear. Maura called it astraphobia. I called it self-preservation.

“Abigail Clarke, you are not listening to a word I’m saying,” Maura said, slapping her chair to get my attention. “I could use a little legal help here.”

“Of course, I am listening. I just want to scream at the top of my lungs that Clarisse Taylor is batshit crazy. Can we at least agree that she is a master manipulator well versed in the art of gaslighting? You’ve asked my legal opinion. I can’t help it if it’s not what you want to hear.”

Was it wrong of me to hope right now a bus was plowing into Clarisse, leaving her splattered on some street like roadkill?

“I have to admit that in the last two months, her stories have become more laced with violence.” She sighed.

“There you go. What if this is just an attention-seeking device? I know as a psychiatrist, head games and personality puzzles fill your day. Please don’t think I am minimizing your concern. But maybe this is one of those moments that you can’t see the forest for the trees.”

“No, this time it was different. You had to see her wickedly satisfied expression as she boasted she stabbed him fifteen times.”

As if channeling Clarisse, Maura gritted her teeth and slowly lifted her arm, then plunged an imaginary knife up and down. As her arm arched back, I could not help but visualize the drops of blood, as they must have sprayed across the walls with each fresh assault. The room must have looked like a Jackson Pollock canvas, splattered in various hues of reds and browns as the blood dried. That visual did the trick of interrupting my obsession with the storm.

She suddenly sprang to her feet, almost dazed, glanced at the floor, and then at me.

“And, Abby, she said that the puddle of blood looked like an oil slick. It was so widespread that when she tried to stand, she slipped in it and bashed her head against a table. Slipped… In… His… Blood…”

“Oh, for the love of God, enough.” I raised my hand for her to stop. I had reached my limit.

She dropped back into the chair and took a deep breath.

“Okay, take a minute, and let’s walk through this. Did you see any signs of an injury to her head to corroborate the story?” I asked, determined to debunk this lunatic’s musings.

“Yes. Well… she had a bandage across the corner of her forehead. Whether there was an injury there or it was for show, I don’t know. However, she never came to the office before with even a Band-Aid.”

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Book Extract: That Certain Spark by Isobel Hart

I am very happy to be welcoming Isobel Hart to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her book, That Certain Spark. 

A one-bedroom apartment with creeping damp.

Depressed cat, complete with litter tray.

Neither was part of Claire’s five-year plan.

Nor, for that matter, was divorce.

Left with a comfort eating habit that’s costing her a small fortune in ice-cream, and panic attacks flooring her in front of the supermarket meals-for-one, Claire turns to her mum and Mindfulness in the hope that one of them can help her find real happiness.

She thinks she’s cracked it… but then her past comes creeping back.

Now she has to work out what really makes her happy or risk a life where Ben & Jerry are the only men who matter.

 

Isobel has shared an extract with us today. So, grab that blanket and drink of choice and enjoy. 

 

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

 

Claire has chosen to go on a Power Walk during a stay at a rejuvenating health spa with her mum. It turns out to be a little more arduous than she anticipates.

By the time I get to the top I have tunnel vision, a red mist reducing my ability to see more than my own feet. I want to curl up and sleep in a bush. And maybe die. Death feels preferable to this, right now. “That’s it, you’re doing brilliantly,” Carl says. He’s circling me like a sheepdog, nipping at my ankles every time it looks like I might stop. “You’ve done better than most people. Most the guests turn back when they realise how fast we walk.”

I’d forgotten that was even an option. Why the hell didn’t I turn back?

The other ladies are still chatting. “Do. They. Ever. Stop. Talking?” I gasp in slow stilted words to Carl between attempts to suck air back into my lungs.

He laughs. “No, I’m afraid not.”

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Book Extract: A Nose For Mischief by K.T. Lee

I’m saying a big hello to K.T. Lee. She is here with the blog tour for her latest novel, A Nose for Mischief, book one in the Riverbend K-9s series. 

When materials engineer Zoey Butler lands her dream job at Future State Energy, she believes her research in renewable energy will make headlines. Unfortunately for her, she’s right. Zoey is working on her latest experiment when FBI Special Agent Alexis Thompson and her K-9 partner, Waffle, raid Future State and arrest the head of the development for fraud. Zoey helps the FBI find answers in the aftermath, but she soon finds herself jobless and unemployable. Desperate and out of options, she reaches out to Alexis, the one person who knows Zoey was duped like everyone else.

Liam Graham is an FBI special agent and instructor at Riverbend K-9 Academy. When Alexis brings in a new recruit with an unusual background, Liam pairs her up with Tasha, a dog in need of a handler to stay in their competitive program. Zoey is thrilled to put her past behind her and give the mischievous rescue dog her own second chance. However, shortly after she arrives, the FBI realizes the Future State case is far from closed. And Zoey may be the key to solving it.

Zoey offers to go back to Future State to help the FBI end things once and for all. Only this time, she’ll have Liam and Tasha for backup. But, the problems at Future State are more explosive than any of them suspect.

 

K.T. Lee has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy.

 

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

 

When materials engineer Zoey Butler lands her dream job at Future State Energy, she believes her research in renewable energy will make headlines. Unfortunately for her, she’s right. Zoey is working on her latest experiment when FBI Special Agent Alexis Thompson and her K-9 partner, Waffle, raid Future State and arrest the head of the development for fraud. Zoey helps the FBI find answers in the aftermath, but she soon finds herself jobless and unemployable. Desperate and out of options, she reaches out to Alexis, the one person who knows Zoey was duped like everyone else.

Liam Graham is an FBI special agent and instructor at Riverbend K-9 Academy. When Alexis brings in a new recruit with an unusual background, Liam pairs her up with Tasha, a dog in need of a handler to stay in their competitive program. Zoey is thrilled to put her past behind her and give the mischievous rescue dog her own second chance. However, shortly after she arrives, the FBI realizes the Future State case is far from closed. And Zoey may be the key to solving it.

Zoey offers to go back to Future State to help the FBI end things once and for all. Only this time, she’ll have Liam and Tasha for backup. But, the problems at Future State are more explosive than any of them suspect.

 

This excerpt takes place as Zoey is struggling with her job search.

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