Posted in Book Review

5* Review – The Quaker – Liam McIlvanney

Amazon UK

Amazon 

My Thoughts…

Atmospheric and authentic are the best adjectives to describe this story. The menacing ethos of 1960s Glasgow is apparent on every page and is compelling.

The characters’ prejudices and secrets vividly depicted make them realistic. The sinister undercurrent as people wonder when ‘The Quaker’will kill again makes for a tense thriller. The murders are described in painstaking detail but not overly graphic, just enough to inform the plot and allow the reader to glimpse the horror of the crime.

Police procedural is the mainstay of the plot, but the suspense and supernatural impressions from the Quaker’s victims add a twist that makes this even more chilling to read. McCormack is a complex detective, a loner he is dedicated to his job at the cost of his relationships.

The ending draws from all the clues laid earlier in the plot, it is convincing and clever and with a final sting in its tail.

‘The Quaker’ is not an easy read, the dialogue and complexity of Glasgow society at this time needs to be understood to get the most of this story.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

A Lady Becomes a Governess – Diane Gaston – 4* Review

A most unlikely governess……with a shocking secret.

Lady Rebecca Pierce escapes her forced betrothal when the ship she’s on wrecks. Assuming the identity of a governess she believes has drowned, she enters the employ of brooding Lord Brookmore, who’s selflessly caring for his orphaned nieces. Inconveniently, she’s extremely attracted to the viscount, with her only chance of happiness tied to the biggest risk: revealing the truth about who she really is… 

Amazon UK

Waterstones

 My Thoughts…

Rebecca and Claire meet on a packet boat sailing to England from Ireland. Rebecca is a lady travelling to London for a forced marriage to a man she despises. Claire journeys to a new post as a governess in the Lake District. A devastating shipwreck leaves few survivors, Rebecca is one and as there is no sign of her new friend Claire she assumes her identity and becomes a governess.

Lord Brookmore is an unwilling Viscount, but his sense of duty makes him a selfless guardian for his two orphaned nieces and a dedicated custodian of the Lake District estate. The attraction between the Viscount and his governess is forbidden but inevitable, they both fight it but despite scheming fiancees, dangerous former employers and a disapproving housekeeper they fall in love. The historical detail sets the romance firmly in the Regency era, and the two little nieces make clever cupids.

The ending is action packed and full of menace but fortunately a well deserved happy ending and an unexpected twist.

I received a copy of this book from Mills & Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Caroline Roberts The Cosy Seaside Chocolate Shop – 5*Review

 

When Emma opened her gorgeous little chocolate shop in the harbour village of Warktonby-the-Sea, she realised a lifelong dream. Love is also blossoming with her hunky beau, Max, who’s slowly healing her fragile heart. Summer is here, and life has never felt so sweet. Until the rain clouds start to gather… A rival sweet shop and killjoy landlord give Emma a headache, and when a face from the past turns up unannounced, Emma finds herself spiralling down memory lane. With Max’s crazy work schedule driving him to distraction, Emma’s in danger of making some choices she might regret . . . With close friends, spaniel Alfie, and the whole village behind her, can Emma get the chocolate shop and her love life back on track? Only time will tell in this deliciously romantic novel of love, loss, hope and second chances.

Amazon UK

Amazon

 

Tips for Writers: By Caroline Roberts

Write what you are passionate about. If you love what you write this will make the writing process so much easier, and it will come through to readers (and hopefully publishers/agents if you are looking to be published) and spark their imagination and interest too.

Finish the book! Don’t pressure yourself that it has to be perfect. Just keep going forward and get the story out. Make time to write regularly, and you will get there. Editing is for later.

 Submitting – If publication is your aim, finish the whole book, check it over and polish up your first 3 chapters, spend time on your synopsis and cover letter, and only then start sending it out. Try to be as professional as possible. Do your research on who you are submitting to – and send exactly what they ask for. (Try the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and use Google to help find suitable agents and publishers, then read their websites carefully). Do try and personalise your cover letter to show you have spent time finding out about them/their company.

 PERSEVERE – the submission process can be long and hard, and rejection is never easy. Try not to take it too personally – easier said than done, I know – but keep going and try to learn from any critical feedback you might get and keep writing. It might be your second or third novel or even a short story or poem that gets someone’s attention. Don’t give up!

Link up with other writers. Look for local groups or groups within your genre. For me, the support and friendship within organisations such as The Romantic Novelists’ Association were,  and still is, invaluable. (It was only by taking a deep breath and pitching at the RNA Conference that I got my book deal with HarperCollins and my agent.)

 Good luck!

My Thoughts…

Any story that features Northumberland gets my attention and having read the first book in the series ‘The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop’ I was looking forward to seeing what happens next to Emma and Max, whose deepening relationship faces several tests in this Summer story.

Emma’s business is growing, but despite her hard work and creativity, she is still at the mercy of an unscrupulous landlord. There are lots of colourful events in this book, including prosecco parties and food festivals. They celebrate the culture and vivacity of Northumberland life adding both authenticity and depth to this romantic story.

Emma’s tragic loss of her fiance Luke made her wary of falling in love again, and even though she is committed to Max now, the unexpected appearance of a face from the past makes her remember what she’s lost and threatens her future happiness.

The village characters make this romantic tale resonate, they are believable and demonstrate the community spirit associated with English village life. There’s also plenty of gossip and lots of advice, not all of it welcome but again this underpins village England and makes the story realistic.

The lovely chocolate descriptions are a bonus, so good you can almost taste them. Recipes are included at the back of the book if you want to sample the chocolate delights.

The ending is heartstoppingly romantic, the perfect conclusion to this sweet story.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Family, friends, food, a glass of bubbly and, of course, a good book make Caroline smile. She loves writing emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal and family, which explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. She also likes to write romantic comedy, letting the characters have a bit of fun too! Caroline believes in following your dreams, which led her to HarperImpulse and a publishing deal after many years of writing. Stunning Northumberland is her home – sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside have inspired her writing! 

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You Were Made For This – 3* Review – Michelle Sacks

Adult Themes

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Her Name Was Rose – Claire Allan – 5* Review

Her name was Rose. You watched her die. And her death has created a vacancy.

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.

And then she makes a decision she can never take back.

Because Rose had everything, Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?

But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Imagine you see someone die right in front of you.
It could be you.
What if you feel hunted, are always full of anxiety.
How would you react?

Emily, the protagonist in ‘Her Name, Was Rose’, is already labelled as a troublemaker, unstable even though she is the victim, is her Ex taking revenge, or is it all in her imagination? Emily wants someone to love, someone to care for, to be part of a family, that’s why she tries to step into Rose’s old life. She feels connected to Rose and longs to have the perfect life she enjoyed.

Emily is an unreliable protagonist, reliant on prescription medication and alcohol to keep her anxiety in check. Told from Emily’s point of view, the reader can’t be sure if Emily’s experiences are real or imagined.

Well-paced the plot adds additional characters and twists, throwing doubt on Rose’s life and the manner of her death. Cleverly built tension among the cast of characters, particularly at Rose’s former workplace increases the suspense. Emily’s vulnerability and lack of insight increase the story’s menace until the reader doesn’t know who to trust and realises appearances can be deceptive.

The ending is adrenaline-fuelled and has a surprising twist or two.

I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Ivy and Abe – 5*Review – Elizabeth Enfield

Two people. One love story. A million possibilities. They’re soulmates. Ivy and Abe were inseparable as children until an accident tore them apart. Several decades later, when both are in their seventies, a chance encounter reunites them. But time is not on their side. What if they’d met in a different time and place? In another life, Ivy and Abe meet in their forties, when both are married already. Unable to resist the attraction between them, they embark on a passionate affair. In yet another, they marry young, with a bright future ahead of them – only for a dark shadow to threaten their happiness. Throughout various incarnations of their lives, they come together and go their separate ways, fall in and out of love, make or break promises. In every universe, Ivy and Abe are meant to meet. But are they meant to be? 

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Everyone meets people in their lives that they seem to know or act out of character inexplicably drawn to a stranger. Are they supposed to be together or merely to meet?

‘Ivy and Abe’ meet in school and then are torn apart only to meet again in the Autumn of their lives. This story explores what happens to them when they meet again and all the ‘What If?’ scenarios. Told from Ivy’s point of view, all the stories have common characters, but they have different importance in Ivy and Abe’s lives.

Poignant, romantic, selfish and tragic the stories map out possible lives and their consequences.
Whether Ivy and Abe are soulmates is left to the reader’s interpretation. The ending adds yet another possible outcome but the hope for the future is undeniable and a fitting end for such a lovely story.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Murder on the Green – 4*Review – H.V. Coombs

Midsomer Murders meets The Great British Bake Off in this foodie delight with murder at its heart.

Hampden Green has been quiet for months, allowing Ben Hunter to concentrate on running The Old Forge Café. That is until celebrity chef Justin McCleish announces he is opening a pop-up restaurant at the local opera festival and wants Ben to help out.

Ben couldn’t prouder or more flattered until he discovers he hasn’t been hired for his cooking abilities… Justin is being blackmailed, and he needs help to crack the case. That is until extortion turns deadly!

Now Ben must do whatever it takes to find the killer before they strike again…

Amazon UK

Amazon 

My Thoughts…

What’s the perfect read on a scorching Summer’s day? A quintessential English murder mystery with tempting food. 

‘Murder on the Green’ has Ben a chef and reluctant sleuth who’s a likeable character with a chequered past revealed in a previous story. I haven’t read the first book in the series, but there’s enough backstory on Ben and the village inhabitants to make this easy to follow and enjoyable. 

Ben’s cafe although busy is struggling financially, he works all hours, and the rewards are scant. When celebrity chef Justin McCleish is hired to do the catering at the Opera festival, Ben is surprised to be asked to help out by the chef who he doesn’t know. Blackmail rather than cooking is the reason Justin wants Ben, but he’s soon chasing a murderer. 

Told from Ben’s point of view, the action is plentiful, the murders’ grisly and the cast of characters, full of motive. There are lots of comic moments, and a plot that’s full of twists, not all of which work but they are vividly portrayed and sit comfortably in this cosy mystery.

An enjoyable afternoon read, with an unusual, bumbling but ultimately successful sleuth in chef’s clothing.

I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: I Never Lie – Jody Sabral – Extract and 4*Review

 Is she the next victim? Or is she the culprit…?

Alex South is a high-functioning alcoholic who is teetering on the brink of oblivion. Her career as a television journalist is hanging by a thread since a drunken on-air rant. When a series of murders occur within a couple of miles of her East London home, she is given another chance to prove her skill and report the unfolding events. She thinks she can control the drinking, but soon she finds gaping holes in her memory and wakes to find she’s done things she can’t recall. As the story she’s covering starts to creep into her own life, is Alex a danger only to herself – or to others?

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Amazon

Extract

6

The pressing need to talk to DI Brook takes over. When I turn around, I spot him lingering behind the tent, so I fill my lungs with air and shout his name as loudly as I can, but to no avail. He has clearly decided not to hear me.

‘They not listening to you, love?’

An elderly woman dressed in black with silvery blue hair and a lively red setter has suddenly appeared beside me. Her face is half hidden behind what look like very expensive sunglasses. ‘Such terrible news to wake up to this morning.’

I nod silently, unsure of what to say. The last thing I need right now is a member of the public asking me silly questions. I have a job to do, and sometimes they just get in the way.

‘I’ve seen you before, haven’t I? You live around here?’

‘Yes.’

She pulls her glasses forward, resting them on the end of her nose, to reveal watery grey eyes. ‘I know you, you’re on the news. Although I haven’t seen you on for a while. Not since that…’

She stops herself. I know what she’s going to say. Not since that time you were pissed on air ranting about how the system had failed us all.

‘I’ve been busy doing research for a new investigative report I’m working on.’

‘So you got lucky today because you live around here? That it? I know how it goes, the pecking order. Worked in broadcasting when I was younger. Couldn’t take the cynicism and got out after a few years.’

‘Right.’ I really don’t need this now. It’s only midday, and my nerves are shot. She’s not going away, though.

‘I love watching the news and talking about politics. You really must come for tea. I don’t get many visitors these days. I live on Navarino. Right on the corner of the park.’

‘That’s very kind of you, but I imagine I’m going to be quite busy with this story.’

‘Of course. I didn’t mean today, silly. Number three, the red door. Just knock.’

Audrey is back, looking purposeful, her eyes willing the pensioner to move on.

‘Sorry to interrupt, but they want a two-minute hit into the lunchtime bulletin. What we know now.’

‘Goodbye then, Alex. Please make sure you come and see me.’ The woman pushes her glasses back up her nose and shuffles off with her dog.

‘Who was that?’ Audrey nods towards her. ‘A neighbourhood pal?’

‘Just a dog walker.’

‘Not the dog walker?’

‘No. No.’

‘Oh. Okay. So, the report?’

‘It’s fine. Have you spoken to the police? I can’t seem to attract their attention.’

‘Managed to grab DI Brook at the press conference earlier, but only to get his business card.’ She hands it to me. DI John Brook, Serious Crime Division. There’s a mobile number on it. I already have it in my phone from dealing with him on previous cases, but I decide not to mention it. Best to let Audrey think she’s on it, which she is. In fact, I don’t know why I didn’t just call him before, rather than shout at him like a complete loser. I’m embarrassed to say my memory fails me more often than not, especially after a big night out.

‘Thanks, Audrey, you’re a star.’

‘No worries. I don’t think he’s going to talk to the media again today – at least that’s what he said – but give him a call. I did mention you might.’

‘Okay.’

‘It’ll be the first live report from the scene for us, so the editors say just keep it simple. They’re leading on it.’

‘I have done this before, Audrey.’

‘Yes, of course, sorry.’

She looks a bit hurt by my reaction, which happens when I’m not fully in my right mind. Greg used to get on me for that all the time. Snapping at people. I should say something nice.

‘Sorry. Didn’t mean to sound short with you. It’s my first live for a while, and I suppose I’m a little nervous.’

‘You’ll knock ‘em dead, Alex. You’re great at this job.’

‘That’s very kind. Thank you.’

‘We all have bad days. We’re only human after all.’

She is being very sweet and understanding. Buttering me up. That’s nice even if she doesn’t mean it because it’s exactly what I need today.

‘Thanks, Audrey, but today is going to be a good day.’

With the business card in my hand, I put my headphones on and pull up DI Brook’s number from my contact list, then hit dial. While it’s ringing, I check my Facebook page. Two thousand and fifty-three people have wished me happy birthday. Wow. I guess many people feel like Audrey does, ready to give me a second chance. I mean, it wasn’t so bad what I did, bitching about the government live on air. There were a lot of people who wrote to me afterwards saying well done for speaking honestly. Didn’t help me with the editors, though. Anyway, that’s behind me now.

DI Brook isn’t answering, and I hang up. Just then my phone buzzes. It’s a message from Richie, the chap I’m planning to meet later. I met him on a dating site, just like I met Nigel.

Hey, sorry to do this to you, Alex, but something’s come up at work. Afraid I can’t make it tonight. Can we reschedule?

It’s annoying, but I don’t bother to respond; there’s really no point. That’s how online dates go sometimes. They don’t always materialise, and if I’m honest, I can’t be bothered anyway, not now that I have a huge breaking news story to contend with. This is much more important.

 My Thoughts…

A suspenseful plot, an authentic setting and an unreliable protagonist guarantee that I would read ‘I Never Lie’ and it didn’t disappoint.

Fast-paced it moves between Alex a TV journalist’s point of view and diary entries of a recovering alcoholic whose dark issues become apparent as the story unfolds.

Alex, a London based TV journalist, is on the precipice of career success. She moves to London to further her career but also because personal life implodes, and now threatens to impinge on her career.

Alex is an alcoholic in denial, and it makes her vulnerable in all area of her life. Someone is murdering women in London, and Alex’s involvement seems serendipitous but is she in danger?

Alex is challenging, her constant denial of her alcoholism is tedious but authentic and an essential catalyst to the thriller’s plot. The plot is well- executed with twists, some of which you may not see coming. I enjoyed trying to work out what is real and what is part of Alex’s alcohol delusional state.

The final twist is a little disappointing for me; I imagined something different. However, full of suspense it does answer the questions raised by the plot.

Written by a TV journalist, the setting is authentic and absorbing and makes the perfect backdrop both for the murders and Alex life’s disintegration.

Originality, cleverly built suspense and realistic characters are evident in this thriller, even if using an alcoholic as an unreliable protagonist is popular in many psychological thrillers currently.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Jody Sabral is based between the South Coast and London, where she works as a Foreign Desk editor and video producer at the BBC. She is a graduate of the MA in Crime Fiction at City University, London. Jody worked as a journalist in Turkey for ten years, covering the region for various international broadcasters. She self-published her first book Changing Borders in 2012 and won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 for her second novel The Movement. In addition to working for the BBC, Jody also writes for the Huffington Post, Al–Monitor and Brics Post.

Twitter: @jsabral

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Emma Burstall -A Cornish Secret – Extract – 4*Review

 

Be careful what you kiss for…

Esme Posorsky is an enigma. For as long as people can remember, she has been part of community life in the quaint Cornish fishing village of Tremarnock, but does anyone really know her? She is usually to be found working in her pottery studio or at home with her beloved cat, Rasputin. But when an old school friend turns up with a secret from the past, nothing will ever be the same again.

Meanwhile, teenager, Rosie, is excited to find a bottle washed up on Tremarnock beach with a message from a former German prisoner of war. While the rest of the village is up in arms about a new housing development, she sets out to find him. Little does she know, however, that her discovery will unleash a shocking chain of events that threatens to blow her family apart. Tremarnock may look like a cosy backwater, but some of its residents are about to come face-to-face with tough decisions and cold reality… 

Buy links:

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Google Play 

Extract

Liz had left Lowenna’s pushchair at the bottom of the fire escape, and once the little girl was strapped in, they made their way down narrow winding South Street towards the marketplace, in search of a loaf of bread. But they didn’t get far; as they passed Seaspray Boutique, its owner Audrey came dashing out, waving a copy of the local newspaper, the Tremarnock Bugle, above her head.

Audrey, in her fifties, was tall and eye-catching – even more so today, dressed in a bright pink tunic top that had been on one of her shop-window mannequins only days before.

‘Have you heard?’ she said slightly breathlessly, thrusting the paper into Liz’s hands before turning back to lock the door of her shop, which had a closed for lunch sign on the inside.

Liz stared at the paper as if she wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

‘The council’s agreed to sell the play park,’ Audrey exclaimed. The paper was upside down, so she turned it around and jabbed at an article on the front page with her index finger. ‘They approved it last night. Look. It’s all here.’

‘Wha-at? How could they?’

Liz started to scan the report, and her mouth dropped open. The issue of the children’s playground was hardly new. Developers had been sniffing around the village for months, with their clipboards and smug expressions, and she’d already signed countless petitions and written objection letters.

More active locals, who’d been making a bigger noise, had warned that their concerns seemed to be falling on deaf ears, but she’d never actually believed that developers would get the go-ahead to build one hundred brand-new homes, most of which would be out of the reach of local people’s pockets. Yet here it was, in black and white:

COUNCIL APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL TREMARNOCK HOUSING ESTATE

A little further down, she read:

Outline plans were eventually given the go-ahead by a single vote during a tense meeting of the council’s district planning committee last night.

Residents had pleaded with councillors to reject the proposals, raising concerns over highway safety and the impact on the countryside and local services. However, chairing the meeting, Lucinda Graham (Lib Dem, Langowan) reminded members that the council had, just one year ago, voted to approve the site for development.

‘If we are to refuse this application, I think there are half a dozen applications which will have to be refused. We have a requirement to provide so many houses, and there’s nothing we can do about it.’

Agreeing, Laurence Nares-Pillow (Con, Porthraden), said, ‘If we can’t provide those houses, the government’s planning inspector will rule on the matter, not where we want to have them but where the inspector wants them.’

Putting the decision to the vote resulted in five votes for and five against the application, with Mrs Graham ultimately casting the deciding vote in favour of the development.

The proposals from Bedminster New Homes will see a mix of three-, four- and five-bedroom homes built on the 0.95-hectare site. The plans also include seventy-five parking spaces and two access points on Fore Street and Cardew Avenue, which would be widened in an effort to improve safety.

Once she’d reached the bottom, Liz exhaled loudly.

Audrey gave a grim nod. ‘Shocking, isn’t it?’ She ran a hand through her dark hair, which was tipped with platinum streaks, cut pixie-short and artfully mussed, before giving Liz a firm push, which sent her and the pushchair bowling slowly down the hill. ‘We’ll go and find Barbara,’ she said bossily. ‘She’s sure to have some ideas.’

Liz sighed. Barbara, landlady of the Lobster Pot on the seafront, was a tremendous source of information as well as an arch organiser. Liz was very fond of her, but she’d been hoping to grab an hour with her book while Lowenna had an after-lunch snooze. As it was, the little girl would probably drop off in her pushchair and wake up hungry and out of sorts. Still, the playground was a major issue; children adored it, and no one wanted an ugly new estate on the doorstep, least of all Liz. If there was a fight to be had then she, for one, was up for it.

They didn’t get far when Barbara herself came bustling up the hill in the opposite direction from the Lobster Pot, her dark blonde hair, normally stiff with lacquer, sticking up untidily. She was in black trousers and a low-cut red top that revealed quite a lot of tanned cleavage, and her face was flushed.

‘The marketplace,’ she said, nodding in the direction of the turning that led to the square, and Liz and Audrey followed obediently. The sound of Barbara’s high heels clopping on the cobbles seemed to act like a muezzin’s call to prayer, as more and more folk appeared from doors and alleyways and trailed after her.

‘It’s a scandal,’ Liz heard behind her. ‘Shouldn’t be allowed,’ muttered someone else.

Emotions were clearly running high, and she wished that Robert were beside her, but he’d be busy with the lunchtime shift at A Winkle in Time, and she didn’t want to bother him.

Word travelled fast in Tremarnock. A sizeable crowd had already gathered in the square, which had a stone cenotaph in the middle bearing the names of local men who had died in the Second World War, and was lined with shops. Liz spotted Ryan, the fishmonger, still in his white overalls streaked with blood; Rick Kane, who owned the gift shop, Treasure Trove; and the couple who ran the popular little bakery. Jean the childminder was there, too, with her husband Tom and two toddlers in a double buggy, as well as pensioners Ruby and Victor, and Jenny and John Lambert, who had a fishing tackle store on the seafront.

Someone had thoughtfully placed an upturned crate in front of the cenotaph and Barbara pushed her way through the throng and climbed onto it. Before she had the chance to speak, however, someone else dug Liz in the ribs, and she turned to find Robert’s niece Loveday grinning at her, with two rather extraordinary buns perched on either side of her head and a glittery blue parting running down the middle. Behind her was her boyfriend, Jesse, and beside him, Liz’s friend Tabitha and her boyfriend Danny.

Liz was surprised that Robert had allowed Loveday and Jesse, his sous-chef, to leave the restaurant. She was about to ask what had happened when Barbara cleared her throat and shouted, ‘Welcome, all!’

A hush descended.

My Thoughts… 

A snapshot of life in a Cornish fishing village that captures angst, camaraderie, gossip and scandal against a picturesque coastal background. The fourth in the series about Tremarnock took me awhile to get into this story having not read any of the previous three books. There is little backstory, and so it is hard to empathise with the characters if you aren’t familiar with them from reading the previous books. Despite this, I enjoyed my visit to the village and the adventures of its inhabitants.

Esme, an artistic person, is an enigma, no one knows much about her, but she is one of the community stalwarts. Caroline, an old school friend, becomes her holiday companion when the two decide to meet after years apart. Their story’s poignancy resonates. 

Rosie finds a ‘message in a bottle, that has implications both for her family and the village, not all of which are pleasant and make Rosie questions whether she should have read the message at all.

The prospect of an unwanted housing estates draws the village community together and provides some comic moments for the reader. The three subplots are easy to follow and well-drawn together by the end.

The coastal setting is well-described, and the characters have authenticity and depth. Reading this makes me want to read the previous books in the series. 

A perfect beach read whether you’re visiting Cornwall or not; if you haven’t read the previous three books make room for them in your beach bag too and get the best from this series.

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Emma Burstall was a newspaper journalist in Devon and Cornwall before becoming a full-time author. Tremarnock, the first novel in her series set in a delightful Cornish village, was published in 2015 and became a top-10 bestseller.

Twitter: @EmmaBurstall

Facebook: @emmaburstallauthor

 

 

 

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Blog Tour: The Accusation – Zosia Wand – Extract – 5* Review

Who would you choose if you had to – your daughter or your husband?

Eve lives in the beautiful Cumbrian town of Tarnside with her husband, Neil. After years of trying, and failing, to become parents, they are in the final stages of adopting four-year-old Milly. Though she already feels like their daughter, they just have to get through the ‘settling in’ period: three months of living as a family before they can make it official.

But then Eve’s mother, Joan, comes to stay. Joan has never liked her son-in-law. He isn’t right for Eve; too controlling, too opinionated. She knows Eve has always wanted a family but is Neil the best man to build one with?

Then Joan uncovers something that could smash Eve’s family to pieces…

Buy links:

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Amazon

Kobo

iBooks 

Google Play 

Extract

‘Why don’t we see what Milly does?’

What Milly does is admirable. She asks the girl politely if she can have the swing. The girl shakes her head, but she doesn’t get on the swing herself. She stands, holding it away from Milly.

I wait for Milly to turn to us for help, already rehearsing the scenario in my head. I will walk over, smiling. I will introduce myself and Milly to the girl and ask her name. I’ll suggest they sit on the swing together.

But Milly doesn’t turn around. What Milly does is to drop her head down and charge at the girl, knocking her backwards onto the loose wood chippings that form a protective layer over the tree roots and hard ground. Neil is the one to run forward, leaving me standing, gaping and useless. It’s Neil who dusts the girl down and leads her, sobbing, back to her grandmother, with Milly dragging along beside him protesting. ‘She maked me do it! She’s nasty!’ It’s Neil who insists Milly apologise.

‘Say sorry, Milly, or we will get straight back on the ferry and go home.’ His voice is firm and carries on the breeze. And he insists she repeat her apology, sincerely, before it is accepted.

I watch all this in horror. I do not know how to do this.

What would my mother have done? I try to imagine her here. She would be confident. She wouldn’t hesitate. She wouldn’t stand here like a lemon unable to move.

I watch the grandmother reassure Neil that it isn’t a problem. I watch her question her granddaughter. She’s quite stern. Is she asking her why she stopped Milly having the swing? Is she suggesting Milly isn’t the only one who needs to apologise? I can see she’s addressing both girls and they seem to be listening. As I watch, the older girl holds out her hand, and Milly takes it. They turn and skip back towards the playground together. For them, it’s all over. Neil says something to the grandmother, and she laughs.

I stand in the playground, watching Milly on the swing with her new friend, and I feel utterly alone. The ache is sudden and fierce. A need to see my mother. To be with her. I need to talk to her about Milly, to tell her everything that’s been going on, to share these feelings, these waves of emotion I hadn’t anticipated: love, joy, gratitude, delight, but also my fear. 

Loving someone, needing them so desperately, makes you vulnerable. You could lose them suddenly, brutally. When Neil’s away, I try not to imagine car crashes, random accidents. I’m not paranoid, I don’t sit fretting the moment he’s out of my sight, but sometimes the possibility that my happiness might end crashes in front of me. He feels it too; a call out of the blue, a need to hold tight for a moment.

It’s the price of love, that fear.

But loss comes in different shapes. It isn’t always solid and sudden; sometimes it trickles in. I’ve become a mother and now, more than ever, I need to talk to my own mother. And Milly needs her. Milly needs a grandmother. But I haven’t seen my mother for more than two years. She no longer speaks to me.

Neil swings back through the gate. ‘All sorted.’

‘I didn’t know what to do.’

He laughs but stops when he sees I’m serious and takes my hand. ‘Come on.’ He points to a small coffee van parked just the other side of the low playground fence. ‘He’s got a proper espresso machine.’ The van is within clear view. I follow him through the gate, glancing back to check on Milly. She waves from the swing as her new friend pushes her towards the sky.

As I warm my hands on the hot cup and sip the froth, watching Milly swing, I ask, ‘What if I was here on my own with her?’

My Thoughts…

Chillingly authentic, this story of adoption and family conflict shows that domestic abuse manifests in many ways and sometimes so subtly the victim is unaware of it until they have lost themselves completely.

Eve describes herself as a ‘glass half full’ person but she is always waiting for her happiness to be destroyed, something has made her this insecure and being under the spotlight as the adoption process draws to a close makes her seek support from an unlikely source. Neil loves Eve and their new daughter Milly, but he has secrets and areas of his life he can’t share this makes him vulnerable. Joan appears harmless, but she is manipulative and dangerous, blinkered she only sees one version of events, hers and makes a complex, sinister antagonist, a wolf in sheep’s clothing perhaps? The social workers Shona and Helen and the extended family and friends are all believable characters that enhance the story. 

Eve is a strong, decisive person in her work life, but in her personal life, she feels inadequate, leaning first on her mother and then her husband for emotional support. Her weakness is a crucial flaw and one she cannot escape until she has someone to fight for. Her character shows the most development in this story told from her point of view. She is frustrating, many times during the story I wanted her to be stronger and assert herself but she is a wholly convincing character who grows with each setback and becomes even stronger as she fights for her daughter and her family’s happiness.

An absorbing, realistic story, which sends chills down your spine because this could happen. If you enjoy domestic thrillers with a sinister twist, this is one to read.

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Wand_Zosia_credit Mark Harrison, courtesy of the Westmorland Gazette

Zosia Wand is an author and playwright. She was born in London and lives in Cumbria with her family. She is passionate about good coffee, cake and her adopted landscape on the edge of the Lake District. Her first novel, Trust Me, was published by Head of Zeus in 2017.

Twitter: @zosiawand  Facebook: @zosiawand