Posted in Author Interview, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery

Author Q&A – Merryn Allingham- A Tale of Two Sisters- 5*#Review @canelo_co @MerrynWrites #historicalfiction #historicalromance #Author #Interview

Separated by time and distance, two sisters seek answers for all they’ve lost

When Alice Verinder’s beloved sister Lydia goes missing, Alice boards the Orient Express bound for Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, determined to find her.

Lydia was governess to the Sultan’s young children and though her letters spoke of exotic delights and welcoming hosts, the reception Alice receives is decidedly cold and answers unforthcoming.

Now, as Alice digs deeper into the secrets of a land foreign to her she has only Englishman Harry Frome to help her. But as their search uncovers unforeseen dangers and exposes an unexpected ardour, is Alice ready for the truths they’ll uncover?

Amazon UK

Merryn Allingham Q&A

What inspired you to write this story

It was a journey I made a few years ago. I was lucky enough to travel to Venice on the Orient Express (a special occasion trip) and fell in love with the train. The compartments, dining carriages, even the mosaic bathrooms, are almost unchanged since the train’s heyday. And whereas nowadays the journey to Istanbul is a special once a year event, in 1907 there was a regular service from London to Constantinople. I wondered what it must have felt like for a young woman travelling alone for the first time in her life and on such a train.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

They aren’t drawn from real life in the sense of my actually knowing people just like them. But as a writer, you imbue your characters with what you’ve gained from life and what you’ve seen of relationships and the way they work. I don’t have a sister myself, but it wasn’t too difficult to tune into the feelings of Alice and Lydia, given the period in which they live and their very different personalities.

Lydia Verinder has been working as a governess at Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, while her elder sister, Alice, has been forced to take responsibility for their ailing parents. Alice hasn’t heard from her sister for months and suspects thoughtlessness – Lydia has always been indulged. She loves her and admires Lydia’s courage and passion, but feels resentful that she has been left caring for the household. Though her feelings are decidedly mixed, Alice becomes increasingly worried by her sister’s silence. Bravely, she decides to go to Constantinople herself and search for Lydia, and once there she meets a whole lot of other characters – but not all of them are benevolent!

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

Looking back at the novels I’ve written, it’s setting that seems pre-eminent. Maybe it’s because  I write historical fiction, but when I respond especially to a setting – it could be a house, a city, a garden, or in this case a train – I begin to imagine what it must once have looked like, who might have lived there, who travelled there etc. Once I start to people the setting, the questions come and I uncover the problems the characters are facing – then my plot is on its way!

What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?

I’m not sure you actually decide to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve needed to put pen to paper. As a small child, I wrote poems, at grammar school, there were short stories that I never dared mention – creative writing was definitely not encouraged. And I kept on writing through the years, but between family, pets and my job as a lecturer, there was little time to do more than dabble. However, when the pressures eased, I grabbed the chance to do something I’d always promised myself – to write a novel. The nineteenth-century novel was a favourite to teach so it’s no wonder I ended up writing historical fiction.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read fairly widely. Naturally enough, I love historical fiction, particularly when there’s suspense,  a mystery, maybe a death or two. And I like crime a lot, but not when it’s unduly violent and gory – psychological crime is a favourite. I love the unwrapping of a personality. The occasional literary fiction – some of Colm Toibin’s books, for example – hit the mark,  and I’m a huge fan of Kate Atkinson and the way she combines the popular and the literary so well.

What are you currently writing?

This year I’ve embarked on a crime series, and changing genre has proved quite a challenge. But though I’m planning on one or more deaths in each book, there’s a focus, too, on relationships, including some romantic temptation. The series is set in the 1950s, a period when women were pushed back into the kitchen after the Second World War and generally lacked independent careers or their own money, and where marriage and children were seen as a woman’s only goal. My heroine, needless to say, kicks against that. She’s married but not entirely happily. However, her husband’s profession allows her to travel to different countries, where she’s certain to face a crime that needs solving. The first in the series, The Venice Atonement,  will be published in July and I’m currently deep in the Caribbean, writing volume two!

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

My Thoughts…

A beautifully told story of sisterly love, impetus youth,
and evil. The Tale of Two Sisters is set in the vibrant historical background of early twentieth century Turkey. Full of vivid imagery and intricate historical details, you can imagine the opulence and the culture the two sisters experience.

The plot is believable and well thought out, the twists and turns, which keep the reader guessing are plentiful and the mystery keeps its terrible secrets to the end.

Lydia is a woman before her time, driven by political equality, yet naive and ill-equipped for what she becomes embroiled in. She is selfish and flawed, but her exuberance and zest for life’s experiences make this forgivable, Ultimately she becomes a heroine.

Alice is the antithesis of her sister, dependable, selfless and resigned to subjugating her needs for the good of her parents and sibling. She is easy to empathise. Her courage is notable and as the story progresses her adventurous and impulse qualities come to the fore, making her share more with her sister than you would first imagine.

Gentle pacing reflects the many obstacles Alice faces as she tries to discover her sister’s whereabouts. Told from both sisters’ points of view, the story is full of emotion, historical interest and suspense, as the mystery surrounding Lydia’s disapperance is solved. There is also a tender, unexpected romance, which adds extra depth to the story and allows its ending to be hopeful.

If like me, you love historical fiction with a mystery to solve, and just a touch of gentle romance, this lovely tale will draw you in.

Merryn Allingham was born into an army family and spent her childhood moving around the UK and abroad. Unsurprisingly it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties, she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world.

Merryn still loves to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England, where she has lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually teach at university.

She has written seven historical novels, all mysteries with a helping of suspense and a dash of romance – sometimes set in exotic locations and often against a background of stirring world events.

For the latest news of Merryn’s writing, visit her website or join her on Facebook or Twitter

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance -Dark and Steamy

Cape May – 4* #Review Chip Cheek @orionbooks @wnbooks @ChipCheek @PoppyStimpson

September 1957

Henry and Effie, young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon. It’s the end of the season and the town is deserted. 
As they tentatively discover each other, they begin to realize that everyday married life might be disappointingly different from their happily-ever-after fantasy.

Just as they get ready to cut the trip short, a decadent and glamorous set suddenly sweep them up into their drama – Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences that reverberate through the rest of their lives…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing – W&N Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Told from Henry’s point of view, this story explores his honeymoon with Effie as they discover marriage isn’t quite the fairytale they believed. Disillusioned they are swept away by a glamorous trio of people who they meet in the deserted jet-set resort. What follows changes their lives forever, and explores a way of life that is far removed from the clean, wholesome ideal of 1950s North America.

There are obvious and deliberate similarities between this story and ‘The Great Gatsby’. The glamour, the importance of money, the innocence of the young couple, and the ethos of desperate sadness.

Henry’s innocence and naivety, and the lack of reality he feels in Cape May make him easy prey. Full of sexual innuendo and passion, which highlight the differences between the young couple and their new friends. Most disturbing is the way Clara, Max, Alma, and ultimately Henry and Effie, treat other people’s houses and possessions. They are similarly careless of people’s feelings.

Whilst you may be taken in by their glamour, and their risque way of life, especially against the staid historical background of 1950s America. They also appear shallow, immoral and pathetic as they strive for something decadent to give them their next high.

Even though the characters are not likeable, the story is. I like its authenticity, sensuality and insight. The ending is poignant and full of lost opportunities for happiness. There is an undeniable question of what if they’d honeymooned on Florida?

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Historical Fiction

The Garden of Lost and Found – Harriet Evans 4* #Review @headlinepg @HarrietEvans #familydrama #historical #contemporary #fiction #secrets


Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and Found days before his sudden death.

Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted TheGarden of Lost and Found, capturing his children on a perfect day, playing in the rambling Eden he and Liddy made for them.

One magical moment. Before it, all came tumbling down…

When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale House, she opens the door onto a forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers. For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or, in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness.

Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Like all saga’s this one has a great deal of scene setting and introduction of the players and their motivations. This makes the first half of the story slow-paced and detailed.

There is an intriguing mystery to solve and complex family dynamics. Told from two timelines, Lydia’s set in the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century and Juliet’s her Great- Grandaughter in 2014.

The prologue sets the ethos of the story and introduces the painting of the garden, which is rightly a significant character in this story, as it represents an ideal that shrouds secrets, which are ultimately revealed as the story progresses.

Many of the characters are difficult to empathise, they are self-centred and seem uncaring of how their actions affect those around them. Juliet and Lydia are drawn together through the actions of Juliet’s deceased Grandmother Stella when she bequeaths her the house and garden, years after her demise.

Modern themes of social media abuse and dysfunctional families are explored and contrasted against the family in the late nineteenth century. It is notable that censure of certain behaviour and imperfect marriages were just as common in the historical setting, just hidden better.

The depth of research and historical detail gives this story its richness and authenticity. The imperfection of the characters also makes it believable. It is possible to want them to have a hopeful future, despite that lack of likeability and their numerous flaws.

If you enjoy a mystery, like a historical and contemporary timeslip point of view, and want to completely escape, this story is for you.

Posted in Book Review, Novella, Romance, Serial

Wildflower Park -Part 4 – Rooting For You- Bella Osborne – 5* #Review @AvonBooksUK @osborne_bella #romance #serial

Life’s not always a walk in the park…

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

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

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

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

The story takes a darker turn as the final part of the series progresses. Even though like me you may have suspected this development, the clues are there, the final events are suspenseful, and menacing and give this story another unexpected dimension. adding depth and interest.

Anna’s character develops further as the actions of others and changes in her career make her face her demons. I love this character and it’s good to see her discovering her true self. Sophie’s story is also resolved in a satisfying way, and she provides her share of angst and laughter in this final part.

Romance isn’t neglected, Anna finally realises where her heart lies but she faces significant conflict before she finds her true soulmate and her happy-ever-after.

This is a lovely, contemporary story about family, friends and career, with romance, humour and mystery, a very enjoyable read.

Out 29 April 2019

Posted in Book Review, Romance

Wedding Night Reunion in Greece 4*#Review Annie West @MillsandBoon #Romance #Greece #RunawayBride #Marriageof Convenience

She’s his runaway bride…

…He’s come to claim his wedding night!

Emma Piper’s just promised to love, honour and cherish Greek tycoon Christo Karides…but then she overhears him admitting he married her purely for convenience. Bolting to her family’s beautiful Corfu villa, Emma doesn’t expect Christo to follow—especially, with seduction in mind! Their intense attraction promises an explosive reunion. Will a night in her husband’s bed show Emma there’s more to their marriage than just convenience…?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This romantic tale features two popular tropes; runaway bride and marriage of convenience. Dutiful, kind and respectful Emma has just married cynical, sexy and world-weary Christo. The attraction is there, but she agrees to the marriage to honour her recently deceased grandfather, who wanted her safely married to a good man.

No stranger to loss, Emma is looking forward to making the best of her marriage, when she overhears Christo and his best friend talking. What she hears has her running to her legacy property in Corfu, to recover and recoup. When Christo follows, he wants his wife and his wedding night.

This is a sensual, traditional romantic story. Emma and Christo seem irreparably divided by what Emma hears and Christo’s lack of emotional involvement. He wants Emma to help with his niece who he is responsible before. Christo’s emotional journey is gradual and often painful, but his interaction with Emma changes him.

This is a genuine, emotional romance, with two glamorous but damaged protagonists. Their love story is fraught with predominately internal conflict, the chemistry is undeniable, and the ending is worth the angst and heart-searching the couple has to endure.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller

4* #Review – He Will Kill You – Charlie Gallagher- @JoffeBooks @Gloriouscharlie #Crime #Thriller #Detective

Grace Hughes is effectively a prisoner in her own home. Tortured and controlled by her horrifically violent partner, she dreams of freedom, of safety — even happiness.

CAN MADDIE GET HER SAFE? IF SHE DOESN’T, HE WILL KILL HER.

Detective Maddie Ives now works with a team specialising in getting abused women to safety. She tells Grace to keep a diary, to write everything down so it forms part of the compelling evidence needed to send her abuser to prison.

But Maddie also faces a car bomber who threatens to strike again. DI Harry Blaker returns from injury. Can he and Maddie stop the bomber, find a killer and get Grace safe — whether she helps herself or not?

GRACE’S TIME IS RUNNING OUT. SHE MUST RUN OR DIE.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

An excellent police procedural written with authentic details and realistic characters. Maddie Ives is a flawed, but easy to empathise, detective sergeant, she is dedicated, and a little maverick. She understands the importance of rules and regulations, but sometimes the end justifies the means in her opinion.

The suspense driven plot has subtle sub-plots that are integral to the main theme of the story. The beginning is shocking, and it takes you off on a tangent, looking for a certain type of criminal.

As it progresses the theme of domestic violence is explored in painstaking but sensitive detail. You empathise with Grace and want her to find the strength to escape. Again this theme is believable and gives you a good sense of what it’s like to be a police detective in these circumstances.

A powerful twist in the story, turns it in an entirely different way, as the links between events and people are apparent and the sense of urgency increases. Action scenes are important to this story, but there is a good balance of detection and emotion too.

The team dynamic is compelling. Particularly between Detective Inspector Harry Blaker and Detective Sergeant Maddie Ives and this makes you want to see what happens next. This reads well as a standalone, I haven’t read the first book in the series, but if you can do.

Just when you think the surprises are over, another is revealed, something that hopefully will be explored in the next book in the series.

Posted in Book Review, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Parenting and Famlies

Hard Pushed – Leah Hazard -5* #Review @Hutchinsonbooks @PenguinUKBooks @hazard_leah #Memoir

No sleep for twenty hours. No food for ten. And a ward full of soon-to-be mothers… Welcome to the life of a midwife.

Life on the NHS front line, working within a system at breaking point, is more extreme than you could ever imagine. From the bloody to the beautiful, from moments of utter vulnerability to remarkable displays of strength, from camaraderie to raw desperation, from heart-wrenching grief to the pure, perfect joy of a new-born baby, midwife Leah Hazard has seen it all.

Through her eyes, we meet Eleanor, whose wife is a walking miracle of modern medicine, their baby a feat of reproductive science; Crystal, pregnant at just fifteen, the precarious, flickering life within her threatening to come far too soon; Star, birthing in a room heady with essential oils and love until an enemy intrudes and Pei Hsuan, who has carried her tale of exploitation and endurance thousands of miles to somehow find herself at the open door of Leah’s ward.

Moving, compassionate and intensely candid, Hard Pushed is a love letter to new mothers and to Leah’s fellow midwives – there for us at some of the most challenging, empowering and defining moments of our lives.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK Cornerstone – Hutchinson Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Authentic, awe-inspiring and absorbing, this sharing of a midwife’s working life is a must read for everyone. Humorous and poignant it explores what it’s like to be responsible for assisting new life into the world through the eyes of a dedicated midwife as she shares her experiences with the women she helps.

Midwifery has mystical connations, and if you have ever experienced the brutality and wonder of birth you understand why. I’ve experienced birth twice as a mother and once as a birthing partner, and this memoir brings it all back. The writing is informal but full of vivid imagery and genuine love and respect. It made me cry, laugh and remember.

Out in digital on 30th April 2019 and Hardback and Audio on 2 May 2019

Posted in Book Review, Literary Fiction

They Call Me The Cat Lady – 4* #Review – Amy Miller @bookouture @AmyBratley1 #LiteraryFiction #FridayReads

You’ve seen me on the street. You’ve walked past my house, and pointed, and wondered. The cat lady. All on my own, with only my five cats to keep me company. Did no-one ever tell you that you can’t judge a book by its cover?

Everyone in town knows Nancy Jones. She loves her cats. She loves her tumbledown house by the sea. She loves her job in the local school where she tries to help the children who need help the most. Nancy tries hard not to think about her past loves and where those led her…

Nancy never shares her secrets – because some doors are better kept locked. But one day she accepts a cat-sitting request from a local woman, and at the woman’s house, Nancy sees a photograph, in a bright-red frame. A photograph that opens the door to her painful past…

Soon Nancy doesn’t know what frightens her the most: letting her story out or letting the rest of the world in. It’s impossible to find companionship without the risk of losing it. But can Nancy take that risk again?

A heart-wrenching and heart-warming story of love lost and found, and of second chances.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

People who seem to prefer animals to humans are often seen as eccentric. Nancy looks after cats and names them after people she has loved. She volunteers and is always there to help out in the community, but still many see only what she chooses to show and so she’s ‘the cat lady’.

This is not the first time a story has been told about a woman with secrets, whose past has made her introverted, and trusts animals more than people who judge and are intrusive. This story is notable because of its sensitive treatment of Nancy and her broken life. It sees her grow and learn to trust and have the courage to face heartbreak again.

This journey of self-development is hopeful and Nancy realises that she deserves to feel happiness and love again. She is courageous and easy to empathise and this gentle story is worth reading to escape for a little while.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Extract, Psychological Thriller

The Liars – Naomi Joy – 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @naomijoyauthor #BlogTour #PsychologicalThriller #Office #Politics #Extract #AuthorInterview

Two women. One deadly secret. A rivalry that could destroy them.

 Ava Wells is perfect. She has the boyfriend, the career, the looks. One night changes everything and her life isn’t so seamless anymore.

Jade Fernleigh is ambitious. She’s worked hard to get where she is. And she’s not about to let Ava take the job she rightly deserves.

Both women share a secret that could destroy them, but who will crumble first?

Amazon

Kobo

Google Play

iBooks

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

My Thoughts…

I’ve worked in offices for a significant part of my working life and whilst I never experienced or witnessed anything as extreme as explored in ‘ The Liars’. There are elements which I recognise, albeit in a less extreme form.

This story has an ordinary setting, but the plot is dark exploring the themes of betrayal and revenge. The characters are driven and verging on immoral, their ambition and the need to succeed and claim what they believe is there due, push out any empathy, kindness and compassion, leaving only the baser human emotions. They are ruthless, revengeful and relentless, willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to achieve their chosen goal.

Even though the protagonists are not likeable, they are interesting and you wonder what they will do next. They have no filters and whilst you wouldn’t want them as friends or work colleagues, they are believable and fascinating characters and make this an enthralling story to read.

If you like your book to tell a story this style of writing may disappoint. If you prefer a contemporary writing style that makes the reader spend most of their time in the uncomfortable reality of the protagonists’ heads rather like watching reality TV, this will be a satisfying read.

Q&A: Naomi Joy – The Liars Blog Tour

Your novel ‘The Liars’ is based around a dangerous secret between two rivals. What inspired you to write this story?

I started writing The Liars in the run-up to Christmas 2016. I was seeking a new challenge having worked in PR for six years, ready to move on from working full-time in the industry that had been equal parts glamorous (think red carpet world-premieres) and not-so-glamorous (think behind-the-scenes tours of cheese factories, hair stuffed in a net). I’d been vaguely cataloguing the various incidents I’d experienced over the years but in 2016 I finally put pen to paper.

The Liars was most keenly inspired by the phenomenon known as the Sisterhood Ceiling: the idea that women in competitive environments hold one another back from progressing. I experienced, and witnessed, it in PR and believe it has to do with the following facts: the industry is dominated by women—66% to 34%—but, at the top end, this figure flips. Of the women in the industry, just 20% hold senior roles. Add to this a brutal gender pay-gap of 23.5% (the U.K. average is 18%) meaning that a woman in PR earns, on average, £12,000+ a year less than her male counterpart, and you can start to see why such a ruthless and competitive environment exists, and why it’s a rich breeding-ground for fiction!

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

For’The Liars’ the main plot of the story came first. Two women are competing for a promotion at work, their relationship pulled to breaking point as they one-up each other to get ahead. But they share a deadly secret, one they know will ruin them both if it gets out. With so much at stake, can either trust the other not to talk? That was my initial idea and, though the book has been through a number of edits and rewrites, the core idea remained.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? Is there any of you in your characters?

I quite like to take characters from real life then bend and twist them out of shape so that they are completely unrecognisable. I think there’s always a bit of ‘you’ in the characters too, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s you behind them! But no one character I’ve written has been based on a realistic version of me, or anyone I’ve known. Even in The Liars, which was inspired by something I experienced, the characters and situations are pure fiction: amalgamations of people I’ve known, people I’ve heard about, people on TV, and entirely imagined traits and quirks the characters developed as I wrote them.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I adore psychological thrillers. They’re what I love to write and what I love to read. I also enjoy crime fiction, and will always read books out of my usual tastes if they come highly recommended.

When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

I started writing seriously in 2016 but, prior to that, I’d always written in some form. I studied English at Durham University and there’s a lot of writing involved in PR.

The best thing about being a writer is creating a world that’s completely your own. There’s nothing quite like it.

The worst is the uncertainty, not knowing how your work will be received and hoping that people will like it!

What are you currently writing?

I’ll be editing my second psychological thriller shortly, and I’ve just started work on the third.

Thank you so much for having me; I hope you enjoy The Liars!

Extract from ‘The Liars’ – Naomi Joy

‘What’s David Stein want with Ava?’ George whispered, turning towards me for just a moment. ‘You think this is ‘cos of the inquest?’

I shrugged, lost for words, and watched as Ava motioned for him to come in, then greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. Well, well, well. Although we were all reeling, Ava didn’t look surprised to see him at all. Had they arranged a meeting? Without me?

My green eyes flashed for the second time in as many minutes – first Josh and now David. My body felt like one of those lightning receptors on top of the Shard or the Empire State Building, just after one billion angry God-like volts had struck. Except I couldn’t survive it. Strike after strike of jealousy coursed through my veins, splitting them open until I was nothing but a heap of clothes on the floor, smoke pouring out of them. ‘Where did she go?’ they’d ask. Would anyone care?

In that moment I made a rash decision: I had to act, I couldn’t just stand on the outside looking in. Ava didn’t own the rights to Olivia’s death, and it wasn’t fair she was using Olivia’s passing to get ahead. Not if I couldn’t use it, too.

I got up from my desk, ignoring Georgette’s bleats – Jade, no, Jade, what are you doing, Jade, come back here! – and pushed forward to her office.

 I hated that she had an office. I’d been at the company for eight years and all David Stein had rewarded me with was an area a few metres apart from the communal bullpen, opposite a woman who dressed like a toddler and painted her face like a clown.

I knocked twice at Ava’s closed door, my angry breath forming furious bullseyes of condensation against the glass, and watched as her face fell when she saw it was me. In that moment, the resentment I had for her swelled and I could scarcely believe what I once saw in her as a friend. We used to have lunch together, talk about the ways we could change the company for the better. We’d been a sisterhood at one point. A unit. A team. But ever since Olivia had died and David had taken Ava under his bony wing, favouring her over me in almost every conceivable way despite her vastly inferior experience, the barriers between us had started to stack up and, rather than help me, she relished in every opportunity to kick me back. To make matters worse, David had put us both up for the same job, a glittering promotion which I deserved tenfold over her: Team Head.

So, here I was. Fighting for my career.

I didn’t wait for her to beckon me in.

‘Is everything OK?’ I asked, pushing my way into their clandestine one-to-one. ‘The news about the inquest was pretty tough reading yesterday,’ I said matter-of-factly, closing the door behind me. ‘Olivia would have hated everything being so public.’

‘Jade, could you give us a moment?’ Ava asked curtly, brushing me off.

There she went again, acting as if there was no way I could possibly have been affected by Olivia’s death. It was like she didn’t even remember what we went through together.

‘It’s just—’

‘We’re fine, thank you Jade,’ she repeated, raising her voice.

Before I could speak again, David spat out a rhetorical question aimed at me.

‘Jade – do you mind?’

His words hit like a punch to the gut and my cheeks blazed. Embarrassment opened its mouth and swallowed me whole. I hadn’t expected David to be so rude. Had Ava been busy poisoning him against me? Nevertheless, I didn’t need telling twice and I left in a hurry, floored once again by how Ava had managed to turn an inquest into a way to get ahead at work. I skulked, defeated, back to my desk.

‘Jade, what were you thinki—’

I cut Georgette off. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

I sat down, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, unblinking, thinking. I was supposed to be Team Head this year. That was the plan. That had always been the plan. But since Ava had turned up it was as though my years of loyal servitude to this company had all been for nothing: not now a blonde-haired damsel-in-distress with less experience than a toilet brush and the constitution of a ferret had entered the fray. No, I couldn’t let it happen. I had to do something, I had to stop this situation running away from me, I had to reverse the trend, put myself back into the ring. Play dirty, just the way Ava was with me.

Naomi Joy is a pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.

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Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Bridesmaids – Zara Stoneley – 5* #Review @ZaraStoneley @HarperImpulse #Romance #RomCom #Bridesmaids #Friends #PublicationDay #FridayFeeling #FridayReads

Meet Rachel, the beautiful bride with BIG plans for the perfect day! The venue is a castle and the dress is designer.  It’s just a shame her husband is a rat.

Maddie and Sally have only one thing in common – they both love the same man!
 
Beth is a newly single mum with a mystery baby daddy.  Surely the father isn’t someone the girls all know?
 
And then there’s Jane, the glue holding them all together, but being dumped doesn’t make her the happiest bridesmaid…especially with gorgeous flatmate Freddie complicating things.

Will, the bride say, ‘I Do!’?  Or will her bridesmaids save the day…and find love along the way?    

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Jane feels like she’s failing on every level. Dumped at her hen night, working for a diva, and keeping secrets from her two best friends, can her life get any more complicated? Yes, it can.

The story is divided into three acts. The first introduces the characters and conflicts that arise when Rachel’s wedding is announced and the Bridesmaids assemble. The second focuses on The Hen Party and the final act is The Big day itself.

Jane, the main protagonist who I love, is kind, quirky, lacking in self-esteem, and willing to do whatever it takes to make her best friend’s hen night and wedding a success, even if she has doubts about it. Jane is the keeper of secrets, others and her own, and this makes for many complications in her life. Some lead to humorous situations that will have you laughing out loud. Others are poignant, and make you think.

The Bridesmaids are now women in their thirties, they should have left the schoolyard behind, but old rivalries and secrets cause tensions amongst them, which make compelling reading. The dynamics of the group are believable. The writing is rich in visual imagery, so you can easily imagine, both the characters and their interactions.

Jane faces internal conflicts too, as she tries to understand her feelings for her flatmate, who is so lovely, he’s almost too good to be true, the perfect rom-com hero.

‘Bridesmaids’ is easy to read, an uplifting story, with complex, realistic characters and the perfect balance of romance and humour. There is also an insightful look at friendships and social situations, where people who would never normally choose to meet are thrown together, which gives this book a depth of interest not often found in this genre.

A gentle, humorous journey through one of life’s iconic events, and there are kittens too, what more could you ask?