Gayle is a highly successful and motivated business woman, but her success has come at a price – she hasn’t spoken to her daughters, Ella and Samantha, for years. But when Gayle has an accident at work, she realises she needs to make amends with her family.
And so she invites herself to join Ella and Samantha for their Christmas in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. The sisters are none too pleased that their mother has inserted herself into their Christmas plans. They have each other – and don’t need their mother back in their lives. Or so they think…
As they embark on their first family Christmas together in years, will the three women learn that sometimes facing up to a few home truths is all you need to heal your heart?
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Snow and the Scottish Highlands at Christmas seems idyllic, and that’s what Sam’s hoping for as she and her sister try out a highland lodge for her bespoke festive holidays’ company. They always spend the festive season together, but this time their estranged mother is coming too. Gayle has a successful company, but her family life is non-existent. This is not something she worries about until she has an accident and realises how alone she is.
The story told mainly from the three women’s point of view is engaging, poignant and realistic. The setting may be like a fairytale, but the angst is real and threatens the magic of the season. There are humour and romance are interwoven into the emotional minefield of past loss and secrets. The flawed characters are appealing, and you want them to find familial happiness.
The romance is magical and passionate. The childlike perspective from Tabitha, light relief in this emotional tale and the end of this story is positive and uplifting.
Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.
But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And the death of her father in police custody so many years rears its head once again.
As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witchlike cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…
The award-winning internationally bestselling author Lilja Sigurðardóttir returns with Betrayal, a relevant, powerful, fastpaced thriller about the worlds of politics, police corruption and misogyny that feels just a little bit too real…
I received a copy of this book from Orenda Books in return for an honest review.
The ethos and setting of this Icelandic noir novel is in itself fascinating reading. It’s so different from where I live and evokes both claustrophobic and isolation imagery in this reader. Ursula is a courageous woman driven to help others in famine and war zones, returning home to Iceland is an attempt to rekindle her relationship and allow her battered psyche time to heal. She takes an unexpected political appointment leading to a web of deceit and political manoeuvring.
Distinctive characters draw you into their stories, and an intricate plot with short pacy chapters keeps you guessing until the dramatic conclusion. This is a compelling, original tale of secrets and self-discovery with characters that resonate.
Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.
As the anticipation of Christmas builds in the Nielsen family’s cosy farmhouse, Jo, Magnus and their grown-up children begin to congregate for a hybrid Danish-Jersey festive season, each with a surprise of their own – though the surprise that arrives over Christmas is the most life-changing of all.
Fifty years earlier, in 1969, Susan Jones finds herself being pursued by Mr Jenners, her former English teacher, and at the age of seventeen is packed off to a Home for Unmarried Mothers in London by her uncompromising father. As Christmas approaches, all she can do is desperately hope to be rescued, but will anyone be able to reach her in time?
The two timelines of this festive story gradually weave together in a tale that examines whether love and hope can eventually triumph over even the deepest sadness.
Rebecca Boxall is the award-nominated author of five bestselling novels – Christmas at the Vicarage, Home for Winter, Christmas on the Coast, The Christmas Forest and Christmas by the Lighthouse.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Jo’s ideal Christmas is at her lovely farmhouse, full of the people she loves. Christmas 2019 is full of secrets and surprises. A festive insight into family, in all its diversity and true Christmas spirit. Another historical tale plays out in 1969, one of naivety, narcissism and terrible betrayal and loss. The contrast is evident, but what is the connection?
This is a poignant relatable story which takes you on an emotional journey with all its highs and lows. The characters are believably flawed, and you care what happens to them. The festive customs add authenticity and the final revelations are heartwarming and uplifting.
Rebecca Boxall was born in 1977 in East Sussex, where she grew up in a vicarage always filled with family, friends and parishioners. She now lives by the sea in Jersey with her husband, three children and Rodney the cat. She read English at the University of Warwick before training as a lawyer and also studied Creative Writing with The Writer’s Bureau. She is the bestselling author of Christmas at the Vicarage, Home for Winter, Christmas on the Coast, The Christmas Forest and Christmas by the Lighthouse and was nominated for the Romantic Novelist Association Awards in 2020.
It’s now or never for Gemma, will she finally be able to step away from a life of crime?
Mob boss Alfie has new rivals in town – and they might be more than a match for the Essex gangster. Between defending his turf, appeasing his crime lord father and holding onto the woman of his dreams, Alfie knows that something’s got to give…
Nathan’s recovering from his coma and trying to come to terms with his wife’s bombshell secret – that her son Luca was fathered by Alfie. Unconvinced of Gemma’s loyalty, he turns to his estranged ex-con father for help…
Gemma will do anything to give her son a normal life – and she’s surprised to find she has unexpected allies. But when the moment of truth arrives, can she trust Nathan to protect her and Luca?
‘Not all evil, on the surface, is ugly and menacing. It doesn’t always lurk in city centres after dark. It mows your lawns, frequents your local pub, takes its kids to school and contributes to communities.’
When the first letter arrives saying that ‘tonight it begins’, journalist Miller Hatcher ignores it. But then the body of a murdered woman is discovered, strangled, a scarf around her neck.
Cassie Hughes has always vowed to find the man who murdered her mother. Cassie knows he’s out there and wants him to pay, and Miller agrees to bring the cold case back into the public’s eye.
Logan Dodds has been obsessed with true crime ever since his sister was murdered thirty years ago. He has turned his obsession into a career and has created the True Crime Enthusiasts Club and his newest venture, True Crime Tours.
The lives of Miller, Cassie and Logan – all affected differently by murder – become entwined as The Scarf Killer, desperate for infamy, and Miller’s attention, makes his mark on the small town of Lentford.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Set in a small town in New Zealand which gives the story a distinctive ethos and pace, this is the second story to feature investigative journalist Miller Hatcher. There is sufficient character information included making it a standalone read. Miller Hatcher, a recovering alcoholic, has past issues and trouble accepting her current life. Keen to establish her journalistic credibility in the small town entangles her with a cold case, a murder club and a murderer who wants infamy.
This is a slow-building suspense story which has lots of suspects, misinformation and immerses the reader in a claustrophobic setting. Everyone knows everyone, but one of them is a murderer. Miller Hatcher is a strong protagonist with relatable flaws that add to her authenticity. The detailed plot keeps its secrets until the conclusion, and the pace picks up as the story progresses.
After seven years of working as a librarian in New Zealand and overseas, Nikki now works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She lives in the small Waikato town of Cambridge in New Zealand with her husband and two girls.
Nikki has been writing on and off her whole life and before she turned to crime writing had success in flash fiction. She has been published in ‘Bonsai: Best Small Fictions from Aotearoa New Zealand’, and ‘Fresh Ink’ anthologies.
Crime/thriller/mystery novels are her passion. Her first novel, ‘Nothing Bad Happens Here’, featuring journalist Miller Hatcher, is set on the Coromandel Coast of New Zealand. It was a finalist in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Award for best first novel. Her second book, ‘No One Can Hear You’, was long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best novel in 2019. ‘The Murder Club’ is the second in the Miller Hatcher series.
With their family name in tatters, Katherine Leofric and her sister are headed for a new life at their brother’s estate. They are escorted by the hardened Jarin, Earl of Borwyn, whom Katherine believes is only after her dowry! Then her sister is abducted on their treacherous journey, and Katherine must rely on Jarin’s protection. Now, seeing a different side to the man she’s sworn to hate, it’s her heart that’s most at risk!
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is another exciting medieval romantic adventure in the House of Leofric series.
An enemies-to-friends romance Jarin and Katherine are both wary of the other. Katherine because of an overheard conversation and Jarin because of her family’s sullied reputation, and his disastrous former marriage. Events overtake their prejudices and force them together but can trust be built between them and will Katherine lose her heart to the handsome heartless warrior?
Danger, intrigue and the precarious position of women in medieval society define this story. Even courageous and resourceful women are reliant on to men for their safety. Katherine believes herself plain and attractive only because of her dowry. She doesn’t trust Jarin even though she is attracted to him. Jarin sees the goodness in Katherine, but he’s jaded from life and doesn’t believe he can find romantic happiness.
The chemistry between Jarin and Katherine builds in intensity as the story progresses. They have external and internal conflicts to their happiness, and only a leap of faith and trust can achieve true happiness.
A deliciously intriguing medieval story with passionate romance and engaging characters.
Ella Matthews lives and works in beautiful South Wales. When not thinking about handsome heroes she can be found walking along the coast with her husband and their two children (probably still thinking about heroes but at least pretending to be interested in everyone else).
Following the sinful shenanigans of Hellcorp and The Man in the Dark, the hellishly handsome Devil turns his attention to the most frightening of all holidays … Halloween.
Jonathan Whitelaw has written a unique, one-off special tale starring Ol’ Nick himself – and set in the wild Wild West. After lending a hand to a down-on-his-luck prospector, The Devil returns thirty years later to collect his debt – but as ever when The Devil is involved, nothing ever goes to plan.
A prequel to the bestselling HellCorp, this enthralling and very funny tale is the perfect read for Halloween and fans of Ben Aaronovitch, Christopher Fowler and Benedict Jacka.
All proceeds from every sale of The Deal will be donated to Samaritans.
I bought a copy of this book from Amazon UK for 99p.
Atmospheric with authentic historical detail this quirky short story takes the reader to 1850s California, where gold prospecting is a way of life. Abner is a young man hoping to make his fortune, everything about the place unnerves him, but the chance for riches keeps him there. Enter the devil who sees him as a soul ripe for the picking and the age-old battle of good versus evil commences.
The devil has an enticing manner with untold evil barely hidden beneath the surface. The writing style draws you into the story. It makes you suspend belief, and the ending shows how unpredictable humans and life can be.
An ideal Halloween read which makes you want to seek out the author’s other books.
Interview with Jonathan Whitelaw
Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster.
After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste – with everything in between.
He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV.
HellCorp, from Urbane Publications, is his second novel following his debut, Morbid Relations.
This is the story of Ella. And Robert. And of all the things they should have said, but never did.
‘What have you been up to?’ I shrug, ‘Just existing, I guess.’ ‘Looks like more than just existing.’ Robert gestures at the baby, the lifeboat, the ocean. ‘All right, not existing. Surviving.’ He laughs, not unkindly. ‘Sounds grim.’ ‘It wasn’t so bad, really. But I wish you’d been there.’
Ella has known Robert all her life.
Through seven key moments and seven key people their journey intertwines.
From the streets of Glasgow during WW2 to the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of London in the 60s and beyond, this is a story of love and near misses.
Of those who come in to our lives and leave it too soon.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a beautifully written story of life, love, loss and serendipity. Music and the number seven define the parameters of this story which explores Ella’s life and her lifelong love of Robert. The writing is lyrical, as Ella revisits her past at seven pivotal times and introduces seven characters who left their emotional mark on her life.
The flashbacks are vivid and written with historical details and insight. They immerse the reader into the story and make it believable. Throughout, Ella is authentic and flawed. Her mistakes are a reflection of her humanity, and they make you consider your life and choices. The love story is gentle and tragic, but this is real love, and it’s ending is worthy of the angst.
I read this in a day and enjoyed it for its originality, realism and supernatural twist.
Joe Heap was born in 1986 and grew up in Bradford, the son of two teachers.
His debut novel The Rules of Seeing won Best Debut at the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards in 2019 and was shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Reader Awards.
Joe lives in London with his girlfriend, their two sons and a cat who wishes they would get out of the house more often.
A note from Joe: At a summer season in Ramsgate, 1959, two ice skaters held a party. My grandfather, a Glaswegian saxophonist who would rather have gone to the pub, was convinced by a comedian on the same bill to come along. My grandmother, another one of the ice skaters, sat down next to him and spilt her drink in his lap. Though she has since denied it, her first words of note to him were ‘Oh no, not another Scot.’
Nobody could have guessed how much would spin off that moment, myself and this book included.
Rainbow put down the phone and raced upstairs to her bedroom. Christophe had a surprise for her and he sounded excited about it.
She pulled on shorts and a T-shirt, scraped her long brown hair into a ponytail and clattered back downstairs. She paused at the bathroom to brush her teeth. She didn’t want morning breath to interfere with kissing.
Mum was in the kitchen, humming her new song as she made tea for the commune adults.
“Can I borrow the Mini?” Rainbow asked. “I’m going over to Christophe’s.”
Mum yawned. “I thought you were revising all weekend?”
“I’ve got the rest of the day to revise. And tomorrow. I won’t be long.”
Mum nodded, sat down with her tea and started scribbling musical notes on her manuscript. Rainbow dropped a kiss on her cheek, scooped up the keys and dashed outside into the sunny June morning.
She hadn’t seen Christophe all week. He’d been training a new motorbike apprentice at work and persuaded Rainbow to spend the final evenings before her Baccalaureate exams revising instead of hanging out with him. So she had. She’d ignored the call of the woods and sat in her loft, her school books open, gazing out of the windows at the enticing leaves.
Christophe. A smile spread across her face as she drove towards his flat in Cognac. They’d been together for nine months – the nine best months of her life. They’d also been the strangest, but that wasn’t because of Chris. It was because of Mary.
When she and Mary hugged the silver maple tree last September, it had somehow absorbed Mary’s body. Rainbow absorbed Mary’s mind, which supposedly healed the split that should never have happened. All Mary’s memories and emotions, from the moment she and Mary split into two parallels, had lodged themselves inside Rainbow.
Rainbow didn’t feel healed. Mary continued to live on: to think and react to everything in Rainbow’s life, making Rainbow feel overstuffed with bizarre feelings that conflicted with her own. Mary’s negativity and her rebelliousness, her irreverent humour, her courage and her uncertainties all battled with Rainbow’s own, simpler worldview. Mary was so strong, Rainbow could almost hear her voice, and she experienced yearnings for places she’d never seen and people she’d never known.
After nine months, she still felt as if she’d swallowed Mary whole, like a dose of unpleasant medicine, and was unable to digest her. All she could do was to keep the thoughts and feelings that emerged from Mary in a separate part of her mind, a small part that didn’t interfere with her true self. Between her and Mary was a mental wall, a wall of bricks.
The only good part of sharing her mind and body with Mary was the love for Christophe she’d brought with her. There was no keeping that behind the wall. It seeped through the gaps and filled her with a heady scent that made life more joyful than ever before.
Luckily, Christophe understood her Mary problems. He understood everything about her – except, perhaps, that she didn’t like revising. Or her obsession with Amrita Devi.
She parked Mum’s Mini in front of the motorbike shop in Cognac and jumped out, hoping the surprise wasn’t anything to do with motorbikes. Christophe’s flat was above the shop where he worked, though he didn’t work on Saturdays. She rang the doorbell to his flat and waited.
Amrita Devi was the girl in the Bishnoi legend who had saved a tree and lived – or saved a tree and died, according to Mary. Rainbow firmly believed Amrita had lived.
Although she hadn’t seen Amrita since her vision last September, she’d had incessant dreams about her. At the beginning, the dreams showed her and Amrita as the closest of sisters, running through woodland together, holding hands, sharing secrets and laughing. But the dreams were becoming darker. The last few times they’d been nightmares, with Amrita pleading for help and begging Rainbow to understand something that Rainbow could never grasp. When Rainbow told Christophe about her dreams, his brown eyes would begin to glaze and she’d have to tickle him until he listened properly.
Christophe buzzed open the front door for her and waited at the top of the stairs. She looked at him carefully as she walked up, in case the surprise was something boring like a new haircut. His thick hair was standing up at odd angles, which was normal for the morning, and there were no signs of piercings or tattoos. He did look worried, though. She glided into his bear hug and he held her tight.
Harriet Springbett’s childhood on a small farm in West Dorset gave her an early exposure to nature, which continues to inspire her writing.
She qualified as an engineer but, during a Raleigh International expedition in Chile, she realised she preferred words to numbers. She abandoned her profession, moved to France, studied French and then worked as a project manager, feature writer, translator and TEFL teacher. She now lives in Poitou-Charentes with her French partner and their teenage children.
Since her first literary success, aged 10, her short stories and poetry have been published in literary journals and placed in writing competitions, including a shortlisting in the 2017 Bath Short Story Award.
Do you value your mother’s health above peace in the Middle East? How about your career over global warming?
If a company runs the best graduate scheme in the world, then it can afford to be probing with its interview questions.
When Joe Massey is offered a role aboard Schelldhardt’s luxurious headquarters at sea, he discovers that the company mission is beyond anything he had ever imagined. Strange dreams disturb his sleep, and it soon becomes clear that nothing is quite as it seems.
Is he really the right man for the job? And if not, then why is he there at all?
Steve is a writer of contemporary fiction, who enjoys reading books of many different genres.
Originally from Southend in Essex, Steve now lives on the South Coast of England with his family, after a few happy years spent in New Zealand. The Path of Good Response is his first novel. He has spent most of his working life in the IT industry, but writing is his real passion.
The workplace has changed a great deal during Steve’s career. He started writing The Path of Good Response back in 2016, and the fictional company in the novel, Schelldhardt, seems less of an exaggeration by the year. It appears that reality is fast catching up with dystopian writing, and in many ways overtaking it.
He hopes that you enjoy reading his book, and welcomes any feedback.