When Bella Black arrives in a sleepy Wiltshire village, it seems like the perfect place for a new start: a lovely home, exciting job and an attractive colleague or two to take her mind off her recent divorce.
When people start disappearing, she realises she holds the key to a mystery bigger than she could have ever imagined.
Who is really pulling the strings at the secretive OAK Institute?
Can anyone be trusted?
Will Bella make the right choices before its too late?
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher in return for an honest review.
Acts of Kindness has vibrant characters and an engaging cosy style of mystery. The chance of a dream job is just what Bella needs, but things are more complex than she thought. Bella undertakes some amateur sleuthing with amusing and sometimes dangerous outcomes.
Eccentric characters and mysterious goings-on make this an amusing escapist read.
Heather Barnett gained a degree in English and French from the University of Leeds and has written ever since: from copywriting to stand-up comedy and sketches. She is now focusing on writing novels. Heather’s influences span Jane Austen and Douglas Adams at one end of the alphabet through to PG Wodehouse at the other.
Heather’s debut novel, Acts of Kindness, is an uplifting, light-hearted mystery. It was inspired by witnessing commuters helping a woman who’d fallen down the stairs at Paddington station; intermingled with wondering what was behind some grand stone gateposts that she used to drive past in Wiltshire.
Her second novel, Lord Seeks Wife, is a romantic comedy and will be published summer 2021.
Aside from writing, Heather’s interests are classic literature, cats and comedy.
Heather is head of marketing at an agency near Oxford and lives by the river Kennet in Berkshire.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’ve read all the books in this series so far, and it’s an addictive mix of police procedural and psychological suspense. The multi-layered plot encompasses a police investigation into an injured woman and a missing child. The second perspective is the antagonist’s gaining insight into their state of mind, and motivation which is chilling and compelling.
The story’s pacing reflects the steadiness and unpredictability of the police investigation and the intensity of the antagonist’s actions and moods. The police team dynamic is authentic, and the believably written personal interactions balance the noir crime themes.
The suspense builds to an unexpected twist.
Diane Saxon previously wrote romantic fiction for the US market but has now turned to writing psychological crime. Find Her Alive was her first novel in this genre and introduced series character DS Jenna Morgan. She is married to a retired policeman and lives in Shropshire.
Emily Shenton punched open the door to the deserted ladies’ room with the heel of her hand and stormed inside before it rebounded off the wall and slammed shut behind her.
The emptiness inside still failed to block out the rhythmic thud of music and only dimmed the laughter and conversation of over eighty people at the company’s summer ball.
She hated them. Every single one of them. The gossipmongers who couldn’t wait to spread their vileness under the guise of good wishes and happy vibes. When they knew. They all knew.
Temper spilled from her. A foetid pus spreading from the core of her in a boiling, seething mass.
She tipped her head back and drank straight from the full bottle of rosé she’d swiped from a deserted table on her way past. No one would notice, no one would care. She’d no idea why the company insisted on paying for so much wine – red, white and rosé – when most of the men wanted beer, for God’s sake. The women preferred red or Prosecco and the rosé was left for the waiters to sweep away at the end of the night. Lucky bloody waiters.
She stepped into the oversized disabled cubicle and balled up the skirt of her black gown with one hand as she slapped her back against the chill of the wall and slid down until her backside met the floor. Sweat slicked the back of her knees as she pressed them flat to the floor tiles to absorb every bit of coolness. Heat pulsed through her chest and up her neck as she tore into the fine organza material of the overskirt, ripping weak nails until they were jagged. Tears burnt the back of her eyes as she ground her teeth and took another slug of wine.
She wished she’d never come. Wished she’d never overheard it. That’s why she avoided these functions like the plague. She hated the gossip, preferred to keep to herself and block out the voices. But she’d felt good. Strong.
So strong, she’d decided not to take her medication.
Tears filled her eyes and washed over her vision.
It wasn’t lack of medication that had her temper surging. It was the damned infernal gossip.
Why couldn’t they keep their mouths shut?
They had to know she’d been stood on the edge of the circle when Chris Whittington raised his glass and hee-hawed like the ass he was as he brayed his drunken words. ‘Here’s to Zak Cheetham-Epstein and his new wife, Imelda.’
Nausea clawed the back of her throat.
How was it so many of them knew Zak, had evidently kept in contact?
Zak. The love of her life. The only man she’d truly loved.
There’d been others before him, of course there had, but they’d faded into insignificance in the heat of her adoration for Zak.
The bottle clinked as she placed it on the tiled floor at her side. She covered her face with her hands, a helpless moan slipped from her lips as the familiar hissing sound swirled around her head. ‘For God’s sake!’ She tried to push it back, but it was insistent. The sound of a seashell shushing, filling her mind so she could no longer concentrate. She rolled her head from side to side, her hot, florid face couched in the palms of her sweaty hands.
She’d never forgive him for leaving. Leaving the company.
Inside the sprawling forests of Ontario, Canada lives a friendly black bear named Melly. One of Melly’s favourite things to do is EAT! And many of the delicious fruits she snacks on wouldn’t grow without the help of some very important little forest creatures. What the World Needs Now: Bees! explores the vital role busy, busy bees play in helping plants to grow the food people and animals love to eat.
What the World Needs Now is an environmental children’s book series for ages 4-8 that aims to connect the world’s youngest book lovers to the importance of nature, and our place in it.
Each book in the series follows a friendly animal through its habitat, helping kids learn about one thing the world needs now, be it more trees or bees or less plastic, to maintain a healthy planet.
The series is designed to help parents and educators lay the foundation for future learning on the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. But for our littlest kids, the connection starts at a much simpler point: their first job is to fall in love with nature – because you don’t protect what you don’t love.
The books support engaging with our kids on how we can better respect and care for the only planet we have.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Book two in this environmental series aimed at young children features bees. The book emphasises bees importance to pollination, and ultimately food production, using engaging animals, vivid illustrations with text that’s easy to understand.
The series aims to make children love the natural world and become invested in its protection. Melly, a bear in Ontario, Canada, shows how essential bees are for her to eat. Children are encouraged to see how far away they are from Melly by drawing on a bright map. There’s information on different bee types and an activity page too.
The book makes it’s point succinctly, in a way young children will understand. It provides information for further discussion with young children about their world.
I was born and raised in Southern Ontario, Canada in the cities of Burlington and St. Catharines. Long before the internet and mobile phones (now I’m aging myself!), my childhood was spent in forests and parks, on bike rides, and playing hide and seek until the streetlights came on. My family did comical Griswold-style road trips in wood-paneled station wagons. We spent summers swimming in friends’ backyards. These are my very fortunate roots.
I knew from an early age that my destiny would take me far from Southern Ontario. I graduated high school and moved to Montreal to study international politics at McGill University. The subject fascinated me, but as graduation approached, I realized I didn’t know what I wanted to do with a degree in international politics. I didn’t want to become a lawyer. I didn’t want to become a politician or civil servant. The media industry, on the other hand, intrigued me.
The West Coast of Canada also intrigued me. So, after graduating McGill, I packed up again, moved to Vancouver and took the first media job I could get at a local Top 40 radio station (Z.95.3) in Vancouver. Best job. Great bosses. I learned so much. But after a couple of years there, the winds of change came calling again.
September 11, 2001. In a heartbeat, Z95.3 went from playing Britney Spears to reporting up-to-the-minute information on the local, national and international fallout of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. In that moment, I knew I had found my calling. I wanted to do something that was needed on a good day, and needed even more on a bad day. I wanted to become a full-time journalist.
So, I packed my bags again (a running theme in my life), and moved to Ottawa, Ontario to do my Masters of Journalism. Another incredible two years culminated in me getting a research internship with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) in London, England. That position helped me land back in Montreal for a second chapter there as local news reporter for the CBC. While I was there, I wore just about every hat you could in CBC’s radio and TV newsrooms. Depending on the day, I was a researcher, producer, reporter, or online writer. I even filled in for the weather reports every once in a while.
Let bestselling author Lindsey Hutchinson take you back in time to the Victorian Black Country, for a tale of love, hardship and fighting against the odds to succeed.
Life is tough for Ella Bancroft. After her father, Thomas, is wheelchair-bound by an accident at the tube works, the responsibility for keeping a roof over their head falls to Ella. Ella’s mother died when she was ten, and her sister Sally lives with her no-good, work-shy husband Eddy, so is no help at all. If she and her father are to keep the bailiffs from the door, then Ella must earn a living.
But Ella is resourceful as well as creative, and soon discovers she has a gift for millinery. Setting up shop in the front room of their two-up, two-down home in Silver Street, Walsall, Ella and Thomas work hard to establish a thriving business. Before long, the fashionable ladies of the Black Country are lining up to wear one of Ella’s beautiful creations, and finally Ella dares to hope for a life with love, friendship and family.
Meeting the man she longs to marry should be a turning point for Ella, but life’s twists and turns can be cruel. As the winter grows colder, events seem to conspire to test Ella’s spirit. And by the time spring is approaching, will the hat girl of Silver Street triumph, or will Ella have to admit defeat as all her dreams are tested.
The Queen of the Black Country sagas is back with a heart-breaking, unforgettable, page-turning story of love, life and battling against the odds.
Extract from The Hat Girl From Silver Street Lindsey Hutchinson
Ella Bancroft looked down at the tangled mess in her fingers and stifled a sob. She pulled at the ruined hat in an effort to rectify her error, but the steaming process had set the blunder in place.
A tear slipped from her eye and rolled down her cheek. This was her second mistake in a week. Her first was sticking her finger with a pin and leaving a blood spot on a piece of white tulle. Ivy had ranted and raved as she had snipped off the offending piece of material to rescue the hat.
Now Ella had spoilt the crown of a felt winter hat, having steamed it into the wrong shape entirely. Thinking quickly, she wondered whether, if she held it over the steamer again, she could re-form it.
About to try, Ella caught her breath as she heard footsteps on the bare wooden staircase. It was too late, Ivy was on her way up.
Ella had been employed at Ivy Gladwin’s shop for two years and yet suddenly she had begun making errors. Why? Was it because she was unhappy in her work?
‘How are you getting on with that order?’ Ivy called as she entered the bedroom, which had been converted to a work room.
‘Erm… I…’ Ella mumbled as she looked again at the floppy felt monstrosity.
‘What the…?’ Ivy gasped. Snatching the article from Ella, she held it up between thumb and forefinger. ‘How on earth…? Good grief, girl, can’t you do anything right?’
The sob Ella was holding back escaped her lips. ‘I’m sorry, Miss Gladwin, I don’t know what happened.’
‘Neither do I!’ Ivy snapped, throwing the felt onto the table. ‘It’s completely ruined! An expensive piece of material at the outset and now it’s a – oh, do stop snivelling!’
The sharp slap to her cheek caused Ella to catch her breath and she raised a hand to cover the stinging skin.
Ella sniffed and tried hard to halt the sobs racking her body.
‘I… I’m really sorry,’ she managed at last.
‘Well, you will have to pay for it out of your wages. Now, start again and for God’s sake mind what you’re doing!’ With that, Ivy strode from the room, her long bombazine skirt swishing against her side-button boots.
Ella stared at the hat on the table and thought about the last two years of her life. She had seen the advert in the local newspaper for an apprentice hat-maker. Having applied and been interrogated by Miss Gladwin for over an hour, she was given the post on a month’s trial. The pay, she was told, would be one pound and ten shillings a week but she must work a week in hand first. Any damages would be taken out of her money before she received it.
Now she was halfway through this week and already there would be two stoppages from her salary. Ella sighed as she worked out just how much she would have in her hand come Friday.
The gold flecks in her hazel eyes were accentuated as more tears brimmed before falling. Pushing a stray dark curl from her forehead, Ella moved to the workbench. With a sniff and a sigh, she began her work again, this time selecting the correct block to steam the material over.
Ella thought once more about her earnings – would there be enough to feed herself and her father? The food in the larder was running desperately low, and she knew if there was only enough for one of them to eat she would make sure it was her dad.
Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children. She was born and raised in Wednesbury and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.