Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Literary Humour, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Love Heart Lane Boxset Christie Barlow #promo @ChristieJBarlow @0neMoreChapter_ @rararesources #LoveHeartLane #BookPromo #Humour #Romance #romcom #weekendreads

Don’t miss this gorgeous eBook boxset of the first three novels in Christie Barlow’s bestselling Love Heart Lane series – also including a bonus Christmas short story!

Love Heart Lane – where friends are there for you no matter what.

Love Heart Lane

When Flick Simons returns to the cosy village of Heartcross she only expected to stay for a few days. The white-washed cottages of Love Heart Lane might be her home, but the place holds too many painful memories, and of one man in particular – Fergus Campbell.

Foxglove Farm

Isla and Drew Allaway appear to have the perfect life – a strong marriage, two beautiful children and their picture-perfect home, Foxglove Farm.
But, new mum Isla is struggling. When she discovers that Drew has been keeping secrets from her, Isla has to face losing the home they all love.

Clover Cottage

When Vet Rory Scott inherits ramshackle Clover Cottage in the quaint village of Heartcross, Allie MacDonald just knows this is their happy ever after. A place to call home with the man she loves – it’s her dream come true!
Until Rory drops a bombshell. He loves Allie but he has dreams of his own to follow – to live and work in Africa. Clover Cottage will have to wait just a little longer…

Plus the exclusive short story –  Christmas at Heartcross Castle.

Celebrate Christmas with all your favourite residents from Love Heart Lane – a short Christmas story not to be missed! Merry Christmas! X

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Christie Barlow

Christie Barlow is the number one international bestselling author of fifteen romantic comedies including the iconic Love Heart Lane Series, A Home at Honeysuckle Farm and Kitty’s Countryside Dream. She lives in a ramshackle cottage in a quaint village in the heart of Staffordshire with her four children and two dogs.

Her writing career has come as a lovely surprise when Christie decided to write a book to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams. Christie’s dream was to become a writer and the book she wrote to prove a point went on to become a #1 international bestseller in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.

When Christie isn’t writing she co-presents The Book Show on Radio Northwich, enjoys playing the piano, is a keen gardener and loves to paint and upcycle furniture.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Mystery, New Books, Romance, Romantic Comedy

The Wedding Cake Wish, Little Duck Pond Café Rosie Green 5*#Review @Rosie_Green88 @rararesources #BlogTour #BookReview #romcom #LittleDuckPondCafe #FridayReads #TheWeddingCakeWish

Wedding excitement is in the air! With their big day approaching, Fen has her heart set on a gorgeous, intimate celebration with not much fuss at all. But strong-minded mother-of-the-bride Marjery seems to have considerably grander plans. There’s also the small problem of a missing best man, and when Fen tasks Hudson Holmes and Ruby Watkiss with the job of tracking him down, their investigations unearth far more secrets than they bargained for. Will the Big Day go ahead in the light of such dramatic revelations? Can a wedding cake wish save the day? One thing’s for sure – this will definitely be a wedding to remember!

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I love cosy mystery, and I love the Little Duck Pond Cafe series, so it’s great I can have both in one action-packed book. Fen is finally getting married, and whilst she longs for an intimate wedding, her mother has outrageously ambitious plans. There is tension in Fen and Rob’s relationship, and the over-the-top wedding plans aren’t helping. When the best man disappears, Fen asks Ruby and Hudson, who we met in A Summer of Surprises, to track him down. Told from Fen and Ruby’s viewpoints, the reader enjoys a delightful rom-com and a cosy mystery, both of which are woven together at various points.

The story has drama and mystery as family secrets unfold and impact the forthcoming wedding. An unexpected visitor tests Ruby and Hudson’s friendship, and the tension is palpable. Full of humour, and romance too, this is a lovely addition to the series.

Rosie’s series of novellas is centred around life in a village cafe. The latest, ‘A Summer of Surprises’, is out now.

Look out for ‘Snow Falls over Sunnybrook’, a heart-warming Christmas delight, out in November 2021. As snow drifts down over the village, will romance finally blossom for one very special pair?

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Detective, Family Drama, Friendship, New Books, Thriller

Death in the Woods Jo Allen 4*#Review #DCI Jude Satterthwaite @JoAllenAuthor #CrimeFiction #PoliceProcedural #Thriller #BlogTour #BookReview #Cumbria #EdenValley @rararesources #LakeDistrict #FridayReads #DeathintheWoods

A series of copycat suicides, prompted by a mysterious online blogger, cause DCI Jude Satterthwaite more problems than usual, intensifying his concerns about his troublesome younger brother, Mikey. Along with his partner, Ashleigh O’Halloran, and a local psychiatrist, Vanessa Wood, Jude struggles to find the identity of the malicious troll gaslighting young people to their deaths.

The investigation stirs grievances both old and new. What is the connection with the hippies camped near the Long Meg stone circle? Could these suicides have any connection with a decades-old cold case? And, for Jude, the most crucial question of all.

Is it personal — and could Mikey be the final target?

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A suicide case does not usually merit the attention of a senior police detective, but when more than one young victim is dying, an unsettled community wants answers. DCI Jude Satterthwaite and his team investigate but are struggling to find any connections between the victims. The possibility that someone is inciting the suicides gives the investigation a sinister edge, and the race is on to find the culprit before more young people take their lives.

The possibility of a personal connection to the case makes revenge a conceivable motive. The contemporary plot has an authentic combination of personal and professional events in the investigative team’s lives. Complex relationships and a menacing internet presence make this addictive reading. The Cumbrian setting with its relatable characters gives depth to the story.

Jo Allen

Jo Allen was born in Wolverhampton and is a graduate of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and the Open University, with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in geography and Earth science. She’s been writing for pleasure and publication for as long as she can remember. After a career in economic consultancy, she took up writing and was first published under the name Jennifer Young, in genres of short stories, romance and romantic suspense. She wrote online articles on travel and on her favourite academic subject, Earth science. In 2017 she took the plunge and began writing the genre she most likes to read — crime.

Jo lives in the English Lakes, where the DCI Satterthwaite series is set. In common with all her favourite characters, she loves football (she’s a season ticket holder with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cats.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Detective, Family Drama, New Books

Without A Trace Jane Bettany 4*#Review @JaneBettany @HQStories #CrimeFiction #WithoutATrace #BlogTour #BookReview #DIIsabelBlood #PublicationDay #FridayReads

You can cover up the truth, but every murder leaves a trail…

The rain was relentless. It stung Ruth Prendergast’s face as she dashed towards her house, desperate to escape the cold and settle down for an early night. But upon entering her bedroom, she finds a man, lying on her bed – a knife buried in his chest.

When Detective Isabel Blood and her sergeant arrive on the scene, Ruth claims she’s never laid eyes on the victim before. But with no sign of a break-in, how did the killer gain access to the house?

Then Ruth disappears, leaving Isabel and her team to fear the worst. Has their lead suspect escaped, or is Ruth in danger herself?

Forensic evidence at the crime scene is sparse, and it’s proving impossible for Isabel to make a breakthrough. With Ruth still missing, time is running out.

But how can you catch a killer that doesn’t leave a trace?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

The second book in the DI Isabel Blood series fulfils the potential of the first book. This story set in the East Midlands is a variation of a locked room murder. A newly divorced woman returns home on a wintry night and finds a dead man in her bed. She claims he is a stranger, but there is no sign of forced entry to the property. The investigative team led by Isabel have little evidence to go on, and when the woman who found the body disappears, the situation becomes complex and urgent.

The investigation is well-written and plausible, with a satisfying conclusion. There is a good balance of personal and professional interfaces in the story, adding authenticity and depth. This promises to be a series to follow.

Posted in Book Review, Book Spotlight, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Romance

When the Music Stops Joe Heap 5*#Review @Joe_Heap_ @harperfiction @HarperCollinsUK #literaryfiction #music #love #life #loss #uplit #serendipity #BookReview #WhentheMusicStops @RandomTTours @fictionpubteam #Paperback #28October2021

Out in paperback today.

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 into our lives and leave it too soon.

And of those who stay with you forever…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

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 its ending is worthy of angst.

I read this in a day and enjoyed it for its originality, realism and supernatural twist.

Joe Heap

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.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Fantasy, Festive Read, Folk Tales, Historical Fiction, Magic, New Books

Midnight in Everwood M. A. Kuzniar 4*#Review @thecosyreader @HQStories #HQNewVoices #Fantasy #magic #festive #AdultFairytale #historicalfiction #Nottingham #PublicationDay #MidnightinEverwood

In the darkness of night, magic awaits…

Nottingham, 1906

Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.

After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.

In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Multilayered and magical, this is a festive adult fairytale full of adventure, darkness and self-discovery. It explores Edwardian social history and how women began to challenge society’s expectations of them. Marietta is a young woman, expected to marry and leave her dance career behind. She rails against the injustice but initially fails to understand the direction of life is in her hands.

The world of Everwood is intricately created, full of vivid imagery and insidious darkness that threatens Marietta and that she must overcome. There are classic elements in the story for those familiar with the original inspiration to enjoy.

An engaging read if you enjoy dance, history and magic.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, New Books, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Travel

The Christmas Escape Sarah Morgan 5*#Review @SarahMorgan_ @HQStories #BlogTour #BookReview #FestiveRead #Christmas #Family #Love Friendship #Relationships #RomCom #secrets #HolidayFiction #TheChristmasEscape

The new Christmas book from the Sunday Times bestselling author of One More for Christmas and A Wedding in December!

It was supposed to be Christy Sullivan’s perfect Christmas escape – a dream trip to Lapland with her family and best friend, Alix. But facing a make-or-break marriage crisis, Christy desperately needs time alone with her husband, Seb. Her solution? Alix, along with Seb’s oldest friend, Zac, can take Christy’s daughter on the planned Lapland trip, and they will all reunite there for Christmas Day. After all, what are friends for?

There’s nothing Alix won’t do for Christy, but Christy’s plan to save Christmas is testing their friendship. Especially as Alix and Zac have a difficult history of their own.

As long-held secrets unravel, and unexpected romance shines under the Northern Lights, can Christy and Alix find the courage to fight for the relationships they really want? And could this Christmas escape save the precious gift of each other’s friendship?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

It’s always a festive treat to read a Christmas story by this author. She captures the ethos of the season and spices it up with festive romance and the sweetness of a child experiencing the perfect snowy Christmas. Not everything is about hot chocolate and sleigh rides in the snow, though. There are strained friendships, aroused passions, and secrets that unfold against a wintry background. Angst and arguments prevail, but there is also a chance to talk and find out family secrets.

Wintry and wonderful festive activities and natural events capture the essence of an idyllic Christmas holiday. The characters draw the reader’s empathy and frustrate in equal measure. This story is emotional and heartwarming and the perfect book to read in front of a log fire this Christmas.

Posted in Book Review, Christmas Read, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, New Books, Romance

Under the Mistletoe Sue Moorcroft 5*#Review @SueMoorcroft @AvonBooksUK #Romance #Family #festive #UndertheMistletoe #PublicationDay #BookReview

Christmas. A time for family, friends – and rekindling old flames…

When Laurel returns to the village of Middledip, she’s looking for a quiet life. Adjusting to her recent divorce, she’s ready to spend some time getting back on her feet amidst the glorious snow-dusted countryside.

Yet, life in Middledip is far from straightforward. Coming to the aid of her sister, Rea, as she navigates her own troubles, Laurel barely has a moment to think about where her own life is going.

However, time stands still when she sees her old flame, Grady Cassidy – and it’s soon as if they’ve never been apart. But through her happiness, Laurel remembers why she left the village all those years ago, as she recalls a dark night and Grady’s once-wayward brother, Mac…

Can Laurel learn to forgive and forget? Or will her chances of Christmas under the mistletoe with Grady remain a dream?

An enchanting, festive read.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Laurel returns to Middledip, hoping for a less hectic lifestyle. She left the village years before, after a traumatic incident, and hopes she can put this behind her. Her sister needs her help, and then there’s meeting her first love again. Life is busy but will it be happier?

A festive-themed story that insightfully explores relevant contemporary issues. There is a conflicted second chance romance and a cast of relatable characters immersing the reader in festive village life. The balance of lighthearted elements and poignancy add to the story’s authenticity.

This is an engaging, festive story with contemporary themes and a heartwarming community spirit.

btrmdn
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, New Books, Romance

The Promise Emma Heatherington 5*#Review @emmalou13 @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam @RandomTTours #Family #Romance #IrishFiction #Friendship #Love #relationships #loss #life #serendipity #BookReview #BlogTour #ThePromise

Some bonds can never be broken

One terrible moment changes everything for teenagers Kate and David. Brought together during the darkest of times, a spark of hope is ignited between them – a hand held in the darkness, a promise whispered. Neither of them will ever forget those moments.

It’s another ten years before they meet once more, and their lives are now so different. The promise they made to each other on that fateful day still binds them, but now they have so much more to lose.

Have they missed their one chance at happiness?

The only way they will ever know is to risk everything to be together. Is that too high a price to pay for love…?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This author writes about emotion and heartbreak in such an engaging way. The reader is immersed in the characters’ troubled lives, hoping they find the happiness they deserve. This story has these qualities the plot deepens with historical detail and experience of Ireland in the late 1990s. The story is relatable and thought-provoking. It explores Kate and David’s developing relationship from devastation and loss in an insightful and uplifting way. A believable and vividly brought to life setting makes the story memorable.

Emma Heatherington

Emma Heatherington has penned more than thirty educational short films, plays and musicals as well as eleven novels, two of which were written under the pseudonym Emma Louise Jordan.

Emma’s novel, The Legacy of Lucy Harte, was an eBook bestseller in both the UK and US.

She lives in her native Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, with her partner Jim McKee and their children Jordyn, Jade, Dualta, Adam and Sonny James.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Crime, Extract, Fantasy, Mystery, New Books, Noir, Political Thriller, Science Fiction

Million Eyes 11 C.R.Berry Q&A with @CRBerry1 @elsewhenpress #BlogTour #SFF #SpeculativeFiction #Conspiracy #thriller #Author #Interview #MillionEyes11

TIME IS THE ULTIMATE SAVIOUR

Following an impossible discovery in East London, archaeologist Dr Samantha Lester joins forces with software developer Adam Bryant to investigate the events that led to the disappearance of his best friend, Jennifer, and to bring down the people responsible – Million Eyes.

Before long, Lester and Adam are drawn into a tangled conspiratorial web involving dinosaurs, the Gunpowder Plot, Jesus, the Bermuda Triangle, and a mysterious history-hopping individual called the Unraveller, who is determined to wipe Million Eyes off the temporal map.

But as the secrets of Million Eyes’ past are revealed, picking a side in this fight might not be so easy.

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Q&A with C.R. Berry

How would you describe your books? What genre(s) do they encompass?

I would describe the Million Eyes trilogy as conspiracy thrillers, first and foremost. However, they’re also science fiction books and historical fiction books too. The premise of the series is this: what if certain events in our history weren’t supposed to happen? What if things like Princess Diana’s death, the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and even the extinction of the dinosaurs only happened because of time travellers? The books incorporate themes such as destiny, power, faith, reason and the greater good. 

Time travel, alternative history and conspiracy theories all feature in your stories. What interests you about these themes?

Time travel has always fascinated me. I love the idea of being able to go back and see how things were or go forwards and see how things turn out. You can tell bigger stories with time travel.

My love of history and conspiracy theories sort of go hand in hand. History is full of mysteries, and conspiracy theories are used to try and solve them. I think my interest in conspiracy theories could be traced back to Year 8 History when we learned about the shooting of William II in the New Forest and all the people who may have been involved in a plot to have him offed. I loved learning about that, which is how it made its way into the first Million Eyes.

How do you create your stories? Do you begin with the characters, theme, or setting? Why is this?

I begin with the plot—always. I start with a story I want to tell, and then I choose the best characters I can think of to help me tell it. In the case of Million Eyes, it was a story about a corporation using consumer technology to hide the fact that it was secretly tweaking the timeline. And it was about offering fun, alternative explanations for who Jesus was, what lies in the Bermuda Triangle, why Princess Diana was killed, and so on. I then created characters who are just everyday folk that get dragged into a perilous quest for the truth.

I guess I do it this way round because when it comes to selecting a TV series, movie, or book, it’s the plot I’m most interested in. I can’t stand character-driven stories where there’s zero plot progression.

Which part of the writing process is the most difficult for you? Why?

The historical research! I don’t even want to imagine the number of hours I’ve spent reading about how 1st-century Nazareth might’ve looked, or scrutinising architectural plans of the Tower of London in three different time frames, or the fashions of the Middle Ages and the Iron Age and Victorian times. Historical research has, of course, been necessary to help make the trilogy as authentic as possible, but it has also made the writing process a lot longer and more arduous. 

What is the best and worst part of being a writer?

The best part is when I complete a chapter that I think is great—most likely a dialogue scene where my main protagonist or antagonist is unleashing some serious sass. The worst part is when I have a serious block. There’s been a few of those while crafting Million Eyes, which is why there’s not going to be a shred of time travel in my next book!

What’s next, another book in this series or something different?

I’m two-thirds of the way through the final book in the Million Eyes trilogy, Million Eyes III: Ouroboros. This one is going to spend more time in the future than the past, and it’s also going to reveal the origins of the titular “Unraveller” in the second book. They’ll be a showdown between my protagonists and Million Eyes, and all the loose ends will get tied up with a timey wimey bow.

After that, I’m going to be working on a conspiracy horror called The Puddle Bumps. I want to write something with lots of blood and gunk (well, alright, Million Eyes has some of that, but The Puddle Bumps will have more).

C.R. Berry

C.R. Berry started out in police stations and courtrooms—ahem, as a lawyer, not a defendant—before taking up writing full-time. He’s currently head of content for a software developer and writes fiction about conspiracies and time travel.

Berry was published in Best of British Science Fiction 2020 from Newcon Press with a Million Eyes short story. He’s also been published in magazines and anthologies such as Storgy and Dark Tales, and in 2018 was shortlisted in the Grindstone Literary International Novel Competition. 

In 2021, he bought his first house with his girlfriend, Katherine, in Clanfield, Hampshire, discovering whole new levels of stress renovating it (not helped by a rogue builder running off with most of their budget). The couple are now in the fun stage, going full-on nerd and theming all the rooms—their bedroom is a spaceship, their kitchen a 50s diner.  

Now that the dust is settling, Berry is refocusing on the final book in the Million Eyes trilogy and getting back to writing his first collaborative novel with Katherine: a space-set adventure with aliens, terrorists, a mysterious wall that surrounds the universe and—of course—conspiracies.  

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Million Eyes: Extra Time is available for FREE download

Extract from Million Eyes 11 C.R. Berry

[Excerpt taken from Chapter 1 – the two main characters in this chapter are Edward and Richard, the Princes in the Tower]

66 Million Years Ago

“So how do we get back to 1483?”

Edward thought about this for a moment. He remembered the first time they travelled in time. He remembered being in the realm of ghosts, after swallowing the pills, feeling like he was floating. Their bedchamber was suddenly filled with strangely dressed people—transparent people—walking through, literally through, one another. He could see through the walls, through the furniture, through the floor to the room below. He could see beyond the Tower to the river. Everything and everyone were eerily ethereal and blurred together in front of his eyes. And Edward remembered that when he concentrated on one thing amid the haze, it sharpened into focus, all the other ghosts falling away. There was a painting. A painting that looked like it was of him and his brother. It was transparent at first, like everything else. But as Edward stared at it, it became clear, and everything else started to fade. A moment later, they were back in their bedchamber and all the ghosts had gone, but it was four hundred years later.

Things happened in much the same way when they ate the second pill only minutes ago, standing on the streets of London in 1888. Edward remembered returning to the realm of ghosts, the streets filled with shiny horse-less carriages, people in eccentric clothes and giant structures all around. All transparent of course. Ghosts, like before.

Only Edward couldn’t remember fixing on anything that time. He couldn’t remember seeing anything shift into focus while the rest fell away.

So how did they get here?

He told his brother his theory on how they ended up in 1888, that his focusing on one thing in particular seemed to pull them out of whatever it was they were actually in and into a specific period in time. But he admitted he couldn’t remember what he had focused on before they arrived here.

“That’s because it wasn’t you,” said Richard after a moment’s thought.

“What?” said Edward.

“It was me. I looked at something. I focused on it. It became clear, like you said. Everything else—all the ghosts—started fading away. We were holding hands at the time. A moment later, we were here.”

It was presumptuous of Edward to think that he was the only one with the ability to plot their journey, as though time itself was only going to respond to him. Richard had brought them here.

“So what did you see?” said Edward. “What was it you focused on?”

It was like two tiny flames went out in Richard’s eyes. His face paled and his throat bulged with a swallow. An aura of fear had come over him like a deep shadow.

“What’s wrong?” said Edward.

“I saw… a monster,” replied Richard, looking down at his feet. “It was coming towards me. Charging at me like a bull. I was terrified. Did you not see it?”

“I saw creatures. I saw a lot of things. None could see me, though. What did the monster look like?”

Richard sighed, raised his head and looked at Edward. He opened his mouth to answer, then the direction of his gaze shifted slightly and his whole face dropped.

“That,” he whispered, rigid.

Edward spun round, following his gaze.

Lord have mercy.

Not far from where they stood, standing partly shaded beneath a cycad and trampling a large patch of hornworts, was a creature three times as tall as them, with dark green, brown-flecked skin that was scaly like a snake. Dangling from its bulbous middle were two small arms with three-fingered hands ending in sickle-shaped claws. Its two legs and feet were similar, only much larger and longer, and along its back was a row of tall, bony spines linked by skin. It waved a long tail that was as thick as a tree at the base and tapered to a point, and looked like it could propel a carriage into the air with a single whack. Its long head bore two horns and a tapered jaw, the hot sun gleaming off multiple, tightly packed rows of ravenous-looking teeth.

Edward’s heart was pounding as they watched the creature lean forwards, its two eyes—like yellow billiard balls—staring straight at them.

Neither boy moved. Richard whispered, “What do we do?”

Edward swallowed hard. He plunged his hand into his satchel and pulled out the pot of red pills.

“We have to—” started Edward.

“Edward!” his brother screamed.

The creature stooped low and launched into a run.

“Run!”