Blog – First Steps

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Blog Tour: Shari Low – Another Day in Winter 5* Review – Extract

On a chilly morning in December… Forever friends Shauna and Lulu touch down at Glasgow Airport on a quest to find answers from the past.

George knows his time is nearing the end but is it too late to come to terms with his two greatest regrets?

His Grandson Tom uncovers a betrayal that rocks his world as he finally tracks down the one that got away.

And single mum Chrissie is ready to force her love-life out of hibernation, but can anyone compare to the man who broke her heart?

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Extract

George

I’m dying. I just want to say that straight out. Or as the young ones would say, “put it out there”. Bloody nonsense, some of the phrases that folk use nowadays. What’s wrong with just plain speaking?

The boy thinks I don’t know he’s here, but I can hear and feel him fine. Tom. The boy. That’s still how I think of him even though he’s gone thirty now. Fine lad he’s turned out to be. I couldn’t be prouder. It’s a bloody miracle when you consider his feckless father.

I can hear that lassie, the nurse, too. Liv, that’s her name. Cheery thing. She’s got one of those voices that reassures everyone who listens to her. Not that there’s much reassurance to be had for me now. A painless exit is about as much as I can hope for, and these drugs that they’re pumping into me are taking care of that. Don’t half take the wind out of my sails though. Between the medicine and this damned disease, it’s getting harder and harder to open my eyes.

That said, I’m not in any rush to leave this world. I’ve never been one for impatience. I’ve lost track of the days, and I hate to keep asking the nurse, but I’m fairly sure it’s close to Christmas. The sound of festive songs has been drifting in from the corridor – Blue Christmas by Elvis was always my favourite – and on the few occasions I’ve managed to open my eyes, I’ve noticed people walking by the window with gift-wrapped presents. It’s always been my favourite time of the year, especially when our Tom was a boy. We would have Christmas morning at our house and my son Norry and his first wife, Catriona, would bring the boy round first thing. Catriona was a fine woman and so much more than that sour-faced one Norry replaced her with. She was a smashing mother to Tom, too. It shames me to say it, but every bit of compassion and kindness in that boy came directly from her, not from that son of mine.

Anyway, where was I? Christmas. My darling Betty would cook and organise games and make it the perfect day for everyone. It was at times like that Betty, and I wished there’d been more of us, a bigger family for the boy to share the day with, but Norry had been our only son, and then he’d repeated the pattern by only having Tom. Of course, there was more kin out there – I had two sisters, Annie and Flora, that I lost touch with long ago. Those memories pained me, and our Betty knew that, so we left them in the past and we never spoke of them, not to Norry, not to Tom, not to anyone. That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten them though. In fact, now I think of them more than ever.

Tom is shaving me now, and I’m glad about that. No excuses for a shabby appearance, that’s what my father drilled into us, and I’ve always lived by it. I hope it’s the only thing of that man’s that I’ve taken to heart. By God, there was a father that ruled with an iron rod and wasn’t one for sparing feelings. There were no tears shed when Billy Butler went to his maker, although it saddened me when my mother went only a few weeks after. Influenza afflicted the both of them. I wish she’d had a chance to live without him, even for a short while, to breathe without walking on eggshells, waiting for the next rage or rant. All of us kids – Annie, Flora and me – knew the feeling of fear and I vowed that I would never be that kind of father with Norry.

Instead, I tried to be the man who led by example and instilled decency and compassion in his offspring, but I’m sorry to say I failed. It’s always been a great sadness that Norry was more of his grandad’s ilk than of mine. A selfish boy, self-centred and prone to nastiness, who grew into an arrogant bugger of a man. It gives me no pleasure to say that of my own son, but one of the gifts of these last days is honesty. If I can’t be truthful with myself, then what’s the point? These are days of reckoning, of reminiscing, of looking back on eighty years that were well lived but not without mistakes.

The boy is mid-shave when the question the nurse asks him sinks in to my fuddled brain. ‘Are your parents on the way?’ she says.

I try to focus on the answer, so I get it right. I hear him say, ‘Yeah, my dad and stepmother. They’re halfway here. They touched down in Dubai a couple of hours ago, and their connecting flight took off on time. They should be here about three o’clock.’

Bloody hell. So Norry and that wife of his are coming. I must be close to dead if they’re making the effort because they didn’t bloody come when I was alive and kicking, or when my darling Betty was sick and passed away.

And of course, it wouldn’t be Tom’s mother, Catriona, that would be with Norry. That poor lass was treated terribly by my son, and he forced her out of their lives when Tom was sixteen. To be honest, for her sake I was glad she got out of that marriage. She had a lucky escape. I was only too glad to give her as much help as I could to start her new life down south. She kept in touch with me right up until she passed, a few years ago. Cancer. This bastard of a disease. I was only grateful that the lass found happiness with a man who treated her well. I never met him, but Tom would visit them, and he told me he was a decent chap. That made me sleep a bit easier at night. I felt it was the least she deserved after being married to my son.

Norry had barely batted an eyelid when she left. He’d never admitted it to me, but I had a fair idea that he was already up to no good with the next one. Rosemary. She wasn’t like Catriona. This time he’d met his match and someone who was as contemptible as he was. They’d tied the knot as soon as his divorce was final – went off to Bali or someplace like that. Didn’t even invite us. Not that I’d have gone. Not after their antics. Next thing we knew, Norry sold up his business and off they went to Australia, taking our Tom with them. Norry said it was about work-life balance and enjoying the fruits of his labour, or some nonsense like that. The truth was, he’d made a killing and reckoned he could live like a king down under, and he had so much in the bank that he got a visa to live there without a problem. That Rosemary one encouraged him every step of the way. Fancied herself living in a big house in the sunshine, with no ties or commitments, so off they went, and damn everyone else. Losing Tom near broke my Betty’s heart. It was one of the happiest days of her life when the boy came back to live with us a year later. He’d never settled out there, and we were glad of it.

Through the haze of the buggering pills, I can hear the beeping from the monitor beside me getting faster. That’s what I get for thinking about those two. It wouldn’t surprise me if the bloody thing exploded when they walk through the door. I can only hope their plane gets delayed and I get to spend another day without them here.

Days.

Hours maybe.

My Thoughts…

I haven’t read the first book in the Winter’s Day series, so I read this as a standalone and it is a lovely, poignant read, with a festive flavour, complex characters and a web of secrets to explore.

There are many characters whose lives are intertwined; each character has a story to tell which adds to the main storyline and illustrates their reason for being there on this particular Winter’s day. The beauty of this story is its unashamed emotion, the characters’ experience many feelings and because of their inherent honesty, it’s impossible not to empathise.

Something to warm you on a cold Winter’s day, a lovely, heartwarming yet realistic festive read.

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

Shari has written seventeen novels under her own name and pseudonyms Ronni Cooper, Millie Conway and Shari King, of which many have been published globally. She writes a weekly opinion column and Book Club page for the Daily Record. Shari lives with her husband and 2 teenage boys in Glasgow. Twitter Facebook Website

 

 

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Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Dead End- Rachel Lynch – Guest Post – 5* Review

When the seventh Earl of Lowesdale is found hanging from the rafters at Wasdale Hall, everyone assumes the ageing, hard-partying aristocrat had finally had enough of chasing the glory of his youth. But when the coroner finds signs of foul play, DI Kelly Porter is swept into a luxurious world where secrets and lies dominate.

At the same time, two young hikers go missing and it’s up to Kelly to lead the search. But digging deeper reveals ties to two other unsolved disappearances and Kelly and her team find themselves in a race against time.

Now, as all roads of both investigations and Kelly’s own family secrets lead to Wasdale Hall it becomes more important than ever for Kelly to discover the devious truths hidden behind the walls of the Lake District’s most exclusive estate…

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Guest Post: Developing characters over a trilogy – Rachel Lynch

As a reader of crime novels, I’m always smitten (and terrified) by the ways in which the writer can come up with dark deeds that have been committed for millennia, but in new and refreshing ways. As a writer of crime novels, I worry more about my characters convincing the reader, than the cases they pursue. I truly love creating baddies, and allowing them free reign to shock and awe, with their hideous behaviour. But when it comes to the core players chasing them, I’m constantly looking for ways to move them forward, in ways that are both believable and engaging.

Kelly is a straightforward woman, she’s got problems, she’s not perfect, and she makes mistakes. And, like most of us, she doesn’t have the ideal family. We’re all the sum parts of our relationships, and for Kelly to be convincing, she’s got to handle confrontation and disappointment. Driving those forward over three books has been satisfying and challenging. Her emerging relationship with Johnny, her changing perception of Ted, her tension with Nikki, and the tragedy of her mother’s illness, all need to weave inside and around the crimes she’s investigating. New characters always pop up too. It might be part of her job and the colleagues she works with, or it could be reconnecting with old pals; whatever the reason, she touches people and they touch her.

The reception Kelly has received so far is phenomenal, and she really has become a fully dimensional person for me. I like being in her company. She’s feisty and strong, but also vulnerable and incomplete. She’s looking for what we all look for, in the sense that she’s searching for peace, but it doesn’t take over, and she’s a committed woman with an important job to do. She genuinely cares for those she champions in her cases, and won’t stop until she finds answers, even if she puts herself in danger. That’s my favourite trait of hers: she puts the truth first, and everything else is secondary. She’s a fighter but she’s not arrogant or dogmatic. She’s driven but still encourages her colleagues. She carries within her an energy that makes this all possible, and I’d like to spend time with her.

Her life over the course of Dark Game, Deep fear and Dead End has changed over a time span of almost three years, and she’s learned a lot about herself and her family. She’d avoided this in London, like a lot of us do when we’re forging our careers, but now she is trying to make sense of it and make amends at the same time. She and Johnny are great partners because he’s an outsider too, and he’s growing on me with every book. He’s still got a lot more to give, even if he and Kelly were to split up. I have massive affection for Ted and I admire his wisdom, and I think he brings much structure to Kelly’s world.

All of these things connections have to move forward, book by book, and they have to be real. Writing a sequel was a steep learning curve for me, as this is my first series, it was also incredibly rewarding. Getting to number three, and working out how these people still interacted was another journey, and I’m thrilled with the reception so far for this web of characters, who never cease to surprise, but also remain reassuringly familiar. It’s also interesting for me, as a mother, to write about a woman with no children, and I’m jealous of how much time she has on her hands, though she doesn’t necessarily appreciate it!

There’s a lot more in store for Kelly, and I’m sure she’ll continue to surprise me, as well as, I hope, you too.

My Thoughts…

The third instalment of the DI Kelly Porter series has two separate storylines that appear unconnected but are intricately woven together to produce an absorbing mystery, detailed police procedural and riveting thriller.

Kelly Porter is such an exciting character, driven, caring, yet vulnerable, and your empathy with her grows with every story. The cast of characters both antagonists and protagonists are complex, and the storytelling draws you in, deepening the mystery with every clue it reveals.

I hope there’s another one as I’m hooked and set in the lovely English Lake District the dichotomy between its raw beauty and the ugliness of the crimes it conceals is what makes this addictive.

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

Rachel Lynch grew up in Cumbria and the lakes and fells are never far away from her. London pulled her away to teach History and marry an Army Officer, whom she followed around the globe for thirteen years. A change of career after children led to personal training and sports therapy, but writing was always the overwhelming force driving the future. The human capacity for compassion as well as its descent into the brutal and murky world of crime are fundamental to her work.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Jill Steeples – Happily Ever After at the Dog and Duck – Extract – 4 *Review

Life in Little Leyton is never quiet, and when handsome developer Max and his bride-to-be Ellie, receive some sad news, he decides to whisk her away for a romantic break. The time away gives Ellie a new perspective, and she’s eager to get home to get on with planning their wedding.

But a devastating incident at the pub she runs, The Dog & Duck, puts everything in jeopardy.  And, at their home Braithwaite Manor, tensions are heightened when Ellie’s future mother-in-law turns up with all her worldly belongings, much to Max’s sister Katy’s despair.  

With Max preoccupied with problems at work, Ellie’s left literally holding the baby, while dealing with a seemingly endless list of dramas. And as Christmas approaches, Ellie begins to wonder if she’ll ever get her happily ever after…

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Extract

Later that day, back at the manor, I found Max, Arthur and Katy sitting around the kitchen table, the doors of the conservatory wide open onto the stone paved patio that offered views of the sweeping lawns, running into the distance as far as the eye could see. The days were still warm and bright, but the faintest of breezes provided a cool autumnal edge, and the geraniums and blowsy petunias in the profusion of wood and stone planters were beginning to look a little straggly now.

After dinner, I would go round and deadhead the plants, which was my one small contribution to the upkeep of the extensive grounds. I found it reassuringly therapeutic, giving me a chance to snatch some alone time and to reflect on the events of the day. Luckily, Max had a small team of gardeners who helped him out around Braithwaite Manor, and it was their hard work that kept the gardens looking so plentiful. Of course, Max was head gardener and liked to get outside as much as his busy schedule would allow. He was never happier than when sitting upon his ride-on mower, his canvas hat perched on his head at a jaunty angle, whizzing across the lawns. Arthur was a keen gardener too, and was always ready with advice, even when it wasn’t needed. He’d had an allotment for years, growing an assortment of fruit and vegetables, until a spate of ill health had meant he’d no longer been able to manage. When he’d fallen ill, Arthur had come to us to recuperate, and the arrangement had worked so well that he’d never returned home. Braithwaite Manor was his home now, and he was part of our family. He’d also taken on the role of Chief Adviser for Vegetable and Fruit Production.

Max’s little sister, Katy, on the other hand, had no interest in gardening or the great outdoors, come to that. Spending the majority of her childhood growing up in Spain, she’d always told me how much she’d hated the heat, just one of the many reasons why she’d been desperate to come back to the UK to live. There’d been a big bust up with her mum, Rose, and her stepdad, Alan, and Katy had left under a cloud, coming to live with us for a while. Max had agreed to let Katy stay, and she was now happily settled in Little Leyton, attending college in town, working shifts at The Dog and Duck, back in touch with her biological father and in a steady relationship with her boyfriend, Ryan.

I pulled out a chair and sat down at the table to join them. Along with the four dogs, currently mooching beneath the table, this was our little melded family.

‘So, how did it go?’ Max placed a very welcome cup of tea in front of me. ‘What did they think to the news?’

‘What news?’ asked Katy, sitting up to attention, her curiosity immediately piqued.

‘Well… we were waiting to tell Veronica and Malc before making it common knowledge, but Ellie and I have set a date for the wedding. It’ll be on 20th December this year.’

‘Really!’ Katy jumped up from her seat, squealing. The dogs, alerted by her excitement, jumped up too, their tails wagging excitedly, and Flora darted between all our legs making us giggle with her antics.

‘Ah, that’s marvellous news,’ said Arthur, standing up to shake Max’s hand and giving me a hug. ‘If you’re half as happy as me and my Marge were, then you’ll have some magic years ahead. It’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? A happy family life.’

I squeezed Arthur even tighter and rested my head on his chest. I remembered Marge well. She was a kind hearted woman who welcomed all the village children into her home and in the summer months was happy for us to run wild around her playground of a garden. There would be home made cakes and biscuits, and fresh lemonade, and I would always come away with a bag of apples, or pears, a batch of scones or anything else that Marge might have whipped up that day. They never missed a birthday or Christmas, always sending a card and a small present. When Marge died, Arthur put on a brave front and carried on as best he could, but it was plain to see for anyone who knew him that he was struggling without the woman he loved at his side. That was the start of the deterioration in his health, I realised now. He hadn’t looked after himself properly, not eating or drinking, and had slowly declined to a point where he couldn’t manage on his own. Max and I were both so pleased and relieved when we were able to persuade him to come and live with us.

‘It is very exciting, but if you could both keep it under your hats for another few days. I haven’t mentioned it to the girls yet. I’ve invited Polly, Josie and Sasha round on Friday night for drinks and nibbles. I’ll tell them the news then, and ask if they’ll be my bridesmaids. I can’t wait to see their faces.’

‘Your secret is safe with me,’ said Arthur, tapping his nose. Katy glanced across at me, nodding her agreement before standing up and wandering over to Noel’s rocker, lifting him out.

‘Once we get back from our holidays it will be full steam ahead with the arrangements. When you think about it, it’s not that far away.’

‘When is it you’re going?’ asked Katy.

‘In a couple of weeks. It’s come round so quickly, and I’m already feeling nervous about leaving Noel behind, but Max seems to think it’s for the best.’ I cast him a questioning glance, hoping he might have had a change of heart on that front.

‘Look, Ellie, it’s up to you. I really don’t mind. And if you’re not going to be happy leaving him behind, then, of course, we must take him with us, but you need a break, and I think you’ll get more of a rest if it’s just the two of us. We’ll be able to completely relax, go for some nice long walks, have some lovely meals, get some good nights’ sleep, with proper lie-ins, and come back completely refreshed. Your mum and dad will be here to look after Noel and the dogs, so really there’s nothing to worry about.’

‘Good idea,’ said Arthur. ‘We’ll manage, won’t we, Katy?’

‘Yes, well, you certainly don’t need to worry about me! I don’t need looking after. In fact, I might go and stay with Ryan,’ she said airily, before handing Noel over to Max, and turning to waltz out of the kitchen, tension bristling off her shoulders.

‘Katy! I don’t think Max was suggesting you needed looking after for one moment.’

‘And you won’t be staying with Ryan, young lady. You’ll be staying here. To give Veronica and Malc a hand if they need it.’

Max’s tone was gruff, and I could see Katy’s hackles rise.

‘We were hoping you might help with looking after the dogs and with Noel,’ I offered. ‘You’re always so good with him when he’s cross and tired and doesn’t want to settle. It will make me feel so much better knowing you’re here with him.’

‘Really?’ She turned to me, her expression matching the sharpness of her tone. ‘So, you want me to help out when it suits you, but otherwise, you don’t want to know me.’

‘Katy! Don’t speak to Ellie like that! What’s got into you?’ Max’s brow furrowed, his puzzled expression mirroring my own confusion. Her face had lit up to hear our wedding news, but now it was as if she was having second thoughts about the whole idea. ‘Do you not want us to go on holiday – is that it?’

‘No, it’s not that at all!’ she said in frustration.

Max and I shared a glance and shrugged, none the wiser as to what had made Katy so angry.

‘Oh, come on, Katy,’ I tried to coax her. ‘I know you, and can tell when you’re upset. How can we do anything to put it right if you won’t tell us what it is?’

‘It’s you!’ she said, glaring at me, as though it were blindingly obvious. ‘You pretend that we’re best friends and everything, but it doesn’t mean a thing.’

I glanced across at Arthur, who was looking as perplexed as me.

‘That’s not true. Why would you even think that?’

‘Huh!’ She crossed her arms fiercely, her body held rigid.

My Thoughts…

If you’re looking for a little me time as Winter approaches, this is the perfect book to curl up with. I’ve already read other books in this series, but with sufficient backstory and character information provided, you can read this last book as a standalone.

This instalment of life at the Dog and Duck is full of family drama, and unexpected incidents and you meet familiar characters and new faces. The story portrays the dynamic flow of everyday life well, and this gives this lovely story an authentic edge.

It is pleasantly seasonal and rounds up the series perfectly.

Read this and enjoy and then put the other books in the series on your Christmas list.

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

Jill lives with her husband, two children and an English Pointer named Amber in the Bedfordshire countryside. Her short stories have appeared in women’s magazines around the world as well as in charity anthologies. When she’s not writing, Jill loves spending time with family and friends, reading, films, musical theatre, walking, baking and eating cakes, and drinking wine.

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Posted in Cover Reveal

From Mum with Love – Louise Emma Clarke – Cover Reveal

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Full-time mum Jess has had enough, and her husband, Chris, has just the solution to vent her frustrations – a blog.

Jess loves her daughter more than anything, but sometimes she just wants a little bit of freedom – some time for herself. Queue a laptop, a glass of wine and the beginning of a life-changing journey.

Overnight Jess’s inbox is full of notifications and before long she is officially a ‘mummy blogger’ but this new life comes with its own set of rules and regulations. With Queen of the Bloggers, Tiggy, blanking her in public, people recognizing her on the street and her life decisions suddenly judged by strangers Jess’s idea of ‘me time’ is slowly becoming a full-time job.

Will Jess be able to find the right life/work balance? Or will she wish she’d never turned to a world online?

 

About the author

Louise’s blog, Mum of Boys and Mabel has over 100k followers. Having moved to Dubai with her family she’s now back in the UK and is enjoying writing. From Mum with Love is her debut novel. Facebook  Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Ian Rankin- 5* Review – In a House of Lies

IN A HOUSE OF LIES…

Everyone has something to hide
A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still – both for his family and the police – is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.

Everyone has secrets
Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now – after a decade without answers – it’s time for the truth.

Nobody is innocent
Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus.

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My Thoughts…

‘In a ‘House of Lies’ is a polished police procedural with iconic characters, especially Rebus. Even ailing and in retirement, he remains an intelligent, tenacious detective.

DI Clarke is on the Murder Investigation Team (MIT) investigating a murder of a victim from Rebus’ time. Opening this cold case lets out old secrets, and no one is safe especially Rebus. Someone is leaking information to the press, and internal affairs suspect Clarke, who is still smarting from their previous investigation. Corruption, murder and poor policing are all exposed in this fascinating crime novel, and Rebus finds himself with a case that reveals some poignant facts and showcases the best and worst of humanity.

The characters are complex, flawed and realistic, whether they be criminals or police. The tension and suspense increase with each page making it hard to put down. The setting is authentic and the background information cleverly woven into the story, making it an easy standalone read.

Police procedural at its best, whether you are a fan of Rebus or not.

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

Posted in Book Review

‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’ On Where Eagles Dare – Geoff Dyer- 3* Review

 

A thrilling Alpine adventure starring a magnificent, bleary-eyed Richard Burton and a coolly anachronistic Clint Eastwood, Where Eagles Dare is the apex of 1960s war movies, by turns enjoyable and preposterous. ‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’ is Geoff Dyer’s tribute to the film he has loved since childhood: an analysis taking us from its snowy, Teutonic opening credits to its vertigo-inducing climax. For those who have not even seen Where Eagles Dare, this book is a comic tour-de-force of criticism. But for the film’s legions of fans, whose hearts will always belong to Ron Goodwin’s theme tune, it will be the fulfilment of a dream.

My Thoughts…

If you love ‘Where Eagles Dare’, this in-depth study of the film, with many amusing observations will appeal.

For other readers who are not devotees of the film, you will learn a lot about it from the author’s observations, but it’s like an ‘in’ joke you have to be there to find it funny.

The quality of the writing is evident, but I lost interest at times with the content, and I have seen the film more than once.

Conclusions, am I glad I read this book? Yes. Would I have read it if I’d realised how detailed the content is? No.

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

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Vendetta – Heather Burnside- Extract – 4* Review

 

 

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 When Adele’s brother, Peter, gets banged up for GBH she reluctantly agrees to run his nightclub, The Golden Bell. Strong opposition from Peter’s thuggish number two, Glynn, who isn’t best pleased about answering to a woman, isn’t the only challenge she faces.

The Manchester club scene of the 1990s is a dangerous place, at the mercy of illicit protection rackets and rampaging gangs, and, despite Adele’s efforts to keep everything legal, the club is beginning to feel like a poisoned chalice.

Meanwhile, Glynn is playing his own ruthless game, and when a savage gang attack has devastating consequences, Adele is ready to walk away. But Peter has always stood by her, and she owes him big time. Besides, where else would an ex-con find work? And someone has to protect her brother’s empire from his enemies. Right now, Adele knows she is the only one that Peter can trust, but the stakes may soon get too high…

 

Extract

‘Adele was standing at the bar of the Golden Bell chatting with her bar manager, Paula, when she noticed the time.

‘It’s ten past. Is Cindy due in tonight?’ she asked.

‘Yeah and it’s the second time she’s been late this week,’ said Paula, rolling her eyes in exasperation.

Adele nodded, saying nothing, but her face showed the anger she felt as she pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. Cindy’s tardiness wasn’t the only thing that was bothering her. Ever since Cindy had started seeing Glynn a few weeks ago, she had been taking more and more liberties. Adele was fed up with it, as were the bar staff, and she knew it was time to put a stop to Cindy’s impudent behaviour.

Another five minutes passed before Cindy drifted in amidst a haze of cheap, cloying perfume. She slowly undid her coat buttons in a tantalising fashion as she entered the bar area.

‘Can I have a word?’ asked Adele, the lines on her forehead forming a frown.

‘In a minute,’ said Cindy, unconcerned. ‘Let me just put my things in the back first.’

It was a while before Cindy emerged from the staff area behind the bar and Adele could see that her hair was newly teased and her lipstick had been reapplied. She tottered over to the bar on heels that were far too high, her short skirt clinging to her slim but shapely hips.

‘Yeah?’ she said, eyeing Adele through heavily made-up eyes and casually chewing gum with her mouth open.

Her blasé attitude irritated Adele. ‘What time do you call this?’ she asked.

Cindy glanced at the clock, seemingly unperturbed, then looked back at Adele. ‘It’s OK, I cleared it with Glynn,’ she said, looking down her nose at Adele before lifting her chin and walking away with her head held high. Paula tutted then looked at Adele for her reaction.

Adele could feel her temper rising at the girl’s insolence. ‘Hang on a minute!’ she shouted. ‘Don’t walk away when I’m speaking to you.’

Cindy swung round, her expression one of scorn. ‘What?’ she asked, with attitude.

Adele tried to remain calm as she addressed her, meeting her eyes and keeping her voice slow and even. ‘Firstly, I hadn’t finished speaking to you, and it’s bad manners to walk away when you’re being addressed.’

‘Soz, thought you’d finished,’ said Cindy, before flicking the gum to the other side of her mouth with her tongue protruding crudely.

‘Secondly,’ said Adele, raising her voice slightly, ‘I’d appreciate it if you didn’t come to work with a mouth full of gum. It doesn’t look very professional. Can you remove it, please?’

Cindy tutted then pulled the gum from her mouth and walked to the back of the bar where she dropped it into the bin. ‘It’s like being at bloody school,’ she muttered while her back was to Adele.

Adele waited for her to walk back towards her then continued. ‘Thirdly, if you’re going to be late you need to clear it with—’

But before she could complete the sentence, she felt a presence at her side. It was Glynn, who rudely cut in. ‘It’s OK, I gave her permission to come in late tonight,’ he said.

Adele turned to face him. ‘Then why weren’t either Paula or myself told about it?’ she asked, the question sounding more like an accusation.

‘Must have slipped my mind,’ he said. ‘No worries, it’s no biggie.’

Then he walked away without giving Adele a chance to respond and winked saucily at Cindy, who preened smugly. Adele was livid, and for a few moments, she stared at Glynn’s back then at Cindy, who was wearing a half-smirk. ‘In future, you ask either Paula or myself for permission to arrive late, not Glynn,’ she said.

Adele didn’t hang around to hear Cindy’s response; she was too intent on having words with Glynn. She dashed after him as he headed through the back door and towards the upstairs offices.

Catching a glimpse of his heel as he rounded the bend in the stairway, she shouted, ‘Oy, I want a word with you.’

She met him on the stair landing. ‘What’s your problem?’ he asked, his face scrunched up in irritation.

‘In future, when Cindy asks for permission to arrive late, can you send her to either myself or Paula?’ she snapped.

‘What’s the problem?’ he retaliated. ‘She was only a few minutes late, for Christ’s sake.’

‘The problem is that you’ve undermined me in front of the staff. She shouldn’t be led to believe that she can do whatever she pleases; it’s not good for the morale of the rest of the team.’

‘Have you heard yourself? They’re a bunch of fuckin’ barmaids, not the board of directors.’

‘It doesn’t matter what they are,’ she vented. ‘Discipline is very important for running a tight ship.’

‘Yeah, sure,’ he muttered, turning away from her as though her argument was insignificant.

‘Don’t you dare turn your back on me!’ she yelled. ‘That girl has been getting away with murder since she started seeing you.’

He turned back to face her and grinned. ‘Now we’re getting to the real problem, aren’t we, Adele? Good old-fashioned jealousy. The real reason you’re pissed off is because me and Cindy have got something good going on. And you can’t stand it.’

‘Pfffft,’ she hissed. ‘Don’t flatter yourself. She’s bloody welcome to you. I don’t give a shit who you’re shagging! But what I do care about is when staff think they can take the piss. And you’re helping her to do it.

‘We can’t be seen to be showing favouritism; it isn’t fair on the rest of the staff. So from now on, I think you need to remember who the boss is around here. You might be running my brother’s dodgy protection racket, but when it comes to running the Golden Bell, or any of Peter’s other businesses, for that matter, you have no authority whatsoever.’

By this time she was shaking with anger, the words spilling from her in a torrent of hatred.

‘Jesus, woman, what’s wrong with you?’ he mocked on noticing her shaking hands. ‘Do yourself a favour; go and take a look at the state of yourself in the mirror. Then see if you can pretend you’re not jealous.’

Then he barged past her and made his way back down the stairs, but as he passed her, he hissed, ‘Fuckin’ sexually frustrated if you ask me.’

Adele stared after him, speechless. Her cheeks reddened with anger and humiliation, and for a few moments, she stood transfixed. How dare he? Her anger was also directed at herself. Why did she let him get to her? He wasn’t worth it.

She marched up to her office, resisting the temptation to down a measure of brandy. Instead, she sat at her desk for a good while ruminating about what had just happened.

Adele was fuming, and it took her some time to calm down. She was sick to death of Glynn thinking he could walk all over her. It was about time he realised who was the boss. As she sat there raging about her confrontation with Glynn, she decided it was time for her to make a stand. She was going to introduce some changes that would really put him in his place and let him know who was in charge once and for all.

My Thoughts… 

The last in ‘The Manchester Trilogy’ series ‘Vendetta’, follows Adele’s life running her brother’s club in Manchester and the events that follow his release from prison. The book reads well as a standalone, although I have read ‘Blood Ties’, the second book in the series.

The writing style, which is often in the passive tense, jars with the action-packed plot and pace. Some of the characters in this final novel, as with the previous book are stereotypical. Despite its weaknesses, the pacing is fast, and it’s absorbing and easy to read. As a crime novel, it contains violence, but nothing gratuitous and the often unlikeable characters fit with the gritty, edgy lifestyle it portrays. There are no real surprises, but the ending is positive. and one that Adele deserves.

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

Heather Burnside is a Manchester-based author who formerly worked in credit control and is a qualified Member of the Institute of Credit Management. After taking a career break to raise a family, she swapped credit control for writing and decided to study for a writing diploma.

Heather had articles featured in several popular UK magazines before setting up a writing services business, offering copywriting and proofreading services to a range of clients. During that time she also wrote a number of non-fiction books on behalf of clients.

In 2014 Heather published her first Manchester based crime thriller, ‘Slur’, book 1 of the Riverhill Trilogy. She followed ‘Slur’ with book 2, ‘A Gangster’s Grip’, which focuses on the inter-gang rivalry of 90s Manchester, and the concluding book, ‘Danger by Association’. 

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The Forbidden Place – Susanne Jansson – 3* Review

In the remote Swedish wetlands lies Mossmarken: the village on the edge of the mire where, once upon a time, people came to leave offerings to the gods.

Biologist Nathalie came in order to study the peat bogs. But she has a secret: Mossmarken was once her home, a place where terrible things happened. She has returned, at last, determined to confront her childhood trauma and find out the truth.

Soon after her arrival, she finds an unconscious man out on the marsh, his pockets filled with gold – just like the ancient human sacrifices. A grave is dug in the mire, which vanishes a day after. And as the police investigate, the bodies start to surface…

Is the mire calling out for sacrifices, as the superstitious locals claim? Or is it an all-too-human evil?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I find Scandinavian Noir mystery thrillers difficult. I enjoy the atmospheric settings and the underlying menace, but I find the pacing inexorably slow and the characters hard to empathise and understand.

All these things are true of ‘The Forbidden Place’, so from that point of view it fits well into this genre, the ending is good, and the author’s ability to create suspense is not in doubt, it’s just for me the slow pace, and the characters’ insular, inherent coldness negate this.

Nathalie, a biologist, returns to her childhood town to finish her PhD dissertation. She is troubled and eventually, you find out why. The bog steeped in folklore and tragedy is part of her study but when someone is attacked, and the bodies start appearing she is forced to relive her past, face her demons to ensure she has a happier future.

It is suspenseful, and the mystery throws up lots of false suspects, if you are happy with a slow-paced read and accept the characters lack vivacity, this is worth reading.

I received a copy of this book from Hodder& Stoughton- Mulholland Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Shari Low – Because Mummy Said So – Extract and 4*Review

The era of the yummy mummy has finally gone.

To celebrate this, Shari Low has taken a baby wipe to the glossy veneer of the school of perfect parenting and written Because Mummy Said So to show us the truth about motherhood in all of its sleep-deprived, frazzled glory.

This is a book that every experienced, new or soon-to-be parent will relate to – well, hallelujah and praise be those who worship at the temple of Febreze. For over a decade, Shari wrote a hugely popular weekly newspaper column documenting the ups, downs and bio-hazardous laundry baskets of family life.

Because Mummy Said So is a collection of her favourite stories of parenting, featuring superheroes in pull up pants, embarrassing mistakes, disastrous summer holidays, childhood milestones, tear-jerking nativity plays, eight bouts of chickenpox and many, many discussions that were finished with the ultimate parental sticky situation get-out clause…

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Extract- Ready, Aim, Fire…

If reincarnation does in fact exist, can I please make a special request to come back as Julia Roberts? The lovely Julia was pictured last week leaving a Pilates class with her six-week-old twins. It was a sweet, precious and intimate snapshot of domestication: just Julia, her husband, her babies, and an army of helpers so large it could have invaded a small country.

Ladies, how many things are wrong with that scenario? Well, for a start, when my babies were six weeks old I couldn’t find my way out of my dressing gown, never mind into a wee Juicy Couture tracky for a jaunt up the leisure centre.

Secondly, the gilded A-lister was partaking in the practice of evil: an exercise class. Doesn’t she know that there’s an unwritten rule among the sisterhood (or should that be motherhood)? For at least two months – or in my case, years – after childbirth, we’re supposed to milk the memory of the physical trauma we’ve inflicted on our bodies by endeavouring at all times to have our feet in an elevated position and our mouths in close proximity to a chocolate snack. It’s the law.

And thirdly – and this is the real killer – Team Julia was carrying everything for her. She didn’t have a bulk-size box of Huggies strapped to her back. There were no bottles of milk dribbling up the arm of her jumper as she attempted to juggle baby, bag and feeding equipment. And she wasn’t within projectile-vomit range of either of her newborns.

That’s not motherhood, it’s a holiday.

While Miss Roberts gets the five-star, deluxe version of motherhood, this week I’ve been subjected to the self-catering, dodgy plumbing and offensive odours version. In the latest episode of my oh-so-glamorous life, I decided it was time for almost-three-year-old Brad to lose the nappies.

For those of you who are just tucking into a wee cup of tea and a bacon roll, I’ll spare you the details. But let’s just say that disinfectant spray became my very best friend. On the first day of Brad’s nappy liberation, I spent the whole time on my hands and knees contemplating puddles. Who knew children that small could store that much water? My second-born son is the toddler equivalent of a Saharan camel.

By lunchtime, I was soaked, exhausted and could feel the thud of my will to live tunnelling to freedom.

Worse, Brad was getting thoroughly sceptical about my promise that ‘Big Boys Pants’ would give him supernatural powers. Hopefully, one of which would be the ability to control his bladder.

Never has my familiar prima-donna war cry, ‘I bet Jackie Collins doesn’t have to put up with this pish!’ had a more literal meaning.

At four o’clock, wet, smelling of Eau de Sewer and covered in stains that I didn’t even want to think about, I speed-dialled the husband for moral support. It didn’t go well.

‘Hi, honey, having a good day?’ he had the absolute temerity to ask.

A GOOD DAY? Aaargh!

Yes, I know the poor man was only being polite but in my pee-soaked brain that somehow became a patronising comment from a smug bloke sitting in a comfy chair, in a civilised office, having conversations with other adults that consisted of words of more than one syllable, all the while partaking of hot and cold running bloody cappuccinos.

How dare he!

I slammed the phone down in disgust. I didn’t say I was rational. I’m a mother of two toddlers – that’s not in the job description.

Next day, over breakfast I was mulling over my dilemmas for the day: whether donning waterproof clothing was an overreaction, whether Dettox was available in gallon-size tubs and how to convince my husband that we didn’t, in fact, require a marriage guidance counsellor. So absorbed was I in my woes that I didn’t notice that Brad had left the table for a far comfier seat – one atop the porcelain throne. Yes, my wee angel had finally mastered the concept of waste management.

Overjoyed, I had an irresistible compulsion to call the One O’Clock News team to announce the thrilling news: Brad was toilet-trained. There’s only one downside – his aim isn’t brilliant. But then, I’ve never met a grown man who doesn’t share that problem, so I’m guessing it’s a gender thing.

There’s obviously a limit to the supernatural powers of Big Boy Pants.

My Thoughts…

Candid snapshots of life with children are popular at the moment, what makes this one different is that it is retrospective. A collection of thoughts that featured in the author’s column at the time ranging from 2004 -2017. Some of the people and events mentioned will bring back memories and add entertainment value to these amusing anecdotes about parenting and being a working mum.

This book is a fun-filled read for all parents, and its innate honesty is part of its charm. Being the perfect mummy, while holding down a full-time job was a mantra in the nineties, and the first decade of the twenty-first century, thankfully this stereotype has been ousted in recent years by a more realistic view of parenting which this book certainly showcases.

It’s worth reading because its funny, realistic, thought-provoking and poignant and given that many of the stories started in the early noughties a true original that has sparked the honest parenting blogs and books that currently are an important part of our culture.

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

Shari Low has published eighteen books under her own name and pseudonyms Millie Conway and Ronni Cooper. She is also one half of the writing duo, Shari King. She lives near Glasgow with her husband, two teenagers and a labradoodle. 

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Mine – J.L.Butler – 4*Review

My CLIENT
My LOVER

Francine Day is a high flying lawyer about to apply for silk, ambitious and brilliant. She just needs one headline-grabbing client to seal her place as queen’s counsel … Martin Joy. The attraction is instant. Obsessive.

They embark on a secret affair, and Francine thinks she can hold it together. But then Martin’s wife goes missing. And Martin is the prime suspect. Francine is now his lawyer, lover and the last person to see Donna Joy alive.

As the case unravels so does Francine.

Her HUSBAND
My OBSESSION

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My Thoughts…

‘Mine’ is an enjoyable read. The legal setting is interesting. The professional trust between a lawyer and client broken by the protagonist pushes her into the unreliable protagonist territory. Her mental health issues may also make her observations and perceptions questionable from the reader’s point of view.

A well written psychological thriller, regarding mystery, menace, pacing and suspense. The themes are well tried in this type of novel as are the characters; the mentally unstable obsessive mistress, the ruthless businessman for whom reputation and money is everything, but if you enjoy psychological thrillers the polished presentation of this one will please.

The mental disintegration of the Fran, the main protagonist, is realistic as are her actions, many of the choices she makes are bad, but they are understandable and therefore believable. The final chapters are atmospheric and suspenseful, aided by a wonderfully gothic setting and inclement weather.

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