Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Noir, Psychological Thriller

Have You Seen Her – Lisa Hall #BlogTour @HQStories @LisaHallAuthor 5* #Review #Extract #PsychologicalThriller

Bonfire Night. A missing girl.

Anna only takes her eyes off Laurel for a second. She thought Laurel was following her mum through the crowds. But in a heartbeat, Laurel is gone.

Laurel’s parents are frantic. As is Anna, their nanny. But as the hours pass, and Laurel isn’t found, suspicion grows.

Someone knows what happened to Laurel. And they’re not telling.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

Everyone has secrets, in this fast-paced psychological thriller. Easy to read, it has a compelling plot, with many twists, and whilst there are clues, many of these just lead the reader astray, rather than focusing on the true antagonist.

A child abduction, has a profound effect on the parents, the child’s nanny and the community as a whole. This story is authentically written, with believable police procedures, and community involvement.

Against this setting, the story reveals two parents, who are riddled with guilt and secrets. A nanny, who is not what she seems to be, and three strangers whose behaviour is suspect.

Suspense is built up slowly and intertwined with an omnipresent sense of menace. There are no graphic descriptions in this, but the inference is there, and the reader fears for the child’s safety.

Anna is a well-written unreliable protagonist, she is hiding and keeping secrets, but she appears devoted to the child, so can her point of view be trusted? Fran and Dominic, the parents are career-driven and self-absorbed.

The final chapters have many revelations, and the ending is both, a moral dilemma and a triumph.

Extract from ‘Have You Seen Her’ – Lisa Hall

PROLOGUE

The fire crackles as the flames leap into the frigid November air, sending out showers of sparks. The wooden pallets that have been piled high by volunteering parents, eagerly giving up their Saturday afternoon, crumple and sag as they burn. The guy – the star of this cold, clear Bonfire Night – is long gone now, his newspaper-stuffed belly and papier mâché head only lasting a matter of seconds, the crowd cheering as his features catch alight, feeding the frenzy of the flames.

My breath steams out in front of me, thick plumes of white that match the smoke that rises from the bonfire, but I am not cold, my hands are warm and my cheeks flushed pink. The crowd of parents, teachers and children, five or six deep in some places, that gathers in the muddy field behind the school are transfixed as the first of the fireworks shoots into the sky, before sending a spectacular display of colours raining down through the night air. I watch as she keeps her gaze fixed onto the display, the heat of the bonfire casting an orange glow across her features, her hat pushed back on her head, so her view isn’t obstructed.

For a moment I feel a tiny twinge of guilt – after all, none of this is really her fault – before I remember why I’m doing this, and I bat it away impatiently. All I need to do now is wait. Wait for the realisation to dawn on her face, for the fear to grip her heart and make her stomach flip over as she realises what has happened. For her to realise that Laurel is gone.

CHAPTER 1

‘Here.’ Fran thrusts a polystyrene cup of mulled wine into my hand, fragrant steam curling into the cold November air. I don’t drink – not even cheap mulled wine with the alcohol boiled out of it – something I’ve told her repeatedly for the past three years that I’ve worked for her as a nanny, but she never takes any notice.

‘Thanks.’ I cup my hands around the warm plastic and let the feeble heat attempt to thaw out my cold fingers. Another firework shoots into the air, blue and white sparks showering across the sky, and a gasp rises from the crowd. Fran sips at her wine, grimacing slightly, before pushing her hat back on her head so she can see properly. She fumbles in her pocket, drawing out a slightly melted chocolate bar. ‘I got this for Laurel,’ she says, the foil wrapper glinting in the reflected glow from the giant bonfire behind the cordon in front of us.

‘Laurel?’ I say, frowning slightly. Laurel is a nightmare to get to bed if she has sweets this late in the evening, Fran knows that. Although, it’ll be my job to tussle Laurel into bed all hyped up on sugar, not Fran’s. I glance down, expecting to see her tiny frame in front of us, in the position she’s held all evening. She dragged us to the very edge of the cordon as soon as we arrived at the field behind the school, determined that we wouldn’t miss a second of the Oxbury Primary School bonfire and fireworks display.

‘Yes, for Laurel – you know, my daughter,’ Fran says impatiently, thrusting the chocolate towards me. She follows my gaze, and frowns slightly, biting down on her lip, before she opens her mouth to speak. ‘Where is she?’

I turn, anxiously scanning the crowds behind us, the faces of parents, family members and teachers that have all come out in their droves to watch the display. Laurel isn’t there. She isn’t in front of me, in the tiny pocket of space she carved out for herself, and she isn’t behind me either. I turn back to Fran, trying to ignore the tiny flutter in my chest.

‘I thought she went with you?’ I say, the cup of mulled wine now cooling quickly in the chilly night air, a waft of cinnamon rising from the cup and making my stomach heave. ‘With me?’ Fran’s eyes are wide as she glances past me, searching for Laurel.

‘Yes, with you.’ I have to stop myself from snapping at her, worry nipping at my insides. ‘You said you were going to get us a drink and pop to the loo, and Laurel said, “Hang on, Mummy, I’m coming with you.”’

‘She did? Are you sure?’

‘Well, reasonably sure,’ I say, a delicate twinge of frustration whispering at my breastbone. ‘I mean, I saw her follow after you because I shouted out to her to keep hold of your hand.’ There are hundreds, if not thousands of people here tonight, the display well known in the small patch of Surrey that we live in. It’s a regular annual event arranged by the PTA, and it’s well attended every year.

‘She didn’t,’ Fran whispers, her eyes meeting mine as the blood drains from her face. ‘She didn’t hold my hand. She didn’t catch up with me at all.’

Advertisements
Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Mystery, Thriller

The Body in the Mist #BlogTour – Nick Louth @canelo_co @NickLouthAuthor #AuthorInterview #DCICraigGillard #crime

A brutal murder hints at a terrifying mystery, and this time it’s personal.

A body is found on a quiet lane in Exmoor, the victim of a hit and run. He has no ID, no wallet, no phone, and – after being dragged along the road – no recognisable face.

Meanwhile, fresh from his last case, DCI Craig Gillard is unexpectedly called away to Devon on family business.

Gillard is soon embroiled when the car in question is traced to his aunt. As he delves deeper, a dark mystery reveals itself, haunted by family secrets, with repercussions Gillard could never have imagined. 

The past has never been deadlier.

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Q&A with Nick Louth – #DCICraigGillard series

What are the inspirations behind this series, and this story in particular?

The DCI Gillard book series started as these things so often do, almost by accident. I had an idea for a detective story, which was quite different from the suspense thrillers I had been writing previously. It was a particular plot involving an extremely clever female murderer, who managed to conceal her crimes. I wanted to show in the book how each and every step that she took was actually possible, which is something that very few crime writers actually do. My publishers, Canelo, then thought that this should make the start of a good series. The inspiration for the Body in the Mist, number three in the series, was to make the story very close to home for the protagonist. Two aunts, by turns endearing, eccentric and later chilling, cause huge conflicts between his role as a detective and as a nephew. I also wanted to have a wild and stormy setting for this particular book and chose Exmoor in Devon. It becomes a very dark tale indeed.

Do you think creating a likeable and memorable detective is important in books of this genre? Why do think this is?

In crime fiction, everything hinges on your protagonist: DCI Craig Gillard doesn’t suffer the alcoholism or marital difficulties which have become such a cliche in the genre, but he has his weaknesses. He is, of course, rugged and capable; I suppose one could create a male detective who isn’t – like TVs Ironside or  Columbo – but then you get different kinds of difficulties, much harder to solve on the page unless you want to pursue a purely cerebral enquiry. Likeability is an interesting one – your protagonist must be reliable, someone that can be trusted, even if they are perhaps a little cold or distant, in the mould of Jack Reacher for example. They can even be love rats, but if so they must be lovable rogues. It’s a hard balancing act to get right. The crux of this is that the reader will be looking over the detective’s shoulder at scenes often too grisly to experience in a first-person narrative. That’s where the trust and reliability come in.

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

My characters are a mixture, often with particular minor traits that I have observed, but overall they are led by my imagination. Making them realistic is often done by show-don’t- tell. The male foot, resting territorially on the edge of the airport baggage carousel – we’ve all seen it – or the imposing black car driven by a short but aggressive man, all hint at something we have seen and understood. Quite often I use third per person viewpoints to hold a mirror to a particular character. In the Body in the Mist, Gillard’s wife Sam plays a major role in giving us a perspective on her husband’s internal conflicts.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read a selection of current bestsellers in my own genres, just to see what the competition is like, but I don’t get as much time as I would like to read for pleasure.

 What are you currently writing?

The Body in the Snow, my current project, is the story of the murder of an Indian businesswoman, bludgeoned to death on a snowy March morning in an English park. She is a celebrity chef, as well as the matriarch of £1 billion business called the Empire of Spice Ltd. There is a seething undercurrent of rivalry and hostility within her family, driven by money, envy, and hate. My deadline is the end of October!

What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?

The best thing about being a writer is that each and every part of my work is enjoyable. I just love it! The worst part is an element of isolation. I used to be a foreign correspondent for Reuters, which was far more stressful of course but had an enjoyable camaraderie which I sometimes miss.  

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992 while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled  ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017. 

Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.

Website

Twitter

Facebook

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

My Thoughts…

There is a very dark start to this crime thriller, a body is found on a road in Exmoor, seemingly the victim of a hit and run, but the injuries make identification tortuous. DCI Gillard finds that a family member may have connections to the incident. What follows is an in-depth look at Gillard’s family and the revelation of long-hidden family secrets that put him in an unenviable position.

This chapter in his life, we meet part of his family, they are not what they first appear to be, and the hidden personality traits that are eventually exposed are written convincingly.

His wife is an important character in this story, and her trust and support, despite her own fears and misgivings, help him to keep a perspective on the situation, as he faces up to, and accepts the dark side of his family.

The plot is varied, with a murder, a cold case to solve and a court case that makes compelling reading. ‘A Body in the Mist’, is a dark, driven, dramatic crime thriller, which puts the protagonist through the mill but demonstrates his strength and integrity.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

#BlogTour – Alice Feeney- I Know Who You Are – @HQStories @alicewriterland 5*#Review #Extract #Thriller

Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

What a fabulously chilling ending this story has, I thought I’d worked it out but I didn’t see that coming.

‘I Know Who You Are’ is told from Aimee’s point of view, in the present day, with flashbacks thirty years previously to her childhood. The story is menacing and you experience everything Aimee feels.

Aimee is an unreliable protagonist because of the trauma she suffered in her past life, but she is easy to empathise, and I believed in her throughout the twists and turns of the story.

Abuse and control are the major themes of this story and shape Aimee into the person she is, preferring to act and assume a character rather than face the reality of her life.

Putting aside the suspense, mystery and plot twists, which are well-written, and have a powerful impact, there is also an ethos of sadness, loss and powerlessness that defines Aimee, and her story. It is this that resonates and makes her story believable.

Extract from: ‘I Know Who you Are’ – Alice Feeney

One

London, 2017

I’m that girl you think you know, but you can’t remember where

from.

Lying is what I do for a living. It’s what I’m best at becoming

somebody else. The eyes are the only part of me I still recognise

in the mirror, staring out beneath the made-up face of a made-up

person. Another character, another story, another lie. I look away,

ready to leave her behind for the night, stopping briefly to stare at

what is written on the dressing-room door:

AIMEE SINCLAIR

My name, not his. I never changed it.

Perhaps because, deep down, I always knew that our marriage

would only last until life did us part. I remind myself that my name

only defines me if I allow it to. It is merely a collection of letters,

arranged in a certain order; little more than a parent’s wish, a label, a

lie. Sometimes I long to rearrange those letters into something else.

Someone else. A new name for a new me. The me I became when

nobody else was looking.

Knowing a person’s name is not the same as knowing a person.

I think we broke us last night.

Sometimes it’s the people who love us the most that hurt us the

hardest, because they can.

He hurt me.

We’ve made a bad habit of hurting each other; things have to be

broken in order to fix them.

I hurt him back.

I check that I’ve remembered to put my latest book in my bag,

the way other people check for a purse or keys. Time is precious,

never spare, and I kill mine by reading on set between filming. Ever

since I was a child, I have preferred to inhabit the fictional lives of

others, hiding in stories that have happier endings than my own;

we are what we read. When I’m sure I haven’t forgotten anything,

I walk away, back to who and what and where I came from.

Something very bad happened last night.

I’ve tried so hard to pretend that it didn’t, struggled to rearrange

the memories, but I can still hear his hate-filled words, still, feel his

hands around my neck, and still see the expression I’ve never seen

his face wear before.

I can still fix this. I can fix us.

The lies we tell ourselves are always the most dangerous.

It was a fight, that’s all. Everybody who has ever loved has also

fought.

I walk down the familiar corridors of Pinewood Studios, leaving

my dressing room, but not my thoughts or fears too far behind.

My steps seem slow and uncertain, as though they are deliberately

delaying the act of going home; afraid of what will be waiting there.

I did love him, I still do.

I think it’s important to remember that. We weren’t always the

version of us that we became. Life remodels relationships like these reshapes the sand; eroding dunes of love, building banks of hate.

Last night, I told him it was over. I told him I wanted a divorce and

I told him that I meant it this time.

I didn’t. Mean it.

I climb into my Range Rover and drive towards the iconic studio

gates, steering towards the inevitable. I fold in on myself a little,

hiding the corners of me I’d rather others didn’t see, bending my

sharp edges out of view. The man in the booth at the exit waves,

his face dressed in kindness. I force my face to smile back, before

pulling away.

For me, acting has never been about attracting attention or

wanting to be seen. I do what I do because I don’t know how to do

anything else, and because it’s the only thing that makes me feel

happy. The shy actress is an oxymoron in most people’s dictionaries,

but that is who and what I am. Not everybody wants to be somebody.

Some people just want to be somebody else. Acting is easy, it’s being

me that I find difficult. I throw up before almost every interview

and event. I get physically ill and am crippled with nerves when I

have to meet people as myself. But when I step out onto a stage,

or in front of a camera as somebody different, it feels like I can fly.

Nobody understands who I really am, except him.

My husband fell in love with the version of me I was before. My

success is relatively recent, and my dreams coming true signalled

the start of his nightmares. He tried to be supportive at first, but I

was never something he wanted to share. That said, each time my

anxiety tore me apart, he stitched me back together again. Which

was kind, if also self-serving. In order to get satisfaction from fixing

something, you either have to leave it broken for a while first, or

break it again yourself.

I drive slowly along the fast London streets, silently rehearsing

for real life, catching unwelcome glimpses of my made-up self in

the mirror. The thirty-six-year-old woman I see looks angry about

being forced to wear a disguise. I am not beautiful, but I’m told

I have an interesting face. My eyes are too big for the rest of my

features, as though all the things they have seen made them swell

out of proportion. My long dark hair has been straightened by expert

fingers, not my own, and I’m thin now, because the part I’m playing

requires me to be so, and because I frequently forget to eat. I forget

to eat because a journalist once called me ‘plump but pretty.’ I can’t

remember what she said about my performance.

It was a review of my first film role last year. A part that changed

my life, and my husband’s, forever. It certainly changed our bank

balance, but our love was already overdrawn. He resented my newfound

success – it took me away from him – and I think he needed

to make me feel small in order to make himself feel big again. I’m

not who he married. I’m more than her now, and I think he wanted

less. He’s a journalist, successful in his own right, but it’s not the

same. He thought he was losing me, so he started to hold on too

tight, so tight that it hurt.

I think part of me liked it.

I park on the street and allow my feet to lead me up the garden

path. I bought the Notting Hill townhouse because I thought it

might fix us while we continued to remortgage our marriage. But

money is a band-aid, not a cure for broken hearts and promises. I’ve

never felt so trapped by my own wrong turns. I built my prison in

the way that people often do, with solid walls made from bricks of

guilt and obligation. Walls that seemed to have no doors, but the

way out was always there. I just couldn’t see it.

I let myself in, turning on the lights in each of the cold, dark,

vacant rooms.

‘Ben,’ I call, taking off my coat.

Even the sound of my voice calling his name sounds wrong,

fake, foreign.

‘I’m home,’ I say to another empty space. It feels like a lie to

describe this as my home; it has never felt like one. A bird never

chooses its own cage.

When I can’t find my husband downstairs, I head up to our

bedroom, every step heavy with dread and doubt. The memories of

the night before are a little too loud now that I’m back on the set of

our lives. I call his name again, but he still doesn’t reply. When I’ve

checked every room, I return to the kitchen, noticing the elaborate

bouquet of flowers on the table for the first time. I read the small

card attached to them; there’s just one word:

Sorry.

Sorry is easier to say than it is to feel. Even easier to write.

I want to rub out what happened to us and go back to the beginning.

I want to forget what he did to me and what he made me do. I

want to start again, but time is something we ran out of long before

we started running from each other. Perhaps if he’d let me have the

children I so badly wanted to love, things might have been different.

I retrace my steps back to the lounge and stare at Ben’s things on

the coffee table: his wallet, keys and phone. He never goes anywhere

without his phone. I pick it up, carefully, as though it might either

explode or disintegrate in my fingers. The screen comes to life and

reveals a missed call from a number I don’t recognise. I want to see

more, but when I press the button again the phone demands Ben’s

passcode. I try and fail to guess several times until it locks me out

completely.

I search the house again, but he isn’t here. He isn’t hiding. This

isn’t a game.

Back out in the hall, I notice that the coat he always wears is where

he left it, and his shoes are still by the front door. I call his name one

last time, so loud that the neighbours on the other side of the wall

must hear me, but there’s still no answer. Maybe he just popped out.

Without his wallet, phone, keys, coat or shoes?

Denial is the most destructive form of self-harm.

A series of words whisper themselves repeatedly inside my ears:

Vanished. Fled. Departed. Left. Missing. Disappeared.

Then the carousel of words stops spinning, finally settling on the

one that fits best. Short and simple, it slots into place, like a piece of

a puzzle I didn’t know I’d have to solve.

My husband is gone.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Guest post, Thriller

Death By Dark Waters – Jo Allen #BlogTour @Aria_Fiction @JoAllenAuthor #Crime #LakeDistrict #Cumbria #Detective #Guest Post -4 * #Review

The charred remains of a child are discovered – a child no one seems to have missed…

It’s high summer, and the lakes are in the midst of an unrelenting heat wave. Uncontrollable fell fires are breaking out across the moors faster than they can be extinguished. When firefighters uncover the body of a dead child at the heart of the latest blaze, Detective Chief Inspector Jude Satterthwaite’s arson investigation turns to one of murder.

Jude was born and bred in the Lake District. He knows everyone…and everyone knows him. Except his intriguing new Detective Sergeant, Ashleigh O’Halloran, who is running from a dangerous past and has secrets of her own to hide…

Temperatures – and tension – in the village are rising, and with the body, count rising Jude and his team race against the clock to catch the killer before it’s too late…

The first in the gripping, Lake District set, DCI Jude Satterthwaite series.

Amazon

iBooks

Google Play

 Kobo

Guest Post – Jo Allen – Death By Dark Waters – Turning to Crime

I used to be a romantic novelist. I suppose I still am. But I’ve always loved reading crime.

When I was younger I read Agatha Christie (possibly not that well-characterised but fantastic, page-turning plots); Dorothy Sayers (wonderful characters, superb writing but possibly a little dense); Ngaio Marsh (so dated now, but I did become engaged with her detective). I marvelled at the complicated plots and the twists in the tale. I really, really wanted to write that sort of thing, but it was just…too difficult.

I fell into a trap, I think, of believing that some genres were easier than others — romance was “easy” because it doesn’t need so many fiendish red herrings, for example — but I was wrong. Romance is just as difficult because although it appears formulaic you still have to create characters who keep the reader interested and you have a plot that depends not on what happens in the end (spoiler: it’s happy) but on how you get there.

My first novels, if you can call them that, were ‘crime’. There was a mystery about a stolen ruby and a less-than-probable tale about a Cold War plot in the skiing world cup. (There was also a one-act play about match-fixing in international cricket which eventually proved prescient.)

But these were all rubbish, truly poor, no research, terrible plotting…every mistake in the book. I moved on to things that didn’t really require research, or not in the same way. In 2014, after many rejections, I finally had my first novel, a romance, published. But even as I practised writing I was still reading crime and thrillers.

It was in 2017, in September as I recall, that I was wandering about in the Lake District musing on what to write next when it suddenly dawned on me. The tools for a successful book are the same whatever genre you write in. You need to be able to structure a plot, create a location and (probably most importantly) develop your characters. And on that walk, Death in Dark Waters was born, and I realised that, after all, I could write crime…

So now I can introduce you to DCI Jude Satterthwaite and his cases. The first of them, in Death by Dark Waters, begins with an unidentified dead body in a burning barn. Whodunnit? Read the book to find out…

Jo Allen was born in Wolverhampton and is a graduate of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and the Open University. 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. In 2017 she took the plunge and began writing the genre she most likes to read – crime. Now living in Edinburgh, she spends as much time as possible in the English Lakes. In common with all her favourite characters, she loves football (she’s a season ticket holder with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cats. Twitter Facebook

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


My Thoughts…

Set in the Cumbrian Lake District ‘Death By Dark Waters’ features a troubled Detective Chief Inspector – Jude Satterthwaite and his team as they investigate a death on the hills close to Haweswater. Forensically there is little to go on and the team have to rely on their detection skills to solve the crime.

Jude’s personal life is challenging, he is driven and seeks the control he needs, through his career, which is so lacking in his emotional life. Ashleigh O’Halloran, newly transferred from Cheshire, presents as a confident professional, not afraid to challenge her colleagues. She is a distraction for Jude who shies away from emotional ties.

There is a considerable amount of introspection and emotional angst, in this story, it is an unusual style for a crime novel but does give the story an original angle. The police procedural is believable and, the plot has enough suspects and twists to hold your attention. The pacing is slow but this is to be expected in a new series when characters have to be introduced and their motivations and flaws explored. The crime is grizzly but the descriptions aren’t overly explicit. Instead, the reader is allowed to imagine the scene.

The action really takes off halfway through the story, when a significant plot twist occurs. I thought I’d solved it, and I did guess who, but the motivation for the crime is sinister and twisted and not revealed until the end.

On balance, I empathise with the troubled detective and look forward to more crime solving.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Romance

This Is Me- Shari Low – 5* #Review #GuestPost @Aria_Fiction @sharilow #FamilyDrama

This is… Denise.

Married to Ray, her first and only love, Denise has never for one moment regretted putting the husband she idolised on a pedestal above everyone and everything else. But, after forty years of marriage, he is gone, leaving Denise to discover that their perfect marriage was fatally flawed. Now she faces a future alone, but first, she must face the betrayals of the past.

This is… Claire.

The estranged daughter of Denise, the woman who put her husband before her children, Claire took the opposite path and devoted her life to raising her family, sacrificing her marriage along the way. With her teenage sons about to flee the nest, she realises she may have left it too late to find her own happy-ever-after.

This is the story of two women, both alone, both cautionary tales of one of motherhood’s biggest decisions.

Who is more important, your partner or your children? And what happens if you make the wrong choice?

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

Guest Post – This Is Me- Shari Low – The Writer’s Soundtrack

Once upon a time there was a young teenager who would stay up all night reading Jackie Collins novels under her duvet, using the light of the electric blanket so she wouldn’t get caught. As she read those bonktastic tales of sexy stuff and scandals, she would dream of being a writer and imagine what that life would be like. In her fantasy future as an author, she’d lie by her kidney-shaped swimming pool in LA, sipping a mojito, while the strains of Bon Jovi blared in the background. Oh, and she’d be a size ten, perfectly groomed and the kind of woman who always wore knickers that matched her bra.

Cue sound of that big “uh-uh” buzzer that signifies a wrong answer on Family Fortunes.

The reality? That teenager somehow managed to survive electric-blanket heat-stroke and grew up to be a writer. Yay! But as for the rest of the fantasy? Nope, didn’t happen that way. There’s no kidney-shaped pool, no mojitos, her make up bag is somewhere at the bottom of the ironing pile and her underwear drawer is a riot.

And the soundtrack that plays while she writes her books? Forget rock music. In this house, it’s been a very different cacophony of noise. If it were an album, it would be called 18 Years Of Motherhood.

I’ve penned 24 books since I was pregnant with my first child.

In the early days, with two tiny sons (my second child came 16 months after his brother), I wrote my first few books while listening to the Teletubbies making unintelligible sounds that somehow kept the toddlers transfixed.

Next came a couple of years of, “Muuuuuuuuuuuum, he’s annoying me!”

Then “Muuuuuuuuuuuum, where’s my gym kit/school tie / packed lunch?” My kids did love an elongated vowel.

Thankfully, they soon discovered sports, so for a long time, I typed to the thud of a basketball being bounced outside my window.

Then the teenage years dawned and their dulcet tones dropped a few octaves as they bellowed, “Mum, can I get a lift to the gym / my pal’s house / a party, please?”

It wasn’t what I’d envisaged when I dreamt of being a writer but I wouldn’t change a single moment of it, because now? Silence.

One son has already left home at 16, off to follow his athletic dreams, and the other one is about to follow him out the door.

So what happens next?

That’s the dilemma facing Claire in This Is Me. She’s the daughter of a mother who always made her feel utterly unimportant, so she has dedicated her life to bringing up her children, sacrificing her marriage along the way. Now, she’s facing an empty nest and the prospect of building a new life.

Meanwhile, her mother, Denise, had just lost the husband she adored, and worse, she is discovering that she devoted forty years to a man who may have been living a lie. Two women, both alone, but can either of them find new happiness?

It’s a story of secrets, lies, and the choices that women make.

And as for the woman who wrote this book?

I just need to get used to the new soundtrack of my life. In the meantime, I’ll bung on some Bon Jovi and go find a matching bra and knickers.

This Is Me published by Aria May 2nd.

Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In December, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You and her latest release, Another Day In Winter. And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift. For all the latest news, visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Website

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

My Thoughts…

‘This is Me’ is a story of ordinary people, who are forced to look back on their lives when a pinnacle person in the family dies, unexpectedly. Denise (the mother), is grief-stricken at the loss of her husband Ray. She has devoted her life to him, and now she has no direction. Claire(the daughter) despised her father, and because of him is estranged from her mother. She chose a different path with her children, but now they’re living their lives and she wonders if she should have done more to save her marriage.

This is a story of regret, hindsight and the possibility of a more positive life for both women, but first, they relive and hopefully learn from the important milestones in their lives’ to date. The retro flashbacks in this book are evocative for anyone who lived through them. Youth clubs and David Soul in the late 1970s and Take That and 1999 in the late 1990s and the millennium.

The cast of characters, some of which have appeared before, add depth and interest to the plot. There is a notable disparity between the network of support Claire has, compared to her mother.

Life choices are the key theme to this story, and ones every woman who has a partner and children has to make. Denise and Claire’s choices are husband or children, most people’s choices are less defined and make accommodations to facilitate different times in the child’s life cycle. However, the scenario’s and the characters are believable and realistic. 

‘This Is Me’ is a story of family, friends and the dynamics that are part of every family. Claire is determined to be the antithesis of her mother, but in doing so fails to find a balance in her family life. The importance of nurturing in childhood is explored in this story because it shapes the adults we become.

A dramatic interpretation of ordinary lives and relationships filled with emotion, guilt, hate, humour and love, demonstrated through believable, flawed characters. It is both emotional and engaging to read.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Noir

The Heart Keeper #BlogTour -Alex Dahl @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @alexdahlauthor #Extract #FamilyDrama -3*#Review

How do you mend a broken heart?

It’s been three months since Alison Miller-Juul’s world fell apart when her six-year-old daughter, Amalie, died in an accident. Three months of sympathy cards, grief counselling and gritting her teeth, but it’s still only the vodka and pills that seem to help.

Across town, Iselin Berg’s life is finally looking up. Her seven-year-old daughter, Kaia, has survived a life-changing operation. After years of doctors, medication and hope, they can now start thinking about the future.

When Alison uncovers a dangerous secret, she is left in turmoil. She can now see a way to heal her broken heart, but will she risk everything to do so?

Amazon

Kobo

Google Play

iBooks

Extract from The heart Keeper -Alex Dahl

Chapter One

Alison

I wake all the time, that is if I sleep at all. The alarm clock projects the time onto the wall on Sindre’s side of the bed and I lie staring at the pulsating dots separating the numbers. It’s just after two o’clock in the morning and Sindre isn’t here. He was here when I fell asleep. At least I think he was. I pull my hand out from underneath the warm duvet and stroke the cool, empty space where my husband should be.

A few nights ago, the same thing happened. I woke, suddenly, bursting from a dream I couldn’t remember into this black, silent room. I blinked repeatedly, trying to make out the bulky shape of Sindre in the dark – I didn’t want to reach for him in case he’d think I wanted something; I wouldn’t have been able to bear his warm, careful hands on my skin. It took me several moments to realize he wasn’t there. I got out of bed and sat on the windowsill, looking out at the forest and beyond, to the lights of the city rising up the hillsides to meet the stars. It was a very cold night for early October, and an orange moon hung low over Tryvann. I felt glad Sindre wasn’t there – it was good to not have to pretend to sleep, even if only for a while.

I was about to return to bed when I spotted something moving in between the trees directly opposite the house, off the gravel path. I moved slightly back from the window as Sindre came out of the forest, dressed in a light-blue shirt, half tucked into his trousers and his expensive leather loafers. His shirt was smeared with a streak of dirt across his chest and he stood a while in the narrow stretch in between the house and the car, as though he couldn’t decide whether to come back inside or drive away. He turned toward where I stood on the first floor, and only then could I clearly see his face, which was twisted into an uncensored, almost unrecognizable grimace. If the man standing outside our house hadn’t been wearing my husband’s clothes, I’m not sure I’d have recognized him.

Has he gone back out there tonight? I get up and stand a while by the window. Tonight is stormy, with gray, dripping clouds and a brisk breeze hustling leaves in the garden. The forest stands solid at the far end of our lawn, mist seeping from it and joining the wind in translucent coils. It might feel good to walk into that forest, listening to the whip of the wind cracking branches, to let the cold night inside me, to breathe its moist air all the way into my stomach. It might lessen the burning, even if only for a moment. I sharpen my eyes and focus on the spot from where Sindre emerged the other night, but without the light of the moon, I can’t separate the shape of a man from that of a tree, even if he were standing right there. He could be standing directly in front of me, looking at me, and I wouldn’t see him.

I walk over to the door and stand listening before opening it a crack. This house is rarely silent – it’s as though a faint hum reverberates from within its walls, the bass to every other sound our family layers on top of it – but it’s quiet tonight. I stand on the landing, my eyes smarting in the bright light from the overhead spotlights, listening for that comforting murmur, or for the reassuring signs of some of its occupants, but I hear nothing. I glance over at the door to Amalie’s room and am struck by a wild terror at the thought of what lies behind it. The burning flares up in my gut, as though live flames were shooting around the myriad, dark corridors inside me. I clutch my stomach and force my eyes away from Amalie’s room. I try to think of something to count, anything, and can only think of the steps. Seventeen. Seventeen steps, I can do it. I can go downstairs and get some water and then I can go back upstairs, past Oliver’s room, past Amalie’s room, just like that; I can do it, I’ve done it before, it’s just a bad night, that’s all, and when I get back upstairs I can take a pill from the bedside table and even if it won’t give me real sleep, it will give me dense, dreamless rest.

In the kitchen, I stand by the sink in the dark. I hear it now, that humming sound. My hands are still holding my abdomen, as though only they stop my insides from spilling out. The burning sensation is fading, and now it feels more like corrosion – as if I’d chewed through a battery.

Severe anxiety, says the doctor.

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University. A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland, Bath and London. Her first thriller, The Boy at the Door, was a Sunday Times Crime Club star pick. Twitter Facebook


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

My Thoughts…

I like the originality of this story, it is realistic and makes you appreciate why organ donations should be anonymous, with neither the donor family nor the recipients having knowledge of the other.

This is an intense family drama, rather than a Nordic noir thriller. It is slow-paced, and deep, dealing with the darkest and rawest of human emotions. Parents will relate to the grief the donor’s family feels. Although the mother’s action is extreme, so is losing a child, and her actions are believable.

Told from two viewpoints both mothers, their stories start off separate then become dramatically connected. The characters are complex and strange but mostly authentic. Understandably this is an emotional story, and whilst I admire its characterisation, delivery and the simplicity of the plot that resonates, I found it exhausting to read.

One to read if you like intense drama.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Romance, Victorian Romance

The Pursuits of Lord Kit Cavanaugh #BlogTour – Stephanie Laurens – 5* #Review #BookBlogger@MillsandBoon #LordKitCavanaugh #TheCavanaughs

Bold and clever, THE CAVANAUGHS are unlike any other family in early Victorian England!

Lord Kit Cavanaugh is all business and a gentleman of means. He has discovered his true path and it doesn’t include the expected society marriage.

Miss Sylvia Buckleberry is a woman of character whose passion is her school for impoverished children. The only way Sylvia can save her school after it is forced out of its building is by working with Kit, but this proves to be a daunting task…

Kit and Sylvia fight for the futures they hold dear. Together they are an unstoppable duo.

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

My Thoughts…

The decadence of the Regency era lends itself to romance and passion, but the Victorian era is less showy, more introverted, and harder to romanticise. Stephanie Laurens manages to explore the major themes of the Victorian era, invention, innovation, insurrection and poverty, yet still, produce a devastating romantic hero and a passionate romance between Kit and Sylvia.

‘The Pursuits of Lord Kit Cavanaugh’ is the second in ‘The Cavanaugh’s’ series. but reads well as a standalone. The historical details focus on Victorian philanthropy and enterprise. Both championed by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. If you enjoy the TV series ‘Victoria’, this explores the era and its people with similar vivacity and vivid imagery.

The romance begins gently, the barely acquainted couple meet again and both see a different side to the person they first met. The old adage of ‘not judging a book by its cover’ comes to mind when reading this story. As Kit sees beneath Sylvia’s cold austere mask, and she realises there is more to him than the rakehell, he purports to be.

The plot is varied and complex and has an essential undercurrent of menace, which makes historical romance enthralling. The insight into Victorian society is authentic and engaging and provides a perfect setting for this romantic adventure, so in keeping with the period.

We are introduced briefly to other members of the Cavanaugh family, Rand and Felicia, who feature in book one of the series and Stacia and Godfrey, whose stories are yet to be told. The scandalous and emotionally damaging spectre of Kit’s late mother has made him cautious of women and society. Sylvia’s independent, intelligent outlook on life is refreshing and makes him seek something he never believed he would.

Adventure, romance, and even a Victorian villain this story has a little of everything and is as enthralling and enjoyable for lovers of historical romance and fiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon

Kobo

Google Play

iBooks

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

My Thoughts…

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

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

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

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

Q&A: Naomi Joy – The Liars Blog Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

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

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

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

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

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

What are you currently writing?

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

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

Extract from ‘The Liars’ – Naomi Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, here I was. Fighting for my career.

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

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

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

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

‘It’s just—’

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

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

‘Jade – do you mind?’

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

‘Jade, what were you thinki—’

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

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

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

Twitter

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Family Drama, Gangland Crime, Guest post, Thriller

Born Bad -Heather Burnside – 4* #Review #BlogTour @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @heatherbwriter #crime #thriller #paperback

Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water…

Amazon

Kobo

Google Play

iBooks

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


My Thoughts…

Born Bad’ is the first book in the ‘Manchester Trilogy’ series, a gritty gangland crime story set in Manchester. I have read this book after reading the other two later books, and so I knew what to expect. It was good to meet Adele and Peter in the early stages of their life, the abuse and lack of care they receive make the people they become in later life.

It’s interesting that different personalities react in diverse ways to their nurturing, or lack of it and the events in this book pave the way for the further books in the series with some surprising twists.

This is a harrowing story. Domestic abuse, neglect and violence are prominent, this is hard to read, but an essential component of this genre. The story is good and well-paced. The characters are complex, flawed and realistic.

If you are looking for a British based, organised crime series, focused on the family, this is a book and series worth reading.

Guest Post – Heather Burnside

One of the themes that feature in Born Bad is mental health. The topic of nature vs nurture interests me and I, therefore, decided to reflect this in the book. Currently, there is a lot of focus in the media on looking after our mental health so I thought it would be an opportune time to explore this issue in Born Bad.

My protagonist, Adele, is affected by mental health in many ways. To start with we hear Adele’s grandmother, Joyce, talking about Adele’s father, Tommy’s, side of the family and their mental health issues. She tells Adele’s mother that Tommy comes from bad blood (hence the title Born Bad) and that he had a mad great-uncle who was always fighting and who ended up in an asylum.

Joyce also worries that Adele’s brother, Peter, might take after Tommy’s side of the family. Joyce is quite insensitive when she refers to the issue of mental health but, when you bear in mind that this was the seventies, her view was typical at that time. Fortunately, the perception of mental health issues has changed a lot since then.

Adele and Peter have a very traumatic childhood and, as the novel progresses, they both behave in a way that wouldn’t be considered normal or rational. Peter’s odd behaviour is first displayed when he is lining up caterpillars and thrashing them with a whip, taking great delight in seeing their damaged bodies.

As he gets older Peter becomes involved in criminal activities in which he doesn’t appear to have a conscience where his victims are concerned. Is this because of his troubled upbringing, because of genetic mental health issues or perhaps a combination of the two?

Adele, on the other hand, does have a conscience and she tries to do the right thing but she is affected by forces that seem to be beyond her control. Again, she could have been driven by an inherent condition or she could be so severely affected by her troubled childhood that she reaches breaking point. Research has shown that both genetics and upbringing can affect a person’s mental health.

Adele’s mother, Shirley, also has her own problems and relies on a diet of pills to get her through each day. However, rather than being seen as a hereditary illness, her mental health issues stem from the stress of being married to a drunken, violent and unfeeling man. Adele sees her as weak but, like her grandmother, her point of view could be the result of poor awareness in the 1970s regarding mental health issues.

Mental health covers a wide spectrum of illnesses with varying levels of severity. The UK mental health charity, Mind, estimates that one in four people in the UK each year experiences a mental health problem. Anxiety and depression are amongst the most common mental health conditions, and while some of these conditions are manageable, they also vary in severity. There are some very serious and debilitating mental health conditions too which can greatly affect a person’s quality of life.

I think we have come a long way in highlighting mental health issues and breaking down the taboos which have previously surrounded the subject. However, we still have some way to go both in educating people about mental health and in providing greater levels of care to those affected.

Extract From Born Bad – Heather Burnside

Oblivious to Deborah’s agonised screams, Adele continued to kick as rage overtook her. It was only the sight of the dinner lady running towards her that brought her to her senses.

Now, as she thought about the incident, she felt remorseful. If only Debby hadn’t decided to do something so daft. If only she could have persuaded her to stop without losing her temper. But Debby hadn’t stopped. She shouted at her a few times, and she still didn’t stop. That’s what she would say in her defence. She had to pull her legs away; it was her only chance.

But did she have to kick her?

Adele was feeling desperate. Oh God, it’s no good, she thought, I’m gonna be in trouble no matter what.

She thought about what her father’s reaction would be if he found out. She dreaded that even more than she dreaded being summoned to see the head teacher.

The sound of the bell interrupted her thoughts. It was the end of the lunch period and Adele entered the school building in a state of trepidation, to the sound of taunting.

‘You’re gonna be in trouble, Adele Robinson, for what you did to Debby.’

‘Yeah,’ added another girl, ‘Miss Goody Two Shoes is gonna get done, haha.’

When Mr Parry announced that she and Debby were to see the head teacher straightaway, Adele felt her stomach sink.

Mr Parry led the two girls down the long corridor towards the head teacher’s office and told them to wait outside while he knocked on the door. After he had been inside for a few minutes, he came back out and asked Debby to go inside. He then lowered his eyes towards Adele and told her to wait there until she was called for. She noticed the look of disappointment on his face and felt ashamed. Then, with nothing further to say, he left her standing outside the head teacher’s office, trembling with fear.

After what seemed like an endless wait, Debby came out of the office and looked away from Adele as she walked past her.

‘Next!’ shouted Miss Marchant.

Adele was already in tears by the time she entered the office and presented herself at the other side of the head teacher’s large desk.

‘Now then, what have you been up to?’ asked Miss Marchant.

‘I… I… I didn’t mean it,’ muttered Adele.

‘Didn’t mean what? And for heaven’s sake, speak up, young lady.’

‘I didn’t mean to hurt Debby,’ Adele sobbed.

‘Well, from what I’ve been told, you’ve got a bit of a temper, haven’t you young lady?’

Adele, by now very tearful, nodded in response.

‘I can’t hear you!’ thundered Miss Marchant.

‘Yes,’ Adele replied.

‘Yes, what?’

‘Yes, Miss Marchant.’

Adele was so worked up that she thought she would vomit at any minute. To her surprise, just when she reached the point where she felt she might faint, the head teacher seemed to relent.

‘Well, Miss Robinson, although I don’t condone your behaviour in the playground, I have received glowing reports from your class teacher. So, I’m going to let the matter rest on this occasion. However, I would suggest that in future you keep that temper of yours well under wraps.’

‘Yes Miss,’ answered Adele.

‘You may go.’

Adele quickly made for the door, feeling a mixture of relief and shame, but before she could get to the other side, she was stopped by Miss Marchant’s stern tones.

‘And if I ever hear of any repeat of this behaviour, you will be punished severely!’

‘Yes Miss,’ Adele replied as she dashed from the office.

Anxious to be away from the head teacher’s office as soon as possible, Adele rushed down the corridor and into her classroom.

Mr Parry raised his eyes from the papers on his desk and abruptly ordered Adele to sit down in the vacant seat next to Tony Lord, who had a reputation for being the best fighter in the school.

As Adele felt everyone’s eyes on her, a tear escaped from her eye. She was greeted by a barrage of questions from the other children sitting at the table. Adele’s feelings of guilt and shame made her shy away from their questions, even though she could tell they were impressed that she’d beaten Debby up.

‘Why are you crying if you won the fight?’ asked Tony, puzzled.

‘Don’t know,’ muttered Adele, dipping her head.

Read my reviews of Blood Ties and Vendetta, the other books in the series.

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children. Twitter Facebook

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Guest post, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery, Saga

The Girl In The Pink Raincoat – Alrene Hughes -5* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction @alrenehughes #BlogTour #Paperback #Wartime #Romance #WW2 #Manchester #Mystery #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance

In wartime, it takes courage to follow your heart.

Manchester, 1939.

Everyone hated the heat and the deafening noise, but for Gracie, the worst thing was the smell of chemicals that turned her stomach every morning when she arrived at the Rosenberg Raincoats factory.

Gracie is a girl on the factory floor. Jacob is the boss’s charismatic nephew. When they fall in love, it seems as if the whole world is against them – especially Charlie Nuttall, who also works at the factory and has always wanted Gracie for himself.

But worse is to come when Jacob disappears and Gracie is devastated, vowing to find him. Can she solve the mystery of his whereabouts? Gracie will need all her strength and courage to find a happy ending.

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

Guest Post – WHY I WRITE WWII NOVELS – Alrene Hughes

I think it was inevitable. If I was going to write a novel, then I would write about the second world war. For a start, my mother, aunts and grandmother had lived through the hardships and dangers of that time. The war had ended only seven years before I was born and, growing up, I somehow absorbed their memories second-hand.

My home city of Belfast in Northern Ireland – an industrial city of shipbuilding, aircraft manufacture and heavy engineering – was crucial to the war effort. Needless to say, it was heavily bombed. Later, when the USA entered the war, it was to Northern Ireland that the GIs came to train before being deployed overseas.

As a child, I knew the gaps between the buildings were bomb sites. Once on a bus going into the city centre with my mother, she pointed out a street where she had seen the dead bodies laid out on the pavement on her way to work after an overnight bombing. But she had happy memories too of her time as a factory girl building Stirling bombers. As a housewife after the war, I remember she wore her factory clothes, trousers and a turban, to clean the house. But the biggest influence in my post-war childhood was the music. 

My mother and aunts had been popular singers, in the style of the Andrews Sisters, and throughout the war, they entertained in the concert and dance halls, as well as the military camps. After my mother died, I found an old scrapbook among her possessions. It contained many concert programmes listing the acts and the Golden Sisters, as they were known, often had the titles of songs they sang next to their billing: Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree; Chattanooga Choo Choo … And then there were all the photos.

I just had to tell their wartime story. The personalities of my mother, aunts and grandmother were etched in my brain, the snippets of wartime memories had been passed on to me and I had the scrapbook. Add to that my research of life in the city and the ideas that flooded my mind and it was enough to turn it into a novel. In the end, their story became a popular WWII family saga, the Martha’s Girls trilogy.

Now I’ve written WWII novels set in Manchester, the city where I’ve lived most of my adult life. It’s a lot like Belfast in some ways: the heavy bombings; the industry; the no-nonsense, resilient people. The women in my new novels The Girl in the Pink Raincoat and The Girl from the Corner Shop, face tragedy and danger, experience love and loss but, throughout, their courage shines through.  

ARC – Paperback- Back Cover

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

My Thoughts…

Gracie is an endearing character, young, naive, but optimistic and full of life, with a smile never far from her face. It is this bubbliness that attracts Jacob, even though he realises that any relationship between them would be fraught with conflict.

The setting and era of this story are vividly portrayed, you can imagine the raincoat factory, the bombsites and the people, as they try to live their lives during wartime. Anyone who has listened to their grandparents and parents stories about ‘the war’, will recognise familiar concepts, and it is this relatability that makes the story so powerful.

The plot is well constructed, with a mystery and romance. The prejudice rife at the time is evident and is an important theme. Wartime romance with a twist. Family drama, strong friendships and a menacing undercurrent of betrayal and obsession, something for everyone in this wartime tale.

ARC- Paperback

Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time. Facebook

Twitter

ARC -Paperbaack
Extract – The Girl In The Pink Raincoat – Alrene Hughes

Gracie awoke to the sound of crying, and it was a moment before she realised it was coming through the paper-thin walls of the house next door. Then she remembered it was Friday morning and still Doris had not come to terms with her children being evacuated. She lay for a while, watching a shaft of sunlight coming through the gap in the curtains, and when the crying was replaced by the squeals and laughter of excited children, she got up.

By the time the children were ready to walk to school, a crowd had gathered in the street to see them off. Gracie and Sarah stood next to Doris as she held back her tears, hugged her two little girls and told them to be good and to write every week. An older boy, John Harris, took charge and it was clear that the evacuees had been drilled for this moment. At his command, they left their mothers and lined up like little soldiers, with their gas masks and belongings, each with a brown luggage label fastened to their coat. Gracie scanned their faces: some were filled with excitement, others apprehensive; and little Gladys Clark, with no mother to see her off, was sobbing her heart out.

John raised his hand and all eyes turned to him. ‘One … two … three!’ he shouted, and what happened next made the hair stand up on the back of Gracie’s neck – the children began to sing.

‘Farewell to Manchester we’re leaving today,

We need a safe place where we can stay,

Away from the bombs that fall on our heads,

Where we’ll sleep soundly and safe in our beds.’