Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Murder Mystery, Victorian Romance

The Princess Plan Julia London 5*#Review @JuliaFLondon @MillsandBoon #BlogTour #ARoyalWedding #Victorian #Romance #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #BookReview #Extract #TuesdayBookBlog #MurderMystery #Intrigue

#ThePrincessPLan

London’s high society loves nothing more than a scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefited from an anonymous tip-off about the crime, forcing Sebastian to ask for her help in his quest to find his friend’s killer.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more dangerous than a prince socialising with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And soon, as temptation becomes harder to ignore, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart. 

Amazon UK

#ThePrincessPlan #BlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

Such an absorbing, intriguing romantic read. Eliza is a delight, independent, intelligent and indelibly imprinted on your mind, as her unusual romance with a sexy, troubled Prince plays out. The ethos of Victorian society is captured well. Eliza, her sister and friend are a redoubtable trio who enliven every page of this Victorian romance.

Danger and intrigue fuse effortlessly with passion and romance. Whilst, there are elements of ‘Cinderella’ in this story, the reality of what is expected of royal princes and women in society, tempers the fun and glamour. Full of witty dialogue, a murder mystery, political intrigue and romantic passion, this tale has something for everyone. The first in the series, I look forward to the next book.

Extract From The Princess Plan – Julia London

CHAPTER ONE

London 1845

All of London has been on tenterhooks, desperate for a glimpse of Crown Prince Sebastian of Alucia during his highly anticipated visit. Windsor Castle was the scene of Her Majesty’s banquet to welcome him. Sixty-and-one-hundred guests were on hand, feted in St. George’s Hall beneath the various crests of the Order of the Garter. Two thousand pieces of silver cutlery were used, one thousand crystal glasses and goblets. The first course and main dish of lamb and potatoes were served on silver-gilded plates, followed by delicate fruits on French porcelain.

Prince Sebastian presented a large urn fashioned of green Alucian malachite to our Queen Victoria as a gift from his father the King of Alucia. The urn was festooned with delicate ropes of gold around the mouth and the neck.

The Alucian women were attired in dresses of heavy silk worn close to the body, the trains quite long and brought up and fastened with buttons to facilitate walking. Their hair was fashioned into elaborate knots worn at the nape. The Alucian gentlemen wore formal frock coats of black superfine wool that came to midcalf, as well as heavily embroidered waistcoats worn to the hip. It was reported that Crown Prince Sebastian is “rather tall and broad, with a square face and neatly trimmed beard, a full head of hair the colour of tea, and eyes the colour of moss,” which the discerning reader might think of as a softer shade of green. It is said he possesses a regal air owing chiefly to the many medallions and ribbons he wore befitting his rank.

Honeycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies

The Right Honorable Justice William Tricklebank, a widower and justice of the Queen’s Bench in Her Majesty’s service, was very nearly blind, his eyesight having steadily eroded into varying and fuzzy shades of grey with age. He could no longer see so much as his hand, which was why his eldest daughter, Miss Eliza Tricklebank, read his papers to him.

Eliza had enlisted the help of Poppy, their housemaid, who was more family than servant, having come to them as an orphaned girl more than twenty years ago. Together, the two of them had anchored strings and ribbons halfway up the walls of his London townhome, and all the judge had to do was follow them with his hand to move from room to room. Among the hazards he faced was a pair of dogs that were far too enthusiastic in their wish to be of some use to him, and a cat who apparently wished him dead, judging by the number of times he put himself in the judge’s path or leapt into his lap as he sat, or walked across the knitting the judge liked to do while his daughter read to him, or unravelled his ball of yarn without the judge’s notice.

The only other potential impediments to his health were his daughters—Eliza, a spinster, and her younger sister, Hollis, otherwise known as the Widow Honeycutt. They were often together in his home, and when they were, it seemed to him there was quite a lot of laughing at this and shrieking at that. His daughters disputed that they shrieked, and accused him of being old and easily startled. But the judge’s hearing, unlike his eyesight, was quite acute, and those two shrieked with laughter. Often.

At eight-and-twenty, Eliza was unmarried, a fact that had long baffled the judge. There had been an unfortunate and rather infamous misunderstanding with one Mr Asher Daughton-Cress, who the judge believed was despicable, but that had been ten years ago. Eliza had once been demure and a politely deferential young lady, but she’d shed any pretence of deference when her heart was broken. In the last few years, she had emerged vibrant and carefree. He would think such demeanour would recommend her to gentlemen far and wide, but apparently, it did not. She’d had only one suitor since her very public scandal, a gentleman some fifteen years older than Eliza. Mr Norris had faithfully called every day until one day he did not. When the judge had inquired, Eliza had said, “It was not love that compelled him, Pappa. I prefer my life here with you—the work is more agreeable, and I suspect not as many hours as marriage to him would require.”

His youngest, Hollis, had been tragically widowed after only two years of a marriage without issue. While she maintained her own home, she and her delightful wit were a faithful caller to his house at least once a day without fail, and sometimes as much as two or three times per day. He should like to see her remarried, but Hollis insisted she was in no rush to do so. The judge thought she rather preferred her sister’s company to that of a man.

His daughters were thick as thieves, as the saying went, and were co-conspirators in something that the judge did not altogether approve of. But he was blind, and they were determined to do what they pleased no matter what he said, so he’d given up trying to talk any practical sense into them.

That questionable activity was the publication of a ladies’ gazette. Tricklebank didn’t think ladies needed a gazette, much less one having to do with frivolous subjects such as fashion, gossip and beauty. But say what he might, his daughters turned a deaf ear to him. They were unfettered in their enthusiasm for this endeavour, and if the two of them could be believed, so was all of London.

The gazette had been established by Hollis’s husband, Sir Percival Honeycutt. Except that Sir Percival had published an entirely different sort of gazette, obviously— one devoted to the latest political and financial news. Now that was a useful publication to the judge’s way of thinking.

Sir Percival’s death was the most tragic of accidents, the result of his carriage sliding off the road into a swollen river during rain, which also saw the loss of a fine pair of greys. It was a great shock to them all, and the judge had worried about Hollis and her ability to cope with such a loss. But Hollis proved herself an indomitable spirit, and she had turned her grief into efforts to preserve her husband’s name. But as she was a young woman without a man’s education, and could not possibly comprehend the intricacies of politics or financial matters, she had turned the gazette on its head and dedicated it solely to topics that interested women, which naturally would be limited to the latest fashions and the most tantalizing on dits swirling about London’s high society. It was the judge’s impression that women had very little interest in the important matters of the world.

And yet, interestingly, the judge could not deny that Hollis’s version of the gazette was more actively sought than her husband’s had ever been. So much so that Eliza had been pressed into the service of helping her sister prepare her gazette each week. It was curious to Tricklebank that so many members of the Quality were rather desperate to be mentioned among the gazette’s pages.

Today, his daughters were in an unusually high state of excitement, for they had secured the highly sought-after invitations to the Duke of Marlborough’s masquerade ball in honour of the crown prince of Alucia. One would think the world had stopped spinning on its axis and that the heavens had parted and the seas had re-ceded and this veritable God of All Royal Princes had shined his countenance upon London and blessed them all with his presence.

Hogwash.

Everyone knew the prince was here to strike an important trade deal with the English government in the name of King Karl. Alucia was a small European nation with impressive wealth for her size. It was perhaps best known for an ongoing dispute with the neighbouring country of Wesloria—the two had a history of war and distrust as fraught as that between England and France. The judge had read that it was the crown prince who was pushing for modernization in Alucia, and who was the impetus behind the proposed trade agreement. Prince Sebastian envisioned increasing the prosperity of Alucia by trading cotton and iron ore for manufactured goods. But according to the judge’s daughters, that was not the most important part of the trade negotiations. The important part was that the prince was also in search of a marriage bargain.

“It’s what everyone says,” Hollis had insisted to her father over supper recently.

“And how is it, my dear, that everyone knows what the prince intends?” the judge asked as he stroked the cat, Pris, on his lap. The cat had been named Princess when the family believed it a female. When the house-man Ben discovered that Princess was, in fact, a male, Eliza said it was too late to change the name. So they’d shortened it to Pris. “Did the prince send a letter? Announce it in the Times?”

Caro says,” Hollis countered as if that were quite obvious to anyone with half a brain where she got her information. “She knows everything about everyone, Pappa.”

“Aha. If Caro says it, then, by all means, it must be true.”

“You must yourself admit she is rarely wrong,” Hollis had said with an indignant sniff.

Caro, or Lady Caroline Hawke, had been a lifelong friend to his daughters and had been so often underfoot in the Tricklebank house that for many years, it seemed to the judge that he had three daughters.

Caroline was the only sibling of Lord Beckett Hawke and was also his ward. Long ago, a cholera outbreak had swept through London, and both Caro’s mother and his children’s mother had succumbed. Amelia, his wife, and Lady Hawke had been dear friends. They’d sent their children to the Hawke summer estate when Amelia had taken ill. Lady Hawke had insisted on caring for her friend and, well, in the end, they were both lost.

Lord Hawke was an up-and-coming young lord and politician, known for his progressive ideas in the House of Lords. He was rather handsome, Hollis said, a popular figure, and socially in high demand. Which meant that, by association, so was his sister. She, too, was quite comely, which made her presence all the easier to her brother’s many friends, the judge suspected.

But Caroline did seem to know everyone in London and was constantly calling on the Tricklebank house-hold to spout the gossip she’d gleaned in homes across Mayfair. Here was an industrious young lady—she called on three salons a day if she called on one. The judge supposed her brother scarcely need worry about putting food in their cupboards, for the two of them were dining with this four-and-twenty or that ten-and-six almost every night. It was a wonder Caroline wasn’t a plump little peach.

Perhaps she was. In truth, she was merely another shadow to the judge these days.

“And she was at Windsor and dined with the queen,” Hollis added with superiority.

“You mean Caro was in the same room but one hundred persons away from the queen,” the judge suggested. He knew how these fancy suppers went.

“Well, she was there, Pappa, and she met the Alucians, and she knows a great deal about them now. I am quite determined to discover who the prince intends to offer for and announce it in the gazette before anyone else. Can you imagine? I shall be the talk of London!” This was precisely what Mr. Tricklebank didn’t like about the gazette. He did not want his daughters to be the talk of London.

But it was not the day for him to make this point, for his daughters were restless, moving about the house with an urgency he was not accustomed to. Today was the day of the Royal Masquerade Ball, and the sound of crisp petticoats and silk rustled around him, and the scent of perfume wafted into his nose when they passed. His daughters were waiting impatiently for Lord Hawke’s brougham to come round and fetch them. Their masks, he was given to understand, had already arrived at the Hawke House, commissioned, Eliza had breathlessly reported, from “Mrs Cubison herself.”

He did not know who Mrs Cubison was.

And frankly, he didn’t know how Caro had managed to finagle the invitations to a ball at Kensington Palace for his two daughters—for the good Lord knew the Tricklebanks did not have the necessary connections to achieve such a feat.

He could feel their eagerness, their anxiety in the nervous pitch of their giggling when they spoke to each other. Even Poppy seemed nervous. He supposed this was to be the ball by which all other balls in the history of mankind would forever be judged, but he was quite thankful he was too blind to attend.

When the knock at the door came, he was startled by such squealing and furious activity rushing by him that he could only surmise that the brougham had arrived and the time had come to go to the ball.


Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Guest post, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

The Snow Killer Ross Greenwood #DIBarton 5*#Review @greenwoodross @BoldwoodBooks #Thriller #Extract #PoliceProcedural #Suspense #GuestPost #PsychologicalThriller #BlogTour #boldwoodbloggers #BookReview #PublicationDay

#TheSnowKiller

‘Fear the north wind. Because no one will hear you scream…’

A family is gunned down in the snow but one of the children survives. Three years on, that child takes revenge and the Snow Killer is born. But then, nothing – no further crimes are committed, and the case goes cold.

Fifty years later, has the urge to kill been reawakened? As murder follows murder, the detective team tasked with solving the crimes struggle with the lack of leads. It’s a race against time and the weather – each time it snows another person dies.

As an exhausted and grizzled DI Barton and his team scrabble to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the killer is hiding in plain sight. Meanwhile, the murders continue…

The first in a new series, Ross Greenwood has written a cracking, crackling crime story with a twist in its tale which will surprise even the most hardened thriller readers.

Amazon UK – Paperback eBook Amazon UK Kindle

#boldwoodbloggers

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

My Thoughts…

A medley of crime genres expertly woven by the author into a fast-paced, intriguing thriller which focuses on the Snow Killer who appears to be killing again fifty years after the first snow killing.

The story is told from two points of view. The killer’s which is compelling, immersive and poignant and in keeping with the unreliable protagonist of a psychological thriller. The second point of view is Detective Inspector Barton’s this is in the third person and follows the accepted line of a contemporary police procedural.

The setting for the story is Peterborough, characterised by its relative remoteness for a cathedral city, in the rural heart of east England. The difference between Peterborough fifty years ago and now is marked. Well described, the area provides a perfect backdrop for the events its stages.

The cast of characters is varied and the characters are believable. Notably, the lead detective is an ordinary man, with a family. This makes the contrast between the detective and the killer greater. The plot has clues and twists aplenty and a final twist, which is unexpected and cleverly done.

The first book in a new series, it is hoped that the mix of genres continues with the skill, success and succinctness demonstrated here.

The Snow Killer – Ross Greenwood – Extract

WINTER

50 YEARS AGO

Chapter 1

I must have been ten years old when I first tidied up his drug paraphernalia. I didn’t want my sister crawling over it. We called her Special – a take on Michelle – because she was an enigma. Special was a term of endearment for us, funny how nowadays it could be considered an insult. She never spoke a single word and seemed more of a peaceful spirit than a physical entity. Give her a crayon or pencil and a piece of paper, though, and her smile filled the room.

I monitored my father’s habit through his mood swings or by how much time he spent in bed. The foil and needles increased rapidly just before we escaped London a few years back. I cried because both my parents left evidence of their addiction.

In many ways, my mother was as simple as Special. Swayed by my dominant father, she did everything he said, even though she had more common sense. Joining him in his heroin habit was inevitable.

Until the night we left, we took holidays and ate out in restaurants. I didn’t know where the money came from because I had no idea what my father did.

The evening we fled London, we packed our suitcases at ten at night and caught the last train to Peterborough, arriving at two in the morning. I recall beaming at my parents, especially when we checked into a huge hotel on the first night. My mum’s brother, Ronnie, lived nearby. When we eventually found him, he helped us move into a cottage in rural Lincolnshire, which was cheap for obvious reasons. The single storey building had five rooms and no internal doors. You could hear everything from any room – even the toilet.

Six months after we settled in our new home, I lay in the damp bed with my sister’s warm breath on my neck and heard my father casually say he’d shot the wrong man. The fact my mother wasn’t surprised shocked me more.

Life carried on. My parents continued to avoid reality. We ate a lot of sandwiches. Lincolnshire is only two hours north of London but it felt like the edge of the world after the hustle and bustle of the capital city. I walked the three miles to school. Special stayed at home where she painted and coloured. My mum sold Special’s pictures. She drew people and animals in a childish way, but they captivated people as the eyes in the pictures haunted the viewer.

One freezing night, my sister and I cuddled in bed and listened to another argument raging in the lounge. We had our own beds but only ever slept apart in the hot summer months. At six years old, she didn’t take up much room.

‘You did what?’ my mother shouted.

‘I saw an opportunity,’ my father replied.

‘What were you thinking?’

‘We’re broke. We needed the money.’

‘What you’ve done is put our family in danger. They’ll find us.’

‘They won’t think I took it.’

I might have been only fifteen years old, but I had eyes and ears. My parents constantly talked about money and drugs. By then, that was all they were interested in. That said, I don’t recall being unhappy, despite their problems. Normal life just wasn’t for them.

My mother’s voice became a loud, worried whisper. ‘What if they come for the money? The children are here.’

‘They won’t hurt them,’ my father said.

A hand slammed on the kitchen table. ‘We need to leave.’

‘It’s three in the morning and snowing. No one will look now. Besides, where would we go?’

‘We’re rich! We can stay where we like.’

Crazily, they laughed. I suppose that’s why they loved each other. They were both the same kind of mad.

That was the sixties and a different time. Not everyone spent their lives within earshot of a busy road. In fact, few people owned their own car. If you’ve ever lived deep in the countryside, you’ll know how quiet the long nights are. So it makes sense that I could hear the approaching vehicle for miles before it arrived. The put-put-put we gradually heard in unison that night sounded too regular for it to be my uncle’s ancient van. And anyway, good news doesn’t arrive in the middle of the night.

Guest Post – Ross Greenwood‘s Interesting Facts

Two books that influenced me.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It contains the ultimate twist. I felt diddled in such an amazing way that I’ll never forget the smile on my face as I put the book down.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. It felt like reading a book that someone had just spewed out. He didn’t care what people thought, or anything of style or standards. This was his book and that’s how it was. The criminal antics were so realistic but told with black humour. The first publisher he sent it to picked it up, which must have been lovely for Mr Welsh. 😊.

Two songs that influenced me

I only really listen to music in the car. I need silence to write; someone eating an apple in the lounge two rooms away unsettles me. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor was one of the first songs I bought. I used to go jogging with it playing on one of those old personal stereos. I’m not built for jogging, so it was hugely motivational. When I hear it now, I still think of the batteries and me dying near the end of each run.

The other, oddly, is Barbie Girl by Aqua. At the time it came out, the girl from the video reminded me of my then girlfriend. She was a pretty, ditzy, unsuitable girl, and we used to joke it was our song. We sadly broke up (I was sad) and then I had to listen to the song every time I turned on the radio for the next 6 months. Excellent. That was 25 years ago. When I hear it now, I remember a young man living life and having fun.

Two films that influenced me

Shawshank is hardly original but I love it. There’s a flow and rhythm to it that I try and emulate in my writing. It’s a hard film about prison. If it’s done beautifully, I can watch and read anything.

Empire Strikes Back is the first film I remember seeing at the movies. I was 7. I can still remember my eyes bulging at the massive screen as the first AT AT’s came into view.

Two people who inspired me.

Nelson Mandela is influential to many people but it wasn’t until I visited Robben Island where they imprisoned him that I realised he was something incredible. He was kept for so long in such terrible conditions, literally breaking rocks with a small hammer in a sunburned courtyard, that it would have been understandable if he’d been bitter and vengeful. Instead, he was the reverse. His story is so inspiring.

The second person is my dad. Slightly cheesy, but it’s not for anything outstanding. It’s his approach to life. He’s 80 now, and looks to enjoy his days and get on with things, and always has. I remember buying a house which needed completely repainting. The first day, I stood in the lounge with a brush in my hand and thought, ‘Oh my God’. He bent down next to me, picked up a tin and a roller, climbed the ladder, and began to paint the ceiling. Admittedly, we ruined the carpet. But that sense of getting-on-with-things was stirring. Many years later, when I felt I had a story to tell, I remembered that day.

So, I sat at my desk, picked up my pen, and began to write.

#RossGreenwood

Ross Greenwood, an author from Peterborough, has written six crime thrillers. He uses his experience of travelling and working all over the world to create layered believable characters that will capture your imagination. In 2011, Ross decided to take on a new challenge and became a prison officer. He writes murderers, rapists and thieves brilliantly because he worked with them every day for four years.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Friendship, Guest post, Romantic Comedy

#No Filter Maxine Morrey 4*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @Scribbler_Maxi #romcom #Instagram #NoFilter #Relationships #Friendships #LifestyleBlogger #Vlogger #JustBeingYou #SelfDiscovery #ComingofAge #BlogTour #BoldwoodBloggers #GuestPost #Extract #BookReview

#NoFilter

Popular lifestyle blogger, Libby Cartwright, is being boggled by business when help shows up in the shape of gorgeous but shy, Charlie Richmond. Libby’s determined to keep it at ‘just good friends’ – she’s dated someone from ‘Corporate Land’ before and it didn’t end well. As she and Charlie begin spending more time together, Libby is starting to waver  – until she discovers something which makes her question if she’s ready for love.

Still reeling, she suffers another blow as her blog is attacked in a national newspaper, for promoting unachievable perfection. Libby knows it’s not true – but the only way to prove that is to strip off the armour she’s been wearing for years.

Is she brave enough to show the world she’s far from perfect? And will Charlie be by her side if she does…

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Extract from #No FilterMaxine morrey

Chapter 1

‘That’s it! I am totally going to jail. I’m going to get it wrong, owe thousands, not be able to pay, and go to jail!’ I flung myself backwards with an overly dramatic sigh and lay sprawled on the paperwork I had been looking at. ‘And seriously? Me in an orange jumpsuit? I don’t care how on trend they are; I could never pull that off! Orange is so not my colour.’

Amy topped up her wine glass before reaching a hand down to grab my arm, tugging me in the direction of the sofa. I slid along the floor for a few moments in my prone position, like some sort of beached, four-legged starfish, until I eventually bumped into the furniture.

‘I think that’s more America, hon,’ she said, yanking me upwards. ‘I’m not sure what ours are like. Something much more subtle, I expect. And don’t worry. I’ll hide a file inside the first cake I bring you. You’ll be out in no time.’

I paused in my clambering from the floor onto the sofa, and gave her a look. She made a sawing motion with one hand, accompanied by an over-exaggerated wink as she held out my wine glass. Flopping onto the couch, I took the glass and swigged a large mouthful, before laying my head back onto the soft cushions.

‘Seriously though. I really don’t know what I’m doing with this. I thought I was handling all this business stuff OK until now.’

‘And you are!’ Amy interjected. ‘Your blog is doing amazingly well! I can’t believe the difference in a year – it’s incredible! Seriously, Libs, you should really be proud of yourself.’

I sighed. ‘Thanks, Ames. And I am, and of Tilly. I couldn’t have done it without her. But I’m so frustrated! I’ve taken on this insane learning curve and, for the most part, got the hang of things. I think. But this?’ I kicked a piece of paper with my bare toes. ‘This, I just cannot get my head round! Why does tax have to be so bloody complicated? They send you this stuff so that you are supposedly able to do it yourself, but write it in the most confusing language possible! How is that even remotely helpful?’

Amy just shook her head and took another sip of wine.

‘So, what are you going to do?’

‘I don’t know. I guess I need to start looking for an accountant.’ I twiddled the wine glass stem in my hand.

Amy leant over and bumped her head gently on my shoulder. ‘You know; it is OK to ask people for help sometimes. We can’t all be amazing at everything. Creating all this in such a short space of time is brilliant, Libby. Finding that you need some extra expertise in one area is perfectly acceptable, and perfectly normal.’

‘I guess.’ I put the glass down. ‘Before I forget, I have something for you.’

Immediately, Amy sat up straighter in anticipation and her eyes watched me as I crossed to the other side of the room and picked up a small, but fancy, cardboard bag with intricately twisted rope handles and a swirly script logo on the side. Walking back over to the sofa, I plopped the bag down on Amy’s lap.

‘Did I ever tell you that going for it with this lifestyle blog business is the best thing that you’ve ever done?’

I laughed. ‘You just like the freebies.’

‘True,’ Amy agreed, before letting out an ‘ooh’ of pleasure at the eyeshadow palette and perfume she’d just pulled out of the bag.

‘But thanks anyway.’

‘Any time. Oh!’ Amy’s eyes shone like those of a child who’d just won pass the parcel. ‘Really? I can have this?’ Without waiting for confirmation, Amy began excitedly spritzing the exclusive new perfume copiously on pretty much every pulse point she could reach, including mine.

Laughing, I lifted my wrist up to take another waft of the fragrance. It really was gorgeous. I smiled as my friend rummaged in the bag, unwrapping the various goodies from their pretty tissue-paper packaging. The cosmetic companies often sent more samples than I could possibly use so I always made sure my assistant got some to review and regularly ran giveaways on the blog, as a thank you to my readers. But occasionally I still had extra goodies left over. Amy always loved a good freebie so when I had something spare, it meant I got to make my best friend happy.

As the fumes of Amy’s fragrance enthusiasm began getting a little pungent, I pushed myself up and padded over to the doors that led out onto the balcony. Grabbing the handle, I slid the door to the side. Immediately, a warm breeze rushed in from the sea, dissipating the perfume, and bringing with it the screech of seagulls intertwined with chatter and laughter from the nearby bars and restaurants in the marina. I stepped out, grabbing a wide-brimmed, slightly battered straw hat off the nearby console table, and took a seat on one of the two wooden steamer chairs that resided on my balcony. Amy followed me out, wine glass in hand, the gift bag now swinging off her wrist.

If I was honest, the furniture was a squeeze and a trendy little bistro set would have been a better, more sensible option. I’d made the classic mistake of ‘guesstimating’ that they would fit perfectly on the balcony. They didn’t and I’d ended up building them in situ like some sort of furniture Jenga, which had proved to be the only way of getting them both to fit on there. But I loved them. I didn’t want a trendy little bistro set. The loungers were super comfy with full-length padded cushions, and reclined just enough without touching the glass. I could sit out here and read in comfort, watching the boats sway and bob gently in the marina, listening as the sound of waves bumping against the harbour wall carried across the water. Even in winter, when the wind howled and the sea reared up before crashing down forcefully onto the nearby beach, I would happily sit out here, wrapped up against the cold, just absorbing it all.

There was definitely no need for coats and scarves this evening. It seemed that spring had decisively handed off the baton early to summer and the new season was away and running. The evening was warm and the breeze soft as Amy and I, now having inelegantly climbed onto our respective loungers, sat back and sighed happily.

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

My Thoughts…

A lovely, slow to ignite friends to lovers and opposites attract romance, in a contemporary setting. Libby is a lifestyle blogger, whose popularity is now making her serious money. Worried about tax issues she eagerly accepts Charle, a friend of a friend’s offer to look over her accounts, She is accident-prone, bubbly and creative, the antithesis of Charlie who is climbing up the corporate ladder and is introverted,

Mutual attraction, proximity. and an unanswered need for someone special in their lives draws the couple together. Firstly into friendship and after much ado, romance. Both are reticent about commitment and their self-worth making them more alike than they first appear.

Libby experiences some of the negative aspects of celebrity status and social media and wants to prove that her blog is a true reflection of her and not a facsimile. Doing this is risky both from a business point of view and personally, and she wonders if people will like the true Libby, with #NoFilter.

This story has a likeable rom-com element and complex realistic protagonists. The romance is very slow-paced. which some will find frustrating.

There is also a message about the power of social media, and how it affects those who live their lives on it. There is a significant move away now, from unrealistic and negative media portrayals of self-image, especially for the young. Maybe its time for us to be more circumspect about what we share of our lives, and not try and constantly strive for an unrealistic ideal, that is probably not even real anyway?

A gently romantic, thought-provoking read.

Guest Post – Inspiration for #No Filter – Maxine Morrey

I wasn’t an early embracer of the whole social media scene. I joined Twitter to see what it was about but didn’t really use it, barely going on it. Facebook had never had any appeal for me, but writing full time meant having a ‘business’ presence on there was kind of required.

Instagram, however, was a different matter for me. As a photography fan, this platform appealed as a place to share and view interesting pictures, and perhaps connect with others who shared similar interests. It still took me a while, joining four years after its launch. But it was really about the opportunity to practice photography skills and share them. I wasn’t bothered about the Like count. It was just fun. And I think this was true of a lot of users at this time. That was the point – just having fun.

But somewhere along the line, things seem to have become a bit skewed. And there are times when it’s not fun at all– in fact, it’s the very opposite. Some users are experiencing a lack of self-worth, jealousy, violence, self-harm and heartbreakingly, even suicide. It was actually this side of things that gave me the inspiration for the book that would become #NoFilter.

Bearing in mind I write romcoms, I can see that this isn’t exactly what people would call a perfect match. But this is what many people miss about the romance genre – especially the critics, the majority of whom have never even dipped a toe into the scene before dismissing it as unworthy of their, or anyone else’s attention. Many romcoms and romances tackle subjects which are quite serious, but they do it in a way that makes it accessible, and relatable. Yes, my books have a non-negotiable happy ending but that doesn’t mean the characters have led  Pollyanna lifestyles. There’s more to these books than meet the eye if people bother to look.

The spark for #NoFilter was reading a report about the increase in reports of self-harm since the advent of social media, and how the growth of the two correlated. This was both shocking and saddening. We’ve all heard of cyberbullying and trolling and how intrusive that can be, especially to school-age children. Once our home was a sanctuary away from the school bullies. Now, unless you’re offline entirely – something that seems almost impossible, if not anathema to a generation who were practically born with a mobile phone in their hand –  it’s very hard to get away from.

But it’s not just others who bully. And you certainly don’t have to be of school age to be a victim. Sometimes the biggest bully is the one inside our head, and unfortunately, social media, especially the image focused channels have only given these more power. These problems are not exclusively female either. Men are certainly not immune to doubting their self-worth, but there has always been an added pressure on women when it comes to how they present themselves and how others perceive them.

Once it was the glossy magazines being berated for presenting aspirational images impossible to actually achieve. Not because there aren’t women just as stylish, intelligent and beautiful out there. But because the images laid in front of us weren’t genuine. The real person- a model, a woman already been singled out for her aesthetically pleasing appearance – has been made up, dressed and photographed in the most flattering way possible. And then begins hours of photo editing. In some cases, four or five different women are amalgamated to make one ‘perfect’ one. No wonder we feel like we’re not good enough – the image we’re aspiring to sometimes isn’t even one person! Even children aren’t immune from the photo editing suite – what sort of message that sends, I hate to contemplate.

So, battling against these perfect images on the newsstand was bad enough but in the back of our minds, many of us knew these were tweaked and toned and literally, perfected. But somehow, when it comes to social media, we seem to forget. All of a sudden there are these ‘normal’ women – not movie stars, or models – just regular women looking absolutely flawless. And that seems a lot more real than the glossy magazines. Which is a lot more dangerous.

The truth is a vast majority of the images on Instagram are not real. They’re just as fake as the magazines. The amount of photo editing apps available is staggering, with an enormous number dedicated specifically to selfies. It’s basically plastic surgery for your photograph and it can get addictive. When selfies are continuously filtered and edited, they are a representation of that person – but most certainly not that person. However, as we scroll through, seeing one perfect face and body after another, that logic doesn’t always make it through and instead, our own self-worth takes a mental pounding. That’s the danger and it’s only getting worse.

Social media is not a bad thing. It’s supposed to be fun, and it can be. It can also be supportive. Being a writer is a very solitary job, but social media has enabled me to be in contact with others in the same position and being able to gain and give support via these platforms is brilliant. The same goes for hobbies – you might not know anyone in your ‘real’ life that finds the same things as you interesting but social media enables you to find a community and I know people who have made long and strong friendships via it. It’s not evil. But it does need to be used with caution.

No one is perfect. But you are perfect as you are. If there’s anything that’s making you doubt that, then it may be time to do a bit of detoxing. Accounts that make you question your self-worth need to go. Press that unfollow and feel the pressure lift. Find the next one and do the same, and the next.

Replace these accounts with others that don’t adhere to the editing obsession and instead bring you joy. They’re just as interesting and encourage a world and a belief that is far, far more social.

#MaxineMorrey

 Maxine Morrey is a bestselling romantic comedy author with eight books to her name including Winter’s Fairytale and the top ten hit The Christmas Project. She lives in West Sussex. Her first novel for Boldwood, #No Filter, will be published in November 2019.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Suspense, Thriller

Jailbird Caro Savage 4*#Review @CaroSavageStory @BoldwoodBooks #Thriller #CrimeFiction #PrisonDrama #Undercover #BlogTour #PublicationDay #Author #Interview

Mature Adult Read

#Jailbird

UNDER PRESSURE.
UNDER THREAT.
UNDERCOVER.

When you’re working undercover the smallest mistake can cost you your life.

Detective Constable Bailey Morgan has been out of the undercover game since her last job went horribly wrong, leaving her with scars inside and out.
When her colleague Alice is found dead whilst working deep cover in a women’s prison, Bailey steps in to replace her.

Working alone, Bailey embarks on a dangerous journey through the murky underbelly of the prison and soon discovers that Alice’s death was part of a spate of brutal murders.

Surrounded by prison officers, criminals and lowlifes, the slightest mistake could cost Bailey her life.
Illicit drug trafficking, prison gangs and corruption are just some of the things she’s up against… and behind it, all lurks a sinister and terrifying secret that will truly test her survival instincts.

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Interview Questions – Caro Savage – Jailbird

Is ‘Jailbird’ inspired by a particular event?  Can you share your inspirations for this story?

‘Jailbird’ isn’t inspired by any particular event. It’s more like it emerged out of a collision between various interests and preoccupations of mine.

I’d been wanting to write a women’s prison thriller for a while because I’ve always enjoyed prison-themed books, films and TV shows. I tried several different variations on the story but none of them felt quite right until I got to the scenario of a cop going undercover in a prison. And that tapped straight into a preoccupation I’ve always had with how far people put up facades to fool others for good motives or bad, and how far you can see the cracks in those facades if you look closely enough. The idea of an undercover cop, having to conceal her identity in order to fight crime, takes this to the extreme, because if people see through her facade she’s a dead woman!

Why are prisons popular settings for crime fiction and thrillers?

I think prisons make for good crime thriller material because they’re a closed environment with an inbuilt element of criminality which provides the potential for lots of intrigue and conflict. The atmosphere of a prison lends itself well to this genre because you’ve got that claustrophobia from hundreds of people being locked in with each other against their will, and the constant simmering tension which arises as a result.

I love reading books set in prisons and I don’t think there are enough of them which is one reason why I wanted to write ‘Jailbird’, to make my own contribution to this crime sub-genre.

What makes your story unique, in such a popular genre?

Well, they say no story is truly unique, don’t they? So I guess it’s the way you tell it that makes it special…

I think good well-defined characters play a very important part in making a story stand out. The main character of ‘Jailbird’ is Bailey Morgan, the policewoman who goes undercover in the prison. I’ve tried to make her as three-dimensional as possible – yes she’s tough and resourceful, with an appetite for danger, but she also has a vulnerable side which is explained by a backstory that actually ends up feeding into the very risks she’s facing on a daily basis as an undercover cop in a prison.  

As for the plot itself, there have been stories before about cops going undercover in prison, but I think the female cop/female prison angle makes ‘Jailbird’ different from what I’ve encountered in the genre so far. Plus the fact that it’s set in the UK perhaps makes it a little more unusual.

There are also other elements to the story that makes ‘Jailbird’ unique, which you discover towards the denouement, but of course, I’m not going to give that away here. You’ll have to read it to the end to find out!

There is a varied cast of characters in your novel, how did you make them realistic and relatable?

One thing I did when I was writing ‘Jailbird’ was to create questionnaires for all of the main characters which ran the gamut from things like, ‘where does she live?’, ‘what’s her height?’, ‘what’s her favourite colour?’, ‘what’s her favourite song?’ etc, right through to deeper things like ‘what was her first experience of death?’ and so on. For the most part, the answers to these questions didn’t make it into the actual book. But when you force yourself to think through the answers to these questions for each character, they really start to become alive and much more three-dimensional. And once that happens their motivations for doing what they’re doing become a lot clearer.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I love crime and thriller books obviously – recently I’ve been enjoying novels by Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, Heather Burnside, Gillian Flynn, Don Winslow and Martina Cole amongst others. Reading other people’s novels is a great way to understand some of the techniques these very talented writers use in order to generate suspense and create great characters.

I also do like horror fiction – authors like Adam Nevill, James Herbert and C.J. Tudor. From a personal writing perspective I find horror complements crime quite well and in fact, there can often be a cross-over.

I read quite a bit of non-fiction as well. True crime, current affairs, popular psychology. Some of it is research on what I’m writing, some of it I read just because it interests me!

What are you currently writing?

I am currently working on the follow-up novel to ‘Jailbird’. After all, Bailey Morgan is still around and she’s not going to be able to put up with normal life for very long before she’ll be wanting to go undercover again…

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

My Thoughts…

If you enjoy prison drama, suspense and menace, Jailbird is an exciting new story to explore.

It contains everything you would expect in a novel of this type, a courageous, challenged protagonist, who is only there to finish a job, her friend was unable to, after her violent death. A corrupt prison ethos, where it is debatable who is in charge, and a culture of abuse, drugs and violence.

This story contains well-written, but graphic descriptions of the violence, and so this is for a mature adult audience. There is a varied cast of characters, most are complex and realistically flawed. A setting like a prison demands that the characters are exceptional, and for the most part they are. The plot has twists, that keep you guessing, and the build-up of suspense is well done.

Gritty, graphic and powerful, this is a story that makes you think.

Extract from Chapter 1 – Jailbird – Caro Savage

The clank sounded out of place. Alice Jenkins stopped pushing the laundry trolley and lifted her head. She tossed her long reddish-blonde hair out of her face. ‘Hey, who’s there?’ She was answered only by the repetitive groaning of the huge industrial washing machines and dryers which lined both sides of the prison laundry. She peered uncertainly into the shadows beyond the giant wire racks, which held folded piles of freshly laundered bedding and towels. Down here in the basement there were no windows and the overhead strip lighting flickered with a sickly insipid yellow which failed to illuminate the room properly.

Alice had only started her job in the laundry two days before. Normally there were other inmates working in here, but this afternoon she was all alone. That was because she’d volunteered to do some overtime, explaining to the laundry supervisor that she wanted to earn a little extra cash for her canteen account.

She hadn’t been in prison for very long. Just a few weeks. She’d been sent down for benefit fraud. Not a major crime but enough to land her inside for a year and three months. But she seemed to be getting the hang of things. Like managing to get this job in the laundry.

There was still plenty of stuff that she was unfamiliar with though, so she wasn’t totally relaxed by any means. In fact, she’d found that this place could suddenly put you on edge when you were least expecting it. Like now for example.

She glanced around nervously.

‘Hey stop messing about!’ she said.

Maybe some of the other inmates – her laundry colleagues – were playing a practical joke on her. She hoped so. Because if it wasn’t them then maybe it was one of the dangerous looking cliques she’d seen around the prison. Maybe they’d taken a dislike to her for some reason. Maybe they had it in for her.

‘Haha. Try and creep up on Ally. Yeah, that’s hilarious. You can come out now.’ She tried to sound breezy but her nerves betrayed her, her voice instead coming out reedy and uneven.

There was no answer. Just the incessant rumbling of the machinery.

Her knuckles turned white as she tightened her grip on the handle of the trolley and squinted into the dim recesses of the cavernous laundry. A burst of excess steam hissed from a nearby pipe. She jumped and gasped, her heart thumping in her chest.

Her mind raced to think what had made the clanking sound. It might be a rat.

The prison did have a rodent problem. Or maybe she was just spooking herself out unnecessarily.

‘You silly girl,’ she muttered, shaking her head and pulling herself upright.

She recommenced pushing the trolley, awkwardly manoeuvring its bulky weight towards one of the empty washing machines at the end of the room.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a shadow pass behind one of the sheets that were hanging up, waiting to be folded and placed on the wire racks.

She let go of the trolley and spun around to look. Was there someone there? She could have sworn she was the only one in here.

No. It was surely just a ripple in the material caused by convection in the warm air currents generated by the dryers. She turned back to the trolley, taking hold of the handle once again.

But then in the darkness beyond the racking, just behind the dryers, something caught her eye.

A brief sparkle.

A shiny surface which captured the few photons bouncing around behind the stacks of machinery and reflected them back to her…

She stopped again, momentarily entranced by it as it twinkled in the shadows like a lone star aglow in the distant black depths of deep space. For a brief moment, she forgot her apprehension as she tried to make sense of it floating there in the shadows like the needle of a compass… turning… pointing in her direction…

Then a depth charge of cold fear detonated in her gut as she realised what it was.

Long…

Thin…

Sharp…

A blade.

A shank.

Her heart began to hammer inside her chest. Her hands fell away from the handle of the trolley.

‘Oh fuck,’ she whispered.
They’d come to kill her.

They’d decided to come for her when she was all alone. She cursed her stupidity for making the mistake of being down here by herself.

Somewhere along the line, she’d messed up and now she was going to pay for it with her life.

She felt a heavy nausea rise up inside her, the fear of impending death.

Slowly, she edged backwards around the trolley to put it between herself and whoever was behind the dryers. She again squinted to try and see more.

In the shadows, silence. A flicker of movement in the darkness. A shadow within a shadow. It was big. It was no rat. That was for sure. It was a person.

She gulped. Her mouth was dry. She glanced towards the doorway. It was at the far end of the laundry. That distant metal door had never looked more appealing. Nor had it ever seemed further away. She glanced back at the row of dryers.

Tensing, she took a deep breath… and bolted.

Caro Savage knows all about bestselling thrillers having worked as a Waterstones bookseller for 12 years in a previous life.  Now taking up the challenge personally and turning to hard-hitting crime thriller writing.

Twitter: @CaroSavageStory

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract

Geraldine John Mead 3*#Review @BookGuild @JohnMeadAuthor @rararesources #PoliceProcedural #CrimeFiction #EastEnd #London #BlogTour #BookReview #BookBloggers

#Geraldine

Hatred is such a nasty thing – we all deplore it in others but do not necessarily recognise it in ourselves. At what point does resentment, jealousy, betrayal or humiliation turn into anger and then grow to an all-consuming hatred? Hatred can be slow, taking years to fester, or can explode in seconds – it can linger for a lifetime or wither in seconds of its conception.

Inspector Matthew Merry and Sergeant Julie Lukula have to deal with the consequences of violence and murder on a daily basis and in the case of Gerry Driver, they both see that hatred is the prime motive. But is it, as Julie thinks, one of a series of hate crimes that has led to this killing? Or, is Matthew right in saying, ‘Driver’s death is undoubtedly a hate-filled crime but I’m just not convinced that there are sufficient links to suggest it is part of a pattern of hate crimes.’

Only time and their investigation, which takes as many twists and turns as the Thames does along its course through London and past Wapping Old Stairs will tell.

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

My Thoughts

Another well-researched police procedural set in the Whitechapel in the East End of London. The plot is twisty, and there is a convoluted mystery for the police team, and the reader to solve. The crime is nasty, and the question posed, whether this is an isolated hate crime or part of a series threatening a particular section of the community? Makes this realistic crime fiction.

The murder investigation team, first introduced in ‘The Fourth Victim’, remains disparate but effective. DI Mathew Merry is difficult to empathise, making it hard for me to connect with him, and as he is integral to the drama, the story as a whole. Despite this, the police procedural is well-written and believable and will appeal to those who like a mystery to solve and are less concerned with the redeeming features of the protagonists.

John was born in the mid-fifties in East London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs.

He has travelled extensively, from America to Tibet, and he enjoys visiting the theatre, reading and going to the pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that he is an avid ‘people watcher’ and loves to find out about people, their lives, culture and history. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub; he writes.

Many of the occurrences recounted and the characters found in his novels are based on real incidents and people he has come across. Although he has allowed himself a wide degree of poetic licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the killings that are depicted.

John is currently working on a series of novels set in modern-day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city.

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#Geraldine

The inspector recalled studying Geraldine’s face at close quarters and, even after she’d been dead a few hours, there had been no sign of Gerry to give the game away. Such was the persuasiveness of Gerry’s impersonation that he had tricked death into accepting him as Geraldine.

Giveaway to Win 3 x Paperback copies of Geraldine by John Mead (UK Only)

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Saga

Good Girls Amanda Brookfield 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @ABrookfield1 #BlogTour #Author #Interview #Extract #FamilyDrama #ComingofAge #Sisters #Secrets #Romance #Saga

GOOD GIRLS NEVER TELL TALES…

Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.

Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.

This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings.  Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally, Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.

Good Girls is a love story, a coming-of-age story, a mystery and a tear-jerker. But most of all it’s a reminder of who to keep close and who to trust with your darkest secrets. 

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#boldwoodblogtours

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

My Thoughts…

Two sisters, once close, but who have become estranged as they grew older. Eleanor, the older has her own reasons, but she’s never understood her sister Kat’s. Drawn together again, by a cruel stroke of fate, is it too late to reconnect?

This is an excellent family drama, with dark family secrets that devastate the once close sisterly bond. The story begins with Eleanor rushing to be with her sister, and them drifts back in time to the mid-1980s when they were young girls, and then the early 1990s, when Eleanor left for university.

The historical events slowly illuminate the present discord and misunderstanding, but all is not revealed until it is in some ways, too late to make amends. Serendipity plays a part in this story, as it often does in reality, and Eleanor gradually comes to terms with her past and the possibility of a hopeful future.

The cast of characters resonate, they all play a part in Eleanor’s life but have their own motivations and flaws, which makes them real. The story is realistically peppered with laughter, sadness, anger and despair. It is a poignant reminder that you cannot sometimes trust those closest to you, and of the rollercoaster nature of life.

An emotional family drama, with a realistic plot and memorable characters.

Author Interview – Amanda Brookfield – Good Girls

What inspired you to write ‘Good Girls’?

My original idea was to write about two sisters who are driven apart and then re-connected by the same man, deciding to get in touch by email after twenty years.  But then the story took off in a hundred other directions, as stories do!

What interests you about family drama? Why are stories about sisters so absorbing?

We all come from families of one kind or another – our upbringings forge us, whether we like it or not – and I love looking at the myriad ways we try to deal with that.  Sisters are a prime and rich example (I have two of my own!), being a relationship that is full of rivalries and ups and downs.  But there are also, always, the ties of love and loyalty that continue to bind us as siblings, long after we have gone our separate ways in the adult world.  This is a fascinating seam to explore as a novelist.

Dialogue is very important in a family drama story.  How do you make your dialogue realistic?

You can have the most gripping plot, but if the voices of the characters do no ring true then it will fall flat.  The way I work is to hear my characters speak inside my head.  In fact, often snatches of dialogue – of how my characters would communicate – arrive at unexpected moments when I am away from my desk, driving the car say, or walking the dog.  I have learnt to trust these snatches and write them down – it is my imagination working overtime, and 9 times out of 10 it is absolutely right.  I guess it is like being an actor, trying to get inside the psyche of a protagonist.

How do you create your characters?  What makes them believable and real?

Constructing a character is a bit like doing a jigsaw.  You decide what they look like, and where they live; what age they are and what they do for a living.  You give them hopes, hobbies and fears.  Then you throw events at them and see what they do!  If there is enough substance to your creations, enough humanity, the the way they behave under pressure will feel real and credible for the reader.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read as widely as possible – mostly fiction, but also memoir, travel and some history.  I love being surprised by what I find on the page and always have my antennae up to learn new things, both creatively and factually.  If someone recommends a book to me passionately enough, then I will always give it a go!  I also try to avoid reading books that I think might be similar to whatever I am working on – I hate the idea of being influenced or feeling that someone has already gone where I am trying to go.

What are you currently writing?

I am halfway through a novel about a woman plucking the courage to leave her abusive husband – one of those subtle monsters that no one else knows about.  I am writing the story from my heroine’s point of view, so it has an intensity that feels new and exciting.  It is important for me to feel that each new writing project is stretching the boundaries of what I have done before.

Extract from ‘Good Girls’ – Amanda Brookfield
CHAPTER ONE
January 2013

Eleanor decided to take a taxi from the station, even though she knew it would cost ten precious pounds and mean a wait. Being so rural, only a handful of cars served the area, but she didn’t want to be a bother to Howard, her brother-in-law. She texted both him and Kat to say she would be there within the hour and stayed as warm as she could in the small arched station entrance. It was a cold, dank morning, not raining for once but with air like icy metal against her skin.

The taxi driver who pulled up some twenty minutes later exuded an attitude of reluctance that made Eleanor disinclined to make conversation. When they hit a tail-back, thanks to a loop round the old Roman bridge, still not fixed from the heavy flooding over the New Year, he thumped his steering wheel. ‘A bloody joke. We can land men on the moon and still it takes three weeks to fix a few old stones.’ Eleanor murmured agreement but found that she didn’t mind much. The fields on either side of the road were still visibly waterlogged. After the grimy mêlée of south London, it was a visual feast – ethereal, shimmering silver bands engraved with the black reflections of leafless trees and smudgy January clouds.

The usual criss-cross of feelings was stirring at being back in such proximity to the landscape of her childhood. Just twenty miles away, her father was a resident in a small care home called The Bressingham, which he had once included in his rounds as a parish priest, days long since lost to him through the fog of dementia. Howard and Kat’s substantial Georgian house was ten miles in the opposite direction, on the fringes of a town called Fairfield. They had moved from Holland Park seven years before, a year after the birth of their third child, Evie. At the time, Eleanor had been surprised to get the change of address card. She had always regarded her little sister and husband as life-long townies, Kat with her posh quirky dress-making commissions to private clients and Howard with his big-banker job. It was because they saw the house in a magazine and fell in love with it, Kat had explained at one of their rare subsequent encounters, in the manner of one long used to plucking things she wanted out of life, like fruits off a tree.

But recently life had not been so cooperative. A small tumour had been removed from Kat’s bowel and she was in bed recovering. Howard had reported the event earlier in the week, by email, and when Eleanor had got on the phone, as he must have known she would, he had said that the operation had gone well and that Kat was adamant that she didn’t need sisterly visits. No further treatment was required. She would be up and about in a matter of days. Their regular babysitter, Hannah, was increasing her hours to plug gaps with the children and he was taking a week off from his daily commute into the City. ‘But I am her sister,’ Eleanor had insisted, hurt, in spite of knowing better. ‘I’d just like to see her. Surely she can understand that.’ Howard had said he would get back to her, but then Kat had phoned back herself, saying why didn’t Eleanor pop down on Saturday afternoon.

‘Nice,’ said the driver, following Eleanor’s instructions to turn between the laburnums that masked the handsome red-brick walls and gleaming white sash windows and pulling up behind the two family cars, both black, one a tank-sized station wagon, the other an estate. He fiddled with his satnav while Eleanor dug into her purse for the right money. I am not the rich one, she wanted to cry, seeing the visible sag of disappointment on his sheeny unshaven face at the sight of her twenty-pence tip; I am merely the visiting elder sister who rents a flat by a Clapham railway line, who tutors slow or lazy kids to pay her bills and who has recently agreed to write an old actor’s memoirs for a sum that will barely see off her overdraft.

Howard answered the door, taking long enough to compound Eleanor’s apprehensions about having pushed for the visit. He was in a Barbour and carrying three brightly coloured backpacks, clearly on the way out of the house. ‘Good of you to come.’ Brandishing the backpacks, he kissed her perfunctorily on both cheeks. ‘Brownies, go-carting and a riding lesson – pick-ups in that order. Then two birthday parties and a bowling alley. God help me. See you later maybe. She’s upstairs,’ he added, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘

‘The Big Sister arrives,’ Kat called out before Eleanor had even crossed the landing. ‘Could you tug that curtain wider?’ she added as Eleanor entered the bedroom. ‘I want as much light as possible.’

‘So, how are you?’ Eleanor asked, adjusting the offending drape en route to kissing Kat’s cheek, knowing it was no moment to take offence at the Big Sister thing, in spite of the reflex of deep, instinctive certainty that Kat had said it to annoy. At thirty-eight she was the big sister, by three years. She was also almost six-foot, with the heavy-limbed, dark-haired, brown-eyed features that were such echoes of their father, while Kat, as had been pointed out as far back as either of them could remember, had inherited an uncanny replication of their mother’s striking looks, from the lithe elfin frame and flinty-blue feline eyes to the extraordinary eye-catching tumble of white-blonde curls. ‘You look so well,’ Eleanor exclaimed, happiness at the truth of this observation making her voice bounce, while inwardly she marvelled at her sibling’s insouciant beauty, utterly undiminished by the recent surgery. Her skin was like porcelain, faintly freckled; her hair in flames across the pillow.

‘Well, thank you, and thank goodness, because I feel extremely well,’ Kat retorted. ‘So please don’t start telling me off again for not having kept you better informed. As I said on the phone, the fucking thing was small and isolated. They have removed it – snip-snip,’ she merrily scissored two fingers in the air. ‘So I am not going to need any further treatment, which is a relief frankly since I would hate to lose this lot.’ She yanked at one of the flames. ‘Shallow, I know, but there it is.’

‘It’s not shallow,’ Eleanor assured her quietly, experiencing one of the sharp twists of longing for the distant days when they had been little enough and innocent enough to take each other’s affections for granted. They had been like strangers for years now in comparison, shouting across an invisible abyss.

#AmandaBrookfield

Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of 15 novels including Relative Love and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel.  She lives in London and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Univ College Oxford. Her first book with Boldwood, Good Girls, will be published on 8th October 2019.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Extract, Poetry

#Sonnets Lucien Young #Extract #BlogTour @LucienDYoung @Unbounders #RandomThingsTours #Verse #Shakespeare #humour #21stCentury #Life #Celebrity

#Sonnets

Shakespeare’s sonnets are among the great achievements in world literature. Alas, the immortal Bard never used his command of iambic pentameter to explore such themes as porn, Snapchat and Austin Powers.

#Sonnets is a collection of hilarious and inappropriate poems complete with illustrations of Elizabethan RoboCop and Snoop Dogg in tights. Musing on everything from Donald Trump to Tinder, comedy writer Lucien Young offers a Shakespearean take on the absurdity of modern life.

Amazon UK

Image Credit Lucien Young

Sadly, I didn’t have time to read and review this, so instead,I have an extract from this book of verses to share.

#RandomThingsTours

Extracts from #Sonnets- Lucien Young

#Sonnets #Extract
#Sonnets
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#Sonnets #Extract
#Sonnets #Extract
#LucienYoung

Lucien Young is a comedy writer who has worked on various TV programmes, including BBC Three’s Siblings and Murder in Successville. He was born in Newcastle in 1988 and read English at the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of the world-famous Footlights Club.

#Sonnets