Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Excerpt, Extract, Family Drama, Noir, Suspense

The Stolen Child Alex Coombs 5*#Review @AlexHowardCrime @BoldwoodBooks #CrimeFiction #DIHanlon #London #Essex #TheStolenChild #noircrime #BlogTour #BookReview @rararesources #Extract #boldwoodbloggers

Meet DI Hanlon. A woman with a habit of breaking the rules and a fierce loyalty to the few people she respects.


Her boss, Corrigan. Looks like a street copper promoted above his ability. Underestimate him at your peril.

Enver Demirel. Known in the boxing ring as Iron Hand. Now soft and gone to seed. But he would do anything for Hanlon.

When the kidnap of a 12-year-old boy blows the case of some missing children wide apart, the finger is pointing at the heart of the Met.

Corrigan sends in the only cop in his team who is incorruptible enough to handle it – Hanlon.

And then he sends Demirel to spy on her…

Once you start the DI Hanlon series, you won’t be able to put it down.

This book was previously published as Time To Die by Alex Howard.

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

My Thoughts…

I’ve read a couple of this author’s later books featuring this character, and it’s interesting to explore her past career as a Detective Inspector in the Metropolitan Police. DI Hanlon is dedicated, effective and uncontrollable. If you were a crime victim, you would want her as your Senior Investigating officer.

Set in the second decade of the twenty-first century the story’s subject matter is contemporary and disturbing, parts are harrowing to read but integral to moving the story forward and showing Hanlon’s motivations. Hanlon is an advocate of justice rather than an upholder of the law and easy to empathise. Several investigations are running concurrently in this character-driven story. It focuses on Hanlon and how she is affected by the cases and her subsequent involvement.

The ending is fast-paced, gritty and ultimately satisfying.

Extract from The Stolen Child – Alex Coombs

The compact, concrete shape of the World War Two gun emplacement crouched, hunkered down into the shallow, gravelly soil above the beach on the Essex side of the Thames Estuary near Southend. It overlooked the wide, grey shallow waters on whose far side lay the Isle of Grain and Sheerness. Hanlon guessed it was somewhere out there in those cold, steely waters that the proposed island airport for London might one day take shape. She thought, fleetingly, it would be a pity in a way if it happened. The North Sea waters had a chilly quality that she found rather beautiful. She looked around her slowly, the sky above enormous after London’s claustrophobic horizons. A heron stood on a boulder near the beach, shrugging its wings like an old lady arranging a shawl around her shoulders. Cormorants bobbed along on top of the water and she could see guillemots, their wings folded back like dive-bombers, thundering into the water. The calls of the birds floated towards her on the stiff sea breeze.      

     The tarmac track that led down from the main road above them was old, cracked and weed-grown. The ex-army building’s pitted, grey, artificial stone surface was now camouflaged with yellow, cream and blue-grey lichens and grey-green moss, so that it seemed almost organic, a part of the landscape like a strangely symmetric rock formation. There was a fissured, concrete apron next to the bunker and Hanlon pulled up adjacent to the large, white Mercedes van that she guessed belonged to the forensics team, then got out of her car. She stood for a moment by her Audi and closed her eyes. She felt the cold, fresh sea air against her skin and the breeze tugged at her shoulder-length dark hair. She could smell the metallic warmth of her car engine and the salt tang of the sea. The sound of the small waves breaking on the stony beach a hundred metres or so away were nearly drowned out by the throbbing of the generator next to the Mercedes. She could hear the keening of seagulls, much louder now, wheeling above in the sky. Hanlon stretched the powerful, sinewy muscles in her shoulders and arms and opened her eyes, which were as expressionless as the North Sea in front of her. She looked out over the water, feeling its call. Hanlon loved swimming in the open sea. Earlier that morning, at 6 a.m., she had swum for a steady hour in her local swimming pool, but pool swimming was nothing compared to real salt water. She guessed at this time of year the temperature would be only two or three degrees, colder than a fridge. That wouldn’t deter her. 

     She could taste its saltiness, carried to her lips by the wind.

     A red power cable looped its way from the generator through the heavy, open metal door of the bunker. The door was rusted and pitted by time and the elements, but still substantial. Hanlon stepped over the line of police crime-scene tape that secured the area, blowing like bunting in the sea breeze, and approached the building. Earlier that day, the place would have been bustling with her colleagues from Essex. Now the uniforms had gone and the outside of the bunker, included in the search area, reopened. She didn’t go inside through the forbidding-looking portal designed, she guessed, to be blast-proof, but walked instead along the side wall until she came to one of its long, slit windows that overlooked the beach and the far horizon.

Alex Coombs

Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education and then retrained to be a chef. He has written four well reviewed crime novels as Alex Howard.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Excerpt, Extract, Friendship, Romance

In Pursuit of Happiness Freya Kennedy 5*#Review @AuthorFreya @ClaireAllan @BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodbloggers #UpLit #Romance #Friendship #Dreams #Family #Derry #BlogTour #BookReview @rararesources

The world is waiting…but just outside of your comfort zone.

Jo Campbell is perfectly content in a perfectly structured life.
Nothing ever changes in Jo’s life, and she likes it that way.
Or at least, she tells herself she does.
Most of the time, she manages to push down the tiny voice that tells her to chase her dream and maybe, just maybe, open her battered and bruised heart up to love.
But to chase her dreams she needs to take chances that are way out of her comfort zone and learn to not put other people’s happiness above her own.
Most of all she has to learn to trust her heart, which may just be the biggest challenge of all.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This is a lovely feel-good story about having the confidence to follow your dreams. Jo is a writer, but she’s wary of sharing her work, in case it’s not good enough. Her family and friends are supportive, but she has to win an internal battle with herself to be truly happy. The story is set in Derry in Northern Ireland and has an intrinsic authenticity because if the author’s knowledge of the people and place.

The family and friends dynamics are believable, and the world created relatably. The romance is conflicted and gentle full of internal and external conflict. The plot is interesting and has an expected twist.

This is the second book in the series, but it’s a complete story and an enjoyable, easy read.

Extract from In Pursuit of Happiness – Freya Kennedy

Prologue

The pop of the champagne bottle made Jo Campbell jump, even though she’d watched her foster brother, Noah, as he started to twist the cork slowly, and had anticipated the noise that would follow.

Her nerves were on edge, and fizzed just like the bubbly liquid that was being poured into delicate long-stemmed champagne flutes. The hum and chatter of the guests assembled in the next room made her feel giddy. So giddy, in fact, that she downed the better part of her glass of bubbles in one go, prompting her mother to warn her to slow down.

‘But, Mum,’ she said, ‘I’m really, really nervous. What if everyone hates it? What if it bombs and the only reviews that come are one-star assassinations? What if not a single person buys it?’ She didn’t so much as have butterflies in her stomach as giant killer moths – if such a thing existed.

Her mother put down her own almost empty glass. ‘Josephine Campbell. Calm yourself, my wee love. Everyone will love it. Why wouldn’t they? It’s brilliant, and you’re brilliant.’

‘But you are duty-bound to say that. You’re my mammy. Even if it was the worst book in the world, you’d still tell me it was brilliant,’ Jo said.

Her mother, a woman who had raised three children of her own, adopted another and fostered countless more over the years, gave Jo a snippy look. ‘I would not! I’ve always been honest with you and I’m not going to change now. Besides, it’s published. It wouldn’t be if it was rubbish!’

‘She’s right you know,’ Libby Quinn, one of Jo’s dearest friends and the proprietor of Once Upon A Book in Ivy Lane, told her. ‘You’re good. Actually you’re great. This is your moment, so enjoy it. The shop is full and everyone is on your side.’

Libby smiled her usual warm, inviting smile and Jo watched as Noah put his arm around his new fiancée’s shoulder and kissed her on the cheek. They made a lovely couple – Libby and Noah. But then she’d always known that from the moment Libby Quinn had arrived in The Ivy Inn soaked to the skin and covered in grime just over a year earlier. She’d known almost instantly they would be a great pair, and once they had finally admitted their feelings towards each other they had become almost inseparable. Just thinking about Noah’s hearts and flowers proposal brought tears to Jo’s eyes, and it wasn’t that she was jealous. Although if she was honest with herself, she would admit she was.

‘Damn it,’ Jo said, downing the rest of her glass while ignoring her mother’s disapproving looks. ‘I’m not going to cry, I’ll never live it down!’

‘Everyone knows you’re soft as butter, Jo. I wouldn’t worry about it,’ Noah said. He was right, of course, she was as soft as butter on a warm day, but she had more reason than normal to be emotional.

Posters of Jo’s debut novel, The Lies We Tell, lined the walls, replete with official author pictures, in which she looked sultry and serious and not her usual gregarious self.

In that moment, Jo felt a swell of pride and achievement. This was her moment. She’d finally done it. Written a book and had it published. And now she was going to enjoy this launch in her beloved home town of Derry in the north of Ireland.                    

Her little sister, Clara, a self-declared princess, danced in circles around Jo’s feet, enjoying the tulle monstrosity of a dress she had insisted on wearing for the occasion. It was over the top, Jo conceded, but Clara had her big sister tightly wrapped around her little finger.

And all her friends were there. Harry from the corner shop. The regulars of The Ivy Inn, which she was part owner of along with Noah. Her godmother, Auntie Mags, and even Erin, her most trusted confidante. They all grinned at her as if she was a graceful bride about to glide down the aisle.

So far the launch had been everything she had hoped for: copies of her books on the shelves, friends and family sharing the moment and champagne galore. There was just one final ingredient – the icing on the cake: the celebrity guest. Libby had made it her mission to find someone famous to do the launching honours – someone instantly recognisable, but she had refused to tell Jo who it would be.

‘It’s good,’ Libby had said. ‘It’s someone really good.’

Jo hoped it was someone who would suit the gravitas of the launch – and the seriousness of the book she had written. She’d poured years of writing and learning and rewriting and relearning into making this debut, and she had great dreams that one of her writing heroes, maybe Liz Nugent or Liane Moriarty, or local bestseller Brian McGilloway, would do the honours.

When the crowd parted, Jo swore loudly as she saw a life-sized Peppa Pig holding a copy of her book, while Clara squealed with delighted at the superstar guest.

Freya Kennedy (Claire Allan)

Freya Kennedy lives in Derry, Northern Ireland, with her husband, two children, two cats and a mad dog called Izzy. She worked as a journalist for eighteen years before deciding to write full time. When not writing, she can be found reading, hanging out with her nieces and nephews, cleaning up after her children (a lot) and telling her dog that she loves her.

She has met Michael Buble and even kissed him. It was one of her best ever moments.

She believes in happy ever afters.

Freya Kennedy is a pen name for Claire Allan, who also writes psychological thrillers.

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Posted in Blog Blitz, Christmas Read, Excerpt, Extract, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance

Christmas at the Marshmallow Cafe C.P Ward #Extract #CPWard #BookBlitz #Festive #Christmas #Excerpt #Romance #Friendship #ChristmasattheMarshmallowCafe #LakeDistrict

When downtrodden checkout assistant Bonnie Green receives a letter from a mysterious uncle, she can hardly believe her eyes.

Gifted a hundred-year lease on a famous cafe situated in the middle of a mythical theme park, Bonnie sets off with her best friend Debbie on an adventure to a hidden valley in the Lake District where they will find new friendship, love, and happiness, all set against the magic of Christmas … and more marshmallows than they can possibly eat….

Amazon UK

Only 99p/c until 20th December!

A Christmas Land WelcomeExcerpt from Christmas at the Marshmallow Cafe C.P Ward

After a harrowing journey north, Bonnie and Debbie finally arrive at Christmas Land. Will it live up to their expectations?

Bonnie and Debbie climbed off as the train’s doors opened. They found themselves standing on a platform lacking even a ticket office. As the train pulled away, chugging across the marsh and then vanishing back into the forest, they looked at each other, both shrugging.

‘Well, we’re here,’ Bonnie said.

‘What an awesome place. Like, how long do we have to wait for the next train back?’

‘There’s a road over there, through the trees. And a sign. Look.’

Carrying their suitcases, they climbed down a set of steps and made their way across the clearing to where a forest trail led into the trees. A faded wooden sign with an arrow said CHRISTMAS LAND THIS WAY.

They headed down the trail, the trees closing in to block out the sky overhead. Debbie clutched Bonnie’s arm, squeezing so tightly that Bonnie had to repeatedly prise her fingers free in order to allow the blood to resume flowing.

The trail kept up a winding meander which didn’t allow them to see too far ahead, as though holding back its secrets until the last moment. Bonnie was fully expecting to turn a corner and find a sign telling them they’d been duped, when Debbie jerked to a stop, pulling Bonnie with her.

‘What happened?’

‘Can’t you hear it?’

‘What?’

‘Music.’

Bonnie listened. Debbie was right. A faint tinkle of music came through the trees. It was too indistinct to make out any kind of a tune, but she felt sure it was familiar.

‘I don’t believe it,’ Debbie said. ‘Jingle Bells. Don’t they know it’s November?’

They started walking again. As they closed on the source of the music, Bonnie was able to pick up the tune. Jingle Bells, played on a loop.

‘It’s so weird,’ Bonnie said. ‘Standing in a pine forest in November, hearing the most famous Christmas Song of all played over a speaker.’

‘Look,’ Debbie said. ‘Here it is.’

They stepped out from behind a large pine leaning across the path and found Christmas Land standing in front of them.

Huge ornate gates held a sign.

WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS LAND

WHERE THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS NEVER ENDS

On either side, gatehouse towers rose, all fake stonework and plastic snow. Electric candles flickered in windows, illuminating the silhouettes of reindeer and elves.

One gate stood open. As they approached, Bonnie saw how it was now open forever, the upper hinge broken off, leaving the front corner buried in the ground. Bushes had grown up to claim it, the roots of saplings rooting it into the earth.

Inside the gates were lines of pretty chalets and a visitor centre. The roofs were loaded with pine needles and she could see even from this distance that several windows had plywood boards where glass should have been. A Ferris wheel standing in the centre of a main square had a sycamore growing eight feet high through the window of the closest car to the ground, clearly indicating that it hadn’t turned in some years.

‘It’s derelict,’ Debbie said. ‘Abandoned. Wow, this is way more awesome than I was expecting. Man, if only I had a metal band, this would be amazing for some press photos. An abandoned Christmas theme park in the middle of the forest—’

‘We prefer to simply say neglected,’ came a voice from inside one of the gatehouse towers, and a lower window opened to reveal a ruddy-cheeked man wearing a top hat and a green suit. Large sideburns made Bonnie immediately think of the bankers in Mary Poppins.

‘While it might look in a little disrepair, I can assure you that there is still plenty of fun to be had in Christmas Land, three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. Do you have a reservation? If not, don’t worry. We have plenty of chalets available.’ Then, breaking kayfabe for the first time, he looked down at the red gloves covering his hands and grimaced. ‘Most of them, actually.’

C.P Ward

CP Ward is an author from Cornwall in the UK.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Travel

The Villa of Dreams Lucy Coleman 5*#Review @LucyColemanauth @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources #TheVillaofDreams #extract #boldwoodbloggers #BookReview #BookTour #Romance #Friendship #Lisbon #uplit

Seren Maddison left behind a rainy Britain to follow her dreams and live and work in Lisbon. The vibrancy, the beautiful scenery and the sunshine, made her fall in love and she knew, instantly, that it would be her forever home.

International artist Reid Henderson has homes in Lisbon and London. Following his painful divorce, his dream is to turn his luxurious home into an art school and gallery.

When Seren and Reid first meet there is an instant attraction, but they are both people who have been hurt, and each have dreams that are so far apart, they aren’t even on the same page. 

Can they enjoy one summer of happiness together, as life bestows a gift of memories to cherish for the rest of their lives? Or is their destiny to chart a path into the future, in a home where dreams can come true?

Seren and Reid may be about to discover that love is as much about what you are prepared to give up, as what you are prepared to keep hold of. Let Lucy Coleman transport you away to sun-drenched Portugal where true love really can conquer all, and home is where the heart is.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts

A little sunshine and warmth on a cold winter’s day are always welcome. This romantic tale of compromise, dreams and love, takes you on an emotional angst-ridden journey full of heartwarming romance that leaves you uplifted.

Seren decides that striving for her father’s approval is a fool’s errand and finally leaves England to follow her dreams in Lisbon, Portugal. She wants to develop her art and works towards the dream by organising and event that incorporates many aspects of the creative world. Love is not on her agenda, but fate has other ideas when she meets Reid, a recent divorcee and artist. Both are emotionally damaged and driven by their career project, yet the chemistry is undeniable, but is a Summer love strong enough to withstand the Winter of reality?

This is a story about dreams and how they can change and having the courage and insight to chase what makes you happy whatever the consequences.

Extract from the book…

Prologue

October

How many people are lucky – some might say foolhardy – enough to grab the chance of a fresh start? Well, I’ve been offered a job opportunity which is going to turn my whole life upside down. Three weeks today, I will be saying goodbye to the UK and jumping on a plane to Lisbon.

After working for my father for six years, the day that I finally decided I’d had enough and I handed him my letter of resignation, his reaction was one of disbelief.

‘You’re making a big mistake, Seren,’ he warned me. ‘Don’t expect me to bail you out if things go wrong. It’s a tough world out there and you’ve led a privileged life – you just don’t appreciate that fact.’

With his words ringing in my ears, I walked out of the office feeling… free. You can’t live life trying to please a man who uses a balance sheet as a measuring stick.

My father takes pride in the fact that he worked hard to build up his business, which allowed him to provide a good standard of living for his family. That makes him sound like a loving man, doesn’t it? But somewhere along the way it changed him, and not for the better. In a sad twist of irony, the father I remember from my childhood was different – as a family man he was kinder, more forgiving and less driven. I can’t remember when exactly he stopped appreciating the small things in life, but it’s a loss I mourn.

Working for my father for the last six years has destroyed not only the relationship I have with him but has also meant stifling my own ambitions. And my poor mother is caught in the middle, her heart torn as the chasm grows between us all. My father longed for a son and instead he got a daughter. One who wanted to please him, until he side-lined me for a total stranger. Three months after Stuart Lang arrived, I resigned. He saw me as a threat and wasted a ridiculous amount of time and effort in systematically undermining every decision I made. Obviously, he wasn’t quite as astute, or confident about his own abilities as my father perceived him to be. Mind you, my plans to leave were well in hand, even before his first day on the job.

It’s time to pack up my things and put them in storage.

There is no looking back, only forwards from now on. It’s up to me to manifest the sort of life I want to live and, yes, I’m a little scared, but it’s also empowering.

Lucy Coleman

Lucy Coleman is a #1 bestselling romance writer, whose recent novels include Summer in Provence and Snowflakes over Holly Cove. She also writes under the name Linn B. Halton. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award and lives in the Welsh Valleys.

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

Moonlight Over Studland Bay Della Galton 5*#Review @DellaGalton @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources #Family #UpLit #Romance #Animals #Dreams #Friendship #BlogTour #BookReview #boldwoodbloggers #PublicationDay

‘Utterly uplifting, pure escapism’ Trisha Ashley, bestselling author

Animal loving Samantha Jones is on a mission to ‘live the dream’.
When best friend Abby has a beautiful baby boy Sam’s priorities change and she realises she wants more from her life.

Uninspired with her dull day job Sam plans to expand Purbeck Pooches, her seaside pet sitting business into a full-time career and embarks on a mission to find her perfect man.

Sam soon hits trouble. Her boss accuses her of moonlighting. The perfect man is frustratingly elusive and her parents make a shock revelation.

The odds are stacking up against her but Sam finds that sometimes when you reach for the moon, you get a handful of glittering stars thrown in for free.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This is an engaging story about friendship, families and following your dreams set in a Dorset coastal vista. Sam is a great best friend as Abby finds when she turns up on her doorstep heartbroken and pregnant. Sam’s day job as an audio typist is a means to an end. It’s her hobby job as a dog walker and animal sitter that gives her the life she aspires to. Finding the ideal man doesn’t even make her wishlist after her latest heartbreak, but this story shows that following your dreams can lead to some surprising benefits.

Friendship is the predominant theme in this story, but gentle romance makes a lasting impact as Sam’s story progresses. The romantic male lead is not at all stereotypical, which adds authenticity to this heartwarming story. There are lots of lovely characters all believably flawed and one or two eccentrics that given the story its vivacity. The protagonists are older, which reflects contemporary society well.

This is a story about ordinary folks in everyday situations, but their friendship and love are extraordinary. This quality shines through, in insightful, and sensitive writing, making this an escapist, and uplifting book to read.

Extract from Moonlight Over Studland Bay – Della Galton

Sam Jones was beginning to feel a great deal more stressed than she had when she had left Beach Cottage, her home overlooking Studland Bay in one of the most beautiful spots in Dorset, fifteen minutes earlier. Her hands felt slippery on the steering wheel. It was hot for June, plus annoyingly a section of her long dark hair had escaped from its butterfly clip and was flicking round her face as she drove. This was because all of the car windows were down. Abby, who was half sitting, half lying on the back seat, had said she needed the air.

‘Can’t you drive any bloody faster, Sam? I’m in agony here.’

She glanced in the rear view mirror and saw that her best friend and housemate – they’d met in year seven and had been inseparable ever since – was thrashing about. Her head was thrown back, her white blonde hair fanned out against the headrest and her flushed face was screwed up in a very good impression of someone in agony. But, as Abby was prone to exaggeration, if not a full-on drama queen, Sam was nowhere near as worried as she might otherwise have been.

Sometimes she thought the only thing she and Abby now had in common was the fact they were both thirty-six. They had been born exactly a month apart – Sam on 10 May and Abby on 10 June. A month had a lot to answer for in astrology terms. Not that Sam put as much faith in astrology as Abby did. This morning, Abby’s Three-Word Fun Horoscope, which she read every day on her app, had said, ‘Don’t go yet’. Abby, as ever, had put her faith in that until she couldn’t hold off any longer, which is why they were racing along in the car now.

‘Honey, half an hour ago you didn’t want to come,’ Sam pointed out gently. ‘You were dead set on having a home birth. And I can’t drive any faster, it won’t do us any good if I crash.’ Also, she was worried about the two mousetraps, both of which contained live mice, which she’d just remembered were on the back seat of the car in a brown paper bag. The traps were shut, but if they tipped off the seat they might open and release their cargo and Abby was terrified of mice. If there was one thing worse than having a pain-ridden Abby in labour in her car, it was having a pain-ridden and panic-stricken Abby in labour in her car.

Sam knew she should have moved the humane mousetraps before they’d set out, but in all the panic of racing around the house gathering up all the stuff that Abby hadn’t bothered packing because ‘no way am I having an unnatural hospital birth,’ it had slipped her mind that they were there. Fortunately they hadn’t been in situ very long; she had planned to release the occupants in the woods on her way back to get Abby, before she’d realised quite how urgent things had become.

Della Galton

Della Galton is the author of 15 books, including Ice and a Slice.  She writes short stories, teaches writing groups and is Agony Aunt for Writers Forum Magazine.  She lives in Dorset. Della’s new fiction series launched with Sunshine Over Bluebell Cliff in May 2020.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Murder Mystery

Murder At The Gorge Frances Evesham 4* #Review #Extract @FrancesEvesham @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources #BlogTour #boldwoodbloggers #BookReview #MurderMystery #ExhamOnSea #MurderAtTheGorge #MondayBlogs

A joke? A prank? Or something more sinister?

When the Exham-on-Sea residents are targeted by anonymous emails containing apparently harmless nursery rhymes, no one knows whether to laugh or shudder until an unexplained death touches the town.

Libby Forest, baker, chocolatier and Exham’s very own resident private investigator, alongside her partner Max Ramshore, set out to solve the puzzle before more people die. But when Max’s ex-wife arrives on the scene, ahead of Max and Libby’s long-awaited nuptials, things go from bad to worse.

With the town and their relationship under threat, Max and Libby need the help of the Exham History Society if they’re going to find the nursery rhyme killer in time.

Murder at the Gorge is the seventh in a series of Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries set at the small English seaside town full of quirky characters, sea air, and gossip.

If you love Agatha Christie-style mysteries, cosy crime, clever dogs and cake, then you’ll love these intriguing whodunnits.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

As I haven’t read any books in this series, I can confirm it reads well as a standalone. There are sufficient backstory and character details to immerse a new reader in this tale of murder. Amateur sleuths Libby Forest, and Max Ramshore, have their wedding plans sidelined when poison pen letters turn to murder and Max’s ex-wife infiltrates his life.

This story is set in Exham-On-Sea a fictional coastal village in Somerset, which has a vibrant community and a penchant for murder. The plot is full of twists with numerous suspects and historical connections to be investigated. The characters are well-written and draw the reader into the village. The village ethos is believable and gives the murder mystery authenticity.

This is something to escape with for a couple of hours, and I plan to read the whole series.

Extract from Murder At The Gorge – Frances Evesham

The wind blew them back to Max’s Land Rover, parked near the jetty, in half the time it had taken them to reach the lighthouse.

As they flung open the doors and the dogs scrambled on board, Max’s phone rang. He shot a glance at the screen and his stomach lurched. Stella. His ex-wife. He hadn’t heard from her for years. His finger hovered over the red button for a second, but he knew she’d just call again. Reluctantly, he answered.

‘Hello?’

‘Max, I need your help. I’m in Bristol. Come and see me. Now.’

Max stared at the phone, stunned into silence.

Libby climbed into the passenger seat. ‘Who is it? Business?’

Max croaked into the phone, ‘I’ll call you back,’ ended the call and dropped the phone into his pocket as though it had burned his fingers.

Libby pulled her seat belt tight. ‘That was a bit abrupt. You’ll frighten customers away. You could take a lesson from the way Mandy answers the phone at work. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, these days.’

She chattered happily about Mandy, her lodger and chocolate-making apprentice, soon to become the sole tenant of Hope Cottage when Libby moved into Max’s house near the sand dunes. She didn’t seem to notice that Max still stood by the open driver’s door, answering in grunts, not hearing a word she said.

Stella. After all these years?

‘Well, let’s go,’ Libby said.

‘Yes, sorry.’

He made an effort to pull himself together, climbed into the car and started the engine.

‘Who was it, anyway?’ Libby asked.

He couldn’t tell her, not now. He couldn’t spoil her excitement over the wedding. ‘Old colleague,’ he muttered, and the lie seemed to hang in the air, like a cloud.

‘One of your old business mates? Did you get cut off?’

‘That’s right. Might be some work coming my way. I’ll call back, later.’

Frances Evesham is the author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea mysteries set in her home county of Somerset. In her spare time, she collects poison recipes and other ways of dispatching her unfortunate victims. She likes to cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other, her head full of murder―fictional only.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Romantic Comedy

Winter at Wishington Bay Maxine Morrey 4*#Review @Scribbler_Maxi @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources #RomCom #boldwoodbloggers #BlogTour #BookReview #extract #publicationday #WinteratWishingtonBay

Eighteen months ago, Sophia Jones finally walked out on her unhappy life.

With a tricky divorce ongoing, money is tight and so when friends offer her a housekeeping job while they’re away travelling, she accepts.

Nate McKinley is hesitant when his brother, Gabe, offers him the use of their home in the picturesque village of Wishington Bay. But he has a book to a write and an imploded marriage to recover from, so maybe a change of scene is exactly what he needs. 

As Wishington Bay works its magic, friendship blossoms between Sophia and Nate. For Nate, finally feeling able to be himself with someone who is honest and down to earth is a revelation. 

But Sophia has a secret and a jealous colleague is determined to blow her cover. Can she really keep her old life in the past or is it destined to destroy this new, happy one too?

Take a trip back to Wishington Bay this winter and find out…

A deliciously heart-warming and romantic read, perfect for a cosy winter’s evening, from the author of the bestselling Winter’s Fairytale.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Set in the idyllic community of Wishington Bay Sophia is healing and starting enjoy her new life. She has friends, a job, but still keeps a secret that could destroy it all. Looking after Nate for her friend Holly makes her feel good until she meets him.

This is an enemy to lover second chance romance for Nate and Sophia. The characters are flawed, realistic and easy to empathise. Honesty and trust are important to Nate. He values this in his fledgeling relationship with Sophia. She knows her secrets may damage what they have, but Nate has unfinished business with his soon to be ex-wife too.

This is character-driven reliant on dialogue interchanges between the protagonists to move the story forward. This adds to the realism but slows the pace a little.

The ending, whilst not a shock, does ramp up the external conflict. The ending shows how much the two characters have developed positively.

Extract From Winter at Wishington Bay – Maxine Morrey

‘Morning, Sophia!’ Ernie raised a hand being kept toasty by a thick sheepskin glove. ‘Bit nippy today.’

I waved back and nodded in agreement, the bobble on my woolly hat bouncing as I did so. ‘Just a little!’ I grinned at both him and the typically British understatements. It was absolutely bloody freezing.

Wrapping my coat a little tighter, I dug my hands into my pockets and hurried along the cobbled village streets. Now that the bulk of the tourists had gone for the winter, it was easier to do without having to negotiate round the shuffling window shoppers of summer who filled the narrow pavements during the high season. Not that Wishington Bay ever entirely closed. Its renowned beauty, and relatively sheltered position, made it popular even out of season, and of course the brilliant reputation of Ned’s restaurant, where I worked as a waitress, brought people from miles away all through the year.

I took extra shifts at the restaurant whenever I could, which on many occasions was over a weekend thanks to one particular colleague, Corinne. She’d been hired by Ned as a favour to old friends and was apparently there more for the ‘life experience’ rather than any need to earn a decent income. The latter part was covered most indulgently by her father, allowing Corinne to be far more concerned with fitting work around her social life, rather than the other way round. My own circumstances, however, dictated that I would never turn down the opportunity to earn a little extra cash, and why I was now hurrying along the road that led towards the edge of the village.

The idea that I would ever be in a position to need to earn money at all was still one that occasionally took some getting used to but I had, in general, adjusted fairly well to this new circumstance, and thanks to Carrie and her sister-in-law, Holly, I was on my way to the first day of another new venture.

As I turned into the private lane that led down to Holly and Gabe’s house, I looked across from the raised position and took in the curve of the bay, the pale sand today edged with a sea of bright turquoise. Above it, puffy white clouds chased each other quickly across the blue sky. The sun shone, although there was little warmth from it, but the rays caught the tops of the white horses as they danced across the water before breaking onto the shore. I took a deep lungful of the cold, sharp air, tasting the salt in it, and smiled to myself, realising that despite my reduced circumstances I was lucky to have ended up at Wishington Bay. Pulling my phone from my pocket, I snapped a couple of pictures of the beautiful scenery to upload onto my Instagram later before heading on down the lane towards the house.

Maxine Morrey

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, was published in November 2019.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Crime, Extract, Gangland Crime, ganglit

Villain Caro Savage #Extract @CaroSavageStory @BoldwoodBooks #CrimeFiction #ganglit #boldwoodbloggers @rararesources

To catch a villain sometimes you have to become one.
Bailey’s Back! From the bestselling author of Jailbird.

Detective Constable Bailey Morgan is back doing what she does best – working undercover.
This time she has to infiltrate the inner circle of a notorious underworld family. Posing as a fellow villain, she is on a one-woman mission to bring the family to their knees.

But things are never that simple. Bailey finds that she is forced to confront shadowy wraiths from her past and will come face-to-face with a set of devastating revelations that will shatter her world and threaten her very existence.

With only herself to trust, Bailey is on her own and the stakes are higher than ever.

Amazon UK

Extract from Villain – Caro Savage

At that point, the door of the restaurant swung open, letting out a gust of noise which made him turn his head sharply, all thoughts of the mysterious figure dropping from his mind. He saw that a couple had emerged into the chilly night and it looked like they were heading in his direction. A bolt of anticipation shot through him. Here was his opportunity, the chance to earn some money.

The man ambled along in a self-assured swagger, his black leather jacket flapping open despite the freezing weather. The woman was wrapped in a figure-hugging fur coat, below which a pair of slender long legs ended in towering stiletto heels. The woman, in particular, looked quite glamorous, like some kind of model or actress, and both of them looked considerably well-off.

The couple were laughing, the man saying something indiscernible in a low rumble, the woman tittering in response, their puffs of breath frosting in the night air. It sounded like they were tipsy, bathing in the high of a good evening.

They were drawing closer, the woman’s heels clacking sharply on the pavement as she tottered along a little unsteadily, her arm hooked into the man’s elbow, their conversation becoming more clearly audible the nearer they got.

‘Now remember you promised me,’ the man was saying in a rough, gravelly voice.

‘When we get back to the car,’ the woman replied, with a coy twinkle in her eye.

‘I’ve been waiting for it all evening,’ he said with a leering grin. ‘And I can’t wait any longer.’

‘You won’t be disappointed,’ she purred seductively.

Dave readied himself for their imminent approach. They were only a few metres away now. He projected the appropriate air of two parts dejected to one part cheerful and one part humble, a recipe he’d spent some time refining.

‘Spare some change?’ he said as they passed, making sure not to sound too whiny.

The man stopped abruptly, pulling the woman to a halt beside him. He peered down at Dave, the smile dropping off his face. Up close, Dave absorbed his appearance – a large diamond stud in his left ear, his loud shirt open at the collar revealing a heavy gold chain around his neck, a chunky, expensive-looking watch on his left wrist and one of those rings with a gold sovereign in it on the little finger of his right hand. He certainly didn’t look short of cash, that was for sure. And he appeared to be coked up, if the wide twitching eyes and the clenching jaw were anything to go by.

Dave suddenly felt uneasy. Just beneath the surface, he could detect the whiff of violence, as if this was the kind of bloke who thought nothing of doling out a beating to anyone who looked at him the wrong way. Maybe he should have kept his mouth shut. He wondered if the man was going to assault him. It wouldn’t be the first time someone had done so. He felt a faint quake of fear. He gulped and braced himself for a possible kicking.

Caro Savage

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, Jailbird was published by Boldwood in October 2019.

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Posted in Extract, Historical Fiction, Saga

Minnie’s Orphans Lindsey Hutchinson #Extract @LHutchAuthor @BoldwoodBooks #MinniesOrphans #boldwoodbloggers @rararesources #Saga #historicalfiction #HistFic #BlogTour

The Fitch children are finally safe, after they and their friends were rescued from the grim orphanage Reed House by Minnie and Billy Marshall. Their children’s home Marshall’s is full of love and laughter, and a world away from their terrible ordeal of being sold to Una Reed for five shillings.There are many more children who still need a home, especially in a world where the workhouse is the last option for desperate families, and so Minnie makes it her mission to build Marshall’s into a refuge for all the waifs and strays. 

But kind hearts can be taken advantage of, and before long, Marshall’s in under attack. Can Minnie and Billy keep their family together and keep all the children safe, or will they be torn apart again? 

The Queen of the Black Country sagas is back with a heart-warming, unputdownable and unforgettable tale of triumph against the odds.

Amazon UK

Extract from Minnie’s Orphans Lindsey Hutchinson

Adam Fitch and Billy Marshall stood waiting at the front of Stafford Gaol as they had done once a month for the last five years.

The door in the huge brick-built gatehouse was firmly locked and was flanked either side by a tall concrete wall.

Adam’s eyes glanced over the women leaning against the wall, awaiting a visit to their menfolk inside. Dressed in rags, some had scruffy children clinging to their worn skirts. Others stood alone as if trying to hide from the stigma of being a convict’s spouse. No one spoke. They simply waited patiently for the echoing sound of the key grating in the lock which heralded that their visit time was imminent.

Shuffling from foot to foot, Adam was eager for the wrought iron gates to swing open. He shivered. The spring sunshine gave very little warmth, but Adam realised it was anticipation which was making him shake rather than the cool air.

Lifting his flat cap, he pushed his dark hair back before replacing it. He heard a whisper from a small girl hiding behind her mother.

‘Is he a peaky blinder?’

‘Don’t be so daft!’ the woman scolded, but she eyed Adam warily nevertheless.

‘Won’t be long now, lad, and then we’ll not be coming again, God willing,’ Billy whispered as he laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

Adam nodded and glanced around again at the small group of people who were also waiting. Young men with their own flat caps pulled low over watchful eyes, everyone keen to see whoever it was they had come to the prison to visit.

As he attempted to quell his excitement, Adam’s mind ran swiftly over the last few years of his fifteen-year-old life. His natural father, a pugilist, had been killed in the boxing ring. Adam and his sister were sold to Reed’s Orphanage by his stepfather, who died by the hand of his brother James in a freak accident. When Polly was then sold again to a wealthy family, Adam and his friends broke out to rescue her.

Feeling strong fingers squeeze gently at his arm, Adam glanced at the big man at his side. Billy Marshall, champion pugilist, now retired, had taught him how to box and so defend himself if and when the need arose. Billy had married Adam’s mum Minnie four years previously, and they had bought a massive property in Major Street, which was now a children’s home.

Whilst on the run from Reed’s, Adam and his friends had met up with three boys who were living together, thieving and scavenging to survive. Two of them, Echo and Flash, had joined Adam’s ever-expanding family; the third had been apprehended by the police, which was the reason for their visit here today. Adam and Billy were awaiting the release of Digit, who had served five years for theft.

So lost in his thoughts was he that Adam had not heard the warder come to unlock the doors. The squeal of hinges drew his attention and he again glanced at Billy.

‘They will let Digit out today, won’t they?’ he asked in barely more than a whisper.

Billy nodded confidently, and the two watched the small group of people shuffle forward into the yard. Then the huge wooden doors began to close and Adam felt his stomach lurch. Where was Digit? Had something happened since they had last seen him? Was he ill – had he died? Adam pushed the thought aside as he stared at the huge wooden doors, willing them to open.

‘Bloody hell, Digit – come on!’ Adam muttered.

‘Patience, lad – all in good time,’ Billy said.

Suddenly the door opened, and a young man stepped out into the yard. Toby Hanley, aka Digit, stood for a moment with the sun shining on his thick black hair, which was long and lank and badly in need of a wash. His dark eyes blinked at the bright sunlight, then they searched for the two friends who had promised to be there on his release. His clothes hung on his frame which had once been thickset and muscled but now after five years in gaol, appeared to have lost a little of that mass, although there was still strength beneath the bedraggled appearance.

Lindsey Hutchinson

Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children. She was born and raised in Wednesbury and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Travel

What If? Shari Low 5*#Review @sharilow @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources #WhatIf #selfdiscovery #Romance #Friendship #theone #BlogTour #BookReview #extract #romcom

The book that started it all! A classic retro romcom from #1 bestselling author Shari Low.

1999.
Carly Cooper is 30, single, and after coming close to saying ‘I Do’ to six different men, she’s wondering if she accidentally said ‘goodbye’ to Mr Right.
But there is a problem.
Her ex-boyfriends are scattered all over the world and Carly lives in 1999; an era before Facebook, Google, smartphones, 4G and Broadband, when it was impossible to track people down with a few clicks of a mouse.
On a mission to discover if she walked away from her ‘happy ever after’, Carly quits her job, her flat, her whole life and sets off on a quest to track down all the men she has ever loved.
Her Mr Right is out there, but can she find him?
And what if he’s moved on from the ex-girlfriend who said goodbye?

A wonderful classic 20th-anniversary re-release.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

With this book, you get the chance to revisit the nineties and eighties briefly and enjoy the first magic novel from this author. Carly on the eve of the millennium is wondering if she’s made the best of her life. Has she missed out on the one?

Carly is a likeable character, funny and self-deprecating and you empathise with her. She revisits old relationships (six) and then decides to find her former lovers to see if she made a mistake. This has hilarious, poignant and romantic results and is an entertaining read.

It’s a lovely book to explore the late twentieth century and escape this one for a little while.

What If? Shari Low – An Extract

Chapter 1

March 1999

Millennium – Robbie Williams

Oh, b**locks.

I love that word. It has a ‘don’t mess with me, I’m a hormonal lethal weapon’ ring to it. I’ve been muttering it dementedly since I got out of bed this morning, because I can’t think of a single thing that’s right with the world today.

I reach over to refill the kettle, dropping the arm of my dressing gown in last night’s dishwater and knocking over my ashtray in the process. It’s not going to be one of my better days. Before you start reaching for the telephone to summon a counselling service to my kitchen, can I just say that I’m having a midlife crisis. I look and feel like Liam Gallagher after a night on the tiles and I can tell you in years, months, days and minutes how long it is since my last sexual experience. But, according to every reputable (trashy) women’s magazine, this behaviour is typical of a single female of my age. One who’s having a midlife crisis, that is.

Do you ever think, ‘What if this is all there is to life?’ Do you ever contemplate your lot and wonder why you’re not a supermodel in Milan? Or the director of a multinational corporation? What about married to an international business tycoon with homes in seven countries? For the purposes of this ponderance, I’m going to ignore that I’ve got forty pounds on any supermodel, I have no cheekbones, zero entrepreneurial skills, I’m a hopeless commitment-phobe and I couldn’t handle seven houses because I get irritated having to run the Hoover round my tiny flat.

But all that aside, look at me now. I’m sitting at my breakfast table alone, having called in sick to work with an ever more ridiculous reason (‘I stubbed my toe in the garden’ isn’t a bad excuse, except that I live in a third floor flat), with absolutely nothing to look forward to except a chocolate croissant and a long linger over the latest edition of Hello! magazine.I can’t help thinking, ‘What if this is it?’ What if this is the way my life is going to be until I’m having Zimmer races up and down the corridor of my retirement home, flirting with old men and cheating at bingo?

I suppose I owe you an explanation for this sudden outpouring of self-pity.

My name is Carly Cooper. I’m careering towards my thirties at terrifying speed, and I pay an obscene portion of my monthly salary to live in a studio-cum-cupboard in the desirable area of Richmond, near London. I arrived here from my native Glasgow via a multitude of countries, adventures and disasters (mostly due to Mr Rights who inevitably turned out to be Mr Couldn’t Be More Wrongs). I’m 5’8”, with long blonde hair (extensions), blue eyes (coloured contact lenses) and ample curves (in many of the non-supermodel places).

I earn a great salary doing a job I detest and therefore spend every penny of it doing things I enjoy to take my mind off work. I am officially a National Accounts Manager for one of the world’s largest manufacturers of tissue-paper products. Translated, this means that I persuade buyers of large multinational companies to sign annual contracts for the supply of their toilet rolls. Don’t laugh. There’s a future in toilet rolls. They’ll be here long after all this modern technology like CDs and carphones are on a scrap heap somewhere.

I’m officially enjoying the single life with no significant other to answer to. Believe me, to paraphrase Jerry Maguire, I absolutely know that I don’t need a man to complete me. I should just be content being a single, cosmopolitan woman of the world. But unofficially, off the record, and with apologies to my fellow singletons everywhere, I’m bored, fed up and itching to be in a couple again.

Shari Low

Shari Low is the #1 bestselling author of over 25 novels, including One Day In Summer and My One Month Marriage and a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. She lives near Glasgow.

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