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.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
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.
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.
*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
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.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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.
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.
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.
Sadly, I didn’t have time to read and review this, so instead,I have an extract from this book of verses to share.
Extracts from #Sonnets- Lucien Young
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.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story begins so quietly, but the subtle suspense builds very quickly. A dramatic twist leaves the reader reeling. Totally addicted, you have to find out what happens next.
There is a psychological element to this story, but not in the traditionalsense., as there is no clear, unreliable protagonist. Rather, this is a fast-paced crime thriller, with a well-thought-out police procedural, and a disturbing, menacing ethos. Thecrimes are not graphically depicted, but are harrowing and resonate.
Jenna Morgan is a likeable detective, who engages with the reader. This crime is personal, you see her flaws and vulnerability seeping through her professional exterior. She’s easy to empathise you want her to have the outcome she seeks.
With an interesting team of detectives, that all have their own stories, this promises to be an absorbing series. The detective team is male-dominated, which may be authentic, but it would be good to see more women on the team in future stories.
The clues to finding the killer are hidden in plain sight, but knowing who increases the intensity. The ending is a pure adrenaline rush.
Diane Saxon previously wrote romantic fiction for the US market but has now turned to write psychological crime. The Keeper is her first novel in this genre and introduces series character DS Jemma Morgan. It will be published by Boldwood in October 2019. She is married to a retired policeman and lives in Shropshire.
extract from The Keeper – Diane saxon
Friday 26 October, 15:45 hrs
Felicity Morgan jammed her car into third gear and took the tight bend
down the hill to Coalbrookdale with fierce relish. ‘It’s not right! It’s just
not right. I’m twenty-four years old, for God’s sake, and still being told what
to do!’ She pounded the palm of her hand on the steering wheel and whipped
around another curve. ‘
‘Not even told.’ She glanced in the mirror, her gaze clashing with
Domino’s. ‘Nope, she didn’t even have the decency to speak to me.’ She floored
the accelerator and snapped out a feral grin as the car skimmed over the humps
in the narrow road.
‘She texted me. A freakin’ text!’ She shot Domino another quick glance
and took her foot from the accelerator as the car flew under the disused
railway bridge, past the entrance to Enginuity, one of the Ironbridge Gorge
Guilt nudged at her. ‘I know. I know, Domino. We’ve barely seen each
other since I moved in because of her shifts and my workday, but for God’s
sake. A text? Really? She must have been so peed off to send me a text. It’s her
version of not talking to me. She’s done it all our lives.’ Fliss blew out a
disgusted snort. ‘What the hell did you eat this time? Her bloody precious
steak? One of her fluffy pink slippers? Hah!’
She appealed in the mirror to her silent companion. ‘She said, “Don’t
forget to walk the dog.”’ She pressed her foot on the brake and came to a halt,
sliding the gears into neutral as the traffic lights halfway down the hill
changed to red. They always did for her. Every bloody time. With a rebellious
kick on the accelerator, Fliss revved the engine.
‘She called you a dog, Domino. She couldn’t even be bothered to write
your name.’ She stared at the big, gorgeous and demanding Dalmatian in her rear
view mirror. Her lips kicked up as a smile softened her voice. ‘How could I
possibly forget to walk you?’
An ancient Austin Allegro puttered through the narrow track towards her
just as the traffic lights turned to green on her side. ‘Bloody typical.’
Domino raised his head to stare with aloof disdain at the passing Allegro
and Fliss sighed as the driver’s wrinkled face, as ancient as the car, barely
emerged above the steering wheel. ‘There was only once, a few weeks ago, I
forgot to walk you. You’d have thought Jenna would have understood. I was
hung-over from my break-up drinking bout. You, my darling, were suffering the
consequences of a broken home.’ She let out a derisive snort as she put the car
into first gear and glided through the lights, back in control of both her
temper and her vehicle.
‘Not that you ever really liked Ed. You were just being empathetic. You
sensed my…’ she drew in a long breath through her nose, ‘… devastation. You
sympathised with me. How was I to know you’d eat your Aunty Jenna’s kitchen
cupboard doors off while I was sleeping?’ They still bore the deep gouged teeth
marks. ‘We didn’t have any choice but to move in with Jenna. We couldn’t stay
with him. He was too mean. He wanted me to get rid of you. Said it was him or
She flopped her head back on the headrest. Ed. The perfect gentleman,
tender, gentle, an absolute charmer. To the outside world. Insidious,
controlling arse to her. It had taken so long to realise his subtle intention
to separate her from her mother, her sister, eventually Domino. The slick
manoeuvres to keep her to himself. Unnoticed until her mother fell ill, when,
in a flash, it all became clear.
‘Poor Domino.’ She glanced in her mirror to share
the sympathy between herself and her dog as she slowed down to pass the
stunning Edwardian building she worked in on her right. Coalbrookdale and
Ironbridge School dated back more than two hundred years and had firmly
entrenched roots at the centre of the Industrial Revolution. With the imposing
cooling towers of the Ironbridge power station behind, they shared domination
of the skyline from that angle.
Maddie is restless in London. She
has friends, a job and a sort-of boyfriend, but something in her life is
missing. Then she visits the ancient village of Walditch, deep in the Dorset
countryside. Something stirs in her, and on a whim she buys a centuries-old cottage
and moves there three months later. Her friends think she’s crazy, but for
Maddie it feels like coming home.
Late at night in the cottage,
Maddie hears strange noises and sees mist gathering indoors and out. When she
starts investigating the cottage’s history, she becomes drawn into the tragic
story of a family who lived here 400 years ago. Meanwhile, Maddie starts to
fall in love with a local carpenter – but he has a relationship already…
Can Maddie solve the riddle of
the past? What is her connection with the family that lived there so many years
ago? And can she and her true love ever be together?
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I live in a sixteenth-century converted barn, and just standing in it, thinking how long it has stood over looking the Exmoor landscape is awe inspiring. So, I can fully appreciate the inspiration behind, this lovely timeslip romance set in Dorset.
Serendipity plays an important part in this book. I was drawn to Maddie’s story, as soon as I read about her unexplained, and out of character attraction to the old cottage, formerly a blacksmith’s, when she visited the village as part of her work. The story is cleverly written, so that Maddie’s experiences at the cottage are believable. Set in the present, as she brings her new home up to date, there are many slips into the past as historic events and a time defying love unfolds.
Maddie’s leaves a well-paid career and a glamorous life in London behind her. At a crossroads in her life she is not sure why, but as the story progresses, things start to fall into place. Her meeting and attraction to Nick is powerful but fraught with conflict. Their chance of something developing seems remote.
The characters are complex and realistic, the situations they find themselves in believable. The pacing and the timeslip element make this an absorbing read. I couldn’t put it down, literally I read it into the night.
The poignant ending is perfect, and the epilogue draws everything together in this gentle, timeslip, romantic story.
Guest Post – Kate Ryder – Secrets of the Mist
I’m so thrilled to be invited on your
guest post. Thank you!
Do you ever wish you had a second chance to
meet someone again for the first time? I have explored
this theme in Secrets of the Mist, a time slip romance that encompasses self-discovery and a great
love resonating across the ages. With
supernatural, historical and geographical overtones, it should appeal to fans
of Kate Mosse, Diana Gabaldon and Barbara Erskine.
few years ago, my husband and I moved to Cornwall and bought a derelict, 200
year old cottage. Whilst carrying out extensive
renovations and taking the cottage back to its shell, we discovered a time
capsule left by a previous owner. The
contents were fascinating, if not that old (circa 1980), and made me consider previous
occupants during the past two centuries, the lives they led and the dramas that
may have taken place within the four walls of our cottage.
Apart from spending days mixing cement,
procuring building materials and helping to install the plumbing and electrics
(must remember to add these to my CV!) I was also selling complementary health
products at country fairs throughout Devon and Cornwall. One day, a chance conversation with a fellow
trader set my creative juices flowing as she described a Dartmoor cottage she once
owned, which had an unusual, internal stained-glass window and unaccountable
cold corners. Well… that was all the
encouragement I needed!
At the time I was a member of a local
writers group and, suitably fired up, I penned a short story. The room fell silent as I read it out to my fellow
writers and all wanted to know what happened next. During this period I had to travel up to the
South East on a fairly regular basis. On
one particular trip I took a detour to Dorset and discovered the villages of
Walditch and Shipton Gorge, which became the setting for the tale. Furthermore, whilst researching the villages
and surrounding area, I uncovered historic events on which to pin the story. Three months – I mentioned I was fired up,
didn’t I? – and 85,000 words later, I had a novel!
I self-published the book as The Forgotten Promise, and this version achieved
one of the first Chill with a Book “Book of the Month” awards. I am very fortunate that Aria agreed to
publish the novel and, with further time-slip development, it is now Secrets of the Mist. Lastly, but by no means least, I must mention
the lovely cover, which has a softly haunting feel and is totally appropriate
to the story.
Kate Ryder writes
romantic suspense with a true-to-life narrative. Her passion is writing (a
period during which she studied acting only confirmed her preference for
writing rather than performing!). Since then she has worked in the publishing,
tour operating and property industries, and has travelled widely.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’
Association and the Society of Authors. Kate lives in Cornwall with her husband
and a newly acquired rescue cat.
In 2017 Kate signed a 4-book publishing contract
with Aria (digital imprint of award-winning independent publisher, Head of
Zeus). Her first novel, ‘Summer in a Cornish Cove’, saw her nominated for the
RNA’s 2018 Joan Hessayon award. Under its original self-published title, ‘The
Forgotten Promise’, ‘Secrets of the Mist’, was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s
“Search for a Star” and awarded a Chill with a Book “Book of the
Extract From: Secrets of the Mists – Kate Ryder
We arrived in Walditch late
morning, having first visited the Bridport estate agents, Randall & Mather,
to pick up the keys for The Olde Smithy. As we pulled up alongside Walditch
village green I noticed a few people already sitting outside the Blacksmith’s
Arms. Casually, I wondered if there might be an opportunity of work in that
Clambering down from the van, I stretched and rubbed
my hands together. ‘OK, let’s get cracking.’
Over the next couple of hours we unloaded the van, depositing
bags and furniture in various rooms. Dan hit his head several times on the low
beams of the downstairs rooms, but I had no such trouble. At five feet four
inches I was a good ten inches shorter.
‘Must have been midgets in the seventeenth century!’
he muttered, ferociously rubbing his skull.
According to Randall & Mather, the cottage dated
back to the mid-1600s, in part. The property details stated: A charming, two-bedroom period cottage situated in Walditch, a
village set deep in hilly countryside yet only a mile from Bridport and West
Bay. The Olde Smithy offers discerning buyers an opportunity to put their stamp
on a property steeped in history but with all modern-day conveniences.
The sitting/dining room, kitchen and master bedroom
were in the original part of the building, and all had heavily beamed ceilings
and uneven floors, while a two-storey extension, built during the late 1980s,
created a hallway, downstairs bathroom and first-floor guest bedroom. A small,
overgrown, cottage-style garden to the front opened directly onto the village
green and to the rear, immediately accessed from the kitchen, was a courtyard
created by a collection of outhouses, one being an outside privy. A pathway led
past the outbuildings to a further area of overgrown garden where there were
three gnarled and twisted fruit trees, in desperate need of pruning, and the
outline of a long-forgotten vegetable bed. To my delight, at the far end, was a
The day passed quickly and we busied ourselves
unpacking boxes, stacking shelves and filling cupboards. I had energy to spare.
Soon, the cottage soon took shape and by the time the elongating shadows of the
oak tree encroached upon the front garden it felt homely. Only the last
remaining packing boxes stacked in the hallway and the lack of curtains at the
windows declared me a new occupant. I made a mental note to buy fabric during
the next few days to remedy this, as I’d been unable to salvage any window
dressings from the flat. Being a Victorian conversion, the apartment had tall
sash windows to which the landlord had fitted vertical blinds.
As the day progressed, Dan regained a cheerful
disposition and his earlier melancholy evaporated. He was busy cleaning the
fireplace as I rummaged through a box in the kitchen, searching for elusive
teabags. I paused and looked around appreciatively at the beams, the flagstone
floor and the view of the courtyard through the small-paned windows. I could
already see next spring’s hanging baskets on the outhouse walls. I smiled, instinctively
knowing that all that had gone before was simply leading to this day.
‘Hey, Mads, take a look at this,’ Dan called from the
I turned and walked to the doorway. A thick haze
filled the room and I marvelled at how much dust he’d created. I was about to
suggest he let in some fresh air when I noticed all the windows were open wide.
I frowned. How strange… The room was full of fog and yet there was a strong
breeze blowing outside.
It must have been a trick of the light because, as Dan
turned, his blond hair appeared darker and longer and he seemed less tall and
lean; an altogether rougher version. I blinked and shook my head, as if
brushing away the image. As quickly as he had appeared altered, there he was,
once again, the Dan I knew.
‘What have you found?’ I walked across the room and
saw a small opening in the stonework to one side of the inglenook. ‘How did
‘One of the stones was loose. It came away quite
easily when I investigated. I think there’s something behind it.’
‘Clear away a bit more,’ I said, enthusiastically.
‘It might be a bread oven.’
Placing his long fingers into the gap, he teased away
at the stones around the opening. For a moment nothing happened but then one
suddenly shifted, coming away in his hand. There was a definite edge to the
hole. I peered inside at a hidden void.
‘Wow, how exciting!’
Without hesitation, I inserted my hand and felt
around, unsure what I expected to find, but apart from a thick layer of dust
and rubble, the alcove was empty. Disappointment flooded through me.
‘I’ll make a feature of it,’ I said. ‘I’ll visit a
reclamation yard and find a door that fits.’
‘This cottage will give up more of its secrets as
time goes by.’
As Dan spoke the words I became aware of an expectant
stillness in the air.
‘Why did you say that?’ I asked sharply.
‘Well, these old places always have secrets, don’t
they? And this one’s had four hundred years to collect them.’
Suddenly I felt hot and short of breath. Feeling
dizzy, I reached out for Dan, as if trying to hold on to something solid;
something I could trust.
He caught hold of my arm. ‘Hey, steady, Mads!’
Beads of perspiration pricked my forehead and I
struggled to hold back rising nausea.
‘You OK?’ Dan asked with concern.
‘I just need some fresh air,’ I gasped.
‘Tell you what – let’s abandon the tea thing and go
to the pub instead.’ This was his answer to most things.
‘Yeah, I could do with a drink.’
He smiled at me.
‘And dinner’s on me,’ I said weakly, hurrying towards
‘Now, there’s an offer I can’t possibly refuse, but won’t that be a tad messy?’
Evie Kilgaren is a fighter. Abandoned by her mother and with her father long gone, she is left to raise her siblings in dockside Liverpool, as they battle against the coldest winter on record. But she is determined to make a life for herself and create a happy home for what’s left of her family.
Desperate for work, Evie takes a job at the Tram Tavern under the kindly watch of pub landlady, and pillar of the community, Connie Sharp. But Connie has problems of her own when her quiet life of spinsterhood is upturned with the arrival of a mysterious undercover detective from out of town.
When melting ice reveals a body in the canal, things take a turn for the worst for the residents of Reckoner’s Row. Who could be responsible for such a brutal attack? And can Evie keep her family safe before they strike again?
A gritty, historical family drama, full of laughter and tears from the author of Annie Groves’ bestsellers including Child of the Mersey and Christmas on the Mersey.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I love reading a book that you become absorbed in from the first page. ‘The Orphan Daughter’, has this quality, and it’s an enthralling story, with historically authentic characters, whose lives you feel part of, especially the two main female protagonists Connie and Evie.
The historical period for this book, the post WW2 era, and the terrible winter of 1947 is a time I often heard my grandparents and parents talk about. The historic details are believable, and the setting and characters portrayed using vivid imagery, which brings the book to life.
Evie’s hardships are all too common during this time, the euphoria of the ending of war recedes, leaving the bombed cities, damaged infrastructure and relentless poverty for many. Life is hard in Reckoner’s Row, although the community is tight, it is wary of outsiders and unforgiving to those who break the unwritten laws. Evie wants to get out and make something of her life, but love and responsibility draw her back, into the world she longs to leave. This is an emotional family drama, where women are important, they keep families together, and have to subjugate their ambitions.
Angus is an outsider, there to investigate. He and Connie have an attraction, but she is loath to risk her heart and reputation on a fling. There is a mystery element, in this story, which adds to the family saga theme. The air of menace increases as the story progresses. Connie and Evie find that their daily hardship is not the only danger they face.
‘The Orphan Daughter’ has an authentic historical setting, complex characters, with intriguing elements of crime and mystery cleverly woven into the story. An enticing start to the ‘Reckoner’s Row’ series.
Extract from The Orphan Daughter – Sheila Riley
CHAPTER 1 SUMMER 1946 Nineteen-year-old Evie Kilgaren gathered her mane of honey-coloured hair into a loop of knicker elastic before taking a vase of heavy-scented lilies and freesias into the kitchen. The flowers were barely faded when she rescued them from the churchyard bin that morning.
Placing them in the centre of the table, she hoped their heady scent would mask the smell of damp that riddled every dwelling in the row of terraced houses opposite the canal and add a bit of joy to the place.
‘Who’s dead?’ her mother, Rene, asked. Her scornful retort was proof she had already been at the gin and Evie’s heart sank. She had wanted today to be special.
Surely her dead father’s birthday warranted a few flowers. Even if they were knockoffs from the church – at least she had made an effort, which was more than her mother had.
‘I got them for Dad’s…’ Evie was silenced by the warning flash in her mother’s dark eyes. A warning she had seen many times before. Rene gave a hefty sniff, her eyes squinting to focus, her brow wrinkled, and her olive skin flushed. Evie knew that when her mother had drunk enough ‘mother’s ruin’, she could be the life and soul of any party or, by contrast, one over could make her contrary and argumentative. ‘I thought they’d look nice on the table,’ Evie answered lightly, quickly changing her answer to try and keep the peace. She should have known better than to mention her father in front of Leo Darnel, who’d moved in as their lodger six months ago and taken no time at all getting his feet under her mother’s eiderdown. ‘I found a vase in…’ Her voice trailed off. Her mother wasn’t listening. As usual, she’d disappeared into the parlour to darken her finely shaped eyebrows with soot from the unlit grate – make-up was still on ration – dolling herself up for her shift behind the bar of the Tram Tavern. The tavern was barely a stone’s throw away on the other side of the narrow alleyway running alongside their house, so why her mother felt the need to dress to the nines was anybody’s guess.
Out of the corner of her eye, Evie noticed a sudden movement from their lodger, who was standing near the range, which she had black-leaded that morning. Leo Darnel didn’t like her and that was fine, because she didn’t like him either.
He was a jumped-up spiv who tried to pass himself off as a respectable businessman. Respectable? He didn’t know the meaning of the word, she thought, her eyes taking in the polished leather Chesterfield suite that cluttered the room and seemed out of place in a small backstreet terraced house.
‘None of your utility stuff,’ he’d said, pushing out his blubbery chest like a strutting pigeon. All the time he had a wonky eye on the bedroom door. He would do anything to keep her mother sweet and made it obvious every chance he got to show Evie she was in the way.
He’d been very quiet for the last few minutes, Evie realised. That wasn’t like Darnel. He was up to something, she could tell. He hadn’t interrupted with a sarcastic comment as he usually did when she and her mother were having a tit-for-tat. His elfsatisfied smirk stretched mean across thin lips as he hunched inside a crisp white shirt and peered at her.
His beady eyes looked her up and down as he chewed a spent matchstick at the corner of his mouth before turning back to the grate. His piggy eyes were engrossed in the rising flames of something he had thrown onto the fire. Her attention darted to the blaze casting dancing flares of light across the room.
‘No!’ Evie heard the gasp of horror and disbelief coming from her own lips. How could he be so callous? How could he? As he stepped back with arms outstretched like he was showing off a new sofa, Evie could see exactly what he had done.
‘You burned them!’ Evie cried, hurrying over to the range, pushing Darnel out of her way and grabbing the brass fire tongs from the companion set on the hearth, desperate to save at least some of the valuable night-school work.
Two years of concentrated learning to prove she was just as good as all the rest – reduced to ashes in moments. Thrusting the tongs into the flames again and again was hopeless Her valuable notes disintegrated.
‘Mam, look! Look what he’s done!’ Her blue eyes blazed as hotly as the flames licking up the chimney.
‘You are not the only one who can crawl out of the gutter? Mr High-and-mighty!’ Evie was breathless when her burst of anger erupted, watching the flames envelope her books, turning the curling pages to ash. She balled her work-worn hands, roughly red through cleaning up after other people and pummelled his chest. Why? She caught his mocking eyes turn to flint before being dealt a quick backhander that made her head spin.
Her nostrils, which only moments before had been filled with the sweet fragrance of summer freesias and Mansion polish, were now congested with blood as traitorous tears rolled down her cheek. Evie dashed them away with the pad of her hand, ashamed and angry because he was privy to her vulnerability. Her pale blue eyes dashed from the range to her mother, who was now standing in the doorway shaking painted nails.
Sheila Riley wrote four #1 bestselling novels under the pseudonym Annie Groves and is now writing a new saga trilogy under her own name. She has set it around the River Mersey and its docklands near to where she spent her early years. She still lives in Liverpool.
I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon in return for an honest review.
I’ve enjoyed all the books in the ‘Girl Meets Duke’ series, stories of independent women, and damaged, romantic men. Penny and Gabriel’s story is my favourite so far, perhaps because Penny takes in waifs and strays, and has an unfailing love of animals, something I can relate to.
There are scenes in this story which are hilarious, particularly, the rescuing of Delilah, the foul-mouthed parrot, which occurs at the beginning and sets the scene for what’s to come. Penny and Gabriel’s meeting at this time also sparks the passion that grows between them and is so enjoyable.
Gabriel, the Duke of Ruin, is not from the aristocracy, but many fear him, he is driven, dangerous and damaged, but he has so many redeeming qualities, and it’s impossible not to fall a little in love with him. Penny is honest, loving and generous, but she too is emotionally damaged, and her guilty secret, means Penny and Gabriel have more in common than he first supposed.
The plot is full of historical detail and moves effortlessly along, the characters are engaging and believable. I enjoyed the witty dialogue and the simmering passion, and most of all the happily-ever-after, even though I was sad to come to the end of Penny and Gabriel’s story.
A delightful, historical romance, amusing, original and shamelessly romantic.
Extract from The Wallflower Wager – Tessa Dare
By society’s standards, Penny was rather lacking in accomplishments. As the daughter of an earl, she’d been given the best possible education. Governesses fluent in three languages, a full two years at finishing school, then private tutors in art, music, dancing. None of it seemed to take. She’d never found an instrument willing to give up a tune for her, no matter how she strummed, plucked, or begged it. She’d attained only marginal competence in sketching. And dancing? Impossible. Penny did, however, emerge from adolescence with unparalleled accomplishment in one pursuit. Caring. Nothing pleased her more than looking after those around her. Feeding them, warming them, protecting them, giving them a home. She doled out affection from an endless supply. The only problem was, she was running out of people to claim it. She had her family, of course. But first her parents had gone to India as diplomats. Her eldest brother, Bradford, lived in Cumberland with his wife and managed the family estate. Timothy, the middle child of their threesome, had joined the Royal Navy. Still, she had the most wonderful friends. Never mind that the finishing school girls had scorned her. Penny welcomed the misfits of Bloom Square. Emma, Alexandra, Nicola. Together, they made the rounds of the bookshops, walked in the park, and gathered at her house for tea every Thursday. Or at least they had done so, until her friends began to start families of their own. First, Emma’s marriage to the Duke of Ashbury had transformed from a convenient arrangement into passionate devotion. Next, Alex had bewitched London’s most infamous rake and became Mrs. Chase Reynaud. As for brilliant, inventive Nicola . . . ? Penny scanned the note she’d just received, peering hard to make out the breathless scrawl of ink. Can’t today. Biscuits burned. Breakthrough near. Next Thursday? Love, N Penny laid aside the charred scrap of paper and regarded the tray of sandwiches on the tea table, all trimmed of their crusts and ready for a gathering that wouldn’t take place. Fortunately, in this house, food seldom went to waste. Taking a sandwich, she crouched near to the floor and whistled. Bixby scampered down the corridor, his two front paws clicking over the floorboards and his lamed hind legs following right behind, rolling along in an ingenious chariot of Nicola’s design. After several excited sniffs, the dog gave the crustless triangle a cautious lick. “Go on,” she urged. “It’s a new recipe. You’ll like it.” Just as Bixby sank his dart- point teeth into the sandwich, the doorbell rang. Penny rushed to answer it. At the last moment, she hesitated with her hand on the door latch. Could it be him? It wouldn’t be him, she told herself. But what if it was? Sensing her unease, Bixby whined and nosed at her ankles. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, Penny opened the door. “Oh,” she said, trying not to sound dejected. “Aunt Caroline.” Her aunt entered the house in her usual manner— like a snobbish traveler disembarking on a foreign shore, visiting a land where the native people spoke a different language, exchanged different currency, worshipped different gods. Her eyes took in the place with a cool, smug sort of interest. As though, while she had no desire to truly understand this alien culture, she’d been reading up. Most of all, she was careful where she stepped. When she’d completed her quiet survey of the drawing room, she gave a weary sigh. “Oh, Penelope.” “It’s lovely to see you, too, Aunt.” Her aunt’s eyes fell on the quilt- lined basket near the hearth. “Is that still the same hedgehog?” Penny decided to change the subject. “Do sit down, and I’ll ring for a new pot of tea.” “Thank you, no.” Her aunt plucked a tuft of cat hair from the armchair, pinching it between her thumb and forefinger and holding it away from her body. Frowning at the bit of fluff, she released it and watched it waft to the floor. “What I have to say won’t take long, anyhow. I’ve had a letter from Bradford. He insists you return to Cumberland.” Penny was stunned. “For the summer?” “For the remainder of your life, I believe.” No. No, no, no. Her aunt lifted a hand, barricading herself against dissent. “Your brother has asked me to tell you he’ll be traveling to London in a month’s time. He asked me to be certain you’re prepared to join him for the return journey.” Penny’s heart sank. She was a grown woman, and therefore could not be ordered to pick up and move to the farthest reaches of England. However, the snag was this— even if she was a grown woman, she was still a woman. This house belonged to her father, and while her father was out of the country, Bradford had control. Penny lived in Bloom Square at his pleasure. If he demanded she remove to Cumberland, she would have little choice in the matter. “Aunt Caroline, please. Can’t you write back and convince him to change his mind?” “I’ll do no such thing. I happen to agree with your brother. In fact, I ought to have suggested it myself. I did promise your parents I would look after you, but now that the war is over I intend to travel the Continent. You shouldn’t be living alone.” “I’m six- and- twenty years old, and I’m not living alone. I have Mrs. Robbins.” Wordlessly, her aunt picked up the bell from the tea table and gave it a light ring. Several moments passed. No Mrs. Robbins. Aunt Caroline craned her neck toward the main corridor and lifted her voice. “Mrs. Robbins!” Penny crossed her arms and sighed, fully aware of the point her aunt meant to make. “She’s always looked after me.” “She isn’t looking after you any longer. You are looking after her.” “Just because the old dear is a touch hard of hearing— ” Aunt Caroline stomped on the floor three times— boom, boom, boom— and shouted, “MRS. ROBBINS!” At last, the sound of aged, shuffling footsteps made its way from the back of the house to the drawing room. “My word!” Mrs. Robbins said. “If it isn’t Lady Caroline. I didn’t know you’d dropped by. Shall I bring tea?” “No, thank you, Robbins. You’ve served your purpose already.” “Have I?” The older woman looked confused. “Yes, of course.” Once Mrs. Robbins had quit the room, Penny addressed her aunt. “I don’t wish to leave. I’m happy living in Town. My life is here. All my friends are here.” “Your life and your friends are . . . where?” Aunt Caroline looked meaningfully at each one of the unoccupied chairs, at the trays of cold tea and uneaten sandwiches, and, finally, at the three kittens shredding the draperies with their tiny claws. “I have human friends, as well,” Penny said defensively. Her aunt looked doubtful. “I do. Several of them.” Her aunt glanced at the silver tray in the entrance hall. The one where calling cards and invitations were heaped— or would be, if Penny ever received them, which she didn’t. The tray was empty. “Some of my friends are out of Town.” Aware of how absurd she sounded, she added, “And others are mad scientists.” Another pitying sigh from her aunt. “We must face the truth, Penelope. It’s time.” It’s time. Penny didn’t need to ask what her aunt meant by that. The implication was clear. Aunt Caroline meant it was time to give up. Time for Penny to return to the family home in Cumberland and resign herself to her destiny: spinsterhood. She must take on the role of maiden aunt and stop embarrassing both the family and herself. After nine years in Town, she hadn’t married. She hadn’t even entertained any serious suitors. She rarely mingled in society. If she were being honest, she would strike “rarely” and replace it with “never.” She didn’t have any intellectual pursuits like art or science or poetry. No bluestocking salons, no social reform protests. She stayed home with her pets and invited her misfit friends to tea, and . . . And outside her tiny sphere, people laughed at her. Penny knew they did. She’d been an object of pity and ridicule ever since her disastrous debut. It didn’t bother her, except— well, except for the times that it did. As a person who wanted to like everyone, it hurt to know that not everyone liked her in return. Society had long given up on her. Now her family, as well. But Penny was not giving up on herself. When her aunt moved to leave, she grasped her by the arm. “Wait. Is there nothing I can do to change your mind? If you advocated on my behalf, I know Bradford would reconsider.” Her aunt was silent. “Aunt Caroline, please. I beg you.” Penny could not return to Cumberland, back to the house where she’d passed the darkest hours of her life. The house where she’d learned to bottle shame and store it in a dark place, out of view. You know how to keep a secret, don’t you? Her aunt pursed her lips. “Very well. To begin, you might order a new wardrobe. Fur and feathers are all well and good— but only when they are worn on purpose, and in a fashionable way.” “I can order a new wardrobe.” It wouldn’t include fur and feather adornments, but Penny could promise it would be new. “And once you have a new wardrobe, you must use it. The opera. A dinner party. A ball would be preferable, but we both know that’s too much to ask.” Ouch. Penny would never live down that humiliating scene. “Make an appearance somewhere,” her aunt said. “Anywhere. I want to see you in the society column for once.” “I can do that, too.” I think. Considering how long she’d been out of circulation, invitations to dinner and the theater would be harder to come by than a few up- to- current- fashion gowns. Nevertheless, it could be accomplished. “Lastly, and most importantly”— Aunt Caroline paused for effect— “you must do something about all these animals.” “What do you mean, ‘do something’ about them?” “Be rid of them. All of them.” “All of them?” Penny reeled. Impossible. She could find homes for the kittens. That had always been her plan. But Delilah? Bixby? Angus, Marigold, Hubert, and the rest? “I can’t. I simply can’t.” “Then you can’t.” Her aunt tugged on her gloves. “I must be going. I have letters to write.” “Wait.” Surely there was a way to convince her aunt that didn’t involve abandoning her pets. Perhaps she could trick her by hiding them in the attic? “I hope you’re not thinking you can hide them in the attic,” her aunt said dryly. “I’ll know.” Drat. “Aunt Caroline, I’ll . . . I’ll try my best. I just need a little time.” “According to your brother, you have a month. Perhaps less. You know as well as I, it takes the mail the better part of a week to arrive from Cumberland.” “That leaves only three weeks. But that’s nothing.” “It’s what you have.” Penny immediately began to pray, very hard, for rain. Come to think of it, considering the amount of rain England typically saw in springtime, she probably ought to pray for something more. Torrential, bridge- flooding, road- rutting downpours. A biblical deluge. A plague of frogs. “If, by your brother’s arrival, I am convinced there’s something keeping you in London other than an abundance of animal hair . . . ? Then, and only then, I might be persuaded to intervene.” “Very well,” Penny said. “You have a bargain.” “A bargain? This isn’t a bargain, my girl. I’ve made you no guarantees, and I’m not convinced you’re up to the challenge at all. If anything, we have a wager— and you’re facing very long odds.” Long odds, indeed. After her aunt had gone, Penny closed the door and slumped against it. Three weeks. Three weeks to save the creatures depending on her. Three weeks to save herself. Penny had no idea how she would accomplish it, but this was a wager she had to win